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Sermon - 12/1/19
2019.12.02 23:20:05

ADVENT 1/A (2019), Isa. 2:1-5; Rom. 13:11-14; Mt. 21:1-11

 

Shaken,                   [W]hen [Jesus] entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”  And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (vv. 10, 11). 

 

Well, that’s not right, is it? The crowds heard and acclaimed Jesus in the royal, messianic categories of Scripture, calling him, “Son of David”; but when pressed they would only confess him to be a prophet from a marginal and theologically corrupt province (Jn. 1:46). 

 

Being part of the crowd is dangerous. When conditions or information changes, often suddenly, crowds are invariably the last to move out of harm’s way. 

 

We observed this two Sunday’s ago, when in 70 AD. devastation from the Roman eagle would imminently descend on Jerusalem. The Christian church (Lk. 21:20, 21) aware of the sign fled to safety, while the synagogue remained to suffer Divine wrath. 

 

Today we ponder Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, that moment in salvation history when all God’s salvific purposes would be manifest. The answer to the “Holy City’s” question, “Who is this?” was, as today, pivotal to security and well-being.

 

Shakespeare (The Tempest) observed of a murder plot that, “past is prologue”; the observation is more true this First Sunday in Advent.  Jesus’ triumphal entry caused Jerusalem’s populace to be “shaken”. 

 

The City’s turmoil was a redux of 33 years earlier, when magi, following a star, entered Jerusalem to inquire of its infant king. “When Herod the king heard this, he was shaken, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt. 2:3).  Jesus in Bethlehem was delivered upon Jerusalem’s doorstep.  At the news, Herod set out to kill his rival at his weakest; “past is prologue”.  

 

In like humility, today’s Gospel has Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem for his killing. In the tradition of servant kings, Jesus came for investiture among shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

 

What is the problem? In his Nativity Jesus came to his people causing all Jerusalem to “shake”; in today’s Gospel he rides into Jerusalem, anointed Son of David, for an investiture into his reign causing the “Holy City” trouble and distress.  Both appearances, separated by 33 years, portended radical change in Jerusalem’s relation to God.  On both occasions Jerusalem intended to be shed of Jesus. 

 

Of the Nativity Micah prophesied, “And you, O Bethlehem…are by no means least…for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (2:6); of which Zechariah’s prophesy finds fulfillment, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey...” (21:5).

 

How do we receive Jesus’ coming today; with “Hosannas” for a king whose identity is inadequately known?  Perhaps and if so, we share a problem with Jerusalem.  The City’s and our on-going distress is implicit in their question, “Who is this?”  

 

Do we know the king whom we confess? To be sure, the scriptural titles applied to Jesus from the crowds were well employed; and yet their conclusion that Jesus was a Galilean prophet was dissonant and incomplete; on that level, Jesus is problematic among “Christian” crowds today.

 

An example of this dissonance, is suggested from James and John prior to entering Jerusalem as they vied for positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom, secretaries of State and of War (Mt. 20:20, 21). Jesus corrected their misapprehension of the apostolic office and its authority, informing that they would be invested into his Service by a baptism like his, in fire, destruction, and judgment. 

 

Their baptism would be to drink the cup of his suffering that he would soon institute in the Holy Supper (Mt. 20:23; 26:27, 28) and delivered to them in his flesh by the HS (Jn. 20:22). If at the time James and John were ignorant of the Supper, the cross, and the nature of their office among the people, it would all be made clear in the Resurrection. 

 

Contrasted with the venality of James and John, on leaving Jericho for Jerusalem two blind men addressed Jesus, “Son of David” seeking mercy from the king (Mt. 20:30); unlike “sighted” James and John, the blind men understood Jesus as coming into his kingdom not for the exercise of worldly power but for mercy.  

 

Jesus asked these blind men the same question he asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” (20:21; 32).  The two blind men did not seek authority in a kingdom of glory, rather grace in a kingdom of God’s mercy, specifically that Jesus would open their eyes. 

 

At Jesus’ touch physical sight was restored, but more importantly spiritual sightedness was bestowed for them to enter onto the Way of his investiture and reign at the cross. This is the work of the HS.

 

As with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Christians pretty much use all the correct titles for Jesus; but as the church brings forth the fruit of the cross in word and Sacrament, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, we are confronted with questions; what kind of king do we receive; and what kind of king is it that troubles so many “Christians” at his invitation to follow in self-sacrifice?

 

St. Paul admonishes us, “[P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).  This is the kind of king the spiritually sighted are called to follow; who looks only to God for our provision.  Christ’s kingdom is foreign to our flesh, shaking the earth under our feet; and by nature we would be shed of this kind of king.

 

If Bethlehem is prologue of the cross; then the cross informs our celebration of the Nativity. From Jesus’ triumphal reign between thieves, we survey with spiritual sight the Christ Child’s humility come for merciful forgiveness.

 

Into Bethlehem, on Jerusalem’s precipice, Jesus came to his own without place to lay his head other than upon his mother’s breast and sanguine heart; her shared flesh was all God deigned to provide Jesus in this world; even as he shares his own breast and heart with his Son in his kingdom of atoning blood (cf. Lk. 16:22).

 

On arriving in Jerusalem Jesus was fêted by an uncomprehending crowd. In the end they rejected him.  Finally, coming to the place, Golgotha, where all provision for his flesh was stripped away. 

 

On the cross, Jesus was as naked as the day of birth, bereft of dignity and heaped with shame. His disciples scattered; he gave his mother to another, and experienced his Father’s abandon; in this manner Jesus was God’s raised Serpent for sin for love of the world (Jn. 3:16).

 

God made no provision for his Son’s flesh; except in the Resurrection for our feeding this Lord’s Day. This is the Kingdom into which we are baptized; where for love, the greatest is humble and servant of all; and Jesus crucified and risen is the fulness of our inheritance, adopted sons and daughters of the Father.  Amen.

 

pem.

 

 



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Sermon -11/24/19
2019.11.24 23:12:28

Proper 29/C (2019), Malachi 3:13-18; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43.

 

Green,          “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 31).

 

Jesus is being driven to the cross accompanied by the weeping “Daughters of Jerusalem”. Earlier Pilate declared Jesus innocent, but the people demanded, “crucify him” (Lk. 23:21). On the way to the cross the “Daughters”, representing Jerusalem’s populous, experienced buyer's remorse, repentantly weeping at what was being done to this innocent man.

 

After addressing the Daughters, Jesus speaks to his heavenly Father, registering perplexity, For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” To the end of his earthly journey Jesus, Son of Man, continued to grapple with the mystery of sin.

 

In his divinity Jesus is omniscient of all mysteries; and yet in his unsullied humanity he marveled at the senselessness of sin, unworthy of what God created man to be.

 

Jesus’ final journey to the cross is God’s response to his Son’s reflection. At the cross what is irrational; that man would irretrievably give up his essence as image and likeness of God was being resolved to restoration.

 

The “green wood” is God’s Remnant, now with us in this time of the church. When Jesus was lifted-up on the cross he was the final “shoot” of Israel’s green wood possessing God’s life. Jesus, Jesse’s branch, was now abandoned by followers, associates, and God.

 

On account of sin Jesus became the Crucified One, history’s “Abomination of Desolation” of God’s judgment on sin, to be revealed with Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD., both prelude and portent of universal judgement on the Last Day (Mk. 13:14).

 

On the cross Jesus is the last of Israel’s green wood, rejected and about to be cut off from the “land of the living”; but in the Resurrection, God has given Jesus to continue to be the church’s Green Wood and source of Life for growth apart from absolved sin.

 

Before we depart this final day of the Church Year, it is important to join Jesus in pondering the mystery of sin as he and we approach the cross.

 

Adam came under a delusion from Satan, that the creature might become equal with his Creator; this was Satan’s own peculiar rebellion now imported as Adam’s desire, mindless as entirely outside of God’s intended and revealed good order.

 

Adam’s desire for equality with God was the gist of the heresy plaguing the congregation at Colossae; those elevating created beings, “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” or men claiming “gnostic wisdom” and pure spiritual existence. Paul pushed back, “all things were created through [the now fleshly] Jesus and for him” (Col 1:16b, 17).    

 

OT prophet Malachi, records the conclusion of sin’s lunatic thought; an accusation that God is unfair by human lights; that since God allowed evil-doers to prosper and escape consequence, there was little point to following his commandments or repent of their violation. God was now viewed as equal in status with the wisdom of men, undiscernible from the creation.

 

Yet God is different and entirely “other” from his creatures; and there is not only consequence for Satan’s, Adam’s, and Israel’s rebellion, but God provides a solution to men.

 

This Last Sunday of the Church Year we celebrate God’s solution, “an eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6), his Green Wood with us. Jesus suffered all sin to his destruction from violent men intent on stealing it (Mt. 11:12).

 

That God is different and “other” than his creation is manifest precisely in committing his Green Branch to destruction, his true Israel reduced into his one true man. Jesus, lifted up on the cross, spliced to the dead wood of the world for death, spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).

 

Until that historical moment, the legal maxim in heaven and on earth held, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” But Jesus pleads for the world and his persecutors, taking into himself, not only all our sin, but our sin of ignorance of God’s love, that we might be united in his flesh.

 

Still the destruction of God’s green wood on the cross continued unabated. There were witnesses to the destruction; mocking religious rulers and soldier executioners, weeping and appalled “Daughters of Jerusalem”, Pilate’s judgment over the body, “This One is the King of the Jews”, and two law-breakers on either side, one of whom joined the violence, mocking God’s solution for sin and reconciliation.

 

But with the criminal on Jesus’ right there was an acute observer of the surrounding circumstances, what lawyers call the res gestae: Jesus’ prayer for absolution of all; Pilate’s declaration of Jesus’ innocence and kingly status; mockery from evil and violent men; all had an effect on the criminal who was about to add his own witness.

 

This criminal had nothing to offer God against his own destruction, not even his naked body, only a new found friendship with the King of the Jews come into his reign. With his petition to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42) the criminal discerned the radical difference of sinful man from his Creator like him in every way but sin.

 

Jesus responded, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43) affirming the man’s association and identification with his Creator-King. In this union is the Green Wood’s life-giving reconciliation of men to God.   

 

Unlike Adam, Christ, the visible form of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, rather he made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant not only in divinity but true humanity (Phil. 2:6, 7).

 

The criminal on the right grasped what Jesus extends to all in his bloody baptism; our absolution for new likeness in Christ that bridges the gulf between man and God for restoration in the new creation.

 

What Adam coveted, equality with God, we by Baptism into Jesus’ death are given through Torah wisdom into our Creator’s nature, who for love of men became Servant of all.

 

Still we do not covet. Jesus is pre-eminent Lord in everything, and head of the church, he is “the beginning, and the firstborn from the dead…” (Col. 1:18) who with the Father and the Spirit is alone worthy of worship. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 11/17/19
2019.11.18 01:05:17

Proper 28/C (2019), Malachi 4:1-6; 2 Thess. 3:1-13; Luke 21:5-36

 

Tradition,              [W]e command you… keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not according to the tradition that you received from us (v. 6).

 

The tradition to which St. Paul refers is the church’s apostolic teaching, most probably our employ of the law’s 3rd use as guide in our new creation. But in a broader sense Paul urges diligence in word and sacrament focused on the centrality of Christ in whom we have Eucharistic “remembrance” of his word.

 

Today’s Gospel recalls Jesus’ word about two related, but distinct events; Rome’s destruction of the OT temple and its ravage of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Both explicate Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and coming again.

 

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian congregation (ca. 52 AD.), Jerusalem and its temple were vibrant centers of an aggressive Judaism, flush at having rid itself of a meddlesome Messiah.

 

In the 40-year period between Jesus’ crucifixion and Jerusalem’s destruction we discern deep tension between synagogue and NT house church; the crux being, denial or belief in Jesus’ once for all atonement and resurrection.  

