Monday, February 19, 2018

Jesus the normal [Lent 1; St. Matthew 4:1-11]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

Jesus speaks today, saying:

What you are to take away from today’s Gospel reading, if you take nothing else, is that Jesus will be the one to take on temptation and the devil. You are not to go out looking for Satan and pick a fight. You are not to starve yourself in hopes of spiritual clarity and you are not to place yourself in life threatening danger in order to prove yourself.

Now, you may still do those things, but know they offer no spiritual increase. Maybe, if you survive, you gain a bit of wisdom, as in never do it again, but other than that, it is not your fight. Your fight is making sure you hear the Gospel preached in its purity and the Sacraments administered according to it.

However, with both Jesus and Satan quoting the Bible, how do you know you’re not listening to demons right now? So, today, you are going to hear of two very important phrases that will help you interpret the Bible especially in the face of someone else interpreting it in front of you.

The first of these phrases is “norma normans” and the second is “norma normatta”. We’ll tackle these one at a time. The first one, “norma normans” quite literally means, “the norming norm” or the “ruling rule”. You hear the word normal in there and that’s good.

It means that the thing that makes for what is normal in the Church is Holy Scripture. When anything comes up in the Church as to what’s going on and why, we should ask for what is normal, as in “how does the Church normally do things?” Thus, we start with the norm, that is Holy Scriptures, and work from there.

It is at this point that the Christian runs into the problem of, “how do you know your holy scriptures are any truer than others?” And the dutiful Christian would say, because God said so. Then the dutiful criticizer would ask how he knows God said so. And the faithful Christian would answer, because the Bible says.

That just won’t do, because that is called circular reasoning. Thus there must be something more to back up the claim that the Bible makes of itself as the true Word of God, and there is.

It is our second phrase, “norma normatta”, or the “norm that is normed” or the “ruled rule”. What this means is that everything the Christian does and everything the Church does is conformed to Scripture. The normal life of the Christian is dictated by the Bible and the normal life of the Church is, too.

Examples of “norma normattas” would be the Creeds, Divine Service, and the Book of Concord. Though, they all have Biblical proofs, they are not found in the Bible, yet they are a life lived in the Spirit and under the Bible.

The way this helps with our circular reasoning dilemma, is that we do not just appeal to a book, but a life lived. We do not just appeal to imaginary faith that anyone can make up, but to a living, breathing Spirit inhabiting us all. Thus, the key to the “norma normatta” is the Holy Spirit and faith.

Life doesn’t stop after Jesus gives His Word and life is a lot denser than He has spoken about to us. He left out whether its more godly to own a Chevy or a Ford. He left out how to get grass stains out of clothes. He left out how to heal broken hearts.

It seems like it, but really He didn’t. What we must see as normal is what Jesus presents us with today. It is normal for the Christian to be assaulted by the devil. It is normal for the Christian to suffer. It is normal to memorize the Bible and it is normal to have Jesus fight for us.

This is because there is only one victor in this battle and it is Jesus. There is only one giver of the faith and it is Jesus. There is only one “normal” person out there and it is Jesus. Jesus Who gives us the Spirit and who gives us the Faith, also gives us the Church and her norma normattas. And it is in those things that we find a true interpretation of Scripture.

Not because we have them more than others or not even because the Spirit is really speaking to us and not them, but because the Word of God is not simply written pages, but a man.

There are things certainly believed among us and those things were believed before pen and paper. Before creeds, before the book of the Bible, was the confession; the opening of the lips through baptism. Jesus wasn’t walking around writing books and letters and papers. He was speaking.

He spoke and things happened. If He said, get up and walk, whoever it was, got up and walked. If He said, Satan get, Satan got. Thus, when the Lord spoke to people, even the Apostles, something happened. And, what happens when the Lord speaks to you is you speak back.

In this way the Church is born, from speaking, and then produces things such as bibles, creeds, and confessions. But it was in baptism that the Church saw her promises come to life and the proof she wanted from God. It is in the sacraments that the circular reasoning stops.

For, the sacraments don’t just tell you how to judge someone else or how to change your life for the better. They are the change. They judge you as guilty of sin and innocent in Christ. They change your life from one of sin and death to one of righteousness and life. They are the place where the spiritual and the physical are combined in the same way that Jesus is both God and man.

