Sermon - 1/19/20
2020.01.20 01:12:09

EPIPHANY 2/A (2020): Ps. 40:1-11; Isa. 49:1-7; 1 Cor. 1:1-9; Jn. 1:29-42a


Remaining,       When Jesus turned and saw [two] following [him], he said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi”— which means Teacher— “where are you remaining?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” (vv. 38-39a).


It was not idle curiosity or an introductory ice-breaker that Andrew and presumably John the Evangelist inquired of Jesus, “where are you remaining”. The two had been attached to JB’s rabbinical school “in Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Jn. 1:28).


On hearing the Baptist’s witness, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…” (Jn. 1:29, 36) these disciples understood the directive completing their matriculation; it was time to hear Torah from Jesus, the Rabbi, the Baptist declared his superior (1:30; 3:30).


Andrew and John wanted to know of Jesus where he taught and explicated God’s word; and what it meant that they should “Behold” him “Lamb of God”; as do we today.


Jesus’ first words are freighted with a “theology of sight”, a deep-dive into Torah; Jesus responding, “Come and you will see. The new disciples were being invited, not to a physical location, as the Baptist’s proximity to water, but a journey for sightedness from Jesus’ word (Ps. 119:105; Pr. 6:23); to hear and “Behold”.


Jesus’ anointing with the Spirit in the Jordan was momentous for salvation history; God had effectively removed old Israel as his ethnic servant-son (Ex. 4:22) ordained “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:6).


Old Israel had been peculiar among the nations, but over the centuries failed its vocation, succumbing to ways with the world; becoming unfaithful, disobedient, and idolatrous blind guides. Old Israel was defrocked, and with Jesus’ Baptism by JB replaced in its office as servant of God.


For this new regime, JB preached conversion and “repentance”, not that Jews’ return to repristinated “business as usual” under the Old Sinaitic Covenant; rather John called for radical turning to receive God’s “beloved Son” and new Servant; a putting off of the old and putting on the new (Isa. 49:3, 6).  


That Jesus is “Lamb of God” bespeaks that he is content of a New Covenant (42:6c) sourced in true obedience, ultimately in laying down of his life, an atoning sacrifice for the world’s unbelief (“the sin of the world”).


One may not parse Jesus’ anointing with the HS and his handing-over the Spirit from the cross (Jn. 19:30b, 34); the two events are a singular Baptism, once prophesied from Mt. Moriah.


Genesis chapter 22 describes what is called “Sacrifice of Abraham”; but for Jews it is “Akedah—Binding of Isaac”; one emphasizing Abraham’s faith, the other Isaac’s willing obedience.


Both are a correct understanding; even as the Father’s bestowal of the Spirit in the Jordan is part and parcel with Jesus handing-over the Spirit with water and blood from his body.


We are sinners by nature, enemies of God, incapable of willing or doing any good thing than self-love. Our nature determines what we will and what we do. From this human condition Jesus by the power of word, invites men to conversion of faith preached by the Baptist; and for all who seek discipleship the promise is, “Come and you will see.”


There is only one solution to mankind’s intractable unbelief and doubt. Only death and its grave will rid; full stop! That too was promise, “in the day that you eat of [the fruit] you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17).


Sin came to all by one man, Adam (Rom. 5:12); Jesus at his Baptism is Son of Man and New Israel ordained to die for all that all might be one in him, faithful Son in whom alone there is the Life, death cannot contain.


As concupiscence’s sin infected the world; so, salvation by belief and Baptism into Jesus’ death introduced the HS’s new begetting (Jn. 3:7). By faith imparted in word and water we share in Christ’s death for the church’s evangel life.


The death we endure in Baptism is not merely death if our nature; but a participation in the one and only death that is utterly obedient to God’s will, the death of the Lamb, our Baptizer in the HS for following in a resurrection like his.


Sts. Andrew and John by following Jesus began the church’s great evangelistic enterprise. JB was “friend of the Bridegroom”, Jesus’ best-man (v. 29), whose preaching intended old Israel to respond as betrothed in the NT possessing the light of Christ by the Spirit; knowledge of the Father and his Son (17:3).  


Baptism puts us on the way to follow Jesus, who is eternal Torah of God. Seeking and following him we hear and see by light that instills faith unto faith in the Lamb having put sin and death to death (Gen. 3:15b).


Andrew and John inquired of Jesus, “where are you remaining?”; it was a good first question; yet it held a tension about the “place” of Jesus. His journey would conclude, not at Jerusalem’s temple, but outside, on the cross.


On journey to death Jesus continued to teach which would only be comprehended in the Resurrection. Today by Baptism, Jesus becomes by word preached, taught, and sacrament.


As disciples of Rabbi Jesus, every day we follow him anew for sightedness. Jesus, the “adekah” bound to his Father’s will, by Baptism makes us sons and daughters of the bridal chamber (Lk. 5:34) and so of Abraham’s faith and spiritual seed.


We “behold” the “place” of Jesus’ “remaining”. Over apostolic concern about his imminent death, Jesus assuaged; they would only be without him for a “little while” (13:33, 14:19) during his incorruptible Sabbath rest in the grave (Ps. 16:10).


Jesus explained about his church’s Torah school, “In my Father’s house are many rooms”; by going to death he prepared “a place” for them (Jn. 14:2). That place is our communion in his slain and risen flesh “remaining” with the Father and the Spirit, God’s glory.


In this communion we “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin the world”, seeing what was hidden and now found (Jer. 29:13, 14a). Seeking the place of his “remaining” we hear God’s enfleshed word in whom we, in turn are heard by God to know him face to face, the One who kills us in Christ to make alive (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kgs. 5:7). Amen.




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Sermon - 1/12/20
2020.01.13 15:59:15

BAPTISM OF OUR LORD/A (2020): Ps. 29; Isa. 42:1-9; Rom. 6:1-11; Mt. 3:13-17


Righteousness,               John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (vv. 14, 15).


What does it mean that both John and Jesus “fulfill all righteousness”?  John was endued with prophetic power; yet as last OT prophet he was not fully read-in to God’s end time program of salvation (Mt. 11:3).  Jesus remarks, “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than [John]” (v. 11).  Kingdom greatness lies in being baptized into a death like Christ, and dead to sin (Rom. 6:3, 4), enlightened in the wisdom of the Resurrection.   


JB called Jews, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2).  No doubt the visual was off-putting; a boisterous man in camel hair subsisting on roasted bugs.  And yet “all Judea” (v. 5) responded, even Jerusalem’s religious elite (v. 7); what was it about his message that drew? 


The capsulate message of God’s prophets in every age warns of man’s mire into faithlessness idolatry. In Baptism we seek repentant hearts captured by something or someone other than Jesus; preoccupying our thoughts and delight; claiming our interest and loyalty for a contrary service; and generating fear or ennui.


Sin is not principally about morality, as some would have it; rather immorality is the false worship of another god, by which the nominal “Christian” has “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) than the One elected by God (Isa. 42:1, Mt. 3:17).


Isaiah established JB’s bona fides (Isa. 42:3; Jn. 1:23); the people and religious leaders dared not ignore God’s imminent arrival and an urgency for spiritual conversion through John’s baptism.


Every Israelite hoped for the Lord’s coming, bearing on his shoulder the government of heaven and earth; whose Name itself would be divinity, “Wonderful-Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). 


John’s preaching kindled remembrance of Israel’s first communion with God, face to face, on Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:9-11). Implicit in his preaching was the culmination of Israel’s historic faith and practice.  Pointedly, JB did not direct the Jews to their temple, its priesthood and sacrifices for making one presentable in the presence of the coming King. 


Instead JB invited Israelites to something new; a washing reminiscent of their exodus out of Egypt and entry through the Jordan into the Land; a re-dedication of putting-off idolatrous accretions by conversion to God’s new Servant.  


Jesus’ coming would replace old Israel to be God’s New Israel; the old-time religion no longer sufficed for means of heaven’s gracious access to earth. First, it was necessary that “all righteousness be fulfilled” at which old Israel failed by playing the harlot in an idolatrous world.  Together John and Jesus would occupy new offices for ushering-in “all righteousness”; Herald and Redeemer of God’s salvation.    


Unlike Gentile nations, OT Israel was a peculiar people. God said to Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son… Let my son go that he may serve me” (Ex. 4:22, 23).  Israel came out of captivity as son, to be a “redeemer” and blessing to nations, proclaiming God’s “righteous” salvation, releasing from idolatry, and reconciliation in revealing his gracious intention toward men. 


The world is filled with idol worship. Without putting-on too fine a point, all sin is sourced in self-idolatry that services our flesh charging an obeisance for the things of the world. 


Israel was to render fidelity to Mosaic Torah as means for leading the nations out of idolatry, lusts, and violence; and turning to God revealed in his Law. Instead Israel became as the nations, faithless and worse, shaming God in bearing his Name.  Old Israel failed its mandate to establish God’s “righteous” Presence in the world. 


Centuries earlier YHWH gave Israel notice of their discharge for failure in its divine office. In place God would anoint the Virgin’s firstborn son (Isa. 7:14) New Israel and Redeemer in her flesh, to do “all righteousness” of the Father’s will for man’s salvation. 


Isaiah prophesied of Christ, “And now the LORD God has sent me, and his Spirit. Oh, that you had paid attention to my commandments!” (48:16d, 17, 18a); also, “I have called You in righteousness… I will give You as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations (42:6). 


With Jesus’ Baptism we behold the change’s fulfillment; a New Covenant, good news for Israel’s infidelity; and by JB’s absolution for restored faith, revelation of our new Torah Teacher whose lessons converge at the cross; the sign-post of its content, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.


Still, at the moment, John does not comprehend Jesus’ command for Baptism; what repentance; what conversion of God’s Chosen? Certainly, there cannot be personal conversion; Jesus is the Righteous One, the One to whom others must be converted come for anointing as God’s New Israel and Servant. 


But this is precisely the point, unlike the John’s baptism of others, Jesus’ Baptism is rather an ordination into Office, standing in our place and bearing before God the sin of the world.


Jesus directed JB they “fulfill all righteousness”.  How; up and over the hill there was the temple, where on the Day of Atonement, its high priest offered sacrifice for sin.  On that Sabbath month he that entered the temple Holy of Holies, heaven’s sanctuary.


Two goats were stationed at the Altar of Sacrifice; one killed for the priest’s sins, its blood brought into the cloud of incense in the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat and floor. The priest then returned to the Altar of Sacrifice, laid hands on the second goat transferring the sins of the nation.  The Scapegoat was sent into the desert, savaged by beasts; so too Jesus as New Israel was “driven” into the desert (Mk. 1:12, 13).


JB was born into Israel’s OT priestly line (Lk. 1:5, 8, 9); yet standing in the Jordan was counter-point against the temple priesthood. When Jesus, over John’s objection, directed his Baptism, JB entered his ordination to the high priestly mantle; transitioning to God’s New Covenant.  Henceforth the God’s covenant with Israel would exist, not in the blood of bulls and goats, but the sacrificial blood of his righteous Lamb.  


Thus, Jesus describes JB, “more than a prophet” (Mt. 11:9), a participant in “all righteousness”.  JB anointed Jesus: Christ of God, New Israel, New Sacrifice; in the Resurrection destined to be New Temple and High Priest through whom Christians now offer their sacrifice of Thanksgiving.  By Baptism we are attached to Jesus’ blood and death for a priesthood of “all righteousness”, an atonement from faithless idolatry.  Amen. 




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Sermon - 1/5/20
2020.01.06 23:43:35

EPIPHANY/ABC (2020): Ps. 72:1-15; Isa. 60:1-6; Eph. 3:1-12; Mt. 2:1-12


Mystery,     [T]he mystery of Christ that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise… through the gospel… made known… through the church… (vv. 4b, 6, 10b, transl., T. Winger). 


The Epiphany of Our Lord is “Gentile Christmas”, the thirteenth day after the Nativity, recapitulating the season and emphasizing God’s salvation for all. Today we reflect on the light of God entering the world’s darkness that men might know “the mystery… kept secret for long ages” (Rom. 16:25).  


There was a problem between Jew and Gentile. God called Israel out of Egyptian captivity to be his “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22) possessed of his light for redemption in the world (Isa. 49:6, 7); yet Torah from heaven only conveyed the mystery in muted types, veiled throughout the OT, not face-to-face (Ex. 33:23). 


With the birth of Jesus, the veil was pulled away to reveal the mystery (Col. 1:27); the Babe, Son of God of Mary’s flesh now God’s Torah light previously through Moses.  


Christ, out of heaven, was “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16c; Mt. 2:2; 27:37) that Gentiles not be overwhelmed by heaven’s light in the person of the Babe.  God is considerate of man’s frailty, revealing his glory consistent with the humble estate of our condition, residing as we do in the dead of darkness (Lk. 2:8).


Christmas is of the Jews who, like temple prophet Simeon, anticipated Messiah’s promised coming and later witnessed by JB as one greater bringing a New Priesthood, an all sufficient atoning New Sacrifice in a New Temple according to a New Covenant (Jn. 1:15; 29, 36; Gen. 22:8, 14).


The Babe came to Israel “like a thief in the night” a manner in which he will come again fully manifesting the mystery (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15).  Ironically it was Gentiles following a Star who first announced to Jerusalem the arrival of the Jewish “King” on the doorstep.


Earlier the field shepherds betokened the gospel office of the Babe. Suddenly, with “shock and awe” they were confronted by the reflected Light of the Babe’s angelic army singing heaven’s proclamation.


The angels directed the Jewish shepherds, speaking peace in the Babe’s name; “Fear not” (Luke 2:10) they said to reveal God’s disposition toward men in a beastly world without heaven’s direct Light. 


Jew and Gentile share this: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  Sinful man has come to prefer the darkness of his ignorance to God’s hidden Light for long ages; still the gospel delivery from the shepherds is for man’s release, encouraging all who will hear, “Fear not.”


Gentiles mistrust Torah as parochial; Jews reject that grace is for all apart from the law, failing to comprehend the mysterious content of their own Scripture. Of course, the shepherds only marginally comprehended the midnight revelation; still heaven’s Light impels to more fully behold God’s peace with his church as with Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51b).  


