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Sermon - 4/14/19
2019.04.15 22:02:59

PALM-PASSION/ABC (2019): Jn. 12:12-19; Dt. 32:36-39 (OT changes); Phil. 2:5-11; Jn. 12:20-43.

 

Understand,         [Jesus’] disciples did not understand these things at first, but when [he] was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him (v. 16). 

 

What “things” did the disciples fail to understand?  Certainly they did not understand the significance of Jesus’ kingdom come for judgment and for grace; neither did the disciples comprehend his kingdom in feeding the 5,000 portending a festival of a new exodus; nor the raising of Lazarus days earlier; nor Jesus’ predicted rejection in Jerusalem; his Passion, death, and resurrection as providing the Kingdom contour.  Jesus’ disciples did not understand “these things”.

 

But in these latter days starting with Baptism, our growth in understanding “these things” is essential to a vibrant faith life.  For a short time the disciples lack of comprehension would remain.  Only in the power of the Resurrection and the HS’s bestowal would the church experience day by day advance in the knowledge of God and his Christ (Jn. 17:3). 

 

One theologian (David Scaer, Th.D.) described the church’s advance as, “All theology is Christology”, that one does not come to God apart from the revealed word and work of the man Jesus.

 

To consider God, say from the self-evident proposition of his sovereignty, bypassing the lens of Jesus in whom that sovereignty is exercised (Calvin’s error), will result, as Paul says, in having “another Jesus”, “a different gospel”, and “different Spirit” (2 Cor. 11:4).

 

Others who harden hearts, reject Jesus as heaven’s Light among us, becoming confirmed in the sin of the world, unbelief (Jn.12:37-40) of God’s love in Christ.

 

Mary treasured “the things” spoken of her son in her heart; also those speaking against him would pierce her soul (Lk. 2:19, 35).  Yet from the start of Jesus’ ministry, Mary was among the disciples without comprehension of “these things”.  At Cana she impliedly wanted Jesus to solve a wedding run out of wine dilemma. 

 

Initially Jesus responded, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn. 2:4).  In Mary’s mind Jesus should solve this worldly tragedy; but in making her request she stumbled upon and triggered in the mind of Jesus the archetypical mystery of his work from the Father. 

 

Jesus reconsidered Mary’s request turning water to wine as chief of all his signs to reveal the mystery of “his hour”, his Passion which feast we celebrate today and its sacramental instantiation on Holy Thursday. 

 

As for the precise moment of “his hour”, Jesus awaited the Father.  At the Passover were Greeks hearing Jerusalem shout of Jesus, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (12:13, 14).  The Greeks desired to see King Jesus, requesting an audience through Philip and Andrew. 

 

Jesus understood this as fulfilling of the Pharisaic prophecy, “Look the world has gone after him” (12:19b) and indicating that “his hour” had arrived.  Knowing of death’s imminence Jesus explained the mystery upon which Mary had stumbled by the parable of a Fallen Grain of Wheat. 

 

Jesus taught of his investiture into his kingdom; that by his crucified lifting he is the Fallen Seed that will multiply in drawing many to God by the completion of his Baptism on the cross. By his interpretation the parable gives contour to the church’s understanding of feeding 5,000 with five loaves.

 

Surely Philip and Andrew and the apostolic band in the power of the Resurrection would advance the Church’s understanding in advancing of knowledge of God for all who seek Jesus, her crucified Lord!

 

Still Jerusalem’s ebullient greeting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel”, was frustrated by incomprehension.  The true visual of Jerusalem’s welcome would only be revealed in his death, which is to say, there is no proper hail of Jesus and knowledge of God apart from his nails. 

 

Spiritual sightedness comes by heaven’s Light. Jesus says of himself, “The Light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you” (v. 35a).  Thus the parable of the Fallen Seed in death’s germination gives us to “see” the source of our new Life and Way in the “hour” of our crucified Lord.  God says, “[T]here is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive” (Dt. 32:39b, c).  

 

At Jesus lifted up, the church in the power of the Resurrection joins the Psalmist to understand, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24); where from the house of the Lord (v. 26b) built upon the rejected Cornerstone (v. 22) we proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD, even the King of Israel” (v. 26a).   

 

By Light we observe God’s household of Bread, first at Bethlehem’s Nativity and then its final locale, out of the Land into the crucified flesh of Jesus. The Father’s and our new dwelling place is in Jesus’ fleshly zeal for the Father’s presence, consuming him for his perfect obedience (Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9).  Jesus’ body and blood in the power of the Resurrection is the “Thing” of our new Life in the new House of the Lord. 

 

Stated earlier, the parable of the Fallen Seed concludes our understanding of feeding the 5,000. Jesus tested Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (Jn. 6:5b).  Philip did not know and Andrew only muttered of a boy’s meager barley loaves and fish; but at feeding’s end the Apostles collected twelve baskets of food fragments representing the church’s ministry of heavenly abundance through Jesus. 

 

In today’s Gospel it is again the Passover festival. Now Jesus teaches what the sight of his Passion entails for those desiring to “see” him; a man dying, God’s Spirit fired Grain for forgiveness of sin, germination in the grave that all people might be drawn and gathered at the sight of such love, to be one loaf united in Eucharist; the Father’s provision for his House in the Resurrection.

 

The Jews of the old temple rejected Jesus, their new Bread from heaven, even as ancient Israel “grumbled” against the manna, quail, and water in the desert. Like the 5,000 in the wilderness and the grumbling Israelites both desired only material bread from God’s visitation. 

 

When Pilate presented Jesus to the Jerusalem crowd, scourged and wearing a crown of thorns, saying, “Behold the man!” (19:5), they changed triumphal shouts of “Hosanna” (Ps. 118:25) to “Crucify him!” (Jn. 19:6).  Jerusalem turned from the Light of their King revealed in obedient humility (Phil. 2:6, 7).

 

From birth to death Jesus is magnified Bread of Life, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). 

 

The church’s sacramental counterpoint to eat her spiritual food punctuates her Supper comprehending Passion, death, and resurrection, “Take, eat; this is my body… Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  

 

Today, in the words of Pilate, I present for your acceptance or rejection the same Jesus whose glory is his Passion, “Behold the man!” (19:5), and “Behold your King!” (v. 14b).  

 

Many are repulsed at the sight; still the Lord’s Supper inaugurating Jesus’ Passion is what he says it is, he is our bread, meat, and drink in the new epoch of the new creation coming into being. “In this manner God loved the world” (Jn. 3:16).

 

Our meal instituted on Holy Thursday purifies us in baptismal union with Christ’s sacrificial flesh; presenting us to the Father by his work on the cross a spotless bride. Thus God beholds the Church, taken from the Man’s rent side, to be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, giving her to the Man for an eternal union in Mary’s flesh.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/7/19
2019.04.08 19:29:41

5th SUNDAY IN LENT/C (2019): Isa. 43:16-21; Phil. 3:4b-14; Luke 20:9-20. 

 

Time,            “When the time came, [the owner] sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty handed” (v. 10). 

 

It is axiomatic; “timing is everything”. We might intend to roast a turkey, but unless we defrost and prepare the bird before baking the meal will fail.  We might do all things correctly but if application is either premature or late, effort and intention are lost. 

 

That “timing is everything” is especially true when conditions or circumstances change. Roasting times and temperatures alter if a new convection oven replaces an older conventional one.  Failure to account and adapt to the new timing and heat adjustments will result in a ruined dinner. 

 

Well this is not the Food Channel; still it must be observed that ignorance about new times and seasons is one thing; but pigheaded insistence on outmoded ways about the advancing revelation of God with men is quite another. God warned Israel, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old [the Red Sea exodus]. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isa. 43:18, 19a). 

 

At some point refusal to accept new realities becomes delusional, resulting in tragic consequences.  Jesus just entered Jerusalem, the Holy City, and because they “did not know the appointed time of [its Divine] visitation” Jerusalem was the object of Jesus’ tears (Lk. 19:41-44); the city was about to become the City of God’s wrath. 

 

The church in this time of Lent is on the same journey as was Jerusalem on Jesus’ visitation. This is our final Sunday before entering Jerusalem with Jesus on Palm/Passion Sunday.  Either we enter with eyes wide open discerning “the appointed time” of God accomplishing in Jesus his “new thing” or we cling to the old things, failing to participate in God’s new exodus through Christ. 

 

On the day of resurrection, prior to ascending to the Father, Jesus warned Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me (that is in the old way of knowing him)” (Jn. 20:17).  It is not as though God changes the goal posts; rather the Divine realities are from eternity; and what God accomplished in the past is always prologue to his “new way” in Christ, so that “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” of God’s new thing with men (Lk. 20:17).  

 

Timing is everything; failure to employ new wineskins with new wine, insisting on old ones guarantees the loss of all. By the new thing God has done and is doing in Christ, grace, truth, and life are obtained; but insistence on old ways is to court judgment.  Accordingly, after cleansing the old temple, Jesus speaks to the people against the guardians of the temple who refused John’s baptism unto repentance, telling them the parable of the Wicked Tenant Farmers. 

 

What is the “new thing” that we must perceive in our Lenten approach to Jerusalem and the cross?  We have a hint from our introduction to Lent on the Mt. of Transfiguration.  Jesus was revealed in his coming resurrection glory conversing with Moses and Elijah about his “exodus” (9:31).  Anointed as God’s new Israel at his Baptism, it is Jesus’ exodus that is the “new thing” of God’s doing. 

 

In our new exodus through Jesus’ water and blood issued from the cross is the moment in time of God’s visitation and his laying the corner-Stone of our salvation in the apostolic church. One either accepts Jesus in his water and blood in the Resurrection as the Church’s constitutive reality or he is rejected. 

 

It is not easy setting aside the old and familiar for what is new and coming into being.  The Owner of the vineyard who leased it into the care of the OT religious establishment expected fruit to be produced and given over to him the good sweet wine of repentant faith. 

 

Appropriate to the Owner’s merciful character for patience he repeatedly sought his fruit by way of the prophets but they were rebuffed. In these last days he has sent us his Son by whose death we participate in the sacrificial food of repentance, the water, the flesh, and the blood.

 

In the desert Moses was commanded to preach Christ to the people, their Rock or Stone with them for delivery of water and life in a hostile environment (Num. 20:10-12; cf.); in this way Moses was to deliver God’s pure Gospel intention. But Moses thought the old way of striking the Rock with words of wroth (Ex. 17:5, 6) better in keeping with the exodus out of Egypt. 

 

The problem was that God wanted Moses to lead the people out of the desert and into the new realities of the Promised Land, the new place of his gracious presence.  For Moses’ adherence to the old way, unmindful of God’s visitation by the Rock in dealing with the people, he was denied entry into the Land.

 

Elijah conducted himself in much the same way. After killing 450 Baal priests of queen Jezebel, Elijah, for fear fled the woman, scurrying to the security of an old place, Mt. Horeb where the old exodus commenced in earnest.  God directed Elijah, depart the old and return to the Land of presence, providing comfort to his remnant people, preserving them by his prophetic Voice. 

 

On the Mt. of Transfiguration Jesus, Moses, and Elijah conversed about the new thing God was doing in Jesus, a new exodus.  By the old exodus God saved Israel through the death of every unredeemed “firstborn son”.  In the new exodus Jesus is the One unredeemed “firstborn” of Mary and beloved “Isaac” of the Father, who on the cross would provide the redemptive sacrificial blood for covering the whole world’s sin. 

 

Unlike Moses and Elijah, Jesus would not disobey his Father’s will nor seek to save himself in the security of old ways, of continual substitutionary sacrifices; rather he set his face toward his Passion and death, the new way for the salvation for all.

 

On the cross the glory of God was revealed in the new exodus through the water and the blood released from Jesus’ body (Jn. 19:34). Death on the cross was a hidden glory; but three day hence it was fully revealed in the power of the resurrection, only suggested at the time of the Transfiguration.  In God’s words, “now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

 

If we are to follow Jesus as his New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12) delivering to God the fruit he desires, then we must locate the time of Jesus’ visitation with us now, before the Last Day.  Jesus has shown the new way, the way of the cross; of suffering before Joy; thus we “fix our eyes of Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Lenten Gradual; Heb. 12:2)

 

In today’s Epistle St. Paul boasts in the old ways; but now by the grace of the gospel he rather urges us to our an upward call in Christ Jesus and to count personal worthiness and suffering as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus in the power of the resurrection (Phil. 3:4b-10).

 

Here then is the new thing of the new exodus into which we are called: hearing God’s word we follow suit with Jesus as the Baptized; we sow in tears over sins and the world’s unbelief that Christ we might reap God’s fruit of repentance from us through his body and blood.

