Monday, June 18, 2018

Fatherhood [Trinity 3; St. Luke 15:1-10 (11-32)]


Jesus speaks to you today, saying,

Do not misunderstand. The vocation of father is such a divine and holy office, that the Lord Himself creates it and hangs the 4th Commandment upon it: Honor your father and mother, regardless of what kind of father or mother a person is.

Yet, as with all things that turn bad or evil, fatherly care and concern begins with the best of intentions. I will do my best to keep my 100 sheep. I will carefully concern myself with my 10 silver coins. I will thoughtfully and purposefully raise my sons, as in the parable of the Prodigal son.

As the author of the English dictionary, Samuel Johnson, confirms, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” What he means is that even though we voice our opinion of things, intent changes nothing. Action alone will suffice a change. Yet, in our sin, we find even our actions unable to produce good, for even good actions go awry, though we never intend them to.

One of these actions and intentions is that of the American father. At the first, he was a father: guarding, protecting, and nurturing his family by hard work and disciplined piety. It was on him to provide simply because of how he was built as a male. He was able to bear hard labor and get things done all the while ensuring his family believed the right things.

Since that time, especially accelerated in the last 70 years or so, fathers have been hard at work giving up fatherhood and manhood and have unintentionally enslaved the ones they sought to free. Where they intended to give women a voice in society, they unintentionally vacated a lot of the public sector forcing women to serve instead.

Where they intended love and peace for all in the sexual revolution, they unintentionally left a scorched earth of no love and no peace in no-fault divorce and risk-free fornication. Where previously they intended to provide for families and others, they unintentionally forced self-education and hard labor on women and children, instead of themselves and now live in their parent’s basements well into their 30s.

With the intent to educate, they unintentionally shoved off their children onto the State, having others deal with them, instead of them raising their own children. With the intent to connect all the world via the internet, they unintentionally made it so they never have to leave the house for anything.

As more and more fathers and men shove their responsibilities off onto others, society falls further and further into decay. The Family, the very core of society, entrusted to men, has been dissolved. There is no father or mother anymore, but the gender neutral guardian or parent. There is no marriage anymore, but the all inclusive relationship. There is no husband or wife anymore, but spouse and partner.

Repent. Intending to make things better, we have made things worse. The immigrants to America intending to make a clean start, unintentionally brought their own troubles and sin with them and yet this did not change how fathers are supposed to be. Just because you disagree with a previous generation’s view, does not make it completely wrong. We do not need to reinvent the wheel of fatherhood, here, but simply to find what we lost.

What is lost is true manliness and fatherhood.

Not only does the Good Shepherd have good intentions, but good results as well. Notice the shepherd in the Gospel. He keeps a tight lid on his flock. He knows all 100 of them, where they will be, what they are doing, and where they are going. He instantly knows that one is missing. He reacts violently to the fact that there was a chink in the armor, a hole in the wall and immediately moves to close the gap, by retrieving the lost.

The woman also keeps her wealth close to her chest. Guarding and caring in her own way. She does not rest until every means is exhausted in finding the lost. The father of the prodigal boy also acts in this manner. Though his son left, he continues to guard his household and seek for his son so that when he returns, his son may find a home left for him.

The Good Shepherd has had His flock stolen from Him; his precious treasure; His beloved Son, the Church. A chink; a gap was opened where no gap can open. Sin and death poured in, un-creating everything good and pure. There was nowhere for the lost to go except to be lost and to die in sin.

If the Lord were to go out there He would die as well, but that’s exactly what He does. Jesus does not stay in His mansions of safety, He forsakes all for His lost, fallen creatures. Finding them dead in their sins, He pours out His life-blood upon them, raising them up to new life.

On the cross, Jesus is restoring the lost and destroyed. He hoists your sins upon His shoulders and pays for all your impudence and iniquities. He scours His house, bleaching and purifying with His Body and Blood until nothing remains except silver and gold. He trains up His children in baptism, the way that they should go, and they do not depart from it.

Yet, what our heavenly Father is teaching us is not to be as diligent and concerted with our own efforts at finding and restoring, but instead to latch onto and covet that which overcomes the world and its corruption: faith. More than going out to find our own lost sheep, we need to have faith that our Good Shepherd comes out to find us.

More than seeking out our own absent treasure, we are to believe that Christ makes us His treasure by virtue of His Suffering and death on the cross. In this way, our true heavenly Father stops the gap up with His own Son’s Body and Blood, plugging the dam of sin and death forever, not just as a temporary measure, but as an eternal measure.

The Father’s intent from the beginning was always Good, with a capital ‘g’. This is because the Father’s intent, from the very beginning, was always to send His Son, rescue His people from their sins, build a house that cannot be broken.

