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Sermon - 8/10/19
2019.08.12 17:39:41

Proper 14/C [Pent. 9] (2019): Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-16; Luke 12:22-34.   

 

Counted,     And [Abram] believed the LORD, and [God] counted it to him as righteousness (v. 6). 

 

By this singular sentence we have the essence of the Christian religion, salvation by faith alone—but “what kind” of faith?

 

God called Abram at age seventy-five out of his familiar homeland, Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s southern Iraq. Ur was an advanced civilization.  No doubt Abram’s family were wealthy, influential members of that community. 

 

At God’s word, Abram packed up his family to walk with God, to where God alone knew. This is the point, by the time of today’s OT Reading, Abram had been on journey with the Lord twenty-four years, a wandering stranger in alien lands; which is to say, Abram and God had a history.  

 

Today we might call Abram’s quarter century Bedouin association with God, a time of faith formation; during which Abram came to know and take the measure of the Lord in his life. What resulted, by today’s Reading, was a dual “accounting”; Abram toward God, and by Abram’s belief, the Lord “counting” him righteous. 

 

Faithfulness in relationships is a two-way street; by the power of God’s word Abram “counted” God his faithful God whose word was bond in which there existed no greater security.

 

Now the Lord promised 99-year-old Abram that he and his barren septuagenarian wife, Sarah would sexually conceive a child and heir from their bodies. By faith’s formation Abram responded in unqualified belief of a promise that in human terms was impossible, even laughable.  “This kind” of faith acknowledges that God is our present God, from whom alone we seek and trust his promised rewards.    

 

God promised Abram more than an heir; his promise was an heir in whom his new creation would result; not unlike the first creation by the invisible Word. The promise of an heir to Abram was of a resurrection out of his and Sarah’s “good as dead” bodies.  On “account” of Abram believing this word, God “counted” to him and his heirs forever his very own Righteousness. 

 

God would formalize his Covenant in the rite (sacrament) of Circumcision and bestowing on Abram a new name co-ordinate with his promise. “Abraham” had sought an heir, but by his faith God would make him “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5, 6). 

 

For those of us with eyes to see by faith the invisible things of God’s promises, this assembly, baptized into Christ, is the fulfillment of God’s abundance to Abraham. By faith in Christ we are inheritors of God’s righteousness.  In this ecclesia, we, as Abraham seek and trust God in his presence to provide his gifts, most especially merciful forgiveness. 

 

Through Abraham’s faith, and now ours in Christ, God is building from a sin scorched earth, a new City.  Before his name change Abraham could have returned to Ur of the Chaldees, his old hometown (Heb. 11:15) where he would no longer been “a wandering Aramean” through strange lands (Deut. 26:5). 

 

Had Abraham returned to Ur of the Chaldees he and his family certainly have regained earthly security, familiarity, and society; still Abraham continued to place his faith in the promise of God’s unseen future promise of a “better homeland” which foundation is God himself (Heb. 11:15, 16). 

 

We, the church trusting in the promise of Christ’s full atonement for sin are enrolled, by Baptism, into God’s new City counted as a population already as numerous as heaven’s uncountable stars (Rev. 7:9).

 

We, who hear God’s word, see as Abraham saw—by faith, the invisible things of God’s promise. By faith we are “counted” righteous for Christ’s sake.  Jesus crucified and resurrected is the laid foundation for our inheritance in the City of God. 

 

Today’s Gospel follows-on from Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool. We, like Abraham, are urged to take the measure of God’s promises in Christ against a homeland in the world; to coin a phrase, “What does the kingdom of God have to do with the city of Ur?”

 

Jesus chides his disciples’ poverty of faith (Lk. 12:28c) who see their security in earthly possessions apart from God (Eccl. 2:24, 25).  The Rich Fool of Jesus’ parable could find no higher security and gratification than through “his” earthly possessions.

 

The Fool built new storage barns, as it were new temple construction for that which dominated “his” life; a place he might idolatrously visit to worship the creation than the Creator. From the Fool’s perspective rebuilding inadequate barns made perfect sense;

 

except that God, millennia earlier, already located a different site for a “better homeland” than the Fool’s barns to store perishable fruit from a cursed earth.  From the foundation of the cosmos God already ordained his only begotten Son new and eternal Temple for a new Jerusalem of which God is architect, builder, and foundation. 

 

Jesus chastised his followers for love of money and possessions as foolishness causing some to look back, rather than ahead to God’s ordained construction site, the cross. Earlier Jesus had made this precise point saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). 

 

Of God’s new construction the author of Hebrews remarks, “By faith we perceive that the worlds have been outfitted by God’s spoken utterance, so that what is seen has come to be from things that are invisible” (Heb. 11:3). 

 

We, the church, are gathered into God’s “granary” where he is pleased to make us one loaf in Jesus crucified, the Foundation stone of our faith in whom we are fashioned by our NT faith.

 

Like the old creation, God’s New Temple comes into existence by proclamation of the invisible word, hidden under the common things of the first creation; water, bread, and wine. By faith in God’s invisible word, we participate with Abraham’s faith and “counted” in Christ’s perfect faith on the cross, righteous (Mt. 5:48).  

 

Having heard the preached word for “this kind” of faith by the church’s catholic confession, we believe we have been made fit for the kingdom of God. In “this kind” of faith, we await God’s visual of his City, already invisibly among us as the place of God’s treasure, we who possess and worship his Son’s sacrificial flesh in faith.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 8/4/19
2019.08.04 22:38:52

Proper 13/C [Pent. 8] (2019): Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-26; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21  

 

Seek,             If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (vv. 1, 2). 

 

St. Paul exhorts us to Life’s proper object. I did not say “our life”, which is the point Jesus makes by the parable of the Rich Fool.  Rather “our life” is gift of God; it is his and redeemable at will.  Therefore, it is not without significance how we manage “our life” in this time of church, or the “ecclesia”. 

 

To trust in anything other than God concerning our gifted life, and in the case of the Rich Fool—possessions, is idolatry and boorish ingratitude. Abundant possessions, power, worldly wisdom, esteem, force of personality, physical and mental strength, attractive appearance and natural ability, alliances enhancing us toward our neighbor; all of these or the lack, credits us nothing at heaven’s call.  All that is accounted to us is our fear of the Lord, a life of faith.    

 

The irony of the Rich Fool was that at the pinnacle of his self-satisfaction, God called his soul forfeit. All things are the Lord’s and of the Lord; we possess the things of the earth for a time on loan, then they pass to another (Eccl. 2:18).

 

Mary, the sister of Martha, treasured the “good portion” from God, Jesus’s word; and it would not be taken from her (Lk. 10:42) but remain hers into eternity; so also, Jesus urges us to be “rich toward God” (12:21), and St. Paul, “seek the things that are above.”

 

Let’s be clear about the Rich Fool; his heart’s desire was much as King Solomon in his youth; and if we are honest, so are you and I in seeking worldly wisdom and its abundance.

 

We toil to load-up retirement accounts; are miserly toward brothers and sisters in shielding our wealth; and today in a world of falling interest rates we hoard cash, precious metals, invest in stocks, all with goal of retiring with “dignity”; very often a euphemism for “eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19) in the security of the things we have stored-up. 

 

Is there anything wrong in this; well not if we receive all things, extravagant or simple, as gift of God. But when our goal is as the Rich Fool, to eat, drink, and be merry for its own sake, the question of our stewardship comes into play.  

 

How do we employ what time God has given us; in frivolous and continual entertainment or do we generally engage the things above?  Is our dominant attention given to worldly endeavors, political discourse, or obsessively out-thinking markets, or wrestling with God to hold onto that which is ultimately his?  These are all distractions from trusting in “our life’s” proper object, Christ come to his ecclesia in word and sacrament, leading us to grasp God’s love at the cross in repentant faith. 

 

In worldly terms, King Solomon was history’s wealthiest, most intelligent, and wisest man. On ascent to the throne of Israel, Solomon prayed, “[Y]our servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen…Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil…” (1 kgs. 3:9). 

 

Ever since Adam and Eve desired to know “good and evil”, man has been, so to speak, “in the soup”; for it is only in the doing of evil that man can “know” evil.  Good and evil are not abstractions.  They are experienced in “fallen man’s life”; in body and soul.  Good and evil, justice and injustice, love and hate, faith and unbelief, truth and lie, all by sin are relativized in the self-idolatry of man’s original corruption toward God.

 

Notice how Solomon prayed for understanding to enter the so called “broth of sin”, albeit, on behalf of the “ecclesia” to discern the ways of a cursed world.  But even such “understanding” Solomon would conclude to be “vanity”. 

 

Last Sunday Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray. In this, we discern the beginnings of divine Wisdom for the “ecclesia”, faith’s “fear of the Lord”, a higher wisdom than that for which Solomon prayed.  Jesus taught his disciples, “Father… Give us each day our daily bread…” (Lk. 11:2a, 3). 

 

After modeling the prayer, he elaborated, “ask” and receive; “seek” and find, “knock” and the way will be opened (v. 10).  it is in God’s gracious giving and our grateful reception of his Bread from heaven and earthly sustenance that we are being made wise toward God.

 

In Christ, we seek “the things that are above…”.  We don’t pray for understanding, wisdom or anything apart from Christ (cf. Eccl. 2:25), and so trust in God, rejoicing in all that he determines for us; that by Baptism, “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). 

 

King Solomon, was an imperfect type of Christ. In these last days Jesus comes as the fullness of Torah wisdom.  God honored Solomon’s prayer for worldly wisdom, saying; “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you in all your days…” (1 Kgs. 3:12, 13). 

 

As man of worldly affairs none has or ever will exceed Solomon in worldly wisdom and understanding. Still throughout the OT period, God was a hidden God.  Solomon applied his heart by human reason seeking and searching all that God had done under heaven; yet despite nonparallel human wisdom, Solomon lamented, “it is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (Eccl. 1:13).

 

When we, whether student, laborer, artisan, philosopher, theologian, social worker, pastor, laity, business people, or politician, seek after worldly wisdom, then we set our minds on earthly things with Solomon and in this endeavor, we also despair that, “all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (v. 14). 

 

But Jesus, by his word and taught prayer would have us trust in God alone, putting despair aside as we seek wisdom from above that God reveals as gift of the HS in Baptism. The ancient Rabbi’s identified the Torah of Moses as God’s wisdom; this is true.  But in Christ, the incarnate Torah of God, we the ecclesia possess in his flesh and blood the fullness of Divine revelation.  Jesus crucified is the fullness of God’s Torah Wisdom, no longer hidden from men; yet the world calls our gospel, “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18-21). 

 

Jesus and St. Paul exhort us to seek him who is Wisdom enfleshed, who by the HS gathers us into a prayerful discipleship, looking to God for all things and an “understanding” that grows from faith to faith in Christ. 

