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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. 

 

pem.



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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.

 

pem.



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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. 

 

pem.



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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.

 

pem.



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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. 

 

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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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Sermon - 12/12/18
2018.12.13 22:42:36

ADVENT MIDWEEK 2/C (2018): Luke 3:15-20

 

Sandals,   As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the HS and with fire” (vv. 15, 16). 

 

As the people flocked to JB it became necessary for him to deny popular speculation that he was the Christ. He did so in a succinctly theological way, saying, “he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the HS and with fire.” 

 

JB’s reference to the sandals of Christ is not gratuitous self-deprecation; rather he intends to convey that Jesus’ Baptism will be an entirely different thing than the baptism that he currently administers.

 

Jesus is mightier than John precisely because he will be the Baptizer of the HS and fire for God’s love in sacrificing his only Son for the redemption of all men.

 

In this context when John protests that he is unworthy to loose the sandal straps of the coming Messiah he employs an OT biblical image to impart the NT significance of Christian Baptism.

 

Today we keep the church’s Advent orientation in view; penitential preparation for entering the presence of Emmanuel, God with us by the Babe of Bethlehem.

 

Last Sunday we were enrolled into JB’s catechism preparing for a coming Christian Baptism that unites us in the Spirit, the water, and the blood of Jesus from the cross (1 Jn. 5:8). By union in Christ crucified we are expected to exhibit “fruits” in keeping with repentant hearts. 

 

If we say we “believe”, it is inconsistent if we conduct our lives without remorse and contrition for sin, as though our Baptism has not affected a change in lifestyle on account of God’s sacrificial love on the cross. Such a change by washing, purifying, and being made new in the likeness of Christ is alone the work of the HS.  

 

The crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers asked JB, “What shall we do?” (Lk. 3:10, 12, 14).  JB gave them particulars of what “fruits” in keeping with repentance might look like; but when some began to speculate that he was the Christ, John provides a more comprehensive answer about the One whose fruit we are to bear.  

 

When JB spoke of his unworthiness to loose the straps of Messiah’s sandals he draws us back in time to Bethlehem; not to Jesus’ birth, but to his ancestors in the Land: Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz who for them was a redeemer.

 

In order to understand JB’s sandal reference it is necessary to attend to some OT real property law. For ancient Israel salvation was tied-up with the family real estate holdings in the Land, the place of God’s presence at the tabernacle and later the temple.  

 

The Land was divided among the twelve tribes and allotments made to clans and families. The Land was the Lord’s.  To insure God’s distributive intent among tribes, clans, and families, the land was never sold outright.  It remained the family possession through the heir’s inheritance to insure the people’s continued landed relation and worship of God. 

 

A family in financial straights might sell “the use” of their allotment, but the family retained a right to redeem the property, which reversion in any event would occur in a Jubilee year. If there was no family heir, the next of kin might redeem the land to keeping it within the clan and provide support for a surviving widow.

 

Naomi’s husband, the family heir, died. With Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law, Naomi returned to the Bethlehem homestead.  Her next of kin might have exercised the right and responsibility of redemption.  As for Naomi she was one with the land entitled to its support. 

 

Still a next of kin was under no Torah obligation to redeem the land and Naomi. As for Ruth, she was a foreigner without any redemption right unless an Israelite would marry her.  Apart from a next of kin redeemer, Naomi and Ruth were literally out in the cold, left to subsist by gleaning the crops of others. 

 

After Naomi’s next of kin, Boaz was her nearest relative. Working his own fields Boaz lay on his threshing flood.  Naomi had instructed Ruth after gleaning from his fields to lie down near him.  Ruth lifted the blanket from her feet, a subtle request that Boaz provide covering, i.e., to be a redeemer of Naomi and herself.  If the request was subtle it was nonetheless bold in its necessity made to a man without any legal obligation to do as she hoped.

 

Boaz comprehended the plight of the women and the OT’s deficiency of providing support and protection for these two daughters of YHWH. For love of God’s covenant Boaz readily responded, not according to OT law but in the intention of God’s love for his people acting in faith.  Boaz volunteered to redeem Naomi’s property and with Ruth raise-up an heir in God’s landed Bethlehem presence. 

 

The next day Boaz approached Naomi’s next of kin, who would refuse to redeem. The unnamed redeemer consented that Boaz have the right.  The legal custom in sealing an oral agreement transferring redemption rights was by delivering to the new redeemer a sandal from the original redeemer, thus signaling claim Boaz’ to take possession in walking over the land-hold.

 

When JB, the last and greatest OT prophet, protested his unworthiness to loose the thongs of Messiah’s sandals, he declared that Messiah was willingly coming as the original Redeemer of all men and that he was merely the herald of One greater than himself. At the same time JB gave witness to Jesus’ greater redemption in a NT Baptism with the HS and fire in the law of God’s love. 

 

Jesus is the church’s Boaz, having no legal obligation to redeem those who seek his salvation in protective covering from God’s wrath for sin. Boaz and Ruth is a love story; but not of a male-female romance. 

 

JB referring to Christ’s sandals alludes to Jesus in offering himself as sacrifice exceeding all expectations in advancing God’s love for men. Boaz fully comprehended the legal miasma in which Naomi and Ruth desperately found themselves by OT legal disabilities.  Boaz’ passionate insight about the law of the Land and God’s covenantal presence discerned his unbounded merciful intent for the church’s salvation.

 

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mt. 11:11). 

 

Jesus is the church’s Boaz, into whose baptismal redemption we possess the covering of God’s New Temple in the coming new heaven and earth by our Baptism into Jesus for raising up heirs for the Father. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 12/9/18
2018.12.11 15:27:39

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT (C) (2018): Malachi 3:1-7b; Philippians 1:2-11: Luke 3:1-14  

 

Fruits,          [JB] said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.  And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’…” (vv. 7-8a). 

 

JB assaulted the crowds coming to his baptism, “You brood of vipers”, in effect, “You children of Satan” (Lk. 3:7).  In the Gospel of St. Matthew, it is Pharisees and Sadducees who earn the epithet, “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7).  We take both accusations seriously.   

 

The difference was: the Sanhedrin and temple authorities categorically rejected John’s baptism as preparatory for Messiah’s imminent appearance (Lk. 3:4-6). As for the crowds, they were more ambivalent to John’s preaching to repentance for forgiveness over temple sacrifices.

 

JB injected crisis into Israel that peaked with his Baptism of Jesus; the awaited Christ of God. Indecision in critical times is fatal.  On the one hand the priests, Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees sat in the seat of Moses’ Torah authority; on the other, JB was the prophet of God’s word after 400 years of quietude.  His proclamation and baptism stood in polar opposition from the status quo of the religious establishment.  