Some two years following Jesus’ birth, magi arrived in Bethlehem. Contrary to modern translations, these were not “wisemen”; quite the opposite, the “magoi” were ignorant and considered fools by the Jews enlightened by Torah from Moses. 


The “magoi” were Chaldean sorcerers and necromancers steeped in devilish arts.  They were the epitome of all the Jews despised about Gentiles.  You might well imagine the Jerusalem priests and scribes as utterly non-plussed at the prophetic news of their King’s arrival from “magoi” of which they were unaware.    


Still by the grace of heaven’s Light these Magi were directed, perhaps informed of Jewish prophesy leftover from Daniel’s term as Magoi headmaster during Judah’s captivity in Babylon (Dan. 2:48).


Knowledge of God is the gift of the Father and wisdom is of the HS, whether to St. Peter confessing Jesus’ true identity (Mt. 16:17) or to idolatrous and superstitious magi; and so, these long-riders from the East followed the Child’s starlight.


The Magi reasoned the new Jewish king’s birth would occur in their capital city, Jerusalem; once there, they needed expert directions to learn of Bethlehem-Ephrathah. Refreshed by Scripture the Magi continued following the Star to its source, to behold Christ, the mystery hidden for long ages. 


We pray for those who avert their eyes from the Light, refusing God’s grace and truth in Christ, source of the church’s existence. By word and sacrament, the Church catholic is engrafted into Christ crucified, our Jewish Branch and God’s New Israel remnant.  St. John describes our Baptism, “he is in us and we in him” (14:20, 17:23). 


The Epiphany proclamation is that the Babe’s Jewish lineage of itself is insufficient locator of God’s salvation. Jesus was born not merely “King of the Jews”; rather in the Resurrection he is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16); so that all enter into Abraham’s righteousness by faith, God’s sons and daughters not subservient to God’s law but oriented by it.


We, Jew or Gentile, like the shepherds and the magi are on journey in the Way of God’s light in Christ. Christians constantly ponder his word, the Psalmist calls, “a lamp unto [our] feet” (119:105).  Enlightenment begins, not with “wisemen”; but in gifted wisdom from above by which we have faith and so, “fear of the Lord”.


Christian joy in the Light contrasts with those who prefer this present darkness. Antipathy toward the Light is inexplicable, yet today’s Gospel well expresses the conundrum, “When Herod the king heard [of the birth], he was shaken and all Jerusalem with him…” (Mt. 2:3).  


Herod’s rage toward the infant King, from magi naïveté, resulted in the murder of the Bethlehem’s Holy Innocents, counted as “holy” for the sake of the Babe in whose stead they died, anticipating the church’s Baptism of infants into Christ’s all sufficient blood from the cross.


For “men with whom God is pleased” (Lk. 2:14) Christ’s humility coming into our flesh conveys God’s love.  By the mystery, the secret for long ages revealed in the Nativity, none need fear God’s intractable law; Jesus having born the penalty for us. 


Unlike Torah published on stone tablets, the church’s Torah mystery is written in the crucified and risen flesh of Christ, eucharistically engrafted into you, the place of our New Temple worship, the church’s mass. Our worship begins with Baptism and continues in our Communion of thanksgiving excising heart-flesh sin accretions for treasuring the mystery. 


On the eighth day of Jesus’ birth a Jewish rabbi circumcised his flesh according to law; on the cross a Gentile spear circumcised his heart out of which living water flows (Jn. 7:38), the content of God’s grace for all. Amen.





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Sermon - 12/29/19
2019.12.29 18:02:16

CHRISTMAS 1/A (2019): Ps. 111; Isa. 63:7-14; Gal. 4:4-7; Mt. 2:13-23


Cries,            [B]ecause you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who cries, “Abba, Father” (v. 6).


St. Paul selects a word, “krazon”, to describe the Spirit’s work in Christians coming before the Father; a shriek from the heart. The image is that of van Gogh's painting, “the Scream” or Michael Corleone’s contorted face at his daughter’s killing meant for him (Godfather III).


Our cry before God registers a communion of pathos with God’s impassionate nature but elected of old to enter our pain in the passion of Christ.


You get the point, baptismal sonship into Christ evokes within us not only faith but deep lamentation over sin, a simpatico with the Father’s heart; God is nether rationally removed toward our tribulations nor distant from our pain and loss on account of sin.


How have we come to cry out in grief, “Abba, Father”? Well, baptized or not, heaven’s warfare against evil, victorious on the cross, is not yet fully concluded. In these end-times we subsist in flesh born of rebellion, a world ruled by cosmic powers, and administered through complicit earthly princes.  


At Christmas “midnight” mass, we observed that the world celebrates a “happy time” for a day but ignores and misconstrues the heft of the season. On this First Sunday after Christmas the church confronts the underlying heft of our Nativity joy; the world’s enmity toward God and Mary’s Babe described:


“Then Herod… became exceedingly enraged, and he sent and did away with all the children who were in Bethlehem and all its district—from two years of age and younger… Then what was spoken though Jeremiah… was fulfilled, ‘A sound in Ramah was heard, weeping and much mourning, Rachel lamenting her children; and she was not willing to be comforted because they are not’” (Mt. 2:16-18).


The church’s Christmas joy acknowledges God’s response to Rachel’s lament over her children in Mary’s Babe. Let’s back-up a second. Sin breeds ignorance. If we despise or disrespect our neighbor it is because we are, not only ignorant of his plight, but in all probability hold him in contempt for failing to acknowledge our “superiority”.


Such intolerant self-righteousness is pervasive throughout all aspects of life; not the least, man’s despise of God and the desire to be rid of his king. In the endeavor we are willing to destroy the Holy Innocents. Thus, does sin’s ignorance of God feed a cascade into the abyss.


Against our posture Jesus commanded, “first take the plank out of your own eye” (Mt. 7:5); later prescribing the antidote to a further descent into sin, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:3). It is the revealed knowledge of God in Christ by that trumps sin’s ignorance.


Through “Rachel’s” lament for her children at the hands of those pursing the Babe into Egypt, as Pharaoh pursed God’s son Israel out of Egypt, we reflect upon the heart of God from old, “For [YHWH] said, ‘Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely [at my covenant kindnesses]’ so he became their Savior. In all their anguish he had anguish (Isa. 63:8, 9a).


It is the essence of God’s love that in Christ he enters into the hash and chaos of our sin to bear us up in the dual wings of reciprocating lament. On occasion children of the church refuse God’s comfort; sometimes in grief lashing out, even accusing God the cause of travail or failure of presence.


But God by the promise of Immanuel is present for our comfort; yet the world trivializes that God takes on our anguish as his own, opting for a “happy time” day that ignores the looming cross at Jesus’ birth; God’s anguish for our comfort.


For the world and many “Christians” the “happy time” day Christmas has ended; the lighting and accoutrements re-packed in boxes for another twelve months, and gifts being returned in exchange for things we really desire.


But the things of our anguish are not ameliorated by a singular “happy day”; they continue to hang, albatross-like about necks; refusing the comfort of God’s presence, who has not packed up nor left “Rachel” bereft.


Those whose hatred of God attempt, by violence to snatch his kingdom from us (Mt. 11:12); still Christ remains, the Crucified One, with his church. By Immanuel, God with us in word and Sacrament we come to ever-increasing knowledge of him who saves, “in his love and in his pity he himself [redeems his people and… [carries us as] … the days of old” (Isa. 63:9b, c).


We are saved by faith through his covenantal faithfulness; so also we have Life in the knowledge that he is our God, not only in “happy times”; but as Christ is joined with “Rachel” and her children who suffer and by the Spirit are sons and daughters crying for comfort, “Abba, Father”. Amen.




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Sermon - 12/24/19
2019.12.29 18:00:38


CHRISTMAS-MIDNIGHT/ABC (2019): Ps. 96; 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)


God binds himself to us in water, blood, and Spirit. Perhaps as children a Godparent spoke our baptismal assent to the verities of the catholic faith; still as appropriate to guardianships, Satan and his ways were renounced.


Baptism’s new begetting reverses a former allegiance with sin and “The kings of the earth [who] set themselves, and the [heavenly] rulers [who] take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Ps. 2:2); Baptism enrolls into another registry.


At birth we inherited alignment into rebellion against our Creator. By God’s action in water and word we are restored to the bond of intended sonship, freed from rule of the “prince of this world”.  


So pervasive was our align with Satan, that apart from God’s intervention we were incapable of effecting, or even desiring release. We were born into Adam’s flesh destined to powerful enthrallments against the Lord.


In our nature we are no better off than those people enslaved by Pharaoh. God sent Moses, though a Hebrew, a man outside themselves for rescue. Likewise, God sent Jesus, a man like us in all but sin out of heaven for rescue.


In light of our subjection to spiritual rulers, powers, and “kings of the earth” today’s Gospel reference to Caesar’s census is ironic. On the eve of Jesus’ Nativity, mother and Child were recorded as belonging to Caesar.


On birth, Jesus out of heaven fully engages all men under the axis of the world, flesh, and “powers”; in the words from St. Paul, “[God’s]… Son… born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4b, 5a).


Later, Jesus on the cross burst the cords of sin and the righteous demands of the law for our death, inviting release and a new allegiance in cords of the Father’s love.    


Like Israel’s wash through the Red Sea, Baptism releases from sin’s bondage, spiritual rulers, and worldly authorities. Baptism is God’s powerful Speech in the water, commanding all captors, “Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Ex. 9:1).


On the Child’s birth, his angelic host echoed the command, countering Caesar’s registration of men by proclaiming the Babe’s superior authority and word, whose “name is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), “Savior”, “Christ”, and “Lord” (Luke 2:11).


Seven hundred years earlier, Isaiah prophesied of the virgin born Child’s superiority: he is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6), of whose government every other allegiance must be renounced.


Today we look about; the world, whatever its motives, declares this day an amalgamated “happy time”; well I guess so, but Christmas does not belong to lounge singers who peddle vapid happy tunes. It is, in the church’s mass, where we recall that the Nativity is God’s long-awaited solution to man’s worldly struggles that do not disappear in a day.


The Nativity is not a day; it is a season in context that the Babe comes amid worldly hatred. This will be made clear next Sunday when Herod and all Jerusalem are distressed at the Child’s coming rein.


Not only will they endorse Jesus’ death by the slaughter of the “Holy Innocents”, but their new born king will be killed at the precise place where we greet God’s sorrow on the cross, who by nature is above human sorrows (this is a great mystery).


On Christmas Day, the church makes the introduction of us to our true God, not only for a season but finally wrapped in the Passion of his Son’s abandon and the Resurrection. Given the push and tug of allegiances, St. Paul expressed our problem and God’s “dolorous” at our condition, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15).


Baptized to God’s holiness, we nevertheless remain under the world’s sway; from the beginning of sin our roots were planted in corrupt soil. With Adam’s fall we were separated from the Bread of angels (Ps. 78:25); consigned to food from a cursed ground through our own efforts, so at the end of days we breathe our last of the dust from which we came.


But St. Paul assures the antidote, the power of Baptism, justifying us in the blood of Christ and “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions… in the present age.”


With the Nativity, a great Light has entered our darkness. The Babe, swaddled and lying in a manger is revealed to be heaven’s Bread for men who, under Satan’s thrall had become beast-like. Of this Bread we acclaim with angels, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, who is greater than all “rulers and authorities”.  


By the power of their acclamation on Christmas night, the Babe calls us to what we cannot do of ourselves, a new enrollment by the HS into his host; to receive his name in a new begetting by water and word, participate in the Babe’s victorious warfare at the cross, the place of atonement for the sin of the world and true worship of God.


On this day, after brief hiatus, “the Gloria in Excelsis” returns to the church’s mass, which gives us pause to inquire, “Who are those upon whom God’s favor rests?” Certainly, the believing shepherds, Joseph, Mary clasping her treasured son, and later worshipping Gentile magi; thus, the end of the Christmas season.


But today, as the Babe is received in faith to be “God with us” by his improbable coming; so we who improbably receive him in word and Sacrament according to his command, are those upon whom God’s favor rests.


Think of what renunciation “gives up”. In Christ we deny all authority and strength over our own righteousness, concupiscence, and sanctity. We make no “decision for Jesus” because we are unable to do so apart from qualification, condition, or vain hearts that, by sin always stands contrary to the will of God.


Of God’s unmerited grace, Jesus would concur with his and our Father, “[N]evertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39c). The incarnation’s union of God and man has been fully executed on the cross for our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father for all who believe and are baptized.


On the cross Jesus was bound to serve God in a deserted environment; and like Him whom the Father raised to life, we are joined to be the expressions of his counsel and good works in the new creation coming into being by word and Sacrament. Amen.




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Sermon - 12/22/19
2019.12.22 19:55:58

ADVENT 4/A (2019), Ps. 24; Isa. 7:10-17; Rom. 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-25


Genesis,      Now Jesus Christ’s genesis was of this sort… spoken by the Lord… “Look, the virgin will be pregnant, and she will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel” (vv. 18a, 22, 23).


Jesus’ virgin birth speaks to the miracle of inceptive new creation; a new man whose genesis is “in the beginning” (Jn. 1:1) by the HS in the flesh of Mary.


The Christmas Babe enters his office of new man come to be bridegroom with a new woman minted out of his crucified side, the church which is “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20) and progenitors of a new and faithful population to God.


Jesus’ birth culminates the faith and righteousness of Abraham to Joseph, son of David, husband to Mary. In Christ is Abraham’s human righteous reckoning by faith united with God’s own Righteousness as incarnate word come into the world’s besetting darkness.


In our Sermon last Sunday, we noted Simeon’s temple prophesy, that the Child had come for salvation and judgment in revealing hearts by the sword of his word (Lk. 2:34,35). Today’s psalmody (24:8, 9) explains: he is the “king of glory, strong and mighty… in battle”.


The Babe comes out of heaven to enter the citadels of man’s rebellion, that their ancient doors be lifted for the king’s business of converting hearts or judgment on those who reject or doubt his word and presence (cf. Ps. 2).


