Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas I Matt. 2:13-23

And they (the wise men), having departed, look, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph according to a dream, saying, "Arise, take along the Child and His mother and flee into Egypt and stand there until whenever I speak to you; for Herod is about to seek for the Child to destroy it. And he arose and took along the Child and His mother at night and departed into Egypt, and was there until the end of Herod; in order that the utterance of the Lord through the prophet be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."... And Herod, having come to his end, look an angel of the Lord appeared according to a dream in Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Arise, take along the child and his mother and go into the land of Israel, for dead are those having sought the life of the child." And he arose, took along the child and His mother and went into the land of Israel. And having heard that Archeleus reigned in Judea in place of his father, Herod, he feared entering there; and being warned by revelation according to a dream, he left into the region of the Galilee, and he came, resided in a city called Nazareth; that would be fulfilled the utterance through the prophets, that he will be called a Nazarene.

People are vulnerable. They become ill, suffer and eventually die. Life on this earth is testament to this. Mary and Joseph had suffered a long, pregnant journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Now an amazing thing had happened. God has taken human flesh. He is now people like Mary, Joseph or you. God has become vulnerable. He's now kill-able. Jesus is now expendable.

So God the Father must protect His only-begotten Son by Joseph who is nothing but a dreamer. Like his name-sake from the Old Testament, Joseph dreamed. The first Joseph dreamed his eleven brothers would one day bow down to him, so they shipped him off, secretly to Egypt (without his colorful coat). Likewise, this New Testament Joseph was given a dream to likewise escape to Egypt. Coincidence?

The first Joseph's eleven brothers threw him in a pit, wanting to kill him. The second Joseph's life is also in danger, along with his wife Mary and step-son, Jesus. In both cases God rescued the by sending these dreamers into Egypt. The Israelites was led to come out of Egypt by Moses as they crossed the Red Sea. Now God's Own Son, Jesus, was called out of Egypt back to the land of Israel, once again.

But Jesus is God almighty! How can some wimpy king Herod chase the all-powerful God into Egypt? Because Jesus is God-made-vulnerable. As you are afflicted with sin and suffering, so Jesus came into this world to take your place, to be vulnerable, afflicted with your afflictions. Jesus is in the likeness of your flesh, though sinless, He becomes your sin at the cross bearing it's affliction of eternal death for you.

But that would be later on. Not when Jesus was just a young child. He would not die at Calvary until much later. So the devil's plan for Jesus' early death is thwarted by the Father. God delivers His Son from His enemies, to have vengeance upon them later. All those psalms of old that talk about God's deliverance from enemies are all about Jesus and how His heavenly Father would rescue him here.

Dream after dream, step by step, God reveals to Joseph (as head of household) how to protect Jesus until He's grown. Then the time comes for His vulnerability. God sent His Son, born of a woman to live under Law. That means He's able to be tempted, as Satan did his best for forty days in the wilderness, yet Jesus did not sin. He remained a perfect sacrifice on the cross to redeem you, who fails to keep God's law.

This redemption took place for Him on the cross, but for you it happened at your baptism. There the blessed trade took place, your sins washed from you, and the filthy flood from the font takes them to Jesus at Calvary. In exchange, you get Jesus holiness, His goodness, the Lord's Own righteousness credited to your account by faith! So your baptism becomes God's adoption of you into His heavenly family. You have all become sons of God, even you prettier ones, sons receiving God's inheritance.

Jesus humbled Himself to come down to earth to be vulnerable, kill-able, not as a child, but as your redemption price on the tree of Calvary. There He would become the ransom price to redeem you from sin, death and  the devil. You could not save yourself, or make yourself worthy of life eternal. Jesus did that for you at the price of His body given for you, and His blood shed for you for your forgiveness. Jesus makes Himself expendable for your sake, suffering your death that you have His life.
 
For He is a "Nazarene" as the prophets predicted. No, you won't find the word "Nazarene" in any Old Testament prophecy. But Jesus is from "Branch-town" which is what Nazareth means. He is that branch of Jesse's tree, sprouting up from that stump for you. Jesus is the genuine Vine from David's line into Whom you are grafted by His grace. He dies for you under the sign, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." All according to God's plan, in His timing, this Branch from Jesse's tree is vulnerable, for you.

In the name of Christ,
Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and God was the Word. This One was in the beginning toward God. All things through Him came to be, and without Him came to be not one thing which came to be; In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind; and the Light in the darkness shines and the darkness did not overtake it.   There came to be a human, sent on a mission from God, whose name--John. This one came for a witness, in order that he might witness concerning the Light, that all might believe through him. That one was not the Light, but that He might witness concerning the Light. The Light, the genuine one, which enlightens all mankind was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world through Him came to be, yet the world did not know Him. To His Own He came, and those who were His Own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him, He gave to them authority to become God's children, to those who believe into His Name. Ones, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but out of God were born!  And the Word came to be flesh and tabernacled in us, and we saw his glory, glory as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 
My very first day of confirmation class in 1978, Pastor Ginter wrote these words on the chalkboard. As a good student, I copied them down into my notebook, but I didn't have the foggiest notion what they meant. "In the beginning was the Word..." OK. But what word? Was it a single word or a whole sentence?  It must be a special word, since everything that exists came to be through this amazing word. And how exactly  was the word "light"? Was it on one of those newfangled computer screens? I was clueless.
 
It wasn't until the very end of the class, and hour and a half later that it finally began to click for me. The word became flesh and was with us on the earth. Folks saw this word's glory, begotten from His Father. I started to "get it". This mysterious Word was actually the Son of God–Jesus! Ever since that day, I haven't read the word "word" in the scriptures the same way. Now I see "Word" and always think "Jesus".
 
If you look on the front cover of your bulletin for today, the Greek "O Logos" is printed there. It means "The Word". Jesus is this word made flesh. He is God "incarnate". This incarnation is not about Americans driving down the interstate, but it is about the Word becoming flesh. Like meat-eaters are called "carnivores", Jesus is in-carn-ate, meaning to have meat on His bones–flesh. The Word by Whom God created everything, like when He said "Let there be light", had come down to the earth, in the flesh.
 
Now I know this is a bit of a challenge. Many of us hear "Word of God" and instantly think "The bible". While the bible is the book of God's words plural, the singular Word of God is always Jesus the Christ.  The words of God in scripture can only enlighten you because they are about the Word of God–Jesus. The words of holy writ can only bestow you life eternal because Jesus, the Word is your life!
 
The only reason that you recognize Jesus as the Word of life for you is because He has enlightened you to believe it. Many in the world remain in darkness, by their own choice. The temptations abound to think that you don't need Jesus, because you feel like you are already pretty good on your own. You have earthly parents, so why would you need a heavenly Father too? You've already been born into this world, so why should you want to be born another time to a heavenly life in the world to come?
 
People who think that they are already pretty enlightened folks are deceiving themselves. There is only one true, genuine light that can actually enlighten you. That light is Jesus! No matter how smart you think you are, no matter how high your IQ, no matter how much you have learned, no matter how well read you consider yourself to be, you remain in utter darkness without Jesus. But those who believe, receive Him and come to know Him as He is. The Word of God Who enlightens and gives life to all mankind!
 
You have been reborn, of water and the Word, Who is Jesus! Born anew in your baptism, you are raised up to new life in Jesus' Own resurrection. By this gift of God, He has given you special authority as children of your heavenly Father. Because of the Son of God–Jesus, Who died for you on the cross, you become a son of God. You believe in His name, the name into which you have been baptized!
 
