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Sermon - 1/7/18
2018.01.12 14:36:45

EPIPHANY 1/B (2018): Gen. 1:1-5; Rom. 6:1-11; Mk. 1:4-11

 

Heavens,     In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (v. 1).

 

Scripture’s first words reveals for men the sum and substance of God’s identity; he is our marital Creator. We tend to think of Adam and Eve as God’s first ordained partners; but the union of man and woman is a reflection of the greater coupling (Eph. 5:32), the pairing of “the heavens and the earth”. 

 

In context, creation “ex nihilo”, i.e., from nothing, “the heavens” necessarily refers to the physical and angelic cosmos beyond “the earth’s” boundaries.  By their pairing, “the [created] heavens” is cypher for true heaven, the eternal, un-create place and abode, the heart and will of God (Jn. 1:1). 

 

It is Heaven’s coupling by the HS hovering over the face of the deep and initiating Speech; “Let there be Light” (vv. 2, 3) that expresses God’s unbounded love for the creation, his delight in it, and his marital intent toward it. 

 

From eternity it has been God’s pleasure to enter into a union of oneness with his creation through his reigning creature, man and woman, made specifically in his “image and likeness”, and so his “fit help mate”, if you will. 

 

Satan is a created spiritual being, to be sure he is a “power”, “authority” and “dominion” of the cosmic heavens. Of Satan and angelic cohorts we well ask, “whence arises sin; how is it that the creature rebels against his Creator?”  It is of course a mystery, other than to observe that abuse of God’s gift of free will has resulted in its loss for both angel and man alike. 

 

Satan’s rebellion in the heavens employed a false word (“fake news”) ingested by man and resulting in earth’s poisoning and corruption of his dominion in it. By sin “the [cosmic] heavens and the earth” were condemned to death and destruction. 

 

It is one thing that God should unwind and destroy the physical creation for a new one; it is, however, quite another that the Creator whose ethical character is revealed (Ex. 20:13, 14; 32:9-14, 30-33; Deut. 5:17, 18; 9:13-14) should destroy or in any way be unfaithful to man made in his image and likeness.

 

Like Judas, who turned from his apostleship to “go to a place of his own” (Acts 1:25), Satan and angelic accomplices were consigned to a place of darkness, a formless and void place, a chaotic watery place, absent God’s ordering light and so without hope (Mt. 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6,), and there to gloat in the false belief that they had thwarted God’s love, will, and delight toward his good creation. 

 

But what Satan meant for evil; God means and employs for good that many in the new creation be kept alive (Gen. 50:20). On account of sin man was cast from the Garden.  The HS departed his habitation with man until the advent of the new creation.  With the HS’s descent out of heaven as a dove and resting on the man Jesus, the enfleshed Speech of God, the new creation was coming into being.  

 

JB baptized in water to repentance, preparation for the coming HS in Christ, the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49). The sin-laden Jordan from JB’s washing was, as at the first creation, “a formless and void deep”.  The HS hovering in Heaven awaited Jesus’ arrival to sanctify all waters and reveal God’s Light in word. 

 

JB’s washing was also a preparatory cleansing of the bride intended for Jesus (Ex. 19:7-11, 17). Jesus, the Elect of God, entered the water of the bride’s repentant bath taking-on to himself the just wages of her sin (Rom. 6:23). 

 

As Jesus breached and rose from the deadly water of his baptism the barrier separating heaven and earth was irrevocably sundered. Out of Heaven the HS, the purifying fire of God, alighted and remained on Jesus, now, Christ of God.  God spoke to his Son in his native tongue, i.e., Holy Scripture, “You are my beloved son; in you I have taken delight (Mark 1:11). 

 

That God declared Jesus his “son”, speaks (not to his eternal Sonship), but his Davidic kingship prophesied in the Psalm, “You are my son, today I have begotten you” against whom the kings of the earth and heavenly rulers plot in vain (2:2, 7).

 

That God “delights” in Jesus designates him Suffering Servant whose destiny is the cross in place of Israel, and so surety that Israel’s “warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isa. 40:2a, b).  At Jesus’ Baptism God registered his delight toward man conjoined with his Word, prophetically echoed from Isaiah, “Behold my Servant, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him…” (Isa. 42:1). 

 

Heaven’s violent opening and the HS’s descent came at the price of holiness, specifically Jesus, “the Holy One of Israel” and “of God” (Isa. 12:6; Hos. 11:9, Mk. 1:24).  The revelation of Jesus’ baptism into our sin is that he came for death and on its execution, his abandonment by God (Mt. 27:46). 

 

From the moment of his baptism, Jesus’ journey would be the Way of death on the cross. There, he would hand-over the HS for our peace and life of the church in the new creation. 

 

As heaven was torn open at Jesus’ baptism so on its completion in his death, our holy access to God is accomplished. At Jesus’ death the temple veil, separating men from the Holy of Holies of God’s presence was torn from top to bottom.  Now, our comfort consists, not in distance from God’s holiness, but in the promises of God by our joining in faith in the torn flesh of Jesus; thus our access to the Father as sons and daughters. 

 

Finally, in the language of Scripture, the Father declared Jesus, “Beloved”, affirming the crux of his Office.  Jesus is “Beloved of God” for the very reason that Isaac was Abraham’s “beloved only son”; his free consent to being bound on the altar of sacrifice, a whole burnt offering to God (Gen. 22:2ff.). “[In this manner] God loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn. 3:16a).  In Christian Baptism you and I are thus joined to God’s “Beloved”.  

 

If JB’s baptism was a washing of repentance, today St. Paul clarifies our greater Christian Baptism in water, blood, and Spirit issuing from Christ, crucified Word. Christian baptism is foremost not about self-generated faith and repentance.  Specifically we receive, or more accurately, we do not reject the stuff of new life given in Christ for reordering and recreating out of chaos’ water by the word of God come for spiritual Light. 

 

Amazingly, the church is baptized into that which Satan intended for our evil, the death of Christ in whom the Father delights. In Baptism we are united with Jesus in a death like his and so to participate in a resurrection like his (Rom. 6:5).  Our resurrection Life in the Spirit is our surety of God’s delight with us that we are forgiven sons and daughters in the new creation coming into being. 

 

God delights in us through Jesus. The Father has given to him the church as spotless bride united in his shed blood. It is God’s word and sacraments that conjoin and binds us to God in his image and likeness in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 12/31/17
2018.01.02 22:47:49

EPIPHANY-observed/ABC (2018): Isa. 60:1-6; Eph. 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

 

Light,            When you Read this [in the congregation], you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed…by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…  Of this gospel I was made a minister… to bring to light…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  (vv. 4-6, 7a, 9a, 10). 

 

Christmas and The Feast of The Epiphany are of a piece. Christmastide comprises Advent’s preparation for the birth of Immanuel, twelve celebratory days and a thirteenth day that concludes the season, The Epiphany of Our Lord, sometimes called “Gentile Christmas”.   

 

By recognizing The Epiphany as recapitulating the message of Christ come for all men, we reflect on the gracious Light of God having entered our darkened world that all men might know the mystery kept secret for long ages (Rom. 16:25). St. Paul was given to preach the good news that “in the beginning” all men are objects of God’s salvific love. 

 

Still there is a problem for both Jew and Gentile. Israel, from their adoption at Sinai possessed, if muted by types, God’s Torah light.  The mystery was veiled, not revealed fully face-to-face, but as it were, the Glory was exposed to men in passing view (Ex. 33:23). 

 

But with the birth of Christ the veil over Scripture’s light was pulled aside. The Babe of Christmas is the mystery of God coming to men.  Christ’s infant glory and coming reign in his crucified flesh is nevertheless revealed only to eyes of faith.  The Babe, the flesh of God and of Mary, comes not only as Savior, but Teacher and Revealer of God, new Torah to enlighten Moses’ veiled word. 

 

Thus, the revelation of Christ out of heaven is “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16) from whence Jesus is delivered in the world.  Apart from Emmanuel’s appearing to the Jews, unprepared Gentiles would otherwise have been blinded at the sudden coming of heaven’s Light.  Jesus has come in place of Israel, God’s Suffering Servant who in humility brings the Light to Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6).  God is nothing if not considerate of man’s frailty.

 

Thus Christmas is of the Jews, prophetically anticipated in Advent by the witness of JB to Jesus come as Son of God, Christ of God, and Lamb of God. On the other hand, The Epiphany belongs to a Gentile proclamation of good news for the Jew, that Jesus is their true King (Mt. 27:37).  The Magi’s inquiry of the newborn king’s whereabouts thus provides a fitting bracket to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as son of David (Mk. 11:10), Read the 1st Sunday in Advent. 

 

At the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel the Magi proclaim the Babe’s kingship, insinuating Jesus’ universal salvation made fully clear when the risen Lord charged his church to, “make disciples of all nations” (28:19a).  By Baptism we put on Christ crucified and risen who transcends all ethnic and social status (Gal. 3:28). 

 

If the advent of Jesus was revealed to Gentiles by indirect starlight, he came to Israel “as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15), a divine break-in on the outskirts of Jerusalem, stronghold of secular and religious resisters to God’s Anointed (Ps. 2:2, 3).  Shepherds in midnight darkness were suddenly confronted with the Light of the Babe reflected from his angelic army.  It was an invasion, the opening salvo of heaven’s “shock and awe” campaign in Israel. 

 

The Light of heaven emanated from the angelic word, to enlighten the shepherds. Immediately the Babe’s angels speak to them words of peace, “Fear not” (Luke 2:10) and directing attention to their Captain, the Babe, God’s mild and gentle gift of love for men lost and mired in a beastly world. 

 

Jew and Gentile share this in common: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  Sinful man prefers the darkness we know to the gracious Light we do not know coming from outside us.  Ignorance makes men afraid.  

 

Gentiles mistrust God’s word from Jews who mistake the law of circumcision for their own private gospel; and Jews reject the long hidden revelation of grace in Christ crucified, failing to receive the mystery and content of their own Scriptures. How sad! 

 

The shepherds would have only marginally comprehended the midnight angelic revelation; still they were impelled to seek the Light more fully, to behold the Babe and proclaim the words of peace for men who will believe.

 

Mary, as with the church today, “treasured [the shepherd’s words] and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  From Jesus’ Nativity to his cross and resurrection, the church is on a journey that treasures and ponders the shepherd’s good news to men upon whom God’s favor rests (v. 14).

 

On The Epiphany we hear the account of the Magi’s visitation as they were drawn to the Babe by the light of his star. The Magi were not “wise men” as popularly conceived and often mistranslated; just the opposite, they were foolish pagans steeped in superstitious devilry. 

 

Still by the grace of heaven’s starlight the Magi were directed by God’s word, bequeathed from the prophet Daniel in the Babylonian captivity under king Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:48). These Gentile long riders followed the starlight to Jerusalem, and there again received from the Jewish scribes Scripture’s revelation of the king’s birthplace, and then onto the Light source in Bethlehem, the Babe and the mystery hidden for long ages, which is to say, “in the beginning”. 

 

Today we pray for those who deny or avert their eyes and ears from the Light, refusing grace and Truth in Christ, the content of all OT Scripture; and the genesis of the NT church’s existence in the body and blood of her crucified and risen Lord. In this sacramental connection the Christian Church is attached to her Jewish vine, Jesus, God’s new Israel and we in him by Baptism. 

 

The significance of The Epiphany’s Gentile proclamation is, that coming into the world for all men, the Babe’s Jewish lineage insufficiently identifies him other than as the prophetic fulfillment of OT Scripture. Jesus is not born into the world merely as “King of the Jews”; rather he comes, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).  

 

We, Jew or Gentile, like the shepherds and the Magi are on a journey in the Light on the Way, which is to say, the Christian is constantly in the word the Psalmist calls, “a lamp unto [our] feet” (119:105).  Enlightenment begins in faith that receives the church’s Baptism and promised HS by which God’s word is revealed Truth in the flesh of Christ.

 

There is a horrific contrast to the Christian joy of receiving the Babe’s light in apposition to those preferring the darkness. Antipathy toward the Light is inexplicable and yet today’s Gospel account expresses it, “When Herod the king (a Gentile) heard [of the birth], he was shaken and all Jerusalem (“the Jews”) with him…” (Mt. 2:3).

 

Within days Herod’s rage toward the newborn king, revealed to him by the unwise and naïve Magi, slaughtered Bethlehem’s Holy Innocents. Later when JB witnessed to Jesus following his anointing in the HS, Jerusalem’s priests and elders refused to believe the testimony of Israel’s last and greatest OT prophet.

 

Still for men upon whom God’s favor rests, the revelation of the Babe with us in humility gives us to know the mystery hidden through long ages, the character of God. The mystery, the man Jesus, pre-incarnate Torah of God, for love of us was put to death that no one, Jew or Gentile, be condemned by the law, but through Baptism into his wounds enter eternal life by the gift of the Spirit. 

 

By Baptism we participate in Christ’s death, captive to God’s word. Unlike old Torah, written on stone tablets, in the new Torah of the crucified and risen Christ, circumcision does not separate one man or another from God.  All Baptized are by faith inwardly circumcised of the flesh’s sin nature and so possess a heart that treasures and daily ponders God’s word in Spirit and Truth. 

 

The Jewish heart of Jesus was circumcised by a Gentile spear in an Isaac like binding on the cross’ wood altar; and so by faith we become Abraham’s seed accounted righteous in Christ.

 

By grace the Church receives her new Torah Bread, and a new commandment to partake of his Eucharistic love that is “Bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25). 

 

The amazing thing of our on-going participation in word and Sacrament is that the church preaches the formerly hidden mystery not only to men for their peace with God in forgiveness, faith, and Life in the Spirit; but she is also the proclaimer of Christ’s victorious reign by his wounds over all “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).  Amen.

 

pem.   

 



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Sermon - 12/24/17 Midnight Service
2018.01.02 22:46:14

CHRISTMAS-MIDNIGHT/ABC (2017): Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20 

 

Renounce,             For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age… (vv. 11, 12)

 

At Baptism we confess God binding himself to us in water, blood, and Spirit. Perhaps a Godparent spoke our assents to the verities of the catholic faith in our place; still Satan, his works, pomps, and ways were renounced. 

 

Baptismal renunciation of Satan reversed our former allegiance with, “The kings of the earth [who] set themselves, and the rulers [in the heavens] tak[ing] counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’” (Ps. 2:2, 3).

 

Baptism restores the bond of sonship with God; breaking us free from the world’s order and rule. At birth we were aligned with the world’s rebellion against our Creator.  We were incapable of affecting, or even of desiring release; thus the natural human condition is a “thralldom”. 

 

Under the thralldom of corrupt natures, spiritual-powers, and worldly authorities we find ourselves no better off than were the Hebrews enslaved under Pharaoh. From outside the people, God sent Moses for their rescue, a Hebrew like themselves.  Jesus, a man like us in all points but sin, was likewise sent for us out of heaven. 

 

 

In light of man’s subjection to spiritual rulers, powers, and “kings of the earth” our Gospel account in referring to Augustus’ census is ironic. On the eve of Jesus’ Nativity either mother with child or mother and child were counted as belonging to Caesar. 

 

Thus at the very beginning, Jesus, fully entered into our desperate condition under the world’s enthralling axis. Later Jesus’ binding on the cross, as the Lord’s anointed, would burst the axis bonding and by the HS extend God’s cords of love and release.    

 

Like Israel’s release through the Red Sea, Baptism frees us from the bondage of sin, spiritual rulers, and worldly authorities. It is God’s speech applied in the water that commands our enemies in power, “Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Ex. 9:1).

 

Though mother and Child were enrolled in Caesar’s record book; the Child’s angelic army countered proclaiming him, “Savior”, “Christ”, and “Lord” (Luke 2:11). Centuries earlier, Isaiah declared this Child’s superiority above all authorities: 

 

He is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6), of whose government there shall be no end and in light of which all contrary allegiances must be renounced. 

 

Given the push and tug of competing allegiances, St. Paul describes our problem regarding Satan’s pomps and ways; he says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15).  Baptized into holiness, we nevertheless come under the sway of the world; our roots planted in corruption.  

 

With Adam’s fall we were separated from our intended food, the Bread of heaven and of angels (Ps. 78:25). In sin we were consigned to eat bread from a cursed ground through our own efforts, and at the end of days are destined to breathe our last of the dust from which we came to await judgment. 

 

Still St. Paul insinuates our antidote: the power of Baptism in the Spirit, justifying us in the blood of Christ, and “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.”

 

By the Nativity of the Christ child, a great Light entered our dark world in which we stumble. The Christmas Babe, swaddled and lying with us as among beasts, received God’s acclaim in heaven’s song, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, to be the One greater than all “rulers and authorities” in heaven and on earth. 

 

By the power of the angelic word, the Babe calls us to what we cannot do of ourselves, to be enrolled by the HS and receive a name above every name by faith in the Babe’s flesh for us, our begetting from above.

 

In his name we renounce all ungodliness and worldly passion. By his word we have a Light for our path, the revelation of God’s glory, Christ crucified who has made for us peace among men upon whom God’s favor rests.  

 

Just who are those upon whom God’s favor rests? Certainly the shepherds believing the angelic preaching; Mary and Joseph heard the shepherd’s proclamation and believed, as Mary clasping her Son to herself; later Gentile magi and others would receive the Child as king. 

 

As the Babe was received to be God with us in his improbable coming, so those today that just as improbably receive him in word and sacramental union are those upon who God’s favor rests.

 

In the 12th chapter of St. John’s Revelation, the Babe is the great sign in heaven, ruler of all nations come out of the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet.   On the woman’s head is a crown of twelve stars to represent her as the OT Church. 

 

Then another sign appeared in heaven, a great red dragon seeking to devour the Child. In so doing by the sweep of his tail he cast down to earth a third of heaven’s angels. 

 

At the birth of Christ, heaven’s warfare ensued in earnest. At the moment of Jesus’ Nativity, his heavenly army appeared to shepherds proclaiming the coming victory of God in the flesh of the Babe.  The shepherds announced, “peace on earth among men with whom God is pleased”; peace established when the Child would be elevated on the cross, the place and signal of God’s glory and reign on earth and in the highest.

 

Think of what is given up by us in Baptism’s renunciation of the world and its passions. We renounce all strength of human will over our own righteousness, concupiscence, and sanctity.  We make no “decision for Jesus” because we cannot do so without qualification, condition, or vain motivation from debased hearts always standing against the will of God.

 

By the Incarnation and Nativity, God has made his decision for us; a decision in which Jesus wholly concurs by his word at Gethsemane, “nevertheless [Father], not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39c).  The full union of God and man’s wills was executed at the cross.  Thus the Babe merits the appellation, “Wonderful Counselor” toward God and man.  

 

The Babe is God’s gift to men, the only man after Adam in whom exists the freedom of will to choose and live to God alone. Jesus, destined sacrificial Lamb of God, affirms Wisdom’s counsel from before the foundation of the world.  No wonder the nations and Satan rage to be loosed from God who now binds himself to those who receive him in the “stronger man”, Christ!

 

In practical terms, Baptism makes us one with the Babe, our helpless humility before God, no longer seeking to be rid of God’s binding. By the HS’s washing in Baptism we are made like Jesus, swaddled and dependent infants, bound to God with the cords of his love in Christ. 

 

On the cross Jesus is the One who serves, the One bound on the altar of God’s will. And like Him whom the Father raised to life, we follow, living expressions of his wonderful word and counsel in the new creation coming into being, and cause of our rejoicing.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 12/24/17
2018.01.02 22:44:40

ADVENT 4/B (2017), 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.

 

Mystery,     [T]he preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed… to bring about the obedience of faith… (vv. 25, 26). 

 

Over the weeks of Advent we have been preparing to celebrate the culminating revelation of a mystery, the Incarnation and Nativity of God become man; to welcome Christ into his world in Spirit and Truth.

 

Throughout Advent, the church’s welcoming song from the house of the Lord has been “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.  Today, on the eve of his revelation as Christ child our song unfolds with antiphonal stanzas:

 

“O come, Emmanuel; O come, Thou Wisdom from on high; O come, Thou Lord of might; O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree; O come, Thou Key of David; O come, Thou Dayspring from on high; O come, Desire of nations.” 

 

The “mystery kept secret for long ages” never ceases to surprise and give pause, a Child who is the Lord of might bearing all the poverty and fragility of Mary’s flesh, but without sin.  It is not how we would have planned salvation for fallen man nor fashion a Champion to stand against satanic hordes. 

 

So it is never a good idea or safe to get out in front of God’s word. To do so, puts us in danger of conflict with God’s will.  This was the situation with David and Nathan.  David was God’s vehicle for bringing into place God’s promises for Israel. 

 

By God’s grace David defeated all Israel’s enemies in the Land, conquering Jerusalem, the final stronghold of the Jebusites, making it the “City of David”. David built there for himself a palace of cedar and rested in peace after long years of warfare. 

 

David, the servant of the Lord living in palatal splendor, observed the incongruity that the God of heaven and earth was seated above his Ark housed in a make shift tent, not even the wilderness tabernacle fabricated by Moses (2 Sam. 6:17).

 

David, with too much time on his hands, was feeling guilty about the disparate circumstance searched his heart. He decided he would construct a “proper” abode for God to rival and exceed all the temples of the surrounding foreign gods to proclaim the God of Israel, the one true God who had given his people rest and peace in the Land. 

 

David’s idea seemed well conceived, even laudable; yet he did not go off ½ cocked on the project. First David consulted the purveyor of God’s word, Nathan the prophet.  Nathan heard David out, considered his reasoning, and concurred with David’s impulse, advising, “Go, and do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (7:3). 

 

It is never a good idea or safe to get out in front of God’s word. David was leading from his heart without prayer; and Nathan without consulting God in Scripture or prayer considered only the apparent pious impulse of David’s plan. 

 

What is the problem here? It is the same problem that has plagued the church from Adam and Eve until now, the original sin of enthusiasm, or what Luther called fanaticism.  Satan taped into Eve’s heart exploiting it with a false word about the forbidden fruit, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and gave some to her husband…” (Gen. 3:6).  

 

Man’s heart is the least reliable informant of God’s will. He speaks, and our ears listen; and so the church holds to sola Scriptura oriented in petitionary prayer.  Enthusiasm on the other hand is man’s self-revelation divorced from God’s word and promises.  It is sin that assumes because it feels good, right, and pious according to our own lights that it discerns God’s will apart from heaven’s Light in Christ and him crucified. 

 

Following consenting pastoral advice (whether from Adam or Nathan) does not excuse from the peril of going against God’s will. As with Adam approving Eve’s heart, Nathan’s sin was greater than David’s.  Nathan had arrogated to himself what was hidden for long ages, the mystery from God’s heart (2 Sam. 7:21) of his intended final salvific dwelling with men. 

 

Nathan assumed that because the Lord had given David victory to victory, that he need look no further than to the visual of David at rest in his palace, and so misdirected him with a false word in the name of the Lord, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3). 

 

God graciously intervened, tapping the breaks on temple-talk for the time being, issuing a corrective to Nathan and David’s enthusiasm. Nathan’s original counsel would have set David on a contrary path to God’s long hidden plan for his salvation and residence with men. 

 

Before constructing any temple in the Land as David had in mind to compete against and overshadow pagan gods, Israel must understand that any human construction would merely be prophetic of God’s heart for an eternal dwelling in his enfleshed Word or Torah.  

 

Perhaps David and Nathan, by co-opting the Lord’s temple construction plans, had forced God’s hand. In a cryptic promise, which I will interpret, God revealed to David something of the long hidden mystery:

 

“I will give you rest [eternal] from all your enemies [Satanic powers and authorities].  Moreover… the LORD will [construct for] you a house  I will raise up [resurrect] your offspring [Christ]… who shall come from your body [by Mary]…  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne [his Cross] of his kingdom forever” (vv. 11-13).

 

In Advent we have been preparing to know, to behold, the hidden mystery for long ages in Spirit and Truth. The church does not just show up with specious annual Christmas joy at her midnight mass.  In Advent we stand on the precipice of the Nativity and so preach Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery that this Child is now fully disclosed. 

 

In Advent the church does what Nathan and David should have done, become immersed in Word and prayer for revelation of God’s will. We beheld Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, foretelling the triumph of Zion’s king on the cross.  We beheld John’s Baptism preparing us for Jesus’ Baptism in the HS for repentant faith at his coming in word and Sacrament.  We beheld through JB, the herald of our abiding in the new Temple of Jesus’ sacrificial body, our Way and Life. 

 

And by today’s Gospel in all modesty we behold Mary’s womb, the construction site of David’s house for God with men. St. Luke’s reportage of Divine conception in the fragility of Mary’s flesh doesn’t sound like a place for Temple construction. 

 

But by Mary’s receptive faith in God’s angelic word, she, for a time, was not only the Ark and conveyance of the God of heaven and earth; but by the HS’s overshadowing, the place of sinless new creation, new Man, and fabrication of God’s end time Temple, the Christ child whom she was to name Jesus.

 

At the conception of Jesus, the work of the HS was being done in secret; but conception and Life always outs. Pregnancy is never hidden for long.  As Mary’s gestating belly expanded, so we in the church’s belly are nourished by word and Sacrament growing in knowledge of God and his ways in Jesus Christ for our salvation (Jn. 17:3). 

 

Jesus’ word and Eucharistic flesh and blood is the stuff of our new home which entry way was torn open on the cross for our new Temple worship in presence of the Father according to his heart’s desire.

 

Mary is the NT church’s prophetic type who responds to God, not with enthusiasm’s heart apart from word, prayer, and sacrament; but in faithful, attentive hearing and response, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), revealing us to be true sons and daughters by the same reckoned righteousness of Abraham.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Christmas Eve Services
2017.12.22 00:07:59

Just a reminder that we'll hold two services on December 24th:

 

Regular Sunday Service: 9 a.m.

Christmas Midnight Mass: 11 p.m.

 

Come worship with us! Visitors are always welcome.

 

We will not be holding services on December 25th.



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Sermon - 12/20/17
2017.12.22 00:04:18

ADVENT MIDWEEK 3/B (2017), Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

 

Favor,          The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor… bind up the broken hearted… liberty to the captives… opening of the prison to those… bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor; and the day of vengeance of our God…” (vv. 1, 2). 

 

Last Sunday’s Sermon ended with comment on St. Paul urging us to, “Test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21), i.e., by the Light of God’s word.  Christ, the Light and true Torah of God comes into our lives confronting us in a crisis of grace or judgment.  Every circumstance requires us to decide in either joyous trust in his Light or rail against participation in the sacrificial love of God given in Christ. 

 

Before ancient Israel entered the Promised Land Moses expressed the same thought, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life… loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days” (Deut. 30:19). 

 

After conquest in the Land Joshua spoke, “[C]hoose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).  Crisis, grace or judgment, always comes to us in the presence of the Lord. 

 

Today Isaiah gives voice to the pre-incarnate Christ out of the councils of God. In short, Zion, now the NT church must choose either the Lord’s favor or his vengeance in Jesus; there are no Christian fence sitters.  Both grace and judgment come in the same event, the crucified flesh and death of the man Jesus for the sins and unbelief of the world. 

 

Lutherans become nervous on hearing “decision” language; and rightly so. We are incapable of making “a decision for Jesus”, the popular lingo and touchstone of salvation for denominations and non-denominational bodies.  But man’s nature is so bound-up in sin as to be without “freedom” to choose God.  Invariably we choose the god we most love, and so a life of servitude to our flesh. 

 

But God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19) and so by grace has chosen us, calling all who will receive and not reject his crucified Son for life and salvation in baptismal faith. By baptismal faith we receive new life in the HS.  All this is to say; when as today Jesus comes to us we must face crisis; acceptance of his coming in word and Sacrament for sin and so the revelation of his grace or judgment for lukewarm ennui and un-repentance. 

 

Simeon upon whom the HS rested, received into his hands the Christmas Babe describing our crisis; “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against, and of you [Mary] yourself, through your soul a sword will go, in order that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34, 35).

 

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. After his Baptism; anointed with the HS and tempted by Satan, St. Luke reports Jesus returned to his hometown.  There, Jesus took up the Torah text from Isaiah and declared, he is the heavenly Speaker whom Isaiah heard entering our presence either for the Lord’s favor or vengeance.

 

Jesus came implicitly announcing to his family, friends, and neighbors that he is the fulfillment of Israel’s seventh year Sabbatical Year, instituting the Lord’s end time Jubilee (fiftieth) Year (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12; Lev. 25:8-55). Jesus, the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy of grace extends to all who will receive him, a new beginning and new life, freed from bondage and mourning over sin.  In Jesus crucified for sin, all debts to God are wiped clean before God.  Our Christmas celebration beholds Jesus come as our Jubilee liberation.

 

Jesus’ Nazareth neighbors were aware of JB’s, their southern cousin, witness to Jesus to be Light of God, Son of God, Christ of God, and Lamb of God. At first the town folk accepted of Jesus as bearer of God’s end time grace, inclined to receive and make straight the way of the Lord come in their native son.  St. Luke reports, “[A]ll were bearing witness concerning him and were marveling at the words of grace coming out of his mouth” (4:22). 

 

But crisis and decision for or against always comes with Jesus’ word about himself that hearts and thoughts might be revealed. In the synagogue Jesus pressed the meaning of his coming, comparing his ministry to that of Elijah and Elisha, both who delivered God’s grace to foreigners, the widow of Zarephath and the Syrian general Naaman. 

 

The thought that Gentiles would coequally participate in God’s grace with the sons and daughters of Abraham was for the Nazarenes a monstrous scandal; salvation, after all, was a matter of physical connectivity in Abraham’s seed.

 

But Jesus, true Torah and Light by which God is known, taught the one unacceptable thing; that all men, Jew and Gentile are saved in the same manner as Abraham, we are all reckoned righteous by faith alone, a righteousness that has no birthright but that of faith in the flesh of the One man, Jesus who would die once for all and germinate a harvest for God.  

 

Jesus’ hometown reacted Jesus’ testimony about himself as an enraged mob; previewing of his rejection three years hence in Jerusalem; “And all were filled with anger in the synagogue when they heard these things, and having risen they drove him outside the city and brought him to the brow of the hill upon which their city was built in order to throw him over the precipice” (vv. 28, 29); like the place of Jesus’ crucifixion they intended to dispose of him outside the city onto Nazareth’s garbage dump.  

 

This evening we are reminded that in word and Sacrament, Jesus comes to us in the one and the same reality of grace and judgment. In one there is Life and the other, apart from a repentant heart, is death. 

 

That “Jesus comes to comfort the afflicted; and afflict the comfortable” may be hackneyed bromide; it is nonetheless true. It is easy to approach our twelve days of Christmas as the world does, distracted by twinkling lights, commercial excess, and the general schmaltz of the season. 

 

As we behold the crèche and images of the Christ child we dare not forget he always comes to us for crisis. He does not come with good news for those who are comfortable in their health, wealth, and control in this world. 

 

The good news of God’s grace is singularly for those mired in sin that ruins lives and affects families, begetting loveless responses toward those who offend us. He comes with Light and release for the poor in spirit, the broken hearted, and those blind in the world’s darkness to expose and recognize the truth of sin that estranges us from God. 

 

For those who despair of resolving sin on their own, the good news of Christmas is that Jesus comes in mild humility for comfort in giving his all for us. Christ takes the ashes of our guilt and shame and bestows on us a priestly headdress; instead of mourning, we receive the oil of joy; instead of faint and doubting spirits, the mantle of praise, Eucharist and thanksgiving. 

 

By gift of saving faith God calls us “oaks of righteousness” (Isa. 61:3) because we possess that which God in eternity first “decided” to give us, his love in Christ crucified for the ugliness of our sin and unbelief. 

 

The twinkling lights, excessive gift giving, and general schmaltz which the world attaches to the Christmas season causes some to marginalize the Nativity as for children; perhaps it is, as long as we understand that Christmas is for the children of God into which relation all who choose Life are invited as he comes into in our presence Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. Amen. 

 

pem.           



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Sermon - 12/17/17
2017.12.19 14:43:34

ADVENT 3/B (2017), Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thess. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28. 

 

Way,              “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’ in the words of Isaiah the Prophet” (v. 23). 

 

JB is at a tributary across the Jordan River conducting his Baptism, probably at or near where Joshua led ancient Israel out of the desert into the Promised Land.

 

The temple High Priests and Sanhedrin elders sent a delegation to interrogate JB, consisting of priests and Levites, some of whom were Pharisees, Israel’s religious and liturgical arbiters. The delegation wanted JB’s testimony about his authority to baptize and its meaning.  They especially wanted JB to explain how he scripturally understood his place in Israel’s salvation history. 

 

The examination occurred after Jesus’ Baptism by JB and descent of the HS. At the time of the delegation JB had already registered his witness of Jesus as revealed to him by God.  JB had announced to Israel that they should “Behold” the Son of God and his sacrificial Lamb coming to his people.  Jesus’ baptismal anointing revealed Jesus to be the long expected Christ of God. 

 

Jerusalem’s religious arbiters clearly did not accept JB’s testimony thus far, and so the sending of the delegation for further examination. Concerning JB’s mission of bearing witness to the Light (Jn. 1:7), he responded to his examiners, applying Isaiah’s words to himself; he was “a voice” heralding the Lord’s arrival into Israel, the long awaited coming of its Davidic King, Servant of God, and Christ. 

 

Some 600 years earlier Isaiah was a first “voice” directing Israel’s priests and religious authorities about the Babylonian captivity.  Those priests, Levites without a temple were to assure the people that God’s anger would end; he would provide a savior and make straight paths for return out of captivity and return to Jerusalem.  

 

By Isaiah’s prophetic voice, Israel was to prepare for their coming salvation in repentance, and receive God’s promised deliverance, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins” (40:1, 2). 

 

Now many years after Israel’s exodus out of Babylon, JB responds to the Jerusalem delegation, appropriating Isaiah’s second “voice” (Isa. 40:3) for his scriptural identity, “[O]ne crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’.  JB as “voice” of God, like Isaiah of old, directed the delegation of priests, Levites, and Pharisees with a commission to prepare Jerusalem to receive God’s double Comfort in Jesus, the Christ of God who would bringing a superior Baptism in the HS. 

 

By identifying himself as “a voice” from the councils of God, the temple-Sanhedrin delegation were being directed to align with the “voice” of the Baptist from the wilderness, that all should prepare hearts in repentance for forgiveness and thereby make straight the Way of the Lord with his gift of the HS.

 

As we know Jerusalem’s religious leaders rejected their commission from JB. Instead they became implacable enemies of the Lord; and yet by rejecting Jesus they ironically made for him a straight path to the cross, the place of God’s glory for the sin of the world’s unbelief. 

 

Those who rejected Jesus as crucified Son and Lamb of God, for our comfort, meant his death for evil, but God meant it for good, even as the patriarch Joseph was a comforter as he spoke kindly to his fearful brothers who had betrayed him (Gen. 50:19-21).

 

All OT prophets including JB, proclaimed God’s revelation by stammering speech. JB was not the Light (Jn. 1:5-8) come into the world’s darkness; rather he was a witness-voice of him who is the Word-Speech of God, the clear substance of God’s light that overcomes our estrangement from the Father in our darkness.  It is Jesus, crucified and risen, who baptizes with the HS for the church’s comprehension of God’s intention toward men through his word for our full throated voice in the world. 

 

As we learned last Sunday Isaiah’s prophecy also speaks of a third “voice”, Zion (40:9), the NT church with whom the HS is given to reside in fullness.  If the Jerusalem priests, Levites and pharisaic elders intended the cross for evil, the NT church in the broken body and shed blood of her Lord receives his death as our glory in his Way.

 

JB was herald of the Word who had come into the world on Christmas Day; but Zion, Christ’s church in the Way is called to “lift up her voice with strength” the substance of God’s good news word, “Behold your God!” Jesus remains and abides with Zion as her Way.  As we are baptized into Christ with his HS we have been given Torah’s true wisdom to know and express the character and person of the Father and his will toward men in Christ. 

 

Sinful man always pits his will against God. But Jesus, the Light in our mist, urges our obedience in his Way, the way of his cross.  We recognize in our crucified Lord, the way of our new exodus out of this world’s veil of tears and bondage to death.  It is Jesus’ sacrificial death alone by which we come to the Light and Way of Resurrection new Life.  

 

In this fallen world of sinful flesh we are incapable of heaven’s demand, perfect obedience to the will of the Father and to conduct ourselves reflecting his character and holiness; yet Jesus on the cross has shown himself true man and true Israel in our place revealing the image and likeness of God. By our Baptism we daily walk in Christ.  We receive from God his gift of forgiveness of all sins.  Jesus’ sacrificial forgiveness is Zion’s Way in which she walks in union with him. 

 

The Light from Zion’s new Torah word and wisdom brings us to Jesus’ cross and Resurrection directing us to our sacramental worship in perfect purity with Christ’s righteousness reckoned as our own. By faith in the promise of Christ, we approach the glory of God in absolute safety, beholding the face of loving and tender Father toward his sons and daughters in this world, even as we are wont to fall short. 

 

When we fall short, we hear the voice of St. Paul in the church, exhorting (1 Thess. 5:16-24) us to remain in the Way; “rejoice always” in the Lord for what he has done for us and the comfort his presence provides.  We are to “pray without ceasing” knowing that the baptismal life in the Word is our on-going conversation for the Father’s wisdom in Christ. 

 

We give “Eucharist, i.e., thanksgiving in all circumstances”, trusting that in our every difficulty God intends only our good.  By all means “do not quench the Spirit”, despising or ignoring prophecy in word and preaching.  It is the Word in which the HS is active in us to repentant and receptive hearts, making straight our way as we approach the cross of Christ for forgiveness.

 

“Test everything” by the Light of the word. Every circumstance in the world creates a crisis for men.  Because we possess the Light who is Christ in us we are able to decide for or against every condition or circumstance in which we find ourselves. 

 

“Hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil.”  This is the work of God, by Word, Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Supper.  St. Paul ends his exhortation when we fall short, reminding us that, “[God] is faithful; he will surely do it” (v. 24).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Advent Schedule
2017.12.11 23:34:33

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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



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Sermon - 12/11/17
2017.12.11 23:33:33

ADVENT 2/B (2017), Isa. 40:1-11; 2 Pet. 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8  

 

Voice,           Get up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength… say to the cities… “Behold your God!” (v. 9) 

 

The 1st Sunday in Advent observed that if we would comprehend the Nativity of God in Christ, we first approach the revealed glory of God in Jesus advancing to the cross; only then do we meaningfully gaze toward Jesus’ Christmas coming. 

 

On this 2nd Sunday in Advent we endeavor to know the Babe of Christmas by JB’s proclamation from the Jordan River.  But first, let us back up almost 600 years; the prophet Isaiah was given to hear heaven’s council of God’s heart toward Israel and the coming of the Babylonian captivity. 

 

This morning we “Behold [our] God!” from the vantage of the church’s baptismal Life.  Isaiah is the first of three “voices” God commissioned to proclaim, “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1, 2). 

 

Ancient Israel was called to be “servant of God”, to bring salvation to the nations. Instead, through a series of evil kings and an idolatrous heart, Israel declared war on God, for which God would consign Israel into the belly of their own beast, the Babylonian Captivity.  Yet by Isaiah’s “voice” and message of “comfort” there was the promise of a coming new exodus and return to God in repentance. 

 

If Israel was faithless in its call to be servant, God is nevertheless faithful and strong to save. God would send a savior to Israel, who like Moses was a type of Christ in its Egyptian bondage.  Cyrus, Gentile Persian king, was Isaiah’s prophesied deliverer of Israel for release from Babylonian capture and return to the Promised Land and Jerusalem. 

 

In the fullness of time, JB was born, and after him, Jesus. JB is the second prophetic “voice” of Isaiah proclaiming “comfort” in the Coming Savior.  In today’s Gospel Jesus arrives before JB for a baptism, taking Israel’s place as God’s faithful Servant.  Israel inherited Adam’s sin nature; not able to fulfill their Office as servant of God. 

 

Jesus, true and only Son of God and sinless son of Mary’s flesh, came to the Jordan to be anointed the Servant of God and true Messiah.  In this revelation is our “comfort” from God to break sin’s cyclical idolatry and failure of sonship. 

 

This is not what God intended in the first creation, so his Word judges the wages of Adam and Eve’s warfare against God to be death and his cursing of heaven and earth. Death and curse resolve nothing; and so mankind still awaits its end, a dénouement.   

 

That Jesus is baptized to be Israel for our double “comfort” speaks to the kind of new Servant we have in Christ.  In him we begin to “Behold” the Christmas Babe; that in his innocent flesh he is come and born to be God’s Suffering Servant on account of sin; true Israel and God’s Savior.

 

JB, God’s second “voice”, “cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isa. 40:3).  In the wilderness of sin JB proclaimed a baptism of repentance to prepare hearts in humility for the coming of God’s comfort in Christ. 

 

JB proclaimed a baptism associating repentance and forgiveness, a heart felt turning away from sin’s thralldom and desire for God’s forgiveness in the Baptist’s prophetic promise (Zech. 12:10-13:1) of a coming Comforter.

 

Again, Jesus was born to suffer and die as God’s Servant for sin and unbelief. By Jesus’ Passion, his people receive the double “comfort” of God’s grace toward man.  At Jesus’ Baptism from JB in the sin-laden water of repentance, Jesus in the HS is our sin-bearer; God imputing Israel’s (our) sin onto Jesus and destining him to a righteous death on the cross. 

 

In exchange, those Baptized into Christ respond to the grace of repentant faith are imputed, not only with Jesus’ Righteousness as our own, but also receive the HS for faith, repentance, and sanctified Christian living in communion with God. God called Isaiah, JB, and Christ’s church, to be his preaching “voice” in the world.

 

By Baptism into Christ, we discern God’s double “comfort”: Christ’s Righteousness, and the HS for expressing the church’s vocation: to proclaim his Word and administer her sacraments (Isa. 40:8b). 

 

The NT church is Zion. She is the third “voice” commissioned by God to preach in these last days heaven’s double “comfort”.  We hear today from the council of God his command, “Get up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength… say to the cities… ‘Behold your God!’”

 

What then is the “comfort” that Zion preaches in “prepar[ing] the way of the Lord, mak[ing] his paths straight”?  St. Peter (2 Pet. 3:8-14) explains that the Lord is patient; not wishing that any should perish as in the day of the Flood, for Jesus is our Ark.  God desires that all come to repentance before the sudden coming Great Day of the Lord. 

 

As men count time Jesus’ second coming seems delayed; still that Day has the certainty of God’s word. On that Day the heavens and the elements of the earth will come undone, purified by Fire for the coming of the new creation begun from the Passion of Christ, even now coming into being.

 

It is the church, Zion, the Baptized, living in the double “comfort” promise of Christ present in word and Sacrament, possessing his HS given to know the heart and love of the Father by his Servant-Son crucified for us. In this knowledge, from eternity’s council of God, we are commissioned to be God’s “voice” in the world, explicating his word Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, “Behold your God!”  

 

Isaiah’s “voice” revealed the coming Christmas Babe to be the mighty arm of Him who rules; the One who brings with him both reward and recompense before him; tending his flock as a Shepherd, tenderly carrying for his lambs and holding them to his breast that none who trust his word should fear (Isa. 40:9c-11) the coming of the Lord’s hot Breath of destruction and re-creation on the Last Day. 

 

With St. Peter we trust life in the Word to maintain us in God’s grace, a life of baptismal repentance receiving Christ’s holiness and godliness by the double comfort of word and Sacrament. In this faith we reflect in the world the straight Way of the Babe attending the cross for Life in him. 

 

In the church’s cruciform Way, we humbly proclaim our knowledge of God in Christ with us. We anticipate, eagerly await, and by prayer advance that which the world fears most but does not know, the Day of the Lord making all things new.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem. 



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Advent Schedule
2017.12.06 22:41:09

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Advent Schedule
2017.11.30 22:49:50

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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



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

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

 

Lord,             “Then they will answer, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of [my brothers], you did not do it to me.’…” (vv. 44, 45).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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