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.


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!


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.  

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