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Sermon - 5/5/19
2019.05.06 22:16:28

EASTER 3/C (2019): Acts 9:1-22; Rev. 5:1-14; John 21:1-19

 

FishWhen [the seven Apostles] got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”  So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore full of large fish, 153 of them.  And although there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (vv. 9-12).

 

In John’s fishing account the seven Apostles are noteworthy; five are named and two unidentified, with the result that no specific Apostle is absented from the body.  Seven is the number of heaven’s completeness thus associating the church with John’s vision of the ascended Lord in the Apocalypse.  

 

Our Reading from the Apocalypse has Jesus being invested his Father’s reigning co-regent in creation. The Father gives him the scroll of God’s word seven times sealed; he is described as “slain Lamb” with seven horns of power and seven eyes of omniscience in the HS, the seven spirits of God for sending into the church.  

 

If the church as Christ-bearer is given to navigate in the world she must remain in relation to her Lord, her singular Touchstone; thus the 16th century Reformation’s insistence on “Sola Scriptura”, the fulfilled Scroll and only Light who alone reveals himself to be the scroll’s content.    

 

Today, Peter announced, “I am going fishing” and his brothers follow suit (Jn. 21:3).  What are we to make of this excursion?  On Easter Sunday and the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Apostles received from Jesus the HS.  They were baptized into Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection.  Baptism ordains us out of water to a priestly vocation in the new creation by God’s word and Arbiter of its “seven seals”.

 

We too are priests in communion with the saints of heaven who sing the church’s new song in laud of the scroll’s Arbiter, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God.” (Rev. 5:9, 10). 

 

So what do you think of today’s fishing trip? It seems that Peter and the “brothers” had lost their resurrection focus; so also we ask this morning about our baptismal focus. 

 

Jesus’ resurrection was viewed as a one-off event rather than an on-going new reality, so that the Apostles thought of no better activity than returning to their former occupation: seeking, curing, and mongering fish; Proverbs suggests, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit…” (26:11; 2 Peter 2:22) 

 

Peter and the others were discouraged in their new office for revealing Jesus the substance of God’s scroll. Their preaching lacked few, if any, new conversions to belief in the ascended Son of God, the Christ of God. 

 

Where was the “Church Growth” in the power of the Lamb’s crucifixion? Well, it would remain for Pentecost’s sending of the HS upon the church when Peter’s witness would net 3,000 repentant Jewish and proselyte souls (Acts 2:41).  

 

But today, Peter is impatient, declaring return to the mundane, and the others concurred. Loss of focus; waning trust in the Lord absent by a visible presence of the kind exhibited on Easter Day and the following Sunday (cf. Jn. 20:29); and discouragement in their persuasive abilities were putting the apostolic work at risk.  Jesus had prophesied this after his Supper, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (Jn. 16:32). 

 

On Easter morning Jesus cautioned Mary Magdalene not to cling to him in the old way, i.e., apart from his ascension presence (20:17, 18). Thomas’ disbelief generated a 2nd Resurrection appearance in the disciples’ old familiar way of seeing; and today Jesus graciously appears a 3rd time to bolster and redirect apostolic hearts for being “sent” into the world with only the net of cross and resurrection.

 

We too can become discouraged in our baptismal walk. Without Christ’s on-going ascension presence discerned in word and Sacrament we can lose focus on the one fixed point of our priestly vocation.  We deliberate on personal troubles; more frequently attend to bodily needs, desires, and fleshly distractions; sundry enterprises seemingly promise immediate gratifying rewards; and worldly occupations consume us more and more as death patiently stalks. 

 

The “Spirit is willing”; yet Jesus is aware that our “flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41).  And so, Jesus faithfully and continually enters into the weak hearts of his church for restoration, refreshing, and rededication in his fleshly presence for the new creation; unsealing Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day God’s word-scroll. 

 

It was daybreak; his “boys” (Jesus calls them the Father’s “children”[Jn. 21:5]) had cast their net and came up empty.  The Apostles’ return to their old ways in search of material gain failed to restore flagging spirits.  Then at a distance they recognized Jesus on the shore and were instantly revived.  Jesus directed their nets to the right for a “great draught of fish”.  

 

So also Jesus reorients our vocational focus for catching men in the net of his word; but first, as this morning, he joins us for our sacramental breakfast. Those fish snatched out of the water on the right side of the boat represents the church conducting her word-Baptism and word-Eucharistic life in Christ. 