Scripture describes Joseph as a “righteous man” in the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy. He desired to obey the law of Moses in a compassionate way. The problem is, there is no compassion in the law’s demand requiring excommunication with “extreme prejudice” for a married woman’s infidelity.


The OT church did not tolerate faithless sexuality intended for God’s gift of life within the marriage between believers. Joseph was confronted with a dilemma; he decided to resolve by a compromise with the law. He would secretly divorce Mary, probably returning her dowry and forgoing the bride price; how nice.


As well-meaning as Joseph’s “compassion” may have been, he nonetheless was ignorant of the injustice about to descend on Mary, his and her family, and the extended community. Furthermore, it was doubtful his plan would accomplish its intended purpose of covering shame on all concerned. In the end his plan was neither obedient, nor compassionate, nor just against Mary’s innocence!


The evidence against Mary was grounded in “irrefutable” biological evidence of her pregnancy; but more importantly her presumptive guilt was contradicted by God’s word of seven hundred years earlier spoken to another son of David.


King Ahaz refused to obey God who directed him to ask for a sign of grace during Judah’s war-time dilemma against northern Israel. God, nevertheless delivered a sign “high as heaven” (Isa. 7:11b) in judgment; but, for future generations that sign would arrive for salvation from ignorance and injustice of sin, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel” (7:14; Mt. 1:23).   


In a fallen world, absent revelation, human reason stumbles in darkness; we are not equipped for heaven’s Truth from the one for whom all things are possible (Mt. 19:26). Joseph would have to be enlightened of God’s “virgin” sign by angelic revelation, “do not be afraid to take into your home Mary, your wife, for the child that has been begotten in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20b).


Ahaz disbelieved God’s revelation and sought resolution to Judah’s dilemma of his own devising for which he was judged evil. But Joseph by the same word put aside his plan of reconciling God’s law through human “compassion”.


Rather, Joseph believed the angelic proclamation of the virgin Babe sign. It remains two nights from now, for “those with whom [God] is pleased” (Lk. 2:14b) to await the Light and join heaven’s explosive song of joy, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” to Immanuel.  


Sinful man might discern something of God’s holiness from afar, but must despair of knowledge or participation in it, which is a consuming fire. This was the conundrum feared by Ahaz and Joseph confronted by a gospel word, that previously required Moses to veil his face on preaching to a people unable bear the sight of God’s emanated holiness in Truth and Spirit.


The Nativity begins God’s great revelatory unfolding for the church’s participation in Immanuel’s holiness, by lineage, prophecy, naming, and titles. The unveiling of God with us begins by establishing the Child’s name, “son of David”, “Jesus”, and “Immanuel”.


On the day of his Nativity Jesus, received from heaven one more excellent title after another in joining him with his church as Immanuel, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6c). In these excellent names the church participates in the Light of heaven.


Apart from the Transfiguration, the Child’s light would subside in condescension of his humanity. However, at the proper time Jesus would begin to reveal God’s light in the land where Israel’s judgment into darkness was rendered, the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isa. 9:1, 2; Mt. 4:12-16).  


From Galilee’s darkness we will travel with Jesus in the coming year to the place of his exultation and final naming, the Father’s “Crucified Lamb”, “slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).


On that day we stand before this Lamb either having trivialized the Child or made a place for him as “king of glory” within our rebellious ancient doors. Amen.




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Sermon -12/15/19
2019.12.16 15:33:56

ADVENT 3/A (2019), Isa. 35:1-10; Jas. 5:7-11; Mt. 11:2-15


John/Elijah,          For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (v. 14).


The OT’s final prophetic word is about JB as God’s end time Elijah, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers… and children… lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:5, 6). 


JB is central in Advent. Unless we grasp his identity and mission (cf. Luke 1:16, 17) we risk missing Messiah come in our midst.  We may not marginalize JB’s significance in a rush to the Nativity, lest we come to the Feast unprepared, precisely the point of Advent.  God does not spring salvation on blind and dull men; he always gives us notice.


We don’t usually associate Christmas with judgment; still forty days after birth, Jesus was dedicated to God in the temple. Every other firstborn male infant was presented to God but sacrificially redeemed (Ex. 13:1, 2, 13; Num. 18:15b, 16); not so Jesus!  On Jesus’ presentation, Mary’s firstborn remained unredeemed* belonging to God, to be the law’s prescribed sacrificial Lamb for redemption of all men. 


In the temple Simeon prophesied to Mary, picture of the NT church, about men’s acceptance of her Babe and of judgment, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword will pierce your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2:34, 35). 


Judgment necessitates fair warning of the Babe and Israel’s need to “turn… to the Lord” (1:16); or as Isaiah put it, “prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3; Mt. 3:3; 11:10). 


JB, the end time Elijah, went before Jesus’ face in the power of his preached word converting arid and corrupt hearts coming out of their wilderness for receiving heaven’s “green wood” (Lk. 23:31), the Babe come for salvation and judgment.


The Nativity requires response; what do you think of the Babe, not so much in terms of doctrine, but relationally?  Is the Child your only Lord, God, and Redeemer without whom you have no purpose of life; or is he more the chubby cherub of a seasonal greeting card? 


Hearts are revealed relationally, aren’t they? If we love spouses, children, friends, and teachers we share our time and thoughts with them; thus, the church has always had difficulty with “Christmas & Easter Christians”, those not importantly involved in the life of the congregation other than the season’s pageantry, material excess, and a faux singing, “Joy To the World”. 


Still, even the most faithful Christians, more than we like to admit, confront doubts about the hidden ways of God in Jesus’ crucified reign so offensive to human reason. On terms of man’s rebellious nature, Jesus must be disqualified from being God, requiring that we continually turn hearts for knowing God in the manner of his coming (cf. Jn. 3:16).  By rejection, doubt, or reception of the Babe by a faith contrary to reason, the “thoughts from many hearts” are revealed either for judgment or salvation.  


Today’s Gospel directs us to JB, imprisoned by Herod Antipas having preached against public adultery. As the last and greatest OT prophet JB received the HS, not as in Jesus’ Baptism, but episodic and partial measure.  Imprisoned, JB was epitome of the deaf and blind whom Isaiah prophesied would experience release at Messiah’s coming (35:5, 6). 


From his cell JB could no longer see the Kingdom. He was dependent for news of Jesus from reportage of others; John the preacher was removed from his pulpit, joining with the congregation as hearer of Jesus’ word.  In his own word, “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).


Unable to reason the ways of God in Christ, JB sent Jesus a delegation seeking assurances of his coming for judgment in Spirit and fire (Mt. 3:11) that had earlier been so clear to his sight. But now the Baptist’s heart was faint with doubt; he inquired, “Are you the Coming One or do we wait on another?”


Jesus is now “Qoheleth” (Eccles. 1:1), the Preacher and Teacher who unpacks what JB had preached, affirming the necessity of their dual ministries. To remove the scales of John’s blindness, Jesus sent his disciples with word that his miracles portended and revealed his Baptism with the Spirit for release of sin in the fire of the new creation coming into being.


Then Jesus taught the crowds about JB, “he is Elijah who is to come” and prefixed this warning, “if you are willing to accept it.”  It is important we accept JB as prophesy’s the end time Elijah for turning hearts in preparation of Jesus’ hidden coming in manger and on cross as God’s work of salvation and judgment. 


Let’s reflect on JB as Jesus’ end time Elijah going before his face, especially in infancy. Centuries earlier Israel’s king Ahab infamously accused the historical Elijah, “you troubler of Israel” (1 Kg. 18:17), the same accusation from the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod Antipas toward JB calling Israel to conversion and repentance. 


For historical Elijah conflict with royal and religious authority came to a head on putting 450 of queen Jezebel’s Baal priests to death, kindling her murderous threats. Absorbed in doubt and self-pity Elijah escaped to Mt. Horeb.  It seemed God had sent him on a fool’s errand.  Nobody, he thought, trusted the God of Israel.  Elijah, the persecuted prophet of repentance, needed a reassuring word.  He did not receive it in the majesty of fire or earthquake; rather faith was restored in the unlikely sound of a “small whisper” (1 kg. 19:12).


It appears before Jesus’ Baptism that he was a disciple of his cousin who would testify, “A man is following me who has become my superior…” (Jn. 1:30); so also, with the disciple Elisha in receiving a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit when translated to heaven by a chariot of fire. 


Jesus’ end time Elijah, JB finally received Jezebel’s kill through her latter-day sister Herodias, that betokened Jesus’ own passion in the fire of the Spirit on the cross. Jesus prophesied of his rejection, “the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence from men who would snatch it away by force” (Mt. 11:12).


On the Mt. of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus speaking of the exodus he would lead out of the world in the Resurrection; Moses as mediator of Sinai’s blood Covenant and purification sprinkling (Ex. 24:8), and Elijah, Jesus’ slaughtered end time prophet (JB) of Zion’s NT sprinkling from Golgotha.


This is JB’s catechism about Jesus as Christmas Babe, born for circumcision on the cross to be “Bridegroom of blood” (Ex. 4:25) for his church; a matrimony and consummation proclaimed in advance by his best-man, JB.  Failure to receive the Babe as the church’s betrothed on the cross means risking judgment of an unconverted heart. 


By Jesus’ word to John, his imprisoned herald; and Herod’s snatching away his proclamation; nevertheless “an eternal gospel” remains commending us to faith in God’s “small whisper” from the heart and breath of the Babe; born to violence; ironically the world’s cause for true rejoicing.  Amen.


*(the turtledoves of Lk. 2:24 were offering for Mary’s purification; not Jesus’ redemption under the law).




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Sermon - 12/8/19
2019.12.10 16:45:18

ADVENT 2/A (2019), Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12


Shoot,           There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit…In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious (vv. 1, 10). 


The meaning of Isaiah’s prophesy is this: Jesse, grandson of Boaz and Ruth of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, was father of seven sons. God does not elect his king by appearances or the repute of men; rather his heart discerns the man upon whom he sets his Spirit.  God directed the prophet Samuel to anoint the youngest of Jesse’s sons, David, king of Israel in place of Saul.


The “shoot” from Jesse, in the first instance was of course, David; but Isaiah prophesying later is revealing another “sprout”, greater than David who will bloom and bear for God desired fruit. This latter “shoot” from Jesse is a prophesy of Jesus, anointed by JB. 


By the time of Jesus and JB, Jesse’s line and David’s house (2 Sam. 7:11-13) were decimated. Except for Jesus’ birth, it was game over; Jesse’s line was a stump of dead wood good only as fuel for fire. 


But from Jesse’s stump God would bring something new; a “Shoot”, the bearer of his Spirit engrafted upon the “dry wood” of the cross for Life.  God’s “Shoot” would be the “green wood” of his new church (Lk. 23:31; cf. Sermon for proper 29C.19), his place of “glorious” dwelling with men. 


In this context of God who replaces the unfit with the fit, the old with new, the dry and decimated with young and green, and brings the dead to Life; JB warned “religionists” of every age, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 3:10). 


In Advent we prepare to greet Jesse’s “Shoot”, source of God’s “Remnant”, new Israel. How then do we to process the prophecies of Isaiah and JB?  


JB preached the nearness of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Jesus, not for Israel only but all peoples. His proclamation revitalized God’s eternal purposes; but within Judaism his preaching of the Kingdom necessitated new reflections of old assumptions, and a new response to God on the part of the old covenantal establishment.


JB came to catechize, making explicit God’s new thing by his “Shoot”; that Life, knowledge of God, and salvation would no longer be accessed as ethnic (Jewish) status and ritual obeisance. God’s “Shoot”, his “Babe” and Anointed One, was destined for new Fire upon the cross’ old “dry wood”.  At that place Jesus would be God’s ensign to the nations where they would inquire of the fulness of God (Isa. 11:9b).


JB’s call to a washing of repentance not only called Israel, independent of the temple sacrifices, to heart-felt separation from sins; but more especially to a conversion of heart to God’s new, singular, and gracious rule in the knowledge of his anointed new “Shoot” (Rom. 15:12).


This was the point of JB’s ministry, a catechism for turning hearts and minds to Scripture’s promised fulfillment in Christ, and so to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mt. 3:3c).  JB was Judaism’s bridge for departure from old to new: out of Sadducean temple and Pharisaic synagogues to Jesus’ new Torah wisdom and priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5: 6, 10, et al.).   


Fast approaching is the Feast of Christmas, and the question for believers and unbelievers during Advent’s preparation is; will our crooked hearts and undulating minds be readied to receive God’s Christ, coming even as a Babe, Wisdom, and Priest in these end times?


Our “earthy” condition always throws-up barriers to God arriving into our lives.  We, as much as OT Israel, still need JB’s preaching.  His message of conversion at the nearness of the King is as relevant today as then.  


Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Its triumphal nature had little to do with the crowd’s un-comprehending “Hosannas”.  Rather, Jesus’ triumph was in concluding his fiery baptism, bearing our sin without “provision for the flesh…” (Rom. 13:14), a perfect atonement toward God for all who will receive it.  


The deep humility surrounding our Lord’s Bethlehem birth, his breaking-in from heaven to earth, forces us to know and recognize the Babe in his maturity to be God’s humble Shoot when from the cross, he declared, “it is finished” (Jn. 19:30). 


Jesus trusted in God alone for all. When St. Paul urges that we “put on Christ”, then our condemnation in Adam, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19) is trumped. This is the gospel in whom we have knowledge of God revealed in his tender Shoot. 


JB confronted old Israel, “do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these [dead] stones (euphemism for “Gentiles”) to raise up children for Abraham” (Mt. 3:9).  Israel of Abraham’s physical DNA, apart from the shoot of Jesus’ flesh, is consigned as dead wood fit only for the axe’s heft. 


But the cross bearing and proclaiming God’s “Shoot” is Life for us by Baptism, our new begetting and “signal for the peoples—[and] of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place (the Church) shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). 


As we prepare for the church’s Christmas celebration, will we receive our Lord aright; the sole source of salvation with his church; or will we, like Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s, play the hypocrite for a day; which is to say, will we receive conversion to God’s love?


