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.




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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.




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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. 




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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.




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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. 




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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. 






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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.




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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.




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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.




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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.




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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






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