 

The “Seven Apostles” arrived on shore; Jesus hosted them with the breakfast he alone provides, of which the roasted fish and toasted bread remind.  On a charcoal fire, reminiscent of his perfect burnt offering on the cross, Jesus laying out his flesh, our Bread of Life.  Jesus’ feeding the “boys” would give them newly focused resurrection minds, recalling his other feedings culminating in the Supper of his Passion.

 

Scripture, the Scroll is now opened to us by the ascended Christ; we recall Jesus feeding 5,000 Israelites with 5 loaves and 2 fish (you do the addition); shortly after 4,000 Gentiles were satisfied from “seven loaves” and a “few” fish.  All these pre- and post- resurrection feedings inform the church of her Eucharistic orientation for priestly activity. 

 

In this world we journey through chaotic seas where Leviathan (Satan) prowls; still by the Scroll of ascended presence our direction remains focused on the crystalline shore of God’s presence. In hearing Christ (cf. Lk. 10:16a), Christians have a clear and tangible assurance of OT promises: of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and provision for holiness discerned in our NT feasting on word and Sacrament. 

 

We recognize our Eucharistic food by the unsealed Scroll. Christ has crushed the heads of “Leviathan” (Ps. 74:14); and God has given us Jesus as our Great Ichthus in the new exodus to our Father.  Christ is revealed, “Bread of angels” (Psalm 78:25) for strength in delivery of heaven’s message for catching men. 

 

The church’s preaching always directs and orients us to Christ who daily calls us to die in water, rise cleansed in union with his blood, and participate in the body of Christ’s Eucharistic substance and sustenance.

 

We baptismally discern, we are that “great draught of fish” caught out of Leviathan’s seascape. Jesus intends us for fishers of even greater draughts nourished in his broken body and shed blood, all a foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb on the last day.  Amen. 

 

pem.

 

 



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Sermon - 4/28/19
2019.04.29 19:35:00

EASTER 2/C (2019): Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18; John 20:19-31

 

Written,      Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (vv. 30, 31).   

 

This is St. John’s “purpose statement” for his Gospel.  John is aware he is a scribe of Holy Writ; explicitly so when the ascended Lord commissioned his Apocalypse, directing, “Write in a book the things that you have seen…” (Rev. 1:19), “and send it to the seven churches...”(v. 11). 

 

An interesting thought: given John’s commission to “write of things seen” in the Apocalypse, may suggest that it predates his Gospel account; that as it may, John recognizes takes cognizance of only two bodies of Scripture; the OT canon, and his own writing. 

 

The gist of John’s “purpose statement” is that the man Jesus is the full revelation of God’s word and will for his church, who is the same God revealed in the OT. John’s target audience is not only the Church catholic, but first of all outreach to Jerusalem’s synagogues.   

 

In contravening God’s Life commandment, the ruling Jews murdered God’s enfleshed Torah and source of Life. On the cross Jesus declared of the OT, “it is finished” (Jn. 19:30).  By Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, God’s NT reign begins revealed in the presence of the crucified Son of Man with his church.  In today’s Gospel we encounter Jesus’ Easter presence with his church and the following Lord’s Day.

 

Fresh from the grave Jesus is grasped by Mary Magdalene; he tells her not to hold to him in the old way as he has yet to ascend to the Father. He delivers to her proof of Life, the good news.  Jesus then ascended to the Father (20:17).  Later that Easter he came to his beloved Church in the new reality of his resurrected and ascended flesh.  Appearing to his disciples, they are stunned, their Lord is alive!  At first, the resurrection was incomprehensible, until Jesus displayed his death wounds, part and parcel of his living flesh.  

 

With the OT purposes accomplished and God’s enfleshed Torah raised in victory over the grave, how in the world are we to understand the OT Scriptures; according to Pharisaical rabbi’s who rejected their Messiah (9:38-41), or from a God-forsaken temple cultus soon destined to destruction? Hardly! 

 

From the new household of God founded upon Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection, the Church is now possessed of en-Spirited, ordained teachers, informed of Moses, the Writings, and the Prophets, now in the Light of Christ, the Son of God. We believe that all Scripture has progressively and always testified to Jesus, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) is “Lord and God” (Jn. 20:28). 