The Father therefore sends true God and true man to care for those who are shoved off, to bring light to those in darkness, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. As earthly father, we can not hope to stand between the sin that leads to death and our own family and friends. Thus, the only duty of a manly father; the true restoration of fatherhood is to point to faith in the heavenly Father.

Greater than our actions and greater even than our “good” intentions is the Word of God. For in it the earthly father does not find his own words and actions, but the words, actions and promises of Jesus the Christ of God. In this, the earthly father does not present himself to his children or to society around him, but he presents the Savior of all.

The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The Spirit is willing because it is the Holy Spirit. The flesh is weak, because it is corrupted to death with sin. We do not rely on the flesh that seeks and loses, but on the Spirit Who sends and finds.

The Spirit Who sends true love, Who gives a true family in the Church, and who creates living faith in those baptized believers. The world’s gates of revolution and progression will never overcome this given faith and even though we fail at every turn, we are not asked to succeed, but to confess and be forgiven.

That is the true intent of our heavenly Father and the actual good that comes from it. That though we find ourselves failing in sin, we always find Him intentionally succeeding, suffering and dying for us, in order that we might live the blessed life of faith, in Him.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Adultery [Trinity 2; St. Luke 14:15-24]


Jesus speaks to us today, saying,
“But they all alike began to make excuses.”

In the 6th command from God we hear a call to purity and chastity, in the words, “You shall not commit adultery.” In this command is the leading of a life that considers sexuality a good gift from God. That marriage be honored as God’s institution and a lifelong union of one man and one woman.

That sex is reserved for marriage alone and should be put under control in a God-pleasing way. There is to be no unfaithfulness. There are to be no sins of rape, homosexuality, incest, child abuse, obscenity or pornography. Our thoughts and desires are to be taken captive if they step out of these bounds. We must avoid all temptation, cleanse our thoughts, and only use this gift in a God-pleasing way.

Because of our abuse of this gift, it is difficult to think of it in terms of godliness, much less in terms of Christ and the cross. Because, really, where does the cross go when you talk about adultery?

Immorality. Fornication. All are in the lists of those who won’t be getting into heaven. At this point, you may think that it’s the guy who made the excuse of having a wife, in the Gospel today, but you’d only be partly right. The adultery comes in making the excuse in the first place.

If you think about Adam and Eve, got kicked out of the garden for not giving their heart to God, you’re wrong. Eve was listening to and obeying a man/thing that was not her husband. She committed adultery by cherishing and honoring the serpent.

The Babylonian Exile and the complete destruction of Israel was not because the people didn’t have enough Jesus, but because the people were playing the harlot with other gods. This is adultery.

“The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.” (Jer. 3:6-9)

Repent. What we constantly do not believe is that adultery is first and foremost a sin against God. It is not just a matter between husband and wife, but Christ and His Church. The fruits of adultery create an excess of all sins, faults, and vices, and a lack of all virtue, chastity, and decency. Then there is only a bold, wild, desolate life, with no fear of God and no shame before man, and the you become a beast, heedful of neither God nor men.

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 Jn. 2:16)

True adultery is turning your heart away from God in unbelief, which then makes you scorn His gift of sexuality and marriage. It is not believing that marriage between one man and one woman is the way God has made things. It is believing that by progressing, we can create something better and still believe it to be God’s will.

The Lord will restore the fortunes of Sodom and Gomorrah before He turns away from our adultery (Eze 16). This mystery, this gift of marriage is great, but I am speaking of Christ and His Church.

The Good husband loves His wife and gives Himself up for her. He loves her as He loves His own body and nourishes it and cherishes it. He takes the bullet. He dies that the Bride might live. In Jesus, the Bridegroom, God establishes His covenant with you and it is a marriage contract. A marriage contract sealed with water and blood.

For it is the water and the blood that cleanse and purify, that the Bride might be sanctified for every good work. It is the water and the Word that wash and bathe the Bride in salvation. And it is for this glory, the glory of brining back the adulterous wife and purifying her back to virginal state, that the Son leaves the Father and clings to Bride and the two become one flesh.

In this one flesh union, all that the Bridegroom has is the Bride’s. The Groom took her out of her blood of sin and washed and clothed her in His righteousness. Jesus snatched you from the jaws of death with His own suffering and death and has adorned you as a Bride, with everlasting life.

You have been bought and paid for. You have been sealed with the death and resurrection of Jesus in baptism, you have been instructed and brought to new life in the Gospel, and you have been nourished by the very Body and Blood you formerly despised in your sins and crucified.

This is the new covenant God makes with the world. A covenant that cannot be broken by earthly means or soiled by sin and death, for its purity depends entirely on the Pure Bridegroom and His perfect life. Its rigidity rests solely on the merits and worthiness of Jesus, Who, for the joy set before Him, obeyed His Father even though it caused His death on the cross.