 

For this harvest that Christ offers to God, we raise Eucharistic shouts of joy; for we are the very sheaves out of Jesus’ granary that he presents as a fruitful offering before the Father (Ps. 126:5, 6). Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon -3/31/19
2019.04.03 22:16:20

4th SUNDAY IN LENT/C (2019): Isa. 12:1-6; 2 Cor. 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. 

 

Reconciled,           … God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… (v. 18). 

 

By baptism and apostolic call St. Paul was a minister of God’s reconciliation of the world in Christ through his church. Paul was preceded in this Office by ancient Israel baptized into Moses through the Red Sea and consecrated a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). 

 

Priests have access before God, offering sacrifices on account of sin, therewith feed the people, and intercede on behalf of all people; God having declared, “all the earth is mine” (v. 5). 

 

By our baptism into Christ’s once for all sacrifice and fidelity to his feeding the church continues his ministry in the world; ambassadors intended to reflect the substance and character of God in Christ.

 

God identified ancient Israel his “firstborn son” (4:22).  In terms of our Gospel parable, ancient Israel was God’s elder son and brother to a prodigal world of sinners and Gentiles. 

 

And this is where we find Jesus in today’s Gospel; he is God’s beloved Son from eternity (Lk. 3:22) and his Anointed human son (Ps. 2:7) ordained “new Israel”, Elder Son and Brother for the life of the world, which Holy Office ancient Israel failed and abandoned.

 

Jesus is conflicted with the scribes and Pharisees who continue their claim as Israel’s representatives. The stakes are high; for one or the other matters will not end well.  When Israel’s religious establishment criticized Jesus for eating with sinners (Lk. 15:1, 2), he speaks to them the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Elder Brother, and their Loving Father. 

 

We also hear the parable and are rightly asked; with whom do we identify? I expect most relate with the Prodigal encouraged by most Sermons.  At one time you may have gone off the rails into a life of sin, or perhaps later you were converted by the Word to arrive at your Father’s house and partake with thanksgiving of the holy things for your salvation. 

 

But again consider, whether having remained in your baptismal faith or after lapse and restoration, where do you stand in Jesus’ parable? Certainly you are not pictures of the father, for none of us exhibits unqualified love and mercy. 

 

Neither do we stand for the curious, surprised, or ambivalent villagers observing the father’s outrageous grace in the midst of the unfolding household drama. No, once you were lost in the world, outside the house; but today in Christ you are found and alive in the father’s house through the ministry of reconciliation. 

 

In baptism you have been embraced and receive the welcoming kiss of peace from your Elder Brother on behalf of the Father. By daily confession of sin you continue to wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness and the ring of his ambassadorial Office of your Father’s love for the world; you wear the sandals of a freeman signifying your willing service in the Father’s house, possessing all rights and prerogatives of sons and daughters especially in the joy of his Table fellowship. 

 

So with whom should we identify? Is it not our Elder Brother; oh, not the angry, spiteful, and unloving elder brother of the parable acted out by the scribes and Pharisees, who despise Jesus for eating with sinners; but with Christ, our new Israel and High Priest come for God’s reconciliation with sinners.

 

The Prodigal demanded that the father divide his “estate”, using a Greek word, “ousia”.  Jesus’ use of “ousia” allows us to comprehend the father’s outrageous mercy and desire for familial reconciliation in the face of the Prodigal’s treachery (Mt. 10:36). 

 

Certainly “ousia” can mean “property” as it is usually translated; but Christologically, it has a deeper meaning beyond the notion of material wealth.  “Ousia” denotes, in this case, God’s personal “essence” or “substance”. 

 

The Prodigal and the elder are “sons”; both are from the loins of the same father each possessed of his essence or being.  The church employs this language when confessing Jesus’ nature, “I believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ… being of the same (“‘omo”) substance (“ousiov”) with the Father…” (Nicene Creed, Art. II).  

 

At first, neither the Prodigal nor the watching village comprehends the father’s “ousias”.  They believe that the drama being played out is “all about the Benjamins”, that the Prodigal’s essential sin was in squandering the family estate among foreigners; certainly this is the perspective of his miserly brother unable to forgive and so despises his his father’s other son. 

 

It is only when the Prodigal had been fully restored to the father in the sight of the village and in the hearing of the elder brother that the true nature of the Prodigal’s sin dawns on us all. It turns out that the Prodigal’s sinful excesses were revelatory of an aspect of the father. 

 

The father’s every action was the very definition of “prodigal”; the father’s conduct toward his younger son is outrageously extravagant and insanely unwise (“spare the rod and you’ll spoil that child”). The father’s distribution to both sons was infinitely more extravagant than the Prodigal’s wastrel life. 

 

Because the Prodigal’s “ousias” was of his father, even in the face of the son’s utter depravity, the father’s love remained.  Repentance worked in the younger son came by the father’s extravagant, longsuffering mercy, ultimately resulting in an outpouring of a father’s love on reunion (1 Jn. 4:19). 

 

Jesus explains his own “ousias” as from the Father’s eternal begetting; Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (Jn. 14:8, 9).  

 

The great surprise then was not that the Prodigal was extreme in both his sins and penitence; but in a perverse way he was exhibiting the prodigal character of his father for extravagant mercy and love.

 

The unforeseen surprise of the parable is the elder son’s attitude, fully participating in the father’s distribution, yet despising his father; refusing his Office of “firstborn” son as minister of reconciliation on his brother’s return to the household and the father’s “ousias”.

 

The point of ancient Israel’s baptism into Moses was in becoming a nation of priests, “firstborn” of God to reveal God’s “ousias” in the world; by which knowledge God’s merciful and gracious character might bring about the reconciliation of a lost world in the love of Christ. 

 

By Baptism we are joined as one in the “ousias” of Jesus.  The Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:6-8) issued from the cross, conveys among us the very substance, the “ousias” of the Father’s merciful love. 

 

By the ministry of Christ with his church we are elder brothers and priests of Jesus’ self-donation for reconciliation with the world, beginning with our Eucharistic dining and praise at the King’s table, first for our forgiveness and in our going forth as ambassadors. Amen.  

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/24/19
2019.03.25 20:21:30

3rd SUNDAY IN LENT/C (2019): Ezek. 33:7-20; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; Luke (12:58, 59)—13:9. 

 

Accuser,      As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and… put you in prison… [from which] you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny” (Lk. 12:58, 59). 

 

Every student worth his salt develops a somewhat perverse talent for distracting the class from the lesson at hand; it’s just what happens in a teacher-student forum.

 

Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem, was teaching the necessity of settling with your Accuser before arriving at court. It was at this point that some present Jesus either brought news or reminded of a bloody outrage perpetrated by Pilate against Galilean worshippers in the temple.

 

Those following Jesus probably expected him to condemn Pilate’s sacrilege. Jesus does not ignore the class disruption; rather he employs it as an example to advance his imperative to settle on the way.  Jesus turns the murderous incident back on the class, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were sinners, more than all the other Galileans, because they have suffered these things?” (Lk. 13:2).  

 

It was as if Jesus said, “bad stuff happens in this world—get over it. What is of eminently greater import is that you come to terms with the One to whom you owe a righteous debt.” 

 

If it hasn’t yet occurred to you, “settlement on the way” is Jesus’ destination, his Passion and cross, the place of God’s judgment on the world.  Unless and until you come to terms with Jesus, the crucified Lord, he is your unassailable Accuser of sin; and God is the Magistrate who consigns to hell until the last penny of debt is paid.  There will be no purgatorial work-release program, only an un-payable eternal debt. 

 

Don’t wag your finger at Pilate’s or any other self-evident evil in this sin-marred world detached by original sin from God’s good intention and will. Look first to yourself, to the “plank in your own eye” (Mt. 7:5) before sudden catastrophe and death befalls and overtakes as it did to the unsuspecting Galileans in the temple and the Jews at Siloam’s tower.  

 

Quickly settle with the One whom God sent to bear the sin of the world and into whose hand all judgment is delivered.   While there is time in these last days, confess and repent of your sins and accept God’s gracious offer of settlement in Christ, who on the cross has paid the last penny of your debt; these are the terms your Accuser offers on the way. 

 

On the Mt. of Transfiguration God, the Magistrate, gave apostolic counsel to Peter, James, and John, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him! (Lk. 9:35). 

 

Last Sunday we observed that by Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection the NT church is God’s New Jerusalem in union with Jesus’ word and sacrificial flesh and blood.  Old Jerusalem rejected God’s gracious offer.  And so we are reminded, through Ezekiel of man’s assessment of God’s grace, “[Y]our people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ (33:17).

 

Man’s ways are not God’s way. Sinful men prefer judgment according to group, what today we call “identity politics”; it is easier to condemn others in order to perceive our own associations as superior.  Thus the murdered Galileans and the Jews killed by faulty tower construction implied, in Jewish thought, that God passed judgment through gruesome deaths, “serving each group right for something they did or failed to do.”

 

But God does not judge innocence or guilt by group, such as; Jew vs. Gentile; Galilean vs. Judean; Pharisees (ancient and modern) vs. everybody; Lutherans vs. Protestants or Romanists.

 

God judges individuals, solely at and by his Son on the cross, the place of all God’s judgment. One either accepts the generous terms of Jesus’ sacrifice by faith apart from your effort (Rom. 3:28); or one rejects the gracious terms of settlement in Christ alone; in which case Jesus becomes your implacable Accuser.  God judges individuals; warning, “O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways” (Ezek. 33:20). 

 

God’s way of salvation consists in our appropriating by faith the righteousness of Christ and God’s judgment on him in our place on the cross.

 

Some “Christians”, distrust God’s word for their salvation in Christ, inventing doctrines according to the group mentality of men. Examples of this mentality today may be found in such doctrines as labeling some as damned from eternity and others elected, so called “double predestination” in complicity with the equally un-Scriptural error of those grouped, “once saved always saved”. 

 

These imaginings distort God’s word and slander his character, repeating the ancient charge, “God’s way is not just” (Ezek. 33:17).  The result of such implied accusation serves only to lead many into despair and away from God contrary to his intention that all men come to repentant faith in Christ, crucified for the sin of the entire world.

 

Today St. Paul points out that the ancient Israelites were baptized through the Red Sea into Moses and yet many, tempted in the mentality of men despised God’s way, the pre-incarnate Christ, their sacramental ministering Rock and so were overthrown in the desert (1 Cor. 10:1-5).

 

Worldly ways and temptations continue and are common to all men and women baptized into Christ, or not. Faith is not simply a bald statement of “belief” for even the demons believe Jesus is Lord (James 2:19). Faith is inherently a relation of penitential trust that gives rise to constant existential choice in turning from sin.

 

Confronted by the HS’ working of faith, God is merciful to relent of his wrath over sin for Christ’s sake. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Mt. 6:13) and “God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability but… provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). 

 

And when your fidelity fails, God’s does not. Baptism into Jesus is surety of your divine settlement in which you always have gracious access and return in word and sacrament. 

 

From time to time you will sin, but the more existentially constant your eyes behold Jesus crucified, you will not take the same delight in sin it once afforded. Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/17/19
2019.03.18 17:56:18

2nd SUNDAY IN LENT/C (2019): Jer. 26:8-15; Philippians 3:17—4:1; Luke 13:31-35. 

 

Jerusalem,             ‘…[I]t is necessary for me today and tomorrow and the coming day to journey, because it is impossible that a prophet perish outside Jerusalem.’ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her, how often I have desired to gather your children in the way a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, but you were not willing. Behold, your house is being abandoned to you. But I say to you, you will surely not see me until you say, ‘blessed the Coming One in the name of the Lord.’” (vv. 33-35). 

 

Last Sunday Jesus, after his temptation by the devil, reentered the Promised Land as Christ of God and new Israel. His journey would terminate in Jerusalem, then to the cross outside her gates. 

 

In the desert the devil transported Jesus to atop the temple that marked Jerusalem as, “The Holy City”; today by Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem we are transported, not to the old temple but to the cross where Jesus’ Baptism would conclude, invested to be the new Temple of God, the place of his unique priestly sacrifice in his own fleshly innocence.  

 

Thus, here we are in Lent, at both Jesus’ beginning and ending of his earthly journey; Jesus gathering followers in military march for his assault to regain from Satan the heart and soul of Israel in the Land, Jerusalem.  Jesus is the Blessed One of God in tears for those rejecting his rescue (Lk. 6:21), O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… I have desired to gather your children in the way a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, but you were not willing.” 

 

Jeremiah, the “Prophet of Lament”, preached repentance for Jerusalem’s manifold distain toward God; warning that she could not avert judgment simply relying on being “The Holy City”, the place of God’s temple presence.

 

St. Paul is an “Apostle of Tears” preaching a similar Sermon to the church at Philippi over those who have fallen out of their baptismal journey, “For many… I… tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). 

