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Sermon - 8/19/18
2018.08.19 23:37:28

PROPER 15/B (2018): Prov. 9:1-10; Eph. 5:6-21; Jn. 6:51-69. 

 

Offensive,               [T]he Jews began… saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you… [M]y flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink… This is the bread which came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died.  He who eats this bread shall live forever.”… When many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is offensive.  Who can hear to listen to him?...  From this time on [they] went back to their previous commitments, and they were no longer walking about with him (vv. 52, 53a, 55, 58, 60, 66). 

 

You recall how we arrived at our excursion into Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse; the Apostles, resistant of heart, failed to understand Jesus’ walk over the sea and his feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. 

 

The craft, in which the Apostles were sent ahead of Jesus, was cloaked in night’s darkness, opposed by a contrary sea.  In their perception of isolation, the Apostles aptly described, “a ship of fools” (Plato’s Republic, Bk. VI). 

 

All of our Readings this morning direct us to “the fear of the Lord”; putting aside human foolishness and instead receive God’s wisdom.  God’s word calls us to wisdom that disembarks passage in the world for that of the ark of God’s salvation in Christ.  Transfer is revelatory by God’s gift of faith grasping the promise of Christ.  In his word we step out of the world’s mentality, and journey with Jesus in the direction of the cross. 

 

On their sea voyage the Apostles saw Jesus as a “ghost”, not a man, walking over the water; for unbelief, they were incompetent to minister to Gentile populations, betokened by the 12 remaining baskets of bread and fish, (Mk 6:45, 53).  Further apostolic instruction by miraculous signs (vv. 55, 56) and teaching the true meaning of Torah was needed. 

 

In Capernaum the synagogue Jews taught the “letter” of Moses; of which St. Paul advises, “the letter kills, but the Spirit [which comes by Christ] gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6b).   When Jesus taught, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail” (Jn. 6:63), he necessarily equated “the letter” of Moses that does not avail or profit to be in apposition to Jesus’ en-fleshment as Word by the HS for the profit of life. 

 

In this distinction between old and new is Wisdom’s crucible in comprehending the NT church’s Holy Supper.  One must first discern Jesus’ own meat and drink, “do[ing] the will of [the Father]” (Jn. 4:32, 34).  God desired of Jesus his once for all sacrificial death for the life of many.  Jesus’ food is as well the Baptizeds’ food; our participating in Jesus’ death by eating at Wisdom’s banquet provided by the church’s Eucharistic foretaste. 

 

For the sake of his Son’s sacrifice, God abandoned the killing letter of Moses and en-stoned temple strictures, for the grace and truth of our new life in the flesh of his NT Temple, the body of Christ, the crucified and resurrected man Jesus.   

 

Here then is the divide, sinful man’s gravitation to unbelief of God’s word in favor of our own lexical definitions and associations.  We insist these are “wisdom”; but God calls them, “foolish”. 

 

When the crowd, miraculously fed, chased Jesus to Capernaum he rejected their blandishments, recognizing they desired mere physical feeding (Jn. 6:26) apart from the “living bread” portended by the miracle.  

 

Jesus entered the synagogue (v. 59) teaching true Torah as being about himself.  At first, it was the religious Jews, like OT Israel, who grumbled about Jesus’ new teaching and feeding as Bread of Life; Jesus, they discerned, rightly, was claiming equality with YHWH. 

 

It soon became clear that the food about which Jesus taught was his flesh that would soon be sacrificial.  At this, his disciples became offended returning to their former allegiance to the Torah of Moses in the synagogue of the Jews; a return to “the letter that kills” over God’s proffered Wisdom and Life in the flesh and blood of his Lamb destined to be the One Killed in their stead. 

 

The offense of Jesus’ teaching in Capernaum resulted in a momentous shakeout of his ministry.  He was abandoned by the crowds; the religious teachers; many, if not most of his disciples; and Judas Iscariot, secretly continuing with the apostolic college.  For this reason NT mention of Judas, the apostate apostle is a scriptural marker of the visible church’s rejection of the invisible church’s Eucharistic character.

 

Against all worldly offense at Jesus, Peter on behalf of the apostles, demonstrated the truth of Jesus’ word, that no one comes to him but that the Father calls him (v. 45) by Wisdom’s revelation (Mt. 16:17).  Peter stood against a foolish world and its “offense” confessing, “Lord… You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68, 69). 

 

Enlightened by the Father, Peter and the apostles instantly experienced a sea change in their relation toward Jesus.  By confession they forever departed the synagogue of the Jews.  The apostolic band was no longer “ship of fools”; now they embarked, in fear of the Lord, on a new journey of true discipleship as Synagogue of Jesus.

 

The offense of those who abandoned Jesus for human “wisdom” is variegated; but broadly speaking, all are overarched under “Scandal of The Cross”. 

 

This then is the catholic faith, “that believed [and practiced] everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins).  With the exception of some early heretical groups, the church’s belief in the real, sacramental flesh and blood Eucharistic presence of Christ was and remains the hallmark of the church’s catholic character, both East and West. 

 

Martin Luther offers this historic assessment of the Sacrament of the Altar in typical hyperbole saying, that he would rather drink blood with Pope than wine with the Reformed (Jean Calvin).    

 

Jesus claimed that his flesh given into death for the sin and the life of the world, unlike OT manna, is Spiritual in that it is imperishable, incorruptible, and life giving flesh.  His crucified flesh and blood in the Resurrection is the church’s new food; it does not degrade, but transforms those receiving in faith into his image and likeness.  

 

Finally, we observe the synagogue “grumble” that rejected Jesus as “bread out of heaven”; eventually, these grumblers would crucify Jesus to prove his Flesh other than the source of eternal Life.  The “grumblers” would prove by Jesus’ crucifixion that rather his flesh is mere perishable flesh, subject to rot, and only worthy to be extruded from the body of Israel. 

 

Such a grotesque rant against God (Ps. 14:1) and his Christ (Ps. 2:2) continues, perhaps it is prevalent, in and out of the visible church.  For this reason the church takes occasion in three successive Sunday’s every three years to ponder the man Jesus, who is Bread of Life.

 

Against those who deny the church’s life through eating of Jesus’ sacrificial, sacramental flesh and blood, we attend, St. Paul’s warning to those tempted to return to human foolishness, “Let no one deceive you with empty words… walk as children of light… testing [by Scripture] what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:6a, 8b, 10).  Amen. 

 

pem.   



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Sermon - 8/12/18
2018.08.14 22:14:40

PROPER 14/B (2018): 1 Kg. 19:1-8; Eph. 4:17—5:2; Jn. 6:35-51.

 

Taught,        So the Jews grumbled about [Jesus], because he said, “I AM the bread that came down from heaven”… Jesus answered them… “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”“It is written in the prophets, ‘[T]hey will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—“[W]hoever believes has eternal life I Am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (vv. 41, 43, 44a, 45, 47b, 51).

 

How do we now come to Jesus’ teaching from the Gospel of St. John? Ordinarily Gospel Readings in Cycle B focus on St. Mark.  But something extraordinary occurred in Mark’s last account; a problem of magnitude among the Apostles; and until resolved, it is the church’s problem as well, so we pause for further instruction from Jesus in John. 

 

Jesus and the Twelve retreated to a desert place; yet a crowd followed. Jesus, the Shepherd of Israel (Ps. 23), having compassion on the throng taught them, fed them if you will, true Torah word. 

 

The day became late; Jesus arranged for the people to sit in formations on the green grass, reminiscent of ancient Israel’s march out of Egypt; he commanded his Apostles feed the outsized crowd. Jesus gave thanks over the bread providing miraculous multiplication of the available 5 loaves and 2 fish to everyone’s fill.  

 

The Apostles gathered the excess bread and meat into twelve baskets, betokening a new ministry of feeding with new food, in contrast to the perishable manna of OT bread.  Jesus sent the Twelve on a night sea journey; he remained behind.  The boat encountered contrary winds, stuck in the middle of a tumultuous sea late in night. 

 

Able to observe their distress, Jesus came to them, easily walking over the chaotic deep. Originally he intended to “passed-by” his disciples, much as YHWH passed-by Moses to glimpse his glory from the cleft of a rock.  But this sight so unnerved the Apostles; they fell into terrorized error about their Lord; concluding him, not a man but a ghost.

 

To reassure his nascent church, Jesus halted his march; arose and entered their boat. And here is where St. Mark reports the problem, “[The Twelve] were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:51, 52).  Consider the tragedy of this biblical assessment! 

 

Their earlier feeding, consisting of a Jew/Gentile crowd caused the Apostles to grumble about a mixed feeding (6:36), signaled a new feeding for a new Israel, Torah bread in the person of Jesus, enfleshed word of God.

 

From the world’s creation, the watery deep has represented pandemonium’s chaotic opposition to God, a dark lurking place of danger and death. The sight of Jesus, revealing himself to the Apostles, the divine Wave-Walker directly pointed to his water Baptism in the Jordan.  By now his Apostles were expected to such discernment; and so today so are you.

 

In the Jordan Jesus was plunged into sin-laden water for hallowing of all water. Rising from the watery place of death, he received the descending HS to anoint him as God’s Paschal Lamb for the sin of the world. 

 

Thus, by tandem miracles his Apostles were at a crux point in the glimpse of God’s glory, rivaled only by the Transfiguration and the Passion culminating in lifting Jesus on the cross for the sin of the world; yet the response of the Apostles, amazingly, was unbelief. For them, Jesus’ feeding in the desert and walking on the water made his not a flesh and blood man; he was, and is the tragedy of hardened-hearts toward the teaching of the Father, but a spirit, albeit from God.  How sad!  

 

IN The boat Jesus stood with unbelieving disciples, compared by Mark with recalcitrant to Pharaoh, flailing against the mighty works of God in his presence. Now Jesus’ elected Apostles refused to be “drawn” by the Father, to “hear” and “learn” through Jesus in their midst.  For the moment, they remained mired in that which Jesus came to abolish, the sin of the world, unbelief; and so remained untaught “learners”.

 

“[U]nderstand[ing]… the loaves” is essential to the gospel salvation of grace; so the church today interrupts her Marcan Gospel journey in her lection through Cycle B, to hear Jesus’ clear words in the synagogue of Capernaum through St. John’s Gospel, the significance of the “misunderstood loaves”.

 

If we will not “listen” and “hear” Jesus through his gift to the church of catholic pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:7, 11, 12) we have little hope of understanding the plain meaning of Jesus’ words; in today’s case, the bread Jesus gives for the life of the world is his flesh, first on the cross and sacramentally in the resurrection.  This is the Father’s communication; failure to receive it in these end times results in “grumbling” against Jesus, the Speech and Teacher of true Torah. 

 

We turn now to our Epistle from St. Paul; he instructs the Ephesian congregation about Holy Baptism in much the same way as Jesus did about his coming death and the church’s Holy Supper. Using the language of discipleship, Paul especially addressed Gentile converts:

 

“But that is not the way you learned Christ— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former [corrupt] manner of life… and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:20, 21, 22, 24).

 

In what does “putting off” the old man and “putting on” the new consist, but that it is the work of the HS in whom you were baptized and sealed for redemption (v. 30)? 

 

You, the Baptized, have heard the voice of the Father by the word of Christ, and are taught from the voice of Christ by the gift of the HS.  For your sins Jesus was stripped naked on the cross to bear your every sin and shame into Adam’s deserved death. 

 

Jesus’ death on the cross, completed (“It is finished”, [Jn. 19:30]) his baptism begun in the Jordan.  At the cross Jesus handed over the HS to the Father; and in the Resurrection the Spirit processed from Father and Son to the church for Jesus’ continued work for the life of the world. 

 

We are baptized with the HS into Jesus’ death in which God strips off our old man, incapable of being reformed. Our Baptism is a death into Christ’s death and a putting on of Christ, the new man; it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20).

 

By our baptismal stripping of the old man, God kills us all the daylong (1 Sam. 2:6; cf. 2 Cor. 3:6; Rom. 8:36). He discards our adhering profligate and foul manner of life.  Ultimately our death is not God’s condemnation of us in Christ; rather it is his radical solution to our sin.  Of ourselves we are utterly corrupt; so to merely remove this vice or that accomplishes nothing.  We must, with Christ, be crucified in Baptism; and in that death grasp hold the promise of resurrection in him. 

 

Again by God’s word, he kills makes alive. God’s baptismal killing of our old man is pure grace, solely the work of God in Christ.  Either we are drawn to the Father by the all-sufficient work of the crucified en-fleshed Word or we “grumble” over the manner of his salvation, rejecting him in word and sacrament.  This was the tragic out-come of OT Israelites refusing to lift their eyes in faith on the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:9).

 

Apart from God’s grace we, in every instance, would reject our deserved death; still God’s word draws us into his death. By Baptism into Jesus’ death we are not remodeled; rather we are transformed by the power of hallowed water made one with the church’s Wave Walking incarnate Word, Jesus.  From a baptismal new begetting we are new creations seeking strength for faith to continue believing in so a great salvation (Heb. 2:3).  For this faith new spiritual food is required to sustain us in the Way to our Father (1 Kings 19:8). 

 

Jesus in his crucified and risen flesh and blood is that new food. He is new Bread, not OT manna from “angels” (Ps. 78:25) that sustained the body for a time.  In Capernaum the synagogue grumbled, rejecting Jesus as “bread out of heaven”.  Eventually the grumblers would crucify Jesus, in a last ditch attempt to prove his Flesh perishable, subject to the world’s rot, something extruded from the body of Israel. 

 

In the NT church’s Holy Supper we eat Jesus’ crucified, resurrected, ascended, living and life giving flesh and blood. This is our new Food for the end times.  

 

Unlike OT manna “bread from angels”, Baptism and Supper transforms body and spirit, into new men and women.  We eat by faith, the gift of the HS, but it is not our faith that makes our eating spiritual; rather it is the character of the substance of our new Food and the HS that makes our eating “spiritual” of imperishable, incorruptible, and eternal Food.  Amen.

 

pem.   



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Sermon - 8/5/18
2018.08.06 00:19:54

PROPER 13/B (2018): Ex. 16:2-15; Ps. 78:24-26 (BCP); Eph. 4:1-16; John 6:22-35. 

 

Food,            “So he commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven.  He rained down manna also upon [Israel] for to eat, and gave them food from heaven.  So man did eat angels’ food; for he sent them meat enough” (BCP 1928, Myles Coverdale translation). 

 

Our Introit references Israel’s wilderness manna as “angel’s food” to introduce Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in Capernaum, his adopted hometown. 

 

The Jewish Passover, Israel’s exodus celebration out of Egypt, was at hand (Jn. 6:4).  Jesus had just fed 5,000 men with bread and meat; and then walked over the sea betokening his baptismal death and resurrection in JB’s water and heaven’s anointing in the HS.  And yet as St. Mark observed last Sunday (Mk. 6:51, 52) his disciples, on account of hardness of heart, failed to understand either sign. 