Christians attending JB’s catechism, prepare for Jesus who still comes to us in the Babe’s humility. We set aside the flesh of Adam for the flesh of our risen Lord in faith, repenting of any other way to God than in the man Christ alone in his church. 


Though, in our earthly natures we are dust; by Baptism we “put on Christ” with the certain hope of God’s fidelity to his word receiving us his pleasing fruit of the “Shoot”.  Amen.




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Sermon - 12/1/19
2019.12.02 23:20:05

ADVENT 1/A (2019), Isa. 2:1-5; Rom. 13:11-14; Mt. 21:1-11


Shaken,                   [W]hen [Jesus] entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”  And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (vv. 10, 11). 


Well, that’s not right, is it? The crowds heard and acclaimed Jesus in the royal, messianic categories of Scripture, calling him, “Son of David”; but when pressed they would only confess him to be a prophet from a marginal and theologically corrupt province (Jn. 1:46). 


Being part of the crowd is dangerous. When conditions or information changes, often suddenly, crowds are invariably the last to move out of harm’s way. 


We observed this two Sunday’s ago, when in 70 AD. devastation from the Roman eagle would imminently descend on Jerusalem. The Christian church (Lk. 21:20, 21) aware of the sign fled to safety, while the synagogue remained to suffer Divine wrath. 


Today we ponder Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, that moment in salvation history when all God’s salvific purposes would be manifest. The answer to the “Holy City’s” question, “Who is this?” was, as today, pivotal to security and well-being.


Shakespeare (The Tempest) observed of a murder plot that, “past is prologue”; the observation is more true this First Sunday in Advent.  Jesus’ triumphal entry caused Jerusalem’s populace to be “shaken”. 


The City’s turmoil was a redux of 33 years earlier, when magi, following a star, entered Jerusalem to inquire of its infant king. “When Herod the king heard this, he was shaken, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt. 2:3).  Jesus in Bethlehem was delivered upon Jerusalem’s doorstep.  At the news, Herod set out to kill his rival at his weakest; “past is prologue”.  


In like humility, today’s Gospel has Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem for his killing. In the tradition of servant kings, Jesus came for investiture among shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 


What is the problem? In his Nativity Jesus came to his people causing all Jerusalem to “shake”; in today’s Gospel he rides into Jerusalem, anointed Son of David, for an investiture into his reign causing the “Holy City” trouble and distress.  Both appearances, separated by 33 years, portended radical change in Jerusalem’s relation to God.  On both occasions Jerusalem intended to be shed of Jesus. 


Of the Nativity Micah prophesied, “And you, O Bethlehem…are by no means least…for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (2:6); of which Zechariah’s prophesy finds fulfillment, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey...” (21:5).


How do we receive Jesus’ coming today; with “Hosannas” for a king whose identity is inadequately known?  Perhaps and if so, we share a problem with Jerusalem.  The City’s and our on-going distress is implicit in their question, “Who is this?”  


Do we know the king whom we confess? To be sure, the scriptural titles applied to Jesus from the crowds were well employed; and yet their conclusion that Jesus was a Galilean prophet was dissonant and incomplete; on that level, Jesus is problematic among “Christian” crowds today.


An example of this dissonance, is suggested from James and John prior to entering Jerusalem as they vied for positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom, secretaries of State and of War (Mt. 20:20, 21). Jesus corrected their misapprehension of the apostolic office and its authority, informing that they would be invested into his Service by a baptism like his, in fire, destruction, and judgment. 


Their baptism would be to drink the cup of his suffering that he would soon institute in the Holy Supper (Mt. 20:23; 26:27, 28) and delivered to them in his flesh by the HS (Jn. 20:22). If at the time James and John were ignorant of the Supper, the cross, and the nature of their office among the people, it would all be made clear in the Resurrection. 


Contrasted with the venality of James and John, on leaving Jericho for Jerusalem two blind men addressed Jesus, “Son of David” seeking mercy from the king (Mt. 20:30); unlike “sighted” James and John, the blind men understood Jesus as coming into his kingdom not for the exercise of worldly power but for mercy.  


Jesus asked these blind men the same question he asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” (20:21; 32).  The two blind men did not seek authority in a kingdom of glory, rather grace in a kingdom of God’s mercy, specifically that Jesus would open their eyes. 


At Jesus’ touch physical sight was restored, but more importantly spiritual sightedness was bestowed for them to enter onto the Way of his investiture and reign at the cross. This is the work of the HS.


As with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Christians pretty much use all the correct titles for Jesus; but as the church brings forth the fruit of the cross in word and Sacrament, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, we are confronted with questions; what kind of king do we receive; and what kind of king is it that troubles so many “Christians” at his invitation to follow in self-sacrifice?


St. Paul admonishes us, “[P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).  This is the kind of king the spiritually sighted are called to follow; who looks only to God for our provision.  Christ’s kingdom is foreign to our flesh, shaking the earth under our feet; and by nature we would be shed of this kind of king.


If Bethlehem is prologue of the cross; then the cross informs our celebration of the Nativity. From Jesus’ triumphal reign between thieves, we survey with spiritual sight the Christ Child’s humility come for merciful forgiveness.


Into Bethlehem, on Jerusalem’s precipice, Jesus came to his own without place to lay his head other than upon his mother’s breast and sanguine heart; her shared flesh was all God deigned to provide Jesus in this world; even as he shares his own breast and heart with his Son in his kingdom of atoning blood (cf. Lk. 16:22).


On arriving in Jerusalem Jesus was fêted by an uncomprehending crowd. In the end they rejected him.  Finally, coming to the place, Golgotha, where all provision for his flesh was stripped away. 


On the cross, Jesus was as naked as the day of birth, bereft of dignity and heaped with shame. His disciples scattered; he gave his mother to another, and experienced his Father’s abandon; in this manner Jesus was God’s raised Serpent for sin for love of the world (Jn. 3:16).


God made no provision for his Son’s flesh; except in the Resurrection for our feeding this Lord’s Day. This is the Kingdom into which we are baptized; where for love, the greatest is humble and servant of all; and Jesus crucified and risen is the fulness of our inheritance, adopted sons and daughters of the Father.  Amen.






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Sermon -11/24/19
2019.11.24 23:12:28

Proper 29/C (2019), Malachi 3:13-18; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43.


Green,          “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 31).


Jesus is being driven to the cross accompanied by the weeping “Daughters of Jerusalem”. Earlier Pilate declared Jesus innocent, but the people demanded, “crucify him” (Lk. 23:21). On the way to the cross the “Daughters”, representing Jerusalem’s populous, experienced buyer's remorse, repentantly weeping at what was being done to this innocent man.


After addressing the Daughters, Jesus speaks to his heavenly Father, registering perplexity, For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” To the end of his earthly journey Jesus, Son of Man, continued to grapple with the mystery of sin.


In his divinity Jesus is omniscient of all mysteries; and yet in his unsullied humanity he marveled at the senselessness of sin, unworthy of what God created man to be.


Jesus’ final journey to the cross is God’s response to his Son’s reflection. At the cross what is irrational; that man would irretrievably give up his essence as image and likeness of God was being resolved to restoration.


The “green wood” is God’s Remnant, now with us in this time of the church. When Jesus was lifted-up on the cross he was the final “shoot” of Israel’s green wood possessing God’s life. Jesus, Jesse’s branch, was now abandoned by followers, associates, and God.


On account of sin Jesus became the Crucified One, history’s “Abomination of Desolation” of God’s judgment on sin, to be revealed with Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD., both prelude and portent of universal judgement on the Last Day (Mk. 13:14).


On the cross Jesus is the last of Israel’s green wood, rejected and about to be cut off from the “land of the living”; but in the Resurrection, God has given Jesus to continue to be the church’s Green Wood and source of Life for growth apart from absolved sin.


Before we depart this final day of the Church Year, it is important to join Jesus in pondering the mystery of sin as he and we approach the cross.


Adam came under a delusion from Satan, that the creature might become equal with his Creator; this was Satan’s own peculiar rebellion now imported as Adam’s desire, mindless as entirely outside of God’s intended and revealed good order.


Adam’s desire for equality with God was the gist of the heresy plaguing the congregation at Colossae; those elevating created beings, “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” or men claiming “gnostic wisdom” and pure spiritual existence. Paul pushed back, “all things were created through [the now fleshly] Jesus and for him” (Col 1:16b, 17).    


OT prophet Malachi, records the conclusion of sin’s lunatic thought; an accusation that God is unfair by human lights; that since God allowed evil-doers to prosper and escape consequence, there was little point to following his commandments or repent of their violation. God was now viewed as equal in status with the wisdom of men, undiscernible from the creation.


Yet God is different and entirely “other” from his creatures; and there is not only consequence for Satan’s, Adam’s, and Israel’s rebellion, but God provides a solution to men.


This Last Sunday of the Church Year we celebrate God’s solution, “an eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6), his Green Wood with us. Jesus suffered all sin to his destruction from violent men intent on stealing it (Mt. 11:12).


That God is different and “other” than his creation is manifest precisely in committing his Green Branch to destruction, his true Israel reduced into his one true man. Jesus, lifted up on the cross, spliced to the dead wood of the world for death, spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).


Until that historical moment, the legal maxim in heaven and on earth held, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” But Jesus pleads for the world and his persecutors, taking into himself, not only all our sin, but our sin of ignorance of God’s love, that we might be united in his flesh.


Still the destruction of God’s green wood on the cross continued unabated. There were witnesses to the destruction; mocking religious rulers and soldier executioners, weeping and appalled “Daughters of Jerusalem”, Pilate’s judgment over the body, “This One is the King of the Jews”, and two law-breakers on either side, one of whom joined the violence, mocking God’s solution for sin and reconciliation.


But with the criminal on Jesus’ right there was an acute observer of the surrounding circumstances, what lawyers call the res gestae: Jesus’ prayer for absolution of all; Pilate’s declaration of Jesus’ innocence and kingly status; mockery from evil and violent men; all had an effect on the criminal who was about to add his own witness.


This criminal had nothing to offer God against his own destruction, not even his naked body, only a new found friendship with the King of the Jews come into his reign. With his petition to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42) the criminal discerned the radical difference of sinful man from his Creator like him in every way but sin.


Jesus responded, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43) affirming the man’s association and identification with his Creator-King. In this union is the Green Wood’s life-giving reconciliation of men to God.   


Unlike Adam, Christ, the visible form of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, rather he made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant not only in divinity but true humanity (Phil. 2:6, 7).


The criminal on the right grasped what Jesus extends to all in his bloody baptism; our absolution for new likeness in Christ that bridges the gulf between man and God for restoration in the new creation.


What Adam coveted, equality with God, we by Baptism into Jesus’ death are given through Torah wisdom into our Creator’s nature, who for love of men became Servant of all.


Still we do not covet. Jesus is pre-eminent Lord in everything, and head of the church, he is “the beginning, and the firstborn from the dead…” (Col. 1:18) who with the Father and the Spirit is alone worthy of worship. Amen.




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Sermon - 11/17/19
2019.11.18 01:05:17

Proper 28/C (2019), Malachi 4:1-6; 2 Thess. 3:1-13; Luke 21:5-36


Tradition,              [W]e command you… keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not according to the tradition that you received from us (v. 6).


The tradition to which St. Paul refers is the church’s apostolic teaching, most probably our employ of the law’s 3rd use as guide in our new creation. But in a broader sense Paul urges diligence in word and sacrament focused on the centrality of Christ in whom we have Eucharistic “remembrance” of his word.


Today’s Gospel recalls Jesus’ word about two related, but distinct events; Rome’s destruction of the OT temple and its ravage of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Both explicate Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and coming again.


When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian congregation (ca. 52 AD.), Jerusalem and its temple were vibrant centers of an aggressive Judaism, flush at having rid itself of a meddlesome Messiah.


In the 40-year period between Jesus’ crucifixion and Jerusalem’s destruction we discern deep tension between synagogue and NT house church; the crux being, denial or belief in Jesus’ once for all atonement and resurrection.  


The Greek church would have been aware of the disciples’ observation from today’s Gospel, about the temple’s noble stones and votive offerings (Lk. 21:5; cf. Mk. 13:1; Mt. 24:1) (Gospels are early post-resurrection Scripture, John A.T. Robinson). Herod’s reconstructed and refurbished 2nd temple was one of the so called “wonders of the world”; its demise unthinkable, as was Jerusalem, the center of Judaism in Rome’s empire.


At the time of Paul’s letter, twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection this magnificent temple would have existed in contrast with his word, “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Lk. 21:6).


As with Jesus’ disciples Greek NT congregations would also have inquired of the temple’s demise, “when and what signs?” (v. 7). But neither Jesus nor Paul were constrained to satisfy the date picker’s curiosity; rather the purpose of their teaching was to assure the church’s spiritual preparation for the Last Day. To this end Paul urges faithfulness and warns of laxity in matters of the apostolic tradition.  


In these end times, the “time of the Gentiles” (v. 24) announced by Jesus began with the devastation of 70 AD.; but our situation is a bit different, after all, that destruction has long passed. Instead, our question today is; “why should the demise of the temple and Jerusalem concern us at all?”


Some in the congregation of Thessalonica had become “idle” toward the church’s tradition and word, even as some today’s congregations are lax toward the apostolic tradition; thus, the need in these last days to warn and urge an attentive faith.


God’s plan of salvation has been unfolding over the millennia. Graciously he does not surprise. By his word men are amply warned of events that otherwise would disorient and terrify.


Noah witnessed to the Antediluvians; Sodom was warned by Lot and angels; Moses commanded Pharaoh by a multiplicity of signs to let the People go; Israel before and after entering the Land was warned to choose the way that leads to life or risk God’s abandon; Elijah and JB, the preeminent prophets of repentance, heralded Messiah’s coming and a New Covenant.


So, what does Jesus’ warning of Jerusalem’s destruction betoken for us? 2,000 years has passed; still, given our sinful inclination to distraction and idleness, and our busybody nature, we need an to be aware of Jerusalem and the temple’s spiritual significance. Their destruction was not a one-off event; rather both portend universal judgment still to come. By these events we too have been warned.


