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Sermon - 12/6/17
2017.12.10 02:40:43

ADVENT MIDWEEK 1/B (2017), Mark 13:24-37  

 

Awake,     “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake (13:35-37). 

 

Sunday’s Gospel recounted Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  St. Mark reports that Jesus entered the temple precincts, the place of God’s dwelling on earth, looked around at everything, and without comment made his way back up the Mt. of Olives to Bethany.  Amidst all the entrance “hosannas” the report rings anti-climactic. 

 

On the next day Jesus returns to Jerusalem and on the way cursed an unproductive fig tree that should have born early if not yet ripe fruit.  Jesus’ curse was a prophesy against Israel.  Again Jesus entered Jerusalem and the temple.  Now Jesus cleansed the temple, a sign he was decommissioning its Aaronic and Levitical stewards, and the entire animal sacrificial system. 

 

In so doing Jesus rejected the old temple to be the informing touchstone for all Israel’s Torah teachers.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City as prophet, priest, and king was earthshaking.

 

A Jew then was left with one of two choices; seek to be rid of Jesus as the religious establishment desired or take a fresh look at Jesus as did the formerly blind Bartimaeus, the newest disciple in the Way.  Absent new sightedness toward Jesus, the things of God in the remain hidden and incomprehensible. 

 

Throughout his ministry Jesus urged the elect to possess by his word, ears for hearing and eyes to see for knowledge of Divine things.  With Jesus’ entry into the royal city of his ancestor David the time had come for the NT church to awaken; eyes opened to the reality of the new creation coming into being. 

 

By Baptism we too are called to hear and see spiritual things anew, differently than the world or incompletely by the OT uninformed by Jesus, the One worthy to open its scrolls (Rev. 5:9).  In fact our lives, our salvation depend on an attentive vigilance to the new things of Scripture’s revelation in Christ.    

 

For the temple High Priest, the chief priests, the scribes and Pharisees, all those rejecting JB’s baptism of repentance, there really was no choice; Jesus must be gotten rid of and sooner than they would have liked for it was coming upon the Passover (Mk. 14:1, 2). 

 

But for Jesus’ disciples who received JB’s witness to Jesus, they recognized him to be anointed Christ, Son of God and beheld him to be God’s coming sacrificial Lamb.  They heard, beheld, believed, and followed Jesus for sight unto sight and new knowledge of the things of God. 

 

This 1st Sunday week in Advent’s alternative Reading, Jesus departs the temple for the last time to reveal the new dwelling of God with men in his crucified flesh as Son of Man and Son of God. 

 

How can this be?  In his Baptism in the Jordan and on the cross Jesus assumed the old man of Adam to be put to death once for all.  In the Resurrection, Christ, the new man is raised to Life.  This is the perspective seen by those with baptized eyes for “beholding” the new things of God. 

 

When you see an icon of the crucifix, what do you behold?  If anyone goes to a new construction site without knowing the architect’s plan or design, it may appear as rubble and a mess bordered off by warning signs to “keep away”. 

 

St. Mark describes God’s new construction of his new dwelling in heaven and on earth, complete with scattered rocks, rejected Cornerstone, and a warning, “[W]hen you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the Reader understand), then those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Mk. 13:14). 

 

Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, was rejected on the cross both by Israel being outcast from his Father’s temple on earth; and on account of the sin Jesus bore for us as Lamb of God, the Father too abandoned his only Son (Ps. 22) letting fly Abraham’s blade.  So, we “behold” in the crucified corpse of Jesus, “the Abomination of Desolation standing where he ought not to be” (MK. 13:14).    

 

As God counts time in the new creation, Jesus’ crucifixion is our beginning hour of the Last Day’s coming; by the cross we reckon the eschaton, these last days. 

 

Jesus, lifted on the cross was accounted Abomination of Desolation by both man and God to be the Sign of the end; and in the preaching of the Sign, victory over Satan’s thrall and the beginning of God’s new creation in the flesh of Jesus, the new man and new Temple of God. 

 

With Jesus crucified comes a darkened sun, earthquake, trembling of heavenly powers, torn old temple sanctuary curtain, and rent flesh of the new sanctuary, the heart of God’s only Son for forgiveness, entry, and welcome into heaven’s precincts. 

 

At his trial before the Sanhedrin for blaspheme toward the temple, Jesus prophesied to High Priest Caiaphas that he, “would see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62).  

 

Forty years later (70 AD) the man Jesus in whom God now dwells appeared in heavenly clouds to impose destruction of the old temple by the same means Caiaphas had sought to destroy God’s Christ, by a coterie of Roman soldiers. 

 

The eschaton’s new perspective in heaven and earth’s communion in Christ, is this: we behold the destruction of Jesus on the cross and Jerusalem’s temple forty years later, as one for grace and one as Divine judgment. 

 

For delivery of that which is grace in these last days Jesus instituted the church’s Supper that Jesus’ crucified and risen body and blood are our feeding in the NT household of God.    

 

On the just concluded Last Sundays of the Church Year, and on this 1st Sunday week of her coming Year, Jesus issues back to back warnings for his church.  He urges us to employ in these “last days” our eschaton gift of sight. 

 

If we perceive that we are in end times and that Jesus is not distant but already and always present with us in word and Sacrament, then we will remain awake Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in anticipatory joy of his glorious coming on the Last Day. 

 

But if we spend our time apart from his promised presence, instead occupied in speculative thought about an unknown future day and hour we will become as dispirited as the Foolish Virgins who fell asleep without the church’s provision of word and sacramental oil for light and spiritual sight. 

 

Thus Jesus warns that the church post her, “doorman to stay wake… and to all: Stay awake.” (Mk. 13;34, 37).  Amen.

 

pem. 



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Advent Schedule
2017.12.06 22:41:09

Come worship with us during this special time of year. Besides our regular Sunday services, we'll also hold the following services:

 

Dec. 6th @ 7:30 p.m. - Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Grace)

Dec. 13th @ 7:30 p.m. -  Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Concordia)

Dec. 20th @ 7:30 p.m - Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Grace)

Dec. 24th @ 11 p.m. - Christmas Midnight Mass

 

Please note we'll also have our regular Sunday morning service on Dec. 24th at 9 a.m.



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Sermon - 12/03/17
2017.12.06 22:39:56

ADVENT 1/B (2017), Isa. 64:1-9; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10 

 

Rend,            Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…  When you did awesome things that we did not look for…  From of old no one has heard… no one has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.  You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. (vv. 1, 3a, 5a)

 

Isaiah’s prayer on behalf of ancient Israel finds its answer in the church’s Introit acclamation from Zechariah, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation” (9:9b). 

 

Today we begin anew our heavenward ascent with Bartimaeus. Before Jesus ascends the Mt. of Olives from Jericho to Bethany and Bethphage he encounters blind Bartimaeus waiting for him.  Jesus passes, and the blind man cries out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk. 10:47, 48). 

 

Bartimaeus rightly identifies Jesus as king David’s greater son about to enter Jerusalem, his royal capital and site of his Father’s temple residence. The mercy Bartimaeus desired of his king coming to reign was eye sight, which Jesus granted, declaring his faith had made him well and that he should go his way. 

 

But Bartimaeus recovered more than eyesight; nor did he go his own way; rather the formerly blind man “beholds” spiritual truth about Jesus’ kingship. Bartimaeus responded with insight, following Jesus “on the Way” to his destination.  Bartimaeus entered the NT precincts of the Church coming into being in the presence of Jesus.

 

We, who have been baptized, having received the HS, are enlightened by God’s word and join Bartimaeus’ sighted faith on journey in the Way. Annually we begin our journey anew on this 1st Sunday in Advent, putting ourselves into the geography of our Gospel text. 

 

As with Bartimaeus we are blind on account of sin; God is hidden to us unless he comes to us. We must await God to act for restoration of sight to “behold” the spiritual things of God.  Today’s Gospel reveals coming spiritual things future, now, and past, which is to say, Jesus is the Coming One who has, “ren[t] the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at [his] presence… [and do] awesome things that we did not look for.”

 

In the final Sunday’s of the preceding Lectionary series Jesus departed the old temple, ascending the Mt. of Olives to teach his disciples. In particular Jesus taught about time in the new creation and that for some there is just not enough time.

 

“Foolish” Christians (virgins) depleted of the church’s spiritual oil for lamplight (Mt. 25:1-13) and; those who refuse employing heaven’s gifted gospel treasure for the world (25:14-30), will be disowned for faithlessness on the Last Day. 

 

It is serious error to misapprehend the nature of time in the new creation. The new creation does not come as a singular future event of, moon turned blood, sun darkened, fire, and smoke (Acts 2:17-21) on the Last Day. 

 

The new creation comes with the crucified Coming One. From the cross until now we have been in “in the last days” (v. 17) experiencing communion of heaven and earth. 

 

In the new creation, time is no longer linear; time is associated with eternity. All time is a GPS (global positioning system) oriented in Christ suspended between heaven and earth on the cross.  The cross is the place where we look and behold all history in truth, past, present, and future. 

 

Now let’s return on travel with Jesus, sighted Bartimaeus, and the company of disciples. They ascend from the plain of Jericho up the eastern slope of the Mt. of Olives to Bethany and Bethphage near its summit. 

 

Later from the summit, overlooking on Jerusalem, we enter heaven’s rarified perspective seeing Jesus enthroned into his kingdom on the cross. Then forty-three days after, we stand at the place of Jesus’ Ascension to the Father when the resurrected Man delivers his kingdom to the Father.  On the Last Day Olive’s summit will be the place of Jesus’ glorious return for separating “Wise from Foolish Virgins, “Sheep from Goats”, and “Good and Faithful Servants” from “Wicked and Lazy”.  

 

As we look back down Olivet’s east slope we see the Jordan River where JB baptized and witnessed that Jesus is the Coming One. Today, Jesus describes you and I, having received the HS delivered to his church in fullness from his crucified flesh, to be greater, than JB greatest for our NT sightedness.  From where JB stood in the plain of Jericho he could not see over the mountain.  JB’s OT perspective allowed him to see only the summit, the coming place of end-time judgment.

 

Jesus arriving at Olivet’s summit with his disciples viewed the temple mount below. It was a glittering spectacle (Mk. 13:1); yet the disciples only tangentially saw, but failed to behold the true place of Jesus’ kingship: Gethsemane and Golgotha. 

 

By today’s Gospel we descend the Mt. of Olives with the disciples into the Kidron Valley, then up to Jerusalem and the temple mount. Jesus’ triumphal entry into the City of David this 1st Sunday in Advent replicates Solomon’s coronation entrance to be king on his father’s royal mule (1 Kgs. 1:33). 

 

The disciples precede Jesus, announcing him to be the prayed for and prophesied Coming One, exclaiming, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:9, 10). 

 

Sometimes Christians are confused about, why today’s Gospel Reading of Jesus’ triumphal entry is a preparatory for celebrating the Nativity?

 

According to St. Mark when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he entered the temple, looked around, and leaves, returning to Bethany (Mk. 11:11). In the immediate coming days Jesus cleansed the temple of its animal sacrificial system and former mandate for proper relations with God.  He defrocked the high priests and the Torah teachers.  In so doing, he announced his true identity: Israel’s true King, only Prophet, Teacher, and High Priest. 

 

Jesus then departed the old temple teaching only his disciples on Olivet. The old religious guard accused him of blaspheming the temple as the dwelling of God.  They kill Jesus on the cross.  For his disciples the sight is beyond staggering. 

 

At the cross, the disciples behold by the HS, knowledge of the only true God and the kingdom of Christ. The face of God, formerly veiled to Israel and hidden from the world, is fully revealed nowhere else than in the sacrifice of his only Son for love of sinful men.  By this gospel delivered in Baptism, God comes to us waiting on him who is being made into the “likeness” of Christ.

 

You may ask about the Babe of Christmas. From the cross we discern Jesus’ first coming in time, his coming now in word and Sacrament in time and eternity, and his second coming from eternity; these are all the same reality.  In Christ, God has rent the heavens.  At the will of God, Mary’s Child was born to die. 

 

Christmas has no relevance apart from the coming death of Mary’s Child, who by her bears our flesh. As we look up and down from our vantage of Olivet’s articulating slopes we see the cross for what it is: judgment and mercy at the second coming, now, and in the little beating breast of the Christ child, destined to be rent by a Roman spear for the Life of the world.

 

Advent starts looking forward to Jesus’ true reign from the cross and back to his Incarnation and Nativity. Jesus’ crucifixion begins the last days (darkened sun, coming in clouds, earthquakes, trembling of heavenly power Mt. 26:64, 27:45-54). 

 

In the new time of the new creation, the cross and Jerusalem’s destruction forty years later is one event; even as Supper and cross in eternity is the same event; one for judgment, one for grace.

 

This 1st Sunday in Advent we necessarily look first to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), as it were, i.e., to Christ’s triumphal entry and cross, before we may behold the truth of Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Advent Schedule
2017.11.30 22:49:50

Come worship with us during this special time of year. Besides our regular Sunday services, we'll also hold the following services:

 

Dec. 6th @ 7:30 p.m. - Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Grace)

Dec. 13th @ 7:30 p.m. -  Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Concordia)

Dec. 20th @ 7:30 p.m - Mid-week Vespers Service (hosted by Grace)

Dec. 24th @ 11 p.m. - Christmas Midnight Mass

 

Please note we'll also have our regular Sunday morning service on Dec. 24th at 9 a.m.



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Sermon - 11/26/17
2017.11.30 22:36:17

Proper 29/A [Last Sunday] (2017): Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46.  

 

Lord,             “Then they will answer, 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? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of [my brothers], you did not do it to me.’…” (vv. 44, 45).

 

A couple of observations: first, these goats destined to eternal punishment sound genuinely confused about the reason for their separation from the elect. They did not discern Jesus’ presence among the sheep, especially in the sheep’s distress; and second, they call Jesus Lord”. 

 

This is not a parable, it is a prophesy of the Parousia, Jesus’ second coming for dividing believing sheep, from those goats without a relational faith among the people of God.

 

The prophecy concludes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mt. of Olives and follows on the parables the unprepared Virgins and the inattentive servant of his master’s Talent. Jesus has the nominal or occasional Christian in view.

 

The five Foolish virgins cry out through closed doors, Lord, lord” (Mt. 25:11) that they might enter the wedding feast; yet are refused. 

 

In the parable of the Talents, the unproductive servant entrusted with his master’s wealth, complains, Master, I knew you to be a hard man… so I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours’” (vv. 24, 25).  For inattention to heaven’s treasure entrusted to him in the world, this servant lost heaven’s elevation to a greater patrimony. 

 

Call Jesus what you will, “Lord” or “Master”, still on the Last Day he will call us for what we are, either; “sheep” or “goats”, “good and faithful servant” or “wicked and slothful servant”, “wise virgin” or “foolish virgin” according to faith’s relational desire for and toward the Lord and our brothers.

 

This is Jesus’ final lesson on the Last Sunday of the Church Year; and so it is the church’s opportunity to reflect, whether we discern any change in our life by our Christian association and walk.

 

Actually like the sheep in Jesus’ prophecy you may not have noticed much, if any change by your Christian walk; after all the inheriting sheep seem just as confused as the separated goats, saying, “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’” (vv. 37-39).

 

Noticed or not, you who Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day receive and earnestly desire and treat the Treasure of heaven in word and sacrament have been changed; such is the slow, steady, often imperceptible effect of law and gospel light in the life of a Christian.

 

God does not work in his creation except as he employs the things of creation. This principle, we call “means of grace”, has its ultimate expression in the Incarnation; that God took on human flesh and therein dwells with men in sacrificial love for the forgiveness of sin; and obedient love of the Father in order that his will toward the creation be perfectly accomplished.  

 

Let’s avert our eyes and ears from the enumeration of the prophecy’s works. Works in and of themselves are not determinative of whether one stands on Jesus’ right hand or his left. 

 

At Jesus’ crucifixion two thieves were located, one on his right and the other on his left. We foster confusion when we label the one on Jesus’ right the “good thief”.  Both men were thieves and by the man’s own confession were deserving of their death sentence. 

 

Instead, by grace the thief on Jesus’ right was granted faith’s sight to discern God’s gracious kingdom come in Jesus’ sacrificial death, which he sought to enter on Jesus’ word alone (Luke 23:39-43). By the flow of water and blood at Jesus’ death the thief in faith received his baptism into the kingdom. 

 

Neither you nor I of ourselves have the wherewithal to do God pleasing works. Now here is the thing about truly good works, they are born of love, and love always, and I mean always, is expressed in sacrifice or the promise of sacrifice.  But perfect sacrifice, perfect love is impossible for sinful men except as we are found baptized into Christ’s sacrifice.  St. John, puts it, “We love because [God] first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). 

 

Here is the crux, if you will. We do not do good works in order to please God or even for the love of Jesus.  If that is your motivation then you are dangerously close to a “works righteous” orientation on the left hand of Christ in his majesty.

 

Again, hear St. John, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen… whoever loves God must also love his brother” (vv. 20, 21). 

 

We do works for love of our brother and as I say, God pleasing love is always sacrificial; which is the sacramental point of Baptism, word and Supper. By Baptism we possess the HS’s gift of faith whereby we grow from faith to faith in word and Sacrament. 

 

We are Christophers, Christ-bearers within us, enabled to share his cruciform love because the weight of it belongs to him (Mt. 11:29, 30). By our Christian yoking God is magnified in a world, as in Noah’s day coming to an end, and being made new in Christ. 

 

Once again God does not work in his creation except as he employs the things of creation. In Christ you are a new creation, with eyes that see and ears that hear Truth.  In Baptism you were anointed to the work of God in Christ. 

 

Do not do works because Jesus is looking over your shoulder; rather do works because you have been changed; it is what the elect do as image of God and likeness of Christ. You are changed, no longer servants but now sons and daughters employed in the same priestly, sacrificial, eucharistic, and relational vocation as your Lord. 

 

With him you are the means by which God conveys his love and salvation to men. You cannot do otherwise; it is whom you are and are being made into, even if you hardly notice the change.  But do not ignore the gifts by which you have been blessed for God’s love toward men, especially brothers and sisters.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 11/19/17
2017.11.21 00:09:19

Proper 28/A [Pent. 24] (2017): Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30. 

 

Talents,       “For [the day of the Lord] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more… But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (vv. 14-16, 18, 19). 

 

We have come to the last of Jesus’ parable teachings. It is a difficult parable, principally on account of our tendency to allegorize the word of God; to see our own verbal pictures, symbols, and representations.  There is no need to directly equate the parable’s “talents” with Christian stewardship, although on some level that is involved. 

 

Last Sunday in the parable of the Ten Virgins, five Wise and five Foolish, awaited the arrival of the delayed bridegroom. The Wise virgins by the oil of the HS discerned the coming “day of the Lord” not only as a Last Day event, but also and more importantly a coming by Jesus’ word and sacrament presence in the sight of faith.  The five Wise were faithful to a reality anticipating the Last Day. 

 

The result was that the Wise virgins possessed the resource and wherewithal for God’s light and able to join the Lord by an ongoing oil supply for the Day of his final coming and ingathering.

 

The Foolish virgins bereft of the church’s fuel oil were unprepared, becoming occupied in search of another light source and so shutout of heaven’s wedding celebration.

 

Once again the “day of the Lord” is imminently in view; Jesus returns to his church for an accounting of his property, eight talents delivered to his church.  A single “talent” is vast by earthly metrics; still the eight talents were but “little” (v. 23) compared to heaven’s realm.  Jesus calls his talents “money” (vv. 18, 27), but of course they are not the world’s money.   

 

If in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus began teaching his church in Galilee by his “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 4:23; 5:1—7:29); then these Last Sundays of Church Year conclude Jesus’ catechesis by his Sermon on the Mount of Olivet (24:3) at Jerusalem. St. Matthew employs, a literary devise, “inclusio”, by which we discern Jesus’ meaning on the Mt. of Olives in looking back to Jesus’ initial “Sermon on the Mount” in Galilee.  

 

In today’s parable, Jesus delivered his talents for administration in his name. What are these “talents”; what kind “money” are they?  To inform, we look to Jesus’ first Sermon on the Mount. 

 

Central to “talents” delivered in Jesus’ church, is they are identified with those things in which God places true value, heaven’s “coin of the realm” as it were; so also, by God’s metric we find true value by employing, spending, and nurturing that which God treasures spent on us.

 

First, we observe Jesus commends his disciples; “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).  This is not a command to current moral perfection, for the law always condemns; rather our “perfection” is fulfilled in our completion in the new creation from the cross, especially for loving even enemies. 

 

Our end time completion or “perfection” is the work of the HS and expressed in today’s parable by his doubling of talents lodged with faithful servants. Ultimately the Talent in whom God locates all value is his Son gifted to us, Christ crucified, risen, and arriving now in word and Supper. 

 

Our “perfection” comes, as we are being re-made in the “image” of God and the “likeness” of Christ. According to Zephaniah (1:7) we are “consecrated guests” to “the Sacrifice the LORD has prepared”. 

 

The Baptized are “consecrated” to a currency exchange for true value.  In Christ crucified the church eschews the world’s gold and silver in exchange for the Talent of God, the wealth of heaven and now on earth conveyed by the church in Jesus’ crucified flesh for the life of the world.   

 

Apart from Christ and those in Christ, God finds no particular value in that which the world treasures. In his Galilean Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Mt. 6:19-21).  As you are in Christ, and in communion with brothers and sisters, you also are his treasure whom he has retrieved at all cost. (13:44-46).  

 

A sharp contrast exists among today’s parable servants. The one receiving five talents immediately began to spend and trade his master’s treasure in line with God’s “talent” valuation.  In this way, that servant exhibited deep knowledge of Jesus’ and the Father’s extravagant character toward men. 

 

What did this insightful “Five and Two Talent Servants” trade, but that which we too are given to trade in the new creation’s currency? In Christ, by grace we trade our sin for God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ righteousness.  Already we discern the compounding of grace upon grace for man’s reconciled completeness in peace and sonship with God. 

 

We trade our doubt and anxiety in a world oriented to the certainty of death and taxes for certainty of Life in God’s abundant love; and by our new certainty in the promises of God we are free by the gift of faith to expend the same loving forgiveness even toward those who hate us.

 

We trade the sealed scrolls of God’s OT word for God’s word opened in the Spirit and Truth of Christ who alone is worthy to reveal the hidden will of God and that which he treasures above all else.

 

In the “secret place” of prayer (Mt. 6:6, 18 NKJV) we cash-in our fears and concerns in the NT temple flesh of Jesus abiding with our heavenly Father for the welfare of brothers and sisters in tribulation.  In this new place of worship our tears are wiped away, giving us eternal rejoicing and Thanksgiving. 

 

The fidelity of the servants who received the five and the two talents contrast starkly with the one servant who hid his master’s treasure. If Jesus will say of the five Foolish virgins, “I do not know you” (25:12); so this ignorant servant never knew the measure and generous character of Jesus governing his kingdom in sacrificial grace and expecting his servants to conduct his affairs in like manner. 

 

Some “disciples” never allow the gospel’s penetration for currency exchange. They say, “Lord, Lord” but are conflicted by an inadequate comprehension of Sinai’s Sermon against Zephaniah’s NT prophesy “sacrifice prepared by the LORD”.

 

Inattention to God’s sermonic Truth through Christ results in resistance of the Foolish and dilatory virgins; or in an allegorically diminished comprehension of “God with us”.  

 

God’s Talent can only be known in his expenditure. The substance of the Master was never received by the faithless servant, and so he was left with a false assessment of God, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground” (vv. 24, 25).  Jesus, whom God treasures most, is thus continually consigned into the dust of the earth, the destiny of those who remain in Adam’s sin.  

 

But for those servants knowing their Master and the vastness of heaven’s love in Christ, all doubling and redoubling in their expenditures of Christ on earth imitates his multiplication and feeding miracles.  

 

As we remain in our Lord’s gifts of word and sacrament, we have light and sight to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (Jn. 17:3); knowledge multiplied for the Life of the world until the Last Day, when we expect to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21, 23).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 11/12/17
2017.11.16 22:33:12

Proper 27/A [Pent. 23] (2017): Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13. 

 

Day,   Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!..  It is darkness, and not light…  I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 

 

God, by the prophet Amos, speaks to Israel and Judah of “the day of the LORD”. Its coming is darkness and judgment, to be avoided at all costs.  God in Christ would in time pay the cost; it is beyond our ability.

 

God’s immediate purpose was to awaken Israel out of her slumbering and complacent relation toward being the people of God and so a false security in his presence. Jesus issues a similar warning about “the day of the Lord” when he casts himself as the coming bridegroom of his church in the parable of the Ten Virgins.  St. Paul addresses the Thessalonian church about yet another aspect of “the day” that comprehends judgment on the Last Day. 

 

The Church is two Sunday’s away from wrapping-up her liturgical Year; and so today, from the perspectives of these three Readings we are warned against approaching God with complacent hearts and a presumptive attitude.

 

In these NT times God is winding-down the world’s remaining days. He is judging the world in the man Jesus; and Jesus having entered his kingdom reigns in his church and exercises judgment as well.  

 

In our Gospel today, Jesus has just cleansed the old religion’s temple, declared its priesthood, its animal sacrifices and furnishings irrelevant, pronounced “woes” on Scripture authorities, the scribes and Pharisees, lamented over Jerusalem for its rejection of him, and for the last time he has vacated the precincts of the old temple, a God forsaken structure. Jesus will no longer teach Israel which has refused his word; now he teaches only his disciples, new Israel. 

 

We observe that in Matthew, Jesus first teaches his disciples, seated to deliver his Sermon on the Mount. Today, as Jesus approaches the end of his teaching, he is seated on the Mt. of Olives (Mt. 24:3).  He compares his kingdom to “virgins” awaiting their bridegroom.  Five virgins are “wise” or “sensible” and five “foolish”, or in the Greek, “moronic”.  

 

It is important to note that the “moronic virgins” are not those whom Satan planted as “Weeds” among the “Wheat” (Mt. 13:24ff.). The five “moronic virgins” are “believers” who call Jesus, “Lord” (25:11); and yet Jesus will say of these shut-out from the wedding feast, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (v. 12).  

 

Jesus is declaring judgment, not on atheists, unbelievers, or heretics; but on “believers”; the same judgment described by God’s warning through Amos that, “the day of the LORD!... is darkness, and not light.” Does this get your attention; it should?  Clearly I’m not preaching an unscriptural so-called, “once baptized, once saved, always saved” nonsense prevalent in circles of Christendom.   

 

God said to Israel through Amos, and now in Christ to new Israel, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”—Did you hear it?  Right worship is worship that pleases God.  By what measure is God pleased and delighted both in the OT and the NT epoch?  To know this, we must identify “the day of the Lord”. 

 

“The day of the Lord” for ancient Israel meant judgment from the coming Assyrian invasion, concluding in eternal darkness for the “ten lost tribes” of the north.

 

But today Jesus teaches a change in the character about “the [coming] day of the Lord”.  Christians discern in God’s abandonment of ancient Israel’s lost tribes a prophecy of Christ; God’s abandon of his Son on the cross for the sin of the world revealed in Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46b; Ps. 22:1).

 

From the Mt. of Olives Jesus taught the parable of the Ten Wise and Foolish Virgins and have us hear echoes from his earlier Sermon on the Mount. The filled and trimmed lamps of the Wise Virgins call our mind to this, “You are the light of the world… Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (5:14-16).

 

When the Foolish Virgins are denied admittance into the marriage feast, Jesus’ says, “I do not know you” (25:12); again we recall the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me… ‘Did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (7:21-23). 

 

How then does the parable of the Ten Virgins declare “the day of the Lord”?  Jesus was delivering to his disciples’ final teachings before instituting his Supper with the Apostles.  The Supper comprehends his entry into his kingdom reign on the cross in his crucified wounds and death for the forgiveness of sin. 

 

From the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion and handing-over the HS in death for his church, he has taken into himself all time, all religious feasts and festival days. “The day of the Lord” has arrived eucharistically shaped, defined, entered, and possessed, not only for judgment, but for grace to those who worship in God pleasing manner. 

 

Jesus comes today in word and Sacrament. The question is, as always, how will you receive him?  Saving faith is relational, desiring from Jesus his righteousness in living water of the HS, the church’s oil and light source, if you will. 

 

In this time of the Church, word and Sacrament freely provides the Spirit and his gifts that characterize the Wise virgins’ abundance distinct from the unprepared and impoverished Moronic virgins. The Wise are continually prepared for the coming of their Lord whom they await continually receiving the HS’ gifts at the hands of pastor purveyors.  

 

The nature of our relationship with God is that of faithful virgins, desiring the presence of their Lord who has given his life for them; a desire that watches for the joy of his presence always imparting forgiveness to the least and most unattractive of us.  

 

On account of monstrous egos true worship is impossible of ourselves except as we receive Christ in repentant humility, the unmerited gift of his crucified flesh, from whom “justice roll[s] down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. 

 

The gift of faith is not of ourselves but from God alone who graciously unites us to himself in the church’s sacramental life. And this wise we are continually, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, being made into the likeness of Christ; the bearer of our judgment so that in his lamp light we partake of peace with God.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 11/5/17
2017.11.07 23:24:49

ALL SAINTS’ (S) (2017): REV. 7:2-17; 1 JN. 3:1-3; MT. 5:1-12

 

Pure,             “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (v. 8)

 

The church experiences her purity of heart in “see[ing Jesus] as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2c).  How can we be like him unless we know him by the sight of faith bestowed in a new begetting by word, water, blood, and the HS? 

 

Who has seen God’s face or conversed with him mouth-to-mouth, but the patriarchs Jacob (Gen. 32:22ff.) and Moses (Ex. 33:11)? At the Lord’s Supper Philip was confused, “Lord, show us the Father”; Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”(Jn. 14:8, 9).  Again “see[ing Jesus] as he is” is crucial to our purity of heart and seeing God.

 

St. John teaches of Jesus, “[W]e shall see him as he is”.  When; now or on the Last Day?  Yes, “when he appears” (1 Jn. 3:2b).  Today Jesus appears by Scripture, all of which testifies to him.  So also Jesus appears and is known as he is “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:30, 31, 35); and on the Last Day he will appear to the full receptivity of purified senses.  

 

Last Sunday we uniquely celebrated the 16th century German Reformation, the Church’s on-going call for the return of those who have strayed from blessed right-worship.  No doubt last Sunday’s brief mention of aberrant sectarian Protestantism sufficed to keep us mindful of the maxim that, “the Church is always being reformed.”  

 

The Church bears the Truth; so she does not engage in gratuitous polemics nor turns an un-loving blind eye from those who reject her sacraments as gospel presence and delivery. Rather she prays for them and trusts in God’s grace for conversion to right worship.  

 

Neither is it appropriate that Lutherans take untoward pride as God has used them in restoring his “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6) from Roman corruption.  What God accomplishes through men, is by grace alone, allowing no one to boast. 

 

On-going reformation is the repentant response of institutional Church bodies who have lapsed from “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4a), that is, lapses from “orthodoxy” or right worship. 

 

Appropriate to the Baptized is our call to right worship in purity of heart by God’s blessing.  We pray for on-going reformation of hearts and restoration of those who have spiritually strayed into the land of the deaf and blind; thus far, the current relevance of last Sunday’s Sermon. 

 

The Creeds of Christendom specifically identify the God whom we worship, pray to, and render Eucharist. The Nicene Creed orients us in “one Baptism for the remission of sins”; the Apostles’ Creed “the Communion of the saints”.  The point of commending a public confessional piety is “right worship”, or as St. John puts it, to “see [Jesus] as he is”.

 

Let us now return to Jesus’ blessing for his church, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  First Jesus removed himself from the crowds, ascending with his disciples onto the Mount of Sermon.  Jesus seated himself, not in imitation of Moses but as the NT Revelation of God before whom Moses had appeared “face to face”.  Jesus’ disciples came before him, Moses-like, to directly hear God’s word from the mouth of God.  In Christ, Moses was now no longer veiled mediator of Torah (2 Cor. 3:13-16). 

 

Jesus did not speak to the crowds; whatever they heard was from afar. On account of the veil of Moses the crowds were incapable of knowing Jesus as he was.  Jesus’ words then, as now, are comprehensible only in his Church by enlightenment from the HS given at the cross (Jn. 19:30).  On the Mount of Sermon Jesus bestowed necessary blessings on his church for following to the cross.  Thus Jesus imparted the blessing of new sight of what they would soon behold, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

 

To the un-catechized crowds, the blessing sounds as pure law; that sinful man must locate and employ some existing virtue from his heart. For the crowds outside Jesus’ immediate presence, “purity of heart” was heard through the mosaic veil as an earned condition, another dispiriting legalism.  Only the most disingenuous would think themselves capable of such virtue. 

 

But the Beatitudes as word of Jesus are the NT revelation of God conveyed in his church that she be made in his “likeness”, and so a “fit helpmate” in the NT temple for worshipping God in the crucified flesh of her Lord.

 

The feast of All Saints’ arrives immediately before the final three Sunday’s of the Church Year when Jesus gives his Church urgent warnings of end-time judgment. Unlike the festival of the Reformation’s call for repentance to a one holy catholic and apostolic reunion in true worship; today we comprehend the Church in positive aspect, her oneness in Christ “as he [truly] is.” St. John gives the beatitude its end time dimension, that on the Last Day we will be, “purified… as [Christ] is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3).

 

Gathering this morning with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we first critically examine ourselves by the gage of Scripture, concluding that we have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). God’s law strips us bare; our essential sin and corruption are merely covered by the false veneer of respectable posture.  True purity of heart is the farthest thing from us. 

 

But in today’s Gospel we hear an angelic message about the mystery of Christ with us, an “eternal gospel”, that our necessary purity for seeing God is of Christ’s shed blood, a covering gift provided by God.  Hearing this good news we look eastward, in the direction of the rising Sun, anticipating his elevation “appearing as he is” for us in the breaking of the Church’s Bread, a Man and true Israelite without deceit.

 

Together we hear Jesus’ words and partake of their power in blessing. The first thing we discern about the beatitude is that our purity of heart occurs in Communion with all the saints on earth and in heaven.  Psalm 24, is heard in liturgical context.  

 

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Such is the generation of those…who seek the face of the God of Jacob (vv. 3, 4, 5, 6b).

 

Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day together we ascend Mount Zion where Jesus teaches and delivers forgiveness in God’s presence as we come out of the world’s tribulation and to the place of true worship, the body of Christ. From God alone we seek our purity and blessing in a hospitable and faithful spirit. 

 

Here then is the progression of our new creation into Christ’s image and likeness. We hear his word and come to faith in the God of the Christian Creeds.  We see God as he is revealed in his word and so increase in knowledge of the God who bestows all blessings.  By our ascending prayers of thanksgiving and ritual incense we breathe and smell the same air of heaven with all the saints.  Elevating the consecrated Host and Cup we affirm faith’s baptismal touching in physical union with the flesh and blood of Jesus who proffers us in a once for all sacrifice to his and our Father.  Eucharistic reception completes our purity as we taste his goodness.

 

With new sight bestowed by the HS in Baptism we discern our incarnate God with us, fully revealed in Christ bringing his new creation to fruition.  These are the “pure in heart” in which there is no deceit, as Jesus described Nathaniel (Jn. 1:49).  They are the saints that participate in true worship of one Baptism and communion in one Loaf. 

 

The church does not recognize her Lord apart from his wounds. In this world’s tribulation our wounds but mirror his on the cross.  Daily God is shaping us in his cruciform Christ, the “kind of love the Father has given to us” (1 Jn. 3:1); our sin and sorrow for his forgiveness in the community of the forgiven.  This is our blessed purity of heart in which we hope until the Last Day. 

 

On that Day we will see the “glorious” appearing of Christ. By word and sacrament we are being made in his “image and likeness”.  On account of his purifying wounds, through which he blesses, we are newly begotten to behold in all purity the face of God.   Amen.

 

pem



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Sermon - 10/29/17
2017.11.02 22:45:49

REFORMATION (S)(2017) Rev. 14:6-7; Rom. 3:19-28; Mt. 11:12-19

 

Violence,    “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (v. 12). 

 

This is an enigmatic saying. Jesus invites us to comprehend his words in light of JB, his witness.  Foundational to heaven’s “eternal gospel” is this from Hebrews, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22b).  Violent blood letting is part and parcel of man’s salvation in Christ. 

 

Observe well, that in all of Christendom only Lutherans commemorate the 16th century German Reformation for recapture of heaven’s “eternal gospel”.  St. Paul frames the “eternal gospel” in terms of “blood” and “faith”.  In our Epistle he says, “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith… apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:25b & 28b).

 

So there it is, the offense: “solus Christus”, the only innocent man slaughtered by the will of God from the foundation of the world.  Man’s offense vies against God’s judgment.  Even JB experienced anxiety against God’s will, inquiring of Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt. 11:3b). 

 

In prison JB was no longer kingdom preacher. Jesus was baptized in the fullness of the HS.  Like Elisha, Jesus coming after JB received “a double portion of Elijah’s (JB’s) Spirit” (2 Kings 2:9).  Jesus succeeded to the angelic office to proclaim heaven’s “eternal gospel” in his own blood for gifting the HS. 

 

JB was now in prison, looking out. He was effectively like all whom Jesus was releasing from Satan’s thrall; JB was blind and deaf beyond his cell, unable to freely walk about and so lame.  He was about to die.  JB was a prophet, but no longer a preacher of God’s word.  Now he was a member of Jesus’ congregation and a witness to his faith in Christ. 

 

In response to JB’s doubting question, Jesus conveyed a blessing to his cousin, that he should not be offended at God’s work in Jesus’ reign. Jesus was suffering increased violence and rejection from Israel.  By Jesus’ blessing JB was not to be offended at the kingdom of heaven’s trajectory toward conflict with old Israel and the cross. 

 

JB would soon testify to the violence against Jesus’ kingdom. On Herod Antipas’ order JB’s head was severed from body.  In giving his life JB made his final prophesy, directing all eyes to Israel’s rejection of Christ on the cross.  By his death, JB literally “decreased”, that Jesus might “increase” to be God’s sacrificial Lamb (Jn. 3:30).  

 

Man’s offense at God’s salvation is viscerally noxious, our sin’s ingrained reaction to the ways of God. Like JB we constantly require blessing so not to be offended by God’s bloody “eternal gospel” by faith. 

 

The “eternal gospel” comes against Jesus in bloody violence.  It is received by our stand-alone faith apart from the works of the law; a faith that singularly grasps hold of Jesus’ wounds.  This hold on Jesus is the core message and the offense of the Lutheran Reformation’s gospel.

 

The truth of the cross horrifies, not only at sinful man’s violent nature; but more at God’s willingness to violence. Beginning with Cain and Able man in pursuit of his will, manifests his violent nature.  From then on the cycle of violence was repetitive.  We are not shocked at ourselves; after all Satan is our father, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). 

 

Still a survey of violence at the hand of God is just as consistent, beginning with his promise to crush the serpent’s head and then a deluge destroying all mankind but Noah’s family.

 

Critics of God denounce: he is a terrorist, perversely demanding the life of Abraham’s only son, then at the last second withdrawing the command. The OT holiness system through animal sacrifices are deemed barbaric; so also God’s command for Israel to eradicate pagan populations on entry into the Promised Land. 

 

These critics assume moral equivalency between man and Creator; judging and taking offense. But Jesus bestowed a blessing on JB to know God rightly, and on you and I, not to be offended at the “eternal gospel” framed by blood and faith. 

 

By God’s blessing we know, men kill in pursuit of death, but God’s nature kills to make alive (Dt. 32:39, 1 Sam. 2:6). The Church’s continuing return to the blood of and faith in “solus Christus” is the crux of the German Reformation.

 

It hardly seems worthwhile to catalogue the myriad denominational permutations of church bodies: Eastern, Roman, or the 1,001 sectarian expressions of Protestants. After all God does not save Church bodies, but individuals in calling men to repentant faith. 

 

Yet Church bodies are problematic. Reformation is institutional repentance; return to true doctrine coordinate in the church’s one holy catholic and apostolic faith, and worship.  If church bodies employ differing worship forms, then God is given glory in the variegated expressions. 

 

But when the reality of the Church’s historical and sacramental blood in Christ is offence to them, then church bodies convey offense to individuals. To these bodies, the 16th century Lutheran Reformation witnesses to Christendom’s violent salvation.  

 

Today’s Gospel Reading has Jesus on his way to the cross. He teaches, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  Again, how are we to understand these words?  We turn to Scripture, knowing that Scripture is its own interpreter. 

 

The OT patriarch Jacob was a grasping man. He grasped after, swindled, and tricked his brother Esau, obtaining the elder’s inheritance and stole their father’s blessing.  For fear of Esau, Jacob exiled himself from country and immediate family.  

 

Years later Jacob returned. News came that Esau was headed his way with 400 men.  To stave off a perceived attack, Jacob sent peace offerings from his vast herds in successive droves to appease his wronged brother. 

 

Jacob sent his family and retainers out of harm’s way. Jacob alone remained at Penuel, east of the Jordan.  That night a Man engaged Jacob in a conflict and contest of wills.  The Man wrestled Jacob throughout the night.  Jacob discerned the Man to be God.  We know the divine Man as the pre-incarnate Christ. 

 

True to his name, Jacob grasped the divine Man. He would not let loose, even at the Man’s command.  The Man intensified his attack, dislocating Jacob’s hip joint.  Still Jacob refused to let go until this divine Man bestowed a blessing.  The Man relented granting Jacob a new name, “Israel”. 

 

In context Jacob’s new name identified him as one who sees God face-to-face, cheek to jowl. Jacob, now “Israel”, limped across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, with wives, children, and retainers.   

 

Jesus, baptized in the Jordan entered his ministry as “Israel” in the place and on behalf of the 12 OT tribes. Jesus, only Son of the Father, alone knows God face to face.  The Father from the foundation of the world destined his only Son to suffer bloody violence as the divine Man for the sin of the world. 

 

Like the divine Man who attacked Jacob, naming him “Israel”, God In the Jordan named Jesus, “Beloved Son and Lamb of God”, to be rejected, and suffer violence from sinful men. Jesus thus prophesied, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence…”  As for the divinely permitted violence of men, we may paraphrase the patriarch Joseph of his brothers, “they intended it for evil, but God intended it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

 

Apart from the violence that God permitted against his Christ, there is another “Violent One”. Jesus adds, “and the violent take [the kingdom of heaven] by force.”  By our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, the church on Pentecost has received the fullness of the HS delivered over from the cross (Jn. 19:30). 

 

Like Jacob, church bears her Lord’s name, we are “new Israel”. As Israel we wrestle, grasp hold, and refuse to let go of our Lord’s body.  We demand according to his promise, a blessing.  His blessing is this: like Jacob, he is “Israel”, who will never let us go, except for the one cause of unbelief (Mt. 19:9).  We are one in Christ and so by gift of the Spirit our faith confesses his blood, water, and Spirit (1 Jn. 5:7, 8). 

 

Lutherans hope for essential unity in the church; and so commemorate the German Reformation to restoration of the Church’s character in the shed blood of Jesus, our “solus Christus” by faith apart from the works of law. 

 

Such hope is the raison d’etre of the Church’s Reformation commemoration calling individuals and bodies, having ears to hear: to return to true doctrine and God pleasing worship.  Amen.

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 10/22/17
2017.10.24 23:03:58

Proper 24/A [Pent. 20] (2017): Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22. 

 

Render,       [R]ender… to God the things that are God’s.” (v. 21b) 

 

Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan enrolled him into his unique office as Christ of God. From the moment the Father revealed this to Peter (Mt. 16:16, 17) we have been on journey discerning the meaning of “the Christ” and so our knowledge of God. 

 

At other times in Israel’s OT history various, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with the HS in measure to be “christs”, all of whom pointed to Jesus possessing the HS in fullness for service to God.  

 

Isaiah today surprises us; God anointed Cyrus, a foreign, pagan king to be his anointed one, his “christ” to deliver Israel from its captivity in Babylon.

 

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had decimated the Southern kingdom of Judah. Destroyed was Solomon’s temple, not one stone upon another.  Gone in the Jewish relocation to Babylon were the daily sacrifices and the festivals. 

 

Without the temple the Jews could no longer celebrate Passover and Unleavened Bread, Weeks and Pentecost, Tabernacles, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

 

All these worship forms the Jews believed set them apart as God’s anointed People in the midst of the Gentile nations. In Babylon all that was left to the Jews was a remnant faith and hope of restoration according to God’s promise of love from Torah.   

 

Suffering such loss of identity caused a miasma so that many Jews became acculturated into the Babylonian experience; others however hearing the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel continued to hope for God’s gracious release and their return to the Promised Land, Israel’s place of meeting with God.

 

After a 70 year penitential period, God anointed Cyrus, king of Persia to be his “christ” of whom he says, “whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him… to open doors before him… I will break in pieces the [Babylonian] doors of bronze…” (Isa. 45:1, 2).  God flung open the imprisoning gates of Babylon before Cyrus who entered the city and decreed the Jews free to return, back across the Jordan River, and rebuild a second temple. 

 

Well into this second temple period, Jesus came to JB for baptism and anointing from the Father in the HS. In Jesus, God was doing a radically new thing to which all Israel was called.  JB’s baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins was a direct competition with the OT temple religion of forgiveness through animal sacrifices. 

 

The religious rulers and many of the crowd rejected John’s preparatory baptism for the kingdom of heaven in Jesus, the Christ of God. JB called them, “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7), i.e., children of Satan. 

 

Second temple Judaism had become en-stoned in ritual forms and Torah moralism. Temple and Torah as administered and taught by the religious authorities had become a hindrance to true knowledge of God who desired from his people the fruits of righteousness and mercy.  The Jewish religious rulers had made the temple and Torah into a fortress prison, keeping men in legal bondage to sin and Satan every bit as much as former captivities under Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar.

 

Our Gospel today finds Jesus, as Cyrus who entered Babylon, come in triumph to the center of the Jewish religious establishment, Jerusalem and its temple. Immediately Jesus, “the Christ” cleansed and sanctified his Father’s house, breaking down it’s fortified doors as it were, ridding it of sacrificial animals.  In Christ, a new Sacrifice, a new Priesthood, and a new dwelling of God with men was about to replace and redefine Israel’s understanding of her Old Covenant.

 

Once in the cleansed temple Jesus continued to teach the imminent obsolescence of the old religious forms and their Jewish authorities. First to come against Jesus in the temple were the High Priests and the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin (elders).  On any other occasion these men where bitter theological enemies but now they were joined in common cause.  Together they demanded Jesus explain his authority to “[do] these things” (Mt. 21:23b). 

 

As with all who opposed his Divine office, Jesus responded and taught them in parables. These men were like the “son” who promised to do the Father’s will but at the end of the day like Pharaoh refused to let the people go (21:28ff.). 

 

They were like Wicked Vinedressers who rejected God’s Son come for his fruit, killing the One on whom God would constructing his NT Church (21:33ff.).

 

They were invited to the Son’s wedding feast, but in the unkindest cut of all, refused to attend out of ambivalence toward God’s plan of salvation in his Christ (22:1ff).

 

In today’s Gospel we encounter another unholy alliance, this time pharisaic disciples joined with secular Herodians in an attempt to ensnare Jesus into political competition between kingdoms on the issue of taxation. But Jesus keeps his eye on the glory of the cross ever before him, responding, “[R]ender to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

 

These Wicked Vineyard tenants refused to render to God his fruit, his desire from his church of contrite hearts and of men possessing a character like his own, of righteousness and mercy.

 

Of our-selves true contrition is impossible. Our every inclination, like our first parents and their offspring is self-justification and deflection away from the truth of patent guilt.  Instead of righteousness and mercy toward brother and neighbor God sees only bloodshed and judges accordingly.  

 

How then are we to render to God the things that are his? There is only one man who is “good”, Jesus whom God elected Christ.  At the cross Jesus perfectly offered to God his heart to be God’s own heart for the sin of the world, establishing himself as the source of all true righteousness and mercy with men who receive him; our Baptism with the Spirit of Truth, the revelation of God by the crucified Christ. 

 

In Christ crucified the hidden God is fully revealed and made known. For love of the world God lifted up his only Son (Jn. 3:15, 16); and in the Son’s handing over the HS for the life of the church (Jn. 19:30) God is known to be Love (1 Jn. 4:8). 

 

New Israel, the Church in Christ, lost nothing by Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Jesus is the Church’s Passover from death to new Life; he is her Unleavened Bread of Life; he is the cause of her Resurrection celebration of Easter Weeks, and is the terminus of her Pentecost and Tabernacles ingathering by the HS; he is her Rosh Hashanah, our new beginning and new head; and is the substance of her Atonement now and on the Last Day.

 

How then do we render to God the things that are God’s? Is it not in returning to God the fruit he has given us, his own Son come in our flesh gifted by the HS? 

 

In a few moments, standing in the Office of our Cyrus according to your call and God’s ordination, I will employ Jesus’ consecrating words to your Offertory bread and wine; I will elevate the most Holy Host and Cup in the sight of the congregation and heaven as we behold our conjoining in the once for all sacrificial flesh and blood of Christ about to be distributed and received in faith.

 

How is this possible? “[W]ith God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26b).  These are “the things” belonging and appropriate to God.  He alone in Christ accomplishes in us our contrition, our righteousness, and merciful hearts toward brother and neighbor. 

 

Next Sunday we will observe and commemorate the 500th anniversary of the German Reformation reminding that the church, whether called calls itself, “Roman”, “Protestant”, “Orthodox”, or “Lutheran”, is always a Church under Reformation to oneness.  This too is the work of God through his word, if we do not reject it. 

 

Reformation in the Church is not of men, but of the power of the preached incarnate and living Torah. Christ is our rescuing Cyrus who enters the captivity and diaspora of hearts and minds captured by false doctrines and sectarian beliefs.  The word, if it is not rejected, is the power of God to return and restore men to the singular place of God with men, the crucified flesh of Christ in word and sacrament.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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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