Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Reform Do We Need Today?

The Lutheran Church is the Church of the Reformation.  By this I don't refer simply to a period of history in the past from whence we drew our historical lineage... because, well, that's not the case.  The history our of our Church doesn't begin in 1517 -- we confess the catholic truth that is confessed in the Scriptures, by the Apostles, in the Creeds.  Our history extends much further back than 1517.

No, we are the Church of the Reformation for we are the Church that admits, more than any other, that human beings err, that sin and corruption creep into the Church and her institutions.  When we read the book of Judges, when we read the Prophets, we are not surprised that there is error that arises -- we know and expect it.  We are the Church of the Reformation - the one that knows that we often will err and replace the Word of God with devisings and desires of our own inclination.

So we must ask ourselves - what reform do we need today?  What has clouded our minds, what has sought to obscure the Gospel in our midsts?  What are our false idols that we trust in, rather than trusting in Christ and Him crucified?

We place trust in style.  Lord have mercy.

We place trust in our heritage and history.  Lord have mercy.

We place trust in our ability to reform the culture by the power of our own words.  Lord have mercy.

We focus more on making people nice and busy than on showing them Christ.  Lord have mercy.

We focus more numbers that we think we cause than on sharpening our proclamation of Christ.  Lord have mercy.

And there are others - I am sure too that I am blind to my own.  God, grant me forgiveness and reform!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reformation Sermon

Reformation Sunday, 2012 – Matthew 11:12-15


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

          I am going to say something that may upset you.  It may shock you.  It may even make you sad, but it is what our Lord points out in our Gospel text on this Reformation Sunday.  There are people who hate the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  There are people who seek to do violence to Christ’s Church, who would rejoice if Christ were no longer preached.  But this is what we must know and understand and face – the Church which proclaims Christ Crucified for the salvation of man will always have people who wish her harm, wish her destroyed.  From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  This is what Christians in a sinful world can expect.  Even the prophets of the Old Testament were often slain.  In Christ’s day, people rejected Him – and they did violence to Him.  The martyrs of the early Church went to the lions, went to the wild beasts, were burned.  Martin Luther lived as an outlaw – the threat of his own death was over him – because He preached the Gospel.  Many of our own ancestors fled Europe to this country because they were hated for their own confession of Christ.  The Church on earth is called the Church Militant not because we are violent, but because we are always under assault from foes whom Satan stirs up – the old Evil foe indeed now means deadly woe.

          And alas, some of these people who hate Christ and would do violence to His Church are even within the Church, within Christendom.  Over the history of the Church, some of these Gospel-haters have even ruled, even led the Church into places where she should not go.  Preachers of false doctrine rise up over and over.  The Apostle John warns us of them over and over in his Epistles and Revelation.  Peter marks them out, likewise Paul in his letters.  And we see this played out over and over in History.  It was no vile pagan king who called for Luther’s head – but it was the Pope, the man who had claim to be the very head of the Church herself who wished Him silenced.  In the 70s, it was not outsiders who tried to make us abandon scripture, but several seminary professors, men who had been entrusted with the teaching and the protecting of God’s Word – they were the very ones who sought to destroy it.  And so on this Reformation day, we remember this fact – that the Church is under threats both from outside herself and from within herself – threats both foreign and domestic as it were.  From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  There are always those who would wrest the Gospel away from us.  And so we are called to be a Church that is always in Reform – that always checks herself to make sure that she preaches only the pure sweet Gospel of Christ and Him Crucified.

          This is an unpopular idea.  It is something which our sinful nature rebels against.  We think that as Christians our lives ought to be ones that are calm, peaceful.  This is something we pray for, and rightly so.  Christ Himself promises us peace, the peace which surpasses all human understanding, the peace that can only come from knowing and understanding that your sins have indeed been forgiven and that you stand holy and righteous in God’s sight.  This we do have.  Christ indeed comes to us and brings us His peace.  However, we are here on earth, and the world is indeed filled with all sorts of evil.  We are strangers here – this house is a island of peace in the midst of a raging sea of violence.  And we as Christians, as those who are to be in the world but not of it, as those who are to go out and love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us – we will be exposed to all sorts of dangers in the world.  Hear what Christ Jesus our Lord says in Matthew Chapter 10, just a few verses prior to our Gospel.  Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  To the world.  To the wicked and wretched.  To those who reject Christ and despise His Word – to these there is no peace, for they reject the very Prince of Peace Himself.  There are those who reject Christ and there always will be those who reject Christ – and so in the world there is no peace, nor will there ever be.

          And this, the hatred that the world bears our Lord can impact us.  Again, from Chapter 10.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  It’s not just those people far, far away who hate Jesus, who rebel against Christ.  Sometimes it is people very close to us.  Family.  Our parents, our children, our brothers or sisters – they reject Christ, and despise us as well.  Our friends, our neighbors – they too can put pressure on us, mock us for our beliefs, lay out temptations to stray and fall away.  And we are tempted, we are tempted to give in to their demands – to be pleasers of people rather than followers of Christ.  Hear what our Lord says.  Whoever loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  This is the temptation and struggle, this is the cross we bear – that we are called to be faithful to Christ no matter who that upsets.  And that can be hard.  None of us likes to be looked down upon – especially not by people we love and care about.  But our loyalty, our highest love is to be to God and to God alone.

