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Sermon - 10/15/17
2017.10.17 23:39:22

Proper 23/A [Pent. 19] (2017): Isaiah 25:6-9; Philippians 4:4-13; Matthew 22:1-14; Introit: Ps. 61:10.  

 

Garments,              I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (v. 10). 

 

Our Gospel has Jesus in the temple. The High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas along with pharisaic elders (ordinarily theological opponents) demanded to know by what authority Jesus did “these things” (Mt. 21:23b), which is to say, cleansing the temple the place over which the High Priests had jurisdiction, and Jesus’ Torah teachings that the Pharisees claimed the right to mediate. 

 

Last Sunday Jesus told the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Both the High Priests and Pharisees discerned that that parable was directed toward their ouster from authority in Israel.  Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ attack on the religious establishment. 

 

Jesus speaks of two kingdoms in two separate but related parables; first, the readiness of God’s kingdom to receive Jesus’ kingdom at the Wedding Feast the Lamb; and second, Jesus as judge in his own kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, who on the Last Day finds among the guests one without proper wedding attire.  

 

The two parables make much the same point. First, the Father’s judgment and wrath toward OT Israel and Jerusalem for rejecting his invitation to the wedding, “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (22:7).  Thus the fate of OT Israel continuing to reject “God’s Son and Christ” (Mt. 16:16) who gives his life for the world and to those welcoming him in the NT Church. 

 

More germane to you and I is Jesus’ exercise of judgment in his “kingdom of heaven”.  St. Matthew has brought us to this climactic judgment by a progression of parable teachings in the face of antagonism toward Jesus from crowds and religious authorities. 

 

At an earlier stage in Jesus’ ministry he taught his “kingdom” by “field” parables into which his word is sown; the grain produced in-gathered one loaf with him. Now as the cross is in sight so is his shed blood and Jesus teaches his kingdom as being his Father’s Vineyard to which all are called for labor and to daily partake of its Bread and the Vintner’s wine in this time of the Church.

 

The NT Church understands her Eucharist to be a foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb on the Last Day, described by Isaiah, “On [Zion] the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine… And… he will swallow up death forever; and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away…”  And so Isaiah exhorts us to “Behold, this is our God… [and] Lord [for whom we have waited that we should] be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25:6-9).

 

At the wedding celebration to his betrothed, Jesus in the second parable comes upon a man without wedding attire; the robes of Jesus’ righteousness, the garment of salvation and gladness. We have seen this person before, haven’t we? 

 

Early in the parables Jesus pointed to such men in the Church. These are the “weeds” growing along side the wheat; they are the “bad fish” caught with the good in the cross strands of the Church’s preaching/baptismal dragnet; and those in today’s first parable when God sent servants to Gentiles, inviting both the “bad and good” (22:10). 

 

The people whom Jesus will judge in his kingdom on the Last Day as “not worthy” of the feast, and casting them out are the same as those the Father destroyed for refusing his invitation.  As Jesus says, “[T]he Son… [does] only what he sees the Father doing” (Jn. 10:19b). 

 

Rejection of God comes by degrees, none better than another: hatred, another desire than for God, or yawning ambivalence toward so great a salvation in Christ.

 

The High Priests and Pharisees hated Jesus for coming into his kingdom with authority from God and inherent in his own person. The parable of the Wicked Vinedressers put it thus, “[W]hen the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’” (21:38). 

 

But those rejecting God’s wedding invitation in today’s first parable is simply on account of man’s love of worldly matters over Jesus’ kingdom and joy over its coming consummation. Again according to the parable, “[The invitees] paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business…” (22:5a).

 

But the most insulting, condescending, and unkindest rejection of the Son’s nuptials is the attitude of ennui or ambivalence toward Jesus; his word and good news of unmerited salvation by grace alone. Jesus describes these ambivalent as, the rest [who] seized [God’s] servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” (v. 6). 

 

Pastors are sent into the lives of those in Jesus’ kingdom for delivery of the King’s gifts in word and sacraments in order that the Father’s will and love be revealed to the elect. Refusing to attend congregational family life where these great gifts are freely available for forgiveness and advance in the likeness of Christ is a rebuff to the King and kills his servants. 

 

Jesus puts it this way, “[Whoever] hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16a).  Also the corollary is true, “the one who rejects [his word] rejects [Jesus]” (v. 16b) who has given his Life for the life of the world.”

 

The Church must understand her essential dignity and not suffer abasement from within. From the world’s perspective the Church may seem the least attractive of associations.  But the Church is not a mere human collective.  Revealed in the Church is on-going knowledge of God’s character and love in regular communion with his elect. 

 

Christ does not pursue his bride on account of an existing beauty she does not possess of herself; rather he searches out the unlovely and the unloved to bestow on her his own righteousness and so possess beauty in the eyes of God.

 

Adam and Eve willfully partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden. From willful sin several things resulted: no doubt they soiled themselves from ingesting the forbidden fruit, becoming loathsome in sight and smell to each other and heaven; in their attempt to hide their shame they looked for the nearest covering, a fig leaf; and their once “free will” had became captive to sin, a circumstance that Luther called “the bondage of the will”. 

 

Instead of a covering to make them again lovely, we inherit from our first parents a veil… of death (Isa. 25:7).  

 

At this sad moment God came to man making for him a better garment. God shed the life-blood of an animal providing a covering prophetic of our NT salvation in the flesh and blood of Christ. 

 

The righteousness of Christ’s death is his “bride price”; gift he bestows to make his Church again “lovely” (Phil. 4:8e), adorned before his Father, and desirable to himself, bride “without spot or wrinkle… holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). 

 

Because God and Christ have elected you in Baptism, you have been washed, purified to partake in the life of Jesus, the new Man, to whom we are eucharistically conjoined in a shared life of being truly human with his divine nature.

 

By faith in and faithfulness to Christ crucified and risen, death’s veil covering the world has been swallowed up by Christ in whom our reproach before God and men has been taken away.

 

By Baptism we have been instantiated into the righteousness of our king. Possessing so great a salvation we dare not crucify Jesus again (Heb. 6:6) by unbelief, love of the world and its offerings, or from ennui or ambivalence toward word and sacraments. 

 

In Christ we have been re-established to a truly human free will; to volitionally choose God in our lives. Our appropriate wedding garment and ornamentation in Christ’s righteous sacrifice are from God alone.  Our cup overflows (Ps. 23:5b).

 

In this salvation, we have been set free to exult with Paul who proclaimed, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 10/8/17
2017.10.14 14:52:25

Proper 22/A [Pent. 18] (2017): Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46. 

 

Stone,           “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…”(v. 42a). 

 

In Jerusalem, the Holy City, it is Holy Week.  In a few days Jesus’ earthly ministry will culminate at the cross and in the Resurrection.  The variegated themes of Jesus’ preaching and teaching were fast coming together in kaleidoscopic revelation: law/gospel, letter/spirit, judgment/grace.  Thus:

 

The kingdom of heaven is built on the Rock of Peter’s confession that Jesus is Christ and Son of God. 

 

Jesus is “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” along with those baptized into his servant spirit of poverty exemplified by the small child set among his Apostles (Mt. 18:1-4; 20:22, 23).

 

The “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” are like a vineyard in which all are called to “do God’s word” (Mt. 7:24), to hear it, believe it, and faithfully receive it fruit without cost (20:1-16.).  

 

Jesus cleansed the old temple making way for the new structure of God’s dwelling with men in the vineyard, the Body of Christ.  The Baptized are “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) who build-up the new Temple aligned on Jesus by “doing the word”. 

 

The Christ crucified is not only the new “Sanctuary” of men being saved by grace; but for those rejecting Jesus he is what Isaiah calls a “Stone of Offense” (8:14).  

 

These themes are in play; today we consider God’s “Vineyard” and the “Stone the builders rejected” by which both judgment and grace comes to men. 

 

You and I are acknowledged sinners; that is why we are here, we know we have a problem relating to God’s holiness. 

 

Jesus had been telling several scathing parables against High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas in the company of pharisaic elders.  These inherent adversaries were in unholy alliance against Jesus as king triumphally come into his kingdom.  By the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers Jesus elicits judgment from their mouths. 

 

Jesus asked, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  They replied, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season” (vv. 40, 41). 

 

Jesus, the crucified Lord, is the Rock of God’s salvation who today comes to you to collect fruit due his Father, either in judgment or by grace.  Jesus is for you either “Cornerstone” of God’s new Temple or he is a “Stone of Offense” that crushes and causes stumbling. 

 

Like us, the High Priests and Pharisees understood all men had a sin problem; the High Priests offered God’s sacrifices in fear and trembling, especially on the Day of Atonement. The Pharisees had, as Paul at one time considered for himself, a “righteousness” by obedience to the law.  

 

Jesus might have easily won over Jerusalem’s religious establishment.  He could have called for the High Priests to reform the temple’s commercial practices and struck a deal with the Pharisees over hypocritical and heartless application of the law imposed on the people. 

 

But negotiation with sinners would not have accomplished God’s good.  God does not bargain with men over sin.  Our sin problem would have continued in abeyance through the OT sacrifice of animals. 

 

God does not employ Band-Aid solutions.  Our sin condition so completely affects us that God does not put us into a surgical theater to cut out the canker. 

 

Since the Fall, our nature is the issue.  God deals with sin by sword of the Spirit; “he kills and he makes alive” (Dt. 32:39).  By Baptism into Christ crucified and risen, we die by the Spirit and are made new creations to be perfected on the Last Day. 

 

In the meantime you and I struggle with who we are, sinners in our flesh, living in a dying world, constantly seduced by Satan to employ our participatory knowledge of “good and evil” against the HS’ gift of trust and fidelity to God’s word and will. 

 

Early in Isaiah’s prophetic ministry, King Ahaz of Judah was in political trouble.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel allied itself with the Assyrians, threatening to overwhelm Judah.  Isaiah came to Ahaz with conciliatory words that God would be Judah’s Rock and Sanctuary against invading opponents. 

 

Isaiah urged King Ahaz to trust and pray.  Ahaz was told to ask a sign from God for assurance of God’s faithfulness.  But Ahaz rejected the proffered sign.  Instead Ahaz relying on his own wit made military alliance with Ephraim, the adjacent kingdom under threat. 

 

Things did not go well at all.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was eventually scattered, its ten tribes lost forever in Assyrian acculturation.  Judah was attacked and abused by the Assyrians.  Later Judah would be over-taken by the Babylonians and exiled into captivity for 70 years. 

 

Still God did not abandon Judah, giving Ahaz the sign of his love for Israel, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), “God with us”.  

 

In today’s Gospel, the vineyard of Jesus’ parable is the “Kingdom of God”.  We, like King Ahaz, Annas and Caiaphas, an the Pharisees are sinners who in life’s circumstances prefer to build our own estates, fences, and alliances by our own lights and efforts apart from God and his word; rather doing as seems “good” in our own eyes. 

 

Jesus came as “Immanuel” and today comes to us, “Son… given the kingdom upon his shoulder… [for our peace with God]”. (Isa. 9:6, 7a).  The nearness of Jesus’ kingdom and our acceptance brings the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. 

 

For entry into his vineyard Jesus says, “repent”; “deny [yourself] and take up [your] cross and follow me” (Mt. 4:17; 16:24).  Jesus does not bargain to modify our sinful conduct, that we become “better” sinners; nor does he seek to reform hearts from self or other idolatry.  There is nothing to reform; in sin we are who we are.    

 

Instead Jesus calls us to repent of our systemic nature, our inveterate unbelief of God’s word, and faithless attendance to his word.  By the HS’s gift of faith and Baptism’s new begetting from the cross we are con-joined to Jesus’ sacrificial flesh; nevertheless rejected by the contractors of Jerusalem’s old temple. 

 

The builders, i.e., the tenants of the OT vineyard, rejected Jesus as Christ of God and new Temple cornerstone.  At Calvary he was exiled to a rubbish filled quarry outside the city.  Jerusalem’s rejection of, “Solus Christus”, condemned the Holy City he to be the city of wrath. 

 

Jerusalem’s destruction was concluded forty years later at the hands of Gentiles, “stones”, as the Jews called them, (Mt. 3:9b; Ezek. 36:26; Jerome’s Matthew commentary) Roman soldiers who in hardness of heart aligned with temple Jews in putting Jesus to death. 

 

By their joint killing of Jesus all who now receive Jesus’ death and Resurrection in baptismal faith, Jew and Gentile, stands equally forgiven of sin before God.  Problem solved!    

 

This morning Christ invites us to God’s gracious solution of sin; our death to self in confessional “mea culpa” and trust in Jesus’ promise of Absolution for rising to new Life. 

 

Jesus comes Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in word and Sacrament both for judgment and for grace.  Christ now extends himself to you as the One innocent and obedient man to share his crucified, discarded, and risen body and blood.  By faithful reception you have Life in him for the kingdom of God. 

 

In this world we continue to sin; but if you confess its perversity by which you soil yourselves and others in this world, then with Paul we will advance in heaven’s knowledge that our own claim to “righteous” is loss and true righteousness is of our Father (Phil. 3:8, 9). 

 

When you come to the Lord’s Table, Jesus’ invitation offers no middle ground; only judgment for the offense that “righteousness” is not of you; or his unmerited grace in Jesus, the Sanctuary of God. 

 

When you come, confess your sins; hold nothing back, do not quibble or excuse; and make no claim to any “righteousness” apart from Christ crucified.  

 

You of course will sin again, but with Paul, we “press on toward the goal… the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14) and in this movement we will sin less and less as we are being conformed in the love and likeness of Christ. 

 

Each of us in the Vineyard “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b, 13).  Amen.

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 10/1/17
2017.10.05 00:38:34

Proper 21/A [Pent. 17] (2017): Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-18; Matthew 21:23-32. 

 

New,              “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn and live.” (vv. 31, 32). 

 

This was God’s retort to Israel’s complaint of his injustice toward them; that they are wrongly exiled from the Land for the sins of their fathers and their leaders. No doubt the Flood generation in Noah’s day held a similar low view of God bringing the universal deluge. 

 

Sin’s impulse always seeks to deflect from the issue of our own sin and culpability. In the day when man had “free will”, Eve said “the serpent made me do it”, Adam blamed the woman, and we self absolve blaming our first parents; thus the peoples “proverb” accusing God of unfairness, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). 

 

Ever since the Fall man’s will has been in bondage to our inherited sin nature; we are incapable of doing as God commends to Israel, “make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”   

 

If we are to obtain a new heart and new spirit toward God; of seeing him as Lover of all souls, earnestly desiring that we live and not die, then God must do the making, as the Psalmist intones, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me” (Offertory, Ps. 51:10).  

 

Where and how does God work a new creation of hearts and spirits? Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, that in the “kingdom of heaven” even eleventh hour hires receive the same compensation as those who earlier entered the Lord’s employ. 

