Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Profit mission [Easter 6: St. John 16:23b-30]

As Jesus gears up for His Ascension this Thursday, 40 days after Easter, He declares to us in no uncertain terms, His Mission. He speaks this to us in v.28 saying today,

          “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and
            now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Here is all of His work that Jesus came to do in four succinct phrases, upon which rest the work of our redemption. If you ever have the question arise in your head about where Jesus is or what He is doing, today’s Gospel is for you. For, upon hearing it, you will never have to ask that question.

Last week, we heard Jesus tell us where He was going, even in our time, and that we will never have to depend on someone “having a vision” or hearing the voice of God” to tell us. For Christ will always be with His Church, always be washing His Church, always be feeding His Church and always speaking to His Church. Yet, of what benefit is that to Him?

       “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world
        and yet lose his being?”
These words from Jesus were surely on His mind as He created all things. What did it profit the Lord in creating Creation? Grief and sorrow, that’s what. Unbelievers lament all the time about how, if God created all things perfect, then how was sin able to get in?

In another place, the Lord says,

         "But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone
          who bears the name of  brother if he is guilty of
          sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler,
         drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
         (1 Cor. 6)
And right after this, the Lord says,
               “Purge the evil person from among you.”

After the Fall into sin, of what profit was it to the Lord to continue on with His creation? Especially among His own people, evil was rampant. God should not have saved Noah and his family, but should have made the purge complete. There was no advantage to allow sin and death to continue on in this world, nor even to associate with it.

               “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
                and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Of what profit is it to the Lord that He become a man? There is no advantage to this situation. Many movies have taken this idea to its logical conclusion: if God becomes a man then not only is He just as fallen as we are, but He can also die as a mortal.

Of what profit to us is a god that is fallen, inept, and just like us? Is there any person you can think of, besides yourself, that you would want ruling all things? Not a man, or woman, on this planet would be able to do such a thing, which is why all those movies end, lamely, with, “You’ve just got to try your best and be yourself.”

Repent long and loud. These fantasies of “god is who I say he is” and “my personal opinion is god says this”, must go. We can no more make God say something then we can make Him do something. God has said what He is going to say about everything, especially the part where, if you love Him, you will fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, which just doesn’t happen.

Jesus says that He has come from the Father. When there was nothing to be gained from creating all things, He did it anyway. In doing so, He also created an object to which He could give it all away and not lose His soul: us. He had just gained the whole universe, yet He gives it away.

Jesus has come into the world. In order to prove His Love, as if God has to prove anything, Jesus has come to dwell with the sinful. In order to show that Love, not sin, is His ruling means, Jesus has come to give His entire being up to this curse, defeating it forever on the cross.

The immoral, the greedy, the drunkard, and the thief now have the one and only Holy God living in their midst. The Lord who declared, be not yoked together with sinners, now takes on their sin as His own. He is handed over and purged as the evil man. No one defends Him, no one stands up for Him, and no one says, “Hey, that’s my sin, not His”.

Yet, He has come into this world in order to leave it. He is not forsaking it, but Jesus is leaving the things of this world that sin, death, and the devil value the most: themselves. Jesus is leaving sin, death, and the devil in the grave. He leaves the world as the Crucified and fills the world as the Resurrected and Living.

Jesus goes towards the Father for all things have been placed under His feet. Jesus goes to the place where your mansion is prepared for you. Jesus goes towards the place where each and every Christian has been commanded to go: heaven. And not just heaven in heaven, but heaven on earth.

Yes, even though Jesus’ mission includes leaving the world, His mission still continues on earth and He still fulfills it. Jesus still wants even us today to be fed salvation, for we were not around when He accomplished all those things. So, His Word remains. His Word remains in order that we might hear and believe.

Believe the Father that He has sent His only begotten Son to die and rise again for salvation. Believe the Son that He is true God and true man, able to pay for sins on the cross. Believe the Holy Spirit when He convicts us of all sin and that it all has been forgiven.

Believe that when the water is in and with the Word of God, Jesus is there, bringing heaven itself, to baptize us; incorporating us into His holy Body and the true mansion of heaven. Believe that eating and drinking with the Word of God, is a communion with the divine, for the forgiveness of our sins and all the ills and woes of body and soul.