Thus, what puts the devil in his place is not the wittiest answer Jesus could give, but a confession of faith in the correct way to interpret God’s Word: through the sacraments Christ promises. Because if the Bible is sacramental and not just spiritual or physical, then everything the devil tries to accomplish is a lie.

Notice all he offers. Bread, only physical. Spiritual help, only physical. Worship, only physical. The sacraments confound the devil because he doesn’t see the physical and the spiritual nor the benefits of both. This is because the benefits are all wrapped in Jesus, Himself.

Jesus is the spiritual benefit, giving His Holy Spirit. Jesus is the physical benefit, giving His Body and Blood. Jesus is the One Who will be worshipped, because He suffers and dies on the cross, both spiritually and physically. Neither stones, nor heights, nor kingdoms rescue a person from death, but the devil just can’t fathom that.

More important than the Book is the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Father, forgive them...[Ash Wednesday; 2 Peter 1:2-11]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

The Jesus speaks to you this evening, through St. Peter, who is simply repeating Jesus Who had already said:

This evening, we will begin to look at our black banners one by one and discover what Jesus’ words from the cross have to do with us, these upcoming Wednesdays in Lent. 7 are the total number, yet in Christ we find an extra word that is not on our banners, which we will talk about on Holy Wednesday.

For now, seven is the number of sacrifice. We hear in 2 Chronicles: “And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the Lord (29:21).”

And in Job: “Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has (42:8).”

Seven is also the number of punishment. Heard from Leviticus: “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins (26:21).” And Deuteronomy: “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth (28:25).”

For in the last Days, at the trumpet call of the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets (Rev. 10:7). And at the pouring of the seventh bowl, this mystery will be completed (16:7).

To be sure, seven is also a lot of positive things in holy Scripture, but those are well known. The cross of Jesus is a backwards victory, so we must look at the hard things in life backwards to gain the correct perspective. The cross is both punishment for our sins and yet Jesus is making the sacrifice for those same sins.

So, the first of these sacrificial words Jesus speaks from His cross has to do with forgiveness or dismissal, as that same word is sometimes translated. Why complicate the word forgiveness and the plain good we can receive from it? Because you already know it. What you don’t already know is the depths of this word that Jesus uses on the cross to mean “forgiveness”.


What is telling about this word “forgive” is it is used of a fever that St. Peter’s mother-in-law had. She is suffering and Jesus dismisses the fever. The Scapegoat is dismissed from the people, carrying their sins with him into the wilderness (Lev. 16:10). If a man is caught in the act of defiling a virgin, then he is to marry her with no recourse to dismiss or divorce her ever (Deut.22:19, 29).

Of course, the point is to show that not only is Jesus asking for our forgiveness while He is suffering in our stead, a selfless act no one can equal, He is also begging our heavenly Father to dismiss our sin and divorce us from it.

This paints the gaining of salvation in its rightful, violent light. Jesus is suffering and dying 2000 years apart from us. We sterilize that image, removing Him from our crosses and make forgiveness a forgotten word, but the language of Scripture does not allow that. In Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them…”, Jesus is calling for divorce.

In this way, whenever we hear about the severe consequences of divorce in the Old Testament we should not think how sexist and how unfair they are, but to see that if they were not so strict, there would not be such a sharp separation of us from our sin.

Father forgive them, they marry their sins and die in them. Father forgive them, they cling to the father of lies and find comfort in sin. Truly, we do not know what we are doing here.

Jesus knows what He is doing. Much more than circumcising the flesh to symbolize God’s covenant, Jesus is circumcising our hearts. Much more than rending our filthy garment and rags of crimson, He is rending our hearts. In the word of forgiveness from the cross, Jesus unleashes the Gospel upon every heart and breaks it.

We are stuck in an unholy marriage, in the depths of woe, and only unto death do us part shall there be a legal and binding separation. Wed to our sins, Jesus, the true Bridegroom, declares the marriage annulled, having been a farce in the first place, and baptizes us into the one, true marriage: Jesus and His Church.

In sin, you have been united to a foreign wife. A wife full of corruption and death. In Christ you have been reunited with your Creator, your true Lord and husband. By calling for divorce, Jesus is not saying you get to divorce nor is He saying that the Lord is in the habit of divorcing, as in maybe He could do that to us one day.

Jesus calls for the divorce of death from life, not husband from wife. God-instituted marriage is meant to remain whole and strong. Sin and death are not instituted by God and therefore must be removed forcibly.

Jesus forgives our sins and in doing so tears us away from our former selves in order that we live forever with Him instead. This is the same forgiveness of sins you ask for and receive in the Divine Service.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Love is Jesus [Quinquagesima; St. Luke 18:31-43]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

Today, the final Sunday in the Gesima season, we finish preparing for Lent by hearing Jesus speak:

Jesus considered it all joy to go to the cross and endure its shame for you, but I’m sure He did not love that we had become so corrupt in sin and death that He had to achieve things this way.

It has been said, in the interest of self-esteem and self-motivation, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do”. What this means is that you must discover yourself and your inner dreams and desires, and then find work in the world that corresponds to it or create that work yourself.

It doesn’t matter if that work is non-essential, non-productive, or shunned in common society. You need to be you or you will forever regret not having taken that chance. Dream big. Take risks. Make mistakes. You are important.

Yet, what happens when you love what you do and are doing great work, but after a few years you don’t love it as much as you thought you did. Then, as quickly as it began, you don’t love what you are doing and you begin to do sub-par work.

Do you get rid of that and start over? Easy enough if it’s a job or an art project, but what if it involves someone else’s life? This is the excuse for ending marriages: it wasn’t what I thought it would be; I’m just not that in love with you anymore.

Truly this attempt at being inspiring is not thinking ahead into the future, but only thinking of the here and now. How can I be happy now? How can I do great work now? How can I get what’s coming to me, now?

Listen again to the Old Testament reading for today. Jesse loved his sons, I’m sure, but he left one out at a very important time. God knows this and tells Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature... For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

David was the eighth, the forgotten son, yet he was the one to rule Israel. In him, God shows that He loves the unloveable.

Our Epistle is all about love. Love does this. Love does that. Very inspiring and a very common reading at weddings. But read it carefully. Love never “loves what it does”. Love is always just there, doing what its supposed to do, whatever that may be.

Thus, we need to change our inspirational statement. It should read: the only way to do great work is to love what you are doing. This subtle change in the verb “do”, now places the burden of love on the person, instead of the work. Instead of the person going to find that perfect job or that perfect someone, now he is content wherever he is and with whatever he is doing.

It is important to know that following your dreams is a lie. Do work and be happy with whatever you do, or else you will always be dissatisfied and unhappy your whole life., coveting what you do not have.

I am sure Jesus did not love what He did. I’m sure He did not love to watch His own creation destroy itself. He did not love to watch the sick suffer. He did not love to witness death and war. I’m positive that He didn’t even love that He had to come down and do something about it, such as healing this blind man in our Gospel reading.

He didn’t love it, because it should not have been that way. He didn’t want to heal, He wanted everyone to never need healing. He didn’t want to undo corruption, He wanted purity in the first place. He didn’t want to have to raise widows son’s from the dead, He wanted no death, ever.

He didn’t love these works He had to do, but He loved doing them and loved doing them for you. Jesus would not be a very good savior if He had to save His people for eternity, over and over again. Jesus would not be a merciful God if He had to continue to come to earth over and over, to do the same things as when He was walking around.

He did not love what He had to do, but He loved doing it. He had better things to do than to come down in man’s skin and save our sorry selves. He had quasars to implode, sonnets to compose, and life to create. He had all of creation to keep Him busy and He loved that.

When Jesus weeps, it is because He is looking upon the work He needs to do in order to undo what our sin has destroyed. He does not love that. Jesus rejoices in the work He is doing, namely saving sinners from their sins and forgiving them. His great work of salvation was done in love and joy, but He would have rather it not ended up this way.

It is important for us, then, especially as we seek to begin families, support loved ones, or any other work that we do, to love what we are doing. It may not be our dream to bale hay for a living, but if it supports loved ones, than it is better to love what you are doing than resent it for something, in your mind, that is greater.

Love what you are doing now. That is the Christian way. There may be other, better things that come along in life, but maybe not. Why waste time breaking relationships all in order to achieve some goal? Indeed, in order to fulfill Commandments 9 and 10, one must be content wherever and whatever may be.

Jesus is content. He is content with His creation. He is content with the way things have gone. He is content with His role in salvation and He is content with you, because He has suffered, died and risen again and He continues to love what He is doing, that is forgiving your sins.

Imagine a capricious god who comes and goes at his fancy. He loves us, he loves us not. Here today, gone tomorrow. In other words, as finicky and fickle as we are. We would never find him. We would never be comforted by him and we would never worship him.

The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have always been content, are content, and will be content. They were content before the beginning, having each other in the perfect picture of love. They are content today with how things have gone, because in Christ all things are being made new. And they will be content when the total number of all who are to be saved is filled up and a new heavens and a new earth emerges.

Because this is true, love is content. Content to endure, content to suffer, content to humility and humiliation, content to struggle, and content to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Because, true love is a person. The person of Jesus Christ. It is His faith, His hope, and His love that He creates and hands out to all who believe.

It is His true love that steadies His hand and comes to us in the same manner, over and over again, never changing and never ending in offering us His true Body and True Blood for the forgiveness of sins. It is in this faith that the Christian loves what he is doing and it is great work, because what the Christian is doing is receiving from the Lord’s hand double for all his sins and God’s great work of salvation is accomplished in him.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Sabbath is hearing [Sexagesima; St. Luke 8:4-15]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

Jesus speaks to you today, saying,

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, the seed is the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word of God, being the seed that will crush the serpent’s head, and preaching is the seed which plants the Gospel inside of you every time the root of sin takes hold, which is every second of every day.

In this way we see one analogy in this parable: that is “spreading the seed” is “preaching the Gospel”, because all the soils that received the seed, received it by hearing, as Jesus explains.

Dr. Luther brings this out in his explanation of the 3rd Commandment. In this command we are commanded to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Sabbath, as opposed to Sabba-oth from the Angus Dei, is the 7th day of the week. It is elevated to holy day status by God on the very first Sabbath day, when He rested from creating all things.

Yet this Sabbath was not just a one time event, neither was it just a weekly event, it was and is an eternal event. Celebrating the Sabbath is a never-ending decree from the Lord. However, in one sense, the Christian is freed from the Law and therefore this celebration has no jurisdiction over him.

In the sense that we understand it as simply not-working one day of the week, this is the command we are not beholden to, especially if people want to make a law that says we need to worship on Saturday. St. Paul specifically tells us that the Lord has cancelled our debts against God and nailed them to the cross so that no one can judge you according to the observance of Sabbaths.

As is always the case with God’s Word, there is another level to this command of celebration of rest. That level is the Christological level, as in, what this has to do with Jesus. This is where we get into the preaching and the forever aspect God promises on the Sabbath.

In the 3rd Command, we are to fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Being a Christian means you have a duty to worship together, in fact, if you do not gather around the Divine Service regularly, you call into question your own faith.

There is no specific day, especially not the Sabbath, especially not Saturday because we think that the Sabbath is Saturday. We were not created to bow down to the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for us and our rest. The Sabbath was made for us to set aside the work we do so that God can work in us.

Thus “despising preaching and the Word of God” comes in the form of not attending public worship, not using the Word of God and the Sacraments, or when we use them in a negligent or careless way.

It is not enough to take time out to read our Bibles. It is written that we might hear it, because those who belong to God hear what God says not just once, but as often as possible. So Jesus gives His Church to you so that you may always have a space where you can say, “God’s will truly is done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Jesus spreads His Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, through preaching. We need to hold it sacred by giving it top priority in our lives. We need to gladly hear it, learn it, and meditate on it, not just reading it at home, but preaching it to our family and hearing our pastor preach it to us.

We need to honor and support this preaching and teaching, ensuring that it continues among us in this church. We need to diligently spread the Word of God ourselves. This is only done by being able to give Christ, but He must first give Himself which He does in His Word and Sacrament. Your greatest witness to your neighbor is bringing them to church.

This is not a new Law that Christian’s are freed from, this is faith acting out in real life. God requires all this not because He loves to lord it over others, but because what He offers in the preaching of the Gospel is the priceless treasure of His Son.

The Christian faith is a personal thing but not a private thing!  God does not call us to isolation, but into His church.  We are to stir one another to love and good works.  We are not to neglect meeting together

Because Jesus lovingly promises to come among us with His Word and Sacraments, His invitation in Matt. 11:28 is a beautiful expression of what He desires for us to receive in weekly worship, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The very word Sabbath means “rest.”

So Jesus is the hard way of the cross which the seed of the Gospel falls upon and walks the hard way to the cross, for you. Jesus is the Rock that seals up death and the power of the devil and is rolled away to produce life and light. Jesus dons the crown of thorns in order to root up the thorns of sin and produce forgiveness.

The Sabbath day finds its “forever” in Jesus. It is not enough for us to observe it, it must be paid for in Blood. It is not enough for us to only rest one day a week. Either there is an eternal rest to be provided or we remain locked in a futile battle with death forever. Jesus completes the Sabbath day and fulfills its purpose, for us.

This does not mean the Sabbath goes away. It means that we now live in the fullness of the Sabbath. Because of Easter, the Sabbath now has an evening and a morning. It means we get to fulfill the Sabbath perfectly with our Lord Jesus Christ, in faith, on the eighth day, Easter Day. It means that when we gather to hear the Gospel preached in its purity and receive the Sacraments administered according to the Gospel, we fulfill the third commandment.

The true Sabbath is observed by faith, not by deed. The necessary deeds are accomplished only by Jesus and only by His holy, innocent suffering and death. In the parable, trampling paths, arid rocks, and choking thorns are a sign of death. In Christ, these tools of death are forced to produce life, in you.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Rock and Moses [Septuagesima; St. Matthew 20:1-16]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

Jesus speaks to you His words saying,

Originating from the 17th century is the proverb: "you can't get blood out of a stone" or "you can't get water out of a stone". Jesus is the Rock of our salvation, yet today we hear the workers in the vineyard complaining that they are like rocks, having born the scorching sun all day in their labors.

In the epistle, St. Paul calls Jesus the “spiritual rock”. We are not to be fooled, however. This does not mean metaphor, it means that the Rock was of spiritual origin, i.e. from God, as Jesus was. St. Paul also calls the Manna received in the wilderness "spiritual", yet it was real enough to need physical collecting and staved off genuine hunger.

Thus, when we get to the OT reading and hear of Moses striking a rock, we hear that he is not just striking a rock, but striking Jesus. Moses represents the Law. Jesus was struck, or crucified, by Israel for presuming to violate the Law, for claiming to be God, which He is! When He was struck, "crucified", living water for all humanity was poured out.

For Israel wandering the wilderness, water flowing from the rock is life, in a desert with no water. And this rock was with Israel all the way. The same Rock followed Israel from Horeb (our reading today; Ex 17:1-7), the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, to Kadesh all the way around to the NE part of the peninsula, to Nebo, back south a bit then all the way to the northern tip of the Dead Sea, where all Israel would cross the Jordan into Israel.

To do all the wonders in front of Pharaoh, God told Moses to use his rod. This is a physical means God told Moses to use to accomplish God’s will on earth. This is the same rod Moses uses to strike the rock for water to gush out for the people.

The reason this is important is because this same incident occurs again where the people are thirsty in the desert and blame Moses and Aaron for leading them to their deaths. This second time, though, God tells Moses not to strike the Rock, but to take his rod and speak to it, then water will come out.

Moses, having his doubts, reverts not to God’s Word here, but to God’s earlier command to strike the Rock, which he does, twice, and water comes out. This is understandable, because God’s Word before was strike it and Moses had also struck the Nile to make that water blood. There is even a Jewish interpretation of this incident from the 2nd century that says Moses hit it twice because the first time blood started dripping, in stead of water gushing out.

Now, this would all be making a mountain out of a mole-hill if this were not the incident that gets Moses barred from entering the Promised Land. Because he is, we have something greater going on here and that is Moses has not kept the Lord holy in front of His people.

Moses has not just disobeyed, but has thought to himself that striking Christ twice is just as good as speaking to Him. But that’s just it. Christ is stricken once for all time. He suffers and dies on the cross once for all. He will not suffer a second time, nor will He be subject to smittings of any kind. His humiliation is over. It is the time of His exaltation.

Jesus is always the One who is persecuted, even when He is smitten and afflicted by God and especially when men esteem Him stricken. It is then that they scatter as a flock when the shepherd is struck. The Judge of Israel has been judged with the rod. Wrath and punishment has been placed upon Him for the forgiveness of sins.

Notice how when Jesus is struck again by Moses, water still comes out. Only grace allows entrance into heavenly places. The Law only brings guilt and shame. Moses representative of the Law, is barred from the Promised Land, because only God's Grace incorporates you into "the Promised land”. This is why it is Joshua that takes them in! Joshua is Hebrew for Jesus! The Law is the 1st five books of the Old Testament, called the Torah, but the very next book is "Joshua".

“Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?” (Ps. 78:20). Indeed. As Jesus turns the other cheek towards Moses and the people of Israel in this second smitting, He not only gushes out spiritual drink, but spiritual food even this day.

The Son of God is struck on behalf of sinners, and out of Him comes water and blood. Water to fill the fonts of His Church and Blood to fill her chalices. The Rock of Israel no longer wanders around seeking a place to rest His head. He dwells with the baptized in His Church, whom He has purchased with His Body and His Blood.

It is on the rock of Golgotha that the Rock takes His final stand, putting sin and death to death and giving the final judgment to the father of lies: guilty! Jesus is the one Who does the striking, the judging, and the saving.

Jesus strikes Himself, judges Himself, and saves Himself and all others, on the cross. He tears, and He heals; he has smitten, and he will bind up. Come, and let us return unto the Lord, for His mercy endures forever. Let us return to the One Who endures with marks in His hands from those in the house of His friends and find forgiveness instead of judgment.

For now the same cloud and sea that covered Israel’s transgressions, flows through this font, into which we are baptized. The same food and drink that preserved Israel, preserves us in the forgiveness of sins. The same Good Shepherd that was struck for our iniquities, now grants us eternal rest in the true Promised Land of His resurrected body.

For today, in Christ, we fulfill the command Moses was unable to bear. We speak and do not strike. We labor and do not grow tired. We receive from the hand of the Lord and do not complain. We carry our cross and lay it at the Altar, agreeing with the Lord that life is a good trade for sin and death.

In Christ we receive the denarius of salvation because Jesus has been stricken, but will never be again. The picture of the crucifixion that Moses gave us is played out once upon the cross so that whenever we are brought in to the Vineyard, we find the same full payment made ready for us as did Moses and all who went before us.

Not because we have borne equal amounts of duty or labor, but because we have been given equal amounts of the Savior Who rose again having borne the burden of His people’s sins and the scorching heat of their grumbling. From the side of our Rock, our Lord Jesus, comes only the forgiveness of sins.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Evolution can't even [Transfiguration; St. Matthew 17:1-9]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

This is taught to us today as Jesus says,

The word Jesus uses to describe His Transfiguration is “metamorphosis”, the word we usually use for things like rocks and butterflies. In our world today, metamorphosis is used to describe an evolutionary change. You get the same bug but it has undergone such a drastic change that metamorphosis is the only way to describe it.

Evolutionists use metamorphosis, to prove that divine creation is not possible. They say that perhaps 280 million years ago, through a chance mutation, only insects, and only certain insects, developed the ability to metamorph. The reason is, that at first they all hatched from eggs as mini adult insects, but these young and the more mature were competing for the same food sources, so they needed to evolve as food became scarce.

They say that the possibility for metamorphosis was already there in the DNA, just not being used. We would argue for Irreducible Complexity, which basically means, if certain insects do not metamorph that have always used metamorphosis, then they die out. It is a complex process that is necessary for the species. You can not take it away or rewind to some point in history when it was not happening.

However, the evolutionist would say, if taken step by step, the metamorphic process can happen or not happen on its own then, of course, offering no proof for any of this. Simply put, if we believe evolution to be true, it colors our view of the rest of the world, as in this case of Jesus metamorphing. If evolution is our worldview, then what Jesus has is already inside everyone, so there is no need for Jesus to give us this glory or go to the cross, because the process of evolution will eventually lead us to it.

To be fair, the point of evolution is not to be a worldview, but it is, so people can’t help but have their opinions colored by this view. There is no such thing as “strictly for science”. What we practice and what we study is how we view and behave in the real world. Thus, if we already have inside us what Jesus needs in order to be worshipped by angels, shepherds, and wise men; if it is natural for us to be baptized by a dove splitting the heavens; if we too have the potential for natural glowing skin, then what is the use for Jesus?

In the evolutionary view of the world, not only is dormant complexity already inside all things, but they have the computer generated models, that they wrote, to prove it. The supernatural is not needed to pick up the pieces of a broken heart or to improve the devastated lives of victims of socialism. All it takes are hands and hearts of regular people working with the happiness already inside them.

Yet this is the hypocrisy. Viewing life and others through the lens of evolution has brought no good to daily life.

Repent. Contrary to the evolutionary worldview, life does matter, but we all are starving for life. Jesus has come on the scene exactly because we are lacking in anything that is good in every way, shape, and form. When we look inside ourselves, we don’t see potential, but filthy, corrupt hearts.

In the evolutionary worldview, life is optional, because room needs to be made for the fit, so necessarily the unfit must die. This view spills over from science into real life relationships. When one is not fit to live, i.e. an infant or the elderly, then they are killed off to make room for the new, supposedly meta, more-fit beings.

The Christian worldview is completely the opposite. It is Jesus Who takes the small and the foolish to confound the great and the wise. God Almighty becomes an infant, unfit to live on His own, in order to save the world. The Ancient of Days becomes poorer than the poor and needy in order to raise them to the highest heights of heaven. Our heavenly Father is euthanized for the greatest good: the forgiveness of sins.

The Kingdom of heaven is opposed to the power and wisdom of the world, simply because He chooses to act in a simple and humble way. While the world is looking for Superman, the Lord of Creation humbles Himself to be born of a virgin. While the world is looking for a cure, the Cure of Souls hangs on a cross for them.

What humanity lacks is the divine image inside them and outside them. We can not look inside ourselves and find the Metamorphosis needed to accomplish faith, hope, and charity. It has to be given to us and it has to be received by Faith. Faith is now the ruling mutation that not only changes a person, but regenerates him into the true Person, Jesus Christ. So really its not a mutation at all.

In this way the Statue of Liberty is correct. Her assessment of who all need to be rescued is exactly the people Jesus gathers into His Church: “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” These cast offs that are not worth time and money. These wretched refuse, these homeless, these tempest-tost.” All that the world deems unfit, the Lord brings into His kingdom.

Christ comes to bring down the mighty and exalt the lowly. He has come to rescue those who need rescuing. He has come to heal those who need healing. If humanity has everything it needs already within it, then Jesus did not come for humanity. It takes much more faith to believe in 13 billion years and many more chance mutations, than to believe that Jesus is God and man.

His transfiguration is not the Son of God showing off what humanity is truly capable of. His transfiguration is Him showing what He is going to endure and accomplish for humanity. True mutation, true evolution is found in God, but it is backwards, not forwards. For God becomes a man and then becomes a worm, on the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, causes the old sinful nature of death and destruction to be taken away until nothing is left but the faith of Jesus.

In the Transfiguration we are shown, not what humanity can do, but Who it is that is born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, is crucified, died and is buried. We see that this transfigured God-man will be the one to fully confront sin, death, and the devil and, no matter that it looks like a defeat to us, He will win and purchase the forgiveness of sins.

Not only will He win, but this same transfigured Jesus will be the One to bring all of us with Him. We will not be left to evolutionary devices, but we are exalted to His side and incorporated into His Body. The same body that died and rose again, feeds us even this day.

Because of the transfiguration and sacrifice Jesus made, the Christian’s worldview is different. Now a life is a life, no matter how small, because that life is worthy to receive the forgiveness of sins from the hand of his Creator.

There is no forgiveness in the world and its evolution; no mercy. There is no hope in 13.7 billion years or chance metamorphosis. All is vanity. All except what God has wrought Himself, purchasing forgiveness in His true Body and true Blood.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Expecting a God-man [Baptism of Jesus; St. Matthew 3:13-17]

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO HERE.

Jesus speaks to you all today saying,

In the Old Testament, God worked out His will on earth through many things from giant fish, to burning bushes, to talking donkeys. There was even a cloud, like the one showing up on the scene of Jesus’ baptism today. The cloud was the means God used the longest as it was the mode of appearance God chose when entering the Temple for Divine Service each and every time a sacrifice was offered up for the forgiveness of sins.

And that’s fine. We are not afraid of means. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all work through means. Even if it is a dream, someone in it is talking. And this is what we want to get at today. We want to say that God can work in people’s lives however He wants, but in the baptism of our Lord, we see that He uses very limited means to do so.

Each and every time God appeared to a patriarch or a prophet or a Joe Schmoe it was always as a man or as a part of a man doing something we would recognize as human. Whether it was sitting or speaking, the Lord wanted His appearances to be as human as possible. In fact, in the Bible, God’s presence is almost always predicated by this phrase, “The Word of the Lord appeared” to so and so.

Meaning, that when God was speaking, He could be seen in some shape or form. It is never, “a voice came out of nowhere” or “I had a dream about a visiting ghost”. When God speaks, He is always there. The examples we have are numerous. As I said, every time God wants something done, He appears and talks. Here are some examples:

In the Garden of Eden, Moses said God walked in the garden. Spirits don’t walk. Feet and legs walk. In the Burning Bush incident, yes the Lord was speaking out of the burning bush, but it wasn’t just the bush that was there. There was also an angel there. No disembodiment; no mystical fire-whispering.

Later on, when Moses, Aaron, and 40 of Israel’s elders were on the mountain communing with God, they see His feet. Feet belong to a body and the body was assumed to belong to God.

St. Joshua was about to engage Jericho, but in his way, in the middle of the battlefield stood a Captain of the Lord’s army. “Captain” describes a person, not a spirit or ghost. When St. Samuel heard the Lord call him in his sleep, Samuel wasn’t talking to the wall, but it says that the Lord appeared to Samuel. Samuel saw someone.

When the prophets start preaching, Scripture says that the Word came through the prophets themselves. They became the mouth of the Lord; messengers or angels. Angel means “messenger”. Finally, when king Belshazzar was being judged in the book of St. Daniel, a hand appears and begins to write on the wall that very judgment. A hand which is part of a body. And so on and so forth.

Repent. The Word of God is known in His very own Body and is now revealed to us as the only-begotten Son, the only one with Whom God is well pleased and we will not see any other revelation of God’s presence nor will God approach us in any other way except in the Body of His Son, Jesus Christ.

While we will not discount dreams and visions, the more sure and certain word is God’s Word, Who is Jesus. Even the centurion standing guard at the cross, spoke God’s word declaring for all the world to hear, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

We do not worship in spirit only. We do not serve a God who is invisible and hidden only. We do not walk around on earth with our eyes and ears closed and say, “We live by faith”. God is the one Who opens eyes and ears to hear His Son speak of the forgiveness of sins, purchased and won by the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

We could go on and on with example after example from the Bible, showing that God was expected to show up. That His Messiah, with Whom He was well pleased, would be the one to rescue Israel from their sins and usher in the reign of the heavens upon the earth. And, that He would do it, in the flesh.

It doesn’t matter if God is too infinite, He chose to live in the finite. Its doesn’t matter if God is one, He is the Three in One. It doesn’t matter if God is separate and holy, He chose to dwell among us. It doesn’t matter if God is completely other, in Jesus we see that He is our Father, our Brother, and our friend.

Why Christmass and Epiphany matter, is because when it comes time to rescue humanity from their sins and shepherd them, God does so in such a way that is near and dear to our hearts. So near, that He looks just like one of us having a body and a soul. So that when He offers to serve us His forgiveness and His righteousness, we are able to find it, recognize it, and enact it.

Sticking with Baptism, Jesus does not leave baptism up to a metaphorical fire, nor does He mysteriously throw a spirit-baptism at us and say, “good luck figuring that one out”. Instead, He places Himself in the familiar forms and motions that we ourselves go through when we want to wash: we take our bodies, we find water, and we wash.

When we, or anyone else, are seeking God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness, we find all of it wrapped neatly in a man-shaped box. God chooses to place Himself in a box and chooses to be baptized, not just as an example for us to follow, but as an example we can easily follow and through it receive God’s salvation. So that when we encounter God’s redemption and great work of salvation, we see it as a man being washed in water, suffering and dying, and rising again from the dead.

This means, that when we want that same salvation and righteousness for ourselves, we need look no further than our own bodies. There is no walking through fire or spiritual quest. We use the body we were born with, the tools and environment we grew up with, and create heaven on earth.

Not through our own actions, but through the command and Word of God. Baptism is not our idea. God being 100% man and 100% God is not our idea, either, much less Holy Communion, the Church, or pastors. When God’s Word commands us to baptized, it also commands water to be used. When it commands that water be used, it necessarily requires that a man use the water and the Word and that another man receive the water and the Word, in order to fulfill all righteousness in us as well.