Monday, August 29, 2016

Foreigns [Trinity 14; St. Luke 17:11-19]

It is Jesus Who speaks in your hearing today, saying:

Let’s get one thing straight. Whenever the question is asked “What would Jesus do?”, the answer is always, always, “Die on the cross”. Jesus’ only mission is to save you from your sin, graft you into Himself, and get you to live with Him forever.

Today is no different. There are voices in the country speaking loudly against foreigners: refugees, immigrants, and their illegal counterparts. These loud voices are quick to define what a foreigner is, as well as saying that foreigners are anyone not “like us” as if there is a special rule or standard for them to determine such a thing.

The Greek word used in the Gospel today literally means “other-born” or “other-begotten”. I want to say it in Greek to you now, so that you remember it in a few minutes, when I will bring it up again: Allogenhj. A person born of another line, another family. Not born as we are.

In holy Scripture, you also hear of foreigners and as God defines who they are, it almost sounds just as bad as the politicians and atheists say it is. In Leviticus, no foreigner may eat (Lev. 22:10) or offer holy things and if you married a foreigner, you can’t eat either (Lev. 22:12). In Numbers, any foreigner caught near the Tabernacle would die (1:51). Indeed, even the divine Service is not for them (18:4). The priests are not to minister to them, for there is no forgiveness for them (18:7) in anything the priest is called to do.

Not separating yourself from foreigners is unfaithfulness and intermarriage is equal to breaking all the commandments at once (Ezra 9:1,2,14). The Lord has declared that Jerusalem will be holy and foreigners will pass through it no more (Joel 3:17). Harsh sounding, yet this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Hopefully you are squirming in your seat and wondering how in the world you are going to be compassionate tomorrow and still be Christian. Good. The rubber is hitting the road. A sinner encountering a holy God should feel as such.

Please continue to squirm as we consider Job. He is accused of having turned his spirit against God and that is why his troubles were so great. In the same chapter Job declares that he will see his Savior because he knows that his Redeemer lives, he declares that he is a foreigner to his own household. His affliction is that of a foreigner in front of God.

At the hands of the Law and his friends’ declaration of it to Job, he feels what you are feeling: that perhaps you are all foreigners and perhaps God really is enacting judgment upon you in events that are out of your control. You feel that all your suffering and all your sin makes sense if you yourself are also a foreigner.

Enough of all your abominations, saith the Lord, [when you admit] foreigners, [who are] uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations.” (Eze. 44:6-7)

Repent. “On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.” Obad. 1:11

You are the foreigner. A foreigner is not an alien, illegal or otherwise. A foreigner is a sinner. A foreigner is someone who has a corrupt and fallen nature, who rebels against God, and despises Him, in His own Church and does not believe rightly.

When the Bible is speaking about foreigners being excluded and not finding forgiveness, it is talking about the world in its corruption, the devil in his rebellion, and you in your sin.

Those who do not believe there is forgiveness to be found in the Divine Service of the Church of Christ will not find forgiveness there. Not that its not there, but that they do not want what God is offering to them there. And because you acted like them, you will be numbered with them. Because you act like and follow the world and your own sinfulness, you will be foreign to God.

So, what would Jesus do? In the place of the Allogenhj comes another Greek title that only one man in the entire history of creation bears: monogenhj. You can hear the word mono in there, meaning “one” or “only” or “sole”. In the place of the other-begotten comes the Only-begotten.

Jesus is not just one-of-a-kind or special. He is the ONLY kind. He is the only one to believe. He is the only one to follow. He is the only one to listen to. Not only that, but no other person or god can claim to be a son or sons, except Jesus. By declaring Himself to be the Only-begotten, Jesus protects us from quite a few heresies.

Not the least of which is the fact that He, being God and man, humbled Himself beneath us and became the foreigner, rejected by His own and sacrificed outside of His city that He might sanctify all people through His own blood.

Jesus is the foreigner. He allows His creatures to lay hold of Him, to blaspheme Him, and to crucify Him. He is not given a Jewish trial. He is not given a Jewish death, and He is not given a Jewish burial.

All this in order that He would save some Allogenhj ; some of the ones who have turned completely from Him in sin and have become alien to God. Sin makes you a foreigner. Baptism grants you full rights and access to the Only-Begotten and His righteousness. In that washing of rebirth (Titus 3:5), new blood and a new spirit is grafted into you to work out God’s salvation.

Now that the blood of the monogenhj flows through the veins of the Allogenhj you are no longer called strangers (Eph. 2:19), but saints. Because the true Body and Blood of the Only-begotten flows freely in your body and soul through Faith, you are adopted as sons and heirs.

Jesus becomes the foreigner, taking your place, and putting you in His place. The heir to the throne abdicates and enthrones you and crowns you with His many crowns. This is not a surprise. For all the apparent intolerance of the Old Testament that people love to pick on, they miss the Gospel in it.

When God promises that no foreigners will pass through the land of His people, He means that His Name is going to not only keep His children, but make more children of God, even out of the foreigners. The foreigner also is included through God’s Name.

Jesus is not keeping people out, He is inviting through Baptism, which is the place where we find God handing out His Name. In Christ, the Crucified, no sinner can stand and no foreigner can be present, because He, by His Word, changes them into saints and citizens of the Kingdom.

Herein lies the point. Jesus is crucified for all because that is the only way to save them and to change them, not into good people, but in to Sons of God. The greatest act of mercy Jesus can show to you, today, is by reminding you of your baptism wherein you were put to death along with your sin and foreign-ness, and were brought again to new life in Christ.

Making all people in the world one people would not do the same thing. In fact, it would only cause more hatred. One of the reasons there are people that look and act and talk differently from you is to show you your own foreignness in front of God, lead you to repent of it, and find forgiveness freely given for it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

It is worse [Trinity 13; St. Luke 10:23-37]

Jesus speaks to us today, saying,

For the last few weeks we have been talking about poverty. Whether it was the unrighteous manager, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, the tax collector, or the deaf and mute man all were brought in front of us to show the poverty of earth. Yet, all were brought in front of us to also reveal the poverty of God on the cross.

Today is no different. How easy life is when we are well off, or at least, not in need. Indeed, one of our favorite things to say is: “It could always be worse” or, similar to that is “someone always has it worse than you do”.

Then we try and think of how our lives could be worse than they are now and we imagine extreme things such as nuclear war, abject poverty, oppressive government, or even having many people in our family die at the same time or closer. You really must go to great lengths to think about it being worse for you.

The reason that is is because it is worse for you right now, in your sin. You already have to deal with death, suffering, trauma, and futility. You already know what its like to have nothing: no income, no rights, and no future. You have heard about all of these things from one source or another, maybe experiencing one or two personally, but never all of it.

We can not all be champions of empathy so when you have life-altering problems, they are just as big as other problems. This may sound conceited, but what difference does it make to the chemicals in your body whether undue stress is caused by family dysfunction or life as a refugee?

Take our man from Jerusalem, here. Who knows what he was thinking or what he was doing that fateful day when he decided to go to Jericho, but here he is. He takes his journey and is ambushed by hooligans. At this point, lying half-dead in the road, do you think he cares that Rome has created world peace within its borders?

Your fears often major in the minors. You think that by pretending your problems are not as important, that you gain more favor in being humble, but then you become angry and isolated when no one notices what you are hiding! Your inner resentment grows and grows until either you are living a life full of despair or you give up on religion altogether.

The difficulty you face is not in trying your best to decide what you must do or what you can do, the real difficulty you bring upon yourself is trying to figure out which way God has planned for you or, put simply, what is sin and what is not.

In that epic battle, you lose. In struggling to find what will please God and what will condemn you forever, you run into reality. The same reality that forces you to pick one drug over another, one family member over another, or one sin over another.

That is the catch. Each and everyday in your ordinary life, you are forced to choose: will you sin a little or will you sin a lot? Will you choose the sin that maybe God won’t notice or at least, you hope, that He will overlook, or will you choose the sin that everyone will notice and no one will overlook?

And no matter who you choose to see yourself as, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, there is this deficiency, or corruption of human nature. This is easy to point out in the violent robbers. The next easiest is the priest and the Levite, but what did the man do to deserve his beating and really what is so bad about the good Samaritan?

Lots of things could be speculated upon here as to what could have been done to avoid such a tragedy, but they are simply speculation. The cold, hard truth as to why each character sins and why your life is replete with sin is that they are all sinners.

The traveling man is a sinner. He did not do any specific thing to earn his beat-down, but as a result of his fallen condition, he deserves more. The Samaritan did not show great mercy here, just a little mercy. Where is he for the rest of those who have fallen victim to such crimes? There is plenty of guilt to pass around, even omitting the robbers’ actions.

Jesus is the end of this guilt and the end of such sufferings as the traveler, the Samaritan, and yes even the robbers and priest and Levite endured. You do not just suffer things physically, but also spiritually. You do suffer at the hands of your neighbors, intentional or not, but you also suffer under a holy God.

God demands perfection from you, without excuse. He demands righteousness and holiness. Not because He is mean and cold-hearted, but because that is Who He is and if you wish to be with Him forever, this is how it must be.

What a cruel and unmerciful attitude God has! If only He would bend the rules or overlook certain actions on your part, all of this suffering business could simply go away.

Dear Christian, thank heavens God does not overlook one injustice committed, no matter how small! Thank your lucky stars that the Lord is attentive of all things and forgets nothing. If He did not, then there would be no one who would attain any sort of blessing at all.

God knows what you think of Him and His unbending laws and He also knows your inability to follow them. He knows that you secretly resent having to be “goodie-goodie” when all your friends are not hindered by such out-dated thinking. And because He knows all this and more, He knows and wants to do something about it Himself.

You see, the law was not given for your benefit, primarily. The Law was given to reveal sin to you; to show you that, in this corrupted life, you really will have no good choices as to what you should or should not do. Each choice, good or bad, is corrupt and sinful in front of God.

In God’s eyes, you are already worse off than your neighbor. If you were to stand in front of God on your own, you would get no credit for helping a half-dead man be cared for properly and neither will this Samaritan.

Jesus is the Good Samaritan and He is the half-dead man. Jesus is the man that comes down from heaven to traverse an utterly corrupt road in a total depraved world. He comes bringing forgiveness and peace, but is stripped of everything, including His life on the cross.

He raises Himself from His all-dead state, returns to this road, and finds you, dead in your sins. He does not ask if you’ve been naughty or nice. He does not request a little room in your heart and He does not require your commitment to Him. He finds you. He speaks to revive you. He washes you and He feeds you immortality.

The beauty of the Gospel is that credit has already been wired to your account in full. The sweetness of Christ Crucified for you is that there is grace and mercy and peace from God, instead of judgment and laws that have no end. The comfort of the word of the cross is that there is an end to thievery, apathy, pain, and endless work.

Christ has come that you may be free. Free from the guilt of the Law that binds you to your sin. Free to hear the Word and believe it. Free to be washed and regenerated into the Body of Christ. Free to take and eat and drink the true Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all of your bad and good decisions.

Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Each and every decision you have to make in this life is accounted for and forgiven, by Jesus. Each and every time you come to a crossroads that is bad or worse or uncertain, you have confidence that your righteousness comes from Christ and not those sins.

You have received the Spirit by hearing with faith and not by works of the law (Gal. 3:2).
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:11-14).

This does not mean that we continue in sinful ways, knowing that we are free from the law, but this does mean that we find forgiveness for all our deeds. It means we can live life without worrying about being righteous before God, because Jesus already has secured and paid for that righteousness in full.

Though we will still mark, avoid, and hate sin, we can now, with confidence approach a horrible situation, in which all the choices are sinful, and just pick one, even if it means sinning boldly. For there is no other God or Savior Who determines the righteousness of a person by His own, or Who gives His own righteousness so freely and completely.

There will never be a time when you come to church without sin. Do not fool yourself by thinking you don’t deserve to be here. Quickly bring your sin, confessing it as sin. It is the only offering Jesus will accept in exchange for His holiness.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Poverty stricken [Trinity 12; St. Mark 7:31-37]

God is speaking to you today, saying:

There is a path that leads a person out of poverty. Although it is seldom trod and fraught with despair and anguish and many do not make it, for one reason or another. But it is there.

There is also a path that leads to poverty or back to it, that is a well worn path. And that’s the thing. The ones that make it out are the exception. They are congratulated, because it is not often that it happens. Why is this? Is there some magic property of poverty that simply draws one in?

Take our Parkview friends who lost their homes in the fire this last Thursday. They were forced into poverty by some unknown force. It just happened without rhyme or reason. How does one counter that? Of course, it really can’t be countered as Jesus says, For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

We can hear the despair here. No matter what we do, there will always be those in need. However, this does not mean you get to slack off. Jesus did not say, “You always have the poor so it doesn’t matter”, He said, “…and whenever you want you can do good for them.”

Jesus also said, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”. Jesus is commanding you to do futile work. Work that is not only endless, but that you will despise as well. Caring for the poor, consistently, is a thankless, fruitless job.

But there is the command. You either do it or you incur the wrath of God. The men in the gospel today understand this same thing. They have a poor brother; more than poor, he is deaf and mute. He is the epitome of what it means to be poor, being unable to lift himself out of it by any means.

In this deaf and speech impeded man, is shown all of sinners for all time. This is because there are two meanings behind being poor, whenever you hear of them in the Bible. The first being the most obvious: poor in material things; things necessary to live a life on earth. The second meaning is poverty of Spirit. The latter being the more devastating, but no less connected to the first.

Repent. Jesus uses poverty of material things to reveal to you your own poverty of spiritual things. Indeed, as He said the poor would always be here, to His Apostles, He then said you will not always have Him. The world has a poverty of Jesus.

There is a poverty you might get out of, but there is a poverty you will never get yourself out of. Jesus reveals this to you by allowing Himself to be crucified. It is great that you can find a poor person you can help, but Christ is still the crucified one. No matter how many you help or how you wish to help Jesus, God’s Word doesn’t change. You will always read about Jesus being Crucified and that means you are spiritually poor.

Jesus has one mission and that is to save you from your sins. He did not come to set you on a new adventure. He did not die so you could get a job or amass wealth on earth. From the day of His conception; no, from the very first day of Creation, Jesus had planned for your salvation.

This is because Jesus has also promised that there will be no poor among you. God is not just promising and not fulfilling here, because obviously people are poor everywhere. When God says there will be no poor, He means there will be no poor and yet we will always have the poor among us.

There will be no poor among you, because the Lord will surely bless you and He blesses you with the suffering, death, and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ. You are not to look for easement of the poor nor are you to look for your own easement from poverty, in order to secure righteousness, because you have already been given it.

You are not poor because your treasure is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God. You are not poor because you have the forgiveness of sins. You are not poor because you have the Lord of all Creation serving you salvation on a silver platter and in a silver chalice.

If anyone is poor, it is Jesus. Jesus was made poor for you. He had no place to lay His head in His own universe. The birds have nests. The foxes have holes. The enemies of Christ have riches, but He doesn’t and by His poverty upon the cross you are made rich.

God supplies your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have knowing that you brought nothing into this world and you can take nothing out of this world. You have food. You have clothing. With these be content for in that is great godliness.

Yet even in these gifts you cry out for mercy. Not just your own mercy, but for mercy for those who really are in terrible need. Continue to pray that God grant gainful employment. That He continues to feed and to care for all of you. Pray that you be kept from bitterness and resentment.

But do not forget!: poverty is its own gift from Jesus. Poverty keeps you humble. Poverty keeps you from evil of wanton living and disastrous overspending. Indeed, Jesus Himself gives great blessing to the poor saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus gives us His right Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to be able to discern these things. Though poverty is the cause of much suffering and it breaks my heart to think of those in such situations, it is also the den of much violence and blasphemy. Being poor does not give one a “free pass”.

On the same coin, being rich or comfortable is no picnic either. Indeed, comfort is a blessing, but comfort breeds complacency, and complacency breeds contempt. Contempt of the One Who gave us all things.

The idea is, you can be a good Christian by receiving what the Lord gives and telling others to also receive from Him, in the Divine Service. You can be a good neighbor by helping your neighbor in need, indiscriminately. Make no mistake your neighbors are more numerous than you think and are in greater need than you can provide.

Rely upon Christ and His sacrifice. Remember that He gave all He had to redeem His poor Church and though She is promised great riches in heaven, She waits for the last day in poverty here on earth. What she needs, the Lord provides and He always will to the end of the age.

Your poverty is just like that of the deaf and speech impaired man. Unless the Lord comes to retrieve you, you are in it forever. In sin, there are no bootstraps to pull up. The good pleasure of God sees that all is provided for you. In Christ, your need is supplied in the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rid us of poverty forever.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Two men enter; two men leave [Trinity 11, St. Luke 18:9-14]

Today, we once again hear Christ speak to us, saying,

Two men enter. One man leaves.

This is the chant of post-apocalypse Bartertown, in the movie, Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome. What the chanting audience is witnessing is justice. Two men have committed a crime. They are thrown into the arena to kill each other. If you die, you’re guilty. If you live, you’re innocent.

Two men: The Pharisee and the tax collector.
Two men: Cain and Abel.
Two men: Christ and you.

The 4th chapter of Genesis starts in a surprising upbeat manner. Even though Adm and Eve have just been expelled from Eden, they are celebrating a birth. It seems as though life outside will not be as bad as previously feared. Like last week, it appears as if God is wrong and there is nothing to fear in this new world.

But continue reading, and you find you are dead wrong. Literally. In the account of Cain and Abel, we see real life outside the garden. Here is presented to you is life under the newly obtained “knowledge of good and evil”. We now are in on the experiment that Adam and Eve started: ruling themselves.

Freed from the shackles of Godly intervention and imposed Law, Adam and Eve now "create" for themselves. Eve cries out at Cain’s birth, "I have created man just like God did". In this new-found freedom from Eden, Adam and Eve raise their own sons, teach them, and find that things aren’t so bad.

Cain grows up into this new freedom. He tills the ground as God said he would. He also creates. This time it is produce and crops. From barren ground, Cain tends his gardens and produces 100 fold. He is living the life. What’s Eden anyway? Life is good.

But Cain is not the only man around. Two men have entered this new, freedom-laden world. Abel, his brother, is also there. Abel is second born. He is not tilling the ground as God said he would and instead tends to animals, but he appears to be equally successful.

Two men go up to God to pray. Cain brings his crops. Abel, his fat portions. Two men enter. One man leaves. In the new freedom, apparently Cain is free to murder and Eve is free to weep for her dead son.

Two men go up to the Temple to pray: the Pharisee and the tax collector. Two brothers. Both claim Adam and Eve as ancestors. Both claim the Temple as their own. Both claim access to God through prayer. Both bring their offerings before God. Two men enter, one man leaves.

But you must admit that Cain and the Pharisee did not necessarily get the better end of the deal. If Abel suffered death, Cain suffered worse than death in his sin. If the tax collector suffered shame in sin, the Pharisee will be denied access to heaven.

We must amend our Australian film-making friends. It is not two men enter one man leaves. It is: “Two men enter; no man leaves.” In a post-Eden world, no one wins. In a land of enlightened, fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death is the only winner.

Your enlightenment, superior perceptions, knowledge; they all betray. They betrayed Abel. They betrayed the tax collector and they hoodwinked Cain and the Pharisee. They were all blind; indeed every one of you is still blind to the fact. Whether you die at the hand of your brother, society, or live having committed the crime: no one’s getting out of here alive.

All of you enter. None of you leave. All of you are guilty. None are innocent.

The justice for Abel and the tax collector goes unfulfilled. There is none for them. Cain and the Pharisee get to live their lives. Though they are both cursed, their superior intellect has allowed them a life after such a life-ending disaster.

So where was Jesus when Abel needed Him? Where is Jesus when we need Him as we strive and fail in sin? When God breaks into the world of flesh and blood, there are no longer only two men in the fray. Jesus enters as the unprecedented and illegal entrant, increasing the number to three.

Now, God takes on flesh for the tax collector and barges in where He is not wanted or received: your heart. Since everyone is dead in their sin, there is no one to stop Him. Indeed, who can oppose God when His Word goes out to accomplish what it will? No one.

Jesus enters the fray. He doesn’t have to. He could have snapped His fingers and accomplished the same thing, but God became man and dwelt among us to fight for us on the cross. Now it is you and Christ that enter; two men enter, one man leaves. You get to leave. Christ stays behind to die your death.

High above all the knowledge of good and evil that Eden’s tree gave, is God’s knowledge. Where Eve, Cain, and the Pharisee run from a benevolent God Who only wishes to serve forgiveness, Jesus runs towards the wrath they incurred for doing so. Where Adam, Abel, and the tax collector failed in doing justice, Jesus fulfills that for them, by dying on the cross.

Eve, Cain, the Pharisee, and you want immediate results. In all conventional wisdom, justice is best if it is served swiftly. Less hurt. Less damage. However, true justice is only served by Christ and that only through a promise. A promise that all knowledge, all murder, all death, and all suffering will end.

What Abel and the tax collector are praised for is not their ability to die at the right time, nor is it their own humility. A true believer is praised for the humility of his master: the humility of Jesus.

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Heb 11:4)

By faith alone Abel was able to stand in front of and endure his brother’s hatred and now his blood cries out to God, not for justice, but for propitiation; for atonement and forgiveness.

By faith alone was the tax collector able to come so close to the dwelling place of God on earth, with all his sins, and find justification freely given to his repentant heart and it is by faith alone that you all stand here today.

Reason tells you to flee from faith. Reason tells you that all this “Christian living” is not worth the satisfaction to be had by the ways of the world. Intellect tells you that it is easier and far more enjoyable to cast off the shackles of marriage and Church and to just do what feels right.

Knowledge tells you that the world is not so bad; that sin won’t affect you and that God is not watching. That sin you committed last week? Guess what, no lightning fell from heaven and nothing bad happened to you because of it. We must not be so bad off. Jesus must be crazy.

Jesus tells you to run towards faith. Jesus tells you that, because He lives, you will live. Jesus offers His blood which cries out greater than Abel, because it doesn’t just cry for justice and forgiveness, it gives it.

The Body and Blood Christ offers up on the altar of the world atones for all sin. This Body and Blood covers the sins of Adam. They cover the sins of Eve. They show mercy to the unrepentant Cain. They show mercy even to the self-righteous Pharisee and they are offered for you and your own forgiveness.

Jesus enters the death fray for you, bodily. He dies, but He gets to leave again. In His act of sacrifice, Jesus breaks the idea of “two men enter, one man leaves” in two. Jesus dies so that you may leave with your life. Jesus also lives so that death no longer has a hold on you. Now, two men enter, but two men leave. Where Cain and the Pharisee sought to impose the knowledge of Good and Evil upon the world whatever the cost, Jesus imposes the Tree of Life to a greater degree.

The fruit from the tree of Life, which is Jesus on the cross, is a greater sacrifice and a greater Word than that of the knowledge of Good and Evil and death. The word of the cross only kills Jesus, but is God’s power of salvation for you.

By His Body and Blood, Jesus removes the shroud of sin, death, and the devil (all fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and replaces it with justification, forgiveness, and mercy. It is Christ’s humility that wins the day for all sinners destroyed by the fall into sin.

Cain did not have to struggle and remain in his sin. The Pharisee did not have to think his righteousness came from his inner being. They simply had to die to sin and be raised to new life. Abel shows us how to die and the tax collect shows us the reception of this new life.

The Promise of Jesus in baptism kills you and brings you back to life in Christ. The Body and Blood that escapes death is offered to you for free. The medicine and antidote to all the hurt and damage done by the fall into sin is found at your fingertips and offered freely.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jesus wept [Trinity 10; St. Luke 19:41-48]

Jesus speaks in your hearing today, saying,

In another chapter of St. Luke, Mary Magdalene weeps upon Jesus’ feet, washing them, and then anoints His head for His approaching death and burial. She is not weeping for sorrow, but joy that a man has come into the world to redeem her, a poor, miserable sinner.

In Genesis, it is Hagar weeping for Ishmael, because he is about to die in their common exile in the wilderness.

Israel weeps in hunger in the wilderness.

Israel weeps 30 days over the death of Moses and even Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet, having so much sorrow in his time as a prophet to the Lord’s people.

And on, and on. Humanity weeps throughout all of the history of salvation. But, weeping is not just exclusive to Christianity. Everybody weeps over one thing or another and that is easy to understand. When events lead out of our control or when something so tragic and personal hits us, the body and the soul offer no other option but to weep.

It is natural for you to weep. You weep at sickness, disability, and death and indeed you should. These things are alien and do not belong in God’s creation and these are the very things that will not make it into heaven, after the Last Day.

You weep with your brother. When your neighbor is in dire straits or amidst tragedy, you weep with him. Sometimes words just get in the way. You should be weeping for the Police Officers killed in action. You should be weeping for mother’s who loose their sons to violence and war. You should be weeping for the unborn who do not make it to the age where they can vote against abortion.

Jesus draws near to Jerusalem and weeps over it. And Jesus weeps over it for all the reasons you weep and all the reasons that all of Israel has wept in the Old Testament. Like Hagar, Jesus weeps because His son, His chosen Israel, has died in the wilderness of their sin.

Like Israel, Jesus weeps over the death all His prophets, not just Moses, but Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some of them got to live out their lives pretty comfortably and even Israel, at the time of Jesus, was not doing so bad on its own.

Indeed, the Scribes and the Pharisees were insistent that things were fine. Yeah the Romans were here, but god would take care of that through their hands. Otherwise, all of Israel had never been stronger as a people, never more populous, and never more under the O.T. law of “love your neighbor”.

Truly, the Jerusalem that Jesus weeps over was in no need of such mourning because everything was fine.

Repent. Your overlords would love nothing to tell you that everything is fine in this country and likewise, false prophets. They tell you to not worry about the bad and the evil. They say that you are stronger together and can make things great again. You believe them and start to believe it, even about your own life.

If everything is fine, why is Jesus, the God of all Creation weeping? If everything can be solved by positive thinking, 10 second hugs, and making others feel good, why is it not working? If dying is just a passing on to the next world, why does it hurt so much?

Mary Magdalene knows why. Mary knows what God is thinking and what God is doing. She knows that her sins are multiple scarlet letters tattooed on her for everyone to see. Mary knows that if God Himself does not come to rescue her and relive her of this horrible burden of sin and death, that she will be lost forever.

Jesus weeps. He too knows all these things that Mary does, because HE was the one who told her. Jesus knows that a price must be paid. That a sacrifice must be given. That a stiff-necked and dead people must somehow, be brought back to true life, and that good feelings are not enough to accomplish such a feat.

Our heavenly Father knows that His only-begotten Son has one single desire: to save His people from their sins. Our heavenly Father knows His Son cries out Here am I. Send me, send me”. And the Father grants this request, even though it will mean the suffering, death, and burial of His dearest treasure.

But Jesus does not weep because Israel is lost for His cross is the only certain way to correct that. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, because even if He were to rise from the dead, they will not turn towards Him as they did of old.

Salvation lies through suffering. Even if they are Jews or Gentiles, repentance of sins is necessary and is harder than you think. Repentance means you are laid bare. No more secrets. No more hiding in the shadows. All your scarlet letters are on display.

This is the confession to your pastor, as we sang about in our Hymn of the Day. It is an admission of all things. On Sundays, the Divine Service uses a generic confession that’s easy to do, not because that is good enough, but because it assumes you have already confessed privately, to your pastor.

This is the salvation that Mary understands is coming from Jesus. Her sins were public, so she had more to weep about as her reputation was ruined. But you have no less to weep about. You are also in the wilderness of sin. You are also hungry for life, in a world of death. You also struggle mightily under satan’s thumb and do not win.

Jesus weeps over His city, but He rejoices that He gets to sacrifice Himself for you. He calls for you to stay close to Him, for the road to the cross is difficult, nay impossible, for you, yet He will be your ransom. He will be your rock and castle. He will strive and wrestle on your behalf and come out victorious.

Though the precious and innocent Blood of God is shed, all He suffers for your good. Life wins. His innocence bears all your sin. His sorrow is your joy. His suffering is your comfort and his death is your life.

Because of the cross, weeping has an end. Because of the cross, tragedy’s days are numbered. Because of the cross, our mourning will turn to joy when all flesh shall be raised from the dead and you and all believers in Christ will be given eternal Christ, to dwell in the true House of God, forever.

We hear Jesus weeping in the Gospel, but He is not weeping today. He shed His last tear on the cross. You weep today, but Jesus says, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. You mourn today because of sin, but you will be comforted.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.