 

The world reasons that dying is evil; but by heaven’s Wisdom we know that evil and the grave have been put to death in the crucified body of Jesus for the forgiveness of our foolish sins. The world says, quality of life is all about length of days with stored-up earthly wealth; but Wisdom invites that we, who are evil by nature, follow Jesus: “knock” on the wood of the cross; “seek” to daily die in him on account of sin; and trust God will “open” heaven, as for Jesus, raising us to inheritance and priestly service in the new creation. 

 

By faith Solomon, at the end of his days, anticipated this gospel enlightenment from above; putting-off despair generated by human reason “under the sun”, proclaiming that not “all is vanity”; “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24).

 

By our baptismal grace we keep-on seeking incarnate Wisdom. We “knock” to receive in thanksgiving God’s word and sacrament, and are joyously admitted into communion with the Author of Life and brothers and sisters that the world’s vanity no longer dominates our life from above.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/28/19
2019.07.28 22:37:40

Proper 12/C [Pent. 7] (2019): Genesis 18:17-33; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13.

 

Hide,             The LORD said, “shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice…” (vv. 17-19).

 

No doubt our omniscient God hears petitionary prayer from believer and unbeliever, heretic and schismatic, agnostic and atheist despite themselves. How God responds apart from faith is beyond my vocational pay-grade; that said, it is only toward the Baptized that God in Christ invites an on-going conversation.

 

In the previous chapter of Genesis, the Lord established with 99-year-old Abraham and his household after him, a covenant relationship sealed by a sign. Circumcision was the OT mark and promise of a more perfect putting off of man’s sinful flesh.

 

St. Paul describes Christian Baptism, “In Christ also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith…” (Col. 2:11, 12).

 

What then is the effect of Baptism concerning prayer or conversation with our heavenly Father? Last Sunday Mary, sister of Martha, modeled our posture in worship; that we see Jesus as Host delivering his word for new kinship, that his Father is now our Father as we daily follow Jesus to the cross to a perfected circumcision of our flesh into his death and resurrection.

 

In today’s Gospel disciples observed Jesus in prayer and wanted to be taught. Jesus directed, they address the “Father”, a name more than honorific, speaking to an intimate and mature knowledge (1:28) of him who is source of our being and every blessing.

 

This is knowledge, imparted in true worship, exhibited by Mary’s rapt attention to Jesus’ word and continuing by your desire for Holy Communion. By faith you recognize that “in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him…” (2:9, 10).

 

If Mary exemplifies Christian hearing Jesus’ word; it is we, the “disciples the Lord loves”, who are permitted to rest our heads on his pierced breast (Jn. 13:23 NKJV), as Jesus eternally lays his head (Mt. 8:20) upon the bosom and heart of the Father (cf. Lk. 16:22 RSV, NKJV). Here then is the posture in which we pray in Christ at his table with heads firmly attached onto the bosom of God for our Eucharistic portion.

 

Once we recognize worship’s posture in the Spirit, then Christian prayer magnifies our baptismal orientation toward the Father. Jesus, by the parable of the Good Samaritan, self-identified as our Neighbor, and in today’s Gospel he reveals God as Friend among us, never too occupied not to provide his abundance of “loaves”. In this knowledge we “ask, and it will be given…; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened… [even and especially] the HS…” (Lk. 11:9, 13b).

 

It is the gift of the HS in whom we have the on-going abundance of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in Christ, that propells us to maturity of faith (Col. 1:28) in holy prayer.

 

I won’t belittle obvious immature denominational prayer desiring worldly things and its “glory”; “phone-chain” prayer; and “prayer warriors” who would bring God to heal; or those who assault God with mindless battology. We are, after all, a work in progress whom the HS advances to an ever-increasing Father-son and daughter relation.

 

Today’s OT Reading reveals Abraham, model of mature prayer. The Lord, after affirming his covenant, advised he intended to “go down” (18:21) to Sodom, which is to say, the Lord “goes down” for judgment (cf. Gen. 3:8; 11:7).

 

Before sending death-angels into Sodom, the Lord, conversing with the Father, reflected on their covenant relation with Abraham, “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen. 18:17). God elected Abraham, fountainhead of man’s salvation in his Seed, the man Jesus, by whom “a great and mighty nation”, the Christian church, would be begotten from above through the Baptism’s perfecting circumcision (Jn. 3:3).

 

In time the incarnate Christ would “come down” (Jn. 1:14) and “go up” for the Life of the church for “keep[ing] the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19) and through whom all nations are blessed (v. 18). Thus, the Lord did not conceal from Abraham his intention for Sodom, a cypher for the world; rather in prayerful conversation, Abraham, and you and I, are invited into the counsels of God.

 

From God’s promises, Abraham knew God’s gracious and merciful character. Like the Midnight-Caller of our Gospel desiring loaves, Abraham knows God to be both Neighbor and Friend who will attend to his concerns especially on behalf of another for advance of righteousness and justice, Bread from heaven (Ps. 78:25; Wis. 16:20-21).  

 

Abraham is the scion of God’s promised Savior who is concerned for the Lord’s Way and integrity. To this end Abraham addresses God, merciful and longsuffering Friend about his friends in Sodom. Here we observe a tension: righteousness in the face of evil demands the sword, and justice delayed is justice denied; against God’s longsuffering abundant mercy.

 

Despite Sodom’s endemic evil, the Lord and Abraham resolve the tension brought on by the magnitude of Sodom’s sin. God’s saving work comes into the world through his church. An OT synagogue or congregation minimally consisted of ten believing men, a “minyan”. For the sake of ten righteous, the city, the world if you will, would be spared.

 

This today is where we liturgically stand, as a NT “minyan” in Sodom, the world. On hearing God’s word as Abraham’s seed, we are bold to extend counsel to God in the Church’s Prayer, segue to consecrating the Holy Communion. It is no accident that in the western mass, following the Prayer that the Church consecrates her Eucharistic bread and wine by the Lord’s Prayer and the “Verba” of the Supper.  

 

No matter how marginal the Church appears to the world, she is all that stands between those coming to faith in Christ and the Last Day’s universal destruction. Jesus is our righteousness “come down” for both judgment and mercy and “gone up” on the cross.

 

This is the lesson of Sodom: for the sake of God’s righteous way by faith or the lack; God’s justice and mercy resides solely in the crucified flesh of Jesus, into whom we are invited by Baptism and an on-going conversation with the Father; and so privileged to pray, “Father”. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/21/19
2019.07.23 21:50:12

Proper 11/C [Pent. 6] (2019): Genesis 18:1-14; Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38-42.

 

Welcomed,            [A] woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving (vv. 38b-40a). 

 

This morning we reflect on the posture of Christian worship.  Sarah and Abraham honored the Lord’s visit with frantic hospitality; but when Sarah listened to the Lord from behind the tent veil, she laughed at his promise that within the year she, a barren old woman would give birth to a son by her ancient husband. 

 

Similarly, last Sunday Jesus taught by parable an argumentative lawyer, the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained to his followers, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables” (Lk. 8:10).  

 

The upshot about Sarah, the lawyer, and today distracted Martha, is that Jesus urges vigilance for a correct posture before God’s word, to “Take care… how you hear…” (8:18), for in Christ is revealed to the saints the mysteries hidden for ages (Col. 1:25, 26).

 

This morning Christ’s bride is gathered. Positioned you assume Mary’s posture before the Word; in contrast to Martha insinuating herself before Jesus to “stand-over” him and malign her sister for not sharing the hostess duties.

 

In your position you are seated quietly, without anxiety in this place whence comes the Lord by his word. By your posture you appear in rapt expectation to receive, “a lamp to [your] feet and a light to [your] path” (Introit antiphon).  This is the church’s welcoming worship advancing to mature faith in the wisdom and revelation of heaven’s mysteries (v. 28).

 

In the “heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1) the Lord made a surprise visit to Abraham and Sarah.  After completing harried preparations, Sarah attended the Lord’s words; yet she did not comprehend, there is nothing too difficult for the Lord (v. 14a).  Sarah’s laugher expressed her critical disbelief in God’s promise; with Abraham’s silence, they had just reprised original sin by Adam and the woman. 

 

The Lord came to Adam and the woman in the Garden’s “cool of the day”.  Adam ordained into the office of word delivery to the woman had already conveyed the Lord’s warning, that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must not be eaten on pain of death. 

 

Satan intruded into their orderly worship suggesting that either Adam was an unreliable preacher; or if true, then God must be suspect for depriving mankind of knowledge. To the woman, Satan insinuated unbelief, “Did God actually say…?” [Gen. 3:1).

 

The woman stepped out of her ordained hearer position to bandy words with the serpent while Adam remained silent at both the bald challenge to God’s word and the dignity of his office. The woman then took it upon herself to modify the word she received, adding, “neither shall [we] touch [the fruit] …” (v. 3). 

 

This addition is what Pharisees would call “putting a fence around Torah”, making it more stringent in order to be on the safe-side of obedience.  St. John relays God’s attitude on fencing his word, “if anyone adds to the words of the prophesy…God will add to him the plagues described in this book (the Apocalypse)” (Rev. 22:18, cf., Deut. 4:2). 

 

The woman’s offense was in standing-over her husband’s preachment of word. She had moved out of its orbit, into that a critical posture of the word.  Whether the woman intended to enhance the force of God’s command or, like Sarah make God’s promise sound foolish, is of no significance; she was spiritualizing God’s word, the sin of every religious enthusiast throughout the ages.  

 

The woman had turned God’s ordained posture for worship up-side down. By Adam’s silence and participation in the forbidden food, he acceded to the woman’s new theology conforming to Satan’s lie, “You will not surely die…” (Gen. 3:4).  Adam was not ejected from his pulpit, nevertheless from that time on preachers and congregations often coexist in tension; sadly, a given preacher may not be faithful or even know the word, that said we are here and graciously find ourselves at Grace Lutheran. 

 

Adam and the woman attended Satan’s contrary word and altered mankind’s posture toward God as source of Divine knowledge. No one, but God can know evil without doing evil, thus the “forbidden fruit”; yet the man Jesus crucified, suffered for us to know both evil and death. 

 

Adam’s first preaching in the Fall was a gospel word; prophetically he named the woman, “Eve—mother of all living”.  Eve, like Sarah, and the Virgin Mary are icons and types of the church.  And yet it was only Sarah in her barrenness who experienced the Lord’s ironic laughter in child birth; Isaac’s name means “laughter.  As for Eve and Mary, the mother of Jesus, each would experience through in their firstborn sons the culmination of sin spoken by Simeon, “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk. 2:35).  