Jesus was the evil man, carrying the sin of the world that was purged. He was the man who became sin, who knew no sin. Jesus was the one who had the whole world and lost His life on the tree. Jesus was born a man and yet remained sinless to the very end, freely claiming our guilt as His own.

All this done simply for you, dear Christians. All of the actions of the Lord were of great profit to Him because it allowed Him to save you. Jesus came from the Father, God of God, and into the world in order that, one day, you would be created to hear Him. Jesus leaves the world and goes to the Father in order that He could be with you today.

 Faith prays for this. Jesus’ Name is hallowed, His will is done, and His kingdom comes when His Word is believed. Thus, we know that He is coming when His Name is called upon. We know He is coming when the Palm Sunday shouts are heard among us. We know He is coming when we hear His voice calling for the forgiveness of sins, giving His Body and Blood for that purpose.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Where is God? [Easter 5; St. John 16:5-15]

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Who speaks to us today, saying, 
"But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’”
Where do you go, Jesus? There I asked it, but why is it so important to ask this question? I don’t think there was any prophecy or command from God to ask in the entire Bible, but then again, did you really have to ask?

In the Beginning, the Lord breathed life into Adam and Adam saw all the things around him. And all these brand new things, the Lord, the only other person there, told Adam that He had made them and that He was giving them to Adam. Moreover, the Lord had a daily habit of walking around either with Adam or where Adam could see (Gen. 3:8).

In leading Moses and the Lord’s people out of Egypt, the Lord was a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. In leading His people into the Promised Land against their enemies, the Lord was an invincible Captain, defeating them all or an angel giving His Word to the Prophets.

Where the Lord was going was very visibly, and sometimes painfully to His enemies, obvious. The Lord went on ahead of His people, blazing the path, chasing the wolves away, and finally settling down in His Temple. From there, where He promised His Name would dwell, He would serve His people salvation.

However, in a unique twist of things, the Lord had also worked in and through men and sent them on ahead as well. Adam is declared steward of all creation. Abraham is declared the father of all nations. Joseph said,
“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” (Gen.45:7)
Even of Moses and all the prophets, the Lord has said,
“See, I have made you like God...” (Ex.7:1)
God, who is spirit, is using what He has created, man, to do His work and to mark the way for His people. The Word of the Lord comes to the Prophets, revealing Himself as a man, and gives them His own prophecies to speak to His own people.

Because of this, there are many genealogical lists in the Bible. Not only does Israel have to be on the lookout for miracles and clouds and fire, but they also have to watch for a man; a true servant of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah tells of.

But how hard can that be? It is not that the people of Israel have to look in two directions at once, it is so they are sure to not miss it. With the Lord appearing in so many ways, the people will have no problem finding out where He is going.

Repent. All people, including ourselves, spend our lives searching. We search because we think God should be doing this or going here and when we do that, we miss Him. We miss Him because we are saying God is somewhere that His Word has not said. We miss Him because we take God at our word, instead of listening to His Holy Scriptures.

Jesus came as a man. It may surprise you to learn that the Bible describes a man-like angel in the pillar of cloud and fire. It may surprise you that God really did give His Word to the Prophets and that they paid for it with their lives. It will surprise you that Jesus was sent to die on the cross.
It did surprise the Apostles. Not only the crucifixion and the resurrection, but the Ascension caught them off guard as well. The angel asks, “Men of Galilee, why do you sit here looking at the sky”, when the Lord returns, it will be obvious.

Obvious as in, if the Lord created all things, appeared to every Prophet, created the Temple where His Name would dwell forever, and then even accomplished salvation in a flashy, historical fact sort of way. Then we should not expect any secrets.

The man who said, “You can not hide a city set on a hill” is the man who has accomplished your salvation even before you were born. The God who said, “This is my Body given as a ransom for many” is the same God who has faithfully made sure that His people knew where He was at all times.

Jesus true God and true man, does the same. Not only does He tell His disciples and all within earshot, of His impending arrest and betrayal, but He says that He will not stop. He will continue to walk ahead of His people despite false accusations and a death sentence. Even though Jesus dies, Easter always comes.