Jerusalem, rejected its Messiah, it was no longer “the Holy City” becoming his “City of Wrath”, an archetype of final judgment on the world’s unbelief. That Day will come suddenly, and for the unprepared who idly held Jesus’ word at naught, a terrifying revelation.


On this 2nd Last Sunday of the Church year Lutheran congregations traditionally have read the account from Jewish historian Josephus of Rome’s Jerusalem sack. The reading is graphic of mass starvation, wasting and bloated death, thirst, the stench of hygienic failure, communal madness, family betrayal, suicide, and mothers who cooked their children.


On breaching the citadel walls, the Romans reduced the temple to rubble for a second and its final time, “not one noble stone left upon another and every sacred offering profaned.” Thus began “the appointed time of the Gentiles” (v. 24).


The church observes the Cross historically; it is the apex of time and eternity manifesting both law and gospel in God’s creation. Jesus is “the Stone the builders rejected” (20:17) in whom God’s presence now dwells. Rejecting God’s salvation confers judgment.


Today’s Gospel describes God’s moving-day. Jesus’ final act in the temple during Holy Week was sitting in judgment of it. Before the treasury, Jesus identified himself with an impoverished widow who donated all she possessed to God’s dwelling.


The woman’s offering was excelled only by Jesus’ zeal his Father’s house (Ps. 69:9). On arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple before its abandon for the place of God’s new Temple, his own crucified body, in which he gave God all. After his self-donation on the cross for the sin of the world there now remains only one condemning sin: man’s impenitent unbelief.


The Baptized in their house churches for 40 years after the Resurrection, modeled their lives on Jesus’ sacrificial life according to the “tradition of the Apostles”. They endured assaults, marauding nations, earthquakes, famines, disease, persecutions, imprisonment of leaders, terrors, observing great signs in heaven (Lk. 21: 10-12); not the least of which, would have been Caiaphas “seeing the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64). This was not the “Parousia”, but Jesus nonetheless coming in Power in the sight of his church directing us to the terminus of “the appointed time of the Gentiles”.   


In Jerusalem Christians endured privation but charitably supported by European brothers and sisters for remaining faithfulness in word, prayer, and sacrament (Acts 2:42).


On and before the temple’s destruction the signs experienced by the Jerusalem church were those of the Crucifixion: torn temple curtain, shaking earth, risings from the grave, persecutions, inquisitions in the synagogues, and betrayals by family and friends (Mt. 27:51 ff.) culminating with the sign of the Gentiles, the Roman devastation.


One day in 70 AD. the Apostles, elders, and deacons of the Jerusalem church discerned the sign of God’s imminent vengeance, But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near” (Lk. 21:20).


At that sign, Christ’s church gathered and separated from synagogue and temple. Christ’s new Israel fled (vv. 21, 22), and exodus under the providential protection of word and Sacrament.


Moving-day for the church comes amid violence (Mt. 11:12); it is how the Kingdom draws near its remnant. During this “time of the church” the Holy Spirit stays the full intensity of devil violence. Vengeance is disorienting, heartbreaking, and painful, especially on account of old attachments from which we are being weaned.


JB and Jesus were killed for giving notice of a New Covenant and eviction the old cultus; so also, we expect abuse on account of our Baptism into his sacrificial flesh.


Throughout the assaults on the church, Jesus in our midst assures us and urges perseverance; to put aside idleness and be prepared. On an appointed day there will be a final, violent ingathering and another exodus out of this dying world.


Unlike the old temple, our Residence cannot be dismantled. Our home consists of in-Spirited stones built on Christ for forgiveness and holiness before God. We reside within the pale of a Mighty Fortress.


New birth comes to the woman in tribulation; so, in these last days we watch, without fear of it, prepared by God’s forgiving word to endure in faith, not idle toward the tradition of the Apostles. Amen.




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Sermon -11/10/19
2019.11.11 16:31:23

Proper 27/C [Pent. 22] (2019): Exodus 3:1-15; 2 Thess. 2:1-8, 13-17; Luke 20:27-40.  


Resurrection,      “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (vv. 34-36). 


Jesus does not suggest marriage in heaven is done away, it is not! Our entry into heaven on the Last Day celebrates our life in Christ as “sons [and daughters] of the bridal chamber” (Lk. 5:34, translation from Greek).  


We are invited to attend the Lamb’s marriage feast (Rev. 19:7, 8), because by Baptism we have been wed into Jesus’ resurrection and Life awaiting his coming for us. The whole point of marriage is Life; so also, of the church. 


Western society doesn’t readily grasp Scripture’s notion of “betrothal”, the covenantal act of pledging one’s fidelity in marriage, if not yet consummated.  When Jesus teaches that, “God [is]… of the living” (Lk. 20:38; Ex. 3:6, 15) it is in context of marriage, suggested by the Sadducees. 


When unbelievers cross-examine from their peculiar view point, they pose the same scripturally ignorant and erroneous questions as did the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus.


A couple of Sunday’s ago Pharisees inquired “when” the Kingdom of God would arrive.  Jesus answered, “[B]ehold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Lk. 17:21b); they, holding to another salvation in their own righteousness; rejected the answer. 


Today, the Sadducees, deniers of the resurrection, holding to another salvation as in this world only, tested Jesus by raising Mosaic marriage laws. “Levirate marriage” obligated a male next-of-kin to marry a deceased brother’s widow to raise up an heir for that family’s share in the Land, the place of God’s OT presence. 


But with the Kingdom’s arrival in Jesus, levirate marriage was obsolete; Jesus announcing, I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn. 11:25).  That Jesus is God who is both “Resurrection and Life”, speaks to a single truth. 


We who are baptized into Jesus’ atoning death and follow him as “first-fruits” in the Resurrection, are “sons of God” (Lk. 20:36b), not in possessing a share of the Land; but because we are “sons of the resurrection” and so of the Life that is of Christ’s person (v. 36c). 


The Resurrection is necessarily associated with marriage and the Life the union generates. The thing about earthly marriage is that it anticipates Jesus’ betrothal to his church from the cross (Jn. 19:26-30).  


Jesus taught, “whoever divorces his wife, except for infidelity… commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).  Of whom do you think Jesus was referencing; was it not himself?  Jesus did not come out of heaven to fine tune the Mosaic laws; rather to be its fulfillment, end, and completion.  It is as if Jesus had said, “except for the woman’s [the church’s] unbelief, I will never withdraw my pledge to her. We are espoused for eternity.” 


Baptized into Christ’s death we are united with him, “bone of [his] bone and flesh of [his] flesh” (Gen. 2:23); he is our “Bridegroom of blood” (Ex. 4:25) in whom we possess his troth.


As the church awaits her Lord’s coming for her on the Last Day (2 Thess. 2:1) we are to remain faithful in attending the holy things given for our fidelity, especially in tribulation; his word and sacraments.


Between now and the church’s consummation in holiness, St. Paul warns of lurking danger. Satan was a false suitor toward the woman of Adam’s passion; contradicting God’s delivered word.  She, believing a lie and Adam in support became adulterers, an effective divorce from God, until God would redeem them by a new Man and a faithful woman.  


The congregation of Thessalonica was distressed by false teachers. We don’t exactly know the teaching; but it had to do with the claim that Jesus’ 2nd Coming had already arrived; that the congregation in tribulation seemed to have missed out on the resurrection. 


Paul did not know “when” Jesus would come again with his angels and saints to gather his bride on the Last Day, nor do I; but what is sure is that it is not yet. 


Paul’s teaches is that first, Satan will send a lying suitor, “the man of lawlessness” (vv. 3, 9) into the church to turn the woman from her fidelity to the Lord.  This devil is not yet revealed; who, when, or where; but his marks in the church, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (v. 7).  The Apostle, Judas Iscariot was prototype of this incarnation.  


The woman given to Adam succumbed to Satan’s blandishments. You get the point, fidelity, one’s troth is the essence of the marriage relation, through which God intends our resurrection Life.  Unlike Adam’s physical passion for his woman, Jesus’ Passion consists, not in pastoral concession, but in sacrificial love for a new begetting from above to be children of the Father. 


Moses acted as God’s best-man, conveying his honorable intentions toward his people; I know their pain, and I have come down to deliver them…” (Ex. 3:7b, 8a). JB was Jesus’ best-man coming to Israel for his bride. God’s troth toward his people culminated in self-delivery from the cross, his Spirit, water and blood.


Jesus’ love for us is exquisitely unconditional, more faithful than Adam’s “passion” for his woman. Of God’s gospel word in the woman’s hearing, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15), Adam prophesied its meaning. At that point Adam named the woman, “Eve”, proclaiming her “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20) on account of her Seed, the new Man, in the resurrection.


Into this mix and pledge, Satan will send his own “best-man”, Scripture calls “the lawless one” and “son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3c), a purveyor of false belief for seducing the church from faithfulness to God’s word. 


Against the infidelity of believing false doctrine, St. Paul directs us to God’s troth and promise of “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” (v. 1).  Amen.





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Sermon - 11/3/19
2019.11.03 20:12:27

ALL SAINTS’ (S) (2019): REV. 7:2-17; 1 JN. 3:1-3; MT. 5:1-12


Children,    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (vv. 2, 3).


This is to say, “like recognizes like”. We are God’s children now! Who we are does not appear to physical sight; rather to the eyes of faith by the power of the word delivered in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus inaugurates his disciples to their new identity of knowing and seeing God “as he is” in the midst of his people (Lk. 17:21b).


Perhaps no Scripture has been so misunderstood as these Beatitudes. Even M. Luther comprehended them as the law’s impossible demands, only overcome elsewise by God’s gospel word. But they are not law as something for you to accomplish; instead you are to recognize by Jesus’ blessing, the pure gospel of a new status, children of God now!


God’s kingdom is present by his Word with us; and so, we are a work in progress by the HS through perfecting from faith to faith (Mt. 5:48). By these beatitudes from Jesus we have heaven’s “sealing” as new Israel’s 144,000 on earth (Rev. 7:3, 4, 8).


Heading-up the Beatitudes is “poverty of spirit” that grasps the Kingdom, which is to sat, Jesus in our midst. I have previously pointed out, there will be no rich people attending heaven’s end time banquet. Simply we have nothing of our own to bring but our Thanksgiving to the table.


In Baptism the NT saints are “sealed” to a child-like status of absolute spiritual poverty into Jesus’ naked, obedient, and dependent death to the Father. Jesus entered our humanity to be God’s Suffering Servant on the cross for our atonement; so God exalted him above all (Phil. 2:5-9).


By the power of Jesus’ blessings to poverty of spirit, and mourning in meekness over sin’s wrack and ruin in the lives of sinful men, we are baptismally enrolled into the 144, 000 martial array, sustained in an on-going sealing by word and sacrament “coming out” of the world’s tribulations (Rev. 7:14). Thus, we are garbed in the white robes of Jesus’ own purity and joining heaven’s innumerable multitude (v. 9).


There is a progression to the Beatitudes. In Jesus’ cruciform Body we are baptismally minted to his likeness in humility. Receiving the seal of undeserved mercy, we are empowered, like him, to be merciful; “we love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).


How will Jesus recognize us at his Second Coming? By faithful attendance to word and sacrament’s on-going sealing. Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day we are being purified “as he is pure”; so that “like recognizes like”.


Blood is a life-giving and cleansing agent (Gen. 9:4). Jesus’ sinless blood, shed for our forgiveness blesses us for purity before God. As Jesus knows and sees the Father in holiness, we by faith possess the beatific vision in heaven’s purity.


Last Sunday (Reformation-observed) we heard an angelic “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6), the mystery of Christ with us; that our purity for seeing God face to face is of Christ’s shed blood applied as a gracious covering and new begetting in water and Word.


From the Psalmist, purity “in heart” occurs in communion with all the saints on earth and in heaven; “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart… who seek the face of the God of Jacob (Ps. 24:3-6b). This is Zion’s liturgy speak.


Liturgically we look east, the direction of the rising Sun at our Altar, and recognize Christ “appearing as he is” now in the church’s “breaking of the Bread” (Lk. 24:30, 31, 35; Acts 2:42) that on the Last Day will be manifest to all.


Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day we ascend Mount Zion together where Jesus continues beatific words delivering forgiveness as we come out of the world’s fiery crucible through the place of our worship, the body of Christ.


Two final Beatitudes concern the church’s empowerment for peace and reconciliation, continuing the miracles of Jesus miracles for restoration of the creation to wholeness, to be revealed in the new heavens and earth.


Peace through the church’s gospel power is not a universally welcomed. She might therefor expect her that her final blessing in persecution for a status as sons and daughters of the Kingdom, mirroring her Lord; for for reason the church militant on earth are continually being sealed.


Later in his ministry, Jesus would expand his teaching (Mt. 9:35-11:1), explaining, he had come into the world for division by “a Sword” (v. 34). Jesus, the “eternal gospel” enfleshed confronts men with a choice about his identity and presence in the world.


If we love our families in the world more than Jesus; if we refuse to follow him to the cross, then we are unworthy of his salvation (Mt. 10:34-39). Our tribulation in the world will make clear that believers will need deal with the gut-wrenching fact, “one’s enemies will be those of his own household” (v. 36). Of broader Christendom, we observed the multiplicity of denominational division that continues to justify our Lutheran celebration for institutional Reformation of church bodies.


In both instances Jesus’ presence brings crisis and division as “an eternal gospel”, Christ alone in his congregation. In some instances, his gospel blessing of “peace” is received with hospitality (vv. 12-14); but in a hostile world that rejections Christ’s peace we expect persecution but nevertheless are beatified to faithfulness for “Righteousness’ sake”.


Peace, forgiveness, healing, purity, and restoration is Christ’s work alone; which by faith Christ recognizes his own for a final “perfection”; and we recognize him in status as he is attended by all the angels and saints, now in our worship and on the Last Day. Amen.




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Sermon - 10/27/19
2019.10.28 23:43:18

REFORMATION/S (2019) Rev. 14:6-7; Rom. 3:19-28; Mt. 11:12-19


Gospel,        Then I saw another angel flying over-head, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth… (v. 6). 


An ancient maxim posits, “the church is always being reformed” to her beliefs held “everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins); and yet in all Christendom, only Lutherans celebrate “an eternal gospel” out of heaven for those on the earth. 


Our Reformation celebration is a singular witness of the church’s “eternal gospel” toward the denominations: to Rome, the East, Calvinists, Armenians, Anabaptists, the plethora of Neo-evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals, all traveling under the banner of “Christianity”. 


As faith comes by hearing the preached word (Rom. 10:17) then in some way this Sermon is intended to engender, not only individual repentance, but institutional reformation to the faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic church; whether it finds traction, God knows.


Such a reformation message, if received at all, at worst will be unwelcome or at best seen as a condescension; that said, as Christ is the only true interpreter of his word, today’s Scripture calls for forthright exposition.


By definition an eternal gospel” is not a collection of disparate, optional, or an amalgam of belief systems.  One study describes the mish-mash of generic “Christianity”, “One Christ, Many Creeds” (Pr. Erik Rottmann).  Against the collection of beliefs, one must attend Jesus, “from the days of JB until now the reign of heaven is being violently attacked, and violent men are trying to snatch it away” (Mt. 11:12). 


Who are these violent men? Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was increasingly confronted by venomous opposition from the Pharisee party.  They brought the issue to a head, asking Jesus, “when” God’s reign on earth would commence?  He answered, that in his presence it was extant, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk. 17:21b).  This was heaven’s proclamation, the sum and substance, of “an eternal gospel”; it was unwelcome then as it is today. 


Pharisaical types in all generations are offended by “an eternal gospel” of Jesus present in the congregation.  JB and Jesus both preached of repentance, our turning from sin, anticipating God’s reign in his Christ, his Son, and sacrificial Lamb.  St. Paul later reiterated, “man is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28). 


But repentant “faith apart from works of the law was unacceptable to the Pharisees who understood that man’s Torah obedience, guided by their teaching would bring about a “repentance” of human righteousness, that in time would usher-in God’s reign.  From this vantage, you can imagine the offense from Jesus, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”


We see two disparate notions of “repentance”; Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees rejected John’s baptism to which all Judea was coming. This is crucial; any other way of salvation than as God provides in Christ is a contrary way, a rebellion in the footsteps of our first parents having nothing to do with “an eternal gospel” from heaven.


Jesus warns us, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace, who as they call out to others, ‘We played the flute, but you [John] did not dance! We lamented, but you [Jesus] did not beat your breasts in mourning!’” (Mt. 11:16, 17). 


JB preached our welcoming of Messiah, by turning from sin to the new wineskins of a sacrifice God would provide (Gen 22:14). But for the Pharisees and scribes JB’s call for a change of heart was austere compared to the temple offerings and their own roadmap to Torah obedience.  JB did “not dance” to the pharisaical music.  


These same Pharisees, encountering Jesus, saw him eat with sinners; again, they balked judging Jesus careless of “their” Torah, “not mourning” sin; but instead rejoicing over repentant hearts at the good news of “an eternal gospel” in their midst. 


Man prefers his own salvation, over what God provides, which is the underlying pharisaical sin that foundationally continues today of every resistance to reformation toward “an eternal gospel”.  How sad!  


Adam and Eve’s original sin resulted in our perverse refusal of unconditional grace. Understanding that Baptism strips us naked with Christ crucified, so that we are without excuse is deemed too hard; still others judge Baptism’s water and word too lax and absent of power. 


Our sin nature always argues against God’s way, impelling us to the vanity of a “better” way than heaven’s “eternal gospel” of grace alone in Christ’s presence with his church.  Heaven knows of sin and our inability to trust solely in God; and so in Baptism we are graciously given the HS to possess Christ’s own faith. 


Man’s refusal of God’s way may be understandable; still sin is not excused. By Jesus’ preached word wisdom, the fear and trust in the Lord is conveyed; faith in “an eternal gospel” out of heaven, our corrective against an unremitting violence that would snatch away God’s reign.


The catalogue of violence against “an eternal gospel” is almost over-powering; still God’s remnant in Christ remains empowered by word and sacrament to hold on:


Rome employs unscriptural definitions of both “grace” (as earned substance) and “faith” (bald belief apart from contrition) to pit St. Paul against St. James. Rome’s liturgy, the great repository of forms and rites, is corrupted by a priesthood modeled on Aaron, and not Jesus’ Melchizedekian, that underpins its essential error, “works righteousness”. 


Zwingli and Calvin (the Reformed) violently threw Christ out with the church’s sacramental bathwater. If you want to know what generally defines Protestantism, it is rejection of Christ’s sacraments to be constitutive presence of “an eternal gospel”. 


Protestants reduce God’s word to information about him; no longer the power of God in Christ with us. The Reformed pervert God’s very nature as merciful and gracious by a doctrinal acrostic TULIP, so that his “choice” of you (or not) is arbitrary; salvation is only for the “lucky”.


Jacob Arminius’ objection to Calvin’s violence against “an eternal gospel” proffered a countervailing violence, making “salvation” instead a matter of “human decision” or “free will” contrary to Scripture (Ps. 51:5).


Do we go on? Pentecostalism, another man-oriented religion locates the truth of Scripture in individual hearts by an “internal light” separated from creation’s sacramental elements; thus, what is “true” is a matter of what everyone believes according to their own eyes.  Here M. Luther identified papistic claims to personal revelation as supreme “enthusiasm”. 


The violence of religious enthusiasts is Peter’s satanic sin (Mt. 16:22, 23). Enthusiasm is man’s natural (pagan) theology of glory in this world that would replace God’s sacrificial cross and snatching away rather than embracing Christian baptismal life.  


“An eternal gospel” from heaven for men on earth is not a generic gift. This gospel is too gloriously valuable for eternal Life, and too valuable to be proclaimed in other than singular specificity.  The crucified and risen man Jesus Christ reigns in his constitutive reality of presence in our midst by word and sacrament for faith, righteousness, and holiness before God. 


If this Sermon is less than “inclusive”; it was so intended, not as Lutheran boast, of which there must be repentance, but for the sake of denominational error. Our Reformation hope longs for reformation, a true communion in the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world over against all violence that would snatch away “an eternal gospel”, leaving but “another Jesus”, “a different spirit”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9).  Amen.




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Sermon - 10/20/19
2019.10.20 23:18:01

Proper 24/C [Pent. 19] (2019): Gen. 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5; Luke 18:1-8.


Faith,            [Jesus] told [his disciples] a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. [Then] he said… “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?... Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (vv. 1, 7a, 8b).


Jesus here is not teaching the virtues of prayer in general; rather as his Passion approaches (Lk. 17:25; 18:31), he urges his church to a specific prayer, for God’s faithful maintenance of her “vindication” by faith in an evil world.


The Psalmist expresses the manner, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1, 2).     


Last Sunday we encountered a Leper, not unlike today’s parable Widow. Both were societal discards. If the Widow cried for “justice” on the merits of her case, a seemingly impossible request from a dishonest magistrate; the Samaritan Leper pled of Jesus for better than justice, and as equally unthinkable, divine “mercy” from a man (Lk. 17:13; cf. Hos. 6:6).


In order to comprehend Jesus’ call to our fidelity to God’s own faithfulness, we must grasp what had occurred between the Leper’s healing and the Widow’s petition.


Pharisees enquired, when the Kingdom of God would come?” (v. 20). Jesus answered, “behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you (v. 21c); yet they did not see what was patent to the Leper in rendering Jesus worship in thanksgiving.


Jesus then returned to teaching his disciples that they persist in holding fast to him against all that would be seemingly impossible and unthinkable at the Passion, even as Jacob, progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel, struggled to hold to the challenge of the divine Wrestler (Gen. 32:22 ff.).


In these last days, Jesus warns that justice and judgment comes “speedily” (Lk. 18:8) and suddenly as upon the Antediluvians mocking Noah’s prophesy (17:26, 27). As for those aware of the imminent crisis, but still mourn loss of the world’s blandishments, they will suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, forever frozen in their attachments (v. 32).


Having answered the Pharisee’s question about the “when” of the Kingdom, the disciples ask, Where, Lord?”. Jesus gives a provocative reply, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Lk. 17:37).


By this, Jesus directs that we look “to the hills”, to Mt. Golgotha of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mt. Olivet, the place of his Ascension, where we are to discern God’s atoning work in Christ and Judgment. On those two “hills” the church locates both her “vindication” and God’s “mercy” for sinners.


The church comprehends her ascended Lord, alone worthy to interpret God’s word for “remembrance” (Rev 5:2, 3, 7, 9, 12; cf. Lk. 22:19b). Christ breaking of the fifth seal of Scripture in St. John’s Apocalypse reveals the church to be the explicit expression of Jesus’ parable Widow.


When Christ, ascended and enthroned, opened the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11), the Widow’s significance “crying day and night” without losing heart is understood (Lk. 18:7). From under heaven’s Altar of Incense the cries of the saints ascend day and night, “O Master, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).


The church cries on behalf of all the martyrs, those who struggle in faith is joined with the crying blood of Abel; whose plea is that God take righteous vengeance on those desecrating and discarding them and their witness of God’s Kingdom come in Christ.


Ironically, the Widow’s plea for righteous retribution against her adversary is presented to an unjust, worldly judge; pointing to the church’s “impossible” “unthinkable” faith in Jesus’ promise that God’s “will be done.”


We are “justified”, “vindicated” in and through Jesus’ sacrificial flesh, a corpse mocked by unbelievers; but the Corpse for believing sinners who locate the mercy of God, a risen and better “meat” than mere dead carrion for us who by nature are birds of prey. In the Ascension the Cross and heaven’s Incense Altar are one, the new “place” of Eucharistic worship of God by lepers and widows.


By the power of Baptism, the church holds fast to her faith by looking upon the Lord’s cross and ascension. As participants in Christ’s body, all partake of the same food for their priestly vocation of praise and Thanksgiving to God.


A strange thing happened upon Jesus’ ascension; the OT saints, martyred for their witness, received an answer to, “how long” until their spilt blood would be avenged? Christ on opening the fifth seal, revealed they were clothed with the same white robes of forgiveness and purity received by the earthly saints on in the Baptism’s faith (v. 11).


All worship in heaven and earth in the church’s liturgical unity awaits God’s final “vindication” in Christ on the Last Day. Until that Day the church prayerfully dispenses God’s mercy in Christ crucified, a better “vindication” than demanded by the cry from Abel’s blood or the parable Widow.


Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is the revelation and content of God’s will and word. In him God declares, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30); and so the saints are told, “to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Rev. 6:10, 11).


Heaven’s martyrs, old and NT, garbed in the white robes of Christ’s bloody sacrifice are enrolled into one Baptism (Nicene Creed, para. 3) of a Blood that speaks a better word than the cry from Abel’s blood from death’s dust; rather by the blood of Jesus we have his eternal Life in “grace and mercy” (Heb. 12:24).


Our better Covenant informs the church’s prayer. Our NT claim on God’s “justice and righteousness” is expressed in prayer for those who receiving faith’s righteousness in this time of the church. Preeminently, our prayer is, “Thy Kingdom [has, is, and will] come” comprehended in God’s mercy and love for the sake of his elect.


Still, on the Last Day, should the church’s offer of the Lamb’s mercy be refused; Christ will appear as Lion of Judah in answer to the blood of Abel for vindication from the followers of our Adversary.


Prayer at the church’s Altar witnesses to our patient and persistent formation in his white robes, thus providing an affirmative rely to Jesus’ question, “[W]hen the Son of Man comes [as today], will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8b). Amen.




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Sermon - 10/13/19
2019.10.16 00:11:44

Proper 23/C [Pent. 18] (2019): Ruth 1:1-19a; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19.


Returned,              Then [Naomi] arose with her daughters-in-law and returned from the region of Moab, for she had heard…that the LORD had graciously visited his people to give them food” (v. 6).


Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were in search of security. Formerly security was centered in hearth and home with husbands and sons in pagan Moab near the border of Judah, Naomi’s ancestral Bethlehem land-hold.


After ten years, peace, domesticity, and security evaporated with the serial deaths of their men-folk. In the ancient world a woman, especially a foreign woman, beyond childbearing years, without husband or father could expect to exist on society’s margins.


Naomi, an Israelite with two Moabite daughters-in-law in tow were as marginal a group as were the Ten Lepers approaching Jesus on the border between heretical Samaria and Jewish Galilee.


All of us need and seek-out a place of security. Many, like the Pharisees (Lk. 16:14), fix their security in money putting us in comfortable, even luxuriant surroundings, with provision and companionship in the world. Earlier Jesus told of the Rich man, we call “Dives”, and impoverished, diseased, and discarded Lazarus existing on “the margins” at Dives’ gate; so close, yet in this life, a far chasm.


Still others derive security from the faux praises of men; worldly wisdom and associations. We all, either live on one extreme or another, or the desire to do so. In the end however, we all live in that chasm (v. 26) between heaven and hell, where the only true and eternal security is with Lazarus postured upon the Father’s bosom (v. 22a).


The elect discern God’s word and favor in the place of his visitation among men. Naomi heard of bread in Bethlehem, and would return to the Land of Israel’s promise. So also, the Samaritan leper, upon his healing, was impelled to return to Jesus, his source and place of Security.


If for a time, all of us experience suffering and desperate straits; we either trust, or not, the admonition, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage… For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5, 6).


Chastisement from God comes not only in calamity, but by his word of crisis or judgment for repentant return to his place of gracious healing and release, to the precincts of heavenly Jerusalem from where we are instructed in the nature of our Security. When we hear and respond to God’s word inviting us to partake of his bread, then we grasp the place and source of eternal Security; our election in Christ.


Ruth on entering Israel, like the Samaritan leper, was now the foreigner. She was faithful daughter-in-law and catechized wife of the one true God of Israel. When Naomi would return to Bethlehem, Ruth for love of Naomi, would follow to the place of God’s visitation signaled by his barley bread harvest.  


In our Gospel only one of the Ten Lepers crying to Jesus for “mercy” was a Samaritan; the other lepers were Jews. Unlike Naomi, “bitter” at her sufferings from God, the Ten Lepers got it right; they didn’t ask Jesus for physical healing; why would they? By their loss of fleshly purity, they comprehended their condition in their corrupt flesh what was the visible sign of sin.


As sinners, sometimes we are self-deluded as entitled, from whatever “god” we serve, to a suffering-free life. Not so, rather Christians are enrolled into God’s school of faith under the cross that entails our sacrificial suffering as God permits; it is the way of the cross. Either we embrace the cross as the returning Leper, or like Naomi we tend to bitterly complain.


The Ten Lepers plead from Jesus a grace that the OT priesthood could not bestow. God is holy; The Ten were diseased without a claim on anything more than what all sinners deserve, consummation to dust; and so, The Ten rather petitioned Jesus in a higher theology than the glory of their own flesh; for God’s “mercy”.  


If Naomi was embittered, Ruth discerned the hope of her secure place among her new community with Naomi’s people. So, the Samaritan, upon his healing he recognized his new place of God’s visitation and mercy with the community in tow with Jesus.


Jesus directed The Lepers to the temple priesthood for witness in authenticating Jesus’ healings and authority. But the Samaritan, like Ruth disobeying Naomi, returned to Jesus, the place of a better thing than only physical healing; rather the locus of “God’s mercy” for restored relations with the Creator.


The Samaritan Leper showing himself to temple priests offered him nothing of advantage. The priests could affirm Jesus’ miracle all day long, but the Samaritan in their household would be denied their temple graces from the animal sacrifices.  


The Samaritan, as by Ruth’s sacrificial faith and love toward Naomi, discerned in Jesus the place of God’s merciful visitation; no longer at Jerusalem, but with the Man of Bethlehem, who sates all our need for security by faith’s forgiveness (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4b).


The Samaritan prostrated himself before Jesus in Eucharistic praise. Today we are drawn by the power of Jesus’ word continuing as our Flesh-Bread. Formerly were lepers, which disease Jesus took into his flesh for our Absolution and release. So too, we offer our Eucharistic sacrifice of praise. Jesus is that place of Provision and Security, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  


Despite Orpah’s outward obedience to Naomi and tearful “return” to Moab; still it was the smart, the self-interested, and the worldly common-sense thing to do. Orpah abandoned Naomi for the authority of her parent’s house, and so fixed her “security” in the hope of a brokered union with a pagan Moabite man.


Ruth however in faith remained with Naomi in covenant of care toward her “embittered” mother-in-law; she was for Naomi a “Christ” figure. Ruth, a Moabitess having no brother-in-law, possessed no rational hope of a salvific marriage according to the law of Israel; certainly, she could not assert the Mosaic law’s “levirate marriage” by kin. Yet, a marginal life in Israel or not, Ruth for love of Naomi and trust in Israel’s God would abandon neither (Ruth 1:16, 17).


Certainly, the Mosaic law provided social safety-nets, such as a sojourner’s gleaning rights; but it was only marriage to an Israelite man that afforded and could reverse the fortunes of these destitute women. An Israelite husband for Ruth might legally redeem Naomi’s land should her next of kin refuse. Such an outcome, however, would require a “volunteer” to put aside self-interest.


Boaz, was a close, but not an immediate relation of Naomi. Still appraised of the women’s distress Boaz was impelled to volunteer to be a savior; even as God asked his only Son to act in sacrificial self-giving beyond the requirements of the law for the church.


Through Boaz’ redemption of Naomi’s property and Ruth’s marginal status as a foreign woman, we have the prophesy of our universal (Jew and Gentile) salvation through a new begetting by David’s seed, Jesus. As St. Paul observed, “[S]he will be saved though child bearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:15).  


Mercy and forgiveness are the church’s prime directives from God; it is what she does because it is what her Lord has volunteered to do for her. While Lazarus from the “bosom of Abraham” does not relieve those consigned to hell, still the church remains the place in this world of God’s visitation for those returning in repentance to heaven’s gate.


On the day of Jesus’ Passion and death another foreigner, a Roman centurion, discerned under the cross God’s mercy toward men, saying “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).


Today, we pray for Ruth’s ears, the Leper’s sight, and the Centurion’s free election in proclamation; all by a faith that discerns the visitation of God in Jesus, the Place where God’s Bread and mercy is dispensed. Amen.




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Sermon - 10/6/19
2019.10.07 22:35:46

Proper 22/C [Pent. 17] (2019): Hab. 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10.  


Sea,    “[W]oe to the one through whom [temptations to sin] come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea… If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (vv. 2, 6).


Jesus moves from the failed Pharisees and scribes to the new responsibilities of his church in the coming era. He instructs of expectations: evangelizing, preaching, teaching, rebuking, discipling, absolving, and table service. 


Jesus tells two sea stories; first, that if a weak disciple turns from his or her faith by false teaching, then that teacher might expect to descend into chaos’ abyss propelled by an attached millstone. 


If responsibility for delivery of word and sacrament devolves primarily upon the apostolic/pastoral office; still the congregation is not untethered from what they receive from their pastors.


Congregational priority keeps the Sabbath holy, hearing God’s word, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, for perfect forgiveness in repentant faith; and that disciples forgive as they have been forgiven, (perfectly, “seven times in a day” v. 4);


And to continue their on-going catechesis for strengthening in the church’s faith delivered in Baptism; and for their own faith in Christ present in word and Sacrament.  In these ways pastors and congregations possess a “holy calling”, a priesthood (2 Tim. 1:9) of sacrificial thanksgiving. 


The Apostles were the first to discern the magnitude of their responsibilities soon to be thrust upon the church. “Righteousness of life by faith”, announced to Abraham (Gen. 15:6) and reiterated by Habakkuk (2:4b) must be comprehended in the context of pastors and congregations caring for each other in faithful extension of “the good deposit” of the faith with which we are “entrusted” (2 Tim. 1:14). 


The Apostles had recently witnessed Jesus’ litany of churchly “woes” and condemnation; the last being, the case of the Rich Man, so called “Dives”, an allegorical prince of the Church establishment (Lk. 16:19-31). On his death, “Dives” was consigned to hell pleading before heaven’s gate for relief from risen Lazarus whom he despised in this life at his own gate. 


Jesus was forming his Apostles for aptness and error free teaching and preaching the gospel (1 Tim 3:2) oriented in God’s forgiveness through his Suffering Servant, the key to true Torah understanding.  The law remains forever, but is only understood in revelation of God’s character for inexhaustible mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for his Son’s sake. 


The Apostles discerned they did not possess “the right stuff” of heaven’s key; so, the specter of failure in their new calling frightened. The cross was beginning to register; so in unison they plead with Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Lk. 17:5).


Jesus responded with yet another sea story.  Faith as small as a mustard grain easily accesses God’s power concealed under Christ’s crucified weakness.  If God should will us to make the ocean a mulberry orchard, then by the power of his preached his word, it would be so.  


Faith is God’s great recreative miracle for release of the world’s sin, man’s damning unbelief. As it was, the Apostles already possessed faith for their ministry in association with congregations in a cursed world (Gen. 3:17b, 18).


The Apostles were not to fear being the church’s foundation with Christ. Abraham’s saving faith, spoken of by Habakkuk (2:4), is not of ourselves; rather it is the power of Christ’s own faith in whom we articulate as baptismal living stones, the gift of God by the HS, and deployed in due time; but first must come Jesus’ cross, the tree planted in the world’s chaos and his perfecting resurrection for apostolic faith.   


St. Paul addressed a similar lack of pastoral confidence, when he encouraged Timothy, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6b, 7) so also; the Apostles afflicted with their own loss of confidence on hearing Jesus’ imperative, “you must forgive” (Luke 17:4). 


The Jewish scribes were correct; God alone forgives sin (Mark 2:7). And now in the NT men in the office of Christ, and the Baptized in their priesthood would enter that “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9) for bestowing God’s lavish forgiveness to repentant hearts. 


The church’s charge and responsibility as purveyors of God’s power to salvation was almost unthinkable. Rebuking and releasing sinners is a godly exercise of authority not possessed by “Moses and the prophets”.


The Apostles, themselves sinners, were over-awed at the impossibility of being “judges” to dispense the abundance of God’s forgiveness and release. Parenthetically, we observe that before the church’s sacramental administration of the Holy Absolution, a pastor asks the penitent only one question, “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” (Preface to the Holy Absolution, LSB p. 293).  


St. Paul as Timothy’s spiritual father, encouraged the young Overseer, reminding him of the church’s faith learned at the knees of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (v. 5) themselves overseers of his faith to salvation.


Being a pastor is tough, which is why young, inexperienced presbyter-pastors (meaning “elders”) are disadvantaged in congregations struggling (Lk. 13:24), as they are being called out of the world. Given time, grace, patience, and mutual forgiveness, pastors and congregations most often come to relate in love and respect; but apart from Christ, it is otherwise.


The Kingdom come in Christ present brings a sea change in our relation with God, and so also toward brothers and sisters. The Church exists by God’s word living in the sympathetic rhythm of repentance and forgiveness wrought by faith.  


Hear then how Jesus calms his “servants” at the ease of planting “mulberry trees” in the sea.  We need only be faithful in attending to his word and Sabbath worship for on-going faith according to the church’s one confession. 


We plow, supporting law/gospel preaching to repentance and promised forgiveness; we are shepherded in attending his teaching against apostatizing influences of the world that may cause to “stumble” from faith; and we faithfully attend his Table for nourishment in the Substance of our cruciform and resurrection new Life.   


Being a pastor is tough, as is our priesthood called to sacrificial lives in union with one another. Jesus has made us in his “likeness”, God’s Suffering Servant, in whom we have forgiveness and recreation to holiness.  We are “unworthy servants”; still, faith as small as a mustard seed is sufficient when pastors keep our ears clapped onto God’s word of promise. 


Consider our rewards from so small a faith; God deigns to share through us his greatest of all miracles, the restoration of this fallen world being made new by the power Absolution, love and fidelity’s self-control. Amen.





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Sermon - 9/29/19
2019.09.30 22:35:45

Proper 21/C [Pent. 16] (2019): Amos 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Luke 16:19-31. 


Household,            [A]n overseer must be beyond reproach…temperate… hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard… not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well… for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (vv. 2-5)


Reading the Confessions of St. Augustine, it is easy to contrast his profligate, apostate life as he approached Baptism in his mid-thirties and then taking Holy Orders a few years later over against St. Paul’s strictures for church bishops and deacons. The comparison is striking of Baptism’s radical “begetting from above”. 


God desires his household (church) to be led by conscientious and capable stewards of his word and ethos; sadly, that is not always the case; pastors are sinners. The hope and prayer is for continual repentance of these stewards for grow in service to God’s people.   


Today’s Gospel, “the Rich Man and Lazarus” compares with last Sunday’s parable of “the Dishonest Steward”. We don’t know the rich man’s name; we will call him, as some, “Dives”.  Jesus provides only a thumb nail sketch of Dives; yet allowing for inference.  


Many years earlier the prophet Amos (6:1-7) fleshed out the character of Dives, his family, and associates; they were the social and religious aristocracy of Israel; living to themselves on estates that excluded all but their own invited class.  


These elite were at ease in the church; they thought better of themselves than others; and by privileged positions considered themselves immune from a day of reckoning. Their daily garb was the pretentious extravagance of royalty; feasting was a daily occasion as they sprawled on couches of inlaid ivory.  The bill o’ fare was succulent baby lamb, Chateaubriand, and the like, washed down with copious amounts of the finest wine.  They entertained themselves with idle songs arrogantly compared to David’s psalmody.


Damning, most of all, Amos describes these leaders without “grief over the ruin of Joseph” (6:6b), referencing the treachery of Joseph’s brothers, mocking him, cast him into a pit without water for death and sat to dine in loveless fellowship (Gen. 37:18-27).  Joseph’s brothers, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day “were lovers of money” (Lk. 16:14), deciding rather to profit, selling him into slavery. 


As for Lazarus, he was placed at Dives’ gate to receive alms which might be expected from the “wealthy”; instead only the “dogs” (Gentiles?) were contented by the sores of Lazarus’ flesh. The scene recalls Mary’s prophesy before Elizabeth as church bearing Christ within her;


“[The Lord] has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever 1:52-55).


Jesus’ account of “Dives and Lazarus” is not exactly a parable; rather a current allegory of Christ, his revelation of self-offering for his Church. In Jesus’ telling, “Father Abraham” is cypher for God and himself, “Lazarus”. 


God’s “bosom” is the primordial Place from which his eternal Son was sent into the world; and the Place to which Jesus, like Joseph and Lazarus of Bethany were raised from death’s pit, attended by Ascension angels to ready heaven’s wedding Banquet.


At Dives’ gate Lazarus was the wretched picture of Jesus; rejected by his own (Jn. 1:11), without a place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20), humbled in Gethsemane into his baptismal Office on the cross as God’s Sacrifice; the place where he was “a worm and not a man” (Ps. 22:6a), the “Abomination of Desolation” (Mt. 24:15), and “Bronze Serpent” raised in the wilderness (Num. 21:8, 9; Jn. 3:14-16) for healing those who believe and receive him. 


Christ possessed heaven’s treasure; but for love of God and mercy toward men, Jesus received our flesh, humbled himself in taking our sin, and set before the church leaders of his people at Dives’ gate, of these he would say, “‘… I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcomed me, naked and you did not clothed me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me’,…‘Truly,…as you did not do it to one of the least of these [my brothers], you did not do it to me’” (Matthew 25:42-45).


Jesus has “Father Abraham” describe Dives’ wealth as your good things”.  This is precisely our problem; the point Jesus taught all along, “rich men” cannot enter heaven’s Banquet.  His table is packed with forgiven sinners who repent of approaching the King’s table with anything of their own than the King’s provision alone; faith alone. 


Dives’ self-absorbed life made him apathetic of his Israelite brothers, Lazarus’ plight at his gate and numb to his own impending judgment. Not so, the Dishonest Steward from last Sunday, who at his master’s discovery of his household abuse immediately discerned urgent peril. 


The Steward, with little time, employed “unrighteous money” still under his control to glorify in the community his master’s merciful and gracious character; forgiving debts as a true steward or pastor in the image of his Master, and so obtained his own forgiveness to continue in the House.  


Of our “own” wealth, status, learning, position, authority, and other gifts; some possess more or less than others; still some stand in need. One discerns a common thread from the recent sequence of Jesus’ teachings. Those attending heaven’s banquet are the poor, humbled, and broken (Lk. 14:13, 21) who turn their hearts in repentance in “remembrance” of Moses and the prophets through the voice of Jesus (Deut. 18:18).


It is the Baptized, having died to self and rising to God who now occupy heaven’s table, under care of the church’s pastors for “remembrance” of God’s mercy toward his Israel.  By the words of sacramental Consecration, “this do in remembrance of me” you comprehend God’s mercy by its delivery and your reception of Jesus’ all sufficient Atonement for you. 


Upon Dives’ death, ‘Father Abraham’ directed that he “remember… [his] good things” (Lk. 16:25) held in single-minded enthrall and never seeing Lazarus at his gate.  But we, baptized into the sacrificial poverty of divine Lazarus, are blessed to hear and live repentant faith with open eyes open brothers and sisters in plight. 


When giving to the needy, we witness to Christ, which is to say; charity is not of ourselves, neither is mercy, any more than are the things we possess. It is all gift of God, and through us to his world. 


St. Paul counseled Pastor Timothy that the Church call spiritual men to Christ’s office of word and sacrament by which we have our Eucharistic “remembrance” and praise.


Daily the Baptized, through water, blood, and Spirit “remember” God’s grace by faith with all of our fellow scoundrels in penitence laying at the church’s gate for salvation by the narrow gateway.


Through unworthy pastors, we develop ears that hear and eyes that see radically alter lives (Luke 16:16). By God’s word we are being conformed into the image of Christ’s sacrificial, risen flesh, that with him we might abide upon the bosom and heart of God, and partake of the King’s bread and board.  Amen.




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Sermon - 9/22/19
2019.09.22 21:37:43

Proper 20/C [Pent. 15] (2019): Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15.


She,   But she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (v. 15).


This is one of those passages that drives “feminist-theologians” batty. You recognize the context; St. Paul addresses the congregation-Pastor relation, describing their respective order and spheres of authority.


The Pastor is the congregation’s steward of the things and mysteries of God for the benefit of the priesthood of believers to exercise a stewardship of faith, love, and thanksgiving.


So then, to whom is Paul referring, “But she will be saved through childbearing”? It’s not too difficult; by definition the Pastor’s Office stands in the place of Jesus, a picture of the Man with his bride out of whom new life is generated in her by conveyance of his word.


So, when Timothy, is directed with men “in every place” to pray, “lifting holy hands” (v. 8), in the Celebrant’s orans Altar posture—"let us pray”; Paul directs Prayer as communal and liturgical.


The Common Service of the Lutheran Church situates its Prayer following the Offertory and before the Sanctus connecting our supplications and intercessions with the Eucharistic thanksgiving. As your called man, standing at Altar in the stead of Christ, your gifts, self-offering, and prayers are lifted to God by Christ our Mediator.  


Paul’s Sermon describes God’s intended order and authority in his church, as between the man and the woman in the first creation (Gen. 2:15, 18) which Paul affirms to be continuing in the NT. The Apostle, by a pronoun change, then broadens his initial reference of the woman Eve to the woman “mother of all living” who is bride of Christ in the NT epoch (Gen. 3:20).


The one being saved or preserved through childbearing then is the NT community. This is made clear when Paul describes “she” as “they” (not all women), but men and women saved through the bride’s administering office of Baptism for bearing, birthing, and continuing to bear to new life by “faith and love and holiness, with self-control”, which is to say, in fidelity exercised by both men and women toward each other, especially in the marital relation (Eph. 5:32, 33).


Salvation, in this manner is the creative work of God, by the Father’s begetting from above by the Spirit, word and water (Jn. 3:3, 7, 8) to a believing priesthood in the on-going life of the one holy catholic apostolic Church. In this way the NT bride is oriented toward Christ in an order for the exercise of respective authorities as intended for Adam and Eve.


From this brief catechism we attend Jesus’ parable of the Dishonest Steward, a warning not only to Pharisees but to God’s NT priesthood. The Pharisees overhearing Jesus’ discourse, rightly discerned it as against their faithless stewardship especially for love of money (Lk. 16:14).


For both audiences the clock ticks-down to crisis; time for conversion, repentance, and knowledge of God in Christ was for the Pharisees, and for us is increasingly dear.


For the OT Pharisees, scribes, and priestly class, the cross would signal an end of their stewardship under the OT, just as the Dishonest Steward was threatened with his termination. Whatever was to be done, he must do quickly (v. 6).


In the movie “Man on Fire” Denzel Washington plays an ex-CIA agent, a true story of John Creasy, turned avenging angel, pursuing kidnappers of a little girl he was hired to protect. Seeking those responsible, Creasy captured the high-ranking policeman who instigated the girl’s ransoming.


Creasy restrains the policeman, loads him with plastic explosive attached to a detonator timed for 5 minutes. Whatever peace the corrupt policeman might make with Creasy, he must do quickly.


The man wasted his time thinking to threaten, bluff, or bargain his way out of his critical situation. Finally, the policeman recognized that time had all but run-out as Creasy walked away.


Desperate for a solution to his imminent demise the policeman cried, “What do you want?” Creasy from a safe distance quizzical asked, “What do I want? I wish you had more time.” – the alarm rang; the policeman returned to dust.  


Jesus defines our proper loyalties for godly stewardship, “No servant can have two masters…You cannot serve God and money” (v. 13). It is in the nature of crisis within our allotted time that there is either resolution or judgment.


Contrasted with the vacillating policeman Jesus’ Dishonest Steward wasted no time in finding his resolution. The moment he would turn over Rich Man’s books of account, he was “toast”. Still he kept his head; dispassionately assessed his situation; he is guilty, without excuse.


The steward does not wring hands over past misconduct or rationalize his breach of trust, he does not make a list of mitigating factors in defense; the cooked books speak for themselves.


Rather the steward draws on his considerable experience in the world and knowledge of his Master; for which Jesus commends him in finding a means of escape through “unrighteous mammon” (vv. 9, 11), the Master’s money which in eternity is worthless; but in the here and now may well be employed to a God pleasing stewardship.


Man’s attachment to money is inherently idolatrous; which teaching the Pharisees mocked. For those Pharisees and some “Christians”, it is received wisdom that worldly wealth is a sign of Divine favor; and, perhaps in some instances it is.


But, Jesus as Amos (8:4-7) in an earlier day, condemned the king’s house and God’s priesthood for their greed in league with an irreligious merchant class, defrauding and profiting at the expense of God’s people to the extent of mocking the holiness of the Sabbath day in favor of occasions for more commerce; tick-tock.


A black swan is a thing or event no one has ever seen, that is, until one day one appears, usually it will instigate crisis. Black swans are transformative, all former assumptions must be reassessed in light of what otherwise was previously unknown, and quickly. Jesus is history’s Black Swan, calling us to reassess all we thought normative, predictable and true of God.


Jesus’ crucifixion, the only innocent Man put to death by those whom he loves and sought to save, is for his NT church her stewardship model.


The Dishonest Steward was a thief in his master’s house. Still, he knew his Lord’s character, fabulously wealthy, especially in grace and mercy, generous to a fault; so much so that mammon, lucre, money, all that sinful men desire, fails to register in his household. Jesus says, “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (v. 15).  


When the steward’s cheating was exposed, he instantly discerned a black swan and crisis; “business as usual” would not resolve his problem. He realized money as ultimately unimportant to the Rich Man; but that it could advance the Master’s tenants for whom he cared and so were important while access to his Master’s wealth continued.


All things belong to God, held in trust to his ends. Certainly, in this world, we need money (“coin of the realm”), but so too, Wisdom may employ this “unrighteous wealth” in a God pleasing way; letting loose tight grasps on his wealth, relying in faith on his generosity, grace, and justice; trusting Wisdom to discern the proper balance of God’s claim on our possessions and the provision he would graciously have us retain and manage.


By applying the Rich Man’s money in a pleasing way, the steward at one and the same time testified to a faith that acknowledged the Master’s generosity, albeit under the gun, and the graciousness and justice he exercised to magnifying his Lord in the community.


In the end Jesus’ NT church is encouraged to freely give of her Lord’s wealth; the most precious of which in order is his word, sacraments, and the believing poor among us. His money is given for us to wisely allocate to God’s glory who “raises the poor from the dust and… gives the barren woman a home making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:7, 9). Amen.




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Sermon - 9/15/19
2019.09.15 22:21:19

Proper 19/C [Pent. 14] (2019): Ezek. 34:11-24; 1 Tim. 1:5-17; Luke 15:1-10.


Near,             Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (vv. 1, 2).


One can almost empathize with the Pharisees and scribes, learned in the law of Moses. By his speech, Jesus invited outsiders into a fellowship of ongoing feeding, an intimacy that would turn the world of Israel’s religious leaders “upside-down”.


It must have seemed to these religious men that Jesus was endorsing lawlessness, and eschewing human “righteousness”. For the Pharisees (meaning “Righteous Ones”) and Torah scribal scholars, Jesus’ associations were “crazy” and threatening their centuries old vocation as shepherds of God’s people. For those without ears to hear, Jesus’ invitation must have seemed, that he endorsed evil as good, and good as evil.


Jesus, following the ministry of JB, taught a baptism of repentance, turning from sin; yet repentance as taught by JB and Jesus was altogether different than the “repentance” understood by the Mosaic teachers.


Now this Sermon is not intended as an historical recount of comparative doctrines; rather it calls you to see that in turning from sin one must turn toward Someone, and that someone is Jesus, God’s sole shepherd, a posture that the Israelite teachers had arrogated to themselves.


St. Paul observed of the Ephesus congregations the very confusion that Jesus addresses today; and for this reason, he wrote to Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul then identified the danger to these congregations, even as we may discern it today, “Certain persons by swerving from these [aims] have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding…” (1 Tim. 1:5-7a).  


The problem confronting Jesus, St. Paul, and every “Christian” congregation revolves around a proper understanding of faith, specifically repentant faith; the question, is repentant love begotten of God’s law or of his gospel activity on the cross?


The Israelite teachers, thinking that Abraham’s faith was located in obedience to God’s commands were baffled by the proclamations of JB and Jesus. They observed and grumbled that public sinners, tax collectors, and those they considered “afflicted by God”: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, whom they excluded from their own communion, were invited and drawing near to Jesus by the message of unmerited grace and participation at his table and teaching.


But Jesus was teaching nothing other than what he already taught the Pharisee’s at their own Sabbath table; “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Lk, 14:12-14). The repentance that Jesus endorsed was one having orientation in God’s love of sinners.


For the teachers of Moses’ law, ancient or modern, Jew or some “Christians”, Jesus’ drawing of sinners to himself was exactly the wrong way of salvation; in short, a congregation of confessed sinners were perceived as “deplorables” and “irredeemable”, an abomination.  


Pharisees and scribes, were purveyors of God’s perfect morality in the congregation, holding themselves out, exemplars of “righteous” behavior; following their lead would labor induce and usher-in God’s Kingdom among men.


But to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ astonishment, JB’s witness to Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had already arrived, wholly apart from their own “righteousness”; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).


The Mosaic teachers roundly rejected John’s preaching and his baptism pointing to Jesus; on the other hand many, sinners who admited their condition and inability to obey the law, believed JB’s word, shifting focus on to Jesus, God’s Lamb in whom all men who confess their sin find atonement, forgiveness, God’s gracious love, a good conscience, and sincere faith.


JB’s proclamation of Jesus as the locus of God’s favor toward men was an earth-shattering “upside-down” revelation to the teachers of the law; that the Kingdom was a gracious, utter self-giving of God without man’s inducement, it in any way.


JB’s proclamation of Jesus answered two outstanding questions: 1) Isaac of his father, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7, 8); and, 2) our own question, “from whence comes repentance?” St. John the evangelist replies to both, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… We love, [by what God desires most, repentant faith], because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:10, 19).


This morning Jesus illustrates our source of repentant faith by three parables: 1) the lost and found sheep, 2) the lost and found coin, and 3) the lost and found prodigal son. God sent Jesus to his sheep, his new David and Good Shepherd replacing those “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding… [and] that Jesus came into the world [precisely] to save [not the “righteous”, but] sinners…” (1 Tim. 1:7, 15b).


The thing about sheep is that any one is pretty much like another; certainly, in the sense that all are sinners gone astray. But God by his love of sinners takes exquisite concern and particular care of us; “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out” (Ezek. 34:11).


God’s concern for each of his sheep is obsessive; he constantly counts, seeks, and sorts his flock. When one goes missing, he goes out to save, restore, carry, herd, bed-it down, bind up its wounds, nourishes, and strengthens it in the power of his word and Sacrament. His love for his wandering sheep knows no bounds, to the extent of sending his only Son the crucified Lamb of our propitiation at the cross, the place to which our following leads.


Is it any wonder that repentant sinners flocked to Jesus for a new begetting, not of legal demands, but of faith in an imparted knowledge that “Jesus sinners doth receive”. The author to the Hebrews urges us to “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” in whom all of heaven rejoices for his joy in the cross set before him (12:2).


Finally, Jesus employs a feminine figure for his church illustrating ongoing repentance in her house. The woman lost, perhaps a part of her dowry who is Christ, one of ten valuable coins. The congregations of Ephesus were muddied by “persons… without understanding” of law and gospel (1 Tim. 1:6, 7). To counter what would amount as loss of Jesus from false doctrine, St. Paul left Timothy as spiritual overseer in word.


By the light of the woman’s lamp, the sweep of God’s word rightly proclaimed toward Jesus only, the woman locates a hidden coin. In the fullness of law and gospel properly distinguished, the church has her joy in the fullness of Christ, her dowry, trusting that both in proper purpose will be applied in her house. Amen.




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