But not only has the Word of God–Jesus, come to you to bring you into His heavenly Father's family through your baptism, but He also comes to you incarnate this day–in the flesh. Yes, the flesh and blood Jesus comes to you this Christmas morn to feed you from His feeding trough manger. He gives you His incarnate body to eat, and His blood to drink in the Lord's Supper. His flesh tabernacles in you today!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent 4 What's in a name? Matthew 1:18-25

And the genesis of Jesus, the Christ was so: His mother Mary, having been betrothed to Joseph, before their coming together, she was found having in womb of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph, her husband, was righteous and did not wish her to be disgracefully exposed, intended privately to divorce her. And having thought about these things, look, an angel of the Lord according to a dream appeared to him saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife; for the one begotten in her is out of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a son, and you will call His name `Jesus'; for this One will save His people from their sins." And the whole of this happened in order that it be fulfilled, the thing spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Look, the virgin will have in the womb and will bear a son, and they will call his name, Immanuel" which is translated "with us, God". And Joseph, having risen from the sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded to him, and took along his wife and did not know her until she bore a son; and he called His name `Jesus'.

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would still smell the same, as Shakespeare reminds us. But sometimes a name is highly significant. It's very important for the Christ-child, because His name reveals to us just Who He is, and what He is to accomplish! Which is why, in our story today, the second person of the Trinity receives not one but two names. But before we get into the importance of these two names, we must first consider just Who this Christ-child is and how He came to be so...

Jesus obviously didn't come into this world in the normal fashion. He had a mother who became pregnant with him while still a virgin. She was "betrothed" and considered married to Joseph because the vows were in those days at the engagement, not at the marriage ceremony. But they hadn't come together yet. They didn't know one another in the biblical sense, so there was no way Joseph could be the father of this baby boy. So Joseph, an upright guy, wanted to divorce Mary quietly, shamefree.

Then God's angel comes to him in a dream to explain what has happened. Mary is pregnant, but not from a man. She became with child from the Holy Spirit! No human male was Jesus' father. God the Father was His daddy! This was very important, since human fathers passed on sin and death to their children, from generation to generation. But Jesus had no human father, so He was sin-free. He had no "old adam" in Him to give in to sinning like you have. Jesus had a pure and undefiled flesh!

That's precisely why the Christ is given the name "Jesus", because it means Savior. He is called Jesus because He has come to save His people from their sins. That includes you. The Christ-child was born sin-free to earn eternal life for you by his righteous obedience under God's Law. As a human, Jesus was made subject to keeping God's commandments, and he did it perfectly. He was the only one to live out His life on earth without sinning, thus being the only one worthy of life eternal.
   
But Jesus didn't come to save Himself, but to save His people from their sins. This is why He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, so that He could bear sin in His Own body. Not His Own sins, since He was perfect, but Jesus came to earth to bear your sins in His own flesh on the tree of Calvary. Jesus, Who knew no sins of His Own, made Himself incarnate to become your sins on the cross. He suffered the wages of your sin, dying your death to save you from being forsake by your heavenly Father.
   
Yes Jesus became man, in the flesh to take your sins and their punishment as His Own. For liars, Jesus became a liar. For those who lose their tempers, Jesus became a temper-loser. For thieves Jesus became a thief. For the unfaithful Jesus made Himself to be unfaithful. For gossips Jesus became a gossip. For the foul-mouthed Jesus became foul-mouthed. He died as the transgressor.

But the incarnate second Person of the Trinity isn't just given the human name of Jesus. He is also given another name: "Immanuel". This name is just as important for the Christ, because it is a divine name. It means "God–with us!" With this name, it is revealed to us just what is happening in Mary's womb. It's not just a human baby in there. It's fully God as well! As God, this Christ-child has the power to do what only God can, forgive sins, save souls, deliver from death and the devil, and bestow eternal life!

This Immanuel is God-with us now, and until the end of the age. The incarnate Jesus was with you at your baptism, washing your sins from you to Himself at Calvary. He is in His Word proclaimed, entering your ear as you hear that He has come to save you from your sins. He is in the bread and wine, giving you his ever-living body and life-giving blood for your forgiveness, life and salvation. Jesus is Immanuel, God-with you in the voice of your Pastor forgiving you absolutely when you confess.

Amen!

Hymns for today from LSB:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent II Matthew 3:1-12 How is it that YOU can make GOD'S path straight?

1st Lesson - Isaiah 2:1-5       Epistle - Romans 13:8-14        Gospel - Matthew 3:1-12

Gradual for Advent:  (Zechariah 9:9,  Psalm 118:26)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
See! Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation.
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD;
we have blessed you from the house of the LORD.



And in those days John the Baptizer came along proclaiming in the desert of Judea, saying "Repent for near--the kingdom of the heavens." For this is the one spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, "A voice crying out in the desert; `Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight His paths!'"And this John had his garment from camel hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then, kept coming out to him Jerusalem and all the Judea and all of the region around the Jordan, And were baptized in the Jordan river by him confessing their sins. And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, "Offspring of Vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Then, you do fruits worthy of repentance, And do not think to say in yourselves, `We have Father Abraham.' For I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And already the ax to the roots of the trees is laid; Then every tree which does not make good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. On the one hand, I myself baptize you in water into repentance, but on the other hand, One coming after me is stronger than I am, for Whom I am unworthy to carry sandals; This One will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire; Whose winnowing fork is in His hand and He will clean thoroughly his threshing floor and gather His grain into the barn; but the chaff He will burn up in unquenchable fire. 

With these words we have before us a tale of two trees. It was the best of times for the repentant trees. It was the worst of times for the unrepentant trees. Those trees that repented bore fruit from repentance. Those trees which refused to be changed by God in repentance bore no godly fruits. Repentant trees bore fruitful grain which God gathers into His barn on the last day. Unrepentant trees have no fruit at all–only chaff which will burn in the unquenchable asbestos hell-fire for eternity.

These trees are actually people. It's really a tale of two types of people. The first are convicted by God's law, and confess that they are indeed sinners who deserve punishment from God. God turns them from their sin to His grace in repentance, and they are baptized to wash away their sin. The second group, pharisees and Sadducees, are those who don't think they sin, don't see any need for change, and rebuff God's attempts to turn their hearts and minds away from their sin toward God.

So which group do you fall in? If you consider yourself a "good person", resist any change from your bad habits, expect God to welcome you into heaven because you are so great, then you are probably those resisting God's Spirit who wants to bring you to repentance. If you know that you are guilty of sin, sorry for breaking God's commandments, desperate for God to rescue from your sinful ways, then you are among those in whom God works repentance, turning you from sin to His grace in Jesus 

It is this gift and working of God called "repentance" which makes all the difference. Repentance prepares the Lord's way to you. Repentance makes Jesus' path straight for Him to come to you. Because repentance is something special. It is not just the guilt and sorrow you feel when you do the wrong thing. Judas felt that much, but ended up in hell. Repentance is also faith, which trusts in Jesus to remove your sins, guilt and all, and bear those sins in His Own body on the cross unto death.  

Repentance is so vital to your salvation that Luther listed it as the first and foremost of his 95 theses. He wrote that the entire life of the Christian would be one of repenting. Repenting isn't just something you do once, right before you "get saved". Repentance is God constantly turning you from sin, returning you to His grace in Christ Jesus. Repentance is a continual renewal of your heart and mind which God's Spirit works in you, conforming you to be more and more Christ-like in thoughts and feelings 

But this gift of repentance is not "of the Law". It's not something that you can do to straighten God's path to you. The pharisees and sadducees thought it was, trusting in their own self-righteousness. They became offspring of deadly snakes, nothing but dead trees to be burned in hell-fire. No, the law says do, and for you it remains ever un-done. The gospel says "it is finished", and by Christ, it truly *is*! God prepares His way to you in Jesus, Who comes to you in His means of grace for your salvation.

Jesus came to you in your own baptism, not unlike the baptism of John. Your baptism washed away your sins, cleansing you from all your unrighteousness. Jesus comes to you in the proclamation of the gospel which tells you the kingdom of heaven is at hand in the person of the King, Christ Jesus Who died and rose for your salvation. Jesus comes to you when you confess your sins, receiving His absolution from your pastor. Jesus comes to you with His body given and blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. And you know that where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also... 

Amen.

Hymns from LSB:
#343  Prepare the Royal Highway! music  









   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ADVENT I Matthew 21:1-11 "OK, So who moved Palm Sunday to December?"