In this solitary, necessary way, the Lord of Life buys back His Bride from her adultery. He completely covers her debts and creates a new heavens and a new earth in the Church, where the marriage vows can never be broken again. For in the Word and sacraments, it is His Word against hers, yet in this marriage, Her word becomes His Word. One flesh.

In the Divine Service, it is the Lord’s Word that is preached. We do not allow ourselves the temptation to come up and each one speak for himself, for we know it would only bring us deeper shame. In the Sacraments, God’s promises are the crucial ingredient in making them work. We would never think of trying to take credit for our “choice” to take them or receive them, in fear of our own sin corrupting them.

The Divine Service stands as the life of the true Bride to be lived out by us and the Sacraments are the marriage certificate. The life of the Bride is so marked by the Word and prayer and her existence as a Bride confirmed by water and Blood. In these things, there is no adultery. In these things, there are no broken lives or promises, only forgiveness.

In the Divine Service, we are subject to our Husband, Who has suffered and died for us. In this way, He is our Lord and head, and we are His Body. We keep silent in Church that He might speak to us His faithfulness. Our mouths are shut up so His mouth would proclaim our pardon.

In committing adultery, we not only ruin our lives and the lives of those involved, but we also declare that God commits adultery, since we dare to call ourselves His. Yet, because of Jesus the Crucified, not even our own adultery can separate us from the love of our Good Husband.

So now, when we hear “You shall not commit adultery”, it is not only the stern words of a jealous God, but the sweet words of Promise from our crucified husband. That now, in Him and in this marriage, “you shall not commit adultery” is a promise; a wedding gift given; a life to be lived in faith and belief that the Son will never leave us or divorce us.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Heavenly Father [Trinity 1; St. Luke 16:19-31]


Jesus says,

I heard a story at the Vietnam wall, last weekend. It was a fairly common story about a child growing up without a father, because it’s only the young men that get sent out to fight the wars of the old. Anyways, this young girl was born into her family and before she got to know her father he left to fight and died.

God placed within her, as He does all of us, an intense desire for both father and mother and when one is lacking, we are poorer for it. So it was with this girl. She just knew she had a father and as she got older she wanted to know who he was, but her mother could only tell her so much.

What she needed was someone who knew him, who grew up with him, who fought with him. She went to some veterans and lo and behold, a member of his unit was still alive and had been there with her father, at the very end. That veteran began her relationship with her absent father that she desperately needed in her life and that God has placed in her.

Rewind to the Rich man and Lazarus. Regardless of how it looks to the world, both men are in need of a father. The rich man is in need of fatherly discipline and Lazarus in need of fatherly aid. Both lead poorer lives for their absence and both lives are rich in suffering for the same reason.

For, when they both die they meet no one else except the Father, in today’s episode played by Abraham. The Father Who was supposed to discipline and aid, yet appeared to refuse to do either one of those so that the situation ended up as it did with the rich man in hell and the Lazarus at the Father’s side. How did it happen?

There are three fathers portrayed in the Gospel today. The father of earthly prosperity, the father of earthly suffering, and the one, true Father. In each case of revelation, there is a desperate need for a father, regardless of how he acts. Both the rich man and Lazarus display the deep seeded desire to have a father in one’s life.

The father of earthly prosperity is the dad we all want. He’s the one with the gifts, he’s the fun one, he’s the one that is so laid back he lets us do whatever we want and winks at our vices, much to our condemnation.

Repent. The father of earthly suffering is the father nobody wants, thus we usually associate anything of this sort to the devil or some other evil. Though this is not the true Father in heaven, yet, it is this father that leads Lazarus to Him and we are all in desperate need of a Father.

Our true Father in heaven makes the path of suffering in this world in order to reveal Himself. Not because He wants to test us or make certain we obey and are true, but because the path of suffering is the path of the cross of Christ. Lazarus suffers under his “absent father” in order to point to Jesus.

If we were the rich man, we would understand that we have a father, because he recognized his “father” Abraham, but we would not know him for who He really is. The rich man mistakenly thought Abraham would rescue him. Even if we were Lazarus and suffered as he did in this life, we would still be no closer.

The only way to know there is even a Father in the first place is because there is a Son. Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt. 11:27)

Jesus is the only way to the Father. Jesus is the Son Who suffers at His Father’s command in this life and is rewarded in the Resurrection. Jesus is also the Son Who gives up all His riches and lands Himself in hell in place of all others. Jesus is not the Son Who does not know His Father neither is the Father absent on His account.

Jesus proves by His life that His Father is always present by calling upon Him throughout His life. Though He did not “appear” as we wanted Him to, His will was done according to Jesus and to us. The will of God was to sacrifice the Son on in place of you and Jesus joyfully chased after that will, regardless of what it did to His body.

