Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Attacking the Tools....

My old vicar and teacher Rev. Christopher Esget has been doing an interesting series of blog posts dealing with Contraception and Homosexuality.  I did decide to reply to one of them with a nuance I think is important.

See, I think the battle against “contraception” is slightly off. If we will allow that there are times when one might wish to “plan” having children via natural family planning, then I think arguing against the use of tools in assisting that planning is just plain silly. It’s sort of like saying we can plant fields (instead of just gathering what grows wild), but using machinery is evil.

The bigger problem isn’t the limited use of contraception – it’s the disdain of children or procreation in general.

But this parallels so many other problems in society. Guns are not the problem – it’s a disdain of your neighbor that is the problem. Credit cards aren’t the problem – it’s greed and selfishness that is the problem. Facebook and blogs aren’t the problem – it’s lack of care for your neighbor and respect for the 8th commandment that is the problem.

We can attack and blame the tools all we want… but that does nothing to get at the heart of the problem.

This is my fundamental qualm with the hubabaloo over Contraception.  It is a debate about the morality of... a tool.  Oh, sure, there are things that deal with what is right and wrong and how we ought to use the gift of sexuality, but it so often boils down to "if we can just outlaw the tool, then people will respect God's gift of sexuality properly.

This... from Lutherans?

Do we ever think that the Law gives life?

This from Conservative Lutherans -- who generally would explode if someone suggested that limiting the 2nd amendment would make the world better or the idea that "Screens and projectors" will "grow" the Church?

We need to work on teaching what marriage is for - to serve your spouse, to serve your family, to sacrifice.

The problem isn't "contraception" - it's this idea that marriage is about love and personal fulfillment - and if it's about love and personal fulfillment, why shouldn't Chuck and Steve express their love and be personally fulfilled?

Contraception, when it comes to fixing society, is a red herring.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Losing our Moral High Ground Credit

As Christians, we like to take the moral high ground -- I mean we ought to be able to take the moral high ground at least.  But here's the problem.  Shock and Indignation don't let you keep the high ground.  They knock you off of it.

Consider the latest dust up with Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.  What? A female artist doing something provocative on stage at the VMAs? It's not like that hasn't happened any all in the past 29 years. Or a former Disney kid turning out a bit "dirrty"? NEVER! What's next? Lewdness at the Super Bowl halftime?


The outrage is kind of silly, isn't it?  Because this is nothing new, this is nothing surprising... but we still act shocked.

That's not holding the high ground, that's not being above the fray -- that's being a muckraker.  That's being overly excitable (you realize excitability doesn't normally coincide with moral high ground, right?  When I think of one who is moral, I don't think of one who flies off half cocked at the slightest provocation... you know, those patience and kindness things we hear made mention of in the Scriptures). 

See, here's the thing.  Very few people are saying, "Wow, that Miley was sure dynamic" or "what a great performance" (Madonna in 1984 she was not).  No, even the wild masses are rolling their eyes at this one.  So you know what... so should we.  Eh.  See, this is where your stupidity leads, and we tried to tell you.

Calm resignation.  Coolness.  We aren't surprised - we knew where all this moral craziness was headed. 

Oh, wait, no, we would rather panic... because an army that panics ALWAYS keeps the high ground and wins, right?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trinity 13 Sermon

Trinity 13 – August 25th, 2013 – Luke 10:23-37

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Jesus today begins with an interesting statement.  “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!  For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”  This verse is the context, is the setting for the whole discussion in which the story of the familiar story of the Good Samaritan is told.  What are the disciples seeing, what do we by faith see when we hear the Gospel proclaimed?  That the Messiah has come.  That God Himself has come down from heaven to win mankind salvation and forgiveness, to restore us to life.  This is what the prophets longed to see, this is what David prophesized about in the Psalms.  The fulfillment of the ages is here, o Disciples, for Christ is here!

          And right after Jesus says this, we hear, “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’”  Prophets longed to see the Messiah, Kings yearned to see Christ.  And this lawyer just wants to put Him to the test, wants to see if he can tangle up Jesus in some sort of trick question.  This is the heart of the problem – the lawyer has no faith, no trust in Christ.  He does not see Christ as his Redeemer.  And so, he asks a foolish question.  What must I do to inherit eternal life.  You dunce, you do nothing!  No one does anything to inherit – if you inherit something you receive it as a gift left for you by one who has died – and look, there before you is the Suffering Servant promised by Isaiah, there is great David’s Greater Son who will die for you so that you will inherit eternal life!  There is God seeking to redeem, and you stare and bray at him like an donkey!  This lawyer does not see.  He does not hear.

          There is an old adage amongst theologians.  Ask a law question – get a law answer.  The Law of God speaks to what we are to do, how we are to behave, and if you ask a law question, you will get the law answer, in it’s fullness, with no room for escape.  And so Jesus turns this “I do” question back on the fellow.  Alright, what does Moses say, what’s written in the Law.  “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s a great summation of the law.  Love.  Perfectly.  Completely.  God and your neighbor.  That’s what *you* are supposed to be doing.  And Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”  Now, we don’t hear the beat down in Jesus’ response.  This is damning with faint praise.  Yeah, you know the law, and if you do it, you’ll live.  How’s that “you will live” working out for you?  You feel age creeping up on your body, you feel soreness and aches and pains?  You understand that you aren’t going to live, that you are going to die, just like Abraham and Moses and David and the prophets… yeah… how’s that “doing the law” working out for you?  It’s not, because you are a sinful man, and you do not and cannot keep the law perfectly.

          And the lawyer knows that Jesus has smacked him down.  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”  Note: he wants to justify himself.  He wants to prove himself right and good and not a fool.  And only makes himself look more foolish.  He wants to justify himself – not seeing that Christ Jesus who has come to Justify the world is standing there before him.  Oh, you are the Redeemer, no thanks, let’s see if I can redeem myself.  And this question is all about the lawyer’s ego.  Again, note this – Luke doesn’t say that he asks Jesus – it’s not a question seeking knowledge.  He just says it.  It’s back talk.  It’s a teen giving his parent some sauce when he knows that mom is right and he’s wrong but doesn’t want to admit it.  I’m not an idiot Jesus – now prove how smart You are.  Tell us who our neighbor is.

          And then Christ gives the familiar tale of the Good Samaritan.  Now, we say that title like it’s no big deal.  Replace “Samaritan” with “Jihadist” or “Muslim Extremist.”  That’s closer to the attitude in Christ’s day – Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other – they viewed each other as heretics, and they’d been fighting for 900 years.  The story as Christ tells it would basically have an Al-Qida operative as the hero.  Sort of stands out, doesn’t it.  And we know the story – a man on his way to Jericho falls among robbers and is beaten near to death.  And two folks pass him by – a Priest and a Levite.  The priests were the best of the best in Jewish culture, and the Levites were not far behind.  They were the models of behavior, and they were of course the ones who took care of the earthly temple.  And they do nothing.  Why?  It’s not safe – clearly it isn’t, for clearly there are robbers around.  You see stuff going on, you high tail it on out of there.  And what if the guy is already dead – these folks deal with the temple and if you touch a dead body you are unclean and can’t do your temple work… oh, well, see, I’d like to help but I just can’t because I’m too good.

          And then walks up the Samaritan.  The one who is hated and despised.  The one who is seen as a threat to all that is good and right and dear.  And what does he do?  “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”  First, he binds the wounds.  Keep in mind, this fellow had been beaten near to death.  Binding up those wounds is going to take some time.  So there is the Samaritan, pausing.  In the open.  A target.  With robbers around.  Doesn’t matter – love your neighbor.  And he takes oil and wine – valuable goods, and gladly gives them away.  Free medical care!  As we are well aware, there ain’t no such thing as free medical care, someone always foots the bill, and it’s a big one.  Samaritan pays.  Out of his own stock and stash.  “Then he set him on his own animal.”  Second, placing the hurt man on the animal.  Again, this is something that we can just slide right on by.  Think about an old Western… if there’s danger about but only one horse, and you put the other guy on the horse… what does that mean?  It means when danger comes, he can get away… but you can’t.  You’re stuck.  He might get away, but you certainly won’t.  And that is what this Samaritan does.  He will not be able to escape the robbers if they come, all for the sake of this half-dead stranger.  And finally, “[He] brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’”  And now, pocket book is opened.  Gets him a room at the inn.  Not cheap.  And then He gives the innkeeper a few hundred dollars, take care of him.  And more than that – he opens up a line of credit – whatever you spend, I’ll pay you back.  Now think about this – a Samaritan, one who is despised and hated, opens himself up to being cheated.  He could come back and a cheating innkeeper (who were notorious for being cheats) could say, “Eh, you owe me 40 denarii”… he gave the innkeeper a credit card with no limit.

          That’s what the Samaritan does for this man.  And so Jesus asks the lawyer – which one of these acted like a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.  Clearly the Samaritan.  Alright – you want to know what you are supposed to do – go do that.  Ask a law question, get a law answer.  How you like them apples?  How do you measure up to that?  And this could be the point where I go off on some high handed moralistic diatribe about how you are supposed to love your neighbor.  You know that.  And I’m not going to give you 7 secret steps to make it easier or anything like that – because loving your neighbor is never going to be easy.  You’re a sinner, they’re a sinner – that makes things hard and difficult and if the story is about what we do, then we are up the creek without a paddle.

          But let’s get back to the verse first thing that started this whole sermon off.  “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!  For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”  You have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, because by faith the Holy Spirit makes you to see Christ.  Is there One who was despised, looked down upon, and mocked?  Yes – Christ Jesus.  And does this Christ Jesus love His neighbor perfectly?  Yes.  For there you are, beaten and condemned by sin, left to die.  All the nice religious idealism or all the motions of looking like good people – they can’t save you.  The “holiness” of the priest and the “good christianness” of the Levite walk right on by and leave you stuck in death.  But Christ comes, and what does He do?  “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”  He comes to you, and He binds up your wounds with His Word and Spirit.  Are you beaten and broken and aware of your sin.  Christ Jesus is your life, and you are forgiven by Him.  He comes into this fallen world for your sake.  What else does Jesus do?  “Then he set him on his own animal.”  You will escape from death, because Christ Jesus stayed behind and let Satan, that old robber and murderer come for Him, let Satan nail Him cross while you escaped.  Christ will face the terrors of death for you, He will go there to the Cross so that you might be rescued from death.  And what else does Christ do?  “[He] brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  Christ Jesus rises from the dead, and brings you to His Church, and here He cares for you.  And His care for you is full, and it is all about Himself.  There is to be no question of what *you* do.  He will provide.  This is not a law question – this is a Gospel thing.  I don’t care, innkeeper, whatever it takes, I will pay for it.  I don’t care Pastor Brown, how grave and vile their sins are – I have paid for them, and I will return, and all accounts are square in My Name.  It’s all on Christ.  It’s all about what He has done – this is your inheritance, because He has died and left you all His righteousness and holiness.  That’s just the way it is.

          This is what we see by faith.  Our lives are not defined by what we do or don’t do.  We do not have to play some twisted game of trying to impress God.  No, we simply live, because we are defined by what Christ has done, and He has died and has risen and has given us life.  He is the One who cares for us, redeems us, heals us, restores us.  Our life is His life and His life is our life.  God grant that we see and understand the depth of His forgiveness for us ever more!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Such an Interesting Verse

Consider, for a moment, Hebrews 11:23 - a most interesting verse, and one that I'm sad I haven't heard quoted more often.  Here is how I have translated it.

"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they thought the child was beautiful and were not afraid of the King's decree."

 Now, consider this for a moment.  This has impact upon our discussion of infant baptism.  Who hides Moses?  Is it an action he decides for himself?  No.  His parents hide him... but note how the verbs go.  By faith Moses was hidden.  That faith - that's described as Moses' faith... it is not "by faith Moses' parents hid their child" -- it could have been.  But this part of Hebrews is telling the story of Moses and his faith... and it all starts with Moses being passive.  Of course, just a few verses before we see Abraham as good as dead... in fact, you actually have Hebrews playing off of the fact that Abel is dead.

I just wonder why this isn't brought up in discussions of infant baptisms.  Hidden to give life... just as the Word and power of God is given (and Hidden) under something as mundane as water.

And then there is the second part.  Moses' parents find him beautiful, even though this could bring them very serious problems.

In all the contraception arguments that have gone on here, why hasn't this verse been pushed?

I mean, this is a positive example of the joys and blessings of child-bearing, even in the face of dire and harsh consequences.  Even the slaves who might be punished by Pharaoh know that having a child is a wonderful thing - even when society has already condemned that child to death.

Of course, I wonder if the reason why this isn't point to is that so often folks are less focused on encouraging folks and pointing to faith, but rather want to discuss the whole topic from the stand point of law... instead of saying, "Children are good" and simply standing there, reiterating this, trumpeting it over and over the old Adam kicks in and wants to use the law to twist and coerce - even when there is no clear law given.

It's just sad - I think rhetorically and spiritually Hebrews 11:23, and even the story of Moses' birth as a whole, does more to fight against the cultural disdain of kids than any amount of extra-scriptural finger wagging could do.

Of course, Hebrews 11:23 talks about things working by faith... and if you are trying to pound the Law, you aren't really trusting God to work by faith, now are you?

Just some interesting thoughts while prepping for Bible study today.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon for Trinity 12

Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

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

          So Jesus had been wandering through the north country, through Lebannon, actually – away from His homeland, away from His people, away from the Jewish nation.  There He had met the Syrophoenician woman – even little dogs get to eat the bread that falls from the master’s table.  And He comes back into the fringes of Galilee, and a man is brought to Him.  A man who is deaf, a man who has a speech impediment.  The crowds beg Jesus to heal this man. Now, when we see Jesus come across a deaf man, we jump to the end of the story in our minds.  There’s going to be a miracle – Jesus is going to walk right up and do a miracle!  Well, the miracle does come – but that’s not the first thing that Jesus does.  The first thing Jesus does is teach.  Let us see what Jesus teaches us this morning in His Word.

          Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.  And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on Him.  There’s a few things to note here.  First, let us note this man’s problem.  Can’t hear.  Can’t talk.  Think on what that would mean.  Think what happens in your life when the hearing goes – how you get cut off from other people, you can’t understand what is going on around you.  And think on what happens when you can’t speak well – it’s hard to let people know what you need.  The lines of communication break down.  That’s the situation of this man.  Even surrounded by the crowd, by people who wished him the best, he must have been terribly isolated.  He possibly was quite confused, when people suddenly come and grab him and drag him out.

          Also, these verses sort of make you wonder about the motives of the crowd.  We’ve seen people ask Jesus for healing before – fathers pleading for their children, the Centurion for his servant, friends lowering a man through the ceiling, even people for themselves.  There’s that direct tie to the person asking and the person receiving.  There doesn’t seem to be that sense here.  It’s almost as though these people just want to see a miracle, see if this Jesus is all He is cracked up to be – and they are thinking, “Well, what can we have him do?  I know, let’s go grab old deaf Chuck and see what this Jesus can do.”  Go on Jesus, lay Your hands on Him, let’s see what you’ve got.

          And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  Is this not just fascinating?  Here you’ve got the crowd hankering for a miracle, to see what this Jesus can do.  And what does Jesus do?  He takes the deaf man off privately.  Away from the crowd.  This miracle would not be a spectacle.  It would not be some type of Dog and Pony show.  That is Jesus teaching us.  That teaches us about how God works, how He operates.  When God shows care, when God shows love – He shows love.  Jesus, when He heals this man, has as His focus – the deaf man.  Jesus doesn’t do this miracle to impress the crowd – He isn’t like last week’s Pharisee bragging of what He does.  No, when Jesus acts, His focus is on what He’s doing.  If people were just coming to see a show – wasn’t going to happen.  Jesus was going to do what is important – Jesus was going to show love, not worry about entertaining the crowds.

          And then, once Jesus has pulled this man to the side, He touches the man’s ears, and not just touch, but reaches into the earhole and pokes around.  And He spits, and touches his tongue. And at first glance, that seems kind of strange.  There’s a man who needs healing Jesus, this is no time for charades or hand gestures.  Yes it is, it is precisely the time for hand gestures.  Why?  Because the man is deaf – he hasn’t heard the crowds begging for him.  He may not know what is going on.  So Jesus takes him away privately, where there’s less confusion, where there aren’t people jostling him around.  And when Jesus has this man’s attention, see what Jesus does.  He touches the man’s ear.  The man can feel, and Jesus by touch says, “This is about your ears, your hearing.”  Then Jesus spits, and touches the man’s tongue.  “See, this is about what comes out of your mouth, this is about that tongue that misfires.”  Jesus lets the man know what is going on – Jesus teaches.  And then, after the teaching, He heals.

          And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  One beautiful little note.  Jesus is always praying before miracles.  At the feeding, He gives thanks.  Before other healings He prays in a loud voice.  Before the miracle of the Lord’s Supper, He gives thanks.  And He does so here.  It’s not a long prayer.  Jesus simply sighs.  Luther once said that the best prayer is simply the heartfelt sigh of a Christian, because God knows exactly what it means.  Here, Jesus gives us an example of this style of prayer.  Just something to think about when you are struggling with words when you are praying – don’t worry about struggling – God knows what is going on – sigh, say “Thy Will Be Done” – maybe the entire Lord’s Prayer, and go on with life trusting that it’s in God’s hands.

          And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  And Jesus charged them to tell no one.  But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  And Jesus heals the guy.  And Jesus takes him out back to the crowd, and the deaf guy can hear, he can talk.  And the crowds are astonished.  They see what has been done and they are amazed.  And so they start running off to tell people, and Jesus says, “wait, don’t go off running, don’t go off talking,” but they do anyway.  So, why does Jesus tell them not to go tell anyone.  Is Jesus being shy here?  More, I’d wager, is that Jesus is just being practical.  The people were already pretty revved up, waiting to see a miracle, and then they just explode.  And do you know what comes next in Mark’s Gospel?  The feeding of the 4000.  Thousands of people come running – but they don’t bring anything to eat.  They come running, not prepared.  Jesus wants to teach – in fact, He’s going to teach for three days – and in their haste, these folks end up not being prepared.  We know the feeding of the 4000 thousand, it’s going to work out, but still, we shouldn’t be going off half cocked.

          Yet the people do understand that something important is going on, something other than a simple miracle.  They aren’t disingenuous.  And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Think on Genesis.  And it was Good.  Creation restored.  Things made the way they should be.  The crowd gets this, they are excited because they see that Jesus isn’t some showboat, some huckster, He’s from God putting things back the way they should be.  And we know this too – we know these miracles just lead up and point to the great miracle that Jesus would do, the great fixing of creation, when He goes to the cross and pays the penalty for sin, when He rises from the dead and restores our relationship with God.  The crowd gets it, the crowd understands that something more than they were expecting is here for them.  And that fuels their excitement and eagerness.

          So, that is our text.  That is our lesson for this morning.  Now, let us ponder it a moment.  Who in this text are we most like?  Who do we relate to, who do we parallel in our lives?  And there are parallels we can draw between us and the crowd – we eagerly look to Jesus, and what He does for us is beyond our expectation.  That is completely true.  And we can compare ourselves to Jesus – and rightfully so, for it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  We show forth His love all the time, and we see the instruction that the love we show out should be individualized, personal, one on one – not to our own praise.  There’s a lot here in this text, but I don’t want to keep you here for two hours.  No, to close this morning, let’s compare ourselves to the deaf man.

          The man was deaf and mute – he had a hard time communicating.  How often that describes us.  That’s what sin does.  It isolates us from each other, cuts us off.  Sin makes us quick to turn a deaf ear to the hurts and wants of our neighbor.  Sin stops our mouths from saying a kind word, or worse, Sin has us speak vileness and words of hatred and anger.  Sin does spiritual and emotional damage to us just as much as it did to that deaf man physically.  But just as Christ cured this man physically, He comes to us – for Jesus is the great physician of both Body and Soul, and He treats our spiritual malady.  Jesus makes us to hear.  Through His Word, Jesus opens our ears; His forgiveness rips the sin away, unplugs our ears so we can hear – we can pay attention to the needs of others.  He teaches us to hear – He continues to teach us to hear His Word all of our life.  And Jesus also teaches us to speak.  I love the introduction to Matins – the first lines.  O Lord, open my lips/ and my mouth will declare Your praise.  This is what God does for you.  He opens your lips, so that you can now speak forth words of love to each other and words of praise to Him.  This is one of the reasons He gave you His Holy Spirit at Baptism – so that His Word, that same Word which you have heard, would be on your lips.  God is present here among us in His Word, and He is shaping and changing and building us into who we are to be.  He does this constantly – He does this over and over by His Word.  He does this by His Supper.  This is training, this is healing.  In His Word and in His Sacraments God gives you forgiveness, gives you His strength, does it for you now, here, this time, this day. Now, O Zion, is the day of Salvation, here and now, O Zion, is the taste of heaven, here and now, O Zion, your Lord calls you out of the hustle and bustle of the world, takes you aside, and gives you healing in His Word, in His Supper, gives you strength for the coming days, He gives you forgiveness.  And that indeed, is a fantastic thing.

          Dear friends in Christ, see and learn today that our Lord both teaches and heals.  He wishes people to know what He is doing in their lives, the miracles He does.  And our Lord wishes you to know and understand the miracle which He gives you – the miracle of the forgiveness of your sin, the restoration of your soul.  He teaches you as He forgives you, the two are always intertwined.  He teaches and forgives you in His Word, and He teaches and forgives you in His Supper.  And thus, having been opened by Him, our lips give praise.  Our hearts having been cleansed and renewed, we sing His praises, both now this morning, and on through all eternity, with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.  This is your hope and joy in Christ, which none shall take away.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost+ Amen.   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Brave Old World

In spite of what people might think, it's not a brave new world - it's a brave old world.

While there may be much indignation or hand-wringing (or even fear) over the fact that the ELCA just elected a woman to be their presiding bishop - eh, it's the same old same old.  Were our problems with their theological positions and practice any less a week ago than they are today?  Not really.

Or even the issues of social decay that we see going on around us.  I know some people are starting to get really worried about the legalization of polygamy - um, well, you know, the Church has been in lands where polygamy was legal, and Christ the crucified was still preached.

The fact that we as individuals may not have faced a particular circumstance or setting doesn't change the Scriptural truth that really, there is nothing new under the sun.  And built upon the Rock, the Church shall stand.


No, seriously - even if there is something that really, really bothers you about society or the world today, something that is totally scary... is not Christ still risen from the dead?  Do we not still rightly confess the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come?

What we see today is just "situation normal" for the world.  And if we see it more clearly now, maybe perhaps instead of saying, "Oh, it's so much worse" - perhaps we should repent of our ego which had prevented us from seeing and understanding that the world is always messed up and off... even if we happened to have sort of liked or enjoyed how it had been messed up then much more than we do now.

Our response remains the same.  We don't blame our neighbors - rather we see troubles, confess our own sins, receive forgiveness, proclaim Christ... and carry on.

Thus has always been life for the Christian in a sinful world - even if the prevalent sins are more annoying to us right now.

Monday, August 12, 2013

By Faith

We had a really good discussion in bible study yesterday.  We are going through Hebrews 11, the great "by faith" chapter, and this led to a nice discussion on what makes us as Christians different.

We live by faith.  We view the world by faith. 

We are not mere empiracists, trusting only what can be counted, observed, and repeated.  We cling to what God has said, even if it is what eye has not (yet) seen or what ear has not (yet) heard.  If God says it, we believe.

Sure, Sarah is barren and old, and Abraham is good as dead - but faith hears and believes the promise that Isaac shall come.  Not by their strength, not by their own good deeds, not by their powers or moral character - but simply and solely by the power of God.  By faith Sarah and Abraham saw this, apart from themselves.

The danger for us today in our modern world is to forget that we live by faith.

We want to live in a world of sales techniques and business plans.  We want to live in a world of numbers and demographics.  We want to live in a world where if we just follow the right formula or do the right moral song and dance that all our dreams will come true: be they dreams for ourselves, our family, our congregation, our Synod, our country... whatever.

