Monday, July 28, 2014

I live where?! [Trinity 6; St. Matthew 5:20-26]

We don’t need communism, or socialism, or liberalism to desecrate and kill off the church, we do it just fine on our own. We don’t need a special tax, a no-free-speech-here law, or open lawsuits against us to keep silent and we certainly need no secret meetings or house churches to remain hidden.

And yet, Jesus today, speaks directly to being apart of a community, saying,

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser…”

Jesus also addresses this in the parable of the Dishonest Steward on the 9th Sunday after Trinity. He says,

“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Lk. 16:9)

Jesus tells us to be in the world and leaves us to live in it. Not that He even has to say anything for it is as obvious as the nose on your face. Or maybe it isn’t. Do you know that you live in a community full of neighbors? Do you know that St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church exists Monday through Saturday?

If you did not, now you have no excuse. These walls are within an incorporated township and these people, you included, are in possession of citizenship, in said township. Outside these walls, citizenship is easy to define. Obey the laws of traffic and commerce and you’ll be making a good start. Vote, pay your taxes, and keep your peace and you will be allowed to exist with the rest of the people.

You can choose to live as open or as secluded as you please, as long as the rules are followed. In fact, you never have to speak to another living soul again. There are no consequences for living as a hermit. This is usually done either because you think your views, interests, or values have no business being other people’s business or their business is not yours.

Whatever the reason for seclusion, there is disdain for the “others” and therefore apathy for them and the community.

Repent. This is exactly what is wrong with the Church. You wall yourselves in because you do not believe Faith interacts with Monday-through-Saturday living. You isolate your Sunday-self because you do not want others to pass judgment on you or maybe its because you are afraid.

Because, citizenship in the Church does not allow silence nor a hermit-like existence.

But what do you have here? Is this some Knitting Circle where only those interested should be invited and told about it? Is this a Men’s only club or an organization so secret that not even the NSA knows about it?

What you have here and what you hear in this place is what communities build upon: love. The common ends and goals that bring people together to form and participate in community life or work life are formed out of love. Love for money, love for family, or for something else, it really doesn’t matter. People gather, plain and simple.

In this gathering, the Church, to which the Holy Ghost has called each of you, there is also love. And not just love as an idea, as most of the U.S. is trying to figure out with marriage laws, but real, true, and concrete love. And Jesus says that if you do not confess this love before men, neither will He confess you before the angels of God. (Lk.12:9)

Dear Christians, Jesus gave up His righteousness that far exceeds the Pharisees and the Scribes. Jesus subjected Himself to the Sanhedrin, to the Judge of all things and His fiery wrath, and was tossed into the prison of sin, until He paid with every last drop of blood, FOR YOU.

This community which Jesus had placed Himself in, was born into, had rejected Him, though He willed to dwell with them and live with them forever. The Love of our heavenly Father must be proclaimed and was proclaimed by His Son. Jesus sacrificed everything in order that His Word go out unto the ends of the earth.

This sacrifice has covered even our sins of timidity and sloth. For, though we shrivel at the very mention of persecution, our strong Captain did not. Jesus, even at the rejection of the very men He called friends, did not bat a single eyelash. In the face of false accusations, false charges, beatings, suffering, and even His own death, Jesus joyfully and willingly goes to the cross for your sake.

You see, death has no hold on Christ and therefore no hold on the Christian. The Accuser, the devil, also can only take away those things that belong to this world. Men can only rob you of life here on earth, for there is nothing beyond that for any of them. Because, beyond that is the cross and Jesus on it and to the devil, the world and our sinful nature, the cross is rubbish.

But to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)

This is where Jesus starts talking about being in the world and not of it. This world has nothing to offer the Christian. Sure, we use it while we are here, in service to our neighbor, and we give thanks to God for everything we have. However, we are apart of the Body of Christ; forgiven, saved, redeemed and nothing and no one can take that gift away.

Nothing can be taken that will not be given back. Do we lose job, family, limb, reputation, or credibility? No greater dignity, honor, or gift was ever given except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. What we lose here, for His Name’s sake, we gain 100 times that in heaven.

The Church has been given Her message and Her gift. Both are complete and everlasting. Both have nothing left to be added or taken away. When Christ returns He will find His church free from blemish, perfect, and washed white as snow.