 

The Greek church would have been aware of the disciples’ observation from today’s Gospel, about the temple’s noble stones and votive offerings (Lk. 21:5; cf. Mk. 13:1; Mt. 24:1) (Gospels are early post-resurrection Scripture, John A.T. Robinson). Herod’s reconstructed and refurbished 2nd temple was one of the so called “wonders of the world”; its demise unthinkable, as was Jerusalem, the center of Judaism in Rome’s empire.

 

At the time of Paul’s letter, twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection this magnificent temple would have existed in contrast with his word, “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Lk. 21:6).

 

As with Jesus’ disciples Greek NT congregations would also have inquired of the temple’s demise, “when and what signs?” (v. 7). But neither Jesus nor Paul were constrained to satisfy the date picker’s curiosity; rather the purpose of their teaching was to assure the church’s spiritual preparation for the Last Day. To this end Paul urges faithfulness and warns of laxity in matters of the apostolic tradition.  

 

In these end times, the “time of the Gentiles” (v. 24) announced by Jesus began with the devastation of 70 AD.; but our situation is a bit different, after all, that destruction has long passed. Instead, our question today is; “why should the demise of the temple and Jerusalem concern us at all?”

 

Some in the congregation of Thessalonica had become “idle” toward the church’s tradition and word, even as some today’s congregations are lax toward the apostolic tradition; thus, the need in these last days to warn and urge an attentive faith.

 

God’s plan of salvation has been unfolding over the millennia. Graciously he does not surprise. By his word men are amply warned of events that otherwise would disorient and terrify.

 

Noah witnessed to the Antediluvians; Sodom was warned by Lot and angels; Moses commanded Pharaoh by a multiplicity of signs to let the People go; Israel before and after entering the Land was warned to choose the way that leads to life or risk God’s abandon; Elijah and JB, the preeminent prophets of repentance, heralded Messiah’s coming and a New Covenant.

 

So, what does Jesus’ warning of Jerusalem’s destruction betoken for us? 2,000 years has passed; still, given our sinful inclination to distraction and idleness, and our busybody nature, we need an to be aware of Jerusalem and the temple’s spiritual significance. Their destruction was not a one-off event; rather both portend universal judgment still to come. By these events we too have been warned.

 

Jerusalem, rejected its Messiah, it was no longer “the Holy City” becoming his “City of Wrath”, an archetype of final judgment on the world’s unbelief. That Day will come suddenly, and for the unprepared who idly held Jesus’ word at naught, a terrifying revelation.

 

On this 2nd Last Sunday of the Church year Lutheran congregations traditionally have read the account from Jewish historian Josephus of Rome’s Jerusalem sack. The reading is graphic of mass starvation, wasting and bloated death, thirst, the stench of hygienic failure, communal madness, family betrayal, suicide, and mothers who cooked their children.

 

On breaching the citadel walls, the Romans reduced the temple to rubble for a second and its final time, “not one noble stone left upon another and every sacred offering profaned.” Thus began “the appointed time of the Gentiles” (v. 24).

 

The church observes the Cross historically; it is the apex of time and eternity manifesting both law and gospel in God’s creation. Jesus is “the Stone the builders rejected” (20:17) in whom God’s presence now dwells. Rejecting God’s salvation confers judgment.

 

Today’s Gospel describes God’s moving-day. Jesus’ final act in the temple during Holy Week was sitting in judgment of it. Before the treasury, Jesus identified himself with an impoverished widow who donated all she possessed to God’s dwelling.

 

The woman’s offering was excelled only by Jesus’ zeal his Father’s house (Ps. 69:9). On arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple before its abandon for the place of God’s new Temple, his own crucified body, in which he gave God all. After his self-donation on the cross for the sin of the world there now remains only one condemning sin: man’s impenitent unbelief.

 

The Baptized in their house churches for 40 years after the Resurrection, modeled their lives on Jesus’ sacrificial life according to the “tradition of the Apostles”. They endured assaults, marauding nations, earthquakes, famines, disease, persecutions, imprisonment of leaders, terrors, observing great signs in heaven (Lk. 21: 10-12); not the least of which, would have been Caiaphas “seeing the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64). This was not the “Parousia”, but Jesus nonetheless coming in Power in the sight of his church directing us to the terminus of “the appointed time of the Gentiles”.   

 

In Jerusalem Christians endured privation but charitably supported by European brothers and sisters for remaining faithfulness in word, prayer, and sacrament (Acts 2:42).

 

On and before the temple’s destruction the signs experienced by the Jerusalem church were those of the Crucifixion: torn temple curtain, shaking earth, risings from the grave, persecutions, inquisitions in the synagogues, and betrayals by family and friends (Mt. 27:51 ff.) culminating with the sign of the Gentiles, the Roman devastation.

 

One day in 70 AD. the Apostles, elders, and deacons of the Jerusalem church discerned the sign of God’s imminent vengeance, But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near” (Lk. 21:20).

 

At that sign, Christ’s church gathered and separated from synagogue and temple. Christ’s new Israel fled (vv. 21, 22), and exodus under the providential protection of word and Sacrament.

 

Moving-day for the church comes amid violence (Mt. 11:12); it is how the Kingdom draws near its remnant. During this “time of the church” the Holy Spirit stays the full intensity of devil violence. Vengeance is disorienting, heartbreaking, and painful, especially on account of old attachments from which we are being weaned.

 

JB and Jesus were killed for giving notice of a New Covenant and eviction the old cultus; so also, we expect abuse on account of our Baptism into his sacrificial flesh.

 

Throughout the assaults on the church, Jesus in our midst assures us and urges perseverance; to put aside idleness and be prepared. On an appointed day there will be a final, violent ingathering and another exodus out of this dying world.

 

Unlike the old temple, our Residence cannot be dismantled. Our home consists of in-Spirited stones built on Christ for forgiveness and holiness before God. We reside within the pale of a Mighty Fortress.

 

New birth comes to the woman in tribulation; so, in these last days we watch, without fear of it, prepared by God’s forgiving word to endure in faith, not idle toward the tradition of the Apostles. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon -11/10/19
2019.11.11 16:31:23

Proper 27/C [Pent. 22] (2019): Exodus 3:1-15; 2 Thess. 2:1-8, 13-17; Luke 20:27-40.  

 

Resurrection,      “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (vv. 34-36). 

 

Jesus does not suggest marriage in heaven is done away, it is not! Our entry into heaven on the Last Day celebrates our life in Christ as “sons [and daughters] of the bridal chamber” (Lk. 5:34, translation from Greek).  

 

We are invited to attend the Lamb’s marriage feast (Rev. 19:7, 8), because by Baptism we have been wed into Jesus’ resurrection and Life awaiting his coming for us. The whole point of marriage is Life; so also, of the church. 

 

Western society doesn’t readily grasp Scripture’s notion of “betrothal”, the covenantal act of pledging one’s fidelity in marriage, if not yet consummated.  When Jesus teaches that, “God [is]… of the living” (Lk. 20:38; Ex. 3:6, 15) it is in context of marriage, suggested by the Sadducees. 

 

When unbelievers cross-examine from their peculiar view point, they pose the same scripturally ignorant and erroneous questions as did the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus.

 

A couple of Sunday’s ago Pharisees inquired “when” the Kingdom of God would arrive.  Jesus answered, “[B]ehold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Lk. 17:21b); they, holding to another salvation in their own righteousness; rejected the answer. 

 

Today, the Sadducees, deniers of the resurrection, holding to another salvation as in this world only, tested Jesus by raising Mosaic marriage laws. “Levirate marriage” obligated a male next-of-kin to marry a deceased brother’s widow to raise up an heir for that family’s share in the Land, the place of God’s OT presence. 

 

But with the Kingdom’s arrival in Jesus, levirate marriage was obsolete; Jesus announcing, I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn. 11:25).  That Jesus is God who is both “Resurrection and Life”, speaks to a single truth. 

 

We who are baptized into Jesus’ atoning death and follow him as “first-fruits” in the Resurrection, are “sons of God” (Lk. 20:36b), not in possessing a share of the Land; but because we are “sons of the resurrection” and so of the Life that is of Christ’s person (v. 36c). 

 

The Resurrection is necessarily associated with marriage and the Life the union generates. The thing about earthly marriage is that it anticipates Jesus’ betrothal to his church from the cross (Jn. 19:26-30).  

 

Jesus taught, “whoever divorces his wife, except for infidelity… commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).  Of whom do you think Jesus was referencing; was it not himself?  Jesus did not come out of heaven to fine tune the Mosaic laws; rather to be its fulfillment, end, and completion.  It is as if Jesus had said, “except for the woman’s [the church’s] unbelief, I will never withdraw my pledge to her. We are espoused for eternity.” 

 

Baptized into Christ’s death we are united with him, “bone of [his] bone and flesh of [his] flesh” (Gen. 2:23); he is our “Bridegroom of blood” (Ex. 4:25) in whom we possess his troth.

 

As the church awaits her Lord’s coming for her on the Last Day (2 Thess. 2:1) we are to remain faithful in attending the holy things given for our fidelity, especially in tribulation; his word and sacraments.

 

Between now and the church’s consummation in holiness, St. Paul warns of lurking danger. Satan was a false suitor toward the woman of Adam’s passion; contradicting God’s delivered word.  She, believing a lie and Adam in support became adulterers, an effective divorce from God, until God would redeem them by a new Man and a faithful woman.  

 

The congregation of Thessalonica was distressed by false teachers. We don’t exactly know the teaching; but it had to do with the claim that Jesus’ 2nd Coming had already arrived; that the congregation in tribulation seemed to have missed out on the resurrection. 

 

Paul did not know “when” Jesus would come again with his angels and saints to gather his bride on the Last Day, nor do I; but what is sure is that it is not yet. 

 

Paul’s teaches is that first, Satan will send a lying suitor, “the man of lawlessness” (vv. 3, 9) into the church to turn the woman from her fidelity to the Lord.  This devil is not yet revealed; who, when, or where; but his marks in the church, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (v. 7).  The Apostle, Judas Iscariot was prototype of this incarnation.  

 

The woman given to Adam succumbed to Satan’s blandishments. You get the point, fidelity, one’s troth is the essence of the marriage relation, through which God intends our resurrection Life.  Unlike Adam’s physical passion for his woman, Jesus’ Passion consists, not in pastoral concession, but in sacrificial love for a new begetting from above to be children of the Father. 

 

Moses acted as God’s best-man, conveying his honorable intentions toward his people; I know their pain, and I have come down to deliver them…” (Ex. 3:7b, 8a). JB was Jesus’ best-man coming to Israel for his bride. God’s troth toward his people culminated in self-delivery from the cross, his Spirit, water and blood.

 

Jesus’ love for us is exquisitely unconditional, more faithful than Adam’s “passion” for his woman. Of God’s gospel word in the woman’s hearing, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15), Adam prophesied its meaning. At that point Adam named the woman, “Eve”, proclaiming her “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20) on account of her Seed, the new Man, in the resurrection.

 

Into this mix and pledge, Satan will send his own “best-man”, Scripture calls “the lawless one” and “son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3c), a purveyor of false belief for seducing the church from faithfulness to God’s word. 

 

Against the infidelity of believing false doctrine, St. Paul directs us to God’s troth and promise of “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” (v. 1).  Amen.

 

pem.  

 



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Sermon - 11/3/19
2019.11.03 20:12:27

ALL SAINTS’ (S) (2019): REV. 7:2-17; 1 JN. 3:1-3; MT. 5:1-12

 

Children,    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he 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).

 

This is to say, “like recognizes like”. We are God’s children now! Who we are does not appear to physical sight; rather to the eyes of faith by the power of the word delivered in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus inaugurates his disciples to their new identity of knowing and seeing God “as he is” in the midst of his people (Lk. 17:21b).

 

Perhaps no Scripture has been so misunderstood as these Beatitudes. Even M. Luther comprehended them as the law’s impossible demands, only overcome elsewise by God’s gospel word. But they are not law as something for you to accomplish; instead you are to recognize by Jesus’ blessing, the pure gospel of a new status, children of God now!

 

God’s kingdom is present by his Word with us; and so, we are a work in progress by the HS through perfecting from faith to faith (Mt. 5:48). By these beatitudes from Jesus we have heaven’s “sealing” as new Israel’s 144,000 on earth (Rev. 7:3, 4, 8).

 

Heading-up the Beatitudes is “poverty of spirit” that grasps the Kingdom, which is to sat, Jesus in our midst. I have previously pointed out, there will be no rich people attending heaven’s end time banquet. Simply we have nothing of our own to bring but our Thanksgiving to the table.

 

In Baptism the NT saints are “sealed” to a child-like status of absolute spiritual poverty into Jesus’ naked, obedient, and dependent death to the Father. Jesus entered our humanity to be God’s Suffering Servant on the cross for our atonement; so God exalted him above all (Phil. 2:5-9).

 

By the power of Jesus’ blessings to poverty of spirit, and mourning in meekness over sin’s wrack and ruin in the lives of sinful men, we are baptismally enrolled into the 144, 000 martial array, sustained in an on-going sealing by word and sacrament “coming out” of the world’s tribulations (Rev. 7:14). Thus, we are garbed in the white robes of Jesus’ own purity and joining heaven’s innumerable multitude (v. 9).

 

There is a progression to the Beatitudes. In Jesus’ cruciform Body we are baptismally minted to his likeness in humility. Receiving the seal of undeserved mercy, we are empowered, like him, to be merciful; “we love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

 

How will Jesus recognize us at his Second Coming? By faithful attendance to word and sacrament’s on-going sealing. Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day we are being purified “as he is pure”; so that “like recognizes like”.

 

Blood is a life-giving and cleansing agent (Gen. 9:4). Jesus’ sinless blood, shed for our forgiveness blesses us for purity before God. As Jesus knows and sees the Father in holiness, we by faith possess the beatific vision in heaven’s purity.

 

Last Sunday (Reformation-observed) we heard an angelic “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6), the mystery of Christ with us; that our purity for seeing God face to face is of Christ’s shed blood applied as a gracious covering and new begetting in water and Word.

 

From the Psalmist, purity “in heart” occurs in communion with all the saints on earth and in heaven; “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 seek the face of the God of Jacob (Ps. 24:3-6b). This is Zion’s liturgy speak.

 

Liturgically we look east, the direction of the rising Sun at our Altar, and recognize Christ “appearing as he is” now in the church’s “breaking of the Bread” (Lk. 24:30, 31, 35; Acts 2:42) that on the Last Day will be manifest to all.

 

Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day we ascend Mount Zion together where Jesus continues beatific words delivering forgiveness as we come out of the world’s fiery crucible through the place of our worship, the body of Christ.

 

Two final Beatitudes concern the church’s empowerment for peace and reconciliation, continuing the miracles of Jesus miracles for restoration of the creation to wholeness, to be revealed in the new heavens and earth.

 

Peace through the church’s gospel power is not a universally welcomed. She might therefor expect her that her final blessing in persecution for a status as sons and daughters of the Kingdom, mirroring her Lord; for for reason the church militant on earth are continually being sealed.

 

Later in his ministry, Jesus would expand his teaching (Mt. 9:35-11:1), explaining, he had come into the world for division by “a Sword” (v. 34). Jesus, the “eternal gospel” enfleshed confronts men with a choice about his identity and presence in the world.

 

If we love our families in the world more than Jesus; if we refuse to follow him to the cross, then we are unworthy of his salvation (Mt. 10:34-39). Our tribulation in the world will make clear that believers will need deal with the gut-wrenching fact, “one’s enemies will be those of his own household” (v. 36). Of broader Christendom, we observed the multiplicity of denominational division that continues to justify our Lutheran celebration for institutional Reformation of church bodies.

 

In both instances Jesus’ presence brings crisis and division as “an eternal gospel”, Christ alone in his congregation. In some instances, his gospel blessing of “peace” is received with hospitality (vv. 12-14); but in a hostile world that rejections Christ’s peace we expect persecution but nevertheless are beatified to faithfulness for “Righteousness’ sake”.

 

Peace, forgiveness, healing, purity, and restoration is Christ’s work alone; which by faith Christ recognizes his own for a final “perfection”; and we recognize him in status as he is attended by all the angels and saints, now in our worship and on the Last Day. Amen.

 

pem.    



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Sermon - 10/27/19
2019.10.28 23:43:18

REFORMATION/S (2019) 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). 

 

An ancient maxim posits, “the church is always being reformed” to her beliefs held “everywhere, always, by all” (Vincent of Lerins); and yet in all Christendom, only Lutherans celebrate “an eternal gospel” out of heaven for those on the earth. 

 

Our Reformation celebration is a singular witness of the church’s “eternal gospel” toward the denominations: to Rome, the East, Calvinists, Armenians, Anabaptists, the plethora of Neo-evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals, all traveling under the banner of “Christianity”. 

 

As faith comes by hearing the preached word (Rom. 10:17) then in some way this Sermon is intended to engender, not only individual repentance, but institutional reformation to the faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic church; whether it finds traction, God knows.

 

Such a reformation message, if received at all, at worst will be unwelcome or at best seen as a condescension; that said, as Christ is the only true interpreter of his word, today’s Scripture calls for forthright exposition.

 

By definition an eternal gospel” is not a collection of disparate, optional, or an amalgam of belief systems.  One study describes the mish-mash of generic “Christianity”, “One Christ, Many Creeds” (Pr. Erik Rottmann).  Against the collection of beliefs, one must attend Jesus, “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). 

 

Who are these violent men? Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was increasingly confronted by venomous opposition from the Pharisee party.  They brought the issue to a head, asking Jesus, “when” God’s reign on earth would commence?  He answered, that in his presence it was extant, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk. 17:21b).  This was heaven’s proclamation, the sum and substance, of “an eternal gospel”; it was unwelcome then as it is today. 

 

Pharisaical types in all generations are offended by “an eternal gospel” of Jesus present in the congregation.  JB and Jesus both preached of repentance, our turning from sin, anticipating God’s reign in his Christ, his Son, and sacrificial Lamb.  St. Paul later reiterated, “man is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28). 

 

But repentant “faith apart from works of the law was unacceptable to the Pharisees who understood that man’s Torah obedience, guided by their teaching would bring about a “repentance” of human righteousness, that in time would usher-in God’s reign.  From this vantage, you can imagine the offense from Jesus, “[B]ehold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

 

We see two disparate notions of “repentance”; Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees rejected John’s baptism to which all Judea was coming. This is crucial; any other way of salvation than as God provides in Christ is a contrary way, a rebellion in the footsteps of our first parents having nothing to do with “an eternal gospel” from heaven.

 

Jesus warns us, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace, who as they call out to others, ‘We played the flute, but you [John] did not dance! We lamented, but you [Jesus] did not beat your breasts in mourning!’” (Mt. 11:16, 17). 

 

JB preached our welcoming of Messiah, by turning from sin to the new wineskins of a sacrifice God would provide (Gen 22:14). But for the Pharisees and scribes JB’s call for a change of heart was austere compared to the temple offerings and their own roadmap to Torah obedience.  JB did “not dance” to the pharisaical music.  

 

These same Pharisees, encountering Jesus, saw him eat with sinners; again, they balked judging Jesus careless of “their” Torah, “not mourning” sin; but instead rejoicing over repentant hearts at the good news of “an eternal gospel” in their midst. 

 

Man prefers his own salvation, over what God provides, which is the underlying pharisaical sin that foundationally continues today of every resistance to reformation toward “an eternal gospel”.  How sad!  

 

Adam and Eve’s original sin resulted in our perverse refusal of unconditional grace. Understanding that Baptism strips us naked with Christ crucified, so that we are without excuse is deemed too hard; still others judge Baptism’s water and word too lax and absent of power. 

 

Our sin nature always argues against God’s way, impelling us to the vanity of a “better” way than heaven’s “eternal gospel” of grace alone in Christ’s presence with his church.  Heaven knows of sin and our inability to trust solely in God; and so in Baptism we are graciously given the HS to possess Christ’s own faith. 

 

Man’s refusal of God’s way may be understandable; still sin is not excused. By Jesus’ preached word wisdom, the fear and trust in the Lord is conveyed; faith in “an eternal gospel” out of heaven, our corrective against an unremitting violence that would snatch away God’s reign.

 

The catalogue of violence against “an eternal gospel” is almost over-powering; still God’s remnant in Christ remains empowered by word and sacrament to hold on:

 

Rome employs unscriptural definitions of both “grace” (as earned substance) and “faith” (bald belief apart from contrition) to pit St. Paul against St. James. Rome’s liturgy, the great repository of forms and rites, is corrupted by a priesthood modeled on Aaron, and not Jesus’ Melchizedekian, that underpins its essential error, “works righteousness”. 

 

Zwingli and Calvin (the Reformed) violently threw Christ out with the church’s sacramental bathwater. If you want to know what generally defines Protestantism, it is rejection of Christ’s sacraments to be constitutive presence of “an eternal gospel”. 

 

Protestants reduce God’s word to information about him; no longer the power of God in Christ with us. The Reformed pervert God’s very nature as merciful and gracious by a doctrinal acrostic TULIP, so that his “choice” of you (or not) is arbitrary; salvation is only for the “lucky”.

 

Jacob Arminius’ objection to Calvin’s violence against “an eternal gospel” proffered a countervailing violence, making “salvation” instead a matter of “human decision” or “free will” contrary to Scripture (Ps. 51:5).

 

Do we go on? Pentecostalism, another man-oriented religion locates the truth of Scripture in individual hearts by an “internal light” separated from creation’s sacramental elements; thus, what is “true” is a matter of what everyone believes according to their own eyes.  Here M. Luther identified papistic claims to personal revelation as supreme “enthusiasm”. 

 

The violence of religious enthusiasts is Peter’s satanic sin (Mt. 16:22, 23). Enthusiasm is man’s natural (pagan) theology of glory in this world that would replace God’s sacrificial cross and snatching away rather than embracing Christian baptismal life.  

 

“An eternal gospel” from heaven for men on earth is not a generic gift. This gospel is too gloriously valuable for eternal Life, and too valuable to be proclaimed in other than singular specificity.  The crucified and risen man Jesus Christ reigns in his constitutive reality of presence in our midst by word and sacrament for faith, righteousness, and holiness before God. 

 

If this Sermon is less than “inclusive”; it was so intended, not as Lutheran boast, of which there must be repentance, but for the sake of denominational error. Our Reformation hope longs for reformation, a true communion in the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world over against all violence that would snatch away “an eternal gospel”, leaving but “another Jesus”, “a different spirit”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9).  Amen.

 

pem.  



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Sermon - 10/20/19
2019.10.20 23:18:01

Proper 24/C [Pent. 19] (2019): Gen. 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5; Luke 18:1-8.

 

Faith,            [Jesus] told [his disciples] a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. [Then] he said… “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?... Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (vv. 1, 7a, 8b).

 

Jesus here is not teaching the virtues of prayer in general; rather as his Passion approaches (Lk. 17:25; 18:31), he urges his church to a specific prayer, for God’s faithful maintenance of her “vindication” by faith in an evil world.

 

The Psalmist expresses the manner, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1, 2).     

 

Last Sunday we encountered a Leper, not unlike today’s parable Widow. Both were societal discards. If the Widow cried for “justice” on the merits of her case, a seemingly impossible request from a dishonest magistrate; the Samaritan Leper pled of Jesus for better than justice, and as equally unthinkable, divine “mercy” from a man (Lk. 17:13; cf. Hos. 6:6).

 

In order to comprehend Jesus’ call to our fidelity to God’s own faithfulness, we must grasp what had occurred between the Leper’s healing and the Widow’s petition.

 

Pharisees enquired, when the Kingdom of God would come?” (v. 20). Jesus answered, “behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you (v. 21c); yet they did not see what was patent to the Leper in rendering Jesus worship in thanksgiving.

 

Jesus then returned to teaching his disciples that they persist in holding fast to him against all that would be seemingly impossible and unthinkable at the Passion, even as Jacob, progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel, struggled to hold to the challenge of the divine Wrestler (Gen. 32:22 ff.).

 

In these last days, Jesus warns that justice and judgment comes “speedily” (Lk. 18:8) and suddenly as upon the Antediluvians mocking Noah’s prophesy (17:26, 27). As for those aware of the imminent crisis, but still mourn loss of the world’s blandishments, they will suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, forever frozen in their attachments (v. 32).

 

Having answered the Pharisee’s question about the “when” of the Kingdom, the disciples ask, Where, Lord?”. Jesus gives a provocative reply, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Lk. 17:37).

 

By this, Jesus directs that we look “to the hills”, to Mt. Golgotha of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mt. Olivet, the place of his Ascension, where we are to discern God’s atoning work in Christ and Judgment. On those two “hills” the church locates both her “vindication” and God’s “mercy” for sinners.

 

The church comprehends her ascended Lord, alone worthy to interpret God’s word for “remembrance” (Rev 5:2, 3, 7, 9, 12; cf. Lk. 22:19b). Christ breaking of the fifth seal of Scripture in St. John’s Apocalypse reveals the church to be the explicit expression of Jesus’ parable Widow.

 

When Christ, ascended and enthroned, opened the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11), the Widow’s significance “crying day and night” without losing heart is understood (Lk. 18:7). From under heaven’s Altar of Incense the cries of the saints ascend day and night, “O Master, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).

 

The church cries on behalf of all the martyrs, those who struggle in faith is joined with the crying blood of Abel; whose plea is that God take righteous vengeance on those desecrating and discarding them and their witness of God’s Kingdom come in Christ.

 

Ironically, the Widow’s plea for righteous retribution against her adversary is presented to an unjust, worldly judge; pointing to the church’s “impossible” “unthinkable” faith in Jesus’ promise that God’s “will be done.”

 

We are “justified”, “vindicated” in and through Jesus’ sacrificial flesh, a corpse mocked by unbelievers; but the Corpse for believing sinners who locate the mercy of God, a risen and better “meat” than mere dead carrion for us who by nature are birds of prey. In the Ascension the Cross and heaven’s Incense Altar are one, the new “place” of Eucharistic worship of God by lepers and widows.

 

By the power of Baptism, the church holds fast to her faith by looking upon the Lord’s cross and ascension. As participants in Christ’s body, all partake of the same food for their priestly vocation of praise and Thanksgiving to God.

 

A strange thing happened upon Jesus’ ascension; the OT saints, martyred for their witness, received an answer to, “how long” until their spilt blood would be avenged? Christ on opening the fifth seal, revealed they were clothed with the same white robes of forgiveness and purity received by the earthly saints on in the Baptism’s faith (v. 11).

 

All worship in heaven and earth in the church’s liturgical unity awaits God’s final “vindication” in Christ on the Last Day. Until that Day the church prayerfully dispenses God’s mercy in Christ crucified, a better “vindication” than demanded by the cry from Abel’s blood or the parable Widow.

 

Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is the revelation and content of God’s will and word. In him God declares, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30); and so the saints are told, “to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Rev. 6:10, 11).

 

Heaven’s martyrs, old and NT, garbed in the white robes of Christ’s bloody sacrifice are enrolled into one Baptism (Nicene Creed, para. 3) of a Blood that speaks a better word than the cry from Abel’s blood from death’s dust; rather by the blood of Jesus we have his eternal Life in “grace and mercy” (Heb. 12:24).

 

Our better Covenant informs the church’s prayer. Our NT claim on God’s “justice and righteousness” is expressed in prayer for those who receiving faith’s righteousness in this time of the church. Preeminently, our prayer is, “Thy Kingdom [has, is, and will] come” comprehended in God’s mercy and love for the sake of his elect.

 

Still, on the Last Day, should the church’s offer of the Lamb’s mercy be refused; Christ will appear as Lion of Judah in answer to the blood of Abel for vindication from the followers of our Adversary.

 

Prayer at the church’s Altar witnesses to our patient and persistent formation in his white robes, thus providing an affirmative rely to Jesus’ question, “[W]hen the Son of Man comes [as today], will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8b). Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 10/13/19
2019.10.16 00:11:44

Proper 23/C [Pent. 18] (2019): Ruth 1:1-19a; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19.

 

Returned,              Then [Naomi] arose with her daughters-in-law and returned from the region of Moab, for she had heard…that the LORD had graciously visited his people to give them food” (v. 6).

 

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were in search of security. Formerly security was centered in hearth and home with husbands and sons in pagan Moab near the border of Judah, Naomi’s ancestral Bethlehem land-hold.

 

After ten years, peace, domesticity, and security evaporated with the serial deaths of their men-folk. In the ancient world a woman, especially a foreign woman, beyond childbearing years, without husband or father could expect to exist on society’s margins.

 

Naomi, an Israelite with two Moabite daughters-in-law in tow were as marginal a group as were the Ten Lepers approaching Jesus on the border between heretical Samaria and Jewish Galilee.

 

All of us need and seek-out a place of security. Many, like the Pharisees (Lk. 16:14), fix their security in money putting us in comfortable, even luxuriant surroundings, with provision and companionship in the world. Earlier Jesus told of the Rich man, we call “Dives”, and impoverished, diseased, and discarded Lazarus existing on “the margins” at Dives’ gate; so close, yet in this life, a far chasm.

 

Still others derive security from the faux praises of men; worldly wisdom and associations. We all, either live on one extreme or another, or the desire to do so. In the end however, we all live in that chasm (v. 26) between heaven and hell, where the only true and eternal security is with Lazarus postured upon the Father’s bosom (v. 22a).

 

The elect discern God’s word and favor in the place of his visitation among men. Naomi heard of bread in Bethlehem, and would return to the Land of Israel’s promise. So also, the Samaritan leper, upon his healing, was impelled to return to Jesus, his source and place of Security.

 

If for a time, all of us experience suffering and desperate straits; we either trust, or not, the admonition, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage… For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5, 6).

 

Chastisement from God comes not only in calamity, but by his word of crisis or judgment for repentant return to his place of gracious healing and release, to the precincts of heavenly Jerusalem from where we are instructed in the nature of our Security. When we hear and respond to God’s word inviting us to partake of his bread, then we grasp the place and source of eternal Security; our election in Christ.

 

Ruth on entering Israel, like the Samaritan leper, was now the foreigner. She was faithful daughter-in-law and catechized wife of the one true God of Israel. When Naomi would return to Bethlehem, Ruth for love of Naomi, would follow to the place of God’s visitation signaled by his barley bread harvest.  

 

In our Gospel only one of the Ten Lepers crying to Jesus for “mercy” was a Samaritan; the other lepers were Jews. Unlike Naomi, “bitter” at her sufferings from God, the Ten Lepers got it right; they didn’t ask Jesus for physical healing; why would they? By their loss of fleshly purity, they comprehended their condition in their corrupt flesh what was the visible sign of sin.

 

As sinners, sometimes we are self-deluded as entitled, from whatever “god” we serve, to a suffering-free life. Not so, rather Christians are enrolled into God’s school of faith under the cross that entails our sacrificial suffering as God permits; it is the way of the cross. Either we embrace the cross as the returning Leper, or like Naomi we tend to bitterly complain.

 

The Ten Lepers plead from Jesus a grace that the OT priesthood could not bestow. God is holy; The Ten were diseased without a claim on anything more than what all sinners deserve, consummation to dust; and so, The Ten rather petitioned Jesus in a higher theology than the glory of their own flesh; for God’s “mercy”.  

 

If Naomi was embittered, Ruth discerned the hope of her secure place among her new community with Naomi’s people. So, the Samaritan, upon his healing he recognized his new place of God’s visitation and mercy with the community in tow with Jesus.

 

Jesus directed The Lepers to the temple priesthood for witness in authenticating Jesus’ healings and authority. But the Samaritan, like Ruth disobeying Naomi, returned to Jesus, the place of a better thing than only physical healing; rather the locus of “God’s mercy” for restored relations with the Creator.

 

The Samaritan Leper showing himself to temple priests offered him nothing of advantage. The priests could affirm Jesus’ miracle all day long, but the Samaritan in their household would be denied their temple graces from the animal sacrifices.  

 

The Samaritan, as by Ruth’s sacrificial faith and love toward Naomi, discerned in Jesus the place of God’s merciful visitation; no longer at Jerusalem, but with the Man of Bethlehem, who sates all our need for security by faith’s forgiveness (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4b).

 

The Samaritan prostrated himself before Jesus in Eucharistic praise. Today we are drawn by the power of Jesus’ word continuing as our Flesh-Bread. Formerly were lepers, which disease Jesus took into his flesh for our Absolution and release. So too, we offer our Eucharistic sacrifice of praise. Jesus is that place of Provision and Security, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  

 

Despite Orpah’s outward obedience to Naomi and tearful “return” to Moab; still it was the smart, the self-interested, and the worldly common-sense thing to do. Orpah abandoned Naomi for the authority of her parent’s house, and so fixed her “security” in the hope of a brokered union with a pagan Moabite man.

 

Ruth however in faith remained with Naomi in covenant of care toward her “embittered” mother-in-law; she was for Naomi a “Christ” figure. Ruth, a Moabitess having no brother-in-law, possessed no rational hope of a salvific marriage according to the law of Israel; certainly, she could not assert the Mosaic law’s “levirate marriage” by kin. Yet, a marginal life in Israel or not, Ruth for love of Naomi and trust in Israel’s God would abandon neither (Ruth 1:16, 17).

 

Certainly, the Mosaic law provided social safety-nets, such as a sojourner’s gleaning rights; but it was only marriage to an Israelite man that afforded and could reverse the fortunes of these destitute women. An Israelite husband for Ruth might legally redeem Naomi’s land should her next of kin refuse. Such an outcome, however, would require a “volunteer” to put aside self-interest.

 

Boaz, was a close, but not an immediate relation of Naomi. Still appraised of the women’s distress Boaz was impelled to volunteer to be a savior; even as God asked his only Son to act in sacrificial self-giving beyond the requirements of the law for the church.

 

Through Boaz’ redemption of Naomi’s property and Ruth’s marginal status as a foreign woman, we have the prophesy of our universal (Jew and Gentile) salvation through a new begetting by David’s seed, Jesus. As St. Paul observed, “[S]he will be saved though child bearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:15).  

 

Mercy and forgiveness are the church’s prime directives from God; it is what she does because it is what her Lord has volunteered to do for her. While Lazarus from the “bosom of Abraham” does not relieve those consigned to hell, still the church remains the place in this world of God’s visitation for those returning in repentance to heaven’s gate.

 

On the day of Jesus’ Passion and death another foreigner, a Roman centurion, discerned under the cross God’s mercy toward men, saying “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

 

Today, we pray for Ruth’s ears, the Leper’s sight, and the Centurion’s free election in proclamation; all by a faith that discerns the visitation of God in Jesus, the Place where God’s Bread and mercy is dispensed. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 10/6/19
2019.10.07 22:35:46

Proper 22/C [Pent. 17] (2019): Hab. 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10.  

 

Sea,    “[W]oe to the one through whom [temptations to sin] come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea… If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (vv. 2, 6).

 

Jesus moves from the failed Pharisees and scribes to the new responsibilities of his church in the coming era. He instructs of expectations: evangelizing, preaching, teaching, rebuking, discipling, absolving, and table service. 

 

Jesus tells two sea stories; first, that if a weak disciple turns from his or her faith by false teaching, then that teacher might expect to descend into chaos’ abyss propelled by an attached millstone. 

 

If responsibility for delivery of word and sacrament devolves primarily upon the apostolic/pastoral office; still the congregation is not untethered from what they receive from their pastors.

 

Congregational priority keeps the Sabbath holy, hearing God’s word, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, for perfect forgiveness in repentant faith; and that disciples forgive as they have been forgiven, (perfectly, “seven times in a day” v. 4);

 

And to continue their on-going catechesis for strengthening in the church’s faith delivered in Baptism; and for their own faith in Christ present in word and Sacrament.  In these ways pastors and congregations possess a “holy calling”, a priesthood (2 Tim. 1:9) of sacrificial thanksgiving. 

 

The Apostles were the first to discern the magnitude of their responsibilities soon to be thrust upon the church. “Righteousness of life by faith”, announced to Abraham (Gen. 15:6) and reiterated by Habakkuk (2:4b) must be comprehended in the context of pastors and congregations caring for each other in faithful extension of “the good deposit” of the faith with which we are “entrusted” (2 Tim. 1:14). 

 

The Apostles had recently witnessed Jesus’ litany of churchly “woes” and condemnation; the last being, the case of the Rich Man, so called “Dives”, an allegorical prince of the Church establishment (Lk. 16:19-31). On his death, “Dives” was consigned to hell pleading before heaven’s gate for relief from risen Lazarus whom he despised in this life at his own gate. 

 

Jesus was forming his Apostles for aptness and error free teaching and preaching the gospel (1 Tim 3:2) oriented in God’s forgiveness through his Suffering Servant, the key to true Torah understanding.  The law remains forever, but is only understood in revelation of God’s character for inexhaustible mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for his Son’s sake. 

 

The Apostles discerned they did not possess “the right stuff” of heaven’s key; so, the specter of failure in their new calling frightened. The cross was beginning to register; so in unison they plead with Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Lk. 17:5).

 

Jesus responded with yet another sea story.  Faith as small as a mustard grain easily accesses God’s power concealed under Christ’s crucified weakness.  If God should will us to make the ocean a mulberry orchard, then by the power of his preached his word, it would be so.  

 

Faith is God’s great recreative miracle for release of the world’s sin, man’s damning unbelief. As it was, the Apostles already possessed faith for their ministry in association with congregations in a cursed world (Gen. 3:17b, 18).

 

The Apostles were not to fear being the church’s foundation with Christ. Abraham’s saving faith, spoken of by Habakkuk (2:4), is not of ourselves; rather it is the power of Christ’s own faith in whom we articulate as baptismal living stones, the gift of God by the HS, and deployed in due time; but first must come Jesus’ cross, the tree planted in the world’s chaos and his perfecting resurrection for apostolic faith.   

 

St. Paul addressed a similar lack of pastoral confidence, when he encouraged Timothy, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6b, 7) so also; the Apostles afflicted with their own loss of confidence on hearing Jesus’ imperative, “you must forgive” (Luke 17:4). 

 

The Jewish scribes were correct; God alone forgives sin (Mark 2:7). And now in the NT men in the office of Christ, and the Baptized in their priesthood would enter that “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9) for bestowing God’s lavish forgiveness to repentant hearts. 

 

The church’s charge and responsibility as purveyors of God’s power to salvation was almost unthinkable. Rebuking and releasing sinners is a godly exercise of authority not possessed by “Moses and the prophets”.

 

The Apostles, themselves sinners, were over-awed at the impossibility of being “judges” to dispense the abundance of God’s forgiveness and release. Parenthetically, we observe that before the church’s sacramental administration of the Holy Absolution, a pastor asks the penitent only one question, “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” (Preface to the Holy Absolution, LSB p. 293).  

 

St. Paul as Timothy’s spiritual father, encouraged the young Overseer, reminding him of the church’s faith learned at the knees of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (v. 5) themselves overseers of his faith to salvation.

 

Being a pastor is tough, which is why young, inexperienced presbyter-pastors (meaning “elders”) are disadvantaged in congregations struggling (Lk. 13:24), as they are being called out of the world. Given time, grace, patience, and mutual forgiveness, pastors and congregations most often come to relate in love and respect; but apart from Christ, it is otherwise.

 

The Kingdom come in Christ present brings a sea change in our relation with God, and so also toward brothers and sisters. The Church exists by God’s word living in the sympathetic rhythm of repentance and forgiveness wrought by faith.  

 

Hear then how Jesus calms his “servants” at the ease of planting “mulberry trees” in the sea.  We need only be faithful in attending to his word and Sabbath worship for on-going faith according to the church’s one confession. 

 

We plow, supporting law/gospel preaching to repentance and promised forgiveness; we are shepherded in attending his teaching against apostatizing influences of the world that may cause to “stumble” from faith; and we faithfully attend his Table for nourishment in the Substance of our cruciform and resurrection new Life.   

 

Being a pastor is tough, as is our priesthood called to sacrificial lives in union with one another. Jesus has made us in his “likeness”, God’s Suffering Servant, in whom we have forgiveness and recreation to holiness.  We are “unworthy servants”; still, faith as small as a mustard seed is sufficient when pastors keep our ears clapped onto God’s word of promise. 

 

Consider our rewards from so small a faith; God deigns to share through us his greatest of all miracles, the restoration of this fallen world being made new by the power Absolution, love and fidelity’s self-control. Amen.

 

pem.

 



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Sermon - 9/29/19
2019.09.30 22:35:45

Proper 21/C [Pent. 16] (2019): Amos 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Luke 16:19-31. 

 

Household,            [A]n overseer must be beyond reproach…temperate… hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard… not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well… for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (vv. 2-5)

 

Reading the Confessions of St. Augustine, it is easy to contrast his profligate, apostate life as he approached Baptism in his mid-thirties and then taking Holy Orders a few years later over against St. Paul’s strictures for church bishops and deacons. The comparison is striking of Baptism’s radical “begetting from above”. 

 

God desires his household (church) to be led by conscientious and capable stewards of his word and ethos; sadly, that is not always the case; pastors are sinners. The hope and prayer is for continual repentance of these stewards for grow in service to God’s people.   

 

Today’s Gospel, “the Rich Man and Lazarus” compares with last Sunday’s parable of “the Dishonest Steward”. We don’t know the rich man’s name; we will call him, as some, “Dives”.  Jesus provides only a thumb nail sketch of Dives; yet allowing for inference.  

 

Many years earlier the prophet Amos (6:1-7) fleshed out the character of Dives, his family, and associates; they were the social and religious aristocracy of Israel; living to themselves on estates that excluded all but their own invited class.  

 

These elite were at ease in the church; they thought better of themselves than others; and by privileged positions considered themselves immune from a day of reckoning. Their daily garb was the pretentious extravagance of royalty; feasting was a daily occasion as they sprawled on couches of inlaid ivory.  The bill o’ fare was succulent baby lamb, Chateaubriand, and the like, washed down with copious amounts of the finest wine.  They entertained themselves with idle songs arrogantly compared to David’s psalmody.

 

Damning, most of all, Amos describes these leaders without “grief over the ruin of Joseph” (6:6b), referencing the treachery of Joseph’s brothers, mocking him, cast him into a pit without water for death and sat to dine in loveless fellowship (Gen. 37:18-27).  Joseph’s brothers, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day “were lovers of money” (Lk. 16:14), deciding rather to profit, selling him into slavery. 

 

As for Lazarus, he was placed at Dives’ gate to receive alms which might be expected from the “wealthy”; instead only the “dogs” (Gentiles?) were contented by the sores of Lazarus’ flesh. The scene recalls Mary’s prophesy before Elizabeth as church bearing Christ within her;

 

“[The Lord] has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever 1:52-55).

 

Jesus’ account of “Dives and Lazarus” is not exactly a parable; rather a current allegory of Christ, his revelation of self-offering for his Church. In Jesus’ telling, “Father Abraham” is cypher for God and himself, “Lazarus”. 

 

God’s “bosom” is the primordial Place from which his eternal Son was sent into the world; and the Place to which Jesus, like Joseph and Lazarus of Bethany were raised from death’s pit, attended by Ascension angels to ready heaven’s wedding Banquet.

 

At Dives’ gate Lazarus was the wretched picture of Jesus; rejected by his own (Jn. 1:11), without a place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20), humbled in Gethsemane into his baptismal Office on the cross as God’s Sacrifice; the place where he was “a worm and not a man” (Ps. 22:6a), the “Abomination of Desolation” (Mt. 24:15), and “Bronze Serpent” raised in the wilderness (Num. 21:8, 9; Jn. 3:14-16) for healing those who believe and receive him. 

 

Christ possessed heaven’s treasure; but for love of God and mercy toward men, Jesus received our flesh, humbled himself in taking our sin, and set before the church leaders of his people at Dives’ gate, of these he would say, “‘… I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcomed me, naked and you did not clothed me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me’,…‘Truly,…as you did not do it to one of the least of these [my brothers], you did not do it to me’” (Matthew 25:42-45).

 

Jesus has “Father Abraham” describe Dives’ wealth as your good things”.  This is precisely our problem; the point Jesus taught all along, “rich men” cannot enter heaven’s Banquet.  His table is packed with forgiven sinners who repent of approaching the King’s table with anything of their own than the King’s provision alone; faith alone. 

 

Dives’ self-absorbed life made him apathetic of his Israelite brothers, Lazarus’ plight at his gate and numb to his own impending judgment. Not so, the Dishonest Steward from last Sunday, who at his master’s discovery of his household abuse immediately discerned urgent peril. 

 

The Steward, with little time, employed “unrighteous money” still under his control to glorify in the community his master’s merciful and gracious character; forgiving debts as a true steward or pastor in the image of his Master, and so obtained his own forgiveness to continue in the House.  

 

Of our “own” wealth, status, learning, position, authority, and other gifts; some possess more or less than others; still some stand in need. One discerns a common thread from the recent sequence of Jesus’ teachings. Those attending heaven’s banquet are the poor, humbled, and broken (Lk. 14:13, 21) who turn their hearts in repentance in “remembrance” of Moses and the prophets through the voice of Jesus (Deut. 18:18).

 

It is the Baptized, having died to self and rising to God who now occupy heaven’s table, under care of the church’s pastors for “remembrance” of God’s mercy toward his Israel.  By the words of sacramental Consecration, “this do in remembrance of me” you comprehend God’s mercy by its delivery and your reception of Jesus’ all sufficient Atonement for you. 

 

Upon Dives’ death, ‘Father Abraham’ directed that he “remember… [his] good things” (Lk. 16:25) held in single-minded enthrall and never seeing Lazarus at his gate.  But we, baptized into the sacrificial poverty of divine Lazarus, are blessed to hear and live repentant faith with open eyes open brothers and sisters in plight. 

 

When giving to the needy, we witness to Christ, which is to say; charity is not of ourselves, neither is mercy, any more than are the things we possess. It is all gift of God, and through us to his world. 

 

St. Paul counseled Pastor Timothy that the Church call spiritual men to Christ’s office of word and sacrament by which we have our Eucharistic “remembrance” and praise.

 

Daily the Baptized, through water, blood, and Spirit “remember” God’s grace by faith with all of our fellow scoundrels in penitence laying at the church’s gate for salvation by the narrow gateway.

 

Through unworthy pastors, we develop ears that hear and eyes that see radically alter lives (Luke 16:16). By God’s word we are being conformed into the image of Christ’s sacrificial, risen flesh, that with him we might abide upon the bosom and heart of God, and partake of the King’s bread and board.  Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/22/19
2019.09.22 21:37:43

Proper 20/C [Pent. 15] (2019): Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15.

 

She,   But she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (v. 15).

 

This is one of those passages that drives “feminist-theologians” batty. You recognize the context; St. Paul addresses the congregation-Pastor relation, describing their respective order and spheres of authority.

 

The Pastor is the congregation’s steward of the things and mysteries of God for the benefit of the priesthood of believers to exercise a stewardship of faith, love, and thanksgiving.

 

So then, to whom is Paul referring, “But she will be saved through childbearing”? It’s not too difficult; by definition the Pastor’s Office stands in the place of Jesus, a picture of the Man with his bride out of whom new life is generated in her by conveyance of his word.

 

So, when Timothy, is directed with men “in every place” to pray, “lifting holy hands” (v. 8), in the Celebrant’s orans Altar posture—"let us pray”; Paul directs Prayer as communal and liturgical.

 

The Common Service of the Lutheran Church situates its Prayer following the Offertory and before the Sanctus connecting our supplications and intercessions with the Eucharistic thanksgiving. As your called man, standing at Altar in the stead of Christ, your gifts, self-offering, and prayers are lifted to God by Christ our Mediator.  

 

Paul’s Sermon describes God’s intended order and authority in his church, as between the man and the woman in the first creation (Gen. 2:15, 18) which Paul affirms to be continuing in the NT. The Apostle, by a pronoun change, then broadens his initial reference of the woman Eve to the woman “mother of all living” who is bride of Christ in the NT epoch (Gen. 3:20).

 

The one being saved or preserved through childbearing then is the NT community. This is made clear when Paul describes “she” as “they” (not all women), but men and women saved through the bride’s administering office of Baptism for bearing, birthing, and continuing to bear to new life by “faith and love and holiness, with self-control”, which is to say, in fidelity exercised by both men and women toward each other, especially in the marital relation (Eph. 5:32, 33).

 

Salvation, in this manner is the creative work of God, by the Father’s begetting from above by the Spirit, word and water (Jn. 3:3, 7, 8) to a believing priesthood in the on-going life of the one holy catholic apostolic Church. In this way the NT bride is oriented toward Christ in an order for the exercise of respective authorities as intended for Adam and Eve.

 

From this brief catechism we attend Jesus’ parable of the Dishonest Steward, a warning not only to Pharisees but to God’s NT priesthood. The Pharisees overhearing Jesus’ discourse, rightly discerned it as against their faithless stewardship especially for love of money (Lk. 16:14).

 

For both audiences the clock ticks-down to crisis; time for conversion, repentance, and knowledge of God in Christ was for the Pharisees, and for us is increasingly dear.

 

For the OT Pharisees, scribes, and priestly class, the cross would signal an end of their stewardship under the OT, just as the Dishonest Steward was threatened with his termination. Whatever was to be done, he must do quickly (v. 6).

 

In the movie “Man on Fire” Denzel Washington plays an ex-CIA agent, a true story of John Creasy, turned avenging angel, pursuing kidnappers of a little girl he was hired to protect. Seeking those responsible, Creasy captured the high-ranking policeman who instigated the girl’s ransoming.

 

Creasy restrains the policeman, loads him with plastic explosive attached to a detonator timed for 5 minutes. Whatever peace the corrupt policeman might make with Creasy, he must do quickly.

 

The man wasted his time thinking to threaten, bluff, or bargain his way out of his critical situation. Finally, the policeman recognized that time had all but run-out as Creasy walked away.

 

Desperate for a solution to his imminent demise the policeman cried, “What do you want?” Creasy from a safe distance quizzical asked, “What do I want? I wish you had more time.” – the alarm rang; the policeman returned to dust.  

 

Jesus defines our proper loyalties for godly stewardship, “No servant can have two masters…You cannot serve God and money” (v. 13). It is in the nature of crisis within our allotted time that there is either resolution or judgment.

 

Contrasted with the vacillating policeman Jesus’ Dishonest Steward wasted no time in finding his resolution. The moment he would turn over Rich Man’s books of account, he was “toast”. Still he kept his head; dispassionately assessed his situation; he is guilty, without excuse.

 

The steward does not wring hands over past misconduct or rationalize his breach of trust, he does not make a list of mitigating factors in defense; the cooked books speak for themselves.

 

Rather the steward draws on his considerable experience in the world and knowledge of his Master; for which Jesus commends him in finding a means of escape through “unrighteous mammon” (vv. 9, 11), the Master’s money which in eternity is worthless; but in the here and now may well be employed to a God pleasing stewardship.

 

Man’s attachment to money is inherently idolatrous; which teaching the Pharisees mocked. For those Pharisees and some “Christians”, it is received wisdom that worldly wealth is a sign of Divine favor; and, perhaps in some instances it is.

 

But, Jesus as Amos (8:4-7) in an earlier day, condemned the king’s house and God’s priesthood for their greed in league with an irreligious merchant class, defrauding and profiting at the expense of God’s people to the extent of mocking the holiness of the Sabbath day in favor of occasions for more commerce; tick-tock.

 

A black swan is a thing or event no one has ever seen, that is, until one day one appears, usually it will instigate crisis. Black swans are transformative, all former assumptions must be reassessed in light of what otherwise was previously unknown, and quickly. Jesus is history’s Black Swan, calling us to reassess all we thought normative, predictable and true of God.

 

Jesus’ crucifixion, the only innocent Man put to death by those whom he loves and sought to save, is for his NT church her stewardship model.

 

The Dishonest Steward was a thief in his master’s house. Still, he knew his Lord’s character, fabulously wealthy, especially in grace and mercy, generous to a fault; so much so that mammon, lucre, money, all that sinful men desire, fails to register in his household. Jesus says, “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (v. 15).  

 

When the steward’s cheating was exposed, he instantly discerned a black swan and crisis; “business as usual” would not resolve his problem. He realized money as ultimately unimportant to the Rich Man; but that it could advance the Master’s tenants for whom he cared and so were important while access to his Master’s wealth continued.

 

All things belong to God, held in trust to his ends. Certainly, in this world, we need money (“coin of the realm”), but so too, Wisdom may employ this “unrighteous wealth” in a God pleasing way; letting loose tight grasps on his wealth, relying in faith on his generosity, grace, and justice; trusting Wisdom to discern the proper balance of God’s claim on our possessions and the provision he would graciously have us retain and manage.

 

By applying the Rich Man’s money in a pleasing way, the steward at one and the same time testified to a faith that acknowledged the Master’s generosity, albeit under the gun, and the graciousness and justice he exercised to magnifying his Lord in the community.

 

In the end Jesus’ NT church is encouraged to freely give of her Lord’s wealth; the most precious of which in order is his word, sacraments, and the believing poor among us. His money is given for us to wisely allocate to God’s glory who “raises the poor from the dust and… gives the barren woman a home making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:7, 9). Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/15/19
2019.09.15 22:21:19

Proper 19/C [Pent. 14] (2019): Ezek. 34:11-24; 1 Tim. 1:5-17; Luke 15:1-10.

 

Near,             Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (vv. 1, 2).

 

One can almost empathize with the Pharisees and scribes, learned in the law of Moses. By his speech, Jesus invited outsiders into a fellowship of ongoing feeding, an intimacy that would turn the world of Israel’s religious leaders “upside-down”.

 

It must have seemed to these religious men that Jesus was endorsing lawlessness, and eschewing human “righteousness”. For the Pharisees (meaning “Righteous Ones”) and Torah scribal scholars, Jesus’ associations were “crazy” and threatening their centuries old vocation as shepherds of God’s people. For those without ears to hear, Jesus’ invitation must have seemed, that he endorsed evil as good, and good as evil.

 

Jesus, following the ministry of JB, taught a baptism of repentance, turning from sin; yet repentance as taught by JB and Jesus was altogether different than the “repentance” understood by the Mosaic teachers.

 

Now this Sermon is not intended as an historical recount of comparative doctrines; rather it calls you to see that in turning from sin one must turn toward Someone, and that someone is Jesus, God’s sole shepherd, a posture that the Israelite teachers had arrogated to themselves.

 

St. Paul observed of the Ephesus congregations the very confusion that Jesus addresses today; and for this reason, he wrote to Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul then identified the danger to these congregations, even as we may discern it today, “Certain persons by swerving from these [aims] have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding…” (1 Tim. 1:5-7a).  

 

The problem confronting Jesus, St. Paul, and every “Christian” congregation revolves around a proper understanding of faith, specifically repentant faith; the question, is repentant love begotten of God’s law or of his gospel activity on the cross?

 

The Israelite teachers, thinking that Abraham’s faith was located in obedience to God’s commands were baffled by the proclamations of JB and Jesus. They observed and grumbled that public sinners, tax collectors, and those they considered “afflicted by God”: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, whom they excluded from their own communion, were invited and drawing near to Jesus by the message of unmerited grace and participation at his table and teaching.

 

But Jesus was teaching nothing other than what he already taught the Pharisee’s at their own Sabbath table; “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Lk, 14:12-14). The repentance that Jesus endorsed was one having orientation in God’s love of sinners.

 

For the teachers of Moses’ law, ancient or modern, Jew or some “Christians”, Jesus’ drawing of sinners to himself was exactly the wrong way of salvation; in short, a congregation of confessed sinners were perceived as “deplorables” and “irredeemable”, an abomination.  

 

Pharisees and scribes, were purveyors of God’s perfect morality in the congregation, holding themselves out, exemplars of “righteous” behavior; following their lead would labor induce and usher-in God’s Kingdom among men.

 

But to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ astonishment, JB’s witness to Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had already arrived, wholly apart from their own “righteousness”; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).

 

The Mosaic teachers roundly rejected John’s preaching and his baptism pointing to Jesus; on the other hand many, sinners who admited their condition and inability to obey the law, believed JB’s word, shifting focus on to Jesus, God’s Lamb in whom all men who confess their sin find atonement, forgiveness, God’s gracious love, a good conscience, and sincere faith.

 

JB’s proclamation of Jesus as the locus of God’s favor toward men was an earth-shattering “upside-down” revelation to the teachers of the law; that the Kingdom was a gracious, utter self-giving of God without man’s inducement, it in any way.

 

JB’s proclamation of Jesus answered two outstanding questions: 1) Isaac of his father, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7, 8); and, 2) our own question, “from whence comes repentance?” St. John the evangelist replies to both, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… We love, [by what God desires most, repentant faith], because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:10, 19).

 

This morning Jesus illustrates our source of repentant faith by three parables: 1) the lost and found sheep, 2) the lost and found coin, and 3) the lost and found prodigal son. God sent Jesus to his sheep, his new David and Good Shepherd replacing those “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding… [and] that Jesus came into the world [precisely] to save [not the “righteous”, but] sinners…” (1 Tim. 1:7, 15b).

 

The thing about sheep is that any one is pretty much like another; certainly, in the sense that all are sinners gone astray. But God by his love of sinners takes exquisite concern and particular care of us; “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out” (Ezek. 34:11).

 

God’s concern for each of his sheep is obsessive; he constantly counts, seeks, and sorts his flock. When one goes missing, he goes out to save, restore, carry, herd, bed-it down, bind up its wounds, nourishes, and strengthens it in the power of his word and Sacrament. His love for his wandering sheep knows no bounds, to the extent of sending his only Son the crucified Lamb of our propitiation at the cross, the place to which our following leads.

 

Is it any wonder that repentant sinners flocked to Jesus for a new begetting, not of legal demands, but of faith in an imparted knowledge that “Jesus sinners doth receive”. The author to the Hebrews urges us to “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” in whom all of heaven rejoices for his joy in the cross set before him (12:2).

 

Finally, Jesus employs a feminine figure for his church illustrating ongoing repentance in her house. The woman lost, perhaps a part of her dowry who is Christ, one of ten valuable coins. The congregations of Ephesus were muddied by “persons… without understanding” of law and gospel (1 Tim. 1:6, 7). To counter what would amount as loss of Jesus from false doctrine, St. Paul left Timothy as spiritual overseer in word.

 

By the light of the woman’s lamp, the sweep of God’s word rightly proclaimed toward Jesus only, the woman locates a hidden coin. In the fullness of law and gospel properly distinguished, the church has her joy in the fullness of Christ, her dowry, trusting that both in proper purpose will be applied in her house. Amen.

 

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Sermon - 9/8/19
2019.09.08 22:47:40

Proper 18/C [Pent. 13] (2019): Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35.  

 

Choose,        “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” (v. 19).

 

Over the last few Sundays, Jesus impresses on us, that entering the Kingdom of God comes at cost, not only to God, but us as well, a cost that is in the nature of any faith relation. Yes, the HS graciously imparts faith to us for salvation in Christ; and by that gift there is remains nothing you need do for your salvation; simply believe!

 

But faith once received, denotes a motivated relationship in the life bestowed by faith. Yet fallen man is ignorant of God and his ways; so, Jesus beckons us to follow him, our guide for growing faith, urging us, “carry [our] own cross” (Lk. 14:27). If we are acolytes, followers of Jesus, then it is only prudent that we consider the cost to us. Jesus provides two examples; a construction engineer and a warlord.

 

To successfully complete a tower project, the builder must evaluate time, labor, materials, and architectural integrity, otherwise the tower may fail and kill many (cf. 13:4). As for kings, prime ministers, presidents, or generals contemplating battle against a superior force they either win at all costs, or suffer ruin. Both must count the costs of their enterprise.

 

So also, entering into the church’s faith, there is a cost that calls for absolute trust in the One who promises. Jesus implies, it would be better not to follow at all than do so half-heartedly, possessed of divided loyalties.  

 

Discipleship is an “all or nothing” affair; Jesus puts the matter in personal terms, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (v. 26).

 

To follow Jesus, love of God must supersede the love of earthly kin; this brings to our mind the tragedy of the Rich Ruler (18:18 ff.) who after an initial enthusiasm to follow, found that in his case the loss of wealth, estates, and earthly family forced a reconsideration (8:14, parable of the Sower).

 

If we are asked about our own core values, you might answer, “family first”. But in light of Jesus’ mission to establish a new family of faithful men and women by the procreating power of God’s new Adam, your response of “family first” only begs another question, “Which family?”

 

Jesus drills down, requiring us to identify and “choose” in which family we hold “first” loyalty; our earthly relations begotten by the will of man, or heaven’s kin begotten of the Father by the HS through water and word?

 

Baptized into Christ, in every circumstance, we are confronted with an ultimate choice: life or death. Let’s be clear, our choice has nothing to do with a sectarian, self-initiated “decision for Jesus”. God, by Jesus’ work on the cross and raising him the new man from the grave, has already made his decision for you. By water and word you are enfolded into his family to a new begetting from above.

 

Christ has accomplished universal salvation for all who receive it, those not ignoring or rejecting the gift; there is no middle way. Thus, two Sunday’s ago, Jesus urged his followers concerning their faith, that they endure and “struggle to enter [the Kingdom] through the narrow Door” (Luke 13:24).

 

We are saints by Baptism and sinners by our fleshly nature relating to God by faith alone, trusting that God is faithful whose promises in Christ are true. We are constantly engaged in a spiritual struggle to choose between that which is set before us, “life and good, death and evil” (Dt. 30:15). Each and every day God by the HS encourages and empowers you in Christ to choose life and good for you.

 

Make no mistake, apart from our baptismal locatedness in the crucified flesh of the man Jesus as our source of life, good intentions toward God are worthless, vane, and hypocrisy. Of yourself, you neither possess the materials to build a tower reaching to God, nor the strength to defeat advance of hell. Christ alone is the foundation of our reach to God and the One who has defeated of the strong man. Jesus is our teacher of trigonometry to prevail at all costs.  

 

Baptism enrolled you into God’s School of Faith for an ever-increasing knowledge of God and his ways in Christ (cf. Jn. 17:3), who alone has lain waste to hell’s armies; Jesus is the bridge of your heavenly elevation. In God’s School of Faith we wrestle, attending his word and sacrament. Our struggle never abates until our last breath; but neither does our knowledge of God and his Christ abate in eternity’s continuum.

 

Members of your earthly family may or not be committed to the new Life you have chosen in faith; after all, this is a fragmented and devolving world. Each of us individually comes before God, the “Magistrate”. We arrive with Jesus either as our Accuser for lack of faith; or with him as Advocate by faith in his word (Lk. 12:57-59).

 

Jesus prescribes, “hate” your family in the world. This is not an attitude of emotion or feeling; rather it describes love’s witness that you have chosen, Life in God’s kingdom to the exclusion of all other loyalties.

 

Your approach toward family members not in Christ, does not abandon, neither do we avoid our first loyalty toward the congregation of the Baptized; who knows how the HS will work through you captured by God’s word? Nevertheless, your unqualified allegiance belongs first to your new family in Christ. Indeed, God precisely sent Jesus for division among earthly families (Lk. 12:49-51).

 

Jesus calls his followers “good salt”, yet in context Jesus is best translated, “salt is beautiful” (14:34). Jesus describes our collective identity in Baptism; we are one with him in his sacrificial water and blood rendered from his side. Jesus warns, if you lose your salted beauty, by setting aside his word infused into your flesh, then you will be “insipid”, “good” only for the rubbish (v. 35).

 

At God’s end-time banquet we are the essential condiment, “salt”. How do we understand the analogy? Meals in the ancient world were shared with kin around a common table, passing the salt between one another. Attending guests also shared communal salt, a sign of hospital inclusion in the family, tribe, or clan. The guest was on a par, participating in familial rights, prerogatives, privileges, and protection. Thus, an ally of the king, being invited to dine, was said to “eat the salt of the palace” (Ezra 4:14) and so confessing himself a loyal ally.

 

At Sinai, God established sacrificial fellowship for pleasing worship. Israel daily would offer on the Altar of Presence sacrifices of flour seasoned with salt, a “grain offering”. The loaves were offered to God and returned as the priesthood’s Bread.  

 

Of this “grain offering”, God commanded, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with you’re God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt (Lev. 2:13). God was emphatic about salt with the grain sacrifice. By consuming the bread from the Altar, the priests were made holy for service, assuring the people of God’s graciousness toward them through the ministry of priesthood.

 

In this NT time, God’s presence and Name is now with his new Temple, Jesus’ crucified and risen flesh. Jesus described his coming death as a fallen Seed. His sacrifice in the cross’ fire is the choice he made to be an offering of “beautiful salt”. We too, united with Christ in Baptism are by faith the “salt” of Jesus’ offering (Jn. 12:24)”.

 

The Father having received Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice, delivers to us our Bread of Life in word and Sacrament, making our worship a new kinship of those who “eat the salt of the palace”.

 

Acts 1:4 describes Jesus with his Apostles at a point before his triumphal Ascension; the scene is wrongly translated as, “[Jesus] while staying with them”. But you, having ears to hear recognize application and intent of the words as, “[Jesus] sharing Salt with them…”, (“sunalizomenos”), a euphemism for “eating with them’. In other words, Jesus’ last meal as he was visible to his church was a Eucharistic feeding, even as today we discern his presence in word and Sacrament.  

 

From our Epistle, St. Paul returned Onesimus, a member of God’s family, to Philemon his earthly owner in Colossae. By Paul’s letter Philemon must make a choice; either break church fellowship considering Onesimus as returned run-away property; or he must act on his core Christian value of “family first”, that Onesimus is a Eucharistic brother, and in action provide an answer to Jesus’ implied question “which family?” Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 9/1/19
2019.09.01 22:49:51

Proper 17/C [Pent. 12] (2019): Proverbs 25:2-10; Heb. 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14.  

 

Humbles, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).

 

We have two meals before us: explicitly a pharisaic Sabbath Seder; and implicitly, by a parable of heaven’s wedding feast, that Jesus would establish part and parcel of his Last Supper and self-donation on the cross a feast to which we are invited, now as foretaste in hearing his word and receiving our feeding at his church’s Altar.

 

Jesus was invited to a Seder, probably the “honored” guest and Torah speaker for the next morning. He was confronted by a diseased man legally unfit to participate in the communal meal. Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, leaving attendees speechless. No doubt the cleansed man was immediately escorted outside the house gate.

 

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where after instituting his own Supper, he too was escorted outside the city gate. On the cross Jesus’ baptism concluded in the HS’s fire, a once for all atonement for sin; a new covenant and new altar to which all men, especially those most alienated under the law, are now invited in repentant faith to heaven’s eternal banquet.

 

On healing the diseased man on a Sabbath, Jesus received stupefied silence from the religious arbiters of God’s law. Looking about, he observed their self-conceit as they jockeyed for honorific seats at the Seder table.

 

Jesus began to teach, as expected of the guest of “honor”. He employed a proverb from the court of Solomon along with a kingdom parable; that one should not stand in a place reserved for one greater, lest the host remove and humiliate upon arrival of another, more noble.

 

In itself the proverb is at least a common sense truism for avoiding humiliation before the king in his court (Prov. 25:6, 7). But in light of Jesus’ elevation on the cross and our NT worship, we hear this proverb anew; discerning gospel substance and a table etiquette of humility (Lk. 14:10, 11), a new basis for Christian fellowship. Baptized into Christ, the greatest among us is the One marked least for service to his brothers and sisters (Lk. 22:27).

 

Between our Gospel Reading and my Sermon, the church confessed her Triune God’s identity. At crux of the Nicene Creed you observed my liturgical action on your behalf; at the word’s, “and was made man” your Celebrant bowed deeply before the Altar emphasizing our witness of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus, by taking the flesh of humanity into himself, there was no condescension or humiliation. In the beginning, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 2:31);

 

Rather, Jesus condescended to obedience of the Father, appropriating the sin of the world into his own “good” flesh. Jesus, was sent from heaven, “that we might have this mind amongst [our]selves… who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of servant… And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

 

Thus, Jesus directs to our communal humility as the mark of Christian service, “A new command I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you love one another” (Jn. 13:34).

 

Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection anoints us into a priesthood of a new Altar in a new Temple outside Jerusalem’s gate. Here, now, in the Christian mass is the place of his new Temple for grace and sanctification and making us fit for love’s calling.

 

Baptized into Christ, our High Priest, with him we offer, not an atonement or propitiation, that has already been offered by Christ alone and received by God once for all and all time. Rather our sacrificial service to God is entirely Eucharistic, a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the exchange of his righteousness and holiness for our sin.

 

In Baptism we possess the HS for hearing aright God’s word and partaking of heavenly food in faith from his NT Altar, the risen body and blood of Jesus. Our sacrifice of thanksgiving and our priestly feeding sustains us for growth in faith by which we are saved and marked in the same humility of our crucified Lord. Faithful in the congregation’s worship, we discern new relations; gathered in his body we are blood brothers and sisters, knowing God’s love as we are daily conformed to the “likeness” of Jesus. Thus, the teacher of Hebrews exhorts, we “look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

 

So, we do not forget hospitality and catechesis to Christians for those seeking the fullness of fellowship with angels and archangels;

 

We remember those in prison. This admonition does not urge us to what is modernly called “prison ministry” among inmates of San Quintin, Sing-Sing, or county jails. Rather we are reminded that Christianity, its teaching, confession, and worship was and is at various times and places a criminal offense. Thus, Saul persecuted the church possessing from the Jewish Sanhedrin writs of arrest; and looking to Peter and Paul in Rome, secular and pagan authorities imprisoned and executed Christians.

 

In our own environment perhaps, such persecution is observed toward faithful pastors unjustly deposed by congregations infected by a bitter spirit (12:15). As for persecutions in other parts of the world, imprisonment of Christians is a literal reality.

 

In humility we keep and hold marriage in honor, a holy estate within the congregation. While marriage is not a “sacrament”, it is nevertheless the venue of procreation with God and forgiveness acted out in mutual and humble forgiveness between a man and a woman for continued fidelity.

 

A humble spirit frees us from love of money and excessive worry about it. Here we “look to Jesus” who on earth had no place to rest his head, and the “great cloud witnesses” who, in faith trusted God for all things, for the promise of a better inheritance.

 

The teacher of Hebrews fleshes out Christ’s humility; in all things by faith we have the assurance of a “good conscience” that Christ alone has gained for us God’s grace by his atoning work on the cross.

 

Guidance from the teacher to the Hebrews may be law; still, for the Baptized it is a law that presupposes God’s gospel forgiveness, and so revealing where and how saving faith brings our intended end, a recreation as image of God and likeness of Christ. Amen.

 

pem.



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Sermon - 8/25/19
2019.08.25 23:37:08

Proper 16/C [Pent. 11] (2019): Isa. 66:18-23; Heb. 12:4-29; Luke 13:22-30.  

 

Struggle,     And someone said to [Jesus], “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, Struggle to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (vv. 23, 24).

 

The questioner assumed he was “saved”; and for this reason, asked the wrong question. One must first ask after his own spiritual condition, a matter of individual faith; and only then, with trepidation attend others.

 

Jesus does not directly answer the man; rather he addresses those following him about spiritual endurance. So, what does “salvation by faith—alone” mean? That has been our inquiry over the last two Sundays: Abraham counted righteous by faith (Gen. 15:6); and God calling Jesus his “hammer and fire” (Jer. 23:29) who crushes stone hearts to repentance.

 

Certainly, today’s “questioner” was a Jew holding preconceptions as one of Abraham’s ethnically circumcised descendants. Jesus does not let his assumptions pass.

 

Salvation is not a matter of ethnicity or religious grouping. Jewish or Missouri Synod Lutheran are not per se accounted righteous; rather, as with the promise to Abraham of a Seed; God counts us righteous for Christ’s sake, the heir of God’s promise.

 

So, what does Jesus mean, “Struggle to enter through the narrow door”? Certainly, human effort does not result in salvation; if that were the case, we are lost. Here is where baptismal grace enlightens; when Jesus speaks of “struggle” or “striving”, he is orienting our faith part and parcel of a new begetting by the HS from above (Jn. 3:3, 7).

 

By Baptism insight is imparted, that faith is pure gift. It has been observed that, “Hell receives people who think they are good. Jesus receives people who admit that they are not” (R. Lessing, Isaiah, p. 501), that no one may boast of effort. So, what then is the point of Christian “struggle” on our journey with Jesus?  

 

Baptism is not an isolated event; rather its power effects our on-going condition where God’s incarnate holy Word, Jesus, is cast into our sin nature and lives. The result is faith that pulverizes to repentant hearts and submission to God’s will.

 

Baptism re-orients us toward God; thus, faith the essence of our righteousness and holiness is unmerited gift of Christ. We don’t “struggle” to obtain that already possessed by our new begetting in Baptism; rather we struggle for faith’s strengthening that we not be robbed of our inheritance by fleshly hearts, minds, earthly authorities, and heavenly powers; so that grace prevails.

 

Saving faith, as with any relational gift is intended for exercise, requiring effort. Marriage is an example; men and women not only speak love but do acts of love toward one another.

 

Esau was firstborn son of Isaac and Rebecca; but a fornicator and unholy toward God (Heb. 12:16); he thought so little of his patrimony and God’s blessing that, without a struggle, he forfeited all for a single mess of pottage (KJV, Gen. 25:29-34).  

 

At Baptism, infant or oldster, we are babes, weaklings in faith; and so as Jacob’s mother Rebecca urged him to seek and grasp after his father’s inheritance and blessing; so the church encourages us to “struggle” alongside Christ for the things of faith by which we ultimately arrive at faith’s perfection.

 

Faithfully attending word and Sacrament we grow in instruction and knowledge of God in his “School of Faith”. In this way we are prepared and strengthened for every circumstance and struggle through this world. In faith we come into Abraham’s prized inheritance, the fulness of Christ’s righteousness, peace, and purity, “without which no one will see God” (Heb. 12:14).

 

Baptism is the church’s sacrament enrolling us into God’s “School of Faith”, the same School through which Jesus, in his flesh matriculated, learning perfect submission to his Father’s will. Thus, last Sunday Jesus announced the “division” he came to cast on earth by fire; “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Lk. 12:50).  

 

We can skip class, worse drop-out, or we can learn the difficult lessons of submission to the Father whereby we admit we have no self-sufficiency of ourselves, only utter reliance on Christ crucified and risen by the Father. In this teaching we learn to seek a better inheritance both now and finally on the Last Day when the School door is shut to those who forfeit knowledge of God located only in the revelation of Christ.  

 

The implicit answer to the question asked of Jesus is, “Yes, of the myriad stars in and destined for heaven, there are only few out of this world who are saved.”

 

When Jesus urges us to struggle to enter heaven’s narrow door, he simply tells us that one day, without further notice, the School door will close; and like Esau who later wept bitter tears for despising grace, they too will be turned away.  

 

It is in God’s School of Faith where we come to know God in Christ; and he, us. Of those on the Last Day whom Jesus has not known in his School, he will reply to their knocking, “I do not know where you come from; depart from me” (Lk. 13:25b, 27); at which point God’s prophesy from Isaiah, “their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched, and they will be an abhorrence to all flesh” (66:24) is execute.

 

Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17) leading to Baptism for a new begetting from above and a continuing relation with God’s invisible word manifest in Christ with us. (Note well, infants hear every bit as well, perhaps better in absolute trust, than those having attained the so-called “age of reason”).  

 

God’s School of Faith is not for the lazy and feint-hearted, titillated by sensations apart from his Word. The School is tough in prioritizing how senses are formed by his Word.

 

Our curriculum first grapples our ears to enhance faith’s sightedness in the Spirit; then by on-going instruction, correction, and rebuke, discipline develops Eucharistic taste buds, spiritually tactile touch, and a nose for heaven’s prayerful incense.

 

Jesus has taken our flesh into himself that we might run our race in the strength and perseverance of his faith, his flesh, our flesh on the cross. “[L]ooking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2a) we participate in his discipline to be known as beloved sons and daughters, achieving the goal for which we have been counted righteous and holy in the sight of God, by faith—alone. Amen.

 

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Sermon - 8/18/19
2019.08.18 23:05:53

Proper 15/C [Pent. 10] (2019): Jer. 23:16-29; Heb. 11:17—12:3; Luke 12:49-56.  

 

Fire,              “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.  What has straw in common with wheat?  Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (vv. 28, 29). 

 

God inveighs against pastors who, by the light of their own hearts, corrupt his Word, powerful of itself to be proclaimed in purity.

 

If the product of human dreams is the worthless “straw” of false teaching; then God’s unadulterated Word is life given by nourishing grain.  If the human heart is dead and resistant stone; then God’s pure word comes upon it, a crushing hammer that strikes, sparks, and ignites fire, either to repentance or, if rejected to judgment. 

 

Jesus is God’s pure word and so heaven’s hammer; he explains, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division(Lk. 12:49-51).

 

Last Sunday God “counted” Abraham’s faith righteousness (Gen. 15:6); then we enquired, “what kind of faith?”  Today we arrive at the fullness of our answer “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Heb. 12:2).  Jesus speaks of his completed baptism, in fire on the cross, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49).  

 

Jesus, the incarnate word of God, out of heaven is cast on the earth with the force of an atomic splitting explosion right in the middle of your dining-room table, a place where you might have expected to provide respite from the world’s conflicts.

 

But that is not the case, is it? Harmony among fictional families fails reality.  Neither idealized “Ozzy and Harriet” (if you remember them) nor Sunday dinner with the “Blue Bloods’” rings true. 

 

There is a reason family doesn’t speak of politics or religion among themselves, especially at the dinner table: Jesus explains, “[F]rom now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three” (v. 52).   

 

Societal politics is oriented in God’s law (1st use) for civil order in a sinful world.  But Jesus with his church is God’s final expression (2nd, 3rd uses and gospel) of his will for our salvation by word and sacrament, both law and gospel neither one confused for the other. 

 

Yet, the “religious” hearts of men and women are as false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, messaging their “dreams” against God’s clear word; they posit “another Jesus”, and “a different gospel”, hopelessly confusing law and gospel, and conflating the philosophies of men (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7). 

 

Diversity of opinion about “Jesus” around the family dinner table relativizes him to irrelevancy; nevertheless, akin to false prophets of Jeremiah, consensus declares its false conclusion, “It shall be well” (Jer. 23:17) betwixt man and God.

 

But Jesus has come, not for a negotiated conciliation; rather “division”.  Jesus lifted on the cross hammers out crisis and judgment; God’s word breaks hard hearts to spark faith’s fire.

 

By such atomizing crisis, either we relent of our “dreams” in repentant submission to God’s word and seek by faith God’s promise, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16a).

 

Here then is the “division” in the midst of families.  In the crash of God’s word among us, some will repent and believe; others will resist in favor of old dreams and associations.  For those who believe, our faith like Abraham, is counted for righteousness.

 

Abraham’s faith was sealed in the sacrament of Circumcision; now, you through the better cleansing and putting off of sin in Holy Baptism enter faith in Jesus’ crucified and resurrected flesh and blood, a salvation for which the patriarchs only hoped (Jn. 8:56).

 

Last Sunday we enquired, “what kind of faith, testifies to our righteousness before God?”; today we ask, “what does our righteousness look like?” Moses, in our Epistle today, heads-up a catalogue of faith’s heroes.  By faith Moses “saw” the invisible promise of God’s “better inheritance”. 

 

Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s household, a prince of Egypt, cypher for all the world offers. But Christ in both OT and NT comes to men for crisis in the circumstances of our lives, requiring choice between God’s promises and visible security offered among the families of men. 

 

Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and never looked back. Today Moses could remain in Pharaoh’s house or align with the slave people of God; circumstances extended him no other option, either way the Word crashed into Moses’ life.    

 

Moses was crushed by a particular attack upon Hebrew brothers and a new awareness of the suffering of his blood-people (Ex. 2:11, 12). Confronted, Moses without fear, put his life at risk for the promise God to Abraham, a better inheritance than momentary enjoyment at Pharaoh’s table. 

 

For the sake of the vision of the unseen mockery of Messiah (Heb. 11:26), Moses renounced and departed Pharaoh’s household. Division from his worldly family for unity with a new family was completed through the baptism of Israel in the Red Sea.

 

Christ, the Hammer and Fire of God crucified and risen, leads our way through this world. Baptism is where Christians first encounter spiritual crisis; either we hear God’s word unconverted, or we are compelled to renounce old family ties and associations for a new kinship (Lk. 8:19-21; 14:26; 21:16, 17).

 

There is no middle ground, Baptism is the first Christian suffering in the way of the cross; again, “in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.”  That said, in our new communion, with a new mother (church), brothers and sisters (in Christ), we patiently pray for conversions by the working of God’s hammer and fire to faith and righteousness. 

 

If we suffer on account of division from earthly families, still there is reward surpassing the loss. It may, at first, be difficult to see the invisible reality of gospel promises, but as heirs of heaven you can look about in this place and recognize not only your new family; but heaven’s “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) around a Table where the one holy catholic and apostolic religion neither speaks of human opinion nor dreams against God’s unadulterated word. 

 

Among our new family, discussion of God’s law and gospel is not avoided for the sake of “peace” with unbelievers and heretics; rather it is the inexhaustible topic of our exodus (Lk. 9:30, 31) terminating in a promised better place to be visibly revealed on the Last Day.

 

Encouraged by Moses and Elijah, on the Mt. of Transfiguration represented heaven’s “great cloud of witnesses”, urges to faithfulness in seeing Jesus only whose joy is the cross. Now, looking to Jesus, we discern our Righteousness by faith.  Amen.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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