 

If Eve is picture of the church with the Man Jesus; still she was destined for frustration. God informed, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b).  This prophesy in the first instance does not refer to physical attraction; rather God speaks to the woman, the church’s on-going original sin nature, a covetousness of standing over her husband’s office of word according to God’s order; ultimately toward the Man Christ for lordship and rule in his church. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus comes to Bethany, home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Martha is a disciple and desires to welcome Jesus.  From reportage she understood the take-away of the Good Samaritan parable: that Jesus is our Neighbor out of heaven, the One come to do for us God’s Service. 

 

Yet, old priorities are hard to overcome; Abraham and Sarah’s frantic welcome; the lawyer’s searching of Scripture for his “neighbor”; and Martha’s desire to prioritize her service over what Jesus came to extend. All of these thought themselves host to the Lord as guest with whom they might trade words with him; but that is not the case, is it? 

 

The tension between the Man and the woman finds resolution when the congregation, responds as bride, hearing her Lord’s word in faith for the mystery of Christ’s gospel rule and her restored worship posture. Again, Jesus provides the guidance, “Take care then how you hear…”      

 

In Christ we are invited to a new posture replacing our piety of service to God; rather, it is Mary’s receptivity to Jesus’ word at his feet that is praised: communal, continual, undistracted, and uncritical in faith’s hearing.

 

For Martha “real food” consisted of blintzes and nosh for a party of 85 plus; but the folly of this finally registered when Jesus advised her that Mary had chosen the good portion as when he effortlessly fed 5,000 in Galilee and 4,000 in the Decapolis on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.

 

If Martha intended to marginalize her sister Mary before the Lord; Jesus responded by embracing Mary in a new kinship of the word, “My mother and my brothers [and sisters] are those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21; cf. 6:47, 11:28).  The “do[ing] of it” consists in our on-going faithful hearing and so participate in the word’s empowerment.

 

This is our proper worship posture before God. Like Mary we sit at Jesus’ feet for every provision of his word in attentive and uncritical hearing.  By careful hearing of God’s unfenced word, we are directed to the Food he imparts for forgiveness and Life, in, with, and under his crucified, risen flesh and blood.  The is the bride’s foretaste of eternal physical union in the Lamb’s Marriage Feast.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/14/19
2019.07.15 22:35:38

Proper 10/C [Pent. 5] (2019): Lev. (18:1-5), 19:9-18; Col. 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37.  

 

Wisdom,     [W]e have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… (v. 9). 

 

God reveals himself in Christ that we might be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”, and in this knowledge walk before the Lord in a worthy manner.  This was God’s intent at the Beginning, that we conduct ourselves as sons and daughters in the Father’s household. 

 

Some “understand” the Good Samaritan parable as a morality lesson rather than an exposition of gospel “wisdom”; this is sad!  The next time you come upon a homeless “squidgy-guy”, passed-out on the roadside, soiled in vomit, you of course will do the “moral”, the “neighborly” thing; pull to the curb and check his condition—or am I wrong? 

 

In this somewhat modern-day equivalency, you as baptized priests would seem confronted with several options:

 

1st) you might drive the guy to the nearest ER; and/or 2nd) take him to a Holiday Inn, leave your credit card account arranging for a week of room and board; and/or 3rd) on your check-up return visit invite to mass and Bible Study.

 

Christian charity may suggest, we do one, some, all, or none of these things; more likely we will choose none and drive-on by! Where does Jesus’ commendation to mercy leave us toward God?   

 

You see the problem; when we “understand” Scripture principally as rule book or upgraded “holiness code”, God’s perfect character will always accuse us of love’s lack in our lives.  We must not lose sight that we are a people being made perfect in daily repentance (Mt. 5:48) and that in the doing of love or the lack, “wisdom” commends us in the first instance to know God’s gracious character toward us as loving Father. 

 

Again, when we fixate on our various and frequent failures of love or mercy, we see Jesus principally as new “law-giver”, skewing understanding to works righteousness; rather than Jesus as the One who has fulfilled the law in its entirely.  When we lose this gospel perspective, then our response to this or that “squidgy-guy” becomes the measure of God’s mercy, rather Christ crucified and baptismal wisdom in his HS. 

 

When the lawyer of today’s Gospel attempted to justify himself, asking who is his “neighbor?”, Jesus does not directly respond.  Let’s be clear, like the priest and Levite of the parable, most, perhaps all of us, would not stop to check the physical and spiritual welfare of the man on the road; as with the priest there may be several more or less good reasons to move-on. 

 

When we ask, “WWJD?”, then we assume a faux identity, that we are other than sinners toward God and man. Asking “WWJD?” places us in morally equivalent with the Good Samaritan and the compassion of Christ. 

 

Apart from Baptism into Christ’s passion and wisdom granted by the HS, we are incapable of the Good Samaritan’s mercy, always sourced in the flesh of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our loveless sin.

 

Of course, we are saved unto good works; but again, the “squidgy-guy’s” particular distress is neither the measure of God’s mercy nor of our “wisdom”; rather their measure resides exclusively in the love of Christ guiding us by his Spirit, neither as thoughtless legality nor undiscerning of circumstances.    

 

What then is it that God wills of you? In today’s Leviticus Reading God specifies his will for Israel’s holiness:

 

You will not take 100% profits on stock trades, but leave some of your gains for the losers. You will not steal, except when appropriating ideas without attributing credit.  You will not deal falsely, unless first warning of an “as is” sale.  You will not lie, unless the truth hurts feelings. 

 

You will not swear by the name of God, except when giving evidence to massage facts advancing your legal case. You will not oppress, threaten, or use force to obtain advantage, unless running for political office.

 

You will not condone contests that have as their object tossing midgets, but in all other cases you may glorify gratuitous violence as included in the price of your coliseum ticket. You will not extend legal advantage except to family and close friends. 

 

Most importantly You will not slander, because that is murder by other means; nor will you take vengeance or bear a grudge—in all cases you will love your neighbor as yourselves. In all these, the question remains; “Who is your neighbor?”

 

If this iteration sounds irreverent, perhaps it is, to emphasize that we are not holy and of ourselves incapable of holiness. So, what do we conclude about our “neighbor’s” identity?  We repeat, Scripture is not a collection of “morality messages”.   

 

But neither are Christians ambivalent by-passers in this life; instead, in the first instance, we are to “understand” our essential identity in Jesus’ parable; we are the man half-dead on the road.  Being half-dead does not celebrate being half-alive; we are road-kill. 

 

The robbers, leaving us for dead, are Satan and his worldly agents. Our mugging resulted in spiritual death so that whatever residual physical life we retain, we are dead to God.  All that remains in this world, as with the man in the road is our decaying carcass awaiting the grave’s consummation.

 

Jesus intended the lawyer, and you, to identify with the hapless man in the road. If the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” sounds abstract, Jesus crystalizes the question, making it all-important. 

 

Were the half-dead man conscious; would he have objected to mercy from the hated Samaritan; would he have asked, “WWJD?”; or would he have praised God for grace? As it is, the man was in no position to do any of the above, certainly not criticize whom God sent for salvation.

 

Jesus adroitly rephrased the lawyer’s question, asking, “which of the three proved to be a neighbor to the man?”  By the lawyer’s admission, Jesus, hated by the legal-religious establishment for dinning with sinners, must be confessed as the “Merciful One” who is true “Neighbor”.  Christ came as the Life and the Truth in our midst.  On the Way, Satan may demand of us, “stand and deliver”, but in Christ we are on the King’s Highway.

 

Because God is holy, he commands us to the same. Satan has stripped and battered us by demonic thugs leaving behind a bloody mess; unable to help ourselves.  No one can or will come to our aid; no one loves us as he loves himself. 

 

No one is saved by rules that reveal God’s perfect character, except Christ out of heaven who by grace lifts us and transports to his place of cleansing and healing, a place of on-going wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God’s will, his holy church for imparting forgiveness and God’s holiness.

 

If Jesus commends us in mercy, “go, and do likewise”, our “understanding” then becomes the compliment and measure of what we have received in Eucharistic “thanksgiving”, Christ’s healing and life-giving flesh. 

 

So, what to do about the “squidgy-guy”? — I haven’t the vaguest clue, nor is such advice among you within my prerogative; rather it is the province of the HS in you.

 

What I do know is that God’s law and love is proclaimed to all in the congregation, and sacramentally delivered to individuals of faith as God gives the Wisdom and repentant hearts. Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 7/7/19
2019.07.08 22:09:33

Proper 9/C [Pent. 4] (2019) Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18; Luke 10:1-20.  

 

Peace,          [T]hus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to [Jerusalem] like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, and you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.  As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…” vv. 12, 13a, ESV.

 

These words of God’s peace are extraordinary, Yahweh compares himself, through his church, as a mother to his people. The comparison is the more striking as Jesus today plants God’s mothering comfort in the midst of world-wide spiritual warfare. 

 

Jesus has come to earth for division and judgment (Lk. 12:51, 52); yet in the dividing he provides a place of security amid the terrors of an awful warfare.

 

That “war is hell” is attributed to Civil War Gen. Wm. Tecumseh Sherman.  To date the world has experienced only one true World War.  From the time of the U.S. involvement on Dec. 1941 to Aug. 1945 the entire globe devoted its every energy to inflicting man’s version of hell on one another.  Strong men in the throes of the carnage cried their last for the comfort of their, “Mama” or “Mother”.  

 

As terrible as the hell of sinful men, the hell of spiritual warfare and its final resolution that Jesus initiated on the cross is beyond frightful for those possessing ears to hear and eyes to see. The vision is so horrific that though Jesus extensively speaks of hell’s inexorable coming, eventually a “lake of fire” (Rev. 19:20; 20:14), many nevertheless turn a blind eye, rejecting his invitation into kingdom peace. 

 

Jesus describes spiritual warfare in cosmic proportions; Satan is wrenched and cast-out of heaven by the power of the preached gospel come near in Jesus’ person; to his returning 72 missionaries he declared, that at their word, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). 

 

For those rejecting God’s safe harbor in Christ, Jesus says, then and now, “Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! ... And you, Capernaum, … You shall be brought down to Hades” (vv. 13, 15).  On the final judgment a cry for “Mother!” will be too late.  

 

Mother is here and now, the place where God establishes our peace in the midst of shot, shell, and spiritual fiery-darts. Let me put a finer point on the matter from Cyprian, 3rd century catholic bishop of Carthage, “One cannot have God as Father who does not have the church as mother”; the singular place of God’s word and sacrament in which God extends “peace like a river”.  

 

On an earlier occasion Jesus sent the Apostles to bear the good news of the Kingdom come in his person (9:1-6). That preaching in receptive households resulted in an Israelite ingathering of 5,000 men for heaven’s feeding, a sign of God’s peace (9:10-17). 

 

Today Jesus is in hostile territory, exhibited last Sunday when a Samaritan village rejected his visitation out of hand; Jesus responds with increased evangelistic effort, sending 72 followers, two by two, witnesses to his coming judgment (peace or warfare) with still the same proclamation and invitation into his kingdom.

 

The power of God’s word conveyed into houses that received his “peace” became manifest as Jesus advanced on his cross. The 72 returned with joyous reportage of healings and exorcisms, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name” (Lk. 10:17). 

 

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, according to St. Matthew, he bestowed on his church, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt. 5:9). It is fatuous that worldly politicians, ignorant of spiritual warfare, lay claim to the beatitude. 

 

The “peace” of which Jesus spoke is not simple absence of conflict; rather the blessing has its locus in the church’s victory with her Lord; wielding the Sword of the Spirit that proclaims and teaches God’s word for the comfort of sons and daughters in Christ. 

 

Last Sunday we observed, “freedom in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:13, 18) has nothing to do with being left to arbitrary decisions; rather release from bondage allows us to bind ourselves to Jesus in the battlefield to his cross, the place between heaven and earth of God’s cosmic victory over Satan, sin, and death. By Baptism we join, by our witness, in the ultimate expression of God’s warrior power—His love for the creation.    

 

Today we find peace in the church where Lord’s day to Lord’s day we are being conformed to God’s will in the atoning death of his only Son for our sin. From Jesus’ Life, flowing from the cross, the church receives her spiritual river of peace, now emanating from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1), even in the midst of Satan’s lost but continuing warfare against God and his Anointed. 

 

God’s self-description as a “comforting mother of men” seems in contrast to the blood-soaked male warrior, who is our battle-Lord, Christus Victor; and yet, this is nothing other than to say, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).  

 

By today’s Lessons, our peace is expressed in a confluence of anatomical imagery that speaks of God’s union with his church. Of that union God says by Isaiah, “you shall nurse [and be satisfied from her comforting breastJust as a man whom his mother comforts, so I myself will comfort you…] (Dr. Reed Lessing translation)” (Isa. 66:12a, 13a).

 

The church locates her peace, amid cosmic spiritual warfare upon God’s bosom (Lk. 16:22, NKJV), where our ear attends the place closest his heart. The flesh of Jesus is eternally situated in that place; and so at the Lord’s Eucharist we recline with St. John, as Scripture describes, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 13:23, NKJV); from whose breast would flow the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8) of our peace. Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/30/19
2019.07.08 22:07:49

Proper 8/C [Pent. 3] (2019): 1 Kings 19:9b-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62.  

 

Freedom,               For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (v. 13). 

 

We tend to think of freedom in worldly terms, a personal condition to do what we decide. Of course, such notion is illusory, it does not exist for man or for God, who from the foundation of the world bound himself in Christ crucified to the welfare and vicissitudes of sinful men. 

 

Rather, St. Paul urges us to a different “freedom”, the freedom to follow Jesus by the Spirit apart from the strictures of law; yet binding us to Christ who prays the Father, “Thy will be done”. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus set his face as flint toward Jerusalem, the Holy City and locus of God’s temple, there to suffer rejection and death. Our Christian freedom consists in following Jesus with the same flint like determination; and when we fail from time to time, then return in repentance to our acolyte vocation. 

 

Today’s Lessons are replete with failures and successes in the Spirit’s leading in love. Elijah was a suffering prophet.  He was given to preach the one, true God to the northern tribes of Israel, most having fallen into the apostacy of Baal worship re-introduced by queen Jezebel.  Elijah after destroying much of the queen’s priesthood became terrified from her murderous threats and the people’s anger. 

 

The place of God’s dwelling in the Land was the Jerusalem temple. Elijah runs away, overshooting Jerusalem, returning instead to Mt. Horeb in search of the Lord.  On arriving, God incredulously asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kgs. 19:9b).

 

Elijah was despondent, complaining his task too difficult, his enemies too powerful, and that he was the last faithful servant of YHWH. Dispirited, Elijah wanted nothing other than to remain apart from the on-going spiritual warfare in the Land, a return to the desert womb of monastic solace and quietude. 

 

To follow God’s lead involves determination to engage his enemies. God refreshed Elijah’s spirit, reminded him that the mountain to which he came was no longer his dwelling place on earth as in the day of Moses.  

 

God no long reveals himself in the terrors of nature; rock splitting wind, earth’s quaking, nor in smoke and fiery destruction. Instead God makes his presence known in human speech, gentle words as in, “a low whisper” (v. 12) and with the things to which his word attaches for cleansing and nourishment; words Elijah was now commissioned to preach on return to the Land. 

 

God assured Elijah he was not alone in fidelity; there remained a remnant of 7,000 in Israel. God gave Elijah new directives, again sending him into the Land of his presence; to preach, anoint kings and call his own replacement, Elisha as prophet of Israel.  On Elijah’s fiery departure to heaven Elisha would receive a double portion of his Spirit for God’s prophetic work (2 Kgs. 2:9b, 15). 

 

In today’s Gospel, James and John follow Jesus in the same enthusiastic spirit of Elijah. Samaria, was the former domain of queen Jezebel and king Ahab; if it no longer was the place of Baal worship, it nevertheless was the center of a false religion mimicking that from Moses.  Jesus was destined for Jerusalem, the place of Israel’s true mosaic religion; and for this reason, the Samaritan village refused Jesus their hospitality.    

 

In days past Elijah called down heaven’s fire on the 450 prophets and priests of Baal; he killed them with the sword (1 Kgs. 18:22, 38-40). James and John confronted with the Samaritan village insult intended to act as Jesus’ ministers of judgment (cf. Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 20:20-28).

 

James and John recently witnessed Jesus transfigured in glory and heard the Father’s testimony to his Son. For the Samaritan insult the Apostles would incinerate the village.  But it was James and John whom Jesus rebuked, not the village.  Like Peter before they were acting as Satan; they had gotten out front of Jesus’ lead; they were no longer followers according to God’s “low whisper” destined for rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection. 

 

Today we who confess the Church’s one holy catholic and apostolic faith look about at what passes as “broader Christendom”; we lament with Elijah, James, and John its definitional inhospitality toward God’s “word and sacrament presence”, and so “a different gospel” (Gal.1:6). 

 

Lament and prayer are appropriate, but if it is passes into anger and judgment toward those in doctrinal error of the Church’s sole confession, then we earn Jesus’ rebuke. When we, especially pastors, use imprecatory words toward heretics rather than proclaiming the gospel’s “low whisper” of Christ crucified for all, then we join those with “a different spirit” (2 Cor. 11:4) than the Spirit who leads us in love. 

 

After the Samaritan rejection, Jesus continued onto Jerusalem and his rejection on the cross (Lk. 9:44). On the way, he taught three aspiring applicants to follow; the first expressed “undying commitment”; the remaining two qualified their discipleship, claiming family prioities. 

 

Jesus clarifies for all three, and you and I, what it means to follow him to Jerusalem, the city that rejecting him would become the city of God’s wrath; but on its outskirt, the place of God presence in Jesus lifted on the cross. 

 

If you have not absorbed the import of Jesus saying, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead (Lk. 9:60); and “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v.62) it is this:

 

Apart from Baptism natural man’s home is the dust of the earth; for those desiring to remain, fine, bury them and bid them farewell; but by all means enter into your true family relations with your new mother, the church, and so with new brothers and sisters in Christ who gives you a new Father in a new begetting from above (Jn. 3:3, 7). Look to your right, left, behind, and in front of you; these are your family; open yourselves to treat them as such. 

 

Jesus was an alien, a pilgrim in this world; and baptized into him, so now we are too. He is Son of Man having no place to lay his head in this world (v. 58).  He was returning to the place of his eternal “Beginning” (Jn. 1:1); his head having it rest upon the Father’s bosom (NKJV, Lk. 16:22 [Abraham, cypher for God]).  

 

The Father sent Jesus, anointed by JB (his end times Elijah, Mt. 17:11-13) to receive a “double portion” of God’s Spirit for universal sacrificial atonement and those who receive him in faith’s hospitality.

 

We are of the world, it is our home, and we are at home in it, until the day when we are lay our heads upon its dust covered pillow. But in following Jesus to the cross, the place of exodus to the Father, we hear the “low whisper” of the gospel, the promise that Christ’s flesh is the new dwelling place of God.  We are invited, “come-on in, the water is fine”. 

 

Of ourselves we are unable to unqualifiedly follow. Elisha was a prophesy of Christ, receiving Elijah’s mantle for proclaiming God’s “low whisper”, walking to-and-fro by the Spirit.  This also is the gift of our Baptism, to which if you follow you must daily return. 

 

By Baptism we are one in Christ, invited to his universal hospitality. At his table we are disciples reclining on Jesus’ breast, ones whom he loves (NKJV, Jn. 13:23).  And from this posture he sends us into the world to act in love’s freedom through lives that individually proclaim God’s love in Christ.  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 6/23/19
2019.06.24 14:53:16

Proper 7/C [Pent. 2] (2019): Isaiah 65:1-9; Galatians 3:23—4:7; Luke 8:26-39.  

 

Cried-out,               [W]hen [the demoniac] saw Jesus, he cried-out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you not to torment me” (v. 28).

 

Do you believe demons exist? I expect so; you were baptized into Christ, received the HS, made children of God to believe his word and acknowledge God’s spiritual warfare against Satan and heavenly “powers”. 

 

We confess our condition; in our fleshly nature we are bedeviled by Satan. Of ourselves we are unable to contend against such “powers” and the world.  Today’s Gospel gives us pause to reflect on satanic activity in this “time of the church”. 

 

We, the Baptized, gather in the church boat amid worldly chaos, Jesus establishing for us our liturgical order and calm (Lk. 8:24). Here we abide in his word anticipating our sacramental meal for unity and peace with brothers, sisters, and God. 

 

From our position of peace in forgiveness of sins, we look out onto the world. Even if we wanted to avoid the world, we could not; avoidance is not a job description of the church militant.  Pandemonium’s reach into the world is obscene by contrast to the peace enjoyed in Christ; and yet that reach is limited. 

 

Perusal of headlines iterates secular and religious violence, ideological and venial conflicts, hatreds, greed and manipulation, stupidity, incompetence, vanity, sexual abuses and an unending train of sin’s victims shunted about as so much debris. Today’s Scripture personifies all this and worse by the man possessed by devils called, “Legion”. 

 

In the midst of a world in which devils still have some reach, the church does not stand in splendid isolation. We are begotten of Christ’s atoning work on the cross in his compassion for the world; when our neighbor is pricked, with Christ we bleed. 

 

Appearances suggest the world’s populace as many and the church but few. Whether counting the myriad saints from heaven’s view or the seeming handful of catholic congregations on earth, numbers at any given moment are never the issue.  In the realm of spiritual power against Satan, Jesus crucified is “the stronger man” (Mt. 12:29); he is “Christus Victor”. 