 

What we observed was that even in the Vineyard of the church early entrants can lose sight of the Lord’s graciousness character to instead complain from a competitive spirit of the Lord’s “unfairness” at the unmerited equality in the Vineyard.

 

The Householder and Lord of the Vineyard rebuked evil hearts and spirits as an expression of sinful man’s desire to be “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” apart from the cross (Mt. 18:1; 20:25ff.), refusing to perceive and receive the servant nature of his kingdom. 

 

These NT times are the end of days when all men, Jew and Gentile, are invited into the kingdom of heaven before the Last Day.  If God accomplished the first creation in six days, we in this time of the Church are being re-fashioned by God to the realities of the new creation now coming into being.

 

Our Gospel Reading today finds Jesus in Holy Week, a few days before his crucifixion. At Jesus’ death God would depart the OT temple; and Jesus would deliver-over the HS for the New Temple in his crucified and risen flesh for expiation of the world’s heartless unbelief of God’s word. 

 

Three times Jesus taught the necessity of his death at the hands of Israel’s religious and temple rulers. Now as a first order of business Jesus cleansed the old temple of animals and their sale, signifying an end to Israel’s system of animal sacrifice and its cultic priesthood.  Those having their livelihood and status by the old temple system understood Jesus’ teaching very well; soon their priestly offices would no longer be relevant. 

 

On the day following Jesus’ temple cleansing he again entered its precincts to teach the imminence of his kingdom. Immediately the “high priests”, here we understand Annas and Caiaphas along with a retinue of elders, descend upon Jesus, demanding, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (v. 23b).

 

Jesus demonstrated the rank hypocrisy of their examination given that they would refuse to answer the same question about the authority of JB’s preaching pointing to Jesus. The question of authority in the kingdom of heaven was left to hang for the moment. 

 

Jesus’ disciples and the crowds already knew the source of his authority from the time of his Sermon on the Mount. They observed, “he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (7:29), that is his authority was from God. 

 

Nevertheless the question of Jesus’ authority to do and teach “the things” of a new Temple is still in the background as Jesus began to teach the high priests and elders of new Israel’s Vineyard, the NT Church coming into being. Jesus inquired of them by parable, “A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went…”  All in attendance agreed that it was this son who heard the word and will of his father and in the end did his word. 

 

Again we ask, where and how does God work a new creation of rebellious, accusing, grumbling hearts and spirits? One does not hear the gospel of our salvation for Christ’s sake tangentially and then declare, “once saved always saved” only to depart the Vineyard to go an independent way. 

 

The parable’s first son changed his mind, repenting of his disobedience toward his father’s will. This son returned to the family Vineyard, the place of God’s gracious presence; the place of our re-creation to true sonship; a familial knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (Jn. 17:3). 

 

Repentance is of faith; gift of the HS and God who desires salvation of all men. In such faith those entering the Vineyard are engaged by word and sacraments, the creative presence of God in Christ.  We confess, “I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ… by whom all things were made” (Nicene Creed).

 

Today St. Paul urges us to a Christ-like mind, possessing the completeness God’s thoughts toward men revealed only in the man Jesus. Thus the fullness of all Scripture testifies to the man Jesus crucified and risen; who is our new Torah Teacher in the Vineyard. 

 

At the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount (7:24ff.) Jesus taught how we come to receive the mind of Christ, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” 

 

Jesus is the Rock of our faith, the church’s one faith witnessed to by apostolic wise men and today one hopes by those who follow in the Pastoral Office. By our “hearing” Jesus’ teaching in his house-church and “doing his word” (v. 24) we day by day increase in the mind of Christ of God toward men. 

 

Here then is the mind of God concerning you and your brothers and sisters, that we, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves… Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And… humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…” (Phil. 2:3-8).  

 

In the first creation God made man in the “likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26, 27).  In the new creation, because we are unable to make new hearts and spirits for ourselves, he comes to us in the “likeness of men”. 

 

In these end times Christ restoratively fashions us to his heart, mind, and Spirit by the power of his word and Sacrament in this Vineyard place of the new creation. On the Last Day we, the church, who exist as the work of his hands will be delivered-over to eternal life into the “kingdom of God”.

 

Today we are employed in the Vineyard “doing the word of God”, hearing and receiving in faith the ministrations of our Vinedresser.  We are fruit of the Lord’s planting, watering, pruning, and nourishing who by grace in faith are freely possessing the gift of new hearts and spirits on exhibit in the world of Christ’s sacrificial love of God and man.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/24/17
2017.09.27 23:01:20

Proper 20/A [Pent. 16] (2017): Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30; Matthew 19:23—20:1-16. 

 

Judging,      And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”… “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel… But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (19:23, 24, 28, 30). 

 

Jesus’ parable of Laborers in the Vineyard explains a disciple’s leaving everything to follow. Recall Jesus had just called the Rich Young Man to follow; instead on account of great possessions, the Young Man went away sad.  Today Peter points out to Jesus that he and the other disciples did precisely what the Rich Young Man would not do; they left all to follow Jesus; what then would be their reward? 

 

Peter expected a delayed gratification effect for being Jesus’ disciple; that by denying himself now and early involvement in Jesus’ coming reign greater benefits would later accrue to him in Jesus’ kingdom.

 

In the back ground here, since Jesus’ 2nd passion prediction (Mt. 17:22, 23), lingers the Apostles’ question to Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1).  Jesus now will tell his disciples the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, a corrective to their understanding about entry into the kingdom of heaven.

 

But first Jesus differentiates the “kingdom of heaven” from the “kingdom of God”, saying, “[O]nly with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven… [I]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

 

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel the “kingdom of heaven” acts something like a clearing-house for our entry into the “kingdom of God”.  The “kingdom of heaven” is Jesus’ kingdom, the Christian community or church, if you will, connected but distinct from the Father’s kingdom, the “kingdom of God”.  

 

Jesus is judge in his kingdom along with those whom he shares his judgment seat; thus Jesus says to his Apostles, “[I]n the new world [or in the regeneration], when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel…”

 

At some point between the now of Jesus’ exaltation in glory and the Parousia to come, Jesus as Son of Man with his Apostles executes judgment in and over his church, New Israel. 

 

The point of judgment is separation; sheep from goats, wheat from weeds, and all those in willful ignorance of the Lord and disputing his judgment, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” (25:44). 

 

The church thus judged and sanctified, Jesus will hand-over his kingdom or reign i.e., of those whom he shepherded in the Apostles’ confession that he is “the Christ” (16:16), into his Father’s kingdom.  It is the “kingdom of God” the saints inherit in which we have eternal life.  

 

Peter was disoriented by Jesus’ warning about wealth as an impediment into both “kingdoms”.  He asks Jesus, “What’s in it for us; what is the point of following you without receiving some gain for our loss?” Once again the question of “greatness” in the “kingdom of heaven” is implied from the suggestion of comparative status, benefits, and position. 

 

Jesus corrects Peter’s concern that he and the others should have some priority in his kingdom by the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. In his and his Father’s kingdoms there is an equality of gain.  All receive that which God gives by grace alone; the same portion, our reward is Jesus our brother and God our Father. 

 

The Vineyard pictures the church over which Jesus is Lord. To early workers in the Vineyard he offers of his abundant wealth, a denarius, more than sufficient for our daily bread.  As the householder Jesus compassionately invites all others who will accept his invitation into the Vineyard, as many as are in the public square to engage his enterprise labor.

 

When the “last” of the so-called “workers” arrive into the Vineyard, the end-of-day whistle blew. The last workers contributed no effort advancing the Vineyard except to increase its population by their presence.  Those first workers who had toiled throughout the day could only see the Lord’s generosity as a drain at the expense of their own efforts.  

 

These first workers had taken their eyes off the Lord’s purposes for the Vineyard. From a worldly perspective they were angered at the Lord’s equal treatment in the Vineyard; what might be called “the scandal of equality”.  They saw themselves as victims in the Vineyard and not as beneficiaries, the very source of their abundant and on-going bread and wine from a gracious Lord.

 

Jesus finally would directly answer Peter’s concern following the parable making a 3rd prediction of his passion (20:17-19).  The point being that the immediate benefit for the disciples of putting off concern demanded by worldly wealth for the church’s true wealth of abundant eternal grace in Christ was their invitation to witness to Jesus’ elevation, investiture into his kingdom’s glory as Son of Man (Dan. 7:13, 14); his crucifixion and death for the life of the world. 

 

By Jesus’ invitation that his disciples witness and give witness to his glory on the cross, the Apostles were being offered to share in his kingdom reign. All the early workers would in one way or another abandon, betray, or fail to recognize the “greatness” of the One reigning in their midst from the cross; Jesus the Son of Man spiritually bereft and thus blessed in possessing the “kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3)

 

In the Resurrection the apostolic band were forgiven and restored to kingdom and office. Jesus in their midst delivered his HS to them for their work as brothers and co-judges in the church.  

 

Jesus always comes to men for judgment and division (10:34-39); for faith and forgiveness, or for separation and condemnation. Today he comes handing-over his body and blood to you in word and Sacrament for repentant faith, forgiveness to salvation, and sanctification of Life in advance of the day when he will hand you over into the “kingdom of God”. 

 

Even now as he is present in his kingdom, Jesus crucified Son of Man, is flanked not only by angels and archangels, but most intimately by his apostolic brothers judging or witnessing to our confession of the Christian faith delivered “once for all” to the church (Jude 3).

 

By the baptismal gift of Christ’s spiritual poverty through the HS we are aligned toward the purposes of Jesus’ Vineyard. Today by the Sacrament of his Supper he binds himself to us for assurance that on our last day or at the Parousia, we will be received as a child of God in the Father’s kingdom.  For this free and egalitarian gift of salvation we “trust in God” (27:43) as we pray in faith, “Thy kingdom come”.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/17/17
2017.09.22 00:19:06

Proper 19/A [Pent. 15] (2017): Gen. 50:15-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35. 

 

Forgive,      Then Peter came up and said to [Jesus], “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (vv. 21, 22). 

 

Last Sunday we learned the dynamics behind Peter’s concern: whether there is a limit on forgiving a sinning brother? Jesus recently dubbed Peter “the Rock” for his confession that Jesus is “the Christ” (Mt. 16:16).  By renaming Peter, Jesus implicitly acknowledged him as leader of the apostolic band of brothers. 

 

Peter’s elevation to the position of “first among equals” did not set well with the brothers. Later Jesus would rebuke Peter as being his “Adversary” (16:23) for presuming to urge him to abandon his way to the cross.  The other Apostles sensed a wedge issue. 

 

Exploiting the moment, they asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1).  Jesus illustrated the kingdom’s greatness by placing a child in their midst whose dependent poverty toward God and man was manifest. 

 

A competitive and comparing spirit existed among the apostolic brothers, engendering a sense of resentment and abuse, certainly by Peter, causing him to inquire today, how often he must forgive his brother. No doubt “Pope” Peter had in mind initiating the “binding and loosing process” (18:18) that Jesus just outlined.

 

As Jesus had just elevated a child in the midst of his disciples illustrating his own poverty of spirit before God; so now Jesus again points to himself for the question of the extent of forgiveness. Jesus had just announced, a second time that he was going to Jerusalem to die and rise, tying our forgiveness to his death and Resurrection.  Thus Jesus responded to Peter about the church’s forgiveness, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

 

The necessity of Jesus’ death and the church’s forgiveness explained that Jesus’ forgiveness is God’s forgiveness. In this time of the NT our forgiveness is endlessly patient and abundantly available to all who seek brotherly reconciliation and restoration.  

 

Jesus’ Apostles needed to comprehend that God’s forgiveness was the work of “the Christ” for their unity; the church’s reconciliation process is not be employed for division in the community or for exerting man’s “greatness” as the world knows it.  

 

Similarly, from our OT lesson, the sons of Jacob needed to discern God’s love extended through their brother Joseph. You recall the jealousness and hatred from the elder brothers toward Joseph.  Joseph, the second youngest child of Jacob, was given headship over father Jacob’s far flung affairs.  Joseph’s so called “coat of many colors” signified his beloved and exalted status in his father’s household (Gen. 37:3). 

 

The British have an expression: “doing your sums”.  The idea of “doing sums” is associated with the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, “[T]he kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants” (18:23).  Joseph’s wisdom, competence, and faithful compliance toward his father’s will was proven-out when Joseph later become Viceroy of Egypt possessing all authority of Pharaoh.

 

Joseph was elevated ahead of his brothers and for this they hated him. They plotted his death but ended up selling him into Egyptian slavery.  Later Jacob’s family suffered famine and so Jacob’s sons unknowingly came before Joseph as supplicants. 

 

During Joseph’s rule for the first seven “fat” years he settled Pharaoh’s accounts, “doing his sums”; and during the succeeding seven famine years Joseph was the salvation for a world seeking Egypt’s bread.

 

Unwittingly, on account of desperate straights among the family, Joseph’s brothers were sent to buy bread in Egypt so that their visitation would become occasion for brotherly forgiveness, reconciliation, and family restoration.

 

Joseph had received outrageous abuse at his brother’s hands. Still on coming before him for bread Joseph extended gracious forgiveness.  Their seeking and reception of bread is an OT picture of Christ who is our Brother and the Father’s beloved Son.  Joseph put aside “settling of accounts” toward his sinning brothers, and extended to them in their dire need, unconditional forgiveness for a debt and treachery they could never repay.

 

By unmerited forgiveness for those who had rejected him, family unity was restored through abundant bread and promised communion in the Land.

 

Apart from the grace of spiritual poverty, forgiveness is hard for sinful men to accept. Unmerited grace is almost impossible to receive no matter how many promises God gives.  In sin we project our hearts on to God thinking that our ways are his ways.  When God desires to “settle accounts” with us as with the Unforgiving Servant, our impossible debt is seen as destining us to eternity’s debtors’ prison. 

 

In desperate straights the truth of our spiritual poverty becomes manifest. We realize that we have no claim on a “greatness” relevant to God and beg for “patience”, and time to “repay” what we owe.  For compassion’s sake God has “done his sums” according to his own accounting, and finds no profit in our eternal imprisonment.  God directs us to Jesus, our Joseph-Savior, for heaven’s Bread that saves. 

 

Jesus is Bread of Life for the world. In Jesus God makes us sons and daughters no long accountable to pay a servant’s “temple tax” (17:24ff.) for access to God.  Partaking of Jesus we are made to be “little children” in Christ’s humility and poverty of spirit that we might freely enjoy the rights of sons and daughters. 

 

Such is the faith relation of parent and child. Still our faith is the faith of sinful men.  It is hard to accept the grace of unmerited forgiveness; it comes and grows only by continual experience and participation of our Father’s gracious character; we might say, “seventy times seven.” 

 

If by grace we are begotten to the Image of God through Christ crucified for our sin and restored to being sons and daughters by the HS, we have immediacy with God. This is of our Baptism, our communal water passage out of Egypt, to a restored family of God; our begotten-ness into Christ’s death and resurrection. 

