Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today's Sermon

Trinity 16 – Luke 7:11-17, September 27th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
If you’ve noticed the Gospel lessons we’ve had this month, it seems like things just keep getting worse in them. Three weeks ago, we had the parable of the Good Samaritan – of a man being beaten and robbed. Ew. That’s not good. Then it gets worse. Two weeks ago, the 10 lepers. Long lasting sickness and illness and being cut off from society. Even worse. And then last week, Christ tells us not to worry about what we will eat, what we will wear. That points out another possibility in this world – starvation and poverty. Eeehh. Each week it seems as though the problems in the text have gotten worse, have gotten more and more beyond our control. Each week we’ve seen another thing Satan can throw at us, to make us fearful, to make us afraid - and yet, each week, Christ our Lord has confronted them and defeated them, each week Christ has shown that He is the one who provides for us and protects us. And then we reach today. There’s one last card Satan can play, one thing that he thinks is his ace in the hole – and we see Satan toss that card out at Christ today.

Soon afterward [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him. As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. There you have Christ, and not just Christ – but His disciples, and also a great crowd. People have heard, people have seen, and people are following. They are eager, excited, overawed in wonder. And Satan tries once more to shake things up. Christ’s crowd runs into another crowd, a crowd full of mourners. A crowd gathered around a weeping and wailing mother, a woman who cries because her son is dead. It’s as though Satan throws down the gauntlet to Christ – “Fix that, Jesus! All your talk of loving your neighbor – seems pointless now, doesn’t it! All your talk of healing – well, didn’t do this fellow much good, now did it? Worry not what you will eat or wear – this woman is left alone, she has no job, no income, no support – she’s wearing the black of mourning now, and she’ll be starving in week. Take that Jesus!”

That’s what we see when our text shows us these two crowds. We see Satan’s final challenge to Christ – the challenge of death. It is as though Satan was proclaiming, “You created these people, Jesus, well guess what – they all die, the grave is where they end up in the end.” And let us be honest – this threat of Satan rings hauntingly true to our ears – it’s something we try not to think about. We try to brush it out of our minds. We even get a little uncomfortable if we think about the old, classic hymns too much – Like A Mighty Fortress – And take they our life. . . eww. Or the old prayer, if I should die before I wake. . . eww. And this is especially true for us as Americans. Watch TV. Our ads are all about looking younger, doing all the things you could do when you were younger. We say that the prime of life is when you are a teen, carefree and no responsibilities – we’re at our best, says society, before we are even done growing. We’ll even refer to over half our expected life span as simply being over the hill. Aging and death scares the willikers out of people in this country – why do you think we are passionate over health care – it touches upon a topic none of us like to think about, and if we think about it, we will get riled up. This fear, this angst, this worry – this is what Satan wants. He wants us scared to death of death, he wants death to intimidate us. He tried to intimidate Christ with it even, there standing outside the town of Nain.

But you do know what is going to happen, right? You know what our Lord will do? Is Christ going to let Satan’s challenge go unfought? Is Christ going to let Satan’s fearmongering take the day? By no means. That’s just not who Christ is. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion upon her and said, “Do not weep.” There is so much to this simple verse that is utterly amazing. First, consider this – the Lord sees her and has compassion. God sees, and God is moved to act out of His own love that He has towards this woman. Jesus isn’t being cold and calculating here, He’s not thinking about what this woman is going to give back to Him, He’s not worried about whether or not she’ll try really hard to be nice the rest of her life. There are no strings, no conditions, nothing is placed upon her as a burden. Scripture doesn’t say that this gal was a wonderful gal – she could have been the meanest, nastiest old hag in the town – we don’t know. It doesn’t matter – what matters is that Christ has compassion upon her, and so He acts. This is about who Jesus is.

Likewise, dear friends, Christ Jesus has compassion upon you because that is who He is – the God who has compassion. Christ’s love for you has nothing to do with what you’ve done, what you’ve promised to do, nothing to do with how great or how lousy you are, nothing to do with what Christ is going get back from you. See, that’s the problem when we hear about love – we’re sinful folk in the world, we expect love to be a “I’ll take care of you, but you had better be taking care of me the way I want you to or there will be hell to pay.” We think, “I’ll wash your back, but you had better be standing wash cloth in hand, ready to wash mine.” We treat love like it’s a loan, where we only give it out if we know we are going to get it back and with interest. But that’s not what Christ’s love is – it is freely given. No strings. No burdens. No hoops. Simply freely given because that is who Christ is. He is the one who has compassion – who cannot stand to see His creation that He loves burdened with death. Even showing love to sinners, even sinners as wretched as you and I. And so He acts.

Jesus walks up to this woman and says something profound to her. Do not weep. Must have sounded like the craziest words ever spoken. Don’t weep – ha! Death is a time of mourning – of course there ought to be weeping. And our Lord knows that – He Himself weeps at Lazarus’ death – but what He is really saying is that the time of weeping, the time for this woman to have a reason to cry, is drawing to a close. Then, He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. That’s another thing that Jesus does that is astonishing. He touched bier, the thing they were carrying the corpse on. You didn’t do that in Jesus day – it made you ritually unclean. We consider it an honor to be a pallbearer today – it wasn’t in Jesus’ day. It was something no one wanted to do – and then Jesus walks up and touches the bier. And then He says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Jesus walks up to death and He undoes it. No, Satan, not today, you will not have your way on this day.

So, what does this mean? What do we see, what we do learn from this? Is our only hope that Jesus will walk up on the day of our funeral? One of the saddest stories I’ve heard is from a pastor who went the funeral of a, I think it was a firefighter, some public servant, who had died, and it was at some fly-by night Church, and the man’s widow got up in the middle of the service and fell on the casket and prayed because she was convinced that God would raise her husband right then and there if she just prayed enough, prayed right. And it didn’t happen. And she was devastated and crushed. And what we need to remember when we hear Gospel lessons like this is that they are merely Christ’s temporary fixes – this young man in our text, Jarius’ daughter, Lazarus – all temporary fixes, just for a time. No, the real wonder is how Christ truly and permanently fixes death. Christ doesn’t just try to stop funerals – He has one of His own. He sees that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and so He walks there as well. Christ’s solution is the Cross – where He Himself tastes death, and swallows it up whole in Himself – and rises again on the third day. Your hope isn’t in the fact that this widow’s son was raised on that day, but that our Lord Christ Jesus Himself, though He has died, has risen again, and that He has said you shall as well. It is as Paul teaches in Romans – But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is His love to you, that He would have you be with Him for all eternity. Because of His love He not only died and rose for you, but He has called you by His Word, which shows you all that He has done for you, shown you His Cross and His empty tomb, so that you might receive from Him the free gift of faith, the free gift of forgiveness, the free promise of salvation and eternal life. All this He gives to you simply out of His great love for you, out of His compassion for you.