 

Crisis had come to Israel; thus the JB addressed the feckless crowds, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  The question was; would the crowds, reserving their options about JB’s preaching, accept or reject his baptism in preparation to greet Messiah in faith? 

 

At some point sitting on the fence becomes rejection worthy of judgment. Judgment came with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, cleansing the old temple, concluded with his crucifixion where judgment fell upon Jesus for sin and unbelief.  

 

Jesus on the cross is either David’s son, King and Christ, saving Son of God and Son of Man to whom all judgment is delivered, or he is not; a decision by faith about Jesus inevitably arrives. In faith we expect JB’s teaching to redirect our lives to a change of attitude and conduct; “fruits worthy of repentance”. 

 

The cross is history’s crux; all men rise and fall on one side or the other; either we rise with the thief on Jesus’ right seeking his kingdom by grace; or we mock his death with the other thief to everlasting torment. Ambivalence toward Jesus on the cross is not an option.  

 

Regarding Christian Baptism, the same question pertains, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Do we hold the apostolic preaching, “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins” (Nicene Creed, 3rd article); or do we pick and choose with the crowds at John’s baptism?  

 

Do not confuse this talk of “choice” with current Protestant nomenclature promoting “decision theology”. God calls his elect; the HS, by grace acts solely and independently so that no one “makes a decision for Jesus”.  We are conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5) and will always idolatrously choose self as our chief god.  Absent God’s baptismal killing ministry (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6) and gift of the HS and faith, a “decision for Jesus” is impossible. 

 

Sinful man is without free will; rather God confronts his elect by his law disclosing our total depravity, and with grace in Jesus crucified his absolute mercy; either we “kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5c) insisting on our own worthiness to “decide”, or we wilt in desperate repentance bereft of all options than to receive grace in Christ alone; only the latter locates our salvation. 

 

That said, gifted with faith we are confronted with worldly circumstances that require “fruits” in the Way; and when we fail, then we confidently look to God’s baptismal promise of forgiveness. For JB the first fruit of faith was enrollment into his baptism.  

 

JB confronted the crowds with this essential truth; we are by nature “children of Satan”.  We cannot flatter ourselves as superior to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The difference lies in discerning r rejecting Christ crucified, the Way.  Do you join the disciples entering Jerusalem proclaiming, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” to behold his elevation on the cross as God’s glory; or do you join with those who mock or held him at naught? 

 

Christian Baptism is not magic; it is the on-going self-gifted relational act of God in Christ in confluence with human life and death. JB did not baptize and leave his flock to walk alone; and neither does the Church.  

 

If Christian Baptism bestows the HS, faith, forgiveness, salvation, and life; John’s washing did none of that. John’s preaching by the power of God’s word drew men to repentant faith with the expectation that they would turn to an alternate lifestyle as preparation for the NT.

 

For Pharisees and Sadducees relation with God was grounded in the blood of circumcision engrafting men to be “seed of Abraham” and later obedient to the Law of Moses. These Jews understood their relation to God in blood (not faith) lineage, “brood of Abraham”. 

 

In Jerusalem religious and temple leaders, with the crowds met Jesus coming out of the clouds of Olivet descending with his disciples in triumphal entry. The crux of history was at hand.  The tenders Israel’s old religion decided to be rid of this meddlesome Messiah come to alter their religion and office.  Jesus’ disciples followed in faith; still the crowds remained undecided. 

 

Finally, crux was history and history crux. On the cross an exchange was made; Abraham’s bloodline and OT bulls and goats for the NT blood of Son of God and Son of Man, blood in which true Life is extant.  On the cross JB’s ministry culminated in its prophetic sight, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29, 36).  The time for standing on the sideline was at an end, as in these last days.

 

Jesus’ enemies mocked him, giddy that their old religion “remained”; they had rid themselves of God’s choice, their true Messiah. Most of Jesus’ disciples fled their crucified Lord, fearing for their own blood.  Soon, with Pentecost, it would be time for the crowds in of the faith of the descending to choose, or not; to receive JB’s sighted testimony and turn to the only blood given for sin, our washing in the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8) of God’s only Son in sorrow and joy; or not. 

 

How is it possible that, a person unprepared, presented with the sight of Jesus crucified, the “Abomination of Desolation” (Mk. 13:14), could seek Jesus over the glory of Herod’s 2nd temple (v. 1)?  Given sinful man’s spiritual blindness we will always see the cross an offense.  Apart from our gracious election, call, Baptism, and movement in the church’s scriptural catechesis we have no natural referent or purchase to discern God’s extraordinary grace. 

 

How does one prepare for calculus, without first trigonometry, geometry, algebra, and basic mathematics? The Way of the cross is impossible without receiving the church’s Baptism and her teaching progression in the Way of the cross. 

 

JB’s ministry prepared men for God’s NT of grace in Christ. He expected “fruits” worthy of faith’s repentance, first a baptismal washing signifying willingness to hear his word for forgiveness of sin by grace in Christ, and then to continue in his teaching for an amendment of lives. 

 

Thus JB taught the crowds to share food and clothing with the needy; tax collectors to collect only that owed; and soldiers not extort the public they protected. None of these life changes is the essence of the gospel; rather they begin to teach in the Way of faith, in the NT blood associated with Jesus’ crucified self-donation. 

 

No one baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus is left to find his or her own way. The Way of the cross daily brings us to Jerusalem.  There we behold an “abominable” sight not to be born apart from the Church’s preaching, sacraments, and doctrinal teaching.  Only by the power of God’s word and sacramental holy things is our amendment of life possible, as are all things with God (Lk. 1:37; Mt. 19:26).  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 12/2/18
2018.12.03 23:38:16

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (C) (2018): Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 19:28-40

 

Descent,      [The disciples] brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.  And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.  As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (vv. 35-38)

 

Up and down; down and up. In “going up to Jerusalem” (Lk. 19:28) Passover pilgrims ascended from the Dead Sea plain at Jericho to the crest of Mt. Olivet, then descended into Jerusalem.  God’s salvation advances over a topography that has Jesus descending and ascending to bring about peace in heaven (19:38b) with men on earth (2:14b). 

 

Today we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ Nativity, his decent out of heaven. The triumph of Jesus to earth is fulfilled in his Good Friday elevation on the cross and his Easter ascent from the grave. 

 

Descending into the grave Jesus, the author of Life, proclaimed God’s victory over death for a new epoch of heaven’s peace with men (1 Peter 4:6), and then ascended to his and now our Father. On the Last Day Jesus will again descend out of heaven, glorified Son of Man; down and up, up and down (cf. Jn. 3:13). 

 

So what do we, on this first day of the Church Year, make of our Gospel Reading: Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Observe Jesus’ “down and up” correspondence with his “down and up” on the Last Day.   Last Sunday, Jesus gave notice of his Second Coming in power, to which the church responded in song, “Lo, He Comes in Clouds Descending” (LSB 336). 

 

What did you “see” by Jesus’ words; was it not, an end of the old and an advent of the new creation coming into being awaiting its full expression at the Father’s good pleasure? “… [T]he sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And [those wayward angelic beings and unbelievers on earth] will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mk. 13:24-26). 

 

On the Last Day’s descent Jesus will not arrive alone. The glorified Son of Man will come at the command, the voice of an archangel with the sound of God’s trump.  Jesus’ host of angels and saints will follow him through the star spangled heavens to earth. 

 

The first to behold Jesus’ greater power as incarnate crucified Word for judgment and salvation (1 Cor. 1:18) will be the angelic “powers” in the heavens, having made their own place (cf., Acts 1:25) apart from God; these personified star-powers will be shaken at the Coming of Jesus and the passing of the old heavens (v. 31a).

 

Jesus will continue to earth, resurrecting from the grave’s impotent claim, the bodies all asleep in faith; and believers, then alive, too will be caught up in the clouds, meeting their Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17), whereon the old earth will also pass away, revealing the new.

 

Unbelievers, unrepentant “Christians”, and false teachers in their resurrected flesh will be consigned to a place, prepared in advance for Satan and rebellious angels. All abiding in Christ, the new heavens and earth will be fully manifested in the purifying flesh of Jesus, God’s new Temple and eternal place of worship with men. 

 

Some might ask; Pastor, “Why preach the Second Coming of Jesus as preparation for the Christmas birth?” The Babe came to earth for the singular purpose of dying in Jerusalem, that in the power of that sacrifice for sin he rules in heaven and earth for God’s peace with men. 

 

If Jesus’ Second Coming in power and majesty completes his First Coming in weakness and humility; then his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and elevation on the cross are of apiece, each procession informing the triumphal nature of the other. Jesus’ descent into Jerusalem for suffering is the necessary prequel to his rule in majestic power on the Last Day; there is no majesty, no glory of God apart from Jesus’ humility toward God and man on the cross.     

 

Now, let’s put some flesh to Jesus’ descent down Olivet. As on the Last Day, Jesus was not alone, but accompanied by the throng of his disciples; these followers are new Israel, exemplified by the two most recent: blind Bartimaeus and money-minded Zacchaeus.  Bartimaeus is restored to sight and follows; Zacchaeus is forgiven and follows, both are typical in the Christian congregation abiding in God’s word and meal fellowship.

 

Out of Olivet’s clouds, Jesus’ disciples descend to witness God’s victory over the powers of sin, Satan, and death. Jesus taught his disciples for a third time, the means of God’s victory; it travels through rejection, Passion and elevated death, and only then ascended Resurrection. 

 

Yet the lesson was obscure, to the disciples there was nothing about Jesus’ humble birth or entrance on a lowly donkey to suggest the nature of Jesus’ power and reign over sin and God’s opponents; that Jesus would springing-up from the earth on the cross as God’s righteous Branch for David (Jer. 33:15).  

 

The crest of Olivet betokened Jesus’ anointed status. He mounted and rode a “virgin” colt (cf. Rev. 14:4, the church’s “male virgins”), reminiscent of Solomon’s investiture in Jerusalem to succeed David (1 Kg. 1:38-45; Zech. 9:9), “King of the Jews” (Mk. 15:26). 

 

Solomon’s conveyance on the royal donkey witnessed David’s consent of Solomon’s right and title against all adverse claimants. Thus Jesus warned, “[I]f anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is! Do not believe it” (Mk. 13:21). 

 

Jesus, coming out of heaven to his own (Jn. 1:11) for whom there was no room at the inn was birthed among beasts of the field. In today’s descent Jesus mounts just such a beast, again coming to his people in humility for service, seeking brotherly hospitality.  Riding the colt Jesus was “seen” by his disciples the prophesied righteous Branch of David, their Solomon-like Servant King, their Good Shepherd, and Prince of Peace.

 

Jesus sent two disciples to collect the “virgin” colt; beast of burden, like Jesus on the cross, hardly human (Ps. 22:6) bearing the weight of man’s sin. By his baptism of fire, Jesus was invested into the power and rule of God’s justice and mercy toward men.  On the Last Day Jesus will be discerned as heaven’s “Cloud Rider” (Dan. 7:13, 14) for judgment and mercy bringing God’s new creation of heaven and earth. 

 

As the body of Jesus’ disciples descended to Jerusalem, they doffed filthy garments, first making a saddle on which Jesus sat, God’s new mercy seat. The colt then was a propelled ark treading sin-laden garments in exchange of man’s covering (Gen. 3:21) for soon to be washed garments in his water and blood from the cross. 

 

Jesus descended into Jerusalem that the OT of God through Moses pass away signaled by the slaughtered blood of God’s Lamb on the post and lintel of the cross, our entry place into the NT Davidic house to partake of its Passover Lamb. On the cross Jesus was lifted up, obedient in the glory of the Father’s will to provide his Way for man’s irenic ascent into heaven.  

 

Jesus’ first conveyance out of heaven to earth was in Mary’s flesh as angel choir proclaimed, “Peace on earth among men of God’s favor” (Lk. 2:14b).  God’s favor comes by Baptism, in which our garments are washed in Jesus’ blood for sin; our absolution received in faith. 

 

Like Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, the church seeks out and receives Jesus, conveyed in word and Sacrament; in this Way we have our hope that on the Last Day we will be received in the air a part of the elect ingathering. Amen. 

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 11/25/18
2018.11.29 23:36:14

PROPER 29/B (2018): Isa. 51:4-6; Jude 20-25; Mk. 13:24-37

 

Words,         “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (vv. 30, 31). 

 

“All” what “things” take place; and in what “generation”? The generation to which Jesus refers here is the generation of the end times, the time from Jesus’ Nativity until his Second Coming, precisely now. 

 

And “All these things” are: that which has already occurred, the great tribulation of Jerusalem’s destruction, and its on-going echo in the world throughout these end times up to and including the prophesied cosmic unraveling; “[I]n those days… the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mk. 13: 24, 25).  

 

“And then [the false prophets, deceivers, and unbelievers] will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26); the same sight Jesus promised the High Priest Caiaphas (14:62) on God’s desolation and destruction of the old temple under the sign of the Roman eagle in 70 A.D.

 

Jesus coming in clouds on the Last Day will be a terrible revelation and surprise to those who “set [him] at naught” (LSB 336 s. 2) in these end times.  But for you, O Believer, it will neither be terrible nor a surprise; by Baptism you have been made and are being shaped anew through the HS in the great power of God’s word and Sacrament.  

 

As such you are in the cosmic sixth day of God’s new creation coming into being. Today you are like the blind man of Bethsaida whom Jesus healed by stages, reminiscent of God completing the man, male and female.  Jesus applied his spittle to the man’s sightless eyes; the man began to see imperfectly, he could see people, they appeared as walking trees.  Jesus then laid his hands on the eyes to perfect the restoration (8:22-25). 

 

So what do you see by God’s word, more or less perfectly? Well, I can only remind of what you have already heard in these Last Sundays of the Church year. 

 

With Jesus you will participate in worldly tribulation, severely challenging personal faith. Further winsome, but nonetheless false teachers will challenge Jesus’ clear words of the church’s one faith; and so St. Jude today encourages us to remain in God’s merciful love by, “building yourselves up in the most holy faith” (v. 20). 

 

Here Jude is not speaking of one’s personal saving faith gifted from the HS; rather we are to build ourselves up in the Church’s faith, delivered once for all to the saints (v. 3), “held everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins), the faith and practice that marks the Church as one holy catholic and apostolic. 

 

Today and every Lord’s Day we confess the Church’s singular and universal faith by the Nicene Creed. We make our confession precisely in advance of my words (Lk. 10:16) of law-gospel invitation for faithful reception of Jesus’ most holy body and blood for our forgiveness and purity. 

 

In addition to being continually built-up in the Church’s teaching, we are to contend for this very faith, encouraging others so brothers and sisters are not deceived and continue to live in God’s strengthening and shaping gifts: word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper. In this way the congregation gains in spiritual sight that, if not yet perfected, will be on the Last Day; giving us to “endure to the end” (Mk. 13:13). 

 

Knowing that by Baptism you are made a new creation in Christ, not of your own will or decision, and believing Jesus’ testamentary words for you about his Supper we together advance from faith to faith and purity to purity in his communicating body and blood.

 

 So what do you see today by God’s word?  Our opening hymn, “Wake, awake”, conveys Jesus’ gospel imperative that his household is to keep “watch” for its Master is near; he is even now at the door.  To this end he has appointed a watchman and servants to the various tasks for keeping his household spiritually awake and alive to his sudden appearing. 

 

Jesus’ nearness and hidden glory is manifest in the sight of believers by God’s assured presence in word and Sacrament. With the eyes of faith you are already seeing Jesus in transformative and creative power, even as his Easter appearances to the Emmaus disciples in the breaking of the bread and to the Apostles gathered behind closed doors. 

 

Today we see Jesus, albeit by imperfect, but nonetheless apostolic eyes of the Church’s confessed faith, the majesty of God’s presence in the bread and wine for merciful forgiveness, holiness, and salvation. These, in this generation, are the most holy things of God’s love for being “built up in the most holy faith”.

 

On this the Last Sunday of the Church Year believers are exhorted to watch and wait for Jesus’ visible Second Coming in clouds. We watch and wait mindful of the leaven of false teaching (8:15) from those purveying “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).  On the Last Day all, including angelic stars and powers of heaven, will behold one final end time sight in perfect clarity.          

 

Isaiah described it, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment… but my salvation will be forever…” (51:6), consisting in Jesus’ eternal words (Mk. 13:31) for judgment and life, for destruction and creation. 

 

If we sinful men and women are given to see in baptismal faith spiritual things by Jesus’ words; yet those angelic spirits, the stars and powers of the heavens, having wandered from God to their own place, will experience in Jesus’ descent through the cosmos their own destruction in the unparalleled power of God’s word.

 

At Christ’s Second Coming, contending powers and angels personified in the heavens, with unbelievers and false teachers will be parted from the new creation. But in Christ we “eagerly await” (Heb. 9:28) our perfected sight for seeing God face to face.  Our generation in the church’s end times pray in the HS (Jude 20), “Marantha; Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:21).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 11/18/18
2018.11.19 01:03:50

PROPER 28/B (2018): Dan. 12:1-3; Heb. 10:11-25; Mk. 13:1-13   

 

Endures,     “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (v. 13b). 

 

There is a tradition that on this 2nd Last Sunday of the Church year Josephus’ history of the Roman destruction in 70 A.D. of Jerusalem and its temple is read; with good reason!  The account of horrific unparalleled suffering is key for understanding today’s Gospel, Jesus’ so-called, “little apocalypse”. 

 

On arriving in Jerusalem Jesus’ first act was to cleanse the temple, a prophetic condemnation of the OT cultus and religion. A few days later Jesus’ final act toward the temple was departing it, never to return.  An unidentified disciple expressed gratuitous admiration for the beauty of the structure.  Herod’s temple was one of the wonders of the ancient world; but of it Jesus explained, “There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk. 13:2b); this was fulfilled in 70 A.D.

 

Before departing the temple, Jesus took an authoritative posture sitting in the temple.  There he taught of Israel’s true treasure exampled by a poor widow donating all she possessed for love of God’s house (12:44).  Her donation was a portent of the NT Temple, the self-donated flesh of Jesus crucified and risen for the sin of the world. 

 

Arriving on the Mount of Olives, with Peter, James, John, and Andrew, Jesus now sat “opposite the temple” (v. 3).  These apostles inquired concerning Jesus’ prophesied destruction; of times and signs.  Of course Jesus gives but one sign, the sign of Jonah, his death and resurrection (Mt. 12:39, 40), the sign of the cross.  

 

The New Covenant requires that Christians think differently than by the old; to think baptismally. Previously, the Apostles fed 4,000 with 7 loaves, but afterward were concerned at only one loaf for themselves.  Jesus warned, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mk. 8:15), i.e., of thinking by the terms of the old religion and according to the way of the world while the Kingdom of heaven was breaking-in all about them in a new way. 

 

Failure to comprehend the things and ways of God through Baptism, accords with man’s sinful tendency to unbelief; we fearfully respond to God in categories of servant under the law, than as beloved children of the Father’s grace in Christ.

 

Jesus, by his cross and resurrection is the terminus and recapitulation of all history, which is to say, in his flesh he is new Temple of God’s household with men in heaven and on earth. A few examples, for our understanding of “endur[ing] to the end”: 

 

The exodus out of Egypt to the Promised Land is repeatedly played out in salvation’s history of grace and man’s sin, until the final exodus in following Jesus to his Passion and cross.

 

Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was completed only when reprised in his blood by the HS’s fiery destruction of his crucified flesh.