 

So important are these signs for the church’s understanding of Jesus’ identity that she interrupts St. Mark’s lection, three Sunday’s in a row, to drill down into our Lord’s teaching according to St. John. 

 

The miraculously fed crowd in a deserted place near Tiberias (southwest shore of Sea of Galilee) deduced that Jesus departed to the northwest in Capernaum.

 

When the crowd caught-up to Jesus they were distracted by a curiosity about the impossible manner of Jesus, without an available boat, arriving in advance of them (Jn. 6:25).  Jesus redirected their attention, accusing them of seeking him out merely as resource for their bellies, as Moses provided manna in the desert.  But bread for bellies is not what Jesus brings, nor is it what Jesus gives today. 

 

OT manna (angels’ food) was not of heaven’s substance.  It was perishable and not intended to last other than day to day; nevertheless it was a sign out of heaven of true, substantial Bread to come, the man Jesus Christ sent by the Father to be our true Passover bread and meat to sustain us on journey out of death to Life. 

 

Jesus by now has entered the synagogue of Capernaum identifying himself in teaching the Exodus texts for the day, that he is heaven’s true Bread, which in Jewish theology meant a claim to be true Torah/Word given from the Father for men to eat. 

 

When the church prays, “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them…” she discerns that Jesus, incarnate Word and his Sacraments come to us as two sides of the same gospel coin, preaching and feeding.

 

How does Jesus, the NT church’s true Bread differ from its OT manna type?  If manna sustained Israel into the Promised Land; then Jesus, true Bread of Life carries us into heaven’s true Temple of the Father’s presence dwelling in Jesus’ flesh. 

 

Jesus compares the two breads of Scripture; OT Torah bread, manna given for physical feeding, only delayed Israel’s physical corruption much as one puts off death for a time by eating nutritious meals.  OT manna only sustained the people until they arrived in the Promised Land, itself but a type of terminal restoration to God “which art in heaven”.

 

Today Jesus identifies himself NT Bread promised by the Exodus manna type.  Implicit in this revelation lies the question; what does it mean that God’s Torah is a human person?  The answer is that, Jesus is a different kind of Bread in which the church, new Israel, is to partake in faith. 

 

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Capernaistic eating” and been confused.  The charge derives from today’s Gospel that Jesus teaches, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53).  

 

“Capernaistic eating” equates Jesus’ crucified/risen flesh and blood as ordinary flesh and drink, capable of being consumed and disposed out of our sinful bodies.  Those charging Christians of a Capernaistic sacramental meal implicitly accuse, a cannibalistic worship. 

 

Unlike Exodus manna, Jesus’ flesh crucified for the sin of the world and raised for its Life is incorruptible bread-flesh.  Jesus’ flesh is the flesh of Mary united to the Father by the imparted HS.  In Jesus’ incarnation and Baptism he is fully human, without sin except as he is sacrificial Sin-Bearer for man, in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. 

 

 Jesus is true man who is of the Substance of heaven; one with the Father as author of Life in God’s creation.  As such Jesus’ incarnate flesh, Torah of God, is incorruptible; imperishable!  As true man Jesus died on the cross, which is to say, his blood was parted from his body, poured into the earth for the life of the world. 

 

But it is precisely his interment into the ground where his incorruptible flesh re-unites with his imperishable blood.  This is the significance of Jesus walking over the chaotic sea.  Jesus’ body cannot be contained by the grave to rot as manna or as our sinful flesh.  Jesus’ flesh is different bread incapable of being swallowed up, but instead swallows up our last enemy, death and the grave. 

 

In his flesh, the man Jesus is “the Life” out of heaven, which is to say he is Son of God; and so in his own right, and that of the Father, and the HS, Jesus bodily rises from the grave; and in the Ascension delivers his eternal body for sinful man’s eating and Life; new Israel’s Bread of Life. 

 

Luther disposes the accusation of “Capernaistic eating”; “[Jesus’] flesh is not… fleshly, but spiritual; therefore, it cannot be consumed, digested, and transformed, for it is imperishable as is all that is of the Spirit, and a food of an entirely different kind from perishable food.  Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it; this food, however, transforms the person who eats it into what it is itself, and makes him like itself, spiritual, alive, and eternal.”   

 

Jesus’ flesh is true flesh and so truly human; he is the Eucharistic spiritual food of our incorruptible Resurrection eating.  What makes our eating “spiritual” is not of us, not even our eating in faith; rather it is the fact that Jesus’ flesh (unlike OT manna) is of the Substance of the Father and the HS, one God. 

 

Jesus is true Torah/incarnate Word; he is true Temple in whom the Father dwells; and he is true Bread of heaven in whose flesh Life consists; he is fruit of the cross, sent and extended to us by our creator God. 

 

In order that you may receive the spoils of God’s victory over sin, Satan, and the grave, by feeding on word and Sacrament, we in Christ are being remade in his image and likeness.  

 

In today’s epistle St. Paul speaks of “the gift of [the ascended] Christ” (Eph. 4:7), his Office of the Holy Ministry through men.  Through your pastor’s exercise of word and sacrament you receive, not only repentant hearts and gospel forgiveness; but peace as well of the church’s baptismal unity in the common catholic confession of the one, true faith. 

 

By preaching and teaching that faith we are regularly nourished for growth from faith to faith in the knowledge and understanding of our true Loaf’s feeding, to the end that we confess with St. Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Amen. 

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 7/29/18
2018.07.31 23:05:39

PROPER 12/B (2018): Gen. 9:8-17; Eph. 3:14-21; Mark 6:45-56.

 

Knees,         “… I bow my knees before the Father…” (v. 14). 

 

Man is body and spirit requiring bread and meat for his soul and belly, that is the overarching point last Sunday of Jesus and the Twelve feeding 5,000 men. The question today is, how do you receive your feeding in Christ; and do you understand its origin? 

 

Private table prayer is well advised to employ Scripture, “The eyes of all look to you [O Lord] and you give them their food at the proper time, you open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:15, 16); bless us O Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty. Amen”.  Our posture is seated with hands folded; but what of Christian prayer-posture in the church’s Liturgy? 

 

St. Paul writes to the Ephesian congregation describing how he leads God’s people, as body of Christ, God dwelling with men, “… I bow my knees before the Father…”  

 

By the fourth century A.D. (Council of Nicaea), liturgical prayer-posture was regularized; generally the congregation stood as an expression of resurrection joy in the presence of God; but kneeled when receiving the Sacrament of the Altar as acknowledgment of the real presence in, with, and under the bread and wine, expressing repentant submission before Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

It is no accident that most Lutherans do not install kneelers among their pews; but do provide them at the Communion rail. This was the rubric (red instruction) and practice throughout the time of the medieval church. 

 

How does this survey of prayer-posture inform our Gospel where Jesus walks over the Sea? St. Mark suggests the connection; commenting that the Apostles thought Jesus was an apparition.  When he rose up (resurrected) from the sea into the boat, the disciples “were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mk. 6:49, 51, 52). 

 

Wow, the clear implication is that Jesus’ Apostles, Pharaoh like, rejected being informed by their feeding of the 5,000, a rejection bordering on willful blindness; danger lurking there!

 

Following the “forbidden” feeding of Jews and Gentiles in a common meal, Jesus forcefully commanded his Apostles into the boat, each carrying a damning basket that evidenced their participation in the offensive meal, Jewish loaves and fishes communally shared with Gentile “dogs”.

 

Jesus sent his disciples skulking under cover of night to Bethsaida, northeastern Gentile territory; presumably to introduce another Jew-Gentile feeding of the new order coming for the life of new Israel.

 

In the boat, Jesus is seemingly absent while the wind rises against the disciples, halting their progress. But Jesus from land, sees as though present with them their plight in the dark middle of the sea; so with the ease of a walk in the park, he treads the chaotic sea and rises into their boat and the disorder is subdued.  

 

Jesus had intended to “pass-by” his disciples on their way to Bethsaida, much as YHWH passed-by Moses on old Israel’s wilderness journey, providing a glimpse of his glory (Ex. 33:17—34:8). But Jesus’ disciples seeing him exercising authority over the rude waters, and still not understanding the miracle of the loaves, believed him to be a ghost, a spiritual apparition, not really present in his humanity.  One might say, the Twelve were the first NT theologians of the “real absence” of Christ. 

 

The disciples, for unbelief, were acutely distressed and so Jesus interrupts his Bethsaida itinerary to deal with the immediate problem: “Christian” unbelief. He resurrected from the watery would-be grave over which he exercised mastery and entered the boat; not primarily to declare his divinity, but to assure his abiding presence and care for his church, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mk. 6:50). 

 

Clearly his Apostles were not yet ready in faith to minister the bread of heaven and of angels (Ps. 78:25) to Gentiles, so Jesus redirects the boat, the church if you will, to the western Jewish shore of Gennesaret.

 

There the crowd’s greeting recognized what Jesus’ disciples did not, that at the touch of his flesh to their flesh, there is healing and salvation.  This is the revelation of the Resurrection, pre-quelled by Jesus’ resurrection into the church boat; that he is not a ghost but the One in whose crucified flesh all the fullness of the Godhead is bodily present with us (Col. 2:9, 10). 

 

For your sake, during the coming three Sundays, that you may understand about the “loaves”, missed by the Apostles, the church will return, by the Gospel of St. John, to the feeding of the 5,000 where Jesus identifies, he is the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35).

 

Here then is the understanding to which you are called; when Jesus after his death appeared to his disciples, the Resurrected One, they once again thought of him as a “ghost” until in their presence he ate their fish (Lk. 24:37).  

 

Say what you might of Henry VIII; but in the matter of the church’s Eucharist real presence, he held the catholic faith. The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, produced by Thomas Cranmer in 1549, reflected that faith by the instruction to kneel for reception of the Sacrament. 

 

Shortly after Henry’s death Calvinism’s error of the “real absence of Christ” insinuated into the faith and life of the Church of England. The result was for a time, expressed by the infamous “black rubric”:

 

“Lest…kneeling…be thought…otherwise, we…declare that it is not meant…that any adoration is done…either unto the Sacramental bread or wine…bodily received, or unto any real and essential presence…of Christ’s natural flesh and blood…  As concerning the natural body and blood of…Christ, they are in heaven and not here.  For it is against the truth of Christ’s true natural body, to be in more places than in one, at one time.” 

 

Sadly many, too many “Christians” take the church’s bread and wine as symbol. They are stuck in an adverse sea of unbelief, unable to progress on the way God has provided in Christ.  Hardened hearts toward Jesus’ clear word makes of him with his church an apparition whose flesh is unable to provide access to the Father.  Jesus is locked-up in heaven. 

 

Jesus warns of this unbelief; to Thomas, he says, “do not be faithless, but faithful”.  Thomas then confessed Jesus’ real presence, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:27, 28). 

 

But you, believing his clear word, “this is my body” (Mk. 14:22-24) discern with porous hearts that Jesus is YHWH, before whom every knee (both of them) must bow (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11), who comes to us in his crucified and resurrected body.  In his baptismal death and resurrection therefrom he has conquered unbelief for the faith-life of his church in the new creation against all that threatens her coming out of the turbulent primordial deep, home of devils. 

 

On such faithfulness Jesus bestows Eucharistic touch for healing and promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn. 20:29b).  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/22/18
2018.07.25 19:36:52

PROPER 11/B (2018): Jer. 23:1-6; Eph. 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

 

Peace,          But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by [nullifying] the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace… (vv. 13-15). 

 

If you followed this text in the bulletin you noticed a translation change, “abolishing the law” is instead “nullifying the law”.  The Greek translates either way; but there is a difference of meaning, isn’t there? 

 

Did Christ “abolish the law”? Hardly; certainly not the moral law, we confess the Ten Commandments as summary of God’s ethic as our own in Christ.  As for OT ceremony and ritual, Christians acknowledge that by our baptismal death into Jesus’ sacrificial death we participate in his perfect fulfillment of the Law; thus the Law has been nullified from condemning believers. 

 

At his Baptism Jesus was ordained God’s new Israel. So he is our Circumcision, our sinful flesh is cast off by his death on the cross.  In Baptism Jesus is our Passover through the Exodus waters from slavery to adoption.  Jesus is our Bread of Life and our Feast of Unleavened Bread, and by his Resurrection he is our Easter Feast of Weeks.  By the Spirit given at Pentecost we are ingathered grain into one Loaf of Jesus’ body.  In-Spirited with living water issuing from the cross we are enlightened to be God’s Tabernacles’ harvest for revealing on the Last Day.  

 

Christ did not abolish the Law; rather by Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection the Law has been satisfied, fulfilled in him for all and in him we are new spiritual Israel. In Jesus the Law is nullified; it no longer condemns believers, it has been trumped, no longer separating us from peace with God. All that now condemns is unbelief, despising the obverse of saving faith, Holy Baptism (Mk. 16:16). 

 

The church’s commission and work in the world broadly proclaims this good news and its individual application in the sacraments of water with word, Holy Absolution, and feeding of bread-flesh and blood-wine that declares this gospel “for you”. Incumbent on us all hearing this gospel is to ask, “how shall we escape [just retribution] if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3). 

 

Today St. Paul speaks to the Gentiles of Ephesus. He reminds, that Israel according to the flesh was near to God.  The Jews possessed all the promises and blessings of true worship; but now, the blood of Christ brings both Jew and Gentile near to God in the peace of a new Covenant.  In Christ, both are united as new Israel in the Spirit, new men. 

 

Gentile pagan worship was bereft of God; but in Christ our worship surpasses all the spilt blood of Jewish bulls and goats. By Jesus’ blood there is not only covering but complete remission of sins in Christ (Heb. 10:4), YHWH our righteousness (Jer. 23:6) and Shepherd (Ps. 23:1).  This is the “great salvation” to which all are called and for whom the church always prays. 

 

The order of salvation is first the Kingdom’s nearness in apostolic preaching, then comes the fulfillment of all righteousness at the cross, peace with God in Baptism’s faith, after which unity processes among brothers and sisters.  Today’s Gospel speaks to an overarching order, “to the Jew first and also the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

 

Galilee is birthplace of the NT gospel proclamation (Isa. 9:1, 2). It was inhabited not only by Jews, there was an admixture of Gentiles and Samaritans; both despised by the Jews who referred to them as, “dead stones” and “dogs” for ritual impurity and cultural uncleanness; they were Godless peoples bereft of pure Torah. 

 

As objects of Jewish enmity, Gentiles responded in kind. Today Paul, to the Gentiles of Ephesus, describes God’s work in Christ as, “[having] broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14b). 

 

Torah law and temple worship was the epicenter of Jew/Gentile hostility, symbolized by the soreg, a wall within the temple barring Gentiles from entry to Jewish inner courts. The soreg effectively enforced a Jewish “Closed Communion” at the Law’s mandate.  