So, do you see what this means – how you can use this truth of Christ’s love and forgiveness in your own life? Satan will continue to try to make you worry, to make you fearful, even to bring you pain and suffering. In the face of it all, whatever trial it is, remember your Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, who suffered all for you, who rose for you, who has promised you eternity with Him in heaven. He knows what you face during the days of your life, He has promised to be by your side, to give you His Spirit, the Comfortor, to support and give you strength in the face of these trials, and He has promised to bring you to heaven at their conclusion – and all out of His true and perfect love for you. Nothing Satan can throw at you, nothing this world can throw at you, can change the fact that Christ loves you, that He has called you to be His own, that He has washed you in the waters of Holy Baptism and made you part of His Body. He has made you share in His victory – and for this we give Him great thanks. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost+

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts when late to the party

I hesitate to bring this up here because this is one of the long debates - but several weeks agao a discussion was had on the duration of the real presence -- i.e. how long the Lord's Supper remains the Christ's Body and Blood. There are some who say that it remains Christ's basically forever, because God's Word has been applied to it, it has been set aside for this purpose, and it endures. There are others who say that once the "sacramental usage" has concluded (i.e. you aren't going to be distributing it to anyone anymore) it is no longer Christ's Body and Blood.

This is a simplification of a discussion that has many nuances and the like. And it gets quite messy when you start asking a lot of questions and the like. . .

In the comments, Pastor Weedon posits a good question. For a totally bizarre thought... this whole thread strikes me as mirroring the matter of the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. If I may put it so, the question is whether when God sanctifies for His holy use, does he desanctify when He's done using it, or does its sanctity perdure for having been so used of Him.

This strikes upon another debate that goes on amongst some Lutherans - whether Mary was always and remained a virgin (or, whether or not after the birth of Jesus she and Joseph had a normal marriage). On this one, I tend strongly towards the latter - mainly because Scripture speaks of Jesus' brothers and sister - and the simplest way to understand is. . . Mary and Joseph had kids later.

Be that as it may, Pastor Weedon raises the question of whether or not God ever "desanctify" something. My answer to this question (which I think he expects to be "no") is yes. And I'm thinking here of many things from the Old Testament. When that which is holy - that is set aside for a purpose - has accomplish its purpose, it is no longer holy in the way it was.

Consider, for example - the Sabbath Day. The 7th day in the Old Testament was sanctified - it was set up to be holy. However, when Christ came, the Sabbath was fulfilled - He rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, and as such the Church has not viewed the act of resting on Saturday to still be binding. Saturday as the day of rest has come to a completion - it is no longer sanctified in the same way.

Or one might consider the distinction of meats that the Jewish folks followed - some were declared clean - that they were set aside for usage by the Jewish people. Or even the Jewish nation as a whole and all of its distinctive laws - with the coming of Christ the reason for these laws (which set the people of Israel apart from the world, including the other Godfearers of the Old Testament) is no longer needed, for the Messiah has come. There is no more need to have the people who proclaim that the Messiah will come when He has in fact already come. Hence - the nation of Israel is. . . no longer set aside as THE holy people. There is a respect that ought to be given (as Luther points out, God didn't decided to become man by taking flesh from some pigheaded, drunken German, but from a Jew - that's something no other race or tribe can claim - we get cool points for that - did I mention that I am 1/8th Jewish?) - but there is no longer the same usage or purpose attached to the Jewish people in any particular way.

On this basis, I would argue that it is fair to argue that God does allow things that are holy to be returned to normal usage. After our Lord's birth, there is no more need to sanctify the virgin's womb, so hence, if she and her husband were indeed able to enjoy the blessings of being man and wife - it does no damage to the Christian faith, nor does it contradict the example of Scripture.

I would also contend that this shows that there is reason and logic behind the idea of the Sacrament no longer remaining Christ's Body and Blood outside of the sacramental usage -- however, the fact remains - we don't know. Hence, the idea has been "If you consume the leftovers, we never, never have to answer this questions".

Just some thoughts thrown out here.

++++ edit ++++

A few additional thoughts. Perhaps this ties into the fact that so often we forget that nothing of this world endures or will endure. I love my wife, she is a wonderful gift - but only 'til death do us part. For eternity she will no longer be my wife - she will be something even more profound and wondrous - what she is now although because we are both tainted with sin we see it not - my sister in Christ.

My father is a wonderful gift to me - and I would never think of addressing him by his given name - but that is the way of this world. In the next, why would I not call my brother Gregory William, his baptized name, for there will be be those who have been baptized and united into the Body of Christ.

None of this is to say that God is so crass as to "desanctify" marriage or the family - but rather that these things are simply (I'm going to say the word that I know a lot of people get annoyed when I use) tools God uses to provide us blessings. My wife and my parents are masks of God, whereby He shows me love now in this life - but then, there will be no more need of them to act as masks of God, for I will see Him face to face - and I will see these other people for who they are in Christ without any thought of how they relate to me. All things will be in Christ.

We are beings in the world - but we are not of the world. The things of this life, even the most glorious wonderful things, will fade away. Just as Old Testament Israel gave way to the New Testament Church, at some point (come quickly, Lord Jesus!) the Church Militant will gladly give way to the Church Triumphant.

Sometimes we seek permanency and security in this world, a desire for the end of change here. It will not happen - for that is a longing for eternity, and while we have it now, we also have it not yet. All in this life is as but grass - and so we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why the Gospel is hard to preach

This Sunday I received what I thought to be a wonderful compliment. A parishioner said, "Pastor, thank you for preaching the Gospel. I'd been worrying, and I needed to hear it." (for accuracy's sake, the phrase "I'd been worrying" might have been slightly expanded, but that was the gist) To this I replied, "I understand, I needed to hear it too."

