Monday, December 31, 2012

Name of Jesus Eve

You see that no one of you be captured through the philosophy and purposeless deception according to what is handed down of mankind, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ; because in Him inhabited all the fullness of deity, bodily, and you are, in Him, made full; Who is the head of all rule and authority. In which also you are circumcised in a handless circumcision in the discarding of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ, having been buried in Him in the Baptism, in which also you were raised up through the faith of the working of God, the One Who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in the sins and in the uncircumcision of your heart, He made you alive together with Him, having graciously forgiven in us all sins.         
The world will tell you that you are not good enough. Just like everything advertised is “new & improved”, the philosophy of this age is that you too must strive to be all you can be. But you never get there. You will never be complete. You will never be your full self. You will never be perfect. Yet this world’s mantra is “strive, struggle, and strain” every waking moment of the day until you get there. But you never will. That’s the rub. It’s an empty promise this world gives. It’s just plain deception.
But the message of Christ Jesus is that He has been circumcised for you! “Huh?” you might respond. That’s right, Jesus is circumcised for you, so that you may be made full. Without him, you remain unfulfilled, imperfect, incomplete, working so hard to obtain that which you can never achieve. But in the circumcision of the Christ, you are made to be what God desires. Your failures are no more. They are replaced with the successes of your God, Who alone does the mighty works to make you full!
Now, we should back-track a bit. Jesus is circumcised on the 8th day of his young life as your Savior. He enters that day into a covenant of works, one in which you fail miserably. This covenant was a simple one. God promised to be Israel’s God, and they promised to be His people. God did His job perfectly. The people of Israel, however, did not. They broke all of God’s commandments, and they acted like anything but God’s Own people. So have you. You have violated God’s laws time and again.
But not Jesus. He entered into this covenant-agreement of circumcision with every intention of keeping God’s commandments perfectly. And He did! Jesus was holy, just as God the Father is holy, because Jesus is God too. In Him all the fulness of god-ness dwelt in His body. So He could accomplish what nobody before or since could. Jesus was obedient to all of God’s laws, without fail, earning by His perfect works the prize above all prizes–eternal life in the paradise of heaven above.
But Jesus wasn’t selfish. He did not want to keep this prize all to Himself. In fact, He loved you so much that He was willing to give up that gift of everlasting life, and instead, take death, the death you deserved because of your sin, as His very Own. Your body of sinful flesh Jesus took upon Himself at the cross. Your deadly sin, and uncircumcised heart--Jesus took from you. All your sins He took into His body, and then buried them forevermore in the tomb. Your sins are graciously forgiven in Jesus.
So now His circumcision into all of this law-keeping yet death-receiving becomes your own circumcision too. You are circumcised into Jesus at your baptism. Just as folks joined God’s people Israel through the sacrament of circumcision, so too have you joined the Church of Christ Jesus by your baptism. God has joined you to Jesus in your baptism, connecting you to His death, burial, and resurrection! You are made alive together with Jesus. Your baptism is into the circumcision of Christ!
So when you hear “circumcision” of Jesus, think “that’s my baptism!”. For baptism is a circumcision of sorts, though without the use of human hands. Instead of a person cutting off a small piece of flesh, God makes your baptism a circumcision of your whole sinful flesh! God takes away all the sinfulness of your body of flesh and discards it into the body of Jesus at the cross.  God cuts off of you all of your sinful flesh at your baptism, and nails it to Jesus on the tree, where He dies your death in your place .   

Jesus does all of this for you for your “fullness”. Not some sort of human potential you must work hard to realize someday. No, the fullness God desires for you He Himself works to accomplish in Christ Jesus. Just as the “fullness” of the God-head inhabited Jesus’ human body, so to does Jesus give you the fullness which you really need. This fullness is found in that same body of Jesus, which He gives to you to eat this day for the forgiveness of your sins; the only fullness you’ll ever need.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent 4 Hebrew 10:5-10 "What can you do in the Church to help save souls?"

Then, having come into the world, He says, "sacrificial-offerings and presented-offerings You do not want, yet a body You have made complete to me. With complete-burnt-offerings and (those) concerning sin, You are not pleased."

 Then I said, "Look, I have come. In a scroll of a book it is written concerning Me, The accomplishment, God, of Your will." 

Having said, above, that sacrificial-offerings and presented-offerings and complete-burnt-offerings and (those) concerning sin You do not want nor are You pleased, (those according to the Law to be sacrificial-offerings); then He said, "Look, I have come to do Your will." He takes away the first so that the second one stands. In which desire we are made holy by the delivering over of the body of Christ, once and for all. 

The tasks of a priest seemed endless back in the Old Testament. All day long they would stand on their feet to offer five different types of sacrifices for the people regularly. "Fellowship", "Grain", "Burnt" and "Sin" offerings are all mentioned here in our text. In addition to these four, the Levites also had to offer "Guilt" offerings when people sinned against God, to forgive them and atone for their sin.

Year after year, sin after sin, folks kept bringing fruits of their farms as sacrifices to God. The cycle seemed endless. But all these sacrifices weren't what the Lord wanted. They pointed forward to the "once and for all" sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Psalm 40 reveals that the Father would give the Son a *body* to offer up, a sacrifice was God's will, pleasing to Him.

No wonder not-yet-born John literally skipped for joy in his mother's womb, since His Savior was only one womb away! The prophecy of God taking a body for sacrifice had not been fulfilled! What was written in that scroll of holy scripture was all about what Jesus had come into this earth to accomplish. God's Word was all about what God's Son would come down from heaven to earth to do–His heavenly Father's will. "Look–I've come to do Your will" He says. It is the only will you need.

Yet you pray, "Thy will be done." But sadly you may pray this thinking it is all about you. You think, "God, help me to fit my life into the things that are your will for me to accomplish today." Now, while this is all fine and good, it is not what this petition is all about. Thy will be done is really about what God is doing, not what you are doing. It's about God stopping every single will which opposes His kingdom coming to you, or His name being made holy among you. Sometimes it's your will He stops.

The good and gracious will of God is Jesus' to accomplish! He gives His body in sacrifice for you on the tree, and sheds His blood there for you! He then feeds you with that same body and blood for your atonement, having reconciled you to your heavenly Father by His holy offering at Calvary, feeding you with the very payment price of your redemption. This is the once-and-for-all sacrifice with which God is well pleased. This is the offering with which is the will of God, the very desire of your Father above.

Yet how often do you read the Bible and wrongly assume it is all about what you are to do in attempt to please God. Much like the people of Israel long ago foolishly thought that their acts of sacrifice could do something to make God like them again. Even the laborious efforts of the Temple priests could not accomplish such an arduous task. Know that you can never, ever do enough on your own to please God. Which is why the work of God Himself in Christ Jesus must replace your feeble efforts.

For only Jesus is the Holy One of God. The accomplishment of God's will is found only in His work. The rest of mankind has inherited the sinfulness of Adam, and so we sin a lot, every day. If the sacrificial system of the OT were in place today, I'm sure your pastor would pass out from exhaustion! That just to atone for his own sins! No, that is not God's desire, for us sinners to keep offering sacrifices to Him. One final, perfect, holy sacrifice was needed for you–in Jesus Christ at the cross.

But you may think, "Our God is so confusing. He commanded sacrifices He didn't want and asks for offerings that He doesn't really need?" According to God's Law, these sacrifices were required, just as the offering up of your body in sacrificial service is still commanded. But you don't live by the Law.  

The Law of "what you should do" is given by God to serve His Gospel, never to replace it. The Law constantly accuses you, showing you how your feeble efforts pale in comparison to what Jesus has done in His sacrifice for you, so that you seek the forgiveness offered in word and sacrament. You are made holy by Christ's work alone, brought to His sacrifice on the cross in your baptism, receiving the fruits of His offering in the Lord's Supper, and hearing that God's will for you is done in Christ Jesus.


Hymns from LSB:

#346  When All the World Was Cursed  text  tune  score
#357  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
#342  What Hope! An Eden Prophesied

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent 3 Philippians 4:4-7

You, be joyful in the Lord at all times; again I say, you be joyful! 

May your gracious-gentleness be known to all mankind. The Lord is near. You worry (about) nothing, but in all, in prayer and in plea with thanksgiving may your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which rises above every mind, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

The remainder, brothers, whatever is genuine, whatever worthy of respect, whatever right, whatever pure, whatever pleasing, whatever praiseworthy, if something is virtuous, if something is recognized-as-approved–these things you consider. And what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, these things you practice; and the God of peace will be with you.      

On this "rejoice" Sunday, you are reminded that you are called to be joyful at all times! And just in case you weren't paying attention, St. Paul is inspired to write it a second time, "Again I say ‘You rejoice!'" OK, you get that God wants you to be joyful, and you certainly can understand how a believer in Christ would find a lot of things about which to rejoice, especially when the Lord's blessings abound. But what about those times when lousy things happen, like in Connecticut last Friday?

But that word is there–"always". Christians are to be joyful all the time. But you know that you just don't feel happy 24/7, 356 days a year. Cruddy things happen in your life. Health problems debilitate you and your loved ones. Finances are way too tight, and you can't always pay the bills. Children don't behave as parents want, and parents don't treat their children like they desire. These and other circumstances abound with much reason for unhappiness. How can God say "rejoice always?"

Well, the first mistake you may make is that you mistake happiness for joy. They are not the same thing at all. Your happiness is based on the situations in this world. Your joy is based on the unchanging certainty of your home in heaven above. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, while joy is a fruit which is borne in you by the Holy Spirit. So recognize the differences between happiness and joy.

Jesus taught His disciples that they ought to rejoice whenever people persecuted them, imprisoned them, told lies about them, and even threatened them with death! This would happen only because of their connection to Christ Jesus. The devil failed to get your Savior directly, so now Satan attacks believers. But you have the peace of God which guards your hearts and; minds in Christ Jesus! This is the peace Jesus proclaims to you from the cross, saying, "Father, forgive them!" Forgiveness=peace.

The second error you may make is forgetting that you are to rejoice *in the Lord*. You are not to rejoice in a political triumph, or because your team won its bowl game, or because you got a raise at work. Your rejoicing is not to be in this world, or in anything associated with it. And your joy should never, ever be in your own accomplishments, lest you become prideful and suffer a fall off your perch.

Your joy is always to be *in the Lord*. This means that you are given to rejoice in those things which bring you everlasting peace with God. You rejoice, for example, that you are baptized, washed clean to be a child of God forevermore. You have great joy that you are proclaimed forgiven, absolutely, in the Name of the Trinity when you confess your sins. You rejoice that Jesus feeds you from His cross with His body given, and His blood shed for your forgiveness, your life, and your eternal salvation.

A third mistake you may make is that you forget the very reason for your joy–"the Lord is near!" When you foolishly think that God is somehow absent when tragedies and calamities befall so many here on earth, you have begun to forget that Jesus promised, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." As you wallow in your self pity, doubting that Jesus would even want to return to this sin-sick world that plagues you so much, you forget the promise of Jesus to return quickly. 

Jesus the God of Peace is with you in His word, proclaiming to you now that you are forgiven in your Savior's death at Calvary, and that you are saved from death and the devil forevermore. Jesus is also a Witness Who is faithful and true! He promises to return soon to this world to raise all the dead, to rescue you from all the crud of this realm, taking you from this valley of tears and sorrows to be with Him forevermore in heaven. He is near in word and sacraments now, and His return is ever nearer!

So, knowing that God works joy in your heart, keeps you always "in the Lord" by faith, and is ever-near to forgive, save, and give you life, you have every reason for rejoicing in the Lord always. Especially as you are ever-mindful of Jesus quick return during this season of Advent. Amen.

Hymns this week from LSB:

#333  Once He Came in Blessing  tune  stanzas
#345  Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding! tune  stanzas
#349  Hark the Glad Sound  lyrics

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent midweek PREPARE Rev. 22

And look, I come soon. Blessed–the one who safe-guards the words of the prophecy of this book. And I, John–the one having heard and having seen these things; and when I heard and I saw, I fell to worship on my knees in front of the feet of the angel, the one showing me these things. And he says to me, "See to it, you don't! A slave with you, I am and of your brothers, the prophets, and of those who safe-guard the words of this book. Be on your knees to God!" And he says to me, "Stop sealing the words of the prophecy of this book, for the season is near. May the unrighteous one be unrighteous yet, and may the impure be impure yet, and may the righteous one be made righteous yet, and the holy one be holy yet. Look, I come soon, and My reward with Me, to deliver to each as is his work. I–the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Source and the Perfect-Completion. Blessed–the ones having washed their robes, in order that their authority be upon the tree of life, and by the gates they may enter into the city. .         
The first time the incarnate Son of God came to this world, preparations were in order. John, not the author of Revelation, but the Lutheran-who-baptized, was sent by God to prepare Jesus' way. He did this by preaching God's Word of repentance and forgiveness, and by offering a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Before Jesus' public ministry began, folks were returned to the Lord once again, so that they would be made ready to receive the Christ's blessed words and actions. 
Now awaiting the return of Jesus to this world for a second time, we hear that word again: "prepare". As we view that word, we can't help but think about how we prepare for other things. There is a lot of work to be done to prepare a big family meal at holiday time. There is a lot of studying to prepare for a final exam. There's a lot of number-crunching to prepare the end of the year budget. In all these examples of preparing, it sure seems like a whole lot of effort. "Prepare" sounds like a "you gotta".
But tonight we hear other words too: "Comfort, comfort." This duplication is by design, much like my mother would yell, "Johnny...JOHNNY!" to get my attention, this word is repeated so that we understand just how important it is to realize that all this preparation is actually a "comfort" for you. "But, Pastor, it will take a lot of hard work to prepare all the people of the world for Jesus, coming soon!" Indeed it does. In fact, it takes so much effort that you and I, and indeed all the people of the world put together could not possibly accomplish what it takes to get everyone ready for Jesus.
Really, we are a lot like John. Not the Lutheran-baptizer this time, but the Revelation-writer. He thought he ought to be "doing something" so what did he do? The absolute wrong thing. He tried to worship an angel instead of God. So God stopped him in his tracks. You and I are the very same way. We want to "do something" to get ourselves ready for Christ's imminent return, but our very efforts, tainted by sin as they are, will most likely just muck up the works and not help at all.
That is why the work of preparation is all for God to do. "Really?" Yes! "But don't I have to worship God on my knees?" Don't fret about that, for God's Law brings you to your knees quite well, just as the message of His Gospel love from Jesus at the cross raises you up and gives you worth! "But don't I gotta keep God's word?" The Holy Ghost has that one handled already as well, by the gift of faith in your heart, He safe-guards that word of God that it may dwell richly in you unto your life everlasting.
"But don't I have to do enough good works for Jesus to be pleased with me on Judgment Day? For He will render to each one according to his works!" Well, what has become of all your impurity and unrighteousness? It has been washed clean from you at your baptism, and that filthy floodwater from the font flowed all the way to Jesus on the +, where He became impure & unrighteous in your place at Calvary. Jesus already suffered your punishment, so there's nothing left in you to be condemned! 
You are blessed with the gift of faith by which the word of God is safe-guarded in your heart. You are blessed to have robes washed clean by Jesus! For in the sweet swap of Calvary, the same Jesus Who became your sins on the tree trades to you His holiness, His purity, His righteousness as yours! You are blessed to be made righteous by Jesus, kept holy in His sight, so that when He returns, your judgment will be a comfort to you! For He is the Source of your being-prepared, and its Perfect-Completion! He Who began this good work in you will bring it to completion as He promised. Amen. 

hymns from LSB:

#354  Arise, O Christian People  lyrics  tune  (a little fast!)
#347  Comfort, Comfort, Ye my People

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent II Philemon 2-11

I give thanks to my God upon all the memories of you, at all times in all my entreaties on behalf of all of you; upon your communion into the Gospel from the first day up to the now, trusting this same thing, that the One Who made a beginning in you a good work, He will perfectly-complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. To the degree that it is right to me to think this on behalf of all of you, through the having of you in my heart, and in my bonds and in the defense and certainty of the Gospel, sharers in grace with me, you all are. For God–my witness, as I long for all of you in the gut of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, in order that your love (from God) yet more and more be over-abundant in complete knowledge and all insight into your testing the drifts, so that you be of pure-motives and without offense unto the day of Christ, being ones filled with fruit of righteousness, the one through Jesus Christ, into glory and approval of God.   

Some folks are worried that in just a couple of weeks, on December 21st to be exact, that the world will come to an end. The Mayan calendar says so, so it must be true. Plus it was verified by the Weekly World News and the National Enquirer. Soon the tests will come back and Maury Povitch will verify this as fact, right? Of course not. Jesus made it clear that nobody knows, not even Himself, as to when this world will end. Yet, what we do know, is that it is not a Mayan date, but the Day of Christ! 

It's not man's day to worry about. It's Christ's Day to return. Yet you may worry, just the same. Jesus may come back soon, and what if you haven't accomplished all that He has wanted you to do? Will He return with a scowl on His face toward you? Sometimes folks expect that Jesus is like St. Nick, knowing if you are naughty or nice, and when that day of arrival comes, you'll receive only a lump of coal in your stocking instead of a nice present under the tree. All too many dread that last Day...

But for you there is nothing at all to worry about. For Jesus began a good work in you long ago at the day of your baptism. There, He washed you clean from all your sins, and traded them for His Own righteousness. Since that day, Christ has dwelled richly in you to bear fruit in you of that righteousness of His. He made you a baptized child of God, and His Holy Spirit has kept you in the one true faith your whole life. He promises to keep working in you to your salvation's completion!

Well, you might be all right, concerning just yourself, but there are those relationships you have with other people which aren't always what they could be. You have estranged kinships with family members, frustrations in your dealings with people at work or school, and even former friends with whom you know that you should be reconciled. Your fellowship with other people is very different from your communion with God, and this troubles you. Is this going to be a problem for you on the last day?

St. Paul reminds you of the communion-fellowship of the Gospel, that special koinonia God works for you and for others. It has two dimensions, remember: the vertical keeping you connected to God, and the horizontal which unites you with fellow believers in Christ. Paul tells the Philippians and you too to trust in that same God-given fellowship, for in it we all share in the same grace of Christ Jesus. For He gave His body and shed His blood for that communion we share in the forgiveness of all our sins.

OK, so you will trust that God has your salvation taken care of, and that He is even in charge of your relationships with others. But what about your lack of love? You know that you do things with self-centeredness, and with wrong motives. Your knowledge of God's loving will for you is often lacking. Your insight to test the drifts of doctrine fails. Your words on-line and in person have offended people, and your behaviors would more readily be called "wrong-tiousness" than they would "righteousness". 

Indeed, when your love for God or for others has failed, you repent. Yet this too comes not from yourself, but from God's love in you. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ Who lives in you. So it is His love, not yours, that wins the day. In fact, Jesus love is given to you so abundantly, in His word proclaimed and in His sacraments received, that it is yours in super-abundance! His forgiveness from the cross to you overflows! This love comes directly from the gut of Jesus, pierced for your salvation.

So as you long for Jesus return, and await the approach of that last day, don't fear, but rather, rejoice! For on that Day of Christ, He comes as your just Judge, having done everything for your salvation, from beginning to perfect completion. He will find you on that day, forgiven of your sin, cleansed from your unrighteousness, purified and made holy in His sight, glorious and approved by God for life eternal.  


Hymns from LSB:
#343  Prepare the Royal Highway  music  stanzas
#344  On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry  music  stanzas
#334  Oh Lord, How Shall I Meet You?  music  stanzas

Sunday, December 2, 2012

ADVENT 1 I Thessalonians 3:9-13

For what thanksgiving are we able to repay to God concerning you, upon all the joy which we rejoice on account of you before our God, night and day eagerly we ask to see your face and to restore the things lacking of your faith; and God Himself, also our Father and our Lord Jesus guide our pathway to you; and you, may the Lord cause you to grow and to be in abundance in (God's) love unto others and unto all, just as we unto you, into the firmness of your hearts, blamelessly in holiness in the face of our God and Father in connection with the return of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones. Amen.  

Happy New Year! Jesus is coming back soon to make all things new. The old heavens and earth we've sadly grown all to accustomed to will all go away. Jesus second-coming in triumph is just around the corner. When Jesus does return, He will restore paradise once again with a new heaven and earth. For some it will be a time of joyous rejoicing. Yet for others, it will be the saddest day of all. Only those who stand blamelessly in holiness before the face of God on Judgment Day will be blessed. 
OK, so how do you know whether you will be blameless in holiness on the Last Day? After all, your brain doesn't always work perfectly. You think all kinds of things that you know you shouldn't. Nor does you always feel the things that are Godly. There are all kinds of attitudes, opinions, emotions, and wrong beliefs that you have, at times. With all these wrong things in your body of sinful flesh, it sure doesn't seem like you are very blameless, does it. With them you don't appear to be very holy.
Praise God that He is not finished with you yet! Like Paul's task with the errors of the Thessalonians, God also wants to restore those things that are lacking in your faith. So He preaches His Law and Gospel to you each week in the sermon, teaches you His truth in bible studies and devotions, and proclaims His love to you in His words of the Sunday morning liturgy. This is so that just as God guided Paul's pathway to Thessalonica, that He would guide your feet as well into the way of truth. 
Yet you still might be concerned about your blamelessness and holiness, because at times you may backtrack, and return to old sinful attitudes and habits. It seems like, instead of growing closer to God, you keep drifting farther from Him, at times. Your relationships with other people aren't at all what you had hoped they'd be. Your focus on God and His goodness tends to drift instead toward the sad, miserable things of this world. You don't feel as blameless and holy as you know you should be.
Again, praise God that He has not given up on you during these occasions either! For God gives you His love in abundance. He feeds you often with the very body of Jesus given for you. He bids you to drink often from His cup of salvation, shed for you for your forgiveness. In that forgiveness, all your sins are taken away, leaving you holy and blameless in His sight. He causes you to grow, and His love fills you up to overflowing, so that God's love for others spills over from you to your neighbor as well!
And still, there is some uncertainty at times as to whether you will keep on being blameless and holy up to the day Jesus returns. It might be a long time yet before He arrives in triumph. As time goes on, your heart may well grow weary from all the burdens, challenges and struggles this life brings to bear. You may fear that your heart will simply grow to week to keep on relying on the Lord, trusting in God. Your confidence may wane, and then you fear that you won't stay holy and blameless in God's sight.
Once again, God comes to the rescue at such times! God provides for you a firmness of your heart in your baptism. Your old stony heart that hardened itself against God and His will is gone. He has created in you a new heart, and placed a right spirit–His Holy Spirit to dwell there. Yes your baptism is for you a heart transplant. Your sin-sick, dying heart Jesus took as His Own at the cross. His pure, righteous, holy and blameless heart, He trades to you now as your very own as a baptized child of God!   
So, how do you approach Jesus return on the last day now? Not with your head hung low as though you are not holy enough or blameless enough to get a good judgment from Him. You lift up your heads, you mighty gates! For Jesus has taken all your blame, all your unholiness, into His body on the tree of Calvary, and it's buried in His death. You now, filled with Jesus' Own righteousness, credited to your account by faith, lack nothing, filled with God's forgiving love, to stand before your God in the firmness of faith, for the holiness and blamelessness of Jesus is yours, forevermore! Amen.

Hymns for the Day from LSB:

#331  The Advent of Our King   music  stanzas
#335  Oh Bride of Christ, Rejoice!  music  stanzas
#332  Savior of the Nations Come!  stanzas (A Luther Hymn)
#341  Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates! stanzas music