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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Mid-Week Service
2018.04.30 15:36:29

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



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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