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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem. 



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.     



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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Sermon - Eileene Homan Service
2018.11.09 18:53:26

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.


 



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 10/21/18
2018.10.22 22:02:26

PROPER 24/B (2018): Eccl. 5:10-20; Heb. 4:1-16; Mark 10:23-31.

 

Possible,     [The disciples] were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (vv. 26, 27).

 

This Sermon might be titled, “The Possible God of the Impossible”. Scripture’s first testimony of God is that he created all things “ex nihilo”, out of nothing. Before there was the primordial stuff and watery deep of creation there was nothing, only God “in Beginning” (Jn. 1:1) the eternal place of God’s presence. Most do not believe this because for men it is impossible!

 

After Eve heard God’s word from Adam, that if she ate the forbidden fruit she would die, Satan challenged her credulity, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the Garden’? … You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:1, 3). Never having known the evil of death, the woman and man disbelieved God choosing what seemed right in their eyes; they had known only Life from God, death was impossible!

 

When Abraham and Sarah were age advanced and the “way of women ceased to be with Sarah” (18:11b), the Lord announced, she would conceive and deliver a son the following year. Sarah derisively laughed at the impossibility of God’s word, provoking him to say, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (18:14a).

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus affirms, “The Possible God of the Impossible” (Mk. 10:27). On hearing Jesus declare the “impossibility” of rich men entering the Kingdom of God, and for anyone, rich or otherwise, exceedingly difficult (vv. 24, 25), the disciples were “astonished”, their belief in Jesus was being stretched. They exclaimed, “Then who can be saved?” (v. 26b).

 

Peter puts a fine point on the disciples’ doubt, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (v. 28); his clear implication was that being a follower of Jesus is just about the dumbest thing a person might do, really what is the point of an all but impossible salvation?

 

Such a despairing attitude is not uncommon for those afflicted with besetting sins; they throw up hands and give themselves over to our sin nature, concluding, “What’s the use?”

 

From a mentality of “impossibility”, do you see how easy it is to fall into unbelief? And Peter as first among disciples, would also have to contend with another angst from Jesus, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (v. 31). But for Jesus, the truly “astonishing” thing is that man would consider exchanging the promised treasure of heaven for an inheritance of worldly wealth in death.

 

Jesus interrupts Peter and the disciples’ concern over the impossibility of salvation for men. He reminds that God is: “The Possible God of the Impossible” and on that predicate he assures there is no cause, as with the rich young ruler, for concern over worldly things or family.

 

Jesus promises his disciples an impossible salvation for those who remain devoted in his word; that for every worldly loss in this evil age, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or lands, that in the Kingdom now and in eternity, these would be magnified a hundredfold.

 

The underlying spiritual reality of Jesus’ promise is that God provides a place for salvation of our body, soul, and family. Adam lost man’s place in Eden; God made the exodus tabernacle in the desert his place with men; intending to give Israel entry into the Promised Land, a more permanent place of their rest on earth.

 

David reflected on the wilderness Israelites’ mistrust of God’s goodness toward men, and prophesied of a day he called, “Today”, in which all people are called to hear the voice of the Lord, not hardening their hearts toward God as did the generation excluded from entry (Ps. 95:7 ff.).

 

Later David’s son would look on man’s condition in a fallen world. Solomon despaired of man’s vanity in working to acquire earthly treasure and “his own place” (Acts 1:25) in the world.

 

Rather, what “Qoheleth”, Solomon the Preacher/Teacher of the congregation observed as fitting and good was that God provides fulfillment in our doing assigned work to enjoy the simplicity of its fruit; shelter, food, and rest without regard to acquisition. Man should rely on God’s graciousness, accepting the “lot” or “place” into which God puts us in the world (Eccles. 5:10-20).

 

In time, David’s prophesy of a new place, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”(Heb. 3:15; Ps. 95:7) arrived in Jesus, God’s incarnate word. David speaks to the generations of Jesus, who is first among men destined on the cross to be least among brothers.

 

Look around and see the architecture of this Lutheran structure; it is not “our place with God”, the building’s design merely reflects our new place with God in the body of Christ, our new Zion Temple.

 

On the seventh day of creation God entered his rest intended from the foundation of the world to be man’s final resting place from labors, where we rejoice in celebratory feeding of Bread delivered by angels (Ps. 78:25; Wis. 16:20, 21) and imbibe of heaven’s Wine; participated in even now as Eucharistic foretaste.  

 

Again look around, the new and final place of our abiding in God’s presence is among the flesh and blood of your baptized brothers and sisters who Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day are devoted to hearing in faith the impossible things of God’s word (Mk. 10:30). Our new family will encourage us should we begin to fall away, for in falling away from the Word impends the disaster of sclerotic hearts.

 

Associated with our new family there is persecution that none may escape. Jesus distinguishes between worldly families and heaven’s family. The centurion in Caesarea by the Sea presented his entire household to Peter for baptism’s entry into our church place (Acts 10).

 

The rich young ruler too was paterfamilias; yet did not bring his household. Like some of us, he came to Jesus alone and was immediately conflicted by an earthly family resentful of any new family being formed by God’s word and headed by a new Paterfamilias. Many Christians as cost of discipleship suffer in separating from the world, the pain of which the rich young ruler was unwilling to accept.

 

Make no mistake, whatever our identification with the rich young ruler; judgment comes to individuals, not as heads of households (Heb. 9:27). As long as we hear the word of God in this place of brothers and sisters in Christ we must never loose sight of our true treasure, our heavenly family who faithfully heed David’s prophesy, “Today, if you hear [the Lord’s] voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

 

Jesus promised increase of our heavenly family, a hundredfold, gives us pause to ponder salvation’s remnant. From the parable of the Sower (Mk. 4:1-20); our hearts are soil onto which the seed of God’s word is wont to create new hearts toward God in faith.

 

In some, hearts are so estranged from the word, that Satan steals the Seed away; onto some the Seed falls on rocky ground without depth, it dries up in adversity and persecution; some hearts are so entangled in the brambles of the world: deceit, riches, and desire that God’s word is overtaken.

 

But onto others, and this is a mystery and miracle, hearts hear and receive God’s word, in season and out, bearing the fruit of faith by the Seed, first thirtyfold, then sixtyfold, and a hundredfold in the place of God’s eternal Sabbath rest.

 

Thus, by Word created faith, we recognize God to be “The Possible God” of all that sinful men proclaim impossible. Our impossible salvation advances in breath as a mustard seed (Mt. 13:31, 32) from faith to faith.

 

We pray Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day that spiritual brothers and sisters continue faithful in God’s word; and for our earthly families who yet to attend the voice of the Lord in this place; that they too abandon the rebellion of unbelief. Amen.

 

pem.

 



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Sermon - 10/14/18
2018.10.14 23:12:12

PROPER 23/B (2018): Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Mark 10:17-22. 

 

Disheartened,      And Jesus, looking at [the man], loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (vv. 21, 22). 

 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all report Jesus’ encounter with this man.  For Mark he is “rich” (10:22); Matthew adds he is “young” (19:20); and Luke, a “ruler” (18:18); thus the man is dubbed, the “rich young ruler”. 

 

Today’s Gospel makes some Christians edgy.  It sounds as though Jesus directs us to divest ourselves of material possessions in charity to follow him for an eternal inheritance. 

 

It would not be the first time some moralizing preacher instilled guilt among the Baptized, that grace is a bargained for exchange at the expense of the gospel’s encouragement to live by faith in the joy of every circumstance, including financial, into which God places us.  That is the thing about wealth, as with all aspects of Christian life; that we live a life in all situations expressing faith’s gift.    

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus taught his disciples the new Torah realities of his Feeding and coming Passion to establish God’s NT at cross and resurrection.    

 

The lessons have been hard in coming for his followers.  Certainly the religious Jews openly opposed, declaring him possessed by “Beelzebul” (Mk. 3:22); but even his Apostles questioned his program.  First, they were recalcitrant toward shared Jew/Gentile feedings in a new wilderness exodus (Mk. 6:36, 37; 8:4); second, they objected to the ignominy of Jesus’ destination, death in Jerusalem, the Holy City (8:31, 32).  Of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples could not fathom the thought. 

 

Kingdom confusion was approaching its zenith with the internecine squabbles among the Apostles over who was “greatest” (9:34).  For the last several Sundays Jesus corrects their misunderstanding of the Kingdom; teaching that the “greatest” is the humble servant of all who receives everything from God by grace; still the Apostles failed to twice behold a living parable, to “suffer the little children” (Mk. 9:35-37; 10:14).    

 

Today a rich young ruler comes among the body.  No doubt the self-seeking, competitive Apostles thought the rich young ruler a perfect addition, the very emblem of their Kingdom hopes and dreams: estates, crops, vineyards, stone mansions, coin of the realm, youth to enjoy the largess, and not least, prestigious office and ruler-ship as founding NT pillars.   

 

The rich young ruler approached Jesus with a salutation, “Good Teacher” (Mk. 10:17).  Jesus cautions him about gratuitous speech, “No one is good except God alone” (v. 18).  By this admonition we begin to discern the crux of Jesus’ concern for all who oppose his teaching, both disciples and enemies.

 

So far, all those in the train of Jesus’ march to Jerusalem have acted much as ancient Israel on way to the Promised Land.  From Ps. 95 the preacher to the Hebrews identifies the problem, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as at the Bitter Place… where your fathers put [me] to the test…” (Heb. 3:7, 9); then the congregation is warned, “See… that there is not in any of you an evil heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God… that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin—” (vv. 12, 13). 

 

If we confess, “God only is good”, the response of faith must follow.  Except for a remnant, Israel on journey to the Promised Land did not respond in faith to the voice of the Lord and so to the Lord’s goodness.  Time and again they grumbled, despising God’s word, plan, and provision; they constantly contradicted God’s leading in favor of their own judgment and desires; a disobedient people.    

 

When Christians stop attending God’s word in the congregation, a subtle change occurs; they begin fall away from the voice of the Lord, instead they hear other voices: their own hearts, contrary cultural rationales, and temptations that beckon to sin.  Soon hearts are hardened to the voice of God.  Thus the Preacher implores, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” 

 

In these latter days “an evil heart of unbelief” toward God’s voice in Christ can overtake.  Absent from God’s word we, like wilderness Israelites can come to mistrust the promises of God, putting our own environmental evaluation ahead of or in competition with God’s plan and will for our common journey in this world.  Such “unbelief” and “mistrust” contradicts any confession that, “No one is good except God alone”; faith is denied, if not in words then in conduct that mistrusts. 

 

God became “disgusted” (Heb. 3:10) with the wilderness generation, barring them from entry into the Land to die in the arid bitterness of unbelief of his salvation.  This then is the warning that Jesus would have you and I, understand: entry into end time promises, trusts in his Way; his Feeding and sacrificial Passion that brings us to our greatness in Baptism that joins us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

 

Now we delve deeper into the identity of the rich young ruler.  Quite the opposite of apostolic assumptions about the man’s good fortune in this life, Jesus comes to a different diagnosis: the man is already three strikes and out: #1) it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mk. 10:25); #2) the man is young, distracted administering large estates, affording little time to abide in God’s word and wisdom; and #3) he is age inappropriate to take place in the city gate to rule and judge the affairs of others. 

 

Some 800 years earlier the prophet Amos provided a characteristic portrait the rich ruler.  “They hate the… one speaking honestly… trample on the poor and take from them a tax of grain, [live] in houses of hewn stones… [plant] choice vineyards… are enemies of a righteous man, [take] a bribe, and needy people… [are] thrust away in the gate” (5:10-12).   

 

If today we do not attend the “voice of the Lord” (Ps. 95:7c, 8) then we like the ancient self-absorbed ruler in the gate will fail to heed Amos, to “seek YHWH and live” (Amos 5:6).  Instead we, from hardened self-governing hearts “turn justice into wormwood, and righteousness thrown to the ground” (v. 7).

 

When the rich young ruler presented himself to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus provided a prescription; first, by the word of God honestly evaluate his true spiritual condition; directing him to the commands dealing with neighbor.  Further Jesus drives the point, interpreting “do not covet” as “Do not defraud” (Mk. 10:19). 

 

Protestations aside, it appears the rich young ruler’s great wealth had been achieved and maintained in the time-honored way of powerful men in the gate, at the expense of justice and righteousness, especially toward the poor and needy. 

 

Jesus extends the man a fourth free pitch.  He invites him into the Way of YHWH’s eternal life he claimed to seek in the only way God offers, sacrificial union in Christ seated on the cross of heaven’s Gate.  It is there in the riven blood and the water from Jesus body where God, in his goodness, transacts all business with us, grace or judgment; yet some still disbelieve and mistrust “such a great salvation” (Heb. 2:3).

 

When Zacchaeus later encountered Jesus on the Way he recognized God’s justice, righteousness, and mercy; his was a response of faith.  Zacchaeus would liquidate all his assets, half to the poor, and in repentance for ill-gotten gain restore fourfold all whom he defrauded, and follow Jesus into Jerusalem (Lk. 19:8).  Unlike Zacchaeus the rich young ruler redoubled his grasp on “his” possessions; bitterly departing Jesus’ Way, the picture of “an evil heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God”. 

 

Luther correctly opined about Jesus’ directive to the rich young ruler to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him; was not a specific for the church; rather a prescription in the case of the self-deluded young man, who on account of great wealth was unable to trust in God, who alone is good.  Mammon is an inanimate idol; neither good nor bad until it finds a home in the human heart, in which case it must be exorcised. 

 

And yet there is a patent lesson for the church in every age; Jesus is heaven’s Rich Young Ruler.  Enthroned in heaven’s Gate, the cross, Jesus gave everything to establish God’s justice and righteousness for all men in forgiveness and mercy.  By Jesus’ faithfulness in the sight of God, he merited the Hidden Treasure remnant of the world (Mt. 13:44), and his church, the Pearl of Great Price (vv. 45, 46) for which he gave his all.   

 

Mercy is extended those remnant who today hear his voice in the Way of Christ’s sacrificial suffering for righteousness; but justice in judgment is reserved for those who turn hardened hearts against God’s salvation for a place of their own (cf. Acts 1:25), mistrusting and disbelieving God’s promises.  The promise of God is that our eternal inheritance consists in Jesus’ Loaves and Passion, our singular Way for entry into his presence.  Amen. 

 

pem. 



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Sermon - 10/7/18
2018.10.10 22:54:07

PROPER 22/B (2018): Gen. 2:18-25; Heb. 2:1-18; Mark 10:2-16.

 

Rib,    Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”… But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed (vv. 18, 20b-25).

 

When a man is attracted to a woman with the intention of marital union, he pitches woo telling her she “is the desire of his heart”; such declaration accords with woman’s creation.

 

From Adam the woman was built-up from the bone and flesh of the man; bone that encased the fabric of his heart. No doubt heart-flesh was taken from Adam with the encasing bone as material of woman.

 

The man by his nature is thus predisposed to love the woman because she is gifted to him in his pain, loss, and unique restoration of what was taken; the same flesh and bone, yet now different. God made and returned a better part of the man to satisfy his heart’s desire; a woman with whom the man would seek fleshly union and spiritual communion.

 

By God’s reuniting complementary sex, the man and woman were made one flesh in both act and progeny with a common DNA. By union the man was no longer an automaton; and the two, as one, would comply without shame with God’s directive for life on earth, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).

 

Man and woman in the first creation gives us pause to reflect on the Trinity when “from the beginning” (Mk. 10:6), “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27); and summarized, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (2:1).

 

Male and female union reflects the communal life of love within the Godhead, “in arche”, in the Beginning place and its outward compulsion for creation. The first marital union enacted God’s will for love’s service in the creation. The union of the man and woman was part and parcel of God’s gracious creative act.

 

We sometimes refer to the first pairing as the first wedding, and so it was; and yet it was different from all other marriages after the Fall. It was not as though God presented the woman to the man for their discretionary approval of the other. God joined the flesh of each to the other in the imperative to make the sixth day’s “good” creation complete; or as Jesus would later say of his pain and loss on the cross for the new creation, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

 

With the Fall, sin and shame entered the marital relation, a wedge of separation within the creation; what God had joined, man’s self-will would physically and or spiritually separate (cf. Mk. 10:9). Man thus reordered the fundamentals of marriage; no longer grounded in the imperatives of God’s good creation, rather in mutual consent.

 

Despite God’s intention for marital permanence, the man and woman each perceived breach of promise by the other as cause to opt-out of the bargained for exchange. The parties to the contract were now as apt to cherish and love the other as to turn a hard-heart toward the one with whom they consider being unequally “yoked” as circumstances dictate.    

 

Marriage by mutual consent also characterized God’s relation with ancient Israel. At Sinai God from the midst of smoke, fire and earthquake promised to be Israel’s Protector, Provider, and God. They in turn would “love, honor, and obey the Lord” (Ex. 19). The marriage was consecrated by water washing and sprinkling onto both Altar and people sacrificial-blood, portending a future more perfect union.

 

The OT was dependent on the promised fidelity of both God and Israel; that Moses permitted a man to issue his wife a bill of divorce reflected Israel’s ungrateful character and hardness of heart toward their great and graciousness salvation from God. As St. Paul in the 5th chapter of Ephesians points out the human marital relation always speaks to the greater reality of God and church (vv. 31, 32).

 

Israel proved an adulterous bride; at last YHWH issued a bill of separation exiling Israel from the Land returning them to captivity in Assyria and Babylonia, and withdrawing his Shekinah, his tabernacle/temple presence from their midst.

 

In the fullness of time God softened his heart toward faithless Israel and all mankind of whom he desired their return. In Christ God extends to men a new and better Covenant than the old for reunion. Jesus, Son of God incarnate, possessing humanity’s flesh, is the church’s new suitor seeking a bride with whom to join in God’s new creation coming into being; to be one flesh and bone with the woman, reminiscent of the original marriage covenant of grace for God’s love in creation.

 

When Abram sought assurances from God about his great promises, God, as with Adam, put him into a “deep sleep” (Gen. 15:12). In that state God then made a covenant by his own Name (22:16) anticipating the unilateral Covenant with Man for Christ’s sake.

 

This then is the milieu in which the Pharisees come testing Jesus today. Our NT relation with God is not predicated, as in the OT, on our promises of faithfulness; instead our saving relation is solely in the gift of faith of Christ’s fidelity toward God and his sacrificial love of us as his heart’s desire.

 

Jesus was at pains that his disciples should understand the necessity in the new era of the Loaves of his feeding and his coming Passion to orient us in Kingdom greatness; that it is the one who humbles to serve and receives all without merit who is great. In this service, as between humble husband and submissive wife, we have congregation peace and unity with God in Christ.

 

Jesus’ fidelity to God and man, on the cross is at one and the same time our assurance of his love for us in pain and loss, his separated flesh and blood, and God’s abandonment of him for taking a sinfully pocked bride. At the cross our sin became Jesus’. On the cross Jesus trusted in God to reunite the stuff of his sifted flesh and blood in death’s “deep sleep”, a three-day grave. So wedded to us at the cross, Jesus’ faith in God is our faith through Baptism. Faith alone is the new grounding of all NT era marriages in Christ.  

 

Once again Jesus and the Pharisees are talking past each other. The Pharisee’s would require Jesus to reconcile Sinai’s covenant that took into account divorce with the coming Covenant of the new age. But Jesus did not come into the world to reconcile God’s OT Law with his new Covenant of grace through faith in his Feeding and Passion.

 

Jesus does not engage the Pharisee’s assumptions about divorce; he is fully aware that in a fallen world divorce happens even among his disciples, but it is not so in his Kingdom apart from forgiveness extended and received in word and Eucharist as we await the consummation of this age.

 

Even the church’s marriage ritual of in this present age is grounded on the exchange of mutual vows; these of course are regularly honored in the breach. But the reality of Jesus’ divorce pronouncements concerns the new era, the new aeon, the new epoch of the Church in a more profound way in which we liturgically participate with the Church Triumphant in these last days.

 

Jesus’ NT betrothal to his church assures our certainty of God’s Abrahamic saving covenant, our faith accounting us righteousness to receive God’s expansive salvation promises in love from the cross and the Father’s assent by the Resurrection.

 

Human divorce reflects the impossibility of sinful men and women being true to their marital vows outside of Christ’s restoring forgiveness and the union of the marriage bed. Divorce is not the “unforgivable sin”; rather unbelief is infidelity and so the one ground of divorce.

 

This then is God’s NT pronouncement on divorce: no matter how great your sins he will never again separate from you except for the one cause of unbelieving infidelity born of heartless neglect of “so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3) extended in the church’s forgiving word and sacraments.

 

The law exposes our nakedness and shame in the world; this is necessary for true repentance. But the gospel in Christ, grasped in faith trumps and covers us with the robe of his righteousness which we wear with joy and revelation on the last day in the bosom of Abraham at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/30/18
2018.10.01 21:54:26

PROPER 21/B (2018): Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:1-20; Mark 9:38-50

 

Salt,   “[E]veryone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (vv. 49, 50). 

 

What’s the background for being salted with fire? The immediate context is the dispute among the Apostles, which of them is the “greatest” in the Kingdom (Mk. 9:34).  The overarching situation remains Jesus correcting misunderstanding about the Loaves and his coming Passion (6:52; 9:32). 

 

The main force of Jesus’ teaching today is directed to his disciples, those following him in establishing his NT church. Earlier Jesus admonished the puffed-up self-evaluations and ambitions among his Apostles by enfolding to his breast the one among them who is truly great, a powerless child, and the family/household servant.  Jesus had taken direct aim at the apostolic band. 

 

It is axiomatic that any student worth his salt is able to divert the class discussion from its assigned topic. St. John attempts to distract Jesus from apostolic shortcomings.  Thus there is an intervening discussion about those employing Jesus’ name for exorcisms yet do not follow in the Way.  Jesus blows-off John’s interruption; and so for the moment do we as better considered for a Reformation Day Sermon. 

 

Jesus abruptly returns the class to the topic at hand. The Apostles’ argument over which of them is “greatest” brought them dangerously close to being agents for the church’s infection; and so Jesus described the curative for recalcitrance in being “friended” with the world: surgical removal from the body; once again another stern rebuke to those following him on the Way.

 

If your eye, foot, or hand is a cause of sin, cast it out. No doubt there is figurative application for individuals; but more importantly is the necessity of a literal plucking and casting out members who by their passions and friendship with the world can and will infect the congregation being sanctified in the body of which Christ is head.  A rotten apple is not allowed to contaminate the barrel.  Such a one may return to the communion by grace when in repentance he is restored as good fruit. 

 

Likewise, St. James pulls no punches, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (4:4); and, “Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire” (5:3).  And so we come to Jesus urging us to be on guard against and to “rule over” sin always “crouching at the door” (Gen. 4:7), and “hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). 

 

Really, how is it possible for sinful man to “rule over” sin, Satan, and the world all of which claims dominion over man?  St. Paul describes our dilemma; “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18a, 19).  Paul joins James in assigning prominence of our worldly passions as an infection that produces war within (7:23; James 4:1) and communicable within the body of Christ. 

 

Under these conditions, how is it possible for us not to sin? Well, this side of heaven, it is not; but with God all things are possible and for the one who believes as well (Mk. 9:23).  Satan, by the gospel, is already a defeated foe, yet continues a rear-guard action roaming the world, especially against the church, launching fiery darts as he retreats to Armageddon’s cataclysm. 

 

So what are we to do, but in faith put on the whole defensive armor of God (Eph. 6:11); and to this end Jesus continues teaching about the Loaves and his Passion on the Way. “[E]veryone will be salted with fire.”.  Fired-up Salt is the antidote to hell-fire and its undying worm. 

 

Have you ever dosed a worm or a slug with salt. What happens, it melts away; in this way Jesus speaks of himself, “Salt is good…” (Mk. 9:50).   The Salt with which we are salted is for our on-going sanctification and holiness.  Our fired-Salt is the principle element that unites with the Eucharistic grain of NT Loaves, as priestly food for the Baptized.

 

Accept a homework assignment, if you will. In your favorite English Bible translation open to Acts 1:4.  The occasion is forty days post-Resurrection.  Jesus in word and deed has imparted into the soul and being, the woof and warp of his church his cross and Supper, the lessons of the Loaves and Passion; now he is about to ascend to the Father in the sight of his disciples.  

 

Invariably English translations render, as by your ESV, “And while staying with them [Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem…”  As regards such mistranslations one can fairly appropriate from Porgy and Bess, “It ain’t necessarily so; the things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, it ain’t necessarily so.”  

 

Without getting into Greek weeds, the proper translation is, “And as [Jesus] was eating and taking salt together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem…”  Let me repeat, Jesus was not merely “staying” with his Apostles/disciples, he was eating and taking fellowship salt with them.

 

Jesus had fully instructed his church about the Loaves and his Passion and this the day of Ascension consummated that teaching in Eucharistic eating, sharing salt in friendship. Ten days hence Jesus would send upon the church the promise of our Father, the HS.  By the HS’s enlightenment the apostolic teaching would guard the church in the Way of the Loaves and Jesus’ Passion.

 

So what does Jesus mean when today he tells his Apostles, “[E]veryone will be salted with fire”?  He means that his flesh and blood self-donation on the cross for the life his church fulfilled the Law, specifically the OT grain offering regulations for feeding God’s priesthood, forming of a holy people.  

 

When in Capernaum Jesus announced, “I Am the Bread of Life come down from heaven” (Jn. 6:41), he was not merely making a one to one simile with the OT manna in the desert.  Jesus not only came out of heaven to feed his church by his word, but with the church’s sacramental Loaves; in water, grain, and oil, he is for us fire-salted Bread sacrificially offered to God on the Cross. 

 

This Eucharist is the participatory food in God’s new Temple, it is the new Showbread offered to God and returned as sanctified Bread for distribution to the Baptizeds’ eating and sharing in peace.

 

The old covenant begins with grain offerings for sanctification, presented to God and returned as the bread of Presence for consumption by the priesthood. Thus anticipating Christ, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt; you shall not leave out the salt of the covenant of your God from your grain offering.  On all your offerings you must offer salt (Lev. 2:13). 

 

When Jesus identified himself in the synagogue of Capernaum as the Bread from heaven (Jn. 6), he implicitly informed those with Jewish ears to hear that he is the church’s Salt and salting of her NT exodus feeding: he is the Seed that produces much grain (Jn. 12:24), the baptismal water, salt and oil of the HS (Mk. 9:49) united in his fiery Passion for God’s love of men that overcomes the sin of the world and hellish invertebrates.

 

When Jesus warned his bickering Apostles in today’s Gospel, “Have Salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”, he makes a similar point in his Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth…” (Mt. 5:13).  But before we may be salt for the earth we must have Salt in ourselves.  Jesus is our fire-salted Eucharistic food in whom we are sanctified, having peace with God and with each other.

 

Our Eucharistic gifts: grain, wine, worldly treasure for the poor and for your pastor is intrinsically associated with our communal prayer at the Altar of Thanksgiving. God acknowledges our earthly offerings and our priestly character in Christ, returning to us heaven’s priestly Bread, in whom God gives us his “yes” in faith.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/23/18
2018.09.27 00:22:20

PROPER 20/B (2018): Jeremiah 11:18-20; James 3:13—4:10; Mark 9:30-37

 

Passions,    What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (vv. 4:1-3). 

 

As between falling into the hands of men or into the hand of the Lord, King David declared, “Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand men” (2 Sam. 24:14). 

 

For the sake of Jesus, God’s great mercy is abundant and absolute. It is only toward those who spurn his Son and the Covenant in his blood that the author of Hebrews makes this qualification, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:29-31). 

 

For the love of men God would hand-over Jesus, like Abel and Joseph ben Jacob, to the “tender mercies” of his brothers to do to him whatever they pleased (Mk 9:13).  Jesus teaches his disciples, a second time, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (v. 31). 

 

On the previous occasion of this teaching the Apostles passionately contradicted Jesus, to which he called them, “Satan”, adversaries of God.  On this occasion however his disciples are afraid to engage Jesus’ about his Passion teaching.  They would rather move the discussion away from the scandal that for them is the cross.  

 

How could it be otherwise? You and I do not really believe St. James, when he says, we deny God on account of our passions.  But Jesus does not let the matter of his Passion drop; instead he redirects the subject to his Apostles’ roiling passions; their jealousy toward one another and self-ambition for status in the kingdom of heaven.

 

The apostolic band had returned from a Gentile mission, in the Decapolis, to their house church in Jewish Capernaum; Jesus inquired of them, “What were you discussing on the way?” (v. 33).  The question contains a double implication; the disciples think Jesus is asking about the road trip, but in asking about their discussion Jesus deftly returns them to the subject his teaching, of following him on the Way of the cross, his Passion, predicting he will fall into the hands of ruthless and violent men.   

 

On the road the Apostles had been quarreling, “who [among them] was the greatest” (v. 34).  Perhaps there was animus against Peter, whom Jesus designated the body’s titular head, “Rock”; or angst might have involved James and John, who with Peter were invited to an exclusive audience with the Father on the Mt. of Transfiguration. 

 

At Jesus’ inquiry the disciples are ashamed and remain silent; a turning point in apostolic hearts and consciences; and the beginning of repentance and a new understanding of what it means to be in the Way.

 

In following Jesus, Christians must define their fruitfulness, or the lack, in terms of understanding Jesus’ teaching as the HS gives light, first about the Loaves and second the Passion. So far Jesus’ teaching in word and action had fallen on deaf apostolic ears and recalcitrant hearts. 

 

The disciples did not understand; to their horror Jesus’ revelation of a new exodus that was to be shared with Gentiles in a common feeding. Gentiles were not mere tag-a-long sojourners but co-equal followers in the Way.  Nor did the Jewish disciples understand or agree with the necessity of Jesus’ rejection and death at the hands of the Jewish elders (Mk. 6:52; 9:32).  They opposed both divine NT programs, and so continued to be adversaries of God. 

 

But it is precisely the Christian understanding about the Loaves and the Passion as two sides of the same singular reality; Supper and Cross, Cross and Supper, each informing and integral of the other wherein the kerygma, the proclamation of the gospel, is fully received in the NT church by word and sacrament.

 

Today’s OT Reading provides a portrait of Jesus by the prophet Jeremiah, saying of himself, “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer. 11:19).  Jesus, on his Way to slaughter, was inexorably led to confront man and Satan’s hatred of God’s absolute reign and rule through his “gentle” Lamb.  

 

On the cross Jesus is Son of Man, brother of all men, voluntarily submitting to the violent hands of men. For the sake of man’s righteousness before God, Jesus on the cross has made himself least and servant of us and among us in sacrificial death for sin. 

 

Apostolic shame over worldly passions that denies God’s righteousness and mercy gives us pause, as well, to repent in light of Jesus’ teaching the necessity of his Passion on account of sin.

 

In the Way the Apostles quarreled over their individual status in the church of Christ; but worldly authority is upside-down and against heaven’s realm and rule. The gold standard for true greatness in the church is Christ crucified in the hope and faith of justification and resurrection.  

 

Teaching his Passion, Jesus broached that which the Apostles wanted to avoid. By refusing to understand the necessity of his Passion, these apostolic foundation stones of the Kingdom were sabotaging the Kingdom’s existence in which they sought “greatness”.  Tragically they misconstrued the character of their Office into which called. 

 

The baskets of remaining loaves and fish from the two feedings were emblematic of their servant Office; but the lesson had become remote and inconsequential. And so also the Baptized, who absent themselves from word and sacraments misconstrue their priestly character for worldly passions. 

 

Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom reality; he selected “a pearl of great price” for which he would give his all (Mt. 13:46).  In the house-church he took-up and enfolded a child, whose status by world standards is least and servant of all in family circumstance. 

 

The conundrum on display for the Apostles, and for you and I is that we must reconcile the upside-down Kingdom reality; that greatness understands the things of God and of heaven without being puffed-up; and with each advance in understanding we are increasingly humbled to repentance, inspired to put aside quarrels, and more and more extend forgiveness and service to brothers and sisters enfolded into Christ’s love.

 

By enfolding the child in the midst of his princes of the NT church, Jesus ended the quarrel; next to himself on the Way to the cross, this “gentle” child is the one who is “greatest among them” and whom they must now emulate in faithful service.

 

When worldly passions dominate, inherent in our sin nature, murder, specifically fratricide, is a very real danger. Biblical examples abound: certainly Cain and Abel; and the sons of Jacob desiring to kill their brother Joseph. 

 

In the mind of Joseph’s elder brothers their father wrongly elevated him to authoritative family office, bestowing on him “a robe of many colors” (Gen. 37:3).  His brothers deposited Joseph in a pit for dead, a grave if you will, from which he was resurrected.  Such jealous passions bespeak the murder of which St. James warns, that unchecked by grace unto faith can destroy the family, the church.

 

All of us have observed the worldly passions in the Christian congregation, most prominently on display in numerically large congregations. Quarrels increase for lack of love and factious isolations exacerbate; the family becomes less nuclear.  In extreme cases sides are chosen-up around the congregation’s distributive servant of the things given for greatness, word and sacrament.  When that occurs the impulse to fratricide advances to suicide. 

 

When we have children among us, he and she are living parables of heaven’s kingdom and the greatness which all Baptized aspire. The first lilting words taught our children are, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. 

 

Yet how sad when that song is not unpacked Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, from faith to faith, in ever greater understanding of our unity in the Loaves and the Passion of God’s gentle Servant Lamb.

 

Last Sunday a father approached Jesus because his disciples were impotent to cast-out a demon; they were hardhearted, refusing to understand the Loaves and the Passion. To all present, Jesus said, “All things are possible for the one who believes” (Mk. 9:21); to which the father, immediately and in advance of the disciples expressed his repentant prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief” (v.24). 

 

In fact the Gentile father spoke for the disciples, even then moving out of unbelief; and by Jesus’ ensuing exorcism he again directed attention to a child as “greatest” in their midst whose salvation and restoration is of grace alone received in a child’s helpless humility; so also for us who repentantly receive the Loaves and the Passion of Christ. Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/16/18
2018.09.18 22:27:08

PROPER 19/B (2018): Isa. 50:4-10; Jas. 3:1-12; Mk. 9:14-29

 

Mute,            [Jesus] rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of [the child] and never enter him again.”  And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (vv. 25b-27). 

 

Today we have another resurrection miracle as Jesus leads, both Jew and Gentiles, to a new exodus in the new creation coming into being. Jesus and his disciples are still in the Gentile territory of the Decapolis, literally “the ten cities”. 

 

Jesus has just descended the Mt. of Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John previewed his resurrection glory in the presence Moses, and Elijah, the latter as harbinger of Jesus’ coming Passion.

 

Jesus and his disciples were about to leave off their Gentile mission, continuing the new exodus, ultimately to the place of Jesus’ glory on the cross. But before they could be on their way Jesus is once again confronted by a demonic challenge to his messianic bona fides. 

 

Today’s exorcism of the Gentile boy connects us with last Sunday’s healing of the Gentile deaf-mute man whom Jesus restored to wholeness in hearing for understanding and an unstuck tongue to speak God’s praise.

 

That healing was the final miracle for our “understanding the loaves” (Mk. 6:52), taught between feeding 5,000 men in Jewish Galilee and 4,000 mostly Gentiles in the Decapolis.

 

As regards apostolic “understanding about the loaves” their hardness of heart (v. 52) still prevented them from being on board (v. 51) the universal exodus and training into their servant office. 

 

Jesus’ Apostles actively opposed him at both wilderness feedings that consisted of ethnically mixed tables. About the 5,000 they told Jesus, “send them away” (6:36); of the 4,000 Gentiles the Apostles grumbled, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mk. 8:4). 

 

If today you referred to an ethnic group as “these people”, offense would instantly attach as racial slur.  The Apostles intended their remark precisely in that way.  In their mind they were “unreasonably” expected to serve Gentile, unclean “dogs”; whom Jesus had previously declared clean (7:27) by exorcising the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman. 

 

Now Jesus must teach his church, without a full comprehension of the loaves to an understanding about another divine necessity, his Passion. Before ascending the Mt. of Transfiguration, “[Jesus] began to teach [his Apostles] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31). 

 

At this, Jesus received blowback from his Apostles and stern rebuke from Peter. Jesus condemned their satanic response (vv. 32, 33).  Next Sunday Jesus will announce his Passion, a second time.  Well, “once burnt, twice shy”; this time the disciples’ will be less aggressive as Mark reports, “they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him” (9:32).  Between Jesus’ two Passion predictions we now arrive at today’s exorcism. 

 

In calling his new Covenant church into existence it was clear that this new people would consist in catholic character; no longer grounded in the ethnic DNA from Abraham’s physical seed. The church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles equally possess righteousness begotten, not of Jewish seed, but of the same faith gifted to Abraham.  The church consists of a people defined, not by the spilt blood of circumcision (Ex. 4:25); but through Baptism into the blood of Jesus, rejected and crucified. 

 

The wilderness feedings portended a new ethical character of unity in a common feeding on the way to heaven’s Promised Land. But Jesus’ disciples still neither understood about the “loaves” nor his predicted “Passion”, both of which are of a piece, two sides of the same coin.

 

And this is where we find ourselves, without understanding, at the foot of the Mt. of Transfiguration, observing apostolic impotence and confusion at their inability to exorcise a taunting demon. Jesus laments, of his Apostles and all of us, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me?” (Mk. 9:19). 

 

Understanding spiritual matters comes by teaching and hearing the word of God. I preach and teach; you hear.  If I teach something less than law and pure gospel, St. James warns of a greater judgment (3:1). 

 

Jesus is God’s true Teacher of his word, because unlike his hardhearted Apostles and us, Jesus is God’s obedient Listener given a tongue for the weary (Isa. 50:4, 5).  

 

Unlike the tongues of sinful men, “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8), Jesus is God’s faithful Suffering Servant, ordained in place of “faithless Israel”.  OT Israel had become no better than deaf-mutes.  The Jews hypocritically belittled Gentiles as “dogs” and the Apostles thought themselves superior to “these people”; but there is now no longer any difference.  

 

The point of the Loaves and the Passion is Baptism. In Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female” (Gal. 3:28).  Before God, apart from Christ, all are equally guilty; failure in one point of the law makes us accountable for it all (Jas. 2:10). 

 

Sinful man, baptized into the Suffering Servant Office of Christ is homogenized into one Loaf and one salvation. Abraham’s ethnic DNA no longer holds sway in God’s election.  There is only our status as the Baptized, imparted by the HS from the Seed of God’s word for faith. 

 

By Baptism we are ordained to be “NT people” who understand “the Loaves and the Passion” for us. These things neither scandalize us nor cause us to object to prayerful service for “people” we formerly held in contempt.  Our unity partakes the single Loaf that is Jesus’ flesh and blood crucified for the many.

 

Ancient Israel had become weary; they thought God had abandoned them to a well-earned travail. So also Christians, NT Israel, become weary from interminable attacks, from Satan, the world, and by our weak and corrupt flesh.  The demoniac’s father confesses repentant faith, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24b). 

 

When the Apostles privately inquired of Jesus, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” he responded, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (vv. 28, 29).  Again this is a rebuke against their hardheartedness.  Their prayer on behalf of the Gentile “dog” suggested rebellion against God’s catholic salvation in Christ. 

 

After the feeding of 5,000, Jesus came to his Apostles walking over the chaotic sea and resurrected himself into the boat; still for heartlessness they did not understand, refusing to listen about the divine necessities: the Loaves and the Passion.

 

On the Mt. of Transfiguration God spoke of the glorified Jesus to Peter, James, and John, saying, “Listen to him” (9:7).  Apart from Christ, our prayers always oppose God’s salvation.  Apart from Christ, we are incapable of comprehending the Loaves or the Passion. Thus godly and effective prayer is necessarily associated with the community’s Eucharistic Altar.  We in the new exodus are called to understand the “Loaves and the Passion”.

 

Last Sunday I preached we are not “prayer-warriors” as some think; rather we are “warrior-priests” privileged to offer Eucharistic prayer through Jesus, our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, who had imparted to Abram heaven’s blessed bread and wine (Gen. 14:18, 19).

 

In the end there is this: the teaching, the prayer, and the fellowship that comprehends the Loaves and the Passion (Acts 2:42) all of which associate us in Baptism’s necessity of Jesus’ sacrificial suffering, death and resurrection.

 

With Jesus, God’s perfect Listener; you are invited Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day into the incarnate Word, for understanding and being lifted out of your weariness.  By his Word we recognize that Baptism joins us to a fellowship, a repentant suffering on account of sin. 

 

We Eucharistically participate in the crucified flesh of Jesus’ passion for forgiveness; and in Eucharistic prayer we approach our Father at the Altar of our feeding to participate in remaking the world in his image and after the likeness of his Son. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/9/18
2018.09.09 23:33:37

PROPER 18/B (2018): Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-10, 14-18; Mark 7:24-37.

 

Desert,         “Behold, your God…  He will come to save you.”  Then… the ears of the deaf [shall be] unstopped… and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.  For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert… (vv. 4b,c, 5, 6).  

 

For the last seven Sundays the church in her Gospel Readings from saints Mark and John has done a deep-dive into the meaning of church’s Eucharistic meal in the time of our Lord’s resurrection, that we with hearing ears, “understand about the loaves” (Mk. 6:52) of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  Understanding the loaves is fundamental to our Christian walk. 

 

For our grasp of the “loaves” the HS by Mark employs a literary device, inclusio, a scriptural envelope of a beginning and an ending that sandwiches the enveloped meat and meaning. 

 

Beginning with the 5,000 in Jewish territory the inclusio is completed by Jesus’ feeding 4,000 in Gentile Decapolis introduced by today’s Gospel miracles; the Syrophoenician woman seeking crumbs from the loaves reserved for Jews, and Jesus restoring a Gentile deaf-mute to hearing God’s word and clear speech to proclaim it. 

 

Within this all-important inclusio the church comprehends the Lord’s Supper in the context of Jesus’ Passion.  Does this make sense?  I hope so; like the deaf-mute with new ears, it must be heard by a converted heart that sings for joy with an unbridled tongue, “amen, amen”.  

 

In feeding the 5,000 Jesus inquired of his Apostles only about the number of available loaves (v. 38), emblematic food for the Jewish priesthood (1 Sam. 21:1-6). As it turned out, in addition to five loaves there were, unexpectedly two fish, suggesting food for other than the Jews.  Some Gentiles were also present in this desert gathering, no doubt a distress for the Apostles, as Jews would never; ever break bread with Gentile “dogs”. 

 

Jesus feeding such a multitude of persons was an action that taught a new exodus.  The Passover out of Egypt was an all-Hebrew event with a handful of tag-along Egyptians.  In crossing through the Red Sea Israel was baptized a holy nation and kingdom of priests in the way of the Lord (Ex. 19:6) that at the sight of God’s mighty work, the nations, the Gentiles might also be drawn to their true and saving God (Deut. 4:6-8). 

 

Jesus feeding the 5,000 would fulfill his mission, “first to the Jew” (Mt. 10:5, 6; 15:24; Jn. 4:22), the economy of God’s salvation.  Yet Jesus would become frustrated at the Jewish mission: by the crowd thinking only of food for stomachs; by Apostles’ reticent to share bread with the Gentiles and wanting to “send them away” (Mk. 6:36a); by Pharisaic elders contradicting the patent revelation of a new exodus in his miraculous feeding; and by the loss of Jewish disciples unable to accept the scandalous imperative of eating of his flesh and drinking his blood (Jn. 6:53, 60, 66) as God’s end times food in the new Way of Holiness (Isa. 35:8).  

 

Jesus departed from the Jewish regions of Gennesaret and Capernaum; heading north into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. There he entered a non-descript house and would have preferred to remained anonymous (Mk. 7:24b), perhaps to lick his wounds at the hands of Jewish grumblers and abandonment by his Jewish disciples returning to the synagogue’s of Moses.

 

In the Gentile territory Jesus experienced an entirely different reception for there was no way to escape the Gentile populace (v. 24c) generally known as “the Decapolis”.

 

On a previous occasion Jesus had been to the Gerasenes in the Decapolis; there he dispatched into a herd of pigs, a thousand demons, collectively known as “Legion” from a man living among the tombs. The demons possessing the pigs returned to their chaotic primordial home, the sea.  As a result of economic loss, the Gerasenes Jesus asked to leave.  Jesus was having a hard time catching a break from Gentile and Jew.  

 

The formerly possessed man, known as “Legion” wanted to follow Jesus, but was directed to return home. He preached the good news of his release and restoration in the Decapolis.  The result was that in today’s Readings Jesus is enthusiastically welcomed in Gentile Decapolis; first by the Syrophoenician woman seeking an exorcism for her daughter.  The girl’s release from satanic bondage is not, in the first instance, about an exorcism; rather the mother’s principle thrust sought acceptance into Jesus’ new exodus out of Satan’s bondage and receive his food on the Way of his destination.  Jesus, of course, is on the Way to die on the cross, God’s sacrificial Lamb and so source for the Life of his church.

 

Jesus challenges the woman’s request for food from his table, “…it is not right to take the [Jewish] children’s bread and throw [their Bread from heaven] to the dogs” (Mk. 7:27); still the woman lays hold of Jesus’ negative word, turning it to her advantage, such is the essence of saving faith. 

 

The woman accepts that she and her daughter are unworthy street-dogs, but even in Jesus’, “no”, by faith that trusts God’s mercy, she makes an audacious claim for a place in his house. By faith, the Gentile woman and her daughter are elevated to full family membership, possessing an absolute claim to participate in God’s one loaf at, not under, Jesus’ table.  

 

By the unexpected addition of fish with the loaves of the 5,000; by the woman’s welcoming faith desiring heaven’s bread, Jesus takes his Apostles with their twelve Jewish baskets with fragments of bread and fish deep into Gentile territory.

 

The Decapolis was truly a spiritual desert. Unlike Israel, God’s people by grace, Gentiles had no claim on the things of God; still at the word of a former demoniac named “Legion”, a Syrophoenician woman, and a recreated Gentile deaf-mute speak that Jesus is true Bread out of heaven for spiritual wholeness the gospel was proclaimed in the Decapolis. 

 

At the recreation of the deaf-mute to new humanity, the Decapolis crowds were “astonished beyond all measure, they said, ‘He has done all things well; he has made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak’” (Mk. 7:37).  By their testimony these Gentiles echoed God’s own word on the sixth day of the first creation, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). 

 

4,000 Gentile men and women would now be drawn into a desert place with Jesus to join with Jews in a new exodus and feeding on the way Isaiah describes, “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way…” (35:8). 

 

The Way of Holiness in which there is no uncleanness is the substance of Jesus’ crucified flesh and blood, the meat sandwiched in heaven’s Loaves. The dénouement of Jesus’ teaching and our understanding of the loaves is simplicity, “he took the bread, and after blessing it (cf. Mk. 6:41) broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks (cf. 8:6) he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many” (14:22-24). 

 

Jesus is our feeding; he is our singular Loaf into which, by Baptism, we by faith are gathered and baked with him in Holy Fire on the cross. We live in a world where man eats his bread by the sweat of his face (Gen. 3:19a). 

 

But Jesus has come into our desert as Food from heaven for Holiness. In this Way we eat his Bread bloodied by the sweat of his brow (Lk. 22:44) for our sin.  In Christ’s feeding we are being recreated to true humanity.  Amen.   

 

pem.  

 



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Sermon - 9/2/18
2018.09.04 22:01:13

PROPER 17/B (2018): Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Eph. 6:10-20; Mk. 7:14-23.

 

Stand,           Finally, be strengthened in the Lord, that is, in his mighty strength.  Let yourselves be clothed with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (vv. 10-12).

 

We continue to advance our “understand[ing] about the loaves” to the 5,000 men (Mk. 6:52).  All four evangelists record the miraculous feeding and so emphasize its gospel import. 

 

Some wonder that women and children are absent from the feeding count; after all, wouldn’t their inclusion magnify both the miracle and Jesus? Perhaps, but unlike modern day nation of Israel that drafts women into its military; ancient Israel exempted women (and of course children) from combat. 

 

By numbering only men arranged in ranks of hundreds and fifties (Mk. 6:40) our attention is called to Israel’s martial array departing Egypt in the Lord; as Napoleon observed, “An army marches on it stomach” to be effective, it must receive nourishing rations.  

 

We have come out of our baptismal water for anointing by the HS with gifts in forgiveness of our sins by God’s word. Like ancient Israel crossing the sea we have been snatched from death leaving Satan’s army to a watery grave.  

 

On the other side of the water, by Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, the NT church receives in Eucharist thanksgiving her sacrificial feeding out of heaven (Jn. 6:51).

 

Baptism imprints the heart and mind with the sign of the cross signifying our release from satanic captivity to our enrollment in the army of God. St. Paul describes the enemy from whom we are rescued: 

 

Perverse, untruthful, foolish, and fleshly men tempt and harass us; still they are not our real enemies, but tools, even victims. It is the devil and his spiritual cohort, rulers, authorities, powers of this darkness, and evil forces in heavenly places who conspire against God and attack his army on earth. 

 

Our struggle then is not so much against “blood and flesh”, as against a spiritual horde.  And it is on this plain that the Baptized stand in God’s grace by faith alone in the gear designed for invisible warfare.  

 

We know demonic forces inspire attacks on the saints; yet they are a dispirited and irregular band already defeated at the cross by Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father unto death for the life of men. Thus we are, “the church militant”. 

 

Today Paul’s epistle, takes up the church’s battle preparedness from the HS; and Mark’s Gospel once again directs us to our field rations and softened hearts to “understand about the loaves” that Jesus’ ministers dispense (Mk. 6:43).  

 

St. Paul urges us to put-on the whole armor of God provided at Baptism. You know the allegorical gear: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, sandals for march to the cross, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and a defensive short sword that is God’s word. 

 

Thus equipped, what are you to do, go forth into battle? Not really, at least in the sense of attack; you don’t have the spiritual sight to discern your true foes; and if you think you do, then recognize that they are liars who masquerade as angels of light.  Your battle gear is not meant for attack but defense. 

 

Your protective battle dress is emblazoned with the insignia of your Commander connoting his extant victory on the cross. By this insignia, you are identified to spiritual foes; the cross is the reality in which you receive your battle directives:

 

“Stand” in the strength of the Lord against all spiritual terror; “stand” in his truth; “stand” in his righteousness; “stand” for your foot washing in God’s presence; “stand” by faith alone; and “stand” according to the knowledge of salvation declared by the sword of his word, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). 

 

According to your orders all that remains, is for you to persevere, trust in the Lord and his gifts in which you were outfitted from infancy; and pray always for the strengthening of your faith and your brothers and sisters; and that your pastor boldly proclaim God’s law and gospel victory through Christ in your name.  

 

By the way, prayer is not a weapon. We are not “prayer-warriors” forming telephone chains and breakfast cells apart from the congregation’s Altar to urge God to do the right thing according to human lights and desirers. 

 

Still Christian prayer does go hand-in-glove with the only offensive weapon that Jesus employs in solidifying his victory: the long sword of the Spirit conveyed at pastoral ordination to preach the Word in congregation, mission, and seminary teaching. 

 

Jesus observed the power of his preached Word in sending his disciples on mission in his name, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18).  We are an army and when attacked our orders are to hold the line, stand-fast, and trust only in the Lord’s strength to dispatch our foes, the devil and our sin nature. 

 

Day-by-day Jesus rescues us from multiple assaults; and when the onslaughts rest, we attend to our armor, to our wounded brothers and sisters, and then to sleep with the prayer on our lips of the Lord’s protection and for strength in the new day when we again take up the Word and by its sight re-dedicated to our line of march through this world in Christ.

 

Satan’s attacks exhaust us, and since an army marches on it stomach, Jesus increasingly would be joined to us in his saving Flesh; eating heaven’s new Food for discerning the nature of our salvation and eternal life.

 

The scribes in today’s Gospel had accused Jesus of permitting his disciples to disrespect Pharisaical dietary traditions for purity. But by now it was patent Jesus was calling into existence a new Israel to a new Passover exodus out of this dark world occupied by outlaw devils and powers through (to use 20th century Cold War terminology) “useful idiots”. 

 

Partaking of Jesus’ new exodus food (without the grumble of allegorizing deniers) is integral of our call to follow to the “Beginning” place (Jn. 1:1) of our salvation to await the revelation of the new creation coming into being. It is by the cross and Resurrection that our new Food assures us of the promised marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) to consummation in “one flesh” (Eph. 5:31) in the Father’s kingdom. 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus makes clear he will not feed ordinary food to his followers in his Resurrection; to be digested and eliminated from ours of the body of Christ. He will instead give them his new Food suitable for participation with the cross’ glory.  Such Food deprecates the Jewish dietary traditions as meaningless.  Jesus now announces a new tradition concerning “the loaves”: 

 

“Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mk. 7:14, 15).

 

Jesus speaks of the human heart whose every inclination is evil and opposed to the will of God (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 51:5; Mk. 7:21). It is not ordinary, “clean” or “unclean”, foods that defile the heart.  All ordinary food bypasses the heart and goes directly to the digestive organs and out. 

 

Earlier Jesus declared that there is one Food, the Food of his crucified flesh and blood that engages the heart (Jn. 6:53-58); binding to it, shaping, and re-making it by his power to transform, create, and make whole all who, in faith, seek and connect with his sacrificial flesh (Mk. 5:28; 6:56).

 

The church’s Eucharist is restoring us to incorruption and likeness unto him to be manifested on the last day. Jesus is God’s true Son in that his will is one with that of the Father (Jn. 4:34); so also by our subordination to Jesus’ will, our Head, we have restoration to true humanity from our Begetting-Father (Jn. 3:7). 

 

Thus Jesus declares his crucified flesh and blood in his Resurrection to be the church’s real, substantial, life-giving food, sacrificed in total obedience to the Father. We receive this Food in faith and so participate in his obedience to the Father’s will as true sons and daughters in Christ.

 

By attending to our armor and eating heaven’s rations we are a “warrior-priesthood” participating in Christ’s sacrifice and so his victory. As “warrior-priests” we have access to God at all times and pray for that which pleases our Father.

 

The church’s celebration, like Abraham after victory over the despot Chedorlaomer, received from Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Gen. 14:18) a different bread and wine in blessing; so we from Christ receive from our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, heaven’s NT Bread and Wine.

 

King David fed his soldiers with five loaves, to sustain in defense against pursuing Saul. The bread of Presence (showbread) was reserved for the tabernacle priesthood (1 Sam. 21); in Christ the “church militant” are warrior-priests worthy of priestly Bread from the hand of our Lord.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 8/26/18
2018.08.26 23:43:25

PROPER 16/B (2018): Isa. 29:11-19; Eph. 5:22-33; Mk. 7:1-13.

 

Tradition,              [T]he Pharisees and the scribes asked [Jesus], “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but with defiled hands?” (v. 5) 

 

There are three great traditions of the Christian church, “The Liturgy” of Eastern Orthodoxy; in the West the “Mass of the Roman Rite”, and the “Lutheran Common Service”.  Among each tradition, there are variations, conflations, crossovers, and in some cases abuse where liturgical order is at odds with the pure gospel. 

 

Here Calvinistic Anglicanism and a doctrinally amorphous ELCA (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) spring to mind as prime offenders.  Parenthetically, the variegated permutations of American Protestantism are not included within the Christian traditions being of a different spirit (2 Cor. 11:4).    

 

The different “traditions” of the church celebrate Christ, her Head, in freedom consistent with her apostolic faith.  The Christian liturgy is the expressed order by which Christ and the Church catholic consists in unity and holiness.  Thus St. Paul, last Sunday, without commanding any particular form, described the substance of the congregation’s worship in the Ephesian liturgy:

 

“[S]peaking to one another in psalms and hymns and songs of the Spirit, singing and psalming with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks (i.e., “Eucharist”) always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father, being subordinate to one another in the fear of Christ:” (Eph. 5:19, 20).  Beyond this product of word and sacrament we possess “tradition of the elders” in service of Christ, the gospel, and the Church. 

 

The fountainhead of today’s Gospel continues from St. Mark’s commentary: the Apostles “from hardened hearts did not understand about the loaves [for the 5,000]” (Mk. 6:52).  From this assessment we broke-off to hear Jesus teach: he is heaven’s Bread of Life for the new creation (Jn. 6:22-35); we will eat and drink his separated and resurrected flesh and blood for Life (vv. 35-51); and by such eating in faith we are being made new by the HS in God’s image and Christ’s likeness (vv. 51-69). 

 

Jesus’ instruction in the synagogue of Capernaum caused many of his disciples to abandon him, returning to the traditions of the Pharisees.  However, as for the Apostles, it appears that their hearts changed; they began to comprehend the miraculous sign of “the loaves”.  Peter confessed of Jesus, on behalf of the apostolic body, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68, 69).   

 

Today we return to Mark’s Gospel.  The Pharisees of Capernaum seem to have gained the upper hand against Jesus’ new Torah teaching and program.  Unlike the Apostles, they remained “hard hearted” in their unbelief concerning “the loaves”.  Once again (Mk. 3:22; 7:1) the scribes, Jerusalem’s legal experts, were summoned to cement the Pharisaic objection to Jesus’ new food and fellowship. 

 

Jesus shared his table with Jew and Gentile who listened to his word, but rejected those without ears to hear (Jn. 6:26).  The Pharisees on the other hand taught that the Jews should model their behavior on the Levitical priesthood required temple ablutions; thus meal washing suggested the Pharisees thought themselves to be a sort of de facto “priesthood” worthy of emulation by the Jewish laity. 

 

For those outside the Aaronic priesthood such washing before eating or on returning from the marketplace was a matter of personal piety, neither commanded nor forbidden; what is called “adiaphora” (Formula of Concord, Ep. X; FC. SD. X) much as a Christian might cross themselves to remind of Baptism, or in the manner of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hands, each a slightly distinct piety. 

 

The accusation of the scribes against Jesus’ Jewish disciples not following Pharisaic traditions, was a blatant attempt to further drive the existing wedge between Jesus and his disciples by his “hard saying” (Jn. 6:60), “Amen, amen, 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). 

 

Jesus claimed to come out of heaven with revelation of Torah’s true meaning, utterly incomparable and at odds with the traditions of the Pharisees.  New traditions in accord with the gospel grounded in his death and resurrection would come about by the Apostles’ teaching and from new elders called into Christ’s on-going office.

 

Jesus came for giving a New Covenant, in which OT pieties paled as irrelevant.  Jesus’ New Covenant in his sacrificially crucified and risen flesh for the sin of the world admits nothing about the Old Covenant other than its fulfillment and termination.  On the cross Jesus declared, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).  Further God’s NT in Christ is not only for Jews but all men standing before God either, alone for judgment; or in Baptism, Fed, and saved new Israel. 

 

The NT is picture and promise of that intended “in Beginning” (Jn. 1:1), “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7, 9) with his betrothed, the Church in the new creation.  Thus St. Paul instantiates the gospel from Genesis by the imagery of marriage:

 

“[B]ecause we are members of his body [which Christ nourishes and cherishes], ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ (Eph. 5:29-31). 

 

The marriage God ordained “in Beginning” betwixt Son of God and the Church establishes the true gospel order of worship.  All “tradition of the elders” in the NT conforms to and supports the church’s worship as, “mutual subordination of husband and wife in the fear of Christ” (v. 21). 

 

“Mutual subordination” within marriage is of course asymmetrical, the wife’s submission is to the Husband’s headship; and in his Service to her, he instructs and gives his life for his bride; in this way both are voluntarily subordinated to the Father’s will for the love of each other in their respective spheres and offices. 

 

New traditions have come into being supporting heaven’s NT marriage Covenant.  In our relation to God in Christ, the church is subordinate helpmate, enthusiastically advancing her Spouse’s family program, ordered by marriage’s love in forgiveness. 

 

NT traditions support and advance love’s relation of Christ as head of his body; neither Head nor body is more important or valuable; each magnifies the other to be essential to unity and holiness according to the will of God from Beginning.  

 

In the Resurrection the apostolic elders fully comprehended “the loaves” to be their Service on behalf of Christ to his bride in order that “the two shall become one flesh” in forgiveness for the sake of pulverized hearts. 

 

In this, the tradition of the NT elders support our Christian worship; and if one wishes to characterize marriage, a sacrament, essentially oriented as means in which there is forgiveness of sin between husband and wife resulting in procreation, then there should be little objection.  Amen. 

 

pem.



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Sermon - 8/19/18
2018.08.19 23:37:28

PROPER 15/B (2018): Prov. 9:1-10; Eph. 5:6-21; Jn. 6:51-69. 

 

Offensive,               [T]he Jews began… saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you… [M]y flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink… This is the bread which came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died.  He who eats this bread shall live forever.”… When many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is offensive.  Who can hear to listen to him?...  From this time on [they] went back to their previous commitments, and they were no longer walking about with him (vv. 52, 53a, 55, 58, 60, 66). 

 

You recall how we arrived at our excursion into Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse; the Apostles, resistant of heart, failed to understand Jesus’ walk over the sea and his feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. 

 

The craft, in which the Apostles were sent ahead of Jesus, was cloaked in night’s darkness, opposed by a contrary sea.  In their perception of isolation, the Apostles aptly described, “a ship of fools” (Plato’s Republic, Bk. VI). 

 

All of our Readings this morning direct us to “the fear of the Lord”; putting aside human foolishness and instead receive God’s wisdom.  God’s word calls us to wisdom that disembarks passage in the world for that of the ark of God’s salvation in Christ.  Transfer is revelatory by God’s gift of faith grasping the promise of Christ.  In his word we step out of the world’s mentality, and journey with Jesus in the direction of the cross. 

 

On their sea voyage the Apostles saw Jesus as a “ghost”, not a man, walking over the water; for unbelief, they were incompetent to minister to Gentile populations, betokened by the 12 remaining baskets of bread and fish, (Mk 6:45, 53).  Further apostolic instruction by miraculous signs (vv. 55, 56) and teaching the true meaning of Torah was needed. 

 

In Capernaum the synagogue Jews taught the “letter” of Moses; of which St. Paul advises, “the letter kills, but the Spirit [which comes by Christ] gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6b).   When Jesus taught, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail” (Jn. 6:63), he necessarily equated “the letter” of Moses that does not avail or profit to be in apposition to Jesus’ en-fleshment as Word by the HS for the profit of life. 

 

In this distinction between old and new is Wisdom’s crucible in comprehending the NT church’s Holy Supper.  One must first discern Jesus’ own meat and drink, “do[ing] the will of [the Father]” (Jn. 4:32, 34).  God desired of Jesus his once for all sacrificial death for the life of many.  Jesus’ food is as well the Baptizeds’ food; our participating in Jesus’ death by eating at Wisdom’s banquet provided by the church’s Eucharistic foretaste. 

 

For the sake of his Son’s sacrifice, God abandoned the killing letter of Moses and en-stoned temple strictures, for the grace and truth of our new life in the flesh of his NT Temple, the body of Christ, the crucified and resurrected man Jesus.   

 

Here then is the divide, sinful man’s gravitation to unbelief of God’s word in favor of our own lexical definitions and associations.  We insist these are “wisdom”; but God calls them, “foolish”. 

 

When the crowd, miraculously fed, chased Jesus to Capernaum he rejected their blandishments, recognizing they desired mere physical feeding (Jn. 6:26) apart from the “living bread” portended by the miracle.  

 

Jesus entered the synagogue (v. 59) teaching true Torah as being about himself.  At first, it was the religious Jews, like OT Israel, who grumbled about Jesus’ new teaching and feeding as Bread of Life; Jesus, they discerned, rightly, was claiming equality with YHWH. 

 

It soon became clear that the food about which Jesus taught was his flesh that would soon be sacrificial.  At this, his disciples became offended returning to their former allegiance to the Torah of Moses in the synagogue of the Jews; a return to “the letter that kills” over God’s proffered Wisdom and Life in the flesh and blood of his Lamb destined to be the One Killed in their stead. 

 

The offense of Jesus’ teaching in Capernaum resulted in a momentous shakeout of his ministry.  He was abandoned by the crowds; the religious teachers; many, if not most of his disciples; and Judas Iscariot, secretly continuing with the apostolic college.  For this reason NT mention of Judas, the apostate apostle is a scriptural marker of the visible church’s rejection of the invisible church’s Eucharistic character.

 

Against all worldly offense at Jesus, Peter on behalf of the apostles, demonstrated the truth of Jesus’ word, that no one comes to him but that the Father calls him (v. 45) by Wisdom’s revelation (Mt. 16:17).  Peter stood against a foolish world and its “offense” confessing, “Lord… You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68, 69). 

 

Enlightened by the Father, Peter and the apostles instantly experienced a sea change in their relation toward Jesus.  By confession they forever departed the synagogue of the Jews.  The apostolic band was no longer “ship of fools”; now they embarked, in fear of the Lord, on a new journey of true discipleship as Synagogue of Jesus.

 

The offense of those who abandoned Jesus for human “wisdom” is variegated; but broadly speaking, all are overarched under “Scandal of The Cross”. 

 

This then is the catholic faith, “that believed [and practiced] everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins).  With the exception of some early heretical groups, the church’s belief in the real, sacramental flesh and blood Eucharistic presence of Christ was and remains the hallmark of the church’s catholic character, both East and West. 

 

Martin Luther offers this historic assessment of the Sacrament of the Altar in typical hyperbole saying, that he would rather drink blood with Pope than wine with the Reformed (Jean Calvin).    

 

Jesus claimed that his flesh given into death for the sin and the life of the world, unlike OT manna, is Spiritual in that it is imperishable, incorruptible, and life giving flesh.  His crucified flesh and blood in the Resurrection is the church’s new food; it does not degrade, but transforms those receiving in faith into his image and likeness.  

 

Finally, we observe the synagogue “grumble” that rejected Jesus as “bread out of heaven”; eventually, these grumblers would crucify Jesus to prove his Flesh other than the source of eternal Life.  The “grumblers” would prove by Jesus’ crucifixion that rather his flesh is mere perishable flesh, subject to rot, and only worthy to be extruded from the body of Israel. 

 

Such a grotesque rant against God (Ps. 14:1) and his Christ (Ps. 2:2) continues, perhaps it is prevalent, in and out of the visible church.  For this reason the church takes occasion in three successive Sunday’s every three years to ponder the man Jesus, who is Bread of Life.

 

Against those who deny the church’s life through eating of Jesus’ sacrificial, sacramental flesh and blood, we attend, St. Paul’s warning to those tempted to return to human foolishness, “Let no one deceive you with empty words… walk as children of light… testing [by Scripture] what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:6a, 8b, 10).  Amen. 

 

pem.   



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Sermon - 8/12/18
2018.08.14 22:14:40

PROPER 14/B (2018): 1 Kg. 19:1-8; Eph. 4:17—5:2; Jn. 6:35-51.

 

Taught,        So the Jews grumbled about [Jesus], because he said, “I AM the bread that came down from heaven”… Jesus answered them… “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”“It is written in the prophets, ‘[T]hey will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—“[W]hoever believes has eternal life I Am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (vv. 41, 43, 44a, 45, 47b, 51).

 

How do we now come to Jesus’ teaching from the Gospel of St. John? Ordinarily Gospel Readings in Cycle B focus on St. Mark.  But something extraordinary occurred in Mark’s last account; a problem of magnitude among the Apostles; and until resolved, it is the church’s problem as well, so we pause for further instruction from Jesus in John. 

 

Jesus and the Twelve retreated to a desert place; yet a crowd followed. Jesus, the Shepherd of Israel (Ps. 23), having compassion on the throng taught them, fed them if you will, true Torah word. 

 

The day became late; Jesus arranged for the people to sit in formations on the green grass, reminiscent of ancient Israel’s march out of Egypt; he commanded his Apostles feed the outsized crowd. Jesus gave thanks over the bread providing miraculous multiplication of the available 5 loaves and 2 fish to everyone’s fill.  

 

The Apostles gathered the excess bread and meat into twelve baskets, betokening a new ministry of feeding with new food, in contrast to the perishable manna of OT bread.  Jesus sent the Twelve on a night sea journey; he remained behind.  The boat encountered contrary winds, stuck in the middle of a tumultuous sea late in night. 

 

Able to observe their distress, Jesus came to them, easily walking over the chaotic deep. Originally he intended to “passed-by” his disciples, much as YHWH passed-by Moses to glimpse his glory from the cleft of a rock.  But this sight so unnerved the Apostles; they fell into terrorized error about their Lord; concluding him, not a man but a ghost.

 

To reassure his nascent church, Jesus halted his march; arose and entered their boat. And here is where St. Mark reports the problem, “[The Twelve] were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:51, 52).  Consider the tragedy of this biblical assessment! 

 

Their earlier feeding, consisting of a Jew/Gentile crowd caused the Apostles to grumble about a mixed feeding (6:36), signaled a new feeding for a new Israel, Torah bread in the person of Jesus, enfleshed word of God.

 

From the world’s creation, the watery deep has represented pandemonium’s chaotic opposition to God, a dark lurking place of danger and death. The sight of Jesus, revealing himself to the Apostles, the divine Wave-Walker directly pointed to his water Baptism in the Jordan.  By now his Apostles were expected to such discernment; and so today so are you.

 

In the Jordan Jesus was plunged into sin-laden water for hallowing of all water. Rising from the watery place of death, he received the descending HS to anoint him as God’s Paschal Lamb for the sin of the world. 

 

Thus, by tandem miracles his Apostles were at a crux point in the glimpse of God’s glory, rivaled only by the Transfiguration and the Passion culminating in lifting Jesus on the cross for the sin of the world; yet the response of the Apostles, amazingly, was unbelief. For them, Jesus’ feeding in the desert and walking on the water made his not a flesh and blood man; he was, and is the tragedy of hardened-hearts toward the teaching of the Father, but a spirit, albeit from God.  How sad!  

 

IN The boat Jesus stood with unbelieving disciples, compared by Mark with recalcitrant to Pharaoh, flailing against the mighty works of God in his presence. Now Jesus’ elected Apostles refused to be “drawn” by the Father, to “hear” and “learn” through Jesus in their midst.  For the moment, they remained mired in that which Jesus came to abolish, the sin of the world, unbelief; and so remained untaught “learners”.

 

“[U]nderstand[ing]… the loaves” is essential to the gospel salvation of grace; so the church today interrupts her Marcan Gospel journey in her lection through Cycle B, to hear Jesus’ clear words in the synagogue of Capernaum through St. John’s Gospel, the significance of the “misunderstood loaves”.

 

If we will not “listen” and “hear” Jesus through his gift to the church of catholic pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:7, 11, 12) we have little hope of understanding the plain meaning of Jesus’ words; in today’s case, the bread Jesus gives for the life of the world is his flesh, first on the cross and sacramentally in the resurrection.  This is the Father’s communication; failure to receive it in these end times results in “grumbling” against Jesus, the Speech and Teacher of true Torah. 

 

We turn now to our Epistle from St. Paul; he instructs the Ephesian congregation about Holy Baptism in much the same way as Jesus did about his coming death and the church’s Holy Supper. Using the language of discipleship, Paul especially addressed Gentile converts:

 

“But that is not the way you learned Christ— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former [corrupt] manner of life… and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:20, 21, 22, 24).

 

In what does “putting off” the old man and “putting on” the new consist, but that it is the work of the HS in whom you were baptized and sealed for redemption (v. 30)? 

 

You, the Baptized, have heard the voice of the Father by the word of Christ, and are taught from the voice of Christ by the gift of the HS.  For your sins Jesus was stripped naked on the cross to bear your every sin and shame into Adam’s deserved death. 

 

Jesus’ death on the cross, completed (“It is finished”, [Jn. 19:30]) his baptism begun in the Jordan.  At the cross Jesus handed over the HS to the Father; and in the Resurrection the Spirit processed from Father and Son to the church for Jesus’ continued work for the life of the world. 

 

We are baptized with the HS into Jesus’ death in which God strips off our old man, incapable of being reformed. Our Baptism is a death into Christ’s death and a putting on of Christ, the new man; it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20).

 

By our baptismal stripping of the old man, God kills us all the daylong (1 Sam. 2:6; cf. 2 Cor. 3:6; Rom. 8:36). He discards our adhering profligate and foul manner of life.  Ultimately our death is not God’s condemnation of us in Christ; rather it is his radical solution to our sin.  Of ourselves we are utterly corrupt; so to merely remove this vice or that accomplishes nothing.  We must, with Christ, be crucified in Baptism; and in that death grasp hold the promise of resurrection in him. 

 

Again by God’s word, he kills makes alive. God’s baptismal killing of our old man is pure grace, solely the work of God in Christ.  Either we are drawn to the Father by the all-sufficient work of the crucified en-fleshed Word or we “grumble” over the manner of his salvation, rejecting him in word and sacrament.  This was the tragic out-come of OT Israelites refusing to lift their eyes in faith on the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:9).

 

Apart from God’s grace we, in every instance, would reject our deserved death; still God’s word draws us into his death. By Baptism into Jesus’ death we are not remodeled; rather we are transformed by the power of hallowed water made one with the church’s Wave Walking incarnate Word, Jesus.  From a baptismal new begetting we are new creations seeking strength for faith to continue believing in so a great salvation (Heb. 2:3).  For this faith new spiritual food is required to sustain us in the Way to our Father (1 Kings 19:8). 

 

Jesus in his crucified and risen flesh and blood is that new food. He is new Bread, not OT manna from “angels” (Ps. 78:25) that sustained the body for a time.  In Capernaum the synagogue grumbled, rejecting Jesus as “bread out of heaven”.  Eventually the grumblers would crucify Jesus, in a last ditch attempt to prove his Flesh perishable, subject to the world’s rot, something extruded from the body of Israel. 

 

In the NT church’s Holy Supper we eat Jesus’ crucified, resurrected, ascended, living and life giving flesh and blood. This is our new Food for the end times.  

 

Unlike OT manna “bread from angels”, Baptism and Supper transforms body and spirit, into new men and women.  We eat by faith, the gift of the HS, but it is not our faith that makes our eating spiritual; rather it is the character of the substance of our new Food and the HS that makes our eating “spiritual” of imperishable, incorruptible, and eternal Food.  Amen.

 

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Sermon - 8/5/18
2018.08.06 00:19:54

PROPER 13/B (2018): Ex. 16:2-15; Ps. 78:24-26 (BCP); Eph. 4:1-16; John 6:22-35. 

 

Food,            “So he commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven.  He rained down manna also upon [Israel] for to eat, and gave them food from heaven.  So man did eat angels’ food; for he sent them meat enough” (BCP 1928, Myles Coverdale translation). 

 

Our Introit references Israel’s wilderness manna as “angel’s food” to introduce Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in Capernaum, his adopted hometown. 

 

The Jewish Passover, Israel’s exodus celebration out of Egypt, was at hand (Jn. 6:4).  Jesus had just fed 5,000 men with bread and meat; and then walked over the sea betokening his baptismal death and resurrection in JB’s water and heaven’s anointing in the HS.  And yet as St. Mark observed last Sunday (Mk. 6:51, 52) his disciples, on account of hardness of heart, failed to understand either sign. 

 

So important are these signs for the church’s understanding of Jesus’ identity that she interrupts St. Mark’s lection, three Sunday’s in a row, to drill down into our Lord’s teaching according to St. John. 

 

The miraculously fed crowd in a deserted place near Tiberias (southwest shore of Sea of Galilee) deduced that Jesus departed to the northwest in Capernaum.

 

When the crowd caught-up to Jesus they were distracted by a curiosity about the impossible manner of Jesus, without an available boat, arriving in advance of them (Jn. 6:25).  Jesus redirected their attention, accusing them of seeking him out merely as resource for their bellies, as Moses provided manna in the desert.  But bread for bellies is not what Jesus brings, nor is it what Jesus gives today. 

 

OT manna (angels’ food) was not of heaven’s substance.  It was perishable and not intended to last other than day to day; nevertheless it was a sign out of heaven of true, substantial Bread to come, the man Jesus Christ sent by the Father to be our true Passover bread and meat to sustain us on journey out of death to Life. 

 

Jesus by now has entered the synagogue of Capernaum identifying himself in teaching the Exodus texts for the day, that he is heaven’s true Bread, which in Jewish theology meant a claim to be true Torah/Word given from the Father for men to eat. 

 

When the church prays, “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them…” she discerns that Jesus, incarnate Word and his Sacraments come to us as two sides of the same gospel coin, preaching and feeding.

 

How does Jesus, the NT church’s true Bread differ from its OT manna type?  If manna sustained Israel into the Promised Land; then Jesus, true Bread of Life carries us into heaven’s true Temple of the Father’s presence dwelling in Jesus’ flesh. 

 

Jesus compares the two breads of Scripture; OT Torah bread, manna given for physical feeding, only delayed Israel’s physical corruption much as one puts off death for a time by eating nutritious meals.  OT manna only sustained the people until they arrived in the Promised Land, itself but a type of terminal restoration to God “which art in heaven”.

 

Today Jesus identifies himself NT Bread promised by the Exodus manna type.  Implicit in this revelation lies the question; what does it mean that God’s Torah is a human person?  The answer is that, Jesus is a different kind of Bread in which the church, new Israel, is to partake in faith. 

 

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Capernaistic eating” and been confused.  The charge derives from today’s Gospel that Jesus teaches, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53).  

 

“Capernaistic eating” equates Jesus’ crucified/risen flesh and blood as ordinary flesh and drink, capable of being consumed and disposed out of our sinful bodies.  Those charging Christians of a Capernaistic sacramental meal implicitly accuse, a cannibalistic worship. 

 

Unlike Exodus manna, Jesus’ flesh crucified for the sin of the world and raised for its Life is incorruptible bread-flesh.  Jesus’ flesh is the flesh of Mary united to the Father by the imparted HS.  In Jesus’ incarnation and Baptism he is fully human, without sin except as he is sacrificial Sin-Bearer for man, in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. 

 

 Jesus is true man who is of the Substance of heaven; one with the Father as author of Life in God’s creation.  As such Jesus’ incarnate flesh, Torah of God, is incorruptible; imperishable!  As true man Jesus died on the cross, which is to say, his blood was parted from his body, poured into the earth for the life of the world. 

 

But it is precisely his interment into the ground where his incorruptible flesh re-unites with his imperishable blood.  This is the significance of Jesus walking over the chaotic sea.  Jesus’ body cannot be contained by the grave to rot as manna or as our sinful flesh.  Jesus’ flesh is different bread incapable of being swallowed up, but instead swallows up our last enemy, death and the grave. 

 

In his flesh, the man Jesus is “the Life” out of heaven, which is to say he is Son of God; and so in his own right, and that of the Father, and the HS, Jesus bodily rises from the grave; and in the Ascension delivers his eternal body for sinful man’s eating and Life; new Israel’s Bread of Life. 

 

Luther disposes the accusation of “Capernaistic eating”; “[Jesus’] flesh is not… fleshly, but spiritual; therefore, it cannot be consumed, digested, and transformed, for it is imperishable as is all that is of the Spirit, and a food of an entirely different kind from perishable food.  Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it; this food, however, transforms the person who eats it into what it is itself, and makes him like itself, spiritual, alive, and eternal.”   

 

Jesus’ flesh is true flesh and so truly human; he is the Eucharistic spiritual food of our incorruptible Resurrection eating.  What makes our eating “spiritual” is not of us, not even our eating in faith; rather it is the fact that Jesus’ flesh (unlike OT manna) is of the Substance of the Father and the HS, one God. 

 

Jesus is true Torah/incarnate Word; he is true Temple in whom the Father dwells; and he is true Bread of heaven in whose flesh Life consists; he is fruit of the cross, sent and extended to us by our creator God. 

 

In order that you may receive the spoils of God’s victory over sin, Satan, and the grave, by feeding on word and Sacrament, we in Christ are being remade in his image and likeness.  

 

In today’s epistle St. Paul speaks of “the gift of [the ascended] Christ” (Eph. 4:7), his Office of the Holy Ministry through men.  Through your pastor’s exercise of word and sacrament you receive, not only repentant hearts and gospel forgiveness; but peace as well of the church’s baptismal unity in the common catholic confession of the one, true faith. 

 

By preaching and teaching that faith we are regularly nourished for growth from faith to faith in the knowledge and understanding of our true Loaf’s feeding, to the end that we confess with St. Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Amen. 

 

pem. 



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