There will be no question as to the amount of work done or undone, for all is finished in Christ. All is forgiven in Christ and all is given in Christ. For where the King is there also is the kingdom full of life, light, and salvation. And the King comes, in the flesh, to dwell among His people, even to the end of the age.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jesus works [Trinity 5; St. Luke 5:1-11]

We are the little fishes of Christ! The Gospel net, tossed from the cross, enlightens us. By the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church secures all graces, all blessings, and all strength. Through baptism and the Lord’s Supper divine life flows through our entire being. We don’t wrap our lives around this, as Christians, we are wrapped up in them. In fact, in today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell us just what we are wrapped up in: ourselves.

Today we hear the calling of Peter. He is a fisherman. He has two boats. He has toiled all night and caught nothing. Jesus is the man who Calls. Jesus walks up, nonchalantly, in the midst of a great depression over catching no fish all night, and just up and requests a boat ride.

Check that. Jesus didn’t ask for a ride. He simply got in the boat and said “Go”. No polite two ways around that. There were two boats, Jesus picked one, it didn’t matter which, and asks Peter to go to the shallows: an easy place to get to and an easy place to be.

The question is: what did He teach out of that boat? What could have possibly been so important to NOT write down and why was it necessary to be in the boat? Then, on top of that, Jesus provides a multitude of fish in a place where, all night, there had been a multitude of nothing. Are we supposed to have church in a boat or are we only supposed to fish in the morning and not all night?

Let’s look at it this way: the two boats represent Moses and the Prophets and those two speak of Christ, as Jesus has said. It doesn’t matter which Jesus gets into, because they will both preach Him correctly: as a suffering servant. The one boat He does choose is now representative of the Church. Just as the Ark saved Noah and his family, so now does the Church, with Jesus in Her, save those in Her.

St. Peter then, is the pastor. He is sent to toil and labor regardless of compensation. In fact, St. Peter must labor even though his recompense is never promised to him. In this way, St. Peter also represents all of us who wish to work hard, but only if the money is good. You are obedient, but only because you have to be and not out of true devotion. You think, deep down, that Jesus doesn’t know what He’s talking about.

Jesus tells St. Peter to put out into the deep. In the shallows, if something went wrong, you could quickly throw the anchor down or hop out of the boat to head for shore. However, the depths are full of chaos and uncertainty. There is no telling how deep it is or what’s down there, but I’m sure St. Peter knows what’s NOT down there.

Repent. You read an event like this and figure that Jesus is simply wandering around showing off His God-powers. You hear of a great catch of fish and think well of course He needs a boat and of course He needs people to work the net. He doesn’t really have to talk, though, but if He did, sound reflects off water really well and can travel to very large crowds of people.

It seems as if Jesus teaching is an add-on or could be left out all together, yet St. Luke feels it necessary to mention it. The true reason is really quite simple. Yes, Jesus was teaching, but He wasn’t just teaching, He was doing.

Now, what I don’t mean is that He was going around producing great catches of fish. What Jesus is telling you here today, is that even though He preach and teach until He is blue in the face, you will not believe. Even if every fisherman in the world were to bring up a great catch of fish, you will still not believe.

Even if every disease was cured, every injustice righted, and every evil thwarted, you would still not believe. What creates belief is true fear, love, and trust in the object of belief. What creates belief is a creative force. That creative force can only come from the Creator and true love only be shown in sacrifice.

Thus, Jesus takes action and hangs on a cross. Belief will come no other way. The very Son of God, though He has every power and miracle at His disposal, has declared the cross the best course of divine action. This means, that it’s not just a miracle we are hearing about and it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we want.

Belief, forgiveness, and salvation all happen because Jesus is there. They become gifts for us, because of Jesus’ offering on the cross. They are given to us, because Christ sends His Spirit to His Church.

Notice that St. Peter and the others LEAVE the catch of fish and everything else they have to follow Jesus. So, we are also not hearing about earthly blessings. Jesus came to serve and what He serves is Himself. Jesus the Christ gives His entire being up for the ransom of the sinner. It is Christ who acts and it is Christ who saves.

The Lord who can walk on water, takes a boat. He prefers to be with His people in His Church, working and preaching. He loves to speak His Gospel of forgiveness to everyone and He delights to be easily seen and easily found. The Church is meant to stand out, to feel awkward on your first visit, and to generally be easy to point out. Otherwise, we would miss it.

The Lord who can create fish from nothing, uses men and a net. Jesus has created people. Why would He not continue to use men as He Himself came down to preach and to teach? He would and He does. Not only that, but He has given His own net. The nets of men fail, but the Net of the Gospel endures forever.

Jesus has shown us the importance of His cross. It is by His words and works that we are saved and there is nothing beyond that. Forgiveness and life are purchased and won on the cross. Jesus comes to give the entire kingdom of heaven to us, because of the cross.

There is no work you can do to make God love you anymore than He already does through His Son. There is no work you can do to make yourself any more holy than you already are, in Jesus. And this makes the Sacraments the most important action in the life of the Church. For it is there that Jesus has promised to be today.

And without Jesus, there is no life. If we try to keep the cross in a corner, we lose the very means by which we are saved. However, Jesus will not allow that. He has made His Gospel strong enough to pull us out of those waters, to new life IN Him. He has secured His Church so that it will resist and defend against all evil.

Jesus has made all things, for St. Peter and for you. Jesus has not only prepared salvation in heaven, but also on earth; not just wood for boats and water for fishing, but His Church and His Sacraments. Jesus has made it so that St. Peter and all the Apostles would hear and believe that Jesus came to suffer, die, and three days later rise again.

Jesus has made it so that you would hear the same things, believe the same things, and be saved in the same way: through water and the Word. The Word of God Who , in the beginning created all things and sustains all things, even the true Faith in you, by grace, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Judge: judged [Trinity 4; St. Luke 6:36-42]

Jesus speaks to us today and repeats everybody’s favorite throw-away “christian” saying,

               “Judge not, lest ye be judged…”

In modern, “free” thinking society, this phrase is actually used to SILENCE Christians from speaking God’s Word. It is thrown on the table like a dead fish in order to stop the conversation. For, as the thrower would hope, the guilt of hearing this statement that arises in the Christian makes them so aware of their own sin that they do stop talking.

And so, God’s Word, though it is hated, is used against Him to say, “I can do whatever I want to whomever I want and you can’t judge me.” And you all believe it. You believe it because you hear God’s Law and are made aware of your own sin in this manner, which is what the Law is for.

Its bad enough that Satan uses the Word to twist it how he likes, but even Christians use this against other Christians! So uncertain are they of their own traditions and beliefs that they can not prove them true, except by relying on their own feelings. Thus they say to anyone who tries to point them towards the truth of God’s Word, “Judge not…”

So, you judge all the time. Pointing fingers at this and that person or this and that cause. There is nothing we love more than saying to our neighbor, “This is why you’re having trouble…” Especially in this age of big, public sins like divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, we are so quick point them out.

What we don’t realize is that when we do that, we are omitting judgment on our own lives. Judgment is not just called for in the public square, but also in the private. How do you treat your own family or your own place of employment? Have you been lazy, quarrelsome, or negligent?

True enough, when you point your finger, three are pointing back at you. You judge what you should not judge and you don’t judge what you should. Especially when it comes to the Truth. I would argue that the great, omitted sin of our age is not judging the truth or not distinguishing it. We are fine and dandy when someone wants to believe that Baptism doesn’t save you, but raise hell itself if our taxes go up.

It’s bad enough that we are judgmental by nature, but to have God do it is well, just gives us more of an excuse. This time, though, we have the Bible on our side; see how many times God judges people?

On the one hand, when we open our mouth, we are going to judge and be judged. Not only will others readily criticize, but God will also judge our words and our motivation. We conclude that the easiest thing to do is to just sit silent. If we don’t speak, then we can’t possibly be judging. Better safe than sorry.

If we do that, then, what will happen to that speck in our brother’s eye? It will remain there and destroy his eye. You see, even if you remain silent about your beliefs, that is still passing judgment. If you do not speak up about God’s Word, you are judging others as being not worthy to receive it.

Jesus says, “Judge not…” and it is a lose/lose situation. No matter what you do, you will do it wrong. Jesus says, “Judge not..” and is proclaiming to the whole world that we are all sinful judges and in doing so, judges us. By this, Jesus is judged.

We complain about blabber-mouths, and yet God is the one Who NEVER stops talking. He creates the entire universe with His words and He is judged for not doing it right. He speaks to men His promises and He is judged for not giving enough. He steps out of heaven, Himself, becomes a man, and speaks face to face with everyone in order to tell them the truth.

Jesus is judged and His words become true. Jesus comes to lay down the law, to set things straight, to speak the truth to a world full of His enemies; every single person. Yet, He is judged. He said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged…” and it happens. But what kind of measure do you use to judge God?

Jesus is judged in your place. Your inability to judge or judge not is paid for. Your sins of judging, condemning, not forgiving and not giving are given to the Son of God and the Father judges Him by God’s Law. That is the measure used to judge Jesus and it is put against your sins that Christ has claimed as His own.

In your sin, Jesus judged the time and the person ripe for salvation, by setting Himself on the cross in capitol punishment. The death of God the Son shows God’s full wrath against your sins. This is why Jesus on the cross is so important: for it is there that the Judge is judged for the sin of His own world; sin that was not His.

His groaning is now our groaning. We eagerly await His coming because He has saved us through baptism. We care about judging and not judging, because we do know our own sin and realize the price paid for it. We are beggars before God because all our efforts fail. We beg for mercy. We beg for forgiveness. We beg for salvation from this world of endless sin.

Jesus gives it. Jesus is judged as righteous and is raised from the dead. Earning mercy, forgiveness, and salvation by His sacrifice on the cross, He sends His Holy Spirit to us. By Him we are reborn and renewed. By Him we are washed and are made clean. By Him we are sanctified, being made true sons of God and having an abundance of mercy.

In this Gospel, we judge. We judge, along with Jesus, that all people are worthy of forgiveness. We judge that all people are loved by God and deserve mercy and salvation. We proclaim Christ crucified and by that we shall be judged.

How wonderful! If we simply proclaim the Gospel, we will be judged by the Gospel that Christ came as a man, suffered and died on the cross, rose again three days later, and sits at the right hand of God. That He baptizes, speaks to, and feeds us His salvation. All in order to redeem me and all sinners from the power of the devil, the world and our sinful nature.

It is to this Gospel that all of you, have pledged to suffer all things for. The proclamation of forgiveness and salvation needs to be sounded from this place. The Gospel that God has been judged in our place, for the forgiveness of sins, needs to be our cry.

So, we beg for forgiveness for harsh and idle words that leave our mouths and we receive it. We beg for a right spirit in order to win our enemies, give good counsel, and care for all with this tongue. Finally, Lord, give us rest from these labors, for we are tired. Tired of sinning and being sinned against.

On that final day, judge me worthy to hear Your voice in order that full and complete redemption be made on this body and soul, that I may never have to judge or sin again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Completed [Trinity 3; St. Luke 15:1-10]

Jesus tells you today that a woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does [she] not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”

This is not merely a tutorial on how to seek for loose change in your floorboards. Neither is this instruction about finding important things in your life or how to keep your nose clean.

This parable is one of three that Jesus speaks in this chapter of St. Luke. The third one we do not hear today, but the two that we did find their point in the final parable, in which the Prodigal Son finds his way home to a gracious and generous father.

What all three of these parables have in common is completeness. There must be 100 sheep. There must be 10 coins and there must be two sons. In each case, there is a lack that should not be there. There is something terrible that happened to cause that lack and there is something wonderful that makes things right.

Times without number, people throughout all of time have begged God to reveal where the true Church is and which one has it right. No doubt, countless number of your prayers contain some form of doubt as you ask for wisdom to know if what you believe is really true, then freaking out about the magnitude of that revelation.

In the Old Testament, God painstakingly takes His people through every minute detail of how to build the Temple, His Church. Every measurement must be made exactly. Every item must be accounted for and every instruction on construction must be completed. Not one thing, not one inch, is to be left out.

God’s Church is perfect. Everything is exactly the way He has said. There is no uncleanness or danger of corruption. Not one inexpensive or generic item is used. He has spared no expense in adorning His Church with His holiness and love and not one evil person is going to take that away.

There will be one will; God’s. There will be one way; God’s. There will be one prayer, one song, one God, one Faith, and one order of things all making up one, complete Church. And this Church is here for us. It is here so that we will have a place to rejoice, a place to weep, and a place to be forgiven in, and yet it is the first place you tear apart.

If there is something you do not like about the Church, you start a movement for its removal.  If the pews are too empty, you bring the vegetable peeler down and start to strip away any and everything you perceive is in the way of others. If an arm or a foot of the Church offends you, you swing that ax as many times as necessary, chopping any and all limbs obstructing your goals and ideals.

Your questions become: “Do we really need this?” or “Can’t we just get rid of this?” or “God didn’t say we need this, did He?”. Until finally, in the settling dust, we find Frankenstein’s monster and nothing at all of what the Lord has given.

Indeed, the woman of the parable thinks in just the opposite way. She has been given a complete gift. It is the good portion, the one thing needful, and it has been taught and preached to her. She receives it with joy. So much joy, that if one speck, piece, or part of it goes missing, she stops time itself to seek it out all so that her gift is complete, once again.

On the last day, the Lord will be sure to count up the number of believers and it will be a complete number whether 12 x 12, or 12 x 12 x 10, or 12 x 12 x ten hundred billion. Not one person will be left out. Not one detail overlooked. Not one thing unaccounted for.

St. Paul tells us the Lord’s words and says that God’s mystery is Jesus Christ, in Whom is hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge (Col.2:2-3). Heaven was complete. 10 out of 10, yet since the earth had fallen into horrible sin and death, all was not perfect. One silver coin came down from heaven in order that there be 100 trillion more that spring up from Him.

Jesus descends and becomes lost. He who knew no sin, became sin. He took on our sorrow and iniquity and was lost, suffering and dying on the cross. Yet, heaven must be complete. Creation must be finished and the Father did not leave Jesus soul in corruption, but lit the lamp of the Gospel and raised Jesus from the dead.

At this point, you could almost say that money grows on trees, because the priceless treasure of heaven hanged on a tree and paid for the sins of the world. IN this Light that Jesus has purchased and won upon the cross, He now uses to sweep all of creation in order to find you.

By the light of the cross, Christ has opened the way to everlasting life. He has secured the gifts of Light, life, forgiveness, and salvation. Jesus does not leave any sin unpaid for. There is not one false step in His work and there is no room for error or corruption. Therefore, His words, works, incorruption, and immortality must be given, if there is to be any hope, and there must be a way to receive them even today.

For Jesus is the Giver of every good, perfect, and complete gift. He pours out His love, His very Life, through the Holy Spirit, creating His Church on earth. In this Holy Christian Church, there are to be certain things. The first thing is Jesus. Really, the only thing is Jesus and the rest follows.

There will then be a holy people; a priesthood treasuring the Word of God. They will be marked with the Name of God, given through Baptism. The Lord’s Supper will be administered, believed, and received rightly. There will be public and private confession and they will call pastors. Filled with public prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to God, they will bear the most holy cross in their lives.

Christ’s work being complete, He then gives to His Church completely. His one, complete gift of salvation is now poured out on us many times and in various ways and if one of those is in danger of being lost or has been gotten rid of, in a past of which we were not aware, then we diligently and fervently seek to restore it.

Jesus’ works on the cross has justified us so that now, we are a holy and treasured people. Jesus, being the true treasure, gives that treasured status to us and we can never receive it enough. We can never hear the Gospel enough. We can never sing or pray enough. We can never take and eat and drink enough, because Jesus’ gifts never run out and they are always complete.

You will never, nor have you ever, received only part of Jesus. Jesus has created our bodies and souls and gives His gifts to and for their use. Exactly meaning that we receive these gifts spiritually and bodily and that we should receive them in abundance.

In this way, we are comforted. Although they sound like requirements, the marks of the Church are gifts. Its not that we HAVE to have these, or else. Its that, this is what the Lord gives and so we GET to have them. We GET to hear forgiveness. We also GET to see, smell, touch, and TASTE forgiveness.

The woman doesn’t NEED to have 10 coins, she has been given 10 and she will always have 10. The Church doesn’t NEED Jesus (hahaha), she HAS Jesus, because He has created and given only Himself and it is all or nothing. We don’t HAVE to sing these songs, pray these prayers, believe these words, or eat this food; we GET to. We GET to by grace, for Christ’s sake, through Faith often and completely.

The gifts are given. The Light is lit. The house is swept, set in order, and filled with the Liturgy of Jesus. All that is needed is the Banquet to be filled to capacity and, as we heard last week, the Great Banquet at the Lamb’s high Feast will be filled completely. Completed gifts, completed attendance, and completed people: you.