Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meditation for Wednesday of Holy Week

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

The assigned Epistle for this day is Romans 5:6-11, which reads as follows:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Oftentimes we call John 3:16 the Gospel in a nutshell. I think that title really should go to Romans 5:8 - But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That is it. It's not just that we needed rescuing, it's not just that things were out of our control and God steps in - no - we were still sinners. We were enemies of God - and yet, even then, God's love compels Christ to go to the Cross for us, a love we have done nothing to earn, a love that we had done everything to confound and spoil.

Yet this is God's love for us. There is nothing noble in us that would make God set the events of Holy Week into motion. We are not righteous of ourselves - but yet, on towards Good Friday and the Cross our Lord goes.

This is what God's love for you is - it is not dependent upon you. God's love for you is not based upon how well you do this or how often you do that. There is nothing in you that forces God to love you. He simply does, and He always will. And so that you might be restored, that you might be reconciled unto Him for all eternity, He dies to redeem you from your sin, and He rises to give you life everlasting. It does not matter how difficult, how distasteful the task is - Christ will go about winning your salvation. This is His love for you.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Ma'am" is the new woman

Going over John's account of the resurrection, I think if I were to have my druthers, I would translate "woman" as in "Woman, why are you weeping" or at Cana "Woman, what does this have to do with Me" as the word "ma'am".

"Woman" just sounds harsh and abrasive in the English language today - we don't address. But there is absolutely no reproach, no harshness in this word. It is kind, it is compassion, it is polite. "Ma'am, why are you weeping?" We get that, shoot, some of us have probably said that. "Ma'am, what does this have to do with Me?"

Just a thought - they fly fast and furious on Holy Week (and must be vented lest sermons go kerblewie!!!).

Meditation for Tuesday of Holy Week

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Epistle Reading for the Tuesday of of Holy Week is 1 Timothy 6:12-14, which reads as follows:

"Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

We are used to the idea of the Christian faith being a "good fight" - Fight the good fight with all your might. That's the familiar hymn. However, it is good to see the Scripture here -- the way the good fight is described is our Lord's Passion.

Consider our Lord before Pilate. How did He speak? He didn't speak in anger. He didn't rush to defend himself. He didn't revile or besmirch His accusers. Rather this - our Lord simply confessed the truth of His Kingdom, confessed the truth that Pilate had authority only because the Father allowed him to have it. In other words - Christ kept the focus upon God.

This is the life and faith to which we are called - the struggle, the fight which we are to fight. However, this fight is not some "glorious" rebellion, like the so-called Christian Militia folks in Michigan thought; nor is it a fight where we embarrass our foes. No - the fight is this - we struggle against our own sinful and selfish desires - we daily drown our old Adam so that Christ and Christ alone might arise within us and flow out from us in acts of love and kindness. The fight we fight is against evil - and the first and most common place any of us encounter evil is our own sinful nature.

Fight the good fight of faith this week - learn more and more to beat down your sin and trust ever more in Christ Jesus, Whose passion and death you make public confession of each week in the Creed.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meditation for Monday of Holy Week

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

As this is Holy Week, instead of just doing my weekly meditation on the previous Sunday's Epistle, I am going to do one for the Epistle readings given for each day (yes, we could have a service every day from now through the Wednesday after Easter).

Today, the reading is Hebrews 9:11-15, which is as follows:

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
"Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant."

These things of Holy Week, the things we will ponder this week - they are necessary. Unlike the people who first heard the book of Hebrews, we are used to living in New Testament times. They were not - they were used to the Temple and the Sacrifices and the like - and so they understood that one did not just cavalierly saunter up to God. Sinful man could only approach God covered and protected by sacrifice - made pure so as to survive His most holy presence. Thus, for many, the hardest thing to understand in the New Testament was the idea that there no longer remained the daily sacrifices in the Temple, that these were made obsolete.

Today, we have the opposite problem. We have forgotten the true cost of our sin, forgotten what it truly means that the wages of sin is death. You couldn't forget that in the Old Testament. You went to the Temple, and it was a bloody place - there was the death of animals all over the place. You have a child, and it means there will be a sacrifice of an animal. The wages of sin is death.

We can forget that. The object lesson about sin that sacrifices were are long past - fulfilled and completed in Christ. The problem is when we come to Holy Week, when we ponder our Lord's Sacrifice, it can seem too much, it can seem so shocking.

It is not too much - it is precisely what is needed to purify us. It is not too shocking - it is precisely appropriate for what our sin deserved. With our Lord's passion, we are brought to understand once again the depth of our sin, it's weight, it's burden, since we see Christ take upon Himself the punishment due us all.

Yet, in this we also see our victory - we see that He has borne our burden, that He has lifted the weight of sin from off our shoulders and placed in upon His own - we see why we now, unlike the folks of the Old Testament, can so easily and happily approach God. Because we do so in Christ - we come not covered in the blood of bulls and goats, but in the Blood of Christ Jesus - eternally purified. And we carry this with us wherever we go - sanctified and prepared for His own works of righteousness. This is why we begin our services in the Name of Christ, our prayers end in the Name of Christ. . . because our lives are lived in Christ and His redemption.

See and know the value of the gift you have received in your redemption, and delight and rejoice in the forgiveness and sanctification God has given unto you.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday + Confirmation Sermon

Confirmation Sunday – Phillipians 2:5-11 – March 28th, 2010

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Today we have that wonderful confluence of events – today is Palm Sunday, where we remember how our Lord Christ Jesus rode into Jerusalem and towards His passion with joy and singing – joy and singing we repeat whenever we have Communion and sing, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest – Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord.” And then, today is also known as Passion Sunday, and in our Gospel lesson we hear precisely what our Lord rode unto – namely His Passion, His suffering and death upon the Cross – all the things we will hear preached in detail this week on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday. And then of course today here, it is also Confirmation Sunday, where in just a few moments, these 4 young adults will make public confession of their faith and publicly swear that they will strive to hold fast unto and to live out this faith all their days. There is one thing, one element that runs throughout all these three topics – and that is Christ Jesus our Lord, and in particular, His death and passion.

The central event of the Christian faith – the act, the event around which the whole of the Christian faith revolves around is the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. It is there, upon the Cross, where the world is changed forever more – it is the ultimate unexpected twist, the ultimate change. In Scripture, we see plenty of wickedness and the consequences thereof. We see people sin, and we see people die. We see people act foolishly and then get into trouble after trouble – and really, none of this is unexpected. Sin brings with it pain and suffering. Any one of us here can give examples of that from our own life. And then, throughout Scripture we see examples over and over of God being merciful, of God being willing to provide forgiveness – of God showing mercy to man. Nothing surprising there. But then, you get the crucifixion – and we are forced to pause and wonder – is this how far God would go to show mercy and love to sinful man – is this how far God would go to rescue man from death, from the consequence of his own sin? That Christ Jesus, True God and True Man, would suffer, would take up the punishment for sin which He didn’t commit, simply to show us full mercy? It seems too much – and yet, Christ our Lord humbly rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – not to toot His own horn, not to bask in the glory of the crowds – rather, He rides into Jerusalem only so that on Good Friday He might walk out of Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary and the bitter conclusion of His Passion.

This week we will be observing several services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, looking in detail at various aspects of our Lord’s Passion, but just consider the big picture at the moment. What does Jesus do? He takes your place upon the Cross – He suffers so that you might live. This is the heart of the Christian faith – that God Himself would rather taste death so that you might have eternal life – that He values you more than He values His own life. This is the wonder, the joy, the mystery that shapes everything we do in this place. This is the truth into which we were baptized – baptized with Christ Jesus into His death as Paul says in Romans 6. And we come to this place as those who are baptized – family members of God coming into our home. The Cross then dominates our worship – one needn’t look very hard to see a cross in this room – and when new crosses are given to adorn the walls here, it seems completely normal and natural – and that’s because it is, that’s because the Cross is central to this place. I would hope that the Cross, that the love that our Lord showed unto us has been the center of every sermon ever preached in this pulpit, for that is the purpose of this pulpit – so that we might hear once again Christ and Him Crucified proclaimed for our salvation. And then, even in the Lord’s Supper – we receive the New Testament in Christ’s Blood – His testament, that which He willed unto us, that which He gives to us as His own last Will and Testament that we might inherit eternal life, that we might enjoy the life that He won for us by the shedding of His blood. Everything here revolves around the saving death of our Lord Christ Jesus.

But dear friends, this should not be just for an hour – this should be the shape and focus of all of our lives. St. Paul writes: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Have this mind – let what Christ has done shape your mind, shape the way you think – and not just now, but all the time. Be shaped by Christ – look at what He does – “Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. . .” Even though Jesus is God, and by rights should be far above any suffering – He doesn’t hold on to His dignity, He doesn’t demand that He be treated with the proper respect – for indeed, He is mocked and scorned by the soldiers and the onlookers during His passion. No, instead of demanding His rights, what does Jesus do? He “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He makes Himself as though He were the lowest of the servants – the most humble, the most ready to serve. This, dear friends, is to be our mind, how we are to work and operate. To say you are a Christian is not simply to say words but to strive to live your life following Christ’s example – to make yourself nothing, to put your neighbor’s need ahead of your own. Rebecca and Suzanna, Colton and Christopher, this is part of what you are pledging to do this day – In a few moments I will ask you “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?” To remain true to Him, to strive to live your life showing forth His love. That is what all of us who have been confirmed have sworn – that we would strive to love God and love neighbor, even at cost and hardship to ourselves.

This is a hard task – and one at which we all often fail. While we still live, until we see the resurrection of the last day, sin still taints us, still holds some sway in us – and so, out of His great love for us – Christ “Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed upon Him the Name that is above every Name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Christ Jesus our Lord, in perfect love and humility, rescues us from our sin by His own death upon the Cross, so that we might share in and enjoy His eternal exultation at His side in heaven forever more – He is the one who comes and rescues us, even as we struggle along in this life. And to aid us in this struggle, to give us strength as we strive to turn away from sin, as we strive to have His Cross be the center of our lives, He has given us the most wondrous gift of His Holy Supper. Christ knows that we are weak – so He gives us His own Body and Blood so that we might share in His strength. Christ knows that we are impure – so He gives us this pure meal to make us pure. This is the wonder and purpose of this most blessed Sacrament, that we might be forgiven, that we might be strengthened so that when we walk out those doors that we might indeed have among ourselves the mind of Christ Jesus, and that we might show forth His love.

This is the shape of our lives as Christians. Now, our confirmands have spent two years in study of God’s Word and Christian Doctrine so that they might begin their lives as adult members of this Congregation, that they might continue their growth as Christians – participating fully in the life of this congregation. They will shortly ask to be received into the Communion Fellowship of this congregation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church throughout the world, confessing the Scriptures as the true, life giving Word of God and confessing that the doctrine we teach here in this place is in agreement with that Word. They will with their own lips make the same confession that we who have been confirmed ourselves have made, and they will join in the same blessing and benefits we have received from our Lord. I ask that you listen closely to their confession and consider and remember your own. These are words that are serious and somber, but also words of joy, because with them we recognize that our life and faith is tied to Christ Jesus and no other – with them we state that we desire to have His mind, and no other. We recognize our sin and confess it, and seek our Lord’s forgiveness and strength. With this as our common confession – we rightly and safely may come together with all joy and partake of our Lord’s most blessed Supper this day – not merely for this joy of this moment, but so that we might be strengthened and prepared for the good God has called us to both in this life in the world and in the life everlasting. Now may He who has been a good work in you bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ, our Lord. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What was Star Wars thinking? And what does this have to do with theology?

So I was perusing up the upcoming release schedule for Star Wars books (which I will freely admit is a hobby of mine - I have every non-juvenile fiction work released since 1991 - most in first editions) and it got me to thinking.

The first company to do Star Wars publishing in the past 20 years was Bantaam - and they had a few trilogies (Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" should be read by anyone who likes Star Wars), then some few stand alone novels, a few short story complilations, and then one side serial (the X-Wing series). Now, some of the stories of this era were. . . lousy. Some of the writing was horrid (and yes, I'm looking at you Kevin Anderson - go back to editing where you excel!). However, the books were by in large fun - you could imagine Saturday matinee movies with the books, or maybe a 30 minute serial.

Around the end of 1999 or 2000 Del Rey took over publishing - and there have been more and more books. And while there have been quite a few stand alone books (normally tie-ins to the prequels or set between them - and a few Zahn, because he is the best author in the Star Wars Universe), and one or two trilogies (Drew Karypshan's Darth Bane series is excellent) Del Rey's big focus has been on massive, sweeping series where multiple authors take up a few books. The first was "The New Jedi Order" - a mammoth 21 book series with at least 8 authors. The next was "Legacy of the Force" - 9 books with three authors. Now they are on "The Fate of the Jedi" - 9 and 3 again.

And while I still love my Star Wars - I find I'm not going back to reread these massive series. Partially they try to take on a more "real" approach - main characters die and the like. They also are basically just massive story arcs, and I don't like it all that much - which is strange, because I tend to love Anime TV series precisely because of the epic scope (Maison Ikkoku is 96 episodes, Fushigi Yuugi is 52 - and they are basically one long story).

But here's the rub - that's not what Star Wars is. Star Wars is fast paced pulpy fun. It's Space Opera - but it's too the point. And the best of the Star Wars books keep to that idea, that image. Star Wars isn't a world of the Epic - it's the world of the archetype and fun adventure. At most three arcs, and then on to the next.

What do we learn from this? Stick to what you are. If you want to excel, if you want to be your best, you need to stick to what is fundamental and not try to become some epic wonder.

Consider your congregation. What are you trying to be? What are your dreams? Are they to be simply a faithful Lutheran Parish teaching rightly and showing love (corporately and individually) as God gives opportunity. . . or do you have "delusions of grandeur" sweeping beyond that? The later might seem successful (Del Rey's sold a lot, a lot of books) but it's not. . . right or real or as good as simply being whom God has given you to be.

The lack of contentment with the realities of one's place in life leads to more tomfoolery than anything else. It's the hook that suckered Adam and Eve in the garden, and Satan still likes to set it in us.

Time for me now, on my day off, to go read some nice, old school Star Wars while letting the dishes soak.

P.S. Is there anything "Old School" that isn't just so much better than the trendy? I've heard Rapper's Delight several times this past week - and it really is just Old School fantastic! Everything is better Old School.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reasons. . . not excuses

Pastors often decry the poor excuses people make for not attending Church. Let me take a different approach.

Which do you find more readily - reasons to go to Church or reasons not to go to Church.

All of us can work on our reasons to go to Church, even if we don't make that many excuses to skip on Sundays.

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the Hosue of the Lord."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Putting the Best Construction on Stupak

As any of you who follow the news are aware, the Health Care bill was able to pass when Rep Stupak, a democrat, led a block to Pro-life Democrats to vote for the bill in exchange for the promise of an executive order keeping the Hyde Amendment in place (which prevents federal funding of abortion). This has incensed much of the pro-life crowd - one congressman even yelled out "Baby-Killer" during Stupak's time on the floor.

I don't understand why the Pro-life crowd is upset with Stupak. . . other than getting the reform itself passed. If you don't like the bill, that's one thing. However, from a Pro-life perspective, he ensured that the Hyde Amendment would continued to be enforced -- and basically sent NOW and much of the left into tizzy fits. It was shrewd -- he was able to use his swing vote (and those with him) to give up very little from his perspective (voting with your party isn't that much of a sacrifice) to keep federal funding out of abortion.

Think about it - this is the biggest government reform of health care since abortion was legalized, and those on the left were prevented from subsidizing abortion. This is actually something that is quite astonishing - it was well played. If anything, he should be commended for seeing that there is not to be funding for abortion in this bill.

Sometimes we don't pause to think - we expect total and utter victory in everything. This isn't bad, as far as abortion policy goes. Now, concerning health care in general. . . um. . . we will see. Perhaps quite painfully, but we will see.

Lent 5 Weekly Meditation

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today we will look at yesterday's Epistle, Hebrews 9:11-15, and in particular verses 13-14, which read, "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

The book of Hebrews can be one of the harder books for us to read today, because the whole thrust of the book is that Christ Jesus is better than the Old Testament, that He fulfills the promises of the Old Testament (with the implication that a good Hebrew ought to move from observing the Old Testament to following Christ). Here in these verses we see that movement again - sure, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were good - but in Christ we have something much, much better.

But there is a wonderful movement here - Christ not only purifies our flesh (gives us forgiveness), but He purifies the conscience so that we might with Christ's own strength turn away from sin and temptation (I love how it's called "dead works" here - works of death and pain) and rather serve, rather show love to God.

These are the two poles, the two impacts upon the Christian life. We are Justified by Christ (that is, forgiven), we are Sanctified by Christ (that is, given to holy living). Christ Jesus does both of these in your life - He not only forgives you, but He strengthens you for your life of service.

It is not just that Christ Jesus wipes your slate clean and leaves you to fend for yourself. Rather this - think of yourself as an artist's canvas. To start, we are smudged and dirty with sin. Jesus wipes you clean of your sin, and then He begins to paint a brilliant masterpiece in your life - and when there are failings, when there are sins, He wipes those away and then continues crafting His work of love and beauty in you. He makes you to serve God.

This week, delight and rejoice in the ways in which God makes you to serve Him this week, the opportunities that He gives and the strength which He provides.

Blessings in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Brown

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today's Sermon

Especially for those of you who are snowed in this lovely Oklahoma Spring day. . .

Lent 5 – March 21st, 2010 – John 8:42-59

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
This past Sunday night, the Discovery Channel aired a show entitled “Who Framed Jesus” – a show that was supposedly supposed to break down the reality of what the Gospels sort of cover up. I knew it was going to be a horrible show, but, as I was getting ready to drift off to sleep, I figured I’d flip to it just to see – and right in the middle of it they were discussing all the various possible motives for why Jesus was crucified. I watched maybe three or four minutes before I turned it off, lest I give myself an aneurysm. Do you wish to know why Jesus is put to death – why people are set against Him? John records for us the heart of the matter. What does our Lord say to these folks in our Gospel lesson today? “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My Word.” Plain and simple – the only reason anyone has a problem with Christ, with Christianity, when it all boils down to it – they cannot bear to hear the Word of God. It is distasteful, it is unpleasing, it doesn’t tell folks what they want to hear.

I think sometimes we can forget just how distasteful the unbridled law of God is. See, people in general like watered down law – they like law that says, “Oh, just play nice.” Be kind – oh, that’s sweet. But that isn’t God’s law, not in its fullness. God’s law is firm and direct. Love your neighbor – not just give him polite indifference. Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect – not just try hard and we’ll give you a ribbon for participation. The simple fact is we as sinful human beings do not keep the law like we ought – we are sinful. That’s just how it goes – and we need to admit that and recognize that – and that is hard for our pride, that is hard for our ego to accept. Some things we will confess easily, but other sins, we like to downplay, brush off. And when we slough off our sin, when we minimize it, when we pretend that it, all of it, is not great, that is something that is horrible. Jesus’ Word describes what that minimizing of our sin actually is, what we are doing when we attempt to justify our own sin. He says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”

When you deny the Word of God – when you hear the Scriptures speak of your sin, and you want to brush it aside, blow it off – that is your sinful nature kicking in – that is you sounding like Satan. Harsh words, aren’t they – but Jesus calls a spade a spade – and sin, your sin, whatever it is, however little and small you like to pretend it is, is truly nasty and vile. Sin murders. When you do not show the love to your neighbor that God has called you to show them – that kills them, little by little. It harms them, it robs them of the blessings and joy God intended them to receive through you – and that is huge. Sin lies and has nothing to do with the truth. When you dither, when you make excuses – that’s the same stuff that Satan does. When you do not believe what the Word of God says about you and your sin – about your failings and your weakness, you are as bad as Satan, no ifs, ands, or buts – no excuses.

God’s Word of law is blunt and shows us the full depth, the full impact of our sin – the stuff we like to brush over, ignore, sweep under the rug. God’s Word of Law calls us to repent – to confess our sins, all our sins. The Word “confess” literally means to speak with, to speak together. We are called to speak with Christ His Word declaring our sin, every last one, to be horrid and vile. That is part of God’s Word.

Now, there is more to God’s Word – Christ Jesus also speaks Words that are lovely beyond all measure, beyond all beauty. He tells us of a truth that is profound, that is the mystery of the ages – and indeed, for our benefit. At the end of our text for this day, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” These are some profound words. In the Old Testament, when Moses asks God how He should be called, God tells Moses to call Him – I AM. God – the One who is, who exists in and of Himself – the God who creates us, and without Whom we would not exist – the Maker of Heaven and Earth. This truth of God, that He IS, was so profound to the Jews that in the Hebrew language, you never said, “I am” – you would never say I am a Jew – you would simply say, “I Jew.” You would never say “I am from Lahoma” – you would say “I from Lahoma”. God is the One who IS. And what does our Lord Jesus say – I AM. Here Jesus states and says that He is God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Christ Jesus, True God and True Man, comes into this world to deal with, to address and handle our sin. To do what is necessary to fight it, to destroy it, to forgive it. And this too, dear friends, can be distasteful. Christ coming to help and save us from our sins means that we need help, that we need saving. Let me ask you the question – how many of you recently have spurned help, gotten annoyed when someone offers help? “I can do it myself” – those words familiar? Again, words of pride, words of denial. And when it comes to handling our sin, removing its taint, being restored to life – we are helpless, we need a Savior. If you are lying upon the hospital bed with your heart stopped, you can’t go get the paddles yourself – the doctors must tend to that. Likewise – people who are dead in their trespasses – for that is what Scripture says we were, dead in trespasses – must be restored to life by the Good Physician, Christ Jesus. And the sinful nature rebels against this, fights this tooth and nail – and so many do not believe.

But to you, dear friends, it has been given to hear and know and understand these Words that Christ speaks – He has opened your ears to hear, He has opened your eyes to see. He is the light of the World, He has set you free – so that you can know the beauty of these words. God Almighty does not abandon you to a dying life of sin, He does not abandon you to the grave and destruction – but rather, Christ Jesus, the great I AM, enters into this world and saves you. That’s what our Lord’s Word proclaims, and that gives joy to those who have been made children of the Heavenly Father by the wondrous gift of Baptism – we hear and rejoice at God’s salvation – we even hear and rejoice when He breaks our sinful hearts, because we know that He will create in us new and clean hearts.

Our Lord speaks to this wonder in this text – He says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day – he saw it and was glad.” Abraham was a man of faith – and as such, he knew that he was sinful, and that sin had consequences. In our Old Testament lesson, the Lord laid out for Abraham the consequences of sin – sin means there must be death. Sin means you must die – that even your son, Issac, he too must die. And yet, even as Abraham takes Issac and binds him, ties him to the wood, raises the knife to sacrifice him, knowing that death is what both he and Issac deserve – what does he hear, what does he see? The Angel of the Lord – Christ Jesus Himself before His incarnation steps in, stops Abraham – Jesus keeps Abraham from sacrificing Issac. Jesus says to Abraham – let us find a replacement – and then there, in the thicket – a ram caught by its horns. Today, this day Abraham – your son lives this day because of this ram. Abraham saw this was glad. But there was more to it, it is as though Christ said to Abraham – “This Ram is for today, but the day will come Abraham, when I Myself will be the one who is sacrificed, not only for Isaac, but for all, and not only to give life for a day, but to give everlasting life, to defeat and conquer death.” That is the day that Abraham rejoiced that He would see – that He longed for above all others.

Now, the Jews had pointed out that Abraham had died – treated him as though he were gone. Our Lord’s Words show us the mystery, the wonder of the ages. No, Abraham was not gone – he doesn’t see death – rather He beholds Christ and so He sees life – He from heaven beholds with utter joy what Christ does as He strides to earth and takes on Human Flesh, and goes to the Cross and dies to atone for sin, rises to defeat death and ensure our resurrection. There is no final death for Abraham, for Christ won Him salvation by His own death and resurrection – and likewise, Christ Jesus has won this salvation, this promise of resurrection for you. And this is given to you, this is provided to you by His Word. Our Lord says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.” The word here for “keep” means to hold onto to, to observe, to cling to, to cherish. In Christ’s Word, there is life and salvation – His Words are indeed the Words of eternal life – and when you receive this Word – When you hear it, when you are baptized into it, when that Word of God is placed upon Your tongue in our Lord’s most Holy Supper, it brings life everlasting – life beyond death and the grave. It means you will not see death – that even death becomes merely the doorway to heaven, that the separation of body and spirit at death will be neither unpleasant nor permanent, for our Lord will raise you on the last day and make you perfect and truly living in Him. This is what God’s Word gives you, this is what the Word accomplishes and brings about in you. This is the effect of the preaching of the Word, this is the effect of Baptism, this is the effect of the Supper – that you receive from Christ life.

In this way, Christ ultimately defeats Satan. With His death and resurrection, our Lord defeats Satan, and with His Word and Sacraments, Christ pulls you out of Satan’s kingdom of death and restores you unto life. This is what He accomplishes, this is what Abraham sees and rejoices, this is why all the hosts of heaven give thanks and praise to God. Let us with prayer then prepare to join them in their songs of celebration, and let us then join in the heavenly feast in our Lord’s Supper. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By All Your Saints in Warfare

Our thanks Dear Lord for Patrick
Defender of the faith
Who taught Your Triune Nature
Unto the Celtic Race
May we with all the Baptized
Bind to our selves this day
As blessed Patrick taught us
The power of Your Name.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekly Meditation - Lent 4

(I think I am going to try to remember to post my weekly Sunday night/Monday morning e-mail on the Epistle Lesson here as well)

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord!

Today, let us consider the description of the Early Church that we hear of in Acts 2 (yesterday's 2nd reading), in particular verse 42 which reads: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

There is to be an impact, a result that comes forth from the Word. It isn't to be just information, just something incidental - but the Word of God is to have an impact upon your life, to shape it. Acts 2, right after Peter's Sermon on Pentecost, tells us what that life is to look like - and while it includes many things (generosity, thankfulness), the very first thing on the list, the highlight is this verse above.

It's a lovely description - to be devoted to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship -- now note, this isn't a book society yet. Back then, if I want to learn what someone teaches - I don't just open up their latest best seller, I don't do a web search - I go to where they are teaching. There is a gathering together around teaching - a gathering that includes fellowship. This is language describing Church - the idea of being gathered around to hear preaching.

Then there is the second part - being devoted to the "breaking of bread and the prayers". The breaking of bread refers to the Lord's Supper (on the night when He was betrayed He took bread, and when He broke it. . .) - and people would gather together in various homes (the first churches) and one of the apostles would come and they would celebrate the Supper. They would pay attention to "the prayers" -- note the word "the". Not just random prayer (which is a good thing), but "the" prayers - the standard set of prayers repeated over and over -- or what we would call the liturgy.

Or in other words, the very first description of what Christians do after Pentecost that Luke gives us in Acts is that they hear preaching and attend the Supper together - that they go to Church.

Today, it is true that we live in a much more insular, individualistic society than they did in Jesus day. We don't have to hit 12 different merchants - we can go to Super-Walmart and get pre-priced goods and check out without speaking to anyone. We don't have to go talk to people to find out what is going on - the paper or the TV or the internet will tell us. Indeed, I don't have to walk and speak this to all of you - you can read it on e-mail, when it is convenient for you (and I'm better that some of you didn't open this as soon as you saw it, but waited until later).

These advances are fine, wonderful tools -- but we ought to remember, even as we use them, that there is a personal nature to being a Christian - that Christ our Lord came to earth and took on our Flesh to be our Brother - to participate fully in our lives. In worship, this happens - Christ comes to us in His Word and Supper and participates in our lives -- not just my life or your life - but in our lives -- we are pulled together in Christ, we are knit together in Christ.

This is what defines a Christian - to be made part of the Body of Christ. It is my encouragement to you that you give attention to gathering together with that Body around the Apostolic teaching proclaimed from the pulpit even today, that you join in with the ancient prayers (or even the songs that we sing with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven) and be strengthened in your faith by the Supper. This is the pattern of life that we have in Christ - May Christ make you to grow in it.

Have a blessed week, but more than that, may you have a blessed Sunday on the 21st!

Pastor Brown

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sermon for Lent 4

4th Sunday of Lent – March 14th, 2010 – John 6:1-15

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
So there is the crowd. They had been following Jesus because of the signs that He had been doing. When the Healer doing the neat tricks heads East, they all headed East too. And so, they followed Him out into the rough and rugged land on the coast of the sea of Galilee, a desolate, rocky place. And then Jesus sits and looks at His disciples, those whom He is training, and He asks them a question – “Where are we to buy bread that these people may eat?” This is how the stage is set for the feeding of the 5000. Jesus is going to test His disciples, to see what they have learned, so see how well they know and understand Him. But before we move on to the disciples reaction, seeing what we learn there – let’s consider this question, this problem, itself. Jesus wants to “buy bread” that these people may eat. Now that in and of itself is interest – why would Jesus feel compelled to provide food for these folks? It’s odd. I mean, if I run into one of you in the mall, and I start following you around hoping that you’ll entertain me with a funny joke or conversation, I don’t think any of you would be compelled to buy me dinner.

See, here’s one of the things to commend the disciples on – none of them seem surprised in the least that Jesus would want to feed these people – and it makes sense. First and foremost, Jesus desires to care for people, to show love. He’s been healing folks left and right – He’s been caring for their physical needs in miraculous ways – so of course He’s going to care about their every day needs. And the fact is that these people have followed Him out into the wilderness, most likely unprepared for such a trek. So Jesus is going to take care of them. Now then, dear friends – let us learn two things from this. First – as Christians, we are to care for our neighbor and be concerned about our neighbor’s health and well being. That is your job, that is part of your calling as a Christian – and what is sad is that in this day in age, we are so used to passing that buck. We see someone in need, and we think, “Man, someone should help them out. Isn’t there an agency, or a program to help them?” or maybe, “Man, his daughter ought to do something,” – “Boy, her cousin should help her out more.” We see needs and then we can expect other people to act while we remain passive. That’s not what Jesus does here. He doesn’t say, “You know, I hope that dad there brought enough food for his son, otherwise he’s a lousy person.” He doesn’t say, “Look at these dunces, running into the desert without food, what are they thinking!” No, His response is to show love. Learn from this, let it become your response as well. But another thing to learn from this – this is how God looks at you. Jesus’ love for you isn’t based upon the fact that you are witty and wise and charming and always prepared. A lot of times we aren’t. Rather this – He desires to care for you, even though you do things that are foolish, even though you get yourself into trouble. His desire is to save – and you are in need, just as much as those folks in the desert there were in need.

On now to the disciples’ response. Phillip answers, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Buying bread for these folks – that’s going to be expensive, Jesus! Even if we pooled our resources, they’d only get a little. Phillip takes a logical, reasonable approach to the problem – look at resources, looks at opportunities. Very good. His problem, though, is he completely leaves Christ out of the loop. He doesn’t see how he himself can do anything, and so he assumes nothing can be done. He’s partly right – Phillip isn’t going to be able to fix this problem – and that’s something that we ourselves need to learn. There are problems that are often beyond our ability to handle. However, when those problems arise, we must move beyond simply seeing our weakness, we need to shift our focus to where it should have been in the beginning - to the One who is strong. And so then we have Andrew, and Andrew says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what they are for so many?” The loaves here are probably closer to dinner roll size, the fish are probably small fish – the boy’s carrying a meal, maybe two. And again, Andrew sees this as not enough – which is good – but at least Andrew brings everything to the Lord, which is even better. Even though Andrew is at a loss, He brings things to Christ – I don’t know how I can help these folks, Jesus – it’s going to have to be up to you. Likewise, dear friends, this is to be the direction and shape of your life. Take your problems to Christ and let Him handle them, let Him use you to handle them as He wills.

We know what Christ does – He makes everyone to sit down, blesses the bread, the fish, and then there is enough for all. He has the disciples gather up the leftovers. It is a most amazing miracle – a powerful demonstration of God’s desire to care for His people, His creation. A wonderful reminder of His bounty. However, let’s note today how the disciples played in – Jesus had asked them how this was going to get done. Now, it was not done by their own power or strength – but did you note that the disciples are still active – Jesus says to them, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” Even though Jesus is the one who feeds the 5000, He’s putting the disciples to work. Even though those disciples couldn’t do things on their own, Jesus still has them do stuff. Dear friends, this is the very picture of your life as a Christian. There is much that you can’t do – that in and of yourself you are incapable of doing. But Christ Jesus, when He sees people in need, will provide for them through you in ways in which you could not have expected. Christ our Lord acts, and He uses you as His tool, His instrument to accomplish His designs. As you approach your life this week, remember this. Understand and know that God will work through you and accomplish things in service towards your neighbor that you could not have expected, could not have done without Him – this is His delight, this is how He works. But also remember that God will serve you through your neighbor as well – remember that you yourself are one who receives His service and care in this world, that He supports and sustains you yourself through the unexpected in your life as well. In all things, whether it’s the good we do or the good we receive, or even the bad which God sees us through, as Christians we see the hand of God behind it all, doing all things for our benefit.

Now, there is one more warning or note that we need to observe this morning. The people there who are fed know that they have received, that they have been blessed by a great miracle. “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” That’s good – but then, they fail. Perceiving that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. It’s good that we pause in Lent to remember God’s physical blessings and care for us. Lent can be a season where we abstain, where we hold off on those blessings – and so it’s good to be refocused, to remember all these earthly blessings, all these first article of the creed things, all this daily bread that God provides. However, even though these are wondrous and amazing – they aren’t the main point. The blessings of this life fade. No matter how well fed you are today – none of us here are going to be making dinner reservations in 2121. We live in a fallen world, and as such, things fall apart, and we fall apart. In fact, the truth that in this fallen world we are still alive should show just how much God continues to care for us by preserving us – but God wants more than just to preserve us, than to just sustain us. He wants to redeem us. Jesus doesn’t just want to sustain life in this fallen world, He desires to give new and eternal life, everlasting life, life far outstripping this fallen one here. And so, when the people come wanting to make Him their bread king, want to hope just for their best life now, Jesus slides away. His eyes, then as always, are upon the Cross, are upon winning the prize of life and salvation for His people.

Likewise, dear friends, you are called to maintain a balance that can be so hard to keep in this life. On the one hand, see, recognize, be thankful for all the gifts and blessings you have received from God. On the other hand, remember that the much bigger gift is the forgiveness of your sins which Christ Jesus won for you upon the Cross and freely gives to you through His Word and Sacraments. We cannot let our desire for earthly blessings overshadow our need for the heavenly and eternal blessings. Of all the blessings in your life, this place here, the Word here, the font where you were washed clean, the altar from which our Lord gives you His own life-giving Body and Blood – these are the highest blessings in your life, for they last, they extend beyond just this life – they pull you through this brief time into and unto eternity. See and behold the great love, the great miracle that God does for you through His Word – for He forgives you, He makes your hard heart to bloom forth in love and care. This is what Christ accomplishes for you and in you and through you. This is how He cares for you – for indeed, our Lord provides for you, Body and Soul. Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is that what a Pastor Looks like?

One of the movies of my college days was the movie "Fight Club" (disclaimer - due to it's graphic and violent nature, I cannot recommend the movie, especially if one is offended by that - it well deserves its R rating). The premise basically involves two men who start underground fighting clubs - barefoot, barefisted expressions of masculine aggression. The two are riding a bus in one scene, and they see an ad for something by Calvin Kline with a male model. . . and derisively one asks the other, "Is that what a man looks like?" It was a rather poignant commentary on how crass commercialism shapes our ideas of what we ought to look like and be.

Today I saw an add that said "Learn to be a pastor" and underneath it was a photo - you didn't see the face or chest, but the guy was wearing awesome jeans and a button down red shirt, awesomely not tucked in, one hand hooked in his jeans, the other hand holding a big floppy bible. Full of awesomeness. "If you were to study to be a pastor," this ad tells me, "then you would just be cool and hip."

Is that what a Pastor looks like?

What is most odd is that I will dress like that on occasion during the week if I am just doing office work (I leave the AC and heat off in my office to cut down on energy - this makes it warm in the summer and sweater worthy in the winter - it works) during the week. I have a shirt that color, I'll even throw on a pair of jeans to wear in the office before I go on calls - but I've never thought it to look "hip" or "cool". I'm not a pastor in order to be hip or cool.

What do we expect pastors to be? It seems as though society has this idea that a pastor is fundamentally now meant to be someone who is (socially) charismatic and . . . cool? I mean, the public has always wanted charismatic pastors -- but there have been times when the image of pastor was charismatic and slick (the 80s, anyone?), or charismatic and successful, (the 90s), or charismatic and venerable (the 50s) -- but now the added mix is that the pastor ought to be cool in addition to charismatic.

And yet - is that ever what a Pastor really looks like? You know, I was going to have this be a critique against the whole idea of the "cool" pastor -- but that will change over time, just as none of us in the clergy feel pressure to slick our hair back. There's so much of the idea which changes - that is clearly out - Christ Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and forever - the folks who are His servants probably shouldn't be that. . . trendy, whatever the trend is.

But what about the other aspect - that being a Pastor is all about personal Charisma? Do we realize how foreign that is to Lutheran theology. Lutheran pastors cover themselves -- with vestments, with their office (... by virtue of my office. . . in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ) - with the fact that we know that we are completely replaceable in that office. Our focus is not to be own how awesome or charismatic we are - but rather we are always to point to Christ. Various men with various talents and gifts - but those talents and gifts are always to be used in pointing to Christ.

The Words of John the Baptist come to mind here - "I must decrease that He may increase." That really is the description of a pastor - that is what a pastor should look like. And what is sad is that so many people, even Christians, have no concept of this.

But then again, this probably shouldn't be surprising. Thus is life in the sinful world.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lent 3 Sermon

Lent 3 – Luke 11:14-28 – March 7th, 2010

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
So there Jesus is, and He is doing what He is normally doing – healing. This time casting out a demon that was mute. Here you have this man who is attacked by one of Satan’s minions, made to be silent. Can’t speak. Can’t talk. Cut off from his family and friends. Given by the powers of Satan over to loneliness and despair. And Jesus steps in, heals the man – and suddenly the man can speak. The man can open his mouth and speak words of love and joy. Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. But I guess some people would have just rather not have heard any of it. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” What an excuse. Um – maybe this Jesus is demonic – um, that way we don’t have to listen to Him. They would rather have this man remain mute, they would rather hear a preacher preaching something more appealing to their ears than Satan being fought. And as for others – well – while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. Oh, sure Jesus, we’ll believe, but you’ve got to do better than that! We want something more miraculous, something more wondrous! How about something with thunder and lightning – something that lights up the sky, that would be good! So just what in the world is going on here?

This is what the problem is – people are making excuses not to believe, not to trust in Christ Jesus. You see, there’s this pesky little problem – if you believe in Jesus, you really sort of need to believe everything He says. You don’t get to pick and choose – Jesus isn’t a buffet, He isn’t some fast food restaurant where you get to tell Him to hold the pickles – what He says goes. And our Lord teaches bluntly – He speaks to our sin, to our need for a Savior – points out that we of ourselves are not righteous and that we need to receive mercy from God – we need the forgiveness which He wins. Jesus teaches that we are in need – and in our pride and arrogance we can dislike that and make excuses.

So then Jesus engages in what is called “Apologetics”. Apologetics is what happens when you break down the excuses people give for why they cannot believe. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand.” Point one – is Satan dumb? If Satan divided his forces, he’d be weak. Is he weak – ask that man who was struck deaf if Satan is powerless and weak. “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” Point two – other people had been casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. If you accuse Jesus, you accuse them too. Do you really want to do that? The thought that Jesus is in league with Satan is looking worse all the time. And then the kicker, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Point three – as for you who want a sign from heaven – here it is. You are seeing God’s own power at work against the forces of darkness. Quit playing like you need something more. This is what God does, God fights Satan, God destroys him. Your excuses are foolish. You need to quit making them and instead repent, for you too need a Savior.

Do you see how Christ just sort of systematically poked holes in all their excuses that they had thrown up, that they had given for why they couldn’t listen? This is the same thing that He does towards us. The simple fact is that we are sinners, and sinners make excuses. We make excuses not to do the things we should, and excuses to do things that are wrong. So – what are your excuses? Now, I’m not Jesus, I don’t get to know your thoughts – but what excuses about the Christian life are you making? What excuses about love? What excuses about stewardship? What excuses about time, about worship, about petty grudges, about your pet sin that you enjoy – what excuses are you making? When you consider what Christ Jesus has taught about sin, about His love and the power of His Word – do any of these excuses really hold water? Really? Are the excuses you put forward any better than those we heard in the text? I know mine haven’t been. And yet, even we Christians who know better will sit around dreaming up excuse after excuse – we think we can feed Jesus a line of B.S. about why we aren’t showing love, why we aren’t studying His Word, why we blow off Church, why we ignore this person, why we play favorites with this one, why we hold on to bad habits. Sometimes I wonder just how stupid we can be. God’s Word not only fights the power of Satan – it breaks our excuses.

So why? Why is Jesus so interested in breaking down the excuses we make, even the excuses for the so-called little things – why does He want to break them down? Because the Christian life is to be one of repentance – to be one where we constantly repent of our sin and constantly focus upon Christ. And should we abandon repentance, should we move from being those who confess their sin to those who instead make excuse after excuse – it goes poorly for us. ‘When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came,’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Little sins never stay little. They always grow, they always get bigger, they always get worse. You can’t appease sin, you can’t let it have just a bit of your life, you can’t lay out the welcome mat for it and say, “Oh sure, come on in, just stay in that bedroom over there. That simply opens the floodgates, and more and more temptation and sin will flood into your life, until you are worse than you were before. This is a warning against falling away, and if you make excuses – you are playing with fire – and not just a little fire but eternal, unquenchable hell fire. And so our Lord warns us against this – quit your excuses and cling to the Word of life! And our Lord helps us to do this. At your baptism, you were given over by God to a life of repentance – a life that is to be lived out by daily contrition, daily struggle against sin, continual confession of that sin. We are to fight against Satan, not accommodate him with foolhardy excuses to ignore the Word. To be in the waters of Baptism is to be one who fights temptation – and in that water, in that Christian life, there is safety for Christ Himself is with you. We are safer fighting Satan than we are bowing before him. This is the life to which you have been called.

This is also why our Lord admonishes us to listen to His Word. But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” As Christians, we are those who hear the Word of God, we are those who are to strive to keep it. God’s Word isn’t designed to just go in one ear and out the other. It isn’t something to be brush aside, to have lip service paid to. We are to pay attention. And why? Because it is by the Word of God that we are blessed – and we remain in those blessings of God as long as we remain in the Word.

Consider the example of the Stronger Man that the Lord gives us today. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, He takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” This is what Christ Jesus does for you. You were Satan’s possession, fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay, as Luther would have us sing. You were part of Satan’s kingdom, in bondage to sin – but into this fallen world burst Christ Jesus, the Stronger Man, who defeats Satan and claims you as His own. Christ our Lord defeated Satan by His holy life, by His precious death, by His glorious resurrection – these things all defeat, destroy Satan, and break His power over you. And these things that Jesus did, that He accomplished nearly 2000 years ago are made real in your life today by the power of His Word. The Word of God takes what Christ accomplished then and brings it to you here and now. Christ defeated the old foe, and by His Word, He claims you as His own prize.

When you continually hear the Word, when you live out your baptismal life of repentance and forgiveness, of confession and absolution, when you receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper, you are being forgiven and strengthened and kept safe from Satan, kept in God’s Kingdom. God keeps you in His Word and thereby keeps you safe from the power of the Devil. And the thing is, Satan is going to do everything he can to make you ignore the Word, spurn God’s Law and despise the Gospel of Christ Jesus – because then, you abandon God, you leave the Mighty Fortress behind and are defenseless. So Christ continually preaches His Word – He doesn’t abandon you to your foolish excuses, He doesn’t leave you trapped in the sins with which Satan binds you, but over and over again, His Word of life comes to you, He preaches life and forgiveness, the Finger of God touches you, so that you might open your lips and declare His praises as well. Christ desires you to reap the benefits of His fight against Satan, and He will make these real in your life through His Word, through His Baptism, through His Supper. God grant us faith that we might cling to His Word and keep it ever more sacred all our days. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What is wrong

The Missouri Synod, all factions and groups within it, have a strong respect for the Scriptures. Even the folks that will selectively ignore parts still claim a strong, strong love for the Word. However, here is the problem -- for too many the Word is incidental and not foundational.

I attended a workshop today on Evangelism. It wasn't bad. . . but it wasn't great either. And there was some fantastic verses of Scripture brought forth. . . but it was just brought forth. It wasn't discussed, delved into, wasn't lived and breathed.

And that is what authentic Lutheranism is - being in the Word, living, breathing, eating, sleeping, even dying in the Word. The Scriptures are the TEXT, not merely the pretext according to which we do what seems best to us.

When will we remember this?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An illustration

Imagine you are a soldier, lying wounded on the verge of death in an enemy prison. And then, as you are about to breath your last, a commando breaks in, slaying the enemy guards. You flatline, and he breaks out the paddles and revives you. He quickly moves to your side, stabilizes you, tends to you until you can move, gets you up and moves you out of the installation and back to the base. Your commanding officer sees you and exclaims, "Soldier - you were left for dead! How did you get here?"

You respond - "Because I decided to come with this commando."


This is the approach of decision theology.