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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Mid-Week Service
2018.04.30 15:36:29

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



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/15/18
2018.04.16 21:26:49

EASTER 3/B (2018): Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49  

 

Appears,     Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (v. 2). 

 

What a difference a day makes! Last Sunday, eight days following the Resurrection Jesus urged Thomas and the Apostles to faithfulness in word and worship.  Jesus then blessed his church to its NT sightedness, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29b). 

 

Today’s Epistle, from 1st John, continues the theme of Christian sightedness and so of our knowledge of God’s love for us and our status as his children in faith and hope.  The church’s Easter season is about our new sight for transforming the world. 

 

The great truth to be grasped from the Resurrection and Ascension, and it must not be missed, is that we now live in the “end-times” or more positively we now live in the promised “new creation” as the old is passing away and the new coming into being. In Christ we have our being as he is new Adam.  

 

Jesus’ obedience on the cross, effected man’s atonement for sin; there he was elevated our King and interceding High Priest before God. In reconciling us to God, we have in Christ, man’s new exodus out of this passing world, crossing-over into the presence of the One who wills to make all things new.  

 

Easter direct us into the church’s progressively acute sight in the new creation by faith, and so knowledge of our Father as his children in Christ. That which was hidden from of old is being revealed Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day from faith to faith in the revelation of Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended.   In Christ we are revealed in faith’s dependent childlike NT status in word and worship, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

 

Observe Easter’s progression in its new confluence of earthly time with heaven’s eternity: faith, sight, and knowledge. Before Christ fully parted from sight of the disciples, forty days after Easter, one gets the impression that the revelation of heavenly things phased in and out before our old eyes. 

 

Mary Magdalene fails to recognize Jesus newly awakened out of the earth in the new Garden. But when he speaks her name, as Adam did to Eve, she immediately recognizes him as her Lord seeking his physical union.  In this desire she is a type of the NT church. 

 

But before union with his church Jesus must first ascend to give himself over to his Father and God and our Father and God (Jn. 20:17b) who faithfully restored his Son and us from the pit of Sheol. From here on out Jesus, resurrected and ascended, would no longer be with his church as before in the old creation.  At the cross the world has been judged and is passing away. 

 

In the NT epoch Jesus is always with his church (Mt. 28:20b), not merely in the space and time of discrete history, but more importantly in the mysterious or sacramental ways of heaven and eternity. Jesus’ continual presence in word and sacrament, with his church bridges us to God.  To coin a phrase, the hidden, unseen and one holy God is revealed and applied for us in Christ in heaven’s mysteries, not the world’s history.    

 

Next Jesus appeared to Peter and then the two disciples wandering off from the community to Emmaus. These associates also failed to recognize the Lord.  Jesus, incognito, instructs them in Scripture, showing that all of it testifies of him.  At this revelation their “hearts burned within” (Luke 24:32), and faith thus imparted by the Voice of the HS. 

 

Thus the Emmaus disciples were prepared by Jesus’ explication of Scripture on the road to faith. The trio sat down to meal in which the disciples recognized Jesus “in the breaking of the bread”.  Having been given heaven’s new sight, Jesus disappeared from old eyes.  

 

Here then is the pattern of the NT church’s fidelity in word and meal for increasingly acute sight and knowledge of God’s love in Christ. In this faith the Emmaus disciples immediately went on mission, returning to the Jerusalem fold.  There they found the community as they left it, huddled “in fear of the Jews”.  They proclaimed Jesus’ resurrected, that he taught them the true substance of Scripture, and made himself known in the breaking of the bread. 

 

The Apostles thus prepared, Jesus appeared bestowing on them the “Peace” of God and heaven.  In the same manner that Jesus disappeared from the Emmaus disciples’ old sight, so he now appeared to the Apostles. 

 

It is peculiar to Protestantism’s erroneous doctrine of the person of Christ that denies his universal bodily real presence. They explain Jesus’ presence in various ways such as an altered molecular of wood or flesh to explain “a walk through locked and closed doors”.  Of course nothing of the kind is stated or suggested in Scripture. 

 

Having already ascended to his Father (the celebration of which would occur in heaven 40 days later) Jesus is always with his church in a new and mysterious way befitting the new creation’s fellowship with heaven.

 

Jesus is present to his church, no longer in discrete earthly histories but in the mystery of his divinity in communion with his humanity, or as the Latin speaks of his presence, in a sacramental way that encompasses time and eternity of which Jesus is Lord.

 

When Jesus, on Easter appeared to the Apostles, he invited them to touch his body and wounds to ascertain that he is not a ghost. The disciples “disbelieved for joy” and so at Jesus expressed his desire to share their communal meal.  Now Jesus teaches his church Scripture’s witness: Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms, and the necessity of his suffering and rising for repentance and forgiveness. 

 

The church’s pattern and life in the presence of her Lord continues in her proclamation, recognizing the Lord in her meal, and catechizing that dispels a “joy of disbelief” to the greater joy of a sighted blessing at Jesus’ parting from old eyes. 

 

What a difference a day makes! From the darkness of Jesus dead, to the Light of his resurrected and ascended presence, the NT church perceives the old economy of sin and death at an end, to a new creation where in faith and hope we know our status in Christ, beloved children of God.  Thus, for the sake of sight and blessing Jesus speaks to Thomas’ fear and being physically absent from the body, “do not be faithless, but faithful” (Jn. 20:27b).

 

It may not appear to us now what we will be, but we do know and possess the hope of our expectations, that we shall be like Christ when he appears again on the Last Day.

 

In Jesus we have true Torah catechism, new washing in the mystery of the HS’ Baptism, and a new mysterious feeding to strengthen us to the church’s mission; proclaiming Jesus, the only source of the world’s righteousness and holiness in the new creation as the elect are being called out of this old world.

 

What a difference a day makes! After Easter the NT church gathered, no longer hostage to fear, but into the mystery of a new Temple dwelling with God, the crucified body of Jesus, in the Apostle’s teaching, and fellowship in the breaking of the bread and prayers.

 

In today’s Reading from Acts, Peter and John demonstrate Jesus’ continued mission in the Resurrection and Ascension, first to the Jews, witnessing to the power of God in Christ with his church. Peter heals to “perfect health” a lame beggar at the “Beautiful Gate”, the entrance to the old temple’s entrance to Jewish precincts.  At this locus a decision must be made.

 

By the lame beggar’s healing to “perfect health” the church proclaimed by Peter and John the bereft condition of the rejecting Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended at the time of our refreshing in the presence of the Lord of Life. The invitation is that we turn in repentance for the blotting out of the world’s sin and for faithful new sight in NT word and worship. 

 

Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem and the cross; from there his church, beginning at the old temple moved into the world with the good news to a dying world until the time for restoring all things on the Last Day. On that Day Jesus will appear to all, old and new eyes; some to judgment, some to everlasting Life.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/8/18
2018.04.11 22:10:04

EASTER 2/B (2018): Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1—2:2; John 20:19-31  

 

Faithful,      Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless but faithful.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” vv. 27, 28

 

In four and a half weeks the church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus’ coronation as Son of Man to the right hand session of God. From the Lucan accounts that occasion leaves the church mystified about Jesus carried to the Father in clouds and parted from the sight of disciples. 

 

To be clear, the Ascension coronation, forty days after the Resurrection, does not, in absolute terms, mark the fact of Jesus’ ascension. Jesus’ ascension to the Father is intrinsically associated with the day of Jesus’ coming out of the grave; even as Jesus’ resurrection is associated with his death on Good Friday, and in the giving of his body and blood on Holy Thursday to be NT food. 

 

Fidelity to the Lord’s Supper is the Baptizeds’ daily participation into Jesus’ death, Resurrection, and Ascension. These events are all of a piece; none is independent of another and each follows one on the other to inform the entire work of God’s salvation in Christ.  Accordingly, the church dare not atomize her new Pascha in the slain Lamb for our final exodus from sin to the Father. 

 

On Easter morn at the empty tomb, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20:17). 

 

St. Mark then reports, “Afterward [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (16:14). 

 

If you want to know of Jesus’ scolding, Thomas’ absence from and later return to the communion provides the occasion, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless but faithful.  To what were Thomas and the Apostles to be “faithful”; in context they were to be faithful in gathering, remaining One-Loaf, to be church in their crucified Lord risen and ascended!

 

After Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene he ascended to the Father; afterward he appeared to Peter and the Emmaus disciples revealing himself in the breaking of the bread.

 

Later that Easter day Jesus breathed the HS into the Ten and eight days later in meal fellowship with the Eleven, he extended his hands and side inviting Thomas to plunge into and have no doubt of his resurrected physical body.

 

Our Easter acclamation is, “He is risen!” Today, we ebulliently append, “He is ascended!”  If we inquired last Sunday, how Jesus’ resurrection is relevant now; then today, we ask the same of his ascension, “How is Christ ascended to the Father significant for us today?” 

 

Today we examine the Apostles and Thomas’ faithlessness as our own. It is not entirely fair that Thomas has been singled as “doubting Thomas” for his failure to accept Jesus’ reported bodily resurrection.  All the Apostles were acquainted with Jesus’ resurrections; the Nain widow’s son, and Lazarus in Bethany, all the recent talk of Jerusalem. 

 

Also there were Jesus’ several promises over the course of his ministry to rise three days after his death and fulfill his prophecy to be Israel’s new Temple, saying to the stewards of the OT salvation economy, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 3:19, 21).  

 

Belief in the Resurrection per se was not Thomas’ exact problem, certainly not a spiritual resurrection; that he could handle. Instead what gave Thomas pause along with the other Apostles, was their “fear of the Jews” (20:19), whom they knew would fundamentally and violently challenge their status as leaders of new Israel, harbingers of God’s NT faith in Christ.  “In with the new, out with the old” as it were.

 

Today that same “fear” continues within broader “Christianity”, presided over by all pharisaic religionists. Then and today, “fear of the Jews”, purveyors of Mosaic Law, is expressed by those who find the church’s NT food objectionable; our incarnated word and Sacrament, revealed as it were in the breaking of the bread and so more than OT spiritualized animal food. 

 

Sinful men are picky eaters. Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of any fruit in the Garden but desired only that which God forbad.  Noah planted a vineyard; forthwith he abused its fruit to a drunken stupor.  Esau despised his birthright and blessing as Isaac’s firstborn for a “mess of pottage”.  In the desert God provided manna from heaven, quail out of the sea, and water from the Rock, all of which Israel grumbled against, longing for familiar Egyptian soul food. 

 

Moses, in the daily and festival tabernacle/temple sacrifices, ordained animals for Israel’s communion with God and to physically sustain them into the Promised Land. Still all such meals were but spiritualized types to carry and continue Israel into the Land. 

 

In time the “Jews”, as St. John calls them, ascended to the seat of Moses, arbiters of Israel’s spiritual and physical feedings in the Land. Despite Jesus’ challenge to Jewish Torah authority; after the horror of the cross, the Jews inspired obeisance and fear from the scattered and huddled Apostles and disciples. 

 

Earlier, on Holy Thursday having just heard what they had received and eaten in the Supper was indeed Jesus’ body and blood, Thomas declared that he and his brothers were ignorant of the way to the Father (Jn. 14:5), which is to say, they failed to discern Jesus incarnate Son one with the Father apart from whom in such feeding no one comes to the Father.   

 

To repeat, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Resurrection, and Ascension are of apiece, each and all informing the others. When following his feeding the 5,000, Jesus taught in Capernaum, “I am the Bread of Life—that came down from heaven” (Jn. 6:35, 41), Jesus may have had a sympathetic ear from few or many.  But nothing in Jesus’ claim necessarily implied literal understanding than that which the Jews already acknowledged; God’s word is spiritual “bread”. 

 

But then Jesus took his catechesis of NT feeding further, that it would not only be spiritual; instead he was replacing Moses’ symbolic food with an incarnate feeding for the coming new exodus, “[U]nless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53).  By the new feeding the NT church acknowledges ascension food to follow in the train of our crucified Lord as a Man to his session at the right hand of God (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 27). 

 

In Holy Thursday’s Supper Jesus reversed the prohibition of Adam’s eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” lest they die (Gen 2:17) to a new command, to partake of the knowledge of God’s goodness in delivering his only Son to men for the overthrow of evil; thus by the cross is the church’s and her Supper informed.

 

With a bodily Resurrection our new Pascha, not a spiritualized lamb, God at the cross has changed Israel’s salvation menu; that which in the OT was spiritual feeding on animals, is in the NT the incarnated Son of Man joining us in his own flesh for our ascension in him to the Father. By the HS our journey and our spiritual food is qualitatively different than that of ancient Israel’s to the Land, itself only a type of Christ to come. 

 

In the NT of Jesus’ flesh and blood is the substantive food of our spiritual and physical journey for body and soul into the heavenly precincts. In the church’s Eucharist we daily ascend Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in Jesus to our heavenly Father.  We are New Israel.  Our new diet calls us away from Mosaic lambs and bulls to an Abrahamic faith in the Lamb which God now provides, slain from the foundation of the world. 

 

Thomas did not doubt the Resurrection so much as he wanted to condition and accommodate his Mosaic faith; to somehow qualify and explain Jesus’ Paschal Resurrection. Thomas’ belief in the food Jesus offered on Holy Thursday would have to be contingent on his personal assessment of Jesus’ words about the flesh and blood he just received by the words, “This is my body… This Cup is the NT in my blood”. 

 

Like Adam and Eve, Thomas would evaluate what Jesus declared about their new food; he would determine whether the new food was desirable or even necessary. After all Jesus was now extending a different food from that of the Jews. 

 

Thomas’ contingent, accommodative, and qualified faith in Jesus as bodily risen Christ is sinful man’s own way to God. But God desires an unqualified faith as by Christ, utterly abandoning human wisdom, critique, and evaluation of God’s word by our own lights; instead in Christ God desires our trust in his word alone.  This is only done when we receive ascension food from the cross in the resurrection revealing the God’s scandalous love toward us for Christ’s sake. 

 

The Ten Apostles’ proclamation to previously absent Thomas, put him in crisis mode; and so are we! Will we faithfully receive the new food Jesus delivers to his church in, with, and under the cross, extended in the Resurrection for our ascension with him to the Father; or will we qualify it?  Will we plunge our hands into the nail prints of his flesh and dip into the water and blood from his side for our new food for ascension to the Father in the flesh of Christ?  Sadly some reject the church’s distribution.

 

Today’s Reading from Acts compares two gatherings, those who rage against the Lord and his Anointed (in the previous verses vv. 25, 26) and the Baptized in Christ, who are “of one heart and soul” (v. 32).  In Christ the church held “everything in common” (v. 32) in Christ who is our provision as we ascend to the Father.  With the early church we remain faithful, proclaiming with faithful Thomas of our feeding at the Communion rail, “My Lord and my God.” Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/1/18
2018.04.06 19:12:42

EASTER DAY/B (2018): Isa. 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mk. 16:1-8

 

Feast,           On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  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 from all the earth…  “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (vv. 6-9)

 

Last evening we gathered in vigil, liturgically waiting for the dawning of Christ from the grave of his Sabbath rest to usher-in, by his Resurrection, the long promised new creation.

 

In this way we were in communion with Jesus’ first disciples awaiting the end of the Sabbath strictures, especially with Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome, desirous to anoint the body of Jesus.

 

The difference of course is, in what they and we were awaiting. The first disciples huddled behind closed doors obedient to the Sabbath law, expecting to honor their dead Lord, anointing a dead body with fragrant spices in preparation for last rites in the grave. 

 

But our vigil, last night, was informed to an entirely different expectation, by the proclamation from the tomb from the angelic young man garbed in a white stole, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One. He has risen; he is not here…  But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him…” 

 

The women fled and “said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” Clearly that was not the end of the story.  Eventually the women relayed their encounter, for Mark writes of it in this morning’s Gospel, and the church did in fact meet their Crucified and risen Lord going ahead into Galilee. 

 

This is the good news that informed our vigil last night; not standing watch in fear and silence, but in expectation of proclaiming Easter “alleluias”; that Jesus, the Crucified One of God has gathering us into the Light of his NT salvation through his blood as he abides with his church.

 

Some might ask, “What is the big deal about the Resurrection?” “O yes, Jesus has been bodily resurrected, ascended into heaven and enthroned at the right hand of God; and so the faithful are promised on the Last Day, whenever that is, they will be restored to unity of body and soul, even an upgrade. 

 

Is that what all the shouting is about; a Christianity that asks, “What’s in it for me”; or is our Resurrection joy more profound, immediate, and cosmic in scope and scale? I think the latter. 

 

In abstract terms, here is the progression of God’s salvation for you in the NT’s new creation, “All theology is Christology; all Christology is ecclesiology; and apart from the ecclesia, the gathering of the Baptized, there is no salvation.” Theologians study that mouthful all their lives, and so should you.

 

But what does the Resurrection concretely mean for us, now? It means that our life in Christ, our eternal life has its being in the church’s Liturgy of word and sacrament.  It is true we await our bodily resurrections on the Last Day, but the principle import is that we now live a baptismal and eucharistic resurrection with our Crucified Lord, present to us in time and place; specifically our communion and place is with the entire NT church shaped by the Triduum celebrations of Christ’s life on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. 

 

Is that still abstract? Then this: our continuum of worship finds daily expression in salvation’s NT epoch of what God has done in Jesus crucified; and so all our worship is connected to each and every Resurrection celebration of the church’s preceding Lord’s Day.  All of which is to say, this new Life is to be experienced.

 

The new reality of the Resurrection is that there are no individual, private, or discrete devotions apart from the Body of Christ; all word, Christian nourishment, and growth is eucharistically succored and comprehended in Jesus present in his crucified flesh through whom we have access to the Ancient of Days and reign in heaven and earth with Christ (Dan. 7).  

 

Jesus graciously initiated our participation into God’s NT rule by inviting us to our end-times meal, “Take eat, this is my body”; and because Life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11) so that body and blood are again reunited in us, “Take drink, this Cup is the NT in my blood.” 

 

By our participation in Eucharist, death for us is defeated and on the Last Day we look to full union of separated body and soul, even as we are now united with Christ’s body and HS.

 

What are you to think of the church’s sacramental meal; but that it is the substance of Isaiah’s prophesy, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 

 

We are on journey that does not end with heaven but continues through eternity. Isaiah’s prophecy gives us pause to consider salvation’s on-going nature, by looking back, looking to the present, and to our Last Day’s sustenance. 

 

God formed his church, a corporate being, that he might be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28b).  After exchanging wedding promises at Mt. Sinai, that the Lord would be Israel’s God and the church his obedient people, heaven hosted a feast.  Representatives of Israel sat upon the separating glassy sea as clarified pavement and beheld God face to face; and they ate and drank in his presence (Ex. 24:9-11); no doubt the meal included conversation with the Lord, who is Word in the place that St. John describes as being, “in beginning” (Jn. 1:1).  The invitation is to partake of the Trinity’s life through eternity.  

 

This meal in the place known as “in beginning” foreshadowed all future OT communion of God with Israel, and from our OT Reading portended Isaiah’s description of the coming Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9; 21:1-4). 

 

On Holy Thursday the church participated, as she does today, with apostolic representatives of the Bride in union with Jesus’ soon to be broken body and shed blood.

 

On Good Friday our Easter Triduum liturgically continued to where Jesus was baptized into the obedient death of a Son to release us from death; and with the water and blood issuing from his sacrificial Passion the church has been handed the HS for saving faith and Life.

 

During our Easter Vigil we awaited in faith through the night of the old Sabbath in the hope of God’s fidelity of promised union with his Son’s rising; and so also by hope we receive in Baptism that very promise. By Jesus’ resurrection we baptismally participate in his death and so die to sin and rise to new Life in his flesh and blood for our on-going Lord’s Day Supper. 

 

The long and the short is that Christ reigns in the world with his Baptized, his flesh-fed saints in Holy Communion, and so in the same way God has loved the world (Jn. 3:16) as we are lifted in Christ. 

 

In the world our witness of God’s love and Jesus’ obedience lifts us with him by partaking his “bread-flesh” and “wine-blood”, the substance and source of the new creation in the NT. By the church’s word and sacrament we have a bodily resurrection now; now we are “Body of Christ” in union with him and one another. 

 

As Isaiah suggests, we are the Lord’s “hosts” (25:6), the army of God. In, with, and under him we rule in heaven and earth through Christ, the Crucified One, in the same love he has shown you.  Amen and alleluia! 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/31/18
2018.04.06 19:11:39

EASTER VIGIL/ABC (2018): Mark 16:1-8

 

St. Mark’s Gospel termination is controversial. His earliest rendering, unlike the other evangelists, ends on a fearful note, “And [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (v. 8); full stop, end of Mark’s original Gospel version.  

 

Early on many Christians thought the women’s silence and fear inappropriate in response to the angelic young man’s good news of Resurrection. Mark later appended a longer ending where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the eleven. 

 

On this vigil through the night as we watch for the coming Light of Day, we are satisfied with Mark’s original version, as we anticipate the Light of Christ fully engaged, replete with “Alleluias”; but for now we join the Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome, and those waiting through the Sabbath night following Jesus’ crucifixion; as Genesis puts it, “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (1:5b).

 

Fear is the a fruit of sin; disbelieving God. Fears breed anger, and are contemptuous of what is good and true from God.  Fear is a cancer that must not be left to fester in the human soul.  The women entered the tomb bearing, perhaps a gift from Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple for fear of the Jews.  

 

Joseph’s new tomb in the garden received Jesus’s body on Good Friday; but now on Sunday it was not there. Instead, an angelic young man greeted the women announcing Jesus’ Resurrection and assuring them that they should not be alarmed. 

 

Still the power of the proclamation did not as yet engage the women. None of what the women heard and saw made sense.  For fear the women suspended their belief in Jesus’ promise to rise on the third day; continuing in a state of fear.  Though dawn had arrived, they fled returning to terror’s dark vigil. 

 

Fear suspends belief, breeding agnostic anger and contempt. We hide the word of Truth but will easily share our disbelief of it to increasing anger that creates co-dependencies and magnifies a trajectory of our implied and/or express accusations against God.  

 

On Good Friday at the foot of the cross the women experienced intense fear. Israel’s religious leaders on account of Jesus also feared for their place, position, and office; they were in a rage.  Their mutual support of each other exacerbated and emboldened contempt and conspiracy against God, his Christ, and his followers. 

 

Their rage peaked at Pilate’s scourging their “king” who presented him to the crowd in garments of humiliation, shame, and defeat, declaring, “Behold the man”. 

 

At the sight the crowd became infected with the same fear and anger as that of the “Jews”, giving voice to a new mantra, “Crucify him, crucify him!” At the cross, Jesus “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b) was mocked throughout his death.

 

Today Mary Magdalene represents, apart from faith, our human tendency to sinful fear, possessing the potential to infect the church with anger, disillusion, and accusations that diminish the truth of Christ’s presence with his church in the NT epoch. The angelic young man, wearing a while stole preached the empty tomb, the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s vindication of his Son’s work on the cross; still fear and unbelief gripped the women. 

 

Even when Jesus was among his disciples we observe over bearing fear born of our sin nature. Jesus attempted to calm anxious Apostles threatened by a sea storm.  His presence and word was greeted with unbelief.  Jesus lamented, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). 

 

In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene confronted by her still unrecognized resurrected Lord, accused Jesus of stealing his dead body. It is all her mind would allow; his promised Resurrection was not within the realm of possibility and so she disbelieved.  Then Jesus spoke her name, and by the Voice of the Spirit, faith was bestowed and received by the woman out of whom Jesus cast out seven demons. 

 

Were it not for the Spirit conveyed by Christ’s word in his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were, for fear, on a path of rejecting their Lord in the new creation. Thomas, absent from Jesus’ appearance to the others, put fear’s infidelity this way, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place may finger into the mark of the nails and place my hand into his side, I will never believe (John 20:25b).  

 

Thomas’ emphatic denial and infidelity to unity in the Body of Christ expressed sin’s rage against what the mind will not accept by faith in the NT epoch. Human reason, despite all evidence to the contrary, in fear rejects, with God all things are possible. 

 

Tonight we are gathered in the NT’s vigil awaiting the Resurrection. Before encountering the empty tomb and angelic proclamation as fact and truth, the disciples had been on a vigil in dread of Pharisaic dominion supported by secular cohorts.  Like us tonight, the first disciples gathered in the dark of an old Sabbath night.  The disciples were engaged in a vigil of death awaiting the final leg of their journey to commit Jesus’ body to the grave.  

 

Jesus’ body was surely in an advancing state of rot. Lazarus on the fourth day of death was considered fully rotted.  In Jesus’ tomb the community anticipated participating in last rites.  It was important that the body be perfumed not only to honor the deceased, but also to spare those attending the service in the tomb the stench of death. 

 

A death vigil is not our Christian mentality in this gathering. We have heard in Mark’s fuller termination both law and gospel, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (16:16a).  By the power of the resurrected Word with us it is given for us to believe and be saved.  This is the received faith of the NT church to the end of time. 

 

On this night’s vigil, the Lord with us, we know that the forces of darkness always fall back before the dominion of the Light (Jn. 18:6). By the Light of Christ we approach the empty tomb in the only way that overcomes what reason finds impossible to accept; by faith bestowed in the word of Truth and Spirit and so by faith receives God’s promise of eternal Life from death.

 

Genesis records of Abraham’s aged wife, “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (18:11b).  Sarah’s womb was no better than a grave out of which life does not issue.  Still the Lord promised a child from Sarah; she mocked the Lord.  When confronted by God, Sarah denied her laughter, “for she was afraid” (v.15b) in unbelief. 

 

Within the year Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the “beloved son” of Abraham’s faith, begotten from above out of a dead womb. So Jesus is promised Seed from above, who by his Passion falls into the grave to germinated new life from death.  By Abraham’s faith we are reckoned righteous and by the light of God’s word we believe and discern our own resurrection Life in Christ without fear. 

 

Tonight the church stands vigil, awaiting the Sun’s rising of our Light who is the Truth that God’s promises are sure, dispelling all fear, anger, and dark recriminations. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/30/18
2018.04.06 19:10:19

GOOD FRIDAY (Chief Service)/B (2018): Jn. 18:1-11

 

Sword,         Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” 

 

Today we are in the Garden of Gethsemane. St. John also associates the place where Jesus was crucified and buried with another garden, his burial place (19:41).  What are we to make of these florid markers? 

 

First, let’s digress to observe that in Easter season, secular Hollywood is wont to bring out its latest Bible movie; “The Ten Commandments”, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “The Robe”, “Ben Hur”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Passion of The Christ”, and “Killing Jesus” spring to mind. Movie people find in the Bible and especially in the accounts of Jesus’ life a rich source of drama, pathos, story, and romance. 

 

Scripture as entertainment is problematic. At best such films, are misleading of the Christian faith, and at worst denude Jesus of true theological significance.  One author asserts his offering renders historical fact of the killing of disputed philosopher; someone not too distinguishable from Socrates.

 

While Scripture of is engaging, the Reader will observe it imparts its message in straightforward fashion. There is no gratuitous attempt to excite the emotions.  This is obvious if one compares the today’s “Passion Reading” with the horrific film visuals of scourging and crucifixion in Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ”. 

 

Scripture is of the church; she is interested neither in critically questing with Albert Schweitzer after “The Historical Jesus” nor in discerning Jesus’ philosophy. Rather the church occupies herself with Jesus’ identity and significance as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus out of heaven, born, crucified, and raised is the apex and efficient lens through which all history is comprehended. 

 

Now returning to the Garden of Gethsemane we ask, what significance would the church have us take from St. John’s bracketing garden markers of Jesus’ crucifixion and place of death?

 

Scripture throughout is semantically connected; by its words Scripture is its own interpreter. Today’s NT garden markers give us pause to reflect on Adam and Eve in Eden.  Man and woman in the first creation were its apex.  Adam was given to tend and guard the Garden (Gen. 2:15); a gardener, caretaker of sort in the place of man’s communion with God. 

 

By sin Adam, no longer true man or son, was disqualified. Disobedience utterly marred being in the “image and likeness” of his Creator.  God’s gospel promise of a Seed who would crush the Adversary (3:15) implied God’s design for a future new creation and restored place for relations of God with man. 

 

Thus in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus begins his Passion leading to the cross. His death then leads to the garden on the other side into which Jesus, promised Seed, would fall into the ground (Jn. 12:24) and rise on the third day.  In the Resurrection Jesus is, not only new Adam, but also fructified eternal Temple, dwelling place of God with men; new Garden bursting with the stuff of Life, word and sacrament.

 

Jesus’ assigned vocation is that of Gardener who utterly gives of his scored body and heart, source of our watering in the HS and nourishment to be with him one bread in the new creation. In all this the church is bride and helpmate with her gardening Spouse for producing much fruit by his germinating death and resurrection. 

 

We like Simon Peter often get out ahead of Jesus, the tender and guardian in the Garden. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane stepped out from the purposes of Jesus’ sacrificial intention to his Father’s will.  We believe our own “good” intentions independent of the Jesus’s word is useful in advancing the ends of God in the Garden. 

 

Instead our ways always hinder God’s purposes. When the church employs a worldly sword, forged by the might of men, Jesus must intervene to rescue through correctives, as in today’s case, restoring Malchus’ mutilated ear that on another day he might hear Jesus as Voice and Sword of the Spirit. 

 

The church is taught the ways of her Lord. On the cross Jesus having learned the obedience of a true Son to be perfected in his given vocation (Heb. 5:8), to tend and guard God’s Garden from the Adversary for men.  

 

Christ crucified, was beaten to a plowshare for furrowing hard hearts. For our forgiveness he received a soldier’s spear into his heart that it be turned to a pruning hook for our tending in a Garden where our warfare toward God is ended (Isa. 2:3, 4).  Amen.

 

pem.



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Holy Week Schedule
2018.03.25 23:19:59
 
Please join us for worship during this special week of the year.  We always look forward to having visitors from the area, as well as those who are here from out-of-town. Some of our services will be co-hosted with Concordia Lutheran Church.
 
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, (7:30 p.m., March 29): Celebrant Pr. Mills, Preacher Pr. Tauscher
 
Good Friday (12 p.m., March 30): Grace chief service
Good Friday (7:30 p.m., March 30): Tenebrae service hosted by Concordia.
 
Easter Vigil (6 p.m., March 31): Co-hosted by Grace and Concordia
 
Easter Day (9 a.m., April 01): Grace Easter service


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Sermon - 3/25/18
2018.03.25 23:14:41

PALM-PASSION/B (2018): Jn. 12:12-19; Zech. 9:9-12; Phil. 2:5-11; Jn. 12:20-43.

 

Wheat,         “So these [Greeks] came to Philip… and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’” vv. 21-24. 

 

At the Greek request “to see” him, Jesus employs a parable, about a fallen grain of wheat, to explain his “hour” about to commence.  The signal to Jesus was the Greek validation of the Pharisee’s hatred, “Look, the world has gone after him” (Jn. 12:19b). 

 

On this beginning of Holy Week the church conflates the final Services in Lent; Jerusalem’s prophesied welcome of her king by Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud… ‘Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted… on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (9:9), and our celebration of Jesus’ Passion in going to the cross.  

 

The Passover proclamation from the populace instilled among the Greeks, attending the holy festival, a desire to “behold”, i.e., “to see” the long prophesied triumphant Davidic king coming to his people. 

 

Now that Jesus knows the imminence of his death he teaches its meaning, his investiture into his kingdom by parable, the fallen Seed.  The parable will conclude an earlier sign, the feeding of 5,000 in the wilderness.  Surely Philip and Andrew would see to later catechize Jew and Greek alike. 

 

So too our Gospel invites us to seek Jesus coming to receptive hearts.  Yet incomprehension frustrated Jerusalem’s ebullient greeting, as Isaiah prophesied, “[God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart…” (Jn. 12:40). 

 

Jesus, explains the greeting of the Jews, Behold, your king is coming to you” and the Greek request to see Jesus”.  The visual both seek will be revealed in his death, which is to say, there is no proper hailing of Jesus apart from his nails. 

 

Sightedness is a function of receiving heaven’s Light.  Jesus said, “The Light is among you for a little which longer.  Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you” (v. 35a).  Thus the parable of the fallen Seed germinating in death and burial “sees” by faith, new Life in Christ crucified. 

 

By his work on the cross is judgment for and of the world; and casting Satan out for a figurative “1,000 years” (Rev. 20:2, 3) in order that the church’s mission might advance in these end times. 

 

By faith’s sight in the Light, we hail Jesus in greeting as he comes to us.  Jesus, God’s fallen and lifted Seed bears much fruit in drawing all people into his death and resurrection.  From such sight we observe two households: 

 

The place of Jesus Nativity, Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread”; and Jesus’ crucified body, the Father’s new dwelling place wherein Jesus’ zeal consumes him in perfect obedience to the Father’s will (Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9). 

 

The parable of the fallen Seed provides conclusion to feeding the 5,000; that Jesus is the Bread come down from heaven for men, (6:35).  It was Passover in the desert and lifting his eyes in communion with the Father Jesus saw an approaching crowd.  We note the correspondence with the Palm Sunday crowd of Jerusalem thronging their king and the Greeks desiring to see in Light.

 

In the desert Jesus tested Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (6:5b).  Philip did not know and Andrew could only mutter about a boy’s meager barley loaves and fish; but at the feeding’s end the Apostles collected twelve baskets of bread and fish representing the church’s abundance from Jesus that she preserves in ministry, the Things of heaven’s gifting. 

 

In today’s Gospel it is again Passover; Philip and Andrew convey the Greek desire “to see Jesus”.  He teaches them what the sight of him in his Passion will entail; a dying man, God’s germinating grain baked on the Altar of the cross for the forgiveness of sin, so that all people might be drawn to the sight, one loaf in his feeding from the Father’s NT House of Bread, the new Temple that Jesus would resurrect in three days (3:19).

 

The Jews of the OT temple rejected Jesus as their Bread of heaven and source of new Life with God.  Like the 5,000 and the grumbling ancient Israelites in the wilderness they were only interested in material bread from God’s visitation with men. 

 

When Pilate presented Jesus to the Jerusalem crowd, a scourged king wearing a crown of thorns, saying, “Behold the man!” (19:5), they changed their shouts of “Hosanna” to “Crucify him!” (v. 6).

 

They turned from the Light humbly revealed from Bethlehem and Jesus’ obedient zeal for the household of God’s fleshly dwelling with sinful men in death and resurrection.  The direct line within the inclusio of birth and death are magnified by all Jesus’ signs taught by the church with clarity, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53) punctuated in sacramental counterpoint at her Supper, “Take, eat; this is my body…  Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  

 

Today, much as Pilate, I present Jesus to you in the full glory of his Passion, that you “behold the man”.  Many, as were the Jews, are repulsed at the sight and the gift of the church’ feeding in faith; still the Lord’s Supper instituted in the midst of Jesus’ Passion is what he says, our bread, meat, and drink in the new epoch of the new creation coming into being. 

 

By our NT Supper we have entered the end times, worshipping our Father in Truth and Spirit, which is to say, in word and Sacrament.  It is “in this manner that God loved the world” (Jn. 3:16).

 

Holy Week terminates at the last prayer of Holy Thursday’s vigil to celebrate Easter’s unitive Service.  The Triduum commences with Holy Thursday’s evening mass.  Here the church picks up the thread of her Easter Pascha with the food that prepares us for the Last Day and heaven’s Marriage Feast of the Lamb in the Resurrection. 

 

By our meal instituted for our journey on Holy Thursday Christ purifies us in union with his sacrificial flesh, and so presents us his spotless bride to the Father for the love of the Man; thus does God, behold the woman from out of the Man.  Amen. 

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 3/18/18
2018.03.21 21:29:22

LENT5/B (2018): Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 5:1-10; Mk. 10:32-45.

 

Source,        For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins…  In the days of his flesh Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death...  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (vv. 1, 7-9). 

 

Unlike Aaron, Jesus’ high priesthood is unique, after the order of Melchizedek, Jerusalem’s ancient king. Yet Aaron held, and Jesus holds, a vocation common to all priests, to act on behalf of men, offering gifts and sacrifices toward God for sins. 

 

A prerequisite is that a priest must have empathy for sinful men. For the Aaronic priesthood this meant dealing gently with those ignorant and wayward because, like them, he also was a sinner who offered sacrifice for his own sins.

 

But Jesus is eternal Son of God, affirmed by the Father at his Baptism, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11).  Though a Son, Jesus following his baptism was un-sacrificed “Lamb of God” and un-crowned King of Israel. 

 

After his Baptism Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and ultimately the cross, the place of atoning self-sacrifice and fabrication of God’s new Temple in his Son’s flesh. At the same time, the cross was place of Jesus’ investiture into his kingdom.  The cross instantiated both; Jesus’ Davidic kingship in new Israel, and concluded (“It is finished” Jn. 19:30) his baptismal ordination as self-sacrificing High Priest.  

 

In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus, without sin, is nevertheless empathetic toward James and John in their enthusiasm over the promise of a resurrection from the dead (10:34c). Unlike Peter, who on an earlier occasion would have deterred Jesus from this destiny on the cross, James and John seem to anticipate Jesus’ glorious retribution against those who would put Jesus to death. 

 

James and John ask Jesus, that when he comes into his resurrected glory, one of them be seated as Secretary of State, and one Secretary of War.

 

Jesus does not scold, as he did Peter, his ambitious apostles; after all Jesus, is God’s Warrior (Dan. 10:12-14) on march to enter, next Sunday, and re-take Jerusalem captive to a traitorous “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33) in heaven’s warfare against God’s Adversary. 

 

Despite the self-aggrandizement of James and John, Jesus did not rebuke them; rather he was empathetic. He questioned and instructed them as to the cost of reuniting God’s kingdom of heaven and earth, and man’s dominion in it, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”(Mk. 10:38). 

 

When a king’s son is anointed his father’s successor there is a period of regency while the son is trained in the father’s rule and reign. From the time of Jesus’ birth, God was training his Son in the rigors of Lordship; a Servant-King who experienced his people’s suffering under sin and death.  God was shaping his warrior Son who would obtain victory by learning to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…” (Isa. 40:2). 

 

Jesus’ entire earthly experience, from humble birth to ignominious death, was programmatic of his martial training in the way of the cross; suffering on behalf of men.

 

Herod attempted to assassinate the Babe, instead spilled the blood of the Holy Innocents. As a youth Jesus zealously absorbed Scripture’s salvation history of men suffering the wages of sin at his mother’s knee. 

 

From Jesus’ anointing by JB as Lamb of God and his march to Jerusalem, Jesus continually suffered: demonic attack; blasphemous abuse; attempts on his life; rejection and unbelief by those in charge of synagogue and temple; those falling away, unable to accept his hard sayings; to suffer soul separating fear in the Garden of Gethsemane at impending death; and finally suffer betrayal by Judas and Peter, and abandonment by all.   

 

In this way, Jesus “although a son… learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8) so that at his “hour” he would be prepared to receive a king’s crown and a priestly headdress for the sake of fragile men living in chaos, sin, and fear.  For the sake of men he offered himself as “once for all” sufficient Sacrifice atonement for sin. It is in this manner God loved the world (Jn. 3:16).

 

Having spent “the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7a) suffering and having “no place to lay his head” (Mt. 8:20), Jesus continually offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God who saves from death.  

 

In fidelity to his Father’s love, Jesus crucified and risen entered heaven, offering to God his atoning blood to receive enthroned beside the Father, a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  

 

What does it mean that Jesus, our High Priest, “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (v. 9)?  First, it means, that as with James and John, you too have been baptized in a baptism of fire, receiving the HS in water and bloody Word from his crucified body for your purification; and that you too partake of the Cup that Jesus suffered, united with him in the Supper of his broken body and shed blood.

 

Jesus fully consumed the Cup of God’s wrath, and his Baptism concluded in handing-over the HS on the cross assures your partaking in blessing; empowering you to follow your Lord and intercessory High Priest. As you journey in this life you will engage suffering or suffering will engage you on account of your sin or the sin of the world that hates your fidelity to Christ. 

 

Your heavenly Father’s will, as it was for Jesus, is that you advance in sonship and daughterhood for reigning in his kingdom. The Kingdom comes by obedience; listening to the Father in Christ, true Torah of God; trusting him for all things and offering-up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears, to your High Priest who is in constant conversation with our Father.  Such is your obedience in faith. 

 

James was the church’s first apostolic martyr, John perhaps her last. At the time of our Gospel, these two did not comprehend true greatness in the Kingdom.  But by Christ’s teaching and God’s rigorous training to a priestly and servant office, we daily beseech the love of God in Christ who entered the abyss of death for the ransom of many from Satan’s thrall.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/14/18
2018.03.17 23:35:39

LENT4/B Midweek (2018): John 3:14:21

 

Manner,   For in this manner God loved the world.  And so [God] gave the Son— the only one— that who ever believes in him might not perish but rather might have eternal life. (v. 16)  

 

Most of you are used to the more familiar translation, “For God so love the world, that he gave his only Son…”  Furthermore, your Bible version probably assigns these words to Jesus in red letters; whereas following other authorities, I put these words on the lips of St. John the Evangelist.  Such are the pitfalls of biblical translation and consequent understanding. 

 

As interesting as some find grammatical questions, the pertinent point by either translation is that God’s love has come into the world in a particular manner reminiscent of the OT bronze serpent lifted in the desert.  God’s love comes not in an amorphous, general way; rather in a specific way, the gift of Jesus crucified for our new begetting in water and Spirit, through Holy Baptism. 

 

Lutherans, Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox who have the woof and warp of our being in the church’s sacraments readily accept that Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus teaches NT Baptism. 

 

Yet the word “baptism” is not specifically employed in the conversation so that those who deny the church’s sacramental identity take exception, denying that NT Baptism is even in the picture of Jesus’ teaching Nicodemus. 

 

Nicodemus came to Jesus in darkness, literally and figuratively.  Through the entire conversation he failed to comprehend a word that Jesus taught.  Nicodemus was only able to hear the nonsense of a second physical birth by re-entry into the womb of one’s human mother.  Jesus spoke the words Nicodemus heard holding a different content from what Nicodemus understood, i.e., not being physically “born again”, but receiving a new spiritual “begetting from above”. 

 

Both men were teachers of Torah; one an expositor of Sinai’s tablets and its Law of consequences; and Jesus the living Torah word of God and expositor of its true meaning.  The two Jewish theologians were talking past each other.

 

Nicodemus without ever grasping the spiritual dimension of what Jesus was teaching, inquired about the impossibility of being physically “born again”; “How can these things take place?” (v. 9).  Jesus responded incredulously, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” (v. 10).  

 

Jesus throws Nicodemus a lifeline from Scripture to explain God’s new spiritual begetting; that salvation comes to all by looking in faith upon God’s gift as did those in ancient Israel who looked upon the raised bronze serpent and were saved. 

 

Some will accept the gift of faith as hand in glove with NT Baptism delivered from Jesus raised on the cross; others will inexplicably refuse the gift, either believing that faith is of themselves, or that salvation is obtainable another way.  

 

Nicodemus apparently returned to the Sanhedrin and his synagogue none the wiser for hearing Jesus’ teaching, the Voice of the HS to be given in a new begetting in blood and water.    

 

Just as Nicodemus failed to rightly hear the “heavenly things” taught by Jesus, so also within broader Christendom we talk past each other, seemingly the rule than the exception.  A plethora of false teachings and schemas abound in the broader Church and it is a conundrum over which wars have been fought and blood spilt in the name of Christ. 

 

Since the 16th century Reformation the number of sectarian and heretical bodies and congregations have grown exponentially.  Among this multiplicity of false teachings has arisen a miasma of confusion; many despair of knowing the Truth;

 

“How can we know the Truth without a teacher and how can we trust our teachers”; and “if we doubt our teachers perhaps doctrinal faith is not really important as long as we “love” Jesus?”;  and “without correct doctrine of Christ, which “Jesus” should we love? (2 Cor. 11:4)”.  There are 1,001 denominational differences each of which point a recriminating finger at the remaining 1,000.   

 

Among Christians there is a doctrinal division reminiscent of Nicodemus’ error thinking that Jesus advocated a second physical birth.  This error began early on in the church, that by Rev. 20:1-6 there would in the end-times be two literal physical resurrections.  This was known Chiliasm or “Dispensational pre-millennialism”. 

 

Modernly this teaching has become popular again especially among American neo-evangelicals.  “Pre-millennialism” made its resurgence in the church through the radical reformers of the 16th century.  The Lutheran’s recognized the old error for what it was, “Our church’s also condemn those who are spreading certain Jewish opinions that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed” (Augsburg Confession XVII:5). 

 

Lutherans, rather hold to a figurative non-dispensational millennium, we call “amillennialism”, recognizing that with the cross and resurrection the end-time is not future, it is now, and so the nature of God’s kingdom is radically different than what is expected by Pre-millennial errorists. 

 

Don’t worry; we will not presently delve further into the distinctions; we have not the time.  But if you have any exposure at all, as most Lutherans, to “Christian radio or TV” you probably have a general idea of what is dominantly taught in dispensational pre-millennial circles. 

 

So we ask, are the differences of these variant doctrines significant?  Is it really important whether Christians are waiting for a future 1,000-year reign of Christ; or are we already experiencing it? 

 

To coin a phrase from Mr. Obama, “elections have consequences” and like the significance of Jesus employing the bronze serpent to teach NT Baptism, so also a correct or wrong belief of Scripture on the point of Revelation’s two resurrections has consequences. 

 

Instruction in the church’s orthodox and catholic faith is not the usual function of a Sermon in the Divine Service.  Rather correct doctrine is assumed from your catechism and invitation to Eucharist.  

 

You have called your Pastor to preach and administer the church’s sacramental treasure out of her store, and be apt to teach the Truth.  Consider then, should time permit in busy lives, your participation in the congregation’s Bible Study to explore that, which is not proclamation but in advancing in the finer points of the Christian faith. 

 

In the meantime think of the church’s body of doctrine consisting as a wound ball of multiple strings all coordinate with and supportive, one of the other.  Each string unwinds to the central doctrine of the Christian faith to locate the one holy catholic and apostolic faith, the Truth.     

 

Last Sunday we tugged on the string of “Baptism”, finding its terminus and identifying our central Christian tenant: God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8, 9), and discerning that the core of our faith is not a doctrine at all; rather the crucified person of Christ and in the Resurrection eucharistically lifted-up among his people.

 

As for Grace Lutheran, in a coming Bible Study, will pull on the string labeled, “End-Times”, examining the competing claims of pre-millennials and amillennials to discern how each defines its terminus; and in this manner apprehend true doctrine.  Only one is correct, and the one we elect (to which we lift our eyes) is as consequential for us as what was discerned by those bitten in the desert, God’s gracious love.  Amen. 

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 3/4/18
2018.03.07 19:44:04

LENT3/B (2018): Ex. 20:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; John 2:13:25

 

Zeal,              [Jesus] told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”  His disciples remembered [after the Resurrection] that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” vv. 16, 17). 

 

Last Sunday we pondered the divine necessity that Jesus suffer and die at the hands of the Jewish establishment (Mk. 8:31); and on Wednesday our Sermon sought to make sense of Paul’s exhortation that Christians “rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3). 

 

The conclusion for sufferings necessity and our rejoicing in them was found in Daniel’s prophesy that one like a son of man came in the clouds of heaven and was presented to the Ancient of Days. In the glory of Jesus’ lifting on the cross for the sin of the world the Father has been glorified and the Son given dominion, glory, and a kingdom that he shares with his saints (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22).

 

As we have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection we are remade like him, Son and Image of God. The Son of Man’s enthronement scene in Daniel begins the revelation leading to heaven’s marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9), a foretaste in which we participate each Lord’s Day and festival day, in his kingdom hidden under Christ’s broken Body and Cup of our Supper. 

 

Of all the weddings at which I have officiated and witnessed for the church, invariably St. Paul’s Ephesians comment is announced, “This mystery [of marriage] is profound… it refers to Christ and the church” (5:32).  Of course at the moment it is quite impossible for the participants to fully comprehend the spiritual realities.  A wedding after all is fraught with intense excitement and high levels of absorption especially of the man for the woman and visa versa. 

 

Now in Lent we have put behind us the world’s Mardi Gras and Carnival excesses, having enter this season of repentance. The church reflections on sin and the One who purifies us from sin, beginning with the wedding of the first man and woman. 

 

We might well imagine the event; God delivered to the man an exquisitely beautiful woman; like Adam she too was made in the image of God; not only that, she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, perfectly fit as help-mate, one flesh together. Adam coming out of his sleep would have trembled, bedazzled at God’s gift for him to love, honor, cherish. 

 

The woman, new to the Garden, would have been overcome at first sight of the man, like her yet not the same, her equal but different, her lord-protector and teacher in the ways of God. Modestly she would have trembled, consenting to love, honor, and obey the man from whom she came; both of them pledging their troth.  

 

With sin’s violation things turned ugly. The woman was no long of a piece with her husband, rather she desiring his office and authority was frustrated by his physicality; and the man Satan-like became the woman’s accuser before God. 

 

What was once union in God’s image was now competitive and accommodative separation of less than loving concupiscent lust and conceptions. If love, cherish, honor, obedience, and purity were to be restored, God must again be the giver. 

 

Our OT Reading, the giving of the Ten Commandments, is likewise understood in the context of marriage; but now Moses is, as it were, father of the bride and best man mediating for the parties, God and his intended, Israel.

 

In time Israel lost even the physical attractiveness of Adam and Eve. Corporate Israel was slave in the house of Pharaoh, treated no better than a rented mule.  Unloved, Israel became a churlish shrew, ungrateful and wont to grumble at the least kindness. 

 

God, at the cost of Egyptian first-born, recued Israel in his Passover grace through a purifying baptism in the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai. He called Moses to deliver his marriage proposal to Israel; declaring that he had brought them to himself as on eagle’s wings; if they would obey him and be faithful to his covenant they would be his treasured possession and be to him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:3-6). 

 

Moses delivered the proposal; Israel accepted (v. 8). Moses, over three days, consecrated the people to their promise and they cleansed their garments in water remaining chaste for the upcoming union to occur at the foot of the mountain.

 

The Lord descended in a passionate fire and the mountain “trembled”. God spoke, revealing himself, directly to the bride.  He is the only God, there is none other, therefore his people should comprehend this wisdom, and “have no other gods” and in keeping his commands express his love in the world. 

 

Of the second table they should not murder, because God is not like Satan, “a murderer from the beginning… [having] nothing to do with the truth” (Jn. 8:44); they must not commit adultery because God is their steadfast spouse; they are not to steal which is foolishness as everything in heaven and earth is the Lord’s and so also theirs; they are not to bear false testimony, for the Lord is the Truth, and their neighbor is their brother; they are not to covet for the Lord gives according to his wisdom and they to discern it.  

 

These words of self-revelation were the last God spoke directly to Israel. The people discerned God’s holiness, and their lack; the people “trembled” (Ex. 20:18).  Moses went up the mountain and wrote the terms of the marriage covenant.  When Moses came down the people hearing the words again consented, accepting God to be their Lord (24:3, 7). 

 

An altar was built at the foot of Sinai, mutual promises were confirmed in the sacrificial blood of oxen for burnt and peace offerings. Half the blood was thrown on the altar of God’s presence.  Then the written Book of The Covenant was read to the people; and again they gave consent.  Then the remaining blood was thrown on the people uniting them in law with their God. 

 

The people thus sacrificially sprinkled with the blood of the covenant, Israel’s tribal representatives come before God on the mountain where they participated in a wedding feast. They beheld God and he did not lay his hand on them; they ate and drank in his presence (24:9-11). 

 

This then was the beginning of the OT and the tabernacle/temple cultus providing, by grace a marginally more harmonious relation under the law, than relations between Adam and Eve.

 

In John’s Gospel, the so-called “Cleansing of The Temple”, is Jesus’ first public act and follows on, part and parcel with having changed OT water for purification rites into wedding wine at Cana. Jesus is in Jerusalem, not to repristinate the old temple and its cultus, but to give notice that its function for purity of the people under the old covenant has been fulfilled. 

 

With the arrival of Jesus in the temple following the sign of changing water to wedding wine, temple termination as God’s house was imminent, suggested by the prophesy of Malachi “[S]uddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple… And he will purify…” (3:1-3).   

 

Thus the post-resurrection remembrance of Jesus whipping animal-vendors from the temple comprehends Ps. 69, as Jesus’ “Zeal for [his Father’s] house [that will] consume [him]” (v. 9) a zeal fulfilled in his body on the cross, affirmed by God in the Resurrection. 

 

It is in the new temple of Jesus’ singular sacrifice that God’s new Israel has her new cleansing and purity. Jesus is new Israel’s Pascal Lamb by whose shed blood, death passes us over, our sins forgiven, and from whose side his church receives the Stuff of our purification; the water and blood issued from his side and the HS handed-over for the Baptized. 

 

We of course are a bride in sin every bit as ugly and lusting as disobedient Eve, and as grumbling Israel arriving at Mt. Sinai. But now we have a new nuptial chamber, superior in every way, to the Old Covenant tabernacle that but foreshadowed God’s new dwelling with men in Christ. 

 

St. Paul says that, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise… what is weak… to shame the strong… what is low and despised in the world… And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Cor. 1:27-31).  Love by its nature is sacrificial toward the beloved; so it is no surprise that God, who is love (1 John 4:8), has his being and dwelling in the flesh of Jesus, Son of Man who has died for us. 

 

For love we, an unworthy bride, are wed in Christ. In a pre-baptismal instruction St. John Chrysostom puts Jesus’ “zeal” for his Father’s house this way, “He does not have her come to him as his bride because he has longed for her comeliness, or her beauty, or the bloom of her body. On the contrary, the bride he has brought into the nuptial chamber is deformed and ugly, thoroughly and shamefully sordid, and, practically, wallowing in the very mire of her sins.” 

 

On the cross love is revealed, the wisdom of God, a stumbling block for Jew and foolishness to Greeks. We observe that humans communicate with those they love by touch.  It is especially so in the nuptial chamber of God’s house where we receive our new purification of Cana’s wine by Baptism in the HS, in the water and blood of our crucified Lord.  In this sacrifice we are given to participate in the reign of God. 

 

Purified by Baptism we are united with Christ, our Adam. He presents us spotless in his flesh Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day to the Ancient of Days; and with him we share his dominion, glory, and a kingdom as we come to the Lord’s Table, our foretaste of heaven’s marriage feast of the Lamb in the new creation.  Amen.  

 

pem.



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Sermon - 2/28/18
2018.03.03 23:24:20

LENT2/B Midweek (2018): Rom. 5:1-11 

 

Sufferings,             [W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (vv. 3-5). 

 

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus taught, “the Son of Man must suffer” (Mk. 8:31).  Peter was offended, earning him a strong rebuke from the Lord.  By our Epistle Reading Paul posits suffering to be essential in the Christian life, indeed cause for our rejoicing. 

 

Does this make sense; if you are like me many of your prayers to God seek avoidance or relief from suffering in this world.  As we observed Sunday suffering is radically counter intuitive to all men.  After all, as Jesus approached the cross in Gethsemane, he prayed that God might yet take from him the cup of suffering; but nevertheless, his Father’s will be done. 

 

Focusing “on the things of man” (v. 33) our sufferings in themselves don’t make sense.  Oh yes, we understand the necessity that Jesus suffered in our place, a sacrificial expiation for sin; we might even accept the propriety of suffering by others (after all, it probably serves them right for something they did); but not so much for us. 

 

When it comes down to it, we are wont to put as much distance as possible between the cross and ourselves.  The cross is so counter intuitive that Peter, instructed in the necessity, denied Jesus and ran for the hills rather than be associated with his bleeding Lord at the hands of religious and secular authorities.

 

Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer was answered, at least the part, that the Father’s “will be done”; and so by obedient submission Jesus was affirmed as from before the foundation of the world, “to the things of God” (v. 33).  The author of Hebrews says of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Heb. 12:2). 

 

All this brings us to St. Paul’s authentic Christian life, a baptismal life, if you will, that rejoices in sufferings and embraces our crosses (Mk. 8:34).  There is a skin medication being advertised that speaks well to the church’s theology of the cross; that human beings “communicate by touch with those we love.”   

 

The Baptized comprehend the truth of this insight in the church’s sacraments, “the things of God”.  We don’t merely hear about God in the abstract and what he has done for us in Christ 2,000 years ago; rather Baptized hearers of God’s word are invited and drawn into what he is doing now, come to us in the physicality of God’s touch and communion with brothers and sisters in the Holy Supper.  Liturgically, this is why before receiving Eucharist we “exchange the peace”, what the ancient church called a “holy kiss”. 

 

Touch is love’s human reality, the Stuff of God’s love, Jesus’ body and blood given for the forgiveness of sin and Life; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53).

 

Christians do not endure sufferings gratuitously, that would be foolish and probably sinful.  Love, as we observed Sunday in its nature, is sacrificial.  For love’s sake we are invited, with St. Thomas, to fidelity in the church of the Resurrection’s worship, to touch, taking-into ourselves the interior of Jesus’ wounds sacrificially suffered for love of us. 

 

Far from gratuitous, our sufferings in this world are associated baptismally with Jesus’ love of the Father’s will.  To what then is Paul referring by our “joyous sufferings”, if not that in our Eucharistic habitus, we abide in Jesus, learning the endurance of the cross to the end; of God shaping us in the waters of the HS being made new men and women of a divine character defined by the sacrificial love of Christ.  This is the Christian hope, worked in us, of which we are not ashamed. 

 

Jesus speaks of his sufferings as “Son of Man” in association with his saints embracing our crosses by which we comprehend Daniel’s prophesy, “[A]nd behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…  [A]nd judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:13, 14a, 22b). 

 

As we remain faithful to the “things of God”, our baptismal cleansing and death to self, and to the church’s Eucharistic Life, we have the certain hope that even now we are being presented to the Ancient of Days for a cruciform dominion in the world, and so are “seated [as it where with the Son of Man] at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2b).  Amen.

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 2/25/18
2018.02.27 14:24:20

LENT2/B (2018): Gen. 17:1-7, 15, 16; Rom. 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38  

 

Teach,          And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly (vv. 31, 32). 

 

Last Sunday Jesus was baptized to be the “Aqedah of Isaac”, volunteering to be God’s Suffering Servant in place of Israel.  Jesus is the “provision” God made for Abraham and his offspring forever; Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb in place of Isaac on the altar of Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22). 

 

Following Jesus’ Baptism the HS drove him into the wilderness. There he would confront Satan, the adversary of God, not only as new Israel and only Son, but true Son of Man in whom new humanity is presented to God (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 26). 

 

For 40 days in the desert it was training day for Jesus. He trusted in God for all.  Jesus acquitted himself against satanic temptations urging him to seek another “glory” than God’s will of sacrifice and privation in this world that Satan claimed as his own. 

 

Jesus’ self-mortification in the desert resulted in victory and Satan being cast out. In the background of Jesus’ temptations is the picture of new Eden coming out of a watered and blooming desert and new Temple worship in God’s presence.  Angels with the wild animals, portending heaven’s reunion with the beastly heart of sinful men, refreshes Jesus. 

 

After 40 days Jesus departed his desert foothold in the world, a conquering warrior proceeding to proclaim the gospel’s reign of God, beginning in Galilee, the outer reaches of Israel’s Promised Land.

 

Today we are with Jesus, his apostles and disciples in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Gentile territory. It was time that Jesus, their Teacher, administer an examination.  He wanted to know what they learned of their mission and his Torah teaching?  In Jesus’ school there is only one subject, of which he inquired, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mk. 8:29).

 

Don’t you love it when a teacher’s question hints at the answer? Jesus did not exactly employ the Greek name for YHWH, “ego eimi”, but there is its hint on Jesus’ lips, “I am”.  The crowds think Jesus is a prophet, and of course he is, but that is not adequate, he is more.

 

In addition to Jesus’ Torah teaching, consider what his student-disciples had learned by their martial experience with Jesus. From the very beginning, part and parcel of Jesus’ proclamation was his relentless attack on Satan’s kingdom, exorcizing demons left and right, reclaiming God’s rule in the world. 

 

Not only does Jesus command the departure of demons; he calmed the chaos of wind and wave gone wild; taught Scripture with authority against erring scribes; healed the human wreckage of a demon possessed world; reminiscent of a new exodus in-gathering in the wilderness he fed 5000 Jews and 4000 Gentiles with the bread of angels for a single communion coming into being; and trod the abyss, the abode of demons.

 

Finally, before administering his midterm exam, the disciples would have done well to call to mind Jesus’ last healing. At Bethsaida a blind man was brought to Jesus for healing.  Jesus spat, applying wetness to the man’s eyes, laid hands and asked him, “Do you see anything?”  Rather than a full restoration, the man saw only partially and unclearly.  Again Jesus touched to open the man’s eyes.  This time sight was fully restored (Mk. 8:22 ff.). 

 

Now Jesus asked his student-disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  The Apostles were silent.  Peter pipes up, “You are the Christ” (v. 29b).  From Peter’s rudimentary confession Jesus advanced the class to, “Messiah 102”, “[beginning] to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

 

How could this be! In prophetic expectation, the “Christ” would glorify God by aligning himself with the temple priesthood to rid Israel of its oppressors, especially Rome.  Anything less must be seen as a defeat for God, a satanic victory. 

 

Within the band of apostles, a very real thought insinuated, expressed by Peter’s rebuke, that Jesus was a false-messiah, doing the work of Beelzebul as claimed by the scribes (Mk. 3:22 ff.)

 

Peter and the apostles are on faith’s edge, a tipping point. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter as the real agent of Satan.  Peter represented not only the apostolic college, first among equals for his confession, but by his tendency to wild swings from faith to apostasy and denial we discern that he is an apostle most like us.  So far “Messiah 102” did not have the same auspicious beginning as “Messiah 101”.

 

Still the class would soon discern the meaning of the Blind Man of Bethsaida’s healing; that God enlightens by stages. You and I do not come to this place of Presence once only to go our own way.  If we are to set our “minds on the things of God and not the things of man” (v. 33) we will continually advance in the Way from faith to faith, stage to stage, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.

 

Why? Because everything about “the things of God” and the Way of Jesus is counter intuitive to whom we are in sin.  Jesus in an act of new creation watered the blind man’s eyes corrupted into the dirt from which he came.  The power of Jesus’ word must always be applied, which is to say, we have our abode and advance “in the Word” as the means of God’s grace. 

 

Our true enemies are not so much the corrupted things and conditions of the world, but our enemies are God’s enemies: rulers, powers, authorities, dominions, angels, and authorities (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) who rage against God and his Christ (Ps. 2:1, 2).

 

Yet, intuitively, in sin, we are horrified at God’s battle march to the cross; even more, our heart’s desire and instinct is to flee from our Captain and his invitation to follow him to it.

 

Jesus warns against being scandalized by his cross, the new Temple of his crucified body, and his association with his priesthood of the Baptized, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:35).

 

Jesus instructs us about the warfare into which we are joined. We are as modern day “first responders”.  Love, by definition is sacrificial and it is the love of God in Christ for a lost and dying world by which God’s enemies are defeated.  When all around you are terrorized, running from a burning building, from schoolhouse carnage, or other evil; the Baptized run to the sound of the battle and its hail of bullets. 

 

A person who flees imminent conflict presents his back, an undefended target; but by confronting the enemy there is life in victory or God’s glory in the same death of our Captain.

 

Jesus taught Peter and the disciples the meaning of his messianic kingship for cosmic battle. Jesus is God’s war Lord.  At God’s word Satan is defeated through the sacrifice of Christ bound on the cross. 

 

We, baptized into his death and resurrection, against every human instinct are daily called to accept the scandal of his crucifixion and embrace our crosses, that to the world seems shameful defeat.

 

We are tempted to flee to another “glory” that would otherwise preserve our corrupted flesh, but in faith instilled and strengthened by stages we trust in the Lord and deny ourselves, continuing to move toward the place of conflagration.  

 

The Baptized run in the direction of our crucified God and Lord, the Son of Man in whom we have judgment for our life in his flesh from the Altar. Amen. 

 

pem.



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Lent & Easter Week Schedule
2018.02.21 23:14:44

Come worship with us during Lent and Easter week. We look forward to having visitors. Some of the services will be joint services with Concordia Lutheran. Here's the schedule:

LENT:
 
Ash Wednesday Mass (7:30 p.m., Feb. 14): Corporate confession and individual absolutions
 
Midweek 1 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 21): Hosted by Concordia 
 
Midweek 2 (7:30 p.m., Feb. 28): Vespers service hosted by Grace
 
Midweek 3 (7:30 p.m., March 07): Hosted by Concordia 
 
Midweek 4 (7:30 p.m., March 14): Vespers service hosted by Grace
 
Midweek 5 (7:30 p.m., March 21): Hosted by Concordia
 
 
EASTER TRIDUUM: 
 
Holy (Maundy) Thursday, (7:30 p.m., March 29): Celebrant Pr. Mills, Preacher Pr. Tauscher
 
Good Friday (12 p.m., March 30): Grace chief service
 
Good Friday (7:30 p.m., March 30): Tenebrae service hosted by Concordia.
 
Easter Vigil (6 p.m., March 31): Co-hosted by Grace and Concordia
 
Easter Day (9 a.m., April 01): Grace Easter service


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