 

God in Christ has entered his world and in exorcising Satan does not leave us abandoned. St. John, provides our perspective about “Legion”, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless abyss and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.  After that he must be released for a little while” (Rev. 20:1-3). 

 

We have our being with Christ present to his church in this epoch of his “1,000 year” reign.  If, on account of the church, Satan is inhibited from deceiving the nations, still again he has continuing reach as we await a final conflagration when all hell will be loosed from the abyss for “a little while”.  Against this horrible day, we Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, bind unto ourselves Christ and the strong name of the Trinity (LSB 604), for perseverant strength and surety of on-going saving faith.

 

Jesus, the Holy One of God, entered Gentile country of the Gerasenes, characterized by pervasive satanism. The herd of pigs in the account were intended for pagan worship; unclean pork for unclean sacrifices and unholy meals. 

 

At an earlier time God condemned Israel’s apostacy rejecting his “holiness regulations” by imitating Gentile pagan practices; calling them, “[A] people… offering sacrifice in the gardens… sitting among the graves… passing the nights, eating the flesh of pigs, and broth of foulness in their pots…” (65:3a, 4). 

 

Now on Jesus’ arrival into Gentile territory, the demoniac was first to meet Jesus. He was naked, battered and bruised being chained among tombs, a place of devil worship, and driven into the desert to be the plaything of his captors. 

 

Unlike other exorcisms Jesus engages in conversation; both with the man and the devils; initially both express the identical plea, yet Jesus responds to each differently. When the man meets Jesus, he is not thrown to the ground in demonic agitation; instead he falls at Jesus’ feet, crying out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me” (Lk. 8:28).  Now, the question is, who was the speaker from this prostrate posture of worship?

 

It seems, both the man followed by “Legion” whose departure Jesus had already commanded (v. 29a).  Each presents the same petitionary words but from very different motivations. 

 

For the moment let’s not concern ourselves with the devilish discourse; instead we ask, what was the man saying to Jesus? Informed of Jesus’ fearsome identity, Son of the Most High God, the man speaks from his lamentable condition; he is a pagan idolater, seemingly abandoned by God, a stench in his nostrils (Isa. 65:5).  Implicitly the man has adopted a posture toward God, similar to Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me… [look at me] I am a worm and not a man” (Ps. 22:1a, 6a). 

 

Jesus received God’s answer on the cross; deafening silence! In Christ crucified, God met-out judgment upon Jesus for the sin of all and a new purity in the new creation.  Here the demoniac begs Jesus, not for the justice his pagan ways deserve, but for mercy.  At the feet of Jesus, the man prays for grace, “I beg you, not to torment me” (which all men deserve, and to which devils are destined). 

 

Jesus will not torment the man; but neither is he silent (cf. Isa. 56:8). Without a cacophony of words, Jesus has already spoken the power of God’s will for releasing the Gentile man from imprisonment to thousands of howling hellions (Lk. 8:29). 

 

As long as Jesus seemed in a generous frame, the demons chime-in asking a boon, that they not be assigned to end times abyss; rather into a swine herd, unclean spirits occupying unclean hosts. Jesus granted the reprieve; and in perversity to diminish Jesus and terrorize the Gerasene populace, “Legion” kills their sacrificial pork in the Galilean abyss. 

 

St. John prophecies of the abyss into which Satan would be cast for a “1,000 years”.  It is not the Sea of Galilee; rather it is Satan’s imprisonment in these last days, distinguished from the “lake of fire” of the Last Day. 

 

In these end times the church experiences the “1,000-year” epoch of Christ’s victory by the cross in the Resurrection.  Satan has been cast into the abyss and chained so the nations are no longer deceived (Rev. 20:3) by the liar and murderer going by the sobriquet, “prince of the world”.  

 

You might inquire, how Satan’s murderous lies are countered in this time of the church? It is the work of the Spirit of Christ present with us.  The Gerasene community reacted in fear; they were helter-skelter over the power and holiness of Jesus in their midst; but the man was clothed and in his right mind, like Mary (Lk. 10:41, 42), he sat at Jesus’ feet peacefully absorbed in God’s word, a disciple like us. 

 

The Gerasenes responded to Jesus, disinviting him to return to his Jewish ministry on the west shore. Before departing, Jesus assigned the former demoniac an evangelist, to proclaim the work of God in the man’s “own house”, i.e., among the Gentiles.  His proclamation would soon result in fruit, 4,000 men from the Decapolis coming to be fed on the eastern shore of the Galilean abyss (Mk. 7:31, 8:1). 

 

The church is not promised freedom from fleshly pain, nor worldly persecution, nor spiritual wounds from Satan’s fiery darts. Rather, in the compassion of our Lord crucified and risen, we in our baptismal lives are purveyors of God’s peace; abiding in his word, witnesses of what God has done for us amid devilry and chaos in the world.  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 6/16/19
2019.06.18 16:42:01

THE HOLY TRINITY/C (2019): Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; John 8:48-59. 

 

Joy,    Wisdom speaks: “Yahweh possessed me at the Beginning of his way, before his works of old…  I was beside him as a master craftsman.  I was [his] joy day after day, rejoicing in his presence at all times, rejoicing in his inhabited world, and my joy was with the human race” (vv. 22, 30, 31). 

 

Why are we here this morning or on any other day? It’s a legitimate question to which I expect you have legitimate answers.  Baptized into Christ we possess wisdom, recognizing the Truth bound to Jesus’ apostolic word.  So here we are for more Wisdom, more Jesus in the manner by which he is present in word and sacrament.  

 

Trinity Sunday is difficult for preachers. The celebration engenders in pastors a desire to explain dogma and doctrine; I doubt it is the same for you.  I expect what you want and need to hear is what your belief in the Trinity means for your life?  So, let’s get to it! 

 

The Festival of The Holy Trinity heads-up the 2nd half of the Church Year to inform our worship going forward in the reality of “God with us”; Father, Son, and HS of the church’s confession, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one” (Dt. 6:4).

 

The church needs to know what her trinitarian faith bestows in the undivided unity and the shared Name of God; or is there some other, more satisfying god, to whom we might turn?

 

Well that depends on sin’s resistance to God’s love. If I were only to preach a law-gospel dialectic, where the law’s chief virtue is that it accuses us, “Lex semper accusat”, Christians may be driven into church as a place of escape from, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). 

 

Certainly, a gospel of escape from God’s wrath is good news; but the word of law and gospel are more. It is wisdom and word; Christ acting to restore men and women to God’s image and likeness, the righteousness of Christ, the holiness of the Spirit, in the joy of shared love with the Father. 

 

Thus, the law has a higher purpose than merely pointing a finger at sin; it does that, yet importantly it reveals as well God’s character and perfection into which we are called out of man’s Fall and unbelief (Mt. 5:48).    

 

You are here, not only to give thanks for escape from perdition in the ark of the church; but for God’s instruction in the Way of your escape over flood in his Wisdom from the “Beginning” (God’s place of eternal locatedness, Jn.1:1, 2). Is not Jesus’ word the source of our experiential knowledge that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8)?  There is no other god, who of essence, is Love and would have you know him as his beloved.  Why not; because the nature of loving entails sacrifice. 

 

How much sacrifice; complete, total, and utter! Love is maximal, any less love is love withheld.  All other gods with whom we traffic, ourselves included, withhold at least this much, “[A] man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!” (Woltz to Hagen, The Godfather). 

 

And yet for love of men God reveals himself ridiculous to men. Perhaps the earliest Roman comment about our Triune God appeared in art; the Alexamenos Graffito, showing a boy before a crucifix, with Jesus having the head of an ass; captioned, “Alexamenos worships his god”. 

 

Alexamenos giving thanks (Eucharist) to his ridiculous God is mocked as a fool. What nevertheless is God’s extreme love is his power and wisdom for the world’s new creation (1 Cor.1:18, 19, 30). 

 

The Father rejoices in his Son who hears and does his will; correspondingly, the Son rejoices because the Father’s will is accomplished. In the first creation the Son’s joy was in being a master craftsman, possessing his Father’s wisdom; and now in the new creation coming into being, Jesus’ joy is in knowing and doing the Father’s sacrificial will for our redemption. 

 

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus’ crucifixion and joy in the same breath, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). 

 

God never stops his work of creation. We confess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty creator of heaven and earth”; it is who he is.  The Father’s ongoing joy is in the creative power of his Word and Spirit; that all men might be in union as “at the Beginning of his Way”.  Jesus is God’s incarnate speechified wisdom, and so is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6) for restoring men to their intended “image and likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26). 

 

In the Resurrection the church has been delivered the HS of the Truth, who is the crucified Lord and embodiment of God’s love. By the HS, Christ bodily continues with us, the Father’s master craftsman, delivering faith, Life, and wisdom by his way as at the Beginning. 

 

Jesus’ flesh and blood, with the Spirit’s water is the way of sacrificial love, making us begotten sons and daughters for the Father in the household of the Holy Trinity.

 

By the HS’s procession from the Father and his resurrected Son, God now establishes his new locatedness, in his new Temple, the crucified flesh of the Son present with his bride won for his Father and now our Father (Jn. 20:17c).

 

The new location of God’s presence is the place where men mirror the unity of the Holy Trinity taking-on his likeness; the mind and heart of Christ spoken by Solomon, “I [Wisdom] was [Yahweh’s] joy day after day, rejoicing in his presence at all times, rejoicing in his inhabited world, and my joy was with the human race”. 

 

God’s joy with the new creation continues day after day in the Baptized as the work of Wisdom continues in the Master Craftsman the Spirit of the Truth for our abiding before God in the courts of his house (Jn. 14:2; Ps. 23:6b). Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/9/19
2019.06.13 15:31:19

PENTECOST/C (2019): Gen. 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31.

 

Word,           Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word…” (vv. 22, 23a).

 

Following the Supper, Apostles peppered Jesus with questions; Judas (not Iscariot) did not understand, “Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (Jn. 14:19).  Jesus doesn’t give a technical explanation; rather that enlightenment would come by the HS, “teaching all things” (v. 26).  Instead Jesus directed his Apostles by the language of faith, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word…” 

 

On Pentecost, the church’s conclusion to the Resurrection, Jesus’ word is fully in play. Every Sunday celebrates the Resurrection.  If Jesus revealed his physical presence to the Apostles and disciples for forty days after rising from the grave but not to the world; so today we possess a superior sited blessing by fidelity to his word (Jn. 20:29). 

 

Words are powerful. They may be employed for good or evil, effecting God’s will or to plot a contrary agenda.  Such was the case with the population of Noah’s sons.  God elected Noah to establish a new generation in place of the Antediluvians whose hearts were perpetually evil (Gen. 6:5).  Noah’s surviving progeny was to bear God’s Name in all the earth and by command “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth (9:1), witnesses to God’s love for his creation.      