 

Our begotten-ness also puts us on track to our end in Christ; that of being conformed in the “likeness” of God. Our “likeness” unto Christ is process and formation in communion with his crucified body and blood for forgiveness and faith until the Last Day.

 

When father Jacob died, Israel doubted Joseph’s forgiveness toward them. His brothers spoke among themselves saying, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” (Gen. 50:15).  In the name of their father, the brothers petitioned Joseph to continue in his gracious forgiveness and care of them, “seventy times seven.”   

 

Joseph wept for compassion. He assured his brothers, they should not fear but recognize the work of God in their circumstance of being brought out of sin to grace; that what they had intended for evil, God meant for good so that many might be kept alive (50:20).

 

Jacob’s restored family continued to live in unity in Egypt (the world if you will). After eighty years, before Joseph’s death he prophesied of Israel’s baptismal exodus through the Red sea by a new leader, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Gen. 50:24).

 

So also we are restored in Baptism to unity in Christ’s death. We are made anew in the “image” of God’s heart; and daily into the “likeness” of Christ as we learn by love’s forgiveness to die to sin and rise to life; brothers and sister in the poverty of Christ’s Spirit whereby we are brought up and out of the world to possess the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:3).  Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 9/10/17
2017.09.11 22:27:29

Proper 18/A [Pent. 14] (2017): Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 18:1-20. 

 

Love,             Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (v 8). 

 

St. Paul posits two Kingdoms, both governed by God in Christ; the world through surrogate kings, princes, ministers of state, and politicians; and the Reign of heaven by his gracious presence with his Church. Each kingdom operates from very different principles. 

 

Worldly authorities are the agents by which God makes provision for believers and unbelievers alike in a sinful and fallen world. Secular authorities, not abusive, nor conflicted with the declared will of God are entitled to honor and obedience from their citizenry.  St. Paul in the first part of today’s Epistle commends our being good citizens in the worldly realms.

 

The question of, “Who, in this kingdom or that, is the greatest?” may be discerned from a competitive, self-aggrandizing, comparative spirit among the contenders for the title.  In microcosm one may think of Mohammad Ali’s boast, “I am the greatest” which he backed-up by extraordinary athleticism.

 

Something like the world’s competitive spirit manifests itself in today’s Gospel when the Apostles ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Mt. 18:1).

 

Fresh in the collective memory of the Apostles’ was Jesus dubbing of Simon to be “Petros”, “the Rock” for his confession that Jesus is “the Christ” (16:16), the foundational witness upon which Jesus would build his Church as the Crucified One cast out of Jerusalem. 

 

However Peter over-stepped his position, taking upon himself to upbraid Jesus for his Passion prediction, as though God would never permit such an “unjust” outcome, especially in the place of God’s merciful dwelling at the Jerusalem temple.

 

In corrective response Jesus called Peter “Satan!” i.e., his adversary and commanded him to return to the disciples and to follow him.  It must have appeared to the disciples that the apostolic “Game of Thrones” was “still afoot. 

 

But now another incident gave Peter’s apostolic brothers pause as to their relative positions in the reign of Christ. Peter had just returned from being examined by the taxing authorities, wanting to know whether Jesus paid the voluntary temple tax?  Peter assured the taxmen that Jesus did.

 

Jesus corrected Peter about his support of the Jerusalem temple. Jesus is, as Peter had confessed, “Son of the living God” (16:16), if so, then as Son of the Father he with his disciples were free from taxation in support of the Father’s residence on earth. 

 

Implicit in Jesus’ correction of Peter is his earlier assertion to the Pharisees that in his person, “[S]omething greater than the temple is here” (12:6).  Still at this stage of his ministry there was no reason to gratuitously antagonize; they were after all on mission to Israel to proclaim the imminence of the reign of God in Jesus. 

 

In order to obtain the required temple coinage Jesus returned Peter to his former occupation of fishing for fish to obtain the tax for both himself and Peter, but not for the others. Once again it would have appeared to the other Apostles that Peter was still Jesus’ choice for leadership as they counted “greatness”. 

 

Now the Apostles wanted to afford Jesus an opportunity to clarify, and perhaps overthrow Peter from his current post-position in the leadership stakes. “At that time” (Mt. 18:1) the Apostles demanded from Jesus a straightforward answer to the question, “[Which of them was] the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

 

Even by worldly criteria, it is stunning that his Apostles did not offer-up Jesus up as candidate for the honor of “greatest in the kingdom”.  Jesus takes the occasion of their competitive vanity to teach the kingdom of heaven’s foundational premise and the ground of their apostolic NT teaching in the church. 

 

Jesus answers their question in a jaw-dropping manner. Summoning a young boy into their midst, Jesus identifies “the greatest in the kingdom”, “Truly, I say to you unless you turn [or be converted] and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:3,4). 

 

Clearly the reign of God in Christ is utterly foreign to the way of the world. But which of us so practiced and trained in the ways of the world is able to be like a young child?  Our sin nature fully corresponds and harmonizes with our fallen environment. 

 

Man’s DNA is sympathetic and our hearts beat as one with a dangerous world intent on destroying us. We respond to adversity through various self-protective means; we associate with princes and politicians who self-aggrandize, compete, and compare one against another; each unabashedly declaring, “I am the greatest”. 

 

If we love, we love and associate with those whom we admire in the world, those most like ourselves. Except for our own families, the young and aged are generally considered least valuable who might advantage us. 

 

We treat both marginal groups with benign tolerance and too often overt neglect as we make our way through this world acquiring personal power, influence, money, and sating the desires of our flesh, often randomly at the expense of others.

 

It is who we are; and so God has ordained secular rulers to restrain our sinful impulses. As Paul says, “he does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom. 13:4).

 

And yet in the church, the reign of heaven, Jesus warns its apostolic teachers that they and we are to “turn”, “be converted” to being of no worldly value toward God.  We are to be utterly dependent on God as is a young child for all his physical and spiritual needs, wants, and desires; to trust in God for all things, and in this way become as God’s “hidden treasure” in the world (Mt. 13:44).

 

Who then is the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” In placing the young child at the center of his nascent church Jesus gives a visual Sermon that explicates the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).  

 

From the moment of Jesus’ conception to his passion and cross, Jesus has been the essence of a young child’s total trust toward the will of his heavenly Father. In Jesus’ voluntary binding on the cross for the sin of the world, he is the Son of Man, true Son of God, and Christ who self-donated himself in favor of the life of world, utterly impoverishing himself even of the HS (27:50). 

 

By the Spirit of Christ given to the church for children and adults in Holy Baptism, we by the gift of faith appropriate Jesus’ perfect poverty of spirit to thus obtain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Faith is essentially the relational “love” of a young child.  As sons and daughters of God in Christ we are exempt from temple taxes.  Jesus had cleansed the old temple of sacrificial ordinances (Mt. 21:12ff.) by his own blood which in Eucharist is mixed with ours. 

 

In faith we daily heed God’s word and warning against remaining in Babylon, which is to say, the world; and by Baptism we “turn” in repentance from sin’s self-confident, self-protective ways (Ezek. 33:7-9).  In simplicity we, child-like, become open to Life in Christ among us, a true child of the Father.

 

By the gift of repentant faith we trust in Christ for all things and through his Eucharistic donation we are strengthened in our union with him; called to no other obligation than that of sons and daughters: the love of God and of brothers and sisters.

 

In the kingdom of heaven we are rulers with Christ and ministers of God in the world. We do not bear the sword of the Spirit in vain.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Contribute to Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts
2017.09.06 22:14:07

Hurricane Harvey is one of the biggest natural disasters to strike our country. Please see our home page to read a special message from Pastor Mills, as well as learn how you can contribute to the relief efforts.

 



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Sermon - 9/3/17
2017.09.05 00:39:53

Proper 17/A [Pent. 13] (2017): Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28. 

 

Merciful,     Peter began to rebuke [Jesus], saying, “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!  This will surely not be to you!” (v. 22).  

 

Earlier the crowds compared Jesus to one of the prophets, specifically Jeremiah (Mt 16:14).  Jesus is of course more than a prophet.  It is Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” on which Jesus would build his church (16:16, 18).  Still the crowd’s assessment that Jesus is a “Jeremiah” aptly applies. 

 

In today’s OT Reading Jeremiah ate of God’s word in joy; but later laments on account of the negative message given him to preach, he found himself alone and hated.  Jeremiah’s personal pain from the rejection was so great that like Job he even accused God of duplicity, “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?  Will you [O YHWH] be to me a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jer. 15:18). 

 

God did not explain himself to Job for all the permitted travails; rather he rhetorically asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4a).

 

Nor did God justify himself to Jeremiah for the “unjust” pain he underwent for the word delivered to the people for their salvation; only that if he would return to God out of the sea of doubt in which he was swimming, that God would strengthen him to be a “fortified wall of bronze” against the people’s hatred of him (vv. 19, 20).    

 

By Job and Jeremiah we see types of Christ, the Suffering Servant of God.  Both Job and Jeremiah asked what theologians call the “theodicy” question, “Why does God permit bad things to occur in the life of good people?”; “What justifies a righteous and merciful God in permitting horrible evil and suffering?  

 

Peter has just identified Jesus “the Christ” of God.  On this revelation from the Father, Jesus would open the heart and mind of God to men.  On Peter’s confession Jesus could now continue his ministry in word and deed to unpack the meaning of his reign among men. 

 

Jesus was not merely another prophet in the long line of ancient prophets; rather he is the unique Suffering Servant of God in place of Israel, the “Christ of God”.  Jesus would now reveal the new thing, the revolutionary thing he was doing with his Apostles in establishing his NT church, a new Covenant and salvation with God. 

 

Jesus began to teach his disciples that as “Christ and Son of God” he must travel to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the religious and temple authorities, be killed by them, and rise on the 3rd day.  This was astounding and incomprehensible. 

 

From Peter’s perspective, indeed from all human perspective, the suffering death of God’s Christ at the hands of God’s ministers was the ultimate evil and could never vindicate God.  Peter now stood with Job and Jeremiah as lamenting God’s “deficiency” according to the mind of men. 

 

Jerusalem was the Holy City, its temple the place of God’s residence from which on earth all mercy flowed.  That a merciful God would permit the outcomes Jesus was predicting on their arrival in Jerusalem simply could not be.  Peter stops following Jesus; he moves ahead and rebukes Jesus, “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!  This will surely not be to you!”  

 

By Peter’s rebuke there existed in salvation history no greater chasm between “the things of God” and “the things of man” (16:23b).  At the very moment Jesus began to teach the age-old question of theodicy Peter reverts from being confessional icon to blind guide espousing “the things of man”. 

 

Peter is no longer the “Rock” of solid confession and faith.  Contradicting Jesus’ word Peter became a stumbling block in Jesus path; and a scandal to Jesus in league with the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt. 16:6, 12) and even with Satan when he declared to Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). 

 

Peter had stepped out of his role as a disciple and learner.  Now he was acting as a super-apostle, the vicar and counselor of Christ.  For this hindrance to the will of God, Jesus calls Peter his “Adversary” (16:23) and cast his newly minted “Rock” out of his path, “Get behind me” (v. 23a), back to his proper position, a follower at one with the other Apostles being taught the “things of God”.  

 

Peter, and you, and I live in a fallen world defined by death and our rate of decay.  The things and the thinking of men have adapted to entropy and death victorious over Life as our default reality.  Accordingly, we orient our lives to a glory of power and ease; our “tip o’ the hat” to the inevitable grave, “dust…to dust” (Gen. 3:19c).

 

As long as God is in agreement with the accommodation we have made with death, God is welcome to be our God.  Absent God’s acquiescence to our assumptions, he will be rejected and fought against at every turn; in Peter’s words, “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!  This will surely not be to you!”

 

But Jesus comes into the world as “the Christ”; his Office is informed not by death but by the fact that he is “the Son of the Living God”.  This is a singular thing, that God is God of the living (Mk. 12:27); he is the God who kills and makes alive (Deut. 32:39b); he is the God who creates out of nothing; and the God who destroys the power of death and the grave. 

 

This is the will and work of the living God in Christ alone, accomplished on the cross.  The glory and mercy of God is located nowhere else than in the flesh of Son of the living God, Christ crucified.  All who are joined to Jesus’ atoning death die in him and in him they are made eternally alive. 

 

In Baptism the mind and soul of man’s underlying assumption about death’s ultimate victory is radically changed, permitting us to live new lives grounded in a new glory to that of old man who anticipates only death as his end. 

 

Jesus is “the Christ” who suffered, died, was buried, and rose again for all; the one “good” man (Mt. 19:17) and “Son of the Living God”.  In him we have our perfect atonement for sin and death, possessing the love of God for the world for employ in our Christian life. 

 

Now that the enduring assumption with the Baptized is Life and not death we are freed to live lives that enter into the suffering of others, especially of brothers and sisters (Mt. 25:37-40) and to endure our own tribulations in hope. 

 

Now that the place of God’s presence and abiding mercy with men is in the flesh of Christ Jesus we are better informed about “the things of God” and how we are to pray.  We pray with Jesus as at Gethsemane that the Father’s will be done (Mt. 26:42).  God’s will, the things of God, if you will, are that we live the same cruciform life he gave his Son to live for us. 

 

St. Paul describes the cruciform life that neither eschews nor fears suffering, “Let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9a), i.e., let it be the love of Christ.  When we look outward to others, and not into ourselves, we can see Life, the crucified Son of the living God working in and through men. 

 

In times of distress men can save themselves from natural disaster and other travails in a world coming undone by the fall, and prudence dictates we should.  But for those who have prepared themselves in the “things of God”; the knowledge of the heart and mind of God, it is hard to miss our call to serve the destitute and grieving in the “genuine love” who is Christ. 

 

When asking the theodicy question, “Why does God permit bad things to occur in the life of good people?” one either asks it from the perspective of man’s end of suffering and death that desirers only a life of power and ease in the world. 

 

On the other hand when we see by the heart and mind of God in Christ, we know he is righteous and merciful in the face of evil who’s Son suffered for our sin and the sin of the world; whose cruciform life we are called to embrace and follow by Baptism’s grace. 

 

It is Jesus, the crucified Man who reveals the heart and mind of God, “the things of God”.  If his Life graciously given in Christ is our assumption in the world, then we proclaim with St. Paul, “O death, where is your sting?” (1Cor. 15:55b). Amen.

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 8/27/17
2017.08.28 23:40:27

Proper 16/A [Pent. 12] (2017): Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 11:33—12:8; Matthew 16:13-20. 

 

Rock,            “Listen to me, O ones pursuing righteousness, O ones seeking YHWH!  Look confidently to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.  Look confidently to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you, because he was one when I called him, and I blessed him and multiplied him” (vv. 1, 2).

 

Peter calls Jesus “the Christ” for the first time.  Jesus in turn dubs Simon, “Petros” (Rock) on account of this Christological confession.  Peter’s confession (the “petra”) provided foundational opportunity for Jesus to build-up his NT church.  The person of “The Christ” is the cornerstone toward which the Apostles’ teaching and doctrine are perfectly aligned on the work of Jesus. 

 

Peter’s confession comes on the heels of Jesus warning his disciples to beware of the leaven, i.e., the teachings of those who contradict him as true Teacher of Israel (Mt. 16:6, 12). The warning against leavening Jesus’ word is applicable in all ages of the NT. 

 

Peter of course does not fully comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ office, “the Christ”, that it is intrinsically bound up with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah’s prophesies; still Jesus acknowledged that Peter’s Christological confession was from the Father. 

 

In today’s Gospel the Apostles receive high praise for their confession through Peter; but next Sunday Jesus will castigate them for contradicting his teaching about the true glory of “the Christ”.  Until the Resurrection the Apostles do not fully comprehend “the Christ” as God’s Suffering Israel on the cross. 

 

If we wish insight into Peter’s “petra” confession of Jesus, we do no better than to hear Isaiah, “Listen to me, O ones pursuing righteousness, O ones seeking YHWH! Look confidently to the rock (“petran”) from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.”

 

The (“petran”) Rock is YHWH in whom there is Life.  Peter confessed Jesus “Son of the Living God” thus identifying him with YHWH, the Rock.  Abraham is the implied stone to whom life is gifted and Sarah the quarry out of which the Living Rock brings forth life from dead stone (Abraham) and Sarah’s barren womb. 

 

Against the impending specter of death in advanced age, Abram believed God that his offspring would number as many as the stars in heaven and thus his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

 

Against all the rejecting Pharisees and Sadducees, Peter’s “petra” confession that Jesus is “the Christ”, expressed the Apostles’ faith in the Father’s revelation.  Peter’s faith in Jesus connects his confession with Abraham accounted righteousness for believing the promise of YHWH. 

 

Jesus crucified is the Living Stone the Jewish builders rejected Mt. 21:42). As the crucified One, Jesus is an offense to men, both Jew and Gentile.  When Jesus anticipated his death and its Eucharistic meaning he taught, “[U]nless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53).  He also taught his Apostles that his church would, “Take, eat, [of his] body… and drink of [the cup]… for this the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:26c, 27b, 28).  

 

To the Jew Jesus’ Eucharistic teaching is a gross violation of OT law (Gen. 9:4-6; Lev. 17:10-12), so that many disciples rejected him the Teacher of Israel and returned to the leaven of synagogue Pharisees and temple Sadducees (Jn. 6:66). To the secular Greek mind the Christian Supper is cannibalistic comprehensible only by allegory.

 

Jesus also taught his Apostles the new thing of God’s generation of life by Baptism, “unless one is begotten [from above, v. 3] from water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5).  NT Baptism is also a cause of stumbling for latter day Pharisees and Sadducees who leaven Baptism by requiring “adult decision for Jesus” and so spiritualize into oblivion the church’s apostolic doctrine. 

 

The New Covenant from Mt. Zion, issuing from Jesus’ “petra” body: blood, Spirit, and water is qualitatively distinct from the legal Covenant of Mt. Sinai.  NT Zion, the church, is a sacramental body having her life by grace in the concrete flesh of the risen Christ, the Rock from which and in whom we have salvation, righteousness, and Life. 

 

To those who do not discern that God has moved off Sinai, out of the OT temple, and into Zion built on the crucified flesh of Christ, Jesus’ teaching in his church will always be a stone of stumbling.

 

All attempts to marginalize the concrete teachings of Jesus with the leaven of contrary doctrines to the Christological word of God endanger the body and faith. Thus the church in her public worship confesses Christ and one Baptism, in the Nicene Creed.  By the Apostles’ Creed the church confesses our communion in Christ’s body and blood, our Bread of thanksgiving as “the Communion of the saints”.

 

To those being saved, we who pursue Righteousness and seek God do so by faith, appropriating Jesus’ Righteousness come in word and sacrament; receiving the gifts of “the Christ” from the cross.  Jesus crucified is the Rock from whom we have our Life in the quarry of the church’s womb. 

 

Jesus prophesied of the OT temple that not one stone would remain on another (Mt. 24:2). The fullness of that judgment came to pass, 40 years later (70 AD).  Peter comments that Jesus, glorified on the cross is the cornerstone of Zion, the NT Church (1Peter 2).  In Jesus, “the Christ” all that was old has become new by grace in whom there is no condemnation. 

 

In Christ we look back to Abraham’s salvation for the meaning of “the Christ” our righteousness born of “petra” faith and confession.  Our witness by the apostolic creeds testifies to our being and becoming “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) as Christ employs us in the building of his Zion.  Amen.

 

pem.

 



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Sermon - 8/20/17
2017.08.21 23:37:43

Proper 15/A [Pent. 11] (2017): Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Romans 11:1-2a, 13-15, 28-32; Matthew 15:21-28. 

 

Dogs,            “It is not right to take the children’s Bread and throw it to the dogs.” (v. 26).

 

Applied to the Canaanite woman and her daughter, this is a startling thing for Jesus to say. For the last couple of Sunday’s Jesus encountered unbelieving crowds and his own disciples in an attitude of “compassion”. 

 

The crowds in Galilee interrupted his attempt to pray in private; but out of compassion for their need, he healed, taught, and when his disciples would have dismissed them hungry he saw that they were fed.

 

On the sea, his disciples were foundering during a stormy night. Because they are helpless without him, Jesus compassionately revealed his divinity, walking to them over the water to assuage their fears. 

 

Peter jumped from the boat to join Jesus on the water; but soon his faith turned to doubt, reducing his braggadocio to a plaintiff cry, “Lord, save me”, at which Jesus extended his hand.

 

With the Canaanite Woman we have a faith that contrasts with Peter. Jesus and his disciples had withdrawn, to the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon, perhaps a respite from incessant scribal and pharisaic argument and accusation. 

 

The woman comes to Jesus on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David”.  Jesus answers her, not a word. 

 

His disciples’ urge him to grant the woman’s request; not out of compassion, but to be shed of her clamoring. Jesus tells them, “It is not right to take the children’s Bread and throw it to the dogs.” 

 

Jesus had discerned that the woman’s plea was a cry for Bread; not the manna-like bread miraculously given to the unbelieving and curious crowds, but that which is true Bread out of heaven.

 

Jesus heard in the woman’s plea an extraordinary thing; the Canaanite woman was calling on Jesus to make good her claim on the scriptural promise of God, “Keep justice, and do righteousness… And the foreigners… joining themselves to YHWH, to serve…and love the name of YHWH… to become his servants… keep[ing] the Sabbath… taking hold of my covenant… I will bring them to my holy mountain…” (Isa. 56:1, 6, 7a). 

 

Recall the ancient Canaanites occupying the Land promised by God to Abraham and given to ancient Israel. On entering the Land, so abhorrent and aberrant were the idolatries and practices that God commanded Israel to cleanse the new place of his Presence of all Canaanites; to make them extinct in his sanctuary Land.  And here Jesus is, confronted by a descendant, an expelled dog as it were.

 

From her position of disadvantage, the Canaanite woman starts well; she applies King David’s name to Jesus. Preeminent about David’s reign in Zion over Israel were his “justice and righteousness (equity)” (2 Sam. 8:15).  The woman sees in Jesus, his kingdom come to her, as David came to make alliance with Tyre and Sidon.

 

Unable to release her daughter from demonic enthrallment, the woman looks outside herself to one more powerful than herself; to Jesus. She calls him, “Lord” seeking not only compassion on her daughter; but also divine mercy on them both, as from God.  The woman has correctly identified Jesus; and now she has his attention, yet he does not address her.

 

Jesus expressed the popular catechism in favor of Israel as the “children” in salvation history, so making a distinction between Israel and Gentiles.  Jesus does not call the woman and her daughter “little puppies”, as some would have it; he called the two women, “dogs”. 

 

In response to Jesus’ condemnation, the Canaanite woman, by faith, would initiate a sea change in the economy of salvation history, inaugurating God’s promise to the “foreigners” to be brought to God’s holy mountain.

 

The Canaanite woman and her demonic daughter were indeed “dogs”.  The last verses of Revelation explicitly regard the church’s communion this way:

 

“Blessed are those who wash their robes [Baptism], so that they may have the right to the tree [the Bread] of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (22:14).

 

Excluded from the city by contrast: “Outside are the dogs [identified as]… sorcerers… the sexually immoral… murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (22:15). 

 

Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, the Canaanite woman does not dispute Jesus’ characterization of her. She accepts his word that she and her daughter are unworthy “dogs”; but now it is the woman and her persistence that turns the tables on Jesus.  She insinuates that she might at least participate in his kingdom feeding as would a household pet, a “puppy”, if you will. 

 

The woman’s desire was for something greater than her daughter’s healing. In Jesus, the Canaanite woman sought to join… to YHWH, to serve him and to love the name of YHWH and to become his [servant], [to keep] the Sabbath… and [take] hold of [YHWH’s] covenant”, by the Kingdom’s Bread according to his promise. 

 

Jesus is overtaken and remarks, “O woman” putting her Canaanite faith on par with that of his mother Mary, the Woman at Jacob’s Well, and the Magdalene, all whom are pictorials of the church’s faith.

 

Before Peter’s great confession of faith (next Sunday), the Father gifted the Canaanite woman to discern Jesus’ identity, to trust his word of old as YHWH, and his divine compassion and mercy at the king’s table; his Justice and Righteousness from One more powerful than herself. At Jesus’ word it was done for her as she desired. 

 

Jesus, refreshed by the Canaanite woman’s faith, would travel to another Gentile region, the Decapolis, and again for compassion’s sake, he graciously feeds 4,000 with “seven loaves and a few small fish”.

 

At the cross Jesus is the church’s Bread of Life spoken of in his grain and fish parables. We, who are baptized into his death and resurrection and have our feeding in faith, are like the Canaanite woman restored and transformed.  We are no longer growling K-9’s of the world; but are seated at the King’s Table.  By his Bread we are possessed of the King’s justice and righteousness to walk in the way of his cross.

 

From the time of Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity, Judaism’s pharisaical catechism had informed Jesus’ disciples. In order to steer away from the idolatries and syncretism of the Babylonian experience and on their return to similar elements in the Land, Judaism had made itself an exclusive religion, rejecting all Gentiles as inferiors, certainly they were considered as “dogs”.

 

St. Paul tells us, that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile. Those who reject God’s transforming grace, do in fact populate the world; and with such unrepentant, the church has naught to do. 

 

But for those who have come to a Canaanite Woman’s faith, Christ is true Israel, Zion and Holy Mountain, new Temple in whom we worship God; he is our New Covenant in whom we trust and our Sabbath rest in which we dwell, joined to one Bread.

 

In-gathered to God in Christ we are restored to true humanity; the image and likeness of God. In all compassion with Christ we aspire to a universal, catholic, and missionary calling inclusive toward all outside the church to a repentant faith, and the desire of the Canaanite Woman for all remaining enthralled by Satan.  Amen. 

 

pem.  

 

 



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Sermon - 8/13/17
2017.08.17 13:53:48

Proper 14/A [Pent. 10] (2017): Job 38:4-18; Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33. 

 

Word,           [T]he righteousness based on faith says,…“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” vv. 6a, 8a. 

 

Jesus on occasion is inconveniently interrupted. Still he came to do his Father’s will, not his own (Jn. 6:38).  Last Sunday Jesus needed alone time, or more accurately to be in private communion with the Father; but crowds interrupted.  Their need for healing and hearing of his kingdom in a sick and dying world; their need for God’s “compassion” (Mt. 14:14), outweighed his own needs. 

 

As evening was upon them, the disciples wanted to dismiss the crowds. Instead Jesus commanded the Twelve to feed the 5,000 with resources at hand, five loaves and two fish.  Only after all had been sated, Jesus sent his disciples on ahead, to cross the sea in the dead of night; only then did he dismiss the crowd, freed to ascend the mountain to pray. 

 

What was the content of Jesus’ prayer? Jesus had been shaken at the news that JB was beheaded at the request of a precocious young girl and her adulterous mother.  As he predicted, violence against his kingdom was ramping up (Mt. 11:12), soon to culminate. The cross was in view.  

 

The glory of God would be revealed in Jesus’ spilt blood and broken flesh, the all-sufficient Sacrifice for the NT’s forgiveness of sin and restoration of sinful man into communion with God. For this glory Jesus had come into the world.  So Jesus was distressed and only his Father’s voice could give peace and resolve for his mission. 

 

Also in view, like Moses atop Mt. Nebo surveying ancient Israel’s kingdom of the Land, Jesus no doubt beheld his own nascent kingdom; his Twelve disciples in distress on the sea. Jesus’ prayer would have included them as well; for their faith and strengthening, especially their confession of his Lordship on which his church would be founded in the Resurrection.

 

At this moment the Twelve were alone, seemingly unconnected from Jesus’ protection. Being alone in the middle of the sea is a “perilous place” (LSB 717, Navy Hymn). 

 

Night sailing in a storm is not for the faint of heart. Dark and tempestuous water is the place of Leviathan, cypher for demons, of chaos, of evil, of hidden monsters, and death.  Matthew literally reports that the Twelve were being “tormented” by wind and wave threatening destruction. 

 

Fortunately, it was the fourth, the last, watch of the night; harbinger of dawn’s early light and new hope for calm. But the Light the Twelve beheld was utterly impossible.  Walking toward them was Jesus, Divine “hill and gully Rider” treading over the deep.  Rather than comfort, the sight terrified his disciples. 

 

St. Mark’s reports of Jesus walking on the sea that he wanted to pass-on-by the Apostles (Mk. 6:48c) (an allusion that YHWH passed-by Moses in revealing his glory, Exodus 33:17-34:8). But Jesus’ NT church, the Peal of Great Price for which he would give all, was distressed and fearful.  They needed his succor.  Jesus would have no less “compassion” toward his own than he had earlier shown the crowds. 

 

Jesus immediately assured the occupants of the boat that his coming was not as a phantasm, a representational projection, or a mass delusion; but it was himself in his flesh and divinity.  Jesus employed the language of divinity; an absolution invoking his divine Name, “Take heart; it is I (ego eimi). Do not be afraid.” 

 

The constellation of scriptural references to Jesus’ identity as Divine-Man must have put the disciples’ collective minds into overload.

 

According to St. John it was Passover, giving pause to reflect on Israel’s exodus. Jesus crossed the sea as YHWH parted the Red Sea to save from Pharaoh, again cypher for Satan. 

 

Pictured in walking over the sea is man’s intended dominion of the creation and over spiritual powers attaching themselves in it. Jesus acts over nature and Leviathan, whom Adam in protecting the woman should have commanded in the Garden, “Get behind me Satan”. 

 

Multiplication of the five loaves and two fish in the desert pictured YHWH feeding Israel in the wilderness with the bread of angels (Ps. 78:25) and meat (quail) by way of the sea (Num. 11:31). 

 

Last Sunday we observed that Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 was a visual and sensual collect of his “bread and fish parables” (Mt. 13:1-9, 18-23; 24-33, 36-50).  The feeding was a catechetical event showing Jesus’ disciples that he is the One “come near to men”, to be confessed with mouths and treasured in hearts.

 

The bread and fish employed for food and reserved in twelve baskets, the disciples began to advance to an overwhelming reality, the same reality that you and I approach and accept Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day: that Jesus comes to us as Divine-Man who has judged sin and shares his crucified flesh and blood glory for forgiveness.

 

Unique to St. Matthew’s epiphany of Jesus walking on the sea is Peter’s request to join-in Jesus’ dominion over nature and so death’s perilous threat. Peter enthusiastically entered where angels fear to tread (Isa. 6:2), to face-to-face communion with the God of all creation. 

 

Jesus bids, “Come.”  At Jesus’ word that he should not be afraid, Peter discerns an absolution from his unworthiness of entering the presence of the God of hosts.  For a brief time Peter possessed “faith in the nearness of the Word” (Rom. 10:8a) for which Jesus no doubt prayed of the Father on the mountain. 

 

One might hope that “the righteousness of faith” of which St. Paul speaks moves from doubt to an increase of faith treasured in hearts and captured by confessing mouths.  Jesus walking on water invites us to “Come” as well, so that the church advances on her baptismal trajectory by the HS. 

 

In our walk with Jesus in a tumultuous world, we like Peter associate ourselves with the One of whom the Psalmist boasted, “[Y]ou broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan, you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness” (Ps. 74:13b, 14).

 

The feeding of the 5,000 is an epiphany directing us to Jesus who gives his church her Eucharist food for advance from faith to faith. Today, Peter was distracted by worldly fomentations of the sea and so moved from faith to doubt. Peter lost focus on the face of Jesus who saves, joining himself to us in the water of Baptism and Eucharistic food. 

 

“Doubting Peter”, “Doubting Thomas”, and as with you and I, find in the Resurrection our baptismal faith and feeding discerned in the breaking of the Bread. These gifts of word and sacrament move us in proper direction, from faith to faith, 100, 60, and 30 fold.  Amen.

 

pem.

 

 

 

 



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Sermon - 8/6/17
2017.08.08 00:06:02

Proper 13/A [Pent. 9] (2017): Isa. 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-13; Matthew 14:13-21; Ps. 78:25 (Gospel Verse).  

 

Bread,          [Israel] spoke against God saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? ...  Therefore… the Lord… was full of wrath… because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat… Man ate the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. (Ps. 78:19, 21a, c, 22-25). 

 

God placed two singular trees in the Garden; one bearing fruit of the knowledge of good and evil; and another, sacramental fruit from the Tree of Life.

 

Fast forward: today with the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus reveals himself as the church’s Fruit or Bread of Life out of heaven and actualized in the atonement on the cross in and with the Supper. The Spirit in the Resurrection has delivered our sacramental Life.

 

Some find an easy approach to the scriptural “bread” imagery by employing analogy, saying, “Jesus is like bread”; but such an analogy corrupts the gospel in the atoning flesh of Christ given as NT Eucharistic food. 

 

In the Garden the two trees were icons of victory and of defeat in heaven’s warfare coming to earth (Luke 10:18, 19; Rev. 12; Dan. 10:13). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was icon of Satan’s defeat in grasping after self-knowledge, relative truth, and temporal beauty apart from God, the creator of all. 

 

The tree of good and evil’s knowledge was not in the Garden to test Adam; rather Adam as viceroy on earth was to preach the icon. Correspondence is not exact, but the tree of knowledge stood in the Garden much as does the law in the Christian congregation, neither one is or was intended for spiritual food in and of itself.

 

The Tree of Life, on the other hand, sacramentally offered man food for growth into “the likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26b) and strengthening his vocational proclamation to trust in God’s victory through Christ over Satan’s rebellion, much as the NT gospel, Christ crucified and risen, is proclaimed in the Christian congregation.

 

Adam was made in the “Image” of God (Gen. 1:26a).  His vocation was to bear witness of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God (Isa. 55:4); the things of heaven communicated to him face to face by God. 

 

Rather than desiring the cruciform fruit from the Tree of Life, Adam abused his use of the two trees’ intended purposes. He desired and ate of the tree not intended for consumption resulting in fall and loss of communion with God.

 

Adam was now denied access to the Tree of Life, his means of knowing and seeing God. Had Adam, in the fall, eaten of the Tree of Life, i.e., what St. Paul calls an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27), he would have been confirmed into death’s permanency.  

 

Adam removed from the Garden and the two trees, God mercifully commenced restoration and return of man to his office of hearing the word, seeing it, eating God’s fruit, and bearing witness to the only good, true, and beautiful God.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heard of the satanic violence against his kingdom in the beheading of JB. He withdrew to a desolate place for communion with the Father.  The crowds pursed, sycophantic over Jesus’ miracles; yet they did not believe his witness of reigning in the kingdom of heaven.  For this reason Jesus taught in parables and so hid kingdom truth, goodness, and beauty from the crowd, yet explained their meaning to his disciples. 

 

The last two Sunday’s, the church engaged Jesus’ bread and fish parables: Sower, Wheat and Weeds, Woman Leavening Bread, and a law/gospel Dragnet of the word bringing into the church both good and bad fish.

 

In today’s feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus collects the “bread and fish” parables in unique application as pointing to a greater feeding coming into being in and for the church of God’s New Covenant.

 

The Bread Jesus gives is neither allegory, nor an internalized abstraction, nor an ordinary eating to fill bellies. Only after the feeding miracles of the 5,000 and the 4,000 does St. Peter get it.  By the Father’s grace He sees Jesus for who he is; and so Peter is the NT church’s first witness of Christ, our Bread of Life. 

 

Jesus asked his disciples, “[W]ho do you say that I Am?”  Peter enthusiastically preaches Jesus to be the fruit of the Tree of Life, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt.16:15, 16).  Jesus then attempted to catechize the disciples of his cruciform nature and destiny as the One who does the Father’s will; that he must suffer many things, be killed, and rise on the third day (v. 21), at which Peter, like Adam, rejected the true icon of Life, Jesus crucified.  

 

Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in a deserted place is reminiscent of “angelic bread” provided unbelieving Israel in the wilderness.  Indeed God could easily provide a banquet in the desert, which the people questioned.  Jesus came to bring a superior feeding for his NT witnesses, to be revealed in the Holy Supper. 

 

The cross is the place where Jesus is the singular grain become Tree of Life planted in his church and source of her abundant eating in sacrificial thanksgiving or Eucharist for eternal Life.

 

Following the Holy Supper, Jesus warned Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-33).  As predicted, Peter on route to the cross negated his previous witness, denying Jesus three times.  

 

Peter’s enthusiastic expressions of loyalty prompted Jesus to warn him of the crouching danger in Adam’s fall. Apart from Jesus, apart from him who would mount the Tree of Life to be Bread of Life in the Resurrection, neither Peter nor we can do any spiritual thing. 

 

Each of Peter’s denials employed the ingrained and inherited fruit of man’s knowledge of good and evil. From the perspective of Adam and Peter, no good could possibly come from a crucified “Son of the Living God” on display in the Garden and taught by Jesus to his apostles for the church’s witness.  

 

Satan intended to devour Adam and Peter; and so his intent for you and I. But by Christ crucified who is God’s compassion toward us; he has taken our sin.  In Christ, Satan is revealed icon of the knowledge of good and evil that denies goodness, truth, and beauty of God alone from which all goodness, truth, and beauty is derived.  If that tree defeated Adam; the church by the preached word of God in her Eucharistic truth has overcome it to a feeding of faith for Life, power of grace, forgiveness, and thanksgiving. 

 

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was never intended for eating, for desire, or as competitor against our sacrificial and compassionate God, the source of all Life.

 

All are invited into the Baptism of Christ’s death and resurrection. Still many will reject that participation as patently unreasonable of what is good, true, or beautiful.  At the Supper Jesus is our Bread of thanksgiving for Life in the church, of which we are invited to partake Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.  Jesus is the substance of our heavenly meal, not for belly filling, but that the will and purposes of the Father is accomplished in the flesh of Christ, for advancing in the “likeness” of God, and who alone saves. 

 

Our eating in faith joins us to Jesus’ New Covenant witness of God’s love for the world and by Eucharistic participation we witness in remembrance of him who is love of God into which communion we are called.

 

For those with eyes that see, we should discern in our Eucharist association with the Israelite saints who dined with God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:9-11) breaking Bread face to face in faith with God who provides a banquet in the desert of our sin. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/30/17
2017.08.07 23:54:53

Proper 12/A [Pent. 8] (2017): Deut. 7:6-9; Romans 8:28-39; Matthew 13:44-52.  

 

Separate,                Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (v. 35a)

 

St. Paul asks a rhetorical question that expects the answer; “No one nor anything in all creation shall separate us from the love of God.”   The question is spoken in the congregation intended to assure the elect, those called by God into eternal Life in Christ. 

 

The reason we know that Paul’s assurance is for the elect and not everyone in the congregation is that Jesus has explained the parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat and also today the church’s capture of good and bad fish in the cross strands of its law/gospel dragnet.

 

The church is given to be fishers of men. She does not sort out and separate neither weeds from the wheat nor bad fish from edible.  Sorting is assigned to angels on the Last Day.  This is only just, for it was an angel, Satan, who in the Garden separated man from our Life in God and our dominion over the creation.

 

Man, was made in the image of God and given to rule in the creation as God’s icon; but listening to and believing Satan’s lies about God, man began coming undone. He was separated from the holiness of and relations with God; distrust entered between the man and woman’s love for each other; life in the creation became, rather than rule, a daily struggle; until the final separation of our atomized bodies turned to dust. 

 

God foresaw all this before the foundation of the world. Also known to God are the elect in Christ.  Jesus is the one faithful man of God’s word, will, and purposes in whom all men may be freely restored to Life with God.  It falls to the angels to gather and to bundle on the Last Day, separating the sheep on their Shepherd’s right and goats, weeds, and bad fish on Jesus’ left for dispatch to their “own place” (Mt. 25:33, Acts 1:25b). 

 

Every Lord’s Day we confess the church’s hidden character by the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, maker…of all things visible and invisible”.  Thus this morning the church hears Jesus’ Parable of the Hidden Treasure buried in the world for which Christ has given all on the cross to purchase and possess.  God has “chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6b).

 

If the church is invisible and “hidden”, how is it that we have assurance of our election?  First, the elect will be found in no other place than where God has established his Name in the Body Christ for us by word and sacraments.  Some in time will come by conversion; others enthusiastically join our fellowship, but on account of tribulations or other concerns in the world or disappointments with the congregation, they may fall away. 

 

If, the elect of God are his “treasured possession”, so also in Christ crucified for sin and risen to be First Fruit of our resurrections, God has become our treasured possession as well.  For our revelation and knowledge of “treasure” Jesus gives congregations “trained scribes” (Mt. 13:52) into their synagogues of Christ who will bring out the church’s treasure both new and old; those things proper to the New and Old Testaments. 

 

Pastoral scribes bring forth God’s word whereby the OT is rightly comprehended through the NT revelation of God present and working in Christ as the NT Scripture directs and moves the Baptized to Eucharistic participation in our Lord’s flesh and blood. Comprehended in these treasures is hearing his Word with ears that hear by the Spirit and seeing and tasting the Bread and Wine in Truth to be the church’s visible reality. 

 

But our treasure abounds further. An early church pastor was commanded by Roman authorities to deliver his congregation’s treasure, thinking to receive gold and silver vessels, fine vestments, artistic crucifixes, an extensive library, and money from the offerings.  Instead the pastor brought to the official the congregation’s elderly, widows, and infirmed, and then directed the official to members imprisoned for their faith in the persecution. 

 

Thus our treasure is not only Christ with us in word and sacrament, it is our holy fellowship with brothers and sisters joined together in the apostle’s teaching, in communal prayer, and in breaking the Bread (Acts 2:42).

 

St. Paul’s assurances to the elect are affirmed by the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The more a pearl is handled it takes on an increasing luster and beauty.  God gave Eve to Adam as bridal treasure uniquely “fit” for him.  In his office toward the woman Adam was to give his all for her, his treasure trove for begetting through her “all the living” (Gen. 3:20); his life for her should occasion require; and it did. 

 

Adam named all the animals and beasts of the field so that he should have recognized the serpent’s devilish possession. Instead of exerting dominion over Satan, by pastoral word of God, “Get behind me Satan; depart from this holy place”, Adam gave his office over to the woman (not as he a “trained scribe”) to bandy words with the craftiest beast of the field.  Today by the Parable of the Hidden Treasure Jesus has come into the field of the world that Satan claims as his own. 

 

In the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Jesus is a merchant in search of pearls, which is cypher for a bride. The Merchant discerns in a singular pearl that woman whom he desires above all others and all else, the one whom he would make church, for whom he will give all, his life and glory.  The picture is of marriage.  Jesus will pay an extravagant price to possess a spotless bride made so by his sacrifice of all, and she in faith toward him is presentable to the Father. 

 

But how is the church, the wheat with weeds, edible fish swimming gill to gill with bad considered spotless bride? And how is it that you discern with Jesus that you are the elect? 

 

When a man and woman marry, becoming one flesh according to God’s design, they are incapable of keeping hands to themselves. Their desire for each other is passionate; in their flesh the two become one; continually handling, kissing, and whispering words and response to one another.  Thus the pearl or woman hearing, seeing, and receiving her Lord with all her senses takes on an ever-increasing beauty and luster in the eyes of the Man and others about them. 

 

The elect are discerned as well by the Parable of the Sower. The elect receive God’s word as did Mary from the angel.  Her response to God’s word is that of the church, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). 

 

In this way the elect receive the seed of Christ to enter and germinate in our hearts whereby we desire more and more Jesus brought out and delivered from the place of our Treasure, the Body of Christ, 100, 60, and 30 fold (Mt. 13:23).

 

Of such Treasure, Pearl and Body united, does the invisible church consist, known only to God, his Christ, and elect. Thus St. Paul proclaims, that nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39b).  The proclamation is the substance of the woman’s faith.  Amen. 

 

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Sermon - 7/23/17
2017.07.24 22:47:09

Proper 11/A [Pent. 7] (2017): Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.  

 

Hope,            For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God…  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved…  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (vv. 18, 19, 23, 24a, 25). 

 

“Patience” is the operative word in St. Paul’s advice. We, the Baptized, adopted into the kingdom of heaven long for the ancient promises of God’s glory in the new creation; like Job we hope to see with our own eyes the glory of our resurrection salvation in Christ. 

 

From our Gospel account, Jesus’ ministry was going through a particularly rough patch. It wasn’t just that he encountered severe opposition to his proclamation of the Kingdom come near in his presence.  The problem was that his disciples were being infected by the unbelieving attacks and grumblings of the religious leaders and the curious crowd. 

 

We noted last Sunday, Jesus began to teach of his Kingdom reign by parables in order to confound these enemies and unbelievers, while at the same time explaining and revealing the nature of the Kingdom to his disciples to whom he refers as his true family.

 

St. Matthew continues as our catechist and in a series of seven parables Jesus builds on the Parable of the Sower and the Good Soil, i.e., those who are blessed by God with eyes to see and ears to hear the word of Jesus’ sowing in the world (Mt. 13:16).

 

Today’s Parable of the Wheat and Weeds embraces two other parables, that of the Mustard Seed and the Woman Who Leavens her Flour. All three parables address St. Paul’s exhortation that despite appearances to the contrary and diabolical contradictions in and outside the church, that the “sons of the kingdom” remain steadfast in their hope of seeing the glory of God in Christ. 

 

According to our parable, Jesus, the Son of Man, on hearing from his servants that an enemy has sown weeds among his wheat is unconcerned. It is as though he expected the devilish action.  Jesus has called those who are his own, and they as God gives them the light, will continue according to their call in the midst of opposition; abiding in his word and witnessing to God revealed in Jesus. 

 

The “sons of the kingdom” are not to be distressed at oppositions even entwined with their roots, nor are their pastors to go about in the world and the church as inquisitorial weeders.  Again, the operative words about the church’s glory are “eager anticipation” and “patience” in this time of the church.  That which is hidden, as “glory” will be revealed as God’s kingdom comes in surprising, and unexpected ways. 

 

Moreover we confess that Jesus is Lord of heavenly and earthly armies (Isa. 44:6). He is commander-in-chief not only in the councils of God but on the battlefield.  At the cross, victory is already his alone and will remain so forever.  Christ’s crucified glory to be fully manifested on the Last Day will be our glory as well, for we as sons and daughters of the Kingdom are inheritors of his new Resurrection Life. 

 

Our witness of faith in the world is more difficult than sounds. Because the glory of God is hidden under the cross from “sons of the evil one”, the church appears like her God in Christ, weak and ineffectual.  To the world and many in the church the glory of the cross sounds just like so much foolishness; and that is as the “evil one” intends. 

 

Consider OT Israel in its Babylonian captivity. Israel had lost the Promised Land, its temple destroyed; their king blinded and imprisoned by a more powerful monarch; Israel was without government and by any assessment through the pantheon of the world’s gods, Israel was allied to a weak and ineffectual “god”.  As the psalm describes, Israel was reduced to sitting and weeping by the waters of Babylon (Ps. 137:1).  

 

Into the miasma of his people’s suffering, God spoke by Isaiah, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I Am the first and I Am the last; beside me there is no god… Fear not, nor be afraid…  [Y]ou are my witnesses!’” (Isa. 44:6, 8a, c). Who at that moment, in or out of Israel, would have believed such captive testimony about the God of Israel?  Israel’s witness would be considered delusional. 

 

So too, Jesus called his disciples to the same witness from the synagogue of Christ in place of the synagogue of Moses. By the world’s lights our testimony sounds just as delusional as to the ancient Babylonians, and so the division of belief and unbelief continues to the Last Day. 

 

Today many, in and out of the Christian church, will not tolerate Jesus as the self same God who spoke to Israel weeping by the waters of Babylon: that he is YHWH, King, Redeemer, Lord of hosts, Israel’s Rock, the One who is I Am, the First and the Last beside whom there is no other god.

 

But this is precisely the church’s witness in season and out, that Jesus glorified on the cross, died for us and is risen for our faith and hope. He is the One to whom “the sons of the kingdom” witness as Lord who is our Way, Truth, and Life as we await the Last Day.  He is the One in whom we have our resurrection as first fruit of the HS. 

 

Thus Jesus is not distressed at the notion of weeds among his wheat; the matter will be handled, not by pastors in this time of the church but by heavenly angels on the Last Day. Jesus is our Rock and as long as we remain in his word and Sacrament he faithfully yields in hearts both faith and hope 100, 60, and 30 fold. 

 

St. Paul urges an eager patience for the promised revelation of suffering’s glory. Many despise Christ’s suffering on the cross and our associated baptismal dying to self and rising to God.  But sight and hearing reveals Christian suffering to be part and parcel of our repentant joy at the fullness of God’s love in church’s reality of God with us for the forgiveness of sin. 

 

Implicit in our eager anticipation is the lesson of the Parable of the Leavening Woman; a picture of the church’s pregnancy awaiting consummation of her gestation.

 

In the beginning stages of the church’s pregnancy much doesn’t appear to be going-on, even to the woman. For “sons [and daughters] of the kingdom”, the wheat if you will, there is only the hope that union of their Seed with the church will result in life.  But then as with a small amount of leavened flour, the woman’s belly imperceptibly begins to swell and rise.  At first only the woman discerns motherhood, the work of creation by God and procreation with and by the man Jesus. 

 

Like Eve, the church is the first herald of new life, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Gen. 4:1b).  If the “sons of the evil one” entwine with the roots of the “sons of the kingdom”, they do so to mock the suffering humility of Christ’s church in the world. 

 

That the church suffers deprecations about the glory of her crucified God, only says that she joyously suffers the same slander as her Lord on the cross. As Israel was mocked for its “weak and ineffectual god” as they wept by the waters of Babylon the Christian Church eagerly hopes as she continues in faith amid unbelieving weeds of the world and those in the church. 

 

Not only will “sons of the evil one” deny God’s crucified Suffering Servant; but they will also attack and deny his church’s essential unitive identity as having her being in word and sacramental body and blood.  Thus, in and out of the church, many deny the power of God’s word to effect faith apart from man’s active participation and purposes. 

 

As for the Sacraments, when men deny and declare these means of God’s grace to be void for their inglorious, lowly, and humble appearances, so then is the church’s essence and God’s purposes through her denied.

 

Christ is first fruit of the Spirit and we are fruit of his germinating Seed planted in the world. From the world the church is in-gathered as unseen yields of 100, 60, and 30 fold, and leavened in Christ who so magnifies us in his image before our Father.  In God we are made one loaf in Christ crucified, who is our heavenly Bread and communion with one another and God.  Amen. 

 

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Sermon - 7/16/17
2017.07.17 23:04:07

Proper 10/A [Pent. 6] (2017): Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.  

 

Brothers,                So then brothers, we are debtors… if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live…  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God… fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (vv. 12a, 13, 16, 17b). 

 

St. Paul speaks to us as family; and so we are. By Baptism in water, Word, and the Spirit, we are brought into the life of the Trinity to walk in the Way of Christ.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins to teach in parables, the purpose of which is to reveal God to his family but to keep God hidden from unbelievers (Mt. 13:13, 14).  Jesus does not chase after converts; it is the Father who draws us to Jesus (Jn. 6:44). 

 

At this moment in St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus makes clear that his true family has nothing to do with physical lineage. Mary and Jesus’ ½ brothers appeared seeking a private audience where Jesus was teaching the people.  But Jesus pointed to his group of disciples, saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For who ever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 12:49). 

 

Pretty rough treatment by Jesus toward Mary and brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. Still Jesus had already warned, that in the matter of the kingdom of heaven, “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (10:36).  All family membership is dependent on doing the will of our fathers; and in the case of heaven’s family the Father’s will is that we believe his Son whom he sent.  Hearing and believing Jesus is what St. Luke calls “doing the word” (8:21), the essence of heaven’s bond.

 

As with many in the crowd, Jesus’ brothers are as yet unbelievers of his words and witness to himself, and perhaps on some level even Mary. In the face of unbelief Jesus begins teaching in parables to confound the idle curiosity of unbelievers, while at the same time revealing their meaning reserved for the family of God. 

 

Does this seem a strange strategy to you? It’s not at all the “Church Growth” model of many pastors and congregations hoping to produce a yield of 100, 60, or 30 fold in the sizes of their communities.  So today we engage the Parable of the Sower. 

 

The Sower is of course Jesus, who sows the word of God into the world, God’s world. The sown Word is its own content.  The Word-Seed is not mere message about Jesus; the sown Word is the personage of Jesus crucified for the sin of the world, which is to say, for its unbelief.  

 

St. John clarifies the Parable of Sower and Seed in terms of the cross, and God planting Jesus into the earth. Jesus explains the divine sowing, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (12:23, 24).  Jesus, the sown word of God, alone is the worker of his yield.

 

The Seed, the crucified Son of Man received his watering out of his own body; water and blood issuing forth onto the earth for the church about to receive him. Thus we hear Isaiah’s prophesy of Christ and the HS, “For as the rain…come[s] down from heaven…giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word…not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose…” (55:10, 11). Water and Word, Spirit and Seed, God’s fruitful planting of his church in the world by his own body; itself the source of all increase for those given to be eaters of heaven’s Bread.  

 

The Parable of the Sower acknowledges that only one of the four soil types respond to the Seed in faith. This is a great mystery.  The work of Seed and Water, Word and HS alone creates the receptive soil.  Accordingly, one might think that the Sower should, as a matter of economy, broadcast the word only onto the so-called “good soil”.  Instead the word of salvation calls all men to Baptism and share in his crucified glory. 

 

God’s grace is extravagant. His word is not only given the “good soil” of God’s eternal election; Jesus abundantly seeds the hardpan that immediately offer-up Christ to satanic birds; he sows those intractably grounded in apostasy’s rocks; and to those consumed with the things of the world. 

 

Whether these errant soils represent ¾ of the world or some other fraction, they have in common a preference for another family than the one into which the Father draws, as St. Paul says of our heir-ship with Christ, “…provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17b). 

 

The Christian family is characterized and known to each other, not by “love” apart from suffering, but by a suffering-love. Christ is Suffering Servant of God in whom we find the meaning of familial love. 

 

By grace, the purpose for which God intends his word is that he abides in hearts by an external Seed planting. Lord’s Day-to-Lord’s Day, we attend God’s word and sacrament with brothers and sisters in mutual support and consolation.  Here in the synagogue of Christ, Sower and Seed do the ongoing agrarian work of scoring hard hearts until we bleed for shame and our blood mixes with his poured out for us.  We hear the truth of our sins and our preference for a family that inclines us to pleasing our flesh than to sacrificial love of brother and neighbor. 

 

All this is the work of God’s germinating seed in you from Baptism; or to employ another image, as a dentist drills out the rot of a dead tooth while you patiently suffer and trust the promised gospel filling of the Spirit.

 

Not everyone desires a family membership headed by a Father who wills that each one in his family possess the same suffering glory of his only Son.

 

Some will never accept Jesus’ proclaimed word of grace, preferring instead the Torah of Moses, the letter that kills (2 Cor. 3:6). One must at least admire the bald honesty of their rejection of life in the Spirit.

 

Others receive Jesus’ word with enthusiasm; but when the promised tribulation (internal or external) arrives they have no root in themselves. They fall away to “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit and different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).  Perhaps the Church’s catechism is too arduous or time consuming; Jesus on a level not anticipated or desired. 

 

Finally others grapple with the gods of this world of which there are many vying for our attention, not the least of which is our obsession over monetary concerns.

 

What then is the meaning of today’s parable promise that those who hear the word and understand it will bear numerous fruits and yields, 100, 60, and 30 fold? Yes, the gospel gift of Christ with us is manifested in good works; but not primarily so.  Rather gospel produce in tribulations is that we receive increase of more and more Seed to abide in us, borne from Jesus’ promise, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt. 11:28).  

 

It is our yoked and resting position in Christ within the life of the Trinity that our works, de minimis as they may be, are elevated in stature as Christ’s own; whereas his great works in the church of salvation are credited to us who believe at the table of God’s kingdom family. 

 

In Jesus’ Sabbath rest the church possess the love of God that Christ possessed from before the foundation of the world. Our respective fruits and yields only marginally have to do with “church growth” outcomes; rather they reflect our increasing poverty of spirit (Mt. 5:3) and coordinate blessing of possessing the kingdom of heaven implanted by the Word into hearts made new. 

 

By an increasing poverty of spirit we are able to hear and understand the gentle nature of heaven’s kingdom come near (11:29, 30) to us as true sons and daughters desiring the will of our Father in the Communion of our brotherhood. Amen.

 

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Sermon - 7/9/17
2017.07.11 22:10:55

Proper 9/A [Pent. 5] (2017): Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25a; Matthew 11:25-30;

 

Rest,             “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (vv. 28, 29) 

 

Transformational figures in history bring in their wake not just division, but division begotten of passion. Twice Jesus drove the point home, repeating that he came for division even to the extent that a person’s enemies will be those of his own household (Mt. 10:21 & 34-36).  Division begotten of passion reveals the human heart’s outlet for violence.  

 

Consider the passionate divide exhibited over current events: globalists vs. nationalists, open borders vs. peoples defined by borders, Angela Merkel vs. Donald Trump. After decades of a globalist mentality in the U.S. from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama, Donald Trump comes on the political scene as a transformational figure promising to reverse a decades old trajectory of government policy. 

 

The result is passionate hatreds on both sides, especially from the opposition epitomized by a mock beheading, “fake news”, and gunning-down of a congressman not identified with the so-called “Resistance”. Everyone is politicized, encouraged to take sides, and mobilize to action.

 

It’s not my intent to bemoan current civil division, brother against brother as it were, rather that we honestly assess our own hearts as source of violent discord. By nature we are the heirs of Cain, each of us fully capable of murdering our brother, in deed and certainly by slanderous words. 

 

This is the meat of our depravity. Jesus put it thus, “[Our father the devil]…was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44).  We are incapable by our own will of the least movement to holiness.  St. Paul described our conundrum, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15b).  Into this human condition Jesus enters as history’s archetypical transformer come for division and the choosing of sides. 

 

Earlier we heard that emissaries of the imprisoned JB besieged Jesus to explain current events. To the Baptist it appeared that Jesus had dropped the ball; that his ministry verged on implosion, such that Jesus would threaten the cities of Galilee with hell-fire for unbelief (Mt. 11:20-24). 

 

Jesus responded to JB’s challenge, directing his emissaries and us to man’s violent and fratricidal nature, “From the days of JB until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent try to snatch it away (or take it by force)” (Mt. 11:12).

 

This was not an excuse. JB as precursor of Jesus would soon experience the hatred of violent men and women, anticipating Jesus’ own Passion; his head would be hacked from his body on orders of a young girl in league with her adulterous mother who hated the Baptist for preaching God’s Commandments. 

 

Jesus, by his explanation of the extant violence against the Kingdom come in his own and the personage of JB, prophesied the nature of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven is precisely defined by the very violence and enmity it would suffer.  The Kingdom consists in the rejection of Jesus, his bloody death by which his flesh and blood separated, and his was Spirit handed over for the church. 

 

The kingdom of heaven would come, then as now, by the fratricidal hatred of violent men attempting to snatch it away from those to whom it is given, the church; which is to say, the kingdom comes in and with the gift of the crucified Son of God for the sin of the world. Thus at the Altar of Consecration we pray, “Thy Kingdom come” by, with, and in our heavenly food.

 

Soon Pharisees, the religious fanatics of Jesus’ day, would confront him in venomous assault. They observed Jesus’ disciples gleaning and eating grain as they traveled on the Sabbath.  They wanted to debate Jesus over the Sabbath stricture in terms of their legal enforced rest. 

 

But Jesus had already spoken to the Sabbath rest in today’s Reading. He distinguished and contrasted his Kingdom from that of violent men who would snatch it away, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  

 

Jesus, history’s central transformational figure, is gentle and lowly. He came not to visit violence upon us, but to receive our violent nature, not in theory but in deed.  In going to the cross he modeled David’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (Zech. 9:9b). 

 

His enemies were and are violent and slanderous men, both secular and “religious” intent on snatching from us in his death and resurrection the gospel “believed everywhere, always, and by all” (Vincent of Lerins), in order to retain or to make for themselves a “kingdom”. 

 

Jesus, in whose crucified person the Kingdom fully comes, is not like any other transformational figure. In him there is no enmity toward sinful men, except as he has borne our sin and punishment in his body. 

 

You and I who repentantly confess our sin and the impossibility of coming to holiness of our-selves are invited to transformational faith; to let Jesus bear the crushing weight of our violent and slanderous natures, our sins, and the sin of the world, i.e., man’s recalcitrant unbelief; and thus enter into heaven’s rest in the new creation.

 

At the cross, by our Baptism we were invited to share Jesus’ suffered violence, and to “learn” of the Father’s heart; what it “means [that], ‘God desires mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Mt. 12:7).  Being yoked to our crucified Lord who bears all our sin we are being transformed by his love to a heart like God’s, a heart that resides “in the Beginning” (Jn. 1:1), in the breast of Jesus’ heavenly Father.

 

In that heart we learn the Third Commandment’s meaning to honor the Sabbath rest, not despising the Word and its preaching. Thus Jesus having declared the purpose of the Sabbath rest in his gentleness would refuse to debate the pharisaical legalists plotting to kill him (Mt. 12:14). 

 

Rather, whatever the merits, or the lack, of their claims about the Sabbath, they were called to confront in the “Lord of the Sabbath” (12:8) a more immediate reality; that the One standing before them is He who on the seventh day “rested” and now in his new creation coming into being invites men to join him with Father and HS. 

 

Jesus confronted the hatred of religious zealotry that possessed only an outward form of godliness with these words, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here” (Mt. 12:6).  Soon, with Jesus’ crucifixion, these “religious” men would show their passion for violence and the transformation to which the Kingdom calls all men in gentleness, even as he comes as King and Righteousness in all humility and having salvation (Zech. 9:9b). 

 

Today Jesus still comes to us in the hidden lowliness of water and word, in simple bread and wine. By these gifts we are able to put aside the violence of Cain and our nature’s lack of love; to “do what [we] want, and not the very thing [we] hate”.  In this way the holiness vainly sought after by religious zealots and legalists comes to us “extra nos”, gift from outside, the work of God in Christ alone.

 

Thus yoked by Baptism to Christ we are transformed. A responsible Christian citizenry might well discuss the relative merits, or the lack, of globalism vs. nationalism.  But as for us in Christ, our eyes are not essentially on worldly values, things, and systems.  We put our anger aside against those with whom we disagree for calm and certain trust in the Lord. 

 

Instead we witness as we sing: “I bind this day to me forever, by power of faith Christ’s incarnation, his baptism in the Jordan River, his cross of death for my salvation…the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide…”  (LSB 604, ss. 2a, 3a).  Amen.

 

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Sermon -- 7/2/17
2017.07.08 14:43:22

Proper 8/A [Pent. 4] (2017): Jeremiah 28:5-9; Romans 7:1-13; Matthew 10:34-42. 

 

Released, [A] married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage… And if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…in order that we may bear fruit for God.  (vv. 2, 3c, 4) 

 

A husband’s death releases a woman to freely choose another. The spousal death to which St. Paul refers is the Law of Moses.  Here is salvation’s marital trajectory. 

 

In taking Eve from the flesh of sleeping Adam and returning the woman to him, God gifted each to the other, two yet one flesh. The woman was the love of Adam’s life, for she was of man; and she willingly received Adam as her lord so that in their union she would be “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).  

 

Then sin and fall enter the relation. What began with the man and woman as love’s expression modeled for a fruitful creation, became law, the “law of marriage” under which women have ever since bridled.  God announced the woman’s new and frustrating life on account of sin.  She had listened to the serpent’s lying words and delivered to the Adam the forbidden fruit as a false sacrament. 

 

The woman had usurped her husband’s Office. The natural consequence of this sin would be that from then on the woman’s “desire [would] be for [her] husband” (v. 16c), which is to say, a desire to exercise the Office assigned the man as mediator of word and sacrament in the household of God. 

 

After sin, God affirmed Adam’s lordship according to the law of marriage; now the woman’s obedience to her husband would be a function of law; not an expression of love’s willing submission as reflected between heavenly Father and Son.

 

By the law of marriage the woman’s obedience was contractual, “Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband… Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and health; and forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?” (Book of Common Prayer)

 

In the course of time the law of marriage would impose even greater legal obligations on the woman. By grace the woman was corporate Israel, delivered from Egyptian bondage and brought by Moses to God at Mt. Sinai.

 

At Sinai a marriage ceremony between God and Israel ensued with a sacrificial peace offering of a slaughtered bull; half its blood was thrown against the altar of God. Moses read from the Book of the Covenant of what was required of the woman that he recorded.  The people again agreed, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” whereupon the remaining blood was thrown onto the people.  Thus God and Israel were bonded as one in the blood in the Covenant.  Moses publically announced the union, “Behold the blood of the covenant…in accordance with all these words” (vv. 6-8). 

 

Israel was now a married woman under the terms and authority of God’s written indissoluble Torah word. She would not be released from the law governing her, nor was she free to marry another until the death of her husband.  According to the law of marriage any dalliance by Israel was adultery for which the promised punishment was death (Lev. 20:10). 

 

Over the centuries Israel proved herself, not only an adulteress, but by multiple idolatrous liaisons with the world, an out-and-out harlot. God was nevertheless longsuffering in meeting out a righteous judgment.  In the fullness of time God sent his only Son into the flesh of men as stand-in to receive Israel’s judgment; to suffer the full blast of God’s anger at the woman’s infidelity, and not only Israel, but for the sin of all men.

 

God sent Jesus, living Torah of God, to die on the cross. All men had lived under God’s will and moral law revealed; witness the universality of the Ten Commandments given the woman. By the death of Jesus, incarnate Word, all men have obtained their release from terror under the law and are now free to engage a new spouse.

 

This freedom comes with a warning. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34), which is to say, “Ladies, choose well and carefully. You will be obligated to an exclusive fidelity that eschews any other commitment that competes for your devotion in the world, including your own nuclear family.  These are the terms and conditions of Christ’s proposal from the cross.”

 

Baptized in the Jordan Jesus received the HS. From there Jesus embarked on a three year journey to woo his bride; healing, preaching, and teaching on his way to the cross and thereat fully receive the sword of the Spirit into his flesh to complete the Baptism in a crucible of God’s fiery wrath on account of man’s sin and unbelief. 

 

On the cross Jesus, enfleshed Word, Israel’s lawful husband, was put to death; and with his demise so also the terms of the former marriage covenant ceased to exist. In Christ crucified bearing the sin of the world, man’s condemnation under the law ended.  St. Paul puts it this way in today’s Epistle: “[A]part from the law, sin lies dead” (Rom. 7:8b).  

 

Jesus sacrificially gave his life, his flesh and blood for a New Covenant by which he offers and seals a new union with those who will receive him in faith. His shed blood makes us spotless bride.  This is the New marriage Covenant in the blood of the church’s new Adam in whom God wills our Life in eternal union.  

 

Baptized into Christ we have been released from our former husband and lord, the law and its tyranny. We are free to receive a new proposal of marriage.  On Jesus’ death the HS was handed-over for the church.  Water and blood issued from Jesus’ side so that water, blood, and Spirit, which is to say Word, is the stuff of Christian Baptism and our incorporation into the body of Christ. 

 

By Baptism Jesus offers himself as our Lord, not according to the old law of marriage, but in selfless sacrificial love bringing forth a woman, the church from his own flesh. We who have been drawn by God to our new Adam and new Torah word approach his crucified humility, not in fear and trembling as at Sinai, but freely to receive God’s word and sacrament feeding, our source of eternal life and guide on the Way to our Father’s house. 

 

Jesus brings “division” by his NT marriage proposal; described as the “Scandal of the Cross”.  Jewish and Greek mentalities, “Christian” or otherwise (1 Cor. 1:23), judge the cross a stumbling stone or humanly foolish; the former pine for the authority of the law as for a dead lover, and the latter demand a rationale requiring the death of flesh to be permanent; accepting “resurrection” in spiritual realms only. 

 

Both mentalities deny the flesh in God as true food and so the gospel in Christ. Thus, that which issues from the cross: water, blood, and Spirit offends; and so the Jewish and Greek mind-sets either deny or spiritualized away the church’s sacraments, reprising the sin of Eve in her desire to mediate word and sacrament in place the Man.

 

Holy Baptism offends. Our baptism into Jesus’ body who is incarnate Word and giver of God’s sacramental fruit implies that the Christian church must put aside all pretension and desire to the Office of our Lord.  The woman may not appropriate Jesus’ Office as sole interpreter and teacher of his own word and deliverer of his sacraments issued from the cross. 

 

In the case of Baptism, misappropriation of God’s word occurs when the woman, the church, divorces Baptism is from the cross of her Lord. Thus Jesus comes not only for peace, but also division by the sword of the Spirit for those despising his offer of joining in Holy Baptism.  Despisers are thus left to life under the “tender mercies” of the law for which they pine and the death that the law has already died.

 

Our baptismal new begetting from above in the Spirit is solely the work of God in Christ crucified. New life in the man Jesus crucified for the sin of the world is pure gift.  Likewise God, who draws us to his Son lifted on the cross, gives hearts and eyes to willingly receive that which is given; the water, the blood, and the Spirit in order that the bride might join in her Lord’s fleshly death to self and new life to God. 

 

“Christian church bodies” too often reject the gift given, faith and fidelity by a desire to usurp the Lord in his churchly Office. The essential promise of the church’s New Marriage to her New Torah-Man is found in Jesus’ word to hard-hearted Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).  In context of the cross, Jesus’ marriage proposal is sure and certain, as if he had just said, “Except for the one infidelity of unbelief in my word, I will never leave or divorce you.” In such infidelity is the “division” of which Jesus warns.

 

As assurance against our falling into unbelief the HS is given for the exercise of faith to the end. Our exercise of faith is over against Eve’s apostasy believing the serpent.  By faith we abandon our own certainty derived apart from God’s word.  Thus faith believes the word of God outside us, experiencing it as the work of God alone and pure gift. 

 

By faith the Woman-Bride puts aside desire for her husband’s Office. Rather, she “Listen[s] to him” alone (Mt. 17:5b).  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 6/25/17
2017.06.29 00:24:09

Proper 7/A [Pent. 3] (2017): Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33.  

 

Deliver,       “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (vv. 21, 22a). 

 

These warnings are spoken to the 12 Apostles at the beginning of their mission to the house of Israel. Naturally we ask, do Jesus’ missionary concerns apply today for the church’s mission to whole world? 

 

Jesus intended to impress on the Apostles’ with a sense of urgency in being sent first to the Jews. He refers to himself as “Son of Man”, a title that always presages his coming Passion and death on the cross.  Jesus referring to himself as “SOM” connotes his exalted glory on the cross from which he, as man, would exercise all authority and judgment.  

 

Jesus is concerned for the coming judgment of Israel, thus he sends his Apostles first to the Jews. Jesus spoke this way, “[Y]ou will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (10:23b).  In Israel’s case Jesus’ coming in judgment would culminate in its violent destruction 40 years later: the Promised Land wrenched from the Jews, its cities salted, Jerusalem and the temple razed, much of its population under siege and starved to insanity and horribly killed.  Israel as a nation ceased to exist at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D.

 

Today many “evangelicals” profess Millennialism’s expectation that modern Jews will construct a “3rd temple” in place of the Muslim Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque that currently occupy the former temple mount.  A Christian can only gasp in amazement at such “evangelicals” joining their “faith” to a distinctly Jewish hope that stems from rejecting Jesus as Israel’s true Temple in the Resurrection (Jn. 2:19, 21). 

 

As suggested by our text Jesus came not only to throw peace on earth; but a sword of division, which is to say, judgment in the world as SOM. God loved the whole world by the once for all sacrifice of his only Son on the cross (Jn. 3:16) and so we are given pause to reflect on our own faith in Jesus.  In our self-examination we dare not consign the Israel’s destruction as unrelated to our spiritual condition; but rather as a prophetic sign for the church in these end times.  

 

As I say, Jesus came to Israel in judgment on the cross that culminated with the Roman sack in 70 A.D. The judgment was on account of Israel’s abandonment of God in Christ and as such the momentous event pictures Jesus’ coming again on the Last Day. 

 

Jesus is SOM having all dominion; as judge he rules now, his judgment is not abated until the Last Day. Jesus always and daily comes to his church in word and sacrament (Mt. 28:20b).  His judgment now and on the Last Day responds to the question, “Who do we say the SOM is?” (Mt. 16:13).  The SOM judges man’s belief or unbelief of God’s word. 

 

Jesus brings division and brothers and families rise against each other in a great civil war of faith. St. Paul sources our division over Jesus in the “Scandal of the Cross”.  The cross is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:18-23). 

 

In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; and yet many who call themselves “Christian” possess distinctly Jewish and Greek mentalities toward the cross contrary to the one holy catholic and apostolic faith and practice. For such nominal “Christians” the cross of Jesus is a stumbling stone and/or a folly to deride. 

 

In short Jesus’ warning, that his Apostles must expect division, rejection, and persecution from preaching gospel of our salvation in Jesus by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) appertains today.

 

We cannot fail to note violent historic divisions among brothers; by Crusaders and Inquisitions, Protestants denying the gospel restored in the German Reformation, the Roman Counter-Reformation, the religiously oriented 30 and 100 years wars, the ascendancy of European atheism, and an American religious melting pot that that has rebranded “1,001 sects” as generic Christianity in place of the Church catholic.

 

If we drill down to that which gives sectarian offense about Jesus, the crucified SOM; it is at its foundation the church’s sacraments, most especially her Holy Eucharist.

 

The first scandal, suggested earlier, is that Jesus comes in his crucified flesh to judge faith. Jesus inquires, “But who do you say that I am? (Mt. 16:15).  For those scandalized by the cross somehow our sins don’t actually merit eternal punishment and death.  Scripture’s revelation that we are conceived in iniquity (Ps. 51:5) is not universally received Christian wisdom; thus Jesus was a really “good man and teacher” who urged men to a more intense morality and expressions of humanist “love”.  For these a “Jesus” whose death is required by the Father is anathema and unreasonable; and so out of hand they reject the cross as an offense. 

 

The ultimate scandal of the cross is derived from Jesus’ own words sourcing the church’s Eucharist in his crucified broken body and shed blood. It is Jesus words which demand naught but faith alone that utterly flummoxes, trips-up Jewish like legal minds, and causes Aristotelian logic to mock the Bride of Christ, distributor of God’s grace in word and sacrament. 

 

The faith required for salvation is nothing more than this: What Jesus says is true and embraced because Jesus said it. Jesus said to the Jews in Capernaum, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:53-56). 

 

Either these words speak to Jesus’ coming sacrificial death and his church’s Eucharistic meal; or they are a very complex metaphor for appropriating Jesus by faith. If the latter, then the Sacrament in the crucified flesh of Christ is denied and so also the very character of the gospel; there is no middle ground!  Jesus always comes to judge faith.

 

The church’s Eucharist scandalizes a peculiarly Jewish, even pharisaical, frame of mind. The Torah of Moses expressly condemned all consumption of blood; especially the blood of animal sacrifices, because the blood is the life and the life is in the blood (Deut. 12:23, Lev. 17:11, 12).  

 

On the cross, Jesus fulfilled of the Law. Jesus is old Torah’s final lesson so that the SOM as enfleshed word of God is now new Torah who is also its Teacher.  As incarnate Word, Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of sin, is Life gifted to men in the handing over of the HS from the cross.  His divine flesh and blood is Eucharistically mingled with the flesh and blood of the Baptized.  Accordingly, by Eucharistic eating and drinking he abides in us and we remain as one in him, whose essence is eternal Life.  This is the “reasonable” conclusion of the Incarnation, that God took into himself human flesh.

 

For the Greek minded person wont to substitute human reason or at least compete with or add to God’s word, Christian Eucharist is patently unreasonable being beyond all experience. They ask, “Is God really able, by the power of his word, to bring about a new thing from the cross: Bread-Flesh and Blood-Wine in which there is new Life?”  Yes or no?  Either we accept Jesus’ word alone; or one rejects it by a spiritualizing mind that finds his word foolishness.  

 

The church catholic has always comprehended herself the gathered Baptized in God’s gracious on-going presence in Christ for the new creation coming into being by word, Baptism, and Eucharist. In this place we simultaneously have cleansing unto forgiveness of sin, and Life in the man Jesus for our true worship of our Father.

 

Jesus warned of division at being offended by the cross. In his church Jesus comes today bringing “peace on earth among those with whom [God] is pleased!” (Luke 2:14b).   Who are they?  Those with whom God is pleased are precisely those who receive his Crucified Son in word and sacrament, the place of his NT Temple, the flesh of his only Son, just as he has ordained. 

 

At the same time Simeon in the old temple prophesied of the baby Jesus, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (2:34, 35).  The thoughts of the many continue being revealed by what they think of the cross; are we scandalized or do we praise the glory of the cross and God’s ways in Christ with men?  Amen.

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 6/18/17
2017.06.23 16:02:50

Proper 6/A [Pent. 2] (2017): Exodus 19:2-8; Romans 5:6-15; Matthew 9:35—10:20

 

Priests,        “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5, 6a). 

 

From Hamlet we have, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”.  This kernel rightly understood is Christian wisdom as well.  It is imperative that Christians know who we are: our nature, purpose, and identity, and act in accord.

 

From Advent through Pentecost, we have been lavished with Scripture’s revelation of the nature, purposes, and identity of the only God previously hidden from of old.

 

At the Holy Supper Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us”; to which Jesus responded, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:8, 9a). 

 

Thus our knowledge of God; is not merely concerned with doctrinal propositions; rather our knowledge, even with evil, is relational, fleshly, and experiential (Jn. 17:3) as God in Christ comes to us from outside ourselves. Such knowledge is imperative; why? 

 

Simply, without an intimate and relational knowledge of God it is impossible for us to be true to his plan of salvation for the world. It is this revelation that the church engages during the second half of the Church Year we call, “The Time of The Church”, “Ordinary Time”, or “Season after Pentecost”. 

 

At the head of churchly “Time” we celebrated the festival of The Holy Trinity, observing the coming into being of the new creation. The old creation described in Genesis was the “generations of the heavens and the earth” (2:4).  But the new creation, St. Matthew describes as, “…the genealogy of Jesus Christ…” (1:1), the baptized lineage of the crucified and risen Lord. 

 

All that goes-on between the first sentence of Matthew and the last, are preaching to Holy Baptism and fellowship in Jesus’ sacrificial flesh. In these things the NT church has her being, and so our identity as Baptized and Eucharistic people of God in Christ. 

 

Jesus gave practical application of our new identity as genealogical progeny, begotten of water, blood, and Spirit, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HS, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (28:19, 20). 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus warned his Apostles about to go on a Jewish mission. This text is not immediately directed to us; Jesus’ words are only for his Apostles.  On the other hand the so-called “Great Commission” just related was spoken to the Church of his presence with us to the “end of the age” or the Last Day.  

 

But when Jesus warned his apostles of persecution from Jewish authorities and rejection of their mission, to the Jews first (10:6), Jesus spoke about another “end of age”, “…truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Mt. 10:23b); this coming of Jesus is not the Last Day, but rather it is a portent of the Last Day.  It would mark the end of the Jewish OT epoch. 

 

And what was the “coming end” that Jesus described to his Apostles cutting short their Jewish mission? Jesus had just prophesied the single greatest tragedy since the Fall of Adam and Eve; the utter destruction of old Israel in 70 AD by the Romans; its Land and nation, its Holy City, its temple and religion.  

 

Jesus by calling the twelve Apostles to be hearers of his voice as new and living Torah, and that they should proclaim the kingdom of heaven in his person, was reconstituting the old church into the New Covenant’s promise of a new creation. The old Jewish skin could not contain God’s new wine in the blood of his Son; and so was being brought to an end, that the world’s salvation might be catholic or universal by grace in the man Jesus.

 

This end of the Jewish epoch was clearly announced to the Jews as Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin. Jesus prophesied to the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas, “I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64b). 

 

That “from now on” of Jesus’ prophesy began with his glorification and exultation on the cross, the darkened heavens, earthquakes, tearing the temple curtain asunder, raising the dead, culminating forty years later with Rome’s destruction of temple, city, nation, and people refusing the Christ of God come in order to remain with their old teachers of the Law. “From then on” Caiaphas was witness to the Son of Man come on clouds for judgment on account of old Israel’s rejection.

 

If today’s Gospel speaks directly to the unique apostolic Office about a “coming end” to their Jewish mission; what then is the take-away for Christians wont to hear law and gospel preaching?

 

Just this; old Israel was called out of bondage to be God’s covenant people in the world. To this purpose they were baptized through the Red Sea and consecrated with sprinkled sacrificial blood on Sinai.  They alone in the world would possess God’s true word and revelation. 

 

By grace, Israel was God’s “treasured possession” ordained to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Located in the Promised Land, Israel, by holy lives according to Law would witness to the nations of God’s compassion toward the world; to intercede, to pray for, and to teach all that God commanded them. 

 

Israel had received its calling, consecrated to God in the world, and so took on a new identity.  Israel was no longer an enslaved people; they were “sons”, having a new nature and a new name, given to emulate God’s holiness and represent his purposes in a cursed creation. 

 

Israel was intended to be God’s agent through which the creation was being restored. This was their new nature, purpose, and identity, even as Jesus would later describe his own person, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30), that is, in nature, purpose, and identity.

 

In the fullness of time God sent his only Son into human flesh. As true Son of God, Jesus would be true Israel reduced to one in place of old Israel, his rebellious “son”. 

 

Peter describe Judas’ infidelity as turning aside from the place of Life and going “to…his own place” (Acts 2:25), and concluded the church’s judgment, “Let another take his office” (1:20b).  So also on account of old Israel’s infidelity in Office, Jesus at his Baptism received his Office as God’s Israel in place of unfaithful old Israel.

 

By his Incarnation, Jesus was made Son of Man to be sinless humanity reduced to one, and so sin-bearer and sacrificial Lamb of God into whose flesh all Judgment for sin and unbelief was received at the cross.  

 

And this is the Son of Man’s command to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” And this is his judgment, “Whosoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). 

 

Like God’s call to old Israel’s exodus to a unique agency in the world, Moses and the 12 tribal patriarchs; Jesus called to himself twelve apostles to represent his NT church radically commencing God’s new creation in gospel compassion and grace. The new creation is a genealogy issued from his crucified innocent flesh to share in his Office, faithful Israel.

 

Because Jesus is faithful and true Son of God and Son of Man, we who have heard by the church’s proclamation the voice of God believe. By his Spirit we come to Baptism and so receive our feeding on our Bread of Life, which is to say, his word and Holy Eucharist. 

 

In union with Christ we pray for the world making our acclamation by today’s Introit, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Ps. 67:3) that all in Christ might “to our ownselves be true”.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/11/17
2017.06.12 13:24:36

THE HOLY TRINITY/A (2017): Gen. 1:1—2:4a; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; Matthew 28:16-20. 

 

Generations,         These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created… (v. 2:4a). 

 

The first creation is described as a uniting of the skies with the earth. From this union the generations of the creation follow in order through the sixth day when man and woman are fashioned and in-breathed by the HS to be image of God; rulers in the creation, advancing God’s goodness and holiness reflected in the creation.  Instead by sin man became the agent that deconstructed the “good” creation. 

 

Consider God’s love and wisdom applied to the heavens and the earth. In the beginning God created primordial stuff, shapeless and devoid of order.  In the midst of that primordial chaos was the watery deep and vast emptiness.  The HS hovered over the stuff of earth and sky awaiting the word of God.  Now that physical matter or stuff existed, a time-space continuum was extant along side God’s heavenly realm in eternity.

 

In the course of time, whether billions of years or moments later, God spoke by his Word and only Son ordained to be Light of the world from before its foundation. The hovering HS breathed the Voice of the Word into the dark, formless, lifeless primordial broth, “and there was light” (v. 3). Thus by God’s ordering Light through Word and Wisdom, the marriage of sky and earth commenced, culminating in creation of man and woman as image of God.  

 

This Feast of The Holy Trinity and always we confess “God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth” who freely acted in Triune unity, hand in glove if you will, with his only Son and the HS. 

 

On the sixth day of creation coming generations of man and the holiness of the world would be grounded in the Imago Dei; that man and woman, children of God and so their offspring would be icons of God in the world.  If you wished see what the hidden Creator-God looked like, one only needed to gaze upon man in the world.  This was our intended nature and being. 

 

To go against one’s nature of existence derived from our Creator and Father is illogical and self-destructive. But here we are, children and inheritors of Adam’s sin, always doubting God’s love for us and choosing to trust in the bondage of death and decay to which the first creation was condemned on our account. 

 

By sin the marriage of heaven and earth and the generations of Adam and Eve have been on a trajectory toward destruction (Gen. 3:17-19). Man bereft of his Creator’s Spirit searches in vain for an independent identity.  We live in fear and denial of our coming end, rebelliously concluding that, “man is the measure of all things: of the things that are, that they are, of the things that are not, that they are not” (Protagoras). 

 

By wisdom of our own we are constantly deceived about our true identity like the tragic character, Oedipus the King. Oedipus ruled his city in ignorance of his true identity; he believed himself most enlightened among men and the exalted savior of his city.  In truth Oedipus was the cause of his city’s curse from the gods, having unwittingly killed his father.   When the truth of his inherited depravity was made manifest, the Oedipus plucked out his eyes to walk the world in blindness.

 

Into the apparent hopelessness of our darkened sin condition, God offers another wisdom of the HS who witnesses to another truth; God sending his Son into as redeemer from the clutch of sin and worldly chaos. The church confesses, “And in JC, his only Son, born…crucified, died and…buried. He descended into hell.  The third day he rose again from the dead.”

 

Consider God’s love and wisdom in commencing the new heavens and earth by his Word. God sent his Son, incarnated Word, into the world and by the HS’ hovering spoke into Mary’s ear.  Heaven, the abode of God, would now reside on earth nine months in the womb of the woman in her office, “the mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20).  In Mary’s womb Christ’s divinity was knit into the fabric of men’s flesh.  In this way the ordering Light entered the world to overcome the dark void of men in sin. 

 

Jesus, pre-existent Son of God, in infant flesh was destined to be the primordial stuff of the new creation. At his Baptism Jesus received the HS.  Word and Wisdom together would work the mighty works of God, bringing into being a new sonship for men begotten from above. 

 

In the Garden, Adam and Eve were created to be faithful children of the Most High God refraining from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In this first creation good and evil must forever remain separate; in tension against the other.  To partake of evil with good was to participate in evil and so deconstruct the good creation Adam and Eve were intended to rule for its good.  By sin, today we walk in the world ignorant of our intended identity; rather through us the heavens and the earth have been cursed.   

 

JB ordained Jesus in the HS, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29); its doubts and unbelief of God’s word and will in the world. At the cross, Jesus our sin bearer, offered himself in his flesh for deconstruction by the HS at the will of the Father.  Jesus offered and became less than a man, formless and void (Ps. 22), the new primordial stuff of a new creation.  Jesus’ plea, “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34) revealed the light of God’s love, a new ordering of a new heavens and earth in Christ, which is to say, our baptismal participation in his crucified flesh enters the precincts, not of sky but heaven itself.

 

On the cross, God resolved the irreconcilable tension between good and evil in the divine flesh of Jesus. In Jesus’ crucified flesh, Satan, sin, and death are overcome; revealing Jesus the Fruit, formerly denied men from the tree of Life.  By Jesus’ sacrificial meat the church possesses her Bread of Life and NT Cup for the forgiveness of sins and new life into eternity. 

 

From the cross Jesus handed over the HS for his church. On Pentecost Day God’s power in Word and Wisdom was delivered for us and for the life of the world.  Some time after the Resurrection and before the Ascension, Jesus met with his Apostles, as reported in today’s Gospel. 

 

At that time, the Apostles were commissioned to baptize all nations in the Triune Name, and teaching all Jesus taught and commanded; not the least, to partake in faith of his crucified and risen body and blood for the new creation coming into being in his person. By this good news we are given pause to reflect on our status revealed in the opening verse of the NT Gospel according to St. Matthew self-described as, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ...” (Mt. 1:1a).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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