And when they came near unto Jerusalem and came into Bethphage into the mountain of the Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples on a mission, saying to them, "You go into the village, the one across from you, and immediately you will find, tied, a donkey and a colt with her; having loosened, you lead to me. And if ever anyone to you may say anything, you will say that the Lord has need of them; and immediately he will send them on a mission. And this happened in order that the spoken word through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Look, your king comes to you, gentle and mounted upon a donkey, even upon a colt, a son of a beast of burden.'" And the disciples went, and did just as Jesus had instructed them; they brought the donkey and the colt and placed on them the garments, and He sat upon them. And much of the crowd spread their garments in the way, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading in the way. And the crowds, the ones going before Him, and the ones following after were saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed– the One coming in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" And He, having entered into Jerusalem all the city was shaken, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowd was saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth of the Galilee." 

Happy New Year!

"Um, Pastor. It's December 1st, not January 1st. You're a month early." But the church's new year begins today with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. "Pastor, you've got it wrong. That's Palm Sunday". But in the restored lectionary, it is returned to where it belongs, on the first day of the church year. For Advent means "arrival", and salvation arrived in Jerusalem.

So what does Jesus riding a donkey have to do with Advent, which focuses on Jesus' last day return? We must go back to the days of Israel's kings. On his deathbed, David instructed his son Solomon to ride into Jerusalem on his own royal steed. The man whose name meant "peace" entered the city for his coronation. This is a type of the Prince of Peace riding on a donkey to die as King of the Jews.

As Solomon's ancient ride foreshadowed Jesus' Palm Sunday, that day is also a type, prefiguring His return to earth on the last day to judge. As Jesus comes down in the clouds you are snatched up to meet Him in the air, to descend and remain with Him through the final judgment. As the citizens  went out to usher Jesus into the first Jerusalem, so too will you meet and follow Him to the New Jerusalem.

History repeats itself, and that's a good thing. As Nathan the prophet, Zadok the high priest, and the people gathered to welcome Solomon saying, "Long live King Solomon!", so the crowds met Jesus in His day with shouts of, "Hosanna in the highest!" Hosanna means "save us!". But you won't be making any such exclamations when Jesus returns on Judgment Day. For He is already raised to everlasting life. He has already saved you from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil.

You might shout as they did on Palm Sunday, "Blessed–the One coming in the Name of the Lord!" For Jesus is truly the blessed One, from whom all blessings flow. He has already blessed you with salvation, having redeemed you by His blood sacrifice at Calvary. He came to you not as a king of war, but one of peace. Meek, gentle, He came to offer Himself unto death for you, as His riding of a young donkey instead of a war-horse foretold. He is the lamb led to slaughter in silence, for you.

Jesus came once before as your salvation, into Jerusalem where He sacrificed His life to save you. He comes again in triumph at the last day to usher in His heavenly kingdom on earth–paradise restored. So don't get caught up in all the false rapture theories. Jesus isn't coming invisibly to snatch folks from behind the driver's seat of their car. That's nonsense. He who ascended once in the clouds comes back the same way He left to complete His as-of-yet unfinished kingdom of God.

This is why you pray, "Thy Kingdom Come." It has come to you, in your heart by grace thru faith. You have received the righteousness of Jesus in blessed exchange for your sin Jesus bore at Calvary. You have been washed clean in the waters of your baptism, nourished by Jesus' body and blood, and comforted by the gospel. Your spirit and soul are saved, but your body of flesh still may taste death.

Yet your salvation is nearer  than when you first believed, because as each day passes, the last day looms closer. On that day, the Spirit will raise all flesh, and your body will be made glorious as Jesus' Own body is! When Jesus returns your body, soul, mind and spirit will all be saved, and the Kingdom of God will be complete! For this we pray, Blessed–the One Who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.

.Hymns from LSB:

#335  O Bride of Christ, Rejoice  stanzas  music
#332  Savior of the Nations Come stanzas  music
#516  Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying!
#331  The Advent of our King







Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reformation Romans 3:19-28

And now, separate from Law, a justice of God is revealed still, witnessed by the Torah and the Prophets, and a righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ, into all the ones believing. For there is no difference, for all miss the mark and lack the reflected-glory of God, being made righteous–a gift in His grace through the ransoming–the one in Christ Jesus; Whom God placed before–an appeasement through faith in His blood, into a sign-of-proof of His righteousness, through the letting go of sins unpunished which were done before; in the holding back of God, to the sign-of-proof of His righteousness in the now-season, into Him being righteous, and making righteous the one having the faith of Jesus. Where then, the bragging? Excluded. Through what Law? Of the works? No, but through a law of faith. Therefore, we calculate a man to be made righteous in faith, separate from works of Law.

The central question of the Reformation was that of orthodox teaching. Was the Roman church of Luther's day teaching truth, or did the bible teach the truth? This was, and remains the critical question for evaluating any church or preacher. For teaching must be "orthodox" which means quite literally "giving God the proper glory". So Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in hopes of debating what church practices gave Jesus the right glory. His main question was about selling "indulgences".

The question may have begun about whether forgiveness and complete pardon for sins was for sale, but it soon became a matter of whether man could do a single thing to earn, merit, or make himself worthy of God's grace. Did you have to strive and struggle to be righteous first to find God's favor, or was God already gracious to you because of Jesus? From his extensive study of God's Word, Luther learned that the righteousness of God was a free gift, which came to a believer by faith alone.

Now, this Reformation mantra, "Faith alone" is not found in today's text, although it is implied, as it is a faith which is apart from works. In Luther's German translation of this text, he inserts a technical old German term for "alone" to make it clear to those speaking that language that man is righteous "alone, by faith". No works of law obedience are required for you to be righteous in God's sight! It is a gift!

But your old Adam in your flesh doesn't want to believe it. Salvation must be earned! It is so valuable that it must cost dearly! It seems to you, at times, to cheapen the whole process if redemption comes to you freely, by faith, and even that faith is a gift and working of God in you. You want to show yourself to be deserving of such a blessing. So you strive, struggle and strain, and then boast about it to others.

But bragging is excluded. What? There's no commandment against it! But it is excluded just the same. For there is no one who deserves to be saved. You have all sinned like Adam and Eve, and you all have lost that image of God which once reflected His glory. You are all in the same boat. You could boast, "look at me, I'm a good Christian" but you'd be lying, and everyone knows it. No, all bragging is excluded by the law of faith. God made you a believer and gifted you with His righteousness freely.

This is seen clearly at your baptism. You were conceived and born a sinner, in need of much help. So God washed your sins from you that day, but He didn't leave your heart empty. Your sins were deposited on Jesus at the cross where He died your death there. Yet Jesus' Own holy goodness He gave up for you at Calvary--His righteousness given to you as a free gift to make you worthy of eternal life! Your baptism is a sign of the proof of God's righteousness, through Christ Jesus your Savior.

This comes to you also at the Lord's Supper. Jesus, your "propitiation" is your atoning sacrifice appeasing God's wrath as the sacrificial lambs of old. He passes over the sins you did before as the true Passover Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He is the mercy seat, covering over the commandments in the ark of the covenant, with His shed blood poured out for your salvation. His body given and His blood shed for you are another sign of the proof of His righteousness for you!

Through word and sacrament, God Himself makes you orthodox, that you too be of the proper glory, just as God Himself is. Your own self-righteous attempts fail to bring you any lasting glory, falling short. But your glorious God–Christ Jesus, gives up His Own holy righteousness at Calvary for you. God's glory is now reflected in you by the righteousness of Jesus, credited to your account by faith! The glory of Christ alone is now your own glory, as the image of God is restored to you in Jesus! This is the orthodox teaching of God, from His Word, for it gives Christ all the glory for your salvation!

Amen

hymns for today from LSB:
#556  Dear Christians One and All Rejoice!
#656   A Mighty Fortress
#555  Salvation Unto Us has Come  all 10 stanzas
#655  Lord Keep Us Steadfast in You Word   stanzas
.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Proper 21 1 Timothy 3:1-13

And a battle took place in heaven, the battle of Michael and his angels with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels battled, and they were not strong, nor was there a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the ancient snake, the one called "devil" and "the accuser", the one deceiving the entire habitation was thrown down onto the earth, and his angels with him. And I heard a great sound in heaven, saying, "Now happens the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, because thrown down–the indicter of our brothers, the one indicting them before our God, day and night. And these conquered him through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of His witness, and they did not love their lives with God's love until death. Through this you rejoice, heavens and those tabernacling in them. Woe: the earth and the sea, because the devil comes down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a little season.

"Woe to you, O earth and sea, because the devil sends his beasts with wrath, because he knows the time is short!" "Woe to the world because of it's death-traps...woe to that man through whom the death-trap comes!" Such woes effect us as they do a horse, slowing and stopping us to ponder the graveness (pun intended) of these words. Woe means deadly danger.(Will Robinson) The death Satan wants is the eternal one--hell.

But what of the battle Michael and his angels won? By this defeat, the devil was cast from heaven, it is true, no longer a claim to a thing in God's kingdom. But that snake didn't fall to hell, unfortunately, but to earth, where that wily serpent tempted Eve and Adam in the garden. Since causing our fall, this world became Satan's princedom. His woes abound; death and despair reign here. He accuses: "You deserve hell!"  And you do.

The devil is on the attack against you because you have been baptized. Satan doesn't bother with atheists, heathens, and others who don't belong to God. But you have been named with God's name. At your baptism God claimed you as His very own dear child. But this has marked you in Satan's sight. It has placed a target on your back for him to aim at. And because you sin, his accusations tend to hit home.

But in your baptism you have a protection against the devil's attacks! You are redeemed by Christ the crucified at the font! You belong to God now because of the ransom price Jesus paid for you on the cross. Satan cannot snatch you from God's almighty Hand, which is Jesus!
At the name of the Triune God into which you were baptized, the devil is exorcised from your midst, since Jesus defeated Him at the cross. When he accuses you of your unworthiness to be God's child, seeking to get you to jump out of God's hand, say, "Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ; drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed!"

Satan accuses you because, quite frankly, you have been guilty of many sins. The devil is the DA in the divine courtroom, indicting you of the various crimes you've committed against God's Law. You haven't loved God with your entire heart. You haven't loved your neighbors as much as you've loved yourself. Not just you, but he indicts all your brothers in Christ too. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You have no defense of your own. You are guilty as sin–literally. You deserve the woes of hell.

But you have an unlikely Witness Who comes to your defense. It's your own Lawyer, Jesus Who advocates for you in His testimony. He takes the stand and declares, "though you've done the crime, I've already done your time!". Satan is stunned. Because at Calvary, Jesus enacted a blessed exchange for you. He took your sins as His burden, bearing them in His Own body on that tree and suffering the curse of hell in your stead, there. In trade, He gives you His Own holy righteousness, credited to your account freely, by faith, so that as He has died, you now live!

The devil attacks the church for the same reason He attacked Jesus–because the Church is the Body of Christ. The ruler of angels Who is the likeness of God Himself kicked that nasty dragon out of heaven long ago. Satan seeks his revenge on Christ. He tried to kill baby Jesus soon after He was born, then entered Judas to betray the Lord. Since Jesus ascended, now Satan attacks the Church.

But your confidence remains in the Body of Christ. For now is the salvation, power and kingdom of our God. Today Jesus feeds you with His very body given for you in death on the cross, and gives you His blood shed at Calvary for you to drink. You are what you eat, after all. As believers in Christ, you are blessed to be forgiven in this sacrament. And you know that where there is the forgiveness of sins for you, there is also life and salvation. Satan is conquered for you through the blood of the Lamb–Jesus Christ.

Jesus at the cross kept that ancient promise to Eve that her Seed would strike the death-blow upon the head of that ancient serpent. Through this, you now rejoice, because, as much as Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven, you now live there, tabernacling in Christ, a child of God whose angel keep on gazing upon the face of your Father in heaven, keeping you connected to God forevermore, through word and sacrament.


 Amen. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Proper 20 Pentecost I Timothy 2:1-15

So I appeal to you first of all to make entreaties, prayers, requests, thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity, on behalf of kings and all those being in high places, so that a peaceful and quiet life we may lead in all godliness and reverence. This–good and pleasing before our Savior–God, Who wants all humanity to be saved and into recognition of all truth to come. For one God, even one Mediator of God and humanity, a human–Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom on behalf of all, the witness  at the proper season. Unto this I myself was placed a proclaimer and an Apostle, I speak truth, not falsehood, a teacher of nations, in faith and in truth. So I want the husbands in all places to pray, raising devout hands without anger and argument. In the same manner wives in respectable clothing with modesty and moderation to adorn themselves, not in braids and gold and pearls, or clothing which costs much, but what fits women promised to godliness–through good works. A wife in silence learns in all subjection. And I do not permit a wife to teach nor have authority over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam–first to be created, then Eve. And Adam wasn't deceived, yet the wife was deceived, in transgression became. Yet they will be saved through the child-bearing, if ever remaining in faith and God's love and holiness with reasonableness.  

God wants all humanity to be saved and recognize the truth that Christ is the Savior of all. So Jesus teaches a weird parable about an unfaithful manager whose shrewdness is actually praised.His deception isn't commended, but his making of friends for his future is worthy of kudos. Jesus instills in us the same prudence to make future friends above. You are to store up folks as treasures in heaven.

So Paul insists that what you do matters. Not that it scores points with God, but it blesses your neighbor. You should pray for people, care about how you behave in your own household, because how you act effects others. If a wife berates her husband in bible class, how would that appear to a curious onlooker? If a husband won't even pray for the President, how does that sound to a visitor?

So in how you pray, by how you behave, and even in what you wear, you might just be making friends for eternity. Yet you think, "these people don't pray for me, so why should I pray for them?" Or, "My spouse doesn't subject himself to my needs, so why should I subject myself to his? Or, "People nowadays don't care how they look, so why should I care how I appear to them? Not the right attitude.

Jesus didn't think that way. What if He said, "You don't pray to Me much, so why should I save you?" or "You don't accept where I've placed you on earth, so why should I let you into heaven?" But He doesn't act like you. His good and gracious will is to save you, regardless of your bad attitude and conduct. So He has your pastor, week in and week out proclaim this truth to you: Jesus loved you so much that He forfeited His life as the ransom price to save you at Calvary! You acknowledge this truth by faith.

God has called you from the darkness of this sinful world to the marvelous light of this gospel promise. It promises you unto your godliness and reverence. But your attitude isn't always so reverent, is it? Nor is your behavior always so godly. Your desire to show of who you are and share what you think sadly overshadows what God desires, and who He has made you to be in Christ.

Though you are stuck in the same sin into which Eve and Adam fell, God has rescued you from it all. You have been saved through child-bearing, in particular, one child born of a virgin. The baby Jesus came into this world to be your Savior in the flesh, to one day sacrifice Himself for you. He gave His body unto death and shed His blood for your forgiveness. You eat the body and
drink the blood of your Savior in the Lord's Supper. In this way you remain in God's love, in the holiness of His  forgiveness.

Jesus says that you can even make friends with mammon which is in-and-of-itself unrighteous. But what do you do with all your mammon? You spend money on electronic gadgets that are outdated in a few months. You buy fancy clothing, jewelry, and hair products to make you look as up on the latest trends as everyone else. But this helps nobody but your own self. Repent of such mammon serving.

Instead, God has given you all your stuff to use in the most godly ways. It's given to you for a purpose, so that others may be blessed, even unto eternity! God once blessed you with the simplest stuff–water. It, with God's word, washed you clean of all your transgressions, and made you a new creation in Christ. At your baptism, God made you anew, now a holy, reverent, godly person where a former unrighteous person used to be. He gave you faith there, in which you remain in God's love.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Proper 19 1 Timothy 1:12-17


I myself am gracious to the One Who has empowered me–Christ Jesus, our Lord, that faithful, He regards me, established into service; the one before being the blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant one; but I was mercied because of ignorance I acted in unbelief; yet the grace of our Lord over-swelled with faith and God's love–the one in Christ Jesus. Faithful-the word, and worthy of all approval, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I myself am the first. But through this I was mercied, so that in me, first, Christ Jesus might show the whole patience, the prototype of those about to believe upon Him unto life eternal. And in the King of the ages, undying, invisible, only God, honor and glory into the ages of ages. Amen.  

The great St. Paul wasn't always so great. Nor was he regarded as a saint. Nor did he even go by the name of Paul. Known by His Jewish name of Saul, he was a prominent pharisee, as upright as any Jew could be, even to the point of persecuting that new sect of Jesus-followers called Christians. He spoke against this so called "Christ", and was given great authority to attack Christians, imprisoning some and having others put to death. He even approved of the stoning of St. Stephen. He was lost.

So how did this poor lost soul known as Saul, ungreat, and unsaintly though he was, become the great St. Paul? Jesus had to come and find him, that's how. On his way to persecute the Christian church in Damascus was where Jesus found him. Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks, blinded Him with a light, wrapping him up like a deuce. Then, when he followed Jesus' instructions to go to Ananias' house, he was baptized, regained his sight, and began using his Roman name of Paul to serve Jesus.

You are not unlike Saul because you too have been arrogant just as he was. You've acted selfishly and stubbornly in your own name. You've done what you alone have wanted to do, not caring what God desires. You have spun things in your own favor to place yourself in better light, even when it casts a shadow on your neighbor's reputation. You have acted as though you mattered most.

You are not unlike Saul aka Paul. For just as He was baptized and began using a new name, you too have been baptized. But not in your church's name, or in your pastor's name, or even in your own name, but in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God has given you His Own name at your baptism, making you His very Own dear child. You are adopted into God's household at your baptism, receiving God's Own family name as your own. Your home now is in His heavenly mansion, forever..

You are not so very different from Saul in that your actions have been anything but holy at times. As Saul has blasphemed against Jesus, your words have taken His name in vain, and have dishonored your Savior. As Saul persecuted the Church, so have you misled believers by your wrong-headed opinions and your attempts to mislead others away from how you know Christians are to behave.

Yet you are just like Saul/Paul in that you are declared to be holy despite your unholy thoughts, words and actions. This is because Jesus died on the cross for you just as much as He did for St. Paul. Jesus proclaims that you are forgiven of all your unholy sins, and that He has exchanged them for His Own holy righteousness from the cross of Calvary. His strong word has bespoken you "righteous", so that like St. Paul, you can be called a saint, shining bright with the glory of Jesus' Own holiness as your own!

You aren't dissimilar from Saul who sinned in his great ignorance. You too are ignorant when you act apart from your God-given faith. You wrongly assume it isn't so bad to take the first misstep of a transgression. Then you figure, it isn't so bad if you take just a couple more steps into Satan's dangerous territory as you keep trespassing there. But then you are stuck in sin, dreadfully lost.

But you are very much in the same boat as the great St. Paul, who was found by Jesus when he needed saving the most. Jesus has found you as your Good Shepherd as well, bringing you to the green pastures of the Lord's Supper, where He feeds you with His body given, and gives you to drink of His shed blood for the forgiveness of your sins. He mercied you there just as He once mercied the great St. Paul. Your greatness now is in Christ Jesus, the Word Who dwells in you richly.

So, just as the great St. Paul once was lost, but then was found by Jesus, you too were once lost in your trespasses and sins; but Christ found you and has returned you to His holy sheep-fold. Paul is a prototype of your own salvation, for just as Jesus mercied Him, so has He likewise mercied you! This Word is faithful: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Through this you are mercied!

Amen.

hymns this week from LSB:
#707  Oh That the Lord would Guide my Ways
#609  Jesus Sinners Doth Receive   stanzas   music
#611  Chief of Sinners though I Be







Sunday, September 8, 2013

Proper 18, Philemon 1-21

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon the one loved by God and our fellow-worker...Therefore, although in Christ having frankness to direct you in what is fitting, through God’s love, rather, I urge such being as Paul, an elder now and also a prisoner of Christ Jesus; I call alongside you concerning my child, whom I begot in the prison, Onesimus, the once to you useless one, yet now to you and to me useful, whom I sent back to you, him, this one is my gut; whom I myself wanted to retain for myself, so that on your behalf a servant to me in the imprisonment of the gospel; yet without your knowledge, I wished to do nothing, so that not as according to compulsion your goodness be, but according to willingness. For perhaps through this he was separated a time, so that eternally you have him back, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother of God’s love, especially to me, and rather how much more to you also in the flesh and in the Lord. Then, if you have me in communion, receive him as me. And if anything unrighteous to you or owed, this is to me charged. I myself, Paul, write in my hand, I myself will repay; so that I not say to you that even yourself to me you owe. Yes, brother, I myself benefited you in the Lord; give me rest of my guts in Christ. Confident in your obedience I write you, having known that also beyond what I say you will do.
 
When we think of being a disciple, we often think of it in terms of what we do for God. We couldnt be more wrong. We mistake Christian discipleship with being some sort of apprentice, performing the tasks Donald Trump gives us so that we wont be fired in the boardroom at the end of the day. But being a disciple of Christ is not about what you do for Jesus. Its about the cost to you. Its about what is done to you, as you suffer for Christs sake, bearing your own cross as you are targeted by Satan.
 
You are to take up your cross, but dont foolishly start boasting and bragging that you are an excellent cross-bearer. Even the Almighty Jesus couldnt carry His Own cross to Calvary, as Simon of Cyrene had to carry it for Him. No, bearing your cross is not about your works of bearing up under burdens. Cross bearing is about suffering a loss. Its about accepting the burdens, especially the ones you arent able to withstand, as Philemon suffered the loss of his runaway slave Onesimus.
 
Though you may suffer the loss of goods, fame, child, or wife, your losses pale in comparison to what Jesus lost for you at Calvary. Jesus bore His cross losing much more than you ever could. He Who knew no sin became your sin at Golgotha. The holy Father forsook His only-begotten Son on the cross, Jesus suffering the eternity of hell in those moments before His death. All this so that you would never be forsaken, but you remain as one who is loved by Gods Own agape love, now and for eternity!
 
The suffering God allows for you does indeed include your decisions and actions at times. Some sufferings you *could* avoid by choosing a path other than the one God has laid out for you. Just like Philemon had a choice to either severely punish Onesimus, or take him back as a brother in Christ. But dont think that your cross bearing decisions are all about your obedience. They do not come from the compulsion of the Law and all its demands. Instead, they are of Christian freedom in Jesus.
 
For Jesus, however, it was about His obedience. His humanity prayed that the cup of suffering Gods wrath at the cross might pass from Him. But His divine understanding accepted the cross, praying, not My will, but Thine be done. All so that you too can pray that petition, that Gods will be done for you, His kingdom come to you, and His holy name be given to you in Holy Baptism. As Jesus took your place in death, He raises you up in your Baptism to walk a new life, an abundant life, life everlasting!
 
Your cross-bearing might seem to be all about you and what you must bear, but it really isnt. Though your burdens seem unique to you, you know that you are not the only sufferer. Just like Paul reminds Philemon that they have a fellowship with each other in suffering, with Paul suffering in prison for preaching the gospel, while Philemon endures a lesser burden of temporary loss of a slave. So whether your burden is small or great, know that suffering is common for all believers in Christ.
 

For Jesus told His first disciples that they would suffer because He Himself suffered, as the prophets before Him suffered. Yet Jesus bears the greatest griefs of all on the cross of Calvary. There He gives up His body given unto death for all the world. There His holy, precious blood He sheds for you. So the communion fellowship you have with Jesus and your fellow disciples of Christ is not just one of sharing suffering. You also share His body and blood, eaten and drunk for your forgiveness, life and salvation.  
Amen

Hymns for today from LSB:
#705   The Man is Ever Blessed
#853   How Clear is our Vocation, Lord
#851   Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Proper 17 Know your Place Luke 14:1-14

May the love of the brothers remain. Do not forget the hospitality, for through this it has escaped the notice of some who were surprised by angels. Remember the prisoners, as fellow-prisoners, the mistreated as also these are being in the Body. Honor marriage in everything and the bed undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. May your manner be not greedy; sufficient is your return. For He Himself has said, "No, I will not abandon you, and no, I will not leave you behind." So we are confident to say, "The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear! What can man do to me?" Remember the ones who led you, the ones speaking to you the Word of God, as looking carefully at the end of their behavior, mimicking the faith. Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same and into the ages..

In the lessons today, we hear about the humility we should have in this life, that God might exalt us. You wouldn't want to presume to be the King's favorite, only to be humiliated by him later on. So it is with the humble life you walk on this earth as a Christian. You are to *know your place*. Your place is not to exalt yourself as though you know everything, and deserve many honors. You don't. Your place is to be last, so God can make you first. Your place is to be low so God Himself can raise you up.

So, just what is your place in this lowly, humble life? First, the writer to the Hebrews address how your life of humility looks to your fellow man. You are to be a Philadelphian. Live your life in brotherly love toward others. You are to open your homes to strangers, care about prisoners and those who are downtrodden. For God has placed you here on earth with your neighbors so you can care for them. Yet you find excuse after excuse why your own cares and concerns are more important than theirs.

Has your God treated you the same way? Not by a long-shot! Your God came down from His comfortable home in heaven to walk this world with the likes of you. He didn't have to, but He wanted to because He loves you. He came to this sin-sick world to become infected with your sin at the cross. There He gave His body in death and shed His blood to ransom you. His body He forfeited, so that by eating His body and drinking His blood at communion, you may become of the Body of Christ forever!

How else does your life of humility look now? Well it's not to your honor, but to God's. Therefore you are given to honor the things of God, for by doing so you show Him respect. Take marriage. It is not something you get to define by your own notions. It is a gift of God Who joins together a man and his wife. This you are to honor, keeping the marriage bed chaste. Yet what have you done? Sex outside of marriage, unfaithfulness to your spouse, and you fall into all kinds of debauchery that defiles you.

Has God treated His relationship with you as you have acted in your relationships with people? Hardly! Where you have been the unfaithful one, time and again in your relationship with God, He's been nothing but faithful to you. Though He has every reason to leave you, instead He says, "No, I won't abandon you, I won't leave you." He proclaims His unending love for you in Christ Jesus, your Husband, Who by His sacrifice at Calvary has redeemed you as His bride as Boaz redeemed Ruth..

How else does your place in life's humility manifest itself? It shows itself in your stuff. You are to consider the blessings God has chosen to give you as *sufficient*. But you don't. You are jealous of other people; you envy their job, their family, their possessions; you are greedy to obtain more stuff as you strive to "keep up with the Joneses". You fail to consider God to provide, because you are not satisfied with what He's given you so far. You should be content with God's blessings, but you aren't.

Has God stopped providing for you since you've been so ungrateful? No way! He's still your Helper. You have no reason to fear that you will be lacking any good thing. God provides for you as a loving Father provides for His children, because you are God's Own child! At your baptism, God adopted you into His heavenly family. He gave you God's Own Name that day, cleansing you from your sins which Jesus bore for you at the cross. He even gave you Christ's Own righteousness as your own!

So what's your place in this humble life? Being convicted of your sins by God's law is a good start. But you don't remain lowly for long. A servant to God and others in word and deed on this earth, yet being served by Your Savior Jesus, Who has raised you up into Himself at your baptism, and will exalt you fully when He returns on the last day. For although you waffle in your humble walk as a Christian, Jesus never does. He's the same yesterday, today and forever! He keeps on speaking God's word to you, by which He keeps on forgiving you, saving you, giving you life, and exalting you heavenward.  Amen.


Hymns for today from LSB:

#706   Love in Christ is Strong and Living
#842   Son of God, Eternal Savior
#845   Where Charity and Love Prevail

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proper 16 Hebrews 12:4-24

Not yet until blood have you resisted to the sin you struggle (with). And you have completely-forgotten the One called alongside you, which to you, as sons, converses: "My son, do not take lightly the child-training from the Lord, nor grow weary from His correction; for the one the Lord loves, he child-trains, and He whips every son whom He receives." Into child-training you remain; as sons God deals with you... For you have not come to what may be touched and burned in fire and to blackness and darkness and whirlwind, and to trumpet blast and sound of spoken words, so that the ones hearing begged no longer to have the word given to them, for they could not bear the command: "Even if ever an animal touches the mountain, it is to be stoned." And so fearful was the sight, Moses said, "I am afraid and shaking." But you have come to Mt. Zion and the city of the living God, Jerusalem from heaven, and a myriad of angels gathered for a feast; and to a church of firstborns written in a book in heaven, and to God–Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made completely-perfect, and to a new testament mediator–of Jesus, and to a blood of sprinkling speaking greater than the one of Abel.   

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times". The opening words of A Tale of Two Cities. We have a tale of 2 mountains. On 1–Sinai, it's the worst of times, the tablets of God's commandments, His condemning Law exacting punishment and retribution for sin. On the other–Zion, it's the best of times, the Temple of God's mercy, sacrifices for sin averting God's wrath. Which mountain is yours?

It's as though Monty Hall (or Wayne Brady) is pointing to two doors where Carrol Merril is standing. The one door is really wide, and seems to be the entrance to a great many treasures. The other is extremely narrow, and would seem to hold a very little. But the appearances are deceiving. The wide door is the way of the Law. Do this, don't do that, as you read the signs. The narrow way is the way of the Gospel. The sign there has no "do's" or "don't's". All it says there is "Done, Done and Done for you."

Like those in the Gospel for today, you want to point to yourself and choose the wide door. You want to claim that you drank in Jesus' presence, and were there when He was teaching, but none of this does you any good. You would like to list all you've done which entitles you to enter, but the door of this way to heaven always remains locked. You can't get in. All you can hear is Jesus' voice saying "Where are you from? I never knew you. Depart from me all you workers of evil!".

What gives? You tried to be a really good person so that Jesus would like you enough to let you into heaven. But you've forgotten your child-training from the Lord. You do your best, yet receive punishment. You strive to obey, but you get a spanking at the end of the day. You come to the Lord offering Him your finest efforts, only to get a whipping from His Law when He receives you. Then He tells you this is love...for you deserve much worse for your unholiness. You deserve stoning/death.

So you see, there is no possible way for you to enter through the wide door of "what you do" to merit life in God's kingdom. Nobody can enter that way. If you did get through that doorway, you'd find nothing but the Zonk of condemnation and everlasting death behind it. The only choice is the narrow door, but you find that it's too narrow for you to get through on your own. You try to contort yourself to be small enough to fit, but your sinfulness is a burden that is too great to go through the tiny entrance.

Which is why sinful, sin-burdened you has to go. He can't fit through the door, so he has to be killed. The Law of God which brings such fear and trembling puts sinful you to death. Old sin-burdened you is gone. But that's just where God wants you! For now the Lord Jesus is able to raise you up as His firstborn son in your baptism. Where you had been last in your sinfulness, now the washing of water and word has made you first in God's sight, born again to new life to enter the narrow door in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, the Firstborn of all who are raised from the dead, you are now raised up. There is no longer only one Firstborn, but now many firstborns, which includes you. From all directions these firstborns enter the heavenly Jerusalem to recline at the table with God. You come this day to the Lord's Table to feast on His body given you, upon His blood shed for your salvation. This Holy Communion is a foretaste of the feast to come in the new Jerusalem above!

You've endured the "worst of times"--God's Law killing you. You now live in the best of times, entering through the narrow door--Christ Jesus Himself. For Jesus says, "I am the Door: if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved!" In Him, the Firstborn, you are raised. Thru Him you enter into eternal life.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#772   In Holy Conversation (only found in LSB - copyrighted)
#510  A Multitude Comes from the East and the West
#505  Triune God be Thou our Stay

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Proper 15 Epistle

In faith Abraham offered Isaac, being tested, and the only begotten he offered, the one having received promises, to whom it was spoken that in Isaac your seed will be called, considering that even out of dead ones God was able to raise, from which him also in a parable he received...And these all having been witnesses through the faith did not receive the promise; God, concerning us, a better thing He foresaw, in order that not apart from us they be perfectly-completed. For this reason also we, being enveloped in so large a cloud of witnesses, may we lay aside all impediments and the constricting sin, through perseverance we run the contest before us, we fix our gaze unto the Beginner and Completer of the faith–Jesus, Who on behalf of the joy He was devoted to, endured a cross, a disgrace he despised, and on the right of the throne of God He has been seated. For you consider the One enduring such a hostility by the sinners into Himself, in order that your souls not become weary (or) give out.    

A rookie ball player is called up to the majors, taking his first at bat. He is baptized by fire. A young marine is deployed into a war theater, facing his first tastes of battle. He is baptized by fire. A newbie volunteer fire-fighter responds to her very first call. She is baptized by fire, but hopefully not literally. Being baptized by fire is not an easy thing. It's dangerous, dreadful and sometimes deadly. You don't want to be baptized by fire, if you can help it. But one person couldn't help it. His name was Jesus!

You see, Jesus' baptism was quite different from yours. Oh, it looked similar when Jesus was in the Jordan river with John. But your baptisms was to wash your sins off of you. Jesus' wasn't. His was a baptism by fire. Fire is a symbol in the bible of God's judgment. Where you and I are cleansed from our unrighteousness in baptism, Jesus wasn't. Quite the opposite. Jesus came to embrace sin and death. Jesus was so devoted to the joy of your salvation that He willingly endured the cross for you.

Not just for you, but for everyone. Jesus endured His baptism by fire at the cross for all people of all times and; places. Your Savior received God's fiery judgment against your sins nailed to Himself, and also Abraham's sins Christ bore in His body on the tree. All the guilt, shame, and; disgrace of every single sin of mankind Jesus became at Calvary. It wasn't a shame Jesus liked. He despised it. Yet He was willing to endure it for your sake, and for the  whole world. He's baptized by fire, for you.

With such an awesome thing that Jesus was willing to do for you and all people, you'd think everyone would look to Him with awe and wonder. But people don't. Sometimes you don't. You consider Jesus on Sunday, then He's out of your mind by Tuesday. Or sometimes even by the time you get to the church parking lot. Your consideration for Jesus and what He does for you is often lacking.

Abraham, by faith, considered God's promises, trusting beyond all logic as God told Him to kill his only son Isaac, through whose line the Savior Jesus was promised. Abraham would have done it, trusting that God who gives life could restore it to Isaac in resurrection. You are given to consider God and His promises in the same way. You are to consider Jesus who took Isaac's place in death, and your place as well on the cross. You consider the only-begotten Son of God baptized by fire for you.

With such a great cloud of faith-filled witnesses in the bible, you ought to be just as faith-focused as they were. But often you aren't. Your gaze drifts away from Jesus who bore your sins on the cross, and instead you find your eyes fixed on your favorite sinful habits. You gossip, waste money, indulge your whims and act selfishly until your sins become impediments to your Christian walk, ensnaring you.

Yet Jesus remains there for you, at the right hand of God's throne. This is not a location, but a power. God's mighty right hand comes down to wash you in your baptism, to mark you with the sign of the cross in Holy Absolution, and to feed you with His body and blood at Communion. Jesus, by the power of His Spirit re-fixes your gaze to Himself, and where He promises to be for you in His Word and in His sacraments. For there Jesus promises to be to forgive you, save you, and give you life forever.

So when life's race becomes rough making you feel you are being baptized by fire, there is no reason for you to despair or grow weary. For your Savior has already been baptized by fire in your place at the cross. For in Christ Jesus there you are perfectly completed. Your faith in Christ a gift He both authors and finishes for you, keeping you in the true faith unto your life everlasting. He likewise does everything by His grace for you, announcing it from the cross, "It is finished!" to you, Abraham, and all.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Proper 8 Galatians 5:1, 13-25 Don't Look Back

In the freedom Christ has freed us; stand then and do not again in a yoke of slavery be loaded down... for you, yourselves upon freedom were called, brothers; only not the freedom into returning to the flesh, but through God's love, enslaved to each other. For all the Law in one word is to be fulfilled, in the "love your neighbor with God's love, as yourself". Yet if you bite and destroy each other, see that you aren't by each other consumed. And I say, in the Spirit you walk, and the wants of the flesh no, you will not complete. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that whatever you want, these things you do not do. And if in the Spirit you are led, you are not by the Law...And the ones of Christ, the flesh they have crucified with the passions and the lusts. If we live in the Spirit, may we also be aligned. May we not become conceited, provoking each other, jealous of each other.  

"Don't Look Back." That was the name of our class song in 1984, soon after "Comfortably Numb" was summarily rejected. It was fitting then because we were leaving High School, and moving forward to college, careers, new places and families. Don't look back seems to be the theme for our lessons today. Elisha was kind of tempted to go back to his family, but he didn't. The man who wanted to follow Jesus was likewise tempted to return back home. But another "don't look back" is our concern.

Inspired by the Spirit, Paul reminds you not to go back to your former ways of slavery to sin. Don't look back on your former sinful ways from which you have been forgiven. Don't go back to your former life from which Jesus has redeemed you. Don't turn back to the yolk of the Law that binds you to a life of permanent frustration. Don't look back to your own flesh and its evil desires, be they lusting, drunkenness, carousing, jealousy, provoking fights, or any other immoral activity. Just don't look back.

Yet this admonition "Don't look back" is easier said than done. You have a fondness for the things of the past, even those you know weren't healthy for you. You are a creature of habit, and those habits of your flesh are so easy to fall back into. You have very strong feelings and emotions, wants and desires attached to those old memories of how you have acted in the past. You have old friends who still do many of the sinful things you used to do, and how easy would it be to slip back into your old ways.

But your former ways of thinking, God has changed! Where you used to think only about yourself, now you think of God's love, and the needs of your neighbor. Those old heresies you believed have been replaced by faith in Christ to Whom you now belong! You have experienced God's love for you in Jesus which has freed you from your sins through your baptism, washing them in that filthy flood from the font to the cross. You are freed from sinful behavior too, made a servant of God's love to others.

So if you don't look back, then where do you look? First, you look to the here and now, and what God has made you to be in Jesus. You came to faith through the Holy Spirit's work of calling you to become a believer through the Gospel of Christ's love for you from Calvary. Now as a believer, Jesus' Own Spirit dwells in you so that daily you walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to what your sinful flesh wants. You are no longer led by God's Law which increases sin. You are led by the Spirit!

In the Spirit, you love with God's Own agape love. His joy is your joy. You have peace with God the Father  through His only-begotten Son Who gave His life to ransom you from death! So God's Spirit makes you patient to wait on God's timing, kind and good toward your neighbor, faithful to God in your behavior, gentle, with your self controlled by the Holy Spirit. None of this is of the Law. It is of God Himself, loving other people with His love which He gave you from the cross of Jesus, to give to others!

So following God, be it like Elisha after Elijah, or one of Jesus' disciples back in the day, is all about what God is doing. That's why you Don't Look Back to when you were in charge of things, with sinful attitudes and evil behaviors. God draws your attention forward to Him and what He does for you. For you are of the Christ. For sinful you was crucified with Jesus on Good Friday. A new you is raised in Jesus on Easter to walk in new life, a life which isn't according to the Law but in the Spirit of Jesus..

"Um, pastor, what if I do look back to my old sinful ways?" Then repent, confess and receive God's forgiveness in Christ. For the same Jesus in Whom you have been crucified offers Himself to you in His Supper regularly, for He knows that you sin daily. So Jesus feeds you with His body given for you, and gives you His shed blood for you to drink, a new testament for the forgiveness of your sins.

Hymns for today from LSB:


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Proper 7 Galatians 3:23- 4:7

For before faith was to come, by the Law we were guarded, confined into the faith about to be revealed, so the Law came to be our child-leader into Christ, so that out of faith we be justified. And the faith, having come, we are no longer under a child-leader. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as into Christ are baptized are wearing Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for all of you are in Christ Jesus. And if you are of Christ, then the seed of Abraham you are, according to promise–heirs! And I say, for the length of time an heir is a child, he doesn't differ from a slave, being lord of all, but he is under guardians and house-managers until the time set of the father. So also we, while we were children, under the elements of the world we were enslaved. And when the fulfillment of time came, God sent out on a mission His Son, begotten of woman, becoming under the Law, so that the ones under the Law He may redeem, so that as sons we may be taken from it. And because you are sons, God sent out on a mission the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, "Daddy, Father!". Consequently, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, also an heir, through God..  

Many moons ago when I was in college, our Synod came out with a CTCR document called "Women in the church" (1985). It was hotly debated in that day, with some upset that it didn't allow for women pastors. Those who argued for women pastors cited the passage, "there is no longer male and female", as if that were the last word to be had in the matter. But it wasn't, of course. In fact, it wasn't even the last point St. Paul is inspired to make on the topic in our epistle for today. For all in Christ are Sons!

Oddly, after telling the folks that their own gender didn't matter, Paul seems to go an entirely different route with Jesus' gender. It mattered a whole lot! Jesus was not some genderless "child" of God. He was very much male, and as such, He is very much a Son of God. The legion of demons knew this well, addressing Jesus plainly as God's Son. Jesus refers to Himself countless times also as the Son of His heavenly Father. So how does our gender matter so little, but Jesus' matters so very much?

Whether you are a male or a female doesn't matter because you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. In Christ you have become a son of God, through THE Son of God. You were taken from the condemnation of the Law in your baptism, where God adopted you into His heavenly family. You were washed clean of all of your sins, and made holy to bear God's Own family name from that day on. You are no longer disobedient slaves of God under the Law, but sons of God by Jesus' forgiving grace.

"But I'm a gal" at least half of you are thinking. "It's just plain odd to be a female-Son!" Yes that would be odd, but remember, that's not how God sees you. You are a son of God, regardless of your gender, because you are wearing Jesus–the Son of God! At the blessed exchange of the cross Jesus became your sin and was dealt it's severe punishment in your place. You, in trade, received His holy righteousness by faith, to wear for eternity. God the Father looks down on you seeing only Jesus!

Your sonship from God comes with a very special bonus. As a son, you become an heir of God the Father! In bible times, the gals were never part of the inheritance, but sons were. As a son of God you have Jesus last will and testament already given to you. Not just a promise, but delivered through the cup of the new testament in Jesus' blood shed for you. You eat and drink from this last will and testament at the Lord's Supper, receiving the gifts of life and salvation through this sacrament.

Yet some of you want to cry out, "Why are women not allowed to do what men do in our church?" This is not what God has given you to cry out. He has placed the Holy Spirit of His Son into your hearts so that you will cry out a different thing: "Daddy, Father!" Instead of questioning about what some people want to do, God gives you to holy sonship, that your cries of prayer recognize by faith just who you are in Christ Jesus, an ever-blessed son of God! Repent of your foolish cries, and embrace sonship.

So refrain from the Law questions of "what do I get to do", for you are no longer children still under the Law. Instead, you are blessed by God to rejoice by His Spirit in the fact that, regardless of your gender, you are all Sons of God in Christ Jesus your Savior. For the Son of God died for you at Calvary under the Law to redeem you from its curse, forever. No longer are you under the guardian of the Law as a child, but since faith has come, you are fully grown sons of God in Jesus God's Son.

Hymns today from LSB:

#731  O God, Forsake Me Not
#825  Rise, Shine, you People
#594  God's Own Child I'll Gladly Say It


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Monday, June 3, 2013

Proper 4 Galatians 1:1-12

Paul, an apostle, not from men nor through man but through Jesus Christ and God (the) Father, the One having raised Him out of death, and all the brothers with me, to the ones called out of Galatia, grace to you and peace from God our Father and (the) Lord Jesus Christ, the one having given Himself on behalf of our sins, so that He may remove out of the present age of evil according to the will of God, and our Father, to Whom–the glory into the ages of ages, amen. I am amazed that so quickly you turn away from the One calling you in grace, into another gospel which is not another, if not some are the ones stirring you up and wanting to change the gospel of the Christ. But even if ever we or an angel out of heaven proclaims a gospel other than the gospel in you, may he be cursed! As I foretold, and now again I say, if anyone proclaims a gospel to you other than the one you received, may he be cursed! For now am I persuading men or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If yet men I were pleasing, a slave of Christ I would not ever be.  

Just what is true nowadays? It's becoming more difficult to tell. One tv channel spins a news story one way, and another channel spins it in an entirely different direction. Your significant other tells you one way is best, but that conflicts with what your parents taught you as the right way. One TV preacher claims that God wants one thing for you, then you flip the channel, to find another one preaching an entirely different message. How can you know what words are reliable, and which ones aren't?

Well, this is not a new problem, although in our post-modern age where everyone has their own personal version of the truth, it might seem worse than ever before. But way back in Paul's day, there were already others substituting a different so-called "gospel" for the one of Christ Jesus. Folks were trying to substitute a different message, claiming all the while that it was the same as God's word. It wasn't. But they would use twisted logic, quotes out of context, whatever to buttress this false gospel.

Really this is no different than the false appeal made to Jesus in today's gospel. "This guy is really worthy" the people argue. He wasn't. He knew it. He admits freely to Jesus that he doesn't deserve a miracle, or even for Jesus to come under his roof. The truth comes out in the end. The prevailing opinion of the people was dead wrong. Jesus does not bless the man "who deserves it", because nobody deserves it. We are all sinners deserving of hell. Jesus blesses the unworthy out of His love!

This flies directly in the face of popular notions. God can only love the "lovable", right? Wrong. That's what man thinks. It's not God's will. People show favor to the one who seems worthy of it. People only praise the person who has done something deserving of it. We only honor somebody who seems honorable. We expect ourselves to receiving something good because we've somehow earned it, so that we can receive the credit. This is the foundation of the false gospels that abound even today.

The orthodox gospel is different. Orthodox means "proper glory". So if the glory, the honor, the credit, or the praise goes to you as deserving God's blessings, it's not orthodox, because the glory isn't going in the right place. All glory is to belong to our God, alone. He's the One who saves the unworthy of salvation. God loves you in Christ Jesus, not because you are so lovable, but despite the fact that you aren't. Jesus died for your sins, became your sins on the cross so you become His righteousness.

This is God's will, the Lord's plan for you, His desire to love you despite yourself. Yet Satan works overtime to drag you away from this free gift of grace. Though he appears as a "white devil" he's still a wolf, albeit in sheep's clothing. He appeals to the popular opinion, telling you that God can't love you unless you... Or he tried to deceive you by saying, "if you just do this, then, and only then, God will bless you..."  What horse-pucky!  While you were yet sinners, Christ died for you! "It is finished!"

These false gospels of today twist the glory from God to men. The gracious washing of your baptism they pervert into an "ordinance" you gotta do to please God. The Lord's Supper, Jesus' body and blood given and shed for your forgiveness is twisted into your act of remembering Jesus. God's gift of faith to convert you from heathen to believer is turned on its head into "your decision" for Christ. Each gift, each work of God, each blessing from Jesus becomes your work, your effort, your choice.

Yet you remain confident in Christ Jesus, by Whose death your sin, your death, and the devil's hold on you is defeated, and by Whose resurrection you are raised to life everlasting! You await His return to remove you from this evil age of false gospels, according to God's will to save you eternally!

Amen.