 

Eventually Noah’s children gathered and migrated eastward and down the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to the Shinar Valley. God’s killing flood was still fresh in man’s collective memory.  Crippled by guilty consciences inherited from Adam men now beheld God in fearful suspicion.    

 

Noah’s descendants conspired against God’s directive, refusing to bear his Name into all the earth. No doubt the children of Shem, Ham, and Japheth perceived God’s word to “fill the earth”, a “divide and conquer” stratagem.

 

The community’s conscience, still bathed in the acid of man’s sin nature, defined their relation to God, a “Him v. us” mentality; the only question being, would man’s “name” survive against God, regarded as a terrorist killer of species (cf. 22:2).

 

Defying God’s word, men built a city and a tower, testaments to man’s name epitomizing their distrust of God. Men refused to believe God’s promise to father Noah that he would never again destroy the earth by flood (8:21, 22).  This time mankind would stand “high and dry” on towering “ziggurats” in religious unity and technological construction; common cause against heaven. 

 

To this, the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people and they have all one language, (one set of words 11:1)… And nothing they purpose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech” (11:6a). 

 

There is irony in the chasm between the language of heaven and men. Again, words are powerful; by this power we recognize origins; Adam and the woman created in the image of God (1:27).  Ever since Satan twisted God’s word into Eve’s ear, true knowledge of God’s heart and mind was incomprehensible; reflected by Babel’s rebellion. 

 

But with the ingathering of Christ on Pentecost; Peter’s spoke God’s word (Acts 2:1-42) for the “teaching all things” by the HS to end epochs of confused language between heaven and earth.

 

Many understand the Fall in terms of curse. A famous painting shows Adam and Eve driven from Eden like whipped dogs.  That image is unscriptural; it was Satan and the eart that bore God’s curse, not men.  Had God not removed Adam and Eve from the Tree of Life, they would have eaten to eternal damnation.  Other than the necessity that man rightly experience the consequences of sin, all else from God toward man is grace and promise.

 

Returning to the Judas question. Today some “Christians” ask the same question, “Do we Lutheran’s really believe (i.e., ‘do we see’) Jesus present in word and Eucharistic worship?” 

 

How do we respond? Is it not as Jesus directed, to faith’s love and word, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word…”?  Nonetheless Jesus’ word for believer sight is unseen by the world.  At the conclusion of his Supper Jesus’ word was: “love one another as [he]… loved [us]” (Jn. 13:34) which found its reality in: “take eat this is my body… Drink of it all of you… the blood of my covenant…” (Mt. 26:26-28a).  

 

Still men continue in fortress mentality against God’s word. We accuse God for difficulties in a world accursed.  We employ his promises to align with conflicted hearts and thoughts.  And most atrociously we spiritualize Jesus’ literal Eucharistic words, only to make his symbolic words literal; in both instances the power of God’s word is deprecated among men.

 

Of man’s own word power, God observed “nothing they purpose to do will now be impossible for them.” For men intent on making a religious name, they reject, “with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). 

 

A few years back a man observed me as a Christian Pastor. He approached and asked, “Why God was slow in answering his prayers?”  The man’s car bumper-sticker messaged modern man’s “ziggurat”, spelling in religious symbolic letters, “Coexist”.  I inquired, “to which god represented on the sticker he prayed?”  He wasn’t sure; I suggested he had just answered his own question.  The man was conflicted by language; God’s word against man’s word.  He aligned with the word of men. 

 

Again, returning to Judas’ question; how could Jesus’ disciples discern his physical presence, when the world could not see him? The question involved the linguistics of faith and love, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…”  This is the point of Pentecost; the HS is promise of the Father, coming as gift of Christ teaching all hidden things of Scripture. 

 

Before Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus ascended a mountain. There, portending his coming Resurrection, Jesus was transfigured, revealing to Peter, James, and John his and the Father’s glory in his flesh about to be crucified.  Today by our participation in that same flesh and blood the church ascends to heaven’s Table; where we too are transfigured by God’s word in the sight of Jesus’ Glory with us.  

 

The HS of Pentecost provides us ears to hear in faith and eyes to see Christ in our midst. You are ingathered for beholding things the world cannot possibly see; but which on the Last Day will be manifest to all.

 

Peter prophesied to those responding to the HS’s multilingual call, “[G]ive ear to my words… your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions” (Acts 2:14, 17).  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 6/2/19
2019.06.04 21:27:33

EASTER 7/C (2019): Acts 1:12-26; Rev. 22:1-20; John 17:20-26

 

Come,           “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches”  The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’   And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” (vv. 16a, 17a)

 

Our Readings from St. John’s Revelation and Gospel anticipate Pentecost’s imminence, the HS’s descent upon the church from Father and Son, to recapitulate and conclude the church’s Easter.  

 

You have heard of the OT Jubilee year; a time of the Lord’s favor arriving every fiftieth year. Forty-nine years an Israelite might incur debt, obligate his family even into the service of another, and turn-over to another the beneficial use of his property allotted by God in the Promised Land. 

 

But the fiftieth year was a Jubilee; all debts forgiven, release from servitude, and restoration of encumbered lands to the families and tribes God originally assigned. Jubilee was a reset to the wholeness of God’s covenantal grace.  

 

The annual Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the Jubilee; the promise of coming release, renewal, and restoration. Following the Passover feast, Israel liturgically entered her festival of Weeks, so named for lasting seven weeks.  Doing the math, seven weeks of seven days represented the forty-nine years under God’s care in the world until his restorative Jubilee. 

 

But on the fiftieth day after Weeks, Israel celebrated Pentecost commemorating the ingathering of God’s fragmented people come to freedom from bondage.

 

Tradition held that the fiftieth-day Pentecost after passing-over out of Egypt, the people received God’s covenantal Law from Moses, to become Israel.

 

So, what does our Seventh Sunday of Easter mass have to do with this OT background? Well, you have already discerned Jubilee’s OT expectation with its NT fulfillment in Christ (Lk. 4:19). 

 

Easter, the church’s seven-week Resurrection celebration covers forty-nine days; on the fiftieth day we celebrate the descent of the HS culminating God’s re-creative work through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

 

Jesus witnessed to Pentecost’s Jubilee event. On the cross he spoke to Mary and John, the beloved disciple; declaring their new relation.  Henceforth the “Woman” would be mother to the beloved disciple and he, her son. 

 

Each was to “behold”, spiritual sight from the cross, that with the other they epitomized the NT church born of the water and the blood to issue from his side and handing-over the HS to the Father for his church (Jn. 19:26, 27, 30, 34). The HS is “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) and as well Jesus’ Jubilee gift for the world returning to wholeness. 

 

By the HS’s descent into the church, she possesses worship in grace and Truth worship; the Spirit writes God’s word on hearts, circumcising the Baptized; and He sends the “Woman” into the world with the proclamation of Jesus crucified and risen in whom all men now have God’s Jubilee favor; not for a year, but into eternity.

 

So far this Sermon may sound suited for Pentecost; perhaps; but recall text, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’”

 

It is the HS with the Bride who unveils God’s word, leading her to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20b).  The Bride’s prayer desires more Jesus in their “secret place” of his presence (Mt. 6:6, 18, NKJV), one with him as Father and Son are one (Jn. 17:21). 

 

Christian prayer, even when we are alone, is always oriented toward the altar of Presence in the Holy Communion united with brothers and sisters. In this way Jesus’ prayer to the Father on behalf of his church finds its answer, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me…” (John 17:22, 23a).  By the HS the church participates in the glory Jesus has given us, baptismal oneness into his death and resurrection. 

 

The church prays for unity; and yet our petition seems belied by centuries of division and schism, a list too long to iterate. Christians act toward God and treat each other as more at home in the turbulence of the world than in faith’s kingdom of service. 

 

Jesus is Bridegroom, the church his helpmate. We may look about despairing of unity, unable even to agree on the nature of our vocation. We become confused by the world’s mentality; oriented to entertainment, need to “feel-well” about ourselves, and accepting variegated social and political agendas.

 

If all this dysplasia seems inconsistent with today’s Psalmody, “brothers dwelling in unity” (Ps. 133:1); still by our prayer with the HS, “Come, Lord Jesus!” we acknowledge the church as not yet perfect, rather being perfected.

 

The church does not operate in idealized realms, well-oiled machinery, that never touches or is involved in the frailty of man’s sin; rather we possess the glory of God in the exchange of our sin for Jesus’ righteousness from the Father.  Our sin and God’s forgiveness for Christ’s sake is the heart of our baptismal “glory”, “the glory [that the Father has] given [him]” (John 17:22)

 

Christians live in tension. The world is spiritually dead, still for the time being, it is physically alive and kicking.  In our condition, between heaven and hell, we stand before the Father, the source of all righteousness (17:25) by faith in Christ.  The HS impels to repentance; trusting our oft painful gift, Christ’s glory, for an all-sufficient cleansing in union with his flesh.

 

In prayer Jesus set out the mission of his church. By Baptism into his once for all sacrificial death we too are lifted-up to bear Christ in our bodies.  He became sin for us; and in this manner we witness to God’s love for the world (John 3:16), that Jesus might draw all people to himself (John 12:32).

 

After the Ascension, Peter observed a lack in the NT church’s witness from the Eleven Apostles to the Twelve tribes of OT Israel. Comprehending the church’s authority from her Lord; Peter preached the Resurrection meaning of Palms.  So far so good; even if one questions the wisdom, method, and timing of replacing Judas, God did not overturn the decision.  Matthias was consecrated, Apostle to stand for the church’s Resurrection witness.

 

As we move through this world in Eucharistic forgiveness, the church dare not take her authority for granted; but cognizant of her fragility as always being in need of Jubilee repentance and reformation.

 

By individual faith and institutional reformation, the church on earth grows into her Office as helpmate. In the painful “glory” of our Baptism, the church processes the HS from the Father and the Son. 

 

By the HS’s guidance the new creation is coming into being.  In Baptism we pray for faithful a witness, to be of one accord and praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

 

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Sermon - 5/29/19
2019.05.31 16:19:23

ASCENSION/ABC (2019): Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

 

Heart-Eyes,           …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… (vv. 17, 18a). 

 

Salvation consists in this, that one beholds the heart of God in the circumcision of man’s heart.  Baptism cuts away the flesh’s binding of hearts.  By releasing hearts, it becomes the chief organ of sight in the kingdom of heaven; the gift of faith.

 

St. Paul urges that we employ “the eyes of our hearts” for knowledge of God.  We see Jesus for who he is, expositor in his body of the Father’s will that we “love one another” (Jn. 15:12, 17).  Wisdom teaches the cross’ atoning love, delivered in word leading to heaven’s flesh and blood Supper. 

 

By heart-eyes Christians aspire to the mind of Christ and the exact imprint of the invisible God.  During the Last Supper Jesus explained, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b). 

 

To behold Jesus crucified handing over the Spirit of Truth to his church is to behold the things of heaven with new eyes; what the Father sees in Jesus lifting. For St. John, the cross is God’s glory and beginning of Jesus’ Ascension. 

 

The Baptized do not look to our own hearts for enlightenment. Instead, we see with heart-eyes, who like St. Paul, received the HS in something like scales falling from his eyes (Acts 9:18).  Truth comes from outside, solely the gift of God.

 

On this Eve of the Ascension we are directed to spiritually behold the new things of the Resurrection. Formerly, both our flesh and the Law of Moses veiled our hearts; God was blurred.  But, in the NT, God has cut away the veil from our hearts revealing the Father’s made tender by Jesus’ torn flesh for sin. 

 

Jesus “parted” from the Mt. of Olives out the world’s sight.  Angels in the church’s midst directed beholding Jesus’ ascension on clouds with heart-eyes.

 

The Ascension is heaven’s, and so our celebration, of Jesus return to the heart of the Father enthroned and so the One worthy to open the eternal Scroll (Rev. 5:2b, 3, 4, 9) witnessing of the Father’s heart (Jn. 5:37-40).

 

The “Binding of Isaac” (Gen. 22:9-14) and the parable of the “Prodigal” (Lk. 15:11 ff.; cf. Lk. 24:45) would have the church behold our Father’s heart. Each speaks of two fathers losing a beloved son.  The death of a child is a terrible thing; worse yet is the loss of a child’s affection and obedience for toward a father. 

 

The sacrificial binding of Isaac is pure pathos the world cannot comprehend. God commanded Abraham to kill his son, a sacrifice.  It is all the reader can do not to curse God at the “outrage”; many do, elevating human hearts above God.  But man’s indignant heart is flesh-bound, simpatico of man’s faux “righteousness”. 

 

Fallen men are killers. By sin Adam chose death and curse over life and blessing (cf. Deut. 30:19) condemning all generations of men to follow suit in the nature of our condition.  Men repeat the killing of Abel.  We habitually deal out death in word and deed without the ability to restore the lives we take or otherwise mangle in anger and self-love. 

 

The Lord is God who “kills and brings to life” (1 Sam. 2:6).  This is the knowledge given Abraham by heart-eyes.  By faith Abraham knew the eternal character of God to be author of Life and “God of the living” (Mk. 12:27; Lk. 20:38).  

 

Abraham discerned in God’s command to kill his only son, heaven’s Wisdom; that out of death God wills to issue new life. Likewise, Isaac knowing his father’s love beheld also the heart of his father’s God, who circumcises bound, dead, and dying hearts by a sacrificial blade. 

 

Isaac’s faith directs our hearts to Jesus crucified, and by his death the Father’s will for the life of all men. Because our flesh-bound hearts are incapable of choosing anything but death and curse, God chose the death of his only true Son for us.  In the gift of Baptism’s faith, we join God’s choice.  United with Jesus’ faith we know and trust our heavenly Father’s heart for Life.

 

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a revelation of Adam; a son perversely despised his father, even demanding a share of his fabulous material fortune to completer the estrangement.

 

The father does the unthinkable; he accedes to the demand. At first blush the father’s acquiescence appears to make him complicit in the son’s loss; the prodigal is digging a hole and the father provides a shovel. 

 

But the father’s indulgence reveals his character and wisdom. Only when in the son’s deepest distress was the Prodigal able to perceive his father’s love.  The father is broken hearted at his son’s rejection of hearth and home; still he did not respond in kind; nor did he accept the child’s loss as inevitable, but waited in longsuffering love. 

 

One day the Prodigal looked-up from the pit he had dug, imagining an horizon; if not reconciliation with his father, at least return as a servant’s. By his own lights, the son from a world-bound heart could not conceive the father’s mercy, love, and forgiveness as deeper than material wealth or the hole he dug. 

 

The heart of the father is disclosed in love beyond worldly experience. On the son’s return home, the father vested him with the robes of household office, the father’s authority for mercy and forgiveness among the village. 

 

Jesus is Isaac who received the sacrificial blade on the altar constructed by Abraham on Mt. Moriah. The Father did not spare his Son; and Jesus trusted his Father to open through his flesh the hidden tenderness of God’s heart for man.  St. John observes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). 

 

There is nothing for the Prodigal, you and I, to do but wear the garments of God’s household in the new creation, sons and daughters and priestly witnesses to the love of God in Christ.

 

Our text from Acts and the Gospel find the disciples looking upward in hope; their eyes follow Jesus’ ascent from below heaven’s horizon. Two angelic persons express curiosity at what seemed the disciple’s uninformed gaze. 

 

Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension are comprehended by heart-eyes from above, our Eucharistic perspective.  Scripture is now opened to behold our homecoming in the Life of Jesus. 

 

The sight of the Father’s heart is difficult to bear. It remains in our baptismal circumcision to bear seeing the cost by the Spirit; the Father’s bleeding heart in the water and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8) presented now to you in the unsealing of the Scroll and Sacrament.  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 5/26/19
2019.05.29 15:50:23

EASTER 6/C (2019): Acts 16:9-15; Rev. 21:9-14, 21-27; John 5:1-9 (alt.) 

 

Women,      [A] vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  So, setting sail from Troas we made voyage… to Philippi…  And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together (vv. 11a, 12a, 13). 

 

St. Paul was continuing his missionary efforts in Asia, intending to travel north near the Black Sea; but the “Spirit of Jesus” would not allow it. In a vision Paul saw “a man of Macedonia” summoning him. Unexpectedly Paul pivoted west, taking the gospel onto the continent of Europe, the Macedonian city of Philippi a center of Hellenistic and Roman culture. 

 

The HS was fast changing the face of parochial old Israel centered on Jerusalem’s temple to become God’s NT church in the world at large. Paul’s new direction would prove seismic, making Jesus’ NT church, his Church catholic.

 

Paul would later posit the assumption for mission, “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14b, c, 15a).  The HS sent Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, out of the east into the west.

 

St. Paul self-describes; he is “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), his unexpected mission onto Europe’s mainland created something of a “Catch 22” situation for a Hebrew.  Preaching is not essentially the work of street-corner itinerants; rather it is proclamation and teaching within the precincts of God’s gathered people.  In Asia, Paul might more easily have located a synagogue in which to preach.  

 

A Jewish synagogue is a “minyan”, minimally consisting of ten male heads of household.  Arriving at Philippi, Paul did not find a synagogue; rather he located believing women near the river water, presumably Jewish and Gentile, in prayer desiring to hear God’s word.  Paul seated himself, the authoritative position for a Jewish teacher, and preached Christ in this new setting.  

 

Where were the men; where was Lydia’s husband, if she had one? Well, they were nowhere found to hear God’s NT word for open hearts (Acts 16:14).  Lydia, upon coming to faith by Paul’s preaching was baptized with her household. 

 

Lydia, like Paul, was a woman out of the east. She was a trader in purple dye affording her a measure of wealth.  She invited Paul and to abide among her household.  Paul, by word and Baptism in Lydia’s house established a western NT congregation no longer defined as a male “minyan”. 

 

Still the Church does not invite women into her gospel Office of word and sacrament; gospel Service is from male to female, proxy for Christ the Groom with his Bride (Gen. 3:16b). Rather faith and NT Baptism (Acts 16:15) does away with outward human distinctions: Jew/Gentile, circumcised/uncircumcised, male/female, young/old; all are one in Christ as bride.  

 

Lydia’s house was unexpected for the church’s self-understanding expanding into the world. When God does something new, his word is published, thus Paul’s rhetorical question, “How are they to hear without someone preaching? 

 

But once the word opens hearts to Baptism in the HS, something cataclysmic and disorienting occurs, Judgment! One either receives by faith alone the truth of atonement for sin in Christ crucified apart from works; or we refuse the new direction preferring the old ways, continuing either in a secular way of life, or adopting a form of religion having only the appearance of the Christian faith. 

 

It is no coincidence that many of the church’s initial converts were scribes and Pharisee’s who imported Moses into the grace and truth of the NT, a mentality that continues today, what is called broader “Christendom”.  

 

God’s preached word causes crisis in our faith-life; it imposes judgment on our old ways. In Christ we are called out of legal religiosity to a new direction; will we cling to the old man’s self-justifying religion; or will we receive God’s new thing in Christ?  

 

Movement out of the old into newness enhances a sense of abandon. Something like that occurred in todays Gospel.  Jesus offered the invalid a new direction.  The man had languished at Bethesda’s pool near the Sheep’s Gate through which sacrificial lambs were cleansed for temple use. 

 

Tradition allowed that if an invalid entered the pool when an angel “troubled” the water, he would be healed. The invalid waited thirty-eight years to enter the water.  Jesus approached him, “Do you will to become whole?” (Jn. 5:6b).  Jesus spoke of a wholeness beyond the physical.   The man thinks in old categories, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool…”. But Jesus is speaking words of new creation, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk” (v. 7).  The invalid is unexpectedly moved from the old into a new direction and we assume discipleship. 

 

It is hard to leave old ways; in restoring the man, Jesus inserted crisis into his life. It was the Sabbath; yet Jesus instructed the man to ignore the stricture against work on the day.  The former invalid could have simply walked without picking up the pallet. 

 

In being made whole the man recognized that one greater than Moses had spoken the word of wholeness to be obeyed. Crisis requires response; obedience in taking up his pallet or compliance to “minyan” authority.  The invalid obeyed Jesus, and so for us, he is icon of faithful new Israel.

 

The man receiving his heart’s desire responded, and yet he was immediately conflicted; would he join Jesus, the Sabbath Law breaker? Willful violation of the Sabbath meant excommunication; for outside synagogue or church there is no salvation. 

 

It seemed that the invalid’s choice, willing to be whole, had taken him from the frying pan of malady into the fire of synagogue condemnation; again “Catch 22”, a situation from which there was no apparent way out. Authorities challenged the man, “It is Sabbath, and [the Law] does not allow you to carry your pallet” (v. 10). 

 

Where was Jesus; he evaporated as quickly as the angel of troubled waters? The man must have felt abandoned; he didn’t even know Jesus’ name.  After 38 years, the man saw himself headed in an unexpected direction without a guide.

 

But Jesus searched out the man, finding him in the temple; warning, “See, you have become whole! Sin no longer, that nothing worse happens to you” (v. 14).  It is the same for us; by Bethesda’s baptismal water of wholeness God is at work; we are ingathered priests and kings reflecting his glory, his righteousness and holiness in the new heaven and new earth Rev. 21:11). 

 

From time to time we find ourselves flirting or even mired in old ways, not only our sinful flesh but in erroneous doctrines of men compromising the pure gospel. In this world the church in her gospel wholeness continues from one crisis to another, requiring faith’s response aligned to Jesus’ word and call to repentance. 

 

This is the Way of the cross, taking up pallets on which our sin lay; following Jesus to his cross. On occasion we step out of Christ’s sacrificial Way.  We return to old ways; such is the allure of lying poolside on pallets supporting sin.

 

Last Sunday Jesus’ Apostles, at the news of his impending departure, experienced a sense of abandon. So Jesus assured them, and us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (Jn. 16:13).  Therefore continue to listen with open hearts to the Voice of the Spirit who keeps you in the Way of our Father, the Gatekeeper, of Jesus’ sheep (10:3).  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/19/19 - Revised
2019.05.24 17:49:05

EASTER 5/C (2019) [Baptism, infant Henry David Miller]: Acts 11:1-18; Rev. 21:1-7; John 16:12-22 

 

New,              Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man… and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (vv. 1, 3a, 4b). 

 

By St. John’s vision the Slain Lamb, who alone is worthy, continues to open God’s seven-sealed Scroll (Rev. 5:5, 9) revealing God’s conclusion for the first creation.

 

“In the beginning”, following sin’s unbelief, the LORD-God said to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16a). 

 

This Fifth Sunday of the Resurrection, God fully reveals his gospel resolution for mankind ensnared into sin’s pain, tears, death, and mourning.

 

The woman, for her part, would bear and give birth in sharply increased physical distress; but her spiritual pain would be more acute and more than she would be able to bear, knowing that all human life was now destined for death; “for you are dust and to dust you shall return” (v. 19c).  

 

In the midst of the woman’s unbearable distress that she and her husband had become a curse to humanity; it was given for the man to exercise his Office, to speak and for the woman to listen to the balm of hope about God’s gracious character, that he is “God… of the living” (Mt. 22:32). 

 

In the moment of the woman’s deepest sorrow, in the midst of sin’s intractable miasma; it was essential that the gospel prevail for the woman. Now was the moment for the man to name the woman whom God had given him for his completion and fulfillment.  Adam bestows a prophetic name upon her; she is “Eve, because she was [and would continue to be] the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).  

 

Danielle, you have taken your husband’s name and today you have brought your firstborn son into the church, because by Mary’s redeeming “firstborn Son” and your Baptism into his death and resurrection you are restored to life; your womb has been reclaimed to what God originally intended, the place of life, and so a place which reflects the church. 

 

Completing procreation both you and Benjamin have brought Henry David to the same font of your faith and source of your new life; to God’s powerful word with the Spirit’s life giving water for a first resurrection. 

 

Look at your son; he is but newly sentient, yet God has acted upon him. By the power of his word for Christ’s sake, Henry David is child of God without his consent, but still on account of faith.  Baptized into the promise of Christ crucified, today he is a spiritual participant in Jesus’ bodily resurrection. 

 

Did you know that Scripture, God’s Scroll being unsealed today, teaches of two resurrections and a second death as well (Rev. 20:4-6)? Our first resurrection occurs in Baptism, a rising out of the world’s first death of unbelief by God’s gift of faith.  At the second resurrection on the Last Day our bodies will physically participate in and with the body of Christ even as we anticipate that event today by receiving his body and blood in the Holy Supper.

 

Christ died for Henry and the whole world, a once for all atonement for sin. God accepted his begotten Son’s obedient sacrifice, physically raising Jesus from the grave.  By this work of God we now possess the promise of the Father and the gift of Christ, the HS with his church. 

 

The HS is the power and person by whom we have that which saves and resurrects, repentant faith. The HS is the voice of Christ (Jn. 3:8), speaking his pure gospel word dispensed and confirmed with the water of the first creation. 

 

Today Henry has been brought to the church, the font’s gifting place of water and word; we dare not fail to obey Jesus’ directive to “suffer/permit” infants in the church’s embrace (Mt. 19:14, KJV).  This is the first resurrection by which we are raised out of death’s unbelief. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches his Apostles things that they, as of then, were unable to comprehend; but on Easter Day Jesus would baptismally breath into them the HS in his physical resurrection for belief and their ministry for the Life of the world (Jn. 20:22).

 

But for the moment Jesus tells them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me (Jn. 16:16).  Jesus’ “little while” refers to the Apostles understanding his bodily resurrection and their own sighted faith by a Baptism into his fiery Baptism on the cross.

 

For forty days after the Resurrection the Apostles and disciples were being weaned from their old sightedness of Jesus’ presence; but now in the fullness of our resurrection in the HS by word and water we grasp Jesus’ blessing to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen (in the old way) and yet have believed (the new creation coming into being by word and sacrament)” (Jn. 20:29b).

 

Jesus speaks to his Apostles about their Baptism, of coming out of the world’s unbelief, comparing their faith to a woman undergoing the travail of labor and concluding in the unspeakable joy that a man is born into the world in Mary’s Child. This is the joy of newness that the church experiences with every Baptism.

 

Life is joyous. Today we celebrate Henry David’s birth out of the world’s unbelief, into the church’s light of eternal Life by the Spirit; a new begetting of the Father, through his Son, by the HS (Jn. 3:3, 5-8) bestowed in living water issued with the blood from the heart of Christ (7:38). 

 

Life is precious, and so it falls especially to you parents, sponsors, and this congregation, Henry’s new brothers and sisters, to keep and support him in God’s sacred Scroll, the source of our first resurrection from death and our continuing strength that on the Last Day the second death (Rev. 21:8) will have no sway over Henry David, now enrolled into the Book of Life to be revealed in the Lamb breaking the word’s final seal. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 5/12/19
2019.05.14 23:24:11

EASTER 4/C (2019): Acts 20:17-35; Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

                                                           

Snatch,        “My sheep hear my Voice, and I know them, and they follow me… and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (vv. 27, 28b) 

 

Last Sunday St. John characterized the church a “great draught of fish” snatched out of Leviathan’s sea-realm; metaphor for apostolic casting God’s word into the world.  

 

God’s net snatches us out of chaos’ watery darkness into the light of salvation’s boat. Our being “sea-snatched” speaks the church’s baptismal-exodus to the Father’s shore (Jn. 21:1-14).  

 

Jesus’ miraculous “great draught of fish” was signal for the Apostles return to being “fishers of men” (Lk. 5:10).  If Peter and his brothers had continued as mere fishers of fish, they would have proceeded to salt, dry, and smoke their fish for preservation and savory taste. 

 

The Church, as well, is tasked to preserve her catch, of men; so that Christians are a savory presence in the world (Mt. 5:13). Rather than salt and smoke, today’s account from John’s Apocalypse speaks to our “sealing” into the ranks of the 144,000, God’s militant new Israel, “coming out” of worldly tribulation in these end times (Rev. 7:4, 5, 8, 14). 

 

John’s sea story, last Sunday, anticipated today’s “Good Shepherd” Sunday. Jesus and Peter depart the shore; their language changed describing the church, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”… “Tend my sheep”… Feed my sheep” (Jn. 20:15-19); from baptized fish out of water, Jesus segued to his flock, attentive sheep.  

 

Today’s apocalyptic vision beholds a “countless multitude”.  These are the church triumphant,  united with the 144,000 “male virgins” (Rev. 14:4) of new Israel on earth, sealed for battle as Jesus opens God’s scroll. 

 

The twelve tribes, the 144,000 in the world gather around the Ark of Jesus on earth, proclaiming his righteous victory as Lion of Judah; but as his army we behold him, Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world reigning with God.

 

What then is our “sealing” of assurance that, “no one shall snatch them out of my hand”?  Certainly Christian sealing begins with our baptismal capture and anointing in the HS to receive God’s Name; but that is only the beginning, there is process: being salted, smoked, stripped of sin, and exercised in tribulation; endurance to the end. 

 

St. Paul explains, he was on his way to Jerusalem; but was concerned for Ephesus who’s churches suffered riotous persecution from an idolatrous populous. Paul gathered the pastors, encouraging to care for the flock “obtained with Christ’s blood” (20:28). 

 

Paul warned, as Jesus when proclaiming himself Good Shepherd (cf. Jn. 10:12), that wolves would arise in the congregations to prey on the flock. Paul was concerned, some pastors would fall from the faith handed-on and that the congregations would call others teaching “twisted things”, drawing disciples to themselves (Acts 19:29, 30).   

 

Now we discern the imperative from Jesus to Peter, and from Paul to pastors that they tend, care for, and feed the Lord’s sheep snatched from the gates of hell at so great a gospel price.  

 

The church’s salt and smoke consists in this: we hear the proclaimed Voice (HS) of our Shepherd; our ears are opened by his word in Baptism’s capture to repentance of sin.

 

We are salted in the church’s teaching: apostolic law and gospel; in Eucharistic smoking in the Lord’s whole burnt offering on the cross.  With Jesus we cry, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28) for living water, the HS from his heart (Jn. 7:37). 

 

By our ongoing relation of Shepherd with sheep, the church seals her slippery, unseasoned catch from reverting to Leviathan’s wild waters, away from perverted teachers in the visible church.

 

Last Sunday, “the Seven Apostles” failed to comprehend, as many today, that Baptism, a singular event, importantly continues in effect.  Baptism is the initiating Sacrament into the church boat, where we are stripped, salted, and smoked.  This is our “sealing” on the Way to heaven’s shore, in Jesus’ assurance, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me… and no one shall snatch them out of my hand”.

 

Paul recognized that some pastors would fall from their faith to become wolves, guilty of Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:26, 27). Thus, it continues in these current days. 

 

So where is salvation’s certainty; that we will not be snatched out of Gods’ hand, by Satan, the world, and our own flesh? Is it not in this; that by God’s promise of word and Sacrament, he purifies us virgins into Israel’s tribes, 144,000, gathered around the Lamb’s sacrificial Altar for atonement of the world’s sin? 

 

By the church’s pure teaching and delivery of Christ’s word and Sacrament we are those who receive the promise of election, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  

 

The Christian congregation gathers, Lord’s Day-to-Lord’s Day, in the place where time and eternity join, a victorious “countless multitude” before the throne of God in the Lamb’s slain righteousness.

 

In that union, by word and Sacrament, we take the appearance, in the eyes of God, the character of our Captain, God’s Lamb and “the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7).

 

As Christ’s new Israel, 144,000 militant virgins, we confess and give evidence of our faith from law-gospel Pulpit to gospel Altar heard for our purity in Christ.

 

In repentant faith we are given to believe the substance of the church’s one holy catholic and apostolic faith. In these promised things is all Truth and surety.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.

 

 



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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