But that's not living by faith.

That's paying attention merely to what is seen, to our plans and desires, rather than clinging simply and solely to Christ.

That is forgetting that the Spirit works when and where He wills.
That is forgetting that many of the blessings God gives looks like suffering to the world (for the world has no idea why we can call Good Friday "Good").
That is forgetting that we live saying, "If the Lord Wills..."
That is forgetting that it is no longer I who live, not my passion, my wants, my desires, my plans - but rather it is Christ who lives within me.

Our reason, our strength, our powers - these are the things the world trusts.  But we are not of the world - we live by Faith. 

Do not let the world pull you astray into simply carnal thinking.  We live by faith.  We live trusting in Christ and His great mercy for us.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Trinity 11 Sermon

Trinity 11 – Luke 18:9-14 – August 11th, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Today’s parable is one of the most dangerous parables around.  It is dangerous for a very subtle reason.  It’s dangerous because we know it.  It’s dangerous because it’s familiar, it plays off of all the familiar themes that we like and love and cherish.  It’s dangerous because we can hear this parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and think, “Oh, thank God that we are Lutherans and that we know that we ought to be focused upon Christ, unlike some of those other churches, to say nothing of the unbelievers.  We know the importance of the Word, we’ve even been confirmed and still show up to Church.”  Yep.  There’s the danger – in fact, it’s part of the danger that this parable is warning us of.  So, if you will allow me to be a little blunt, today let’s look in detail at why Christ tells this parable – and then we will be ready to learn from it.  So, let us dive in!

          [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.  Two.  Two dangers arise before us in the text, and the first is the danger of trusting in yourself as being righteous.  Now, of course, in the parable the Pharisee is the example of that.  He walks into the temple and he prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”  At first, when we today in America hear this, we think this fellow is a braggart.  What he says offends our sense of modesty, it seems prideful.  But note – Jesus doesn’t tell us this parable to warn us about pride.  There are plenty of other parables for that – but this one today isn’t about pride, it isn’t about offending American sensibilities.  It’s about thinking that you are righteous in and of yourself.  And this is where the Pharisee fails.  The things He tries to thanks God for are good things.  It’s good not to be in gangs.  It’s good not to have affairs or become caught up in scandal. These are good things to be thankful for.  Luther even teaches us in the meaning of the 6th petition – when we pray “lead us not into temptation” we are praying that “God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”  And there’s the problem for the Pharisee, there’s where the rubber meets the road.  This is the truth – we must not forget that we are not righteous in and of ourselves, and rather we must remember that Satan and the world, and yes, even our very own sinful flesh will constantly be tempting us and trying to get us to fall, and that if we do not stumble openly and publicly, this doesn’t say anything about how great we are – it speaks to the greatness of God and of His great mercy.  The phrase, “there but for the grace of God go I” is not just whistling Dixie.  God must guard us from shame and vice.  If you forget that you are sinful, if you start to assume that you are a good person, even if you have the laundry list of good works and the tax documents about donations to prove it, then you open the door wide open for temptation to enter in and stifle you and strangle you.  Look at what happens to this Pharisee.  He knows that He should be thanking God… but he can’t even get through one sentence of “thanks” without stopping talking about God and rather praising Himself.  And He thinks he’s great, he thinks he needs no mercy.  And so, he stands, and he never asks for forgiveness.  He thinks he is good enough for God – when really he’s just another sinner, worthy of damnation.  That’s not a good place to be.

          Jesus tells this parable to warn of a second danger, treating others with contempt.  Contempt for your neighbor goes hand in hand with your own self-righteousness.  It’s easy enough.  Hey, I’m good – he’s not, well, he’s just lousy.  With that elevation of the self, we also tend to kick our neighbor to the curb and look down upon them.  And when that happens – what have we ourselves become?  We have been created by God to love and serve our neighbor, to care for them… and how readily do you serve someone you have contempt for?  How often do you deign to stoop down and help someone when you just know that you are sooo much better than them?  And suddenly instead of just having self-righteousness that cuts oneself off from God and His mercy, there is also contempt that cuts you off from the neighbor.  My dear friends, there is no reason ever to treat another with contempt.  Let us take the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – and let us for the sake of argument say that the Pharisee is a wise Christian and that the Tax Collector is a lout.  What ought to have happened?  As Paul says in Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  There you go.  If the tax collector is caught, go and rescue him, go tend to your neighbor in love.  But all thought of that is gone from the Pharisee.  His neighbor just becomes an object lesson – a morality play, a scare story – “make sure you give the right tithe, or you might turn out rotten like that tax collector!”

          See, this is what sin does.  It seeks to cut us off – our self-righteousness would cut us off from the God who loves us and cares for us, and our contempt would cut us off from our neighbor.  Those are the dangers.  So, what then is the response to these dangers?  Consider for a moment, our Tax Collector.  “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  You know, this tax collector shapes how we pray to this day – seriously.  If I tell my son to pray, I don’t tell him to stand like this - even though that’s the standard posture before the altar that I use… well unless I forget and go to our normal standard today.  With hand folded and clenched, with a head not raised up but rather bowed down.  And this tax collector, whom we were taught to emulate from our youth – whom does he treat or view with contempt?  Himself.  This tax collector knows his sin.  That’s even what he calls himself, how he names himself.  Sinner!  That is who I am – I am THE sinner.  There’s a “the” there in the Greek.  He’s the sinner.

          So.  If you view yourself, not as a pretty good sort, but as THE sinner, are you going to be pointing to how righteous and good your deeds are and how you have grown to be so much better than others?  No – THE sinner doesn’t trust in his own righteousness.  Nor can he afford to treat others with contempt – because he’s in the same boat as they are, if not worse.  Part of your life, as a Christian, part of who you are is to learn and know that you are the sinner.  That you are Sinner through and through, and that sin pops up and infests your every thought, word, and deed.  Our old sinful flesh doesn’t like to think that way – we would rather compare, we would rather pat ourselves on the back.  But the simple fact in each and every one of us here is sinner.  Period.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Nothing we do is going to get us out of that pit.

          We learn one other important thing from the tax collector.  To call out for mercy.  We are not merely sinners, we are sinners who by the grace of God and the gift of faith call out to God for mercy and rescue, rescue from our sin, rescue from the temptations of this world,  rescue from death itself.  This too shapes our worship.  We’ve said “mercy” more times today than I care to count, and we’ll pray it as part of every petition in our prayers today.  And why do we call out to God for mercy?  Is it because golli-gee-willickers, God, if you just give me another chance, I’m sure I’ll do better?  No.  Is it because we deserve mercy more than that fellow next to us?  No.  We go to God for mercy because there is One who is righteous, One who is Holy, One who does not view us with the contempt that we deserve, and that Man is Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who Himself came down from heaven, became man for the sake of sinful man, who suffered and died for our sins and rose again to ensure that we too would rise again to life everlasting.  As Christians, it is good for us to focus on righteousness.  It is good for us to focus upon Christ, who humbled Himself so that He might raise us up and exalt us.  That is righteousness, and He is righteous for you.  Indeed, out of His great love for you, He shows you mercy, He forgives you your sin, He has claimed you in the waters of Holy Baptism and He has given you a new name.  Sinner you may be, but that is washed away, and you are now also Child of God, redeemed, heir with Christ of life everlasting.  This is His great love for you.  Indeed, Jesus Christ is your righteousness, for all that He is and all that He has He gave to you when He claimed you as His own in Baptism – and so you are washed, clean, forgiven, holy, righteous, and pure in Christ – and when the last day comes and we participate in the resurrection of the dead we will see this all fully and forever more! 

          And so, be wary, my friends, be wary of self-righteousness that would make you forget that Christ is your righteousness.  Satan and the world, and even your sinful nature would have you forget Christ Jesus and your Baptism, would have you treat them and your neighbor with contempt.  But God’s love for you remains, over and against the temptations of the world, and you are redeemed in Christ Jesus, for you are Baptized.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Bit More Luther

I am not an Antinomian.  I'm just happy to be focused on the Gospel and the Spirit working through it.  Just like Luther.
"Therefore when a preacher preaches in such a way that the Word is not frustrated in producing fruit but is efficacious in the hearers - that is, when faith, hope, love, patience, etc., follow - then God supplies the Spirit and performs powerful deeds in the hearers.... To love your neighbor so ardently that you are ready to surrender your money, property, eyes, your life, and everything you have for his salvation, and also to bear all adversities patiently - these are certainly powerful deeds of the Spirit.But you did not receive them from the Law; you received them from God, who supplied and daily increased the Spirit in you in such a way that the Gospel had a very happy course among you as you taught, believed, worked, and bore your adversities."  -  Luther on Galatians 3:5 - AE 26:220
Seriously, just read Luther's Greater Galatians Commentary.  It will smack the Synergist right out of you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Nice Chunk of Luther

 I wish all people would read Luther's Galatians Commentary from 1535 and learn.
"But, as I have said, reason is offended and says: “When you teach men to do nothing at all to obtain such an immense gift except to listen to the Word, this seems to verge on a great contempt for grace and to make men smug, lazy, and sleepy, so that they lose their grip and do not do any good works at all. Therefore it is not good to preach this; nor is it true. Men must be urged to labor, sweat, and exert themselves toward righteousness; then they will obtain this gift.” In former times the Pelagians made the same objection to the Christians. But listen to Paul, who says here: “Not by your own labor and sweat or by the works of the Law but by hearing with faith you have received the Holy Spirit.” Or listen to Christ Himself, who gives the following answer to Martha when she is deeply concerned and finds it almost unbearable that her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words, and leaving her to serve alone. “Martha,” He says (Luke 10:41–42), “you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” Therefore a man becomes a Christian, not by working but by listening. And so anyone who wants to exert himself toward righteousness must first exert himself in listening to the Gospel. Now when he has heard and accepted this, let him joyfully give thanks to God, and then let him exert himself in good works that are commanded in the Law; thus the Law and works will follow hearing with faith. Then he will be able to walk safely in the light that is Christ; to be certain about choosing and doing works that are not hypocritical but truly good, pleasing to God, and commanded by, Him; and to reject all the mummery of self-chosen works.
Our opponents regard faith as a matter altogether inconsequential and of no value. But I am experiencing how difficult and arduous a matter it is. So are all those who seriously embrace it with me. It is easy to say that the Spirit is received solely by hearing with faith; but it is not so easy to hear, accept, believe, and keep as it is to speak of it. Therefore if you hear from me that Christ is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for your sins, see that you really listen to this. Paul purposely calls it “the hearing of faith,” not “the Word of faith,” although there is not much difference. He means a Word that you believe when you hear it, so that the Word is not only the sound of my voice but is something that is heard by you, penetrates into your heart, and is believed by you. Then it is truly hearing with faith, through which you receive the Holy Spirit; and after He has been received, you will also mortify your flesh.
Godly people experience how willing they are to hold to the Word with a full faith when it has been heard, and how willing they are to eradicate their opinion about the Law and about their own righteousness; but in their flesh they feel a struggle that resists the Spirit with might and main. Reason and the flesh simply want to work together. This notion, “One must be circumcised and observe the Law,” cannot be completely banished from us; but it remains in the hearts of all godly people. Therefore there is in godly people a perpetual struggle between the hearing of faith and the works of the Law, because the conscience is always murmuring and thinking that when righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal salvation are promised solely on the basis of hearing with faith, this is too easy a way. But try it in earnest, and experience for yourself how easy it is to listen to the Word of faith! Of course, He who is granting this is great, and He grants great things willingly and unreservedly, without reproach to anyone. But your capacity to understand is limited, and your faith is weak, creating such a struggle for you that you cannot accept the gift when it is offered. Just let your conscience murmur, and let this “one must” keep on recurring. But endure it for a while and hold your ground until you conquer this “one must.” Thus, as faith gradually increases, that opinion about the righteousness of the Law will decrease. But this cannot be done without a great conflict."

Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (26:214). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The joys of Context

My first summer at the Sem I took Hebrew with many of the 1st/2nd year students (the folks a year ahead of me).  The most frustrating thing about that class was a common phrase we would hear from Dr. Maier - "Context will determine the meaning of the word."  Over and over we would ask, "when we see this word, what is it?"  Context will determine the meaning of the word.

As a note, this should be obvious to any English speaker.  Consider the word "bank".  Is it a place to store money, the side of a river, a bounce, a verb meaning to trust?  Context will determine the meaning of the word.

But Dr. Maier pointed to something that anyone, when reading the Scriptures, needs to remember.  Context shapes what is said and what things mean.  The easiest way to help understand a passage is to read what comes before and what comes after it.  Expand your context.

And more than that, consider the setting.  In my Count Joy Show Podcast we are moving into discussing 2 Peter after having looked at 1st.  And many, many "scholars" will talk about how obviously 2 Peter must be written by someone else.  I say... check the context, or the occasion of the writing.  1 Peter is a nice, general letter.  2 Peter is written by an arrested man who is awaiting his own execution. You think those letters might sound different, might be pointing to different things?


So remember, the Scriptures are not merely a collection of random answers to specific questions that we can look up by chapter and verse.  Each book has it's own flow, it's own purpose and approach.  Enjoy the whole thing, enjoy the context.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Makes a Good Work... Good?

So, you want to be about doing Good Works.  That's a plus, I suppose.  But where to find these good works to do, how and where to find them, eh?

Some point falsely assume that when one becomes a Christian that suddenly you end up doing more and extra things - that these are "good" because they go above and beyond the call of duty.  Well, that's just flat silly.  Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.  You *can't* go above the call of duty, for there is nothing above that.

Well, some will think that good works refers to specific things that are God pleasing - like helping a stranger who can't repay you.  Well, I suppose that's good... but is that the essence of what makes a good work... good?

Consider creation  God creates, and then He says that it is good.

Consider your life.  You are a new creation in Christ, and God has declared that you are good.

Good works aren't anything flashy.  They aren't anything astonishing.  They are simply what you do, in your life, as a redeemed Christian.  The simple, the mundane.  God sees these, sees you living out your life in Christ, and He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Well then, one might ask - does this mean that you should just go can sin and do bad things?

Response:  Who said anything about going and doing wickedness?

Go, oh Christian.  Love your neighbor.  Beat down your sinful desires.  And know that you are loved by God and that in Christ you have been declared good.  Quit trying to measure your works, for Christ is your righteousness!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

No Carnage - Now What?

Well, there was no carnage at the Convention.  The Right Wing didn't get any sacrificial lambs, they didn't get all the problems of the Synod solved by the magic 55% vote bullet of temporary majority.  So what now?

Well, if things go to typical pattern we will see:

1.  A reassertion of how someone isn't Confessional (and normally how decent folks aren't Confessional).
2.  A Bemoaning of how terrible liberal leadership is, how much they are interfering and are dangerous (no matter how out of the loop or ignored they are).
3.  A heartfelt expression of peace, even as one goes searching and itching for a fight.

That's the normal pattern.

I would suggest, how about we be about the things that make for peace?  How about a renewed focus on confession and absolution... not trying to make the guy over there confess his copious faults, not fighting the great fight that will be taught in the History of the LCMS class in 30 years. 

No.  Let us make for peace.  I have sinned.  I repent.

No.  Let us make for peace.  You are my brother, and I forgive you.

No.  Let us make for peace.  Come my friend, listen, learn, and rejoice in Christ.

Let us act as the sons of God we have been declared to be instead of finding new and devious ways to prove how much greater we are than other, new ways to treat others with contempt.

Trinity 10 - they do not know what make for peace.
Trinity 11 - those who treat others with contempt.

These lessons are specifically for the "Confessional Lutherans".

Would that we would learn them.

And Audio Sermons Posted at Count Joy

So, have you enjoyed reading my sermons but thought, "I need to just hear these with a lisp!"

Well, worry no more!

Now the audio will be posted over at the Count It All Joy Show page -- and that was the link to the Trinity 10 sermon.


Trinity 10

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

          In our text for this morning, we see Jesus on His way into Jerusalem – He is on the donkey of Palm Sunday, riding into town in glory and triumph – shouts of Hosanna resounding around Him.  It’s a happy, wonderful day.  And He weeps.  He breaks into tears – but not tears of joy at the accolades – rather tears of sorrow.  Not sorrow over what would happen to Him, but tears of sorrow over Jerusalem.  Hear His Words.

          And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  So why does Jesus weep, what could bring tears to His eyes?  His people don’t know.  Even as all around Him people hail His Glory, sing His praises – they just don’t know.  And what don’t they know?  The things that make for peace.  It’s such an interesting set up, Jesus going into the city of Jerusalem.  Many people were expecting a revolution, were expecting the revolt, were expecting this Messiah to be a military leader who would finally give them their independence from Rome, who would re-establish an earthly Israel that would be strong and mighty, make her neighbors quake in fear.  How ironic.  Jesus enters into a city, ready for war, ready for violence, ready for bloodshed.  Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace.

          Jesus isn’t about war.  He isn’t about earthly power and might.  Jesus isn’t about having things our way right away.  That’s not what the Christian faith is about.  Oh, sometimes we want to focus on glory, and praise, and power – but that’s not Christ’s focus.  He is the Humble One, the One who comes to make peace.  And what peace is this?  He comes to settle a war, the war that man declared upon God in the garden, the warfare and strife against God that is better known as sin.  It’s no surprise that the people of Jesus’ day were looking for a military leader, that they were itching for a fight.  That’s what sin is.  It’s the desire to have your way no matter who you have to step on, it’s putting yourself, your interests ahead of all others.  We see this same violence today.  Yes, we see it in the middle east, but even we here can be quite violent – maybe not with guns or fists, but with our mouths.  How quickly we will be harsh to each other, criticize, break down and destroy each over by what we say.  That’s a war of words.  That’s just sin raising its ugly head.  That’s us wanting things to be our way, and us saying what we need to say to make things how we want them to be.

          Christ comes to make peace.  Christ isn’t entering the city to conquer people, to break them to His will – He enters the city to go to the Cross.  Jesus enters the city to suffer and die for sin, your sin, to cover your sin with His own blood.  This is how He makes peace – this is how He quells the war we have with God.  In Himself, in His own Body He absorbs and soaks up all of God’s wrath – God’s anger and vengeance is used up on Christ on Cross, and so we have peace.  Alas for Jerusalem – this wasn’t the peace they wanted.  Jerusalem would rebel time and time against Rome.  Around 66 AD there is a rebellion.  The crowds got the kind of leader they wanted; ruin was the result.  In 70 AD the temple is destroyed, blown off of her foundation.  They still don’t learn.  There’s another rebellion around 130, and the city is leveled, and all Jews are forced to move away.  Those who desired to live by the sword, to have their lives be made better by fighting and chaos, did indeed die by the sword.  They missed the peace that Christ was looking to.  Be wary when you live by words of violence, lest you receive the same.

          And entering this city which longs for violence, Jesus goes into the Temple.  Makes sense to me – if you want to avoid the worldly desires and lusts, it makes sense to go to God’s house.  But what happens?  And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold saying to them, “It is written, ‘My House shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”  No, even in the temple, the focus had shifted, shifted off of God, off of the coming Messiah who would bring redemption for Israel.  Now it was almost a wild market, with men profiting of their neighbor’s piety and devotion to God.  And this is one of the few times we see Jesus angry.  This is one of the few times where we see Jesus upset.  And why?  What’s upset Him?  The abuse of His House – people forgetting what His House, His Temple is for.  What was to go on in the temple?  Prayers – prayers to God.  Sacrifices – Sacrifices to God for sin, pointing to the coming Messiah.  Everything in God’s House was to point us to God.  To enter into the temple was to have your eyes taken off of your worldly cares and directed to God.  See, behold, you have a God who loves you and shall provide salvation for you.  And this was corrupted in Jesus day.  This was corrupted by men who sought to make money off of believers.  And so Jesus is upset.

          The same standard still holds today.  When we gather here, in this place, in God’s House, our focus should be. . . on God.  That’s not exactly an earth shattering observation there.  But what can happen?  The focus can shift.  Sometimes over worries we might have – concerns about the Church – budgets, this and that – and suddenly Church isn’t about the Church service anymore – it’s about what we do, and how many people are here or aren’t here, or what people think of us.  Or even in the service, in the worship service itself, our focus could shift.  The temptation, the current popular trend isn’t to talk about the things that make for peace, isn’t to talk about Christ Crucified.  It’s to talk about how you can be motivated.  How you can be successful.  That’s all good and well – but where’s forgiveness?  Where is Christ Crucified preached?  Suddenly, our focus is on the worldly things, our wealth and stuff and we don’t look at Christ anymore, we fall from that, and once again turn God’s House into a den of Robbers.

          So, we’ve seen Jesus weep, we’ve seen Him angry and drive the profiteers out of the Temple.  Jesus has seen what is wrong, and then He takes some time to fix it.  And He was teaching daily in the temple.  When Jesus sees that something is wrong, that people aren’t getting it – what is His response?  To teach, to teach daily and often.  And we see in Luke all over how Jesus teaches.  Luke 4 has Jesus teaching in the synagogue – and what does He do – He takes Scripture and He shows how the Old Testament has been fulfilled in Him.  Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.  Jesus explains the Word of God, how He does everything that is needed for salvation.  At the end of the Gospel – Jesus says to the disciples on the road to Emmaus “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”  And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.  This is how Jesus teaches.  This is what Paul does in His Epistles, this is what Peter and John do in their Epistles.  To teach in the Church is to show how God’s Word always points us to Christ, always gives us Christ Jesus and the forgiveness He won for us upon the Cross.

          And not everyone likes this.  The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him.  Well, that’s not good, is it?  I certainly wouldn’t like it if people were out to destroy me, and I doubt you’d like it either.  But this is something we should remember – the Gospel is a threat to people, it’s a threat to people who want glory and power.  The Gospel, the fact that we are justified and redeemed by faith in Christ Jesus is terrifying to people who crave their own power and glory and respect.  The chief priests, it wasn’t going to be about them and how wonderful they were anymore.  The scribes weren’t going to be able to hide God’s Word anymore.  The important folks of the town, the movers and shakers – well, the idea that salvation was for all, even the lowest of the low, that didn’t sit too well with them.  This is a simple fact.  People can reject the Gospel, can turn away from it, can hate it.  And that’s understandable – because the Gospel points us away from ourselves and to Christ.  See what Christ has done.  And there are times when our own sinful flesh pops up, jumps up, wants the focus to shift off of Christ – and that is when we are to repent, to daily drown our sinful flesh, as the Catechism puts it.  This is the point, we are to listen not to our sinful flesh, but to Christ and His Word.

          And don’t you love how Luke puts it here?  The people were hanging on His Words.  Were hanging on, were on the edge of their seat.  They realized what they were getting, and they were thrilled.  Do you see, you do understand, what you get here each Sunday at God’s House?  You get forgiveness.  Every week, without fail, in the liturgy, over and over your sin is forgiven.  God declares you Holy and Righteous, and you are.  You get God’s Word.  Three readings of it, each week.  And not only that, we speak it back and forth to each other.  We sing it to each other in our liturgy.  We spend an hour in God’s Word.  How fantastic.  And what’s more, look at our Lord’s Altar – you get Christ Jesus Himself, God comes to you, personally, and He says “Here I am, take and eat, let me join Myself to you for your forgiveness, for the strengthening of Your faith.”  Think on that – God Himself gives Himself to you.  How astounding is that?  This is what our Lord does for us, this is what His House is meant to be – the place where He teaches you about Himself, where He gives Himself to you over and over.  This is what Jesus wants, this is what He craves, this is what He delights in, that we know who He is and delight in His Word.

          Dear friends, the Gospel is so precious – what Christ has done for you cannot be topped by anyone, by anything.  And yet, so many do not see, and more over, so many would try to wrest Jesus away from you.  But be at peace, for Christ Jesus has won your Salvation, and He shall keep His House a house of prayer, a house where He comes to you to bring you His forgiveness and His life.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.