 

Lovers longing for another may vacillate in the relation. The beloved may react with indifference, especially to overtures that are perceived as lacking in reserve or proportionality.  Love then for a time is played at, a game of preliminaries, until perchance union occurs to produce children, when love blooms to maturity that desires and gives unconditional love, love without reserve. 

 

It may be a bit dicey to do theology from the perspective of human behavior; that said, God, who is wholly other from his creation, reveals his nature with the incarnation of his Son, joining himself to men and women by the absolute of the HS’ processing love through Christ.

 

God in Christ is our non-proportional, our extreme Lover. He reacts to human ennui toward him with love culminating at the extremity of the cross; the abandonment of his only Son in bearing the sin of the world.  It is at the cross that God, at one and the same time abandons those offended at Jesus’ outstretched arms to enfold those drawn and gathered under the wings of his unreserved love (Lk. 23:39-43). 

 

Jesus warned old Jerusalem, “Behold, your house is being abandoned to you. But I say to you, you will surely not see me until you say, ‘blessed the Coming One in the name of the Lord.’”  Jerusalem was to be confronted with God’s unreserved love in abandonment and ingathering.  For those offended by extreme love at the sacrifice of God’s Son; so also they will be offended by his abandon of their temple.  

 

St. Paul identifies “Christians” who abandon God’s absolute love in Christ saying, they “walk as enemies of the cross” with the result, that absent a gracious return to baptismal repentance, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18, 19). 

 

Repentant faith is continually worked by Baptism in Christ and thus built up in us to be God’s New Jerusalem, united and one with her new Temple, “the secret place” (NKJV, Mt. 6:6, 18) of Jesus’ crucified and risen flesh and blood present to our Father. 

 

It is for your enlightenment of Scripture that the Church’s Gradual song directs attention to the “graven image” of her only God, the crucified fleshly corpus over our Altar from which proceeds our feeding in the Holy Communion.

 

Between the OT and Epistle Readings we now grasp the Gospel context of Trinitarian love formerly hidden in ages long past, “[O come, let us fix our eyes on] Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). 

 

Having fixed our eyes on Jesus in word, the congregation is able to participate in Jesus’ consecratory sung words, acclaiming our new sight in the new creation’s feeding, “Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Sanctus).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/10/19
2019.03.12 22:49:47

1st SUNDAY IN LENT/C (2019): Dt. 26:1-11; Rom. 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13 

 

Confess,      [I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (vv. 9, 10).   

 

On entering military service men and women verbally confess an oath of allegiance to defend the country and obey all lawful orders of appointed commanders.

 

When God brought Israel to be his covenant people out of Egypt they made a confession of allegiance (Ex. 19:7, 8). The twelve tribes of Jacob were now no longer “wandering Arameans” (Dt. 26:5), but Israel, the army of God on earth dedicated to his campaign. 

 

The tribes mobilized and camped, around the Ark of God’s presence in battle array (Num. 1). Reconstituted, from being aimless slaves, newly dedicated to the God of Abraham, Israel set off for the Land promised their fathers.  As the march to Canaan progressed rebellion in the ranks and leadership erupted against Moses and his lawful command. 

 

Finally, in short order the Israelite army, having passed through the desert, and made fit by martial discipline and privation stood at the door to the Promised Land, ready to enter on orders from on high.

 

Moses sent representatives of the tribes to spy out the occupied land. After forty days, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the report came back that their adversaries were too strong; the people rebelled for fear, refusing to enter and join the battle. 

 

If Israel were to continue as army of God their confessional metal would have to be strengthened and reformed (semper reformanda ecclesia est).  For disobedience, the Lord denied the first exodus generation entry into the Land; once again the people became “wanderers” in the desert. 

 

It would take another forty years for God to outfit a new Israelite army that would rely solely on the weapon of God’s word and await the call to duty under Joshua, their new captain.  

 

And by today’s Gospel, is where the church finds herself on the 1st Sunday in Lent.  If you will accept it, Jesus by his Baptism in the HS is our new Israel, called to be faithful where OT Israel failed and where we by nature are wont to react according to the same fears apart from his word “near to us and in our mouths and hearts” (Rom. 10:8), the sole weapon of our warfare. 

 

Ash Wednesday informs the church of her destination at the beginning of her forty-day journey to the end time battle. We don’t journey into a land, a stone temple or citadel, or even to sundry church buildings; rather we are daily directed by Baptism to a mightier fortress, “the secret place” (NKJV, Mt. 6:6, 17) of our communion with God, our Temple in the crucified and resurrected body of Jesus.

 

At the cross children and adults receive their commissioning by Baptism into Jesus’ sacrificial body, one with him, brother and Captain, for the church’s warfare in these end times.

 

On Jesus’ Baptism the Spirit led him into the desert to stand in the place of failed OT Israel, outside the land looking in, true Israel for his people. At the end of his forty-day fast Jesus, the Christ of God, at his fleshly and spiritual weakest, receive the devil’s opening salvos.

 

We consider one of the devil’s temptations suffered by Jesus; but first we recall our final preparation from Jesus for this Lenten journey to the cross. Jesus, in his “Sermon on The Plain” imparted to us four odd blessings: poverty, hunger, tears, and hatred from men (Lk. 6:20-22).

 

These blessings had the effect of reducing Jesus and his followers in the face sin to a common denominator. By outward appearance the blessings would leave us bereft of God; but in fact they strengthen and reform us to confess and rely on God’s word, and nothing else. 

 

We are blessed in physical and spiritual poverty, hungering for bread that the world does not possess, we are blessed in tears on account of our sin and rebellion, and stand against devilish men, as Jesus, we are trained and ready. In daily exercise, we march from our new exodus by the cross for entry into our new Temple, a Mighty Fortress who is our God crucified and resurrected. 

 

Fear is the enemy of every soldier. If there is to be military glory; fear of privation, fear of harm, and fear of death must be overcome.  Fear speaks to our every day lives; insufficient money, clothing, and shelter; distrust of enemies, flagging friends, and familial disloyalty; fear of men who glory at our expense in worldly affairs; and fear of hell for lack of faith.   

 

In the context of our odd blessings of apparent weakness, Satan spiritually transported Jesus to Jerusalem’s temple, atop a high pinnacle. Satan had prepped the battlefield of Jesus’ flesh, pointing out that if he entered the land with the intent of recapture, that his devils were far too strong, and every bit as fearsome as the Canaanites were to OT Israel. 

 

If Jesus finally arrived at Jerusalem, where he now stood on the temple pinnacle, surely the sum of all men’s fears would overtake at the prospect of his death. Not only would Jesus die (after all, the kingdoms of the inhabited [i.e., fallen] world were delivered to Satan); but if Jesus insisted on invading his stronghold he would do so an impoverished Christ, hunger and thirst, without a place to lay his head, cry over Jerusalem’s rejection (Lk. 13:34), bear the scorn of men who would afflict his body and soul; and in the end be abandoned by God (Mt. 27:46).

 

How could this be the “glory” God intended for his Son and Christ? Satan then suggested a short-cut around the Passion and Jesus’ rejection in Jerusalem; a soldier’s glory if you will, like Jews leaping from the high cliffs of fortress Masada during Rome’s 1st century siege. 

 

Jump! And if Jesus really believed the Voice from heaven at his Baptism, that he is “Son of God”, then Jesus would be spared harm and death by angels’ wings (Ps. 91:12) that would draw people to his glorious salvation.

 

The problem is, such angelic rescue would be Jesus’ salvation, but not ours. Jesus would be written out of the script of man’s salvation.  Rather by obedience to God’s battle plan, Jesus secures victory and draws all people to himself in being lifted on the cross in death and raised to life (Jn. 12:31, 32).

 

If Satan could induce Jesus to accept a different “glory” than ordained by his Father, a once for all sacrifice for the sin of the world, then man’s salvation would be turned on its head. Satan would de facto become our “high priest” before God. 

 

We would pray to avoid our crosses in this life, as do some, “O God bless me with a beautiful wife, a powerful husband, obedient and perfectly formed children, a house if not a mansion, health, wealth, and all the “good” things the world affords.”

 

What Satan offered Jesus, he offers to you and I today, a glory apart from Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross in poverty, hunger, tears, and persecutions, even as Jesus urges us to daily pick up our crosses and follow him.

 

Satan offers a church without martyrs; a glory desired by Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, a glory without Gethsemane and Golgotha. But in Lent that is precisely where we are headed in martial discipline and privation, to prevail in Christ over sin, the world, and our rebellious flesh. 

 

Our confessional fidelity assures that we partake in the spoils of the warfare, Eucharistic crucified and risen flesh and blood of Jesus, now and on the Last Day.

 

In Lent, we are armed only with the sword of the Spirit, the pierced body of Christ who is word of God; daily we thrust our Captain before us the one who puts all satanic powers and authorities under his feet reigning in his church.

 

At the cross of Christ’s victory, we confess that at one time we were “wandering Arameans”; but now by grace in Christ we “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] hearts that God raised him from the dead”…  a God pleasing glory on earth and a glory in heaven for our transfiguring in him.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/6/19
2019.03.08 00:05:15

LENT-ASH WED./ABC (2019): Joel 2:12-19; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

 

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

 

Jesus teaches his disciples where and how we are to pray and fast. The church employs this Reading at the beginning of Lent.  We are now fully descended from the height of Sunday’s revelation on the Mt. of Transfiguration to a new household and Temple.  We continue to journey with Jesus in the Way of the cross.  

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Your room”, does not direct to a personal “little closet”, as some translations have it, where people go to pray in the private recesses of their own hearts. Such isolated “me and Jesus” mentality is unknown to the church’s corporate communion. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Sermon - 3/3/19
2019.03.05 00:24:27

TRANSFIGURATION/C (2019): Dt. 34:1-12; Heb. 3:1-6; Luke 9:28-36  

 

Glory,           And behold, two men were conversing with [Jesus], who were Moses and Elijah, who having appeared in glory, were speaking about his exodus, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem (vv. 30, 31).

 

Suggestive of its importance in the life of Jesus, the three synoptic evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide accounts of the Transfiguration. Apart from facile reflections that Moses and Elijah are present as emblems of the OT Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), most commentators’ offer little for their understanding of the manifested glory of Jesus.  

 

Today’s Epistle from Hebrews compares the ministries of Jesus and Moses. That teacher gives Moses a tip o’ the hat as God’s faithful servant establishing his OT household and tabernacle, the place of the Lord’s earthly residence with his people (Heb. 3:2b). 

 

But when it came time to more permanently locate that residence in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, “the servant of the LORD” (Dt. 34:5) was found wanting, to conclude the Egyptian exodus out of the wilderness; rather it fell to Joshua, son of Nun (v. 9), to lead the people in Promised Land entry and warfare.

 

In what way had Moses sinned? Of course by unbelief; failing to trust God’s word alone.  Moses is a unique person in salvation history.  Apart from Adam and Abraham, Moses is the only OT man to whom God spoke in face-to-face conversations. 

 

Moses was not just one of several OT prophets; he was the Prophet par excellence by whom all other prophets would be judged to authoritatively speak for the Lord.  While other prophets received God’s word in visions and dreams, with Moses God spoke directly. 

 

In this way Moses prefigured Christ, the author and builder of God’s NT house and Temple. Moses was not just the great Lawgiver; he was the contractor of God’s worshipping house and sanctuary on earth. 

 

In the desert at the “waters of Meribah” near Kadesh-barnea (Num. 20:1-13) the congregation once again complained about a lack of water on their desert journey. Moses and Aaron, God’s high priest, presented themselves at the tabernacle before Lord.  The Lord manifested his glory and spoke to Moses his instructions. 

 

On an earlier, similar occasion, the Lord instructed Moses to employ his staff with which he struck the Nile, turning its water to blood (Ex. 7:17), and to strike the rock at Horeb upon which the Lord would stand (Ex. 17:5, 6), from which living water would come.

 

But now at Kadesh-barnea God instructed that Moses should speak to the Rock and that the Lord would respond delivering “living water” as gospel revelation that, God first loves us without our merit in order that we might love him (1 Jn. 4:19).

 

Instead Moses took it upon himself to do some Lutheran law-gospel preaching, adding to the petition for water, an uncalled for condemnation of the people, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10b).  To emphasize his personal anger Moses twice struck the Rock with his staff. 

 

God, good to his word gave the water; then because Moses had hijacked is word for self-aggrandizement and pique toward the people; he failed his vocational witness to the Lord’s holiness.

 

Moses’ lack of preaching fidelity made him guilty of misrepresenting God’s gospel intention; so the Lord said, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (v. 12).  

 

Today on the Mt. of Transfiguration Moses appears out of heaven in the reflected glory of Jesus, and speaking with him face to face. Moses had finally been granted entry into the Promised Land; and yet in speaking with Jesus about his approaching Passion (“exodus”), it was clear that the house Moses had built was about to come to an end, a mere prefiguring of God’s new and eternal house to be established in Christ, faithful Son and word of God. 