 

How then does the church understand St. John, and for that matter, the entire canon of NT Scripture? Is having life in Jesus’ name (v. 31) simply a matter of employing a prayer shibboleth, “in the name of Jesus”? or does belief in that Name signify substantive knowledge of the Man present with his worshipping congregation?  Surely, the latter, and if so; how is his identity imparted in truth? 

 

Jesus’ identity is significant, especially in our post-Reformation era; when we look around, to coin a phrase, there are “fifty shades of Jesus”. St. Paul would have us discern, “in which Jesus and by what Spirit and gospel” is belief proffered among us (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6); but woe!  How can we know the Jesus in whom alone there is eternal Life? 

 

For this, today we look to St. John whose purpose statement is revelatory for faith and faithfulness. The Apostles’ testified to Thomas of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the very same Jesus, who days earlier was crucified, died, and buried to molder.  Thomas rejected their witness, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (Jn. 20:25b).  Certainly, this says something about our Spirit imparted faith in Baptism; we shall see!  

 

What accounts for ten believing apostles over Thomas’ singular unbelief? Was it simply that Thomas was deprived of a visual epiphany?  Perhaps, after all the male disciples on first hearing the women dismissed the Resurrection as an “idle tale”.  Still the contrast of belief and unbelief is more profound; it is baptismal.

 

John points out that his Gospel is purposed for creating and sustaining faith in Jesus, the Christ and Son of God; not an abstract faith, but faith that “sees” God’s work through designated things of creation: preeminently the incarnated Word, his eternal Son; and “seeing” God’s tactile word in the stuff of water applied to the head of an infant for belief, new hearing and sight.

 

This is the work of God explicated by St. John’s reportage of signs.  The point of Jesus’ signs is that no one is drawn to “belief” in Jesus by the HS unless the Father is baptismal Begetter (Jn. 6:44; cf. 12:21).  Do not get “Calvinistic” here about predestination; God predestines, yet desires all to receive his mercy by an unlimited atonement (Jn. 1:29, 36).

 

On Easter Sunday the Ten received Baptism in the HS for new hearing, new sight, and faithful hearts! Jesus, the Speech and substance of the Father breathed into the Ten, saying, “Receive the HS.” (20: 21).  This was their Baptism in the moisture of Jesus’ breathed word for man’s new exodus to God. 

 

Where St. Luke writes of the Father’s promise of the HS to the church from Jesus on the day of Pentecost; in St. John, Jesus bestows the HS on his Apostles on the day of Resurrection.  His Breath and word was their Baptism into the water and the blood issuing from his crucifixion. 

 

Eight days later Thomas had not, by ordinary means of Word and water (the Breath), received a new begetting (3:5 ff.); and so, Nicodemus-like Thomas was in unbelief and darkness. Apart from the HS there is no new begetting to faith for participation in God’s gracious atonement. 

 

Thomas vehemently denied the witness of Jesus’ resurrection; Jesus was dead and buried! Thomas may have believed in “another [spiritualized or apparitional] Jesus”; but denying Jesus’ resurrected flesh, Thomas deprecated the exalted value God attaches to Jesus’ atoning self-gift to his Father for his Church. 

 

Jesus, incarnate Son of God, is the church’s revelation of God’s merciful character and love for our Life. Jesus possesses the same Name as his Father and the Spirit.  Jesus, in today’s Epistle Reading self identifies, “the First and the Last, and the Living one” (Rev. 1:17, 18a) by which he relates with his church, her spouse and Life giver. 

 

According to the prologue of John’s Gospel, Jesus’ has a name, “Full Gift of the Truth” who bestows the HS (Concordia Commentary, John, p. 113, n. 14).  Jesus is “Lord” and revelator of God’s love through his atoning flesh.  OT identities of God were subsumed in the name, “YHWH”.  In the NT that name is comprehended by the Church’s confession that the Father is “Lord” Jesus is “Lord” and the HS is “Lord” (Athanasian Creed).

 

On the 2nd Sunday of Easter Jesus appeared to the Ten and to Thomas, inviting him into the Baptism of his band of brothers.  Thomas’ new begetting was exceedingly more dramatic; the piercing of his hand into the veil of God’s new Temple, the flesh of God, as was the dipping of Roman nails and a spear into Jesus’ flesh.  

 

By Thomas’ penetration of flesh, he participated with us in God’s atoning sprinkle of love in Jesus’ sacrificial wounds. Thus baptized, Thomas, by the HS, confessed Jesus’ true Name, “My Lord and my God”.

 

The church began her sent apostolic Life by a ministry of delivering Jesus’ true identity into the world. We who are baptized by water and word in the Spirit, discern from Jesus’ command, “take, eat”; an invitation to an ever deeper union with God in the household of his dwelling; our sinful flesh into Christ’s innocence; his flesh into us as Atonement’s “Full Gift of the Truth”.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/21 - Easter Sunday
2019.04.22 23:32:20

EASTER DAY/C (2019): Isa. 65:17-25; 1 Cor. 15:19-26; Lk. 24:1-12  

 

Why?            And as [the women] were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men [in dazzling apparel] said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5)

 

According to storied detective, Inspector Endeavor Morse of the Oxford constabulary, a good detective always asks, “why?”; so also a good preacher on behalf of the congregation.  If originating truth in matters of mundane death is important; it is more so concerning the realms of eternity. 

 

Christians are baptized to an active and seeking vocation, the object of which, “is eternal life [over death]… know[ing]… the [Father], and Jesus Christ whom [he] has sent.” (Jn. 17:3).

 

Eternal life is not essentially about our longevity of on-going existence, kicking-back, as it were, in Elysian Fields; neither is death an eternal annihilation of souls. By Baptism we are new creations with the heavens and earth and participators with Christ, who is God’s first fruit for restoration. 

 

Baptism is a begetting from above, to be children of our Creator. Ultimately the new creation is our vocation; we are baptismal procreators with the Father in Christ and so it is necessary that we know the Father by the mind of his Christ for restoration work. 

 

Sinful flesh seeks its satiation in both self and acquiescence of others by seduction or force, in short flesh seeks flesh; but in Baptism our cleansed flesh desires another flesh, the body of Christ in whom we may have true relations toward the creation.  

 

In what time I spend with one or another of my young grandchildren they seem to have a firm grasp on their vocation within the family; whether to acquire useful knowledge or just harass, they constantly inquire, “Why mommy, why?”  In like manner the Baptized (young or old) in the congregation practice their vocation making inquiry for advance of their baptismal calling.  

 

Today we observe brothers and sisters joyfully celebrating the Feast of Jesus’ Resurrection. Actually, every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection for we are resurrection people; “Why?”

 

Some may be tempted to question, “What has Jesus’ bodily resurrection to do with me; here, today, now, or even on the day of death?” St. Paul dealt with an even more insidious form of this thought that sought to spiritualize and marginalize Jesus’ Resurrection as an event not having to do with his or our flesh. 

 

Here is a warning about truth seeking in the church and elsewhere; honest questions are never freighted with hostile assumptions or implied arguments. To those who deny the historical eye-witness testimony of men and angels of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, Paul points out an earthly “truth”, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).  

 

Such an earthly, time-bound Jesus having failed to slip the confines of the old creation’s grave might be remembered, if at all, as mere philosopher-cum-moralist. This Easter our joy is mindful of sad Endeavor Morse’s unbelief! 

 

Where Christian inquiry seeks knowledge of God and his Christ our conversation is by faith imparted by the Spirit. The Baptized are given to comprehend the things of the Spirit, beyond the things of the world and into the reaches of heaven’s eternity and mind of Christ. 

 

Hearing God’s word we are called to repent of a life oriented in a parallel but passing world; rather we increasingly focus on the things of our new begetting. We ask of the church, “Why mother, why?”  Without being dismissive, the church unerringly directs us to our Father in Christ. 

 

Today Isaiah speaks to the newness of all things in Christ raised bodily. Baptism puts us into Christ’s Passion for receiving his love; not for philosophical teaching or motivation to good deeds, but precisely for his love in Jesus’ crucifixion; for “it is in this manner that God loved the world” (Jn.: [14], 16).  

 

In Baptism, even without our “assent” we receive Christ to ourselves as an infant is impelled to his mother’s milk; thus it is also with Christ’s marriage proposal in receiving the new wine of our continued baptismal cleansing.

 

By union of fleshes seeking flesh we partake of Jesus’ death destroying holiness. If you ask, “Why?” then you will be led by the Church to the truth; that “God is love” (1 John 4:8b) who would raise you in his image and likeness; thus we are resurrection people. 

 

By faith in the promise of God we are joined to our crucified and risen Lord, the first fruit of new flesh. In the Resurrection all vile corruption has been left in the grave.  By faith in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ we possess eternal life for entering our vocations as procreators with God in the new heavens and earth even now being recreated. 

 

“Why” is the Resurrection such a joyous reality for the church, causing exclamations of, “Alleluia” at every opportunity?  Our joy generates from realizing our newness of being.  Before Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, our father was the devil, our mother the dust of the ground on which that serpent feeds.  But baptized into Christ we are children of God privileged to call him “Father” and pray for advance in our new vocations. 

 

Before our Baptism into Christ’s passion, Scripture was a dark book. The words of Moses were veiled, masking an originating truth and knowledge of God.  Israel asked, “Why, about all God was doing in their midst?” An en-stoned word from Mt. Sinai was not fully revealing.  Such a hidden word made God seem an arbitrary Spouse, exchanging Israel’s old servitude under Pharaoh to be bride of another legal binding. 

 

But by God’s revelation of Christ en-fleshed and crucified for sin, we discern God’s intention and desire for unity with our fleshly condition into his Son’s flesh. In him who is the “imago” and substance of God we come to possess the knowledge of God’s gracious heart; the gospel of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom present with his body.

 

The gospel is not an abstraction, idea, belief, teaching, or philosophy; it is a person in Word; by water and Word; under crucified and risen bread-flesh and blood-wine. In such self-giving we are invited to ponder daily what “mother Church” teaches of God by Christ with her. 

 

The Resurrection reveals Jesus as truth’s own Light of whom all Scripture witnesses (Jn. 5:39). By this Light the church possesses a new hearing and remembrance of God’s word in a new place.  Christ, the resurrected and ascended Lord is that new place of God’s abiding Name bequeathed to his children; he is our new Temple and place of worship for eternal life.

 

Informed by Torah Jesus, we are guided by his Spirit in this world. Daily we are confronted with choices extending both life and death.  The church by grace is one communion aligned in the Father’s will and dominion for Life, “doing his Word” to abide and grow, “praying” as Jesus taught, procreating by “baptizing” into the Father’s house, and to receive heaven and earth’s Eucharistic provision. 

 

All the while we navigate a fallen world by the eyes of faith. God’s scaffolding of the new construction obscures our clear view of the Church’s end result, and so seeking truth in the old the Inspector Morse’s the world miss truth’s final expression in the new things coming into being (Isa. 65:17) through the church. 

 

But on the Last Day debris of construction will fall away in an explosive manifestation impelling the new creation to songs of “Alleluia” in heaven and earth.  The old will dissolve for all to see, hear, and comprehend the Truth of “why”. 

 

Most of all the “why” of our “Alleluia” rejoicing is that we are imitators of Christ.  Day by day his flesh increasingly conforms us his icons, who’s Spirit gives us to reflect on his Passion’s love and Resurrection beauty.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/20 - Easter Vigil
2019.04.22 23:30:09

EASTER VIGIL/ABC (2019): Mark 16:1-8

 

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

 

Early on many Christians thought the women’s silence and fear inappropriate to the angelic good news of Resurrection. Mark would later append a longer ending of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the eleven. 

 

On this vigil, we anticipate the Light and are content to receive Mark’s original termination. Our faith and hope are now informed by the Resurrection; still we stand watch with Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome following Jesus’ death; as the Genesis of the new creation groans, “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (1:5b).

 

Fear is fruit of sin; disbelieving God. Fear breeds anger, contemptuous of what is good and true from God.  Fear is a cancer that must not fester in the human soul.  The women entered Jesus’ tomb with burial spices.  

 

The new tomb, located in a nearby garden, received Jesus’s body on Good Friday; now following the Sabbath, it was not there Sunday morning. Instead, an angelic young man dressed in a white “stole” (v. 5) greeted the women, announcing that Jesus had risen, assuring that they should not be alarmed. 

 

Still the power of the young man’s gospel proclamation did not engage the women. None of what the women heard and saw made sense.  For fear the women suspended belief in Jesus’ promise to rise on the third day, and remained in their fear.  Dawn arrived; still they fled to terror’s vigil of darkness. 

 

Fear can suspend belief; it breeds agnostic doubt and anger’s contempt. We hide the word of Truth about Christ risen, but easily share doubts creating co-dependencies of anger and unbelief that magnify accusations against God’s word.  

 

On Good Friday, at the foot of the cross, the women experienced fear’s intensity. Israel’s religious leaders on account of Jesus also feared, for their place, position, and office; and so were enraged.  Mutual support exacerbated contempt for conspiracy against God, his Christ, and his followers. 

 

Jewish rage peaked at Pilate’s declaration that the scourged man was “King of the Jews”, presenting him to the crowd in garments of humiliation, shame, and defeat, “Behold the man!”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thomas’ emphatic infidelity to the unifying witness of the Body of Christ expressed sin’s rage against what the unregenerate mind will not accept in faith. Human reason, despite all evidence to the contrary, rejects truth in fear, that with God all things are possible. 

 

Tonight we are gathered in vigil of the Resurrection. Before encountering the empty tomb and the angelic proclamation as fact and truth, the disciples had been on a vigil of dread of Pharisaic dominion and secular power.  Like us tonight, the first disciples gathered in the darkness.  The disciples were engaged in a vigil awaiting the final leg of their journey, committing Jesus’ body to the grave.  

 

Jesus’ body must have been in an advancing state of rot; after all Lazarus on the fourth day of death was considered fully rotted. In Jesus’ tomb the community anticipated performing last rites.  It was important that the body be perfumed, not only to honor the deceased but to spare attendees in the tomb its stench. 

 

In our gathering tonight we are not on a death vigil; it is not a part of our mentality or faith. In Mark’s fuller termination both law and gospel are extended, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (16:16a).  By the power of the resurrected Word with us it is given for us to believe and be saved.  This is the received faith of the NT church to the end of time. 

 

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

 

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

 

Within the year Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the “beloved son” of Abraham’s faith, begotten from above out of a womb’s grave. Jesus is promised Seed from above, who by his Passion falls into earth’s grave to germinated new life from death. 

 

By Abraham’s faith we are reckoned righteous and by the Light of God’s word we believe and discern our own resurrection in Christ without fear, which is to say, by the same faith of father Abraham.

 

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

 

pem.



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Sermon - 4/19 - Holy Thursday
2019.04.22 23:28:34

Holy Thursday/ABC (alt.) (2019): Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Cor.: 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31b-35. 

 

Clean,           Jesus said to [Peter], “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean...” (v. 10) 

 

This evening the church begins her three-day unitive celebration, the Easter Triduum. In the power of the Resurrection God imparts to us knowledge (Jn. 20:22) that Jesus took up his Life to give us who were dead in sin new life in him. In his Resurrection we are made alive to God and joyfully acclaim, “Alleluia”. 

 

Samuel Coleridge penned, “Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink.” From Lent’s beginning until now our journey with Jesus to the cross seems much as the Rhyme. The Jordan water of Jesus’ Baptism was not potable; rather it was water for cleansing, drowning, and laying-on to Christ the sins of mankind.  Driven into the desert, Jesus thirsted, as ancient Israel in the wilderness, but without complaint, trusting in God’s provision. 

 

Jesus taught Nicodemus the necessity of a new begetting in water by the Spirit, a Baptism to open ears to the Voice of Jesus.  At Jacob’s well Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink; instead she ran off leaving him to thirst at the well.  Jesus raised Lazarus, his preaching delivering the Spirit’s moisture to Lazarus’ dry bones, portending our life’s moisture in the resurrection.

 

Last Sunday we beheld Jesus on the cross. At the end of his bodily dissection, reminiscent of Ps. 22’s “pouring out” (v.14), Jesus said, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28) to conclude his Baptism in a lake of fire for our source of quenching living water (Jn. 7:37, 38).  

 

Today’s Supper anticipates the cross and Jesus’ handing-over the HS, declaring, “It is finished” (19:30).  God’s salvation or re-creation is dry and dusty work (Gen. 2:7).  During the Supper in the upper room Jesus washed his Apostles’ feet.  We hardly know what to make of this.  Accordingly, there are in Christendom but a modicum of foot washing sermons, some more or less on point. 

 

St. John is the only Evangelist who records the event. He assumes our knowledge of Jewish Seders; that Jesus was about to reinterpret it in these last days to comprehend his NT exodus to the Father.  Salvation is dusty work through the muck and mire of sin; our feet in this world from time to time need cleansing before arriving at Table.    

 

In crossing through the Red Sea out of Pharaoh’s fleshpots and servitude, Israel was cleansed for entry into a restorative relation with the Creator. Moses had led Israel in a baptismal washing and destruction of her pursuers.  Of the People, Moses, could sacramentally say with Jesus,You are clean (but not Pharaoh’s devils).  Moses acted as God’s best man, bringing the bride to Sinai for marriage. 

 

Before Israel’s presentation to the Lord, she was ceremonially washed being consecrated to her vocation as spotless bride (Ex. 19:10, 14). Moses on her behalf received God’s proposal and marriage contract; what we call God’s Law.  Moses delivered God’s Ten Commandments, laws concerning brotherly relations, and Sabbath/festival worship regulations. 

 

The Contract informed what was expected of Israel, an espoused woman whose vocation was to reflect her Lord’s holiness in the world. God would provide a place, an abode for their communion.  As with Pharaoh and Satan, the Lord proved to be the “Stronger Man” (Lk. 11:21, 22) who would dispossess the Canaanites for his People in the Land.  

 

Israel consented to the Lord’s proposal saying, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Ex. 24:3b).  Following the exchange of vows by a sprinkling of blood (24:4-8) Israel’s representatives were invited (as were the twelve Apostles) into heaven’s precincts to eat and toast the uniting of God with man (vv. 9-11).

 

In the NT St. John records Jesus’ chief of signs at Cana’s wedding, changing water to wine, manifesting his glory that he will be for his Church a “bridegroom of blood” (4:25). 

 

The Cana bridegroom of Mary’s acquaintance had run out of celebratory wine. Mary sought from Jesus a personal privilege.  At first he rebuked her; but having a change of heart he stepped into the bridegroom’s shoes to provide what was necessary.  Six stone jars (think stone tablets) for OT water ablutions were changed into fine NT wine for consumption, integral to the on-going festivies.  

 

Jesus effectively had just transformed JB’s water baptism oriented in the OT into new wine for a Baptism in his own water and body’s blood from on his coming Crucifixion (Jn. 19:34).

 

Christian Baptism, our gracious washing in Jesus’ shed blood and living water of the HS speaks of our exodus cleansing for crossover to God in these last days. In this way our holiness through water, blood, and the Spirit is established, not by the exchange of marital mutual consents, but solely in our reception of Christ alone, who first loved us in giving his life (1 Jn. 4:10).  

 

Now, do we have the referents of our foot washing; it was a Divine preliminary act upon the Apostles. The Seder that Jesus prepared would celebrate the consecration of his Apostles for his Church’s NT exodus provision in these last days for an abiding people in the new place of their union, the impassioned body of their Lord in the Resurrection. 

 

Jesus’ Supper, like Jewish OT Seders, consisted of three cups interspersed within a preliminary and a main food course. Peter and John had failed to arrange the group’s traditional pre-meal foot washing (cf. Lk. 7:44-48). 

 

Jesus spoke a blessing over the first cup; then the Apostles ceremonially washed their right hands. Jesus interrupted this order; he stripped his outer garments as a slave, and to their dismay and Judas’ probable disgust, washed the Apostles’ feet.

 

This Passover was different from all previous Seders. Jesus’ “hour” had come (Jn. 12:23).  He would be lifted on the cross, delivering from his heart living water of the HS welling up in him for his bride and her Life by his blood. 

 

The HS had yet been handed over. In the context of apostolic foot washing, it was the sign of their NT Office for Israel’s Holy Supper.  A two-mile walk from Bethany into Jerusalem dusted up their feet.  Through these men Jesus would institute a new proposal of marriage for which gospel delivery they were to be anointed, ordained if you wont.  

 

Jesus’ bride must match his holiness “being without blemish” (Ex. 12:5). Allegorical washings and sprinkling of animal blood no longer suffice in the new exodus’ passing over to the Father.  

 

Jesus’ apostolic foot washing for delivery of his Supper, was a commissioning Absolution of his Apostles as when their nets were washed to signal their preaching in being “fishers of men” (Lk. 5:8-11).

 

 Again it was to Peter, on behalf of all, that Jesus announced the Absolution, “You are clean” for faithful delivery of this New Exodus Meal.  Pray therefore for fidelity of those whom you have called into the line of Jesus’ word and sacrament delivery.  Amen.

 

pem.  



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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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