 

Jesus’ flesh and blood on the cross is the full expression of God’s glory, his merciful and donative love of man. Christ’s once for all sacrificial and resurrected body for a NT provides our Eucharistic way in his Supper established on the night of betrayal. 

 

Supper, cross, and resurrection are the singular promise for God’s annulment of sin in time and eternity. By our Baptism into Jesus’ tribulation and death we are given a new way of thinking of God with Christ as our NT High Priest unbound from OT repeating sacrifices.  

 

Jesus crucified was the recapitulating “Abomination of Desolation”, both of man and God.  Jesus’s “desolation” commenced when he was finally rejected by the temple authorities and so departed from where he should have stood; but instead led to “standing where he ought not to be” (13:14).  On the cross Jesus, the bearer of all sin, became an “Abomination” in the sight of God for divine “desolation” (Mt 27:46).     

 

Looming 37 years in the future of Jesus’ “desolation” and “standing where he ought not” on the cross is the specter of the temple destruction fulfilling Jesus’ judgment of High Priest, Caiaphas.

 

How do we know that Jesus, the “Abomination of Desolation” on the cross, encompassed the future destruction of Jerusalem and its temple? Jesus taught, “Wherever the body is [i.e. Christ on the cross and with so the church present to his body], there the eagles will be gathered together [for tribulation]” (Mt. 24:28). 

 

Jesus’ crucifixion was presided over under the signets of the Roman eagle; the same Roman eagles 37 years later bringing the temple to destruction that, “There [would] not be left one stone upon another that [was] not…thrown down.”

 

On the cross Jesus came for both salvation and judgment. Caiaphas and his Sanhedrin would, in their lifetime, behold Jesus’ prophesy, “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64) in the “abomination” of their temple’s destruction, a “great tribulation”, under the judgment of the Son of Man whom they crucified and held at naught, but whom God raised to divine power.

 

Jesus’ crucifixion, at one with the destruction of Jerusalem is the signs of a great tribulation; they complete God’s judgment on unbelief in Christ. At the crux of history, cross and temple destruction are one event: passing of the old temple for the New, who is Christ; passing of the external law to God’s NT instructions written on hearts and minds (Heb. 10:16); passing the chaos of sin in the first creation by Word and light in a new creation being absolved of sin. 

 

Will Jesus come on the Last Day? Yes, but on that day he will not come with another or more sacrifices for sin; that was given and is now being dispensed once for all by his first coming.  Then, on the Last Day he will come in final judgment of unbelief; and for salvation of those who, in faith, eagerly await him (Heb. 9:28). 

 

And who are these that eagerly await his coming, and why? It is the Baptized enduring to the end, coming Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day into the communal presence of word and sacrament for continued faith and consolation in a tribulated and death-dealing world.   

 

When we look about us we observe that tribulation tears at our bodies and souls. The fact that you are baptized does not, and never will, relieve you from the world’s chaotic death throws; in fact your baptism will intensify distresses. 

 

It may be that the prophesied “Great Tribulation” spoken of in today’s Gospel and in the Revelation of St. John was ultimately manifested in 70 A.D., or that event may have been prelude to a future, greater tribulation in creation’s unwinding. Either way your baptism intimately associates you with the Crucified One who, out of his tribulation on the cross ushers in the new creation by your forgiveness and purification to holiness before God. 

 

In Christ we have a Way that not only comprehends the necessity of suffering in this world, but also is our confessed hope, that we are being counted worthy to participate in the Light of the new creation. The first creation came into being when God spoke by his Word, and by the HS enlightening the darkness of chaos and putting all things to good order.  By sin, the world has since devolved in return to its self-destruction.

 

But in Christ crucified, God employs sin’s evil to his good. By his Word, God denies sin, Satan, and the grave all power in the new creation.  You and I have a common hope that our tribulations, unlike an unbelieving world, participate in the same death to self and promise of rising in Christus Victor. 

 

In practical terms our baptismal life requires the gift of new thinking in the Way God provides us out of tribulation. We do not run from Christ’s Passion and cross; rather toward it, passing through the veil of Jesus’ broken flesh for unity with him who sanctifies and presents us a thank offering to our Father.  Please observe this in the mass’ Elevation of the Host at the Altar. 

 

This then is how we “endure to the end”, in the Way of cross and Supper of Christ’s re-creative flesh and blood for our forgiveness, purity and resurrection.  Apart from word, Baptism, and Supper in the NT Temple of Christ’s body of believers there is otherwise no access to God in a good conscience; it is in this Way that the HS witnesses of God, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Heb. 10:17).  Amen.

 

pem.     



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Sermon - 11/11/18
2018.11.14 15:46:02

PROPER 27/B (2018): 1 Kg. 17:8-16; Heb. 9:24-28; Mk. 12:38-44 

 

Appear,       For Christ has entered… into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf…  [And] so Christ, will appear a second time… to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (vv. 24, 28). 

 

The author of Hebrews observes, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (v.22).  Thus on this 3rd Last Sunday of the Church year we recall, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8); that by Jesus’ shed blood we are made pure “even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3). 

 

Jesus has entered heaven’s Most Holy Place and his final appearing at the Parousia is analogous to Israel’s High Priest service on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

 

Today the church’s purity of heart is on display in the composite picture of two widows; a Gentile from Zarephath, and an Israelite making her temple offering.

 

In the time of Elijah, God afflicted Israel with drought lasting 3½ years. Elijah encamped by a brook, received daily bread delivered by birds.  As the drought dried the brook and the surrounding populous experienced increased economic distress, God directed Elijah north to Gentile Sidon; there he would encounter a widow in the town of Zarephath for his continued sustenance. 

 

The woman and her child were also in distressed circumstance; she was down to a handful of flour and the last of her oil. When Elijah arrived at the town gate the widow was gathering twigs to prepare their last supper.  The prophet importuned the woman requesting that she first provide him with water and a small loaf from the last of her larder.  If the woman was chary about the request, Elijah promised she should not fear for God would provision her pantry. 

 

The widow responded to the prophet’s word. He remained in the woman’s hospitality for about 3 years; neither flour nor oil failed.  By now O Christian, you will have made several biblical associations: 

 

First, unlike the wilderness generation of Israelites who grumbled against God’s extravagant feedings with manna and quail, and did not enter the Land; this Gentile woman responded to God’s provision out of her poverty with obedient humility and trust; as in the Janis Joplin song: “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”.

 

Second, the miraculous supply of flour and oil calls to mind Jesus’ desert feedings; 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and 4,000, mostly Gentiles, with 7 loaves and a few small fish, anticipating the Bread of the Lord’s Supper instantiating his death. Finally, the widow of Zarephath is forever associated with the penny-giving widow at the Jerusalem temple treasury. 

 

The Levitical and priestly class, many were scribes, were supported from the temple treasury. Widows were another citizen class expecting financial support from the treasury.  But Jesus had just condemned (Mk. 12:38-40) the distribution imbalance of in favor of the landless religious class at the expense of landed widows rapaciously being eaten out of house and home. 

 

A bit earlier, knowing he would go to the cross, Jesus entered the temple cleansing of its “den of thieves” (11:17).  Having purified the old, he was about to lay the foundation of God’s NT Temple on the cross for the annulment of sin and those being made pure in his shed blood and sacrificial flesh before God. 

 

It is no accident St. Mark places Jesus’ prophesy of the temple’s destruction immediately after the widow’s offering of for God’s house. Jesus is hardly suggesting a lesson about stewardship Sunday; rather he teaches, as always, of God and himself.   

 

Of the woman’s devotion to God’s house Jesus said, “she has thrown in, out of her scarcity everything she had even her whole living” (12:44); as such the widow’s act of faith was prophetic of God and Jesus’ greater self-donation for the salvation of many. 

 

The two widows, donating their entire livelihoods, give the church practical contours in comprehending God. In Christ “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy; and blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:3, 7, 8). 

 

The church does not subsist apart from her Lord. If these two widows picture the church’s character for poverty of spirit, meekness, mercy, and purity of heart then they are but reflected images of God and likeness of Christ.

 

In giving over his only Son to death, God impoverished himself of all that was core to his being; and Jesus in obedience to the Father’s will for his death gave all for the baptized for our purity “even as he is pure”.  Both widows found sustained life in possessing the kingdom, mercy, and purity of heart trusting in the donative nature of God toward his house. 

 

Jesus crucified and risen is our new Temple in both heaven and earth; therein he has replaced the OT Aaronic High Priest, who could only minister on earth according to heaven’s true type.

 

On the Day of Atonement the OT High Priest would enter the temple’s Most Holy Place to offer blood atonement for self and the nation. First he appeared before the people at the sacrificial altar with bull and goat as sacrificial sin offerings; then he entered the Most Holy Place alone before God where he sprinkled the blood before the Mercy Seat of God’s presence on earth. 

 

In all there were 49 sprinklings in both the Most Holy Place and at the sacrificial altar, 7 times 7, to signify perfect purification and God’s blessing, forgiveness, acknowledging the people’s eligible purity before God for another year.

 

The congregation would “eagerly await” their High Priest’s reappearing from out of the Most Holy Place to compete the sprinklings and dispatch the un-sacrificed scapegoat into the desert bearing their sins. 

 

At the cross all human history achieves its goal. In the NT death and resurrection of Christ, he is now God’s and our High Priest and King after the order of Melchizedek.  First, he appeared, as incarnate God to offer himself, once for all and all time, man’s perfect purifying sacrifice by blood’s purification. 

 

Elevated in the glory on the cross, God’s work of salvation was complete (Jn. 19:30) at that moment in history. Rising from the grave he entered the Most Holy Place of heaven and now of earth as well, and offered the Father the sprinkling of his own blood for the annulment of sin and the sins of men who will receive it in faith. 

 

From heaven’s Most Holy Place Jesus continues to perfect his church by the purity of his word, Baptism in the HS, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper in his living flesh and blood for those “eagerly awaiting” his Second Appearing out of heaven’s Most Holy Place on the Last Day; and for judgment on those who put at naught their sanctification.

 

For those “eagerly awaiting” Jesus’ return; mercy, righteousness, a donative spirit, and a pure of heart is our inheritance as sons and daughters for seeing God face to face. Amen. 

 

pem.  



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Sermon - Eileene Homan Service
2018.11.09 18:53:26

FUNERAL-Eileene Homan, All Saints (2018): 1 John 3:1-3.

 

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

 

Dear Terry, Deb, Barb, grandchildren, family and friends of our departed sister, Eileene; what do you see? Well, certainly we are directed by God’s word, declaring that on account of sin, “dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19c).

 

In the blush of youth, what seemed remote, even hidden, has today become evident by the dusty remains of a 91-year-old woman some called “mom” and others “sister”. In a short while, with all reverence, we commit her remains to the ground; in this sense Eileene’s death is an emblem of God’s word; “dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

 

But is that all you see; or is there something more, if not with physical eyes, then by the sight of faith given us through God’s washing and enlightenment by water, Word, and Spirit? Baptized into Christ, Eileene testifies beyond God’s law to which her ashes speak; rather and more importantly to his grace that, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15). How appropriate that we gather during the Church’s Feast of All Saints to discern just how precious Eileene is to God.

 

Jesus, instituting his Holy Supper, taught the Apostles. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus responded, … “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:8, 9). Now if you were to ask me to show you Eileene, then I assure you by the word of God’s promise and his precious love of Eileene that you need look no further than Jesus manifested by Eileene’s faith.


Looking to Jesus, of whom all Scripture testifies, and his testimony concerning Eileene; there is a reason the Church assigns the beatitudes from the Sermon on The Mount for the Feast of All Saints’ bestowing blessing and status upon his disciples.

 

Today we consider two aspects of Eileene as begotten daughter of her heavenly Father, baptized into Christ, when she became a new creation. By the HS’s imparting gifts she too is merciful as God is merciful and so receives mercy.

 

Eileene, reflecting Christ, is gifted of the HS’s own purity; and blessed to behold God face to face. This is what it means to be a son or daughter of the Father with Christ our brother and Lord; like begets like, which is precisely God’s baptismal gift to Eileene and to you and I.  

 

For 91 years Eileene was shaped by God’s word, like Scripture a witnessing scroll. In receiving the Name of Jesus upon her forehead and on her breast, and regularly hearing God’s word she was no blank slate, rather she was written upon by God to uniquely reflect his word and so in her person to stand among us as she was being made into the image and likeness of her Lord.

 

On the Cross Jesus graciously appropriated Eileene’s sin, covering her in his blood before God, that she appear in purity even as he is pure; and for that great love and gift she is her heavenly Father’s daughter. Like Jesus she shared the tribulations of the world, “For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son [and daughter] whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).

 

As Jesus was perfected on the cross (Heb. 7:28), so Eileene by her tribulation in the world is now perfected after the pattern of her Lord. Today, by faith you see her, the recipient of God’s mercy and Christ’s purity in eternity. Today she beholds the face of God; and from her own face every tear has been wiped away for joy. On the Last Day by physical sight you will see Eileene as she truly is, among all the saints, as God is all in all. Amen.

 

pem.


 



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Sermon - 11/4/18
2018.11.05 19:57:54

ALL SAINTS’ (S) (2018): REV. 7:2-17; 1 JN. 3:1-3; MT. 5:1-12

 

Pure,             “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (v. 8)

 

The church experiences her purity of heart in “see[ing Jesus] as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2c).  How can we be like him unless we know him by the sight of faith; faith that is bestowed in Baptism’s new begetting? 

 

In the OT only the patriarchs Adam (Gen. 2, 3), Abraham (Ch. 18), Jacob (32:11), and Moses (Ex. 33:11) conversed with God face to face. At the Lord’s Supper Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father”, to which Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”(Jn. 14:8, 9).  We “see [Jesus] as he is” by purified hearts for seeing God.

 

But when and how do we obtain our beatific sight; now or on the Last Day? Yes, “when he appears” (1 Jn. 3:2b).  Today Jesus appears by Scripture, all of which testifies to him.  So also Jesus appears and is known as he is “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:30, 31, 35); and on the Last Day he will be manifest to the full receptivity of our purified senses in the realization that we are like him (1 Jn. 3:2).  

 

The ancient Creeds of Christendom identify the God we worship, pray to, and render Eucharist. The Nicene Creed orients us in “one Baptism for the remission of sins” and the Apostles’ Creed in “the Communion of the saints”.  The point of publically confessing the catholic faith and “right worship”, is as St. John puts it, “see[ing and knowing Jesus] as [and who] he is”.

 

At the outset of his public ministry Jesus blessed his followers. The beatitudes imparted to his church qualities of a new spiritual status essential for their journey with him to the cross.  Too soon they would “Behold the man!” (Jn. 19:5) in his Passion requiring new sight and understanding which Jesus by his word would bestow, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; not only his person but of the Father’s re-creation work through his Son. 

 

Jesus removed himself from the crowds; ascended the Mount with his disciples and seated himself, not in imitation of Moses on Sinai, but as God’s NT Revelation before whom Moses appeared “face to face”. Now the disciples appear before Jesus to hear direct speech from the One who is by the HS the living voice of God.  In Christ, Moses is no longer Torah’s veiled mediator; and yet apart from the informing grace of the HS, Jesus’ words are obscure.    

 

Jesus did not speak to the crowd; whatever they heard was from afar. On account of the veil of Moses they were incapable of knowing Jesus by his word and as he is.  Jesus’ words then, as now, are comprehensible only in his church enlightened by the HS.  

 

To the far off crowds the beatitudes must have sounded as a new law; that sinful men must locate and employ an existing virtue from out of their own hearts. For the crowds, “purity of heart” was and still is heard through the veil of Moses, an earned condition and so another dispiriting legal burden.  Only the most deluded would think they possessed a purity of heart and mind in and of themselves.

 

But the Beatitudes are the NT revelation of God conveyed in his church that she is being made into “image” of God and “likeness” of Christ, a “fit helpmate” in the NT temple for purified worship of God in the crucified flesh of her Lord.

 

The Feast of All Saints arrives immediately before the final three Sunday’s of the Church Year when Jesus gives his church urgent end time warning of judgment’s approach. Today we comprehend the church in her oneness, one Baptism and one Loaf in Christ, for seeing him “as he [truly] is”.  St. John’s Epistle gives our beatitude for purity an end times dimension; that on the Last Day we, formed by God in right worship of word and sacrament, will be “purified… as [Christ] is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3).

 

Gathering this morning, as we do, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we first critically examine ourselves by the gage of Scripture and conclude that we have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). God’s law strips us bare; a false veneer of respectability covers our essential sin of unbelief and self-idolatrous corruptions.  True purity of heart is the farthest thing from us, but for the covering of our baptismal status in Christ and him crucified for our sin. 

 

Today’s we hear the angelic message of the mystery of Christ with us; an “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6); that our purity for seeing God is of Christ’s shed blood, a heavenly covering and new begetting in water and Word, the gift of God’s Son.  Hearing this good news we gaze eastward, the direction of the rising Sun, anticipating Jesus’ elevation among us in hope of his “appearing as he is” now, and recognized in the breaking of the church’s Bread, and on the Last Day.

 

Together we hear Jesus’ words and partake of their power in blessing. The first thing we discern about the beatitude is that our purity of heart occurs in Communion with all the saints, on earth and in heaven.  We are motivated, hearing Psalm 24 in its liturgical context:  

 

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Such is the generation of those…who seek the face of the God of Jacob (vv. 3, 4, 5, 6b).

 

Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day together we ascend Mount Zion where Jesus teaches and delivers forgiveness in God’s presence as we are coming out of the world’s fiery and purifying tribulations to the place of true worship in and as body of Christ. We seek our purity and blessing from God alone, as our spirits are graciously made hospitable and receptive of his Word. 

 

Here then is the progression of our being newly re-created in Christ, to a reimaging and likeness. We hear his word and come to faith in the one God of the Christian Creeds.  We see God as he is revealed in his word and so increase in knowledge of Him who is source and giver of all blessings.  By our ascending prayers of thanksgiving and ritual incense we smell and breathe the same air of heaven with all the saints who now behold Him face to face. 

 

Elevating the consecrated Host and Cup we declare faith’s baptismal touch in physical union with the flesh and blood of Jesus who proffers us to his and our Father.  Inward Eucharistic reception completes our on-going purity, to taste his goodness that sustains us to the Last Day when he will be manifest to our eyes, and as well to all “who set at naught and sold Him” (LSB 336 s. 2).

 

With new sight by the HS we discern the incarnate God with us, fully revealed by faith; Christ bringing God’s new creation to fruition. These are the “pure in heart” in whom there is no deceit, as Jesus described Nathaniel who confessed him, “Son of God” and “King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49).  They are the saints that participate in the true worship of the Church’s one Baptism for communion in her one Loaf. 

 

The church does not recognize her Lord apart from his wounds. In this world’s tribulation our wounds mirror his on the cross.  Daily we are shaped in Christ by God in the “kind of love the Father has given to us” (1 Jn. 3:1): our sin and sorrow in exchange for his forgiveness in the community of the forgiven.  This is our blessed purity of heart in which we hope until the Last Day. 

 

On that day we will see the glorious appearing of Christ. By word and sacrament we will have been made in his “image and likeness”.  On account of his purifying wounds through which he blesses we are newly begotten to behold in all purity of heart and mind the face of God.   Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 10/28/18
2018.10.29 20:21:46

REFORMATION (S)(2018) Rev. 14:6-7; Rom. 3:19-28; Mt. 11:12-19.

 

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

 

Johann Gerhard, the 17th century Lutheran theologian, points to M. Luther as one such heavenly messenger of the “eternal gospel”.  In all of Christendom it is only the Lutheran Church that commemorates the German Reformation’s ongoing restoration of an “eternal gospel” to which the institutional Church is always being reformed in repentance. 

 

Lutheranism in America began as a stalwart defender of the catholic faith and historic practice. From the beginning Lutherans came under attack in the midst of an anti-sacramental Protestant culture.  C.F.W. Walther expressed our Lutheran militancy for the “eternal gospel”:

 

“It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Papism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when one sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American sects, lest they accuse us of being papistic!  Indeed!  Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that the sects can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?... [I]t remains true that the Lutheran Liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches…” 

 

The “eternal gospel” from the foundation of the world is this: Jesus crucified and lifted on the cross by which he continues to proclaim and deliver in his church God’s merciful forgiveness of sin in, with, and under his flesh and blood. 

 

The church has her being in God’s word, rightly parsed law from grace in Christ, that draws her relationally deeper into Baptismal and Eucharistic union with God for reception of every blessing.

 

In time Lutheran militancy for the “eternal gospel” became less strident.  Some may remember your “grandfather’s Lutheran Church” in the 20th century.  You may have thought those days glorious, halcyon, and blessed; Lutherans competed step for step with the denominations in America for bigness.

 

Neo-evangelical Protestants took to the airwaves: Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, Rome had its Bp. Fulton Sheen, and Lutherans took their law-gospel preaching from the pulpit to a mass audience under the auspices of The Lutheran Hour. Outreach aside, thus began the process of separating the eternal gospel’s Word from the eternal gospel’s sacramental flesh and blood of Christ. 

 

Lutheran congregations grew. Typically on Reformation Sunday many area Lutherans conducted joint Services with Sermons that decried the errors of Roman Catholicism in sync with an overall Protestant mentality.  Rome had its CYO, Protestants their Sunday Schools, Lutherans enrolled teens in the Walther League and adopted a Sunday School model. 

 

Protestants built “cry rooms” in their worship places, shielding adults from the clamber of as yet unbaptized children. Lutheran’s followed suit emphasizing the Sermon by reduced administration of the Sacrament, in some cases as little once a month or even four times a year.  The effect was that Lutheran Sermons no longer directed the Baptized to the Altar as the focus of Christian worship; but by implication, away from it. 

 

Some Lutherans began to appear as generic Protestants with their lecture-hall cum Bible Study cum Sunday-Go-To-Meeting “worship” style. Lutherans continued to claim being a “liturgical” church body but could no longer say why.  Many Lutheran pastors were no longer being trained in the theology of the Church’s historic Liturgy, merely its rubric forms. 

 

I don’t wish to paint with too broad a brush, certainly there were faithful congregations oriented in a liturgical word and sacrament identity; these were the remnant. As for the Confessions all at least taught adults Luther’s handbook for parents, the Small Catechism.

 

Normal pastoral care in the congregation occurred one on one either by private confession seeking individual Absolution or in discussion by Announcing for Communion. Taking a page from the self-absolution practiced by Protestant neighbors, Lutherans began to hold the Pastoral Office in less regard, either avoiding the Pastor’s Absolution altogether or only accepting an en masse absolution to a general confession.  Trajectory of minimal rather than stalwart Lutheranism was becoming discernable. 

 

During the 20th century Lutherans competed very well in size and grandeur with other church bodies… until we didn’t.  Somewhere along the way a demographic and cultural sea change occurred regarding religion in America.  That sea change has run its course in Europe where the vestiges of Christianity consists as medieval cathedral architecture. 

 

In America Lutherans are beginning to observe loss of a Reformation identity; in many ways we have become just one more Protestant denomination making a claim that the “eternal gospel” is generically possessed among the sects. 

 

Yet things are changing for the good. Seminaries have begun the long process of a new Reformation, reuniting the eternal gospel’s word and sacraments as the substance and content of her Liturgy.  While the so called “Church Growth Movement” is still alive other Lutheran’s have stopped competing with the Protestant sects for bigness, which someone recently described in today’s environment as “big entertainment”, opting instead for fidelity to the angelically delivered “eternal gospel”.

 

What is our reward; or to paraphrase St. Peter from last Sunday, “[Jesus] see we have give up everything to follow you; what’s in it for us?” (Mk. 10:28). Instead of being an amorphous big tent Lutherans are again becoming identifiable; often a persecuted remnant for our confession and practice of the church’s Loaves and baptismal Passion in Christ, which is to say, fidelity to the “eternal gospel” is its own reward.  

 

Jesus prophesied this historic reprise, “But from the days of JB until now, the reign of heaven is being violently attacked, and violent men are trying to snatch it away” (Mt. 11:12).  Foundational to heaven’s “eternal gospel” is that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22b).  Violent blood letting is part and parcel of man’s salvation in Christ.  St. Paul frames the “eternal gospel” this way, “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith… apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:25b & 28b).

 

JB is God’s end-time Elijah going before the face of Jesus. His end of life prophesied to the violence to be visited upon Jesus at the hands of violent men.  Herod Antipas severed JB’s head from his body; now all eyes were directed Christ-ward to behold Jesus’ lamb-like sacrifice on the cross at Israel’s rejection of their Messiah-King. 

 

Jesus, if you will, is Elisha to JB’s Elijah. Jesus, at his Baptism in the Jordan, concluded on the cross, received “a double portion of his [herald’s] Spirit” in fullness (2 Kings 2:9).  The “eternal gospel” from the Father for men on earth now rested solely with the crucified Jesus and testified to by the water the blood and the Spirit (1 Jn. 5:7-9), gifted from the cross for the life of the church (Jn. 19:30). 

 

The “eternal gospel” is received by our stand-alone faith apart from the works of the law; a faith that, St. Thomas-like, grasps hold of Jesus’ wounds.  This is the core message and the offense of the “eternal gospel” that always calls the Church to repentant reformation.  

 

Like JB (Mt. 11:6) we continually require a blessing for faith so not to take offense at God’s bloody “eternal gospel”.  In all cases, those “trying to snatch [the eternal gospel] away” are those denying the testimony of the water and the blood and the Spirit concerning God’s Son with his church. 

 

To put a fine point on the nature of our Reformation celebration, the various “church bodies” are problematic. Reformation in the nature of the case is about the repentance of church bodies returning to true doctrine and practice of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. 

 

It is hardly worthwhile to catalogue the myriad denominational errors concerning the “eternal gospel”: Roman or the 1,001 sectarian expressions of Protestants.  God does not save church bodies, rather individuals; and the Church is always called to repentant reformation of error and periodic backsliding led the example of the remnant.  The eternal lives of men lie within the exclusive realm of the one true faith.  Amen.  

 

pem.  



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