          This holds true not only for us as individuals, but for the Church as a whole.  The Church herself can be tempted to fall, tempted to follow other lords than Her Lord and Master Christ Jesus.  500 years ago was such a time – where the Church had rejected the Gospel and instead sought earthly power and glory and respect.  And thus the Reformation came about.  The temptation to fall away from God’s Word is still present today.  Churches fall by the wayside into false doctrine.  We see this to even in the Lutheran Churches.  What should be my home church – the church where my father was baptized, where he was confirmed has fallen in the past 40 years.  False doctrine is taught there now, and slowly faith crumbles.  Even for us here at Trinity/Zion, the temptation to fall away is present.  What do we at Trinity/Zion do?  Do we follow the crowd, follow the world, or do we remain true to the Word of God?  Do we turn a blind eye to sin as the world does?  Do we say, “That’s alright, live however you wish” and ignore God’s Word?  Or even with our neighboring Christians?  We are in the middle of the Bible Belt, and most Churches around  here deny that Baptism saves.  Do talk less about Baptism in the hopes that they won’t think we are different or weird – do we try to fit in, to look and sound like them?  Or do we proclaim as Peter does in his Epistle “Baptism. . .  now saves you”?  Do we seek to please men, or do we delight in God’s promises to us? That’s the temptation – to fall away, to remain silent, and slowly to abandon our faith.

          We know the answer, we know what we are supposed to do.  We are to confess Christ come what may.  But how, how do we find the strength to do this?  How when the eyes are upon us, when we hear the scorn, do we confess Christ?  Listen to the Word of Christ from Matthew 16.  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And [the disciples] said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He  said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  The world says many, many things.  But like Peter we are to confess that which God has revealed to us in His Word – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  That He came down from heaven and suffered to save us from our sin.  And against this, against this truth the world has no response.  Even hell itself, even Satan and all his legions are rendered helpless by the confession we make of Christ.  We say the Creed, and Satan cowers.  We pray the Lord’s Prayer and we are indeed delivered from the Evil One.

          From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence and the violent take it by force.  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  He who has ears, let him hear.  He who has ears, let him hear.  That is how we stand, dear friends.  That is how we continue to confess Christ even in these dark days where sin and war run rampant.  Not because of our own strength.  But because God has given us ears to hear – in the waters of Holy Baptism God washed us clean not of dirt, but of sin and wickedness, washed us clean of the evil which made us refuse to hear His Word.  You indeed have ears, and you hear the Word preached and proclaimed, and this is how you live.

          You see, this is the truth and wonder – that we are reformed daily by Christ.  We are daily reformed by Christ and His Word – His Word builds us up and restores us and our faith.   The weight of sin and temptation, the pressures of the world weigh down upon us – and Christ come to us, and molds us back up again by His Word.  When we falter and become weary, He calls us to His table to strengthen us, to feed us on Himself.  You are built up by Christ and Christ fights for you – in fact He fights not only for you but through you.  Christ takes you and builds you into His servant – and He uses you to proclaim His truth, opens your mouth so that from it might come His own life giving Word.  He indeed creates in you a clean heart, He renews a right spirit within you so that you can bear your cross, so that you can fight the good fight, so that can be bold and confess your faith in spite of all the dangers of the world.  And He does this by His almighty Word, whether it is read or preached, whether it is tied to water and given in Baptism, or whether it is tied to bread and wine in His Supper.  The Lord gives you strength – and the Reformation of God’s Church is not something we do – it is something that God does to us whenever we hear His Word and cling to it.

          Dear friends in Christ Jesus – the Lord has given you ears to hear.  This is His great gift to you – that you know His truth.  Cling to His Word, trust always in the truth that you are a sinner who has been forgiven by Christ Crucified – that He has washed you clean in Baptism and daily sustains you through His Word and Sacrament.  And whenever the world tries to take you away from God by force, rely upon your Lord, return and flee to Him – and He will always build and form you again into whom He wishes you to be – His own beloved child.  Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Growing Kid...What is Growth?

My son is growing.  This week, he has taken his first steps.  He has scribbled with Crayons for the first time.  He knows as of today that the Lightning McQueen spoon (you know, I've not yet seen Cars) should go in the mouth - and he is glad to stick it in daddy's mouth.  He is growing.

But what does that actually mean?  Is Victor now more "Victor-y" today than he was yesterday?  Is he a better son?  Is he fundamentally different?  No.  He is simply being who he is, more so and more so.  He has grown -- but he is still who he is - Victor.  He just does more and more human things, more and more Victor things.

I used to think of growth as change - as a transformation.  And this is one of the reasons why I dislike so much of the growth talk in the Church - I used to be X but now I am Y (oh what a good boy am I).  No - we are who we are - those who are justified by Christ Jesus, sinners forgiven and given new life.  Who we are doesn't change, doesn't shift -- might we show forth who we are, might we acquire new skills... um... sure... but that doesn't say anything about us, that doesn't change us.  We are still who we are in Christ.

It's great that my son can totter a few steps -- but he was my son a week ago, he is my son now, he is my son 4 years from now.  He is Victor - and that is much more important, more vital than "growth."

You are forgiven on account of Christ.  You are a child of God.  That's what's always most important. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Trinity 20 sermon

Trinity 20 – October 21st, 2012 – Matthew 22:1-14

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
          Finally the oppressive heat of summer is gone, where 80 feels warm – the days are shorter and shorter – and we in the Church are approaching the end of the Church Year.  Advent and a new year will soon be upon us, but for now, as the End of the Church Year approaches, we hear Christ teach us with parables which warn about the end of times, what we need to know and remember so that we are prepared for the last days.  And so it is fitting that we look at this parable this morning.  Christ has just entered Jerusalem, and He knows what is coming, so He again warns those who would ignore His Words of what the cost will be of forsaking God's Word.  Listen.