Maybe, we and the disciples don’t ask where Jesus is going because it leads to death on a cross. Maybe, we don’t ask where Jesus is going, because it will cause us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Definitely, we don’t ask Jesus because it will cost us something and we just don’t want to pay it.

Not so, with Jesus. Jesus, mighty on His throne, is put down low. Jesus, rich beyond measure, is sent empty away, with our sins to the cross. Jesus always knows where we are: in our sin. And He always knows what we need: a savior. Thus, we will always find Jesus joyfully on the cross, paying for our sins.

Where do you go, Jesus? Do you go off on a journey or a mysterious place where we have to search for you? St. Matthew records a Baptism that fulfills our righteousness. St. Luke tells us that whoever hears the Apostles, hears Jesus. And all the evangelists proclaim the exact location of the holy Body and Blood of Jesus. In a way, Jesus takes all the fun out of the mystery religions and hidden meanings and codes and whatnot.

But this way, Jesus has accomplished all things for you. When you have run out of ideas and excuses, Christ sits on the cross. When you are unable to seek or decipher because your body has betrayed you to sickness, Jesus offers His Body completely to you. When you have hit a dead end, Christ opens the door to life, which you can not open.

So, where does Jesus go? He goes to serve His people His wedding feast, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, as He said, at this Altar.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Christ's religion [Easter 4, St. John 16:16-22]

We hear the voice of Jesus only in His Gospel and we also hear from the Collect of the Day, a curious phrase: “…all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion…”

As we spoke of the Good Shepherd last week, we concluded that the Good Shepherd would never leave His sheep unattended or un-penned in. So, to clarify, Jesus accepts some and not others. Some are saved and others are not.

So, what is your religion? In ancient times, there used to be a saying, “Whatever your region, is whatever your religion.” This meant that if you were from Hamburg, your religion was whatever your prince or lord believed in there. England, Bavaria, Asia; all had their own little differences. If you lived in Rome, you most likely were Roman Catholic.

In Apostolic times, you could pretty much guarantee the religion of a person by his region. Rome: pagan. Greece: pagan. Israel: Jew. So, today, what is your religion? How are you promoting it? Are you supremely devoted to it or is it just a hobby? Is it just something to pass the time or does it influence your entire view on life and the world?

Do you follow your religion because it makes you feel good, so that, as soon as it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, you would drop it like a ton of bricks? The Lord is not after surface Christians. Those who look to other religions will return to find the door shut and locked with a voice on the other side saying, “I do not know you”.

There are many religions out there and all claim to be the true religion, even if their belief is “all religions are true”. All seem to have a better claim on man’s heart than Christianity. All other religions offer good feelings and hard work. They say feel good about yourself, give thanks to god, and tell others. These works of your hands will then prove god’s love and you will be going to heaven.

Just don’t screw up. Don’t go promoting “sin” and “hell” and saying things like, “not everyone gets into heaven”. Don’t go promoting doctrine or rigid beliefs, because that will just turn people away. Don’t go teaching that Jesus is still working on earth, physically, because we all just heard that He goes to the Father.

Look what Jesus offers the Christian in His religion: weeping and lament. That is Christ’s religion.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”
Yes, Jesus goes on to say that sorrow will turn into joy, but when? All the other religions promise that it can happen now. If you just put all of your body and soul and heart into giving your life to the Lord, He will have riches that He wants to give to you. And those riches include joy now. “Rejoice” is today’s Sunday. Rejoice or else you won’t be joyful. Rejoice or you’re not a true Christian. Rejoice or you just don’t have the Faith.

Repent. We wish to work God’s will out on our own so that the riches of heaven would be ours by right, because we have worked so hard for them. We wish to form God’s religion on our own terms so that, of course, we benefit from them the most. No one ever thinks to see what God has to say about the matter.

Jesus says, “So you all have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice.” Waiting for God is the express duty of the Christian; waiting and suffering. And Jesus, in speaking to His Apostles here, tells them ahead of time that He is going to die and be buried (a little while and you will see me no longer), but rise again (a little while and you will see me). So that, when we get to v.22, we know Jesus is speaking to us.

Jesus’ religion is Christianity and Christianity hears from the Word of God that Christ has ascended. We can attest to that fact as we can not point out Jesus in the pews. Yet, that Ascension is not a leaving. To the contrary, it is a going out to all the world. It is an ascension to the right hand of God which proves itself to be everywhere.

Now, how can Jesus, being made man, with a body, be everywhere? It is a mystery. Or another word the Church uses to describe that mystery is: sacrament. The sacrament of God is that not only has He created all things and still cares for them, but that He does it with a body that is everywhere.

God is spirit, but God is also a man, in Jesus. This means that Jesus is telling us that true religion is not subjective. Meaning, you can not search through all of your internal organs, microscopic blood cells, DNA, our neurons to find the indwelling of the Trinity. You will not find God there. Jesus tells us that true religion is objective. Meaning, that when we find it, we will have already been found and seen by Jesus.

For Jesus says He will see us. It’s a promise. He will see us and we will be made joyful. The Apostles got to see Jesus many times before He ascended, so it was true for them. Christ has also promised to be seen on the Last Day, when He will raise all the dead. And the promise also holds for us, today, this very hour. 

What? Does God create bodies and then leave them in the dust? Does God become a man and then shed that body for pure spirit? In Christ, we see the entirety of the Godhead, body and spirit. Just as Christ is both man and God, so too do we have a body and spirit and both must be cared for.

The Lord provides for His own and declares Himself outside and objectively. He makes it so we will be able to look up, literally and see the salvation of our Lord given for us. Jesus lays down His life for the sheep, literally, so that they may have life to overflowing, able to find the Lord whenever.

Now, even our sorrow is lifted somewhat and we can rejoice, even in the valley of the shadow of death, for our Lord truly comes. Jesus holds out His hands and His side for us to see, smell, touch, hear, and take and eat and drink. Maybe our sinful eyes can not comprehend our Lord in our midst, but Faith does.

That Faith, given to us, thrives on every word from the mouth of God. When Jesus says He will wash us, we rush to the water and the Word. When Jesus says HE will speak to us, we gladly hold sacred preaching and His Word. When Jesus says “This is my Body”, We eat it up. We grab as much as we can hold and return to it as often as possible.

Jesus sees us when He washes and speaks to us. Jesus sees us, Body and Blood, in this sacrament that the Lord Himself has instituted and that Jesus Himself serves to us. We not only see Jesus, but we ingest Him and truly become apart of the Body of Christ.

In this we rejoice. In this, and nothing else, do we seek a closer relationship to Jesus. In this and nothing else do we hear the Lord’s promise ringing true, that not only will He Himself shepherd us, but He will see us and we will rejoice. In this we rejoice, because we hear the forgiveness of sins being offered, we believe it, and thereby have confirmation that we are admitted into the one, true religion.

The Christian religion in which salvation has been fully accomplished. The Christian religion in which, Christ on the cross, has saved the world. The Christian religion in which all believers will be raised from the depths of their sins, in this life and the next. All of which has been accomplished completely and perfectly. All of which is then served to us by the one, true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For Christ has not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many; the many of you that have been baptized and believe.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Shepherd don't care [Easter 3; St. John 10:11-16]

“I don’t care.”

Four words that are so innocent, that we use them without thinking. “Would you like the red or the white?” I don’t care. Do you want to go out or stay in? I don’t care. You want to watch a movie? I don’t care. Do you want to put the kids to bed? I don’t care.

You use them as if they have lost their meaning and instead define it as “either way is ok with me”. But that is not what I don’t care means. You use the phrase as if it is such a small thing to say, but words mean things and these 4, put together, mean a lot.

They mean a lot to the pastor counseling a young woman thinking about an abortion. They mean a lot to the couple having trouble in their marriage. They mean a lot to the small child after being abused. They mean a lot to all the victims of disasters, especially Florida. Anyone in need of life saving assistance will die, at the sound of these words coming out of someone’s lips.

Which is why these words have no place in the Church of Christ, but you bring them here. You struggle with believing the Word of God, but yet so easily find comfort in children’s stories. You wrestle with your own liturgy, but can rattle off songs from the radio as if you wrote them. You trip over confessing the Faith, but start fights over sports teams, because you don’t care.

Today, Jesus says that He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if you want to be the Shepherd. He doesn’t care if you think you deserve to be a sheep. He doesn’t care if you don’t want there to be a sheep-fold. He doesn’t care if you don’t want to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing or the hired hand.

These things Jesus declares to us as true and He doesn’t care that you think they shouldn’t be true.  There is only one Shepherd. There is only one flock and one way to salvation and you, a lost and condemned creature, can not get on it.

How many of us herd livestock or at least know the basics? If you want your time and effort to be worthwhile, you will contain your animals. If you own more than one kind of animal, you will keep your animals separate.

Imagine what a farm would look like if all the managers said, “I don’t care” about caring for and keeping the animals. You’d have pigs and cows wandering on the freeway and becoming road-kill instead of producing milk or staying protected, so that they can grow up and become food.

Repent! In regards to religion, even animals do it better than we do. They at least herd themselves, if they are in the wild, in order to keep themselves safe from outside danger. But we allow any and everything to influence us. The borders of our minds and hearts are wide open, just in case we are accused of intolerance. In this way, we do not care for our neighbor and we do not care for ourselves

Caring is a matter of life and death. And Jesus, in the midst of a world that has all sorts claiming to speak the will of God, declares that He is the one, true and good Shepherd, on the cross. The only one. In the midst of a melting pot of many ways to heaven, Jesus creates one flock and one sheep-pen and it is the real kingdom of heaven, on behalf of His sheep.

Jesus doesn’t care if you object to these borders He creates, but He cares that you are not on His side of them; that you are listening to false-Christs. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He has laid down His entire being on behalf of the sheep.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, faces the wolves head on, unlike the hireling. In the Garden of Gethsemane, at the approach of His arrestors and in all the other places He went, Jesus faced down those who claimed to speak the Word of God, even if they were supposed to be shepherds of His people on earth. Jesus stands up against sin, death, and the devil.

But, Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save it. In the complete comfort of there being one flock and one shepherd, Jesus converts wolves into sheep. The sinners that wish to subvert the kingdom of heaven as hired-hands, are allowed to handle the Word of God. They are allowed to manhandle Him, scourge Him, and crucify Him.

They are allowed to witness His resurrection and they are allowed to feast on His true Body and Blood. And it is in this specific Gospel, revealed to the wolves, that they become sheep. The Body of Christ is given that wolves of sin would become lambs of peace. The Blood of Christ is shed in order to build His Church of life.

For upon the walls and doors of this fold, there is a crimson veil. Upon the sheep and upon the Shepherd is the Blood of the new covenant. Baptized in the scarlet, holy Blood of Jesus, both are stained whiter than snow. Jesus creates a specific place for His sheep so they never have to ask if they are washed in the blood of Jesus or not.

Jesus makes place for those He has saved that they might always know that He has been crucified for them and has gathered them to treasure the gifts He comes to give. All this in order that they might be lost no more. In order that, unlike Jesus, they would have a place, in this life, to call home. In order that, we would never have to wonder who it is that will speak the words of God for us.

Our Lord said in Ezekiel that it will be He, Himself and no one else. The Lord will seek after His sheep. The Lord will gather them and visit them with His goodness that fills the earth. The Lord will make a space where there can be no question that it is here that our sins are forgiven. It is here that we hear God and it is here that we are fed salvation.

The Church that treasures the Word and Sacraments of God is that sheep-fold and the ones who hear and believe, are the sheep. The Baptized, Hearers of the Gospel care that their Lord has spoken such words of grace to them and has given His merit and worthiness to them. The Communed care that once they were wolves, but now are sheep.

Christians care enough, with a clean heart, that they will not only return to this pen, but also lead others to it. Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the Shepherd. You speak and wolves become lambs. You die and death is locked up forever. You set your table with such care, that true comfort and healing are found in Your holy Supper.

Jesus doesn’t care that He is rejected, because He gets to then show the world of “I don’t care” wolves, that He is God of God and Light of Light. Very God of Very God, able to die on a cross, rise again from the dead, and keep His Church in the one true faith, unto life everlasting.

Jesus cares to create the Church for you. Jesus cares to be made man for you. Jesus cares to make Himself known, even in the breaking of the bread to deliver our soul from death and to keep us alive in famine. Famine of order, famine of authority, and famine of God’s Word. Our true Shepherd was hanged on a cross, for you.


Alleluia, Christ is risen!