Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmass: Day 4[Holy Innocents; St. Matt. 2:13-18]

Jesus speaks to us today saying,
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”

Merry Christmass, death. Thanks for joining the party.

On the Fourth Day of Christmass? You’ve gotta be kidding me. How can there be death in light of such a festival as Christmass? How dare the drudgery of death drag our demonstrative demure of delight to the dreary depths of being dreary!

Let’s point some fingers: Its Herod’s fault for being so gosh darn evil. Its Bethlehem’s fault for not arming its citizens and taking better hold of democracy; its not a new thing, ya know.

Let’s point some more fingers: There is a saying that has been taught to those who abort babies, so they can teach it to others. The Overpopulation scare mongers also use it; even Scrooge used it. It is this: “Why would I want to bring up a child in such a world?” or “Its better if the child is not alive to see this evil” or “Die quickly and decrease the surplus population”.

If you think Herod was bad, look at what you have made of your own society. Over 40 million children aborted, since the Roe v. Wade court decision, and counting! Herod at least understood that he couldn’t allow murder everywhere, else he wouldn’t have a kingdom. IN our modern thinking, we can’t even see past our own bellies.

We legalize murder, of the young and old, and call it choice. We legislate euthanasia and call it mercy. Oh how this destroys a country. Statistically, it takes 2.1 children born to each woman in a generation, to simply REPLACE the previous generation. In 2012, the USA was at 1.88 and has been on a falling trend, most recently coming in at 1.86.

America has become a culture of death and has developed its own religion. It’s a crime for this baby to die, but not the unwanted one. It’s a crime for this person to die, but not the one that wanted to. There are certain things you talk about and certain things you don’t. If you do not obey, you will be hauled in front of the judge.

Everyone understands the Law. They understand that if you break it, your things will get taken away and you will be punished. The government enforces the laws it makes. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

God gives the Law and it is absolute. It speaks against your sin. Sin can not be allowed to continue, for it is an injustice if it were to go unpunished. There is no sin in God. He did not create it, but He will destroy it.

Repent. It is not simply a matter of obeying the Law, either. God has shown this by giving you lists of what you are to do and not to do. He even shortened it to 10 things; no, TWO things, and yet still a Savior is born.

Here, then, is the indicator of your rebelliousness. You believe that if you just follow the god-rules; obey Him, follow Him, and dedicate your life to Him, that you will be ok. That makes sense, in the civil realm. What you miss, though, is that the Word never changes. You will never open holy Scripture and find, “You shall not murder, except for you, Bob. You’ve completed that assignment.”

God’s Law says “do this” and it is never done. Scripture will always say, “You shall not murder.” The Law is always there to reveal our sin and that’s it. Whether it is the Old Testament or Jesus Himself speaking it. If something in the Bible demands your action, it is Law and no one is justified before God by the Law.

In this sense, the wrath of God against sin, is revealed by Herod murdering those children. They were reaping the wages of their sin, just as Herod would, in dying. The so-called-innocence that society says children have, does not prevent them from dying. A lifetime of works, does not prevent Herod from dying.

So, in another sense, we do not call this the Feast of the Holy Innocents for nothing. In this sense, there is only Christ, for the children were murdered for two reasons: 1) to show the sin of the world (evil Herod) and that we are apart of it; and 2) to show the power and glory of Jesus, come to the world to redeem it.

Upon the cross, Jesus purchases the whole world from the dominion of our sin, death, and the devil. The power that enabled Herod, not only to know his right from wrong against him, but also to take life has been done away with. Jesus, who escaped the sword of Herod, lives to shed His blood for Herod, on Good Friday.

In Christ alone is there any refuge from our evil purposes and the death they bring. It is only in and because of Christ that we have the Gospel. The Good News that we are freed from the guilt and punishment we deserve for our sin. It is in Jesus that death leads to a resurrection.

Jesus has cleansed us of our sin. He has rid the world of evil and the power of death. He has fulfilled God’s Law and taken all of the wrath of God upon Himself. There is no longer any condemnation in Jesus, for it is by Him, by Grace for Christ’s sake, through Faith, that we are justified before God.

In the midst of our own torment and weeping for the dead here; especially at times of joy and cheer, we take comfort in the fact that God has promised His one and only Son to us. For even these children, born in the Promise of God in the Temple, living in Faith by circumcision, held to the forgiveness of sins promised to them in it.

They are innocent solely by virtue of their Redeemer and can rest securely, whether they live or die, that they will live with Jesus. You are innocent, in Jesus. You have been washed in the baptism of the Lamb of God and also have this security.

Herod thinks he has won something, but he has not. He could not take the kingdom away from the Romans or God and he could not prevent Jesus from retrieving the Holy Innocents from death.

We weep for those who suffer during the holidays, even though it might not affect us directly. There will come a time when our happy holiday will be ruined, but we do not weep as those without hope, for the Life Christ comes to give is eternal and can not be taken away.

The same kingdom the Holy Innocents were taken to, is the same kingdom prepared for you. The same Son whisked away to Egypt, dies on the cross for you. The same Body and Blood that died, was buried, and rose again will raise you up from death and whisk you away to be with Him.

Jesus is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Where the Law says, “Do this” and it is never done; the Gospel says, “Believe in this and everything is already done.” Believe in the virgin birth. Believe in the death and resurrection of Christ. Faith believes, and faith receives from God death and resurrection.

For, the Boys of Bethlehem were not abandoned. Their mothers found comfort in the wounds of Jesus who died also for them. Now they have been reunited with their sons. They will never be separated again! And already now, after maybe 50 long years of grief here on earth without their babies, they have enjoyed nearly 2000 years in perfect bliss won by Jesus with their children. So that St. Paul writes,
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmass Day [St. John 1:1-14]

Hodie Christus natus est.        Today, Christ is born.
Hodie salvator apparuit.         Today, the Savior appears.
Hodie in terra canunt angeli.  Today, on earth, the angels sing
Letantur arcangeli.                  And the Archangels rejoice.
Hodie exultant iusti dicentes:  Today, the Just exult, saying:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

This day, the Lord goes with you. This day, you shall see His Glory. This day, the Lord comes. This day, salvation is yours.

Why? This is not Good Friday and it is certainly not Easter. The reason for celebration is that now the Lord will speak to us, directly. Now God has taken on human flesh, with a human voice, and will speak to us, Himself, instead of through prophets and promises.

 Now that the battle for Christmas is over, in the eyes of the world, we can stop saying things like, “Put Christ back in Christmas” or “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Because now we know, that it is the Mass that needs to be put back into Christmass. It is that people need to hear that they are the reason for the season and they need to hear it in church.

For it is only here; only by the lips of Jesus Himself, that the Gospel is preached. You will not find the Gospel in a food pantry, an outdoor hike, or a football game. You will not find the Gospel in your children or your family.

Because the Gospel is not good works of thought, word, and deed. It is not “love your neighbor as yourself” nor is it “something to do”. In the Gospel, we only hear the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We only hear that, in Jesus, God gives forgiveness, faith, life, and the power to please Him with His Good works.

The Lord gives and we receive. It has been so since the beginning. Did Adam and Eve earn all of Creation? No, yet the Lord still gave the entire universe to them. Did Abraham deserve to be called the father of many nations? No. It was a gift; free and complete.

Today, we remember that the Lord also gives to us the entire kingdom of heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that He GAVE His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

For it is today, that we hear of a Savior being presented as a gift to all of fallen Creation; presented as an offering, an atonement for sin.

This is because it is evident that Creation is fallen. A savior was born for some reason. Someone needed to be saved from something. Indeed, the reason for a Savior being born; the reason for Christmass is you; needing to be saved from your sin; your sin that prevents you from hearing, even desiring this Gospel of God.

For no one is justified before God by the Law, no one is righteous, no one seeks God, so one has eyes that see or ears that hear.

So, with the sounds of a trumpet; with the sound of heaven being torn asunder; with the clamor of mountains melting and valleys being raised up, Jesus comes. As far as this curse of sin is found, Jesus has redeemed us from it, becoming accursed Himself, for cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Gal.3:12)

There is no other Gospel. You do not make it up. I do not make it up. The pope does not make it up. Some deep, dark church conspiracy did not make it up. Jesus made it up. He who created all things, creates salvation for you, delivered only by His Holy Spirit.

And what He delivers centers on Christ crucified. What St. Mary delivers, on Christmass morning is a baby, but it is salvation for the world. What the Church delivers today, is you, born of water and the Word; baptized into Christ: body and blood; death and resurrection.

Jesus is the end of the Law for righteousness for everyone who believes the words of the pastor Christ has sent to you (Rom.10:3,14-15). For in hearing the Gospel of Christ, true Faith is given to you and you believe.

This free gift from God is offered no where else. God only gives the forgiveness of sins in the Gospel; the good news that we are freed from the guilt, the punishment, and the power of sin. That we are saved eternally because of Christ’s keeping the Law and His suffering and death, for us.

The Law shows us our sin and the Gospel shows us our Savior and the grace of God. That, for our salvation, He has offered up His only begotten Son to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness, to the kingdom of Light. The Gospel is what Christ has done for us and that’s it.

Thus, that is what is given to you, each Divine Service. The Divine steps down from heaven and serves you forgiveness. To press this point home, we have even placed the Gospel in the very name of this church. “Evangel” is the Greek word for Gospel and we sit in St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church.

We declare, that in this place, we will hear the Gospel. We will receive the Gospel. We will believe the Gospel and our life will come from the Gospel. This happens because Jesus is born Emmanuel, “God with us”. Not just in an almighty, He is everywhere, sense, but in a real and physical sense.

For Christ comes, Himself, body and blood, to distribute His own gifts of the Gospel upon you. The born of a virgin, crucified and risen Savior of the world shows up for Service, each and every time, to serve us with the fruits of His cross. The Law may kill, but the Gospel, risen from death, gives life.

Christ is born that you, a dead sinner, would have life. Christ is come, this day, to bring salvation to you. Jesus draws near to, once again, lay Himself in a cradle. This time, though, the cradle is your mouth and the swaddling clothes, your body.

“For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given.”
 Merry Christmass!

Welcome Christmass! [Lessons and Carols; St. Luke 2:1-7]

Jesus speaks tonight saying, “And there was no room at the Inn”.

Would Jesus be welcome in your church?

In a purely non-Scriptural (Ha!), hypothetical way, we are asking this question.

Of course, if anyone is seriously leveling this accusation at you or your church, they do not know the Scriptures nor the power therein. Jesus will not be stopping by anywhere in the same way He did in 1st century Jerusalem, again. For Christ has come ONCE in humility and He will come again ONCE in judgment. (Heb.9:26-28)

So, the truth is, if Jesus shows up at your church, it means the end of all things.

But let’s just say that Jesus did pick this time and place, in which we live, to make an appearance. Let’s say that, by some cosmic twist of space, time, and the whole history of salvation, that Jesus enters your church building one Sunday morn.

What will He run into? Greeters? Ushers? Bulletins? Big-Screens? Blaring music?

More important is: what will He do about whatever He finds? Regardless of “worship practice” or decorations or “warm welcoming”, Jesus will immediately go to the front of the church where He can speak. Yes, this is His practice in the New Testament, but it is also what He was prophesied to do.

As the Old Testament speaks of Jesus, He is sent to preach and His mouth is a sharp sword (Isa. 49:2). It will also be no small thing when Jesus opens His mouth to speak. He will stir up anger and judgment with His words. The mouth of God opens, and the sinner hears the Law.

So Jesus speaks His Law that He has given and all in attendance hear it, but who believes it? He was born in a feeding trough, for crying out loud. He has no stately form or majesty that we should pay attention. 

He has not the appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Yes, we would hear His Word, but His Word is like a fire; like a hammer that breaks the rock and that kind of speaking does not sit well with you at all.

You would hear Him and you would judge Him. He is not speaking kindly or lovingly and He is scaring the children. He is not allowing questions or debate, simply preaching. His mouth cuts through your fa├žade of holiness and you are cut to the quick. He is not saying things the right way and He is not speaking to people at their level. In talking about sin, He is embarrassing and turning people away.

This is not very Christ-like. Jesus would never do such a thing so that man can’t possibly be He. So we judge Him and the next words that come out of your mouth are: “Crucify Him.”

Repent! Many people love to think to themselves how, when Jesus comes, that we just have to make room at the Inn; that we just have to be a good person towards Him and we will get “in”. Or how, if we were alive at the same time He was, then we would have bashed some Pharisees and rescued Him, but that just proves your own guilt, as Jesus says. (Matt. 23:31)

“Crucify Him.”

It pleases God Himself to crush Jesus (Isa. 53:10), so we should not be so quick to despair in our sin. Of course Jesus would not be welcomed in our churches. He is the Son of God sent to be crucified. He was supposed to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted. It was divinely necessary, in fact, that the Christ be handed over, suffer, and die and on the third day rise again, for our peace. (Mt. 16:21)

Should it be any wonder then, that crucifying Jesus is the will of God? No. It shouldn’t be any surprise, either, that you would find yourself also shouting with the crowd to have Jesus crucified.

In fact, that is the true Church’s cry each and every day. Yes, we lament our sins and are repentant, because God had to go to such great lengths to redeem us. But, come Good Friday, we are cheering Jesus on!

Go, Jesus, go! Take on our guilt. Take on our sin. Endure those false accusations. Dear Christians, see how much God goes through. See how much He loves you as God’s own Child, Jesus, in mercy mild, joins you to Him in baptism.

Be of good cheer, this Christmass, and let no sorrow move you! Even if someone accuses you of Jesus returning, attending your Church, and not being welcome. Jesus is not going to show up in that way anymore. For Jesus died once for all, never to die again. Also, if your church is preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments correctly, Jesus is already there, not judging, but forgiving your sin.

Truly, if Jesus showed up today, Jesus would be crucified. If Jesus showed up in the future, He would be crucified. Truly, if Jesus were not crucified, He would not have died. If Jesus would not have died, He would not have been resurrected. If Jesus were not raised from the dead, then your faith is in vain. (1 Cor. 15:17)

 Praise be to God, this night, for unto you is born this Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.

Monday, December 22, 2014

O Dayspring [Avent 4; St. John 1:19-28]

The Old Testament, namely the witness of the Prophets, is to lighten our darkness. It is our light to lead us to the True Light; our "Dayspring on High".

The light given to St. John the Baptizer was that he was to be the Forerunner. I think, it was never told to him that he was to be Elijah to come. Or, at least, that he would be in the power and spirit of Elijah, so he denies it all.

He denies that he is Elijah. He denies that he is THE Prophet, promised in Deuteronomy. He denies that he has any significance whatsoever. Even his self worth is not to the level of untying the sandal of Jesus. Most importantly, he denies that he is the Christ.

He is not the One to come, freeing Israel from their sins. Instead, St. John is that last prophet to be in the shadow, but in this shadow of humility, St. John allows the Light of Christ to shine that much brighter.

So, the martyrdom of St. John the Baptizer was to sit in the darkness of prison and the shadow of death. The witness of St. John and all the Apostles was that they dwell in bodies of flesh; bodies that rot and decay, even upon those who are yet living; bodies that pass away.

And they all knew this. It was St. John the Baptizer that put it into words: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Even while you all yet live and sit here today, leave this place, and go about your regularly weekly programming, you must decrease.

You must put aside your hypocrisy, your stinginess, your anger, and your lies. You must let go of any and all control you believe you have in a situation or on people. You must make way for your neighbor in every respect, ensuring his holiday be the best yet.

Even the world understands this part of the Christmas “spirit”. Smile a little more, give a little more, be joyous a little more. Its just a coincidence that Christmas coincides with End of the Tax Year giving or that Retailers offer their best prices of the all selling season.

But you know what it takes for any of you to be nice for just one day, guaranteed? A vision of your own approaching death. Charles Dickens understood that. He knew how much guilt and regret affects a person. However, nowadays, since we have drugs to ward off death, or at least the thought of it, Christmas is simply another emotionally draining time with new regrets every year.

You must decrease. In reality, you are already as decreased as you can get. You have already been found by God, in your sin. You have already been reaping the fruits of your sin and that is death.

For “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph.2)

Therefore, the doctrine of the Apostles and the Prophets was for themselves to decrease so that Christ would increase. They hid behind the Word and Promises of God. They covered themselves in the Sacraments, allowing nothing but those things to escape their lips.

St. John the Baptizer hid behind his crazy outfit of camel hair and his denials, which we heard today. Jesus needs to be in the center, because it is only through His Light that the sin of darkness and the shadow of death are dispelled.

There will come a time, when the Son of righteousness will return and all will be laid bare, in that Light. Not just our good deeds, but our evil deeds; not just those that we know about, but even those we don’t know about; and not just those that are public, but mainly those that we keep secret.

Then what shall we do? How shall you meet the Lord in light of that?

Behold Jesus comes! Whether Judge or Savior, He comes. He comes to judge the nations on that great and terrible day. So what does Faith tell us to do? The Holy Ghost tells us to run!

Run to the Word of God. Flee to the Sacraments and promises of the Lord! For Jesus rises upon the cross, shedding His blood for all sin. The eternal Light of His Glory shines brightly there as His sacrifice atones for sin.

The gloomy clouds of night are not forever. The darkness of sin and death have been dispersed so we humble ourselves. We even hide our pastor behind vestments and pulpits in order that we hear of Christ. Not just the light of Him, born in a manger, but the light of Him on Easter morning.

Those who sit in the darkness of prison, whether county lock-up or private sins, they shall be set free. Those who sit in the shadow of death, whether in a cemetery or still living, they shall be made alive.

In the midst of the coincidental kindness of this holiday season, Jesus comes to give true hope, true love, and true charity. There is hope in Christ amidst the dysfunction of family and futile struggle against death. There is love in Christ amidst the many who are suffering in poverty and prosperity. There is charity in Christ in the face of great sin.

You are in the night of sin and it appears as if the sun is setting upon you as death’s dark shadows loom. Indeed, the entire world is shrouded. This is why Christ is the Light. Saying that Jesus is the Light of the World should not just be some half-handed identifier you use for Jesus.

Jesus is the Light of the World, because He was nailed to a cross. Jesus is the Light of the World, because He rose on Easter morning. Jesus is the Light of the World, because you were once dead in your sins, but now live in this true Life and Light.

Jesus, true God and true man, did not need to be born, for His own sake. He did not need to be baptized, He did not need to preach the Gospel, or commune in the Last Supper in order to prove this or that about Himself, as if He needed us to proclaim Him this season.

Jesus was born so you could be re-born. Jesus was baptized so you could share in baptism. Jesus preached the Gospel so that you would be saved by it. Jesus communed so you could commune with God, for the forgiveness of sins.

Christ, our Dayspring from on high, shines bright to dispel your darkness. Jesus, our Eternal Light, draws near to forgive, not to judge, for judgment and wrath have been handed out at the cross and Jesus has paid for it, died, and lived again.

It is this Light that we will find, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It is this Light that is lifted high upon a cross. It is this Light that breaks on Easter morning and it is this Light that communes with you today. Jesus, the Dayspring on high, has baptized you, spoken to you, and eats and drinks with you all, until the end of the age.

When, at that time, the Light will enlighten the whole world, and no one will be able to deny that Jesus Christ is Lord, to their judgment.

Today, by Grace, we are able to see that Light and know that Jesus comes for us our entire lives; most especially in His Sacraments, not for His own sake, but for you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Yes, it is [Advent 3; St. Matthew 11:2-10]

In another place Jesus says that the entire Old Testament is about Him and that we should find and hear of Him in every passage. Thus, Jesus speaks to us today of St. John the Baptizer, the last of the Old Prophets, being in prison and of Jesus preaching the Gospel to the poor.

Is that it? John the Baptizer; the man in the spirit of Elijah; the Forerunner of the Lord; able to pick out Jesus in a crowd and point the entire world to Him, is in prison and Jesus says,
“the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”

In this reply to St. John, Jesus gives what the Messiah is to be about, when He comes. This list, in turn, comes from the Old Testament. St. Isaiah speaks of these things. However, Jesus leaves out something that St. Isaiah says, “…to bring out the prisoners from prison…” (42:7)

You can just hear St. John’s disciples, “Is that it?” All this time we have been waiting for this Coming One and He can’t even spring someone from the slammer? All this time waiting for the Lord’s Messiah and He sends us a man?

Adam and Eve, upon getting turned out of the Garden, heard the Lord say He would send a seed to crush the serpent’s head. Now they both were thinking that immediately, God would send this savior and get them back in the Garden that very afternoon. But, it didn’t happen that way. Is that it? Noah, knowing of the Seed, then had to witness the entire earth destroyed in a flood, but the Lord promised to save him and his family. Is that it?

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Judah, and David all had promises made to them in increasing complexity all detailing and, one by one, revealing who the Christ of God would be. In this slow, sure process, the Lord kept His Promises to His people and kept promising them of the time of forgiveness.

This is the reason we light the Advent candles at the reading of the Old Testament. As God reveals more and more of His plan for salvation to His people, He never leaves them nor forsakes them. The Light of the Old Testament is constantly revealing who Jesus is and what He is doing.

So that when we get to Christmass, we have a little better idea of things, but it is only when we reach Easter that the full and perfected picture is revealed to us, after we have witnessed the cross of Christ.

But St. John has not, and will not, reach Easter, before he is beheaded. Just as we have not nor will we reach the Last Day, or even Christmass, unscathed or possibly even dead. Repent. Sin and death also cloud our vision of Salvation and we wonder if Jesus even knows who we are, doubting in His work that He came to do on the cross and always asking, “Is that it?!”

So what does it mean that the Old Testament is enough for salvation? Take a look at St. Isaiah 40, which we heard today. In it, St. Isaiah promises that Jerusalem’s warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned. That from the Lord’s hand, not her own, will she receive double.

The key is the Glory of the Lord in verse 5 and the Word of God standing forever in verse 8. We know who the Word of God is and we know that His glory is revealed on the cross as He sheds His precious blood for sinners. In St. Isaiah’s words, already, the Christ is Promised to suffer and die in order to Comfort God’s people. That would be you.

Last Sunday, Jesus spoke to us through St. Malachi, saying,

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

You can already guess that the sun of Righteousness is Jesus and the healing He wins for you is complete reconciliation with God. Again, Jesus is promised to us.

Finally, the First Sunday in Advent starts the season of preparation with St. Jeremiah. Through Him, Jesus says that He will raise up a Righteous Branch for David and in Him Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely.

Really, any Old Testament, as Jesus has said, proclaims the Gospel already planned, willing, and waiting for us all. And the Gospel is not, “accept Jesus as your personal Savior” or else you won’t be saved. The Gospel is that while we were yet dead in our sins, Christ died for us.

While St. John sits, rotting in prison; awaiting his execution; millions sit hungry, sick, persecuted, or oppressed. Jesus accomplishes His work of removing the power of sin, death, and the devil from the earth. Even though we may feel we are in the midst of those things, the Gospel is being preached, producing Faith. Though we sin, we are free. Though we die, we will live.

Our Savior lives. Our Righteous Branch, our Sun of Righteousness, and our Glory of the Lord has been lifted up upon a cross, brought low into the grave, and raised Himself three days later. True, we look back from the cross of Christ to see and hear all this correctly, but without the Old Testament, we would not have the full picture.

The next time you feel the need to question God asking, “Is this it”, meaning, “God, if you’re so powerful, shouldn’t you be able to get my job back, bring my loved one to health, or keep peace in the world”, the Lord will answer you , “Yes”.

Because He has accomplished all those things in Jesus. In Jesus the worker never has to work again, for God has given him the Priceless Treasure. In Jesus, the body never gets sick, for God has perfectly completed it. In Jesus, true and everlasting peace has been accomplished.

Jesus is God’s answer to all of life’s troubles, because, in Jesus, none of the troubles have any power or even exist. As long as we are in Christ and Christ is in us, the world has no pleasure I would share. For the Gospel has been and will continue to be preached to the poor. The poor of means, the poor in spirit, and the poor of fortune.

Therefore, the Gospel that the Old Testament preached to St. John the Baptist tells him, even though he is imprisoned, he is free; even though he faces his impending death, he will yet live and he has the very Words of Jesus to assure him.

We have Jesus’ testament in Body and Blood pointing us back to the cross, back to the Old Testament, and back to Jesus. For in this Supper, given by Jesus’ hand, we find the true medicine against sin and death in our lives. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life, light and salvation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Son of man [Wednesday in Advent 2; Malachi 3:1-5, 4:5-6]

In the closing chapters of Malachi, really his entire book, evil is passing away and death is being burned off as slag. Sin is the target of this cleansing, as Jesus says He will be a swift witness against all those who do not fear Him.

True fear of God comes in regarding our sins as very horrible and serious. That we do not rank them or attempt to self-justify any commission or omission, on our part. That we learn to believe that no creature can make satisfaction for our sins.

However, primarily, true fear of God begins in the recognition of this sin within ourselves. That, by the very presence of God among us, brings this to a very painful light; a light exactly like a refiner’s fire that will burn the slag away.

Then, it is fear as we know it that sets in, because we find that our entire being appears to only be slag and if that fire touches us, we shall be unmade. We are as St. Isaiah proclaims,

“’Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’”(Isa.6:5)

To those who do not recognize their sins, those who wish to retain their slag, to them this Day of the Coming of the Lord will be something they want no part of. Really, who wants to be scrubbed to death by soap? And who wants to die? The wages of sin is death and death must occur.

Repent. We are so concerned with our own selves that we fail to take in the Great Picture. We rely so heavily upon our emotions that we fail in hearing the Word of God and Psalm 80 reveals this for us.

Psalm 80, part of which we chanted this evening, is a Christological psalm. Meaning: its about Jesus. In it, the psalmist confesses his sins and makes no excuse for them. He confesses this fact to God and yet still begs for God to hear and save him.

He asks for a vine to be brought out of Egypt, as Jesus was sent to and returned from Egypt when He was young. He begs the Man who dwells between the cherubim upon the holy Ark to cause His face to shine upon us: the place where Jesus sat in the Temple, forgiving sins.

Verses 17 and 18 then get to it. 17, of which we chanted this evening, and 18, which we didn’t are:

“Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

In there we hear two things. We hear of the Son of Man and we hear a plea for “quickening”. Of course the Son of Man is Jesus and just look at what the psalmist is asking for. All of this judgment, all of this burning, all of this wrath; he is asking for it to be upon Jesus instead. He is begging for atonement.

Turn us again O God. Show us Your great salvation in that Your Son, whom You have made strong for Yourself, be sacrificed. That He die in our place and rise again to give us new life. That He might come to us; not just in a manger, but upon the cross and in blazing Glory on the Last Day.

So that we may endure and stand on His day of Glory, quicken us. Though dead in our sins, bring us back to true Life in Your Son. Bring us to the depths of baptism, drowning our sin and death and raise us to new life in Jesus.

For only Jesus has endured and will endure. Jesus has been refined and purified of our sin and death in offering Himself in righteousness. Jesus, who perfectly feared God, was foretold by St. John the Baptizer, and comes to turn the hearts of sinners with His Gospel.

Jesus is the Vine without Whom we can do nothing. Jesus is the strong man that pillages sin, death, and the devil to bring us out alive again in Baptism. Jesus is our Salvation Who has brought us from the death and slag of our sins in to the silver and gold of His holy Body and Blood. He is the Son of Man, made strong enough to bear the cross.

 In Jesus, we know God is for us and not to be feared according to His wrath against sin, but feared, loved, and trusted according to His love shown by Jesus. In Jesus, we fear, love, and trust even above the possibility of our own death, for not even death, a refiner’s fire, or fuller’s soap will be able to separate us from Christ Jesus.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The miraculous Word [Advent II; St. Luke 21:25-36]

Once again, the weight of the never ending stream of violence and death of this world presses upon us as Jesus once again describes to us the coming of the End. This terrible day, which has no meaning for any of us, as none of us have ever experienced anything like it. 

And yet neither does anything else in the Bible, if you think about it. When have we seen the creation of all things? When have we experienced a world-wide flood? When have we been enslaved by another country and needed to be set free?

When have we been in the presence of God in a manger?

Jesus gives the simple knowledge that all things will end and the Church of Christ cries out for that ending. The baptized call for the Return of God and His visitation. If we were not told that; if we had no hope for an end of all evil, there would only be despair.

But, Jesus tells us. He says there will be distress and the very heavens will be shaken. We have already discussed, in detail, this horrid death throw of the devil and this sinful world and how we need to flee from it. But is sin really allowed to shake the heavens?

The power of sin; of perplexity, despair, fear, dissipation and foreboding is no more than the causing of doubt. It is a farce to think that the corruption of sin, death, and the devil can reach into heaven in order to shake all of creation out of balance.

Sin has no power to do this. Death can not touch the Lord of Life. While all of this is also a mystery to us, the real mystery is what truly does shake the heavens. Experience tells us none of these things, but it does reveal that there are quite a few mysteries we live with everyday.

The biggest mystery for us, that you probably never flinch at, is that you live in a functioning and orderly universe. Dr. Martin Luther once, commenting on miracles, said, “I looked out of my window and I saw the stars and the sky and the whole vault of heaven, with no pillars to support it; and yet the sky did not fall, and the vault remained fast.” (Luther: Letters of Spiritual counsel, 156)

You rest easy at night judging this simply as a “natural occurrence”. You also take for granted that the sun rises and sets, your engine internally combusts correctly, and even that food will be there when you are hungry. Indeed, “We are so accustomed to find grain growing out of the earth annually and we are so blinded by this, that we pay it no attention.” (Luther’s Works: Halle and Walch; 11, 1380)

Even the wisest of the wise, in the Book of Proverbs, expresses four things too excellent for him and which he doesn’t understand:

“the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a virgin.” (Prov.30:18-19)

So, when you come to Faith and belief, when facing the Last Day or even Christmass, you should not be surprised that there are mysteries and that they are ok. You don’t know how these come to be or what they are like, but they are real and are only appreciated by the pious. To the unbeliever, they are simply “natural causes and effects” and the “works of men”.

All of you truly witnessed such a mystery today. In the eyes and ears of the impious, six people gathered around a bowl of water, said some strange, made-up things, and then went on with little to no impact upon their lives. However, Faith saw the heavens rent asunder, Christ Himself washing, the devil cast off his seat, and the Holy Ghost coming to dwell with Elizabeth.

Repent. Sin blinds us and will lead us away from Christ. It is not the mystery, miracle, or explanation thereof that saves and converts, but the Word of God. I did no work of forgiving sins this day or any day. No one that was up here today performed any magic ritual of appealing to a deity for cleansing. Our rationalizing impacts the Lord not one bit.

Jesus works above our reason, higher than our thoughts, and is born of a virgin. Christ moves beyond all comprehension by dying on a cross, rising from death from a sealed grave on the third day, and ascending into heaven, sitting at the right hand of God with His flesh.

These are the miracles the Word gives to us and the Word is how all miracles are judged. The Promise of Christ, given by the Word, saved Elizabeth in baptism. Jesus says,
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

This is the Word Jesus gives. This is the Word which by hearing it, you are saved.

Flee from great signs and wonders that tempt you away from Christ, His Church, His Pulpit, Sacraments, and all the works demanded of Him. Even if St. Peter were to appear today and raise someone from the dead, you are to judge that as a work of the devil.

You are to hold on to Baptism. You are to hold on to the Sacraments. You are to hold on to the Word, for it is here that Christ is for you. It is here that Jesus is closer to you than anywhere else, for this is where His Gospel and His ministry are and, so also, where He is.

Jesus tells us He was born of a virgin. Jesus speaks to us of the Last Day and tells us before hand. Jesus promises salvation to those who are baptized.

We do not have to experience all the events of Holy Scripture first-hand. We do not have to have a special revelation for proof that God is with us such as a dream, or an out of body experience, or even a special gift.

We have already been given the gift once found in a manger, now matured and perfected dying on the cross for our sin. The powers of the heavens will be shaken, because Jesus, true God, has descended to earth as a man and has offered His life as a ransom for many. The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world is sacrificed.

Jesus fulfilled His work in order that, today, we could see and hear Elizabeth being assumed into the Body of Christ and so that you could lift up your heads and see your redemption; feel your redemption; hear your redemption and smell and taste your redemption.

Miracles do not prove this. Mysteries do not diminish this and reason does not prevent any of it. Jesus speaks it and it is so. The Promises of God declare it. The Gospel of Christ fulfills it and the Work of the Holy Spirit administers it all: Life, light, forgiveness, and salvation, for you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Patience [First Wednesday in Advent; St. James 5:7-11]

God had, once long ago, made a promise to Abram and “since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.” Heb.6

In the Epistle from St. James, read this night, Jesus is speaking to us. He is recalling to our minds, not just the patience of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., but the patience of God. And Jesus is telling, maybe even demanding, that we also be patient.

However, patience is a virtue, no? Maybe you have heard that from your father or have used it yourself, from time to time. Patience indeed is a virtue and virtues must be worked at and cultivated. Patience is not manifested except by a life determined to increase in it.

You are not born with patience. The infant cries at the exact moment that it is in need. No matter how small the need is, the infant demands placating. The toddler is no better at patience. No amount of time-outs, scolding, or depravity lessens the impatience. Their want is now and so it must be met, now.

As adults, are we really any different? St. James tells us to be patient multiple times, but is it something we have or is it something immediately necessary. Indeed, Jesus’ demand for patience is impatient in and of itself. “Have patience now, or else.”

“Be patient”, Jesus says, even though family is drifting farther and father apart. “Be patient” even though the cancer is coming back. “Be patient” though your entire world is falling apart around you, the command remains the same: Be patient.

Repent. In our great debt to be repaid for our transgressions, we beg on hands and knees, in front of Almighty God for just a bit of patience from Him and we will repay. Yet, we turn around and not only do we persecute our neighbors or neglect them, but we bemoan God’s impatience in dealing with this world. (Matt. 18:26,29)

Truly, in Jesus’ parable of the Unmerciful Servant, we are read out to be the unmerciful ones. We find patience, especially towards God, completely lacking in our lives. We don’t care that Christ died 2000 years ago, we want to know what God is going to do now. What is He going to do about my unemployment? What is He going to do about my disease or my dying relatives?

Truly, it is an unmerciful and unloving God that demands patience in the midst of this evil world.

God demands and God fulfills. Yes, the Law demands our patience, but it is Jesus who shows us what patience truly is. Not only that, but by His sacrifice, patience is no longer just a virtue, but a gift.

In Christ descending to die on the cross, He showed the ultimate patience. Instead of punishing the sinner, our Lord of all took the punishment upon Himself. In order to fulfill the promise made to Abraham, Jesus swore by Himself. In order to show His unchangeable purpose, Jesus gave His life as the ransom.

Now, since it is impossible for Jesus to lie and impossible for Him to change, we have taken refuge in His wounds and grab hold of that Promise. The promise that Jesus has entered the most Holy Place by His holy, innocent, and precious blood; that Jesus crossed from life, to death, and back again in order to secure our place with Him.

The Promise of God is given now. It may not be the Final Day. It may not even be the day that Jesus is walking around on earth, but this is the day that was made for you. This day, the promises of Jesus are fulfilled in your ears and you have seen and know the purpose of the Lord.

That purpose is to send Jesus. That purpose is to save you from your sin, in order that you make it to the Last Day with hope, for in Christ, the Lord is merciful and compassionate. In Jesus, God is working out His salvation in you on this day and everyday of your life.

 So, when Jesus tells us to be patient; He is not saying you need to deal with whatever comes your way and accept it as apart of life. Jesus is saying, Be patient, for your hope is secure, your life is paid for, and your salvation is a Kept-Promise.

Monday, December 1, 2014

For you [Advent 1; St. Matthew 21:1-9]

It is not Christmas yet, but with our sin we push Jesus to His manger in order that He may die for our sakes. The season of brotherly love sees Zion’s King coming to judge the world on account of evil done to God and to its neighbor.

On this unique First Sunday of Advent, we also have the Feast day of St. Andrew. St. Andrew is the brother of St. Peter and what we celebrate St. Andrew for the most is his bringing of St. Peter, to Jesus.

It was St. Andrew, first a disciple of John the Baptizer, who heard the words, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” and proclaimed this to his brother. It was St. Andrew, the Apostle, who continued to proclaim this Gospel, though he was crucified upon a cross turned on its side. It is St. Andrew that now sits upon a throne of heaven, awaiting the Judgment Day.

Jesus speaks today, proclaiming, “Behold your King is coming to you!” St. John declared that the Kingdom of Heaven was near and that repentance was necessary. Jesus then echoed this same sermon, “Repent! For the Kingdom of the heavens is near.”

We have already described the Kingdom of God and it is a kingdom with one ruler, one will, and one agenda. There is no room for any other voice or opinion. There was a time when two opinions occupied heaven, but one was cast down like lightning and will be judged forever in a lake of fire.

So, as the Kingdom nears, we feel more keenly the contrition and guilt for our sin, which burns brighter and hotter the closer God gets. For, sin destroys Faith. Sin, whatever its form, whatever its act is antithetical to everything pertaining to the Kingdom. Sin is having another will other than God’s.

But what have we to repent over, especially coming off of a national holiday of thanksgiving and moving right ahead into the most magical of holidays: Christmas? What is so important about warning of wars, and abominations, and strife?

What is so important that St. Andrew gives his life for? Why must it be “repent” and not “rejoice”?

St. Andrew knew the answer. He had seen the darkness of this world and even of his own heart and knew there was no escape. Not all the blood of every beast sacrificed could pay for the evils in this world and St. Andrew experienced this first hand, for he was a son of Israel.

He lived life centered around the Temple and the Holy of Holies where forgiveness was promised, if the right sacrifice was offered. Thus, John the Baptizer’s words resounded in his ears. Hearing this prophet speak of the Lamb of God could only mean one thing: God will offer the one, true sacrifice Himself and it will be the true Passover Lamb, Who takes away the sin of the world.

Repent. Your sin places you in darkness and bondage. Your sin dissolves what little good you can do, yet you cling to it, because it is in your power and your nature to do so. Thus, the readings of the Church Year and its hymns. This, your darkness, can not remain. Your nature must be changed. There is no sin in heaven.

The appointed readings teach you and guide you to repent of your sin and receive absolution. For Confession has two parts, first that you confess and second that we receive absolution from the pastor as from God Himself.

Jesus comes to do all that the readings and the hymns, of all year, have promised. For now we hear what St. Andrew heard in the depths of his own sin. We hear that it is not the death of the sinner that God is seeking, but the death of His Son.

Now, this son of Israel looks to the promise of the Servant of the Lord. Now St. Andrew looks to the Righteous Branch who will be wise and reign as King. Now we also look to the Lord, because of the cross. For on the cross, justice and righteousness is executed and we are saved.

Though the Church’s appearance has changed, for Advent, the timbre remains the same. We still hear of the promised coming; we still sing of Jesus’ return and yet now the hymns are all hope. The Hymn of the Day today, was nothing but hope.

Hope, because St. Ambrose (the writer) was looking at the time before Jesus’ birth through the cross. St. Andrew was also looking backwards as he hung on his own cross in the Faith given to him in baptism. We now look back. We look to the cross. We look to God’s fulfilled promise there and hold God to His promise to return.

Thus, our hope in Advent; our hope of forgiveness; our hope for the end is a look to the cross. Advent stands as a preacher, with its four Sundays, preaching the cross of Christ so that, by the time we get to Christmas, we know the real reason for the season. Since the point is Jesus going to the cross, the reason is you.

“Behold” the Prophets say to you. “Repent” St. John and Jesus say to you. “Look back” the Apostles say to you, for the Lord of Hosts hangs on a cross for your sin and rises three days later to give you salvation and fortify your hope.

The King had come to St. Andrew, transferring him from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, where not even being crucified could take that away from him. The Righteous Branch still comes to us today, not to be served, but to serve and proclaim His sacrifice as a ransom for many.

The King comes to us today, having already judged Himself in our place. Jesus gathers all His people, not to judge them, but to rescue them, for the judgment is done. The die is cast. You have already been set in the book of Life by grace. The same grace given to you in baptism. The same grace given again and more in hearing the Gospel. The same grace given in Communion.

In this penitential season of Advent, learn to feel your sins more. Learn to hate them as vile and horrible, because they threaten to remove Christ from you. Learn these things well, but even more so, learn your hymns.

For in your Advent hymns, you hear about Jesus. You don’t hear about a 12-step this or a “do-more” that. You hear of a Savior. A Savior of the nations whose gift of Hope translated St. Andrew and all the Apostles from horrible deaths, to thrones in heaven.

A Savior who, even in the form of an infant, orders the entire universe for you. So that, this day that He has made, would find you in His Church, hearing His Absolution, receiving His Hope, and being served Forgiveness at His Table, of which He is Host and host.

All this, purchased and won on the cross, for you. The Church Year and its hymns are for you. Advent is for you. Christmas is for you.

“From the manger newborn light, shines is glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides, in this light Faith now abides.”


Monday, November 24, 2014

A new hope [Ultimate Sunday; St, Matthew 25:1-13]


In a vain attempt to justify his own life, and maybe save it, Shakespeare’s Hamlet speaks a famous soliloquy that begins, “To be or not to be…”In it, he brings up the question of which is better; is it better to die suffering under outrageous bad fortune or to fight against it and probably die anyway?

In fact, he is so sure that he will die in either case, that he then questions what comes after death. Is it truly a sleeping, as Scripture promises or will there be torture? As if there is not torture enough in this life! Indeed, Hamlet thinks that no one could bear this terrible burden of suffering and unknown-afterwards, otherwise known as “living”, so why does he not just make his own end here?

In today’s Gospel, the Bridegroom is not coming, at least this is the 5 foolish virgins’ creed. The Bridegroom is not coming. Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. If the Bridegroom is not coming, then what is the point of our lamps, much less staying awake? There is no point. Why make a fuss? Better to enjoy life to the fullest and make my own end. To sleep, perchance to dream…

And sleep they do. Heck, all 10 virgins fall asleep. What does this mean? Why are there lamps that fail and flesh that falls asleep? Why must we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? Is there someone who is going to pay for these atrocities? Is someone going to step forward and take responsibility?

The Bridegroom is delayed. Jesus isn’t coming. Your lamps are going out. You must hurry to find a better lamp with better oil. Maybe the merchants, the peddlers, or the charlatans have something better. They are always talking about “peace” and “love” and “unity”. That is much better than sitting around in the dark next to 5 “holier-than-thou’s” and their “perfect” lamps.

Repent. You perceive that Jesus is delayed in coming, especially when your own life is wracked by misfortune or tragedy. You think that the evils and injustices of this world are too much and that God is not dealing with it as He should. This lamp of faith you have been given is not enough for all that and will never be enough.

Repent. The lies of satan ring so true to you and you fall asleep to his lullabies. It is taking Jesus so long to fulfill His promise to return. He probably won’t come back in my lifetime, much less do anything about the mess He left behind.

Our sinful nature tells us this is so. Our hearts go out to the 5 foolish virgins and sympathize with them, taking their side. Jesus should know better. Jesus should act more lovingly.

Holy Scripture tells us something completely different. It gives us hope by talking about the Second Coming. It does not attempt to smooth any of our troubles over or give us an easy ride there. It simply says that Jesus will return visibly and with great glory. That He will return to judge, not set up a new Jesus-club, and that the time will be unknown.

Unknown is not the same as “not coming”. “Delay” is not “forgotten”. The Word of God does not depend on our hearts for interpretation. If it did, there would be no wise virgins to follow the Bridegroom in. As it turns out, all things depend on Jesus.

Jesus even gives us a picture of the end in His own coming. In His own increasing turmoil and distress, leading up to the cross, Jesus shows that the End is near, for not even God is welcome on earth anymore. So much so, that He is crucified.

In the suffering and death of Jesus, we see a picture of the world to come. We see brother against brother. Nation against nation and God against the sinful world. Yet, on the cross, Jesus puts all of it to rest. Sin and death go in the grave and creation gets His Eternal life.

God uses up His wrath on the Son. The entire punishment for all of mankind’s transgressions are dealt out to Jesus, on the cross. All the wild beasts in biblical visions; all the wars and rumors of wars; and all of the fire and brimstone are focused upon one point in time and one man: Jesus.

So, a look to the End is a look to the cross. You want to know what the end will be like, seek Christ crucified. You want to know how things will turn out or if God will keep His Promises, find the resurrected Christ. It is in the Son of God that all of the Promises are completed.

In Jesus, Noah’s flood, that wipes the wicked from the face of the earth now kills us in our sin and raises us to new life. In Jesus, the Angel of death that sweeps the earth looking for the first born, passes over us, seeing the Blood of the Lamb of God not just on our foreheads, but on our lips and on our tongues.

In Jesus, Armageddon, the Anti-Christ, the Dragon, the Whore of Babylon, and every other beast of vision are already defeated. The cross, with Jesus on it, is the place where all are judged. Either Jesus died for you, being judged with your sin, or He didn’t. Either you are wise or foolish.

We know that the fool says in his heart, “There is no god” and thus, get a clearer picture of who these 5 foolish virgins are. The wise virgins are those that have been told ahead of time and believe. They believe that, towards the end, there will be increasing turmoil and distress for the Church and the world, but that is simply an indicator that the Promised return is near.

And that is just it. The End is not just near, but it will happen. It is a source of joy for the Christian, because it means that there will be an end to all of this. It means that there will be a time when lamps will not have to be filled or trimmed; when sleep will not overcome those who watch; when sin, disease, cancer, strife, war, and death will cease to be.

The importance of the Return of Christ, for the Christian, is that rest is coming. Not just then, but also Jesus, both God and man, gives us a taste of those things, today. He sets before us physical instruments of peace, forgiveness and salvation that we may sense His promise, not just in the ears, but also every other sense as well. These mark you for redemption.

For, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ either to an open door or a locked door. These are the only two judgments God will give and it all depends on the person, work, and Word of Jesus.

As you are one who is in Christ, HE has already pronounced what His judgment of you will be. You are redeemed. You are “bought-back”. You are living in His Light that is never extinguished. You are baptized into His death and Resurrection, in His Name.

Indeed, the Book of Life probably only contains one Name: Jesus. But that one Name contains the entirety of His Church. So we do not despair. We hope in our Lord who has risen from the dead and who will lead us all to the Wedding Hall, to eat the Supper at His call.

“Behold, I am coming soon.”

 Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Simple and clean [Trinity 26; St. Matthew 25:31-46]

Our Lord says,
“There is a time for everything…a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecc.3)
The Trinity portion of the Church Year, of which we are concluding, is about exactly that. It is teaching about the state of conflict the Church finds Herself in as She does battle with sin, the world around Her, and the devil.

And in focusing on our lives and that struggle so much, it also seems to be a season of confusion and uncertainty, for “the mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God”(Rom.8:7).
Though the gospel readings tell us that Jesus is there, in the midst of those things, His healings, His miracles, and His words just don’t cut it.

In these Last Days, we find even more confusion and uncertainty as we are told that we will face things we have never faced before; meaning: the End. Jesus speaks of abominations, of tribulations, and of corpses, yet He still does no healing or miracle in front of me.

So, Jesus speaks to us today and says,
                         “Before him will be gathered all the nations,
                            and he will separate people one from
                           another as a shepherd separates the sheep
                           from the goats.”
A simple phrase in light of a very dark and chaotic situation and one that begs we ask of ourselves if we are prepared. We ask, at the End of this Church Year, “what have we done” and “has it been enough”.

Having heard the rest of the gospel, have you done all those things? There were hungry people in your lives. There were thirsty people in your lives. There were strangers, people needing clothes, the sick, and the imprisoned. Did you take care of those things? You don’t even have to answer the question, because I can look outside right now and see that there are still those people around, so, you haven’t.

On top of physical needs, you are a part of a community that is not whole. The spiritual needs of your hometown are monstrous. Maybe 50% of this place does not attend Church, despite the more than 27 churches within the metro area. You have over 5500 people that live here, and we have, what, maybe 1% of that here, this morning?

In facing the very real End of all things, we find ourselves ill-prepared for such an event. There is still so much more to do and, if you only had a little more time, you could feed, give drink, welcome, clothe, and visit all who need it, maybe.

Repent. You major in the minors and minor in the majors, all the while losing sight of Jesus. You get caught up in Jesus revealing the chaotic future, that you fail to recognize the simplicity of Christ, as our gospel reading shows. For, despite the fact of all this happening, it will end with Jesus judging between two different kinds of people. Plain and simple.

Indeed, all visions in the Bible end abruptly. From Genesis to Revelation, any man having a vision of heavenly and eternal things, does not give a full explanation. Especially in Ezekiel, Daniel, and the book of Revelation; we hear of many beasts. Some have ten heads, some have ten horns. Some have 4 faces and some have four wings. And the strangeness goes on.

And even when an explanation for these creatures and events is asked about, no clarity is given by the answer. You can not go to the Bible and say that this beast represents Rome, this one Hitler, or even this one Obama. That is not what they are for.

They are there to point you to Jesus. They are there to warn you that strange and horrible things will come to pass, but you want no part of them. You don’t want to know if your persecutor has two eyes or ten, you just want to flee. You don’t want to know which government will subdue the entire earth, you simply want to know that you have a Savior.

A savior that has traversed suffering and death and come out alive. A Savior that implements a plan of salvation to include even yourself. A Savior, that will stand as Judge, on that Last Day, point to you and say,
                 “Come, you who are blessed by my Father,
                  inherit the kingdom prepared for you from
                  the foundation of the world.”

You have not been made to handle sin, much less endure a long battle with it. You have not been sent to fight. Jesus has. When we hear of the beasts and the wars and the abominations, these are not our enemies to fight, these are Jesus’ enemies. And fight them He does. He leads them to the cross, buries them in the grave, and returns alone and alive.

All this, Jesus does for you, freely. For this is what we hear Him saying to us today. There will be a final gathering of all nations; alive and dead. There will be a separation of the blessed and the cursed. Jesus will be glorified on that day, as the Savior.

For this reason, you have been baptized, not to escape trouble and trial, but to be brought through it victorious. For this reason, you are given Faith to hear and believe the Gospel, not that you will always listen to the right person or never get tricked, but so that you always recognize the Gospel as Christ dying for you.

For this reason, you are, here, offered the most Holy Lord’s Supper, for the forgiveness of your sins. In these ways, Christ declares to you that, yes judgment will happen, but His Word is True: This Baptism DOES save you. This Gospel DOES give eternal life. This Holy Meal DOES give the forgiveness of sins.

All this to say that you are, and will be, the sheep of Christ. All this so that you know you are justified before God and when the great and terrible Day of the Lord arrives, Jesus, the Judge, will address us as Blessed Inheritors.

Thus the Christians will not, at the end of the Year, do any introspection; finding only war, strife, and despair, but instead will perform “extro-spection”. Faith relies on and believes in the Person, work, and Word of Jesus which is all performed and accomplished outside of the self.

Jesus did not become wrapped in swaddling clothes, die on the cross, and preach His Gospel in your heart. He did it outside of you; objectively for all to see and hear. So the Christian’s focus is on the cross and the salvation accomplished there.

The works of the goats did not save them. The wars and rumors of wars help no one. The inner turmoil and struggle of our own sin only condemn us.

The works of Jesus do save us. Our Captain, victorious, in the well-fought-fight, helps us free from every need. Jesus, suffering, dying, and three days later rising again, is simply all that we need to understand and believe for the complexities of the Last Days to end well for us.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where the action is [Trinity 25; St. Matthew 24:15-28]

On this 3rd last Sunday of the Church year, we hear our Lord speak to us saying,
“Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

This seems to come out of the blue, but maybe it fits. Jesus is talking about the End Times and running from this so-called Abomination of Desolation”. We have no idea what that is or what that looks like. At best, we can let our imagination run wild as Jesus tells us to run from it, no matter what.

Don’t turn back, He says, as was said to Lot’s wife. Don’t return for your things. Don’t be pregnant and don’t let it be winter or the Sabbath. Simply, hie thee hence, and get to those mountains, for whatever is coming, you want no part of it. It will be an affliction for the ages.

So, maybe we can infer that the corpse symbolizes the many people who will be caught up in this Great Tribulation. They will be the ones not having heeded our Lord’s instructions and be left for the vultures, as gruesome as that is.

I put to you, today, a possible real reason for this statement of Jesus. Our first clues come in verses 23-27 in which we are looking for Christ, but we are not to believe those men or women who say that He is here or there, when Jesus has not said He would be there, Himself.

So, we are looking, as always, for Jesus. He is the only hope and source of redemption; it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that we are also looking for an Abomination and a corpse. Maybe even vultures or eagles, as that words suggests.

Thus, where the Abomination is, there the eagles are. Where the eagles are, there the corpse is. Where the corpse is, there is where Jesus is. Huh. Let’s keep that on the front burner for now.

Activity and motion, in the outdoors, can usually be marked by the reaction of birds to it. If someone is approaching, birds become silent. If someone does something sudden, the birds will fly away. If there is food to be had, the birds will gather for the feast.

Thus, in war, they tell you to never become food for the carrion. In other words, don’t die. Because where the action of war has stopped, or where the corpses are, there the birds gather. They are not there when the battle is beginning and they are not there when the battle is engaged. They wait until it is safe and time to eat.

Repent. You have no idea what I’m talking about. You have no idea what Jesus is talking about. Your minds are elsewhere and probably left when Jesus said the hard phrase, “Abomination of desolation”. It is so beyond your sinful nature that you just bottle it up and set it aside.

In your struggle against your sinful self, you take the Lord’s Name in vain. You doubt and curse, all while trying to be a better Christian. You keep these all secret though, because, if they got out, what would everybody think?

It’s too late to think about that. They are already out. God already knows them and the vultures have gathered and the corpse is yours, lying on the battlefield, blind and deaf towards God, and dead in sin and rebellion.

Dear Christians, for your sake, Christ has set up a new corpse and this is where all the action is. Jesus was and still is walking through the fields of our battles with sin, death, and the devil. As He goes on His way, He draws them all to Himself, handing out life through His Gospel, and sacrificing His own, upon the cross.

Jesus knows all things and He knows that unless He set up the Abomination of desolation, we will never be able to find it nor be saved. Unless Jesus comes down, as a man, to suffer and die, no one will be saved.

Unwittingly, all the forces of earth are gathered around Jesus. For we see His people and the legions of Rome. Both of those groups have been gathered and have gathered themselves under one symbol: the Eagle of Rome. In their attempts at false peace, the people of God have cast aside His Word in favor of a new king: Caesar.

In sin, they have made the Temple a palace of murder; the House of God a den of thieves. So, by your own guilt, you must suffer these abominations in holy places. Not just the Roman eagles in God’s Holy Temple, but your own politics and ideals at odds with God.

The Father has sent His only begotten Son in order to be handed over, suffer, and die, and three days later rise again. This is only accomplished by His Word. This is only brought to pass by His hand and we do well to mark how Jesus uses His time on earth: dying on the cross.

Thus, in the Father’s zeal for justice, He quenches the blood-thirsty carrion birds with His own blood. Jesus stands on the cross, crushed for our sin and guilt and yet the condemnation also rests upon Jesus. We are awaken from our deathly slumber of sin and transgression and look to see Jesus, alone, as our protector and victor, still.

Those who desire death and strife, all sinners, gather at the place where God has promised to be in order to watch Him die. Jesus is lifted up on Roman eagles’ wings and put to death on a Roman cross. Betrayed by His people and left to die, Jesus fulfills the Father’s will and plan He has for your life: salvation.

Do not be deceived! The great Abomination of God hanging lifeless on the cross is not defeat, but victory. Jesus, both God and man, did not get off that cross, but stayed on it even after His dying breath. Do not listen to those who say “Here is the Christ”, because you know that He will always be found as the Crucified one.

Jesus stayed on the cross. He gathered those carrion eagles and demons as He gathers all people: to the cross. Jesus, on the cross, is the Victory banner raised on the field. Here we find that all the world must come and face judgment. All of space and time must appear before this Abomination and face the Judge.

And with all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus judges. He preaches the Gospel of His person, words, and works from the cross. He creates true repentance in you, that you may see your sins and find forgiveness in your Savior hanging on that tree.

Yes, the times are dark and will only get darker. All our struggles and defeats find their annihilation upon the cross of Christ. We take comfort in the fact that God reveals these things to us so that we may repent of our deeds and trust in Jesus alone. We should also expect these things to plague us, until we die.

For where Jesus is, there the action is, meaning, the fight against sin is strongest where the Lord is closest. If eagles and vultures gather as the enemies of Jesus, then we should expect war, disease, sin, and manner of temptations to befall us as we too gather around the cross.

Though we should be horrified by our sins, the Body and Blood of Jesus are here for us. They are on display on the cross to be a Light in the darkness. Thus, we are thankful for our struggles. We are thankful for our pangs of guilt and contrition, for it is in those times that we know the Lord is near.

The Holy Ghost is sent to reveal our sin to us. Thus, as we hear of our warfare against the Lord in our thefts, murders, adulteries, and despising of His Word, we do not despair. Though our sins be great we cherish the image of Jesus on Calvary. We rejoice in the suffering and death of Jesus and we pray that we may be hid in His wounded side.

That is that we be covered by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That in our baptism and our eating and drinking, we find that we are the true believers with our names written in the Book of Life.

 For on the cross, the Book of War is closed forever. The sin and guilt found there is no more. It is the fodder now tossed to the unbelieving carrion birds to be judged. Death has been left in the grave and Christ has led us into new life in Him as He flees with us to the mountain of His holiness in confessing our sins, receiving His absolution, and eating and drinking true Body and true Blood for our salvation.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Betrayal [Trinity 24; St. Matt. 9:18-26]

In celebrating the Reformation, this past Friday, we remember the Small Catechism as we have all learned by heart. And because of that, we all remember the first article of the Creed and its meaning.

The first article reads as such:
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

What does this mean? “I believe that God has made me and all creatures. That He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses and still takes care of them.”

You may mark that on page 322 in your hymnal.

But what I want us to note is this phrase, “…and still takes care of them.” While you hold your place there, I want all of you wearing glasses and contacts to take them out, hold them up, and recite that phrase once again.

Now stay with me! We have Jesus speaking to us today saying that a Ruler of the Synagogues has just knelt before Him and declares his own daughter to be dead. Then we also have a woman with a 12 year flow of blood. The week before, there was a man who could not walk. Or it’s an invading army, or it’s a sick person, or it’s another dead or hungry or possessed.

Whatever the problem is, there is a problem. There is always someone that is sick, or hurt, or dying, or dead and that’s not right.

In war, one of the most detrimental things to happen is betrayal. When there is a traitor in your midst, nothing can go right. Strategy is out the window, meetings are pointless, and continuing to fight is futile. That is because a traitor deals in this information. All of your weaknesses, all of your secrets, and all of your flaws are made known to your enemy and full advantage is taken of that.

Most of the time, the penalty for such a crime is death. The traitor is too destructive to allow him to continue. Not only do his acts threaten his brothers in arms, but the entire military force. In fact, his actions may reach all the way to his fellow citizens at home, for if that country’s military loses here, then the next stop for the enemy is the homeland.

On top of all this, you can’t help but feel hated. You don’t know why he would do such a thing or what kind of motivation would move him to betray you. Thus, even if you are not a part of the tribunal that condemns him, you are certainly not going to stand in the way of capitol punishment.

God has graciously given to His people. He has created them and given them commands to live by and a lifestyle to adhere to. He promises mercy to those who follow and condemnation to those who don’t. He rescues them from their enemies and gives good advice on how to keep your body in order that it not become unclean.

He has also created this daughter and this suffering woman and to them and their families, it appears as if God has created them to sit in anguish. Whether the daughter suffered or not is irrelevant; she has undergone capitol punishment and for what? The woman has suffered and will most surely die under her punishment and for what?

Has not the Almighty and All-powerful promised blessing? Has He not sworn to protect His people and keep them whole? Has He not promised to create them and still take care of them?

Repent. It seems as if God has betrayed you. He knows your every weakness, secret and flaw and does nothing to take them away. He leaves them exposed to any and everything. This invites all sorts of catastrophe: temptation, sickness, even death. The daughter He has promised to watch over has died. The woman He has promised comfort to, is in agony.

The eyes and the body God has promised to care for you, has failed (glasses) and will continue to fail, if experience serves. He has promised these things and He has not delivered. No wonder the Jews saw these sick people as accursed. You would too, if you took the promises of God seriously.

Johann Sebastian Bach, a world famous Lutheran composer, wrote a piece for the occasion of the 24th Sunday after Trinity and captures this thought thusly:

“If I die in the Lord, is blessedness really my share and inheritance?
My body will be food for worms!
Yes, my limbs will become dust and earth once more.
Since I am called a child of death,
It seems that I shall rot in the grave.” BWV 60

So when Jesus comes and declares that He is God, you can guess what you will do to Him. When you hear Jesus’ confession and think of all the things that have gone wrong and all the times you were left to your own devices in tragedy and trial, your very next thought is: “Crucify Him.”

Jesus claims He is God and God has committed all these wrongs against us, not keeping His promises, so, by His own Law, Jesus deserves death. To pay for the crimes of betrayal in letting His people suffer and die, God deserves death.

Repent. You judge Jesus in a position of ignorance. You claim to have faith and yet the strong faith of the ruler and woman from the Gospel, eludes you. You’ve seen God let you down too many times and you hear too many “convincing” arguments against Him to truly believe.

So, Jesus, both God and man, is here. What do you do with Him? Crucify Him. What does God allow to happen? That very thing!

Now we come to the crux of the issue. How is God’s own Son cared for? How is Jesus’ body and soul, eyes, ears, and all His members, His reason and all His senses still cared for?

Jesus is crucified. He accepts the will of His creation in humility and judgment. He does not accept the charges, but He takes the guilt, the sin, and the death. The corruption that takes our eyesight from us, is charged to Jesus and nailed to the cross. The cross is man’s judgment upon God.

The cross is also Jesus’ judgment upon man. Here we see all the trial, all the temptation, all the suffering, and all the death we undergo, and it is placed upon one man. Meaning: Jesus has not betrayed you. Jesus has taken this corruption of your sin and done away with it.

Now, the promise of the cross is everlasting life, instead of the misperceived temporal life. Jesus is betrayed in some cosmic twist of judgment, in order to pay, not for God’s betrayal of us, but our betrayal of Him. In our sin, we doubted that Jesus could even bless us in this life, let alone any other life, but let that not be the case anymore.

Now the blessings flow in spite of temptations, sufferings, and death. These things are no longer indicators of God’s wrath, but symbols of His presence. Now the dead that die in the Lord are blessed and where there is suffering, injustice, or death, Jesus is there.

Jesus is there to comfort in suffering, to stand up, and to die a death that kills death. Jesus passes by to undo all of that and Baptize us into a new Body with a right Spirit: His own. Jesus comes to be crucified in order that His body, and we as members of it, would be healed.

Are you sick, suffering, or dying? Jesus came into this world specifically targeting those things. So where they are working their evil, Christ is all the more working His salvation. Maybe you are healed in this life, maybe not. Maybe you are not tempted beyond your strength, are healthy, and live a peaceful life, and maybe not.

Because Jesus is on the cross, dying for us, all things work out for our good. Not just the stuff that feels good, but the bad stuff as well. In fact, it doesn’t matter what kind of life you have to live. Christ is overly capable of working out your salvation in the midst of it and nothing can prevent that.

For, in Jesus allowing Himself to be handed over, falsely accused of betrayal, and paying for it with His life, we now hear that Gospel. The Gospel that Jesus suffers with us. That Jesus works in and among those who are sick and dying in their sin, not accusing or punishing, but saving. Not throwing up penance or requirements, but freely giving.

So we ponder All Saint’s Day, which was yesterday, and hear that God does keep His promises in the life to come. There we will be perfectly healed, perfectly comforted, and perfectly alive. Indeed, He gives us a foretaste by sending His Son among us today as a pledge.

It is as if He is saying, “You have my Son, therefore you have whatever is His.” For us, on that Last Day, it is a robe of innocence, blessedness and purity forever. Today, it is the promise of Jesus in-between our fingers and on our tongues declaring us forgiven, elected, and saved.

Now, if your finger is still on page 322, you may remove it as Christ removes any doubt that God is for us. In Jesus, we are cared for as a true Son of God. Oh, and put your glasses back on.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Gospel [Feast of the Reformation; Rev. 14:6-7]

“What was the Reformation all about?”. Posed with that question, I’m sure you could give me many responses and the world would also love to chime in.

Among them would be big government, liberation of the people, education, freedom fighting, only for that time, and so on. Almost no one will speak of Gospel or privilege. Indeed it is one that gives us the other.

The Gospel, proclaimed in its purity, will give privilege. Not just blessing from God, but the privilege of hearing it. For, if Faith comes by hearing, then consider it a great, great privilege to hear the Gospel.

It is so important, that from the reading of Revelation, a flying angel has the specific task to evangelize all those who are set on earth. But with “gospel” being such an overused word today, how do we know what purity is or that we have it?

Sts. Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John do a really excellent job in telling us what that purity ISN’T. According to them, the Gospel does not come through unbelievers, acts of the Law, or sin. In fact, anything apart from God; His words and His work, is very clearly satanic.

From God’s Word, we have declaration that all of history has been in existence in order that we would be saved. That in that history, God has revealed Himself in various ways by prophets, priests, kings, 10 Commandments, etc. We also have the Epiphany that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

All this, and more, available in easy to read type; thanks, in large part, to the printing press, which came about because of the Reformation.

From God’s work, we see God Himself acting. Him creating all things, Him ordering His own Worship services, Him leading and guiding His own people, and Him calling all the shots. Indeed, we even see God become a part of His own creation, humbling Himself in the form of a servant.

What is extraordinary is that one is not had without the other. You can not have the Word of God apart from the works of God or vice versa. Even if you read the Holy Scriptures word for word. Even if it is all you ever say, talk, or sing, it will do you no good. As we see from the Temptation of Jesus, the devil knows the Bible better than you ever will.

Likewise, simply watching God act alone is not enough. Yes, you can watch Him create, heal, and comfort, but you will also have to watch Him kill, destroy, and punish. Without His Word, we have a bipolar and dysfunctional god, saving and damning for no reason. Without His works, we have no knowledge of His love or compassion.

Thus, the purity of the Gospel is this: the only-begotten Son of God. Jesus didn’t just come with rainbows and sunny days, but with tempest and darkness. Jesus didn’t just come healing and calling children, but with whips and cords.

Most importantly; I would even say of SOLE importance, Jesus came with a cross to mount. Jesus came with a work to do and it was to suffer, die, and three days later, rise again.

The purity of the Gospel, then, is that Christ did it and He did it all. You can not, by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus or come to Him. You can not, by your own reason or strength add to your sanctification or holiness. Any gift you may receive from God, after He saves you in Baptism, is icing on the cake.

LIKEWISE, you can not by your own reason or strength prevent Jesus from going to the cross and dying for you and the rest of the world. You can not sin your way out of heaven and you can not doubt your way from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

You can reject Him, His words and works, but you can not prevent Him. Thus, the crux of the Reformation. Man and tradition can not stop the complete Word and works of Jesus from doing what it is there to do: save and forgive.

No earthly authority, no freedom of conscience, no feeling; no absolutely nothing will do it. This eternal Gospel will be proclaimed and will evangelize as it is heard. The Gospel that Jesus Christ, true God and true man; the only one from heaven and the only to return, has come to sacrifice Himself on the cross on behalf of all sinners.

FOR FREE. No conditions. No payments. No requirements. Just a gift: full and complete. And no war, no sin, no disease, and no death can ever change that. Just Christ, on the cross, given and shed, for you. And it is your privilege and right, as a son of God, to now receive such a gift.


Monday, October 27, 2014

War is not [Trinity 19; St. Matthew 9:1-8]

Jesus is speaking to you, from His own Gospel, saying,

“And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’”


And what Jesus is revealing is that no good comes from war. Indeed, Stephen Crane, author of the Red Badge of Courage, penned a poem titled: War is kind, puts it in these words:

“Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.

Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky

And the affrighted steed ran on alone,

Do not weep.

War is kind.”


And, “Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.

Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,

Raged at his breast, gulped and died,

Do not weep.

War is kind.”

         “Mother whose heart hung humble as a button

On the bright splendid shroud of your son,

Do not weep.

War is kind.”

Only portions of that poem, but the message is clear: war breaks spirits and bodies. So, too does Mma Ramotswe, of the No.1 Lady’s Detective Agency, express this idea in this quote: “We see war for what it really is- a matter of broken bodies and crying mothers.”

Along with many others who protest war, I’m sure. And it is very well and good to be against that kind of thing. It is not right and there is no place for war nor its fruits in the New Creation.

The problem is, that you see war as far away. You see it only through the lens of history and the glasses of the media. It is thousands of miles away from your house, in Africa, the Mid-East, or South America. What does that have to do with you and Jesus?

Oh, you say, it’s a metaphor. Yes Jesus is trying to tell me that the wars I fight, dysfunctional family members, children, moving, change of jobs, etc, are what I am to be gaining victory over. If Jesus were to just see my faith and positive attitude, He would give me victory over those “wars” in my life. Dear Jesus, thank you for making me so much better than those people who fight real wars. In your Name. Amen.

Repent! War is not just that which mothers cry over. Neither is it only an army, with guns, taking your things and lives. The real war; the war that spawns all wars, is raging inside each and every human on earth. Our Lord tells us,
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?”

So, you see this come to light in your own bodies. You get sick, you get old, you die. In your own person the struggle against life and death is raging and, as we say, death is certain and life is fragile. It seems as if death will be the victor as our graveyards attest.

Yes, you are at war within your own members simply because of the fact that Christ has declared you His own, in Baptism, and the world will not have that. Your sinful self can not allow the work of salvation to be done in you and so it fights back in the only way it can: corruption.

Jesus has created you, body and soul, yet sin has corrupted them. The work Jesus came to do and still comes to do, is re-creation. What we have lost in our sin is the Image of God. Without this, we remain in sin and are undone. What Jesus created, sin and death attempt to undo and destroy.

However, God made Himself a man. In Jesus, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in a 100% human body. Thus, Jesus subjects Himself to temptation, suffering, and death. In this way, Jesus then steps in front of us. He places Himself in-between corruption and us and takes the full brunt of the attack.

This is the cross. Christ on the cross is the crux of all time and history as it is the place where God meets His enemy. It is the place where sin, death, and hell make their final surge onto the Throne of heaven. The charge is made, but is turned aside with the sacrifice of Jesus.

Jesus dying on the cross undoes death. The tragic existence of war and death are stopped forever as Christ offers Himself as the atoning sacrifice and cleansing the world of evil.

For, war is not kind. Regardless of the heroism and justice that it can produce, war is not a part of Creation. God did not make death. God’s plan is not for us to suffer. God’s will is not disease or sin.

We should not lacks-a-daisily accept war, death, or sin as just a part of the circle of life. We should not offer comforts to those suffering through it in the likes of, “God has a plan”, because yes, God has a plan, but it is not this.

I will tell you God’s plan for your life. I will tell you what God is in charge of and what His will is for you. God wants to create you, Himself, not letting a robot or angel do the work. He wants to create stability for you, not just in family, but also in history. He wants to sustain you today and He wants to prepare your future. All this is accomplished through His Son, dying on the cross. God’s will and plan is to forgive all sins.

In the total corruption of your natural self, Jesus comes, working. He comes in order to declare that the Kingdom of God is for you. You don’t know that any other way, except Jesus dying on the cross for you. Because it is only by that one act, that God blesses. It is solely by the crucifixion of Jesus, that all of creation and even the entire kingdom of heaven is ours.

It is only by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, that war is made powerless over us. Come, war, take all you want. Take life, liberty, justice, and family. There is nothing you can take that Jesus can not give back in the Resurrection. Come now, death, what can you do? Bring misery, grief, and solitude? These Christians are not dead. They are asleep. Alive and waiting with Jesus.

Now, where poets and authors want to paint a picture of “no hope”, in the face of war; where opinion seems to only offer you to be for war or to have some false idea of peace, there is a third option. The third option is disdain. We now mock and taunt war and death, to death.

We no longer sarcastically need to say, “Do not weep for war is kind”. Now we say,

“Do not weep, dear Christian for war is over

Because your Savior threw wild hands open on the cross

And the affrighted sin and death ran on alone to the grave,”

You will not go with them, to the grave, because Jesus did not go with them, but returned. No false peace needs to be sought and no false security needs to be accomplished.

For the Kingdom of God is come near to everyone’s paralysis of sin and death. And though today’s paralytic gets to rise and walk, we will all get to rise and walk with him and Jesus on the last day, when all flesh will rise; and me and all believers in Christ will receive eternal life as a gift.