Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today's Sermon - Trinity 10

10th Sunday after Trinity – Luke 19:41-48 – August 28th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
We today forget, we today do not understand what a big, what a large word “Peace” is in the Holy Scriptures. In the Scriptures, when you hear the word “Peace” it’s not just… calmness. It’s not just the lack of war or something the freeze-dried gray haired hippies say. It’s not just getting a little bit of quiet. The word “Peace” encapsulates everything that has to do with things being right and proper and as they should be. If you want to think about what peace truly is – think about the Garden of Eden before the fall – that is Peace – that is things the way they ought to be. Peace is very much the opposite of Sin and all its vile and horrid consequences – indeed, you can think about Peace being directly opposed to sin. That’s what Peace is.

“And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’” This scene, this Gospel lesson takes place on Palm Sunday. Christ in riding on the Donkey, the cries of Hallelujah are echoing all around Him – and there we see Christ, on the donkey, on Palm Sunday – weeping. Weeping because Jerusalem doesn’t know the things that make for peace. And this is so horrid, so ironic, because the same “Jerusalem” means “Abode of Peace” – that “Salem” or “Shalom” is the Hebrew word for peace. You, Jerusalem, you are the place where peace should dwell, for you are where the Temple is, where Mt. Zion is, where God Himself is present to forgive the sins of His people, to undo and destroy them and to give life and peace… and you do not know the things that make for peace. The Prince of Peace rides into the Abode of Peace, and He laments, for the people there do not desire peace – not real peace. “But now they are hidden from your eyes.” There you have God Himself, come to save His people from their sin – and even the crowds praising Him, who among them understands, who desires true peace? They want freedom from Rome, kick the bums out. They want more wealth, more stuff, more security. They want things of this world – but the things of peace – not wanted. And they will follow a path of violence.

Our Lord says, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Many in Christ’s day hoped that He would lead the glorious revolution against Rome. But He doesn’t – and thus He is rejected. Instead of simply clinging to Christ and His Kingdom, so many would try to make their own kingdom in this world, and so over and over the Jewish folks in Jerusalem would rebel. In 66 AD, they drive the Roman legions out… but Rome comes back and surrounds the city, blockades it for 4 years, and then lays waste to it. Destroys the Temple – blows up the Holy of Holies. While the temple isn’t rebuilt, Jerusalem was, yet it gets destroyed again. Around 130, there is another revolt, and this time the city is utter destroyed, and all the Jewish folks living there are forced to move – are scattered to the winds. And Jerusalem has been fought over since then – a history of blood and violence and pain and suffering – all because people do not know the things that make for peace.

We see this truth further enforced when Jesus reaches the temple. “And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written My House shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.’” Christ Jesus steps into the temple, steps upon Mt. Zion, and His sorrow turns to righteous anger as He sees these people who are profiteering off of the temple sacrifices, who are engaged in commerce with nary a thought to what is actually happening in that Temple. And He drives them out. John tells us that Jesus does so with a whip made of cords – starts whipping people out of the temple. Again, a focus on money, on wealth, on “mammon”. Not upon the things that make for peace.

Now we must ponder a question ourselves. Having seen our Lord’s sorrow and anger over the things, the power, the glory, the wealth that those people craved, what it is that we crave? Do we desire the things of this world, or do we desire the things that make for peace? As Americans, what do we want? Turn on a TV and what do you see? Not just on the shows, but on the commercials as well. What are they selling us, what are we wanting? What do we think we can buy with money to make our lives so much better and wonderful, what will we flee to in order to try to get the false peace and security and false freedom of the world? We all have different things, different desires, different idols about which we think, “If only this, then life would be better.” We are not immune, we get caught up in the rat race, I have to do this, I have to buy that, if I just get X, Y, and Z things will be better. And on and on, we run around chasing after our passions, our lusts, our desires – whatever they are. And so rarely are we at peace. So often we are driven by fear, by worry, by angst. So often we trust in earthly power and might.

I know that this last paragraph, what’s I’ve just been talking about isn’t very specific. I know that I’m not lambasting specific things, specific items as “this is bad” – because I can’t. I can ponder, I can think about what calls to me, what tempts me to become an idol in my life, what I desire. But I don’t know your thoughts, your hearts – so I ask you to ponder. What do you crave, what do you want, what makes you act like the tantrum throwing 5 year old, just determined that you won’t be happy or satisfied until you get “fill in the blank”. It might be respect or a raise or a new this or that, or lust or just a desire to not have any more responsibilities so you can just live for yourself – there’s too many options for me to address or guess – and our Gospel text doesn’t point to just one. But you know – what tempts you, what is it that isn’t healthy, isn’t good, and you know it, that continually calls out to you? How does Satan attack you?

Because, he does. Satan wants you bound to the things of sin. Satan wants the things of this fallen world, money, power, busy-ness, lust, greed, prestige – whatever to more and more dominate, to shape your life, so that you are so caught up in them, so that you forget what makes for true peace. Which I guess begs the question – what is it that makes for peace? And we end our lesson with a contrast – “And He was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on His Words.” Do you see the two camps, the distinction that is made? On the one hand, you have those who are craving after power and wealth and might – and they want to destroy Christ. To be done with Him. To put Him in the ground and never have to hear His Name again, to be utterly separated from Him. Is this not what Satan tries to accomplish in your life with sin and its distractions? But on the other hand – here are the things that make for peace – the Word of Christ Jesus. It is the Prince of Peace Himself who brings peace with Him.

The sins and the temptations of the world offer us so many and varied things, things that seem appealing, things that will tell us they will bring joy when they only bring more lack and pain and suffering. But what does Christ Jesus bring with His Word? He brings to you forgiveness, so that you are free from guilt and at peace. He brings with Him life everlasting, so that even as the world shouts, “you need this, you need that” – you in truth know that you have life that lasts beyond just this time now, life much better. He brings you joy – not a mere rush of endorphins or pleasure or “happiness” – but that peaceful contentful joy, that knowing that you are loved, forgiven, that God is Your God who cares for you and that there is nothing the world can do to change that. In His Word, Christ Jesus gives you Himself – He Himself is with you, and because of this you have peace. When you hear Christ, when you dwell in Him and He in You, when you meditate upon His Word, His love for you – you have peace. It’s not that this place and the Word of God here makes all the troubles of this world go away – not right now, at least. That will have to wait for the life of the world to come. But Christ Jesus gives you peace – gives you strength to stand on His firm and sound foundation, and so the world can swirl around you – it may rage like a hurricane, but you are in the center with Christ, you are with Him and at peace. And Satan will again and again, over and over try to distract you, try to make you once again get caught up in tumbling vortex of this world – and in response Christ will speak His Word to you – He will warn you of Satan’s ploys, and then He will say, “Peace be with you.” Be at peace – know that you are forgiven, know that with my death upon the Cross I have defeated Satan, that I have defeated the world – know that with My resurrection I have ensured that even should you die, yet you shall live. This cruel and mean and jealous and greedy and vile world can in reality do nothing to you – for the Prince of Peace has come to you, He has made You to be His own temple when He baptized you, washed you clean, drove out your sin and promised to forgive you continually. He has made you His own dwelling place – and He makes you to know peace. He makes you to be focused upon Him, to hear His Word of peace over and over again.

My dear Christian friends – you are in a world that will try to buffet you, that will try to twist you, that will try to sell you on everything. And all this world will do is lead you to pain and suffering and sin and sorrow. But over and against this world, Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace, speaks His Word of life and peace to you. Your sins are forgiven. You have true life in Christ. You do not need whatever the world is selling – for you are His, and all of the life of the world to come is your inheritance. Remember this truth whenever Satan holds something dazzling before you eyes – you have been brought by the Holy Spirit to know true peace in Christ Jesus your Lord. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I am an Anticodian

I am not, contrary to what some may think, an antinomian. I do enjoy the Law. I enjoy pondering it. In a strangely sadistic way, I can almost even enjoy it when it lays me bare.

I am an Anticodian. I am opposed, not to the Law, but to your codes and lists of rules and things like that -- the things you come up with whereby you seek to tame the Law and make it your servant rather than your judge. I'm opposed to the lists and steps you give so that you can think, "There, now I know how to live according to the Law."

Oh, wise fool - do you not know that it is from your heart that sin flows, and that no code or plan or steps that you contrive, or even do, will cleanse, fix, or put to rest that wretched thing? Do you know know that in all things, you will remain a sinner bound in sinful flesh so long as you live in this life now? Why do you seek to justify anything you have done?

No - give me not your codes. They are just a false law content to pretend that a moving death is some how life.

Give me Christ Jesus, instead - and He will make well up in me streams of living water, which flow out of me without my prompting. He will make me His new creation, setting me to walk in works of His devising (not my preemptive listing or planning).

I don't need your codes, your plans. I have Christ, and He makes me to show love, even over and against my sinful flesh, which He beats down and drowns and mortifies.

I must decrease that He may increase. I believe, help my unbelief.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts from Sasse

What totally new substance our confirmation instruction would receive if it again became sacramental instruction and the Fourth and Sixth Chief Parts did not just make up a more or less unrelated appendage. And don't let anyone come up with the excuse that the children are not yet mature enough or that they would misunderstand it. where that sort of thing is said, it may be assumed that the teacher is not yet mature enough. How one can say these things to children one can learn, with the necessary changes, from the Catholic instruction for First Communion. That is what we can do. The rest God must do: awaken the hunger and thirst for the Sacrament, which is always at the same time a hunger and thirst for the Word of God.

Herman Sasse - Letter to Lutheran Pastors No. 6,
Found in "We Confess: The Sacraments" - pg. 110

Monday, August 22, 2011

Historical Thoughts on the Current Day

You know, the last few days in wandering around on the Religious corners of the Internet, there's been a lot of... lousy. Not lousy writing, but things pointing out just how... lousy things are. And of course, there becomes the comparison to yesteryear - how things are getting worse and worse all the time.


I will admit that I find great comfort in being a Historian, because it pulls me back from the immediate problems, and not just back in such a way that I can see that they are getting worse... but well back.

Are there apostates today? Sure. Always have been. Even Jesus asks the disciples, "Are you going to leave Me as well"?

Do people ignore the confessions of the Church today? Sure. Always have -- in fact, consider Athanasius who spends 17 years in exile, and why... for confessing the faith of Nicea, the official confession of the Church.

Is society going to hell in a handbasket? Sure. And this has been true over and over -- this has been true of every civilization on the face of the planet.

Think on the trial you faced in your life back around 10 years ago. In the moment, it was horrible. With time, you see that you were carried through it.

This is true of the Church in History. God will preserve to Himself His people. Will it be the glory that we might want? No... but thus is life. Here we have the cross, not yet glory. Christ remains Lord.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Observation on Popularity

According to Blogger's Stats... the most popular posts I have are the ones on Contraception or the 3rd Use or Synodical Politics. As in, these are the ones that people actually click on to make sure they see everything.

Less popular are the ones about forgiveness and grace, about humility, about beating down your own sinful nature.

Give us a list, give us someone to clearly bash or villainize as wrong, and we will pay attention. Everything else is just sort of... boring, we think?

Now, apply this observation to a pastor who becomes determined to get more cash into his church, and you have basically every Church trend that has come down the pike in the past 50 years.

Trinity 9 Sermon

Trinity 9 – Luke 16:1-9 – August 21st, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Why in the world would we get a Gospel lesson where our Lord praises a lazy steward who ends up being a cheat and a thief? Why would Jesus say, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their generation than the sons of light”? Jesus is basically saying that the wretched unbelievers are often smarter, wiser than us Christians. Why would He say such things? Because, often, when it comes to seeing and understanding reality, when it comes to being “shrewd” and knowing what is really going on in the world, in our lives… too many Christians abandon the Word of God for pretend play-land and false dreams, and fall into arrogance and folly.

Let us for a few moments consider our parable. “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.” If you are rich and powerful, you often have a manager, someone who handles your assets and oversees things so you can enjoy life. This is an agent, like for auto insurance, or even investments. But what does this rich man hear, but that this manager, this servant, has been wasting money. The guy at Edward Jones has been investing in paper airplane factories – he’s wasting your money. So, what do you do at this time? You go talk to the manager. “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’” The rich man summons the manager – we’re going to have a meeting tomorrow to discuss things, and I want answers. Again, a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

But here is where things get interesting. “And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.’” What does this manager do? Does he cook the books, falsify records to make it look like things are hunky-dory? Nope. Does he try to pass the buck – pin the blame on someone else? Nope. Does he make a bunch of excuses, say that it’s not his fault? Nope. He’s been caught doing a lousy job, and instead of trying to come up with some fancy excuse, he simply admits to himself that he is guilty as charged and will be fired. He knows he won’t be able to talk his way out of it. But not only that, this man knows himself, his limitations. He is not strong enough to dig. He knows he can’t handle the rough and tumble world of the physical work force, so there are no blustery plans to just go do something else. He is ashamed to beg – he knows his own heart and pride, he knows his lack and limitations. This is the key thing to note about this manager – he knows that he is wrong, and he knows that he is weak.

So, he sets himself upon a course of action. “’I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’” So, what is this manager’s plan? He makes himself a golden parachute. To the person who owed the master 100 measures of Olive oil – basically 800 barrels of oil – here you go, you, you only owe him 400. Or to the guy who owed basically 100,000 bushels of wheat – here you go, that’s 20,000 bushels of wheat I’ve saved you. So what will happen down the road? When this manager needs some cash, what will he be able to do – he’ll be able to go to these people and receive relief. And the best thing – it’s all perfectly legal. He’s the manager, he can give discounts – you go to a restaurant – the manager can take things off of your bill. The same thing here. Totally legal.

And then we get the strange part of the text – “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” Well, why would the master commend this manager for basically stealing from him? Because the master recognizes that it was a shrewd, a crafty thing to do. This is where the phrase, “I’ve got to hand it to you” comes in – it’s the idea that while someone’s actions might have hurt you, they were pretty quick on the uptake. Even the rich man who fires this manager is impressed at how the manager handles the situation.

So then, what does this mean for us? Our Lord says, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Are we supposed to learn how to better lie, cheat, and steal – are we supposed to learn how to run the rat race better? No, that’s not the point. This is. We are to be “shrewd” – we are to be wise and to recognize the realities of our lives. This manager was shrewd – he saw the writing on the wall, and he acted. Listen again. “And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.’” Do you hear how the manager views himself? First thing – he makes no excuses. He doesn’t try to give his master some song and dance, he doesn’t whine that it’s not his fault, he doesn’t cry out, “Give me a second chance, I promise I’ll do better.” Rather, he simply admits that he has messed up big time, even knowing that his master will punish him.

So, what of you, O Christian? You too are a manager – the other word for manager that we sometimes see in English translations is “Steward”. You are a steward, given things by God, time, talents, treasure. How has your stewardship been? When you look and consider the things and stuff you’ve wasted, the wrong and wretchedness that you have done, the things you have left undone, what do you do? Often, we foolish Christians will try to excuse ourselves. “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.” Wrong answer. If you ever try to minimize your sin, if you ever try to downplay it, you are wrong. The wages of sin is death – how do you downplay something that gives death? This manager knew he was going to get fired and he didn’t pretend otherwise. Do you, O Christian, not realize that as a sinner you deserve death? Too often, we don’t act this way – we try to brush off our sin – we just call them “faults”, we down play them. We will act as those we are just such nice people that surely, because of how nice we are God will ignore our sin. God doesn’t ignore sin – sin must be punished.

“I am not strong enough to dig.” Moreover, the manager knows his limitations. He knows he isn’t going to be able to work his way out of his problems. Likewise, O Christian, do you recognize that you will not be able to work your way out of your debt, to work your way out of your own sins? You can’t make your sin up to God. It doesn’t work that way, you don’t have the strength. Yet, what so often comes out of the lips of Christians – “Oh Lord, if you just overlook this, I promise that I’ll never do ______ again.” Arrogant foolishness and vain promises, that what that is.

Do you see the problem? We face the same issue that was so common in Christ’s day – we are tempted to become people who claim to believe in God, yet who downplay their own sin and rely upon their own works. And this is found among us today. Oh, I’m not that bad. Oh, I’m a pretty good person. Oh, I do so much for God. All of it, hogwash and folly. There is a reason in our confession we confess that we have sinned, that we are worthy of both present and eternal punishment – because we are, and if we are to be wise, if we are to approach our faith and life rightly, we must always confess our sins, confess that they are vile and large and nasty.

Why? Because it is only when we realize our guilt and see and understand that we do not have strength on our own to save ourselves that we rely upon Christ Jesus and His forgiveness. The dishonest manager in the text – he basically realizes his weakness and is determined to live off the master – he knows he will only live if the master’s wealth provides for him. Likewise, O Christian, when you have confessed your sin, when you realize your own lack, you understand that you live, that you have life only in Christ Jesus your Lord.

Do we realize how utterly foolish it is to try to talk about how good we are, how much we do for God? Why would we look to ourselves and what we have done, when our life, our salvation is won by Christ Jesus and what He has done? It is His faithfulness to His Father that covers our disobedience. It is His death upon the Cross that undoes our death. It is His resurrection that gives us life. It is there, in the waters of Holy Baptism that God Himself has washed us clean, made us to be born again – why would we run around pointing to the few good works we manage to eek out when we have this gift? Christ Jesus gives us His own Body and Blood in the Supper for the forgiveness of our sins – why then would we cling to our works when we could instead pause in wonder at what He has done? Why would we look to ourselves for life and salvation instead of Christ Jesus?

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their generation than the sons of light.” The worldly folk, the smart guys who understand that it is a dog eat dog world – they know how to treat each other, they know how the game is played. But here is the sad thing. As Christians, we can forget our own sin and weakness and lack – but even more sadly, we forget that God is merciful to us on account of Christ. We forget that God desires to show mercy, we forget that God wants to forgive us. So instead of looking to Christ and receiving comfort, indeed, being strengthened by Him so that we have strength to live, so often we are tempted to rely upon ourselves. And this, dear friends, is folly. Look to Christ Jesus. He has died for you. He has washed you in the waters of Baptism. He feeds you His Supper. Yes, you are a poor miserable sinner, a lost and condemned creature – be not afraid to admit this and confess this. For you know the truth – that the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost, that He has come to forgive the sinners, He has come to forgiven you. Abandon your pride, forsake your own works, cry out with Paul that you are the chief of sinners, but all the more believe that Christ Jesus is your Lord, that He is your Strength, your Tower, and that you have life and salvation in Him. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1000 Posts of Noise

For my 1000th post, many of which are mere rambles and blech, I will link to Thomas Lemke's very fine thoughts about why we always want so much noise.

This is something to ponder, especially as I wend my time around the internet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Not Merely "What Do I Do" but "How Does This Apply to Me"

Teaching and instructing people in the Law is not merely a matter of teaching them what to do and what not to do. I find that this is the approach that can be often taken (and often desired) by folks. We want lists of regulations. We want 7 steps to a better _____. We want a cannon law that tells us what we can do when (as a note - not all Roman Catholic priests, by cannon law, are allow to pronounce absolution for the sin of abortion - Dr. Gene Veith notes this in a blog post today).

This desire for lists, for rules that I can look at is fundamentally flawed for two reasons. First, no list is ever going to cover every contingency. You simply can't do it. You can't plan out a flow chart for everything. (One problem would be... it doesn't work, as Jesus points out when He speaks to the Pharisees and their laws and traditions). It's an impossible task, a false and misleading dream that we can create ever more complex and complex approaches that somehow "simplify" our lives.

But more than that is the second problem. It objectives and then moves away from the Scriptures. The Scriptures become a base, a source for establishing a code... and then the code is examined to determine what should be done. It's clean, it's sterile, it's distant. Instead of meditation upon the Word, there is simple input->output course of action.

I do not want to simply tell you what to do. I want to teach you how to learn to read the Scriptures and rightly ponder, "How does this apply to me?"

Not "What does this mean to me" or "How does this make me feel" - but "How does this apply to me."

As Christians we are to meditate upon the Word - it is to be lain over our lives like a blanket, draping over all things, informing us, directing us, condemning us, absolving us, recreating us -- killing and giving life.

How does a passage do so to you right now? Ponder this.

For example, let's pick a random verse. Bible Gateway has as its verse of the day 1 John 5:12 - “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

This is not merely some human construct designed to make you jump one way and not another - but it is the Divine Truth. How does this apply to your life? Does it cut you to the quick as you ponder how you have approached things completely neglecting or compartmentalizing Christianity apart from the rest of your life? Does it explain how and why you were comforted and able to endure in the trials of yesterday? Does it give comfort to you as you grieve the death of your mother and prepare for her funeral today, as you know that in her Baptism she had the Son and thus now has life? Does it remind you that sin is nothing else than turning your back upon God and thus chasing after little bits of death? Does it explain to you the desires for violence and power you see as all vain attempts to try to grasp and control a person's own life in the midst of a world of death?

The Scriptures are True - and they apply to your life - they apply, they speak, they describe more things in your life than I could ever possibly anticipate. Why? Because my perspective is limited... I've only seen what I've seen.

I can guess at how this verse might comfort the one whose mother has died... and I can point. But I'm not there yet. I can only guess at how this might remind the believer what they have, even over and against family who does not believe and the difficulties it gives them... but that's not my experience. I won't see that as clearly.

Rather than just a book giving instruction on how we are to act, the Scriptures open our eyes - they make us to see things in light of the Word and God's law and God's grace and mercy -- it teaches us reality.

That is what the Christian life is about... not mere actions and how to approach them, but rather this. The Highest Reality of the Universe is this - that Christ Jesus, True God and True Man, has come into this world and with His death and resurrection has redeemed His fallen creation, which includes you. The entirety of Scriptures point to this truth, clarify it, shows "what does this mean".

This is what we are to grow in. We are not player pianos or music boxes that are taught to bang out notes just to some list - we are those who are trained in music so that we might delight in God's gifts and learn to sing with the heavenly song. This is what our life is - this is what we grow into... do not settle for something less.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Secrecy of Good Works

Good Works, if they are rightly to be called Good Works, are not to be done to the blast of loud trumpets (or perhaps with the modern day equivalent of tooting your own horn). They are not often done in public where all can see - but quietly, where only the person being helped knows what is happening (and sometimes, not even then).

Consider our Lord noting that our Father, who sees what is done in secret, is pleased with these things -- if you draw attention to it now, you have received your reward for it now... you've turned a good work into a glory work, praising you now. Most good works are "secret" - as in you don't tell a bunch of people about them. Good works cover another's shame... how would you trumpet your works without revealing that shame? Good works bind up a neighbor's wound... how would you trumpet your works without opening up that wound? Love your neighbor, quietly and simply, and then forget about what you have done, put it out of your mind, and live in whatever works God sets before you to walk into. Works disappear into the past -- yesterday's works were good and fine for then, but let me live in the now and let the past be... the past.

Some people are very confused as to why Christ healed and was quiet, didn't want people to go talk about it. I'm not. Christ does good works -- and often good works aren't paid attention to by anyone else. This is why John can tell us that Jesus is many other things than what was written in His Gospel... but we don't need to know them. Let them be good works to those who received them.

Go live your life. Care for your neighbor. Love them. God will use you. As you grow, both in terms of experience and learning to think of things in terms of love, your good works were be... sharper, more to the point. And just let them be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Want an Imperative - I've got an imperative for you

I will give, what ultimately is the single and sole imperative, that which defines and encapsulates the entirely of the Law.

You there - love. (Or maybe "show love" just to make it clear that we aren't just dealing with a noun).

Seriously - everyone, it's as simple as this.

Are you wondering what you ought to do? Show love. Ponder, how best do I show love, how best do I care for my neighbor in this situation. How do I serve? How do I best show love?

That's it. That is sanctification in a nutshell. Sanctification is nothing but growing in love - letting more and more of the love you receive from Christ flowing through you, having less and less of your sinful nature get in the way of showing love because you've learned more and more by the aid of the Holy Spirit to beat down your flesh.

That's it. Simple as that. Hard as that.

And if you think the answer to how you show love is easy -- you aren't showing love. Think again. Show love. Serve.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Want to hear more 3rd Use?

You know, it always either amuses or frustrates me when people complain about not hearing enough 3rd use of the Law. This is because we forget what the Third Use of the Law is. The 3rd use isn't Christian advice. It isn't a specific method of phrasing the Law. It's not a style of Law.

It is a way in which the Holy Spirit uses and works any statement of Law.

For example - what "use" is this statement: If you are angry with your brother, you are liable to the council.

You know what - it could be all three.

If you are angry with your brother right now, it can be the crack of the Law that makes you stop your foolish and sinful action - that puts the fear of God into you. That's the first.

If you have been angry with your brother often, in the past it can be the mirror of reflection reminding you that you are in fact and sinful being and have not been as perfect as you ought. That's the second.

If you are thinking about how one ought to approach life, it can be that direction post and reminder of how important it is to show care and compassion and to keep your anger in Check. That the third.

So which is the "right" one. Whatever the Holy Spirit brings out and emphasizes. And you know what -- the Holy Spirit may in fact make you aware of all three, as needed.

But you know what this means? If you aren't "hearing enough 3rd Use" - you ought not complain about this to your pastor - it's not his "use" of the law. That's the Holy Spirit at work - you could take it up with him.

Or you might ponder what it means that you keep hearing 1st or 2nd use instead of 3rd. Maybe it means... you need to be hearing 1st and 2nd use.

Just saying. The Holy Spirit knows what He's doing... and actually, if you are upset with this fact, you probably do in fact need the first 2 uses more than the 3rd at the moment.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trinity 8 sermon

Trinity 8 – August 14th, 2011 – Matthew 7:15-23 (Elder Read)

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
I guess that we are going to talk about false prophets today. That seems to be the theme given in our texts this morning. Beware of false prophets. Sadly, we are in a fallen world. Sadly, we are surrounded by sin and death. Sadly, the devil is always around trying to shatter our faith. And how is this done, how does Satan try to bring us down? Through our ears, through what we hear, through his lies that try to make us forget Christ Jesus. Let us this morning listen to the true Word, God’s Word, and see what we learn about false prophets.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” That’s the problem with false prophets. At first glance, they look nice. Them seem like great people, they look exactly like what we would want to be. Well off, well liked, charming and good-looking. They look to have fame and power and success – and who wouldn’t want that. But they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, ready to devour, ready to destroy you. Satan is cunning, Satan is tricky. Yes, sometimes his servants are gross and evil and crazy looking, but quite often, they seem fair, they seem lovely – but bring with them death. This means you can’t go on simple appearances. Just because someone looks nice; that doesn’t mean he’s from God. Just because he has a great life; that doesn’t mean He speaks the truth. Just because people flock to and listen to someone doesn’t mean he’s preaching the Gospel of Christ Jesus. We can’t simply skim the surface. Rather, here is what we must do.

“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” This is how we tell who a false prophet is, by their fruit. Fruit? Well, what fruit are we talking about here? There is a lot of fruit in our lives. How we show love. Or peace. Or faith. These are all fruits, all things that flow from our lives in Christ. And remember what our Lord teaches us about our fruit - “I am the vine; you are the branches – whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” If we are in Christ, if our lives are centered in Him, fruits will flow. It simply will happen. So what then, do these fruits look like? What should we expect fruits to look like? The fruit should point to where it came from. If I take a piece of fruit, say a grape – I should be able to figure out that it came from a grape vine. If I get a fig, I should be able to tell that it came from a fig tree. With our fruit, our works, it should be obvious that they come not from ourselves, but from Christ. Good fruit, good works always point not to ourselves, but to Christ and to Him alone.

That’s how you spot a false prophet – that’s how you can tell if someone is truly preaching Christ and His Word, or if they are false. Do their works and deeds point to Christ, or do they point somewhere else? When you see them, do they draw attention to themselves, or is their focus and the focus of what they do on Christ? A lot of times when we do things, we do them to draw attention to ourselves. We like honor, we like recognition, we can want our work to bring us a bit of fame and respect. That’s not what our actions are meant to do. When people look at us, they shouldn’t see us – they should be pointed to Christ. That’s the reason why anyone who serves before this altar wears an alb. It’s not about the person, the individual and what they do, but rather the Gospel of Christ. The Alb hides servant, hides the individual. What is important isn’t how wonderful or how lousy the person in the pulpit is – but rather, is God’s Word being preached as God wants it, in its truth and purity? Are the sermons of the Pastor focusing on Christ Jesus and His salvation, or something else? All too often Pastors will preach themselves – point to how great they are, how much you should want to be like them. That’s never the point – the point of every sermon must always be Christ Jesus and Him Crucified.

This is a high, high standard. How do you separate a false prophet from a true one? Is their focus on Christ and Christ alone? It’s not just if they talk about the bible, because even Satan can do that. It’s not just if they mention Christ in passing – not do they happen to say the name Jesus – but is Jesus Christ and what He does to win salvation their focus in their preaching? Is what they say ultimately about Christ? Sadly to say, this often isn’t the case. When we look at the bookstores, the TV shows, there often isn’t much about Jesus. There’s a lot about what I can do, how I can be successful and happy– but there isn’t a lot of talk about what Jesus does or what Jesus makes me to be. The focus is wrong – the focus isn’t on Christ – and therefore it is false. Just because something claims to be Christian doesn’t mean it benefits your faith. To be Christian is to be about Christ. Paul says that he is determine to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified – that’s what it is to be Christian. However, lots of people who claim to be preachers will focus on anything and everything but Christ.

Jesus warns us of this. “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in Your Name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”” That’s pretty strong stuff there, isn’t it? Here you have Jesus addressing folks who looked to be the best – they did wonders and seemed powerful… but they are cast out. They are workers of lawlessness. They oppose and shadow the will of the Father. God’s Will is not that you be amazed at how good a preacher is, but rather this: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That sums up the Father’s will – that people believe in Christ. That people trust in Christ. That we show people Christ so that they can trust in Him. And there are false prophets today – people who say “Lord, Lord” – but then would wrest your eyes off of Jesus and place it elsewhere. Our focus is to be on Christ – Come, Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Everything that is Christian should be able to be boiled down to this, every preaching, every teaching should revolve around this truth – I am a sinner, but Christ has died for me and gives me all that He is. And if it can’t be boiled down to that – then it’s not truly Christian, it doesn’t matter how much it claims to talk about Jesus or the Bible. It might be wise, it might be good, practical advice – but it isn’t what the Church is to be about. The Church teaches faith in Christ Jesus, and faith looks to Jesus Christ alone.

This is the standard for what goes on in this Church. This is the bar that Christ sets. The preaching, it’s to be about Christ and Him crucified, and clearly so – not just a dash of Jesus tossed in. The service – it’s all about what Christ has done for us. The songs – they aren’t to be about what we do – but about Jesus. If Jesus isn’t the main person doing something in a song, we aren’t going to sing it as a hymn here. Listen to some of the verses from today – In God, my faithful God, I trust when dark my road; tho’ many woes o’ertake me, yet HE WILL NOT FORSAKE me. HIS LOVE it is doth SEND them, and when ‘tis best, WILL END them. There’s one verb there about what I do. I trust. That’s a good verb for us, that’s a faith verb. Three verbs about God – He doesn’t forsake – His loves sends, He ends trials. The focus is on God. Verse 4 is great. “O Jesus Christ my Lord, so meek in deed and word, Thou once didst die to save us, Because Thy love would have us be heirs of heavenly gladness when ends this life of sadness.” It’s about what Jesus does for you – that’s the focus – that is why we sing His praises forever more. Or our opening Hymn – Let us Ever Walk With Jesus. Consider the 3rd verse – “Let us gladly die with Jesus, since by death He conquered death. He will free us from destruction, give to us immortal breath. Let us mortify all passion that would lead us into sin; and the grace the shuts us in shall but prove the gate to heaven. Jesus, here with You I die, there to live with You on high.” It points us to, it shows us Christ.

And if our preaching, our worship, or hymns don’t point to Christ – what good are they? They might be fun, or enjoyable, or even moral – but when it comes time to talk about Jesus, which is what worship is, they are pointless. And the thing is, we can like a lot of things that don’t really point to Christ. People love being “religious” – love feeling that they are being spiritual – but having a feeling or being able to pat yourself on the back for all the things you do for God isn’t the point. Christ Crucified is the point and always has to remain the point. Paul tells the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Our focus here is always to be on the Gospel, that Christ Jesus died for our sins, and it is never to stray.

And this is what God does for you here in His House. He calls you here, out of the world where there are so many distractions and temptations and difficulties and says, “now, see what I have done for you. Look to me.” Why does Jesus tell us to beware of false prophets? Because we tend to wander. We tend to like to follow what’s new and neat – and Satan knows that, and Satan tries to draw us away and distract us. To prevent this, God calls us by His Word, His true and pure Word, and calls us to His House to have our focus placed where it should be – upon Him. Jesus has died for you – and don’t let anyone, anyone take that away from you, don’t let anyone treat that fact as only a bit important. When we are talking about God, that’s where God wants our focus to be, that’s where His Word puts it, and it’s good for us to have that focus there. That’s where salvation is. That’s where life, life right now is – in Christ and flowing through Him. That’s where strength is, that’s where perseverance to handle our problems is – in Christ Jesus. God grant us His strength, so that we would remain in Him and in His Word all our days, and so that when Satan stirs up false prophets to lead us astray, we might mark them and flee from them. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Falleness of the World - My Own Falleness

I think, deep down, most of us have a hard time believing in the fallen nature of the world. Some of us won't even admit it, some of us will pretend that people are inherently good and all that jazz. But not even them - even among those of the Christian Faith who confess honestly that the world is a fallen, terrible place - we can have a hard time "believing" it.

What do I mean? What is our reaction when the stink and filth and utter baseness of this world bangs into us? Do we say as Luther would have us say that this is just the world of sin, and in fact I deserve much worse? Do we think, "Ah, perhaps this is part of that temporal punishment that I have in fact earned with my sin."

No - we tend to say, "Why is this happening to me?" We tend to say, "Why would God let this happen to me - I've been a good person." We rant, we rave, we speak over and over how we don't deserve this. We bemoan the fact that God doesn't deliver us right now and in the way we want.

We have a hard time believing that we are in a fallen, sinful world, because when we see that fallen and sinful world... when it bites us, we are forced to come to grips, painfully, with the implications of our own sin. And we hate that.

Listen: there are times when your life will suck. This is simple truth.

Listen: there are times when a wicked person will mess with your life. Often, that person really is you.

Listen: the Christian faith is not designed so that you can avoid the trials of life. Rather - in this world, as a Christian, you will see those trials all the more, because you will learn to stop trying to sugar coat everything.

I am a sinner. I deserve *nothing*. If they were to take our life, goods, fame, child or wife... there is nothing that I could say in my own defense, not really. I couldn't make any protestations of how this is unfair. You know what was unfair - that I had any of these for even the briefest moment.

I am a sinner in a fallen world. I should expect the world to give me nothing. Nothing good. Not a thing.

This is truth.

Over and against this the greater truth stands.

The Kingdom ours remaineth - for Christ Jesus is good, and He has won for me salvation. Do I always see it right now... no, of course not. Now I see pain and suffering and the Cross - the kingdom ours remaineth.

Christ Jesus has redeemed me with His Blood. So often here my life sucks - so did His. He suffered, He died, He rose and now suffers no more. And because of Him, so shall I.

Sinful world - go suck it.
My own sinful flesh - shut it, for your time of cleansing is at hand.

Christ Jesus is my life. God grant that I see this ever more and more.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Constitutes Rest

So here I am on vacation - and an interesting thing happened yesterday. I slept through dinner. Seriously, my wife and I got up in the morning, his a museum, had a late lunch (1 pm here, so 3 pm back home), hit another museum, had a pint, and then headed back to the hotel. And my wife dozed, and then, at around 7 or so local, I decided to put my book down and doze... and I slept basically until 5:45 (or 7:45 home - a time I hardly ever sleep til).

There are many things that shape our rest. The Science museum was somewhat restful - for it stimulated the mind in fun ways. The walk downtown was restful - good weather, neat sites. Lunch at a neat place - very restful, with lovely food and a new beer that I hadn't tried (a dark rye). Seeing art can be restful - especially with the cool display on automobiles - I got to see a Tucker and a Silver Arrow. And capping the day with a pint of one of the best Bitters in the world, restful. And of course, rest.

This trip has been good for my body - for my mind - for my emotions. It has been restful and relaxing - the vacating of responsibilities and decision making (for others, at least) has been good.

But there is one other aspect of rest that is coming up - one that I long for. I'm going to get to hear a sermon this Sunday. I will be preached to. That is rest - not because I'll sleep, but because I will hear Christ proclaimed. I will receive the Supper. It will be a good, truly restful time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

But I'm nothing like them...

"Do unto others as you'd have done unto you."

One of the main ideas behind the idea of civility is that one ought treat with kindness and gentleness even those you are opposed to. Even if you think a person has the most foolish, hurtful, wrongheaded, and dangerous ideas or plans - still show civility... and hope that they show civility to you as well.

We have moved away from this in discussion today. Today the law of the land seems to be to vilify and mock your opponents - to call them names (terrorist seems to go around a lot in political circles -- heretic is always tried and... um, sometimes true in theological circles) -- not because the names are accurate, but to shame or scare people away from listening to them.

It's just rude, for one thing. But it also backfires. While you might see your opponent and see nothing but how they are crude and horrid and terrible (and publicly shout so)... other people are going to see similarities... or even have different thoughts... so when the mud gets slung back your way... well, it will stick.

We tend to think we are nothing like our opponents. We may not be in terms of position... but if we act like animals, grunting and growling in our discourse, those who are as of yet undecided will see how similar you and your opponent are.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stuckwisch's Thoughts Concerning Contraception

Pastor Stuckwisch did a blog post about contraception. Actually, there is a longer one, but this is the brief... and I like it very much. I would perhaps slightly quibble with 7... but only in the sense that their can be research done there... but I think he gives quite reasonable advice... especially if you or your bride is not a medical professional so you don't really *know* what the drugs in question do.

Other than that -- this is really, really good. Especially point 12.

12. The morality of contraception is not measured in the external action, nor in the particular method that is used vis-à-vis other methods of contraception, but it is measured in the heart.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Trinity 7 Sermon

Trinity 7 – August 7th, 2011 – Mark 8:1-9

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
When you think about it, it’s quite amazing how often food shows up in the bible. It’s right there from the beginning, from our Old Testament lesson. All the way through, we see food, we see feasts, we see celebration. And this makes perfect sense. To live, one needs to eat, and God, as the Creator who wishes to see His people live, has a vested interest in seeing that people eat. We see Jesus show this interest again today in our Gospel. There are thousands of folks – 4000 men, not counting the women and children, all there learning from Jesus. And the short of it is, He feeds them. But there is more to God’s care than simply feeding folks who happen to be hungry. Let us pay attention to our text, and see what we learn at the feet of Christ.

“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, He [Jesus] called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them came from far away.’” Now, when you think about it, this is really an interesting scene. Again a great crowd had gathered. Again. It’s happened before, the disciples should be getting kind of used to Jesus spending his days teaching rather large crowds, so not a problem. But then did you notice what else Jesus says about this crowd. That they have been with Him 3 days. That’s a long time. I mean, this isn’t like the feeding of the 5000 in John where we can say, “Those silly people, if they were going to listen to Jesus all day they should have brought food.” No, this is three days. It’s awfully hard to pack enough food for three days without ice chests and the like. And yet, there Jesus is, just keeping these people there and teaching away.

And Jesus tells the disciples that He has compassion upon the crowd. Doesn’t that seem a strange thing for Jesus to say? Here He gathers up the disciples, His top students, and says, “You know guys – I feel kinda bad for these folks cause they’ve been out here for 3 days and don’t have anything to eat. And if I send them home, they aren’t going to make it – they will faint and die on the side of the road.” And then He stops. Jesus doesn’t say anything else. There’s no question of “so what are we going to do?” There’s no “where are you disciples going to get food for them?” Right here Jesus simply states blunt facts, He lays out the situation. And that’s it. He doesn’t say anything else. But the disciples respond – “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

Now, remember that these disciples are good little Jewish boys – they know the Old Testament really well. The first thing that should have popped into their mind would be, of course, Manna from heaven. God feeds His people in desolate places all the time. He did it for 40 years. That’s sort of God’s thing. But no, it slides by them for whatever reason. I don’t think we should be too harsh on them – they have been studying for three days, which can be a bit rough. But we here, with the benefit of time and distance, we easily know what is going to happen. Jesus is going to feed them. And He does. 7 loaves, a few fish – Jesus blesses them, and what happens? “And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, sever baskets full.” And of course, Jesus makes plenty. But did you note the interesting description? They were satisfied. It was a good meal. I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve been full after eating, but it’s another thing entirely to be satisfied. To have that simple contentment that comes not just from filling your belly but from having a good meal. Jesus does it well.

Thus we see Jesus in action, we see God at work doing what God always does. Care for and provide for His creation. This is fundamentally who God is, the One who creates, who preserves, who sustains life. And we know this, we confess this every time we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. We know that we receive all the blessings that we have from Jesus just as much as these 4000 did. Yet now, for us, in the fallen, sinful world, the physical care that we receive from God is not the most profound care that we receive from Him. Rather, the great care that God gives us is the care in response to sin. Since the fall the world has literally been wrecked and ruined. Strife and violence, hunger, random acts of terror appear. Satan attacks us from without. Hatred and anger boil up, jealousy and greed occupy our thoughts, lust and envy cloud our relationships. Satan attacks us from within. In addition to the simple care of the body – we know that our souls must be cared for as well. And I would put forth that Christ’s care for us Spiritually mirrors the care He shows for these 4000 in our Gospel lesson. Let us look at what Christ says again.

“I have compassion on the crowd. . . and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way.” You realize that Christ Jesus has compassion on you, because Jesus sees and understands what’s going on in your life far better than you do. Your trials, your pains, your struggles – all the things that make you weary and weak – be they physical problems or emotional struggles, family issues, pet sins that we try to avoid but always seem to come back to – the things that we in our shame and pride work so hard to hide from the rest of the world, hide from the people sitting in the pew next to us – Jesus knows them. Jesus sees the burdens you carry – and He sees the struggles that they cause. He sees the danger in them – the burden they provide, sees that if nothing is done, they might be too much for you. Just like literal hunger will sap the body of strength, the trials of this life wear us down. And what happens when we get too worn out? Physically, we faint. Emotionally, we snap. We become short with people, or we become lethargic and don’t want to do anything. We can want to run and hide. Spiritually, we seek to flee God, to run away from Him and hide. Jesus sees this, and Jesus has compassion. Jesus cares, Jesus cares about your well being as much as He does for these people sitting and hearing His teaching there with their stomachs growling and gurgling. The situation we are in is pretty much the same as what we see in the Gospel. We are those who are in dire need of care, for we all suffer dreadfully from the problems sin, others and ours, thrust into our lives.

“How can one feed these people with bread in this desolate place?” How are you to be fed, to be cared for in your struggles? There are a lot of great and wonderful services that we have in the world – shelters, counselors and therapists, anger management groups and the like. And these are indeed great and wonderful blessings, they can help us handle things, help us cope. Friends and family can support and care for us. We can learn discipline and good habits, we can try to keep our uglier side in check. But when you get down to it, the world is still pretty desolate when it comes to true care, to true healing. The problem with the world is new things will always come up. We think we have licked one problem and another one suddenly appears. No matter what we do, sin and all its ill effects still reign on Earth. New sorrows come in, new aches and pains, and all the remedies that the world can give won’t stop that cycle. There’s no magic drug to stop the aches that will continue to come more and more with old age. No 5 simple rules to make sure that one’s relationships will never again go sour. New things always happen, new problems always occur, and we find new, spectacular ways to mess up. This is the way of the world, and it will always be this way as long as we live.

So, for there to be hope for us in this desolate wasteland of sin, God must act. God must provide. And thanks be to God, He does. And I’m not talking about faith-healings here, or Jesus letting you know the winning numbers for the lottery. I would like to point something out from Romans. “The end of those things is death. But now you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Remember that when Paul talks about death here he’s not just talking about keeling over – but rather the context is Christ’s death and Baptism – the fact that we have been united to Christ in Baptism, that our life of sin has been crucified and that we have been given new life. That was the language in the Epistle last week. This week Paul uses the image of being set free from sin. Because Christ Jesus has come, has worked in us Salvation by His Word, by His Baptism – these trials of life that we suffer aren’t all that there is to our lives. Oh yes, these trials will still be there. Indeed, Satan will always throw new stuff at us. But why? Because Satan wants to turn our eyes away from the new life that Christ Jesus has given us. Satan stands there jumping up and down shouting “Look here, look at the wages of your life, see all the death in its many forms.” Christ Jesus says, “Look at the cross – my death conquers all – now you have My Life, which is eternal and far outlasts your present sufferings.”

“And they ate and were satisfied.” By faith, we hold onto God. By faith we cling to Christ Jesus and His Word. By faith we look beyond the struggles of the moment and are satisfied with the salvation that we have received. Again, Paul hits this on the head when he talks about the thorn in his flesh. 3 times I asked, take it away. Three times God says My grace is sufficient for you. In this life we struggle – we follow where our Captain, Christ Jesus trod. And that means we get our own crosses to bear. There will be rough things in our life every day of our life. But God turns our eyes to Christ Jesus our Lord – and from Him we receive the strength to endure. And if God grants that the particular suffering or trial we have passes away – all thanks be to God for His mercy. If God lets a particular suffering remain – all thanks be to God for helping us to endure. Because of Christ we are made to endure, brought through whatever happens, however long it lasts. We know that in the end we shall be satisfied for all eternity at the feast of Heaven. This is why God calls us to this place – so that we might be fed on His Word and satisfied – that our faith might be strengthened so that the trials of this life would not wear us down, but that in all things our trust would remain on God, that we would have the satisfaction of knowing our salvation. Indeed, in this desolate wasteland of sin and death, Christ Jesus our Lord supplies us always with His Word, with the Hope that is His of life everlasting.

Dear friends – We see and know that Christ Jesus is True God, that He has compassion, not only on people who lived thousands of years ago, but on us today. He sees our struggles against sin in this life – and by His death and resurrection He has freed us from that sin and won for us life eternal. He feeds and nourishes our faith, so that whatever trials the Devil throws our way we might keep our trust and faith in Him – that we might share and enjoy with Him the Eternal life He has won for us upon the Cross. Amen.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I want

I have come to a conclusion. I want stupid things.

Seriously. Often the simple things that I want are foolish (yeah, that indoor golf simulator, I'll get my money's worth out of that). Or they are totally unrealistic (reasonable political debate and discussion). Or they flip and flirt and are temporary (the grown-up versions of "I want a pony").

So what happens? I bound around, chasing after folly, and even then jump and switch to another and new folly. A life that is spent constantly striving, constantly restlessly struggling for this and that.

What an utter contrast this is to actual peace. What I need is provided for by God - both in this life, and in the life of the world to come. Indeed, I have far more than I need, and wondrous blessings of depth and subtlety that I would always delight in if only I stopped flitting around enough to ponder them.

God grant me grace and wisdom to simply pause and enjoy rather than the constant running rat race of no pleasure.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Theological Dictum #37 - Bible Study and Preaching

Theological Dictum #37 - The More Bible Studies Taught, the Better the Preaching.

I will contend that this is true. Why? Because what happens when one teaches a Bible Study (and by this, I mean a Bible Study, I mean opening up the Word of God and diving through it with other people... not reading through the canned study in the latest Synodical publication that you just look over for 2 minutes before you plow through it)? A preacher is:

1. Thrown into the Word of God.
2. Forced to understand it.
3. Forced to explain it to people.
4. Forced to answer questions about the Word - seeing what his people are struggling with.

These are all things that are necessary for preaching.

Seriously - if you find that your preaching is a bit... stale... or lifeless, don't get a new book on preaching. Don't try a new style. Just this - do a new bible study. Not reading a bunch of commentaries written in some theological tower where pages are spent debating what sort of dative that one noun was. Not sloughing through the latest canned and prepped thing because you don't want to do the prep yourself. Not even doing a study on the pericope (because they should get that when you preach it).

Open up the text. Sit and read with people. And then talk about it -- explain it. Show them things in it.

As you do this, not only will you start talking about it better, but you will also see more deeply into the text.

If you work on teaching the text, you will be better prepared to preach the text.

Being Catholic means being above your own time

Pastor Peters writes an insightful blog post wondering about how the Church has been slow in addressing the impact of technology upon human life. It's a very good post... and it got me thinking... and I do like the post even though I am going to end up disagreeing with it's thrust.

We worry about the Church too much. We worry that our ethics, our approach, our this or that isn't keeping up with the times. Some worry that we aren't staying "cool" enough. Some worry that we aren't counteracting the spirit of the times quickly enough. We sit and we ponder the signs of the times and wonder what we in the Church are to do.

What are we to do? Same thing we've always done. Hear Preaching. Receive the Supper. Show love to the neighbor.

Really - does the Truth that we proclaim change? No. Do the problems that we face really change... or are they just once again the impact of sin that has hounded us since Eden? Same old, same old.

The old evil foe loves to attack us with angst. Satan loves to try to make us think that no one understands, that things are so different and so much harder for us, that the old solutions won't work, or that if we don't make things go back to the old ways everything will fall apart.

But we are part of the Church Catholic - the Church not only in all places but in all times. The Church transcends our particular culture with its quirks (for good or for ill). And the Church will endure.

Sometimes we are so near-sighted. We get stuck in our own time, our own issues. Don't we read Judges? The book covers 400 years -- and we see ups and downs. We see that all through the Old Testament. The Church still endures. God still runs His Church. It's not a matter of what we must do - He is still God, He is still in control.

Let us simply strive to be faithful. Let us simply strive to marvel more at the wonders of God's love for us. Let us strive to be caring and compassionate however we are.

And then... let God tend to the Church and give her growth as He wills.