Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus' silence [Palm Sunday; St. Matthew 21:1-9 & 26:1-27:66]

It is fitting that the Church ends the Sundays in Lent following Jesus into Jerusalem, as our Processional Gospel reminds us:
“And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ’Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’”

Because the last time we followed this grand procession was at the beginning of Advent and we followed Jesus to His birth of the virgin, St. Mary. Today’s procession is Jesus also descending to a sinful womb: that of the Temple. The Temple that is supposed to birth many believers is instead corrupting the Word of God, causing the stillbirth of unbelief.

So we think on and merge together Advent and Lent, not because it doesn’t matter when or how we celebrate them, but because when we do, we get the big picture. We see that Christ coming as an embryo is the precursor to Palm Sunday for both have the same goal in mind: the destruction of sin, death, and the devil upon the cross.

According to St. Luke, the Pharisees complain that Jesus is being silent. That He is not standing up and telling everyone to stop proclaiming that Jesus is the King of the Jews. According to them, Jesus needs to speak up and say that this is not the way to do things.

Similarly, Jesus appears silent today. We no longer have Him walking around. We no longer have Him healing, feeding, and exorcising. We no longer have Jesus speaking at public events, supporting political candidates, or running for office.

So what do we do? One option is to fill in those blank spaces ourselves. Since Jesus has “left”, that probably means that now it is up to us to continue His work. Now, the ball is in our court to speak up for freedom, religious liberty, and human rights, because that is what Jesus did.

So, we add to Jesus’ words and bring them to our own conclusions. We think that by legislative force, we can convince America to be Christian and show God how great we are doing.

If we would just follow Jesus’ teachings and apply them to our lives, then the world would see that we really do care about humans, for that is all religion is anyway: human care. All that Jesus tried to do and teach was about loving your neighbor and caring for others, right?

So Jesus ends up sounding like this:
“You have heard some of my opponents say that we must kill and destroy every last member of ISIS… But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who hate you, so that you can become God’s children!”


“You have heard some of my opponents downplay the seriousness of police violence against minorities in our country, but I tell you: It would be better for one to fling themselves into the sea than to harm a child.”


“You have heard some of my opponents say we must be tougher in the area of justice, but I tell you: Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy.”


“You have heard some of my opponents say we must be bold and draw hard lines in our churches, but I tell you: What sorrow awaits you who slam the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces!”

These sound nice, wonderful, and very rousing. I’m sure they would get the social justice crowd to stand on their feet. The problem is: Jesus never said any of that. The problem is, though they sound nice and Christians should want to care for their neighbor; you do not become a child of God through your own works.

Repent. In filling up the apparent silence of Jesus, not only do you declare His work incomplete and inept, but you also then presume to speak for God where God has not spoken. In speaking for God, you require action and works, where Jesus does not.

There is a second option to follow in light of Jesus ascension and that is to listen to what has already been said. Notice how Jesus does not get up and explain anything to the crowds on Palm Sunday, just like how He doesn’t explain anything to Pilate or the Chief priests.

Jesus remains silent now, because the Word of God has already spoken. The people speak out, because the Word of God has already been spoken to them, for Jesus has already declared Himself to be the Servant of the Lord Who will suffer and die at the hands of His own people.

The Word spoke to Eve, promising that her seed would crush the devil’s head. The Word spoke to Abraham, promising a sacrifice of God. The Word spoke to Moses, promising liberation from sin. The Word spoke to David, promising an everlasting kingdom.

The Word speaks to you and the Lamb of God goes uncomplaining forth. Bearing the sins of the earth, Jesus is led to the slaughter without complaint. He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies, and the irony and yet replies, “All this I gladly suffer”.

The Word of the Lord suffers, dies, and rises again in order to declare you a child of God and you can return to that Word again and again, hearing that same promise as many times as you need.

No human kindness, civil program, social justice, pacifism, or any action of your own has saved you. Christ has and the Word proclaims this. The true teaching of Jesus is Himself. It is not about you.

It is Jesus who has loved His enemies: sinners and has redeemed them by His blood. It was Jesus who was a child, rejected, and ostracized. It is Jesus Who has borne the strict Justice of the Father and yet shows mercy, because of His sacrifice.

It is Jesus Who draws hard lines, turning those away who wish to earn their salvation saying, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”

The Word of God declares the Christ to be here. The hard line He draws is the cross. Is Jesus enough, or is there something more needed? Has Christ accomplished it all for you, or is there a hole that needs to be filled?

The answer is “Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord”. The answer is Jesus, on the cross, at the right hand, in the water, in the Word, and in the bread and wine. In this second option to facing Jesus’ silence: Jesus has already spoken.

Jesus has already spoken on the issues and He has already set up His standard. He will not be Regent. He will not be President. He will not be Humanitarian. He will be Lord. He will be creator. He will be the only-begotten offered up. He will be the sacrifice, instead of us. Jesus will be both the giver of the Feast and the Feast itself.

For the palms you hold today confess that the King is among us and processes with us in order to commune with us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hear what's written [The Annunciation of our Lord; Isaiah 7:10-14]

On each and every day of the Church year, the readings assigned are so rich, that it is impossible to talk about it all in one sitting, let alone one sermon. Quite a few days are more guilty of this than others. The Annunciation of our Lord is one of the more guilty.

If you look through your bulletin, you find allusions to the beginning of time, the Fall, the Promise of a son, Christmass, Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and even the Last Day. All of these are wrapped in swaddling clothes on Christmass and burial shrouds on Good Friday.

The Past, the Present, and the Future all come to a climax in the person and work of Jesus. Thus we can have Gabriel speaking to Mary and we can picture both Eve and Mary together and see them both believing in the Promise of the Messiah Who will trample sin, death, and the devil underfoot.

Suffice it for this evening, we will focus on King Ahaz and his false piety toward God as he says,
“I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

You will not ask? Who are you? God has told you to ask for a sign. You better listen to God, even though He says that only a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign. Ask, even though you are the wicked and adulterous generation. Ask even though you think you are only testing God. Ask.

Ask and listen. Say your prayers, then hear God. But hear what? What are we to listen for? A still, small voice? A rush of wind and flame? An angel to appear? Then when you do hear, how do you know God has spoken or rather, how do you know its not satan?

Look to St. Mary! She was visited, she didn’t argue, she didn’t hold conversation, but simply said, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

She did not break out in the Magnificat here. It was only until after the word of Gabriel came to pass that she sang in praise and thanksgiving. She told Gabriel that she was a servant of the Lord, not of him, and that if it is the Word of the Lord, then let it come to be.

See it was not just a revelation from God that St. Mary trusted in. It was not every angel or bright shining person that was trusted. They needed authority behind them. They needed precedent. Gabriel’s word is ok, but if God hasn’t spoken, then it is the devil’s work.

St. Mary was not trusting in the angel until the Word proved true, for she and everyone else were waiting for the Messiah. They were waiting for the virgin to conceive and bare a son and I’m sure more than a few zealous mothers faked it.

Repent. King Ahaz did not trust in the Word, which had been written down for him. He did not trust in the fact that God can say whatever He wants, but what He wants to say, to you, is in His Word. All King Ahaz had to do was ask for the Messiah as promised. He did not have to think of something on his own.

St. Mary had prayed for the Lord’s Christ to come. St. Joseph also prayed for this sign from God and it came to pass. All believers pray for the sign that is deeper than Sheol and higher than heaven and the Lord speaks and answers.

Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary and foster fathered by Joseph, because the Word has said it. O evil and wicked generation that asks for signs, the Lord has given the sign and Immanuel has been crucified, died, and was risen from the grave never to die again.

The sign, the answer to all your prayers, and the Hope of Eve and all people is the Lord Jesus Christ dying for the sin of the world. Hearing God is none other than listening to His Son, for in these gray and latter days, God has spoken only through His Son.

Hearing Jesus is nothing else except listening to the Gospel preached in its purity and the Sacraments administered according to it. There is no fooling around with existential spirituality, transcendental meditation, or ethereal dreams. God simply cuts through it all, takes on a body and soul, and speaks to you with His own two, physical lips.

Thus He speaks to you. He tells you He has come, He does come, and He is coming again. He tells you that you are washed and fed. He tells you that in 9 months, you will have a savior born to the nations and He will be fully God and now, fully Creator and creation. God has joined Himself to us in order that we may be assumed in to Him, bodily.

For there is but one Christ, God and man; one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God. We know this, because we have the Word of God as Authority. We are sure and certain these promises are for us, because God’s Word is trustworthy.

You can believe God’s Word even though reason, emotion, and culture scream against it, because the Word was made flesh, dwelt among us, and rose from the dead.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Humiliation [Lent 5; St. John 8:46-59]

By Divine Providence, Faith will be Confirmed in the Faith on the same Sunday of the Church Year that she was baptized on. That would be the Sunday of the Passion of our Lord; the Sunday in which we hear the silencing of the Gloria Patri. The Sunday in which we hear of Jesus being dishonored in unbelief

And what we believe of Jesus being dishonored is that this is a part of His humiliation/suffering, or Passion. It is a distinction that is made in the Creeds and one that is very important to what the Truth is. For, one part of the Christ’s life was His humiliation and the other, His exultation.

Let’s hear it from the Creed first: “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”

Now, when was Jesus being dishonored? When did His humiliation begin and when did it end? This may seem like a nit-picky question, but how you understand the life of Jesus affects the rest of your view, not just of Scripture, but also of Jesus Himself.

If the humiliation of Jesus begins with His conception, then man is not man. For if it is humiliating for God to become one of us, then either we are not God’s creation or God messed up. Both of which are not true.

For our bodies and souls are creations of God. Similar to Adam, we are created and sin does not un-create us into something different. Though completely corrupted by sin, Jesus is able to have His own body and soul and yet be without sin.

If Jesus’ humiliation begins at His suffering and death on the cross, then what is He suffering for, Himself? If He is simply being crucified as an accident or tragic turn of events, then He is not atoning for sin, but showing off His power.

No, Jesus humiliation begins in between and today’s Gospel shows us.

In this interaction between Jesus and His beloved creation; His own people whom He loves, Jesus appeals to them and they reject Him. Jesus tells them, flat out, that He is God. Not just any God, THEIR God; the same one that appeared to Abraham and the Prophets, whom THEY love.

In fact, they love them so much, that they are completely willing to give them up for dead in order to prove Jesus wrong. They are ready to declare God inept and weak by saying that death has taken them and somehow God’s Word of Life was unable to save them.

Thus, the true humiliation of Jesus comes at the point where Jesus encounters our sinful flesh. It comes at the point when Jesus is declared to be both God and man, for the salvation of the world, and is rejected by those He loves.

And where does that happen? Christmas. Even before Jesus is born, there is no party. There is no room. There is no celebration even though all of Judea is waiting for Him and the chief priests and leaders of Israel know to search for Him in Bethlehem.

By divine providence, the very day Christ was made man, was the beginning of His humiliation. Not when He was conceived. Not when He was born and not even when He had a body. It was the time when He took on our sin.

Repent. Believing the doctrine of Original Sin means that the body and soul are simply corrupted beyond repair, not that they are changed into something else. It pleased God to become a part of His own creation and I would even go so far as to say that He planned it from the beginning.

Even if the were no Fall into sin, Jesus would still have been born a man in order to bring about a perfect rest. That is all just fantasy, because we have the humiliation of Jesus for our sins, beginning with His being made man and ending with suffering on the cross.

You heard right. Jesus’ humiliation does not include His death or His decent into hell. Those are victory marches. The life of the world is bought and paid for in His suffering and dying, not His death. Jesus says before His death, “It is finished” and then falls asleep.

This is why Lutherans keep a body on the cross, because it is on the cross, in a body where Christ redeemed the world. In Jesus’ active Passion, He suffers all, even death on a cross, in order to then be exalted, rule over all things once again, and freely give forgiveness.

And this is how the world operates today: under Grace. We find baptism, the Gospel, and Communion on earth, because Christ reigns. We find peaceful countries, kindness, and beauty because Jesus has been lifted up. We also find that the wicked prosper, in order that they have time to repent, because Jesus has died that they may have life.

Under this same grace, Jesus continually gives these gifts to Faith as He does to all of us. For, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is belief. Belief that even in the midst of our own evil and corruption, Jesus can work saving faith in His sacraments, so that we may see an infant baptized and know that this, now, is a child of God.

Jesus is not dishonored by having a body and soul just like ours. Jesus is not even necessarily dishonored by blatant sin. Jesus is dishonored by unbelief, for it is there that then He is rejected, scorned, and crucified.

This is your God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His Passion is for you and our response is being baptized, hearing and confessing the faith, and communing: in other words, when you regularly attend the Divine Service.

It is in the Divine Service that you are immersed in the life of Jesus. It is there that His Faith, His Grace, and His salvation are brought front and center. It is here that Jesus is presented most clearly, so that we may believe Him. It is here where His glory is shown on the cross and it is here that Jesus’ Word is kept.

All so that we might bring it out, again and again, in order to hear, in order to share, and in order to confess the Word of God made flesh; crucified for our sin and raised for our salvation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feast of St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus [Sirach 45:1-6]

David’s descendent guarding David’s son and Lord. King David, of long ago, is guarding the promise of the Lord by having children. David’s descendent is guarding the promise of the Lord made flesh and David’s Son will guard the promise of the Lord with His death and resurrection.

Jesus asks you today, “Whose son is the Christ” and “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” In Jesus’ argument with the Pharisees, in Matthew 22, Jesus is showing that there is a Christ, He is coming, and He will be a man.

David’s throne will be preserved forever, is the promise. In our ears that means that a descendant of David will always be ruling Israel. This doesn’t make too much sense during the Babylonian Exile or during the few hundred years before Jesus, when there apparently was no king.

But the king was reigning in silence. Where Herod took the throne by force and pomp, St. Joseph made no claims on his heritage. Where David’s kingdom was filled with men of war, St. Joseph simply had tools lining his walls.

In celebrating the Feast day of St. Joseph, we come to realize that we know very little about him. Two important things stand out: 1) he is David’s son and 2) he is a just man.

Moses was not beloved of God and men because of some inner quality he possessed. In fact, he was the worst man God could have chosen to lead His people out of Egypt: whinny, speech impediment, and not at all a people person.

Similarly, St. Joseph was not what we would call a prominent man. His SOLE qualification for being the foster-father of Jesus, was his genealogy. His life wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t wealthy or famous, and according to tradition, he was old.

Yet, both of these men were entrusted with so great a purpose. Both of these men were counted as righteous before the Lord, treasuring the Word of the Lord.

You are not lovely. You are loved. You are not worthy. You are bought and paid for. For what Jesus seeks in this world is His own creation. Just as He made the entire cosmos from nothing, so he remakes all of creation from nothing inside you.

In some odd way, we can say that Moses and St. Joseph did not have a choice as to the things that were going to happen to them. For from the beginning, the Lord had in mind the salvation of mankind and nothing was going to stop it.

But, in an easy to understand way, Moses and St. Joseph did have a choice; a choice they made in faith, not with their natural reason. A choice they made having been justified by grace; a choice born of Faith, nurtured by faith, and kept by Faith.

Faith that believes God’s Word even when it says flee to Egypt. Faith that believes even when there is a better deal elsewhere. Faith that believes that Jesus can be both David’s Son and David’s Lord, born of a virgin, and guarded by a foster-father chosen specifically by our heavenly Father.

This, then, the Word also speaks to you. You are chosen. You are made righteous. You are justified, not because you have special qualities, but because the Son of God declares you forgiven.

Jesus speaks and you are loved and made lovely. Jesus creates that which He seeks and that is redemption through His Body and Blood. The true King reigns from the shadows, not cutting off heads or strong-arming indoctrination.

Jesus, as His foster father before Him, does His best not to call attention to Himself, but to His Word and His Sacraments. For it is there that the sinner finds salvation. It is there that the unlovely finds his beauty. It is there, in the silence of the Lamb of God on the cross, that you find your salvation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Concrete [Lent 4; St. John 6:1-15]

The sixth chapter of St. John is one of the most hotly contested chapters in the Gospels for the simple fact that Jesus is making claims in it that should not be possible. He says things like He is the bread of life, that He is the bread of heaven, that His flesh is meat, His blood is drink, and that if you don’t eat them you have no life in you.

What Jesus leads into all this with is the Feeding of the 5000, which coincidentally coincides with the Passover meal. All of this combined is too much for many disciples and after Jesus speaks of the eating and drinking business, they leave Him, possibly to never come back.

They leave because they believe Jesus and it is disgusting. They leave because they know Jesus is serious and they can not stand for any of that physical stuff; its just too messy. Thus, even some Christians today flee from the Word of God for this same reason. Instead, they take it as metaphor saying that Jesus meant this spiritually.

Because it is too hard to understand, verbatim, and you still want to believe that the Bible is God’s Word, you simply put this entire chapter in the realm of spirituality. The lie is that Jesus just wants a relationship with you and He expresses how intimate He wants it by using the meal and this “bread talk” simply to illustrate it.

Jesus didn't mean it, because how can eating and drinking do such things? You also believe that physical things, such as eating and drinking, are so base and common that they can’t possibly cause salvation in a person.

In place of the Word of God, then, false teachers add Commandments. The 42nd Commandment is “Thou shalt have a relationship with Jesus”. Though the Word no where says this, nor gives stipulations for it; it is required and they will ask you, “Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?”

The only way to have a relationship with Jesus, according to them, is to give your heart to Him, follow Him, get closer to Him, etc. All of this only in a spiritual sense. Really, how can you give your heart to anyone? You would die. It is only metaphorically that you can, so, in other words, you don’t really.

How do you follow or get closer to Jesus? He is not here in front of you. He is not walking around; It is not possible except in a flimsy, weak, spiritual sense. It all becomes a word game with these false teachers and therefore a side show. For you need to supply proof of all of this. You need to show how good your relationship is, how much your heart is His, and how closely you are following.

You, you, you and nothing to do with Jesus.

Repent. The problem with this “spiritual only” line of thinking is that there are no indications for it in the Bible. Not only are there no guidelines in Scripture for having a relationship with Jesus, but no where in John 6 does Jesus say, “Hear this parable” or “my flesh is similar eating” or any other metaphor language.

Jesus is both God and man. Jesus knows what He is saying. Jesus knows what He is doing. He does not mince words and He does not take them back, even when many turn away because of them.

The true promise of God is so much more substantial than a relationship and so much more concrete than a personal decision. For the Promise of God has flesh. The Promise of God has blood and the Promise of God is born of a virgin and dies on a cross.

Jesus sets before you how this relationship is going to go. He is the Giver and you, the Receiver. Jesus is going to give His kingdom, His righteousness, and His Body and Blood. He is going to create heaven and earth, sustain all living things, and redeem you, a lost and condemned creature: a very one sided relationship.

Jesus is going to demand your whole heart, only to give you His clean heart. Jesus is going to demand your whole life, only to give you His eternal Life and He is going to demand your belief when He sets a meal before you and tells you that this gives the forgiveness of sins.

Now, there are things for you to do in this life, but getting yourself closer to Jesus or giving Him anything is not a part of the program. Not only does Jesus have all things already, but He is giving them to you, not the other way around. You thinking you are accomplishing something in this “relationship” by doing or saying certain things is quite ludicrous.

Christ does not only work on a spiritual level, as if the infinite cannot be contained by finite things.  Working that way would have left redemption incomplete, because Jesus’ sole purpose on earth was to win and secure your salvation. His work was to redeem the entire world in order that you hear and believe.

Yes, God is Spirit, but He also has a body. At this very moment, there is a man in heaven who is running the show. He has a body and a soul and He holds all of creation in His hand. More importantly, He holds the Church so close, that His flesh is meat and His blood is drink indeed; so much closer than any relationship could be.

Yes, our God is a physical God. He not only feeds 5000, but 5000 bazillion. All the baptized of all time have sat down to physical board with Jesus. All have been invited to have a foretaste of the feast to come. All have been called to take and eat and take and drink that they would not die.

With Jesus, there are no abstracts. There are no mysteries as to how we get closer to Him, how we receive Him, or how to be saved by Him. Jesus accomplishes all things. He submits to the Law, suffers and dies guilty of our sin, rises again to new life, and grows and sustains His Church.

Jesus decides whether or not the Church will grow one year or not, the next. Jesus decides whether you will have Faith or not. Jesus decides whether you will hear Him or not.

And since He died on the cross, we know these things are for us, for free. We know that Jesus is the bread from heaven, which when eaten, one will never hunger again, and we know where and when He offers this bread.

It is not a feeling. It is not simply a spiritual matter. It is not how well you are doing at anything.

It is an act of God. It is a real eating and drinking. It is dependent upon Christ and Him dying and rising again. If that is true, then this bread, sitting here, feeds more than 5000 people. If Jesus is true God and true man, then this bread and this wine is the Lamb’s High Feast from which we gain victory and strength to remain in the one true faith, unto life everlasting.

Rejoice! Our God is concrete, not abstract. Our God is physical as well as spiritual and He gives you an already completed and perfect relationship with Him and an already completed and perfected meal with Him.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wednesday after Oculi [Exodus 20:12-24]

“Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

There are many things wrong with that verse as we listen with fallen ears. First is a logic problem: God says not to fear, yet He is wanting fear of Him to be before us. Second is the tempting aspect. Tempting is the devil’s work, so why is God doing it here? Finally, there is the command to not sin, which just blows the whole thing out of the water.

Thus we are in the same boat as the Israelites and retreat. We place considerable distance between us and God in order that the thunder, lightning, trumpets, and smoke don’t get us.

We create this distance by obscuring Jesus and His work in creating programmes and turning Jesus into a life-coach, instead of a Savior. What this distance looks like is this: while attempting to live the Christian life, we place more importance on how we are doing, rather than what Christ has done for us.

We give ourselves more Law. We take God’s ten commandments and turn them into 10 thousand. From diets to discipleship, all of these programs take on a sacramental character, offering and giving God’s love to us, the better we do.

And the better we do, the more we have to do. And the more we have to do, the more we ask, “When will it all end?” We ask, because we know it never will. There will always be someone better than us. There will always be another way of doing things and there will always be another fad in the church.

Repent. This should be your first clue that you are living under the Law. When your tasks and to do lists for God get longer instead of shorter and your quest for holiness has no light at the end of the tunnel, you are hearing God demand perfection and you will not reach it.

That is where the Law ends: with your death under the sheer weight of its demands. The Law ends when the peals of thunder rupture your eardrums, the strikes of lightning scorch your sinful flesh, the trumpets drown out your words, and the smoke asphyxiates your entire respiratory system.

This is why the Law is filled with “you shall nots”, because the Lord speaks from heaven saying you shall not do this, you shall not do that, on and on, because the Lord will do it. You shall not; the Lord shall. And when the Lord works, His final commandment to you is, “You shall not die”.

Jesus has spoken from heaven. Jesus is causing His Name to be remembered and Jesus is coming to you to bless you. Jesus is not seeking a holy place, He is creating one. Jesus does not seek the lovely, but makes lovely whomever He finds.

Therefore, the Law kills, but the Gospel makes alive. The Thunder, the lightning, the trumpets, and the smoke are all tests, not of your own mettle, but proof of the Faith given to you in Baptism.

That Faith withstands even fear of God, in the sure and certain hope of Christ Crucified for you, that even though you die by God’s hand, yet shall you live. Even though sin overtakes you and the devil tricks you, Christ is raised from the dead, for you.

In light of the cross, testing from God will strengthen your faith. In light of the cross, the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom. In light of the cross, your sins are forgiven and all your works are sanctified simply because you have been baptized into Christ.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Separate [Lent 3; St. Luke 11:14-28]

Jesus speaks today, saying,
“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.”

What we notice from Christ’s words to us today, is that there is a distinction made between the demon and the man it possesses. Notice that a man made by God is possessed and it is the demon that is mute, not the man, for he begins to talk when the demon leaves him.

As insignificant as this seems, this distinction has profound implications. It lays out for us Original Sin and that there is a difference between us and the sin that infects us. Now, this is a distinction that only God can make, but there none-the-less.

The West is a very unique worldly creation. From Europe to America, what the West has done for the world is indisputable. The advances to civilization, peace, medicine, and all other aspects of life are staggering. Compared to other areas of the world, it truly does seem like America is God’s country.

However, that is taking things too far. The origins of Western culture are found in grace and the trust of the promise of the Gospel. God does not choose a country or earthly region (any more). He chooses to issue forth His good gifts and loving-kindness through His Son, which is how we see the world ruled by Him today.

There are no smitings or lighting bolts. There is evil and it flourishes. But there is also peace and civility, which seems to hold up much better under the west. Look at how the rest of the world lives. All of Asia lives under a lie of communism and ancestor worship. Africa is having the hardest time of all.

Because of the Son of God, the world continues. Because of Jesus, the rains fall on the righteous as well as the wicked. That is the indiscriminate Gospel God gives to the entire world. That these places flourish, even though they are brutal and demon possessed.

Yet, take another look at your own civilization. As wonderful as the West has been for the world, Europe is in major decline, and America as well. All the big cities live just as awfully as Asia and Africa. The invasion and demon possession reaches your front door.

As great as anything in this world can be, it is corrupted. You can create a world-wide utopia and it will end in disaster. You can even attempt to bring heaven on earth and you will only get hell, so much does sin corrupt our nature.

To us and our senses, we can not distinguish between our nature and the things that affect it. We can not distinguish ourselves from our sin. The cross of Jesus Christ is the necessary lens to making this distinction.

Repent. Were it not for the grace of God through His only begotten Son, the entire world would have been done in long ago. Were it not for the patience and long-suffering of the Father, because of the Son, truly there would be no hope and we would experience hell.

The Almighty God has a body. In Jesus, God and man are united and one of the reasons this is so, is because the body and soul are creations of God and therefore, good and right. The body is such, that Jesus, true God and true man, can be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, Mary.

Jesus has shown that the body will be redeemed. In removing the mute demon from the speaking man today, Jesus reveals that both the body and soul will be atoned for and resurrected on the last day. Jesus has risen from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God, with a body and soul.

In being made man, Jesus takes on the corruption of sin, death, and the devil. The body and soul that God has created has been corrupted and continues to show itself in all civilizations and no amount of hard work or holy work is going to remove it.

The sin that possesses you; the death that overtakes you and the devil that lies to you has been defeated, judged, and removed from you. For, Jesus has taken the human body and soul into death, down to hell, and back to life again cleansing and sanctifying it for all time.

In baptism Jesus gives this to you. Baptism saves you from this corruption. The Gospel gives eternal life and the Lord’s Supper strengthens and keeps you in the forgiveness of sins. This gives new light to what it means for Jesus to live in you. Hopefully you more fully understand when Jesus says that, it is now His life that lives, not your own.

This Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is not the gospel of human perfection, or world peace, or utopia. It is Jesus’ answer for sin and death. It is Jesus’ condemnation of the devil and it is Jesus’ work to save you.

The possessed man was not working toward a closer walk with God; he couldn’t. It was impossible for him, so far had sin corrupted him. It is also impossible for you to get right with God. It is impossible for you to follow Jesus. It is impossible for you to do the right thing.

If it were not; if there was a small speck of “good” within you; if you were still worth saving on your own merit, then of what use is Christ to you? Much more, of what use would Jesus be to the world? Oh, Jesus; you died and rose again. Thanks, but we can handle it from here. We’re basically good folks and God will help us the rest of the way. Have a nice day.

To deny Original Sin as the complete corruption of any and all works you do, is to say that Jesus is meaningless. To deny that man is dead in his sin and can do no good towards God, is to deny Christ in front of men, the result being Him denying you in front of the Father.

Jesus has come to cast out demons by the Finger of God and He does so. Today, He works through means such as the Words and Promises of God declare; using water, words, bread and wine for your salvation.

Thus we conclude, that the Kingdom of God has come upon us as well. However, by the cross we know that it has come upon us for our good. By Jesus offering Himself in our stead and by giving us His Means of Grace today, we know that the Kingdom has not come to condemn us, but to justify us.

And each time we hear the Gospel and believe it; each time we remember God’s promise to us in baptism, and each time we commune with the Lord of all creation, we believe that we have the forgiveness of sins for this body and this soul.

You have been plundered out of the kingdom of sin, death, and the devil. You have been swept clean, put in order, and filled with the true Body of Christ. You are lead beside baptism-filled places in order that you hear the Gospel of Christ.

That is: what Jesus has done and still does for your salvation, calming your sin-filled and troubled mind with His rest and His Peace, given and shed for you.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Special [Wednesday after Reminiscere; Esther 13:8-17]

Hear Mordecai’s prayer and repent.

He is not praying for anything concerning his own spirituality, his own spiritual growth, or anything concerning himself, except that the Lord remember His Mercy.

Any true Prophet prays this way: first, that the words and promises of the Lord are recalled to God; second (maybe), a repentance of sorts; and third, a “Lord, you better keep Your promise”.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all pray in this manner. They do not sit a make a torture out of praying, trying to recount the many things God’s people have done, or, more to the point, failed to do. The Prophets sit and pray to and about God, Who He is, what He has done, and what He has said and promised.

For the chief and most important thing in any confession, prayer, or tribulation is to get to the Gospel; to get to the Absolution. For it is there that we find God meeting man and bringing heaven down to earth. In the forgiveness of sins, Jesus is made manifest for the sinner.

Really, what is it to the Lord if Israel is not saved? What does it matter if the foes of God’s people annihilate them? Of what significance is the inheritance or the mouths of those that praise God? God can simply raise up people from the ground.

He can make new people that praise Him, as He did with Adam. He can create a new inheritance and an Israel that does not chase after other gods. As the unbeliever is wont to say, “What makes you any more special than me?”

The answer is nothing. Nothing makes any of that more special than anything else God has created. This is what the Old Testament aims at: that God created all things and He can uncreate all things and it would matter not. So, why waste time trying to look good in front of Him?

If the Lord remembered every sin, no one could stand before Him. However, with Him is forgiveness (Ps.130), that is, Absolution. The Lord forgives the iniquity of sin (Ps.32), because “the Son of man came to serve”.

Nothing makes any of you or anything else in here any more special than anyone or thing else, except that it is in Christ and that Christ comes to serve you through them. The Lord’s people are not special except that they have the Name of Jesus upon them. The Lord’s inheritance is special, because it is the true and only begotten Son of God.

Thus, the Divine Service and any prayer of the Christian rushes quickly to the Promise of Forgiveness in Christ, for it is only there that any thing makes sense. Once we hear that Jesus has come to die on the cross and rise again three days later, we are sure and certain that God has nothing but grace, mercy, and love planned for us.

Once Mordecai knows that the Lord keeps His promise, that being the promise of the Messiah, he can then pray. He can pray in such a manner where not even his sin or the sins of the people matter. Only what the Lord has done through His Christ.

Jesus did not come to be served. He did not appear in the flesh, in order that the whole world bow to His almighty power and wisdom. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus came so even though sin, death, and the devil crowd out holiness, life, and the Word of God, that the Gospel would shine brightly because of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus came so that His absolution would be the final word in any matter. Christ died for you; you are saved.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Great faith [Lent 2; St. Matthew 15:21-28]

From the Gospel, Jesus speaks to us of an incident in which we hear of the harshest treatment done by Jesus. We have other examples of this: wedding at Cana and overturning the tables in the Temple, but this is by far the worst.

And the world loves to point out to you silly, backwards thinking Christians, this exact place, proving their point that God is not very loving, even to those who believe and pray to Him.

So, yes we strive with the world, but what does it mean to strive with God? When we hear of this Canaanite woman being called a dog and when we just sang that our only comfort is meeting before the Lord’s throne; We don’t feel very comforted or cared for in the things we pray about.

If you rely simply on the fact that God is almighty, then your only comfort is finding the strength to carry on within yourselves. If God isn’t coming because He doesn’t have time or can’t be bothered, then you are all alone and no backup is on its way.

If your first course of action is to rely on some sort of almighty plan, that doesn’t include Christ, then again you are out of luck. You will have to somehow find the courage to face the long wait in line of when it is your turn to benefit from the plan.

In all these respects, the world is quick to come to your aid. Your own government, with your support, will be at your beck and call, making laws to ease your financial situation, lift your social status, and give you special benefits if you just fall down and worship.

Very much unlike Jesus, in this portion of the Gospel, the world offers the world. Just depend on your and others humanity, which comes to your aid instantly. Put out a cry for help and millions rush to “advocate” for you and “raise awareness”. Fly the right flag and the tax man and FBI man stay away.

Repent. The lure and draw of worldly satisfactions is inescapable and you quickly substitute God’s Word for short-term relief. And who could blame you? You should expect that a God of love would alleviate all and that right soon.

Where we get our answer is not where we expect. We expect to hear “just bear with it” or “dig deep”, but the “yes” from the Lord we, and this woman, are looking for is further on ahead. Indeed, there is one other place where Jesus was silent before someone, in such a manner.

Isaiah prophesies that,

“…like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.” (53:7)

As Jesus is falsely accused in His farce of a trial, He does not answer to any false accusations cast His way. He simply stands there, not saying a word and allowing the will of His Father to be done.

Now, this silence was in front of those who had Him crucified, perhaps we could call them His enemies. Yet, bringing that back to this Canaanite woman, this means that she was also a false accuser and, thinking of God’s silence in the face of our own prayers…

Repent. In your sin, you falsely accuse Jesus of being Who He is not and saying what He has not said. In God’s plan or His almighty-ness it appears as if He couldn’t care less about us.

But, as was rightly pointed out to me be an inmate, this is not about the woman at all. Even Isaiah tells us that this is about Christ and His suffering and death for us. For it was Jesus who was silent before God and man and has prevailed.

Yes, the answer to this woman’s cry for help and all of your prayers is the Son of God Who forgives sins. In our rebellion against God, we want Him to be instantaneous and do our will, when it was the Father’s will to crush His only begotten Son.

In the Almighty power of God, Jesus dies and rises again from the dead. In God’s plan for your life, this living Jesus now gives to you His gifts in His Church. These gifts are grace, mercy, and forgiveness all of which depend on the Giver and not any hopeless situation we find ourselves in with an instant or a silent God.

The world wants to shower you with gifts of wind-blown smoke and mirrors. Jesus wants to take you into Himself that you might be saved. He wants to give you a Faith that can withstand life, death, false accusations, and even silence from God.

For in that silence God’s answer is Yes in Christ. Yes, this woman’s daughter will be healed as will every daughter. Yes, your failings and sins will be taken away, perfectly in Jesus.

It was Jesus Christ, the Son of God that this woman needed and all she needed. It was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world that the Pharisees and High Priest needed and all they needed; the man that has striven with both God and men and prevailed.

God has answered all prayers with Jesus, on the cross, so that the world would be saved through Him. An invasion of demons does not stop the Blood of Christ. A swath of instantaneous gratification does not limit the power of the Gospel.

The same faith that this woman has been given is also yours. For in striving with man, Jesus has shown that not even lies and death can hold Him. And in striving with God, Jesus has satisfied God’s wrath against sin and has paid for light, life, and salvation.

Your friends come to support you, but then they leave. Your government rushes to your aid, but flee when the money and support run dry. All earthly helpers fail and comforts flee, but Christ renews and regenerates, even His enemies.

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him;”(Col.1)

Jesus is silent before sin, death, and the devil in order that He be the crucified God. Jesus is silent before us in order that the cross shine that much more brightly, for as we tread the waters of Lent, being convicted of sin, we must have a Savior who is capable of more than just an exorcism here and there.

We must have a Redeemer who is able to take on all demon possessions, false hopes, and lies and stand out as the truth. We must have a victorious Lord that can not be held even by death and He must then include us; He must incorporate us into His very Body.

 The woman’s daughter was healed in order that she and all those around her would know that Jesus is the Lord’s Christ to do just that; to be crucified and sanctify the waters of Baptism, the words of His Gospel, and His Body and Blood. These sacraments, now being a more clearer and fuller answer to prayer than any exorcism or miracle could be.