 

Temple separation extended to daily living. Communal eating is a powerful sign of unity; no observant Jew would engage in meal fellowship with Gentiles, public sinners, or Samaritans.  Here one begins to comprehend Jewish outrage at Jesus’ radical teaching and conduct in the midst of his wondrous signs that were inexorably pointing to OT order break down.

 

Our Gospel begins: Jesus’ disciples have returned from their initial missionary journey throughout Galilee. They preached “nearness” of the Kingdom in Jesus and so repentance.  Many Gentiles (Mk. 3:8, 5:1) heard “the Twelve” and response was overwhelming (6:31).

 

The Twelve having returned to Jesus, would have gone to a desolate place, “far from the madding crowd”; but the crowd discerned the plan and ran ahead to throng Jesus once again. Jesus is the Good Shepherd having compassion and would not deny “the one thing needful” (Lk. 10:42), more word; and so taught many things (Mk. 6:34). 

 

The hour became late. The crowd had been spiritually fed so the disciples would have sent them away to fend for their own physical needs.  Instead Jesus commands the Twelve to feed the crowd with food for bellies.  The prospect of such a mixed communal dining horrified the Jewish disciples; as the Lord’s Supper would become a stumbling block for Jews of Paul’s day. 

 

Gentiles who heard the Word might be baptized, but for Jewish Christians they would still be second-class citizens, who without circumcision and obedience to the Law could not sit at the lunch counter (read Holy Communion), ride in the front of the bus, or drink from the same fountain. “To the Jew first” was heard, but the new equality of “and also the Greek” was not discerned.

 

The Twelve resisted Jesus’ command with distain, as if to say, “What do you want us to do?... go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” (v. 37); disrespect retort to their Lord.  Jesus ignored the Jewish objection.  Instead he ordered feeding the crowd in ranks, reminiscent of OT Israel’s feeding in the wilderness.  Before the Apostles’ eyes Jesus recapitulated his Exodus feeding to include all men into the Passover promise. 

 

Apostolic distribution of the five loaves, looked to the church’s new Eucharistic meal in the Resurrection, mediated without discrimination, by Jewish disciples. Thus Paul says of Christ, he, “has…broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility by nullifying the law of commandments…”. 

 

It was Jesus who distributed the fish; perhaps because the church does not employ fish in her Eucharist; nevertheless we understand Jesus, Ichthus (fish), our Exodus flesh (quail) come by sea (Num. 11:32). 

 

Jesus’ sacrificial death not only nullified the Law that separates men from God and each other; it utterly abolished, in judgment OT temple worship; it too has its fulfillment in him.  Jesus is the new Temple for new men, the “Cornerstone” the builders rejected.  By his death Jesus was laid by God into the ground establishing the church’s one foundation in his Apostles’ teaching and true worship. 

 

The cross and our baptism into Jesus’ death is the engine by which the Spirit constructs God’s new Temple, the body of Christ. “In Christ” Gentiles are no longer “dead stones” but with believing Jews, are “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5).  Jew and Gentile are strategically placed and joined together oriented toward the Father’s will.  We are made straight and mortared in word, the water and, and the blood to be like Christ, a new creation in the image of God. 

 

Modernly Christian memory reflects on a different sort of division, hostility, and enmity. By the blood of Christ, the church is pure and holy; yet men in her name have engaged in fleshly warfare (Mt. 26:51-53).  It would take too long to iterate the fleshly wars waged in the name of “Christendom” against Jews, Muslims, schismatic sects, and erring denominations.  The church’s warfare is of a spiritual nature in which our weapons and armament is word and prayer trusting in God alone (Eph. 6:17, 18). 

 

Still, in fidelity, the church of necessity discriminates in favor of her holy things in our new Temple. True unity is confessional of the word rightly understood by the Spirit handed-over from the cross, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:7, 8).  These three alone testify to us. 

 

We receive their witness without hostility or enmity toward those who may reject or contend against them. The church has always practiced Closed Communion, in accord with these witnesses; prayerfully trusting salvation’s election to the Father. 

 

Last Sunday St. Paul addressed Christian election (Eph. 1:4). How do you know if you are among the Elect of God?  Salvation has nothing to do with self-generated feelings; it is the unmerited gift of God.  Yet the gift may be rejected, which is the perverse proclivity of our sin nature; and so by the Spirit we are always urged to repentantly examine, “how shall we escape [just retribution] if we neglect such a great salvation?”

 

Here is your assurance of election; apart from all human wisdom and effort, law or other works, believe that Christ graciously comes to you forgiving and making you holy. He calls you to hear him and receive the outward things of his church; one Baptism and her single Loaf. By this faith and practice you have unmerited grace, righteousness, and salvation.  Choose Life and believe.  Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 7/15/18
2018.07.16 00:45:31

PROPER 10/B (2018): Amos 7:7-15; Eph. 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

 

Safe,              Herodias had a grudge against [JB] and wanted to put him to death.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly (vv. 19, 20).  

 

Herod wanted to keep JB safe from his wife’s murderous rage even as Pilate would later try to save Jesus from Jewish leaders by scourging and putting him on shameful display before the crowd; thus Pilate pointed to Jesus, “Behold the man!” (Jn. 19:5).  

 

Despite an apparent Gospel focus on JB, it is Jesus’ coming death; the conclusion of his Baptism into our death, and death into his, that is at point. JB is the end times Elijah (Mk. 9:13).  He was seized, bound, imprisoned, and martyred by Herod and so directs us to behold Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29) in his coming Passion. 

 

“The sin of the world” is a singular reality; it is the sin of unbelief, in thought and deed, which alone condemns (Mk. 16:16). Today we pickup from last Sunday’s observation about Jesus’ visitation to Nazareth, that his teaching scandalized life long neighbors.  Jesus was “dumbfounded” at their lack of faith (6:6), which is to say, Jesus, the incarnate speech of God, by unbelief was rendered mute.  St. John says it this way, “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn. 1:11). 

 

Not only does today’s Gospel direct us to Jesus, it provides graphic visual silencing of the Lamb on account of unbelief in the mighty works of God in Christ. Today we behold the severed head of JB, forerunner and purveyor of God’s word, bloody mouth agape offered to sinners on a serving platter, a prequel of the cross. 

 

Martyred Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, one time ally of king Henry II, by ordination held a higher allegiance to the church over the king. When Henry would impose his will over the church Becket opposed the king inducing Henry to complain, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent [or meddlesome] priest?” Some of Henry’s nobles took it to kill Becket. 

 

In our OT Reading Amos was sent by God from Judah to the northern kingdom of Israel. He preached repentance on account of king Jeroboam’s autonomous and autocratic rule in the midst of God’s people.  At perceived meddling in the royal affairs of Israel, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, threatened Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah…and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, it is a temple of the kingdom” (Amos 7:12, 13). 

 

In our sin nature we are like Jeroboam, Herod, Henry, and the scandalized people of Nazareth. We prefer God’s silence to his “turbulent” and “meddlesome” proclamation, laying claim in Christ to absolute sovereignty in our lives. 

 

Like Herod, who thought he was protecting JB by jailing him, or like Pilate thinking to save Jesus by public scourging, we too attempt to circumscribe and silence God’s word. We would re-size Jesus, choosing a notional “Jesus” that permits us to live lives of relative autonomy while still claiming citizenship in God’s kingdom. 

 

We go to God’s church and listen to his word directing us to repentant faith and sacraments; but we are inattentive, distractible, and selective. Like supermarket shopping we pick from the aisles what is attractive and reject what is unpleasing to our tastes. 

 

But Jesus is not the product of notional man. Preaching of the church’s reign and rule of God in Christ is effective precisely because it flows from Jesus’ rejection, suffering, and death; and calls us into his Baptism on the cross (Mk. 10:38, 39).  Still many refuse the proffered Baptism of sacrificial suffering, assigning it to mere notional status rather than what it is, the obverse of saving faith.

 

Neither Herod nor Pilate could save JB or Jesus from death at the hands of men who desired “another” less authoritative “Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4), the speech of God in their lives.  In the end, you and I, by baptism are the soil into which the rejected and crucified Word is sown.

 

The hardened, pancake hearts of Herodias and Salome rejected JB’s Torah proclamation and so it was snatched away by Satan (Mk. 4:15). Herod heard John’s preaching and feared him, knowing he was a righteous and holy man, he intended to keep him safe from the wrath of his wife.  When Herod heard John he was confused yet heard him gladly.  Herod is like many who think ourselves rulers of our lives; ironically more often than not, we are out of control from within and from forces without. 

 

Herod was hamstrung by a drunken promise to a teen party girl; he could either keep JB safe from Herodias’ malice, as intended, or he could lose face before his court nobles. He called himself “king” but was mastered by emotional swings; from awe and confusion at JB’s preaching, to dread, thinking the appearance of Jesus was JB reincarnated come to haunt him.  Lust for his stepdaughter drove him from excitation to depression at being manipulated by conspiring women.  Such is the role of sex in history.

 

Herod’s vaunted royal rule was pretense. JB denounced his marriage, yet he feared John and gladly heard his preaching.  Herod is like one who receives with joy the word on rocky ground but lacks depth of soil, preventing the seed taking root and so falls away at the first tribulation or desire (4:16, 17). 

 

Herod’s mind was divided, he must decide between saving face and saving JB, between the world’s respect and gaining his soul (8:36). Despite Herod’s initial attraction to the reign of God, the concerns and intrigues of the world, the thorns, brambles, and thistles of the field choke the seed, overcoming him in unbelief (4:18, 19). 

 

St. Paul gives praise to God in Christ, the crucified Seed that germinates in the soil of hearts chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). By God’s gracious election, we implanted with the Word hear and submit to the king; given by grace, faith by the Spirit’s circumcision of hearts (Rom. 2:29). 

 

By the Word, the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), reigning in hearts we are continually brought to the Spirit’s sealing, our Baptism into Jesus’ death (1:13). His death is our death before the Father, and his resurrection ours as well.  By Baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit (1 Jn. 5:6, 7) witness to God’s miraculous work, submitting our lives in all things to God by belief in Christ. 

 

Our baptismal death in Christ transforms our autonomous and autocratic hearts. As our death is now Christ’s death we repentantly eschew sinful self-absorption.  Now we now desire more and more Word from faith to faith, anticipating in joy the Lord’s Supper that keeps us safe to the end.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/8/18
2018.07.09 23:07:40

PROPER 9/B (2018): Ezek. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Mk. 6:1-13

 

Unbelief,                 And [Jesus] marveled because of their unbelief (v. 6a). 

 

God recapitulates, that is, in word and mighty deeds he continually restates his saving love toward man, having its fullness in the crucified man, Jesus. The cross is history’s apex to which all events are directed and from which mankind in these end times moves to its conclusion, the Last Day.

 

Unbelievers on the other hand miss time’s overall linear march. Instead time is observed consisting of repetitious eternal cycles or “rhyming” of events.  George Santayana famously observed, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”  

 

And there is some truth to this; but not of a cosmos in endless flux and recycle; rather the “rhyming” that the world observes is coincident of God’s recapitulating word and deed. God repeats, repeats, and repeats in our hearing and sight by his word and deeds directing us to Christ, the Crucified. 

 

A cosmos that is cyclical, over-against one generated by God’s word, begets a disparate outlook. For the unbeliever, man is a bit player; hoping in the wax and wane of time, that by luck, by-golly, and personal wit, to catch and ride the flow of history’s atomic clock.

 

The believer, on the other hand, is oriented by God’s scriptural revelation of himself, comprehending that man’s existence is not a mindless evolutionary product of eternal repetitions; rather in Credo we acknowledge, “God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”.  The Creator has established a beginning of time into which he inserts his will and dominion, determining an end of days.  But what does this matter for us? 

 

Well, Jesus’ home congregation correctly observed that he is a “man” (Mk. 6:2).  Depending on one’s outlook then, Jesus is either a bit player in the endless permutations of cycles; or man’s continued rejection of Jesus crucified as apex of God’s salvific love for sinful men betokens judgment.  

 

Jesus entered his hometown following an extraordinary proclamation of God’s dominion come to Jewish Galilee and the Gentile Decapolis calling all to repentance and belief in him. With Jesus’ arrival, the biblical end time signs swirled all about him in galactic array.  

 

Jesus taught with an authority the equal of Scripture and wisdom beyond Moses. He confronted demons that bound and blinded men, commanding their departure to recapture the world for God.  Jesus restored, in the destructive wake of sin and Satan, abandoned bodies and spirits, to a wholeness anticipating the new creation. 

 

Nazareth’s failure to see and hear Jesus as the dénouement of salvation history and the subject of Scripture’s recapitulations was a culpable rejection of God’s gracious love in his final revelation in the “the Man”.  Consider the re-capitulatory sampling, expressed and implied, in today’s liturgical Readings.  

 

Israel lived under the dominion of Satan’s house in Egypt, servile hell. God gave Moses to the people, one of their own, as a deliverer.  Moses confronted Pharaoh, the strong man of Egypt, bound him and plundered his house.  God named these former slaves, his “Israel”, and “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22).  

 

Reminiscent of Jesus in today’s Gospel sending out the Twelve, YHWH commanded Israel to leave all behind, save a pair of sandals and a staff (Ex. 12:11), so that his people were to trust in him for all provision. Now here is a mystery, of those Israelites that exited Egypt through the sea, many would rebel, rejecting their Savior-God, Moses his deliverer, and despise his provision. 

 

Once delivered into the Promised Land, Israel turned away from God. Then the ten northern tribes were consigned into the devil’s thrall, an absorption into Gentile Assyria; lost forever.  In the south, Judah refused to serve the Lord and so were made to serve demonic Babylon. 

 

God called Ezekiel to speak to Israel in Babylon, “‘Thus says the Lord YHWH.’… [W]hether they listen or do not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezek. 2:4b, 5).  The knowledge that a prophet was in their midst provided the germ and substance of Israel’s and our rebellious culpability.  This too is a mystery; that the people God desired refused to listen and to see; still the prophet must proclaim both judgment and grace.

 

A funny thing happened in Jesus’ hometown synagogue. His teaching, wisdom, and power initially impressed his neighbors.  Then suddenly he was offensive to them.  He had come to his own (Jn. 1:11) and they rejected his call to repentance though in him God’s word and deeds were manifold and manifest. 

 

Jesus’ neighbors angrily rejected the “man” from God, implicitly joining those claiming his works were as agent of Beelzebub (Mk. 3:22).  In such an environment it is facile to merely observe, “that familiarity breeds contempt”. 

 

Something more was and is going on, something we have been calling a mystery; not merely about Nazareth and the religious establishment of Jerusalem; but history’s recapitulations rejecting God’s salvation in Christ, continuing in these end times.

 

Earlier Jesus had taught about this mystery; of hatred’s irrational rejection of God’s grace and love. In the vein of God to Ezekiel, “whether they listen or do not”; Jesus doubled down, saying to his Twelve, “To you has been given the mystery of the dominion of God; but to those outside… in order that in their looking they may look but not see, and in their hearing they may hear but not understand; lest they turn and it be forgiven them” (Mk. 4:11, 12). 

 

So today we have some idea that recognizes Jesus as a man, both for forgiveness and un-forgiveness the core of rebellion against God. The scandal into which people fall is Jesus’ humanity, perhaps especially today in broader “Christendom”. 

 

Jesus’ crucified body and drained blood is the exclusive means of world’s salvation; but to many this is offends. False teachers and Protestant “divines” within the pale of the church continue to posit with Zwingli that Jesus’ “flesh profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63b, when in fact Jesus spoke of our sinful flesh in apposition to his own, profiting everything).  

 

Is it any wonder that family members exposed to false teachers no longer worship Eucharistically conjoined in the crucified and risen flesh of Christ given to make us holy? Many have concluded, “At this point, what can it possibly matter!”  

 

In today’s Epistle St. Paul addresses the matter against those he dubs “super-apostles”.  These no doubt were errant pastors, preachers, and teachers come down from of Jerusalem with the appearance of true Christians.  Against these “super-apostle’s” various enthusiastic teachings, that is, a faith divorced from the crucified humanity of Jesus in word and sacrament, they implicitly taught “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit” and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).  

 

But St. Paul counters all false teachers who insinuate into the congregation. He associates himself with Jesus’ humanity for salvation and for judgment.  Paul would not have the Corinthians “see in him or hear from [him]” (12:6) one boasting of personal paradisiac experience or private revelation apart from the cross. 

 

For Paul there is no boasting of things that are unhelpful for salvation. Paul boasts only in what Christ has given him for glory from the Father, his human weaknesses intensified by a satanic thorn in the flesh (vv. 5, 7, 8), so to preach and know nothing other than “the man” Jesus crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) for the world’s unbelief.

 

Jesus’ hometown, those who “knew” him best, are mysteriously blinded. Jesus is so struck by this Divine determinism that Mark observes, “And [Jesus] was dumbfounded [which is to say, the word of God was rendered speechless] because of their unbelief.”  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/1/18
2018.07.01 23:52:11

PROPER 8/B (2018): Lam. 3:22-33; 2 Cor. 8:1-9, 13-15; Mk. 5:21-43.  

 

Wormwood,         Remember my affliction… the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases…  “The LORD is my portion.” (vv. 19-21a, 24). 

 

Jeremiah’s book is titled “Lamentations”, the vocable of suffering. “Lamentations” expresses OT Israel’s repentant heart and mind shaped in the Babylonian captivity as God returned her into bondage. 

 

Israel is thus the picture of a church possessed of two minds; one lamenting having been ripped from the Land’s hearth and home on account of grievous infidelity to the grace of God; and the other remembering a former glory in Solomon’s temple now destroyed, yet knowing that God’s love is steadfast and abundant, hoping for restoration that only God can provide.  

 

Our Gospel engages two sisters; Jesus refers to the elder hemorrhagic woman as his “daughter” and the dying younger one as his “child” (Mk. 5:34, 39, 41).  In Christ, the two are siblings, each is connected with the other in their peculiar womanhood. 

 

Life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10-14; Deut. 12:23). The twelve-year-old “girl” is of an age to enter her menarche, a change in her life that on some level signifies loss and gain, an exchange that should advance the promise of life; and yet the girl is on death’s door. 

 

On the other hand the older woman’s femininity, from the time of the younger’s birth, has gone seriously awry. A continual flow of blood has made her womb, the intended inner sanctum of human life, dead.  By this condition the woman has been ritually unclean and excommunicate from the life of the OT church.  At the extremity of her blood loss the woman’s vitality, fortune, and life were wasting away.

 

Jesus has come to these sisters united in extemis and common lament.  The older woman seeks out and touches Jesus in faith; and the faith of the child’s parents brings Jesus to touch their dying daughter. 

 

This communion of faith and touch with Jesus provides a picture of the NT Woman, the church in these end times. The church’s baptismal flow of in-Spirited water and blood from the crucified wounds of Christ brings about an exchange: our loss of death and lamentation for the joyous gain of new life for the all the living (Gen. 3:20). 

 

The life of Jairus’ daughter hangs by a thread. Time is of the essence if she is to be saved.  When Jesus takes time-out to search for and cross-examine the hemorrhagic woman who secretly touched him, at best he appears to possess a flawed sense of triage, diverting attention away from the “mission at hand”, the life of Jairus’ little girl.  She will surely suffer by Jesus’ expenditure of time toward the older woman whose concern was less immediate. 

 

That is the way in this world; often one person’s gain, in this case of finite time, is another’s loss. On account of the time Jesus spent with the older woman the little girl died.  The professional mourners hovering over and anticipating the girl’s death seem to have been vindicated.  When death arrived, they derisively broadcast a message that Jairus should no longer “trouble the Teacher” about his daughter. 

 

Jesus stands in the midst of lamentation and joy; joy by the woman restored to wholeness yet overshadowed by the crowd’s empathetic lament with their synagogue leader’s family loss. Jesus is God’s remembrance and response toward the lamentations of men, to take on “the wormwood and the gall”.  By an exchange for life Jesus ushers in the end times hope; God’s reign in the world in whom there is no lack, only abundance of his provision in faith, even of time, until on the Last Day he decrees otherwise. 

 

Lamentation is penultimate of faith; it is part and parcel of repentance. By faith’s lamentation we repent of manifold sins and by God’s response in the gift of a baptismal faith, we enter the witness box as did the hemorrhagic woman who confessed “in fear and trembling…the whole truth” (Mk. 5:33) of the sin of secret faith and trusted in the hope of God’s steadfast love never ceasing toward us. 

 

In Christ, God’s love is never a zero sum economy, some benefiting at the expense of others. Jesus and God’s abundance for repentant faith, forgiveness, and healing in the new creation is now, always, and everywhere available to all in the inner sanctum of his presence. 

 

Jesus turned to Jairus urging him from lament to faith and hope. Jesus has just come from calming the sea’s destructive threats toward his fledgling church and releasing the man bounded by a legion of devils.  He is the Stronger Man than Satan; and now he will assault the place where the grave holds court and jurisdiction over the death of the younger sister, vaunted by a cacophony from professional mourners.  Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life and so dismisses these “Lamentables” from his presence. 

 

Jesus takes the hand of the “girl” commanding her to rise; and so by Jairus’ faith Jesus joins this obedient “little girl” into his coming death and resurrection. Jairus’ faith in bringing Jesus to her, is now by touch and word, the girl’s faith. 

 

In the new creation out of death and lamentation the risen girl has, with her restored older sister, entered the fullness of womanhood and so Jairus’ house has been made holy by new life. Jesus directs she be fed, as he does for us today with the holy things of the church, word and sacrament.  

 

Today also St. Paul teaches the Corinthian congregation these practical gospel lessons in God’s economy and bounty among sisters in these last days. Early on, under the guidance of the Apostles, the Jerusalem church held their material goods in common for the consolation and provision of the brethren (Acts 4:32 ff.). 

 

In today’s Epistle, Europe and Judea were experiencing famine. Paul relates an example of two sisters, the Macedonian congregations and those of Jerusalem.  The Macedonians, as others, were experiencing severe affliction; nevertheless for joy they liberally raised overflowing monetary gifts for the support of their more beleaguered older sister in Jerusalem. 

 

By this grace and test of affliction Macedonia gave themselves wholly over to the Lord that God in Christ might be magnified, who “though he was rich, yet for [our] sake became poor, so that by his poverty [we] might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). 

 

In this way spiritual siblings prove their churchly character, never acting at the expense of the other and reflecting the Lord’s unceasing love. Our boast with Jeremiah is, “The Lord is my portion”.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/25/18
2018.06.25 21:59:01

PROPER 7/B (2018): Job 38:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41.  

 

Care,             And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.  And [the disciples] woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (vv. 37, 38)

 

This is the same complaint Job lodged against YHWH, a seeming indiscriminate lack of concern over man’s weal and woe, especially in our experience of peril and distress in the world.

 

In the background of Jesus’ sea voyage to the Gerasenes, is not only Job’s ignorant “faith” that puts at issue his vaunted “righteousness”; but also the account of Jonah’s anger at God’s merciful concern for pagan Ninevites.  

 

YHWH addressed Job out of a whirlwind, connoting his divine distress at Job’s judgmental, ignorant, and inappropriate complaint. God does not directly answer Job’s self-oriented concerns; rather he takes on the role of Teacher, redirecting Job to a proper mindset toward his Creator. 

 

Job had taken a posture toward God, much as Satan, a contending strong man (cf. Mk 3:27). In effect God responds to Job, “So you would to counsel me; well then man gird yourself, dress for action, for there is only one who is my Counselor whom I call ‘Wonderful’…  Tell me where you were when I laid the foundation of the earth… on what were its pillars sunk and its cosmic Cornerstone laid?  Tell me if you have understanding.” 

 

As an instance, God points Job to his architecture of the sea, creation’s primeval element. Theologians describe the sea, as a dark place, filled with unseen monsters, the realm of chaos and demonic, in which absent rescue or saving boat, certain death obtains. 

 

And this is true, not only in theology, but in the real threat of physical destruction. It is why at every chapel Service of the Annapolis Naval Academy, cadets sing a hymn-prayer, “for those in peril on the sea” (LSB 717 ss. 1, 2a, 3a, 4).

 

And yet YHWH describes this fearsome sea to Job, as his own; personifying it a petulant, willful child. When the sea burst from the womb, God fashioned doors to contain its “wild confusion”, and bound its limits in a dark swaddling, veiled in heaven’s clouds.  The sea and all therein belong to God. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus and his disciples are on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus sleeps in the rear of the boat. Before leaving on their voyage Jesus exorcised a demon on the Sabbath, releasing a possessed man.  On the following evening (Sunday) at Peter’s house, several Gentiles were also released from demon possession.  By parable, Jesus declared himself, the Man stronger than Satan come to plunder his household. 

 

Now on the water, demons from the Deep’s dark place threaten to swamp Jesus’ nascent church riding over its chaotic waves. Like Job, complaining against YHWH, the disciples awaken Jesus from a complacent rest, to accuse him of unconcern for their welfare. 

 

As YHWH spoke to Job from out of a whirlwind, Jesus now speaks in the midst of a sea-tempest. At his word the raging waters turned to great calm.  Jesus scolds his disciples for their fear, their lack of faith in him, giving the disciples pause to ask, “Who then is this…?” (Mk. 4:41). 

 

In peace, Jesus and the disciples soon reach the far shore to encounter the peculiar scourge of pagans, and another man possessed by a demon. This demon is stronger than the last; he is named, “Legion”, denoting some 5,000 spirits that easily broke iron fetters at human attempts to restrain the wild man. 

 

But Jesus, the Stronger Man, has just “bound the restless wave”, now releases the possessed man from demonic bondage.  The evil spirits entered a pig herd and were consigned to the “heart of the sea” for destruction. 

 

As dramatic as these exorcisms by Jesus are, they perhaps also serve to obscure our understanding; from the whirlwind YHWH challenged Job, “Tell me if you have understanding” (38:4b).  

 

This morning we entered the church-boat riding out this world’s “hill and gully” sea-tempests to be with Jesus by word and meal. We sang from Ps. 107, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress… Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!” 

 

The problem is, we rarely comprehend either the true depth of our distress or God’s deeper steadfast love. Instead, Job like, our focus is on the hurly-burly of the world, and like Jesus’ disciples we look for miraculous relief from the momentary things that plague us.  You know the list, we need only look to those for whom we pray who suffer one malady, tribulation, or another; certainly this is all right, as far as it goes. 

 

These are the “distresses” that confused Job about YHWH. He thought himself a “righteous man” undeserving of worldly tribulations.  Jesus’ disciples, for fear of death, resurrected him from his sleep, addressing him as “Teacher”; and so he is, and ours as well.  His disciples assumed the unbridled sea was independent of God, and so the imminence of destruction as though death in the first creation was our end, all that there is. 

 

It is precisely this fear of death that Jesus rebukes his disciples as faithless. We don’t have faith in Jesus to avoid the world’s unpleasantness, difficulties, or attacks.  We don’t even have faith in Jesus to avoid death out of this life.  Instead our faith is grounded in the knowledge that his death, by our sinking into the water of our Baptism, is our death; and that apart from his death, our destruction is indeed all that there is. 

 

Jonah is Baptism’s case in point. Like Job, Jonah thought he understood how God should be God and ran from God’s command to preach repentance to the Ninevites.  Jonah knew full well that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, relenting from disaster (Jonan 4:4), and that, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (2:9c). 

 

Like Job, Jonah’s “faith” dangerously tested God; obstinately pitting a contrary will toward the Lord. When God asserted himself from the sea-tempest, threatening to destroy Jonah and his boat crew, Jonah slept unconcerned in the hold.  Jonah may well have been wise to fear the Lord, but of the perils of the sea, he knew that all therein are the Lord’s and of itself the sea holds no terror for men.

 

When the crew, at their wits end, asked Jonah what they should do, he told them, they should sacrifice him into the sea. They did, and the sea became calm.  Jonah sunk, recognizing his descent into the “belly of Sheol”, the “heart of the sea” (2:2, 3). 

 

So, Jesus’ self-sacrificial offering on the cross, comprehends what neither Job, nor you or I will ever experience in Christ, utter abandoned by God in the “belly of Sheol”; and yet like Jonah, Jesus fully trusted that, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

 

This is the faith Jesus would have us know by baptismal death, and so discern the depth of God’s steadfast love in the wondrous work of Christ crucified; that by our death in Christ we are made new creations by the breath of the HS.

 

On the Last Day, what we are becoming in the promise of the Lord’s Supper will be manifest; that in the Boat we are not only the body of our physically resurrected Lord, but on that day we obtain, what Job confessed (19:25-27), our own flesh.

 

St. Paul prayed for the church of Corinth; that his sufferings might be an example in this life, and more importantly that the tribulations of this world, and even death, not restrict our affection for his teaching that, “for our sake [Jesus] made himself to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

 

“In return [we] widen our hearts” (6:13) beyond self-absorbed affections (6:12) to comprehend, in and out of worldly suffering, the mind and love of God, especially toward those with whom we find ourselves uncharitably angry (Jonah 4:4; Gen. 4:6). Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 6/17/18
2018.06.17 22:50:37

PROPER 6/B (2018): Ezek. 17:22-24; 2 Cor. 5:1-17; Mk. 4:26-34 

 

Naked,         For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked (vv. 1-3).  

 

This is man’s problem from the Fall, isn’t it? When Adam and Eve sinned, they cast off their Divine coverings, the righteousness of God by faith.  At the moment of believing Satan against the Creator the eyes of man and woman were opened to being bereft of God.  By loss of God’s righteousness came the shame of their nakedness (Gen. 3:10). 

 

To possess knowledge of good and evil apart from our Creator, in whom alone there is life, is to possess the knowledge of death inhering in our being. This was the shame that drove Adam and Eve to hide from God coming into their presence in the Garden. 

 

St. Paul says that our bodies are destined for destruction. He calls them “earthly tents” in which we groan over what has been lost.  Both pagan and Christian art reflects sinful man’s longing for restoration to the innocence of male and female physical forms. 

 

Michelangelo’s sculpture in marble, “The David” famously captured this yearning and perhaps something of our lost memory of what God intended of man’s physical form. From a human perspective out of the mind of Michelangelo, the beauty of man was fleetingly captured in stone; a frozen, single, youthful, moment in time. 

 

For the moment we put aside an idealized vision of the “perfectly” proportioned, virile, and handsome David. Scripture returns us to reality; our common inheritance by sin, the mocking shame of nakedness on death’s bed. 

 

The beginning of 1 Kings (1Kg. 1:1-4), shows David an impotent old man, bearing the ravages of the time and sin into which he was conceived. The king’s “tent”, to continue St. Paul’s image, was no longer beautiful and vital.  He is weak, pallid, gamy, wizened, and suffering from cold’s poor circulation. 

 

Israel’s elders searched out a fleshly covering and comfort for their dying king; Abishag the Shunammite, reputedly the most beautiful young woman in all Israel, was recruited to lie beside David to infuse in him warmth and perhaps the memory that woman, as Adam named his wife, “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). 

 

But even Abishag’s respite could not forestall for David the naked shame of death and the grave to which he must return; and neither would God spare Jesus, David’s greater son by Mary, the shame of the cross and the destruction of his “fleshly tent” on account of sin.

 

From the cross and Scripture our eyes are now drawn to Michelangelo’s “The Pieta”, sculpturing Mary holding and beholding her dead Son, the picture of God’s prophecy to the woman that on account of sin, “I will surely multiply your distresses and your moanings. In distresses you will bear children (Gen. 3:16).

 

But in heaven even the marble memorials of the old creation are passing away, as will all man’s art and imagination. They cannot compare with “the house not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1b) in the resurrected flesh of Jesus, a tent now a Temple, prepared by God for our eternal dwelling.  Our dwelling place in the new creation coming into being is a righteous covering in the flesh of the woman’s Seed who, on the cross crushed the serpent’s head and who in turn was bruised for our iniquity (Gen. 3:15).

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches the crowds by parables and explains them to his disciples, at once hiding and revealing the “reign of God” come into the world by his ministry.

 

Jesus has posited that Satan lays claim to the world and all in it to be his possessions in a house of sin and rebellion. Against Satan, Jesus declared that he is the Man “Stronger” than Satan come to invade his stronghold; that he would bind Satan and release men from the house of death.  Apart from Jesus’ reign, escape from Satan’s bondage is not possible (Mk. 3:27; cf. 5:1 ff.). 

 

We proclaim the good news of Jesus crucified and so in the Resurrection we are baptized into Jesus’ victory and binding of Satan. And yet as we look about us it doesn’t always seem so.  Sin and death still appear, even dominate. 

 

Jesus explains in two parables. The church has one job only, and even that one thing is not the cause of our release from the house of Satan.  The church pictured as “The Pieta” bears in her hands the flesh of Jesus crucified which is her glory.  She is given to cast her divine Seed into the world, the word of God. 

 

While the church sleeps, suffers, and is concerned for the gospel after sowing, the Seed unseen germinates in good soil moving it to grow in stages of divine dominion over the house of Satan. The earth produces automatically without the help of its slumbering helpmate; first the shoot, next the ear, and finally the full grain in the ear, and we know not how (Mk. 4:27, 28). 

 

If we, in this time of the NT church, are unable to plumb the Seed’s miraculous growth in the soil, we are nevertheless to discern and attend over time the power of God bringing about his new creation until the Last Day when “the full grain in the ear” is revealed to all at the Judgment.  In short the reign of God comes of itself. 

 

It may seem that Satan continues to hold human chattel in sin’s thralldom; but Jesus, the Man stronger than Satan, does not do battle on worldly terms. God’s dominion is in the arena of the elevated cross, where Jesus in weakness utterly submitted himself to God, taking our naked shame onto himself to exalt God for the love of men.  By Jesus’ naked shame and death in our place, the law and its hellish Prosecutor are overcome and bounded by the gift of faith.  Sin and death are thus destroyed in the water and Word of Baptism. 

 

By Baptism we have entered into Jesus’ death for receipt of a righteous covering before God. The Shulammite of the Song of Songs, after David’s death, was betrothed to Solomon.  Jesus is David’s greater son (Ps. 110:1), with whom the church, his Shulammite is clothed in a righteous bridal dress; and held in the tender warmth of God’s love, and against whom the gates of hell will not prevail (Mt. 16:18).

 

The reign of God by a miniscule, fallen, crucified Seed (Jn. 12:24) is revealed to those who will see the power of God in the church’s expansive mustard branches from the cross reaching out to cover the sin of the world. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/11/18
2018.06.11 23:26:51

PROPER 5/B (2018): Gen. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 4:13—5:1; Mk. 3:20-35  

 

Loaf,              And [Jesus] appointed twelve to be with him… [Including] Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  And he came to the house; and a crowd came together again, so that they were not able eat the loaf.  And when those around him heard this, they went out to seize him, for they said, “He has lost his senses.”  And the scribes coming down from Jerusalem said that he was possessed by Beelzebub… (vv. 13a, 19-22a). 

 

You may recall, whenever there is a NT reference to Judas Iscariot it is likely a marker directing us to the church’s Holy Supper. That is the case in today’s Gospel Reading.  By “the loaf” Jesus intended to share with both Jews and Gentiles in the house at Capernaum we ponder the Sacrament of the Altar in which we participate this morning.

 

Jesus went up a mountain near the Sea of Galilee; there he appointed twelve Jewish men, including Judas Iscariot, into the apostolic Office. Jesus and the twelve returned to the house in Capernaum where a throng of Jews and Gentiles gathered to hear his teaching and share the house bread. 

 

Now when those who had been watching Jesus’ every move realized that he once again intended to meal fellowship with sinners, tax collectors, and Gentiles (Mk. 2:15, 16) they planned to arrest him and put a stop to his “blasphemous” nonsense.

 

Parenthetically, the translation in your bulletin places the charge, “He has lost his senses”; or “He is out of his mind” on the lips of Jesus’ mother and brothers as though they were in agreement with the scribes from Jerusalem. The Greek says no such thing.  If St. Mark wished to convey such an unholy association there is in Greek a perfectly good word for “family” (“‘n oikia, as”), rather than speculating about a rare euphemism about what the Greek actually says, “those around him” not “family”.  Such is the role of higher criticism in translation, willing to sacrifice meaning for an overarching methodology.

 

Jesus’ nuclear family only comes into view following his counter-charge against the Jerusalem scribes that they are guilty of blaspheming the HS. Jesus does not condemn his family as associates of the scribes.  The appearance of Jesus’ mother and brothers outside “the house” serves merely as foil that directs us to Jesus’ new family inside “the house”. 

 

In this season of “Time of The Church”, the family of God is the baptized into Jesus’ death on the cross; gathered in faith around word and Sacrament, one loaf for life in the resurrection. Thus, today we ponder our Eucharist; that our baptismal participation into Jesus’ death, his body and blood separated on the cross, is source of eternal Life.

 

Separation is death. Separation from God is spiritual death; separation of body from animating soul connotes eventual physical death; separation of woman from man leaves both bereft, half alive progressing toward death; separation from the church, the body of Christ with true brothers and sisters is spiritual death; for outside the church there is no life.

 

In extreme expression of separation an OT closed communion for the sake of faith’s integrity separated Jews from the uncircumcised or Gentiles. But in time God would employ death’s evil for life’s love.  On the cross Jesus’ sin-bearing flesh was separated from the OT church in order to establish the human sacrificial substance for forgiveness in the NT church’s communal Loaf and Cup.  This NT in Jesus’ flesh and blood was distributed to the Apostles, on the night Judas Iscariot betrayed him, creating God’s reunited eternal family of man in Christ. 

 

Today the descriptive term of man’s separation from brother and sister and from God, is “identity politics”, as old as our first parent’s sin. By a newly acquired “knowledge of good and evil” Adam blamed both God and the woman for his fallen circumstance; God, because he now knew the woman a defective gift; and the woman, because her service brought about his death. 

 

The woman rightly blamed the serpent’s lies; but also she implicitly pointed to her husband’s failure of pastoral protection. Ever since, Eve and her female progeny have “desired” the office, given in nature, to the man alone (Gen. 3:16b), exacerbating the unnatural divide of union.  

 

Our inherited knowledge of “good and evil” imposes in the human heart every imaginable cluster of identity politics. Those, not like us are consigned to a bin we label “for deplorables”.  In this way what God calls evil we judge, “separations of advantage” in our worldly lives, that is, until we die to be confirmed in eternal separation that rejects grace through Jesus crucified, our Author of new life. 

 

But again what man and Satan intend for evil, God employs for good. In Eden, God put the Tree of Life before Adam and Eve; instead they jointly and severally chose death; and so, Life was withdrawn until Jesus, the Author of life was baptized with the HS unto man’s death on the cross.

 

The substance and content of our Loaf and Cup is Jesus’ death; his body, blood, and Spirit separated and handed-over to the Father, then delivered to the church in the unitive event of Holy Thursday’s meal, Good Friday’s Passion, and Easter’s resurrection for our eternal Sabbath in Christ.  

 

All this says, that on this Lord’s Day what I distribute to you is what Jesus gave his apostles in the Upper Room; a participation in the fruit of his death on the cross as a partaking from the Tree of Life restoring to God.

 

To be clear, we have restoration to Life, as Jesus’ death in Baptism is now our death to self. When Jesus invited the deplorable Gentiles to share the house loaf with the apostolic leadership many in and out of the church resisted the new family orientation. 

 

The scandal of a shared meal with sinners and Gentiles would not be overcome until Baptism’s gift of the HS for faith unto repentance by our new creation’s genesis.

 

St. Paul points out, what is visible to the eyes of our flesh is merely the things of the old creation wasting away; but what we see by faith by the promises of God is the advance of our inner selves discerning the substance of our shared Loaf and Cup with brothers and sisters in Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Though our old flesh is being separated, we have a building from God, a family-house not made with hands, in the flesh of Christ.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/5/18
2018.06.05 22:14:35

PROPER 4/B (2018): Deut. 5:12-15; 2 Cor. 4:5-12; Mk. 2:23—3:1-6  

 

Sabbath,      “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy…  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work…” (vv. 12a, 13, 14). 

 

The Day of Pentecost concluded the festival seasons of Advent through Easter. Our celebration of The Holy Trinity brought us into the “Time of The Church”.  Thus informed by God’s self-revelation of love toward sinful men, the church now begins an examination of her time in the world as Baptized and Eucharistic new Israel.

 

Observing the Gospel scene we would ordinarily expect to find Jesus leading his disciples in their travels. But today the disciples are making a way for Jesus through a wheat field as they feed on its grain.  In this activity we discern prophetic action as the disciples are “preparing and making straight the way of the Lord” (Mk. 1:3) while partaking the stuff that would become Eucharistic bread.  

 

The Pharisees accuse Jesus’ disciples of Sabbath criminality; but what crime; the work of “reaping” to slake hunger, or of “highway building” by making a way for the Lord in their wake? Either way all Pharisees of every age do not see beyond the stricture that “On [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work…” Is that how the church reads her Scripture?

 

Please don’t tell me, as with our Protestant friends, that by the Resurrection Jesus established Sunday as the new Sabbath day. The Sabbath is a seventh day memorial of the first creation. 

 

The explanation will be provided by Jesus’ work on the cross where Sabbath holiness is wedded with the church’s Holy Supper instituted on the eve of the Passion. But for now Jesus draws his disciple’s accusers to how David, on the lamb as it were, from the wrath of king Saul, entered the tabernacle on the outskirts of Jerusalem. 

 

David needed food for his followers. Approaching the High Priest he lied about being on a mission for Saul and asked for five loaves of the showbread in the Sanctuary.  These twelve loaves were known as the Bread of Presence reserved as week old bread for the serving priesthood when on the Sabbath they were replaced by a fresh baking.

 

At this point our Christian mentality advances to Jesus feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves at the hands of his twelve apostles; a sign and anticipation of the Eucharistic character of the church’s eternal Resurrection life.

 

Following Jesus’ death and three-day rest in the grave, the first creation’s Sabbath duty was perfectly fulfilled. The Sabbath is no longer one discrete day out of seven as the first creation is now passing and giving way to the new creation coming into being. 

 

By Christ’s obedience to the will and law of God on the cross; and God’s acceptance of his sacrifice, the HS has been delivered in procession to the church from Father and Son unto our Baptism for eternal life.

 

By our baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection the NT church participates in the same new creation rest, an eternal Sabbath. Thus Christian worship comprehends all time now and in eternity from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. 

 

When Luther explained the meaning of the Third Commandment, he does not mention our obeisance to a particular day of Christian worship; rather he understood that Jesus fulfilled all the law’s demands with the declaration from the cross, “It is finished” and sanctifying all time for the church’s consumption of priestly food, our NT Bread of Presence. 

 

This theology of time and eternity by heaven’s joinder with mankind in Christ is not mere metaphysical calculus. To say that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and all OT festival worship is to accept the necessity of, “new wine is for fresh wineskins” (Mk. 2:22c) lest the OT skins burst for inability to contain the NT wine, the Spirit, the water and the blood.

 

It is said that the law has three functions, as curb, a mirror, and a guide, chief of these functions is it being mirror in that the “law always accuses” us in this life to be sinners; but before the Fall the essential character of the God’s law was never accusatory; rather whenever it was announce it was revelatory of God’s essence, so also with the Ten Commandments of a later time.

 

To say that we should keep holy the Sabbath merely states that we were created to be holy in the good creation. That we are prohibited from murder says that God is the God of life so that we are to be like him in promoting life in every circumstance.  Thus to paraphrase God’s law to Adam, “Today I put before you two trees, the knowledge of good and evil; and the tree of Life, choose life.” 

 

So also with the Ten Commandments as we are in the new creation wrought by Christ crucified; the law in its essence reveals the character of God in whose holiness we are called to participate. The OT renders the Third Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy by two rationales, From Exodus (20:8-11) and from today’s Deuteronomy (5:12-15) Reading assigning to the Sabbath man’s release and rest from our slavery to sin in the world.  The Exodus rationale calls for man’s imitation of God’s own eternal rest by faith. 

 

Both rationales are the same, only viewed differently; from below concerning man’s condition in a world that demands endless labor; and from above that we should aspire to enter into the eternal redemption of God.

 

This we do in the new creation as we receive in Baptism our new life in Christ and so worship Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day with angels and archangels.

 

This is not to say that our life in Christ’s holiness is one long “siesta” either on earth or in heaven. Like the young men who followed David pursed by Saul for having replaced him as king; Jesus will be marked for death by purveyors of the old religious régime (Mk. 3:6). 

 

As followers of Christ we by the HS’s light discern our true enemy to be the displaced prince of the world, “a murderer from the beginning”.  In Christ “we contend against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12) and so we will until the Last Day. 

 

To this calling we daily put on “the whole armor of God”; advancing in the Lord’s way from faith to faith.  On our way we are maintained by the holy things of our eternal Sabbath given in Christ our only source of holiness before God.  Jesus with his church is God’s Bread of Presence delivered for his Eucharistic priesthood of believers.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/27/18
2018.05.28 22:45:10

THE HOLY TRINITY/B (2018): Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; John 3:1-17.  

 

God,   “[U]less one is begotten of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (v. 5). 

 

“Kingdom of God” is better rendered the “reign of God” in the man Jesus, lifted on the cross. For St. John, Jesus’ lifting is his glory that he and the Father shared before the foundation of the world.  By his crucified lifting, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exultation to the throne of God are one movement that defines and contours Jesus’ Passion. 

 

In short, God’s “reign” speaks to sending his Son into Mary’s flesh, Jesus’ baptism in the HS from John, his Passion and death and handing over the Spirit with the water and the blood from his side for forgiveness of sin.

 

By this grace and love through his Son, God orders and governs his universal kingdom to his will according to the character of his being of which Jesus’ crucified sacrificial death is the express manifestation.

 

By forgiveness through Jesus’ death we are, not only deemed righteous before God; we are sanctified, made baptismally holy in communion with Jesus’ sacrificial death. In water and Spirit, God begets us holy, as he is holy (Mt. 5:48). 

 

Jesus’ words are the “voice of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8) so that by water and word man by its power is, in these end times of the church, being made a new creation; even as the first creation began at the word of God and the HS inspiring the deep (Gen. 1:1-3).

 

So what is the deal about a new creation replacing the old? It is about sin and holiness; both function to separate.  Today is The Holy Trinity.  We declare that God is wholly other.  To the extent he freely joins himself to his creation; still he remains separate from that which is profane, common, and unclean; and so must we. 

 

Man was made in the “image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:27).  He was, as they say, “in the world but not of the world”.  He was with his Maker united in holiness for dominion in the world. 

 

But sin also functions to separate. Sinners are dead precisely because we are separated from the source of Life.  Death is separation from God!  Death is not a condition the dead can reverse. 

 

Return from death to life is the conundrum men have struggled to overcome since the Fall; how does one reach back into heaven and repossess the holiness of God once rejected and rejoin the “reign of God”? Separation, it would seem is a permanent condition. 

 

Holiness, separation from that which is common, profane, and unclean, is a nature, an essence peculiar to God alone. We who are conceived in sin are by our nature an impious people, unable to aspire or earn holiness not of ourselves; it is not who we are.  Holiness must and always is the gift of the One who alone is holy in his being.  Today we celebrate the gift of God’s holiness in this “Time of the Church”; for the gift is through the church. 

 

Lifted on the cross, Jesus looked down on his mother from whom he received his flesh, and on John, “the beloved disciple”. To his mother he said, “Woman, behold, your son!”, and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (Jn. 19:26, 27). 

 

Jesus then received the vinegar of the “wild grapes” from faithless Israel (Isa. 5:2c).  He beheld Mary and John joined in heart to his Passion, the picture of his NT church forged by his word and death.  In turn, they lifted their eyes beholding the death out of which is our new life, new holiness, and new wedding wine, the “chief” of Jesus’ signs (Jn. 2:10, 11). 

 

Jesus declared the work, his Father sent him to accomplish, “complete”.  His final vision before death was of Mary and John; and so handed-over the HS to the Father for the church’s promised new life.  The nascent church would await Jesus’ three-day Sabbath rest for the resurrection and Jesus’ delivery from the Father of the HS. 

 

After ascending to the Father (20:17), Jesus on Easter morning appeared to his Apostles to gift his church with her patrimony of holiness in the new covenant in his blood. Jesus breathed on these his NT apostolic representatives of the church, saying, “Receive the HS.”

 

Thus Jesus, for our life, delivered to his church the holy things of his death: the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8), all three having issued from his crucified Person; that by baptism into his death and resurrection we might participate anew in the gift of a holy Life from our triune God.

 

Today we hear the conclusion of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon to the Jews. His preaching spoke the church’s new baptismal existence by the work of the thrice-holy Godhead; the Father’s sending and witnessing to his Son’s atoning death; Jesus, the “Holy One” who “trusted in God” that he would not see the grave’s corruption; and God’s promised delivery to the church, the new place of presence and true worship, in his Son through the HS. 

 

When the Jerusalem crowd heard the Apostles’ witness by Peter, they were bereft; and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the HS. For the promise is for you and for your children…” (Acts 2:37-39). 

 

Those doubting the efficacy of infant baptism, are again refered to Isaiah, speaking to Israel’s first baptism out of Egyptian death through the Red Sea waters, “I will place my Spirit upon your seed and my blessings upon your children” (LXX Isa. 44:3).  

 

The church is community in the Way, possessing the holy things of God. It is by the things of Christ’s death that the church possesses its Life from the Spirit; God in Christ having put death to death.  Our new life comes by fidelity to the things of Jesus’ death where God has placed his HS. 

 

Sinners though we are, by Baptism we hear Christ’s word, the voice of the Spirit; and led by faith we receive the fire-wood (coal) of angels (Pastors) who apply on human lips we receive holy Eucharist from heaven’s Incense Altar wood the holy things of Jesus’ death, his separated flesh and blood for our restoration to God.

 

In this gracious gift of God’s sacraments, we in turn accept his call to a sent life of holiness in the world. In holiness we hear God’s ever present and implied question to his saints, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, to which by grace we may confidently respond, “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/20/18
2018.05.22 21:52:45

PENTECOST/B (2018): Ezek. 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15. 

 

Sorrow,       “But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts… Nevertheless… it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (vv. 5-7).

 

The Apostles know Jesus, or so they believe. Now Jesus tells them that he is going away, and curiously they do not ask where.  It is characteristic of men that we are loath to give up what we know for an unknown; “a bird in the hand” if you will.

 

The Apostles here remind us of Mary Magdalene clinging to Jesus not yet ascended to the Father. They sorrow that Jesus will soon “be parted” from them.  He is going to the cross about which he would soon offer Eucharistic prayer (Jn. 17).

 

Even as the Apostles were participating in the new worship and fellowship of God being instituted among them, they do not grasp Jesus’ promise to send the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Helper, the Counselor; nor will they fully understand until fifty-three days later, the Day of Pentecost.

 

For now, despite Jesus’ words of comfort, they sorrow. It must have sounded a lot like Jesus withdrawing from their communion and offering a consolation prize, a second best replacement for his presence.  

 

How could they think otherwise at that moment? Since the Fall, man has inherited Eve’s sorrowful curse of God stepping back; “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your distresses [sorrows] in childbearing” (Gen. 3:16a).  How terrible a punishment for the woman; to know that having entered in league with Satan, she who was created for bringing about life, is instead the cause of her progeny’s demise.  Eve’s multiplied sorrow translates well as, “bearing children in pain”. 

 

Despite Eve’s resistance to her husband’s office, and his own chastisement, Adam prophetically extended pastoral comfort to his wife, naming her in the midst of sorrow and pain, sin and death; she would be, “Eve—mother of all living” (3:20).

 

We find in the various heroines of Scripture, the daughters of Eve, portrait aspects of the Church, outside of which there is no life; for apart from Christ, the Word with his church, men are aught than a heap of dissected, disinterred, very dried bones (Ezek. 37).

 

Still one cannot help recalling Eve’s sorrow inhering in all women on account of sin; “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15; Mt. 2:18). 

 

Today we fast forward from the first Maundy Thursday to commence the church’s Triduum, our NT worship of the Father in the crucified, resurrected, and ascended flesh of Christ. It is now the Day of Pentecost.  You will recall two Sundays ago we heard about “Gentile Pentecost” (Acts 10) of God pouring out the Holy Spirit onto the Centurion Cornelius’ family. 

 

Confronted with heaven’s testimony of Baptism of the HS, Peter was compelled to no longer deny uncircumcised Gentiles co-equality in the life of the church direct Gentiles also be baptized into the church’s communion by water and word.

 

Today we celebrate what is the first Pentecost, or “Jewish Pentecost” that concludes our season of the Resurrection. On this first Pentecost the Father again witnessed to the glory of his Son’s name by pouring out his Spirit upon the NT disciples in Jerusalem of which Peter preached the witness to the Jews. 

 

Many in Jerusalem believed and at Peter’s direction were baptized for forgiveness and gift of the HS (2:38); still others continued to reject God’s testimony of his Son’s name, “God and Lord”, present with the body of Christ, the betrothed, new Israel, now withdrawn from the OT stone temple.

 

If the Apostles in the upper room on Maundy Thursday were saddened at Jesus’ impending “parting” and Passion; then now on Pentecost the Father testimony to his Son manifests the full revelation of God’s love as the HS processed into the church (about 120 at the time). 

 

On this day our eyes are opened to the truth of the church’s creed encapsulated in the OT Shema, “Hear, O Israel (this now includes the whole house of dry bones, Jew and Gentile, baptized into the life giving word and flesh of the resurrected Christ): The Lord our God is one” (Deut. 6:4). 

 

By the consensual sin of Adam and Eve, Satan gained a foothold in God’s good earthly creation. Satan fouled and corrupted man’s place in the Garden, audaciously declaring himself, “Prince of the World”; his ensign planted in dying terrain.  But God, in the incarnation, nativity, and passion of his only Son began in earnest the final reversal of death’s grave legacy.  On the cross God’s heart toward men and Satan’s hatred of God is at once revealed. 

 

Man’s fall and death was never the prize; rather Satan’s goal was always theft from God of his beloved mankind in heaven’s warfare among, dominions, powers, authorities, principalities, angels, and archangels and so ultimately to achieve the overthrow and death of God. At the cross Satan’s murderous heart was revealed among the chorus of those mocking Jesus, “He trusts in God” (Mt. 24:43).  Satan’s appeared to hold the victory, a “fait accompli”.  Of the devils, we may say about their knowledge of God, “they hardly knew Ye.”

 

Eternal life consists in this, “that [we] know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he] sent” (Jn. 17:3).  By grace, God has completely given himself over to men for new life as a new creation, to join him “en arche, in beginning” (1:1), the Trinity’s place of council and conversation in eternity’s Word and reign. 

 

On the cross, in the resurrection, and the ascension of humanity in the man Jesus Christ to the throne of God we by the guidance of the HS know God to be the God who kills and makes alive, who wounds and heals, whom none can deliver out of his hand (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6).

 

God is one. In unity of Persons he is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier who makes his union with men by the woman delivered to his beloved Son.  Jesus, with the woman, is known in truth; he is “Love” as Love does, for all who believe the name of the Son (Jn. 17:11b). 

 

Children are “begotten” by fathers and “born” of women. By the ordinance of Christ we are baptized into his death and resurrection, “begotten from above” (3:3, 7) and so “birthed” out of the NT woman, the “mother of all living” in water and word.  We are children of Life who join the eternal conversation of Father with the Son by the power of the HS. 

 

In the upper room Jesus comforted his Apostles, saying about his sending the HS, “your sorrow will turn into Joy” (16:20c).  We are participants by his word and Sacrament in an ongoing knowledge of God.  Our hearts are made in concord with font of eternal life, the living water of Father’s love through the Son from whom the Spirit processes for the church into the world (7:37-39).  Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 5/13/18
2018.05.14 22:23:16

EASTER 7/B (2018): Acts 1:12-26; 1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11b-19 

 

Ask,   And this is the confidence which we have in [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. (vv. 14, 15). 

 

Appropriately we approach the conclusion of the Easter season in prayer. Not prayer that wishes and hopes; rather prayer that is assured and does not disappoint because of who our God is and who we are in Christ, children privy to the Father’s will. 

 

Living as we do in America and breathing the surrounding Protestant air, it may be difficult to comprehend our Readings having to do with the church’s petitions and inquiries of God.

 

The church’s worship is communal, never individualistic; even when you are alone; your prayers are associated with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. St. Mathew’s Gospel is correctly translated by the Received Text; i.e., in English the NKJV; that we go to our common room, shutting the door to pray in “the secret place” (6:6, 16). 

 

We who celebrate the church’s Eucharist Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day understand “the secret place” as the body of Christ.  The deacons declare the congregation’s doors closed, “de missa” from which we have the “mass”.   

 

Jesus does not direct us to little closets in individual homes but to the church’s “place” apart from the world, the new Temple of God’s presence, the eucharistic flesh of the man Jesus who is Son of God and bears the name of the Father from eternity “in the beginning” (John 1:1) which itself is the secret place of the Holy Trinity.  Baptism in “the water” and “the blood” issuing from Christ’s flesh on the cross (Jn. 19:30, 1 Jn. 5:8) is the church’s entryway into our “secret place” which the world neither knows nor accepts. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus and the Apostles are in the upper room engaged in the church’s NT worship being instituted. Some call our text Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer”, and so it is; but more accurately, given the context of what is happening and what will follow-on, it is Jesus’ Eucharistic consecretory Prayer to the Father in and for his church. 

 

(Note where in our Liturgy we find the Prayer of the Church, it heads up the consecration in advance of the Sacrament, its fullness in the Our Father all of which the Celebrant prays).

 

Jesus’ Eucharistic Prayer followed his institution and distribution of the Supper and his instruction of its meaning. The Prayer immediately commenced his Passion in Gethsemane concluding with separation of his blood from his body on the cross. 

 

From the cross comes the stuff of the Supper, his body and blood offered to the Father, validated in the Resurrection and delivered for the church; which is to say that all worship of the Baptized is Eucharistic.

 

Listen to Jesus’ Eucharistic Prayer in the midst of Sacrament then being established, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn. 17:11b).  

 

Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” is Eucharistic in the church’s new worship of the Father, through “the water” and “the blood” from Jesus’ riven side given for Baptism and handing-over for the church the Spirit of Truth.

 

Succinctly, by Baptism and Supper the church is Eucharistically kept in the Father’s name, the same name bestowed on his Son from eternity “in the Beginning”. 

 

For St. John, our salvation is utterly dependent on our believing the Father’s witness to the man, Jesus his Son who bears his name, “YHWH”, or “Lord”. Believing and having this testimony from the Father in ourselves we possess the Life of the age to come, now (1 Jn. 5:9, 11, 12a). 

 

When we pray in Eucharistic identity with Christ we are informed of the Father’s good will and so assured God hears our petitions. Indeed, our prayers in accord with the will of the Father are already answered, as they are for the Psalmist, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (27:4). 

 

The church celebrated Jesus’ formal ascension to heaven last Wednesday evening. Ascending, Christ in the flesh of man is united with the Father, and so has brought heaven and earth together again. 

 

As Jesus “parted” (Luke 24:51) from the sight of the disciples on the Mt. of Olives he was clothed in the fullness of his divinity, the Cloud Rider, that the world does not see but to whom the Father witnesses that this man bears the name of “God” and “Lord”; to which the church confesses, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4). 

 

Following the Ascension the nascent NT church once again gathered in the upper room in the communion of her “secret place” in Christ who comes to them and us in an ascended way, in word and sacrament. Commentators observe that for St. John references to Judas Iscariot are Eucharistic markers which we noted in the Supper and Gethsemane.  Now in the upper room St. Luke picks-up on the pointer in Acts.

 

The church’s first order of affairs for the church was to acknowledge loss of Judas’ loss share in the Church’s apostolic ministry and so their unifying fullness in the one office of Christ’s word and sacrament.

 

The remaining apostolic band are of “one accord” (Acts 1:14); rather than a statement concerning church doctrine, their “accord” was located in the testimony of “the Spirit, the water, and, the blood”, and the testimony of the Father to his Son who came and comes to us in the flesh (1 Jn. 5:9). 

 

Apostolic accord connoted brotherhood that is of a Eucharistic union with Jesus’ flesh, and our witness to Life in that flesh. Jesus taught of the Sacrament, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5c). 

 

The brotherhood’s convocation following the Ascension included instructing interpretation of God’s word by Peter’s Sermon acknowledging the church’s need to replace Judas in the ministry’s emblem of the church’s unity and wholeness.

 

Peter, as Celebrant, prayed on behalf of the community, a Eucharistic Prayer, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place” (Acts 1:24, 25), i.e., “a place” apart from the flesh, burst bowels into the world’s “Field of Blood”. 

 

The congregation’s first Eucharistic action was conducted in an episcopal investiture mass. Two disciples were called and presented in prayer for God’s selection by their casting lots; the choice fell upon Matthias. 

 

In our Gospel Jesus prayed the Father that his disciples be kept in the unity of their name; how extraordinary! Next Sunday Jews on Pentecost Day will receive a baptism of the HS.  Peter will direct these Jews to repentance and to receipt of water and word Baptism for a new begetting from above and entry into the church’s Holy Communion. 

 

Consider what this means and the joy that all disciples experience by the coming of the ascended Lord in our midst; “parted” from the world’s sight, yet revealed now in faith by the promise of eternal Life from the Father to keep us in “the Name” of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/9/18
2018.05.10 22:55:50

ASCENSION/ABC (2018): Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

 

Heart-Eyes,           …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… (vv. 17, 18a). 

 

Salvation consists in this, that one beholds the heart of God, given in Baptism; a circumcision of man’s own heart. Baptism cuts away the fleshes binding of myopic hearts.  By release from imprisonment hearts are remade the chief organ of sight for the kingdom of heaven.  This is the gift of faith of the HS.

 

St. Paul urges us to employ “the eyes of our hearts” for knowledge of God in his instruction and will.  We see Jesus for who he is, teacher and expositor in his body of the Father’s will, that we “love one another” (Jn. 15:12, 17).  The wisdom of heaven’s teaching is in context of the cross with the fruit of his love delivered in Jesus’ word leading to the Supper of his body and blood. 

 

By heart-eyes Christians aspire to the mind of Christ, who is the exact imprint of the invisible God; the Truth and Revelator of his Father. During the table talk of the Supper, Jesus explained, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b). 

 

To behold Jesus crucified, Son of God and Son of Man, handing over the Spirit of Truth to his church is to behold the things of heaven with new eyes of what the Father sees in Jesus lifted on the cross. For John the cross is the glory of God and the commencing of Jesus’ Ascension. 

 

The Baptized never look to our own hearts for enlightenment. Instead seeing with circumcised heart-eyes we see like St. Paul, who received the HS as something like scales falling from his eyes (Acts 9:18).  The Truth comes from outside; it is solely the gift of God.

 

On this eve of the Ascension we look upon the Father’s heart with new hearts. Formerly, sin’s flesh and the Mosaic Law veiled hearts.  But, in the NT, God has cut away that veil to reveal a Father’s tender heart in Jesus’ torn flesh for sin. 

 

Today on the Mt. of Olives Jesus is “parted” from our eyes.  If we behold his lifting into heaven on clouds we must behold the event with eyes bestowed from circumcised hearts.

 

Heaven’s celebration of the Ascension affirms Jesus, to be the One who alone is worthy to open Scripture (Rev. 5:2b, 3, 4, 9) rightly testifying to the Father’s heart and witness (Jn. 5:37-40) to his only Son.

 

Scripture’s “Binding of Isaac” and the “Prodigal Son” reminds the church of the Father’s witness to his Son and so his own heart (cf. Luke 24:45). Each account speaks of two sons by which we apprehend a father losing a beloved child.  The death of a child is a terrible thing; worse yet is the loss of a child’s obedient affection. 

 

The sacrificial binding of Isaac is drenched in pathos.   God commanded Abraham to kill his son, as a sacrifice.  It is all the reader can do not to curse God at the “outrage”; and many do, elevating human hearts above God’s.  But man’s indignation from flesh-bound hearts is but the mock of a faux “righteousness”. 

 

Fallen men are killers by nature. By sin Adam chose death and curse over life and blessing (cf. Deut. 30:19) condemning all generations of men to the same choice for death and curse.  From the Fall, man’s history repeats the killing of Abel by his brother Cain.  We habitually deal out death in word and deed without any ability to restore the lives we take or otherwise mangle. 

 

God in the midst of his creation ordained himself, the Lord who “kills and brings to life” (1 Sam. 2:6).  This is the knowledge of God given came Abraham by faith’s heart-eyes.  By faith Abraham knew the eternal character of God who in his being is author of Life and blessing. 

 

On the cross Jesus revealed the Father’s heart. Abraham discerned on some level in God’s command to kill, heaven’s Wisdom and Truth; that out of death, God issues new life.  Likewise, the faith of Isaac, knowing his father’s love of him, beheld also the heart of his father’s God, as the “God of the living” (Luke 20:38) who makes dead hearts to God alive when circumcised from a sacrificial blade. 

 

The faith of Isaac points us to the faith of Jesus crucified, and by his Son’s death, the Father’s will for the life of all men. Because our flesh-bound hearts are incapable of choosing aught but death and curse, God chose the death of his only Son.  In the gift of Baptism’s faith we are united in God’s choice for the death of his Son and also united with Jesus’ faith that knows our Father’s resolute heart to bestow life.

 

Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, a revelation of Adam, created son of God. The Prodigal perversely despised his father, demanding a share of the father’s fabulous material fortune to effect the estrangement. 

 

The father does the unthinkable; he accedes to the demand. At first blush the father’s acquiescence appears to make him complicit in the loss of his son.  The son was digging a hole and the father provided the shovel. 

 

The picture does not put family reconciliation on the horizon. And yet the father’s indulgence reveals his character and wisdom.  The son in his deepest distress perceived fatherly love.  The father is broken hearted at his son’s rejection of hearth and home; still he did not respond in kind; nor did he accept as inevitable the loss of his child, but waited in longsuffering love. 

 

One day the Prodigal looked-up from the dug pit and imagined a horizon; if not reconciliation with his father, at least a servant’s return home. By his own lights, the son from a worldly heart did not know the extent of father’s mercy, love, and forgiveness; deeper than his unfathomable material wealth or any hole the son could dig. 

 

The heart of the father is disclosed in love beyond worldly experience. On the son’s return home, the father vested him with the robes of household office, the father’s authority for gracious mercy and forgiveness in the midst of the village. 

 

In these Scriptures are posited two fathers; two hearts oriented toward two sons. Jesus is Isaac who received the sacrificial blade on the altar of wood.  The Father did not spare his Son; and the Jesus so trusted the Father to open through his flesh what was once hidden, the tenderness of God’s heart for man delivered through the Life of his only Son. 

 

There is nothing for the Prodigal, i.e., you and I, to do but wear the garments of God’s household Office in the new creation, sons and daughters of the Father, priestly witnesses to the love of God in Christ.

 

All of which returns us to the Ascension of our Lord, our celebratory feast of man restored to the household and right hand in the reign of God.

 

Acts and the Gospel find Jesus’ disciples looking up in prodigal-like hope to heaven; their eyes are following Jesus’ ascent below heaven’s horizon. Two angelic persons express curiosity at what seemed the disciple’s uninformed gaze. 

 

The Ascension must be viewed by heart-eyes, not from below, but from heaven’s Eucharistic perspective. By Jesus’ word, Scripture is now opened for us to behold with St. John our homecoming in the Father’s killing of Christ. 

 

Jesus ascended to heaven on clouds of Divine presence. As a Man, he trod over the crystalline sea that separated heaven and earth.   Jesus stood amid the 4 living creatures and 24 elders before the throne of God.  From the Ancient of Days the Man received the sign of his Office, the sealed scroll, which Jesus alone as the sacrificed Lamb is worthy to reveal the mind and will of God toward men.

 

Forty-three days after his blood drenched Passion we see on the state occasion of the Ascension that Jesus cleans-up very well. In response the saints sing a new song that the ascended Lord is the slain Lamb of God, who by his blood ransomed a people for God and to make them a kingdom of priests to reign on earth (Rev. 5:9, 10). 

 

The sight of the Father’s heart is difficult to bear. It remains for us in Baptism’s circumcision of hearts to bear the sight and behold the cost of the Father’s heart through “heart-eyes”.

 

In Scripture, opened to us by the ascended Man, we see and know what the Father sees in the face of our sin: bleeding Jesus, the Prodigal who bears our rebellion and Isaac utterly trusting his Father for Life.  

 

This is the sight the Father’s heart eternally beholds, affirmed by the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8), given for our baptismal instruction in rightly locating the Father’s heart, dwelling with men in Christ by word and sacrament for Life. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/6/18
2018.05.10 22:54:27

EASTER 6/B (2018): Acts 10:34-48; 1 Jn. 5:1-8; Jn. 15:9-17  

 

Testify,        And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree (vv. 6b-8).  

 

The Spirit, the water, and the blood are three witnesses who testify to Christ crucified being Son of God and Son of Man, Savior and Judge of the world. We know of the Spirit from ancient times, one person of the Holy Trinity.  But who are the two other witnesses who agree, “the water” and “the blood”? 

 

Jesus is the “Truth” (Jn. 14:6) and now John also designates the HS, the “Truth”.  St. John personifies Jesus’ work on the cross; handing over to the church not only his Spirit (19:30), but also “the water” and “the blood” from his riven side (19:34).  Thus in this giving the Spirit, the personified water and blood testify before God and man, of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin in our place (Deut. 19:15).  This testimony is Baptism’s truth, that by means and way of Baptism we are united into Jesus’ death and his rising to God. 

 

This is the testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood revealed in the Resurrection that we might comprehend today’s Gospel. By the metaphor of Jesus as Vine, God is the planting farmer of Jesus into the earth, a second Adam, to come out to be Tree of Life in the garden that is the NT church. 

 

In Eden’s garden Adam was instructed by God to eat of any tree, except the one forbidden fruit. Against the forbidden fruit that would wreak havoc and death, stood the Tree of Life. 

 

And again, as Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, a new garden, God instructed, as to Adam, “See, I have set before you… life and good, death and evil. If you obey [my] instructions… by loving [your God], by walking in his ways, and by keeping his instructions… then you shall live and multiply…  I call heaven and earth to witness… that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life…” (Deut. 30:15, 16, 19). 

 

Last Sunday Jesus identified himself as sustaining “tree” (or “vine”) whose fruit is love and Life source in God’s garden, the church. Immediately following his Supper, Jesus explains to the Apostles in what they had just participated, saying, “I Am the true vine” (Jn. 15:1).  Today he invites us to partake of the same fruit, “Abide in my love. If you keep my instructions, you will abide in my love” (9b, 10a), not the least instruction is that we eat his flesh and drink the cup of his blood for the life of the world. 

 

St. John emphasizes that the instructions are not burdensome, for the substance of the gospel is that Jesus bore all our burdens on the cross. As we remain, “yoked” with him (Mt. 11:18-30) in word and sacrament, he continues to bear our sins, cleanse and sustain us to faith in love, by “the water” and “the blood”.  This is the witness from the HS in Baptism with “the [living] water” and “the blood” of bleeding Jesus. 

 

Our understanding of the church’s Baptism is paramount in the season of the Resurrection. No doubt Jesus’ teaching was, at the time, incomprehensible to the Apostles. 

 

Apostolic understanding would have to await Jesus giving his life on the cross as a ransom for those who would be “friends” and “children of God”; and only in the Resurrection, when Jesus would again partake of the “fruit of the vine” (Luke 22:18) with his disciples, would “the water” and “the blood” of our Baptism make sense as testimony to our Life in Christ. 

 

The church’s Baptism is a stumbling block. St. John oversaw congregations suffering member loss precisely over his teaching of Baptism and its “witness” from the Spirit, “the water” and “the blood”.  

 

Baptism is no mere spiritualizing or symbolism; rather it is a palpably physical event into the flesh of Christ to receive the gift of the Spirit. Some pastors and congregations obsess about membership numbers.  But lack of congregation numbers is not tragedy.  The congregations that John oversaw suffered departure of many members who rejected Baptism’s threefold witness.  Those leaving were “secessionists” absenting themselves for heretical associations from those who remained in faith and love of brother and sister. 

 

For St. John the horror was not loss of numbers; rather those baptized into the family of God should so easily abandon fellowship with brothers and sisters they previously professed to love. Again Jesus exhorts his Apostles and us, “Abide in my love. If you keep my instructions, you will abide in my love.” 

 

There is not one of us who has not experienced the pain of family loss, whether of our physical nuclear families, or more importantly those who withdrew from the congregation’s communion.

 

Consider the glue of Holy Baptism to which the “three” give witness of its cost. Last Sunday our First Reading from Acts was the conversion and baptism of a Gentile eunuch by Philip’s preaching.  Scripture’s very next account is the conversion and baptism of St. Paul by the preaching of Ananias.  Both Baptisms exemplify the ordinary response to gospel word for receipt of the Spirit with Baptism’s water and blood. 

 

Today however we have the conversion of Cornelius’ family, known as “Gentile Pentecost”, a baptism by God’s pouring out the HS manifested in “tongues” as witness to God’s activity in their midst. This was the same “baptism or outpouring of the HS devolved on the Jews on Pentecost Day, both responding by speaking in tongues.  What did Peter instruct the Pentecost Jews; “Repent and be baptized… for receipt of the HS” (Acts 2:38). 

 

When it came to the Gentile household of Cornelius, Peter hesitated to baptize uncircumcised Gentiles. To baptize Gentiles connoted acceptance of full fellowship with Jewish circumcised believers.  In witness to his will, God granted Gentiles the same “poured-out baptism of the HS” evidenced by tongue-speak as devolved on the Pentecost Jews.

 

In the light of “Gentile Pentecost” Peter could now comprehended the meaning of his dream that no food was common or unclean according to Jewish dietary regulations. Gentiles were baptized in the same baptism as Jews; and Peter was to eat and associate with Gentiles without discrimination on account of our flesh; rather on account of the flesh of Christ. 

 

More importantly by the pouring out of the HS on Gentiles Peter became convinced that they too should partake of the church’s baptismal initiation and welcoming them into the community of God defined by the Lord’s Supper (10:47, 48).

 

Today there are religious bodies that have seceded from the church’s baptismal fellowship explained by in Luther, “Baptism is not simple water.” If Baptism were mere symbolic water of cleansing and/or drowning to sin, then many would not have left us. 

 

Rather “Baptism…is the water included in God’s command [instruction] and connected with God’s Word” (SC art. IV).  What is that Word; but the making of disciples by preaching of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sin and unbelief.  Here then are the three witness to Holy Baptism; by the preached word of “the blood” with “the water” from Christ crucified, the gospel is proclaimed. 

 

With the Spirit given over to the church from the cross, these make “three”, each testifying to the person of Jesus and the essence of what he accomplished for us.  Each witness is associated with the others; but neither does each adequately witness apart from the others.  Luther observed, “Christ does not come through water alone; He comes through water joined with the blood, that is through Baptism… it is water stained with [Christ’s] blood given to us through the Word.”

 

In Baptism we receive testimony that Christ by his word is conveyed in “the water” and “the blood” from his crucified flesh. This truth puts the lie to those who corrupt Jesus’ testimony concerning his flesh.  While “the flesh [of this world] profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63b); in truth it is the flesh of Christ that is everything, and all in all in the Spirit who gives life (v. 63a). 

 

By Baptism we hear and in faith abide in God’s instruction, thus discerning his love we love God’s children. This is the love of God; that we live for the sake of his instruction (1 Jn. 5:2, 3).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Mid-Week Service
2018.04.30 15:36:29

We'll be holding The Ascension of our Lord Eve Service on Wednesday, May 9th at 7 p.m. Please join us!



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Sermon - 4/29/18
2018.04.30 15:35:21

EASTER 5/B (2018): Acts 8:26-40; 1 Jn. 4:1-21; John 15:1-8  

 

Vine,          “I Am the true vine… Abide in me and I in you. As the branch can not bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (vv. 1a, 4, 5b, c) 

 

It is important here to know what is going on in the background. Ancient Israel was God’s vineyard in the Promised Land.  Israel proved faithless, bearing in the world only wild grapes (Isa. 5:1-7).  In the NT God sent Jesus to be his true, faithful vine to which all others in his new vineyard are attached, oriented, receive nourishment, and have their being. 

 

Jesus’ instruction that he is true Vine immediately follows institution of his Supper portending God’s NT vineyard planting at the cross. Jesus is the Seed to be lifted in the glory of the Father.  On the cross Jesus would water the earth in his blood and die, revealing God’s sacrificial love for the world drawing all men (Jn. 12:24, 32).  By God’s planting and Jesus’ germinating death the earth would raise up a vineyard for pleasing fruit in Christ. 

 

At the Supper the Apostles partook of the church’s new fellowship in Jesus’ body and blood, their new Passover food for a new exodus out of a dying world to new Life. The Supper’s instructional table talk having concluded, Jesus invited his Apostles, “Rise, let us go from here” (14:31b), taking a break for reflection and occasion to deepened an apostolic appreciation of what had just occurred in their Holy Communion. 

 

Jesus’ blood of the NT Cup now bespeaks their blood, making them and us true fruit of the Vine in God’s vineyard; that abiding in the flesh of Jesus, the life we live in our flesh is now defined by the holiness of his flesh coming to us every Eucharist.

 

Last Sunday we observed, we are sheep of the Good Shepherd having our proper end in sacrifice to God and love’s consumption, even as Christ is Lamb of God. So also we share, not only in Jesus’ flesh, but in his blood, delivered as his once for all sacrifice, become the holy things of our Eucharist; his essence and being as Son of God and Son of Man crushed, squeezed, and poured out for union with men, forgiveness of sins and unbelief. 

 

Jesus is Servant of God and true Vine. If we are to possess life in him we must remain in him and he in us by the power of the Spirit given in word, Baptism and Eucharist.  God requires of his vineyard in the world a right confession in word and deed (1 Jn. 4:2; 3:18, 4:4) of Jesus crucified in his humanity, the only source of God’s love for us and through us.

 

God is love, we are not; and so Jesus teaches of God’s sacrificial love at the cross. Love is the fruit that God desires.  As always in Jesus, God gives what we of ourselves do not possess, delivered in word, Baptism, and Supper.  Thus Jesus is source of our new being, urging, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

 

That Jesus is our source of new life and God’s love in the world is on display in this morning’s Reading, the conversion and Baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch. In the power of the Resurrection the church took her testimony of Jesus beyond Jerusalem, north into Samaria, with great success. 

 

But now an angel of the Lord directed evangelist Philip out of Samaria, to open a southern gospel campaign at Gaza. There, Philip engaged an Ethiopian official returning home from festival pilgrimage in Jerusalem.  The Gentile eunuch was reading the final Suffering Servant prophesy from Isaiah (53). 

 

Under Jewish law the Ethiopian was doubly restricted from temple worship. As a non-Jew he could not advance to God’s presence beyond the soreg wall barring entry into the temple proper, warning in stone relief, “No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.” 

 

Even if the Ethiopian had converted to Judaism, and perhaps that is why he was studying Scripture, as a eunuch Mosaic Law forbad his participation in the worshipping community, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deut. 23:1).

 

In OT worship, such a bodily defect was not remedied by animal sacrifice. In his person the eunuch stood as continuing affront and contradiction that God is Creator and Author of life in league with men for procreation and conception.  And yet, the Ethiopian was captive in searching the word of God. 

 

Philip caught-up to the Ethiopian and asked if he understood what he was reading. The man confessed his need of a guide, someone to enlighten to Scripture’s meaning.  Philip, trained in the Apostles’ teaching and Baptized with the Spirit, gave witness of the gospel, that all Scripture directs us to and is comprehended in the man Jesus, God’s Suffering Servant, crucified, risen, and ascended for the sin of the world and now in his flesh abiding with his church for our confident access to his and our Father. 

 

The Gentile eunuch, every bit as much as the Jewish man blind from birth on the outskirts of the temple (John 9), is picture of our excommunicate condition in unregenerate sin. Apart from Jesus we are dry branches to God destined to fiery destruction.  But the Word rightly heard and received results in confession and desire to baptismal participation into the wounds of the Crucified Lord revealing a miraculous regenerate change of our being. 

 

Of course the man on the Last Day will be physically restored in the resurrection. But more importantly by the Spirit’s bestowal of faith, the man received Jesus’ blood applied in word with water, and was immediately released from the consequence of his defect, incorporated into the assembly of believers in Christ.   

 

In Christ the Ethiopian was restored to wholeness, not in a physical way but in the manner of a circumcised heart; no longer is the man an offense; for God received for our sakes the greater offense of the cross in the flesh of his Son. In Baptism and Eucharist the Ethiopian is a brother, an attached living branch to Jesus, our Vine and source of Life in the vineyard of God.  The Ethiopian went on his way home rejoicing. 

 

No doubt the Ethiopian continued reading in Isaiah in guidance of the HS. Three chapters later his joy would be magnified:

 

“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people’; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’… ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant… I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer… their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar…” (56:3-7).

 

The fruit that God desires from his vineyard is not only a right confession of Jesus as true Vine and source of love’s Life blood come to us in his flesh; but by the Spirit, for love’s sake, we are daily urged, compelled, cajoled, and impelled to be like Jesus in his nature as we participate in his.

 

We have received his love to extend this fruit to brother, sister, and neighbor; not a love as the world loves but as he has loved us; spontaneously, selflessly, and active to help meet those in need as Christ gives us the sight. Amen.

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 4/22/18
2018.04.23 22:01:16

EASTER 4/B (2018): Acts 4:1-12; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18  

 

Good,            “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11). 

 

Today’s Gospel begins in the middle of a self-revelation by Jesus. Apart from engaging the circumstances in which Jesus teaches, it is difficult to understand what Jesus means when he says, he is “the good shepherd” of the sheep. 

 

Whenever we unhinge Jesus from the circumstances in which the Evangelist places him, the result is usually misleading. In the case of shepherding in general one conjures the image of fluffy, hapless sheep grazing on hilly meadows under the protection and guidance of Jesus. 

 

One might even be tempted to relate such imagery to Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 in the wilderness. The problem is that those feedings do not provide the specific context for Jesus’ claim of being “the good shepherd”.  Such a pastoral picture may carry abstract truth; still by itself it is hardly worthy of an Easter sermon that must encompass the gathering storm of cross and resurrection. 

 

We need to get this straight, sheep are not pets; just as Jesus is Lamb of God, we are his sheep destined for slaughter. The only question about us sheep is, whether we are killed in Christ and so sacrificially offered with him to God, or we die from sinful participation in an unbelieving world, destined as food for demons in eternity.  There is no third choice; sheep are for slaughter and consumption. 

 

Early in his ministry (according to St. John) Jesus stood in the old temple effecting the image from Ps. 69, “Zeal for [the Father’s] house will consume me” (Jn. 2:17) portending his body as coming new Temple of God.  The picture anticipated Jesus as holocaust offering of himself to God on the cross. 

 

Now from the Father’s new dwelling place in Jesus’ crucified body, his sheep obtain the Father’s food. Jesus is our bread, our meat, and drink; that so joined in him we also might be Christ’s sustenance for brothers and sisters.

 

Jesus instructs of being “the good shepherd” on the last, eighth, “great day” of the feast of Tabernacles.  In the midst of the temple’s Water ceremony Jesus declared, that out of his heart would flow “living water” (7:37-39) for the sheep.  During the festival’s nighttime ceremony of “Lights” Jesus announced, “I am the light of the world” that the sheep might follow him in a new exodus on the coming Passover sacrifice of the lambs (8:12). 

 

Then Jesus proclaimed himself equal to God, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” (v. 58), at which “the Jews” (as John calls the religious establishment) picked up stones driving Jesus out of the temple, proving themselves blind guides and hirelings of God’s sheep.  Jesus was on the outside looking in.

 

As Jesus departed from these rejecting “Jews”, he and his disciples came upon a man blind from birth. The man received Jesus’ ministration through spit, mud, and washing.  Like Adam, he was begotten to a new humanity out of the earth, fully sighted, and hearing Jesus as Word and seeing him as Light.  In this manner “the works of God [were] made manifest in him” (9:3).  Ironically, on the one hand stood a converted Jewish man who once was blind but now in faith sees; on the other hand were the unconverted old temple Jews, blind shepherds.  

 

The blind shepherds investigated the newly sighted man, and concluding he was a disciple of Jesus, they excommunicated him from the synagogue. For hatred of Jesus these blind shepherds would murder a brother, for outside the community of God there is no life, only death.  Parenthetically we observe today that for the most part excommunication from the family of God is a self-imposed condition. 

 

Before we can discern Jesus as “the good shepherd”, we must look upon God’s first “good shepherd” and witness to Jesus as “the Good Shepherd”.  Abel sacrificially brought the best of his sheep to God; that God was pleased engendered Cain’s hatred toward God and the murder of his brother Abel. 

 

God counted Abel’s spilt life-blood to be an acceptable sacrifice and so heard its cry from the ground. Once again the ground (Gen. 3:17b-19; 4:11, 12a), on account of sin toward God was cursed in man’s place.  Cain was banished from the community of God but graciously received a mark of God’s grace, that he not be mistreated for his sin. 

 

Like Cain, the man born blind, was left by the false shepherds to wandered outside the community; and like Cain was desperately in need of grace. It is in this context during the in-gathering feast of Tabernacles that Jesus reveals himself to be “the good shepherd”. 

 

Jesus had heard that the man, like himself, was cast out of the church. Jesus as true and good shepherd sought out this one lost sheep, sought out the condemned and discarded man at the hands of “wicked shepherds” to receive him into his fold. 

 

The way of the Good Shepherd was to be sacrificial Lamb of God in the spring Passover.  At the cross his blood would be poured into the earth for the life of the world, which would cry out in love to God, “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34).  By Baptism’s marking under the sign of the cross we receive God’s grace for sin. 

 

Jesus is Good Shepherd on the cross. There also, he is the Gate or Door that the Father opens (Jn. 10:3) calling those who will hear him who is Voice of the Spirit.  None of this originates from a mountain meadow grazing imagery; rather it is all sacrificial temple talk; important because Jesus is Good Shepherd precisely as he is God’s new Temple in his crucified body and so our Way in coming to the Father, “I Am the door/the gate; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” (Jn. 10:9a). 

 

The OT temple consisted of ever-restrictive courtyards leading finally to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, each court was connected by gates admitting fewer and fewer Israelites, until only the High Priest on the Day of Atonement could come into the presence of God. The gate that allowed access for the priesthood to offer prescribed sacrifices before the Sanctuary was the “Nicanor Gate”. 

 

On the cross Jesus is God’s new Temple and dwelling place. Jesus having laid down his life for the sheep is Good Shepherd in his crucified flesh and shed blood; he is the new Nicanor Gate for our priestly entrance before the Father, who only receives our eucharistic sacrifice, our hearts made new for love in Christ. 

 

What then is the Way of entrance to the Father? St. John in today’s Epistle says, “Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…  By this we know love, that he has laid down his life for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn. 3:14b-18). 

 

In laying down his life for us Jesus has shown us love. Jesus is love and as such is our Nicanor Gateway before the Father who with his Son and the Spirit is love.  We are Jesus’ disciples as we hear and attend to the Good Shepherd’s instruction to love as he has loved us.

 

By the incarnation, cross, resurrection, and ascension we increasingly know love in the truth of Christ. Love is not an abstraction or mere feeling, rather it descends upon us, first as God’s unmerited grace for Christ crucified and then in faith we recognize our sin, what by nature we have in common with Cain, murderous hearts.  

 

By grace God marks us by water, blood, and Spirit issuing from Christ, the Crucified One. In this Baptism we abide in fellowship with brothers and sisters and in that communion we grow to maturity in love.  In Jesus’ crucified love we are made sighted to discern the needy among us, listen to their pain and trouble in the world and all who are distained for their faith. 

 

In Christ, his body and blood, we grow to sacrificially love each other. As for the world, we give what is the church’s to give, inviting all to Jesus’ true instruction.  Our love is as it must be, not just so much talk but deeds of Truth (1 Jn. 3:18) directing all who will hear to Jesus, the I Am who is the good shepherd of men who will receive him.  Amen.

 

pem.



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