 

In the Transfiguration we have an advance revelation of Jesus’ resurrection glory by the brilliant refulgence of his flesh and clothing. But the glory portended by the Transfiguration would have to await another revealed glory by Jesus crucified where in death, struck by a Roman sword, that God’s holiness be witnessed by flow of the water and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8). 

 

Of the “bitter water” from the struck Rock of our salvation, Moses had prophesied Christian Baptism, “These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through [the waters] he showed himself holy” (Num. 20:13). 

 

On the Mt. of Transfiguration Peter was NT representative, foreman of Jesus’ household construction team; an articulating foundation “rock”, as his name implies and associated in the vocation of his Lord its chief Cornerstone. Peter now inserted himself into the conversation with adversarial notions to avoid the Father’s will for Jesus’ sacrificial glory (Lk. 9:33). 

 

Moses had failed to witness to God’s holiness, inserting his own word against the people, misrepresenting the Lord; chastised, Moses returned to the Word alone. Elijah ran from persecution in his preaching vocation before a secular queen, yet at God’s reproach returned to proclaim the word to God’s remnant people.

 

On the Mt. of Transfiguration the Father enveloped Jesus and his disciples in his glory cloud halting conversation and declaring Jesus his Son, thereby instructing Peter’s on his prior confession that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (v. 20). 

 

Moses was servant of the Lord; but Jesus is faithful Son (Heb. 3:5, 6), therefore, it is Jesus and to him alone that we “Listen!” (Lk. 9:35).  We neither subtract nor add anything of our own to Jesus’ words. 

 

Jesus remains in holy conversation with the Father, as from eternity and so with us by his words. Listening to Jesus and “doing” his word in faith (Lk. 6:47; 8:21) we enter into his vocation, our High Priest and executing Architect of God, our new Temple Builder. 

 

Before the glory of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension Jesus must necessarily be glorified putting sin and death-to-death in his flesh on the cross, the material of our new Temple with God in these last days.  

 

At the cross Jesus is the superior Servant of God than was Moses. Jesus incorporated all the Law of Moses into his death, and delivers truth and grace to us by the Spirit, the water, and the blood.  Jesus’ new design and material fully absorbed and replaces the house and sanctuary Moses built. 

 

Moses is now glorified, not as the builder of God’s OT house, but in Christ, in the same way that we are glorified; one of a priestly band before the Father in the flesh and bitter living waters flowing from the heart of his faithful Son (Jn. 8:37, 38).

 

Today Moses in conversation, witnesses to Jesus’ coming new “exodus” and so joins heaven’s great cloud of witnesses to the grace, truth (Jn. 1:17), and holiness of God in Christ alone. (Heb. 12:1). Amen.

 

pem.

 

 



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Sermon - 2/24/19
2019.02.24 22:53:23

EPIPHANY 7/C (2019): Gen. 45:3-15; 1 Cor. 15:21-26, 30-42; Luke 6:27-38

 

Merciful,     Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful (v. 36).

 

Today’s Gospel is sequel to Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain beatitudes. Last Sunday Jesus came down from a mountaintop with the newly installed Apostles. Midway in the descent they met a large crowd of disciples on “a level place”. Jesus bestowed four blessings on the troop: poverty, hunger, tears, and hatred from men (Lk. 6:20-23); strange blessings indeed.

 

Baptized into Christ these blessings are yours as well. It would be easy to treat the beatitudes with sarcasm, as does the world, or completely spiritualize their meaning as some Christians; but the beatitudes are real blessings that anticipate our coming resurrection. Certainly the world thinks of us who hope in the resurrection as beyond foolishness (1 Cor. 15:32). So how are we to understand the beatitudes Jesus bestows?

 

Let’s look back to another mountain encounter (Ex. 24:6-11). After establishing his blood covenant with Israel, YHWH descended Mt. Sinai to a level place with heaven’s sapphire pavement under his feet.

 

Israel’s elders were invited to ascend and participate with their God in meal fellowship, sealing their new and intimate bond with God. Israel’s seventy representatives beheld God face to face in Holy Communion and were not harmed.

 

What do you suppose the elder’s saw in the face of YHWH at the banquet in their honor? Perhaps we have a clue from the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus’ NT representatives, Peter, James, and John beheld the refulgent majesty of Jesus enveloped in the Father’s cloud, and revealing him the incarnate substance of God’s word, commanding us, “… listen to him!” (Lk. 9:35).

 

Today Jesus imparts to his disciples the very blessings that make him true Son of God, hidden from the foundation of the world in the Father’s cloud. By the power of God’s word sown into the hearts of the disciples, Jesus’ beatitudes are the essence of our new being in Christ.

 

Like Jesus who became poor for us; as we come to the end of our days we become increasingly impoverished and frail in this world. Like Jesus who feeds us his word-bread and sacrificial flesh and blood; we increasingly hunger after heaven’s better imperishable food for life. Like Jesus who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus (Jn. 11:35); we are awakened to the sin of the world and weeping for those who mock our blessings of “becoming” now and in the resurrection. And like Jesus who suffered hatred from his own, so will we (Mt. 10:36).

 

Beginning with our Baptism, what we will be is gradually revealed; and by following Jesus in the Way of the cross and his resurrection our new being will, like him, come to fruition (1 Cor. 15:49) before the Father.

 

In the Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew, Jesus exhorts, “You, therefore, [with future implication of “becoming”] must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). And today by his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus breaks-out the Christian meaning of the Father’s perfection; we are to Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  

 

St. Paul describes our baptismal “becoming” as the germination of daily dying, putting off the old Adam; to be buried in Christ, and so we are a work in progress until the Last Day. Jesus commands us to the necessity of our Father’s perfection, obliging us to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate and even betray us (Lk. 6:27). Who can do this; none! Only One has done God’s mercy in the world; Jesus in his poverty, hunger, tears for our sin on the cross, and receiving the scorn of men for his obedience to the ways of God (Mt. 27:41-43).

 

Our journey begins in Baptism’s germinating death, empowering us by the blessings of poverty, hunger, tears, and by Jesus’ word and flesh for becoming merciful even to those who hate us. In Christ, God is making us like his Son in the new creation that will culminate for us in an imperishable spiritual-body chosen by God (1Cor. 15:38, 42, 44).

 

Our Christ bestowed blessings are not for “jaw-jaw”; but for “war-war” in the doing his word in power. At the conclusion of his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus exalts the status of those who hear and do his words (Lk. 6:47; cf. 8:21). So it is with Jesus who “has done all things well” (Mk. 7:37) for our blessing in the midst of heaven’s warfare all around.

 

What did the elders of Israel discern of YHWH’s covenantal face on the heavenly plain of Sinai’s banquet? Much of God’s visage was hidden even at Jesus’ refulgent splendor from Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. The fullness of God’s glory would remain obscure until finally manifested in Jesus doing God’s mercy at the cross, and revealed to be the source of our banquet fare with God.

 

Much later in this Church Year we will engage Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:19 ff.); yet the account is profitable for our remembrance this morning. Lazarus and the Rich Man is not exactly a parable; rather it is a factually metaphorical rendering of Jesus doing God’s word, will, and work for our salvation through God’s strange blessings.

 

Jesus traveled the length and breath of Israel absorbing the diseases and sins of men who touched his flesh; his poverty was exacerbated on the cross as covering of sores, for “He had no form… that we should look at him… as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised…” (Isa. 53:2b, 3c).

 

Jesus, God’s Lazarus, was laid at Israel’s gate, the entrance to the rich man’s estate. He cried for relief from his wounds but it was only the Gentile dogs who would salve them with their tongues. He was hungry, desiring mercy and crumbs from Israel’s abundant table (cf. Mk. 7:28). Israel, the “rich man” of God’s grace, despised Jesus at their gate; he found no mercy from either men or God.

 

Jesus, the sin bearing abomination to God and man, was left abandoned (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14); he handed over the Spirit, died, and was buried. Attended by angels, God’s Lazarus ascended to the bosom of Abraham, cypher for the Father in heaven.

 

We preach Jesus crucified, the Doer of God’s merciful word and will; in the resurrection Jesus remains at the world’s gate with those who desire no higher blessing than to partake of his wounded flesh upon our tongues for a glory like his.

 

For Mercy’s sake may we continue germinating in the world for a love revealed by the patriarch Joseph, that does Christ’s word and love toward hateful and betraying brothers and sisters (Gen. 45:7). Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 2/17/19
2019.02.20 15:00:53

EPIPHANY 6/C (2019): Jer. 17:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:1-20; Luke 6:17-26

 

Raised,        I … remind you… of the gospel… in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word  For I delivered to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins… that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day…  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (vv. 1a, 2b, 3, 4a, 16, 20).

 

For St. Paul the Resurrection is the dénouement of our salvation in Christ; that which happened to Christ happens to his church. It is popular to think of the Christian faith as a philosophy, more or less along the lines of, doing to others as you would have them do to you (Lk. 6:31); but that is not the substance of the Christian faith, is it? 

 

The Christian faith is not an abstraction on which we reflect or study at leisure. The Christian faith is a life played out in the hardscrabble of sin, fleshly desires, and worldly demands, all of which in the end can promise only death. 

 

If that is all there is to the Christian’s life, a philosophy hardly different from Greek Stoicism, then we must agree with Paul, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19).  Again, to put a fine point on the gospel, it culminates in the resurrection of our bodies; what happened to Jesus, happens to his church. 

 

Let’s call life’s events and happenings, the church’s “Liturgy of Life”, how we conduct ourselves and respond on leaving the precincts our stylized and substantive Liturgy of word and Sacrament to confront the hardscrabble of the world outside.

 

Let me give you a preview from next Sunday; right out of the shoot Jesus will confront us, and his words are not optional, “I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk. 6:27).  I don’t know about you, but that is a hard imperative; I don’t like it one bit.  Jesus plays rough with his church.

 

Jesus thoroughly removes us from the realm of comfortable abstraction and philosophical thought. Love requires that outside the walls of this sanctuary we grapple with the world’s hardscrabble; the worst of which may be that, “a man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Mt. 10:36). 

 

How is love possible in life’s liturgy? Of ourselves love is not possible.  We are born into a sin nature, and schooled in the techniques of self-protection and promotion, and when expedient, to be killers of our brothers.  Contrary pretenses are false, idle thoughts, and delusional wishing.  We lie to others, but more easily to ourselves.

 

Jeremiah describes God as meeting out curse and blessing: the man who relies on his own strength is a withered shrub in a salt desert; but the man who trusts in the Lord’s [word] has a Stream as source of his feeding and strength, to be a leafy fruit bearing tree, even in times of drought (17:5-8).  

 

As in our Liturgy of word and Sacrament, Jesus, our source of water and blessing extends himself to us in the Liturgy of Life. On the last day of the ingathering Feast of Tabernacles, the water ceremony pouring out from the Altar in the background, Jesus cried, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me. And let him drink, whoever believes in me… ‘Out of [my own] heart will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37, 38).  This Jesus spoke of the HS given from his rent heart on the cross with the water and the blood (19:30, 34; 1 Jn. 5:8).

 

Today, on a mountaintop Jesus completes calling of the twelve Apostles, to embody his NT church. With them he descended to a “level place” on the mountain.  Jesus then taught the Twelve and his disciples as the crowds sought healings from the power of his flesh. 

 

Jesus uniquely taught his church, imparting four blessings punctuated by corresponding woes for those rejecting his “blessings” of poverty, hunger, tears, and persecution.  Grounded in blessing Jesus’ impossible statutes are possible.

 

Jesus’ blessings consist, not as a collection of ideals to which the church aspires, but as the power of men and women in Christ devoting themselves to one another on account of sin; receiving a new identity at Jesus’ word. Jesus’ both blesses and teaches, bestowing promises now.  God’s word effects what Jesus speaks. 

 

Coming out of heaven, Jesus fashioned in Mary, impoverished himself in our sin-dominated world, destined for rejection and ignominious death. Today he gifted his disciples with the same blessings he possessed from the Father, personal and institutional poverty, as definitional of his Kingdom.  

 

Jesus hungered for God’s righteousness for men in the forgiveness of their sin.  With his final words “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28) and “it is finished” (v. 30) Jesus with the Father became the source of heaven’s feeding by the HS, (Nicene Creed, Art. III).

 

Jesus blessed his church with his own hunger and thirst, by which we put off satiation from the world; rather a new feeding that exchanges sinful desires for his holy body and blood. Once tasted our blessing makes us steadfast for the abundance of our new food, of more word and Sacrament unto the day of Resurrection and our Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

 

Jesus imparts the blessing of tears to his church, preparing us in repentance for the pure gospel of his crucified flesh, especially as we are lovers of self and killers, in a thousand ways, of brother and sister.  For love’s sake Jesus would have us join his body for Eucharistic prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). 