          And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.  Again, he sent other servants saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.'  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.   The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”  This is the first part of the parable, and the people in Jesus day would have known this for what it was – a history of the people of Israel.  Here the people of Israel were – God's chosen people, the people whom God had declared to be His people – the people that would proclaim to the rest of the world the glories that God would do in redeeming the world, the people from whom the very Messiah would come.  To be an Israelite meant you were to be ready for God's Kingdom to come, for the Messiah to crush the head of Satan as was promised to Adam and Eve – to wait to see all nations blessed through Him as was promised to Abraham.  And. . . many just didn't care.  How often the people of Israel fell away. . . where only a small remnant remains.  Indeed, many thought that living the mundane, day to day things of life was far more important than spending any time or attention on God.  Indeed, Israel would even stone the prophets, kill the ones sent to them.  And God even burned Jerusalem to the ground – the Babylonians came and wreaked havoc and chaos.  And it was all happening again in Jesus day.  Once again, especially now that Christ was here – the same thing.  Rather than desiring to hear the Word, people doubted.  Even miracles done by Christ were mocked – He casts out demons by Beelzebub.  Indeed, as Jesus speaks this men are plotting to put Him to death before the week is out.  A sad story – and it ends with God having Jerusalem once again destroyed – burned to the ground in 70 AD by the Romans.

          But Jesus does not just warn the stubborn doubters here.  Then He said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.'  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.  So the wedding hall was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.  And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?'  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”  Again, another warning – this time not to the people who ignored Christ, but to the very people who heard, who listened to Him.  There was a warning to these folks as well.  They have been invited, God has called them – but what would they do with His invitation.  Imagine for a second that you have been invited to be a groomsman or a bridesmaid at a wedding, and the groom has said, “Here’s your tux” – or the bride has said “here’s your dress” – and what if you sauntered up to the wedding refusing to wear the tux, came having thrown the dress away, and instead just show up wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt.  How insulting would that be?  Because this is  the image of the wedding garment – it was a festival garment given to the folks who attended, a gift so that you could celebrate happily and joyously – and here you have one who has come, yet wants to come to the party on his own terms, disdaining the gifts of the host.

          Here is what Jesus warns those who listened to Him.  You have been invited to the Kingdom of God – you have been called into God's presence.  Recognize what a blessing this is, and don't take it for granted, don't treat it as a common thing.  What Christ does changes the world, and you don't get to simply plug on as you were – repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, turn away from your sin.  And some don't.  Some who are invited say “alright, way to be Jesus” and then just shrug along.  They fall away – they are like those seeds that take root quickly but are burned up by the heat of the sun – they are like the son who says, “Yes, I will” and then does nothing.  And that is the way of damnation – and many fell away.

          So then, how does this apply to us here?  I would hope you would see it, but let's spell it out.  We are in the same situation.  Many of us have been raised knowing God's Word, part of God's people from the days of our youth – Baptized as infants and covered with Christ's Righteousness – given the wedding garments we need for the heavenly feast to come.  Some of us were invited later, called simply by God's mercy to be here amongst His people in His house – invited to His feast here at His altar for the forgiveness of our sin.  But there is a danger that lurks for us.  The danger of indifference.  The danger of neglect.  The danger of breaking the 3rd commandment.  Remember the Sabbath day.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  What do we see in the parable but people despising the Word of God?  The king invites you to His feast!  Eh. . . I'll pass.  The king invites you to his feast, here are your garments – eh, I'll just keep on what I had on, thanks.  Who cares that I am one of the Baptized, I will ignore the Word of God and live how I please instead of striving to love my neighbor.  It's a despising of the Word that is warned against.  The folks of Jesus day – some of them ignored the Word of God and despised it.  Likewise today, is not the temptation to despise the Word present?  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  While the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.  Oh, of course the people who preach the Word of God are never treated disrespectfully today. . . the more things change.  That's the warning.

          So what is to be done?  What is the right response to Jesus’ Words?  Remember who you are.  Hear again who is invited to the feast – And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.  So the wedding hall was filled with guests.  What defines you as a Christian isn't you – isn't how good you are.  You aren't made ready for Christ by what you do.  It isn’t how often you’ve come in the past or how often you haven’t.  Your actions are to be a response to God's love – your actions are never the cause of God's love.  Rather – what are you?  A guest – one invited, one called, today, right now.  Ponder this – God Almighty has called you into His kingdom, called you to His feast, now, this moment.  And He has provided for you all that you need to be at this feast.  You have your wedding garment – you received it at your Baptism where you were washed clean by water and the Word – where you were prepared for heaven.  Hear the description of heaven that John gives – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes. . . then one of the elders addressed me saying, 'Who are these, clothed in white robes, and where have they come from?'  I said to him, 'Sir, you know.'  And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Washed in the Blood of the Lamb – those who live, those who see their lives in light of what Christ has done.  The ones who as Isaiah says come with no money yet eat – the ones who are abundantly pardoned by God.  That's how we live – as Christ's forgiven.  That's how we are prepared for heaven – by receiving again and again Christ's forgiveness – by remaining in our Baptism – by continuing to be whom God made us to be in the waters of holy Baptism.  That's how we live – coming to Christ's own table and receiving the Blood of the Lamb to make us whole, to keep us clothed in Christ and looking no where else.  Simply receive what God has done, remain in His Word and continue to delight in the forgiveness He gives us.  That is what God desires for you, that is what He calls you to, that is why He sees to it that His Word is still proclaimed to you even here and now – that you might not forsake the gift of life He has given you, so that you might be restored to Him again today, that you might remain in the one true faith unto life everlasting. 

          The dangers remain the same – for we will always be tempted to abandon the Word – to crave the things of life more than we do the Word of the God.  The excuses we face and fight against are the same ones our forefathers have had to fight ever since Satan first said, “Did God really say…”.  But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and He continues to provide for you forgiveness and life – He has invited you to His feast and given you the garments of His righteousness – washed in His blood shed upon the Cross for you.  And so as we face these evil days, with all the temptations that there are – we remain who Christ has made us to be – His own forgiven people, and we delight in His forgiveness.  God preserve us from all temptations that would have us despise His Word.  Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Progress or Training

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."  1st Corinthians 9:24-27

I always find it interesting ("interesting" is a euphemism here) when I hear people go on about progressive sanctification, about how we need to be growing, need to be improving, so on and so forth.  I find it "interesting" because, for one, it tends to take our focus off of Christ and shift it back onto ourselves... which just annoys me.  Love God, love your neighbor - but those rants from me should be familiar.  But what I also find so "interesting" about it is that to focus on yourself, your improvement is a recipe for disaster in terms of "growth" or "improvement".

Consider the above passage - the analogy is that of athletes.  "A ha!" shout the progsanct folks.  "A ha!  See, you need to improve!"  Well, let's think -- how does an athlete improve?  Does he focus on improvement or how he has improved and gotten better?  Well, once he does that - then you get a lazy athlete who thinks he's made it -- who ignores his weaknesses.  This is what we see all the time in pro sports.

No, in athletics, the athlete who constantly improves in constantly attacking his weaknesses, constantly fighting and training what he is bad at.  Baseball is great for this - you adjust and work on your weaknesses.  And you know what -- this is precisely what Paul is speaking to here.

Consider -- "self-control", not running "aimlessly", "discipline" "under control".  These aren't words focusing on what one does well or what one has improved in -- they are all focused on weaknesses.

The problem with talking about how one has grown is that it is a trap for contentment - it is the very way in which an athlete begins to flounder, indeed, the way that could lead to Paul being disqualified himself.  Rather this - as Luther taught us in Thesis number one, the entire life of a Christian isn't to be viewed as one of "growth" or "progress" but rather... repentance.  Seeing one's sin, one's weakness, and then struggling against it.

You tell me how much you have grown, how you are such a good Christian - and I will confess my sins and struggle against them.  And being focused then upon Christ's forgiveness always and in all things -- I will be forgiven and strengthened, my neighbor will be served... and I will be kept away from the danger of vain, aimless boasting that fails to focus on my neighbor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Serve vs. Fix and the idea of Authority

A thing that Pastors always have to remember is that fundamentally a Pastor's job is to serve his congregation and people... not "fix" them.  Well now, what is that supposed to mean there buckaroo?  Mainly this - as a Pastor my job is not to "fix" the congregation, to make it "right" -- i.e. to turn it into my concept of the ideal congregation.  Too often pastors can come in with this idea that they need to fix the congregation -- that their top priority is to get the congregation to status X by hook or by crook -- and they push, pull, prod, exhort, harangue, beat, crush, tear down, destroy, step-upon whatever and whoever to get there.

The problem with this approach is this: it's focused upon some almost Platonic ideal of a congregation rather than the congregation that you are serving.  Rather than fixing the congregation - a Pastor is there to serve.  What does this mean practically?  Well, yes, it does mean some things will need to be changed... but not for the sake of hitting some idea, but rather for the sake and faith of the folks in the congregation -- and that these changes will take time and be done slowly... so that the people are served before, in, through, and by the change.  Fix things, teach gently and with patience, and slowly change the course of the ship you are at the tiller on.

And, then of course, if the idea is serving the congregation, it will also remind the pastor of some changes that... while maybe nice... aren't quite necessary.  I've been here 8 years.  I love chanting.  I think it is a wonderful thing.  But I serve a rural congregation in Oklahoma that really isn't interested in a much more ornate service.  Hence - we do not chant yet.  In another 8 years -- eh, who knows.  But it's something that I want -- and what *I* want isn't important.  Now, are we firmly and solidly liturgical now - straight out of the hymnal.  Yep.  That is something that serves them and has been accomplished -- but the sprinkles on top aren't there - oh well.


The reason this is so difficult or hard a line to take, to balance is we know that a Pastor has "authority."  And we tend to think of authority in a... fixing... commanding sort of way.  The Centurion says go, and the servant goes... or else.  The teacher says, "The paper will be 10 pages long" and it is... or else.  The editor says, "The article will meet this style," and it does... or else.

That's how we tend to think of authority - I am here and I will "fix" things.  That's even the idea behind so much of the Presidential debates -- if we elect you, how will you "fix" things (even though, to be honest, we have no intention of listening to whomever is elected).

But that sort of authority isn't the Authority of the Church.  A Pastor's authority is this - I forgive you your sins in the Name of Christ Jesus. 

That's it.  Really.  It is.  It's an authority without a temporal "or else".  "(I forgive you or else"? - what sense does that make?)  And this is nothing but service - and our service to our people is to continually proclaim this forgiveness to them over and over - to teach and lead them away from things that would get in the way of seeing this forgiveness (you know, sin), and to proclaim forgiveness to them again and again.

But if we want to start "fixing" people... well... we need to import an "or else."  We need a threat to make them toe the line we want them to toe... and that sort of undercuts the whole forgiveness thing.  No - serve them, lead them, guide them.  Slowly and gently and firmly -- Christ doesn't deck people but is simply a rock that is firm and solid.

Or course, I'd also contend that in reality all authority, even temporal authority out in the world is meant to serve, even if it wields the ability to punish... but that's another topic for another time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Realizing the Luxury You Already Have

The thing that makes me most sad about American Culture is how utterly rich and wealthy we are, and yet we do not appreciate it.  We lament our lot, we wish we had more and more -- I myself am not immune.  I think if we just paused and realized how much luxury we have, even the lower-middle class, then we might be more content.  My wife helped me realize this in a backhanded, inadvertent way.

The other day, Celia was putting away dishes, including our glasses.  Now, we have lots of glasses -- I have two sets of six glass beer mugs (one is big and thick, the other smaller), then I have a few pub pint glasses (a "Luther" movie set and a few souveniers), plus a set of 4 demotivational pint glasses that Celia liked -- then a Guinness set -- and then a set of 4 Guinness glasses with their shape... and of course there are some scotch tumblers, and a few shot glasses, and two sets of wine glasses and then the plastic cups for water...

And let's not even talk about the shelf of coffee mugs (which brought out the discussion - we bought some corelle ware that came with 8 mugs).

In her attempt to impose order, my wife asked, "Do these different glasses really matter?!?"  And I answered, "Well, yes - the different shapes do different things for how the smell of the beverage comes out, and how the head forms, how quickly things cool or warm to room temperature..." (or at least something approximating that... I started to explain the benefits of the different shapes).

That is luxury.  I have different glasses so as to enhance the various character of different beverages.

This is insane luxury.  No longer is it basic functionality (hold liquid) but nuanced and... as much as I won't tell my wife... not really necessary.  My Guinness is a bit better when in my Guinness pub glass, but, well, it's still good out of a plain mug.

And we aren't talking about highly expensive glassware -- most of these are Ross Dress for Less discount sets or Target Clearance.  But the variety... utter luxury.  The modern grocery store, with spices from all over the world... utter luxury.  Netflix,wherewith I can watch tons of stuff for a few bucks a month... utter luxury.

When I think of the luxury I have, when I see the good that I have - it's much better and much more enjoyable than focusing on the things that I don't.

Trinity 19 weekly meditation

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord!

Yesterday's Epistle was Ephesians 4:23-28, and in particular verse 28 which reads: "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."

One of the wonderful truths that is often overlooked is this: A Christian lives his life not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of his neighbors. I think this little verse sums this up quite well. I mean, think about this -- Paul writes this letter to the Church and includes an admonition to... theives? Well, yes. The Church is not a collection of those who are perfect in themselves, but sinners who have been brought to repentance and desires Christ's forgiveness. And what does that look like - how the the rubber meet the road.

Hey thief - hey you who live off of other people... now, go live *for* other people.

When it boils down to it, as Christians we no longer view "the Law" merely as some sort of checklist of things that we do -- it's not that there's a list of things that Christians do and a list of things that we don't -- and if we still to the list then we prove to other (and God) that we are good little boys and girls. No - we are and remain sinners in this life - but in addition to being forgiven, we now have a new approach -- we strive to live for others, to show them love.

And what I love about this is that it's such a simple idea that is so easily applied. What do I do in a situation? Simple - love my neighbor. It's an idea that easily shows how and what we ought to do (even if our old sinful flesh doesn't want to do this).

Of course, the example par excellence of this is Jesus. And it is a great thing to remember when reading the Gospels -- who for us men and for our salvation. When you read the Gospels, everything that you see Jesus do, all of it is done for you, to win you forgiveness and redemption, because you are the neighbor that He loves perfectly.

We are forgiven -- this truth remains whatever we will see this week, and so I say have a great week!

Pastor Brown

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trinity 19 sermon

Trinity 19 – October 14th, 2012 – Matthew 9:1-8

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Chapter 8 of Matthew had been busy for Jesus.  It begins when Jesus finishes the great sermon on the Mount, and suddenly, right away, He is healing folks right and left – a leper, the Centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, many people.  He casts out demons right and left, calms a storm.  He even laments that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.”  It has been busy for Jesus.  And so then we begin Chapter 9 and our text today with these words, “And getting into a boat He crossed over and came to His own city.”  There He is, on His way home, maybe a chance for some rest and recreation, maybe a chance to get away from the crowds.  Yet what happens?  “And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed.”  No, no rest for Jesus – more to do.  But here is the beautiful thing about Jesus – He does this gladly.  We hear this, “And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’”

          It’s a wonderful thing we see in our Gospel, a highlight, a turning point.  We see Jesus pointing out the most important thing – the true point of why He had come to earth in the first place.  The great truth is this: that He has come to forgive sins – that He has come to do away with all the ills and troubles of life in this fallen world, not merely by healing people or calming storms or multiplying loaves and fishes, but by fixing the world, by dying and rising so that we fallen men would be forgiven and restored to the life everlasting.  And all this that Christ does, we receive by faith – by the gift of faith we receive this forgiveness, we see it and understand it in our lives.  He sees this paralytic, this man who is suffering terribly, who is lowly, who is probably often ignored or despised.  And this man, his friends, they have faith – they behold Christ with faith – knowing that Christ has come to fix things, all things.  And so Jesus turns to this weary, faithful man, and He says, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”  Take heart – endure, be strong, be bold in your faith and belief.  I do not care what you see right now in this world, do not worry that you suffer – rather take heart.  Be enheartened, be emboldened.  Why?  You are My son.  You are my own, you belong not to Satan, not to the prince of this world, but you belong to Me, you are part of My Kingdom.  Your sins no long bind you to Satan and death, your sins no longer bind you to a world of decay where everything falls apart, where limbs no longer work – no, you are forgiven.  The world sees only slow decay and age and destruction – but you have faith, and you see forgiveness and life, the life of the world to come.

          What a fantastic thing Christ proclaims.  And, so, of course, people are going to complain about it!  “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This Man is blaspheming.’”  And the grumbling starts.  The complaining.  And what are they grousing about?  Blasphemy.  They think Jesus is lying – because what Jesus is clearly implying right here when He says, “Take heart, My Son, your sins are forgiven” is that He has the ability to forgive sins.  And here’s the point that we folks of the New Testament overlook, or forget, or don’t realize, don’t appreciate.  We are so used to the idea of sins being forgiven, of being able to say, “I forgive you” or “Christ Jesus has died for you” – sins being forgiven is sort of… old hat for us.  It’s something we are used to having around, we just come to expect it.  It’s part of every service we have here – I mean you have a pastor, a professional forgiver.  My job is to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness – we are used to hearing it all the time – so used to hearing it that we don’t think it’s all that big of a deal if we skip hearing it a few Sundays in a row – it’s always going to be here, we know it.

But whereas we today might not appreciate forgiveness as we ought, those Scribes knew that it was a mighty thing that Jesus was proclaiming – indeed, by right they knew that only God alone Himself would be able to forgive sins.  Why?  Because our sins are against God. David nails this in Psalm 51 – He has just murdered Uriah the Hittite and stolen his wife Bathsheba, and yet David proclaims to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”  Sin is always against God.  When I sin against my wife, I’m really sinning against God, for He is the one who gave her to me to be my wife, who put us together.  When I harm my neighbor, that sin is really against God.  Jesus spells this out later on in Matthew – Whatsoever ye hath done unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.  Heavy words, but true.  Our sin, ultimately, is always against God.  And the Scribes know this – and they sit there thinking about the Law, about punishment, about pain – and there comes Jesus forgiving sins.  They see He is claiming to be God, and so they complain, they grumble.  Whereas the paralytic looked at Jesus in faith, they look at Christ in disbelief and denial.

And so Jesus responds: “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier to say – Your sins are forgiven – or to say –Rise and walk?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ –He then said to the paralytic- ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’  And he rose and went home.”  Oh, scribes, scribes, scribes – haven’t you figured out that I am the Messiah and what that means?  Here you are fussing and doubting, ignoring the work of God going on all around you.  Here, let me show it to you again – paralyzed guy, get up, go home.  Be healed, so that these doubters may know that I am indeed the Son of Man, the promised Messiah.  Rise and go so that they may learn the more important lesson – not merely that I can heal the body, but that I have the authority to forgive sins.

And the crowds get it.  “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”  Again, this is another thing that we miss, that our familiarity bordering on contempt makes us overlook.  They see Jesus do this – and they are afraid.  Why afraid?  Because God is big and mighty and powerful, and you don’t mess around with God.  You mess around with God; you end up like Sodom and Gamorrah.  You end up swept away by the flood.  You end up drowned in the Red Sea.  You end up swallowed by the great fish, or the Assyrians or Babylonians comes and wipe you out, and the folks there thought, “look around us, there are plenty of Romans whom God could let blot us out just like that.”  You don’t mess around with God – and what had these Scribes been doing?  Messing with Jesus, messing with the Messiah – and the potential weight of that kicks in.  And likewise, we shouldn’t be eager to mess with God either – this is why our Catechism lessons on the Ten Commandments all begin “We should fear and love God” – we shouldn’t want to go mess around with God.  But yet, even as these people see the mighty, powerful works of God, even as they have the fear of God put into them, they also glorify God.  Why?  Because God has given the authority to forgive to men – because Jesus has come not to kill and condemn and blast sinners into oblivion, not to smite the Scribes into nothingness for their insolence – but He has come with authority to see that men are forgiven.

Authority is a huge word in the Scriptures – and it is always tied to the forgiveness of sins.  Think on how Matthew’s Gospel ends – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…”  I, Jesus Christ, have authority – and here’s what it’s for.  Baptized people.  Teach them to cling to the forgiveness of sins. Give them the Supper so that they might grow in faith, that they might always receive over and over the forgiveness of their sins.  And think on just how radically this has impacted our lives.  Without forgiveness, what are our lives?  They are filled either with fear or with denial.  Without forgiveness we have that fear, that guilt that clings to us and makes us miserable and shrivel up.  Without forgiveness we live in denial – we pretend nothing we do is every wrong, that nothing ever smells bad, and in our denial we step all over our neighbor and ignore them, and wound them, and we drive ourselves further and further away from people all the while saying, “Well, I’m fine, I don’t know what’s wrong with them?”  Fear, delusion, isolation, pain, suffering.  That’s the lot of sinful man in a fallen world. 
But over and against this, against these foes Christ Jesus has come into this world, has fought sin and death and Satan, has gone to the cross, has died and has burst forth from the tomb, all so that He can pronounce to you, “You are forgiven.”  Sin and death – they are done with, Christ has conquered them.  And to make sure that we know this, that we do not forget it, to make sure that we view this world through the eyes of faith and not eyes of disbelief, Christ Jesus gives authority to men to forgive sins.  I have this authority as your pastor to proclaim them here, in this place.  You, you are baptized, you are a child of God – and the family heritage of forgiveness is yours.  You know what Christ has done for you, what He has done for your neighbor.  In your own private, personal lives you speak out his forgiveness – as parent to child, as friend to neighbor, as spouse to spouse, co-worker to co-worker… even as parishioner to pastor when Satan and sin weigh heavily on me.  Because the point is this – over and above everything, Christ Jesus has come into this world to forgive sinners.  He has destroyed sin and death, He has demolished Satan’s kingdom, and He has called us by the Gospel to His own family, to His Kingdom, to be part of His Church eternal.  That is His business, it is what He was about when He was doing all that we see in the Gospels, it is what He is doing today through His Church, through the members of His body.  We are the people of forgiveness – who see all things by faith, focused on love and mercy for one another, focused upon the forgiveness that Christ Jesus won for every last man, woman, and child on this planet.  And this is why we glorify God, this is why our hymns are what they are – that God has shown mercy and love to sinners, even poor sinners as us.  And nothing in this world, no problem, no trial, no struggle can change this wonderful truth.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, and you are forgiven for His sake.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My own little thoughts on Justification

If you wander around the Lutheran blog world, you might see plenty of posts going up about Justification.  I figured I would throw my hat into the ring and just write a little bit - coming at things from a side angle.

Consider, if you will, the Lord's Prayer and its meaning, especially to the first three petitions.  These meanings read:

1.  God's name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.

2.   The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

3.   The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

This is one of the things we know and acknowledge - that God is much more powerful than us - and that we don't thwart Him.  God will be holy, with or without us.  His Kingdom will come, with or without us.  His will shall be done, with or without us.

Likewise, when Jesus went to the cross, He died for the sins of the world.  Indeed, He justified the entire world, without any aid or input from us - and this justification is for the entire world.  He defeated sin and death and Satan for EVERYONE.

As the simple, catecatical evidence for that consider the 3rd article - "in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life.

Who is raised?  Everyone.  All the dead -- why?  Because Jesus died for all.

Now, there is a distinction.  Do those who do not believe get everlasting life with Christ in His kingdom -- no.  But they were still raised.  It is not their sins which must condemn them - those sins were taken away by Christ.  No, by their disbelieve, they remove themselves from God's blessing.  God is holy - but if one doesn't believe, that holiness doesn't simply benefit you.  Christ will come - but for those without faith, that coming will not be the sheer joy that it ought to be -- indeed, the resurrection will be a resurrection unto condemnation.

What it boils down to is this:  Jesus does Jesus stuff, and He does it perfectly and completely.  Sinful man doesn't trump or undo what Jesus has done -- He has died for all, He has redeemed all.  There is not a man, woman, or child to whom we cannot say truthfully "You are forgiven for Christ's sake."  Now, will some reject this - will they rather hold onto their own ideas of justification rather than Christ's?  Sure - and to these we then say, "Well, you have retained your sin - you desire them upon you instead of upon Christ".  But that doesn't change or undo what Christ has done.  Christ has forgiven all, He has taken the sins of the world upon Himself - even if not everyone believes and rejoices in this, indeed, even if some will be in hell rather than rejoicing in this for all eternity.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Self-denial vs. Self-restraint/Self-control

Let me explain why I tend to be so adamant, so repetitive against legalism and the like.  It's dangerous -- and I know this from dieting.

So both my wife and I have been watching what we've been eating, and my wife had been trying a new tact: "Only 3 Deserts a Week".  And it sort of worked, she lost a bit right away... but then it stopped working.  Why?  Well, as she noted, she still had tons of cravings, and while she didn't do desserts and was a good little girl that way -- she ate too much other fatty foods trying to deal with those cravings... and well... plateaued. 

She noted that the attempt taught her the difference between self-denial and self-restraint.  She had the self-denial down - she could say no to desert, but the self-restraint, the self-control wasn't really there.

Here is the danger spiritually of legalism.  Legalism can push one into a state of self-denial, where by the power of will one say no to sin X -- but self-denial on X doesn't change the heart.  It might shape an outward behavior, but morality isn't merely a matter of "don't do X and then you will be good."  There are so many things, so many things required of the Law -- and focusing on a specific leaves so many other ways for one to gorge on other "fatty sins" while feeling so good and justified in avoiding the "desert sins".  What do I mean?  Consider some of the following approaches:

I don't use curse words ( but you will easily cut down and abuse your neighbor instead of building him up).

I am openly opposed to things like homosexuality and divorce (but you deftly ignore the lusts of your own heart).

I give my good tithe (but you ignore the neighbor in his need).

I never tell a lie (but then you don't put the best construction on things either).

There is always a bit of self-righteous denial that the old flesh will cling to -- the holy "tax" it will pay to let it have its way in other areas.  But this is not what righteousness is, this is not that fruit of the Spirit known as self-control. 

And thus we let the log get bigger and bigger, thankful that we have not our neighbor's speck.

Just a simple little thought

Outward righteousness is a dangerous thing, because it is in fact outward, seen by all.  So then not only can you assume that you are doing okay, but then everyone else can tell you how great you are.  In reality, you must examine your heart, your motivation -- and when you examine that, then you will see that you remain a sinner in need of repentance, even if by all outward appearances you are the best person in the room.

That's why Luther's explanations of the commandments begin with "We should fear and love God so that..." -- things begin not with what we do, but with why we do them. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Order and Authority

Some of you may be aware that I am a nerd.  Yes, I am a nerd, and especially a Star Wars nerd.  I happily go to the bookstore and by the trashy Star Wars novels that come out -- I know they aren't high literature, but I enjoy them.  I am confident in my ability to read, so I am not ashamed to read lousy books.

At any rate, there is tons of Star Wars material beyond the movies -- and sometimes there is a conflict between what one book says with what another comic says, so on and so forth.  And I find that debates over Star Wars canon are fascinating.  There was a leveled hierarchy of reality -- the Movies are the top, followed by sponsored TV (now including the clone wars), followed by the Post 91 novels (and slightly below them the Comic Books), and then the old Marvel comic books, then video games, other things like that.  (You can read here if you want your journey to the nerd side to be complete).
So it's simple.  If the Clone Wars Cartoon says X happened but your book says Y -- X happened, not Y.  Just how it works.  It's like playing trump in cards, and Lucas calls trump.

And yet, whenever there is something that comes along that messes with things, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Apparently a minor character is going to die in the TV show "The Clone Wars" and she had already died in a different place in the Comics  - and there is a bit of a ruckus about this (as you can see here).

This demonstrates something that is becoming more and more pronounced in American Culture -- the disdain of anyone having authority to make decisions.  The disdain of anyone having the ability to order us around.  Yet -- that's how it goes.  In our various vocations, our service to others involves giving orders and instructions.  I am a father - as such I will have to give instructions to my son as part of that vocation.  If he doesn't like it -- well, nothing goes smoothly.  Or even less popular -- I am a husband... and the burden of that is that the buck stops with me.  Which means when it boils down to it, I get to make the final decisions, give the final seal of approval.

People making decisions for others is looked down upon today, it is disdained.  We much prefer rebellion (a particular curse of our history as Americans, I'd say -- we don't like to admit it, but the 2nd Amendment asserts our right to rebel).  And here is the thing, why this is so dangerous.  When we rebel, we prevent those whom God has given us to serve us from serving us.  Then - instead of the relationship being one of serving - it becomes one of asserting authority, which... well... misses the point.

Consider the police -- what's the dangerous part of their job?  Not when we are folks who let them guide us in the ways of legality - but when people rebel against the law and cause problems -- the criminal who flees, or attacks -- then proper authority has to be asserted, and there is a ton of danger (and from what I hear, paperwork afterwards).  Service is radically disrupted.

This is why part of the duties of those being served is to obey -- children obey their parents, wives aren't to nag their husbands to death, citizens obey the laws of the state -- because that lets those in positions of authority serve.

Because this is the other truth that gets lost when one has to assert authority.  All authority is given simply and only to serve others.  When Jesus says, "all authority on heaven and earth is given to Me," He doesn't turn around and say, "No go give me a back rub and grill me some fishes, discipo-slaves!"  No, He then speaks to baptizing, forgiving, teaching -- acts of service for our benefit.

But when the one in authority has to assert his authority to maintain order -- well, the joys of service go out the window.  The ability to serve goes out the window.  No good comes of anything.  And instead of just enjoying some good Star Wars stories, you spend all your time complaining about how random odd comment on page 214 of that book there is going to be obliterated by some scene in that TV show over there.  Because then dad has to drag you screaming out of the store. 

Let yourself be served.  It's a good thing, even if our selfish flesh tells us otherwise.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Submission as Vocation, not "be dominated"

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.


There it was.  The worst period in the bible.  The worst artificial break, the worst destruction of a sentence that we see in translating.   The above is copied from the ESV, but pretty near every translation does it.

What am I talking about?  The is no period between verses 21 and 22 in the Greek, it's a semi-colon -- the idea of 21 is fleshed out in 22 and what follows.  But nope, we put a period in there -- in fact, we even through in a heading -- if you want to read about Wives and Husbands just start here at verse 22...

... in the middle of the sentence.

I think this unfortunate and terrible tradition of mistranslation has led to more stupidity and tomfoolery than most others, and why?  Because of the word "submit".  The Greek word there is "hypotasso" - I order under".  In Greek it refers to what happens when you follow a leader, when you arraign your life after them -- if you are in the second row of a marching band that is marching in a parade, and the front row turns left, what do you do?  You turn left - because you are "ordered under" them.  You follow their lead.

Submit is a Latin term - it has Latin overtones - and I suppose it is a direct move from the Greek idea into Latin.  Hypo and Sub both mean order, and tasso and mit both mean place, order.  But here's the problem.  The Greek term focus on organization, everything in its place.  The Latin term -- well, think about Rome.  How did they bring about order?  Was it the voluntary organization of everyone knowing how they fit -- or was it the legions coming in and establishing order by putting people in their place?

"Submit" is a word with a lot of violence, with a lot of force beside it.  We hear the word "submit" and we think that it means "be dominated".  And we take this and we apply it to wives (even though Christ told us not to lord it over one another, not to dominus it ... dominate it... over one another).

Which we would see is clearly wrong if we just read the first part of the sentence, the part before the fake period, verse 21.  Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ, (wives submitting to your husbands...).

If "submit" is supposed to be a word of power and domination -- how in the world are we supposed to submit to one another?  Domination doesn't work that way.  I have power, I keep it, and you are always down beneath me -- now go make me a pie!

Submission is not "be dominated" - it is a call for Christians to live out their vocations -- because in our vocations we all serve one another.

Consider Luther's table of duties from the Catechism.  We'll just do the first pairing:
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.
What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]

Now, is this about power and structure and authority?  No -- it's about how each serves the other - the Pastor serves by preaching, the Hearers serve by supporting.  They submit to each other.
I, as a pastor, don't get to simply preach about whatever I want -- I submit my preaching and teaching to my people - I shape what I preach according to their needs -- I follow their lead.  Likewise, the congregation does submit to me, they give of time and money to support me, to see that I am carried for.  We both shape our lives around each other - we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This same pattern holds for the rest of the table of duties, indeed, for any vocation you can think of.  Why?  Because submission is a word that describes Vocation, not domination.

Weekly Meditation Trinity 17

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord!  Yesterday's Epistle was Ephesians 4:1-6, and we will look at the first sentence, verses 1-3, which read: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

This verse speaks to a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and that is the topic of "Vocation".  Many things happened in the Reformation; Martin Luther restored many biblical ideas, but I think the most marvelous one (and sadly sometime overlooked one) is that of "Vocation."

The word "Vocation" is simply Latin for "Calling" -- "Voca" as in voice, or vocal.  What you have been called to do.  Now, in Luther's day, if one didn't work for the Church, if one wasn't a priest or a monk, one wasn't deemed to be as "holy" or as good of a Christian.  The thought had been that if you were a "real Christian" you would have gone to the Monastery.  Luther trashes that idea -- as Christians we all have vocations, things to which we have been called.

At this point in Ephesians, the book shifts into a discussion of how a Christian is to live -- in his or her vocations.  Consider the things of your life, the stations.  I am a husband.  I was given this calling by God (therefore what God has joined together...).  I am a father - I was given this calling by God.  I am a son - I was given by God to my parents.  I happen to be a pastor; my wife happens to be a nurse -- these are vocations given to us by God.

All of these things, and so many others beside - all the various "hats" which we wear - these are things given to us by God.  And those in your life are as well.  And so - walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  We approach the tasks we have been given with humility and love for those whom we are to serve, because everything in our life is about love and serving the neighbor.  And this is holy and good.

One of the things that the world will do is that it will try to diminish, wear you down by mocking or belittling the things you have been given to do.  You may hear the phrase, "You're just a..." -- that's diminishing.  Or you may see what others have, and then become envious, wish that you had what they had... and then look down upon what you have.

No, remember this.  Christ Jesus has called you to holiness - and that isn't some artificial way of strutting around -- no.  He has called you out of sin and death and made you to be His own forgiven servant, a servant who has all sorts of wonderful roles in life laid out directly for you.

Enjoy them.  See them as gifts from God, opportunities to serve and show love.  And let no one belittle them and you - for you are God's own child whom He loves dearly.

Have a great week!