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!!