 

In the Liturgy of Life the world serves up a hardy rejection against Jesus’ blessings; desiring a “more sumptuous bill o’ fare”. The world is dubious of Christians.  St. Paul describes the contempt, that they think we wait in vain and futile hope for God’s promised resurrection. 

 

The world’s hatred and slander of the Christian faith and our Liturgy of Life is the church’s final blessing.  Ironically, unbelievers’ rejection of the gospel rejection is finally our assurance for standing fast in the promises of God.

 

We ask, how is it possible, to “love [our] enemies, [and] do good to those who hate [us]… [even] those of [our] own household”, except that we discern what the world does and cannot see?  

 

In Christ we discern the true nature of blessing; poverty stands separate from worldly blandishments; so also heavenly food from the world’s feeding; our tears decry our sin and our persecution merely punctuates our watering in Christ crucified for love of God and man. Amen. 

 

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Sermon - 2/10/19
2019.02.12 23:17:52

EPIPHANY 5/C (2019): Isa. 6:1-13; 1 Cor. 14:12b-20; Luke

5:1-11

 

Coal,              Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (vv. 6, 7).  

 

Forgiveness is required for sinful men to speak on behalf of God. God and his Word are holy; if he will employ men in the revelation of his truth, God must first deal with the product of sin, man’s ignorant and vain speech. 

 

Rightly hearing and confessing God’s word is the vocation of every Christian, requiring clarity of understanding (Isa. 6:9b; 1 Cor. 14:15); it is why we engage pastors to preach and teach, first for forgiveness and holiness, and then for the knowledge of God (Jn. 17:3). The underlying assumption is that all of us, in our sin nature about the things and ways of God are “dumb as dirt”.

 

Isaiah intuits his condition in the presence of God. Whether Isaiah’s vision was out of heaven or in the earthly temple’s Holy Place of heaven’s type, Isaiah’s vocation was about to change, from temple priest to being purveyor of God’s most holy Word.  At the sight of Presence Isaiah stood in abject fear, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). 

 

God does not initially speak to Isaiah; first he deals with Isaiah’s confession, dispatching a fiery angel, a seraph, to deliver his purifying Word by a charcoal ember from the altar of incense and praise, wood infused with fire. The burning coal, applied to the mouth of the prophet, was emblematic of Christ on the wood of the cross, a burnt offering to God in the HS.  The divine Fire cleansed Isaiah’s mouth and through it his heart for the work of God’s word.  The seraph then proclaimed the good news of absolution, “Behold…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 7). 

 

The Word, by one and the same action of the seraph, both absolved sin and revealed the gracious heart of God for men. Isaiah stood before God a new man and prophet of the Word; no longer was he “dumb as dirt”. 

 

Then God for the first time spoke in Isaiah’s presence, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah now knowing God, Justifier and Teacher cowers no longer; but like an excited schoolboy who knows the answer to his teacher’s question gesticulates, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). 

 

Isaiah, enlightened by the HS for prophecy of Christ was called to preach man’s sin and of God’s holiness and love. The message he was to preach must have surprised him; “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see… and hear… and understand with their hearts and turn and be healed” (vv. 9, 10).  

 

Last Sunday we took note of God’s modus operandi by his word.  He first kills to make alive (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Jer. 1:9b, 10b); the order of grace delivers the severity of the God’s holy law either to repentance or rejection.  Certainly Isaiah did not fail to convey God’s promise of comfort (Isa. 40:1, 2); but the manner and means was not entirely clear to OT Israel (Isa. 53:1-4); and now in the NT we love him because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). 

 

In the fullness of time God sent his Son, to be the Fiery Ember of whom Isaiah prophesied for absolution and revelation of God’s sacrificial love. This grace would either be rejected, as at Nazareth, or received as with the residents of Capernaum. 

 

Peter, like Isaiah, was “dumb as dirt” in the ways of God with sinners. If God called Isaiah in the context of temple vocation; Jesus calls Peter by the washed nets of God’s word for casting into the waters for a catch.   

 

Today our Gospel answers Isaiah’s question, “How long, O LORD?” (Isa. 6:11a).  Peter sees by the great draught of fish explicating of Jesus’ teaching from the boat.  He recognizes in Jesus, the Holy One and Son of God formerly discerned only by demons; and as well, that he is a sinner in his presence.  Peter fell at Jesus’ knees crying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8). 

 

Like the seraph approaching the altar of incense, Jesus is on his way to the altar of the cross, the place of burning wood for man’s absolution. Peter, like Isaiah receives Jesus’ word of forgiveness, “Do not be afraid”. 

 

Peter and others will be called into the prophetic office; their directive for the church’s mission is clear; out of the dark and chaotic deep, the church will catch and receive, “men alive” (v. 10b). 

 

By the grace of Christ crucified men now hear and see with clarity God’s love and his means of salvation; the law is no longer a stumbling block, Christ by the HS has lifted the veil of Moses for understanding hearts in the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 3:12-16). The clarity of the God’s word is the gift of the HS for the church in the Resurrection. 

 

St. Paul insists upon gospel clarity and utterly distinct from the law. Corinth was an international city, a crossroads in the Mediterranean milieu in which visitors to the church communicated by a multiplicity of languages.  For the sake of the church’s word and its comprehension Paul advises, “one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13; cf. Ap. XXIV, para. 2). 

 

For understanding the great draught of fish and its gospel comprehension St. John reports, following the Resurrection, a similar catch (Jn. 21:1-14). Peter and six other apostles are awaiting the promise of the HS; they decide to engage their former vocation; they go fishing.  Returning in the morning they were without a catch.  The Lord, from the shore tells them to cast their nets to the right for a great draught of fish. 

 

John discerned Jesus’ presence; he had seen this miracle once before. In response Peter dove into the sea to meet the Lord who was broiling fish on a charcoal fire.  Jesus, our High Priest, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day invites us to our morning meal in remembrance of the cross’ fire infused wood on our lips, his self-donation to God for men and their feeding. 

 

In the Resurrection the great draught of fish was reprised for seven of the Apostles awaiting Pentecost. St. John wed the church’s vocation of baptismally catching men alive from the water, with Jesus’ Baptism on the cross in the HS about to descend on the church in tongues of fire.  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 2/3/19
2019.02.05 22:29:48

EPIPHANY 4/C (2019): Jer. 1:4-10, 17-19; 1 Cor. 12:31b—13:13; Luke 4:31-44   

 

Power,         [A]mazement came over all… saying, “What is this word—because with authority and power [Jesus] commands the unclean spirits and they come out?” (v. 36). 

 

Last Sunday, beginning in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus announced his baptismal program. By the power of his Torah teaching he proclaimed the significance of his Baptism to bring about creation’s release from sin and the thrall of Satan. 

 

Yet, “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn. 1:11).  Jesus’ proclamation of good news in Nazareth engendered “marvel” among his neighbors and then was promptly rejected in extremis with his attempted murder and to consign his body to the town dump. 

 

Jesus miraculously departed the “religious” mob, returning to the synagogue of Capernaum where his word would also “amaze”, but be received differently.    

 

This morning we attend God’s word expecting to be amazed and to marvel, and so we should, for Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day I speak Jesus’ Torah teaching, the most amazing and marvelous things concerning God’s baptismal program for you. Some for whatever reason reject these things; others as at Capernaum will search deeper into the revelation of grace to insure Jesus’ on-going presence in our midst (Lk. 4:42). 

 

If Jesus’ word is powerful by the authority of God, what is it that you expect; for what do you hope by Jesus’ word? In today’s Gospel we can easily identity with both the man out of whom Jesus exorcised the demon, and with Peter’s mother-in-law.

 

You may or may not remember your Baptism, if not, still the sacrament and its power is familiar enough. We have on a previous occasion observed the fallacious bromide, “once saved always saved”, contrasted to the church’s true axiom, “once baptized always baptized”, which is to say that no matter how far we fall from faith in this life Baptism’s well is eternally deep for our return to salvation.  We always, by the gift of repentance have gracious access to restoration with God in Christ crucified.

 

Immediately following Jesus’ Baptism the HS led him into the desert, home to snakes and scorpions; cypher for demons. There in that arid place which God intended under man’s dominion to be a garden, Jesus and Satan confront each other. 

 

Satan puts the kingdoms of the world on showy display, offering Jesus all this authority and their glory in exchange for worship.  Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘The Lord your God you will worship and him alone you will serve’” (Lk. 4:5-7).

 

Something like that disputation is played out today in Capernaum’s synagogue. A cosmic confrontation occurred.  A demon, claiming authority from Satan, was able to possess an Israelite and stand in the place where Moses’ Torah was proclaimed. 

 

In Nazareth Jesus had declared himself the One who is true and living Torah Proclaimer and Teacher. Today, by the power of God, the demon acceded to Jesus’ greater authority than from Satan and comes out of the man leaving him unharmed. 

 

You know the church’s sacramental rite of Baptism; it is an exorcism where the power of Jesus’ word is applied with the water to individuals. It is an exchange by which Satan is deposed and in place of spiritual evil we receive the HS with judgment’s fire on Christ extinguished in his crucified body and blood for love of our righteous purity before God. 

 

Following the exorcism in the synagogue, Jesus departed the place of Moses’ stone-inscribed law for the new Synagogue of Peter’s nascent house church. From the spiritually demonic man to Peter’s physically compromised mother-in-law, Jesus replicates his power and authority in a world infected by sin. 

 

What is going on by Jesus’ baptismal ministry? Jesus is the man whom demons recognize in heaven’s cosmic warfare to be archenemy.  He is Son of God (v. 41) and Holy One of God (v. 34) deployed for Satan’s destruction. 

 

God ministers to his creation this way: he “kills and he makes alive” (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6).  Jeremiah’s call and consecration into God’s ministry of word anticipated Jesus’ anointing and ministry. 

 

As Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, fulfilling a prophet’s destiny of rejection in Jerusalem on the cross. As God spoke to Jeremiah so he informed Jesus, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth… to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:9b, 10b). 

 

It is our death into Jesus’ Baptism concluded on the cross for the sake of love by which we rise with him in the power of the HS. St. Paul explains Christian love in relation to God’s word, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). 

 

The love of which Paul speaks applied with the word, is not ours; but Christ’s. Thus the word always speaks according in its proper context, the church for:

 

Killing demons in Holy Baptism releasing men to new Life;

 

Binding stiff-necked men in their sin, but loosing all who seek Jesus’ unqualified absolution in repentance;

 

Preaching of God’s law that man can never satisfy and God’s gospel, which Christ has fully accomplished;

 

And the greatest love, in Jesus’ shed blood dispensed in Eucharist. These are the things by which God kills us and makes us alive; they are the proper things of God, the objects to which the word applies and so authoritative and powerful. 

 

Peter’s mother-in-law does not stand around being amazed, like those synagogue observers; rather with her release from sin’s fever she responds in service appropriate to her NT calling in the church in which she was given to minister.

 

When God called Israel out of Egypt, the death of every firstborn male was the cost of freedom out of Pharaoh’s house of bondage in order that God’s people serve him in worship by acts of love proclaiming his word to the world.

 

Israel failed its commission. Jesus on the cross, in place of Israel, would accomplish the Service desired by God.  Today Peter’s mother-in-law models for us the response as child of God in loving service in dominion and authority by faith and prayerful strength.  Amen. 

 

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Sermon - 1/27/19
2019.01.27 22:32:21

EPIPHANY 3/C (2019): Neh. 8:1-10; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Lk. 4:16-30.  

 

Proclaim,               “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 18a, 19).

 

This from Isaiah on Jesus’ lips confesses his union with the Godhead. Jesus employed the confession to instruct the Nazareth synagogue about his baptismal program; that in their midst he is God’s teaching Servant for good news; listened to by some, rejected by others.

 

Last Sunday St. John located the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at Cana’s wedding with what was called the “chief of Jesus’ signs”, changing water to wine. For the Evangelist, Jesus’ baptismal program was manifested in his being the church’s NT bridegroom who would joyfully give his life for the bride’s purity taken from his side in the water, the blood, and the Spirit.

 

But today, St. Luke offers a different aspect of Jesus’ baptismal agenda. Certainly Jesus had already performed miracles in Capernaum (Lk. 4:23); yet Luke has Jesus commence his ministry in his hometown synagogue, the place where he was schooled and brought up in Torah. Today the focus of Jesus’ Baptism is that he is the Teacher of Israel who preaches the arrival of God’s Kingdom in his person.

 

In Galilee Jesus’ fame was on the rise; as Nazareth’s favorite son, he was invited to read and comment on the Sabbath’s morning liturgy. The lection from the Prophets was a portion of Isaiah’s fifth and concluding Servant Song (61:1-3).

 

Jesus read the Scripture then sat down, which is the ex cathedra (from the chair) posture of God’s authoritative teacher. Jesus delivered a homily; whatever other gracious words Jesus employed the gist boiled down to a single sentence. One imagines the stunned reaction of family, friends, former neighbors and teachers at his explication, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears” (v. 21).

 

The significance of Jesus’ word was crystal clear; that by his recent Baptism Jesus was now God’s en-Spirited Servant to be the Teacher of Israel whose word must be received. Jesus’ assertion was more than being Moses’ replacement; rather his homiletic revelation identified that he is the living voice of the one who is “I Am”.    

 

Following the congregation’s initial wonder, Jesus anticipated their reaction as the homily sank in. Jesus is word of God preaching his own Scripture. He called himself a prophet; “Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his native place” (v. 24).

 

Applying Isaiah’s prophesying to himself, Jesus directly challenged Israel’s received wisdom about the exclusivity of God’s salvation. If the word was first to the Jew; still the Gentiles had always been invited into the granary of God’s remnant. The Gentiles are to fully participate in the end time Jubilee of release from sin, Satan, infirmity, and death through Jesus who is God’s faithful Israel.

 

Jesus braced the congregation on the universality of God’s salvation by drawing attention to OT prophets, Elijah and Elisha, both rejected on account of God’s extending grace outside Israel’s borders.

 

The congregation’s reaction to Jesus’ message of universal but limited salvation was in opposition to the traditional notion of a singular Jewish salvation that complied with Mosaic rites and rituals. By his Baptism in and rising from Jordan’s water to receive the HS, Jesus announced himself to be God’s new Israel, the promised prophet “one like Moses” (Dt. 18:15). Henceforth his ministry would proclaim that the time of the Lord’s favor by a baptism into a NT in his shed blood.

 

If, God’s baptismal favor is for all; not all would accept it. Jesus’ neighbors and former teachers immediately dispatched him from their presence intending to throw him off the town cliff into the dump. Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry anticipated his ending on the cross outside Jerusalem; in the words of St. John, “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn. 1:11).

 

What does this mean? It means that as a Christian congregation, you have called for yourselves a preacher to teach the presence of the Him who proclaims the church’s one holy catholic and apostolic faith, to and for those “who believe and [are] baptized” (Mk. 16:16); [or if you will, who do not despise Baptism].

 

Both Nazareth and Jerusalem were scandalized by the implicit ecumenism of universal yet remnant salvation in Christ apart from the strictures of Judaism. Likewise today’s secular and religious establishments are offended by the exclusive claim of the Church’s catholic faith, that Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and only in his blood is there the Life. In each instance the historical reaction may be expected; as Jesus would observe, “From the days of JB until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Mt. 11:12).

 

Again, what does this mean; but Luke’s catechetical proposition: Jesus is the Teacher of God’s new Israel who on account of his word was and will again and again be rejected as the Lord’s crucified Prophet in whose person the Kingdom of God comes.

 

In the resurrection, an Ethiopian eunuch, a proselyte of the Jews was reading aloud from Isaiah’s fourth Servant Song (53:7, 8) as he traveled. Philip, the evangelist, caught up to him asking, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” thus inviting Philip to sit down and teach in his carriage.

 

The eunuch asked Philip, “‘About whom, … does the prophet say this?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:26 ff.), whereon the now enlightened eunuch enthusiastically received the church’s Baptism.

 

By Baptism you are of the body of Christ; and like the people gathered to hear God’s word delivered by Ezra flanked by Levites and lay chieftains, you too attend the congregation’s Reader and expositor for understanding God’s word.

 

The church ordains, and you call men for yourselves into the pastoral office: preachers, teachers, and ministers for delivery God’s sacramental miracles in and for the body.

 

Fortified in this way you develop leaders who pray for healings, administer congregation affairs, and when necessary as international Corinth translated and explained the church’s teaching for understanding in various languages.

 

St. Paul observed we are “in one Spirit… all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13); “many parts, yet one body” (v. 19c) whom Christ serves as our abundant and only Provision. Amen.

 

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Sermon - 1/20/19
2019.01.20 00:13:10

EPIPHANY 2/C (2019): Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; John 2:1-11  

 

Woman,      When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (vv. 3, 4).

 

St. John places Jesus’ Cana wedding attendance immediately following his Baptism. The wedding signifies, man’s joyous, physical and spiritual, union with woman.

 

Jesus came into the world for Baptism through which God does not merely restore the old creation, but makes it new. With this in mind, we return to beginnings; Jesus and disciples arrive at Cana’s wedding six days following his Baptism, the day in the first creation when God made man in his image, a community; and so male and female (Gen. 1:27).

 

Ancient religions and modernly, men and women are objectified and abstracted from each other by a sinful inclination for estrangement, the so-called “battle of the sexes”. Too often marriage or just living together is a self-help attempt to repair or massage our sense communal loss in a sinful world.

 

When “significant others” fail to meet expectations, we too easily discard, especially in today’s culture of obsolescence; disposing and replacing with a keystroke. Estrangement between men and women results from our chief of sin, idolatry’s self-love.

 

God’s new creation comes to us in Baptism, effectively altering all relations, especially our maleness and femaleness. Baptized into Christ we are, by the will of God, begotten children from above (Jn. 3:3, 7) and so brothers and sisters of Jesus sharing our heavenly Father in common (Jn. 20:17).

 

Consider your parents, in this world they are “papa and mum” and honored as such; but baptized into Christ you have but one Father and relate to all his Baptized as siblings of our Lord Jesus in sacrificial love. If the OT commanded honoring fathers and mothers; in the NT we sacrificially love them as brothers and sisters even as Jesus unqualifiedly loves “his God and your God”.

 

Consider spouses, relating to one another in Christian love. At the first creation the woman was taken from the body of Adam, returned to him as gift that the two might live in God’s presence reflecting his communion with them.

 

In Baptism, men and women model the love of Christ through the church taken from his body at the cross for our communion with God. In this way brothers and sisters, in marriage or otherwise, witness a more perfect love to come in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9).

 

In this world, for a time, we have fathers, mothers, children, and spouses; yet the seminal and essential relation underpinning all these is our participation in being bride of Christ.

 

Again, Baptism alters relationships. Jesus was Mary’s “firstborn son”. Until the HS’ descent upon Jesus, Mary was surely “mother” or “mom”. But when God declared out of heaven, “You are my beloved Son” (Lk. 3:22) the dye was cast. God asserted his absolute claim over the woman’s unredeemed “firstborn” (Lk. 2:22, 23) to be sacrificial Lamb for the sin of the world and redeeming all men (Ex. 13:2, 13, 15; Num. 18:16).

 

Baptism alters relations. At Baptism Jesus became, as the first Adam, a motherless child, wholly dedicated to the Father, utterly apart from a mother’s desires or commands (cf. Lk. 8:19-21).  

 

Mary’s words, “They have no wine” (Jn. 2:3) triggered in Jesus the poignancy of his baptismal departure; that from now on he would relate to her in a new and eternal way. By his and her Baptism into his death she would become “sister” and the very emblem of the NT church delivered to the Father from the cross (19:30) for a more excellent love than of a parent vis a vis child.

 

That the groom of the wedding in Cana had run out of celebratory wine reminded Jesus of his approaching “hour” on the cross (12:23); that he was anointed to be the Father’s sacrifice and redeemer in place of Abraham’s only beloved son (Gen. 22:13, 14) and spiritual seed by faith forever. Jesus is his church’s wine giver.

 

At the wedding, Jesus puts his mother on notice; henceforth, she is “Woman” finally designating her in handing over the Spirit from the cross, and fully relinquishing his sonship of Mary in favor of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 19:26, 27).

 

At the cross Mary and St. John were bonded in the death of Jesus; and would reside in the Resurrection to mirror the NT church, betrothed “Woman” in Christ, sacramentally present as all await the Marriage Feast of the Lamb on the Last Day.  

 

At Cana, Jesus wholly belonged to the Father. He accorded Mary a final obeisance; grant her a sign of his NT church, changing water to wine, the chief sign of man’s new relation with God by grace; new Israel in Christ.

 

By changing OT ritually purifying water into NT wedding wine, Jesus took onto himself the entire responsibility for Israel’s purity before God. He, not ancient Israel, is now God’s faithful Suffering Servant for the life of the world.

 

Cana’s new wine signaled the conclusion of his Baptism three years hence that would issue at the cross from his side: the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 1:5:8) for a new marital righteousness and holiness with the Holy One of Israel.

 

Isaiah expressed Baptism’s altering effect for a new relation with God, “And you will be a beautiful crown in Yahweh’s hand… And you will never again be called Abandoned… for you will be called My Delight Is in Her…” (62:3, 4).

 

Baptized into Christ, we with Mary are, “Woman” whom Solomon extolled, “An excellent wife… more precious than jewels… by whom her husband is known in the gate” (Prov. 31:10, 23). Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 1/13/19
2019.01.15 23:06:48

EPIPHANY 1/C, [The Baptism of Our Lord] (2019): Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22  

 

Redeemed,            [T]hus says the LORD, he who created you, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life…” (vv. 1, 4). 

 

Here Isaiah explicates the Baptism of Our Lord, the recreating of new Israel in the person of Jesus. In today’s Gospel St. Luke offers a kaleidoscopic array of Old and NT images directing us to Jesus’ work on the cross. 

 

The cross is the place where the Father forms the new creation though his Son; there, in Christ he redeems the church; and by Jesus handing over his Spirit, we receive his Name; Christophers, Lords and Holy ones.

 

Since the subject of this Sermon is our Baptism into Christ’s Baptism, let’s dispense with the chief error insinuated into the NT church over the last 500 of her 2,000 years; the notion that Baptism involves human activity, consent, or a decision any more than Adam and Eve at the first creation.

 

Baptism is wholly the work of God; our Baptism does not describe what we do toward God; rather who we are in Christ through the power of his word. We are newly begotten from above (Jn. 3:3, 7) and birthed from the church to receive a new Name. 

 

What child, begotten by the will of man ever selected his parental DNA; was involved in their procreative act; or presumed to select his own name bestowed by father and mother? None!  What child ever decided about his mother’s nourishment and teaching, or determined the measure of his father’s discipline in forming his character and outlook?  None!

 

No matter how self-willed and prone to trouble a child, it is the parents who repeatedly redeem, return, and restore their children to the family. Parents neither seek nor accept the child’s consent or approval; a simple “thank you” (Eucharist) is the only appropriate response. 

 

It is the same with Baptism; none of us makes a “decision for Jesus” nor do we effect, trigger, or initiate our wholly gracious salvation. God’s decision for us has already been made in his election and applied through Baptism’s water conveying his Word just as “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:2, 3). 

 

As the Baptized mature our spiritual DNA begins to manifest a true appearance, overriding our sin natures conceived by fallen man’s concupiscence. By the HS’s gifting we grow from faith to faith taking on a sacrificial likeness of Christ in the image of our Maker.  

 

Put aside the presumption that we have to do with salvation other than receiving Baptism in hospitality and thanksgiving; acknowledge God’s love who beholds us “precious” possessions.

 

Now let’s return to the variegated imagery of God’s revealed love; especially Jesus as Redeemer. Today could as well be termed, “The Pentecost of Our Lord”.  Jesus wadded into the water of John’s repentant drowning and resurrecting to receive the HS’s descent incarnated as a dove. 

 

Jesus became God’s anointed, Son of Man begotten from above (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 5:5). Having entered into his Office of “the water, the blood and the Spirit” (1 Jn. 5:8) Jesus the word of God was destined for a Baptism of fire on the cross to be, “Jesus the Baptist of the NT” bestowing on men death and resurrection; indeed on the church’s Pentecost with fiery tongues for proclamation (Acts 2:1-4). 

 

Of Jesus’ obeisance the Father spoke: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk. 3:22). The point of these words to Jesus is not in making a doctrinal declaration of Jesus’ divinity (true enough); rather God has elevated and affirmed Jesus his new Israel, his new “Firstborn Son” to serve him (Ex. 4:22) in a new exodus out of this desert world into heaven’s NT worship here and in heaven. 

 

During Advent (Midweek 2/C) we observed another aspect of Jesus as Redeemer. JB confessed his unworthiness to loose the sandal straps of the coming Christ, an allusion to the biblical account of Ruth.  Boaz sought and received the “sandal” of Naomi’s next of kin, a sign of his right to redeem her property in the Land and his declared intention by marriage to redeem by Ruth, Naomi’s foreign-born daughter-in-law having no legal claim of redemption. 

 

Boaz possessing the “sandal” of the refusing next of kin’s redeemer exceeded all legal expectations of God’s old covenant love. Jesus in the NT is the church’s Boaz who redeems for us a place (“a new Land”) the Church catholic, the place of salvation for all men and women entering through her Baptism. 

 

But today we consider the demands of Jesus’ redemption by his Baptism; his bride price payment.  A kinsman-redeemer was also a blood avenger having the right to slaughter intentional wrongdoers toward the family.  The problem is that we are all wrongdoers (Rom. 3:23) upon whom God’s anointed could demand descent of heaven’s fire (cf. Lk. 9:54, 55).  

 

The author of Hebrews provides the bride price, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22).  God is the author of life and the life is in the blood for which God requires strict accounting (Gen. 9:4-6; Lev. 17:11). 

 

By his Baptism into our sin, Jesus replaced old Israel as God’s Suffering Servant for the world’s salvation and best explained by the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father of the parable is cypher for God; the prodigal are the Gentiles; and the elder brother is the father’s “firstborn son” ancient Israel that refused to serve the Father as his younger brother’s rescuer/redeemer. 

 

At his Baptism Jesus has become Elder Brother for our rescue by his sacrificial dedication to his Father’s service, will, and worship in the new creation. At the cross Jesus offered his blood for the life of the world, a Life for a life. 

 

To secure the release of Israel, his beloved from Egypt’s thrall, God killed all its firstborn males, animal and human. That blood and killing must be redeemed symbolically by killing a lamb which blood was smeared over Israelite doorposts and lintels as the Angel of death’s Passover. 

 

Israel’s life came at a cost, life for a life. Israelite male firstborns were to be dedicated (sacrificed) to God unless redeemed by a lamb (Ex. 13:13).  Thus of Israel’s sacrificial firstborn God promised, “all the firstborn of my sons (pl.) I redeem” (v. 15). 

 

Jesus was Mary’s firstborn. Forty days after his birth and thirty-three days after his circumcised blood (cf. Ex. 4:25, 26) Jesus was presented to his Father in the temple, the only unredeemable Firstborn, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36) destined for sacrifice, the “Abomination of Desolation” (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14); and God’s provision for the life of Abraham’s only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:14).  

 

We are baptized into Christ’s death and raised in newness of life (Rom. 6:3, 4). By our dying in Christ, God redeems all his firstborn sons and daughters by his self-offering as God’s blood-avenger for new Israel.  Baptized into Christ’s Baptism we possess the HS and its fire for life of the world. 

 

The church is as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thrown into the furnace of Babylon’s idolatry; we walk about with the Son of Man in super-heated flames (Dan. 3:25) who for love took God’s just vengeance (cf. Lev. 19:18; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30).

 

In the Christ, the anointed Son of Man, God has established his one-to-one metric for life; a Life for a life, grace entirely apart from man’s decision. Amen. 

 

pem.

 



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Sermon - 1/6/19
2019.01.09 20:18:02

EPIPHANY/ABC (2019): Isa. 60:1-6; Eph. 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

 

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

 

The Epiphany of Our Lord has been dubbed, “Gentile Christmas”, a recapitulating thirteenth day to the Christmas season; the revelation that God’s salvation in Christ is for all. Today we reflect that the light of God has entered our dark world in order that all men know “the mystery… kept secret for long ages” (Rom. 16:25).  

 

There was a problem for Jew and Gentile. God called Israel out of captivity to serve him as “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22) possessed of the Light, a redeemer in the world (Isa. 49:6); yet Israel only had God’s light by Torah’s muted types.  The OT mystery and glory of God in Christ remained veiled, not revealed face-to-face (Ex. 33:23), “kept secret for long ages”. 

 

At the Nativity the veil over Scripture’s light was pulled aside. The Babe is the mystery of salvation for all men.  The Light is nevertheless revelatory only through the sight of faith in Christ’s infant glory and his reign as Son of Man crucified.  The Babe, of Mary’s flesh and Son of God, comes to men not only as Savior, but also Torah Teacher and Revealer of God, enlightening the previously veiled word to Moses, Israel, Gentiles, and heavenly rulers and authorities. 

 

Christ’s arrival into the world out of heaven was “first to the Jew” (Rom. 1:16) that Gentiles without Scripture’s revelation not be overwhelmed by the sudden Light.  God is nothing if not considerate of man’s frailty, coming in humble estate in the dead of night, the condition in which sinful men reside.

 

Thus Christmas is of the Jews who anticipated Messiah’s advent, later witnessed to by JB: that Jesus is the greater and mightier prophet and Priest of a superior order, himself God’s sacrificial Lamb (Jn. 1:15; 29, 36; Gen. 22:8, 14). As for the Gentiles the Epiphany is proclamation of Jesus’ kingship to the Jew first (Mt. 2:2; 27:37). 

 

If the Epiphany proclamation from the Gentiles, that Jesus is “King of the Jews” came by the guiding starlight for their path; then the Babe came to Israel “a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15), a divine break-in on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the stronghold of secular and religious resisters to God and his anointed (Ps. 2:2, 3).

 

Shepherds, who betokened the Babe’s own Office, were suddenly confronted with the reflected light from his angelic army. The Child had led them in heaven’s “shock and awe” invasion into Israel. 

 

The Light of heaven emanated from angelic word and song, enlightening the shepherds for their proclamation. Immediately the angels direct attention to their Captain, the Babe, speaking in his Name words of peace, “Fear not” (Luke 2:10), and so of God’s gentle disposition for lost men mired and disoriented in a beastly world. 

 

Jew and Gentile share this: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  Sinful man prefers the darkness we know to the Light from outside we do not know.  It is ignorance that makes men afraid and cling to the dark.  

 

Gentiles mistrust the light of God’s word from Jews who mistook their Law to be an exclusive closed communion; and Jews reject the long hidden revelation of grace in the mystery of Christ’s fulfilling circumcision on the cross, not discerning him to be the content of their Scripture.  

 

The Christmas shepherds only marginally comprehended their midnight revelation; still they, and we, are impelled to seek the Light evermore fully to behold the Babe and proclaim God’s peace for men of faith even as Mary and the church today, “treasur[ing] [the words from shepherds to] ponder them in [their] heart” (Luke 2:19).  

 

On the Epiphany we hear of the magi’s visitation. The magi were not, as popularly mistranslated, “wise men”; quite the opposite, they were ignorant pagans, steeped in foolish Gentile devilry.  Still by the grace of heaven’s starlight they were directed by God’s word perhaps bequeathed from the Daniel during the Babylonian Captivity (Dan. 2:48). 

 

True wisdom is a gift from God, whether to St. Peter rightly confessing Jesus’ identity (Mt. 16:17) or to superstitious magi idolaters. These long riders followed the Child’s light.  By human reason they assumed the King’s birthplace was Jerusalem; but once there they required Scripture’s direction from Jewish scribes.  Refreshed by Scripture they continued to follow the Light, to its source, the newborn Child of Bethlehem, the mystery hidden for long ages. 

 

We pray for those who today deny or avert their eyes from the Light, refusing God’s grace and truth in Christ, the content of Scripture and source of the church’s existence in his body and blood. By word and sacrament, the Church catholic is engrafted onto its Jewish vine, to be God’s new Israel in Christ.  By Baptism “he is in us and we in him” (Jn. 14:20, 17:23). 

 

The Epiphany’s proclamation is, that the Babe’s Jewish lineage by itself is an insufficient locator of our salvation. Jesus was not born merely, “King of the Jews”; rather he comes to all, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).  

 

We, Jew or Gentile, like the shepherds and the magi are on journey in the Way guided and by the Light. Christians are constantly in the word the Psalmist calls, “a lamp unto [our] feet” (119:105).  Enlightenment begins not from human wisdom but in faith, received in the church’s Baptism at the cross, progressing ever deeper into the Mystery.

 

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

 

Herod’s rage toward the newborn King, brought about through the magi’s naïveté, was expressed in murder of Bethlehem’s Holy Innocents thus anticipating the church’s infant Baptism practice in Christ’s all sufficient blood for them. But for men upon whom God’s favor rests, the mystery of Christ with us in the Nativity’s humility conveys to us knowledge of God’s character. 

 

The mystery of Jesus put to death for God’s love of us is that no one, Jew or Gentile, is now condemned by, or need live in fear, of the law; but through entry into Jesus’ gospel wounds in Baptism we embrace the character of God and his will as gift of the Spirit; a faith apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28) in the new creation coming into being.  

 

Unlike old Torah, written on stone tablets, our new Torah is written in the crucified and risen flesh of Christ with us as new Temple of his body. All the Baptized, by faith, are inwardly circumcised of our fleshly nature to reveal new hearts that treasure and ponder the mystery of God in Spirit and Truth. 

 

On the eighth day of Jesus’ birth a Jewish rabbi circumcised his flesh; on the cross a Gentile spear circumcised Jesus’ heart. Thus Jew and Gentile through his Baptism partake of being Abraham’s spiritual seed; we are accounted righteous by faith (Gen. 15:6).

 

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

 

pem.   



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Sermon - 12/30/18
2018.12.31 15:58:39

CHRISTMAS 1/C (2018): Exodus 13:1-3a, 11-15; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:22-40  

 

Holy,             And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (vv. 22-24).

 

St. Luke, on the occasions of Jesus’ Presentation, melds these Torah regulations with Mary’s sacrificial offering for ritual purification. Some confuse these OT bird sacrifices for Jesus and Mary; not so! The birds were exclusively offered on behalf of Mary, completing her post-childbirth reincorporation into the life of the congregation and temple worship.

 

Forty days after Jesus’ birth Mary would make a sacrificial offering for purification. Mary’s offering and Jesus’ dedication to God were independent occasions, except as Mary took the moment to orient her ritual holiness within the context of Jesus’ consecration to God.

 

St. Luke’s reportage suggests the NT church’s transition away from OT purification by animal sacrifices toward perfect holiness through NT Baptism. When Luke “quotes”, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord; he conflates Old and NT texts.

 

God in Exodus says, “Consecrate to me… All the firstborn… males shall be the LORD’s… Every firstborn… among your sons you shall [with a lamb] redeem… [and say], “all the firstborn of my sons I redeem (Ex. 2a, 12, 15b, 16). The angel Gabriel adds to Mary, “the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk. 1:35).

 

Parenthetically, that Jesus is Mary’s “firstborn son” (2:7) implies nothing of whether she had other children; it is a purely theological statement that Jesus, who opened her womb sacrificially, belonged to God unless and until redeemed.

 

God said to Israel, “all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.” Does the plural of God’s “sons” give us pause? Well, Adam is God’s created son (3:38); God calls Israel “my firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22, 23); and Jesus is “begotten Son” (Ps. 2:7) and only Son (Jn. 1:14).

 

Fathers were to redeem “firstborn males” from God following Presentation to God; the price was a substituting sacrificial lamb (Ex. 13:13); later five silver sanctuary shekels would suffice (Num. 16:18).

 

By Jesus’ Nativity, he is Son of God and Mary’s “firstborn son” consecrated to his Father as our new Adam in place of his fallen brother; new Israel in place of Israel’s failure to serve God in holiness.  

 

Joseph of course was not Jesus’ father, and so not qualified to offer the redemption price to God. Jesus was consecrated to God without the required redemption; rather Jesus WAS the redemption price for all sons and daughters of God’s Firstborns, that in him we might be redeemed to be God’s new Israel.

 

Jesus’ consecration from Mary was as though she, in restored ritual purity, declared to Jesus’ Father, “Behold, [Your] Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (cf. Jn. 1:29, 36). By presenting her “firstborn” to God for whom there was no redemption, she exhibited Abraham-like faith to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. At Jesus’ Presentation God’s promise to Abraham “to provide” (Gen. 22:10-14) was being fulfilled.

 

All this betokens Christian Baptism; we are the church’s “firstborns” from God’s “only Son”. We receive God’s only true and obedient Son, Mary’s “firstborn” on the cross. There, by Baptism, Jesus poured out in water and blood, handing over his Spirit in death (Jn. 19:30), to complete our redemption and purification in the woman’s (the church’s) new purity.

 

Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to the world. St. Paul calls us who are baptized, “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12). By the appellation we put-off sin and put-on Christ, “redeemed firstborns” as recipients of God’s promise, “all the firstborn of my sons (new Adam, new Israel, and so Jesus) I redeem”.

 

On Christmas-Midnight we reflected, the Christ child came into the world, setting down an ensign for a new allegiance. Henceforth one would either continue in the world governed by the axis of our rebellious flesh, world rulers in conspiracy with demonic powers desiring to break the cords of God’s love for sinners; or one, by Baptism, daily renounces ungodliness and worldly passions in return to the source of holiness, Jesus’ crucified body.

