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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

LENT2/B Midweek (2018): Rom. 5:1-11 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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Lent & Easter Week Schedule
2018.02.21 23:14:44

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

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


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Sermon - 2/18/18
2018.02.21 23:13:20

LENT1/B (2018): Gen. 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15


Offering,     And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!”  And he said, “Here am I, my son.”  He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (v. 7) 


Christians know the answer to Isaac’s question. This is arguably the most poignant of OT passages.  Bible translations label the Reading differently, “Abraham Commanded to Offer Isaac-KJV”, “Abraham’s Sacrifice-NJB”, “Abraham’s Ultimate Obedience-NKJV”, and “The Sacrifice of Isaac-ESV”.  All place emphasize on Abraham toward God.  


Jewish interpreters however focus, not on Abraham’s faith, but on Isaac’s voluntary acceptance of his father’s will, designating the passage, the “Aqedah”, “the Binding of Isaac”. 


In today’s Gospel, following Jesus’ rising from the waters of the Jordan, the HS immediately cast Jesus into the wilderness. Thus began Jesus’, and now his church’s journey to Passion and cross. 


Jesus’ Baptism and crucifixion accords well in terms of Isaac’s “Aqedah”; Jesus is God’s obedient Son in whom he is well pleased.  Jesus at Baptism and again at Gethsemane voluntarily accepts his sacrificial binding as Suffering Servant and Lamb of God, answering Isaac’s pregnant question, “Behold, the fire (of the HS) and the wood (of the cross), but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  


Isaac is the first singular man whom God would chastise, and so is prototype of Jesus, God’s Lamb led to slaughter as fulfillment of the Jewish Passover, by whose sprinkled blood death passes us over.


James the brother of the Lord distinguishes divine “testing” from that of “temptation”. Satan and our fleshly nature conspire to internally tempt us to sin; God, on the other hand, tempts no one, yet permits our being tested by worldly external conditions. 


Of trials and testing Scripture teaches, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5, 6). 


Jesus’ Baptism begins the new age that replaces the old aeon. It is a sea change and in it we are given to discern God’s “wisdom” (James 1:5), that Jesus is the human instrument of God who is alone worthy to oppose Satan’s claim of dominion and usher-in the new creation.   


Jesus, resurrected from the Jordan, caused heaven to be ripped open, that the hovering HS would descend on him. This event was the new creation’s beginning, the Father declaring, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.  The union of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man baptized in water and Spirit, irrevocably reunited heaven and earth after ages of distance buffered by layers of law and animal sacrifices. 


Jesus’ baptism is reminiscent of the first creation; Jesus is word of God infused into the chaotic, formless watery void, arose to receive the HS to be true man for God in the world. Immediately the Spirit cast Jesus into the wilderness as God’s champion against the Adversary claiming a bogus dominion in the world. 


But it was to Adam and Eve; man, as “son of God” (Luke 3:38b), not an angel, to whom God accorded dominion and rule on earth.  With the fall of Adam and Eve devils pretend to possess God’s authority in the world (Gen. 4:5, 6; Luke 4:5). 


Like ancient Israel, whom God also called “son of God” (Ex. 4:22, 23), Jesus reprised their forty years journey, spending forty days in the wilderness with God apart from the world.  In Baptism Jesus entered his Office of sonship, to be new Israel in place of ancient Israel who repeatedly failed to be God’s true son and servant. 


Jesus’ time in the wilderness was “training day”, boot camp in privation and testing in the Spirit. Unlike Sts. Matthew and Luke, Mark’s Gospel does not iterate the particular temptations experienced by Jesus.  It is implicit that Jesus is victorious over Satan by steadfastness of Word in asserting his Father’s rule and reign in the world, proving himself to be the man stronger than Satan (Mt. 12:29).  


Mark records Jesus with wild animals in the desert and being served by angels. The wilderness has become new Eden restored in Jesus, new Adam and Garden tender. 


Jesus departs from out of the wilderness into the world after having engaged and defeated the Adversary. Upon JB’s arrest Jesus immediately announces the dominion of man for God in the world, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).


The new aeon of the new creation has begun advanceing to the place of God’s complete victory, the “Aqedah” of Jesus lifted on the cross and giving over of the HS for man’s begetting from above.  Man, for the first time since the Fall, now receives Life freely extended from the cross. 


In Baptism Life is fully received once as gift. There is no question of earning status as child of God; still as with all weanings there entails process, our training or testing into a son’s office. 


Christians are to discern God’s wisdom of the “new Eden” from that which is truly the world’s “wilderness”. Against all appearances our “new Eden” is the place where we experience God’s chastisement in making us like his only Son.  As Jesus put it, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20b).  But in this new Eden with Jesus, we continue to the goal, participating in the church’s Eucharistic wilderness feedings (Mk 6:30 ff., and 8:1 ff.).    


If you doubt our wilderness walk in the world, you need only look to the place of God’s completed victory over Satan at the cross. Our Lenten journey advances in military march (Rev. 7:5-8) following Jesus’ forty days to the most abandoned and desolate place of God’s old creation and its termination, the “Aqedah” of Good Friday. 


There Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).  It is precisely in the crucified body of the one man, bound on the Altar of the cross’ wood where he is drained of Life’s blood and the HS’s watering for men. 


If Jesus’ binding on the cross reveals the end of the old creation; more importantly, it is the substance of our participation in God’s will and reign in the world restored by the sacrificial binding of men to God in Abrahamic faith.


In these forty days of Lent we are being formed under God’s cruciform reign and rule in Christ. God chastised Jesus not only for the sin of the world but also for our formation, that we might “remain steadfast under trial, for when [we have] stood the test [we] will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 


This then is the “wisdom of God”, that in Christ we are cast out of the world into our new Eden with Christ.  To all the world, our sojourn appears as a place to be avoided.  But for the Church it is the place where we find the presence of God who daily reforms us into the likeness of his beloved Son.


In Christ we are eucharistically nourished from strength to strength to withstand Satan’s false claim of rule enticing our still weak of flesh. Thus God permits testing in this world for our continued binding to Christ, the one faithful man.  In Christ, we are given a faith like that of Abraham that looks to a glorious resurrection in spotless flesh before God.  Amen.




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Sermon - 2/14/18
2018.02.17 14:38:00

LENT-ASH WED./ABC (2018): Joel 2:12-19; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.


Place,            “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place  [W]hen you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place…” (NKJV vv. 6, 17).


Jesus teaches his disciples how we are to pray and fast.  The church employs this Reading at the beginning of Lent and in doing so exhibits peculiar insight.  We are now fully descended from the height of Sunday’s revelation on the Mt. of Transfiguration.  Once again we are on journey with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death, the Way of the cross.    


Jesus admonishes his followers against showy displays of personal piety; yet our Ash Wednesday penitential celebration takes its name precisely from a ritual of imposing ashes designed to mar our appearance in the sight of others.    


The seeming contradiction is pure irony, driving those with legalist mentalities “round the bend”, and reminding us that in the law/grace divide of God’s word, Jesus is not with his church to command a new moral code; rather religious double-mindedness is always to be avoided. 


In working with translations it is occasionally necessary to make adjusting corrections.  Rather than the ESV Gospel text (printed in your Service bulletin) it is better to employ the language of the NKJV, i.e., Christians don’t pray or fast “privately”, “secretly”, or “in secret” apart from others; rather we pray in a place, specifically “in the secret place” of the Father.


Christian prayer is never an individual affair, even in personal devotions, we are always in communion with brothers and sisters oriented toward the Church’s altar, her Most Holy Place of physical and dogmatic “real presence” of God in Christ. 


Thus Jesus taught the plurality of prayer fellowship: Our Father… give usour bread… forgive us  as we forgive…  trespass against us  deliver us.”  As sons and daughters of the Most High God we pray according to our new identity in Christ, a baptized communion in Eucharistic unity.


In liturgical context of word and sacrament, our “secret place” is in the Body of Christ, the NT Temple (Jn. 2:21).  In this “place” it is quite impossible for repentant believers in union with the sacrificial flesh of Christ to publically parade or boast of any individual piety. 


Some of you may be practicing a personal fast of one sort or another through the season of Lent.  This is a salutary piety in Christian freedom, neither commanded nor forbidden, and as such is best kept to yourself. 


Fasting in Christ mortifies our flesh, asserting control over it, and magnifying the significance of church’s ashes, emblematic of our true condition; that we are dead apart from the Lord of all grace.  There is no boasting and no hypocrisy in either the Church’s Imposition of Ashes or in personal fasts. 


As the church gather’s at the beginning of Lent our ashes, direct us to the church’s Prayer in the Litany, “O Lord, have Mercy”, which is our one thing needful from God in Christ. 


In prayer we make our entrance into the precincts of our “secret place”.  The Liturgy of the Word directs us in Truth to our place of abiding, the Sacrament of Christ’s flesh and blood revealed to the Baptized; yet veiled and hidden to unbelievers.


Last Sunday, Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration directing our attention to another “secret place”, Gethsemane; the place from which our Lord’s Passion commenced. 


Jesus asked his disciples to remain awake as he prayed to the Father.  Promptly they fell asleep while Jesus’ blood percolated through his skin desiring that God relieve him of the wrath for sin coming upon him. 


Sleep accompanies our sin condition, doesn’t it?  “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  We arrive out of our mother’s wombs spending most of our infancy in feedings and in sleep. 


As our flesh ages and decays of vitality, naptimes increase until our bodies fully sleep in death.  All have sinned so that even the Baptized are returned to the ground from which God formed us, a dusty mattress to await the resurrection of all flesh.


Today you have entered the precincts of the church, requesting to be marked with ashes betokening our bedtime trajectory.  Death is God’s judgment on sin, promised to Adam and Eve, richly deserved by we who are their progeny from conception. 


We are like our guilty brother Cain, beseeching God’s mercy and receiving a gracious saving mark.  The mark of Cain at once declared his criminality, slayer of his brother, and betokened Sanctuary from the vengeance of both God and man.  Today Sanctuary is delivered in Baptism’s promise of salvation.    


There is no Sanctuary in the imposition of ashes; they are only a visual confession in this house of the truth of God’s justice on our sin and that which is common to brothers and sisters, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return”.


But by faith in God’s word you have entered the “room” of the Christian congregation, our secret place of prayer and of God’s manifold mercy, a Sanctuary welcoming all, yet a communion closed to all but the Baptized. 


“Your room”, does not refer to a personal “little closet”, as some translations have it, where people go to pray in the private recesses of their own hearts.  Such isolated “me and Jesus” mentality is unknown to the church’s corporate communion outside of which there is no salvation. 


The early church fathers understood the communal nature of our salvation in Christ, that we “cannot have God as father unless we have the Church as mother” (Cyprian, 3rd century Bishop of Carthage).


Baptized with the Spirit in water and word we are cleansed.  Daily (Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day) the ashes of sin’s dust and death are sprinkled with the blood of Christ crucified for our forgiveness.  In our washing and feeding, eyes are opened and hearts burn (Luke 24:32) in the revelation delivered from Christ’s household stewards. 


Jesus taught the Apostles of his NT “place”, “In my Father’s house there are many places of abode” (Jn. 14:2).  In Christ one discerns God’s new temple in the Body (Jn. 2:19).  In the “place” of our abode with God, stewards are assigned for service in the church’s many “rooms”, “mansions”, or congregations.  These stewards are your pastors and deacons you have called to deliver your Father’s blessings. 


Following the proclamatory Sermon inviting the Baptized closer into the Sanctuary’s holy place; pastoral stewards of the ancient church would call for the “doors” of the “room” to be “shut” (demissa-“mass” for short).  


Deacons would usher out the unbaptized and the catechumens for instruction in the faith.  The congregation, as a communion would then pray for these and for the world, as they were oriented in the Sacrament about to be received.


Then, as now, your stewards bring forth and deliver the bounty of this place, the crucified and risen flesh of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, the promise of resurrection, and every blessing for each in our various stations. 


This is the treasure of heaven, the holy things of the New Temple revealed to opened eyes, washed of death’s slumbering sand, and received in Eucharistic thanksgiving.  Amen.




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Lent & Easter Week Schedule
2018.02.12 22:50:33


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


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


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Sermon - 2/11/18
2018.02.12 22:36:39

TRANSFIGURATION/B (2018): 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:6; Mark 9:2-9.    


Veil,   [W]e are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.  But their minds were hardened.  For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed…  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (vv. 12-16, 18). 


St. Paul is commenting on the Book of Exodus, when Moses received the tablets of law for a second time atop Mt. Sinai.  When he descended the mountain his face shone with the glory of the Lord.  The people were afraid to look upon Moses face to face, so that whenever Moses would speak the Lord’s commands, he veiled his face (Exodus 34:29 ff.). 


Paul calls the glory, the law written on stone tablets, revealed from Moses’ face and words, a ministry of condemnation and death, even then being brought to an end (2 Cor. 3:7).  Paul favorably compares his ministry of preaching Christ to be of the Spirit and of righteousness, an exceedingly greater glory than revealed by Moses (vv. 8-10). 


Writing to the Corinthian congregation Paul warns of intruding preachers and teachers who, in his absence promote their own renown from a Mosaic glory.  It is “another Jesus… [of] a different Spirit… [and is] a different gospel” than that the Corinthian church received and accepted from him (11:4). 


Today as well, we may find ministers in congregations preaching the law’s glory, as though sinful men are able to live in accordance.  Such Mosaic ministers Paul calls ministers of condemnation and death.  Paul puts the danger and the contrast to his own ministry this way, “[T]he letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (v. 6).  


In such congregations the former glory of law and the NT gospel are hopelessly confused, each “glory” competing against the other, nullifying the Spirit’s grace.  But in Christ, “what once had glory [the law] has come to no glory at all” (v. 10); and yet by mixed preaching of both “glories” the veil of Moses continues to hide the surpassing glory of God revealed in Christ alone.


It is not that in Christ, the law is done away with; rather in light of Christ crucified for sin, the law is no longer the glory of God as for a time by the old covenant; the law in commanding obedience possesses no power to save; neither does its preaching draw us to repentance. 


At best, the law necessarily reveals our deplorable and hopeless condition apart from the grace of God who has first loved us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:19).  Law and gospel must be preached but there is no longer a glory of the law, rather glory is alone of Christ and his saving work. 


Paul is not kindly disposed toward the pastorally incompetent.  He renounces such pastors and teachers as “false-apostles” for disgraceful and underhanded ways, cunning and tampering with God’s word (2 Cor. 4:2), promoting their own or Judaizing legal notions over the singular glory of the free gospel in Jesus.  


Such ministers of the “old glory” attempt to transfer the veil from Moses’ face over the hearts and minds of men (vv. 14, 15), a “different gospel” that denies the all sufficient covering of Christ’s righteous blood.


“[I]n these last days” (Heb. 1:2) a superior, surpassing glory of the HS is revealed, that of grace and righteousness in Christ.  Only through Christ preached in the Spirit of Truth is the Mosaic veil taken away, bringing us now to revelation at the Transfiguration of our Lord. 


St. Mark mentions the brightness of Jesus’ clothing.  St. Matthew (17:2) better informs (cf. Luke 9:29); Jesus’ “face shone like the sun”.  For Peter, James, and John the veiling cloud of God’s glory is removed in hearing the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk. 9:7). 


The revelation of the Transfiguration reminds us of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-19); both epiphanies are of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Paul, on the road to Damascus, was possessed of demonic hatred toward Christ and his body, the NT church. 


Abruptly the veil of heaven was taken away, exposing Paul to the light of the incarnate Word, blinding him.  Graciously, his eyes were veiled by something like scales, until faith, wrought by Jesus’ speech from heaven and Ananias’ earthly ministry of God’s new glory, returned Paul’s sight and into the church’s life giving Baptism and Eucharist (vv. 17-19).    


Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration heard and saw translated Elijah and resurrected Moses speaking face to face with Jesus shining as the sun.  Like the Israelites of old, the apostles were terrified at glory (v. 6), for as yet they only knew the ministry of Moses that betokened condemnation and death through the law. 


Peter, from confusion, suggested a solution; an alternative covering to shield them from the glorious Light; three tabernacles, that would allow the apostles to remain in the presence they beheld. 


At the suggestion God intervened, The Cloud of heaven enveloped Jesus revealing he and the Father as one.  The Father concluded speaking and the veiling cloud was taken away disclosing the central truth of God’s glory, “only Jesus” (v. 8).  The Apostles find themselves with Jesus alone in whose flesh the NT church has her true tabernacle with the Father and the saints of heaven on the Way. 


As in the OT, the appearance of Elijah and Moses on the Mount teach and point the Way to the NT church’s only glory of grace and Spirit.  The law of Moses commands God’s people to, “be perfect as God is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).  Israel was an adulterous bride; verbally they promised God to love, honor, and “obey” (Exodus 19:8), yet incapable of reconciling their words to the Lord with their sin nature. 


In that self-knowledge, Israel required that Moses shield them from their espoused calling to fidelity and the glory of God’s holiness revealed in law.  God is who he is (holy); and we are who we are (profane).  By the law, Moses was minister of glory, but in Israel’s breach the old covenant was condemnation and death. 


But Moses was also a prophet of future hope, offering another ministry, a covenant in blood; a different glory pointing to a New Covenant.  Moses first delivered the law (Exodus 20) and then gathered the people “took the blood (of a peace offering)… took half the blood and threw it against the altar…  And took the blood and threw it on the people…” (24:6-8).  Here was the archetype preaching of unconfused law and gospel. 


On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses directs us to the NT of Jesus’ “exodus” (Luke 9:31) through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4) to be God’s “peace offering” on the cross for sin.  The sacrificial Blood of God’s Paschal Lamb on the NT altar of the cross Eucharistically sprinkles repentant hearts, unveiling the greater glory of God in Christ and “[transforming us] into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18b).    


Elijah’s presence on the Mount (whom Jesus informs is Scripture’s latter day JB, Mk. 9:12, 13) catechizes us of the necessity of Gethsemane and Golgotha to where Jesus would now descend, his apostles in tow.  Jesus is not resurrected apart from his chariot of fire (2 Kg. 2:11, 12), consumed and lifted to God’s new glory in the cross’ fiery Passion by the HS.  Elijah’s fiery exit into heaven directs Peter, James, John, and the church to our “all-sufficient sacrifice” for the sin of the world (unbelief) and forgiveness of sins.   


According to the Spirit’s ministry of grace preached by Paul in Corinth, there is but one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel completely trumping the law’s condemnation; a greater glory of grace by faith in Christ alone “apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28).  Amen.




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Sermon - 2/4/17
2018.02.07 15:26:05

EPIPHANY 5/B (2018): Isa. 40:21-31; 1 Cor. 9:16-27; Mk. 1:29-39 


Subdue,       [N]ecessity is laid upon me.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!...  I am entrusted with a commission… under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law…  I have become all things to all men…  [I]n a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize[.]  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things…  [I] do not run aimlessly… but I pummel my body and subdue it…” (RSV: vv. 16b, 17c, 21b, d, 22b, 24b, 25, 27a). 


St. Paul writes to the Corinthian church of Sparta. Spartans were possessed of a warlike ethos.  Historically male children were given over to the state for military training under harsh conditioning and privation.  In his commission to preach the gospel Paul would be “all things to all men”.  He writes of spiritual matters to the Corinthians employing the imagery of discipline, the runner and the boxer, “Every athlete exercises self control in all things… I pummel my body and subdue it…”


So also Jesus has come out of heaven, the Holy One of God, to wage war on behalf of mankind. The pummeling of his body began at his Baptism in the sin-laden waters of the Jordan.  By that immersion Jesus received his commission into his warrior calling.  There he was marked for death. 


Resurrected from the Jordan’s watery chaos Jesus was anointed with the HS to his mission and heard his Father’s approving voice and believing in the end he would be victorious over God’s enemies; sin, Satan, death, and the grave.


Last Sunday a demoniac suddenly and brazenly interrupted Jesus’ Sabbath sermon in the synagogue of Capernaum. Modernly we tend not to give credence to demon possession.  In first world countries our complacency is no doubt the result of Christianity’s mission success and historic influence. 


Still one only need look to places in the world where the church has been suppressed to see evil in the lives of benighted men and women. And if we look to our own devolving spiritual lives it is hard to deny loss of civility, love, and in public discourse an ascendant animus among men and women holding differing values and views.


In any event the profanity of a demoniac confronting Jesus in the synagogue is but paradigmatic of mankind’s problem in general, that by sin we are misshapen, unholy creatures, no longer authentically human in the image and reflecting the likeness of our Creator. We rage against the will of God in our lives and like the possessed man are hostages to an alien spiritual nature. 


“[We] do not do the good [we] want, but the evil we do not want is what [we] keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19), helpless of ourselves to change. If we are to change we must be exorcized into Jesus’ death for us.  We must become new creations by faith out of Baptism’s washing with the Word, the Holy One of God. 


By Baptism we have our new begetting from above with Christ to trust in God’s will and pleasure, and on the last day that he will raise our oft pummeled bodies in this life by profane men and death’s decrepitude.


The demoniac of Capernaum declaring that he knew Jesus’ identity, the Holy One of God, attempted to assert power over Jesus. But by “one little word” Jesus destroyed the demon consigning it to the dark, deep place, out of which it came, depriving it of the humanity on which it fed. 


The man restored to health, Jesus immediately departed the synagogue to Peter’s house, portending a movement into the NT house church in his presence, where his word would be taught, not as the scribes, but with authority (Mk. 1:22).


Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering, laid low by a fever. Jesus immediately dispatched the punishing fever as the demon earlier.  Jesus rendered the woman a fit helpmate for service among the disciples, our shared Christian vocation with the Lord. 


At sundown, the Sabbath day concluded; the town folk brought all who were sick and demon possessed to Peter’s house. Throughout the night Jesus attended to the crowd.  Exhausted from lack of sleep Jesus rose early in the morning going out to the wilderness praying to his heavenly Father, his sole reliance and source of strength.


Peter hunted Jesus down thinking he should return to Capernaum and follow-up on the previous day’s success. But Jesus was fully aware of why he had come, not only to preach the kingdom of heaven in his presence, but in doing so to also wage war.  He would go throughout Israel casting out demon usurpers of God’s rightful rule in the world, warning of judgment for those rejecting his gracious reign. 


To this mission, reclaiming contested territory from demons and those in the world aligned with them who rage against God and Christ (Ps. 2:1, 2); Jesus now invites his disciples to join his march, “Let us go on to the next towns” (Mk. 1:38a).


On his way to Jerusalem, the stronghold of those entrenched against him; Jesus invaded all of Galilee by the power of his word. In Jerusalem the death Jesus’ Baptism portended came to pass.  At the cross, Jesus trusted in God (Mt. 27:43a) to glorify his Son (Jn. 12:28; 17:5) and vindicated his mission in the Resurrection. 


At the cross Jesus our divine warrior exercised supreme self-control over his own will in favor of his Father, allowing others to pummel and subdue his sacrificial body in service to God and man; the forgiveness of sin and our new begetting for the new creation coming into being.


By Baptism in Christ we are commissioned to the law of Christ, of faith that trusts in God for all things in all circumstances. St. Paul urges us to a Spartan-like discipline of reliance on God through faith reminiscent of Isaiah, “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength… they shall run and not be weary” (40:31). 


In Christ water, blood, and Spirit cleanse us. In discipline we wait on the Lord coming out of the water to receive renewed strength and through the Baptized he is concluding his war against Satan and sin that inheres in our limbs and marrow. 


Because of who we are in Christ we practice self-control and mortify our passions. When we fail we are given repentant hearts and the promise of abundant forgiveness, and nourishment in the Body of Christ on the Way.  Amen.





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Sermon - 1/28/18
2018.01.31 23:57:03

EPIPHANY 4/B (2018): Deut. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mk. 1:21-28  


Knowledge,           [W]e know that “all of us possess knowledge.”  This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God (vv. 1-3). 


In the case of the Corinthians, to whom St. Paul writes, the particular knowledge concerned Christian freedom in eating food sacrificed to idols without regard to its effect on brothers and sisters new in the faith.


Paul is merely stating as previously, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12).  In fact, thoughtless exercise of our freedom, if it causes scandal to less “knowledgeable” consciences may be sin for failure to love.  


Christians are in the Way, which implies that we are called to grow in both the church’s confessed faith and in our faith relation in Christ. Christians are called to never-ending growth in knowing our eternal Father in Christ (Jn. 17:3). 


If for love’s sake we accommodate the weaknesses of immature Christians when exercising our liberty; we are not free to perpetuate on-going ignorance or error. These we must challenge for the sake of Truth. 


Martin Luther was presented with a laundry list of error on the part of Roman, Reformed (Calvinists), and fanatical religious divines. The Lutheran Reformation took its stand against these for the church’s true knowledge of God revealed in Christ crucified and risen.  


In today’s Gospel Jesus comes for reformation to the synagogue at Capernaum for the sake of true knowledge of God. Israel, in these last days, was ready to advance in the faith of their fathers.  The synagogue invited Jesus to give a sermonic comment at the conclusion of the Sabbath’s Scripture Readings. 


While Jesus’ teaching is not specified, we assume it to be of God’s graciousness and man’s comfort in his presence. St. Mark records only the congregation’s reaction to Jesus’ words; they found them astonishingly distinct from that taught by “knowledgeable” scribes, in both presentation and substance of message. 


The authority by which Jesus expounded the Scriptures must have brought to the congregation’s mind Moses prophecy from Deuteronomy, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (18:15). 


Soon enough, Jesus’ new teaching would bring violent reactions from those occupying the seat of Moses, the scribes, Pharisees, and High Priests; but first Jesus has provoked a truly horrible reaction from satanic realms. A man consumed and host of demons suddenly appeared in the congregation to attack Jesus’ departure from scribal precedents and tradition. 


It is opined that Satan is the most intelligent, enlightened, and knowledgeable of creatures; that, no doubt is true. It is also true that Satan desires that people remain ignorant of the one true God.  Programmatic to that end is Satan’s campaign against God by slander and half-truth, that is, by his anti-word. 


But in today’s Gospel God has raised-up Jesus, “One like Moses”, the only one to whom Israel must “listen”. In Jesus men obtain and experience true knowledge of God’s being, character, and ethic; and believing in this God alone we are remade to our authentic human identity, the image of our Creator God. 


Luther was taught by the church authorities of his day that Christ was a wrathful judge demanding what sinful men could never achieve for unity with God, perfect holiness. Until his epiphany from Scripture of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28) Luther feared and hated God whom he did not know.  But the revelation of Jesus crucified for the sin of the world is precisely the only place where the true God is made known. 


Like Luther, Israel trembled before the God taught by scribes and Pharisees. Israel sought God in Scripture but from their teachers they only “knew” a terrifying Holy God of law about whom the people said to Moses, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die” (Dt. 18:16b). 


The demon-consumed man of our Gospel suddenly appeared in the synagogue to exacerbate the congregation’s natural fear of sinful men hearing the voice of the Lord face-to-face. The demoniac asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” echoing the people’s own fears expressed to Moses.


One might inquire, just how is a demon spirit destroyed? From the facts of the case the demon was destroyed by its exorcism from the possessed man.  The demon, consumed humanity, not of its own nature, to corrupt its host and give expression in the world of its essential being of hatred toward God and men. 


Next the demon intended to enhance the fear already instilled into the congregation by declaring Jesus to be “the Holy One of God” (v. 24b).  In OT Scripture, it is Aaron, High Priest and brother of Moses who is titled, “the Holy One of the LORD” (Ps. 106:16).  But now this priestly title is on the lips of a demon to identify Jesus in his divinity face-to-face in the community of brothers. 


Holiness necessarily comes as a result of separation, of casting out that which is sinful and profane from the presence of a Holy God. While Jesus is indeed “the Holy One of God”, the implication intended from the demoniac was to increase the congregation’s fear built on legalistic traditions about God through the law as taught by scribes and Pharisees. 


But Jesus has come amongst his brothers for a new teaching of Torah’s meaning and intent; the plenary grant of forgiveness and holiness once and for all in the Voice of the One to whom men must listen. God’s plan for separating out our profanity and so being reunited in the holiness of God’s presence, comes by a new knowledge of God only finally delivered with the death and resurrection of his sacrificial Holy One . 


Devils are not permitted to dispense knowledge of heavenly things; they are wont to employ half-truth to advance their lie about God and his Christ. The apocalyptic spiritual battle between the kingdom of heaven vs. Satan’s rule in the world was now in full sway.  To the demoniac, Jesus issued a command, “phimotheti”, or “shut-up”, which according to Luther is the “one little word that fells [Satan]”  (“A Mighty Fortress is our God” s. 3).  


At Jesus’ word the demon is destroyed, forced to depart its human host; the profanity of satanic occupation was separated out of the restored man, portending Jesus’ High Priestly and gracious work of God on the cross for all men and our reunion with God in holiness.


Again from St. Paul, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Through the millennia, from the Fall into the darkness of sin, men have sought no higher value and purpose in the world than to advance in “knowledge” to attain ever increasing stages of enlightenment above and over other men.  We often accord such persons the honorific, “The smartest person in the room”. 


But with the advent of Christ and him crucified we are given to know and participate in God’s intended purpose for us from the beginning; to look, act, hear, and speak as him into whose image and likeness we have been remade, Jesus Christ, who by his High Priestly work on the cross is love (1 Jn. 4:8b).


If Satan would distort us to our destruction from an authentic human identity, consuming us in sin and rebellion; it is God, who is love in giving his Son’s crucified and risen body for our Eucharistic consumption, the author of Life and holiness with God in Christ, in the Way. Amen. 




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Sermon - 1/21/18
2018.01.22 23:12:49

EPIPHANY 3/B (2018): Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor. 7:29-35; Mk. 1:14-20 


Time,            [T]he appointed time has grown very short…  For the present from of this world is passing away (vv. 29, 31b). 


St. Paul’s warning that the “appointed time” is short dominates our Readings, including the Introit, “From the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps. 113:3) and Psalmody, “For God alone my soul waits… Trust in him at all times” (Ps. 62:1, 8).


The Readings deal with God’s urgent call to men and our response to his voice; urgency is punctuated by the efficiency of the Word in our texts.


Much to Jonah’s displeasure God commanded he deliver a precise ten-word sermon to the Assyrian Ninevites, “Yet in forty days Nineveh is about to be changed” (3:4b).  On hearing these words from the Hebrew prophet of God all Nineveh repented, with the result that God relented; judgment changed to grace.  Nineveh’s repentance, worked by God’s word, averted imminent disaster. 


Two Sunday’s ago we heard JB’s pithy sermon, proclaiming, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” with the result that all Judea and Jerusalem were being baptized and confessing their sins (Mk. 1:4, 5). 


Last Sunday Nathaniel responded to Philip’s invitation, “If you come, you will see [Jesus the promised Messiah]” (Jn. 1:46b).  Later when Jesus revealed to Nathaniel the sight of his sitting under a fig tree known only to him, Nathaniel gesticulated his confession, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (vv. 48b, 49).  The power of God’s word is such that long sermons to conversion are unnecessary, only our receptivity to what God declares. 


Today’s Gospel finds Jesus preaching near the Sea of Galilee, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14, 15).  The urgency of this sermon is unmistakable.  That evening as the Bethsaida fishing fleet was getting ready to cast-off onto the water, Jesus cast his gaze on Peter and Andrew, and then on James and John, personalizing his sermon, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17) [into my Kingdom now at hand]. 


The Ninevites, the Judean populace, Philip, Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, at God’s proclaimed word, all discerned what Paul reveals as the “appointed time”, calling men to urgent and wholehearted response at the beckon.  God comes to men for mercy and grace, or if refused, for judgment; but desiring we choose Life. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed the heir of all things…” (Heb. 1:2). 


So what is the urgency to which you and I are presented at this “appointed time”?  It is the urgency that attends the fallout from great kingdoms at war, when there is nowhere to hide but in the safety of the kingdom assured of prevailing.  God has ordained his king out of heaven, the man Jesus appointed to his hour to finally depose the pretender Prince of the World. 


On being baptized and anointed with the HS, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to confront Satan and be tested by worldly blandishments. After dispatching Satan in that initial engagement, warfare on earth was fully joined.  


Jesus, in Mark, next appears in Galilee to gather an apostolic band of brothers, precisely between his confrontation in the wilderness and exorcism of an unclean spirit in a Capernaum synagogue, portending the spiritual nature of the war of kingdoms.


All mankind is born in sin into bondage of Satan’s thralldom. At the appointed time, today, if you hear his word, men are called to transfer their kingdom allegiance, a different life than offered by a fallen and dying world. 


Jonah was called into the army of God’s word; instead he dodged and burned his draft card. God commissioned him to preach his word to Gentile religious pagans in Assyria for salvation or destruction in forty days.  Jonah, disgusted at God’s plan of universal salvation, instead ran in the opposite direction to Tarshish (modern Spain). 


In God’s warfare against of Satan one is not permitted to stand as a pacifist, morally superior or ambivalent toward God and his plan for the salvation of all men. At God’s word, one is either for or against his coming reign on earth.  Jonah, rejected God’s command marking his treason.  He was thrown into the deep, consigned to death in the abyss of the demonic. 


But God is the God of second chances, assigning a great fish to rescue from where Jonan prayed for delivery. After three days in the grave Jonah arose from his watery baptism onto shore and new obedience to travel to Gentile Nineveh, preaching God’s ten-word sermon to conversion. 


In today’s Gospel Jesus called his initial band of brothers from the Sea of Galilee to public ministry, “fishers of men”, by the power of his word and raising men out of Satan’s deep place.  God’s word catches and brings us into the boat and Light of God’s kingdom, new creations in Christ whom we call Ichthus, the church’s great fish of salvation.  


We have as examples in our new kingdom citizenship, the unhesitating enlistment of the Galilean Apostles. Peter immediately left the worldly comforts of house, wife, and occupation.  The sons of Zebedee urgently left the security of family and business opportunity with their earthly father; but with St. Paul we discover the “Apostle of a Second Chance. 


From the martyred St. Stephen, Paul heard the testimony of Christ crucified and risen; nevertheless he rejected the word to persecute the church, re-crucifying the body of Christ. While on the road to Damascus Paul bore the same anger toward God in Christ as Jonah held for God’s salvation of all men.  Jesus, the enfleshed Torah of God, spoke to Paul from heaven’s blinding Light and graciously according baptism’s second chance, new sight, and apostleship. 


Paul, like Jonah received a second chance from the God, relenting of judgment in the face of repentance. Where Jonah continued in his anger with God for his grace to Gentiles; Paul instead gloried in being “least” of brothers (1 Cor. 15:9, Eph. 3:8) and Apostle to The Gentiles. 


Paul’s gracious salvation was keen to teach Corinthian brothers and sisters to remain strong and wholly committed to Christ in the warfare underway, warning, “[T]he appointed time has grown very short… For the present from of this world is passing away.”  


Paul would have us understand what it means to find ourselves in Christ by Baptism. The activity of God in Christ crucified, and his blood and Spirit conveyed in water and word make us new creations for the new creation coming into being.  This is the sight to which Christians are called in the church’s Light. 


Paul says, “let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29b), which is to say, that as men and women in the world marry, men are wont to exercise arbitrary dominion.  In such sinful relation women desire her husband’s office and authority.  But the Baptized marry “in Christ” who is the center and fount of all sacramental forgiveness and sacrificial love that God intends for marital union in the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Men live with wives, as God loves you; and wives love their husbands as the church loves her Lord who has given his all. 


“[A]nd those who mourn as though they were not mourning” (v. 30a). Only those without hope inconsolable state at the grave.


“[A]nd those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though who they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (vv. 30b, c, 31). It is vanity to rejoice in the things of a dying world being remade to a new and better creation. 


Rejoice rather in the things of God’s abundant word with us. Consider our table prayer, “The eyes of all look to you and you satisfy the desires of every living thing”; nor should you squander your joy toward the passing stuff of the world that merely delights and appeases decaying flesh. 


You have been plucked from the kingdom of Satan who distracts on every occasion from what God has done in Christ crucified and your inheritance of all things in him as sons and daughters of God. In that Joy and those riches is our true delight and hope.  Amen. 






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Sermon - 1/14/18
2018.01.19 14:22:50

EPIPHANY 2/B (2018): 1 Sam. 3:1-20; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; Jn. 1:43-51  


See,    Philip said [to Nathaniel], “If you come, you will see” (vv. 46b). 


After Nathaniel was called into discipleship of Jesus and sometime afterward he had occasion to inquire of his Rabbi, “From where do you know me?” (Jn. 1:48).  His question was not, “How do you know me?” as often wrongly translated.  It was a “where”, not a “how”, question, “From where do you know me?” 


Nathaniel’s question was not an idle “have we met before?”; instead he posed of his new Rabbi a profound Christological inquiry into whose school he had recently been received.  


Remember Nathaniel’s concern to Philip about Jesus being Messiah; he asked a “where” question, “From Nazareth! Can anything good be from there?” (v. 46a).  Today Nathaniel has moved on from the issue of Messiah’s hometown to a far deeper concern, the true origin and identity of this Messiah from Nazareth.


Tradition has it that Nathaniel was a scribe, a Scripture scholar. Philip sought Nathaniel out and announced that he and others had located the long prophesied Messiah.  Bethlehem is associated with Messiah, but Nazareth is not even mentioned in the OT or in the Jewish Talmud commentaries. 


When Nathaniel rhetorically asked, “From Nazareth! Can anything good be from there?” he was not casting an aspersion about Jesus’ hometown.  Instead he was merely cataloguing the “where” he expected Scripture should provide. 


Jesus had called Peter, Andrew, John, and Philip into his Torah schoolroom to make them purveyors of a new revelation of God’s word being fulfilled in his person. These Apostles were now “fisher of men” beginning in Bethsaida of Galilee (meaning “the house of fishing”).  Philip in seeking out Nathaniel responded to the Torah scholar’s “where” question about Nazareth, inviting, “If you come, you will see” (46b).  


Nathaniel indeed did “come” enrolling into Jesus’ Torah school. And at this point in the account there is a full stop that separates Nathaniel’s call through Philip from his confession of Jesus’ identity, “You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” John the evangelist has telescoped Nathaniel’s call and his confession, but it is only after Nathaniel is a disciple that he asks of Jesus his second “where” question, “From where do you know me?”  


Nathaniel has “come” and he has “seen”. He was matriculating in Jesus’ apostolic school and advancing in his life’s study of Torah.  Nathaniel, the disciple approached his Rabbi, and Jesus takes occasion to accord Nathaniel special recognition, “Behold, here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (v. 47b). 


Whether Nathaniel heard this praise from his Teacher is not important since it was not to what Nathaniel was responding; rather he was approaching his Rabbi to ask his on-going Christological “where” question, seeking information beyond the precincts of Bethlehem or Nazareth. Nathaniel wanted to know Jesus’ true origin and scriptural identity. 


Nathaniel wanted to know more of Jesus; he desired an explicative of JB’s hearsay anointing pointing to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (v. 29).  Jesus responded to Nathaniel by revealing something of his omniscience, a fact known only to Nathaniel, his pre-call study under a fig tree.  At this, Nathaniel confessed, “You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel! (that is to say, God)”. 


For the disciples, Jesus’ Torah school was in full session. OT Israel had been the bearer of God’s light in the world.  In the days of the Judges, when Eli was high priest at Shiloh, he had the responsibility of maintaining the Tabernacle’s eternal light before the place of God’s presence. 


Eli had been faithfulness before God so that the prophetic word was rare in Israel. Emblematic of this circumstance was that Eli was all but blind so that his duties in the Tabernacle required the assistance of young Samuel that the light would continue-on at this place on earth.


God called Samuel into his prophetic office for the sake of his word in Israel. Eli had not been a faithful hearer of God’s word, nevertheless he was able to instruct young Samuel in the proper response of a hearer of God, “Speak YHWH because your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9b).


At Jesus’ Baptism heaven was “torn open”, the HS descending and remaining with him. In today’s Gospel Jesus called his apostolic band; at his word they “came”, “listened” and so they “saw” anew.  On the testimony of JB, Andrew and John inquired of Jesus where he was remaining, that is, the place where this Teacher mightier than the Baptist would expound Scripture in its true significance.  Jesus said, “Come and you will see” (Jn. 1:39), the same invitation employed by Philip to catch Nathaniel seeking God’s word.  


Jesus is the message and content of all Scripture, the One worthy to open Scripture’s seals (Rev. 5:9), and so the substance of his church’s proclamation in the world. The church invites, “come and you will see”, provides her sightedness in his word and our proper response to its content and Truth, “Speak Lord because your servant is listening.”


Nathaniel’s listening response by new sight was expressed by his confession of Jesus’ true origin and identity, which is of God and who is God incarnate. Nathaniel’s sighted confession gave proof to Jesus’ prior praise in the presence of others, “Behold, here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”


At Jesus’ response to, “From where do you know me?” of a sudden Scripture was torn opened to the scribe, advancing from truth to truth.  By Nathaniel’s confession that Jesus is “Son of God” and “King of [new] Israel” there is no deceit for it is the confession of the pure bride even as JB’s witness to “the Lamb of God” also bespoke new Israel’s confession.  It is these truths and their meaning at the cross and resurrection to which we invite those with questions to “Come and you will see”.


Was there a particular Scripture by which Nathaniel discerned the true origin and identity of his new Rabbi? Daniel prophesied, “[A]nd behold, with the clouds of heaven [a theophany of God] one like a Son of Man was coming.  He came to the Ancient of Days, and was brought before him.  To him was given dominion, honor, and a kingdom.  All peoples, nations, and languages will worship him.  His dominion is an eternal dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13, 14).   


Jesus would affirm Nathaniel’s epiphany that he would see “greater things” in the hearing of his word, “Amen, amen, I say to all of you [here Jesus is speaking to you and I], you will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (v. 51), which is to say, attending the enthroned Son of Man with the Ancient of Days. 


This was the scriptural revelation by which Nathaniel and we see the man Jesus, whose origin is from God, and is God, returned to the place of the Father in eternity, the Ancient of Days.


Daniel’s prophecy contained the entire sweep of God’s work in Jesus, from Nativity, Ascension, Session with the Father, Reigning in the church age, and his Second Coming. At this realization Nathaniel gushes, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel (which is the title of God!)”. 


Still veiled from Nathaniel, yet to be revealed in the Resurrection, is the “where” place of Jesus’ dominion in the Father’s glory. The church’s epiphany by the HS at Pentecost is that Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, and King of new Israel meets the Ancient of Days in clouds of heaven where he was lifted on the cross, the wounds of which is the “where” place of his church’s dwelling. 


From this place of presence in the light of Jesus crucified for men judgment occurs. Jesus, Son of Man crucified for sin, is the Truth of heaven and the vision that his disciples are given to see in listening to his word, so that we proclaim without equivocation or deceit this Jesus for all who will accept his invitation.  Amen.




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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Christmas Eve Services
2017.12.22 00:07:59

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


Regular Sunday Service: 9 a.m.

Christmas Midnight Mass: 11 p.m.


Come worship with us! Visitors are always welcome.


We will not be holding services on December 25th.


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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