Monday, September 30, 2013

Luther, Natural Law, and a Wife

Luther on 1 Peter 3:7

Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker vessel, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.
Woman is also God’s vessel or tool, says the apostle; for God uses her to conceive, bear, feed, and look after children, and to manage the house. The woman should do works of this kind. Therefore she is God’s tool and vessel. God created her for this purpose and implanted this in her. This is the way the husband should regard his wife. Therefore St. Peter says: “You husbands, live considerately with your wives. Do not rule them recklessly.” To be sure, they should live as the husband rules. What he commands and orders, this should be done. But the husband should also see to it that he treats his wife with kindness and consideration. He should be tender, and he should honor her as God’s weakest vessel.
A man is also God’s vessel, but he is stronger than a woman. She is weaker physically and also more timid and downhearted in spirit. Therefore you should deal with her and treat her in such a way that she can bear it. You must take care of her as you take care of another tool with which you work. For example, if you want to have a good knife, you must not hack into stone with it. Now it is impossible to give a rule for this. God leaves it to everyone to treat his wife considerately according to each wife’s nature. You must not use your authority arbitrarily; for you are her husband to help, support, and protect her, not to harm her. It is impossible to set specific bounds for you. Here you yourself must know how to proceed thoughtfully.
Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 30: Luther's works, vol. 30 : The Catholic Epistles (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (30:91). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Here is why I love Luther.  He acknowledges nature.  Woman was designed to conceive, bear, etc.  However, when rubber meets the road, "Now it is impossible to give a rule for this."  Why?  Because people are different - the impacts of sin and the frailities of this world hit us differently.  Therefore, do not set some rule from nature and say, "Wife, to this you must hold", but rather consider her and show her love. 

Great approach.

Of course, I take a "weaker vessel" not to be a statement of frailty, per se.  A weaker vessel is a way of speaking of fine china -- it is precious and not to be abused, it is to be honored.  That is the woman's honor - as that which is most precious in the house.  But that's just me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sermon for St. Michael's Day

St. Michael and All Angels – September 29th, 2013 – Luke 10:17-20

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          Today is a very old and ancient Church Holy Day that we don’t necessarily talk about all that much – St. Michael and all Angels.  September 29th.  Historically this day is a transition in the Church year – it means we are about done with it.  It means the time has come to start thinking more and more about the Last Days and eternity and the life of the world to come.  I know many a Pastor who actually transfer this day and celebrate it every year, regardless of what day it falls upon.  But, it is our day for this year, so let us spend some time pondering it.

          First thing first – don’t let the name confuse you – when we talk about Michael, we are talking about Jesus.  Why do I say that?   To start – the name itself.  Michael literally means, “One Who is like God.”  That’s a Hebraic way of talking about God.  And then, consider in Revelation – we have a scene of Michael and His angels casting Satan out of heaven.  Then we hear, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come.”  Michael kicking Satan out of heaven is a demonstration of God’s Power and Kingdom and the Authority of Christ.  Moreover – Michael has *His* angels.  Do not the angels belong to God?  And if there were any more doubt, what does Jesus say in the Gospel?  “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  You folks have cast out demons, well, I can top that – I cast Satan out from heaven.  And of course, Daniel is promised that one day Michael, his great prince, would come – pointing forward to the birth of Jesus.  This day is a day centered on Christ.  This is Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbaoth – that is God of the heavenly armies.  You know, the angels. 

          And so, with that in mind, and with a bit of talk about angels in general in the back of our minds, let’s take our time and work our way through the Gospel text and see what we learn.  “The Seventy Two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’”  Alright, so what 72?  We need to back up a touch.  Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending out 72 folks, two by two, to go and preach about His coming and to heal the sick.  And you have this wonderful bit about how He sends them – just go, don’t take stuff, show up and declare Peace, Shalom – and if they receive it, great, if not, shake the dust from your feet.  So it’s sort of a weird situation.  These pairs are sent off on their own – like lambs in the midst of wolves, as Christ says.  And then they return.  And they are excited?  And why?  Because they have POWER!  Man, even the demons shut up when we told them to shut up.  How awesome is that!

          This is danger number one when we sinful folks start talking about angels, or even most things religious.  We start thinking in terms of power.  In terms of might.  And that’s mainly what the pop culture view of angels are – beings of power and might… and maybe you can sort of twist their arms or cajole them to look out for you.  No.  Angels are just servants, are just messengers, doing a job.  And here you have the 72, and they have been sent out as messengers – and you even know what the Greek word for “messenger” is?  It’s angellos – angel.  And what has happened?  The focus has shifted from the message to the messenger.  These 72 are not rejoicing that many have heard of the Kingdom, or that many were healed, or that many were even rescued from demons by the power of Christ.  Rather – look at what I get to do!
          And so Jesus responds, reminding these folks to not get too all excited about power.  “And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.’”  Yeah.  There’s power there.  Yeah, Satan has been defeated.  This isn’t surprising to Jesus.  And He will have His message proclaimed.  Serpents and Scorpions will not stop that, the demons won’t.  The Kingdom of God will be proclaimed!  That’s the point – not your power, but what you’ve been given power to do.  You have authority – but your authority isn’t about you, it is about you being able to serve the neighbors I wish you to serve.

          This is actually a good reminder about authority.  In the Scriptures, whenever someone has authority, that authority isn’t supposed to be for their benefit, but for the benefit of their neighbors.  David is made king over Israel not primarily for his own good, but to serve the people.  Moses is given authority in the Exodus not for his own sake, but to rescue the children of Israel.  Parents are given authority over their children so as to serve the children in helping them to grow, and dare I say, even the husband has authority, not for his own sake, but for the sake of serving the family.  And of course, the great example is Christ – who has all authority on heaven and on earth, and yet tells us that He comes to serve, not be served.  He is Michael, your prince, come to you, not for His benefit, but for yours.  Authority and power are never meant to be the goal or the point – they are always to be had simple to serve.

          And man, if sinful, fallen man doesn’t mess that up.  We want to view power in terms of what it says about us.  I have power – therefore I must be great.  No.  If you have power, if means you have a responsibility and duty to serve.  Simple as that.  The Scriptures do not teach us to engage in power struggles, like the world does. Even consider the angels – over and over in the Scriptures how are they described?  While they may be mighty, they confess that they are just servants, just ministers, and they are content with that. Likewise, our job is not to seek authority so that then we can lord it over one another like the gentiles do.  No, for the Christian, we know that authority means you get to serve the neighbor.  But our sinful flesh rebels against that.  Be wary of that, keep on guard against it.  Even the 72 feel that temptation, even as they openly and spectacularly serve God, they feel the temptation to focus more on the power they have received, rather than that which is most important.

          And what is most important?  Jesus tells us.  “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  There it is.  There’s the kicker.  The joy, the true joy is this.  You have been claimed by God as His own child, and you belong to Him, and nothing can change that.  Not even Satan.  Christ kicked him out of heaven already, and as we hear in Revelation, “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!” Don’t be amazed at mere earthly power, but rejoice in this.  There is no more condemnation for you.  Satan can point out your sin, your faults, your wrongs all he wishes – but you are washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus will hear no more of it – be gone, get thee behind Me Satan, away from heaven, away from My brothers and sisters – for they are baptized, they bear on their brows My seal, they are redeemed by My blood.  That’s the point of this text, the point of this day.  Your Michael has come to be your prince, and He has aided you in the day of your trouble, and He will raise you again to share in His own glory on the last day.

          But to close, just a few more words on angels.  They are real.  They are servants of God.  They protect us.  We do have our own guardian angels - We do hear in Matthew 18 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”  And this is to be a thing of comfort.  Not a matter of power, or manipulation, or speculation – not something for Oprah to babble about.  God is in control.  He cares for you.  He has His angelic servants watch over you and caring for you.  Satan cannot defeat you, for you belong to Christ.  This is why Luther ends his morning and evening prayer with “let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  This is the truth.  You are protected by God – and this is a good thing.  But it isn’t the main thing, it isn’t the most wondrous thing.  The great wonder isn’t that you have an angel with you now, but rather that you are one who will be rejoicing in the life of the world to come with the angelic host forever.  It isn’t just that you have an angel with you when you walk out those doors, but rather that you are part of the Church, and that you join your voice with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – and so you shall for all eternity.  So, yes, angels are neat – but don’t spend too much time listening to babble or speculation.  That sort of thing has been pestering the Church for thousands of years – Hebrews chapter 1 is all about not paying attention to that – in fact, the best summation of angels is when it says, “Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”  Yep.  And that’s the wonder.  That even the angels – they are just servants sent by God to see and protect you, they serve for the sake of you who are the ones who inherit the salvation of God.  Christ Jesus, our great Michael, has come.  He cast out Satan from heaven.  He came to be our brother.  He went to the Cross and shed His blood for our forgiveness, He rose to give us life, and He shall come again accompanied by His angels to take us to the life of the world to come.  This is truth, and this is what we rejoice in.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Communion Age, the Catechism, and Walking Together

(or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb)

So, the latest dust-up in the LCMS on-line world is over infant communion, or young child communion, or communion age.  Along those lines.  (Hey, I didn't start this one, or even get in on the ground floor - woot!)  But I figured I would write a few thoughts about this, just to flesh out my own thoughts.

1.  The Catechism - You know, if only we Lutherans had something, some writing that dealt with the idea of preparation for Communion and what one ought to be able to Confess (note CONFESS, not KNOW or UNDERSTAND - but CONFESS - more on that later).

Oh, wait... lookie there.  Section 4 of the Small Catechism - Christian Questions and Their Answers: Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for... those who intend to go to the Sacrament.


You see that?  Right there... in the Small Catechism.  Questions for those who intend to go to the Sacrament.  We aren't talking about some obscure line that obliquely refers to Communion Preparation tangentally in the Apology or the Solid Declaration.  Small Catechism.  It's in the Hymnal.

There's our standard of what we expect folks to be able to Confess before they go to communion.  And yet, no one mentions these.  So here's what I will say - until a person can confess the truths given in these answers... they are not to be safely admitted to the altar.

2. First Communion and Confirmation - Then we get to the discussion of what age this happens at.  Beats the tar out of me - people could answer these questions at a variety of ages.  However, here is something we have forgotten in the LCMS.  Common practice is a good thing.

60 years ago, the vastly predominate practice was you communed after you were confirmed in the 8th grade.  Now, I will say this - I do not think this is the "best" practice.  I'd much rather see first communion at a younger age... I think this is better for a variety of reasons.

But I don't yet.

Because that isn't *our* practice.  Not yet.  I consider my circuit - where everyone does confirmation in Junior High (I have confirmed 7th graders before)... and that's normal and understandable.  If I suddenly decide to do what I think is "better" and start communing the 2nd grader who knows the answers... I'm no longer walking together.  Even if it is "better".

If you think this approach isn't disruptive, O Confessional... you know what?  The fellow down the road who does his Contemporary Rock Band service... yeah, he would say that he's just doing something better too, and he doesn't care about what his sister congregations are doing either, because he knows best.  So yeah - that's your argumentation style.

This rancor is what happens when we all do what is best in our own eyes and start changing practice on our own.

(But it's in the Agenda!  Yeah... and CPH also publishes "Creative Worship" -- sometimes you respond to the cat that has been let out of the bag)

3.  The East and Romanticism - And are you ready for something else.  I won't condemn the East necessarily for communing infants.  As we confess in the Catechism, one is truly and well prepared who has faith in these words, "given and shed for you."  And I fully confess that infants have faith.  There is nothing magical about comprehension that makes the Lord's Supper understandable... in fact, I would say that as you get older and more logical and rational, the more apt you are to try to dissect the Sacrament out of being a mystery and into some cockamamie philosophic theory that you think you understand.

But this is my hesitation.  We have a warning against improper communion.  That if you mess with the Supper, it is BAD.

So, we wait for confession.  Not "understanding" - because we never understand the Supper - it's never a mere object of our study.  Not "knowing", as though it's a reward for passing a test.  But rather - do you confess.

Come to think of that - isn't that the thrust of Closed Communion.  We commune those who share our Confession publicly?  Isn't that why the gal who believes it's the true Body and Blood but goes to Jim's Community Church of Fun when she's not at home visiting mom and dad is denied -- because she no longer Confesses with us?  When there is public Confession, then the communion is safe.

To Conclude - It's okay to wait for kids to be able to Confess with us.  And you know what - it's even okay to wait a little bit longer for the sake of the neighbor.  Christians do refrain and curtail things that they are free to do for the sake of the neighbor... and that is actually a good, mature lesson many folks who have been not only confirmed but ordained ought to remember.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Trinity 17 Sermon

Trinity 17 – September 22nd, 2013 – Luke 14:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Of all the healings that our Lord does, this one seems the most disturbing when you think about it.  It’s the most… bothersome.  There is just something about this healing that doesn’t sit right, that doesn’t rest well.  With the other healings we see in Scripture, there’s rejoicing and merriment.  There’s love and devotion – a Centurion pleading for his servant, a mother for her child, friends carrying a paralyzed man.  And there’s even the rejoicing of the healed, the shouts of praise to God that go up even when He asks them to be quiet.  But not with this healing.  No, this one is different, sits differently, feels off.  Listen again.

          One Sabbath, when He went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him closely.  I hope you can hear the tension in that verse.  So there Jesus is, and He has been invited over to some important fellow’s house for the Sabbath meal – a meal that was to be a time of rest, of relaxation, of pondering God’s Word and God’s love for us.  It should be Jesus in His element – He loves eating with people and teaching and preaching to them, proclaiming the love of God to them.  He’ll even make the food if there’s no food there – that’s how much Jesus loves these teaching dinners.  But that’s not what we see today.  No, instead of people like Zaccheus or Mary hanging on His Words and paying attention to Him, we have the Pharisees watching Him closely.  Observing Him.  Looking to judge and critique and find something to complain about.  Instead of eating with sinners who wish to see their Savior, Jesus is eating with the smug and self-righteous who want to find fault with Him.  It would have to be slightly awkward to say the least.

          And it gets more so.  “And behold, there was a man before Him who had dropsy.”  And suddenly, there’s a sick man there, someone with a horrible, swelling disease.  That “and behold” is Luke’s way of laying this on thick.  There is no reason for this man to be there – he doesn’t belong.  The Pharisees would never dine with his ilk – it’s like walking into the Country Club and seeing a dirty, smelly bum.  He doesn’t belong… but then, there he is.  And note, Jesus doesn’t address the man first, instead we hear, “And Jesus responded to the Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’”  I know what you Pharisees are doing – you are just using this poor man and his misery to set a trap for Me.  You’ll complain no matter what.  If I heal, I break Sabbath, if I do nothing, what a pathetic, loser of a healer am I.  Utter trap.  Think about how sick and twisted this is – people are setting a trap to complain about Jesus, using a sick and suffering man as the bait.  And Jesus calls the Pharisees on it – puts the ball into their court.  So, Pharisees, you think you should sit in judgment of Me, you think you should tell Me what to do – alright, do it.  Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not.  “But they remained silent.”  And they can’t say anything in response to Jesus.  Their hamfisted ploy has been exposed, and now they are in a no win situation.

          It’s interesting.  Whenever I read this text, I get really, really annoyed with the Pharisees, and I want Jesus to just lambaste them here – lay into them.  Read them the riot act and peel the paint off of them.  And this is the problem.  This is what we sinful men like to do.  Just as the Pharisees were watching Jesus closely to complain about him, the temptation for me is to watch the Pharisees closely to complain about them.  And then I can feel smug and secure – see, I’m better than these wicked Pharisees.  *I* would never do something like that – while I’m doing the exact same thing in my own head as I think about them.  And I doubt I am alone in this temptation.  Well, okay, maybe not everyone here gets agitated with folks in the Bible, but let me ask the question.  How many of you spent some time this week looking at your neighbor with a critical eye – not to help them, not to care for them, but to be ready to complain, to pounce, to tear down, to destroy?  The temptation for us is to fall into the rat race, to go all dog eat dog.  Maybe it’s a co-worker who makes life harder for us, a neighbor who annoys us, that family member who’s a bit of a black sheep and an embarrassment.  Whomever – there is that temptation to watch through a sneer and look down upon them and just wait with baited breath for them to get their comeuppance.

          And so back to the text, Jesus turns around and just levels the Pharisees, right?  Goes on a long spiel about how terrible they are!  No.  “Then He took him and healed him and sent him away.”  The very first thing Jesus does is tend to that poor man with dropsy.  You are hurt, you are in pain, you don’t even want to be here.  Be healed.  Go home.  See you family and rejoice – and get out of this awkward place.  Jesus’ first thought is compassion.  But then, surely, He’ll turn and lay into the Pharisees and read them the riot act now!  No.  “And He said to them, ‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day will not immediately pull him out?’”  How gentle.  There’s no recrimination.  Jesus doesn’t even mention their plotting and planning, their cruelty.  He ignores that – and then rather explains His actions.  Even you, Pharisees, know that in an emergency, you act on the Sabbath.  You rescue, you care for people.  Now, if you will do that, how can God not care for His people, for those who are hurting?  Yes, I will rescue people.  That is how God shows love.  It’s astonishing.  Even as they plot against Him, even as they conspire to do Him harm, Christ Jesus points to His love for them.  “And they could not reply to these things.”  And their judging stops.  It’s cut off in its tracks. 

          You realize this is the depiction of how Christ treats you?  Consider.  When you are deep in your sins, when you are feeling the aches and pains of guilt and remorse – Jesus heals you.  He forgives you.  Doesn’t make a big deal of it – first things first, you are forgiven, now go your way.  Just like the man with dropsy didn’t need to jump through hoops or anything that – you are forgiven.  Head back to your home, rejoice, delight in forgiveness.  Or even when there are those times where you are going stubbornly astray, when you are acting like the Pharisees, where you are doing that familiar, self-justifying sin that you do repeatedly, what does Christ do?  He doesn’t seek to lambaste you – no, He will once again point you to His own love and His own mercy.  He is gentle and lowly, and full of love.  And that is a great thing.

          Our text continues, and it does show us another thing about Jesus.  “Now He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they chose the places of honor…”  Here’s the set up.  Yes, Jesus is going to comment on what the Pharisees are doing, but did you hear the difference?  The Pharisees, they were watching Him closely, looking for flaws and faults whereby to criticize him.  Jesus, He just notices something.  He’s there, but something just stands out, and then he’ll bring it to their attention.  Do you get the difference in feel there, in approach, how much more gentle Christ is?  And so Jesus speaks.  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’  Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.”  So what – does Jesus suddenly turn into Miss Manners or Dear Abby?  Is this just practical advice or party tips time?  No, Jesus is making a point, and in fact, it’s a point all these people should have known.  Do not seek your own glory, don’t elevate yourselves, avoid the temptation of pride.  In fact, Jesus isn’t doing anything new when He says this – He had first had it spoken long ago in His Word through Solomon in Proverbs.  No, Christ sees their actions, and he warns against pride… because pride does bad things to you.  It makes you focused on elevating yourself, stepping over and upon your neighbors, rather than being a servant who shows love and care.  It makes you forget the lessons and truths that you learned from the Scriptures.

          And Jesus ties this up with a nice little bow – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exulted.”  So what, is Jesus just going to end with a moral platitude?  A nice little folk saying while wagging the finger?  No, not our Lord full of compassion.  He teaches with patience and gentleness.  Here is the point of what Christ is saying.  Everyone, all sinful folks exalt themselves, strive to elevate themselves.  We’ll even hear this verse and say, “Oh, well, maybe if I just act lowly, I’ll get exulted”.  No, we sinners who have exulted ourselves will be laid low.  The wages of sin is death.  Simple as that.  But note, everyone who exalts… but there is one who humbles himself – and He who humbles Himself will be exulted.  And that is what Christ Jesus did.  There is Jesus – He is God, He is holy, He is righteous, He is above and beyond us.  Yet what does He do?  He humbles Himself to be born of a Virgin.  He humbles Himself to hunger and thirst and to be beaten and mocked and scorned.  He humbles Himself upon the Cross and dies.  He takes up our humiliation, the humbling that we deserve for our false exultation.  And then He is raised, and now He is exulted over all things.   Jesus is pointing us to Himself here again, He is proclaiming that He is the suffering servant who will save His people.  But not just that.  He is also the Master of the great feast, the master of the eternal wedding feast of the life of the world to come… and as He has been exulted, so too He looks to you, and He invites you to life everlasting, and He does not expect you to exalt yourself.  He doesn’t expect you to earn a place of honor – in fact, He warns you against all those vainglorious attempts.  Instead, He sees you in laid low by sin and temptation and death, and He reaches out His hand of love and forgiveness to you, and He says friend, move up higher, come, be with Me for all eternity.

          Today’s text, dear friends, does sit odd.  It’s not your typical healing – and it’s not meant to be.  Today Christ reminds us of His gentle and kind love that He has for you… love that is not based on how great or wonderful you are, love that is not stopped even by your pride and disdain.  No, Christ has humbled Himself, He has suffered and died and risen again, all so that you might be with Him in His exultation  for all eternity.  This is His great and gentle love for you.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why I Love Popular Music

I love Pop Music.  I have in fact put another dime in the jukebox.  I tend towards Rock in tastes, but some metal, some country (come on, who doesn't like David Allen Coe), some Metal, even some R&B and Old School Rap... even 90s Rap... love it.

Because so much of it is honest about pain and brokeness.

Oh, sure, sure - there are fads and streaks in popular music that glorify the wild craziness of the world - especially in "pop".  But some good Punk - all about social decay.  Grunge - Grunge is nothing but a giant shout that the LA Strip "Metal" of the 80s is a big giant lie.  And well... I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison.  How about that for some realistic pain and bitterness.

Which is why I'm always amused when I hear people rail again rock music and such - it's painting with such a broad brush -- it's like saying all food is lousy, or that every film glorifies violence.  Too broad a brush and mental laziness....

... and something else.  See, I used to chalk up these broad complaints to oversimplification, or just disliking an aspect of music.  But no, I'm beginning to think more and more than some of it isn't just a reaction against the glorification of lousy things, but I think the brokenness offends too.

I remember in Sem reading a book on ethics (of all things) that mentioned the song "Lost in the Supermarket" by the Clash, and it lambasted the song as an example of glorification of culture.  Um - no, it complains about how vapid and unsatisfying consumer culture is.  And it's always struck me as odd - in fact, I think I've written about it before.

But here is the nuance today.

Too many Christians can't stand the idea of things being broken and messy and wrong.

But that's part and parcel of the Christian faith.

See, as Christians, we confess.  We speak with God what His Word says about us -- that we are poor, miserable sinners, that we are living in a fallen, broken world, that we are hounded by temptation and disappointment and sorrow and that the world will always fail us in the end -- but Christ does not, and in Him we have forgiveness and life and salvation.

Good Rock Music proclaims the Law.

Too many Christians don't think the Law applies to them anymore -- or that it needs to be some sort of happy, advisory, watered down law that gives self improvement, that helps you have your best life now.

Nope.  The Law is this.  The wages of sin is death.  You are in a body of death.  You are in a sinful world.  And things will suck.  There will be pain and suffering in your life, and much of it you will cause.

Which is why every Sunday we cry out "Lord, Have Mercy!"  And every Sunday Christ gives us His mercy in Church.

Oh, and here's Johnny Cash (our brother in Christ) doing a cover of a song by Trent Reznor (who knows the futility of wayward living as well as the prodigal son)... behold the sinner driven to Christ when seeing his own brokenness.  The big sinner knows he needs a bigger Savior.

Of course, there's something else Johnny knew...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Trinity 16 sermon

Trinity 16 – September 15, 2013 – Luke 7:11-17

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Satan has many tricks up his sleeve when it comes to messing with us.  We’ve seen several of these the last few weeks.  There’s the story of the Good Samaritan, and we have the threats of violence, we have the self-righteous disdain that can build up in us.  We have the ten lepers, with the threats of disease and suffering, with the threat of being so busy that we forget God.  And last week, Christ warning us about the love of money and the dangers of anxiety.  Once more today, we will see Satan play a trick, his Ace in the hole, as it were.  Death.

          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 – it touches upon a topic none of us like to think about.  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 of love like it’s an investment, like it’s a loan, where we only give it out if we know we are going to get it back and with interest.  What’s in it for me?   But that’s not what Christ’s love is – His love 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, sinners stuck in the midst of death, 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, if you did that you couldn’t go to the temple or worship until you spent days purifying yourself – but 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?  Did we miss the boat on getting something like this because Jesus was running around 2000 years ago but today we are out of luck?  Of course not.  What we need to remember when we hear Gospel lessons like this is that they are merely Christ’s temporary, placeholder 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 the Virgin’s son, our Lord Christ Jesus Himself, is raised on the third day 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, no strings, no fine print.  You are His, He loves you, and He will have you be with Him for all eternity.

          Now, until we reach the last day, know what Satan will be up to.  Satan will continue to try to make you worry, to make you fearful, even to bring you pain and suffering.  In the midst of all this sort of junk, 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 life everlasting – and all out of His true and perfect love for you.  Nothing Satan can throw at you, nothing this world can throw at you, not even death itself 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+

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Seductive Danger of False but "good" Law

One of the common ways in the Scripture to describe chaos and wickedness is "and everyone did what was right in their own eyes."  When you heard that being the description, you knew society was in trouble.

Sort of like today.

So then, what is the solution?  How do we get out of the pits that we find ourselves in?  Well, in Scripture (especially Judges), the pattern we see is things get worse and worse, but then God remembers the remnant who cry out for mercy, and He saves them.

That's a good pattern.

The problem is the too often *we* don't want to wait on God.  We would rather fix it ourselves in our own way.  We think that we know best... and we think the solution is Law.  New rules. 

No, we will trade "and everyone did what was right in their own eyes" and turn it into a massive struggle where we say, "Now, everyone will do what is right in MY eyes.  Here is how YOU WILL LIVE."


Do you see the fall in that?  Do you hear the subtle whispers of Satan saying, "You know how to fix things, how to make people behave, what to tell them.  Why, you can be like God."

Gone are thoughts focused on Scripture, gone is the idea that the Law is given primarily to show us our sin.  Gone is theology - gone is listening to Scripture.  Rather, the Scriptures then become a pretext, a springboard from which we add our own "Therefore *I* tell you, here is what you need to do."

Jesus can tell us "therefore I say unto you"... He's God.  That's His thing.

So, what are you doing when you go beyond God's Law and try to mandate what He has not mandated?  When you go beyond saying, "Scripture says that this is good, that this is bad" and on to "and here is what you must do to avoid the bad"?

You speak like Satan.  You bring forth false law.  You act the liar and the murderer.  You forget Christ and Him Crucifed.  You don't even turn Him into a New Moses... you turn Him into a New Aaron where He merely holds up your arms as you make your new and better demands.

The Law Kills.  Always.  Only Christ Rescues.  Only the Spirit Gives Life.

God grant us preachers who are actually interested in the Gospel!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trinity 15 Sermon

Trinity 15 – Matthew 6:24-34 – September 8th, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Last week, with the healing of the ten lepers, we were reminded of how Satan can use even blessings to try to twist us away from God.  The 9, overwhelmed with joy at what had been given to them, forget to return and praise God.  But this week, we are shifting to the other side of the spectrum – not of the dangers of forgetting God in the midst of blessing, but rather of forgetting God when we think we are not blessed enough.  Today our Lord will deal with two other tools in Satan’s arsenal – Greed and Anxiety.  So, let us listen to our Lord.

          “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.”  Here Jesus is just simply stating fact.  Serving God does not mesh well with greed.  It simply doesn’t, because our service to God is not abstract, it’s not just a mental thing where we think about God for an hour on Sunday and then go about our own business the rest of the week ignoring Him.  No, if you are to serve God, if you are to demonstrate your love for God dear Christian, you do this by loving your neighbor.  And you know what that means?  It means you give of yourself.  Come stewardship Sundays we will talk of giving the Church your time, talent, and treasure.  Do you not realize that this is what you also give your neighbor when you show them love?  Think on this past week, and how often were you required to give of your time to another?  Or to help and aid them using some skill you have, the wisdom and knowledge you have acquired?  Or even just had to fork over some cash for something?  As a Christian, we see these all as serving God by serving the neighbor, we know that we are doing good, or perhaps rather that God is doing good through us in these things.

          But here is the danger.  Greed and selfishness often hound us, don’t they?  We can want to horde our time, we can want to use our talents to serve primarily ourselves, and as for money, I won’t say that we can be moneygrubbers, but our fingers can clench those pennies pretty tightly, can’t they?  All these hinder our ability to love, all these would prevent us from showing care, and we need to be aware of them.

          Of course, there is one problem.  “Greedy” is a dirty word.  Same with selfishness.  We know these are bad, and we’ve trained ourselves to simply assume that we aren’t.  Ah, but Pastor… surely, I’m not greedy.  Pastor, I’m not selfish, I’m a good little Christian!  So Jesus shifts gears here – “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”  Do you see how Jesus shifts gears here?  He had been talking about loving money, serving stuff, selfishness and greed.  Things we know are bad, things we pretend we don’t have… but then on to anxiety.  Why?  Because anxiety and worry is how greed and selfishness get their foot in the door.  Because it is when you are anxious, when you are worried about stuff, about things, about what you will get, that suddenly the blessings you have received from God no longer are about serving your neighbor, but rather they become something you must horde and keep to yourself in order to fend off anxiety and worry.

          The simple fact is, you don’t need to worry.  You don’t need to be anxious.  “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”  With these words Jesus teaches us of the first truth taught in the Bible – that God is the Creator, and more than that, He is our Creator.  Indeed, He is the One who cares for us – caring for us in His job.  He cares for all of His creation – indeed, even though we now live in a sinful, fallen world, He still cares for it.  Even the little birds get cared for – if that is true, then of course we know that God will care for you.  When you are anxious, do not look at your stuff, but remember God and His goodness.

          Because, well, your worry won’t help.  “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  This touches to something that hits close to home.  We aren’t in control of our lives, how long we live.  That is the purview of God – we will live as long as He gives us breath, and we will rise again on the last day when He calls us forth.  That’s on Him, not on us.  But we like to think we are in control, and so we will fret and be anxious and stress ourselves out, which ironically probably doesn’t do anything good for us in terms of how long we live.  But again, our old sinful flesh wants to think it is in control, wants to think everything hinges upon what it does, rather than seeing and knowing that God is in control, and indeed, that this is good for you.

          “And consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith.”  Again, there is another image here.  God cares for the fields, which come and go – how much more will He care for you, whom He created for eternal life?  But we tend to forget this, we begin to fear the world more than we fear God, and we are pushed away from trusting Him.  Christ calls us away from this?  And how?  “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”  When you run after the things of the world, you are thinking like the rest of the world, like the unbelievers.  No, you have no need to worry about these things, for you are in the care of the heavenly Father.  You belong to Him.

          I’m going to back track a bit, because this puts perspective on things.  “You cannot serve God and money.  Therefore I tell you…”  Christ is speaking to you, and He is telling you how things are going to be.  Do you see what this means?  This means that *He* is your master, not money.  Christ Jesus has purchased and won you from all sins with His suffering and death upon the Cross, He claimed you as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism, He tells you that God is your Father now.  You belong to God.  And God is in charge.  All the rantings and ravings of the Devil, all the trials and hardships in the world, all the fears that your sinful flesh whip up cannot change the fact that Christ Jesus has died for you and has risen for you.  No worry, no concern changes the fact that you are baptized.  No sin, no failing ever changes the fact that God is your Heavenly Father who will give you this day your daily bread.  This is the truth.  The world stands over to the side jumping up and down – look here, look at fear, look at worry, look at greed, look at selfishness… but over and against this Christ Jesus calls out to you Himself and says to you, “I am your Savior, and I am here for you.”

          And this is why He says to you, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  Now, don’t mishear or misunderstand that “and”.  This is not a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” sort of deal.  This is not Jesus saying, “If you pay more attention to me, I’ll give you more stuff.”  That would sort of contradict that whole “you cannot serve God and mammon” and that whole “do not be anxious” speech that He’s just given.  The point this – the things you need for life, they will be given to you.  God will provide.  Period.  Simple as that.  But what you need, where your focus should be – your focus shouldn’t be upon the stuff of this life, but rather upon the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.

In other words, don’t worry about stuff, but be where Christ is.  Think about this – what is a Kingdom?  It’s not a chunk of land, it’s not lines on a map.  A Kingdom is wherever the King rules.  So, what does Christ say to you – be focused on seeing Me, Christ Jesus, your King, and seeing and knowing the fact that truth that I rule for you.  Be those who pray “Thy Kingdom Come”, remembering that Christ’s King has the victory over sin and death and the devil.  Be those who come to hear their King speak His Word of Life to them here, in His Church.  Remember that He has given you your daily bread as you pray and ask Him to “Come, Lord Jesus.”  Remember who Christ is, and who you are.  He is God, He is King.  You, you are a sinner, and your every thought and word and deed are corrupted by sin – but Jesus hasn’t told you to “prove your worth” Him.  Instead, He has said, seek the righteousness of God.  That is seek Christ Jesus Himself, search and look for Christ, who in His word of forgiveness and life gives you all of His own righteousness and all that He is.  Once again, Christ is calling us to His House, where He Himself is present for us, giving us things that last well beyond our time in this fallen world.  This is where He forgives us our sin and ensures that we will rise to life everlasting because of Him.  This is the truth and reality that all the sin and suffering and misery you see cannot overcome. This is His Kingdom for you, this is His righteousness for you, and it is true no matter what you see all your days.

          No, dear friends, no servant can serve two masters, and so, Christ Jesus came down from heaven and became man, and with His death and resurrection He won you from sin, death, and the devil, and claimed you as His own.  Jesus is Lord.  That is true.  And now our Lord Jesus Christ reminds you that you are His, that the Father will care for you now, and that because of Christ you will rise to life everlasting.  This is true, all thanks be to God who gives us all good things in Christ.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Trinity 14

Trinity 14 – September 1st, 2013 – Luke 17:11-19

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          So there you are.  You are a leper.  You have a horrible skin disease that is painful and disgusting – and if that weren’t bad enough, because of your disease you have been banished from town.  Kicked out.  And so, just in order to survive, you band together with others who share your affliction.  A nice little leper colony of ten, living on the outskirts of this border town, people from all walks of life, but with one thing in common.  Leprosy.  Pain.  Embarrassment.  Separation.  Pointlessness.  You are left to stand at a distance and beg from the people passing by.  Sometimes they will pause, and they will leave a few scraps of food, and after they have left, you will go and scrounge their leftovers.  One of the other lepers is from a wealthy family – sometimes they will leave a good amount of supplies – but it’s bittersweet for him.  Even as on those days you have a full belly, he only gets to see his wife from a distance, only shout a hello… never gets to touch, to hold her.  And you are all out there together, alone and isolated.

          And then one day, Jesus of Nazareth walks by.  Even you have heard of Him.  The miracle worker.  The healer.  And so, you all stand and at a distance you start shouting, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us – Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  And then, He begins to speak.  He calls out to you, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And as He says this, you look down at yourself, and you still see the hideous boils and scars and abrasions.  You are still a leper, you are still outcast and unclean.  But He has told you to go, to stride right on into town where you hadn’t been for so long and show yourself to the priest, to say, “Look, see priest, I am clean, allow me back into this community, allow me back to see my family.”  And so, you go.  You start to walk back into town, still dirty, still filthy, still unclean.  You are still sick, but at His Word you go.  And then, something utterly astounding.  As you walk, your skin is healed.  The boils disappear, the scaly junk falls off, and underneath is pure, clean skin.  You are clean!  And so you and the other lepers run, run to find the priest.  And you show yourself to him and say, “See, we are clean!  Jesus has healed us, we are clean!”  And he is dumbfounded, and the priest examines you, and he announces that you are clean, and with joy and excitement you run to see your family, you leave behind your band of formerly leprous brothers and run home and run into your family’s arms and weep and rejoice… and you never really notice that only nine of you made it to the priest’s house.  It isn’t until later, after the joy and the celebration that you even remember that you didn’t see that Samaritan fellow with you.  But oh well, what of that?  He’s just a Samaritan.  You have been blessed by God.  Jesus has healed you, and you are home.

          Of course, we here who have heard the Gospel lesson know where the Samaritan is.  When the 10 are healed, 9 continue on into town to show themselves to the priest.  They are healed, they are clean, they are rejoicing.  But there is one, the Samaritan – again, the one who would have been most looked down upon and despised by good Jewish people, he doesn’t run into town right away.  No.  He stops.  “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.”  And of course we know Jesus’ famous response.  “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  And this is almost where we end the story in our heads.  We cut it off here – and then we go into the giant finger wagging sermon of how you need to be thankful!  Of course we do – this is the text we hear on thanksgiving!  So now Pastor Brown will lambaste us for our lack of thankfulness!  I would, but I just don’t think that’s the point of the text… because did you note what Jesus says?  Jesus does not say, “Was no one found to return and *give thanks*” – He says, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God.”  This text, dear friends, isn’t primarily or solely about being thankful… this is about praise and worship, this is a third commandment text – remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy – what does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preach or His Word but gladly hear and learn it.

          And this stands out if we read to the end of the text.  The Samaritan leper returns to Jesus, and he praises God, he gives thanks.  And then, Jesus speaks to Him – “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”  Now, dear friends, can you think of a place where we gather together, praising God, and then we hear God’s own Word of love and mercy, telling us that we have been made well, that we are forgiven, and then we are told to go on our way?  If I need to spell it out a little more – the Greek Word for “giving thanks” is Eucharist – which is the old fashioned title for the Lord’s Supper – think about how the Words of Institution begin – “and when He had given thanks”.

          We often do a disservice to the other nine lepers.  We assume that they were not thankful – that they were ingrates.  There’s no reason to think that.  I mean, they had received a good gift and blessing from God.  They had heard Christ and listened to Him – they even start walking to town before they are healed – this is the thing that I love about this text.  None of the lepers are healed when they start heading to town – how about that for trust in God’s Word.  Indeed, that is very much the situation we all are in spiritually – Christ says, “You are forgiven, and on the last day you will rise Holy and Perfect to new life, acceptable to the Father.”  Man, I don’t see that right now, I see my own sin and vileness, but at Christ’s Word I believe.  But here’s the twist.  The nine aren’t ungrateful so much as they were… too busy, too excited, too otherwise occupied for worship.

          The point of this text isn’t that Jesus is sitting up in heaven waiting for you to send Him a thank you card other wise He is going to cut off the blessings.  The point is this: as Christians part and parcel of our lives, in the midst of both sorrow and joy, in both good times or bad, better or worse, is to pause and come to the Divine Service, to hear Christ speak once again His love for us.  Because there is a great danger – that when things are going well, when things are good… we can slough off worship.  This is just what happens.  When things are lousy, we know to head to Church.  The 10 sick lepers know to cry out to God.  The best Church attendance Sunday of my lifetime was the Sunday after 9/11.  The best decade of Church attendance in US History was right after World War 2 – things like that put the proverbial fear of God into people.  But what of times of plenty.  When things aren’t so bad.  Not when you are sick or in the hospital, not when you are overcome with problems… but when things are going okay?  Even in those times, you still need God.  You still need to hear His Word of forgiveness and life.  You still need His Body and Blood to strengthen your faith and increase your love towards your neighbor.

          But what happens is this.  We can begin to think of Church like a spiritual minor emergency clinic – that it’s that place we only go when there is a problem.  Or maybe even we think of it like the grocery store – we make our run, get what we need, but if we are too busy, eh, there’s stuff in the freezer, there’s cans of soup in the pantry, I’m tired I can just go later.  There is the temptation to rest on our spiritual laurels and forsake hearing the Word of God.  But that’s not what this service is – it is meant to be the routine.  It is not shopping for food – it’s the daily meals where we are fed.  It’s not trip to the doctors – it’s the daily vitamins to keep us healthy.  God draws us to Church and focuses us upon His Word so that we are centered in Him whatever comes this week – whether it is bad or whether it is good.  Whether we live or die, we live or die to the Lord.  This is where we hear the Words of Wisdom from Proverbs – this is where those fruits of the Spirit are built up in us – and that’s something we need every week, whether things have been good or bad.

          Satan, the world, and even your flesh will use your life against you.  These foes will try to make you too busy, too bored, too happy, too full, too whatever – all in an attempt to distract you from joining together with your brothers and sisters in Christ in the praise of God, in the hearing of the Word, in the Great giving of thanks that we call the Lord’s Supper.  But Christ Jesus is faithful, and He is always present for you, ready to have His Word proclaimed to you, His Body and Blood given to you, for you are His own, you are His people, His brothers and Sisters, claimed as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism, and whenever you gather for worship and praise, He will once again bless you and keep you, He will see that His very Body and Blood be given graciously to you, and He will again look with favor upon you and give you His peace, saying, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +