Saturday, November 30, 2013

Clashing Political Views and "Your Use" of the Law

I think I have found a way to illustrate what tends to bug me about a lot of the focus on "law as advice" or "principals for religious living" that comes up around the pike.

Consider this article by Rachel Held Evans about Dave Ramsey.  In the article, Held Evans critiques Ramsey's assumptions and use of Scripture.  Indeed, she posits rather different ideas and even makes her own Scriptural citations.

We could almost call it Dueling Third Use.

Except, that's my point.  How much of what we preachers want to "exhort" or the advice that we are tempted to preach upon isn't simply the Word of God and letting the Word speak for itself?  We want to use the Word as a lever to move and manipulate people to act as we would have them act.

That's not the third use of the Law... the Holy Spirit does such that.  No, when you use the Law to manipulate someone else, that's "your use" of the Law.

I'm not overly interested in that.  It tends to annoy me, frankly.  And it misses the point.

So, when you sit down to write your sermon, and you are going to fix people... why?  How?  What are you going to make them do... and how?  With what promises?

Are you going to tell them that if they live right God will give them more stuff?  Are you going to tell them that if they want to do what God wants them to do they will vote Democrat - the party of compassion that will correct systematic abuses?  Are you going to reduce the Word of God into just another weapon in your arsenal designed to manipulate people to be... just like you?

No thank you... I'll just preach the Law, that simple, accusatory Law, and then preach Christ and Him Crucified.  The Spirit gives life through the Gospel... I'll let Him handle you living the life He grants.

Following the Law... sort of

Let me explain something theologically.  It is utterly ironic that I will get labelled antinomian, and here's why.

I found this quote on-line (not sure of where it originally was stated):

"Following God’s Law in your life will always make your life more blessed than if you had sinned. Keeping the 6th commandment will make you happier than breaking it. It really will. That doesn’t mean you’re marriage will always be happy – but it will certainly be happier than if you had broken the 6th commandment… Likewise, confessing Christ will always make you happier than denying Him. It also might get you killed. But you’ll still be truly happier dead in the flesh and awaiting the resurrection than alive in the flesh and dead to God, right?" HT: Heath Curtis

And here's the thing - it's true, but not complete.

Yes, life would be better if we followed God's Law. 

However, when I think of the 6th Commandment, I do not say, "Ah, yes, see how well I have followed it" (even though I was a virgin when I married and have never had relations with a woman not my wife!).  I think of Christ's teaching in Matthew 5.  I think of the ways in which, while to all accounts outwardly righteous - indeed, surpassing many - I know my own sin, and it is ever before me.

As an axiomatic statement, yes, doing what God commands is good for us.  The only problem is that... how am I to think that I actually follow these things?  Is my model for my approach to life to be the Rich Young Man - All these I have done from my youth?

While we are to strive to follow the commandments... the reality is, we don't.  And the problem I have is this: when we treat the commandments as things that we actually, fully, really do... we gut them.  The Law of God is a standard too high for man to obtain.

This is theological truth.

Or put it this way?  What good ever in the New Testament when a man says, "Oh yes, I've done this"?  The young man goes away sorrowful... even though Jesus loves him.  The Pharisee and the Tax collector - he goes away not justified.

So yes, there is admonition.  Yes, there are exhortations and encouragement towards good.  But those are still Law, those still speak to what I have not done.  If I were one who followed the Law, would I need any exhortation?  The healthy have no need of the Doctor!

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So, if it is the case that I see, know, and understand, whenever the Law is proclaimed, that I have fallen short... how is it that I am antinomian for seeing or pointing out this fact?

Do you see the irony?  I would contend that if you contend that you have followed the Law that you in fact do not see its depths, its fullness.  Now, I do not assert that Pastor Curtis thinks he follows the law - but rather, I think sometimes in our zeal to teach and instruct and encourage people (why do we not talk about encouraging folks... or comforting folks... often the word in the NT is parakalo - paraclete, comfortor) we can forget that even that good advice and wisdom will show them their sinfulness... and indeed, no matter how we exhort, or how nice they are outwardly... they are always poor, miserable sinners.

Thus is life for the sinful man.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Sermon

Thanksgiving Day – Luke 12:13-21 - November 28th, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’”  Well, here we are on Thanksgiving Day, and Pastor Brown has pulled a fast one on us.  The ten lepers are gone, and we hear this reading instead – the reading from Luke 12, the reading appointed for the celebration of the harvest.  Why?  Because this actually drives to the heart of the benefit to Christians of Thanksgiving, it points out what we are trying to avoid with a focus on thanks.  The purpose of thanksgiving is not so that we will get more blessings, not that we will get more stuff, but rather that we will enjoy the blessings we have.

          Consider the fellow in our crowd.  There he is, listening to Christ, and he feels the need to pipe up, to interject.  Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.  This has nothing to do with what Jesus had been talking about in Luke 12.  He had been warning against hypocrisy, He has said that you should not fear those who mess with the body, but rather fear God, for He will care for you.  And then, out of the blue, Jesus, make my brother pony up the cash.  Do you see it?  Here Jesus has been warning against self-righteousness and showiness, and rather pointing to God and His great care both now and for all eternity – and it goes completely over this guy’s head.  And why?  Because he is so focused on getting more, getting part of what his brother has.  He ignores what he has.

          And this is why Jesus is somewhat curt with the fellow.  “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  I’m here preaching life and salvation, and you want to turn me into Judge Judy?  Dude, what’s wrong with you?  Do you see what is going on?  I’m talking about life, eternal life – and you are all hot and bothered about just stuff.  Your life isn’t stuff, isn’t junk now.  Look, it’s an inheritance – that’s a reminder that your dad died, that he didn’t take it with him.  I am here preaching eternal life, and you’re ignoring it because of covetousness.  What’s wrong with you?

          Sometimes it’s good to learn and understand what something is by pondering its opposite.  The opposite of thankfulness isn’t being unthankful – if you are unthankful you’re not anything, you’re just not doing anything.  No, the true opposite of thankfulness is coveting.  Consider, when one is thankful, one sees what one has, one enjoys it, one delights in it, and one expresses that joy and delight.  Check this out, it’s awesome.  And now, consider covetousness.  No longer do you see what you have, what you can and ought to be delighting in.  No, rather… see what that person has.  Look at what my brother has.  Look at what is in my neighbor’s drive way, see what the other guy in the office gets… and that envy, that covetousness comes in and it creeps through everything and permeates the way you look at life and blessings and everything, and it sours everything.  And you no longer see the blessings you have right in front of you, and all sense of thankfulness evaporates and is replaced with jealousy and disappointment and anger and indignation.  The man in the crowd, he can’t see his blessings, he can’t even hear of everlasting life – no, no, show me the money.

          And this is especially apt for us in America, where the “American Dream” is to have a better house, a better car, to have a better phone, to keep up with what your neighbors have.  This is especially apt for us in America, the richest country in the world where we have so many wonderful luxuries, but also the commercials and ads telling us that we need to have more and more if we want life to be happy, where we need to make our plans to go shopping early tomorrow morning… or maybe tonight, otherwise we’ll miss out on joy and happiness this Christmas because junior won’t have that toy that he just has to have, because the missus won’t have that thing she just needs, because I won’t get my tablet or TV.  We live in a culture that thrives and runs on covetousness and envy – it is what literally drives our economy.  And so we ought this day pay attention to the parable Jesus now speaks.

          And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no where to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down by barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’”  And there was a rich man in a rich land… there was an American in America who hit the American Dream.  Growth.  Progress.  Prosperity.  We’ve got to expand the business, we’ve got to open up another location – the money is rolling in hand over foot, and see how wonderful life will be once I just get this last bit of expansion done.  Then I can rest and enjoy what I have.

          But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and all the things you prepared, whose will they be?  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”  Oops.  Not going to make it to retirement.  And do you see the tragedy of this, why it’s a great reminder for Thanksgiving day?  The man was already rich… this isn’t Jed Clampett with nothing suddenly finding the black gold and moving to Beverly Hills – the man was rich already… but it wasn’t enough, he wasn’t satisfied, and he never enjoyed, he never delighted in it.  He never was thankful… and so he misses out on it.

          As Christians, we know that God doesn’t need our thanks – we aren’t pagans where we think that if we aren’t thankful God’s going to cut us off the gravy train.  God isn’t some petty relative who cuts you out of the will if you don’t jump through hoops and butter him up.  But rather this – we, you and I, need to be thankful for our own benefit.  Thankfulness is a good thing, a blessing for us, because when God makes us to pause, to see just how richly we are blessed, when we see what He has provided for us, not only are we able to enjoy what we have now, but we are prepared for the greater and more wondrous blessings we will have for all eternity in Christ.

          Consider this.  We’re going to have a feast today.  Oh, I suppose Martha Stewart might be putting on one that is more spiffy, or that Donald Trump’s might be more sophisticated and fancy – but here, or at your homes, a good meal.  Something to delight in, to rejoice in – and it would be a shame to show up to that meal thinking, “Well, it’s not as nice as what they’re eating in the White House today.”  No, God calls us away from that covetousness, away from that sinfulness, calls us to see what He has provided not for the guy on the other side of the fence, but for us, and says, “See, this is here for you to rejoice and delight it.”

          But it doesn’t end there.  There is a greater feast to come.  Christ Jesus knows your struggles with sin, He knows the temptations you fight, He knows the way the world tries to twist you and fill you with discontent.  And so, He has planned for your rescue and release from the world.  He says to you, enjoy your feast now, enjoy all your blessings now – but there’s something better to come.  I have gone to the Cross, I have suffered and died for you, I have risen, and do you know what that means?  Oh, you feast now – but that ain’t nothing compared to the feast of all eternity that You and I are going to have.  Yes, you have blessings now, even in this fallen world where moth and rust destroy, where death comes and leaves you squabbling over the inheritance. Nope, I have died, and I have left you as your inheritance the New Heavens and the New Earth, where Eden is restored, where the wine never runs out, where there is no more destruction, where it is all very good once again.  Enjoy your life here, enjoy the appetizers – for the full feast is coming soon, and because of Me you are forgiven and ready for it.

          This is what Christ has proclaimed to you.  This is what He has given you, this is how He makes you to see both your life now and the eternal life which is yours in Him.  God grant that He ever more make and keep us thankful, so that we always see and remember His great gifts to us!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seek, and Ye Will Find

So, what do you look for when you read the Scriptures?  What are you expecting to find?

That will shape what you see.  Let me give an example.  A friend noted the following portion of the epistle for Thanksgiving (Phil 4:8-9):

 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

In this passage he saw exortation to works and virtue.  And, well, that is something he prizes and values.

That's not what I see.  Let's give a touch more context.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What do I see in verses 8 and 9?


Consider the context - there is rejoicing, there is prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.  Those are worship words.  There is the votum that we say after the sermon to this day.  This is all about worship, where Christ Jesus comes to us via Word and Sacrament and brings us joy and peace and forgiveness.

But let's consider just 8 and 9, thinking not on works, but on Christ.

Whatever is true... I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Whatever is honorable...It is the Father than honors Me.
Whatever is just... so that He would be Just and justifyer...

Do you see?  When you think of the Pure, the Lovely, the Commendable, do you not think of Christ?  If there is excellence, or worthy of praise (worthy is the Lamb!) - think on these things!

And of course there is the next verse.

What you have learned.  Emathete.  Disciple.  Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing....  That's Baptism.

What you have received.  I passed on to you what I received as of first importance, that on the night when He was betrayed...

What you have heard.  Faith comes by... hearing.

What you have seen.  He is the image of the invisible Father.

Practice these things - Baptism, the Supper, Preaching Christ... and the God of peace will be with you... Immanuel.

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So, what do you wish to see?

If you want to see in Philippians 4 a finger wagging admonishment to virtue, you can make that argument... if you want to say that if you practice virtue that this is the key to peace with God, that your works summon forth Christ.

If you want to see Christ, well, you see Christ and His righteousness, the very Prince of Peace, peace that surpasses all human understanding... and He comes to you in His preaching, in His Baptism, in His Supper.

I'm guessing which way Paul, who was determined to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified, would lean. 
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

Would that we actually believed this!

The Dangers of Intellectual Backwash

Intellectual backwash is a very dangerous thing for a theologian, indeed, for the Christian.  We know the direction things are supposed to run - our theology is supposed to shape everything, including how we view life and the world and things of the kingdom of the left.

I can give a simple example of theological backwash - women's ordination in the US.  Let's admit it - there's nothing in the Scriptures that calls or demands for it.  It's introduction wasn't a matter of obvious and necessary reform where the Church had gone astray and needed correction (such as in the Reformation when Rome denied the chalice to the laity).  It was intellectual backwash.  The tenor of the day was equality and liberation, and that sort of thinking sort of backwashed into theology, and then the theology started changing to accommodate the culture.

I don't imagine that there would be too many regular readers of this blog who would quibble with that depiction of history.  That's a matter of bringing social baggage.  It's funny, it really is such an American and European issue - you don't have folks agitating for it in the rest of the world because there isn't that societal pressure.

Now for the transition.

I love politics.  I do.  I enjoy watching the political game and the like.  I find it fascinating.

The problem is I'm seeing a lot of theological backwash... and that isn't good.

Let's do a simple little experiment.  Go back and just look at what you were writing, what you were saying, what you were arguing was important, oh, 8 years ago.

You know, back when there was Abortion, and some Gay marriage, and all the ills that are harped upon now.  But did they dominate your thinking, your teaching?  Did you point to virtue and ethics nearly as much... or were you content to be theological - that is, were you content to point to Christ and Him Crucified?  Was the solution to the world not better people but "Thy Kingdom Come"?

We have a lot of theological backwash today in the LCMS.  President Obama's election freaked a lot of people out, there was terror - and it crept into how we approached theology.  We started talking like the religious right instead of what we are.


The Kingdom of the Right and the Kingdom of the Left. 

Law and Gospel.

Obedient Rebels.

Determined to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified.

So, O Lutheran, what happened to you?:  What do you see when you look out on the world?  People to be fixed (or at least contained), or sinners needing first and foremost Christ and redemption?  A world to be saved, or a Christ who died for the world and will come again to bring us new Heavens and a new Earth?

Are you suffering from theological backwash?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rewards and Works.

If someone wants to tell me how God rewards good works... okay, I can buy that.  Far be it from me to tell God He can or cannot reward good.

However, if you are the one pointing this out, don't then tell me about your good works... for instead, I will know them only to be covetous works instead.

We are but unworthy servants.  We do not even do our duty, and fail in that - but thanks be to God for Christ Jesus and His greatness and goodness.

Delight in the rewards your own good works get you.  I will instead delight in the great rewards Christ's work has won Him, for He gives me this to me freely and joyously.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Radio, Radio

Last Week I was on the Radio.  I did the bible study and sermonette on KFUO's morning program.  You may find that all here:

Of course, I am also on a podcast and sermon broadcast every week at

Woot for modern electronics!

A What Kind of Imperative?

There is a theological (I want to write pseudo-theological) phrase that just really annoys me.  And that phrase is "Gospel Imperative".


If you don't know what the logic or reasoning of a "Gospel Imperative" is, well, it's the idea that as Christians we are instructed by God to do things, things that flow out of who we are.


We have a term for instructions from God.  Several, actually.  Law.  Commands.  Instructions itself works. We hear calls for obedience. 

But those can all sound... mean.  We don't want to be "Law preachers"... so I know, we'll throw the term Gospel in front of all our instructions and guilt trips and think that makes things so much better.  It's nothing but tomfoolery, it's nothing but the Law in shepherd's clothing.  It terrible.

The phrase is not "Gospel Imperative".  The phrase is Moral Imperative.  One has a moral imperative to act.

If you think you can substitute "Gospel" for "Moral"... that's a problem.  A bad, theological problem.

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Now note - I've got nothing against imperatives.  Thus sayeth the Lord - that's fine.  But let the Law be the Law... let it be the Law in its full sternness.  Let it be the Law that holds up a standard that sinful man ain't going to get, ain't going to obtain.

Of course, that's the problem, really, isn't it?  You, O preacher of lawlessness, want a Law you can obtain.  So you'll give yourself a little synergistic Gospel push -- here, now it's a Gospel Imperative, here, Jesus "says you can".

It's a lie.

The Law Always accuses, no matter how hard you try to pretend it doesn't. 

You haven't made the Law any better... you've just made the Gospel worse... you've just destroyed it.  You have turned it from the action of Christ Jesus for you and turned it into Jesus at you... Jesus yelling at you, Jesus shaking a finger at you, Jesus firing threats at you.

At least Moses was giving Law -- you have turned Jesus not into a new and better Moses, but a crappier and dishonest one.

Preach Law - full, hard, demanding Law.  Preach Gospel - sweet, rich, forgiving Gospel.

Don't blend the two.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Last Sunday Sermon

Last Sunday of the Church Year – November 24th, 2013 – Matt. 25:1-13

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          Today’s parable is the old familiar ending to the Church Year – the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  With the end of the Church year comes a reminder that Christ’s coming could happen at any time, that we ought to be ready for it, and indeed, this parable teaches us how to be ready for it.  So, let us hear this parable and listen to it once again.

          “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Now, let’s consider this set up.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us at first – why are there are bunch of virgins, a bunch of young unmarried gals waiting for the groom?  Generally today brides don’t like their husband to be cavorting with a bunch of 18 year olds on the way to the wedding.  But perhaps the best way to think of these would be that they are like our modern bridesmaids.  It’s a big wedding, there’s 10 gals, and their jobs are to make everything look pretty.  However, there is a problem.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.”   The main job of the virgins back in the day would be to be part of the procession, and they would carry lamps, candles, and the light would make everything look just so and perfect – plus they wouldn’t look too shabby for any of the groom’s single friends.  But there’s a problem.  A lamp without any oil isn’t very useful.  It doesn’t work, it doesn’t do its job – and a gal without any oil for her lamp would have been rather useless.  What might the modern equivalent?  Bridesmaids showing up to the wedding without their shoes – you know, you’ve seen the bridesmaids where they all have their shoes died fuchsia or periwinkle or whatever strange color the bride had picked out?   It’s nice that you are there – but if you don’t have your shoes, bridezilla over there is going to be sort of upset, and you’ll look really, really tacky up front instead of just so and picture perfect.

          And then something unexpected happens, or maybe it’s better to say something expected doesn’t happen.  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ The groom is late.  Things are getting drawn out, and all the gals, wise and foolish alike fall asleep.  The wedding is supposed to start at 6, and by 10:30, and they are all out cold.  Now, there are few things one can bring out from this – one being that they are all asleep, that no one stays up and is prepared when groom shows up midnight.  The point of this parable isn’t that the wise are bright-eyed and bushy tailed and perfect little gals – almost like the wedding equivalent of those royal guards in England who never move.  No, these verses are designed to take away any sense of pride or smugness the wise might have.  But there is another aspect – it does highlight how foolish the foolish ones are.  Let’s jump back to our modern bridesmaids – and let us say the wedding is supposed to be at noon, and you aren’t ready, but then there is the news that it’s going to be pushed back a few hours.  So, what do you do – do you go get ready then, do you quickly run to the shops and finally buy the shoes you should have gotten well before?  In the case of the parable – no, because they are foolish.  And at any rate, the time for the wedding arrives.

          Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And it’s time for the wedding, and the foolish gals aren’t ready.  Do you know what their request to borrow oil would be like?  It would be like saying, “Oh no, we don’t have our shoes, hey, can I borrow one of your shoes?”  That’s how foolish the request in the parable is.  Hey, I’m not ready, how about we all not be ready?  How about none of us have oil to do our job, how about we all just wear one shoe throughout the wedding?  It’s not that the wise are mean and won’t share, it’s that the foolish are foolish.  Off you must go.

          And we know how it ends.  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  And they miss it.  The foolish gals are off and about, and the groom shows up, and the wedding starts, and they are shut out.  And they have no one to blame but themselves – they can’t blame the groom because he was delayed – they weren’t ready 6 hours earlier.  They can’t blame the wise, I mean, why would you show up to the wedding you’ve known about for so long without your oil, why would you not have gone to the store and bought your shoes already?  And so they are left out of the party, they miss it.

          So, let us ask the Lutheran question.  What does this all mean?  What’s the point of the parable?  Jesus answers by saying, Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  The time for the wedding is coming, you need to be ready.  You can’t assume that there’s more time… because let’s face it, if you aren’t getting ready now, are you really going to be getting ready later?  You see, this image of the wedding is the image for the life of the world to come, it is the image for all the happy stuff at the end of Revelation – in fact Revelation 19 talks about the marriage feast of the Lamb.  The call goes out, we are to make sure that we are ready, that we are prepared for the Second Coming, for the End, for the great feast that never ends.

          So how?  What distinguishes the wise from the foolish in this parable, what ought we be looking for?  It’s not the distinction between those who have heard and those who haven’t heard.  The wise and the foolish both know there’s a wedding, they know it’s going to happen, and they even want to be there.  The foolish in this parable aren’t those who turn up their nose at the idea of the wedding – no, the wise and foolish all know it’s a good idea.  And the difference isn’t the great moral character of the wise and the terrible moral character of the foolish.  It’s not as though the wise are waiting for the wedding but the foolish got so drunk from the bachelorette party at the bar the night before that they couldn’t wake up.  No, they are all together, they all fall asleep at the same time, they all are awakened together.  They are in the same boat in terms of how they live.  No, the key difference, the thing that separates the wise from the foolish is whether or not they have their oil.

          Consider this.  If you are to be an old fashioned virgin here – you are at the wedding in the company of the groom, you are there to provide light with your lamp.  If you don’t have light for your lamp, you are pretty much ignoring the whole reason you were invited.  If you are asked to be a bridesmaid, but you don’t care enough to have your outfit ready, what’s the point of you being a bridesmaid?  And that’s the difference, that is what separates the wise from the foolish.  The wise understand their part in the wedding feast; the foolish don’t and thus aren’t prepared.  The wedding isn’t about your plans, or what you would like, this wedding is about the Bridegroom, and you are there for the great and fantastic joy.

          So, consider the Christian Faith.  Consider what we confess in the creeds each week.  That Christ Jesus, the great Bridegroom, has won us the forgiveness of sins, and that we receive this forgiveness and life everlasting from Him.  That we are those who have been baptized for the remission of sin, and so therefore we look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  That’s the story, that’s how all this stuff works.  We are those who are forgiven – that’s our job.  We are those who receive forgiveness, so that for all eternity Christ Jesus might be glorified as our Redeemer.  Because this is the cry of heaven, this is the praise that is shown forth – Revelation 19 puts it like this: “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God  Salvation!  That’s the first thing on the list.  Do you want to know how awesome Christ Jesus is, how awesome the Reason for this eternal party is?  He saves people – in fact, He saves you.  That’s the heart of all the praise we will sing out, that’s the heart of Christ Jesus showing His glory – that’s the great demonstration of His Power, when He lays down His life – that’s why you are always hearing about the Lamb who was slain in Revelation – because it’s in His salvation that we see just how wonderful Christ Jesus is.

          And that’s how we are brought to that feast.  We receive by faith this salvation.  We receive by faith this forgiveness and life.  And that is wisdom – remember, wisdom in the Scriptures is always tied to the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who opens our ears to hear, who focuses us upon Christ, who makes us see Him and His salvation.  And as for the fool – well, the fool says in his heart there is no God.  Or at least not a God who saves… not a God who wants the point to always be about what He does.  And so the fools ignore everything going on – they ignore the plans for the wedding, whether it be having oil for their lamps, or shoes for their feet, or hearing the Word, attending the Supper, receiving Christ’s forgiveness.  They have better things to do, they know better, and so they miss out on it.

          But you, dear friends, God has given you wisdom.  He has washed you in the waters of Holy Baptism, He has given you your garments for the everlasting feast.  He has kept you in the faith; He has brought you again to this place to hear His Salvation proclaimed, to receive the forgiveness of your sins.  He even brings you to the altar for the Supper, for the foretaste of the great feast to come.  And why? Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. You do not know when your call to the feast will be – whether it be at the hour of your death when you fall asleep and then awaken to life everlasting, or whether it be when Christ returns with trumpets and archangels.  But here in this place, your eyes are focused once again upon Christ Jesus, you are made to watch Him, we all are focused not upon our own plans or wants or whims, but upon Christ Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.  He has provided for us all we need – and now we simply wait for the great feast, the great party, the life of the world to come.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter is Coming

November is always a strange time for a pastor.  It's an interesting time of pausing and resting and planning and dreading.

Winter is coming.

Well, okay, that sounds all dramatic and such... but it's Advent that is coming.  And Thanksgiving.  And Christmas.  And New Years.  This means tons of extra services... 6 or 7 weeks in a row of extra services... and services that tend to be highly... sentimental.  That people want just right.  Oh, and the parties.  Don't forget the parties.  A month of 4 or 5 services suddenly becomes a month of 11... and other things, all of which need to be just right.

Think Lent and Easter are rough?

You don't have people in the middle of Lent telling you to get in the Easter Spirit.
You don't have march filled with Dirty Rabbit chocolate exchanges. 
You don't have people telling you that you've ruined Easter when you don't play "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" two weeks before Easter.
There's no worries about trimming the home Cross with all the right ornaments or decorating the house in black drapes.

That's all spring.

Winter is coming.

This is why I haven't posted much this week.  I've been planning for winter.  Because, in addition... there's a little fellow named Ambrose Riley, and his due date is either December 24th or 29th (depending upon whom you ask).


So.  What to focus upon?

It's the end of the Church Year.  Christ will come again.
It's Advent.  Christ will come.
It's Christmas.  Christ came in the flesh and He will come again.

It's not all the hoopla.  It's not all the busy-ness.  Not for me, not for you.

Christ is coming - and that is always, always a good thing for those who want forgiveness.  Forgiveness for gross, vile sins, or the sin of messing up Aunt Bessie's just so party.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trinity 25 Sermon

November 17th, 2013 – Luke 17:20-30 – Trinity 25
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

          We are approaching the end of the Church year, and that can be an uncomfortable time of year.  Our Sundays deal with the end times, and we can hear our Gospel lessons and start to get nervous, get worried about when the end will come, worried that it will be here too quickly.  And we completely get everything, everything backwards.  Every November we are called to step away, step outside of our preconceived notions of what the Last Days are like – and we will step away from the fear that the world tries to heap upon us about this, and rather we will learn to look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as we confess in the Nicene Creed.  So what we will do today is look at this text of Luke, paying careful attention to what Jesus says, and see how we as Christians think about the end times.  Let’s start at verse 22.

          And He said to the disciples, “They days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.  And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’  Do not go out or follow them.  Did you hear what Jesus warns the disciples of – what Jesus warns us of?  Jesus’ warning isn’t. . . you better watch out, the scary end times are coming – oooOOOOooo.  No.  The warning is it’s going to take too long – and you will have the days where you sit and think, “I am tired Lord, I’m fed up with all the sin and wickedness and vice I see, I’m tired of my hurts and agonies and sufferings and I miss my loved ones and I want to go home.”  And Jesus warns the disciples that they are going to have days like this – and He won’t have come yet.

          Isn’t this so completely the opposite of how we in America tend to think of the end times?  We in America have been taught and trained to fear the end times.  In many ways we are no better off than the monks in Luther’s day, terrified that God might actually come back.  The end is nothing to fear.  What is hard, what is difficult is living as a Christian in a sinful world.  This world, with all its vaunted pleasures, can be nice sometimes – but it can be mean and nasty and rough and painful the rest of the time.  And Christ doesn’t pretend that it isn’t this way.  God doesn’t play pretend with you – He is always honest.  And yes, this life is rough – and you do have the days where you think, “Lord, just come back already”.  You will, because as a Christian you will see the world for what it is.

          And when you are hitting those points of struggle, when things seem long and weary – what do you do?  You wait on the Lord – you don’t go running off after every fly-by-night scam artist with the latest and greatest heresy or false teaching designed to give you everything your heart desires.  You don’t go running after the cult in Jonestown or Waco, you don’t buy into what the quacks are shouting.  You simply pray “Thy Kingdom come,” and wait – because when Christ delivers us, it’s going to be obvious that He is here to deliver us.  For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.  When Christ comes back – it won’t be hidden, there won’t be a little secret coming where Jesus sort of sneaks around and talks to a few people to give them the secret decoder ring.  No, when Christ comes again – He will come again and it will be right then and there.

          And now we will get to some verses that I think can cause some consternation.  Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They will be eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot – they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.  We hear this, and man, it sounds bad.  The end times will be like the flood – who wants that!  The end times will be like Sodom and Gamorrah – I don’t ever want to see that, I don’t want God to wipe me away in a flood or smite me with fire and brimstone.  We hear the punishments, we get panicky and nervous and scared.

          But let’s take a moment and listen to what Jesus says.  Jesus doesn’t say it will be like the flood, He says it will be like in the days of Noah.  So what happened to Noah?  He was surrounded by a wicked, evil world, so wicked God couldn’t stand it.  And what does God do for Noah – alright, here you go Noah, I will rescue you, I will save you.  You will be preserved and these fools who do you such harm won’t even know what hit them, even though you warn them.  Come into the ark, you and your family, and you will be saved.  That doesn’t sound so bad – being saved, being rescued from evil.  What is Christ saying here?  I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Noah – and that’s a good thing, that’s a comfort.

          Again, Jesus doesn’t say that the end times will be like Sodom – He says that they will be like it was in the days of Lot.  So what happened to Lot?  He was stuck in Sodom.  He was stuck in a horrible place, people wanting to break down the doors of his house and abuse his guests, where there’s a real chance that his daughters will be brutalized.  And so, what does God do?  Alright Lot, it’s time to go, it’s time to get you out of there, let’s get you to someplace better.  God rescues Lot from a wicked place.  And even though Lot tries to warn the folks, tries to get them to repent – they never see it coming.  What is Christ saying?  I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Lot – and I will rescue you.  Be patient, endure wickedness, and know that I will deliver you.

          Don’t you see?  The end times are not a curse.  They aren’t something to scare you.  Jesus is not the boogey-man or the monster in the closet; we shouldn’t be scared of His coming.  Rather this – when Christ comes again He will do so to rescue you, to take you from this vale of tears unto the joys of heaven – and that’s not a bad thing.  And still we are nervous about it.  So was Lot.  He dragged his feet in leaving Sodom – the angels had to pretty much drag him out of there.  But what Christ is saying, what Christ is teaching us is this.  Don’t fret, don’t worry about the end of times – indeed, don’t even worry about your own death – because I am your God, and I will deliver you, for I am with you always.

          That is Christ’s promise.  Listen to the beginning of the Gospel lesson.  Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”  Do you hear what Christ is saying?  The Pharisees ask Christ – so just when is the Kingdom going to come, when are we going to get the good stuff.  And Jesus says, “Quit looking for signs, the Kingdom of God is here in your midst, I am here, what more are you looking for?”  This, dear friends, establishes for us how we as Christians approach all things.  This shows why we can be bold and confident even as life grows long and we become weary and things in the world just keep getting worse.  While we wait for Christ’s second coming, we remember that we aren’t waiting alone.  Christ is already here in our midst.  What is the Psalm that we all know – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – which is precisely the kinds of fears and trials this text talks about – yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – and why?  For Thou art with me.

          This is what Christ proclaims to you.  Fear nothing, for Christ is with you – and Christ is bigger than anything that you might face in your life.  Christ is with you now – for you are Baptized, you were joined to Him by water and the Word.  Christ is with you now – He continues to speak His comfort to You through His Word.  Christ is with you now – He comes to you in His holy Supper.  Christ is always with you – and what does this mean?  It means you will be rescued from every evil, every danger that this world can throw at you and you shall obtain the eternal life that Christ has won for you with His death upon the cross and His resurrection.

          That’s how we approach the end times as Christians.  Not with fear, not with trepidation.  We approach all these things remembering that we are God’s own children, that we are united to Christ.  As we await the end times – we are simply waiting for God to show to everyone, to show to the entire world what we already know, what we already have.  That He is our God who saves us, who protects us, who guides us, and who ultimately delivers us from wickedness unto His eternal life.  So dear friends – fear not any talk of the end – for you know what happens, and it ends well for you.  Christ Jesus is your Lord, and He lives, and He has won the victory for you – let not death, let not talk of the end appall you any longer.  Be confident in Christ Jesus your Lord.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Two Styles of Preaching

There are two styles of preaching.  Here are the patterns they follow.

Style 1.  The Law is used to show you your own sin, your own lack, your own need.  Then Christ is proclaimed as the One who has forgiven your sin and gives you new life now and forever.

Style 2.  The Law is used to show what sin is.  Then the Law  is used to show you how you are to act in order to show that you are in fact righteous and ready for Christ to come.

Style 2 is really popular.  It gives direction.  It tells you what you can do.  It works like a nice motivation speech - like all those stirring moments in the best movies.

The only problem is... it doesn't really deal with that problem of your sin.  Yes.  Yours.  The stuff you you hide, the things you cover up.   Including your failed attempts at righteousness.

Christ Jesus has died for you, and He has risen for you, and you are forgiven and you have life in Him.

That's what you need.  That's what style 1 gives.  It's not necessarily flashy or thrilling... but it's what we all need.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Wider Perspective

One of the things I am grateful for is the fact that I did not go to Lutheran Schools all the way through my education.  Now, please do not misunderstand me -- PK-6 and then 8th grade were at Lutheran schools, and I am convinced that I received at both Trinity and Holy Cross a wonderful, fantastic education.  But I'm glad I didn't go to a Synodical college.

College on a secular campus is an eye opening thing.  There is simply so much going on, so many different views - indeed, many views that attempt to destroy your faith.  But here is the positive part of this -- you get to see what other ideas and things try to replace your worldview.

I heard lots of things about ethics, morality, love, freedom - all these things.  I even heard about virtue and service and dedication.  These things are talked about in virtually every worldview around -- now, some talk very poorly about these things or in a skewed fashion, but they are there.

Indeed, it seemed like most Christians simply wanted to contend with these worldviews on these topics -- we have better ethics, better morality, better love, etc...

Which is missing the point.

There is one thing these all miss - and the Christians can be tempted to miss as well.


And not Christ as an example, not Christ as a mere empowerer, but Christ the Crucified for the sins of the world.

Do we Christians not realize that while the world is full of wisdom (it is, the Greeks seek wisdom), we alone have redemption?  That we alone have peace with God?  That we alone have Christ, the Way by which we are reconciled to the Father?

I often wonder, perhaps, if that part of the problem for some pastors and teachers who seem to... overlook this isn't that they aren't, overly sheltered.  If they haven't spent too much time mainly interacting within Christian or Lutheran circles - where instead of having swum in the wide open pool, they just see other ideas from inside their own sheltered bubble - the bubble where the Gospel is simply... assumed.

Of course, there is the old adage - the Gospel assumed is the Gospel denied.

When we see the folks "out there"... it's not that they *need* first and foremost better ethics, or better morality, or better love.  Sure, they do need this... but man, the Law is written on man's heart.  At some level they will get this, however repressed or twisted it has become.

They NEED Christ the Crucified.  They need to receive His love and forgiveness and mercy.  They need the things that only the Church has.

And I think its sad that we so often forget that, that we so often as a Church place Christ on a back burner, or service to our neighbor on a back burner in an attempt to make sinners less sin-y by their own strength and attempts at moral and virtuous living.

A Christless Christianity is no better than anything else out there - oh, maybe in the short term it is - but in the long term it just leaves us in death and hell and in our sins. 

With a wider perspective, you always see the need for Christ.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The New Church

Thanksgiving is coming.  It's an interesting time - this will be my 10th Thanksgiving as a pastor, and I've seen the changes in attendance and the celebration even in my time here.  Less people show up to Church - less people even think about how odd it is that our Government established a day in which it said, "Don't work - instead, go and pray and give thanks."

Well, it didn't say where to go and pray and give thanks - so there's your separation of Church and State.  Go be religious somewhere.

Of course, the other thing I am seeing besides a change in the Church is a change in... shopping.

I remember Thanksgiving 2003 - my last before I was a pastor.  In Toledo, with my grandma - and my Aunt Barb and I braved the morning crowds on Black Friday - the great shopping day of the year.

Of course, getting up early on Black Friday isn't what it used to be.  I've been seeing several pleas of "Don't Shop on Thanksgiving: Everyone Deserves a Day Off".

First, as a Pastor-  Bwahahahahahahahaha!  Yeah, right!  I'm Lutheran - shoot, most of us even work Halloween!

Second, do we not see what has happened?  Oh, Thanksgiving is still a day go to and pray and give thanks.

The Consumers go and pray and give thanks.  Thank you for these great sales.

The Owners go and pray and give thanks.  Thank you for an extra day and may there be a robust December shopping spree.

Behold the new church - your Walmart, your Mall, your place to shop, to do your right worship and praise and thanksgiving by buying stuff (and remember, it's good for the economy too!)

No, people still go to Church on Thanksgiving.  It's just that they go to a new one.

Thus it is.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Trinity 24 Sermon

Trinity 24 – November 10th, 2013 – Matthew 9:18-26

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit +
          “While He was saying these things…”    Alright, what things?  This is one of those examples where we really ought to back up a little bit before our reading and figure out what’s happened before our text.  Jesus is talking with disciples of John the Baptist, and those disciples of John have a complaint.  They say, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”  What’s going on Jesus – why aren’t You and Your disciples toeing the hoity-toity good religious folk line?  And Jesus responds to them – Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  I am here now, there is no fasting – let the fasting wait until when you all are waiting for the second coming.  Don’t put unshrunk cloth on something old as a patch, because it will rip – you don’t mix the old and the new.  These are the things Jesus is saying.  And then what happens?

          “While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before Him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’”  This is a weak translation here – it’s not just that the ruler came and knelt – it’s the word for worship, for getting down on the ground and praying.  And this is important – we see a contrast here.  You have the disciples of John (and even the Pharisees) who approach Jesus with a bit of disdain.  He’s not what they expect – how come you don’t do things the way that we would have you do them, Jesus?  And then you have this ruler, and his approach to Christ is different.  He approaches in faith.  He worships Jesus – He doesn’t grouse about Him but declares Christ’s Glory.  Think about what he just said.  “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”  You are more powerful than Death, Jesus.  You have the ability to raise the Dead.  You are God, You are worthy of worship and praise, You make the dead to live.  It’s a fantastic confession – it’s part of the Creed that we confess every week in this Church. 

          And then note what Jesus does.  “And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.”  This about this – the disciples of John are asking questions – answer us, Jesus.  Explain this to us… but when there is death to be confronted, Jesus just stands up and goes.  Sorry, disciples of John, sorry grousers, I have business to be about.  No time for follow-ups, no time for more explanation – it’s time to go.  A greater priority is here.  And Jesus’ disciples follow Him – but note, it says nothing of John’s disciples.  There are John’s disciples, and they see Jesus stand up to go and raise the dead… and they don’t follow.  This raising the dead stuff isn’t what we want, we want pious living stuff!  And they miss it.

          But other follow, others have faith and see the importance of healing.  “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for 12 years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.’”  Again, here we see an approach of one in faith.  I need healing from Christ – I don’t even need to bother Him to get it, I’m not worthy of demanding His time, His response, I will just come to Him, touch his clothing, and things will be all right.  There’s some humility and faith there – and Jesus notes it.  “Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.’”  No, you aren’t unimportant to me, daughter.  No, I’m not too busy to talk to you or care for you.  You don’t have to sneak up or anything like that.  I see you, you are mine, and I care for you.  Jesus takes care of it.  Simple, matter of fact.  There it is. 

          Of course, as Jesus goes on, not everyone views Him with faith.  “And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, He said, ‘Go away, the girl is not dead but sleeping.’  And they laughed at Him.”  And now back to the faithless, the dismissive.  So there they are, the mourners, the wailers, doing all their loud mourning.  And then something so strange – when Jesus tells the that this girl will live – they laugh.  Think about that – how strange that would have been – to see the crying folks pause their mourning to laugh and mock at Christ.  Not to look at Him with pity or disdain, “Oh, this poor, misguided fool thinks she’s just asleep.”  No.  Laughter.  Disdain.  They hear Christ speak the truth, speak to what God does – and then there’s just rank disbelief, disdain, and laughter.

          It doesn’t stop Jesus.  “But when the crowd had been put aside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this went through all that district.”  It’s nice that you laugh, but I’m still going to raise this girl, and look at that, there she is.  Raised from the dead.  Jesus comes to her, she rises, and that is that – all the disbelief or disdain in the world can’t stop Christ.

          So then, what do we see in our Gospel Lesson today?  What we see is a great contrast between the faithful and the unfaithful, the believing and the disbelieving.  And we get this at the End of the Church Year – where we tend to focus more on the fact that Christ Jesus will return, that He will raise all the dead.  I look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world, Amen.  And the faithful – that is what their focus is.  The Ruler knows that Jesus raises the dead.  The woman knows that Jesus heals.  That’s just the way it is.  But John’s Disciples and the Mourners, they demonstrate two avenues of disbelief that we need to be wary of.

          Let’s take these mourners first.  They hear that Christ is coming to raise this dead girl, that He is going to show her to be alive.  And they laugh.  That’s just not how things happen.  We know the way the story goes, you are born, you live a bit, and you die, that’s it, end of story.  This is emblematic of the typical thought of the world, the typical mockery we in the Church will get from the world out there.  Oh, you silly little Christians with your silly little stories, you all are so stupid.  That sort of mockery still happens today.  But note this – it doesn’t stop Jesus.  Jesus isn’t intimidated by the laughter and derision, He doesn’t pull back.  No, He has come to raise the dead, and by George He is going to do it.  That’s just how it is.  This is what we need to remember.  We hear the promises of God, and we believe.  It doesn’t matter what the world thinks, what the scoffers think.  They don’t control God – you don’t get to ignore God out of existence.  He shall come again with glory.  That’s what the Word of God teaches, that’s what we believe.

          But the other group, the disciples of John – in many ways they are emblematic of a more subtle danger for us in the Church.  The disciples of John aren’t gross pagans, aren’t open disbelievers.  They aren’t laughing at God openly or anything like that.  In fact, to all appearances they are nice and pious religious folks – why they even fast.  See what good, holy people they are.  But here’s the problem.  Christ comes to raise the dead.  Just before this, Jesus calls Matthew to be a disciple and says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”  This is what Jesus is all about – coming to sinners, coming to those under the bondage of death – and He will forgive them and raise them.  That’s the whole point of what Jesus does – that’s why He is born, that is why He teaches – it’s all driving at and focused at going to the Cross and suffering and dying and rising Himself for the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body.

          And to John’s disciples… well… that wasn’t that interesting.  Oh, you are going to raise a dead gal, but what about our question about fasting?  What about the things that *we* do to show how good *we* are?  Why are you following off after this ruler – he probably takes bribes and is corrupt – why aren’t you praising us, Jesus, for how great we are?  And this can be the danger that comes up in the Church today, as well.  This forgiveness, this life of the world to come stuff – that’s not what we want.  Tell us rules for holy living!  Tell us ways to show the world that we are better than those other people!  Tell us how to earn your blessing – as though a blessing is something earned in the first place (the woman in the text could have told them how off that is).

          So why don’t the ruler and the woman think like these groups?  Why aren’t they dismissive, why aren’t they looking for something else.  Because they see and know their problems.  The Ruler – he’s not worried about what other people think of him – he’s got a dead daughter.  That’s a bigger problem.  The woman, she’s not worried about looking holy, she’s sick and it’s nasty.  There’s no playing pretend, there’s no ignoring the elephant in the room for these two – we are in trouble, and we need Jesus.

          This is the reason why in the church we hear so often about sin and death – about our sin, about our death.  I don’t bring these things up because I’m mean, or because I’m dour, or because I want to pick on you.  Rather this.  The disciples of John were sinners, but they didn’t want to think about that, and so they miss Christ.  The mocking mourners – they too were going to die, but they didn’t want to think about that, and so they miss Christ.  They don’t see the need for Him, they brush Him off.  But believe what the Scriptures say about you – that you are a sinner, that as long as you live in this world you will struggle with sin, and indeed, that your life will one day come to an end in this world because the wages of sin is death.  This is truth.  But it is also true that Christ Jesus would not stand to lose you forever – when it’s time to confront death, He stops what He’s doing and goes to beat down death.  He will not be distant from you, but He will care for you as His own daughter, as His own son, as His beloved Bride.  Christ Jesus comes to save sinners, He comes to save you.  Let nothing distract you from this truth.

          Because the day is coming, friends, when our Lord will return with the cry of an archangel and the trumpet blast, and we will see these things, we will be raised, we will partake in the life of the world to come.  He has suffered and died and risen – and though you suffer now in this world and from the temptations of sin, though you even should – yet because of Him, you too will rise.  This is our hope and faith, and Christ will save us.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crticism and Drama

While I have been on vacation, I have not been on vacation from the Internet.  A great, useful tool, the internet.  Useful for finding places to eat, communicating, stuff like that.  And of course, great for... drama.

Now, I'm not going to tie into anything specific because, well, one, if there is specific drama and you don't know about it, why should I go air someone else's dirty laundry, and two, this is meant to apply in general.

Whenever there is a fight, an argument (and the internet is useful because you can backtrack and look at the way the discussion unfolds - when we talk, we are in the moment and have no rewind) one thing that is sure to be there is criticism.  Lots and lots of criticism.  In fact, most arguments are nothing but salvos of criticism launched off at each other over and over again in an attempt to see who can be more devastating, who can show the other to be more vile and wrong.

Now, consider the counter to this - it's something we as Lutherans should know better than any other (and yet so easily forget).  Who are you, o Christian, to be more critical of -- yourself, or your neighbor?

Your neighbor's eye has the speck, but you have the log.

Who are you to be more critical of?

So ponder this.  How often will we lambaste someone for something, but we will let something very similar that we do (or a friend does) slide by without any a thought.  Or shoot, not without nary a thought, but rather with self-justifications abounding.

They are self-serving, but when I do the same thing, I'm serving God.
They are pandering to society, but when I do the same thing I'm just using my freedom.
They are vile and mean, but when I do the same thing I've just had a bad day.
They are so egotistical, but when I do the same thing it's just because I'm right.
They are being a jerk, but when I do the same thing it's just speaking the truth.

So on and so forth.

This is not how we are called to be.  If anything, we are called to be critical of ourselves.  We are Lutherans.  We confess that we sin in thought, word and deed - we know that we are sinner and saint at the same time.  So what does this mean?

You accuse me of a speck, and I will admit it, for I know my own log.

Of course, it goes further than that.  Put the best construction on things.  Explain things in the kindest way.  Point out what is dangerous to the neighbor, but leave it at that. 

They are accused of a log, and I will say, "There is a speck there, yes, but come, you who are spiritual restore that one in a spirit of gentleness".

IF anything, we as Lutherans should above all know how to be makers of peace - we are the ones most focused upon the Gospel of Christ Jesus and His redemption.  Let us confess sins, for He has taken them all upon Himself; let us cover and defend our neighbor, for He has taken their sin as well.

God grant that we remember this in our homes, our workplaces, our voters' meetings, on-line, and everywhere we go.  God help us to love our neighbor.