Sunday, January 27, 2013

Septuagesima Sermon

Septuagesima Sunday – January 27th, 2013 – Matthew 20:1-16

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
          Today we begin the part of Epiphany that is known as Pre-lent.  We have seen our Lord’s transfiguration, we know that He is God become Man, and in just a few weeks the season of Lent will be upon us.  And now our readings shift, they move from showing us that Christ Jesus is true God to teaching us, reminding us of truths that will shape how we approach Lent, how we approach that season of penitence, how we will view our Lord’s death and resurrection.  And to begin this week, we get the story of the laborers in the vineyard. 

          “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them out into his vineyard.”  Now, here is the situation.  You have unemployed workers.  Laborers.  Folks who don’t have any specific skill that would be in vast demand, folks who simply had to hope that someone would put them to work.  And there they are, without employment, with no income.  No prospects.  And then up comes this master, and he offers them a job.  A good job.  A Denarius a day – that’s a good, full wage.  He’s not going to use their poverty against them, he’s not going to drive a hard bargain – no, he offers a full wage.  And not just for today – it’s on going.  Come, I’ll pay you a good wage a day, every day.  It would be like the dream job falling into your lap, and so off they go to the vineyard with joy.

          The master continues.  “And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right, I will give you.’”  More folks, and they are now without much hope for that day.  Three hours have passed, a quarter of the working day, and, well, nothing.  But then the master comes up, and he says, go – whatever is right, I will give you.  They’ll have enough to eat, enough to live today.  And the master keeps gathering more.  “Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.  And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing.  And he said to them, ‘why do you stand here idle all day?’  They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’”  The master does this all day.  And with this last group you get the full sense of hopelessness, of despondency.  Why are you standing around here – because no one has hired us, because we can’t do anything.  If there’s no jobs, there’s no jobs, and we simply go hungry.  And eventually we starve and die because that’s how this lousy town works.  And the master says, “Eh, you guys, go into the vineyard as well.”  Over and over the master pulls people away from this hopelessness and gives them hope, purpose, and the promise of life, of being able to live.

          And the master is generous.  “And when the evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’  And when those hired about the 11th hour came, each of them received a denarius.”  What generosity!  What care!  Here, have the full day’s wages, even though you worked only a sliver.  And why?  Because you are now my workers, you work for me, and I am going to care for you and treat you well.  The owner is good and gracious and supports people well.  But, not everyone sees it that way.  “Now, when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.  And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’”  The grumbling starts.  How come, if they get this, we don’t get more?  We’ve worked harder, we’ve done more, we’ve been more useful than them!  How sad.  The joy that was theirs when first hired, when first called to work in the vineyard is gone, replaced by bitterness and anger over what others have received.  Look at me, look at what I’ve done, I should get more!  12 hours early they were wondering where their next meal would come from, and now they are cursing the hand that feeds them.  What ingratitude!

          Yet the master is gentle with them even in their folly.  “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go.  I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?’”  Be calm my friend, do not be angry.  Do you not see and understand how kind and good I am?  I have never done you wrong – you are getting exactly what I have told you that you would receive.  As for the others, I choose to be generous – have I not also been generous with you?  Indeed, you yourself have benefited from my own generosity – rejoice that I am generous. 

          So then, what does this mean?  Here is the warning that we must remember.  When Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven, when He describes what life in His church is like, He doesn’t paint an artificially rosy picture.  It’s a vineyard.  It is full of hard and difficult labor.  Likewise, life as a Christian in this fallen world is difficult.  Let no one tell you differently.  In other places Jesus tells us that the world will hate us, that our own sinful flesh will tempt us, that often we will be set against friend and even family for Christ’s sake.  To be a Christian in a sinful world is a hard and difficult task.  But again, we remember why we are Christians.  We were those with hope, we were those stuck in sin and sorrow and death.  No prospects, just waste our lives away and that’s it.  And yet Christ Jesus has gone to the Cross, and suffered, died and risen again.  And now that same Jesus Christ comes to us, while we were yet sinners, and out of His own great love and generosity He calls us out of darkness into His Church, and He says, “I have forgiven you, and yes, in this life there will be struggles and trials and heartache, but when this life is done, you will rise forgiven by Christ and inherit eternal life.”

          And this is the promise He makes to all He calls into His church, whether they are called as infants, baptized before they can even speak, or whether they are called into His Church even as an old man on his deathbed.  The promise is the same.  I forgive you your sins, I give you life everlasting in the Name of Christ Jesus, and all that is His is now yours.  Endure in Him until the end.  And this is simply wondrous – such great generosity, such great love.  But here is the problem – while we are still in this world, our old sinful flesh still clings to us, and instead of being content to simply look at God’s great love which He showers upon us undeservedly, our flesh wants to make everything be about us and what we have done.  We want to make the same move that the workers did – look at us, look at what we’ve done, surely we deserve “more”.  And that is how Satan attacks Christians.  He slithers up to you and says, “You know, here you are, and you’ve been a good, faithful Christian, and what has it gotten you?  Nothing.  Your life is still full of problems, while that guy over there, he’s on easy street compared to you – and he’s no where near as virtuous or dedicated as you are.  Shouldn’t God give you more, since you’ve been such a good person.  Isn’t that the deal?  Be a good Christian, have a good life now?  And what do you have – all those troubles that you work so hard to hide from everyone else… oh, this is all a waste, isn’t it!”  And the grumblings and the doubts come in – because we forget the Word of God and instead focus upon ourselves.

          Friend, God is doing you no wrong.  He has not promised you a life of ease, a life free of heartache and pain.  You’re a sinner in a sinful world, there is just going to be pain and heartache.  And if another has it better than you, easier than you – rejoice for them, be glad in their blessings.  Help them to enjoy them – that’s what we are instructed in the commandments over and over.  But as for you, remember what God has promised you.  You are His baptized child, and all that is Christ’s is now yours.  Yes, this means life everlasting, but it also means in this world you will receive what Christ received – hardship and trial.  The Christian faith is not some ponzi scheme to set you up on easy street.  No, in this life you will be put to work loving your neighbors, serving them, giving of yourself for them, even dying for them, little by little.  But in the midst of this, even as you live out your life here in this world, even as you remain a sinner who grumbles and rebels, God is faithful and just, and He continues to come to you and say, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  You know what life in this world is really like – for I have told you it is hard.  But I am generous.  You are forgiven of all of your sin.  You will have My own strength to endure through the scorching days, the long and lonely nights, the times of trouble and pain, for I am with you even until the end of the age.  And then, I will raise you from the dead, and you will see life everlasting beyond all pain and sorrow, for you are My own, and nothing can separate you from the love that I have for you.”

          Lent is coming, and one of the dangers of Lent, as it is a time of repentance, a time of reflection upon our own lives, is that Satan will try to use that reflection to stoke your pride and your ego, will try to tell you that you deserve more and more, that you aren’t that bad.  Ignore these temptations, and rather remember who you are.  While you are a sinner, powerless to do anything for yourself, Christ Jesus has come to you, and He has given you life now, promise to support and sustain you through the trials of this life, and He forgives you richly so that come the last day you will stand gladly and joyously by His side for all eternity.  He goes boldly to the Cross to win this for you – it is His salvation to do with as He pleases, and He is pleased to give it to you simply out of His great generosity.  It all depends upon Him, and He will never fail you.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Transfiguration Sermon

Transfiguration Sunday – January 20th, 2013 – Matthew 17:1-9

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

          They were afraid.  When people get a glimpse of the unbridled Glory of God, when sinful men gets a taste of this, they become terrified.  We see this both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  In the Old, Moses comes down the mountain from having talked with God while getting the 2nd copy of the 10 commandments, and what happens?  When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shown because he had been talking with God.  Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.  Even Aaron, the high priest, Moses’ own brother is terrified of merely the reflected Glory of God.  They even finally talk Moses into keeping a veil over his face because Moses’ glowing face freaked them out.
And then in the New, we have the New Testament today – the Transfiguration.  Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a mountain – and Jesus is transfigured, He begins to glow, and Moses and Elijah show up – and Peter, Peter is bold, as bold as only Peter can be.  Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents, one for you and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.  It was the time of the festival of booths, the festival of tents – where basically all the faithful Jews would camp out and remember the wanderings in the desert.  Peter’s able to handle seeing the transfiguration – he just wants to keep busy.  Maybe Moses and Elijah are just here to celebrate the feast with us – I’ll keep busy.  I’ll set up some tents.  He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”  When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.  And then the voice of God comes from the cloud, and it’s too much, and the disciples cower in fear.  A transfigured Christ – we can keep busy, we can work through this amazement – but God’s voice – duck and cover, duck and cover.

We will in modern American Christianity talk about God’s glory a lot.  We like to talk about God’s majesty and strength.  Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.  Awesome God who does cool stuff, yeah!  On and on.  But here is what happens.  When our focus shifts to God’s power or glory, we forget one simple thing.  God’s glory is too much for sinful man to handle.  We see this in the Old Testament, we see this in the New Testament.  When people see God let His Glory, His Godliness shine forth – it is terrifying.  Now, think for moment, imagine a situation with me.  Let’s say, in the middle of this sermon this morning, my voice starts to get unnaturally loud – and my face starts to shine – and the earth starts to quake – thunders and lightnings come – angels appear behind me – what would happen?  Honestly, what would your reaction be?  I’d be freaked out, but too scared to stop talking.  Y’all would probably dive the pews.  If a touch of God’s unbridled Glory popped out here, even here in Church, we would be terrified.  It happened to Isaiah in Church, and he was terrified.  Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!”  That’s what would happen.  The unveiled glory of God is terrifying to us here on earth.

And why?  Because we are sinful people.  When we are walking around in normal life here on earth, we can get cocky.  We can get a little proud in how good we are.  We’re decent people – show up to church, put money in the plate – we can compare ourselves to other people, the godless hordes out there, and get to feeling pretty good about ourselves.  That’s because all too often we examine our lives not in terms of God’s Word, not in terms of His absolutes, not in terms of have you done all that you ought – but rather we compare ourselves to others selectively, remembering only their faults and weaknesses, and trying to make ourselves look good.  Thing is – when God shows up, when God shines forth His glory, we see how shallow and poor we are in comparison to Him, we see that we fall short, and we crash, we flee in terror, we run and hide – just like Adam in the garden when God calls out to him after the fall.

So, why do I bring this up?  What is the point in talking about this?  Because today, in seeing Peter, James, and John – Disciples, Apostles, heroes of the faith – on their knees cowering in fear, we see the fundamental problem of our lives.  Sin isn’t just doing bad stuff.  Sin isn’t just being naughty.  It’s not just that we happen to sin – it’s that we are sinful – that we are full of sin.  We are sinners – people who on account of their wicked and corrupt natures end up sinning.  And there’s nothing we can do to change that – we are sinners, that’s who we are.  Period.  And because we are sinners – by our nature we are shut off from God.  Like we say in the meaning to the third article, we can’t by our own reason or strength go to God, we can’t come to Him – why?  Because on our own we are sinners.  Sinners don’t saunter up to a holy God and ask Him how His day was.  When you were a kid, and you were in trouble, did you want to go chat up your parents?  No!  How much more so the sinner with God?  Our sinfulness, which we all have from the day we were conceived separates us from God – and we can’t fix it.  We can’t do anything about it – when God’s Glory comes upon sinful people we have no choice but to cower.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.  This is why Christ Jesus comes.  Epiphany is the season where we see, where we remember that Jesus is indeed God – God come to us humbly as a servant, coming to us as a Human, coming to us in a away where He can be with us without terrifying us.  Jesus hides His glory most of the time so that He can come to us sinners.  The way in which we know God, the way we understand Him, isn’t in His almighty power – we can’t grasp that, and what little we can terrifies us.  We don’t understand God’s majesty, and when we see it we become afraid.  But we do see and understand Christ.  We understand God through Christ, through who Christ is.  We see no one but Jesus only.  He is how, He is the only way we can understand God.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Paul preaches Christ and Him Crucified.  Hear how Hebrews describes this.  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the Word of His power.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  Jesus is true God, in Him we get everything there is to get, all the power, all the glory – but behold how God works.  He comes to us while we are still sinners, while we are still sinful, and He comes in a way which we can tolerate, in a way which doesn’t completely destroy us.  And what does He do?  In our Gospel, Jesus doesn’t stay up on the mountain, He doesn’t just bask in His own glory.  Rather, He goes to comfort the disciples – He tells them not to fear.  Why can Jesus say this?  Because He knows He is going to the Cross.

We can’t handle, we can’t deal with our sin.  But Jesus can and Jesus does.  He takes on our flesh, becomes one of us for the express purpose of going to the Cross.  This is why He comes, to go to the Cross – to make purification for sins, to justify us – to cleanse us from all unrighteousness – this is the work of the Cross.  This is why He comes, to rise again, to walk forth from the tomb bringing life in His train – so that He can say, “See, I have won for you the forgiveness of sins and now give to you life Eternal.”  Jesus comes to work, Jesus comes to get down to business – Jesus comes to touch us while we are by our sinful nature His enemies and give us life.  But God shows His love for us in this that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  This is what Jesus does.

And this is what Jesus does for us still today.  Think on this – as I’ve already pointed out, if we see God’s unveiled glory while still on earth in this sinful flesh, we would freak out.  Yet God still deigns to come to us and bring us forgiveness.  How?  Not through earth shaking power.  Not through fire and brimstone and flashing lights.  God comes to us in ways that don’t destroy us – God gives Himself to us in ways that we can handle.  He comes in His Word – through hearing His Word.  And not echoing, booming sounds – but Words spoken and read by normal people in normal ways.  He comes in Baptism – think on that – a washing which cleanses all our sin, which unites us to God, which joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection.  When Christ died the earth shook, the clouds blotted out the sun, when He rose nothing could contain Him – and yet we are connected to Christ’s death and resurrection by water and the Word – in a manner so gentle even infants can bear it.  He comes to us in the Lord’s Supper.  Think on that – God gives us His own Body and Blood – we take and eat, we take and drink for forgiveness – and how can we receive this?  Because He gives us His Body and Blood in a way that we can handle, that we can receive – through bread and wine.  He comes to us sinful men to forgive us our sins in ways in which we can handle.

Yes, Jesus reveals His glory upon the mountain of transfiguration.  We see God’s glory revealed, we have confirmed for us that Jesus is indeed true God.  But Jesus doesn’t just stay there – His ultimate purpose isn’t to show how wonderful He is.  Rather, He leads His disciples down the mountain, and He walks undaunted and boldly to the Cross, where He wins for us forgiveness.  And Jesus continues His work today as He comes to us in His Word, in Baptism, in His Supper.  He comes to us gently, so that we can receive Him without fear, and simply rejoice in the forgiveness of sin.  The world looks at this – looks at God at work in His Word and shrugs.  The world sees Baptism and mocks it – How can water do such things?  The world hears that Christ gives us His own Body and Blood in His Supper and calls Jesus a liar, says it’s just a chuck of bread, a bit of wine and nothing more.  The world foolishly craves glory and power.  But we have been called into God’s house, brought into His family; we have received His forgiveness, and so we see and know and thirst for the forgiveness which He gladly and continually provides for us in His Church.  And because we have been forgiven, we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, when we and all believers in Christ will be raised to glorious and eternal life, and once again enjoy perfection, and delight forever more without fear, in God’s Glory in His Heavenly Kingdom.   Amen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hoaxes, Delusions, and Self-Justification

So - Mantei Te'o.

Yeah.  If you don't know who that is - you can skip this one, or you can look here for the story... but basically a famous college football player's girlfriend who died never actually existed.

The big question is whether or not this was a hoax that he was involved in... and people are just sure that it couldn't be something that was simply pulled over on him.  I don't know.

What I do know is this.  We all like delusions - and the biggest delusion of all is self-justification.

Consider this - how easily will you construct so much... junk... to make yourself feel better about who you are?  How much about yourself will you ignore, how many inconsistencies will you over look to make yourself feel better?

If you think you are righteous -- that's the biggest hoax of them all.

You are a sinner.  Plain and simple.  As am I.  I'm the chief.

Thanks be to God that Christ Jesus has died and risen for sinners!

Don't look at the hoaxes of Satan and your own delusions - look at Christ Jesus who forgives sinners!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Epiphany 1 Sermon

Epiphany 1 – January 13th, 2013 – Luke 2:41-52

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
          Oh boy.  Pastor just hammered us about worship and church last week, and what do we hear this week?  Boy Jesus in the temple.  Oh man, are we gonna get it today, it’s going to be a sermon chalk full of nothing but how we need to get to church more, study more, know the bible more.  No.  Not really.  It would be a shame to reduce such a full text down to just “go to Church” – because there is more going on in this text than just an excuse for a pastor to do a bit of finger waggling.  No, we are in Epiphany, the season where Christ Jesus reveals who He is to the world – and one thing that we remember is that the world just doesn’t get or understand Jesus.  And indeed, throughout the Gospels, whenever Jesus does stuff, He angers people, upsets them.  In Luke chapter 4, after Jesus preaches His first sermon back home in Nazareth, they decide to throw Him off of a cliff.  Throughout the Gospels people will want to stone Him, revile Him – and of course, they end up crucifying Him.  So instead of just cutesifying this text, let’s look at and see it for what it is – the first time the Messiah, doing what He has come to do, confuses and upsets people.