And it is only through this Body of work that Jesus reveals the Father. It is only through Faith, given freely, in the flesh of Christ on the cross that Jesus does this work. It is only through belief and the sacraments that tears the curtain in two showing us Who the Father really is.

If we try to find our heavenly Father in the rich man, we get enjoyment of the now, but He turns against us afterwards and we don’t understand. If we try to find our Father in Lazarus, see a suffering that has no purpose and is used only to gain a reward.

In order to find out Who our true Father is, we need His Son. The Son Who was there since the beginning. Who created with the Father, Who sat beside the Father for all eternity, and Who conversed with the Father. We need this Son to speak this information to us, to describe Who our Father is, What He is like, and What He is doing.

We need to find the Son, sit down, and have a nice long conversation with Him. Dead in our sins, this is impossible for us. As father Abraham described, there is a great chasm between us and the Father. But, in the Church Christ has purchased and redeemed by His true Body and Blood, the Son brings the Father to us. The Son finds Himself and locates Himself and the Father in a place and manner of His choosing.

So when you come into the Divine Service, sit down, and start talking, singing, or praying, you have been incorporated in the Divine conversation. For it is in the Word and Sacraments that the Son is fully revealed as the Crucified Savior as He is in no other place.

It is here that the Spirit comes to hand out the gifts of Faith and belief that we might hear and know the words of this conversation. And it is here that the Father reveals all His plans and purposes, which just so happen to be all that Jesus has said and done. Thus, on the other side of things, it is not us desperately seeking the Father, but the Son desperately seeking to reconcile us to Him.

Jesus knows suffering and prosperity will attack and plague us, so He doesn’t sit by and wait. To the rich man He proclaims His Word and His Divine Service rings her bells, calling the young and old to repentance. To the suffering Lazarus, Jesus’ Church opens her doors and her heart to the poor, helping whenever and however, all the time, every time.

The Father is only apparently absent. He is truly present in His Son on earth and in heaven. The rich man had heard the discipline and will of God necessary for salvation in Moses and the Prophets, as Lazarus also did. Lazarus had the fortune of suffering as his Messiah did and thus provided the better picture of faith.

Even though this conversation is 2 weeks early, fathers need to be present to prevent both Lazarus and the rich man from befalling family and friends. A father’s absence, even for his job, is no excuse and only leads to calamity in young faith. A father needs to be there, just as our heavenly Father is there for all men.

There are also children that are related to you not by blood, that you find in the pews next to you and living life beside you. These children, neighbors, are also placed under your care to be a father to. Even if you have no children of your own and even if you are a poor father, it is not you, but Jesus.

Jesus does not point to your fatherliness, success or failure, but He always points to the heavenly Father. The Father Who is always present, Who always fathers perfectly, and Who always gives the Son as His greatest accomplishment.

Though we participate and commune in God’s father-ship, our actions don’t reveal Him as He truly is. The real earthly father will always point to Christ and let the Son do the talking. He will always sit his children down in the pews so they will hear the Word and believe. He will always bring them to the water and the blood, because he knows that only the heavenly Father can rescue his charges from their sin.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Belief [Trinity Sunday; St. John 3:1-15]


Who speaks to you all today saying,

Belief is a secular value, even though it is used over 300 times in the Bible and is usually associated with Christianity. Most of the time, belief is defined as those reasonings about what things are or how you think about what is. These beliefs color how you view the world and everyone in it.

So, a person can believe in God and the supernatural, but another can also believe in no-gods and only the natural. One person can believe all life is valuable and another can believe only certain life is valuable. Simply because someone believes does not make that belief true. You do not want to confront the person who believes your life is not valuable, even though you think it is.

And yet we know that belief can be good. You can believe that life is important, no matter how small. You can believe every person has the rights and dignity of every other person. You can believe that hard work and determination go a long, long way in this world. You can not believe in everything. You need to pick your belief and stand there and sometimes that means in opposition to others.

What really confuses me is those people who say they believe in everything, not just one thing. They believe that if they can just pick the middle of the road in all things (moderation), that they will have become more enlightened. They believe that if they accept all truth as equal, that they will find themselves ahead of the pack.

The reason this confuses me is because when you believe in everything, you do not have any sort of form or structure to your belief system. It just kind of floats out there, changes with the weather, and you’re not that interesting to talk to. And something that has no form or shape is called nothing. Thus, a belief in everything is a belief in nothing.

But, contrary to the opinion of some, everyone believes in something. Even a belief in nothing is still something. Likewise, everyone has their own creeds or list of values and judgments. You can not live and survive in this world without such a list. Talk to someone enough, and their beliefs, how they judge the world, will come out.

What do you believe in? This weekend we have the travelling Vietnam Memorial wall in town. Those names up there mean they believed in something. Regardless of what you think of the politicians that sent them to fight a war or the reasons for fighting, those servicemen invested their entire lives into what they swore to do. Have you ever invested your life in like manner?

Nicodemus risked his very life to go see Jesus. No, he was not sneaking around and lying as some think, but he was searching for righteousness. He was investing his entire life into discovering its whereabouts and the only reward he would get when his true allegiance was made known, was ostracization and death for leaving Judaism.

Jesus was bound and determined to not only risk His own life for His beliefs, but to let others take it from Him. Even though He laid down His own life, Jesus was still a man; a man that stood alone in order to believe in the only true thing to believe in: you.

Yes, yes. Jesus perfectly believed in God and lead a perfect life in His eyes, but listen again to what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus. God must not be born again. God must not be born of water and the Spirit. It is Nicodemus who must do these things, and even though Nicodemus does not get it, Jesus gives us the answer: he must be born of the Spirit. Belief must be given.

Repent, dear Christians. It is not enough for you to believe in something. You must believe something. Belief on its own is not anything to be proud of, neither is belief in something to the exclusion of others. It is not what you believe, but Who you believe. And before that, it is not Who you believe, but Who believes in you.

Yes, Jesus believes in you. He believes in you so much that He created an entire cosmos for you to live and breathe and grow in. He believes in you so much that He gave you His own breath as your breath that you might share His joy in this creation. He believes in you so much that He gave you His very personal name and revealed how you could find Him any time you want to.

And it is Jesus’ faith that today opens your lips in the words of the Divine Service and the Athanasian Creed. For this is not just what you believe, but Who you believe. The creeds are not just there as an academic exercise, but as a precise statement of Who is to be believed, this is why the creeds are hated.

First off, they exclude any pagan or humanist religion. They force the reciter to take a stand with the God that is being described. The one and only God that has created all things and sends His Spirit to care for all things.

Next, they quash the belief of any who would say of God “great spirit” or “mother” or any iteration other than Father. The one who recites is forced to believe in the manliness of God. Not only that, but then that believer is made to believe that God became man and accomplished His greatest work as a man.

Remember, that Christ’s own words were that the work that one should be doing to be doing the work of God is believing. Not just believing, but believing in the One sent from God, that is Jesus the Christ of God.

This is why the Church centers around the Body and Blood of Jesus, because it is there that this belief is handed out. In the Lord’s Supper, you not only confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, but you believe with your heart, mind, stomach that there is one God, the Father Almighty, the Son, Jesus Christ crucified, and the Spirit not created but proceeding.

The Sacrament of the Altar places the burning coal of the Word of God on your lips in order that, when the Pastor of God declares, “Behold this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for”, your new found belief in Christ responds, “Be it done to me as the Lord wills” and “Amen, amen, yes, yes, it shall be so.”

Jesus first believes that it is right to sacrifice Himself for His mortal enemies: you all in your sin. It is in that atoning sacrifice that you are made to believe the same thing. In the belief of Christ, you are given faith to believe the same way Jesus does. It is only the one whom the Son chooses to reveal faith to, who gets to believe. Thus, the clear way Jesus has made for His people is in Word and Sacrament, for they contain the promises of God for the believer.

When you hear, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” and because of your baptism you find that the Bible is talking about you, you have exactly what the words say you have: salvation. When you hear, “whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life” or “this is my Body, this is my Blood given for the forgiveness of sins”, what do you suppose belief is telling you there?

Jesus’ belief allows the Christian to be close minded and open minded at the same time. He hears both heavenly truth, which cannot change, and he finds and seeks out earthly truth, which can be quite elusive. Jesus belief also allows the Christian to be myopic and clairvoyant. He is only focused on Christ and what He is doing, where He is at, yet he can be compassionate and sympathetic to all who face their own problems, regardless of what they believe.

Christ chooses to reveal Himself in His Church and He chooses to give Himself to you. Belief’s response is to be baptized, hear the Gospel, receive the sacrament, and confess, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Sabbaoth!”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Lingua franca [Pentecost; St, John 14:23-31]


Who speaks to us today, saying,
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

You did not understand all that you heard today, and hopefully that’s not usual. Regardless, you did not understand because for many of you English is your first and only language. And this is understandable. In order to survive and thrive in the USA, you did not need to know anything else.

Language is one of the keys to defining a people and maintaining society and culture. The importance of language is brought to the fore by our reading from Genesis in the Tower of Babel. The important point of this story is not how mean God was and how afraid He was of the great potential of men working together, but rather what they did in exercising that great potential: that is creating eternal condemnation for themselves.

And this is the great gift that language is. It allows a people to unite and accomplish that which they purpose. This was the impetus behind the rise of the United States of America. Though people with many tongues came together and were confused in their inability to communicate, one newer language bridged that gap: English.

Now you may say, see if everyone just learned English we wouldn’t have illegals, gangs, and other plagues on decent society. However, it was the unification of the US citizens that caused the problems we have in the first place. We reap today what had been sown in the past. The same language that had united, today tears apart.

Holy Scripture testifies to the truth of this. The Lord will cut off “…those who say, ‘With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?’” (Ps. 12:4)

St. Paul is even more direct in saying, “In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’” (1 Cor. 14:21)

Language is important and it is a gift from God. You can not learn, you can not understand, you can not hear if you do not have an understanding of language and you will not survive. Similarly, if you remain satisfied with one language, you miss out on a vast chunk of the world’s beauty in other languages.

The Lord created language. There is a heavenly language and some say that was Hebrew, because that’s the tongue that God used to give the Law to Moses, however, St. Paul told us that it would be a strange and foreign tongue that would bring salvation to His people. So while the Jews were waiting for more Hebrew, Jesus was speaking in Greek. Likewise, while we are all waiting for God to reveal some special command or vision to us in some secret heart-language meant only for us, He is passing us over by speaking in regular old languages, not just English.

Repent! We use language against our neighbor. We curse and swear, tell lies and betray our neighbor, and slander him. Instead of immersing ourselves in the wonder that is developed language, we lock ourselves in our single rooms and declare supremacy saying that I have built this city and have made a name for myself and none is master over me.

Jesus says that all who see Him mock Him. They shoot out their language and shake their heads saying, “He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him, if He delight in Him.” Jesus uses this inflammatory language spoken against Himself as the vehicle for the saving Gospel. In fact, He uses language in general, to spread His Word.

It was language that created Babel, it was language that divided, and now it is language that recreates all as it should be. Though we live in a world of divided tongues, Christ unites all of us. For even though mean’s word prevailed against Jesus and succeeded in condemning Him, it was the Word made flesh; language incarnate that paid for you to hear the Gospel and believe.

You hear in tongues every Divine Service and unconsciously translate the language and words of God. That is a true gift of the Holy Spirit. So, you didn’t understand the Collect and the Epistle today? You have the ability and the option to learn to hear Christ on the cross for you, if you so choose. There is no unlearnable language on earth and in each one Christ the Crucified is risen and living.

Therefore the reason Babel occurred and the reason Pentecost cleaned up what Babel incurred, is so that God could manifest His glory, because now not only does God speak to His people, but He speaks to them in any and all languages, not just one.

In our Introit, we heard from Wisdom 1:7, but in verse 6 the Lord says this, “Wisdom is a loving Spirit and will not acquit the blasphemer of his language…for God is a true beholder of his heart and a hearer of his tongue.” From verse 7 we know that the Spirit fills the whole earth and He has knowledge of the Voice. It is through language that God communicates His grace to us and through language the Holy Spirit fills the world.

The evil we bring against ourselves and God is the same evil the people of Babel brought against God. Thus, the Lord caused three things to happen at Babel: 1) He confused their tongues, 2) He scattered them over the whole earth, and 3) He created many new lips or languages. Thus it becomes central to the plan of salvation that Jesus un-confuse tongues, gather from the ends of the earth, and create a new language.

This language we beg for in the Divine Service saying things like, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Ps. 51:15). And in His great mercy, known only in Christ Jesus, God has known our unclean lips and the unclean lips of the people we dwell with and has cleansed us from them. He takes a burning coal of the Body and Blood of His Son, touches our lips, and makes them holy (Is. 6:5,7).

Baptized into Jesus, our lips speak no more evil or wickedness. They harbor no more ill will for God or our neighbor. Instead they speak as God speaks. They burst forth into songs of praise, thanksgiving, and forgiveness. They speak the richness of God for all eternity, because they speak only of Christ Crucified for dumb sinners.

Now you understand what language is for and, more importantly, what the language you hear in the Bible is for. The Lord has “…put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”(Psalm 40:3) And in heaven “…they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” (Rev. 5:9)

The new song and the new language consists entirely of Christ and what He has done for His people in redeeming them from sin, death, and the power of the devil. And even if we only speak one language, the best way to use it is this way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Divine Service murder [Easter 7; St. John 15:26-16:4]


Jesus speaks to us today, saying,
“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

In this verse, the weakness of English comes out. To be sure there are the actions of putting out of the synagogues, and killing, and thinking incorrectly. But what is actually being conveyed here is a recreation and there’s a lot to unpack.

What’s happening here is that a second church is being erected inside God’s own Church. A church that excommunicates God’s Elect and kills them, all during their own “divine” service. This is the strength of the words St. John is using today and we can say this because his word for “service” is the same word used to refer to the Passover.

Thus, as we approach our 5th Commandment from God, we run into an apparent contradiction that there is to be no murdering, but not only is there killing in the Old Testament, but from that it seems as if His followers can understand His commands and actions as demanding human sacrifices, if only to keep this church pure.

This is our blind, sinful way of understanding sacrifice and purity. That because men can be killed that they should be killed or because we can be angry with them, we should be. However, all this does is reveal our own state of depravity. What we are really trying to kill is God and since we can’t get at Him, we go for the next best thing: His chosen followers.

We must not only not kill people around us, but neither hurt nor harm them in any physical way. However, include anger in the mix and this commandment quickly becomes impossible, especially with sacrifices needed to be made and with enemies close at hand.

So we come to an impasse. God does not murder, but He kills. There must not be murder, but there is murder. There must not be death, but there is death and there is no understanding it. Philosophers have been at it for centuries and the best they’ve come up with is, “Suck it up”.

What makes sense of all the Old Testament murder and violence is the cross, because it is God’s work, not ours. All the deaths in the Old Testament were for purity’s sake; the purity of God’s people, whom He chose and whom He is very jealous for. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mt. 11:12)

By the letter of the Law there must be sacrifice and we think, “What better to sacrifice than the unbelievers?” However, this is not an unblemished sacrifice, but a cheap one, cheapening God’s promise by its impurity. Maybe, we say, a true believer will suffice. Yet, afterwards nothing is different. Still not an acceptable sacrifice to alleviate God’s wrath.

With this, maybe you can begin to see a little clearer. There must be a death, but it is not to be meted out by your hands. Yet, when you judge God as too slow, you take God’s commands as the go ahead to create your own rules in Church and begin the purification by Law, for it is by Law that purity must be achieved, but it is by that same Law that we all deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment.

Repent. All we understand of murder, killing, and violence is through the Law and when we try to pierce into God’s mind with His Law, we find nothing but more murder, killing, and violence. We come to a warped conclusion of Who God is by using our sinful minds to wrap our heads around it.

The command to not murder comes to completion and perfection at the cross. All the seemingly murderous intent we assign to God is poured out upon the Son of God and its not even that somehow God has to learn about suffering or how not to murder, its that in Jesus God suffers on your behalf. To prove to you that He suffers because of your murdering.

Thus, Jesus is murdered for the murderers. To prove to the whole world for all time that it is sin and the devil that murders, God is murdered on the cross. You could almost say that God changes here, at the cross, because now the killing and the violence stops. But, He doesn’t change, of course, for it was always the plan to stop anger and death in all forms.

Jesus suffers and dies to purchase His Church and He does so with a death and resurrection. A death and resurrection which you must share in or be lost forever. Even in this New covenant there must be murder, but this is now a satisfied murder; a completed murder the Christian encounters in Christ and what does that look like, but a bit of water and the Word.

In our vile pit of murder, Jesus comes to us with His help and support. But the 5th command is too physical for Jesus to simply offer a spiritual help and support. Jesus helps us by murdering murder in the flesh. His absorption of all the violence and anger plays out in His scourged and pierced Body, for you.

Now, in this light of lights, the 5th Commandment is also about the cross. Though on it sinful man murders God, this produces a greater revelation: God can not be murdered and murder does not accomplish one thing, for its ultimate end, death, could not hold Jesus in its icy grasp.

Robbed of its purpose, murder and anger now are a fruitless tree, marked for termination. True life; a life full of wellbeing, help, and support is now found in Christ, Who will never die again. And since Christ attends Service every Sunday, the completion and fulfillment of the 5th Commandment is also at hand, here, for you.

This plays out in the Confession and Absolution. By all rights, you should get what you deserve, standing here smug and proud in sin. However, by all rights, Christ has taken what you deserve and the murderous sinner is set free, in Christ.

Just like Barabbas, the Word of Christ pardons the guilty murderer. Just like grumbling Israel, the Red Sea covers all sin. Just like the thief on the cross, the condemned criminal Christ, gives the freeing word of the cross. And just like the wavering Apostles, the Supper helps and supports in every physical and spiritual need.

No longer are we to be confused as to what God demands from us. No longer are we to take purification into our own hands. No longer are we confused by wickedness or sin clouding our judgment, for the judgment has been cast on Christ. After the cross, nothing is left except the forgiveness of sins and new life in Him.

Though violence still plagues the world, there is no violence, murder, or anger in the true Church. Though the same murderous spirit of the devil harasses and assails us, day in and day out, we are not his, but Christ’s, baptized into His death and resurrection, having undergone our own death in baptism and being raised again to new life. A life without sin. A life in the Church.

The only place in the world God is not angry with you, as you suppose, is here where the sacrifice of His Son is given and shed for you. The only place in the world where death is but a sleep, is here in the continued proclamation of the Lord’s death. The only place in the world where help and support from God are readily and abundantly present, is at the Table the Lord sets in front of His enemies.

True Service done to God is done by God Himself. God creates the Service, God kills and offers the sacrifice, and God serves everyone in the Service. The spiritual and physical sign that God is working, defines the Divine Service over and against that false service where man is working. And where man works, sin and death work.

Where God works, there is forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The 4th Command and means [Easter 6; St. John 16:23-30]


Jesus speaks to you pure doctrine today, in v.23 of the Gospel saying,

The Father is a Giver; the Giver. It is an attribute. It is part of His being. He gives. Thus, we contemplate this wonder in light of our 4th command from Him: Honor your father and mother.

In approaching this 4th Command, we find that it includes both heaven and earth. In the first 3 commands, our Lord demands how our relationship to Him is to be determined. It is in the next 7 that Jesus talks about our relationship with our neighbors. So, this 4th command has been named “the hinge”.

It is one of the purposes of this command to transition from life with God to life with our neighbor, for we not only have an earthly father and mother, but also an heavenly Father and Mother in the Church. Thus the heart of this command is not just giving lip service to father and mother, but not to anger or despise them and other authorities over us.

And not only are we not to do things, but we are also to do things such as honor our parents and these other authorities over us, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. In this way we hear the words of St. John be proved as words of the Holy Spirit saying, “…he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

In honoring our earthly neighbors, we practice and are taught how to honor God. But how this takes place is not in the same way as us honoring our earthly father and mother because our heavenly Father and Mother do not reveal themselves in the same way. On earth, in this visible life we live in Faith, there are differences and similarities in both relationships, yet still both are given by the Father,.

In Christ, the Father created the universe and gave it to Adam and Eve. In Christ, the Father rescued His people from Egypt and gave them their freedom. In  Christ, the Father gave perseverance to His people that they might survive until the time came for a Son to be born of a virgin, so that all that we ask of the Father, in His Name, would be given to us.

This is truly how this hinge, this 4th command, works. Not only are we giving to God, but God is giving to us. This means that there is always a movement from God to us. This means that in the 4th command, God is revealing Himself as the giver of every good and perfect gift from above, in His Son.

We lament over how horrible it is to have been placed in our families, whether they are wonderful or whether they are a disaster. We despair over how well or how poorly we honor those authorities placed over us because we think that proves the truthfulness of God as our heavenly Father.

You believe that because you have been “blessed” with such and such a family or that someone else has not, that this is a sign of God’s good and gracious giving. Because you have so much, God must love you and because others have so little, God loves them less and they’ll just have to deal with it.

When we look to Jesus for our answers this is what we find: that, in Christ, God has bridged the gap between fallen humanity and holy God. That, in Christ, humanity is assumed into God and that, in Christ, the Father not only hears our prayers, but answers them and gives to us as He gives to the Son.

What has the Father given to the Son? In other words, what are the good things that the Good God gives? The Good Father gives to the Good Son good suffering, good crucifixion, a good death, a good burial, and a good resurrection. As the Father has lavished these His gifts upon the Son, you too should expect them in full measure.

Now we see what we are to truly ask for in the Son’s Name and yet they are not what we ask for. We ask for the removal of these things, because we can not bear them in our sin. In faith, we ask correctly, because the Son has come that we might have peace and freedom. Freedom from the wages of death.

Thus the Son gives another gift that bridges both heaven and earth for us: the Church. Jesus zeroes in on God’s giving and places it directly an easy to find place. In plain sight, that Lord offers His gifts to all who seek them and offers a simple way to honor both father and mother in obeying and serving the Church of Christ.

When the Lord promises His presence, we gather. When the Lord promises forgiveness, we take and eat. When the Lord promises salvation, we wash in it. When the Lord promises life, we pray, we sing, and we rejoice in His Good Gifts. In this way, the Church becomes a haven of keeping and treasuring the 4th commandment, in honoring our Mother who we can see, we honor our Father Whom we cannot see.

The Lord’s Goodness and propensity to give profusely does not radiate off Him in indiscriminate rays. God always and will only work through means, meaning, those ways that He has already made ready for Himself and for us. In other words, the Father always gives to the Son, the Son always gives to the Spirit, the Spirit always gives to the Church, and the Church always gives to the baptized believer.

Asking the Father in the Name of Jesus is part of honoring your heavenly Father. In the first part is believing you have a heavenly Father and the only way that happens is if you believe in the Son. The Father only gives in the Name of His Son, the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ.

As it turns out, the Father only ever gives to His Son. We are left out of that direct and divine relationship. Yet, it was the Son’s will that all be saved and be adopted into the same loving, divine relationship that He has. So we see Him being born as one of us, being raised as one of us, suffering and dying as one of us, being resurrected as one of us, without any sin of His own.

All this so that He would fulfill all of God’s Commands perfectly, give us credit for a job perfectly done, and lavish upon us with His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We are commanded to honor, in light of our remaining sin and death within us, but we are given full credit in faith. Faith that points us to the true honor, true service, and true obedience in Word and Sacrament.