 

Today St. Paul elaborates on our new allegiance. You may have heard the bromide, “once saved always saved”. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows it a blatant falsehood found nowhere in Scripture. Experience teaches quite the opposite, people fall from faith all the time. Prime examples are: Adam and Eve disbelieving God’s word; still they repented (Gen. 3:20); and Judas who betrayed his Lord with a kiss, yet refused to repent (Acts 1:25).

 

But what is scripturally true is: “once baptized always baptized”, which the church confesses the source of her holiness, “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins” (Nicene Creed, 3rd Article).

 

In Baptism we put aside all notions of our own holiness, “becoming better and better everyday in every way”. Such thinking only leads to self-improvement mentality, away from the daily source of true holiness. When we daily sin much our scriptural path returns us to God’s baptismal promises in the blood of Christ for forgiveness.

 

Paul writes to the Colossae church about the fruits of being new men and women in Christ. He focus is on relational virtues, undergirded in Baptism: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, putting-up with one another and forgiving each other in love and peace with thanksgiving hearts (Eucharist) toward God.

 

Of ourselves we have no ability in advance of these virtues; they are ours only as we access their source in Christ. We repent of our relational failures and seek his strength in forgiveness that we too may relate to others sacrificially.

 

Of ourselves we are not getting “better and better”, but everyday by repentant returning to our Baptism we are graciously being increased in the image of God and the likeness of Christ for the love of men. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 12/24/18
2018.12.28 16:18:59

CHRISTMAS-MIDNIGHT/ABC (2018): 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)

 

By Baptism God binds himself to us in water, blood, and Spirit. Perhaps a Godparent spoke our assent to the verities of the catholic faith in our place; still Satan, his works, pomps, and ways were renounced in the presence and by the power of God’s transformative word. 

 

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

 

Baptism restores the bond of sonship with God; breaking us free from the world’s order and rule. At birth we inherited from our first parents our alignment in the world’s rebellion against our Creator. 

 

So pervasive is our orientation into the world’s order and rule that we, of ourselves, are incapable of effecting, or even desiring release. By nature we are of a flesh destined to return to dust; our natural condition is an enthralled captivity to those powers having set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed.  

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Though mother and Child were enrolled in Caesar’s census; the Child’s angelic army countered the presumptive claim to emperor allegiance proclaiming Jesus, “Savior”, “Christ”, and “Lord” (Luke 2:11). Centuries earlier, Isaiah declared this Child’s superiority above all heavenly and earthly authorities: 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As the Babe was received by faith as “God with us” in his improbable coming, so those who just as improbably receive him in word and sacrament union are those today upon whom God’s favor rests.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Babe’s crucified and holy body bound to sinful men is God’s gift. After Adam the Babe is the only man in who exists true freedom of will to choose and live to God alone.  Jesus, destined sacrificial Lamb of God, affirms Wisdom’s counsel from before the foundation of the world.  No wonder the nations and Satan rage to be loosed from God now binding himself to those who receive him in Christ, the “Stronger Man”.

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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Sermon - 12/23/18
2018.12.28 16:17:49

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT (C) (2018): Micah 5:2-5a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-56  

 

Body,            Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me  Then I said, ‘See I have come—to do your will, O God!’” (vv. 5, 7a). 

 

Christ here is speaking, by his ancestor David (LXX Ps. 40) of “a body” we will adore at tomorrow’s Nativity celebration, the flesh and blood body of the Babe. 

 

It is Jesus’ body out of the flesh of Mary, prepared by the Father; a body assumed by the only Son of God, a pleasing all-sufficient sacrifice for sin; the sin of unbelief and the sins of our flesh, offered to God on the cross and returned to men by the HS to make us holy before God.

 

But the Nativity is tomorrow’s celebration when we will again join the angelic choir in singing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo at the Child’s arrival in whose body God is pleased to bestow favor on men (Lk. 2:14). 

 

Today we attend Advent’s final preparation for receiving the dawning light of Christ into the world. Our focus shifts from JB to Mary’s carriage of Jesus.  We see the as yet un-birthed JB, a worshipper, who will be “the Baptist” of the OT to initialize Jesus’ Spirit Baptism by his crucified body (Jn. 19:30).

 

Mary filled with Jesus’ Body being fashioned in her, greeted her cousin Elizabeth, causing John within to leap for joy; she intoned toward Mary and her Child, “Blest are you among women and blest is the Fruit of your womb” (Lk. 1:42). 

 

Mary is blest because she believed the word from the angel Gabriel, The Lord is with you” (v. 28b) in the power of God’s overshadowing Spirit (v. 35a).  The source of Mary’s blessing is the Fruit of her womb who “will be holy (v. 35b) through whom all men will be made holy.    

 

For a period of nine-months, Mary was the bearing ark of the Holy One of God, coming to Elizabeth and her unborn “Baptist”. No wonder Elizabeth marvels: “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (v. 43).

 

Through JB’s herald that Jesus is, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36), and Christ submitting to a crucified death, God annihilated the gap of holiness between Himself and men otherwise destined to obliteration on account of sin. 

 

A thousand years earlier David believed God intended the OT Ark of the Covenant, the locus of God’s presence with his people, should reside at Jerusalem. King Saul improvidently employed the Ark in battle against the Philistines and so it was captured, proving a curse to them. 

 

The Philistines would be rid of the Ark; sending it in a “new cart” into Israelite territory. When the Ark arrived at Beth-shemesh, the inhabitants rejoiced.  But they abused the Ark and God killed seventy men (cp. Steven Spielberg’s movie version, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). 

 

The Israelites of Beth-schemesh cried, “Who is able to stand in the presence of Yahweh, this holy God?” (1 Sam. 6:20a).  The Ark was then taken to Kiriath-jearim in the land of Ephrathah of David’s ancestry, where it remained many years.   

 

By now David captured the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem and instructed the Ark brought into his City. Again the Ark was mishandled in transport contrary to Mosaic regulation.  Uzzah, not a Levite and unauthorized to provide carriage, touched the Ark in an attempt to steady it; he was struck dead. 

 

God’s holiness is ultimately serious; it will not and cannot be adulterated. Good intentions aside, one must understand then and today the distance between sinful men and God’s holiness; thus the Mosaic boundaries for man’s protection prohibiting direct contact with God’s holy presence.

 

David became afraid at taking lightly the holiness of the Lord. He thought, “How can the ark of Yahweh ever come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9).  He diverted the Ark to the house of Obed-edom in Judah were it blessed his house for three months.  When word reached David of the Lord’s blessing he arranged for a proper liturgical transport of the Ark, leaping before the Lord into the precincts of Jerusalem. 

 

David was right in fearing the Lord’s holy presence, especially in handling the Ark by sinful men. He despaired, “How can the ark of Yahweh ever come to me?”   The answer is that unholy men can never safely come into the presence of holy God; unless he comes to us in the desire to be gracious and merciful toward us, which is the point of the coming of our Christ child.

 

Such was Israel’s life under the Moses who prescribed continual buffering sacrifices for sin; strict compliance, no excuses. So too it is the NT Way in the perfect, completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  In Christ crucified we die and are raised with him by God; or apart from him we die eternally.  In Jesus’ body we are buffered against sin and in Baptism we assume his holiness as he assumed our body.

 

John, the last and greatest OT prophet, would announce its completion in Christ and the promises of grace and mercy through the NT; when God would write his will in the hearts of men, that all might know God in the forgiveness of their iniquity, and that he remember their sin no more (see Jer. 31:33).

 

The good news of Mary’s imminent delivery of God’s sacrificial Body knit in her womb is cause too for our leaping worship; God’s own flesh and blood born to perfectly do the will of God, the Man Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

 

Every Lord’s Day we commence our worship; before the Service of the Sacrament; and at our Concluding rite, I speak to you, the bride of Christ, the words Gabriel spoke to Mary, “The Lord be with you” (Lk. 1:28).  This is no social pleasantry; rather it signifies God’s real, touchable, indwelling presence with you by word and Sacrament. 

 

Today we lament our sin nature, “mea maxima culpa” (through my most grievous fault), and yet we know our coming joy.  Soon, at his Supper we will be invited by faith to handle in sinful hands the most holy body and blood of Jesus, Eucharistically making us one body in Christ who presents us holy to his and our Father. 

 

In the gracious coming of the Christmas Babe, God reveals his pleasure with men who participate in the Body he had made for men of favor. Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 12/17/18
2018.12.18 00:31:12

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT (C) (2018): Zephaniah 3:14-20; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 7:18-35  

 

Coming,      And to John his disciples reported concerning all these things.  And calling a certain two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the Coming One or should we wait for another?” (vv. 18, 19).

 

The tandem lives of JB and Jesus personified law-gospel preaching; John the emphasis of law in its severity for repentance, and Jesus’ identity, the mercy of God toward repentant hearts.

 

The church’s Advent season is penitential, readying congregations for the Nativity of Jesus. It is the season of JB, finding it necessary to rebuke speculation he was the Christ, directing his witness to Jesus, the One mightier than himself whose Baptism would be with the HS and with fire (Lk. 3:16). 

 

The church is mindful that the ultimate end of repentance is not sorrow for its own sake; rather out of broken hearts comes joy in receiving the good news of God’s gracious solution to man’s sin problem. The proper end of repentance is reception of God’s presence, especially at his Christmas coming. 

 

Because of our weak sin nature God does not desire to altogether crush our spirit (Isa. 42:3); to cause us despair at his coming. Thus the 3rd week in Advent the church lightens our boatload of repentant sorrow highlighting the proper end of contrite hearts, joy in the presence of God with us, Emmanuel. 

 

Zephaniah encourages the church to rejoice in her King being in their midst and clearing away our enemies (sin, Satan, death, and all the human surrogates) (3:14, 15); but most especially we rejoice because the King by being in our midst expresses God’s joy over us in love and festal peace (v. 17). 

 

St. Paul by today’s Epistle urges, “rejoice always” for the Lord is Eucharistically at (and in) hand for making prayers known to him (Phil. 4:4-6).  Third Sunday in Advent provides a respite to our “blessed weeping” over sin (Lk. 6:21b), looking to God’s gracious assurances in his gift of Jesus, the Coming One. 

 

Today’s Gospel directs us to the imprisonment of JB. Before Jesus’ ministry could begin in earnest, it was necessary that John fulfill his role as Jesus’ latter day Elijah, his forerunner in persecution to herald the gospel’s sacrificial nature.  As Jezebel persecuted Elijah for standing against idolatry in Israel, so Herodias had JB arrested for preaching repentance of her, and so our, adulterous unions. 

 

If, at Jesus’ Baptism, the HS descended in fullness to anoint into the office of Christ of God; then as witness to Jesus, John’s share in the Spirit for ministry would of necessity decrease (Jn. 3:30).

 

By the time of today’s Gospel, JB was no longer preaching and teaching in the power of the Spirit; rather, having been imprisoned, John was for all intents and purposes blind beyond his walls, lame in his ability to freely move, deaf and dumb for his limited access to God’s now exclusive word through Jesus. JB no longer occupied his pulpit relying on his own disciples for God’s word in prison.  Soon JB would suffer sudden death; and like all of us was in need of God’s assurance in Christ. 

 

JB was in Advent mode, distressed to the point of doubt about his previous witness, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29, 36).  For John, powerless in prison, the power of God’s word previously so clear seemed to have vaporized from hearing and sight; and so from time to time it seems to us all. 

 

Seeking divine assurances JB asked of Jesus, by the testimony of two witnesses, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk. 7:19, 20). 

 

Jesus’ answer to the emissaries and John was an extraordinary display of physical and spiritual healings. But John would participate in none of these signs of God breaking into his creation; except that Jesus tells the emissaries to witness to John of what they have “seen” and “heard”, and most importantly for John’s sake, whose poverty heralded Jesus’ destiny on the cross, that “the poor have the good news preached to them.” 

 

Jesus’ preaching to John ends with a blessing, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (v. 23), a beatitude that would transition JB from OT prophet to unity in the NT status of a hearer in faith, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Lk. 6:22, 23).      

 

Finally, Jesus explains the meaning of these beatitudes for his church, “I tell you, no one is greater than John among those born of woman; but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  Jesus responded to JB’s doubt about his identity through the power of beatitudes; and then goes on to teach his church of their true greatness by faith as Pentecost baptismal possessors of the HS.  Later, in the Resurrection, Jesus tells Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29). 

 

By faith we are not to despair or be scandalized by Jesus’ coming to us for crucifixion. As a Babe in humility and reduced to shame on the cross, Jesus became for us “the least in the kingdom of God”; and so by our Baptism into his death we too become utterly dependent babes of our Father in Christ. 

 

The Coming Babe of Christmas was born to die for our life; and so in him you too are born to die and have life in him. This is good news, blessing, and cause for rejoicing always as we are beset in this world by our sin nature and those complicit in enmity toward God.  Amen. 

 

pem.  

 



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