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:


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



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!