          “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when He was 12 years old, they went up according to custom.”  Now, an important note is given us for here.  We think of this text as being about the “boy” Jesus – well, yes, but not as much of a boy as we would think today.  When you hit 13, you were bar mitzvahed – you were then a man.  You were ready to step up and enter adult life – and as such 12 year olds back in Jesus day were probably afforded freedom and responsibility more of what we would think appropriate for older teens today.  So, that explains the next verses – “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the Boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they went a days’ journey, but then they began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him.”  When I was little, I though Mary and Joseph just had to be the worst parents in the world – how do you leave your 12 year old son behind in Jerusalem, why, this is worse that those Home Alone movies.  Well, not quite.  You traveled in groups, you family and friends are all together.  The whole family is moving, He’s almost an adult, surely He’s off with the other ones horsing around.  I’m sure He’s around here somewhere – let Him be, He’s off with His cousins probably, He’ll be fine.  Besides, it’s not like He’s a troublemaker.  But then, when they get to the campground, and it’s time for bed – Jesus doesn’t show up.  He doesn’t come home – and that’s when they realize something is wrong.  So, they hurry back to Jerusalem.

          They are a day’s journey out on foot.  Then they have to turn around and walk back.  And then they are searching through Jerusalem, spend a day looking.  And then we hear this: “After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  Again, this is a big thing that we might not catch.  We are used to students sitting while the teacher walks around.  That’s not the case in the ancient world.  In the ancient world teachers sat while the pupils stood by and learned.  So when we hear that Jesus is sitting, that means He’s teaching.  He listens and then asks questions – He’s doing the same thing He does when He preaches later on.  How often when we hear Jesus talk with people does He ask them a question?  That was the old Jewish custom of how you taught, it’s one I like.  Haven’t you noticed how many questions I’ll ask in a sermon?  Mary and Joseph walk into the temple and they see Jesus there, hanging out with the rabbis… and teaching them.  “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers.”  And He’s teaching them well – He’s making connections about things, about the Messiah that they have never heard. 

Jesus is preaching – and then Mary speaks, “And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished.  And His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, Your father and I were in great distress.”  Astonished is a bit weak of a translating, and perhaps a bit too kind.  The idea here is that Joseph and Mary when they see Jesus are surprised, but also angry and embarrassed.  It is that moment of relief, but also frustration.  ‘Oh, good night Jesus, You’ve been bugging the folks in the temple, do you even begin to realize how this is going to look – oh, look, there’s Mary, did you hear how her little Brat Jesus went and was a little hellion in the Temple.  Oh, we’ll never hear the end of it.’  You know this, the panic that parents have when their kids are doing something strange. Which is why she asks, “What are You doing to us, Jesus!”  And Jesus simply responds, “Why were you looking for Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”  Mom, Dad, you know the scriptures.  You know that I am the Messiah.  This is what I came for.  It is necessary, it has to be this way.  I must teach, I must preach – this is what the Scriptures say.  And poor Joseph and Mary – “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.”  They didn’t get it yet – they weren’t mentally prepared for Jesus to start being the Messiah, doing Messianic things yet.  And so, Jesus heads home with them.  Oh, He’ll come back to Jerusalem and teach in the temple again a few Passovers later, but for now – it’s home with Mom and Dad.

          For the first time in Luke’s Gospel, we not only see Jesus actively doing Messianic things, but we see people disappointed by what Jesus does.  This is one of the major themes of the Gospels – that Jesus doesn’t end up being the Messiah that people expect.  That He doesn’t fit the bill for what people want.  Joseph and Mary right here – they just want a son who won’t do anything strange and embarrass them or give the neighbors reason to talk.  You aren’t doing what we expect, and we don’t like it.  Latter on in Luke’s Gospel, there are many other expectations.  You have people who want the Messiah to be a mighty warrior who will drive off the Romans.  You have people who want the Messiah to just be some great and glorious gladhander – giving out bread and riches and power to people so we can be on easy street.  And all of these things miss the point.  The Messiah comes to be in His Father’s House, teaching the Scriptures and fulfilling them.  And no one likes it when Jesus says, “It is necessary” – not even His disciples.  When Jesus says to the disciples that He must suffer and die, that’s when Peter tries to talk Him out of it, that’s when you get the whole, “Get thee behind me, Satan” episode.  Over and over, Jesus upsets and disappoints people when He does Messianic things.

So, what of today?  What do people expect Jesus to be doing, what do people expect Church to be doing?  Don’t we have these same false expectations, the exact same ones?  If you watch enough TV you’ll see a commercial for how if you buy the book of Mormon it will make your kids behave better, be less of an embarrassment to you.  Or how many people want the Church to be the major instrument of social change – to lead a rebellion not against Rome, but a rebellion against whatever social issue you are up in arms with?  Both liberals and conservatives want their churches to lead different and often opposite rebellions.  And heading to Church so that God will bless you and let you live on easy street – oh, that’s still around, still around aplenty today.  Chalk up entertainment (and don’t think that plenty of people went to see Jesus simply because it was something to do), and what you see is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  So many people expect Jesus, expect Church to just to and be something that it isn’t.

But you have been give eyes to see and ears to hear.  By the power of the Word and Spirit, your Heavenly Father has revealed, has shone His light upon you.  Jesus will continue to make a habit of coming to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover.  It is necessary that He do so.  In fact, one very important year, He’s going to ride into Jerusalem to head up to Passover on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.  Why?  It is necessary, it is what the Scriptures proclaim.  And He will go into that Temple, and He will teach again – He will turn over the money changers tables quoting the Old Testament – because it is necessary for Him.  He will teach there in the Temple, and the people will hang upon His Words, but the Chief Priests and the Scribes will plot to kill Him.  Luke 23 begins, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover.  And the Chief Priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death.”  Of course they were, for Christ teaches, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.”  It is necessary for this to happen to the Messiah – and Jesus will go to the Cross, whether people like it or not, whether it is what they want or not.  Why?

          Because He is determined to win you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Because Christ Jesus comes down to earth not for some sort of vacation, or to dally around with the local ladies like the old gods of Greek myth do.  He comes to win forgiveness by His death, He comes to give you life with His resurrection.  This is the thing that Christ does, this is the thing that the Church gives out.  Not less embarrassment, not earthly power and wealth.  Rather this - your sins are forgiven because of Christ.  You will rise again.  You are baptized, joined to Christ Jesus, attached to Him.  This is what He has come to do – to be your Savior, and nothing will stand in His way.  He will pull you out of darkness into His marvelous light, He will rescue you from the valley of the shadow of death by being with you in death and bring you to His resurrection.  His crowning glory is in restoring you, and all thanks be to God, this is what Jesus is focused upon doing, even as a 12 year old, pointing to Himself in the Scriptures.  Thanks be to God for His great mercy to us.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

1 Corinthians 7 and Vocation

I find 1st Corinthians to be one of the more fascinating books of the bible, simply because it is so... un-ideal.

What do we see addressed in 1st Corinthians?

1.  Spatting spouses refusing to sleep with each other.
2.  Marriage means problems.
3.  Better to marry than to burn with lust.
4.  Putting up with spouses that are difficult.
5.  Dealing with an unbelieving spouse.
6.  We are all called to different vocations.
7.  Being a slave stinks.  Oh well.
8.  Don't want to be unmarried or even married too much.
9. Try to be free from anxiety, so don't mess with your vocations willy-nilly.
10.  Yeah, again, it's better to marry than to burn.

Life, and marriage, is not romanticized here.  You don't have Paul banging his fist down saying, "These are the purposes for which marriage was given, and you must make yourself conform!"  Nope.  It's this -- yeah... life is difficult in a sinful world.  Stinks, doesn't it?

I think verse 17 is the lynch pin - "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches."

If you are married -- be married.  Take care of your spouse... and yes, I and St. Paul both mean "take care of" your spouse.

Oh, you aren't content to be single cause you are burning with passion - well, drat.  Guess you better get married, but be ready for the problems that will bring.

Oh, you're married to an unbeliever?  Well, guess what that means.  You are married to an unbeliever - you've got to deal with it.

Oh, you're a slave.  That stinks - maybe you'll be able to buy your freedom, but you know what you are until then?  A slave.  Yeah, that stinks, but you've got to deal with it.

It's an interesting approach, and it's one that cuts off so many idealistic dreams we have, so many escapist delusions we suffer from.  "If only this.... then my life would be perfect."  Ha!  Fat chance.  You change your vocation, you just add more burdens.  We don't do that Pharisaical "korban" junk -- just because you take care of the church doesn't mean you don't have to take care of your parents.  Oh, you think getting married will solve all your problems -- nah, you'll just have more, so you better be ready for them.

Life in this world is hard.  It's full of junk that we don't enjoy.  You aren't going to get out of it -- don't try to escape - deal with what you have to deal, and don't willy-nilly throwing more on to your plate thinking that will make things easier.

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Did St. Paul just say he thinks it's better to not get married?  Yes, yes he did.  Put that in your "this is the ideal way life should be" pipe and smoke it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Society, Good Law, and Vocation

 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers,[b] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” - Acts 6:2-4

I love being a pastor.  I mean, well, sometimes it can be frustrating as all get out.  I had forgotten that we should have installed newly elected officers at my vacancy yesterday (and they were good natured about it).  I said, "Well, I'm sorry, I had 10 services last month; I got a bit disorganized."  The elders chuckled amongst themselves and then said to me, "Well, Pastor, there were 31 days last month, you only worked a third of the time."  Of course, I replied, "Yeah, you are farmers, I suppose you sit on your backsides and just let the ground do all the work."

While it's something that is off handed, the whole "you only work on Sundays" does drive home that people know what the main job of a pastor is.  To tend to worship.  To tend to, as the Apostles put it, prayer and ministry of the world. There are other things that, well, just aren't as vital for pastors.  I mean, yes, I like helping out in the kitchen, but when it boils down to it - if I had to choose between getting the sermon finished to helping with the pot luck, we all know what I should be doing.

A Pastor is to handle the Word.

Now, I've always had this as a focus.  This has made me always a bit leery of pastors engaging in social activism (either on the right or on the left) - especially as it tends to move away from, well, either prayer or the Word of God.

It is especially troublesome as I see more pastors appealing to Natural Law arguments in a vain attempt to impact society.  Now, not only do I think this is a flawed approach from a rhetorical point of view (let's see... I need to engage people who are denying absolute reality and instead acting only on the basis of their whims... I know, instead of demonstrating how my position is actually in their best interest, I will make an appeal to some sort of absolute reality that I claim is obvious that they have never noticed before... yep, that won't seem like me making stuff up to try and control them, no, not at all), but I am somewhat dismayed by it from a theological point of view.

Why?  Because if you are arguing on the basis of Natural Law... you aren't ministering with the Word.

I mean, we aren't pastors of Deistic God who has made wonderful laws for the universe and just lets everything go... we have a God who comes down from Heaven, suffers, and dies so that sinners are forgiven; who rises that we may have life in Him.

Why the hell would we want to talk about anything other Christ?  Why would we run after the wisdom that the Greeks could see when we have Christ?

And especially in the Epiphany season - the season of revelation!

If you are a pastor, remember your task.  Tend to the prayers and the Word of God.  He is what we need.  Without Christ, all we are left with is a world who are a bit more orderly as they head to hell in a handbasket.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Epiphany Sermon - 2013

Epiphany – January 6th – Mathew 2:1-12

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
          Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, the season of the Church year which we are about to enter.  Epiphany means to shine upon, it is a season of revelation – where we see and understand more and more just who this Christ Child is whose birth we have been celebrating these past few weeks.  And to start off the season of Epiphany, we have a lesson of vital importance for each and every one of us in this room – the coming of the Wise Men.

          Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."  We are used to this story.  We are familiar with it.  We tend to just toss out some wise men with our nativities without much thought, we sing “We 3 Kings” because it has such a fun refrain.  And so we forget just how strange it would have been for the people in Herod's court to have these wise men – and no, Scripture doesn't say how many of them, to have these wise men simply show up.  And by rights they shouldn't be there – they don't fit in.  Think on your classic Nativity scene.  The stable – well, okay, there's no room at the inn.  That explains the animals, that makes sense too.  And shepherds – well, Bethlehem was kind of rural, so the fact that folks in fields right on the outskirts of town might show up, there's nothing strange about that.  But these Wise Men showing up – from the East, they stand out like a sore thumb.  You didn’t just see Magi from the East hanging around Jerusalem every day, and certainly not out in Bethlehem.  They had to travel a long way – and more over, they were Gentiles – they weren't Jewish – and yet they knew that this Jewish Boy who was born was important – and not only important – but that this One who was born King of the Jews was True God whom they ought to worship.

          That's astounding – that these Gentiles would seek to find the young Jewish Child whom they know is God.  This, dear friends, is really where you fit into all this Christmas pageantry.  This is the wonder of Epiphany – that this Christ Child who comes really is for all people – not just all classes of Jew, not just for the rich and the poor of Jerusalem – but for all people – even those strangers and foreigners.  Even those people from the East – even those Germanic folk from the north.  That's part of the reason why in a classical nativity the three Wise Men will be three different skin colors – all peoples of the world will be saved by this Christ Jesus, all nationalities – red and yellow, black and white.  It does not matter a hill of beans where you are from, Christ is for you.  Already this Sunday our brothers and sisters in Christ have worshiped our Lord in Asia, in Europe, in Africa.  How many different languages have proclaimed Christ this day?  You fit in now – you are a part of the story – even the Gentiles, even non-Jews – they have a Savior.

          When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet. . . . Herod is the emblem, the example of evil and wickedness above all others in the New Testament.  This is the one who will end up slaughtering the infant boys of Bethlehem in a vain effort to secure his throne.  He was a brutal and vicious man.  We would expect wicked Herod to be troubled by this news – but all Jerusalem as well?  The chief priests and the scribes, even the people who knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, they are troubled too?  Why?  Well, sadly, it boiled down to earthly things.  If you are King – and someone else is born to be King, it means your reign will be cut short.  It means that maybe it won't be all about you or your kids.  It may be that, like John the Baptist, you must decrease that Christ may increase.  Herod didn't like that idea.  It made him unhappy.  You've heard the phrase, “If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy”?  Same thing with kings.  This coming of Christ is met with such fear – fear of how it will impact King Herod.

          Allow me a few moments of bluntness.  When you hear these words, when you hear of Herod's fear, of Jerusalem's fear – know that this is precisely how Satan will try to tempt you, the same fear the Devil will try and raise up in you.  Why is Herod afraid?  Because Herod’s focus is on his kingdom, his power, his stuff.  Why are the people afraid?  Because angry kings might mess with their lives, their power, their stuff.  They are afraid of their stuff being disturbed – and they did not seek to worship Christ Jesus as the wise men did.  Oh, you wise men, just go ahead with out us – come back when you've found Him, we can't be bothered now. . . we have emergency plans to make.  Instead of beholding God – Herod's eyes and the eyes of Jerusalem are firmly faceted on earthly politics and pomp and power. 

          This is the way in which Satan will try to attack you.  What you have to remember is that you also can be compared to the people here in Herod's Jerusalem's.  If I were to ask any of you, “Where was Jesus born” - is there anyone in this room who can talk who wouldn't be able to tell us that He was born in Bethlehem?  These were people who knew who the Messiah was, who in theory where those who were looking for His coming. . . but when it comes down to it, when He comes, there's just not that much interest – other than what chaos and trouble it might cause.  We've got to focus on the hum drum things of life.

          Isn't that the temptation that Satan levels at us Christians, we who know who the Messiah is, even today?  How many are not here because they cannot be bothered?  Too much stuff going on, too many things coming up?  But as you know, God's Law is not given to us so that we can point fingers at others – rather the Law is applied to us.  How easy would it be to fall into that habit, to slide away, to become worn down with cares or worry?  Or even for us here – how many of us felt joy and wonder at being allowed to come to Church?  We are invited into God's House to hear His Word – in fact, God Almighty will give us His Body and Blood today – and did any of us this morning look like kids on Christmas day ready and excited to go?  Or was it more of, “Well, we probably oughta get to Church today”?  Did we approach this morning thinking more that it was the end of vacation with a little bit of dread of heading back to the normal slew of things now that the holidays are done – or thinking that Monday is going to bring the new slate of 2013 business, or another crop to worry about?  We too, each us of here – even as we are here, we can be worn down the weight of this world, our responsibilities here and now – where our eyes become focused mainly on the things of this life, jobs, bills, weather, the economy.  And that's heavy.  That comes with fear.

          This is why God calls us to worship – to have us rest from the responsibilities of this world and instead be in His care, be served by Him, be refreshed by Him.  We are told in Scripture that perfect love casts out fear – and Worship is where we see, where we receive God's perfect love – where once again He applies it to our lives through our ears, where He places it upon our tongues.  The heart of worship is that God gathers us to focus upon what He does for us, the rest and forgiveness which He gives to us. 

          Those people whom we rightly call the wise men knew this.  See what they brought to their worship of Christ the King - And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold and frankincense are part and parcel of worship.  When Moses builds the tabernacle, when Solomon builds the temple – gold is used -  the idea of a precious metal shows that what is going on is something precious.  That's the reason why the chalice is probably the only silver cup that any of us drink out of – there is something wonderful and unique that happens in worship, in God coming to us.  The stuff we use in worship shows that.  Frankincense was also part of worship – the tabernacle and temple were always filled with smoke – smoke of incense.  The incense, the smell was a reminder, a confession that God was present at worship for the benefit of His people.  Gold and Frankincense were things that were present at worship, that let you know you were at worship – so the wise men brought them to be present at their worship.  But then, they also bring myrrh.  Myrrh is used to anoint the dying – myrrh is the chief spice that is used to cover the stench of death.  On Easter morning when we see that the women are hastening to the tomb with spices to anoint the body – the chief spice of that mixture is myrrh. 

          This Christ Child whom the wise men worship, whom we ourselves worship, is the God who becomes Man to stare into the face of death and win us life through His own death and resurrection.  The wise men see and know this – it is part of their worship.  When we gather here for worship today – the center, the focus of our worship is that Christ Jesus goes to the Cross, and thereby wins us forgiveness and life – and that what He has done trumps and enlightens everything in our life – that His love drives away the shadows and fears of this life – that in the light of Christ we face all things confidently seeing the proof, the depth of His love for us – knowing that nothing can separate us from Christ our Lord.

          This is what our Lord brings to us here in His House – the Lord who comes to serve His people with life and Salvation, the Lord who comes and gives of Himself to bring us unto Himself and enfold us with His love.  And He continually pulls us unto Himself.  He is our God – He comes even to bring the Gentiles into His Kingdom – to pull us away from the world of sin and strife and to give us Life in His name.  All praise and glory be unto Christ Jesus, our God who wins for us salvation.  Amen.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Cult of the "Right"

One of the most dangerous false religions that anyone can belong to is "The Cult of the Right."  That's not "right" as in right or left -- no, conservatives and liberals both are proud members of this cult, even if they oppose each other.  It is the cult that worships the self, the cult that assumes that what I say is... right.  Is correct.  And if you disagree - automatically you must be... wrong.  Misguided.  Mislead.  Or perhaps evil.

Again, I think it derives, like most sins, from what Luther would call a theology of glory - an approach where the sin of ego creeps in, the sin where you think that you are going to lead the glorious revolution... or to slightly riff off of Fisk's Broken book (which is rather enjoyable)... "Ifwecanjust... get them to listen to me" then everything will be fixed.

We set up our great heroes of the faith, and we think that we are them.  We think we are Paul, and we are bold to oppose Peter to his face... never thinking that we might be Peter on a specific point.  We think that we are modern day Luthers... and certainly Luther was never told he was wrong on any position or opinion by his fellow Lutherans... they just supported him and followed his lead!


Any student of reformation history can tell you that one is false. 

See, if we are all students, we are in search of the truth.  We might think we are right -- but we must admit we are wrong.  I've gotten into plenty of spats in the history of this blog... on some, I was wrong.  My thinking has been refined.  On some... well, I still think I'm right, but I shrug and go on.

Why?  Because... I'm not trying to change the world.  I'm not leading a glorious crusade.  I don't *have* to assume that I am right about every little thing because it's about me being right.

It's about what the Scriptures teach, and seeing that we teach the same thing.

If you find that you have gotten to the point where for your ego, or for the good of the world you just *have* to be right... step away, relax, repent.

I mean that seriously, because one of the very first things we do in Church is confess that we are poor miserable sinners... you know... that we often are wrong.  And then we receive forgiveness.  We see that we live, not in our own "rightness" but we justified in Christ.  The more we focus on our rightness, the less we will focus on His righteousness.

The world doesn't need your rightness... but rather we all will live because He is righteous.  Let His "Righteousness" trump "I'm Right" any day of the week.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Forgetting the Limits of Vocation and Disappointment

I often see much disappointment when I'm wandering the Lutheran internet.  People who look around the Synod and see this wrong, or that not happening, or this thing that isn't right over there.  I see efforts to bring about sweeping changes or even to "save the synod" or what have you.  And they all end the same way.

Crushing disappointment.

It's what happens.  And it's sad, because there seems to be one reason for disappointment.  People put their hopes above their vocation, their hopes above their station.

Consider.  You are a pastor.  You have a good thing going.  It's a good ________.  Whatever.  Fill in the blank with any of the cool things you've come across.  How did it start?  One pastor being what he is... a pastor.  Doing something cool with his call... and then sharing it.  And other pastors say, "wow, that's great" - and they jump in too.  And it even grows and becomes more popular - more people get involved.  Great!  Wonderful!

But then... it seems there inevitably comes this point... I don't know whether it's an ego point, or just a political point, but there comes a point where the folks involved get this idea that if only we could take *our* cool thing and make it *the* cool thing for the Synod, get the whole Synod involved, then we could fix ___________ for everyone!

Did you catch it?

Did you see the problem?

Vocation was abandoned.

I am a pastor.  I am called to care for my sheep.  I do something cool for my sheep, and I share my cool thing with other pastors who want to do something cool for their sheep.  It's all vocational - it's all pastors dealing with their own and sharing, it's all pastors helping one another out, being a resource for each other.

Then... why don't we go "big time" with this?  Suddenly, it's not a free thing, suddenly it's not pastors focusing on their own sheep, or a group of guys focusing on people who want to use a simple idea that they share.  Nope.  Now it's about changing others... it's about trying to wrangle other folks to get on board, it's about changing people who have no interest.

No longer is it a service... it's a club.  A club you better join, or we will make things difficult for you.  A club in the "blunt object to keep the peoples in line" sense of the word as well. 

Oh, sure, it might still do the service it had -- but more and more attention gets sucked away from vocationally serving those who want to learn, whom you have been called to serve... and more and more moves on to manipulating and influencing the other guy over there... you know, the one to whom you have no call to preach or teach.  The one who happens to be antagonistic.  So then, instead of simply serving your own, now you have to defend what you are doing to prove to the antagonists that what you are doing is good... then you actually have to go on the offensive, show how they aren't with it.

And it stinks.  Things turn sour.  They don't get it.  And it's more and more work.  And the Glorious Revolution never comes.  And even the good service you had... well... it seems so... dour.  I mean, sure, it might be doing fine... but that growth waned, or fell flat, or even is still growing, but it's not growing into the critical revolutionary mass that will reshape the LCMS or American Lutheranism or whatever.


Disappointment.  And why?  Not because you are failing in your vocation -- disappointment because you are looking to work outside of your vocation.

Remember who you are, what you are doing.

I'm a Pastor.  I write little blog for my own entertainment and thinking.  I help out on another blog that is dying. I help out answering questions on - when they write the history of the LCMS in 2100, no one will remember my name.  I will not have changed the world. 

But I will have been a Pastor, doing my thing in my parish, helping out a few friends in things.  And you know what... that's what I've been called to do.  And that is no mean thing. 

When one accepts the limits of his own vocation, when one gives us the dreams of earthly glory and power, the idea that he will be a new Luther... then there isn't nearly as much to be disappointed in.

Show Me - A Repost

(An old post, posted again)

It's a very personal, a very important thing. Hell, it's a family motto. Are you ready, everybody?


I don't care about your wisdom, your thoughts, your citations from the theologians old or new. I don't care whether you say it's nature or reason, new or dye-in-the wool. Say it again.


I don't care if it will fix the world in a jif. I don't care if everyone else is doing it. I don't care if you are published, trusted, or Confucius. I don't care if people applaud your every idea and thought. I don't care if your plans are the best, if on the Word they do not rest.

Say it again.


If you cannot cite it, I will not buy it.

Say it again.


I don't need Athens, I don't need Rome. I don't need some guy sitting under a tree alone. I don't need wisdom from the east or wisdom from the west. In theology, none of them pass the test.

Say it again.


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In all seriousness - if we people were as focused on studying the Scriptures as a good agent is in tracking down a good deal for his player, we'd all be much richer spiritually. Not the latest theory. Not the latest trend. Not the latest refurbishing of Aristotle or Pharisaism or any of that. Not the dreams of that great time back in the day of when things were great and how we can get back there.

Just the Word. Showing us our sin. Showing us our Savior. Showing us that this world is judged and that we will rise.

You know, all the things we focused on back when we weren't bored of being Lutheran and decided that we would find that magical theological twist that would change the world.

As though anything other than the Gospel of Christ Jesus ever really changes anything in a sinful world. Here we get nothing but death... people left without any excuse but dying anyway. One Man, the Word of God, is the exception. He proclaims Himself, gives Himself to you in His Word - and that actually changes things. Brings life to death - and Him alone.

Show me the Scriptures.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Preaching Culture or Christ

Whenever I visit my parents in Woodward, I see a grocery store turned into some sort of fellowship church, and right where the sale price of beans use to be is a sign that says, "Changing a culture for Christ." 

Now, I'm sure most good Lutheran readers will look at that and cringe.  Of course it is off.  Christ Jesus comes to us in His Word and He works a change in us - He works repentance, He fills us with love and makes us to do good works.  We are receptive.

Or that's what we say.

Now let me ask the question - and it is something to ponder.

How much of what you hear Lutherans complaining about is really about a desire to change culture?  And not necessarily change culture to be more inline with the Scriptures, not about changing things so that we do what the Scriptures say, but rather a change back to a... more wholesome day?  A change to the way things were "back then" when we didn't have the problems we have today?

It strikes me as an air of Romanticism rather than the Scriptures that drives this.

I say this making a full admission.  I am a recovering Romanticist.  In my younger, college years, I was full bore Romanticist.  I could make the past seem so much better.  I loved any and all retro movements that came back.  And some of this I still hold -- I love the ancients' respect for antiquity.  I'd give my eye teeth to see more classical education.  So, yes, I know, I recognize the yearning for the days of yore when I see it... because it calls to me.

Consider when you call for something, some change.  Do you make the call because the Scriptures mandate it, the Scriptures call for you to act this way... or do you make the call because it's old fashioned and things seemed better back then?

The first is right and proper; a pastor doing what he is to be doing - handling the Word of God.  The later is... well, it's preaching a culture that you find to be ideal, not preaching Christ. 

And of course, the utter disappointment that comes up with the later is this -- every age has its warts, and the Romanticist likes to overlook them.  We hearken back to a way-things-use-to-be that never was.  We point to a golden age that never was.  We end up running after false dreams thinking that this will nip our problems in the bud... not realizing that problems wrecked and ruined that age too.

And in the process... we speak less and less about Christ.  We focus less upon forgiveness (and I'd contend we focus less on the Law as explained by Christ - love God, love your neighbor).  We assume the Gospel so that we can focus more on the current ills that we see in society.  We exhort people to behave the way in which we think will be best for them. Do we see what this actually does?  We don't live in the Word -- oh, we might cherry pick the Word for this or that verse which we can use to push our own agenda... but when we do that we are no better than the Higher Critics who placed themselves above the Scriptures.  They sat above Scriptures and picked and chose what was the Word of God; in our desire to shape the culture how we would have it, we pick and choose our proof texts/pre-texts, making Scripture merely our tool box from which we pull the item of our choice rather than that which shapes and guides us.

Preacher -- do not preach a culture!  Abandon the drive for wisdom in the world...proclaim Christ and Him Crucified!


I know that what I have written here will be viewed by many as utterly dangerous.  It can be used by people to justify their own silly cultural changes -- the contemporary crowd could talk this way!!!  What are you doing Eric, giving them opportunity to do whatever they wish?!?

We rightly complain when we see various "liberal" groups do things simply to accommodate culture.  We should rightly criticize them for this.  However, we must also be ready to criticize ourselves for this as well... we need to make sure that we do not fall into the same type of error they do.  In response to their slavish aping of the current culture and its trends, we do not need to become doggedly focused upon restoring the good old days.  Rather, we must be adamant pointing that their changes do nothing to make Christ any better and is just a vain distracting from the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified.