Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent I Romans 13:8-14 How Do We Behave as we await the Lord's Return?

To no one, nothing do you owe, if not the love of others. For the one who loves the other (with God's love) fulfills Law. For this: "Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet," and if a certain other commandment, in this saying it is summarized, "You will love (with God's love) your neighbor as yourself." God's love to the neighbor does not work evil; God's love, then, fulfills Law. And this, knowing the season, that the hour already (for) you from sleep to awaken; for now nearer is our salvation than when we believed! The night is far gone, and the day is near. Let us remove (as filth), then, the works of the darkness, and be clothed in the armor of the light! As in daytime let us walk decently, not in excessive feasting and in drunkenness, not in sexuality and in debauchery, not in quarreling and in jealousy. But be clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ and in foresight you do not proceed into desires of the flesh.

Each year as the season of Advent rolls around, it gets almost forgotten amid all our holiday preparations. Some of us fall into the trap of thinking that it is already the Christmas season. It isn't. It's Advent. It's a time for some rather serious reflection on the Advent of Jesus. Not the first one that happened as He came to Jerusalem. It's the Advent we now await, Jesus' return on the last day as Judge of all people, both the living and the dead. He's coming back soon, and we should be ready!

The Advent season is a "wake up call" for us. It's a time for us to pause from our holiday planning and look instead at God and what He's doing! The night has already come. Satan and the minions of darkness are working overtime to tempt you because he knows that his time is short. The Day of Jesus' return is imminent! He's coming as your Judge. He may be coming sooner than you think. And He's coming back to judge you based on the criteria of your *works*, whether they are good or evil!

"Say what?! I thought we Lutherans were the church of grace & mercy, love and forgiveness? Are you saying that God cares about what we do?" You better believe it! God expects you to be rid of all the filthy works of sinning, and for you to walk in such a way that loves your neighbor just as God's Own love does. "Wow! That's a tall order." Indeed it is. Your works are not to do evil, but they are to fulfill God's law perfectly. But who among us can claim to keep all of God's commandments without fail?

Truth be told, you have failed miserably in this regard. Some have brought about strife by dwelling on problems, and offering their own ideas as solutions as though they are the gods of the universe. Others have acted out of envy, desiring to do things that God has given as tasks for others. Still others of us over-indulge in any manner of activities in ways that cross the lines of decency. Not one of us can claim to have always walked in the light of day as God bids us to do.

So what is the answer to our dilemma? Well you need to have the filth of your sin removed from you-- those works of darkness forgiven. You can't do this to yourself. God does it for you in your baptism. And He makes that baptism your daily bath to cleans you from sin's filth when, by daily contrition and repentance, your Old Adam drowns and dies with all your sins and evil lusts. God offers absolute forgiveness for you in that same Name in which you were baptized when you come to Confession.

Then God clothes you with the protective armor of Jesus! You now wear Christ's Own holy righteousness, which is credited to your account by faith. You are holy in God's sight, but not because you've acted that way, because you haven't. His strong Word, Christ Jesus, bespeaks you righteous with His Own holiness! The righteous works of Jesus are now your very own good works. And He is the One Who will come back soon to judge you based on your righteousness.

That being said, it is a very good thing that Jesus' holy righteousness is not a dormant thing. It clothes you outwardly so that it can actively shine brightly to love others. Not your love. For it is God's Own agape love with which you are called to love your neighbor! Although you have not loved others with your own brotherly-love as you should have, God finds a way to succeed where you have failed. For it is Jesus Himself who loves your neighbor through you with His Own perfect agape love!

That's why those who foolishly address Jesus at His return with "Lord, Lord, look what we did for you!" will be harshly rebuffed for thinking it was their own works which make them righteous. You know better. You are blessed with Christ's righteousness as a garment-gift so that He can shine through you upon others with good works about which you may not even be aware!.

For Jesus alone is able to fulfill the Law with His agape love. He did that for you as a perfect sacrifice at the cross, when He gave up His body for you unto death, and shed His blood for your redemption at Calvary. From there He has made you His Own workmanship, a new creation in Christ Jesus, given to walk in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Light. His righteousness blessing you unto your salvation, and continuing to bless others through you that your neighbor too may be saved! Amen.

Hymns today from LSB:
#331 The Advent of Our King
#341 Lift Up Your Heads You Mighty Gates
#332 Savior of the Nations Come
#350 Come Thou Precious Ransom Come

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday of the Fulfillment Matthew 22:1-14 Paradise Restored!

For look, I create heavens anew, and earth anew; and will not be remembered the preceding things, and they will not be uppermost upon the heart. Nevertheless rejoice and shout for joy always upon which I Myself will create; for look, I create Jerusalem shouting joyfully, and its people rejoicing! And I will shout for joy in Jerusalem, and I rejoice in My people; and will not be heard in it any more the sound of weeping and the sound of crying. There will not be from there an infant of days, and an elder who does not complete his days, for the young son will die at year 100, and the son missing the mark of 100 years will be cursed...For as the days of the tree–the days of My people, and from the work of their hands my ones, led in as a bride, will make dark. They will not labor to emptiness, and they will not bear to terror; for seed blessed of Yahweh they will be, and their descendants with them.

Today is the last Sunday of the church year, the Sunday of Fulfillment. But it is not a day for reflecting backwards on the past. Far from it! Today is a day to look forward to what is to come! As the church year comes to a close, we await the heavenly wedding feast, filled with great shouts of joy and much rejoicing. We look to the return of our Groom, Jesus, to lead us to His home as His bride to dwell with Him in paradise. It is something to look forward to on that day–new heavens and new earth!

But we don't always like to look forward, do we. You may want to dwell on the past, and what you have in the here and now. You have past problems you are trying to rectify, and you have current concerns that seem so very pressing for you and your family. You don't think you have time to pay attention to what is to come in the future. You can be a lot like those initial guests invited to the banquet in Jesus' parable, who focused on their farm or business, and ignored the banquet invitation.

But rest assured, when Jesus does return, those former concerns will all be a thing of the past. No longer will the worries and anxieties of life in this world be uppermost in your hearts. On that day, you will be so excited about the new earth joined to the new heavens, that you won't give a rip about those old mundane things. Paradise will be restored for you on that day, with a perfect world like Adam and Eve had in the Garden, not apart from God's heaven, but connected directly to it and to Him!

Yet down here, in the meantime, you find yourself getting in a funk. Finances are tight, children get into messes, and parents get harder and harder to raise as the years go by. Sometimes you just want to have a good cry about all the problems of your life. You find yourself wanting to wallow in self-pity, only to find that everybody around you has their fair share of difficulties too. As the frustrations just seem to continue to mount You worry that there will be no end to your weeping.

There is an end to your crying about this world's worries. It ends in your Savior, Christ Jesus! For He has willingly given up His life for you. He gave up all His righteousness at the cross so that you would be clothed with beautiful white robes forevermore at the heavenly wedding feast. In trade, He took upon Himself the filthy garment of your sinfulness as His Own dress. In addition, your sorrowful weeping became His as He was forsaken by His Father, and cast out into the utter darkess of Hell for you.

As you grow older, you realize more and more that age seems less of a blessing, and more of a curse! You've gone from three to five meals a day, if you include morning and evening pills from the doctor. You don't want to burden family members for help, but you don't want to go without help either. There are days that you wonder if the good Lord shouldn't shorten the number of days you live down here in this valley of sorrows, because it's getting harder and harder to do what you used to.

As rough as growing older is here on earth, it is a complete joy in the restored paradise! More and more days there won't be a curse, but a blessing. The only curse would be not being able to have more years in paradise! For there you will have life in abundance. Just as your Savior didn't remain dead in the tomb, but rose to new, glorious, everlasting life that first Easter, He will return to bless you with that same renewed, glorified, eternal life with Him in the new heaven and new earth!

So as you await Jesus' return on the last day to make your body to be eternally glorious like His Own body already is, what can you do in the meantime? Be connected to your ever-living Savior through His Word and Sacraments–that's what! Hear His love proclaimed to you–"Jesus died and rose for you, to forgive your deadly sins, and to give you life in paradise!" Remember your baptism–the daily bath in Jesus cleansing blood. Receive the Lord's Body and Blood for your forgiveness, salvation and life!

Hymns for today from LSB
#663 Rise My Soul to Watch and Pray
#516 Wake Awake for Night is Flying
#514 The Bridegroom Soon will Call Us


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trinity 24 Isaiah 51:9-16

Stir up, stir up, put on strength, Arm of Yahweh; stir up as days before, generations of long ago. Wasn't it You, the One Who cut down Rahab, the One Who pierced the sea monster? Was it not You, the One Who dried up the sea, waters of great depths; Who made from the depths of the sea a pathway for the avenged-by-bloodshed to cross over? And the ransomed of Yahweh will return and come to Zion in shouting; and joy eternal on their heads. Exultation and joy will overcome; will flee away sorrow and sighing. I Myself am He Who comforts you. Who are you, fearing from a man, a mortal? And from the son of a man, reeds offered? And you have forgotten Yahweh, your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth; and you tremble constantly all day from the face of fury of the oppressor, as which he prepares to destroy? And where is the oppressor's fury? Quickly the one in chains–to freedom, and he will not die in the dungeon, and his food will not be lacking. And I, Yahweh, your God stir up the sea and its waves roar–Yahweh of Armies–His name! And I have put my words in your mouth and in the shadow of my hand I have covered you, to plant heavens and to found earth, and to say to Zion, "My people–you are!"

The Arm of the Lord is a pretty amazing thing. The Father stretches forth His Arm and creates the heavens and the earth. The LORD reaches down parting the Red Sea to create a path for Israel to cross over. Jesus reaches His hand to a dead girl and raises her to life again! You can see that when God moves His Arm of almighty strength, some amazing things happen. He hasn't changed in all these years. He keeps on stretching forth His Arm, reaching out to you today to bless you!

Now, we need to pause a bit to figure out just what this Strong Arm of our God is. It's *not* just some metaphorical platitude so that people think there's a God out there Who cares. He's not a stern God looking down at you with arms crossed, in judgment over your actions and attitudes. He's not an uncaring God Who twiddles His thumbs with indifference toward you and your daily needs and ongoing problems. Your Lord actually reaches out His hand to bless you in many and various ways!

We also do well to consider that God has two arms for blessing you. With His left hand, He provides for you your daily bread–all you need to support your body and this life here on earth. He gives you clothes, food, a home, and a means to provide for your family. He provides the weather, government, health, friends, and a host of other blessings with His left hand. He may even give you a spouse and children. He blesses you richly each day with more than you really need, so you may bless others.

That's a whole lot that God does with only one hand! And all this He does with the "weaker" of His two hands, so to speak. For you have a God that is right-handed. His almighty Right hand has the power to save you! That hand doesn't bestow the temporary blessings of this life, but the heavenly blessings that last forever! The omnipotent Right hand of God is what He uses to forgive you your sins, to rescue you from death and Satan, and to bestow to you life everlasting in paradise with Him!

You know about this powerful Right hand of God. You confess it in the Creed. It is Jesus, your Savior Who sits on the right hand of the throne of God! Christ Jesus is the Father's right-hand man Who came down to earth to accomplish what no person before or after ever could. He kept God's law perfectly in your place, earning life in heaven. Then, He gave up what He won, instead suffering the death you deserved at the cross. So that by His death, you would have life eternal given as a free gift!

So, where is the right hand of God now? It's *not* in some far off place called "heaven". It is where your Lord continues to act to bless you today! The right hand of God came down to you in the font to cleanse you of your sins in your baptism. The right hand of God marks you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified in Holy Absolution. The right hand of God serves you His body given unto death in the bread, and delivers to you the cup of His blood shed at the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.

God's right hand continues to deliver you from death & the devil's temptations today. It still marks you with the cross of Christ Jesus, your Savior. It keeps on cleansing you from your sin in the daily bath of your baptism. The right hand of the LORD covers you in its shadow to protect and keep you. It has been stirred up to help you by His great love for you in Christ Jesus. His strong Arm reaches out to lift you up to life again! It takes you to heaven to hear forevermore, "My people–you are!" Amen.

Today's hymns from LSB:

#811 Oh that I had a Thousand Voices

#755 In the Very Midst of Life

#552 O Christ Who Shared Our Mo
rtal Life (insert stanzas 5 & 6)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

All Saints Day Revelation 7:9-17

After these things I saw, and look, a crowd of many, which, to count them, no one was able, out of every nation and of tribes and of peoples and of tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed around in robes of white, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out in a great voice, saying, "The salvation in our God, in the One sitting on the throne, and in the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the 4 living ones, and they fell before the throne upon their faces, and worshiped in God, saying, "Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the might–in our God into the ages of the ages. Amen!" And answering, one out of the elders, saying to me, "These, the ones clothed around (in) the robes, the white ones–Who are they, and from where do they come?" And I have said to him, "My master, You know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the tribulation, the great one, and they have washed their robes, and they have whitened them in the blood of the Lamb! Through this, they are before the throne of God; and they have service in Him day and night, in His Temple-sanctuary; and the One sitting upon the throne will tabernacle among them."

To be a saint is certainly to be *blessed*–no doubt about it. The great Saints of bible times were indeed blessed by God in their words and actions, so that they too could be blessings to the church. But being "blessed" isn't always what we would like to think that it is. We feel blessed with a full belly, but Jesus says it's blessed to hunger and thirst. We think of proud, powerful people as "blessed", but Jesus declares the meek, gently-humble people as blessed. So being a blessed saint needs thought.

To understand the blessings of saint-hood, we first must consider Who makes someone a "saint". It starts not with the saint him or herself, but with God! The salvation of the church is not in a saint, but "in God". The power, glory, wisdom, honor, and might don't belong to the saint either. These are "in God" too. Likewise the very blessing of saint-ness is in God, and without Him, there is nothing saintly about any of us! It is God Who declares someone to be a saint. God alone makes you a holy saint!

"But don't saints *do* lots of things?" Indeed, by their works, we know them as saints, to be sure. But the works of holy men and women do not merit them saint-hood. That would have it all backwards. It's not that they acted really holy, so God responded by making them saints. It's that God chose to make them holy so that their actions would reflect who they are. Certain trees didn't decide to bear apples, so that God would call them apple trees. They produce apples because God created them to do so.

So we are reminded just *Who* makes people like you into saints–God Himself! But just how does He do it? Many foolishly think that the Lord does it by the means of His law–as though God commands good works from Christians, and by their obedience, they become holy saints. Hogwash! Your holiness as a saint does not come from what you do. It comes as a gift of God, not from His Law (which He knows you can't keep) but from His Gospel love in Christ Jesus Who died for you!

You are made holy saints by your Savior's death at the cross. There, He became the unholiness of all your sins, received God's wrath poured out upon His body nailed to the tree, and died the death you deserved. In blessed trade, He gave up to you the holiness of His Own righteousness which is given to you at your baptism. You were dressed that day, most likely, in a white garment, reminiscent of the white robe of Christ's Own righteousness the saints in heaven above wear hereafter for eternity!

And since that day when you became a holy Christian saint, you have been blessed to *worship*. But even there, the burden isn't placed upon you. Oh, you pray, sing praise, give offerings, and bless your God with thanksgiving, to be certain. But you worship *in God*. For the Divine Service this day is in God, as He brings you into Himself, quite literally! Just like God invited the High Priest into the holy of holies–His saving presence–in the Temple of old, so too does your God tabernacle among you!

For your Savior Jesus was promised of old to come in the flesh to tabernacle among us. He does this intimately when He invites you to eat of His body in the bread of holy Communion, and drink of His blood in the cup of the Lord's Supper. There, the same Jesus Who came in the flesh to die for your salvation comes again to you. Jesus is the holy presence of God with you, making you holy by the forgiveness of sins and bestowal of His righteousness to you. He brings His saving cross to you this day.

You are the saints whose robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and made holy white forever!

Hymns for today from LSB:
#677 For All the Saints
#517 By All Your Saints in Warfare (insert stanza 4)
#676 Behold a Host Arrayed in White

A blessed All Saints to you and all your loved ones who have gone before!!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation Sunday Revelation 14:6-7

And I saw, and look, the Lamb–standing upon the mount of Zion and with Him 144,000 having His name and the name of His father written upon their foreheads. And I heard a sound out of heaven as a sound of much water and as a sound of great thunder, and the sound which I heard as harpists harping on their harps. And they sang as a new song before the throne and before the 4 living ones and the elders, yet no one was able to learn the song, if not the 144,000, the ones purchased from the earth. These are the ones–with women not defiled, for they are chaste. These–the ones following the Lamb wherever He goes. These–having been purchased from men–first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was not found a lie; blameless, they are. And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an everlasting gospel to gospelize upon those sitting upon the earth and upon every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a great sound, "Fear God and give to Him glory, because has come, the hour of His judgment, and worship the Maker of the heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of waters."

The Lutheran Reformation was all about freedom. The Roman church of Luther's day had kept men in shackles. The people were burdened by guilt for their sins, and the emphasis of the church was constantly on what *they* should do about it. Indulgences were sold so folks could purchase their own forgiveness. Relics were revered for their supposed ability to give merits to people. Everywhere the emphasis was on man's duty to God. Even worship had become an obligation for man.

When Luther and others re-discovered the sweetness of the Gospel, they began to taste freedom once again! God didn't want men to remain shacked with the burdens of the Law. So for their liberty, He set them free from a religion of obligation to one of God's free grace! No longer did men have strive to be "good enough" for God to love them. Instead, they could believe the gospel message that God was fully pleased with them in Christ Jesus, His Son, Who paid their redemption price cross in full!

Luther and the other evangelicals had their eyes opened to a new way to view God's judgment. Luther and many like him had viewed God as an angry Judge Who only condemned sinners. But they had been missing out on the other half of God's judgment–the verdict of "not guilty" which He freely gives to believers in Christ Jesus! For when the Father condemns His only-begotten Son at the cross, the price is paid in full by Jesus Who bears the burden, guilt and punishment for your sinning!

Indeed, you have been set free by Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice at Calvary. So don't re-shackle yourself with the burden of the Law. You would never do that, right? Yet you do. Whenever you try so hard to do what is God-pleasing as though your life depended on it, you shackle yourself. If you dread God's judgment on the last day, fearing that you haven't done enough, you remain shackled. If you ever think that the things of the Church are primarily about what *you* do, you are shackled.

OK, so we all shackle ourselves in one way or another. What can we do to get ourselves free? Nothing. That's God's job...and that's what worship is all about. Worship is God's favorable judgment for you. You come as a shackled-sinner each Sunday, and God forgives/removes your sins from you with His proclaimed word! For He has cleansed you by water and the Word, freeing you from all your sins in Holy Baptism. He has judged you worthy to come to the wedding banquet of His body and blood.

Don't you see, you are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes! He's washing you from your sins at baptism, and you are there! He is there in His word proclaimed to gospelize you, and you are there to hear it!. Your heart is heavy with the guilty burden of sin, and Jesus proclaims it absolutely forgiven through your Pastor's voice. The Lamb is really present with His body given unto death for you, and His blood shed for you at the +, and you are at the communion rail to eat & drink it!

So, there is no reason whatsoever to fear God's judgment. None at all. Because He judges you to be forgiven, set free from sin, death and the devil by His victory at the cross! You are judged not as goats, but as sheep of His flock! You are judged not as chaff to be blown away and burned up, but as the grain He stores in His everlasting barns. The water of judgment saves you in the ark of your baptism, as by daily contrition and repentance your sinful self, that Old Adam drowns and dies with all sins and evil lusts.

Yes, Reformation Day, is all about freedom--your freedom. This liberty God gives to you in Christ Jesus, that your worship always be about His freeing Word–the great sound of the recovered gospel!

Hymns today from LSB:
#661 Onward Christian Soldiers
#656 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
#555 Salvation Unto Us Has Come
#655 Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trinity 21 Genesis 1

In beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was empty and void, and darkness on the face of the depths. And the Spirit of God was swooping on the face of the waters. And God said, "Be light!" and light was! And God saw the light for good, and God distinguished between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light "day", and the darkness He called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning. Day one. And God said, "Be a dome in the midst of the waters, and be a separation between waters and waters." And God made the dome and separated between the waters which were below the dome and the waters which were above the dome; and it was so. And God called the dome "heaven". And there was evening, and there was morning. Day two...And God said, "May the earth emit living souls in their species, behemoths and small animals and living creatures of the earth in their species"; and it was so...And God saw it for good. And God said, "Let us make man in our image, as our likeness, and may they rule over the fish of the water, and the birds of the heavens, and over the behemoths and over all the earth, and over all the small animals which flock on the earth."...And God saw all which He made and look, much good; and there was evening and there was morning. Day 6.

God speaks, and stuff happens! Yet we have trouble believing it, sometimes. Some doubt that only God's voice was involved in creation. "There must have been some pre-existing material, or primordial soup, or something" they ponder. Others assume that God could do so much in just 6 days. "Each ‘day' must really mean millions of years" they postulate. Still others disbelieve that God made so many different creatures. "It all must have evolved from one very simple life-form" they think.

But God spoke and made everything there is out of absolutely nothing! It wasn't...and then it was! He made every single species there is without the help of any kind of evolution, and even caused them to reproduce after their own species! And all this God did in 6 regular, evening and morning, 24-hour days. Why should this astound people? With God, all things are possible! He could have created it all in an instant...but chose to take 6 days for our sake–so that we would have a weekly schedule.

So, if God could create the entire universe with just his voice in 144 hours time, surely God could take care of simpler things nowadays, right? But not everyone is quick to believe that either. When the royal official's son was sick in Capernaum, folks expected Jesus to come quickly from Cana to do some exciting, miraculous sign for them to gaze at. They just couldn't believe Jesus could heal the boy from such a distance, with only His words. But He did. And amazingly, the official believed it!

God says it, and it happens! God tells living creatures to live on the earth, and they do! Jesus says that the official's son will live, and He does! Wow! We have a God Whose very words hold the power of life and death! God could say, "Die" and you would die. In fact, God has every right to do so. You doubt Him so often, relying on yourself or trusting other means which you think gives you a satisfied life. He could speak, "Die" and in an instant, your heart would stop beating, and your breath would stop.

But that's not what God likes to do. By nature He is a "Creator", not a "destroyer". God just loves to speak words of "life", and when He does, things live! He speaks words of life to you this day, declaring your deadly sins forgiven so that you may live forever! He proclaims the gracious love of Jesus to you, Who gave His life as a forfeit for yours at the cross, suffering your death so, in exchange, you have life eternal in heaven. Your pastor speaks such words of life to you often.

And you know that when God speaks, stuff happens! When God connects His word to simple water, it becomes a gracious water of life, a living water which quenches your thirst for Christ's righteousness, which He gives you in trade for your sins which He bore in His body on the tree of Calvary. When God places His word into the voice box of your Pastor, he hears your confession and proclaims you to be absolutely forgiven, as surely and certainly as Jesus' Own proclamation to you.

When God takes the words of institution Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, and they are spoken over simple bread and wine, those elements become the body of Christ given for you, and His blood shed for you at the cross for your forgiveness. These words of Jesus' death become for you words of your life! God speaks, and life is created. Jesus speaks, and life is restored. Your Lord speaks to you and your life is renewed forevermore. His word proclaimed, and sacramental word in action give you life! Amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trinity 20

Alas, all who thirst walk to the water, and those who have no silver, walk, purchase, and eat; and walk and buy without silver, and without price, wine and milk. Why do you weigh silver on what isn't bread, and your labor for what doesn't fill? Listen, listen to Me, and eat well! And enjoy fatty (food) –your souls. Bend your ear and walk to Me; listen, and your soul may live; and I will cut to you an eternal covenant–the loving-kindnesses of David, the faithful ones. Look, a witness to the peoples I have given, a sovereign and a command to the peoples. Look, a nation you do not know, you will call; and a nation that does not know you, to you will run; for the sake of Yahweh, your God, also the Holy One of Israel, because He glorified you! Seek Yahweh while He is found, Call Him while He is near. Forsake–the guilty one--his way, and a man of unrighteousness–his thoughts; may he return to Yahweh, and He will take pity on him; and to our God, for He will greatly forgive. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways–declaration of Yahweh. For as high as the heavens from the earth, so higher are My ways from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts.

One thing that separates liberal from conservative candidates is their view of welfare. Liberals tend to believe that the government is under obligation to provide the main safety net for the disadvantaged, while conservatives tend to seek family, friends, church and self for help in times of need. I suppose it is good, then, to have both liberals and conservatives in every Christian congregation. Conservatives to keep the church's teachings and practices pure, and liberals to freely love with the gospel.

At first glance, it seems that God is a pure liberal, from our text. He provides food free of charge! Better food than food-stamps could buy too! It doesn't matter if you have not one silver coin in your pocket, or if you've lost your EBT card. God promises to give you food that will fill you up, fatty food that won't raise your cholesterol, eternal food and drink that blesses your soul forever! No cost at all. No work-fare to earn it by your labor. It is a free gift of God's loving-kindness alone! What a real liberal!

But as we read further, it seems that God may be a conservative! As sovereign Lord, He gives us some commands: He calls on the guilty ones among us to change our ways. He addresses the unrighteous people even to change their thoughts! He reminds us that the way's we've been going aren't anything close to His ways, and our thoughts are so very far from His way of thinking. Sounds like our God wants us to straighten up and fly right! Indeed, God must be a real conservative.

So which is it? Is God a liberal or is He a conservative? The answer is "Yes!". On the one hand, your God has some important expectations of those He invites to the heavenly wedding banquet. You had better treat His servants right, or You will pay with fiery consequences. And when you attend you better have on the proper wedding attire. On the other hand, your God opens up His wedding feast to you & folks from all walks of life, from the downtrodden and homeless to the utter riff-raff of society.

How can God seem to lay down the Law in a conservative fashion, yet extend abundant grace in a liberal manner? Well, this only make's sense when we pause to look at the covenant God cuts with you. He cut it with David, promising that the young King's descendant would someday come to save all mankind. He cut it with you the day that you were baptized in the name of that Savior from David's line. It is the one-sided covenant of loving-kindnesses that God cut into Jesus' Own body on the cross.

"A one-sided covenant?" you wonder. It sure seems like it has both a liberal and a conservative side. Indeed it does, one part for God, and another part for man. But in Christ Jesus, Who was both God and man at the same time, this covenant of your salvation was completed by your Savior alone! Jesus was the only One to think His heavenly Father's thoughts at all times, and the only One who walked in His Father's ways continuously. And He is the only one to give of Himself freely to satisfy you!

Jesus was the only "righteous" One under God's Law. He is the Holy One of Israel, where no others could be found. He strove to accomplish your salvation, and His work-ethic paid off at the cross. He earned the eternal life this covenant expected. But that's when Jesus does the most unexpected thing. He invites undeserving riff-raff like you to His heavenly banquet. You aren't righteous and you know it, but Jesus gives you the holy white robe of His Own righteousness to clothe you for the feast!

Yet Jesus has lost His wedding clothes. His righteousness is gone, in exchange for the unholy garment of your sin, in the form of a scarlet robe and crown of thorns He wore as your Savior. Jesus is driven from the feast, forsaken by His Father, and cast out into the outer darkness of hell in your place at the cross. Yet He feeds you at that feast with the food which satisfies–His body given ad blood shed for your forgiveness. For you, it is without cost...but for Him...well, it cost Him everything! Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trinity 19 Genesis 28:10-17 "How doe we react to the awesome works of God?

And Jacob went out from Beer-Sheba and walked to Haran. And he encountered on the place and camped there because the sun had gone down; and he took from the stones of the place and he placed it for his head, and he lied down in that place. And he dreamed, and look, a ladder was set on earth and its head reaching the heavens, and look, angels of God going up and going down on it. And look, Yahweh stood over it and He said, "I–Yahweh, God of Abraham, your father, and God of Isaac; the land which You lie down on it, I give to you and to your seed. Will be, your seed, as the dust of the earth, and you will break through to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and will be blessed in you all the watered lands of the earth, and in your seed. And look, I–with you, and I will safe-guard you in all which you walk, and I will return you to this land, for I will not depart from you until which when I have done that which I spoke to you." And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Truly, Yahweh is in this place and I, myself did not know." And he feared, and he said, "What awesomeness–this place! Is this not the house of God, and this–a gate of the heavens!"

Our God is an awesome God. But in the words of Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride, "You keep on using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means." Indeed, God showed Jacob a spectacular sight in the ladder to heaven. Likewise, Jesus did a couple of amazing things by healing and forgiving a paralytic in to day's Gospel. God reveals His awesomeness to us, His chosen people, by what He chooses to reveal to us. Yet, the awesomeness of God surprises us more times than not.

In a contemporary Christian song, Michael W. Smith sings about an awesome God, giving lip-service to His mercy, grace and the cross. But while he "hints" about God's awesomeness, he never quite delivers it. For God's awesomeness isn't found in thunderclaps and lightening. God's awesomeness isn't found in an earthquake, in a violent wind storm, or in a great fire either. Your awesome God is found in a baby born in a stable, it is found in a criminal sentenced to die on a cross in your place.

"But Pastor" you want to interject, "doesn't God cause all these fantastic natural phenomena to occur?" Yes...but it's not in these glorious-appearing things that God's true awesomeness is found. "But Pastor, isn't it just awesome that God created and controls the entire universe?" Certainly these acts of God are note-worthy, but they pale in comparison with the actual *awesome* things that God does for you in His Son, a carpenter from the small town of Nazareth by the name of Jesus.

We are tempted to think that the glorious-appearing things are the most awesome. But they aren't. You like to consider the most exciting things, the most captivating events, and the most intriguing notions as those that are the awesome-est. But they aren't. You are using that word "awesome" in the wrong way. It doesn't mean what you think it means. Because you are considering things of worldly glory to be those which are "awesome" in your sight. But God calls other things "awesome".

Now, the dream Jacob had was indeed "awesome". But if any of us had such a crazy dream, we'd chalk it up to that late night pizza we ate. In Jacob's case, we are tempted to blame his foolish choice of a rock for a pillow. But this dream was amazing, for a simple reason: God was there, and He was doing stuff! God was in that place, so Jacob named it Beth-el, "House of God". But when Jacob opened his eyes, He couldn't see God. Awake & listening, he couldn't hear God. But God was there!

Likewise in the miracles of today's Gospel. They thought Jesus was blaspheming, claiming to do what God alone could do–forgive sins. But not only did Jesus forgive the paralytic–He also healed him! All to prove one important thing–that God was really there, in the person of Jesus, and God was indeed doing awesome stuff! God was keeping His promise to forgive, to save all people, and to be the one "Seed" of Abraham Who would bless all people by doing what God promised He would do.

So...just where do you find your awesome God in action today? Not so much in climactic events and astounding miracles which may or may not happen. But in where He has promised to be and act. You find an awesome God proclaiming your sins "Forgiven!" in holy absolution. Your awesome God is there in your daily bath of baptism which drowns your sinful flesh and raises you anew each day. You know your awesome God is there in the flesh, feeding you with His body and blood in Communion.

Now these things on the surface don't seem too awesome. Simple words. Plain old water. Ordinary bread and wine. But in these means of grace, Your Awesome God Jesus is there to forgive and save you! Your God is so awesome that He would chose to become a man, and take your place under God's law. He was cursed with the blame and punishment for your sins, and your God was so awesome that He chose to die on the cross, so that you, His beloved children, would have life. Jesus, the Gate of Heaven came down that ladder to die for you so that you now live forevermore in heaven above. Amen.

Today's Hymns from LSB:
#659 Lord of Our Life
#708 Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart
#533 Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Trinity 18 Deuteronomy 10:12-21 "Is What We Do the Most Important Thing?"

And now, Israel–what does Yahweh your God ask from you, unless to fear Yahweh, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God in all your heart and in all your soul, and to safeguard the commandments of Yahweh and His obligations which I myself am commanding you today to your good? Look, to Yahweh your God–the heavens and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all which is in it. Only on your fathers–desire of Yahweh, to love them; and He chose in their seed after them--on you, from all the peoples, as this day. And circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and your neck, stiffen no longer. For Yahweh, your God–He, God of the gods and Lord of the lords, the God, the great One, the strong One, and the awesome One, who does not lift up faces, and he does not take bribes. He does justly for the orphan and the widow, and He loves the foreigner to give bread and clothes. And show your love to the foreigner, for foreigners you were, in the land of Egypt. Yahweh, your God, you will fear; with Him you will serve, and in Him you will hold on, and in His Name you will swear. He–your praise, and He–your God, Who has done to you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.

If you go to look up the ten commandments in your bible, you won't find them in only one place. Yes, they are found in Exodus 20, but they are also found in Deuteronomy 5! Why is God's Torah given twice? In the book of Deuteronomy, which means "second giving of the Torah", the ten commandments are repeated. You see, the Israelites had wandered in the Sinai for almost forty years since Moses first showed them the two stone tablets. Now, the younger generation would receive the Torah too!

You've probably noticed that I have purposely not called this the giving of the Law, but of the Torah. That's because, while the Torah teachings do include God's Law, that's not all that the LORD revealed to His people through Moses. You might be surprised, for instance, to know the very first words on those stone tablets. "I am Yahweh, your God, Who brought you out of slavery in Egypt." This is no "commandment" of what we must do. First and foremost is Who God is and what He does!

What the Israelites saw with their own eyes, you and I do well to comprehend today, so we don't get all caught up in God's Law. We like the Law, since it's all about us. There's a tiny pharisee in your heart who wants to do the right thing to feel good about yourself for doing it. So you try to live by the Law, becoming stiff-necked with satisfaction for what you do, looking down your nose at others who fail where you seem to succeed. But the danger is that you become self-righteous–your own savior!

That's why Moses cautions the Israelites to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts. For that's the body part from which sin emanates. Now, you don't want a surgeon with a stiff neck to perform such an operation, do you? So you, being stiff-necked, are not qualified. That's when the Great Physician, Jesus performs your heart surgery through Holy Baptism, removing the hard-hearted foreskin of your sin from it through the water and the word of the font. Your unrighteousness is removed–gone forever!

God gave the Israelites the Law and the Gospel so they would understand who they were, and who God is. You too are blessed to know that you too were rescued from slavery. Not to Egyptians in your case, but slaves to sin and that tempter, the devil. Jesus came to set you free from sin, which He bore on the tree of the cross. His body was given for you there to death, and His holy, precious blood was shed for you at Calvary; that you may eat and drink Jesus' forgiveness in Holy Communion.

For you were chosen to belong to God without any merit or worthiness of your own. You didn't bribe Him to love you. He didn't lift up your face and say, "I guess I'll die for this one." It wasn't because you are so lovable that God chose to love you. In fact, despite yourself, Jesus loved you. While you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. Jesus chose to love you anyway, because He is God, and God is love. It isn't your righteousness that impressed God, it was Jesus' holy righteousness that matters.

So now you are called by God to safeguard His commandments. But you are not going to be able to keep them, perfectly. No matter how hard you try, your sinful flesh will get the better of you at times, and you'll fall into temptation. But His commands remain to restrain your sinful flesh so that Christ Who lives in you may succeed in loving your neighbor through you. Even the foreigner who speaks only Spanish you may help, since you were once foreigners to God before you believed in Him. But even though you will fail at times, God loves you anyway, in Christ Jesus who proclaims you forgiven.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#852 O God of Mercy, God of Might
#694 Thee Will I Love, My Strength, My Tower

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trinity 17 Proverbs 25:6-14 The Difficulty in trying to do the Right Thing

Do not act distinguished in the face of the king, and in the place of great men, do not stand; for it is better that one say to you, "Come up here!", than you be humbled in the face of a prince, which your eyes have seen. Do not go forth to contend hastily, otherwise what will you do afterward, when your neighbor disgraces you? Contend your contention with your neighbor, yet a secret of another, do not disclose. Otherwise, the one who hears will despise you, and your rumor not turn away. Oranges of gold in baskets of silver–a word spoken on its circumstances. And earring of gold and an ornament of refined gold–a preacher of wisdom to an ear that listens. As coolness of snow in the day of harvest–a faithful/true messenger to those who sent him; and the soul of his masters he refreshes. Clouds and wind and rain that is not–a man who boasts in a gift of falsehood.

Today's epistle encourages us to *walk* in a manner worthy of those who are called to be Christians. Jesus, in today's Gospel reminds us to be careful where we choose to *sit*. Wise Solomon teaches us to be careful where we *stand*. So whether we are walking, standing or sitting, we had better be "on our toes" figuratively speaking. For where we choose to be and attempt to "fit in" matters. We need to know first "Who we are" so that we will know "Where to be" and "How to act"...

So...just "Who are you?" Well, you know who you aren't. You're not the King. You aren't even the Prince. You probably aren't anybody very great or noble either. You are nobody special that many people would consider you very important. Oh, I know that you like to think that you are a significant someone at times, but truth be told, you are just one of 7 billion who currently reside on planet earth.

But your God didn't choose to let you remain a nobody. Out of your obscurity your heavenly King sent to you the crowned Prince of heaven to live the perfect life on earth that you've failed to do. He became a perfect sacrifice for your sin on the cross, giving His life as the ransom price for a lowly earthling like you. All so that, you would hear His gospel call saying to you, "Come on up here!" to live with Him forevermore in the paradise of heaven! Humble no more, you are now exalted for eternity!

So now you know who you are, a resident of the kingdom of heaven! But now you need to know just where you are to be? Oh, I know you want to be where the popular people go, at times. The bars, the gambling establishments, the stadiums & auditoriums which attract crowds are enticing. And it's ok to go to one of these places on occasion. But if restaurants, sporting events, campgrounds, school activities, and the like are taking up a bulk of your time, perhaps you're in the wrong places too much.

God's Spirit calls you to "Come up here" where He promises to be each Sunday and holiday, in His house called the Church. He gathers you around His word proclaimed, so that your listening ear may hear God's wisdom preached. Your pastor is pledged to be a faithful and true messenger of that Word. He is no hireling who brags about false hope that your itching ears may want to hear. He brings you God's refreshing word of grace, that descends like rain and snow from heaven to comfort your soul.

You know who you are–a resident of heaven. You know where you are to be–in church where God's words are proclaimed. But how are we to act? Well, you know that you shouldn't act pridefully, although you often do. "I'm a really good person" you like to think. But think again. Are you never contentious? Do you never argue with people or try to embarrass them by spreading rumors? You've never revealed someone's secret, or ever thought to look down your nose at those "beneath you"?

Truth be told, we often act in ways that attempt to put others down so that we seem superior. But that's nothing but sin, which is *our* disgrace before God. According to God's Law, when we show disdain or scorn for another person, we fail to love them as we do ourselves, and become law-breakers, worthy of being sent down to the lowest place of all. When we act that way, we aren't acting as those called to be in God's divine presence on Sunday, or in heaven for eternity.

So what does God do with us? Well, He "could" send you down to that lowest of places where you deserve to be. But He doesn't. He humbles you once again, instead. He sends you His Law to convict you of your sin. Then He gives you the right words to say in confession. First you confess your sinfulness to God so that you will agree with God that you don't deserve heaven. Then you confess once more, this time in the words of the Creed, that Jesus was crucified, suffered, died and was buried for you! Then your Savior feeds you with His body and blood for your forgiveness! Exalted!

Hymns for today from LSB:
#398 Hail to the Lord's Anointed
#557 Seek Where Ye May
#698 May we, Thy Precepts, Lord Fulfill

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trinity 16 I Kings 17: 17-24

And it was, after these words, he became weak, the son of the woman, mistress of the house; and it was, his weakness was very powerful, up to which there was no breath in him. And she said to Elijah, "What is this to me and to you, ‘man of God'? You have come to me to remember my wrongs, and to kill my son!" And he said to her, "Give to me, your son." And he took from her lap, and he took him up to the upstairs, which he was dwelling there, and he placed him on his bed. And he called to Yahweh, and he said, "Yahweh, my God, also to the widow which I am staying as a foreigner with her, have You done evil, causing to die, her son?" And he stretched out upon the lad three times, and he called to Yahweh, and said, "Yahweh, my God, return, please, the soul of the lad to his inner parts." And Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the lad returned to his inner parts, and he lived! And Elijah took the lad, and brought him down from the upstairs of the house, and he gave him to his mother, and Elijah said to her, "Look, your son is alive!" And the woman said to Elijah, "This I know, for a man of God, you are, and the Word of God in your mouth is faithful-truth!"

God perplexes us sometimes. You get a lead on a job that seems perfect for you...then it goes to someone else. You find a special someone whom you want to date...but that person wants a relationship with somebody else. You work hard to live and eat healthier...then you come down with an illness anyway. You know how the widow in the story today must have felt. God had just provided food for her family thru a miracle...but now her one surviving relative, her only son, takes ill and dies.

When God allows such curve balls to be thrown into your life, how do you react? At first, you might react like Elijah, who all but accused God of doing something evil to this boy. "Why did God let this happen!" you might want to shout. Oh, you know that God didn't *do it*. Although you may act like you still think He did. You want to blame God for your troubles, quickly forgetting you deserve them.

Even though you ought to receive many more calamities in your life for your sin, God refrains from giving you what you should receive. God isn't evil. God is Love! When bad things happen to you, it's not because God is bad, but because He desires to use it as an opportunity to show mercy! That's what He did thru Elijah, raising this boy from the dead. That's what He does for you too! Jesus, the author of life gave Himself to death to feed you with His body and blood for your life everlasting!

You may react somewhat negatively like the widow woman in the story. You can almost hear the sarcasm in her voice as she addresses Elijah as a "man of God". It's as though she's mocking him with a "yeah, right, *you* are a ‘man of God'". You may be tempted to forget that your pastor is a "man of God" too. You may even try to dismiss what he teaches and preaches as his own opinion.

But a real man of God, like Elijah, doesn't offer human thoughts or ideas. He offers you words that are faithful and true. God's words. That's why you can rely on what your Pastor says to you as a sola scriptura preacher & teacher. As such a pastor, I'm privileged to proclaim to you today that you too, like this once dead boy are alive again! You who were dead in your sins are now made alive in Christ Jesus! You died to sin at the cross when Jesus died, and you are raised in Him on Easter to live new life!

You might also react to troubles by thinking that the LORD is a vindictive God. Luther used to think that. So did the widow woman, who was sure that God was punishing her for her former sinfulness. She was certain that God was a stern Judge Who kept a long ledger with black marks against her for all her wrongs. You might be tempted to think this sometimes too. But that's not how God acts.

Oh, your God is a God of judgment, to be certain. But His judgment toward you is a good one! He judges you by grace in Christ Jesus! In fact, though the LORD could remember all your wrongs, He chooses not to! He washed you clean from your sins in Holy Baptism! But there was a time when He *did* recall all of your sins, when He remembered to pour out that filthy flood water from the font upon His Son Jesus at the cross. Your God died for you so that you would not die, but live forever!

So, when lousy situations happen in your life that seem all wrong, take pause a bit to see if these are not just opportunities for God to act. Even the death of her last living family member turned out to be an occasion for great joy to the widow, when God used Elijah to resurrect Him. God does the same for you! In fact, He already has! As a believer *in* Christ, that means you were literally *in* Him on Easter Sunday when He raised Himself to life. You are already resurrected to life eternal in heaven!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Kings 17:8-16 15th Sunday after Trinity

And it occurred, the Word of Yahweh to him (Elijah) saying, "Rise, walk to Zarephath, which is in Sidon, and stop there; look I have ordered there a widow woman to provide all your food." And he rose, and he walked to Zarephath, and he came to the gate of the city, and look there, a widow woman gathering sticks. And he called to her, and he said, "Bring, please, to me a little water in a vessel, and I may drink." And she was walking to get, and he called to her and he said, "Bring, please, to me a piece of bread in your hand." And she said, "Life of Yahweh your God, if there is to me a supply, for if a full palm of flour in a pot and a little oil in a jug, and look, I am gathering two sticks and I will go in and I will prepare for me and for my son, and we will eat, and we will die." And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, prepare as you have spoken, however, prepare for me from there a little cake first, and bring it to me, and for you and for your son you prepare afterward. For so says Yahweh, God of Israel, ‘The pot of flour will not be consumed, and the jug of oil will not be lacking, until the day Yahweh gives rain on the face of the earth." And she walked and she prepared according to the word of Elijah, and they ate, she and he and her house for days. And the pot of flour was not exhausted, and the jug of oil was not lacking, according to the Word of Yahweh which He spoke in the hand of Elijah.

God provides. We all know this. The Lord provides. This truth has sometimes become almost a trite, pithy statement that people offer during times of need. But it's still true. Jesus provides! Often when it seems like the darkest moment of your life, your Savior is there providing whatever you need. It may appear as though nothing good is forthcoming from God, but He keeps His promise to provide you your daily bread for this world's living, and He adds to that the promises which provide for even more!

Now, things looked pretty bleak for Elijah. Wicked King Ahab had married nasty gal named Jezebel from the foreign land of Lebanon. They persecuted prophets like Elijah, killing most of them. Then a drought comes into the land, and Elijah is spared certain death as God leads him to a brook and provides food for him through ravens. Then God throws a curve-ball at Elijah. He tells him to go to Lebanon, that nasty land Jezebel came from, where God would provide his next meals.

"Of course", you consider at first, "Elijah should trust God and go where He's promised to feed him." But I'm sure it wasn't so easy for Elijah. Picking up and going to a foreign land, trusting God to provide for him there during a great drought? Not so easy. But Elijah trusted that God would provide just as He had promised, and went to the home of the widow of Zarephath. Even there, he continued to trust God could provide, even though her pantry was almost completely bare. And God did provide!

Well, how about yourself? Do you readily, and willingly go where God has promised to provide for you? Quite often, you don't. Do you come faithfully to hear God's word proclaimed each Sunday & holiday from the pulpit? Do you also faithfully attend the bible classes offered here, and do you bring your children, grandchildren, nieces & nephews to Sunday School, so that all of God's family here may be taught from God's Word of truth and be equipped to fend off the devil's temptations?

Do you want to come to the Lord's Table *every Sunday and holiday* for the spiritual nourishment of Christ's Body and Blood? "Well, I'm not sure I'm ready for that..." some of you are probably thinking. Every Sunday communion may seem like foreign territory to us... And do you take opportunity for private confession & absolution, as you learned in the Catechism, so that you may regularly hear God's absolute forgiveness from the Pastor as from Christ Himself? "I'm not doing that!" you think.

But why not come often to receive these gifts God has promised to you? Just because it's outside of your personal comfort zone to do so? It was surely uncomfortable for Elijah to cross the border into hostile territory during a dangerous drought. But he acted not on his personal feelings, but in faith, trusting God's promises each step of the way. So too are you blessed to walk even more often to the Lord's Table to receive the body of Christ given for you, and His blood shed at Calvary for your life!

And you are blessed to come to bear your soul whenever it is heavy with guilt, to hear the wonderful words of forgiveness, that you are set free from your sin, from death, and from the power of the devil! For Jesus promises to provide more than just for your daily bread here and now. He delivers Himself as the Bread of Life at the Cross, and in Word and Sacrament, He feeds you unto your life everlasting! Amen

Hymns for Today from LSB:

#726 Evening and Morning

#760 What God Ordains is Always Good

#719 I Leave All Things to God's Direction

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Genesis 11

And all the earth was one lip, and of words–one. And it was in pulling out from the East, and they found an opening in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. And they said, a man to a friend, "Come, let us make bricks dried in the sun, and let us burn them in fire." And it was to them the bricks for stone, and tar was to them mortar. And they said, "Come, let's build to us a city and a tower, and its head into heaven, and let's make to us a name: so that we won't be scattered on the face of all the earth. And Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which was built by the sons of Adam. And Yahweh said, "Look, one people and one language to all of them; and this–the beginning of what they are to do; and now, nothing is cut off from them which they purpose to do. Come let Us go down and confound, there, their language, that they will not hear, a man's lip to his friend. And Yahweh scattered them from there, on the face of all the earth; and they ceased to build the city. On this, they called its name "Babel" because there Yahweh babbled the lips of all the earth. And from there, Yahweh scattered them over the face of all the earth.

Sometimes people have a few good ideas; but this is never sufficient. First, a few good ideas is never enough. All ideas had better be good so that the not-so-good ones don't overwhelm the decent ones. Secondly, what you do with those few good notions matters. The ideas themselves need to be implemented correctly. Otherwise, you'll never get positive results in the end. 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration, as the saying goes. But if you do it wrongly, the best of ideas is useless.

These sons of Adam had a few good ideas. They wanted to get up to heaven. Nothing wrong with that. They wanted to have a good name. This is a laudable goal. And they wanted to stay united. Togetherness is a fine thing. The problem these folks had wasn't with their ideas, but with how they thought they should be accomplished. Each time, they thought that it was up to *them* to get the job done. It wasn't. These good ideas were all those which God alone would accomplish.

First they started building a tower into heaven. God stopped them in their tracks. It wasn't for them to do the work to get themselves to heaven. You may be tempted similarly to think that your good works make you worthy of heaven. They don't. Or you might think your choosing to believe makes you worthy of eternal life. It doesn't. You can't do a single thing that brings you an inch closer to heaven.

You are saved by grace thru faith, not of your works at all. God takes you to heaven on the merits of Jesus Christ alone, and all that He has done for you. He kept the commandments perfectly in your place, earning heaven. Then He gives it up to you thru His death on the +. He then sends His promised Spirit at Baptism to cleanse your heart and dwell there to produce a trusting faith which clings to Jesus' works alone for your salvation. It is not you, but God alone Who takes you up to heaven!

Secondly, these sons of Adam wanted to make a name for themselves. But God wouldn't let it happen that way. The Lord confounded their languages so that a man couldn't even call his friend by name any longer. You too are fore-warned not to attempt to make your own name great. For that leads to the sin of pride, which goeth before a fall. It is not *your* name that God wants to be great.

So God gives you a new name, which you know is truly great. His Name! You are given His name at Baptism, God's family name, which becomes your new name. You were adopted into God's family on your baptism day, to bear the name of Christ as a Christian from that day forward. You heard that name of Jesus clearly, in your own language, in that gospel message that made you a believer in Christ. Just like God un-did the confusion of languages in the Pentecost miracle!

Lastly, the sons of Adam wanted to keep themselves united. Not God's goal at that time, since He had commanded them to fill the earth. So He filled the earth with them Himself, scattering them everywhere. You too fall into the temptation to stay in your own little clique, or to shy away from those places and people He wants you to interact with. The unity of a small, comfortable click isn't God's plan.

God provides unity among all believers in a special way. He takes sinners who have lots in common, and provides a union for them. As each of us comes up to the altar rail to receive the Lord's Supper for our forgiveness, Jesus is uniting us with Him as we eat His body given in death at Calvary, and drink His blood shed for us on the cross. And if we have a common union with Jesus, we are together also in communion fellowship with each other. You are made one with every forgiven sinner in Christ Jesus!

So, the next time you get a few *good ideas*, pause for a moment and be reminded how God performs His tasks much better than you do, and faithfully rely on Him to execute the best ideas to absolute perfection! In His Word and Sacraments, He provides everything you need for life and salvation.

Hymns from LSB:
#501 Come Down O Love Divine
#870 Now that Daylight Fills the Sky
#497 Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord
#500 Creator Spirit By Whose Aid
#489 Hail Thee Festival Day-Pentecost

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Easter 7

For this, say to the house of Israel, "So says Lord Yahweh, ‘Not for your sake, I Myself act, house of Israel, for if in My Name of holiness which you profaned in the nations, which you were there. And I make holy My great name, the one profaned in the nations which you profaned in their midst, and the nations will know that I Myself am Yahweh'–declaration of Lord Yahweh, ‘in being holy among you in their sight.' And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your land. And I will sprinkle on you water of cleansing and you will be cleansed from all your defilement and from all your surrounding idols; I will cleanse you! And I will give to you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will give in your inner parts, and I will get rid of the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. And My Spirit I will give in your inner parts; and I will act on you which work you walk in, and My judgments you will safe-guard, and you will produce."

The Israelites hadn't learned their lesson. They had been unfaithful to God back in Israel, so God had taken them captive in Babylon for some 70 years. But while there, they still kept messing up. God had given them His holy Name, naming them as His chosen people. But that Name of God they hadn't treated as a cherished possession. Instead of hallowing it, they *profaned* God's Name among the Babylonians, Medes and Persians. Now, you'd think God would just give up on such people.

How about you? You pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be Thy Name", but do you really mean it? Oh, perhaps you don't curse or swear too often, but that's only part of God's name being holy for you. Even if you are pretty good at holding your tongue and avoid taking God's name in vain, have you been using His Name in a holy way? Have you considered what God does to make His Name holy?

You profane God's name when you teach contrary to what God's word says. Don't think that you don't. Even if you don't teach Sunday School or bible class, you teach just the same when you offer advice that comes from sources other than God's word. If you offer your human wisdom tainted with sin, the common sense of this sinful world, instead of what God's word teaches, you profane His name.

Although you ignore God's Name connected to His truth by avoiding SS or bible classes, or devotions at home, God keeps on instructing you with that word anyway. He sings it to you through the voice of your Pastor in the liturgy. He proclaims it to you in the readings & in the message of the sermon. God says, "Though you've been unfaithful teachers of my Word, I can't do anything but faithfully teach it to you. For that word bears witness of the Name of Jesus, your Savior Who died for you!"

You profane God's name whenever you live contrary to how Scripture says you ought. Don't think that you don't. Even if you never cuss with God's Name, you still profane that Name whenever you sin in other ways. For God's Name claims you to be His Own; yet you often act like you don't belong to God at all (whenever you gossip, lie, speak judgmentally, bad-mouth, or degrade your neighbor).

Though you live like you don't bear God's Name, God still lets you live, even though the wages of sin is death and all. You are a rebellious house like that of Israel in Ezekiel's day, but God doesn't deal with you like you deserve. Instead of your death, your heavenly Father sacrifices His Own Son to death at the cross in your place! His body is given for you there, and His blood is shed for you on Calvary. You eat that body and drink that blood for your forgiveness, and for your life restored!

You profane God's name when you simply forget who you are in Christ Jesus. You are not your own, but you've been purchased by a great price. Yet you act like you are independent from God, doing your own thing, following your own whims and neglecting to consider what God, your Owner, wants from you. You bear bad fruits, instead of those good fruits God would have you produce.

Though you fail so often to act like a child of God, God loved you enough to adopt you anyway! He gave you His holy Name at your Baptism, sprinkling you clean to bring you into His heavenly family. He took your old sin-sick heart of stone and removed it from you, nailing it to Jesus' body on the tree. In its place, God gives you the very pure heart of the flesh and blood Jesus as your very own! In Baptism, you now have a holy residence so that His very Spirit was given to live within your heart!

Yes, on our own we would be miserable failures in all we teach, in how we live, and in who we think we are. But you are not on your own. Your God is faithful toward you even when you are not. He cleanses you of all your sin, gives you His holy Name, and even produces good works through you!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter 6 Numbers 21:4-9

And they pulled out from Mt. Hor, the way of the Sea of Reeds to go around the land of Edom; and the souls of the people were despondent on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in a wilderness in which there is no bread, and there is no water, and our soul is at its end in this bread of starvation. And Yahweh set free among the people snakes of fire, and they bit the people, and many people from Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and they said, "We have sinned, for we spoke against Yahweh and against you; pray to Yahweh and He may take away from us the snakes." And Moses prayed on behalf of the people. And Yahweh said to Moses, "Make to yourself a fiery one, and place it on a pole, and it will be, everyone bitten and he looks to it, he will live. And Moses made a snake of bronze and he set it on a pole, and it was, if a fiery one bit a man, and he looked to the snake of bronze, he lived.

It may be an old wives' tale, but some say that the best hangover cure is "hair of the dog that bit you". It seems so strange, for you wouldn't be foolish enough to try and grab hair off a dog that has already taken a bite from your hide! If too much drinking is what has bit you, how could drinking more help? Usually folks are smart enough to avoid altogether those things that hurt them. But when those snakes with a fiery bite afflicted the Israelites, God chose a bronze snake on a pole for their remedy!

Scales of the snake that bit you seems a strange cure for a deadly venom, especially since God had already written out on the two tablets of commandments that they should make no graven image of anything in or under heaven. But what Moses made was no graven image. It was an image, and it was engraved into a piece of bronze, but it was no idol for the people to worship. This was no false god the people were looking to. This was the answer to their prayer! This was God in action to save!

This was not just an answer to the Israelite's prayer, but to the prayers of Jesus' disciples as well. Jesus tells them that if they ask the Father for anything, He'll give it to them in Jesus' name. This is powerful stuff! Jesus was about to overcome the world for them, in a peculiar, but familiar way. Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up by Moses, so too would Jesus be lifted up, so that those looking to Him in faith would receive eternal life! At the cross Jesus would become the answer to their prayers!

For you too, it is in looking toward an ugly sight that your otherwise starving souls are saved. There is nothing attractive about the scene of Calvary, much like the Israelites looking at an image of the snake which had just bit them. The image of Jesus' beaten body nailed to the cross, and His bloody sacrifice there is actually repulsive to our senses. But it is only by looking there, through faith, are you saved. Only there do you see redemption. Only in Jesus lifted up on the tree do you have life!

On that cross Jesus becomes snake-bit in your place. As God first cursed the serpent in the Garden of Eden, He told him that he would strike a deadly bite on the Seed of Eve's heel. Jesus is that Seed of Eve Whom Satan snake-bit with your sin and condemnation at Calvary. Jesus willingly received that bite, He who knew no sin of His Own became your sin there as He was lifted up on the tree. That bronze serpent foreshadows Jesus Who bore all that poison-venom and its deadly consequence.

Yet Jesus is also that Seed Who would strike the crushing blow on the head of that snake in the grass. Christ did just that at the cross, overcoming sin, death and the devil once and for all there. Jesus even conquers death at the cross, by His Own death in your place. He has destroyed death's hold on you forevermore! Your sins He bore, your condemnation He received, and your death He experienced. To prove His Calvary victory for you, Jesus raised Himself to life again on the third day–Easter Sunday!

Moses lifted up that bronze snake in the Sinai wilderness as a type of Christ for the Israelites. God was directing their attention far into the future when Jesus would be lifted up for their salvation. Their trust was not in an inanimate object, but in God their Savior. The Israelites were trusting in Christ their Redeemer, the one who could conquer death for them and grant them the gift of life. Looking up at that pole was God's way of helping them look forward, into the future, to the lifting up of their Lord.

You are similarly blessed to look backward to the lifting up of Christ for you on the cross. Whether you've grumbled against God or His spokesman in this place (your Pastor), you seek forgiveness. Yet you won't starve to death in the wilderness of your sins. Jesus is your Bread of Life. His body lifted up is given to you to eat, and your drink is His blood shed for you there, in the cup. Your eyes of faith look up to the cross, where Jesus brings you His gifts from Calvary each Sunday and Festival Day. Amen.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#469 Christ the Lord is Risen Today!
#766 Our Father Who From Heaven Above
#490 Jesus Lives the Victory Won!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Easter 5 Isaiah 12:1–6

And you will say on that day, "I thank You, Yahweh, for You were angry with me; Your anger turned away; You comforted me. Look God–my Salvation. I trust and I do not fear; for my strong-pride and my song–Yah, Yahweh; and He became to me, my Salvation. And you will draw water in joy from fountains of salvation. And you will say on that day, "Praise to Yahweh; call on His Name; make known in the nations His deeds; cause them to remember that His Name is exalted. Harp praise of Yahweh, for majestic works; may this be known in all the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst–the Holy One of Israel!"

For generations, the Lutheran church was known in Christendom as the *singing church*. While Roman priests chanted in Latin, Martin Luther and those who followed his reforms restored the congregational song to the church. Not only did the early Lutherans write hymns for the people to sing in worship, but the laity were taught to chant their responses to God in the liturgy. Like the church of old, God's people once again began to sing the song of the LORD's salvation!

But it is not just *singing* itself that is important, but *what* we sing is crucial. God has given us to sing His words and works of salvation. Yet what have so many in Christendom done? Peruse the dial of Christian radio stations, and you will find very little singing of salvation. Whether contemporary Christian music, or old gospel favorites, what predominates there are songs with peppy tunes and words of how people feel. But very little is found on the airwaves of what God actually says and does...

You are given by God to sing God's words. The responses you chant in the liturgy are almost all directly from scripture. You sing Lutheran hymns which come from God's word. Why? Because you are privileged to sing of the Lord's salvation! You sing of Christ-crucified, and you sing of the works of God in your life, where the Lord Jesus proclaims His love to you on Sunday morning, and where He blesses you in the ways He makes you holy in holy baptism, holy absolution and holy communion.

*How* we sing also matters greatly. Many Christian churches nowadays build a stage up front, place a band up their to perform before the audience, and give microphones to singers who do their best American Idol impression. This is not humble worship. This is prideful entertainment! Often the performers aren't singing hymns to Him at all , but rather turn their backs to the altar of God's presence and sing pop-music to please their family members and friends down in the pews.

You are given to sing God's song of salvation, humbly, to Him. Your singing is an act of confession, saying to God what He has already said to you. Your singing is at times somber, as you admit your sinfulness and how God has every right to be angry with you. At times your singing is joyful, recognizing that the only worth you have is not in what you do, but in what Christ Jesus did for you at the cross of Calvary, giving His life up in sacrifice for you, to save your soul and give you life eternal!

The *why* of your singing is also important. Some sing to show off their talent. Others may sing in attempt to prove their perceived standing before God to other Christians. But most sing because of their emotions. Now, singing is in part an emotional undertaking, but many foolishly think that's all it is. They judge a song based solely on how it makes them feel. But many things which make a person *feel good* for a time are not really very good things at all, in and of themselves.

The LORD gives you songs to sing because they reveal His goodness! You don't sing to feel good, but because you know that God makes you good! You sing of drawing God's waters of salvation daily from the baptismal font to cleanse you of your sin. You call on His name in song, the Name He gave you at your baptism! You sing praise to Jesus for His majestic works, from living perfectly on earth to earn your salvation, to His willingness to embrace the death of the + in your place to save you!

You are blessed to be Lutheran, in the "singing church"! But you are further blessed to sing hymns to Him, appropriately so. For as you do, your pride is not in your singing, but in Jesus for what He's done for you. For Jesus your Savior is your song! Your focus is on Him alone, the forgiveness He proclaims to you from the cross "Father forgive them", and on His majestic works of giving His body for you on the tree, and shedding His blood there to save you.

"Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus Lord to Thee we raise, manifest in valiant fight, quelling all the devil's might; manifest in gracious will, ever bringing good from ill. Anthems be to Thee addressed, God in man made manifest." Amen.

Hymns from LSB:
#454 Sing My Tongue the Glorious Battle
#556 Dear Christians One and All Rejoice!
#478 The Day of Resurrection

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 Isaiah 40:25–31

"And to whom will you compare Me, and I be placed next to?" says the Holy One. "Lift up, on high, your eyes and see: Who created these? The One Who separates out in number, their armies; to all of them, by name, He calls; greatness of strengths and mighty of power: a man is not lacking. Why do you say, Jacob; and you speak, Israel, "Veiled is my way from Yahweh, and from God my judgment is passed over. It is not known to you? If you have not heard? A God, everlasting, is Yahweh–Creator of the ends of the earth! He does not become weary, and He does not become labored. There is no searching into his understanding. Giving to the weary–power, and to the one lacking might–abundant strength. And youths become weary and labored, and young men become weaker and weaker, but those who hope strongly in Yahweh renew power, and they go up wings as eagles. They run and are not labored; they walk and do not become weary."

There are times when you are just wiped out. You feel spent. You've stuggled with problem after problem and your energy is drained. You've done all you can, and you are simply labored-out. You grow weary and tired from everything that you've had to do. You can't do a single thing more, and even if you tried, it simply wouldn't help anyway. You just grow weaker and weaker, and there doesn't seem to be much hope in continuing on. You've reached your wit's end, and want to just give up.

We've all been there, at one time or another. Maybe it was when you were giving birth to your first child, and the labor was so intense that you didn't think you could do it. Perhaps it was a test or project at school that seemed so overwhelming that you thought you'd never complete the task. Or you or a loved one may have had a health problem that seemed insurmountable, and you didn't think you'd ever recover. Whatever the circumstance, you simply ran out of gas, and needed some help!

In the sorrow of feeling over-whelmed, it sure seems like God has abandoned us. But He hasn't. Just as Jesus tells His disciples that they shouldn't sorrow because He physically goes away for a little while, so too you shouldn't feel like God has left you just because Jesus is up in heaven now. For heaven isn't really a place far from you at all! Heaven is wherever God is found, and you know that you have a bit of heaven on earth this morning, with Immanuel, God-with-us in our midst today!

Jesus comes to be with you today in the daily bath of your baptism. It's not a coincidence that all of our worship services begin with the Name into which we are all baptized. This serves as a repeated reminder that God calls you by name, by *His* name, as a baptized child of God. This thought should perk you up a bit, knowing that no matter how weary and tired you become, God, your heavenly Father provides you the strength you lack, His Own almighty power if need be, to see you through anything!

Jesus also renews your strength this day in His word. Your Pastor is privileged to preach from the pulpit the proclamation of God's gospel love in Jesus to you. This message is not the preacher's word, but it is Jesus' Own love delivered to you this day! He loved you so much that with you on His mind, He went to the cross to receive the judgment of death you deserved for your sins; so that, in trade, you get the judgment He deserved by his perfect obedience–life eternal in the paradise of heaven!

Jesus comes to strengthen your weary soul in the spiritual sustenance of the Lord's Supper. In the bread, He gives you His very body which was given unto death at Calvary. In the cup, he gives you His very blood shed for you on Golgotha's hill. He feeds you with Himself so that His omnipotent strength, come down from heaven, may be within you! No longer is your soul weak and weary, but now it is strengthened in the forgiveness and salvation Jesus brings to you in the gifts of Holy Communion.

So you no longer need to sorrow as though you are too overwhelmed to function any longer. Nor do you need to search for some sort of inner strength within you, that isn't really there. You have a Savior Who is God. He never grows weary, weak or tired....well, He did once at the cross. There Jesus bore all your weaknesses in His Own body on the tree. But now He is risen and has ascended to the right hand of His heavenly Father. He is now your source of strength, here and now, and hereafter in eternity! "I come, O Savior, to Thy Table, for weak and weary is my soul; Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able to satisfy and make me whole. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood, be for my soul the highest good!" Amen.