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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

pem.



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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.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

pem.



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