Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trinity 6 Sermon

Trinity 6 – June 29th, 2008 – Matthew 5:17-26

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit +
I suppose that if I wanted to upset someone here, to get them fired up, I might call them lazy. Call someone lazy, and well, those are fighting words. We here at Zion value hard work, sincere effort – and to call someone lazy is a slap in the face. I know it has even upset me the times where people have suggested that I am lazy. We like to think of ourselves as hard workers, and to suggest otherwise is something we don’t like.

Yet, in our Gospel lesson, did you hear what our Lord Jesus said about us? Did you hear Him call us out, did you hear Him call us lazy? Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches other to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Relaxes the commandments. Doesn’t take them seriously. Is lazy as regarding the Law of God. But surely, oh, surely, that doesn’t apply to us at all. Jesus must be speaking these words of warning to some other folks, not us. And then Christ explains, Christ gives an example for us to understand. You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool” will be liable to the hell of fire.

So, let us ask ourselves a harsh, unpleasant question. When it comes to doing what God commands, when it comes to following His law, to listening to His commandments – do we do it fully, or really are we a bit. . . lazy? We have a commandment here – the 5th Commandment. You shall not murder. Thou Shall Not Kill. How have we been keeping that lately? Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and simply assume that none of you have killed anyone this past week – that I don’t have to worry about the town cops kicking down the doors of the church, weapons out, yelling for one of you to get down on the floor. But, let’s look at the commandment through Christ’s standards. Have you been angry with someone this past week? Simple as that. This past week – have you been upset with, been angry with someone? Well, then according to Jesus, you’ve broken the commandment. According to Jesus, you’ve relaxed the commandment – you’ve been lazy as regards the commandment. Do we dare go on? Have you spoken an insult about anyone this week? Told one person how horrible another person was? If so, Christ says you are liable to the council, liable to getting your walking papers and sent on your way. Dare we go on? Have you insulted a person to their face, chewed them out, called them a fool, or some other name? If you did, you probably thought it felt good – might have even thought, “Boy, I’m glad I got that out of my system.” Christ Jesus says you are liable to the fires of hell. Fire of hell – hellfire, brimstone, all that. How have you been this week?

I don’t imagine there’s a one of us who is sitting all that comfortable and complacent right now, not a one of us who can’t think of something, probably many things from this past week where we have fallen flat on our faces with what our Lord speaks here. And what’s scary – this is just the beginning of this part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is just the 5th Commandment – and probably a bit of the 8th as well. He goes on to talk about the 6th, and the 3rd, and the 7th, and the 9th and 10th, and well, basically all of them – all the commandments to this high standard.

And the thing is – this shouldn’t surprise any of us. We are Lutheran – we pride ourselves on knowing the Commandments and what they mean. What is the 5th Commandment? You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every bodily need. What is the 8th Commandment? You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor? What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. We memorized this stuff – we used to be able to say it forwards and backwards – of all people we should know better. And yet – just looking back on this past week – how often was this forgotten? How often did we breeze on by this? How often were we lax in keeping God’s commandments, how often were we. . . lazy? How often, in spite of the pride we might have in all the hard work we do, when it came down to it, when it came down to the important things, the things that God commands – were we lazy?

And we could go on – how many of us can be lazy when it comes to reconciling with others – do we seek to smooth things over or are we content to just let the grudges go on and on – even pass them on to our kids? There is a lot here that we could chew on – and to be honest there is a lot that we ought to chew on – and that is something which I will encourage you to do this coming week. Examine yourself, examine your lives – hold yourself up to a high standard when it comes to your behavior, your thoughts, your words.

But Pastor – how in the world are we supposed to be able to examine ourselves? If we look at things with Christ’s standard, we aren’t going to like what we are going to see! And that’s true – if you look at yourself according to Christ’s standard, you won’t like what you see. And the danger that lies there for us is that if there is something we don’t like – we ignore it, sweep it under the rug. And our problems, our weaknesses simply grow and grow – until they can consume us, until we become worse and worse, until we become hard and cold and brittle people, and our faith gets shattered. We cannot ignore our sin, we cannot simply slide on by with being lazy in terms of God’s law – otherwise sin will consume us and our faith will die.

Listen again to the first words our Lord speaks in today’s Gospel lesson. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Christ Jesus coming into the world doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want. Christ Jesus doesn’t mean that we are free to sin. The Law is not abolished, it still exists – there are still things which we are to do. But hear what Christ has done – He has come to fulfill the Law and the prophets. Every jot, every tittle, every part of every Word of God’s Law, Christ Jesus has fulfilled. The very places where you fail, the places where you fall short – look to the life of Christ and see how He succeeds there, how He conquers. Whereas you have anger, does not Christ show complete and perfect love to you? Whereas our hatred and anger are tied into murder – is not Christ’s love for you tied to the Cross, tied to His death and resurrection? Every place that we fall short, Christ succeeds, Christ excels in.

And here is the wonder – Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Yours does. Your righteousness does exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees – because Christ Jesus gives you His own righteousness. In the waters of Baptism He brought you into Himself – covered you with Himself. The waters which were poured upon you covered you with Christ – so that when God sees you, He sees only His Son, His righteous and Holy Son – and so you lack nothing. Salvation and life and the joys of heaven are yours because Christ has given them to you, because Christ has said – you are forgiven.

We understand that, we know that – we get the idea that someday we get to go to heaven. But let’s look at how this truth, that we are covered in Christ’s righteousness, impacts us here and now. Let me ask the question. Can it be scary to look in the mirror, to examine yourself, to see where you are lacking, what you need to improve on? It can be – but it doesn’t need to be. Why? Because you are covered in Christ – and there is no condemnation left for you – your sins are forgiven – and because of this – you are free to struggle against them, free to take them on, free to look your sinful nature square in the eye and pop it on the jaw, to beat it down. You can examine yourself, you can face down your sin – for you know that it is forgiven – and indeed, Christ Jesus gives you strength to beat it down. And that is the key – when you examine yourself, you are simply letting God work upon you in your life.

I found an interesting quote from St. Augustine this past week, on this very Gospel text, which I would like to read. Concerning the taming of the tongue, Augustine writes: “Let us understand, my dearly beloved, that if no human being can tame the tongue, we must take refuge in God, who will tame it. Does your own human nature prevent you from taming your tongue? ‘No human being can tame the tongue.’ Consider this analogy from the animals that we tame. A horse does not tame itself; a camel does not tame itself; an elephant does not tame itself; a snake does not tame itself; a lion does not tame itself. So too a man does not tame himself. In order to tame a horse, an ox, a camel, an elephant, a lion and a snake, a human being is required. Therefore God should be required in order for a human being to be tamed.”

This is what God is at work in you doing – taming you, beating down your sinful nature, and making you more and more to be who you ought to be in Him. By forgiving you, by strengthening you, by giving you strength to beat down your sin – God is shaping you into whom He wants you to be. And here is why I love that Augustine quote. To tame a horse, you have to put a bit and bridle on it. We are getting ready to receive the Supper of our Lord. We too are being tamed, we are being made to show love more and more – but it will be no mere piece of leather placed upon our tongues to tame them – rather it will be the very Body of Christ given for us, the true Blood of Christ shed for us. This Supper is given not just to forgive what we have done, but to strengthen us, to prepare us for the week to come. God shapes us by His Word, by His love, by His forgiveness, and makes us to be whom He wants us to be.

Know this, dear friends. You sin, and as long as you live, you always will. But as a Christian, you struggle against this sin – not in doubt or fear, but confident in Christ’s forgiveness and strengthened by Him. He will be with you in your struggles, indeed, He will by His Word guide your struggles and see you through them. Therefore, do not fear to face down your sins, for Christ has faced them all already. Do not fear to daily drown your old Adam, for Christ has drowned it already in the waters of Holy Baptism. Do not fear to fight the good fight of faith, for Christ has strengthened you and will continue to strengthen you through His Word and His precious Body and Blood. Amen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This is excellent

One of the things I am thankful for is the number of excellent preachers I had in my homeletics classes at the Seminary. It has kept me humble - for whenever I might want to get a touch arrogant as regards my preaching skills, I need only remember my hom classes, and my classmates who were well above me in skill. It is goo to be humble, and it is good to continue to work at honing one's skills.

Teaching vs. Writing

One teaches a class. One writes a sermon. One writes a blog. One writes an article. There is a difference between teaching and writing. When one is teaching, one can get feedback, one can get a response and respond to that, clarify, clear things up. You don't get that when you write a sermon, you don't get that when you write an article.

Here is the thought that I have. You can't be as advanced when "writing" as you can when "teaching" - because when you teach you can more easily make sure that things are clear. With teaching you can pull the students up through information - when writing the hearer/reader is left more on their own to sort and sift through the info.

When planning a class, you can plan at a different level of complexity than you can with a sermon. If you are writing an article for high schoolers to read it needs to be simpler than a class you would teach them face to face. That's just an issue of communication.

I'm not sure what the point is - but this is something that we should probably remember when we plan and write.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Swimming the Thames? Or the Jordan?

For context, you may look at,23599,23906579-23109,00.html for the article on the meeting of Conservative Anglicans in Jerusalem as they consider breaking from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

People will always leave Lutheranism. It's a hard row to hoe. We focus on grace being free - and yet also have an incredibly harsh view of the commandments and teach a strong moralism. Our pastors are placed out on an island with Scripture and the Confessions - and the hope that there isn't anyone who wants to torpedo them. And it is tiring to be Lutheran - and some people will always become fed up - and some will always leave.

So here is the question I have. How come we don't hear about many folks becoming Anglican? I suppose there are some Lutherans who head that way - but most often it is a matter of swimming the Tiber to Rome or swimming the Bosphorous to the East. And yet, you might think that English speaking Lutherans might jump to Anglicanism.

Of course, in the US, the Episcopalians are rather liberal. . . but perhaps in the future will we see people swimming. . . well, not quite the Thames but maybe the Jordan - or maybe the Niger river. If there is a split in the Anglican communion and there is a conservative, scriptural focused Anglican communion - might that be a place where some disgruntled Lutherans go?

This is the thought I have been pondering (not because I am thinking about leaving - simply because I've been watching people who have). It would be an easy, friendly place to go. There is definitely a Lutheran connection there. Plus, you would have all the nice bishop based support that a lot of folks crave after some hard years in the parish. And if there is a split, the Conservative Anglican group would be seeking to grow in America - and if you use the common service, it wouldn't be a big jump over.


This all assumes one simple thing. It's better anywhere else. While you might have support, while you might have a fine structure - in the moment it is still you and the Word before the council. Don't worry about how you will handle - fear not those who can kill the body - and don't worry whom God will use to pick up the pieces.

Everywhere is messed up. Always has been. Old and New Testament. Jerusalem is the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. The New Testament is full of Martyrs, and exile for the faithful, and banishment. Athanasius and Chysostom are both exiled, Augustine is in a backwater - Patrick and Columba, oigh. The Church on earth is always messed up - open up an Epistle and see if there is any golden age - and there isn't.

There is no river to swim to a perfect land - and there's no confession better than the Concordia. It's always nice to remember that.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Today's sermon - Trinity 5

Trinity 5 – June 22nd, 2008 – Luke 5:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The night was long and hard and physical. There were no automated machines to keep pulling in the empty nets, it was simply the muscle power of Simon Peter and his fellow fishers. Thick, heavy rope, waterlogged – cast out, pulled up from the depths, over and over and over again. And all for nothing. And finally, after a long, fruitless night, the morning comes. And so, weary and worn, the fishermen pull into the shore. Still, there are chores to do. The nets must be washed and mended – seaweed cleaned off, frays picked up during the night repaired. And all with no catch, without even the prospect of getting a little cash as a reward for the hard labor.

And then Jesus, the teacher comes. Simon Peter sees Him. What will this Jesus do? He will put Simon Peter to work. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. Ah, yes, you there, cleaning the nets, would you mind waiting on that for a bit and driving me around in your boat for a bit. Think about that for a moment. Put yourself into Simon Peter’s shoes. You tired, you are worn. You’ve had a rotten day. Would you do as he did? The phone rings right when you get in for the night – do you run back out? Tired and worn, how easy is it to get up and going again? Would you go – or would the words, “Not tonight, it’s been a long day – I can’t now, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow” rise up on your lips? Don’t just blow by the verse; rather think of what is asked of Simon. Come work more, after a hard, fruitless night. It’s a lot to ask. Yet Simon goes – tired and worn – and Simon sits there, at Jesus’ feet, learning, hearing the Word of God. Another point to ponder. Simon, tired and worn as he is, listens to God’s Word. No excuses – no “It’s too late for devotions tonight, I’ll just catch up tomorrow” – the thoughts of a comfy bed don’t keep him from the Word.

Sometimes we get this idea of Simon Peter that he just follows Jesus because of the miraculous catch of fish – we can think, “well, shoot, what’s so good about that? Jesus dumps a miracle in my lap I’d jump up and down excited too!” Do you see, dear friends, that this is not the case? Even before the miracle, Simon is diligent, a hard worker. Christ will sum up the law with two commandments – Love God, love your neighbor. Simon does both of these, even before the miracle. Simon loves God – behold how attentive he is to hearing the Word preached, even when it’s not convenient for him. Simon loves his neighbor. He doesn’t know who Jesus is, Simon doesn’t know that Jesus is the Messiah yet – and yet, even thinking Jesus is just some guy – yes, yes, I will serve you, I will do as you ask. Simon Peter makes us pale in comparison – Simon humbles us.

And yet, Christ Jesus our Lord will humble Simon. And when [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your Word I will let down the nets.” Now, Simon isn’t daft. He’s tired, he’s worn – and he knows what Jesus’ request will probably mean for him. More work. Re-do the clean up. Hours and hours more work. And Simon is a little put out – we already worked all night – but we’ll humor you – maybe you are going to use us as an object lesson of some sort. And so, the nets are cast. And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. A big catch – enough to nearly swap two fishing boats – more than they would expect on the best night of fishing, right there.

So – what will be Simon Peter’s reaction to this? Will he say, “well it’s about time – you know I’ve been a good little boy and it’s about time something good happened to me”? Will it be, “Maybe we should get this Jesus to come out fishing with us all the time, He could really grow the business”? No. Listen. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

That is an astonishing response, is it not? Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Let’s ponder that for a moment. How many of you are blessed? You all are, quite blessed. I suppose I could pause here, tell you to count your blessings, maybe go over a list of all the ways in which you are blessed – body and soul, house and home – all those things you memorized when you learned the meaning to the 1st Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism. We see these blessings before us all the time – and what is your response to them? Now, normally, if there is a sermon that deals with blessings, we all expect it to be about thankfulness – come on Pastor, it’s not November yet and there’s no turkey in the oven at home – it’s not time for a long winded spiel on thankfulness. Not going to do that today – you should be thankful, yes – but listen to Simon Peter’s response again – Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Do you see Simon Peter’s humility? Do you hear it? Here Christ lays out a fantastic blessing before him – and what is Simon’s response. I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve any of this. In fact, I am a sinful being, and from God I deserve only wrath. Seems a strange reaction – but only because we forget that Simon Peter is dead on accurate here. He isn’t worthy, he doesn’t deserve any of the blessings God gives him. In fact he deserves only God’s wrath. Do we think that way? We say it – we confess that “I have ever offended you and justly deserved your . . . temporal and eternal punishment.” We say the words of humility, but are we humble – or are we proud? We say that we deserve punishment – but do we get downcast and upset when we don’t have things go our way? Are we proud or are we humble? Do we think that being a Christian means God will like us more and give us more stuff – or do we as Christians ever more and more realize just how completely undeserving we are of any and every blessing God gives us? Simon Peter here reminds us and teaches us. He could have looked to what a kind person he was – he could have said, “well, I’m a good little boy who did what Jesus said, of course I should get a bunch of fish” as though he were a dolphin or whale at Sea World doing tricks. No – Simon Peter is humble – as we ourselves are to be – as we ourselves are when we hear God’s Word of Law, when we hear what God’s Word says about us.

And then, hearing Simon Peter’s humility, hearing his confession, Christ speaks. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” We know this verse – it’s one we learn when we are little – I can tell, because in my head I’ve got the old style “fishers of men” memorized – we skip to the end of the verse. We won’t this morning – listen to the first thing Jesus says. Do not be afraid. That’s the key. Christ Jesus sees Simon Peter before him, sees a man who knows that he is a sinner, knows his own flaws and weaknesses, knows that he has failed in living as he ought. And what does Jesus say to Simon Peter? Do not be afraid. Jesus forgives him. Jesus says, “do not fear because of your sin – I forgive you all of your sins.” Christ handles the problem. Christ knows that He shall go to the cross, that upon that Cross He will pay the penalty for Simon’s sins that Simon so feared, that our Lord Himself pays our penalty. And so our Lord says to Simon – Do not be afraid.

This is the same thing that our Lord cries out to us over and over in service. Do not be afraid – I forgive you. Do not be afraid – peace be with you. Our cries for mercy do not go unheard. Our Lord forgives us – and that truth is central to everything that happens in this room, in this sanctuary. You, dear friends, are forgiven.

Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. So, how is Simon Peter going to be catching men? How? What does he do? Now, if we look around at the world, we get a lot of modern, spiffy ideas about how to catch men. Nice billboards and flashing signs will pack them in. Neat programs will draw them. Good advice for living, that will do it. An entertaining “experience” full of bells and whistles. Is this what Simon Peter used? When Simon Peter went about the business of catching men that the Lord said he would – was it social programs and the like? If I think about Simon Peter catching men – first thing I think about is Acts Chapter 2 – 3000 on Pentecost. What does he do, what does he say? And Peter said to them, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” Or chapter 3 – at Solomon’s Portico. Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Or in chapter 4 before the Council – This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Or even in Chapter 5 when he is arrested and told that he must no longer preach, what does Peter say? We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins.” That is how Simon Peter catches men – and what do all those examples have in common? Repent and be forgiven on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is as simple as that, and in truth that is the only way in which men will be truly caught. The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

And that’s what this place is about. That’s why this Church still stands – that God’s forgiveness might be proclaimed to we poor sinners who gather here desperately in need of it. That is why this Church still stands – so that people can hear of God’s love for them – not in terms of getting more stuff, because things come and go, not in terms of being entertained, because in this life things become hard and rough. No, so that all people, you, me, our friends, our neighbors, strangers we have yet to meet, all of us can hear of God’s love for us in this way – that He sent His only Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sin. So that we might approach this life as people who are humble, who have learned to rejoice in God’s blessings, whatever they be, great or small, so that we might approach the trials of this life without fear, not being afraid, knowing that we are forgiven by Christ Jesus. The same words which He speaks to Simon Peter are the same words He speaks to you today, and will continue to speak to you here as long as His Church here stands. Do not be afraid – you are forgiven. Amen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An addendum to Good Works

Rebellious wives and that crazy Pastor Hall both left comments on my previous post dealing with not being comfortable with my "Good works happen" sort of approach. There are times when good works don't flow. . . we are encouraged over and over to work at things. How does this balance with my "good works happen" analogy?

Like this.

Being an athlete requires a lot of hard work (and this is an apt analogy - do you not know that in a race only one wins the prize. . . unless you are playing youth soccer and get a trophy for finishing dead last. . . oh, and that last part wasn't actually Paul, that was me). Let's take being a baseball player - one that I am familiar with. You need practice. You need to do your work in the batting cage, you need your fielding drills. You need to do some paused simulations - okay, there's a runner on second - if the ball is hit to you, where do you throw the ball. You practice hard.

But when the game comes, when the ball is hit - you aren't thinking anymore. . . when the pitch comes at you are aren't thinking about swing mechanics - you simply do it.

The Christian life is one of training - and the training is a matter of preparation, where in thought and prayer and mediation we understand and learn more and more what we ought to do - we focus and rejoice in the forgiveness God has given us. And then we live our lives.

And then we pause, and take stock - have we been doing what we ought? We examine ourselves - are there places I have been weak? We repent, we struggle - and then we go forth and live.

The struggle regarding good works isn't in the doing of them per se - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Rather this - the hard part is admitting that you must continually be beating down your sinful flesh - that you will have always more and more to repent, that there will always be more to see.

Brett Farve retired from football. Why? Games were easy - it was the practice that got to him. As Christians, we don't have that option, we always must practice - and while our practice will never make us perfect - it flows from the Words of Christ Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith.

Good works are easy. Good works are a joy - when they happen. It's repenting and beating down the sinful flesh that is hard.

Good Works - the Christian Self-Diagnostic

So, what is the relationship between faith and works? How do the two interact, how do they relate, what place does each of them have? We have Paul in Ephesians 2 say "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." And then we have James saying (2:24) "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."

What do we make of these? Well, the context in Ephesians is the priority of faith - that we are dead and unable to do works until we come to faith and are given life - a life in which works will be done. Works are not the cause of Christian life, they are the result. The context of James - "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says that he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" The Italics were mine.

What is the problem that James is addressing? You see, he is not speaking in a vaccuum - but rather he is addressing those who claim faith but who show no care, do not care for their neighbor, treat others with contempt. He is claiming that their "faith" which does not show love to the neighbor, which doesn't result in love, is in fact not faith at all. That faith alone saves no one - and if there are no works, you will not be justified.

Works are not the cause of faith - but they are the way in which we as Christians can diagnose our faith. If we see no works, no love, no charity - our faith is in shoddy shape. A Christian must do good works - not in terms of "law" per se, but that it simply happens. Good works are like breathing - for a person to be alive, he must be breathing. If he's not breathing. . . as Bones would say, "He's dead, Jim."

You were dead in trespasses, as Paul says, but have been made alive in Christ. Check your pulse as a Christian. See if you are still breathing - listen to your lungs. Look at your works. Are you showing love gladly or not? If not, repent and receive forgiveness. Is there any way in which you fall short? Of course - so find it, repent of it, beat it down, lest it become a cancer which devours you!

Our Lord says that He is the vine and that we are the branches - that whoever abides in Him WILL bear much fruit. Is your fruit weak, flaccid, dried out? Repent, return to the branch, and let Christ flow through you again!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today's Sermon

Trinity 4 2008 – Luke 6:36-42 – June 15th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Last week, in Luke 15, we were instructed once again in the old truth, one of the central truths of the Christian faith – that God is merciful – that God desires to show mercy, that God actually and truly desires to show mercy, that He would not begrudge sinful man His Son Christ Jesus, but willingly and lovingly sends Christ to the Cross to die and win us salvation, to restore us to relationship with God. God is merciful. And so today, we hear our Lord Jesus Christ speak and instruct us – for the fact that God is merciful isn’t just a piece of trivia or a nice talking point for Sunday which is to be forgotten as soon as we walk out those doors. No, Christ teaches what this means – let us listen.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Well, this is somewhat fitting, as today is Father’s Day. What’s the phrase that we hear about earthly children – why, he’s just a chip off the old block! He’s just like his dad. Several of you sons here look pretty much like your dads, and looking at your dad I pretty much know what you will look like in 20 or 30 years. We have an understanding that sons quite often grow up and end up looking like their father. Do you not know, O Christian, that this also describes who and what you ought to be. At your baptism, you were made, declared to be a child of God, brought into His family. Doesn’t that suggests that as you grow, you should look more and more like him? What we remember today is this – that just as our relationship to God is shaped, is defined by the fact that God is merciful – our lives, the ways in which we act, are to be shaped by God’s mercy – that in all things we are to strive to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful. We are to be mirrors reflecting God’s love and who God is – we are to be chips off of Him.

With this in mind, that we are to be agents of mercy, just as our Father in heaven shows us mercy, we will move on to a wonderful, yet often misquoted and misused passage of Scripture. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Four commands, four instructions. Two of them are things that we are not to do, two things that we are to do. And we are given the final reminder – for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. So, what does all this mean? We know that God is merciful, that He desires to shower mercy upon us. Do we live lives of mercy – or does something else rule our lives? Are our lives ruled by grudges and anger, fear and hate, dissension and bitterness? This is what is being contrasted here – with a warning.

Judge not, and you will not be judged. Do you like judging people, do you like sitting above them, shaking your head, complaining and grousing? Is this the kind of person you like to be? This is not at all merciful – and if you decide that you don’t like mercy, if you are determined to not be shaped by God’s mercy but rather cling to the ability to look down upon your neighbor – God will let you. But He will also treat you the same way – measure it back to you. Let’s face it, if we all want to be judges, God is a bigger and better Judge than any of us. If you want Judgment to rule the day – God isn’t afraid to judge, if you insist – and none of us could stand before God if He were to judge us according to our actions. If God turned us the cold eye we can turn towards our neighbor, none of us could stand. And then, of course – condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Do we like condemnation? Do we like the idea of punishing, of people getting their just deserts, of people getting what’s coming to them? Is that mercy? By no means. But if you want to be a condemner – God can be One too – the only problem is where as we might condemn our neighbor to scorn, to cruel gossip, to mockery – God can condemn us to hell. Again, we don’t want to approach others this way, we don’t want our lives to be shaped this way.

Why? Because desiring to look down upon your neighbor, desiring their punishment is a denial of Christ. Did not Christ Jesus die for all sins upon the Cross? During Communion we will sing “Since Christ has full atonement made, and brought to us salvation, Each Christian therefore may be glad and build on this foundation!” Do we not actually believe that Christ made full atonement, that He covered everything, every sin, right there upon the Cross? Do we not agree with Paul in Romans when he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – that condemnation isn’t something we need worry or deal about because Christ has died and won us forgiveness? You can’t have it both ways – you can’t want forgiveness to rule the day as regards your sins, but then constantly whoop and holler and beat down your neighbor for every little thing they do. Why? Because if you forget about forgiveness for your neighbor – if you do not forgive, if you do not give out God’s love and mercy – you’ll stop getting it. And not in a petty sense, as though God’s going to say, “well, if you are going to be that way, fine, I’ll take my ball and go home.” Rather this.

We know that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy. But when you look down upon your neighbor, when you bemoan and lament all their faults, when your thoughts are constantly upon how they’ve done you wrong – are you confessing your own sin? Are you remembering anymore the fact that you yourself need mercy? If we sit in judgment over our neighbor – we can forget that we need mercy – and we can become embittered, and our faith can dry up, become brittle, and die. If we forgo forgiving our neighbor – if we ourselves chose to be hateful and filled with grudges, we forget what God has done for us. If we hold onto hate, we have no room for mercy, and we forget God’s mercy – and we crave it no longer, and we fall away. What’s the old saying – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck. If in our lives we walk like one who despises mercy and we talk like people who don’t like forgiveness for our neighbor – we’re going to become people who don’t care about it for ourselves, and we will fall away into unbelief.

This point is further illustrated by a string of parables fired off by Jesus this morning – Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Did you notice that two of these had to do with how you see? The blind leading the blind. Can’t see. Speck versus log – and if you have a log in your eye, a giant piece of wood or crusty something in your eye – can’t see. We can become blinded by sin – we can become blinded by the desire to rule other people’s lives, to lead them where we think they should go, tell them a piece of our mind, fix things for them. We can desire to rule over others – to judge, to condemn, to tell them what they ought to be doing – while we ourselves turn a blind eye to our own sin. This is the danger – if our focus is upon what our neighbor does wrong – do we worry about, do we repent our own sin?

Christ calls out to us to repent. The log in your eye can be removed – it is removed by the power of forgiveness. When you are forgiven, when forgiveness is the first and foremost thing in your life – then you can see. When you know that you are forgiven, when the log has been taken out of your eye – you will be ready to deal with the speck that your neighbor has – and not by beating them over the head, not by smacking them upside the head and hoping the speck falls out – but by doing the same thing that got the log out of your own eye – showing forgiveness. Forgiving.

We are taught this by Christ - A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher. We are not above God, we are not better than Jesus – and never will be. But as we are trained, as we grow, we become like Jesus. We become more and more focused on forgiveness, our eyes first check for our own logs and getting rid of them – and then, when we have received forgiveness – we look out upon our neighbor – not to wag the finger, but to give grace, but to give forgiveness, but to show love and mercy as our Father in heaven shows us mercy.

This place, this Church is about this. It is about training, training us to be ever more and more like our teacher, Christ Jesus. We are trained in the ways of mercy – we are trained to continually cry out to God for mercy so that we might not forget that mercy is central to both Christian faith and life. We are given forgiveness, so that we might approach this life as the forgiven. We are given Christ’s own Body and Blood in the Supper – and why? For the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith – or in other words that we might grow and be more like Him. That we might be fully forgiven, that we might be fully trained.

Dear Christian friends – your life as a Christian revolves around forgiveness and mercy. To be a Christian is nothing less than to be a sinner who is forgiven, a sinner who calls out and receives God’s mercy. And here is the wonder – as God gives us this forgiveness, as He gives us this mercy – He shapes us, He makes us more and more like Himself, He continually turns us away from our sin unto Himself. And this we will need over and over, all the time while we live, until the last day, the final day – when we will be raised, when we will be as He is, when we shall be with our Heavenly Father for all eternity, perfected and showing love perfectly as He has gladly shown it to us. Your Father in heaven is indeed merciful to you – rejoice in this, and let this truth shape who you are all of your days. Amen.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A misunderstanding of a Lutheran idea

One of the great, classic, Lutheran ideas is that of "simul justus and peccator" - simultaneously saint and sinner. We are probably quite familiar with this - it is the truth that while I live on this earth - even while I believe, I will still end up sinning. It will happen - thus it is my duty to repent - indeed, as the first of the 95 theses teach, my entire life will be one of repentance.

But here is the problem, the place where we can misunderstand things. This isn't an excuse to sin. This isn't a shrugging of the shoulders and saying, "Eh, to err is human after all." That's not the point. This is not an excusing of sin, but meant to be a reminder of how pervasive sin is in our lives, how much it can dominate. It is a reminder that we will always have to struggle against our sinful nature as long as we live.

I don't think we teach that as well as we ought. I think we can tend to minimize sin. We forget how seductive it is, how it starts to shape and twist our lives. This Sunday's Gospel text is Luke 6:36-42 - be merciful as your Father is merciful, judge not, lest ye be judged, forgive and you shall be forgiven. Sin is a monumental impact in our lives, and we are to struggle against it.

And how can you tell sin's impact in your life? Do you like to judge and look down upon others? Do you like to condemn - that is do you wish that they would be punished, that they would get their just deserts? Is forgiving hard for you, do you cherry pick whom you give to, and only when it seems profitable to you (even if that profit is only to make you feel good)?

That's sin, sin rearing its ugly head, sin trying to dominate all aspects of our lives. And it needs to be fought against, it needs to be struggled against - and it needs to be repented of. Come let us fix our eyes, not on the wrongs done us, not on how things aren't how we wish they were, not on our bitterness or hurt, but let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who by going to the Cross is able to pour out the Father's mercy upon us, and indeed, able to make us merciful, both now and for eternity!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yesterday's Sermon

Trinity 3 – June 8th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
This morning’s parable, dear friends in Christ, isn’t just about the foolish younger brother – it isn’t just the parable of the Prodigal Son. No, we see three people, two sons and their father – we see a family full of discord and strife. If anything this is a parable about the father who continually has to struggle to keep his family from imploding – who goes to any length to try and mollify his sons. And of course, we understand that this parable is really describing the ways in which God treats us, the lengths He goes to for our sake. So let us dive into this parable this morning and see what we learn.

The main problem that arises in this parable is that neither son understands their father. The younger son doesn’t get his father. The elder son doesn’t get his father either. Both really don’t seem to know him, each ends up wandering away. We know about the younger son – the one who wants his inheritance early. You know what that is – Dad, I want my inheritance is the same thing as saying, “Why don’t you just hurry up and kick the bucket, you old geezer, you are only good to me for money.” Kind of crass. And then we know what the younger brother does with that money. He blows it. Squanders it on reckless living. And you know what that means – suffice to say the kid hits rock bottom. And this is the point we can shake our head at – oh, how horrible this kid is, look at all that he’s done. Yeah – bad stuff – he’s foolish, he’s hateful towards his father in demanding the inheritance. But that’s really about him, that’s about him being stupid. But it’s when the guy is standing slopping pigs we see that he doesn’t know who his father really is.

Listen. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” We’ll what’s wrong with that! It’s about time that he comes to himself, comes to his senses – admits that he’s been horrible. Yeah, he’s dead on about himself, he has sinned, he isn’t worthy to be called the man’s son. But here is the problem. This young kid is afraid, thinks that his father will be cold, and heartless, thinks that his father will say, “You dirty rat, I oughta, go sleep in the barn and I’ll find some mean and nasty chore for you to do tomorrow – you make me sick.” That’s what the young man thinks his father will do. That’s why he’s so afraid and nervous about heading home. That’s why he’s ready to beg to be a servant. He doesn’t expect compassion from his father.

The elder son, he doesn’t understand his father either. The elder, dutiful son, is out working in the field, and he hears music and dancing, and he calls to one of the servants and asks what is going on. He hears that his brother has returned, that his father has killed the fattened calf, that the party is a celebration over the return of that money wasting, worthless, no good brother of his. The elder brother doesn’t understand his father either. He storms off into the night. He fumes, he sulks outside. And even when his father comes out to him, this elder brother doesn’t understand who his father is. This elder brother goes on a rant, says words just as despicable as the younger brother’s wretched living.

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never once disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” What vile words. I’ve been good, and there’s been nothing in it for me! You heartless old man have never given me anything good! How horrible, how heart-wrenching. The elder son, always working, thinking he’s going to earn blessings from his father by what he himself does. He doesn’t understand his father’s generosity, his father’s love. I bet he never even asked the father for a goat – because this father would have freely given. But no – the son is bitter – the son thinks more of his own hard work than the father’s love. The son thinks of himself, what’s in it for me, and fails to rejoice over the redemption of his brother.

Do you see, dear friends, how neither son really understood who their father was? The younger son thought his father would be cruel and callous to him – the elder son thought his father a harsh tyrant who never showed mercy, who had to be impressed with hard work and labor – the elder son thought that he had to earn everything on his own from his father. Both of these sons just don’t understand who their father is, and what the father does.

Now, this is instructive for us today, because the sons illustrate the two terrible ways in which we Christians, we who are of God’s Household, we who are of God’s family, can begin to misunderstand God. How many of you have had thoughts similar to those of the younger brother? How many of you have seen some of the wretched things you’ve done in your life and then thought, “I’m horrible, I have sinned – God couldn’t possibly forgive me!” It’s the last part that’s the problem – there’s nothing wrong with seeing your sin, in fact, it’s something that we need to do – the problem comes in when guilt and fear makes us think that our sin is too big for God to handle, too big for God to forgive. When we end up approaching God doubting that He will forgive or even being afraid to approach God. Just as the younger son forgot that his father is merciful, do we not as well sometimes forget that God is merciful to us? That is one of the dangers, one of the traps we can fall into.

And then there is the trap that the elder brother falls into. The elder brother starts looking at everything in terms of what he does. Look at all I’ve done for my father, I deserve better in life. I’m such a good, dutiful son, why doesn’t he treat me better! Are there times when you can end up treating God this way as well? If you’ve ever thought, if you’ve ever said, “Well, I’m a “good” Christian” you have. The temptation here is to approach God on the basis of what you’ve done – look at me God, see how much I’ve done for you! You owe me. How wretched and sad – treating God as though he were a petty tyrant, a miserable god who could be bribed with a few things that we do. And yet – is that not how we sometimes can end up dealing with God? Why did you let this happen to me – I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this! Can we even sometimes brag about ourselves to God?

These are two errors we can fall into, two dangers Christ warns us of. We can in our guilt over sin forget God’s mercy – we can in our arrogance see no need for God’s mercy. We can forget that this is who God is – the God who shows mercy.

Look at the father in the story – there is something remarkable that he does with each of his sons, that we can overlook. First, with the younger – But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him. Now, with the elder – His father came out to him and entreated him. Did you notice what the father does – what type of person he is? In both cases the father goes out to his wayward child. The father seeks out the son. The father’s love to his younger son pre-empts that son’s plea to work as a servant – the younger son merely confesses his sin and is welcomed back into his father’s house. The father’s love seeks out the stubborn elder brother and turns his eyes off of his own works – Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost and is found. In both cases, the father tenderly goes to his wayward sons, goes out to them, and strives to bring them back into the home.

Dear friends, hear this and know who your Heavenly Father is. Your heavenly Father is the One who continually comes, who continually reaches out to you to show you mercy. Whenever you fall into error, be it great shame and vice, be it wretched pride and arrogance, your heavenly Father always desires that you be forgiven and restored, brought back into the family, brought back into the household, brought to the feast. God desires you here in His house, receiving His forgiveness, that forgiveness which He provides for you through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. God is not too proud to redeem you – God’s good and true Son Jesus Christ will endure the shame of the cross and death to see that we are restored to the family. And this is the call that goes out every week – return to God’s house, be forgiven. Return and rejoice in the Father’s mercy. Our Lord even calls you to a wonderful feast, given whenever we partake of Christ’s own Body and Blood in His Supper. This is who God is – the One who has mercy upon you, the One who desires to restore you continually, the One who wants you always to remain with Him, to be with Him in His house and in His worship. God’s Word will always seek to show you mercy – and for that, we who have wandered and gone astray many times are right to give Him all thanks and praise. Amen.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I have Issues with Issues - but not the radio show

One of the things that I find I try to be on the guard against is abusing my office as Pastor to throw myself onto a hobby horse. I get nervous whenever a Pastor has an issue that is overly important to him. Why? Because I am to be a preacher of God's Word, not an issue monger.

What do I mean? I am a preacher and a teacher of a congregation. What do I preach and what do I teach? Do I focus on things that are hobby horses of mine, or things that my people need to learn and grow in? Do I preach things that pander to the congregation so that they feel better than other people, or do I preach law that hits home?

That pulpit pounding sermon on the dangers of abortion could be really popular - but on a Sunday when there's 3 women who could conceivably get pregnant - that's probably not the primary focus thoughts on the 5th Commandment should take. Teach it when appropriate, but it doesn't make sense to be *the* focus. I might get cheers for hammering on homosexuality, but is that the application of the 6th commandment that the folks of my congregation primarily need? Does my preaching of the law hit them, hit me - or does it make me smug for being better than those miserable sinners who do ____?

There is nothing more dangerous than a pastor who has a particular issue that he always returns to (at least in absentia of a direct reason for preaching it). It clouds and obscures the Word of God, and the whole counsel of God becomes nothing but encouragement to Pharisaical behavior.

This is one reason why I am so thankful for the Lectionary. It saves me from going onto a hobby horse of my own - even if it is one that might be appropriate. Say I think the congregation has a problem with "X" - yes, I'll preach about X. But only when it ties into the readings. On other weeks, the readings, the Word of God compels me to preach about other aspects of the Law, of Gospel, of the Christian life. And quite often, those hit and impact people in good ways which I didn't anticipate or wouldn't have expected.

Beware your hobby-horses, O pastor, lest you forget your duty of the care of souls!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Understanding is a how many edged sword?

If I might sound like Kosh from Babylon 5 - Who are you? Why are you here?

I just am wondering who in the world swings on by this little chuck of the blogosphere.

Religious Angst

One of the things that continually astounds me is the amount of religious angst that will float around (the exception to this is, of course, when I am getting all angst-ridden over something myself). Just watch and listen to what you see - how many things do people get worked up over and concerned with in terms of religion. Minutia get built up into mount Rushmores of theology (how dare you say that!), worries over numbers spur on idiocy (and everyone who didn't say how dare you say that before now say that), and over and over, we wring our hands and think "what are we to do?"

If there is one thing that I could wish for, it would be that I would know and live in the 3rd Article of the Creed - that I would remember that it's not my reason or strength that is vital - not my worries or concerns or brilliant plans - but the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel.

And that's it. It's as simple as that. The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel. God puts people to work in proclaiming the distributing the Gospel. As simple as that.

And yet, so often in the Church we become drama queens, almost freaking out as much as junior high students might over who's dating who. Why? Because sinful human beings hate the 3rd article of the Creed over all things. If only, if only we could get this. Oh, yeah, we will. Gads - sometimes this world is a tiring place!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Law always kills

The Law always kills. Always. In every case, in every usage - the Law always kills.

Now, the Law is meant to kill. If a person is sinning in pride - the Law should kill that pride. If a person has wrong desires, the Law is to put those desires to death. Or in short - the Law is meant to kill the sinner, to mortally wound the sinner, to bring him contritely to his knees.

But here is the thing. The Law always kills - and when misapplied it can kill the wrong thing. It kills the humble man who gets lambasted. It kills the contrite heart desiring mercy. The Law kills.

Luther points this out - that the Law is never to be spoken to a person who is contrite - Luther is adamant on this. And why? Because he knows that the Law kills. Always. Even third use of the Law. Pruning kills. Chemo kills. And if they are used with care, you kill the tree, kill the patient.

The Law kills. Take care in the use of the sword, lest you slay more than sin and Satan.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

1 Year, 184

I started this blog 1 year ago today. Hmmm. Interesting. Happy birthday blog.

This morning's sermon

Trinity 2 – June 1st, 2008 – Luke 14:15-24

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
When wisdom puts forth her call, will you come and learn? When wisdom cries out, will you be instructed and learn? When wisdom ask you to come and join with the company of the wise, will you instead demand to remain on your own, doing things your way, isolated and foolish? These are the implications from the book of Proverbs which we heard read this morning, implications which the Pharisees with whom Jesus Christ is dining are familiar with. Jesus and the Pharisees have been gathered together, and He has already been teaching, and in response one person says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” Well, this is true. Those who are at, who participate in the heavenly feast, well blessed are they! And yet, Christ decides there is more to point out. He shows forth wisdom again – so let us not be accounted among the foolish, but give heed to our Lord’s Words today about what true blessing, true wisdom is.

But [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ So behold the set up. There are plans for a banquet, for a great and wonderful feast. Everything is prepared, everything is ready, it is time to feast, it is time to celebrate, it is time simply to rejoice in this wonderful blessing. How kind this man who hosts this banquet is. He makes no demands of those he invites. This is not BYOB, he doesn’t say, “You bring desert if you want it, cause I’m not making any.” No, all is ready, all is provided by this man. It is not merely a free lunch, but a free feast, one long expected, given simply out of the generosity and love of the host.

And yet – something horrible happens. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” All these people who were invited, all these people who had nothing asked of them, who had nothing demanded of them, they decline. They won’t make it. They have excuses – and weak ones at that. I bought a field – well, will not the field be there tomorrow? Come and feast today, and we will rejoice over your field together! I bought 5 oxen – put them in the pasture, let them rest, and you yourself, rest and rejoice at the feast. I have a wife – well, bring her along, there is food enough aplenty! All weak excuses. This is not a matter of “my wife is sick and I must show love to tend to her.” This is not “my ox has fallen into a well, and I must rescue it.” No, all of these excuses that are given, they are things that could have been done later.

The master’s reaction is understandable. So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry. Understandable that. You’ve prepared a feast. You have gone to great expense, you have labored and worked – and then, you are blown off. For no good reason. In fact, out of simple disdain. It is understandable that this master would be a bit miffed, a bit put out. But this master does not pout, he does not whine – he rather does something creative. And [he] said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has already been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filed. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Alright, if that’s how you people want to be – fine, we’ll feast and celebrate without you. You want to be cold and alone – I’ll feast with others. You know what, it doesn’t have to be the hoity-toity that I feast with – in fact, I’m sick of you and your proud ilk. No, let the poor and the blind come, the weak and the lame – the people you snubbers probably snub all the time. In fact, let the strangers, those weary from travel, those who are foreigners and passer-bys, wanderers and vagabonds – let them come, they will rejoice and eat, and we are going to have one fantastic bash. And in your stubbornness, in your folly, you will miss it.

So, this is what Jesus teaches – and we know that there is more to it than this. Jesus did not just suddenly turn into Better Homes and Gardens or the Food Network – this is more than advice for throwing the perfect party, even when things don’t work right to begin with. No, we know what this means. The master is God Almighty, who has invited us into His House, His Church, invited us to the great and heavenly feast that shall last all eternity. And this is all His doing. What must you bring with you to heaven, what must you do to earn an invite? Nothing. All has been prepared. The great servant Christ Jesus has done all the work that is required, indeed, He Himself invites you to come, join in the joys of heaven.

And people don’t come. People hear of the free gift and don’t come. Life and forgiveness and salvation are yours! Eh, why bother? We can be shocked at this – at this disdain for the Gospel – and note, that is what it is, a disdain for the Gospel. The people here aren’t rejecting the “Law” – this isn’t about Law, what must any of these people who are invited do? What work is left for them? Nothing, it has all been done – it’s all Gospel. And we can think and wonder, how can people ignore this – how can they just blow it off?

Easy enough. Now, let me read from Proverbs again for a moment. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. How can people reject the Gospel, how can they just blow it off? We do it, do we not? Is not today the day where we gather and eat the bread of Heaven, Christ Jesus our Lord, in His own supper? How many aren’t here today? And lest we become smug because we are here and someone else isn’t, how many of us blew of one of the Sunday’s last month, or in April? How many of us always take advantage of times to gather together in worship even on Sunday, to say nothing of daily devotions at home, daily matins here? How many of us take advantage of times of teaching? I’ve never taught a class here that couldn’t fit in that little room back there. Do we, who have the invitation of the Lord to come to His House – to learn His Word, to receive His forgiveness – do we ourselves value it or treasure it like we ought?

This is the thing. Jesus speaks here this word of warning to Pharisees, to educated, wise men who knew their scripture. They knew the promises of the Messiah. Some would hearken to them, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, others. Many would scoff, would ignore, would have better things to do than to follow this Jesus – in fact, many would not only reject our Lord’s invitation, but instead demand His death. They were the people who should have known better.

We dear friends, we are the people of today who should know better. Have you not been taught and trained? Did you not learn the 3rd commandment and it’s meaning – or is that all forgotten? Does your catechism lie ignored in a box or dusty on a shelf? What is the 3rd commandment? Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Hold the Word sacred. Learn it, be in it, study it, grow in it. Remember that the depths of the wisdom of God are deep, and that there is much to learn there, always more to study and learn there, always more to understand.

And not because God is mean and petty. Not because God wants you to jump through hoops, do little dances to entertain Him. No. Because God loves you, because the Father has sent Christ into the World to go to the Cross and die for your sins, to rise to give you new life. This is what Christ brings in His Word. And God never wants your separated from that, never wants you to fall away – and God knows how Satan works, how he stalks and preys upon Christians – destroying so many not with loud and brash sins, but with the simple sin of indifference to the Word. Satan wants you to think that you have better things, more important things than to study the Word, than to join together with your fellow Christians in the reception of God’s Word of Forgiveness and His Holy Supper. But God wants to shower His forgiveness upon you. There are many chances you have not to simply study on your own – but to join with others, to have that 2 or 3 or many more gathered in Christ’s name where you will be built up. Sundays – bible study and church. Monday through Thursday there is Matins in the morning, and if we need a different time than 8, so be it. Monday I send out an e-mail devotional. Tuesday nights you may come and study what the Early Church Fathers teach us about Christ. Wednesday mornings we are reviewing the Catechism. This Thursday, ladies, there is our monthly study, this time over Amos. Thursday night we are hearing the words of Luther’s teaching. And then, any other time with a question, call, ask, we can chat and discuss and study and rejoice in the Word together.

Because, dear friends, this is the thing. God invites us to His house, calls to us in His Word, so that we might be prepared for the eternal feast in heaven. This Supper today, which we will receive – what is it for? Now may this true Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, strengthen and preserve you in the One True Faith. Strengthen, preserve – go now and face the trials of life ready for heaven, ready to spit in Satan’s eye when temptation comes, ready to go gladly when the Angels come to gather you to Abraham’s bosom – Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace!

God wants you to be strong and prepared. God wants you to have peace. God wants you to rest secure in the His love for you, to dwell in His forgiveness, to know the wisdom of God – that is, to know that God has mercy and love for you and sees to your salvation, does all that is required. Know this, be in it, live it in – so that you may have for all eternity the free life given you in Christ. Amen.