This ties into something that I end up thinking about quite often. One cannot preach the Gospel unless one knows the burden of the Law - and not Law that you keep, but Law that you violate. Not Law that you think is a nice curb or even a lovely trellis to grow on - I'm not talking 1st or 3rd use - I'm talking full bore, hammer on your head 2nd use of the Law, "Thou art the man" sort of Law.

This dovetails with a line wrote that I had simply included in a previous post - "Indeed, it's only when you use your freedom in Christ do you begin to see and understand that everything you do still falls short of the Glory of God in every way." To flesh that out, it's only when you see the limitless opportunities in which there are to show love - when you understand that "doing" the Law is more than doing 10 simple rules - when you see this, love it -- but also realize that there is always more to do -- and indeed, that the things that you have done still never measure up to perfection - that there is no hypocrisy in viewing your actions. . . then you see the weight of your sin.

The Gospel is the cure to sin. If you do not know your own sin as a Pastor, you will never preach the Gospel. You will preach advice. You will admonish people to better behavior. You will tell them that Jesus died for them, even though they are jerks who aren't as good as they ought to be, because they ought to be holy and doing ______, especially since Jesus died for them, after all. You will, in other words, be a preacher of the law - a preacher of the acts of man instead of one proclaiming the acts of the God-Man, Christ Jesus, which he performed for us sinners.

Instead you will encourage, exhort, admonish folks to be better. You will show a fine example of "right" living yourself. You will lament the world and it's sin - all of which is true -- but none of which is the Gospel.

If you think you are a little sinner, you will only see a little Savior.
If a pastor thinks he is but a little sinner, he will only preach a weakened, semi-Gospel.
If you know that you are the chief of sinners - you will preach like Paul, for you will preach to your people the same words of life and salvation by which you live.

Thought of the Day

Eh, I don't think I'm hip enough to have the Eastern Orthodox crowd read my blog, but I had something that came up simply this day. I know there is a lot of reaction on the part of the East against the Justification-courtroom-Jesus saving us from God's wrath language that we talk about a ton as Lutherans.

My favorite verse of Scripture, if asked, is Romans 5:8 - But God shows His love for us in that while were were still sinners, Christ died for us.

All well and good. But I was actually reading, rather than just recalling from memory, and came across the next verse (imagine that. . . the next verse!) It reads: "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God."

This really does seem to be the literal, textbook, Lutheran passage on this (as my Baptist uncle was want to complain, "You Lutherans just live in Romans". . . I would say, "No, we really like Galatians too"). What is the eastern response?

Chrysostom preaches this verse and those following thusly:

"And what he has said looks indeed like tautology, but it is not to any one who accurately attends to it. Consider then. He wishes to give them reasons for confidence respecting things to come. And first he gives them a sense of shame from the righteous man's decision, when he says, that he also "was fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able also to perform;" and next from the grace that was given; then from the tribulation, as sufficing to lead us into hopes; and again from the Spirit, whom we have received. Next from death, and from our former viciousness, he makes this good. And it seems indeed, as I said, that what he had mentioned was one thing, but it is discovered to be two, three, and even many more. First, that "He died:" second, that it was "for the ungodly;" third, that He "reconciled, saved, justified" us, made us immortal, made us sons and heirs. It is not from His Death then only, he says, that we draw strong assertions, but from the gift which was given unto us through His Death. And indeed if He had died only for such creatures as we be, a proof of the greatest love would what He had done be! but when He is seen at once dying, and yielding us a gift, and that such a gift, and to such creatures, what was done casts into shade our highest conceptions, and leads the very dullest on to faith. For there is no one else that will save us, except He Who so loved us when we were sinners, as even to give Himself up for us. Do you see what a ground this topic affords for hope? For before this there were two difficulties in the way of our being saved; our being sinners, and our salvation requiring the Lord's Death, a thing which was quite incredible before it took place, and required exceeding love for it to take place. But now since this has come about, the other requisites are easier. For we have become friends, and there is no further need of Death. Shall then He who has so spared his enemies as not to spare His Son, fail to defend them now they have become friends, when He has no longer any need to give up his Son? For it is either because a person does not wish it, or because though he may wish it perhaps, yet he is unable to do it, that he does not save. Now none of these things can be said of God. For that He is willing is plain from His having given up His Son. But that He is able also is the very thing He proved likewise, from the very fact of His having justified men who were sinners. What is there then to prevent us any more from obtaining the things to come? Nothing! Then again, lest upon hearing of sinners, and enemies, and strengthless ones, and ungodly, you should be inclined to feel abashed and blush; hear what he says.

Ver. 11. "And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the atonement."

What means the "not only so?" Not only were we saved, he means, but we even glory for this very reason, for which some suppose we ought to hide our faces. For, for us who lived in so great wickedness to be saved, was a very great mark of our being exceedingly beloved by Him that saved us. For it was not by angels or archangels, but by His Only-begotten Son Himself, that He saved us. And so the fact of His saving us, and saving us too when we were in such plight, and doing it by means of His Only-begotten, and not merely by His Only-begotten, but by His Blood, weaves for us endless crowns to glory in. For there is not anything that counts so much in the way of glory and confidence, as the being treated as friends (φιλεἵσθαι) by God, and finding a Friend (φιλεἵν) in Him that loves (ἀ γαπὥντα) us. This it is that makes the angels glorious, and the principalities and powers. This is greater than the Kingdom, and so Paul placed it above the Kingdom. For this also I count the incorporeal powers blessed, because they love Him, and in all things obey Him. And on this score the Prophet also expressed his admiration at them. "You that excel in strength, that fulfil His Word." Psalm 103:20 And hence too Isaiah extols the Seraphim, setting forth their great excellency from their standing near that glory, which is a sign of the greatest love." (Romans, Homily 9)

What remains to be said but, "Amen?"


Note: This is not meant to be an utter attack on the East - nor to say to those of East leaning "how dare you criticize us". Rather this - I have often heard complaints that the Lutheran approach to Justification is both unscriptural and unhistorical - that it is not present. I don't see how that argument can be made.

Now, if folks from the East wish to argue that we Lutherans over focus on this - that's something we can debate. I think the Baptists over focus on personal accountability - but that doesn't mean that I think Scripture doesn't include anything on personal accountability. Rather - first I would assert this as evidence of a forensic understanding throughout the history of the Church -- now, what this means and how it ought to be used - there we can debate - but the "Lutheran dog" has a place at the table in this poker match.

Always getting worse?

One of the things that it is easy to do is for the faithful to lament the ills of society. My friend Rev. Heath Curtis laments teen sexuality and immodest clothing. (Rev. Curtis was the Pastor whom Jay did the summer vicarage for two summers ago - a fine man). My classmate Rev. Larry Beane notes the rise of occult activity at his blog.

What I will say is that both these men are right - that dress and sexual attitude are out of whack today. . . and that attitudes towards the occult and Satan are quite lousy today. However - I'd argue that really, it's been this way for a long time.

Consider with clothing. I was flipping around the channels last night, and I saw some trashy film from 1976 - the year before I was born on. And it was a summer time movie - all about High Schoolers going out and having their summer fun and drama. And what were they wearing? Those short, tight 70s shorts with tight shirts. Or even this weekend when they had 50's week - you had some folks in the classic 50s dress -- and the classic skirt of that time was designed to emphasize a woman's curvaceous nature (a thick belt at the waist is designed to note the broadness of the chest and waist - that's what it does from a design point). Before that, let's see, the 20s had the flappers. . . before that you had late 19th Century dress with girdles, which again, were not only form fitting, but form modifying. Even the flowing dresses of 17th and 18th Century art were designed to highlight via drapery the feminine form. And if we think the 16th Century was any better - well, find a sermon where Luther goes off on a rant of the morals of the day, and you'll see otherwise.

Or consider with the occult. Oujia boards were quite popular in the 50s - as were seances. Hitler's Germany had a strong tie to the Occult. The early 20th Century was a time of great occult interest. Mediums and mystics have been part and parcel of the American landscape about near forever.

So I don't think things are on the rise -- every generation laments how things are getting worse. Rather this - with us today we are seeing in more and more ways the shattering of the myth that arose in the wake of World War II - that we were a "Christian" nation, with "Christian" values. Our Victorian veneer of decency is wearing thin -- it's not that there's more porn, it's that Bettie Page isn't hidden and and ogled with a few friends in backrooms, but rather available by yourself with a few clicks of a mouse. It isn't that people are more interested in the occult - it's that they no longer think they have to play act as though they aren't.

Or in other words - it's not that we are becoming more wicked - it's just that society as a whole is becoming less hypocritical. And thus, in the words of Han Solo, "Well bring them on - I prefer a straight up fight."

Monday, September 21, 2009

400 posts

This is the 400th post on this blog - the first being on June 1st, 2007. You can see that one here. And as such, I guess it is a time for introspection for me - a little pause for that.

One of the things that stands out is the simple fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The main thing I was writing about when this started was Christian freedom - that we must fall into neither anti-nomianism nor legalism. What still is on my mind now - the same thing.

Partially this is because I find the idea of the Christian response to freedom to be the essence and heart of what it means to live as a Christian. I have freedom - I don't have the security blanket of a check list -- there are many things which I may do, and I simply have to spend the actual time and think what is best. This is hard.

Some abandon freedom by saying, "Do do whatever you want" - ignoring God's Word entirely. Who cares what God's Word says - anything goes. That's one way of abandoning freedom, for that is simply slavery to the desires of the flesh.

Some abandon freedom by trying to make additional rules - "here, this is what you must do". The thing is. . . it's not a must, it's not a "thus sayeth the Lord" -- and that is an abandoning of freedom, that is an attempt to circumvent thought and diligence and to simply turn Christianity into automatic responses -- and thought and reflection are then gone (and where thought and reflection are gone - humility and confession soon follow. Indeed, it's only when you use your freedom in Christ do you begin to see and understand that everything you do still falls short of the Glory of God in every way).

I still think Luther said it best - sin boldly, but believe more boldly still. Try to live in your freedom as best you can, but know that it will ultimately fall into sin, for you are a sinner, a man of unclean lips who dwells amongst a people of unclean lips. But seeing this, confessing this, believe in the love that God has for you and the salvation which He has won for you through Christ Jesus all the more.

I think this is the true battle - not how we react to the flare up of the day - because unless we hold onto the Freedom Christ has won we only become reactionaries, and will always be doomed to fall one way or the other, to become liberals who don't care or conservatives who care about the right things for all the wrong reason and all the wrong things for all the right reasons.

Thus is the state of the world - Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trinity 15

Trinity 15 – Matthew 6:24-35 – September 20th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
30, 40 years down the road, when the economic historians write about this recession or whatever it ends up being that we are in, they will probably mark the beginning of it to be right around a year ago, when Lehman Brothers, a company I had never even heard of before, went belly up. And it’s been a year of panic, and angst, and worry. Whether you are of a more liberal leaning or of a more conservative leaning, there has been more fear and worry in the past year than any I can remember in a goodly long while. We have tea parties, and we have commercials warning against obstructionism. If we don’t do this, everything will fall apart; if we do do this, everything will fall apart. And all around people have become prophets of dire consequences, calling out doom on every TV channel. And in the middle of all this, we hear this Word from our Lord – Do not be anxious about your life. “Well, obviously Jesus just doesn’t understand what it’s like to be an American living in 2009. Aren’t we supposed to worry now, because depending upon who you listen to, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, we’re all going to lose our health care and our freedoms and all our money and a score of other problems” – and yet our Lord still says, “Do not be anxious about your life.”

Pause with me a moment, and consider when our Lord first says this and who He says it to. Our Lord is preaching to Jewish people who have been conquered by the Romans. They are second class citizens – they don’t have the full protection of the law – remember, Paul was unique in that he actually was a Roman Citizen – most Jewish people weren’t. The Centurions could have come for any of them. The taxes were considered high and harsh. There was constant threat of sedition and rebellion. There was rampant poverty and disease – no side in our health care debate thinks the best answer today is to just toss the lepers outside the city walls – but as we saw last week, that’s the way it was in Jesus’ day. It is to those people, living in that society, that our Lord first says, “Do not be anxious about your life.” If He can speak like this to them, than surely we who live in the richest and wealthiest society in the history of the world can take heed of His Word as well.

And yet – it seems so easy to be anxious. Why is that? The first verse of our Gospel shows us. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” This is the problem. Where is your trust? In whom do you trust, or perhaps, in what do you trust? The simple fact is even with all the technical advances and all the neat do-hickeys of the day, we are still sinful people living in a sinful world, and in a sinful world things break. Things fall apart. Things don’t work right. And none of us likes that. None of us likes it when lousy things happen. But here’s the rub – how do you deal, how do you cope with the fact that bad things happen, even to you, in this sinful world? How do you cope, where do you place your trust, or to use the language Jesus uses, who is your master, whom do you serve?

The temptation is to serve, to trust in the things of this life - money, power, wealth. The solutions so often offered to us today revolve around money and power. We can have insurance, a rainy day fund, a nest egg – spend money and invest and that will protect us. And yes, it’s nice to have insurance – but if you have to use it, it means you’ve already gotten sick, it means the crops have already failed, it means your loved one is already dead – insurance just softens the monetary blow, nothing more. Yes, the rainy day fund helps, but if you use it, it means that the rainy day is here, and that’s never enjoyable. And this is the sad thing, when we get focused on the things of this life, trying to safeguard ourselves against the worst – we just end up becoming enslaved to money, enslaved to the almighty dollar, where our thoughts are no longer about what is right and good, what we ought to do, but end up controlled by the bottom line. We end up being devoted to greenbacks – and when this happens, we end up despising God. What He says in His Word is no longer as important as our material wealth and financial well-being. You cannot serve God and money.

This is what our Lord points out – that the hopes and dreams and promises of money in this life, of power in this life, social power, political power, whatever – if your primary focus is there, there will always be disappointment, for these are the things of this world, and in this world there is always going to be disappointment. Princes of this world are always but mortals, and they and their plans always decay. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, what you will put on.” Did you catch the word? Therefore. Because of all this, because the world will try to be your master and replace God, because of the fact that the plans of the world are always empty and dissatisfying, because money and power always fails – do not worry about your life. Why do you set your sights so low, O Christian! Why do you worry about the things that will assuredly fail at some point in your time here on earth? Have you forgotten what you are? “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Aren’t you more than just your stuff? And we get the famous examples – the birds of the air – God cares for them. The lilies of the field – God cares for them. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Things pass, things fade away, but for the days you have here, be they long or short, is not God still God? Is not your Creator still your Creator? As we confess in the Catechism, does not the God who has given you your body and soul still take care of them?

Here’s the rub. When we worry about money, about stuff, we really are thinking about how our own power and planning will make things okay, make things safe. But our focus should not be upon mere earthly things, as though our plans will somehow triumph over a sinful world and make it somehow all nice and neat. That’s a goal we can’t accomplish – a burden none of us can bear. Bad things happen in a sinful world. Period. Simple as that. And so our Lord instructs us saying, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘what shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Quit thinking like the people of the world. Quit thinking like those people out there who honestly think that it’s all up to them, who think that they only way they are going to get something is if they grab it for themselves. You have a heavenly Father who cares for you, who knows your needs better than you yourself do – and for as long as He chooses to keep you here in this life, He will provide you with what you need. Not necessarily what you want – you can’t always get what you want – but God will provide you what you need. Put your cares in God’s hands.

So, rather than worrying about your wants for this life – seek ye first the kingdom of God and Christ’s righteousness. And here is the wonderful, profound, beautiful thing. The source of all these problems, the root cause of any distress and ill is sin. Sinners in a sinful world. Now, consider the righteousness of God. What does it mean that God is righteous? It means that God does what is right – and your heavenly Father sees this world of sin and death, He sees you within it, and so He says to His Son, “I will preserve them for a time there, but You, do what is right – rescue them. Save them. Go to the Cross, suffer and die, and rise again, so that they might be delivered from this world unto My heavenly kingdom.” That is the Kingdom of God, that is God’s righteousness – that He saves sinners, that He forgives you, that He gives you salvation and heaven and eternal life.

And here is the wondrous thing. Do you want proof that God cares for you? The proof isn’t in your bank account. Do you want proof that God cares for your life? The proof isn’t in any doctor’s office. Do you want proof that God cares for your body? The proof isn’t found by looking in the mirror. There – the font, that is the proof that our Righteous God cares for you, for your life, for your body. There at the font, He took simple water, and He attached His word of life and salvation, and poured that now most Holy of all waters, that life giving water upon your body, and there He promised you that you, body and soul, would live in His presence in His kingdom for all eternity. Your body – this one – was marked by Christ as His own, claimed by God for all eternity. You are His, and you are forgiven. Is isn’t about your plans, what you can given to God, but the love He has given to you.

Yet do you seek more proof? Do not worry about what you will eat or drink – for our Lord Christ Jesus invites you to His table, where you will dine on something all the money in the world could never provide – You receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins and for salvation. You receive the feast of heaven – a foretaste of the everlasting feast to come. Our Lord, after He institutes the Supper says to the disciples, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Here, my brothers – have this meal of forgiveness and live until that day when We all, in perfected and resurrected Bodies delight in the heavenly feast of the kingdom of God! This supper is the proof, the evidence that Christ Himself will give you His resurrection and eternity with you in God’s Kingdom forever.

Therefore, my friends, dear people of Zion, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear. You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, you have been clothed in the robes of Christ’s righteousness, and come whatever may in this life, you shall stand among the white robed saints for all eternity, enjoying the heavenly feast, living true life in the presence of God. Thus, we are right to pray at all times, and not just before we eat worldly food, Come Lord Jesus – Come and bring us your eternal life. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Friday, September 18, 2009

How about this for "Church" Growth?

Okay, so if you look here you can find info on Jediism, a new "religion" based off of the Star Wars movies. Over 500,000 have claimed to belong to this religion; it has temples and the like.

500,000? That's a goodly bit. . . and it has to have been growing as it wasn't around 10 years ago. Now, granted, I think a lot of it is due to the fact that there is an awesome movie tie-in.

And this got me to thinking - our pastors are basically professional writers. We write sermons, we know dialog -- alright, let's have a Synodical committee get on the ball and get a group to write an exciting Sci-Fi or Fantasy series where the hero is Lutheran - and maybe we can get some tie-ins to this. We could throw in some subtle digs. . . have the cowardly supervisor be Methodist or something.

You know, we could deflect some Ablaze! funds to this - because it could grow greatly. If you have a plot line, feel free to share them here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mission vs. Doctrine?

One of the false distinctions people will make is between mission and doctrine. Some will say that if you focus too much on doctrine, you cut mission, because really mission is just getting the Word about Jesus out there. However, does not the doctrine of the Lutheran Church teach about Christ? Our position on the Lord's Supper teaches about Christ (in fact, if you understand the Real Presence, you understand Christology). Our position on Baptism teaches Christ. Closed Communion teaches about the unique relationship of Christ and His Church. These things all teach Christ.

And we as Lutherans above all should know that doctrines teach about Christ. The great example of this is the Catechism - we always are asking the question "what does this mean?" We move into doctrine so that we can learn and grow. To say that doctrine harms mission is the tantamount to looking at the Catechism and saying, "How dare you teach the meanings to the Commandments, they are just getting in the way. Just teach the Commandments." That's precisely what the meanings do.

Likewise, the doctrines of the Church teach us about and show us who Christ is and how He does things. How people fail to see the connection is beyond me. You cannot proclaim Christ if you are ashamed or embarrassed of the doctrines that are Christ's and teach Christ.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reactionism Part 2

We are apt to condemn, forgetting that the Law is supposed to lead to forgiveness.

We are apt to berate, hoping for an outward change in behavior rather than repentance.

We are apt to become more worried about our sensibilities when we are offended than we are worried about our brother who offended us.

We are apt to try to legislate morality, forgetting that righteousness comes from the Spirit of Life, not the Law of death.

We are apt to mock the erring zealot, rather than trying to teach him and redirect his zeal.

We are apt to wash our hands of the one who doesn't understand, rather than dealing patiently with our brother.

We are apt to rage about the speck at the neighboring church while we write off our log as just a quirk.


I think one of the worst phrases we have in English is "righteous anger". "Well. . . Jesus shows righteous anger when He over turns the moneychangers' tables!" Yes, but I have come to learn in my 32 years that I am, in fact, not Jesus. . . and that even if my anger might at first be righteous, it might be at first spot on - oh, how my flesh loves to grab onto that anger and twist it, and uses it to justify so many things in me that are vile and wretched.

This is what sin does.

And wretch that I am, living in my body of death, I do not maintain a righteous anger - it soon just becomes regular old anger - or worse, sanctimonious, self-righteous anger.

And I react.

React. Act against. Not act so as to bring the erring to God. Not act so as to teach. Not act so as to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. But I act against my neighbor.

Come, let us then fix our eyes upon Jesus, who creates and completes our faith, who saves us from our bodies of death, and liberates us from death. God have mercy upon us!

Weekly Meditation - Trinity 14

Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus!

Today we will consider the Epistle for Trinity 14, Galatians 5:16-24, and in particular verses 22 and 23 which read:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

One of the things that that be frustrating to many Christians is that our faith is not a "checklist" faith. When it comes to living as a Christian, it is not merely a matter of checking off the things that you don't do - I haven't killed, I haven't had an affair, robbed a bank, or lied in court - and being content. Yes, there are many things that as a Christian you ought avoid, but living a Christian life involves "doing" - not just not doing.

Paul gives us a list of the "fruit of the Spirit" - things that constantly and continually well up in a Christian - and the thing to note is that there have no limit. There isn't a point where we stretch our arms back and say, "Well, I've shown my daily allotment of love, time to punch the clock and head home." We don't say, "I've been faithful enough, guess I can afford a little bit of unfaithfulness now."

And these are the things that we as Christians are to be about at all times. And of course, this is most daunting, because although we can all say we want to be good little boys and girls, someone at work does something. . . or our kids do something. . . or our boss says something. . . or our neighbor. . . or our spouse. . . or that random guy who just was rude. . . and our sinful flesh can kick right in and the enmity, strife, and other things from verses 19-21 can pop right up and in.

It is here where I would note that these works Paul puts forth are not "your" fruit - they are the fruit of the Spirit. Here we are reminded of what our Lord teaches - "I am the vine, you are the branches, He who abides in me bears much fruit." The fruit is the fruit of the Spirit - it is the fruit that comes from being in Christ and in His Word. When we live lives of forgiveness, Christ forgives us, the Spirit dwells in us, and He beats down our sinful flesh and its desires (the old, classic word is "mortifies" - literally puts our sinful desires to death), allowing His fruit to spring forth.

So, this week, consider what fruit is present in your life - is love and joy and peace and the rest coming out like they ought? If not, confess your sins, and God, who is faithful and just, will cleanse you from all unrighteousness - and we will see what He brings to produce in you.

Have a blessed week,
Pastor Brown

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I think one of the great dangers to theology is reacting. When we see wickedness, we can react against it - we can become aggressive and take it to whatever is wrong. Well, isn't that a good thing? No, because we are not primarily the vanquishers of evil, we are to be the speakers and defenders of truth. And often, in our zeal to oppose and ill or wickedness, our cure and counter to the given wickedness shoots on by God's word as well.

When we response with disgust, when we are indignant, when we lament the ills of society, we are not prepared to do theology -- because we are looking at the ills of men rather than the Word of God. Whether people are being openly wicked or whether they are being sanctimonious - when we are responding to them we aren't looking at the Word, we are looking at them.

Give attention to the Word, what it says - not what you wish.

Trinity 14 sermon

Trinity 14 – Luke 17:11-19 – September 13th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
So, there they are. 10 men, all with leprosy, all with a horrid disease. One that cuts them off from the rest of humanity, one that makes them to live isolated lives, alone with their disease. Consider what it would be like to be a leper – to have to live in caves, to warn away anyone who came near - “Get back from me, I'm a leper, if you touch me you too might be ill.” You live on the outskirts – hopefully some family or friends will come out. . . drop off some food for you outside so you can eat – but you'll never get to talk to them face to face again, never hold them, never hug them. And there are of ten of these lepers, waiting outside the town walls, waiting to see if there will be food today – and then, they see Christ Jesus. They recognize Him, they cry out to Him - “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” This is Jesus, the One who is the Master, the Master of healing, and He is walking by. And Jesus looks at them, and He simply says, “Go show yourself to the priests.” Now, according to the Law of Moses, a person who had leprosy could reenter society if he were healed, but he had to show himself to the priests first. The priests would certify that this person was healed. And they go – all ten of them, they start towards the priests – and as they are going, it is really quite wonderful - “And as they went they were cleansed” Imagine – as you walk, the sores on your skin, they close up and are gone. The dead skin clinging to you flakes off, and then there is nothing but pure and healthy skin. Can you imagine the excitement of the moment? “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” All are excited, but one of them, instead of running into town, into society, with joy pauses, and he turns – and his joy and excitement is focused upon Christ, and he runs back and praises God, he falls at Christ's feet – he's on his knees giving thanks to God. And who is this person who gives thanks? He is the son of a priest? He is a well-to-do member of society? Nope. He was, yes indeed, a Samaritan – one of “those” people. And Jesus looks and asks, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Only one comes to give thanks to God, and in reality the he’s one who would have been least expected to give thanks. And Jesus looks at Him and explains, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” The time of thanksgiving is over – and this Samaritan returns and runs to town to show the priest, to be declared healed, and to return to life.

So then, what do we learn from this? We do see a warning, a reminder, that we ought to be thankful. There's a reason we are going to hear this text again come Thanksgiving Day. And the simple truth is all too often we are not as thankful as we ought to be, too often we neglect the blessings we have from God. The world is in a horrid economic slump – the worst of my life, perhaps the worst since the Great Depression. Yet consider our congregation? Yes, as a congregation we are behind on funds this year, but consider us here in this room, are we here still not doing well? Still have house and home – all those first article blessings. God has preserved us. And the ways in which we have been blessed in this life by God are countless –Luther’s list is but a start of them. But God's blessings and care to us are many and full. And we ought to be aware of them, we ought to be thankful for them. And it is true that quite often we aren't as thankful as we ought to be. It's true – too often when we get that blessing, that benefit, we in our joy over getting the blessing shoot right on by thankfulness. In fact, we've come to expect the blessings, so we don't even think to say thank you – of course I'm going to get this blessing, I got blessed last week, why would it ever end?

But as I consider this text, I fear we think about our lack of thankfulness for earthly blessings, and while that is true – it doesn't get to the fullness of what goes on here. We see what Jesus does – He heals, and we think of blessings, but mainly we think of blessings of the body, of health, of wealth; we jump to the physical ways in which we receive blessings. However, I think we can neglect the Spiritual Blessings which Christ gives, and there is a wonderful parallel here. Consider this – leprosy is a disease that separates a person from society – if you were a leper you were cut off from your family and friends. Dear friends, isn't this exactly what sin does to us? Consider what happens when you sin. When you become angry, what happens to your relationships? When you lie, what happens to your relationships? When you get greedy, what happens to your relationships? Sin is the great isolator – sin cuts us off from one another. Again with this, consider the garden. You have Adam and Eve, the perfect couple, literally. Then there's sin, and what do we see? It's this stinking woman's fault. Isolation, separation. Sin separates us from each other – sin brings with it fear and hurt and pain, and we get convinced that we need to start looking out for number 1, we turn in and huddle in on ourselves, and we are left alone and isolated.

But we are not only isolated from each other – we are by our sin cut off from God. Think on what sin is – it's going against God's will, it's contramanding God, it's fighting against Him. Again, consider the Garden – after the fall, Adam's not walking with God in the garden like He used to, but rather Adam's off hiding in the corner, afraid of God. Adam, who had been made in God's image, now hides from God, doesn't even want to be near God. Do you see what Satan tries to accomplish with sin – every sin, great, small, every sin causes separation, builds up walls, turns us away from God, away from our neighbors, and makes us alone and isolated.

Now, those lepers were isolated and alone, and what happens? Christ Jesus comes along. Note this – Christ Jesus comes on up to the town – it's not a matter of these lepers going on some adventurous journey trying to find their own healing – no, they are stuck in their miserable lives as lepers – and then Christ comes. And then there is hope. If Christ had not happened upon that town, they would have simply remained in their illness. But there is Jesus, and so they call out to Christ for healing – and He heals them.

Is this not again what happens in terms of salvation? While we human beings were yet sinners, while we were still wretched and vile, Christ Jesus comes down from heaven, is born of the virgin Mary, and lives, heals, does miracles, fulfills God's law in our place, and then goes to the Cross in our stead, taking up the burden of that sin. Christ fights sin upon the cross. Does sin isolate you – behold Christ Jesus upon the cross – pulled out and isolated, left to die. The full weight of sin upon Him – and He takes it, and He dies. And then He rises, and sin is defeated, it is done away with – He passes through it and strides up to Mary, to the Disciples, indeed, He comes to us, and He says, “I have won you back from sin, I have brought you back from that separation.”

Christ Jesus comes to us this day; He brings His Word of life and forgiveness to us – His Word is proclaimed to us and we are forgiven, our sin is healed, washed away. His Word is proclaimed and we are given life, we are healed, we are restored, we are turned away from sin and given strength to show love, to have good relationships with those we love, to treat them properly, to enjoy in the love of God. This is what this place is about, this service to which God has called us. We receive forgiveness. Do you see what forgiveness is? It's not just a pat on the back, it's not God saying “I don't care what you do” -- forgiveness doesn't mean we get to do whatever we want. Rather this – because we are forgiven, because we have been restored to God, we get to be the people God has made us to be – we get to enjoy His blessings as He intended them. We get to enjoy wealth without greed, we get to enjoy friends without coveting, we get to enjoy family without envy and lust. And when that sin which still clings to us pops up and messes with how we enjoy everything in life – once again, Christ forgives us, cleanses us, restores us and sends us back into the world to enjoy all the blessings of life. Indeed, we get to enjoy our relationship with God again, to delight in His Word.

Do you see what we have received from God? The sad part is, too often we are like those 9 – we know that Christ is great, that He loves and blesses us – we know that He forgives us – but then we just traipse along as though this wasn't the most wondrous, mind boggling thing ever. And so friends, this day, I encourage you, think about the joy and benefit that Christ and His forgiveness has been to you, the times where His love has gotten you through periods of guilt and shame. Think on the times where you've been hurt – but Christ's love has let you forgive someone and let you be restored to them. This is what God does for you, all the time – and this is why we should give thanks to God. We give thanks not because if we don't God's going to cut us off – the 9 are still healed, but we give thanks because we see and understand the wonders of what God has given us – when we see, when we understand, we will give thanks and learn to use His love to us rightly.

And so dear friends, know that God has shown you great love, that He has healed you and continually restores you to Himself, to your family and friends. This is His love to you – for His care and love for you is great and wondrous, it is full and complete. There is nothing left but to rejoice and delight in it. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trinity 13

Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37 – September 6th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Before we consider the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, it would be good for us to look at the few introductory verses to the parable, because they really set the stage for what this whole parable is going to be about. Jesus says to the disciples, “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.” And this really drives home to the wonders of being in the New Testament Church, wonders that we can overlook. On occasion, we will think about the events of the Old Testament – prophets and the Red Sea and all those type of things, and we can think, “Man, how cool would it have been to be around back then.” Yet Christ shows us something that is true – the pinnacle, the highlight of all of Scripture, isn’t the Exodus. It isn’t the fall of Jericho, it isn’t the kingdom of David, or Elijah defeating the priests of Ba’al, or Daniel in the lion’s den. No, the thing that all those people, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Daniel, the thing which they all hungered to see was the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, was what we see and know from the 4 Gospels. They are the highlight of Scripture.

And yet, so often, this is overlooked. Forget this talk about Jesus, forget this talk about what He does – let’s get on to the good stuff, you know, stuff about me, what I have to do. That happens now, and it happened then. And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Now think about this – Jesus has just pointed out that kings and prophets would have given their eye teeth to see Jesus, and what is the question – what shall I do to inherit eternal life. A question about me, about my actions – forget focusing upon You, Jesus, let’s get back to me. And we can’t even lambaste this lawyer too much, because this is what sinful human beings do – turn everything back onto themselves – it’s about me, me, me – and Christ is overlooked.

But Jesus will answer him – what does the Law say, what does the bible say? Well, it says Love God and love your neighbor. Yep, that’s what you are supposed to do – if you want things to be about you, go get to work. It was a silly, simple question – what am I supposed to do? Show love. That’s sort of basic Christian living 101 there – as a Christian you are to love God and love your neighbor. That should have been obvious.

And now the fellow is embarrassed. He had wanted to put Jesus to the test, to ask an impressive question, and he had failed. He had wanted a good answer about what wonders he himself could do – and got this. And then we are told this – But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” So, the guy is embarrassed because he just asked an obvious question, and so as to make himself look good, he asks, “who is my neighbor?” Do you see what’s going on? Jesus has just commented on how the kings and prophets of the Old Testament would have loved to see Him face to face here on earth – and the guy right there in front of Jesus could care less about Jesus. He’s trying to focus on himself, to make himself look good. Even his question “who is my neighbor” isn’t a matter of “I want to serve my neighbor, who is this one whom I should serve” – but it’s an attempt to make himself look good. This man is focused entirely upon himself. He’s not seeing Jesus. This is the problem that Jesus will fix with this parable.

Let me reread the parable, so we all have it fresh in our minds. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among some robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now, the road from Jerusalem went through passes in the mountain, so it could be a dangerous road, and this fellow gets mugged and beaten. This is a very real scenario. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. So we have two people who go by – a priest, one of the leaders of the people – sees the guy and hurries on. Now, this is lousy, but understandable. Think about driving through a bad neighborhood, if you see evidence of bad stuff going on, isn’t your instinct to lock your doors and drive a bit more quickly? Same thing he does here. And then the Levite, he is another respected member of Jewish society – the good family. He does the same thing. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Remember, the Samaritans were the descendants of the northern kingdom, the rebels, the semi-Jewish scum of the day. People Israelites looked down upon. Yet this Samaritan sees the beaten man and has compassion, feels for him, and is so moved to act. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and 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 the care that this Samaritan gives is fantastic. Oil was used to clean, wine was used to disinfect. Good care. He puts the guy on his animal, meaning he has to walk – meaning he puts himself in danger – if the bandits come, the animal and the hurt man might get away, but this Samaritan would be in a heap of trouble. And then, when they reach shelter, the Samaritan doesn’t just dump him off, but cares for him, and then, when he must go, pays for his continual care. And after this, Jesus asks, Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? And of course, the answer is the Samaritan, and Jesus tells us to go and do likewise.

So, how then, is this parable about Jesus? I mean, there is instruction for us – this is how we are to show love, fully and completely, and even at danger and risk to ourselves. That’s the standard that we are to hold to. It’s the standard we don’t live up to – the fact that this is the standard is the reason why we all had to say, “I a poor, miserable sinner” just a few minutes ago and confess our sins to God. But this is the point – if we are to be focused upon ourselves, upon what we do, we will see nothing but how we come up short, nothing but how there is more and better love to show. Indeed, we should always strive to show better love to our neighbor, but if we only were to look at ourselves in this matter, we would despair. Sin has battered and bruised us, we do not show love like we ought.

So let me ask you the question, which shows how this parable is all about Jesus. Who is your neighbor? When you are broken by sin and guilt, when people whom you should have been able to count on fail you, when the world is dark and cold and dangerous – who is your Neighbor? Christ Jesus is.

Consider again who the Good Samaritan is. He is someone who is looked down upon. Does that not describe Jesus, for He is treated as an outcast, His own did not receive Him, He was looked so down upon that He was even crucified? And what does this Samaritan do? When he sees the man, he has compassion. Likewise, Christ Jesus has compassion upon you – we had a sermon a few weeks ago at the feeding of the 4000 that used that very word – compassion. Christ is moved to act when He sees us in bondage to sin. The Samaritan came and bound the man’s wounds with oil and wine. What does Christ do – He comes and He binds our wounds with the gifts of Baptism and the Supper. Back in the day, baptismal rites almost always included oil – the part where we mark the Cross was done with oil. And in the Supper, Christ gives Himself, His life and forgiveness to us by giving us His Body and Blood through bread and wine. And more than just binding our wounds, what does Christ do? The Samaritan carries the wounded man to an inn – Christ brings us into His Church where He continually cares for us. The Samaritan charges to the innkeeper to care for the man, giving him two denarii, two coins with which to do it. Christ Jesus has charged me, as your pastor, to care for you, giving me His Word and His Sacraments, with which to do it.

With this parable, Christ is not merely teaching us that we are to love our neighbor. Rather this – He is showing us and teaching us about His love for us, what He does for us, and indeed, why we should long for this care. His love for us is so complete, so thorough and full, for He provides for us all that we need, He gives us the forgiveness He won upon the Cross, and sees to it that this forgiveness is still proclaimed through His Word, still handed out through His Supper. He has brought us here today to hear His Word of life, which we have. What remains for us today, then, is to receive His other gift for us, His own Body and Blood in His Supper. His love for us abounds, abounds in ways that would have boggled Abraham’s mind. Jesus gives us a feast that Solomon, in all his splendor, would have given all his wealth for. Let us rejoice in His gifts to us together, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +