Monday, December 18, 2017

Repent, God [Advent 3; St. Matthew 11:2-10]


Jesus speaks to you, even this day, saying:

The way John the Baptist has prepared the Way has been with this message: “Repent. The kingdom of the heavens is at hand!” What he does with this message is prescribe the entire life of the Christian as one of repentance. Which means, if you ever find yourself at a loss as to what you should be doing for God, simply stop and repent.

Used 34 times in the New Testament, the word for repent literally means change your thinking. In your life of sin, you think sins, most especially your own, are ok. As long as you stay away from the big ones, God will look down at you and wink.

In the New Testament, repentance becomes an act of man and is always used in reference to what you should do with your sins: change your think. However, in the Old Testament, repentance was being enacted by someone else.

Listen: Samuel writes after Saul rejected the Word of the Lord and was removed from the throne of Israel, saying, And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or repent, for he is not a man, that he should repent.

The picture we begin to see is that God appears to live in direct contradiction to John the Baptist’s words in not being a man who repents. Of course, you say. God is all powerful and all knowing. He has nothing of which He would need repentance. And the unbelievers would ask what about cancer? What about starvation? What about Trump’s election?

The sinner feels God has much to repent over and the Old Testament even talks about that. Again from Jeremiah we hear, ...and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.But we can’t forget the flip-side and also hear, “…if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good that I had intended to do to it”.

Also remember the most famous of God’s repentance in the story of Jonah. St. Jonah goes to Nineveh and rebukes the entire kingdom for their sin. It is not Jonah, but the unbelieving king of that country that responds, Who knows? God may turn and repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."

St. Jonah gets angry at God for repenting, yet these new believers heard the Word and believed, trusting that God is a God of mercy. Jonah knew God would not punish the evildoers and instead show mercy, because, for Jonah, repentance is man’s work, not God’s. Regardless of what St. Jonah thinks, repentance is God’s work.

So when we get to Jesus commanding that we prepare the way, the Lord has already showed us the way by walking it Himself: the way of repentance. For God does repent in Jesus. Jesus comes down, claims to be God, and everyone takes Him so seriously that they put Him to death for all the crimes God did not repent of, according to us.

And the cross shows this to us. The cross is where, The Lord repents concerning this: 'It shall not be,' said the Lordas St. Amos records. God goes down this way of repentance first, to show us just how its done and how far we are away from it.

So now that the way of preparation has been accomplished in Christ, we hear St. Isaiah, whose candle we lit today, tell us: Remember these things and groan; repent you that have gone astrayand also hear King Solomon give us proverbs of encouragement: The simple man believes every word, but the prudent man comes into repentance”.

We repent, because the Lord first repents. We continue to repent only because the Lord has commanded it. We do not grow weary of repentance or fall into despair, because we have the hope of forgiveness. We draw near with a baptized heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness, because in Christ forgiveness follows repentance every single time.

God has nothing to repent of. He has no need of it, because He offers salvation and comfort in the cross of His own Son. He can bring disaster or avert it. It makes no difference to the Christian, because Christ is on the cross for him and is all the rescue needed. Our repentance is done in faith and faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus, God also refuses to repent, unleashing His wrath on His Son, yet this just opens the way for fruitful repentance. For John’s message, and the entire OT message, was repent or else. In Christ, because He was made flesh and suffered and died, the message is now, “Repent! For the kingdom of the heavens is near, to forgive.”

Only in Jesus is our repentance worthwhile. Thus, our entire life is one of repentance, not because we hate ourselves, but because it is the only place where Jesus gives forgiveness instead of punishment, when we bring Him bad things. At this Good News, faith drops everything, gets on its knees, and gets every sin out of its system that it can.

The Good News that Christ was made man now makes us believe that we no longer have to groan in our sin, though we should hate our sins and be horrified by them. Now, St. Isaiah’s words of comfort and peace can only be found in repentance, not just to our minds, but because of Christmas, comfort and peace are brought to our bodies as well.

Not because we simply act out repentance, but because our warfare with sin, death, and the devil has been ended for us. Our iniquity has been pardoned. The Glory of the Lord is revealed on the cross and the promise of forgiveness stands forever. All of our repentance; all of our preparation would be for naught, for in it we only have a reminder of our sins, year after year.

And that is the point: it is the Lord Who is faithful. He will do it. He forgives. …rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God,for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he repents over disaster.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Already changed [Advent 2; St. Luke 21:25-36]


Jesus speaks to you today, in His Gospel, saying,

“Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing”

Thus far the “prophet” Bob Dylan predicts the future we live in and gives voice to the accusation leveled at the true Church today: if you don’t change, you will die out. In fact, a cursory google search will yield many articles pushing the idea of 10 things that the church must do different or it will become irrelevant in the future.

They will then predict the 10 things the church will do differently in the future, the one that has survived, at least. These usually include insults to traditional churches saying things like if you love your model more than your mission you will lose or, that selfless discipleship or online service is key to survival, because that’s never been tried before.

But the main criticism is always that the old road is rapidly aging and if you can’t lend a hand get out of the new one. What is not surprising is that they will never argue doctrine or belief, but instead at how you present your church. Never is the criticism against what the Word of God says about this or that, but only how much you promote self.

Now this church growth crowd pronounces the demise of traditional Christianity each and every year, and only their buzzwords, facial hair, and the style of their eyeglasses ever seem to change in these clumsy articles. Because these predictions always work out, don’t they? Remember in the 70’s and 80’s when we thought by now that we’d have flying cars and a full salary for only working 20 hours per week?

Now there is something to this. Times do change. Jesus talks about that today. You see the signs, the change of time in the sun and the stars and the moon. You notice the coming and going of seasons in looking at the flowering and producing trees. The world marches through time and Jesus has created signs to mark these out. Obvious signs.

As in, these signs that mark the end of all things will be easily seen and understood by Christians. We will know people will increasingly hate the Word and the Church. We know the Church will continue to shrink and we know true faith will be hunted.

These signs are not global Armageddon or Trump gaining Presidential status. The signs of the times are empty pews and a disdain for the Gospel given simply in Word and Sacrament. Jesus says, See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” 
Did you only think that “little” in the Bible always referred to children? The Church on earth is little and belittled. Her Word is unheeded and her sacraments are despised and spat upon. No one wants a god that needs words in ink and bread and wine in order to give forgiveness to His people.

Jesus tells us to pray for strength to withstand this, because we don’t have the strength. Jesus shows us what true strength is, standing up to family, friends, and even all of His own creation in order to stand on the cross alone, atoning for the sins of the world.

Jesus is the small (one man out of trillions) doing the Good works of God. Jesus is the little one accomplishing the little works of God, even from His manger. That is rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil. And these acts and His Word do not change. There is nothing different about what Jesus did on the cross, from year to year.

There is no different Christmas or Easter story. There is no different book of the Bible to be studied anew. There is no different way to salvation and there is no different way to commune with the Lord of all things. In this way, the Church will never change and thank God for that. Imagine a changing church. How would you ever find something that changes in a way you don’t know, from year to year. Impossible!

Yet …it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.Jesus did not perish, but rose to new life, never to die again. The Church He created will not perish, but lives forever in Christ, being His Body and He Her head. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.And the Father does so, on His terms and in His way, that is through His Word and Sacraments.

At any rate, here are 10 ways that we can predict how God will actually be dealing with all of us ten, twenty, a hundred, or even a thousand years from now:
         (1) people will be brought to the faith by water Baptism in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, both as infants and as adult converts
         (2) Men - called and ordained pastors - will preach the gospel, administer the body and blood of Christ, and absolve sinners
         (3) The creeds of the church will be confessed by the faithful as they have since the earliest centuries
         (4) Hymns confessing Christ and divine grace will continue to be sung by the faithful
         (5) Young people will be catechized in the faith through catechisms that they will learn by heart
         (6) The church's liturgy will continue as it has since the earliest centuries - focused at altar, font, and pulpit; spoken and chanted, with reverence and holy joy, transcending age, ethnicity, and subcultures and uniting the church across time and place
         (7) In their personal piety, Christians will make the sign of the holy cross, pray the Lord's Prayer, and chant the psalms, collects, and the daily offices of the church
         (8) The canonical biblical books will be studied in their original languages and taught in the common tongues, as well as the historic confessions of the church
         (9) Pastors will visit the sick, the shut-in, the dying, the poor, the outcast, and others who are forgotten and left behind by our shallow entertainment and youth culture (which is embraced and obsessed over by the church growth experts). They will bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ and will anoint them and prepare them to die in the faith of Jesus Christ
        (10) Christians will continue to endure persecution, as the cross is, and will remain, a mark of the church until the Lord returns in glory.
(Fr. Larry Beane, Facebook, December 5 at 4:09pm)

Monday, December 4, 2017

True News [Advent 1; St. Matthew 21:1-9]


Jesus speaks to you today, in His Gospel, saying:

In our brave new world of fake news, the fake news outlets are trying to ban the term “fake news” and they have the money and the lawyers to get it done. Now, this should frighten you because they’re using the money you give them by watching their programming. But are you going to believe your rural back-woods pastor over professionally trained journalists?

This brings us to the most alarming part of this whole modern controversy: who is telling the truth? And nowhere do we see this brought forward more vividly than in this recent run of sexual allegations, where we are all just one accusation away, false or true, from complete ruination.

For, on one side you have the accusations, which do not have to be true in order to ruin someone’s career and life. They just have to be a rumor. I think Jesus talks about gossip somewhere…

However, on the other side you have real victims who are now being discredited because of all the fake victims. It is to the point in our media that we do not know who is telling the truth. We don’t wait for facts. We don’t wait for due process. In post-modern America, you are guilty until proven innocent and even proven innocence will not get you your life back.

Today, the backwards, back-woods Church lit a candle, people would say almost as effective and “thoughts and prayers”. Yet, that candle is lit in the darkness of lies and deception. In lighting that candle, you as a church, have declared war on fake news, because you believe in the News of the Son of God.

Indeed, the Church has its own news outlet: the prophets and the Apostles. This small candle represents all of the Old Testament that has gone before us in history. Not myth, not legend, not fake news, even if everyone wants you to believe it is fake.

Today, this Advent candle is lit for St. Jeremiah, whose book I highly recommend. Jeremiah says that a king is needed in order that wisdom, justice, and righteousness be executed in the land, because as of right now, its not. And the “Christian” “scholars” will say, but Jeremiah is fake news and his book is a myth, not even written by him.

And they will give you proof. Believable proof. Proof that would, if possible, lead astray the elect. You think you can smell the devil and his lies from a mile away, but he is 10 times the pastor your pastor is and he is 10 times the scholar.

Jesus says, “Go into the village in front of you and you will find a donkey tied and her colt.” And immediately, the apostles can go and confirm this bit of news Jesus has told them and be amazed. Wow. A donkey. Just as He said!

Likewise, St. Jeremiah can be justified by saying Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely, by simply offering the end of the Babylonian exile as proof of his future sight. Wow. A return from exile. To a scorched earth country. Yay…

St. Jeremiah can not stand on his own and neither can the Apostles. There is, as of yet, nothing spectacular to believe in much less die for, in what Jeremiah or Jesus is saying or doing. That is yet to come.

For, Jesus is not just telling prophesies about donkeys or villages or kings or exiles. He is living them out. In the actual and accurate eyewitness account of St. Matthew, Jesus is not just riding a donkey on a lovely spring day. He is mounting His warhorse and marching upon the darkness of lies and deceit which say He is not the Son of God.

For this Palm Sunday and Advent 1 Sunday reading is Jesus beginning His suffering for the entire world. You believe this because Jesus had just finished telling His disciples, before the donkey, this: See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

It is in this true news that St. Jeremiah’s “return from exile” is not just to the geographical state of Israel, but towards the incorporation of forgiven sinners into the body of Christ. It is in this true news that Jesus marches towards His own death, on a donkey, for your eternal life and allows His detractors their fake news, because He has something they don’t have: a Resurrection.

A resurrection that no one in the history of the cosmos has ever had or ever will have, until the Last Day. Some may have written about a similar resurrection, but the only eyewitness proof conclusively offered is that of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. All other resurrections have thousands or hundreds of years between the event and the book. Jesus’ resurrection account has only single digits.

St. Matthew is a historically, verifiable and true news source. It accurately reports the truth better than any ancient document, including Jeremiah. What brings them both together is the God-man Jesus Christ Who verifiably comes back from the dead.

Jeremiah is true because the Crucified Son of God says its true. St. Matthew is true, not because of historical accuracy, but because the Branch of Jesse has sprouted, hanged on a tree, and gives life to His Church even in this age. The truth is not that St. Jeremiah is right or even that St. Matthew is right. The truth is that Jesus is right and gives the Good News that you are now right; right with God in Him.

Which is why you put your money where your mouth is and support this, your church and not fake news. Because in this place, against all other places on earth, you invest in truth; the Truth, who is Christ our Lord. It is here that heavenly transactions occur, not just in treasure, but in salvation.

You cannot be saved in your closet. You cannot believe at your sporting events. You cannot have faith at the foot of a manger scene. You are only saved in Christ. You only believe at His Word. You only have faith, because He hands it out to you in Body and Blood.

And the Light of the World prepares you to receive Him in Baptism, in the Gospel, and in His Supper. He shows you His death and His resurrection so that when you finally get to the manger, you will not just see fake news or even feel-good news, but the Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

All of which has yet to be disproved by thousands of years of scholarship, media, and marketing. Take heart, dear Christian, for God’s own Child joins you to Him in mercy which proves how greatly God loves you. The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. Salvation is at hand.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Decor [Trinity 27; St. Matthew 25:1-13]


On this final Sunday, we once again find ourselves faced with fear as Jesus returns and says to you today,

Much ink has been spilled over this passage all in order to convince us that there is some significance to the number of virgins or that they are virgins to begin with. Likewise, there have been the exhaustive attempts to determine just what these lamps are and how to keep oil in them, because they appear to be the key to salvation or condemnation.

Then, of course, there is always the evil crowd who want us to be silent so God can speak and if we don’t hear voices in our head that we are doomed to hell and miss out on the feast. None of this turns out to be central to this Gospel reading and none of the conclusions mentioned turn out to be correct.

However, all of those things do turn out to be decoration. Those details, props, and actors are all there to adorn the real occasion and fill out the momentousness of the event. That is, the arrival and true presence of the Bridegroom.

The world understands decoration. It understands the need for visual representation of an abstract celebration. What is a birthday? You can talk about it all you want, but without family, cake, presents, and the birthday boy, you don’t have very much.

Even at funerals or memorials there are decorations. Although, it is at these times which we are most confused, because we have decorations, but we do not have the person of honor. The most crucial piece of the celebration puzzle is missing, but we know we must celebrate something, somehow.

Likewise, the decorations of this Gospel reading are not just for show. The decorations are not just there as fluffy detail; just because without them the story would be too plain. They are there to point to true presence. And when I say true presence, I’m not just talking about spiritual, but real, actual, physical presence.

So why is the Church any different? Its not. Or, it shouldn’t be. We don’t hang something up because we think it looks nice. We shouldn’t even be hanging things up that are just reminders of what Jesus has done for us, as if He is only a tool to get us to a higher quality of life with full lamps, a free country, family, strength for the day or anything like that.

There is only one reason we would even think of adorning the Church: it points to our belief that Christ is present to commune with us in His Body and Blood.

Return to Isaiah, heard earlier. The first three verses show us that before the infant gets long life, before vain labor and calamitous children are no more, and before the wolf and the lamb graze together, the Lord is there. “I create”, “I create”, “I create”, He says. Three times. And in order to enact His orders, He must be present.

Seek more of your answer in Thessalonians where St. Paul is describing the Day of the Lord. You don’t have a Lord’s Day without the Lord showing up and on that day we have been destined for salvation, not wrath, through Jesus.

Our Introit seems not to help, only speaking of prayer being heard, possibly from far away. But that is only true if Truth can spring out of the earth, far away, which it can’t. Truth, Jesus Christ, springs out of the earth, out of His mother, with a reasonable body and a reasonable soul. That is, a visual decoration, easy for us to understand that He is just like us.

In this Biblical light, it is not vampiric or cannibalistic to believe that Jesus, the Crucified Savior, is present in His own Supper which He sets before us this day. The real question faced with Christians is not, “Will you hear God when He calls”, but “Where is Jesus”.

This is the main concern for the 10 virgins: Where is Jesus? They are so concerned that they dressed to the nines and bring out their lamps to light His way. This is also the main concern for the watchmen. The only reason they are on the heights watching is to wait for the morning, in this case, the arrival of Jesus in order to announce it to everyone else.

The Church is on earth in order to announce the Lord’s Coming and the way she does this is by proclaiming His death until He comes in, with, and under the Lord’s Supper. The Church’s Sacraments are not decorations for show. They are the real and true testament that the Bridegroom has come to dwell with His people on earth, as He promised.

He comes to dwell in our hearts, bodily. Not just as some fanciful Santa Clause figment of our imagination, but as true Body and Blood. He comes as a corporeal child, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He grows and matures as a natural human being, increasing in wisdom and favor. He eats, drinks, sleeps, weeps, walks, talks, dresses, thirsts, hungers, touches, and acts.

Today, this same Son of God has not changed. He may be seated at the Right hand of God in power and glory, but that Right hand uses that power and glory in order to commune with His Church on earth, even at this Altar.

The cry of the Watchman is none other than the cry of the pastor. Christ is here! Come out to meet Him! Not in your dreams or emotions, but in flesh and blood. The wise virgins look for a body and light the way for a body. A spirit does not need a lamp to light His way.

This is not a reading of dread or woe or worry about how much we have prepared or how little we have prepared. It is satanic to shift our eyes towards how little our lamps are or how poorly they are prepared or even how full or empty they are. Listen, rather, to the Words of the Bridegroom Who has come down from heaven in order to bring you with Him.

Take and eat. Take and drink. You are needed. You are a part of the celebration. This reading is about Jesus coming to get you, coming to call you, and coming to feed you. The Bridegroom is coming in order to celebrate His retrieval of you from sin, death, and the devil.

At this very moment, you are right where you need to be. The Church on earth provides the exact spot where Jesus is: handing out lamps, handing out oil, handing out His Sacraments. You hear the Word of Jesus, because it is He who is speaking to you. You receive the Supper of Jesus, because it is He who is feeding you.

The Sacraments decorate the Church in order that you know that you are already part of the wedding party, that your lamp is full to the brim, and that you are inside the feast and not outside. Not because of how you brought yourself, but because of how Jesus baptized you into that position, preached you into His Church, and fed you the invitation.

So the Doomsday Clock-ers have it all wrong. It is already midnight in this world. But that means midnight is passing. That means the night will soon be over. And even though we still stumble through the darkness, a light shines. The Gospel is still here being preached and the Sacraments administered. The clarion call of the Church still echoes loud in the dark.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Scapegoat [Trinity 26; St. Matthew 25:31-46]


So, Jesus speaks to us today in His Gospel and says,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed St. Luke in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will" (Eph. 1:3-5)

That purpose we hear of today in Jesus declaring the separation of the sheep from the goats. In our sin, we don’t really want to know who the sheep are, because we think we are they, but also because we are only truly interested in who the goats are. That way we can feel better that there are others worse off than ourselves.

Goat is usually the part of language no one wants to be a part of. When something gets your goat, it is bad. When someone is a scapegoat, same thing. It is a negative meaning. This is a fairly new phenomenon, I think, for we don’t even hear of the word “scapegoat” until a bible translator coins it in 1530.

Its important to notice that goats have gotten a bad rap. All your favorite Hollywood demons have goat features, but in the Bible it is only this one instance where goats appear to be the bad guys and the reason for our poor view of them as well.

However, for most of the Old Testament, goats are placed on the same level as sheep. They are a legal substitute for sacrifice. The Paschal lamb taken and eaten for the Passover may be from the sheep or the goats. And not just at Passover, either, but throughout the year. If a sacrifice is needed, a goat works just as well as a lamb.
It was also goat skin that covered Jacob in front of Isaac, his father, in order to trick him into giving Esau’s blessing to him. It was also the blood of a goat that covered Joseph’s coat in order to trick Jacob.

The only difference, of course, comes when Moses starts talking about a scapegoat. What that word really means is, the goat that leaves. You see, on the Day of Atonement, there were two sacrifices to be made, two goats. One was picked to offer to the Lord and the other was picked to be led into the wilderness, never to return. Both are equally doomed.

One was picked to die, that one was for the Lord, and the other for exile. At least it got to live, maybe.

The point is: the only way to tell whether the goat was for sacrifice or for sin was for someone to declare which was which, just as Jesus does today. Before Jesus speaks, there is no difference between the sheep and the goats. Before Jesus separates them, they are all growing up and working the same way, just like the wheat and the tares.

And lest you tear up the wheat or scandalize the sheep, the weeds and the goats must remain. In fact, in the Song of Solomon, one of the ways the Bride finds her Bridegroom is because she feeds her goats.

This means that you do not know who is a sheep and who is a goat until Jesus says so. And that’s ok, because what you do know is Who it is that is the sacrifice for sin, both the lamb and the scapegoat: Jesus Christ.

All sacrifices commanded by God in the Old Testament point to Jesus, no matter what they may be. Jesus is, of course, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but He is also the scapegoat, the goat that leaves with the sin of the world. He suffers and dies, leaving this plane of existence, descending into hell and resting in the earth for 3 days.

He is exiled, forsaken by the Father for your sake. This tale of the sheep and the goats is not about us, it is about the Christ Who is Himself the sacrifice and priest; both the blessed and the accursed; the One who leaves and the One Who stays.

Only in Jesus do we have any blessing from the Father. Only in Jesus are we chosen to be holy and blameless before the Father. Only in Jesus are we predestined to be the blessed inheritors of the eternal kingdom given by the King of kings, Himself.

Thus we seek the scapegoat covering that Jacob used. We search earnestly for the goat’s blood to cover our sinful ways, as Joseph’s brothers did. We endure both the good and the bad handed out by God, not because we are strong enough, but because Jesus endures both to the end for us. The end being His suffering and death on the cross.

So where is the distinction and what does this mean for us? There are those who say that you do not become a car just because you sit in a garage, making the negative comment that you are not a Christian just because you are in a church. What this kind of argument is called is a false dichotomy: making a comparison of two things that have nothing to do with each other, but sounds good to the ears.

The problem is that you don’t usually find people in a garage, or rather, you don’t usually store people in a garage. You store cars in a garage. You expect to find cars there, not people. You build garages for the express purpose of housing cars.

Likewise, you put sheep in a sheep-pen. If you want a place for goats, you put them in a goat-pen. What you do with Christians is you put them in a Christian-pen, otherwise known as a Church.

It is true that no matter how long a person stays in a garage, that will never make them a car, but the garage is not preaching the good news of cars or handing out the holy things of cars, either.

A person does, however, have a 100% chance of becoming a Christian in a Church. Why? Because God dwells there, He stores His holy things there, and His transformative word of the Cross is preached there. Garages don’t preach. God does.

So the sheep and the goats should go to Church, because it is only there that the goats have any chance of being made into sheep. Living as often as we can among the holy things of God, makes us holy. This is why Jesus calls them holy baptism, holy communion, and the holy Gospel.

We do not get to say who are the sheep and who are the goats. We do get to say, “I am a sheep” because of Who and what we commune with. We are covered with the blood of the Lamb and the skin of the Scapegoat in order that our sin and guilt be taken away.

Now to be sure, the goats do not get a happy ending in this parable told by Jesus, but we do not cling to the labels “sheep and goats” and we laugh at anyone who asks us whether we are one or the other, because we know, in our sin, we are the goat. In Christ we are the sheep.

The Lord reveals to us the true label where we are “blessed by the Father”, that is the cross and the title, “baptized”, and the occupation, “those who commune”.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Just one thing [Trinity 25; St. Matthew 24:15-28]


On this 3rd last Sunday of the Church year, we hear our Lord speak directly to us saying,

No man has greater faith than the congregation here at St. Luke. False christs and false prophets will not find a welcome here, because St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church knows that the only great sign and wonder to be worked in our time is the Word and Sacrament received by the Baptized.

The Word of God is kept here and the sacraments of God are freely given according to it. There is no holier place on earth than this spot.

Yet, there are those who believe that the Church on earth is simply a vaccination. A “get well” pavilion. Where we can come in for our once a week, mandatory appointment, shoot up, and be on our merry way for the rest of the week, month, year, lifetime…

Some would even have it be a hospital where cures are administered and the sick are cared for and nursed to better health. Thus, when we feel down or grumpy, we can come in, have our mood turned around, and skip down the road.

Rather, it is neither of those things, but it is a hospice center, plain and simple. Truly, you could say the whole world is on hospice and all headed in the same direction.

Let’s set the record straight, first. The Abomination of Desolation, in part, has already come to pass in humanity offering up God on the cross. At this horrific act of complete and utter rebellion against the Creator, the whole world shakes and fear spreads like wildfire. Truly there is nothing worse that can be done on this earth than killing God.

Thus we flee to the mountains of the Lord which are His Chancel and Pulpit. We run to the consolation of Israel in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We flee because we know death follows all these happenings. We flee because we also know that death has already grabbed hold of us and we have nowhere else to turn.

Thus, we can put to rest any thought we may have of the Church being a booster shot center. The problem with this is that there is no vaccine against death and fear.

We may also nix the hospital idea. Not only are there no cures to be had in church, but when we join, things only seem to go downhill, instead of up. We get worse, not better. We pick up others’ diseases, we despair of treatment, and we question competence of staff and attendees.

What do we think? That we are the nurses and the attendants who are healthy and administering to the sick? There aren’t any upright people in the whole world to administer any kind of treatment, much less a correct one.

The world is very evil. So much so that no one is left to care for the wounded and dying, except for the wounded and dying. In fact, if you read the pericope from the Gospel again, you will not find the faithful standing up to any of this. If we assume these running away are faithful, then they are simply told to run, not stay and fight.

Why do you suppose that is? Was everyone on vacation that weekend or had something better to do than to watch for the Coming of Christ or this abomination? Truly we are in the midst of this great tribulation Jesus speaks of.

You do not see the faithful because they are sin-sick and dying. No one is standing up to the Abomination because they lack the strength, not to mention it is God’s doing so who could stop it? All believers are not fighting, but wrapped comfortably in their death beds and waiting.

But Hospice provides comfort, at least. So what comfort is there in Church?

Well, what if you were on hospice and the doctor came in to tell you that there was a way to get well. You just had to eat this one piece of broccoli each week and you would be out of hospice that day. Would you do it?

If you had chronic heart failure, but your cardiologist says that if you do this one pushup, just once a week in order to stave it off, would you do that?

Even simpler, does putting gas in your car once a week make the gas any less valuable or necessary?

No, it doesn’t. It does the opposite. Having gas in your car increases its value for you, for then it is able to work. Push-ups? Broccoli? Heck yes we would do those things. If something so simple could accomplish so much, why would we shun it?

Jesus says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor.11:26). Does that not sound like the piece of broccoli or the pushup or the gas to you? Jesus is saying that until the Son of Man returns like lightning, you will find Him doing His Will and making His Kingdom come through the sacrament.

Which, if you take it often, you will be a part of His work. The care and cure at the hospice of the Church is not administered by a man, but the God-man, Jesus Christ. Who walks among His baptized believers, washing their wounds that make them weak in battle, speaking words of encouragement as they face their own sin and death, and spoon feeding life and salvation to each and every patient.

This is the power of the Lord’s Supper. Even though the flesh is weak, the Spirit is willing and moves us towards the Body and Blood of Jesus, which is the one and only true medicine on earth.

Just one shot is not enough. It is not that the Lord’s Supper is so weak that it needs multiple installments, just one is enough for the Supper. It is you who are too weak for only one dose, for in sin you are hemorrhaging. Hemorrhaging blood, hemorrhaging life, and hemorrhaging faith.

The cure that Jesus gives is a steady IV drip of Communion. It is there that we find Jesus. It is there that we find the forgiveness of sins. It is there that we find true strength and true healing.

It is in the Lord’s Supper that the abomination of desolation will have no rebut or defense against. It is in our communion with Almighty God that all the false christs, all the false prophets, and all the false signs and wonders will give way to. No lie of the devil can stand up to the true Body and Blood given and eaten.

This is because it is a rock solid promise and sign. Jesus promises forgiveness and delivers in His Supper. Jesus promises healing and salvation and He delivers in the physical, concrete bread and wine of communion.

The Christian’s solace is only in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. But it is not ours until He gives it to us to take and eat and take and drink. You can sing about salvation and argue about theology all you want, but until you give someone physical proof of your truthfulness, they will never believe you.

The pure Gospel and the true sacraments are what make the Church a mighty fortress against the great tribulation and a comfort against our own sickness and death. Through our own might, nothing can be done, no matter how sincerely we try. Through Jesus’ promises, nothing will get through to us no matter how sincerely He tries.

But something we can lay hold of; something concrete that appeals to our sin-dulled senses does. Especially something that’s available as often and as much as we desire it to be.

Truly the table and the cup of the Lord overflows and we want to be there when it flows upon us and the Faith of Jesus makes that happen, for you. For where the body is, there we will gather.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Blasphemer [Trinity 19; St. Matthew 9:1-8]


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

Blasphemy falls under the 2nd command to “not misuse the name of the Lord your God”. This command is broken in two ways: cursing God or cursing your neighbor. If you speak evil of God or mock Him, Moses warns that you will be held responsible for those words.

If you call down the anger and punishment of God upon yourself or any other person or thing, you break this command, unleashing your tongue. Do you curse and praise out of the same mouth? Brothers it should not be so.

We usually think of cursing as using bad words in front of the preacher (in front of friends its ok), but this is not so. It is not vulgar language in itself that is the blasphemy, it is how it is directed and who it is directed against.

But this is why we become so confused and so guilty so quickly. Because we can not distinguish who we curse and who we don’t. We believe that keeping some language private or secret, at least covers some bases, but we do not fool ourselves. We still feel guilty.

Especially that one weak moment when we cursed God.

In sinful hands, knowing what blasphemy is simply gives us recourse to use it as a weapon against our neighbor, maybe even God. We feel that if we point enough fingers at everyone else’s blasphemy, deserved or not, that God will forget about ours.

However, it is exactly in our judging that our judgment is revealed (Rom. 2:1). Point one finger, three point back. We want to boast so much in the law, but it just ends up showing how we are the ones dishonoring God. In our zeal to root out blasphemy from politics and public schooling, we make the blasphemy worse by modeling the holy life with our sinful life. “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom. 2:23-24)

What we should be doing is using our knowledge of blasphemy in a positive way. Not only should we be teaching against it, but we should self-reflect and discover that we are just as guilty as the worst of our neighbors and therefore both are in need of forgiveness rather than judging.

Because, where do we see true blasphemy and what do we do about the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and the fact that we may be guilty of that?

Blasphemy is always against Jesus, because the Law that declares that “a man can not be God” and that is exactly Jesus’ crime against humanity and the charge that gained Him the death penalty. For no good work did the Jews condemn Him, but because Jesus, being a man, makes Himself God.

As such only God can forgive sins. So when the paralytic walks away with the forgiveness of sins, that act signals Jesus’ own declaration: I and the Father are one. But, the blaspheming did not stop there.

What the enemies of Jesus did as Jesus hanged on the cross was blasphemy saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt.27:40)

Cursing, according to the 2nd Command, then becomes not just dirty language or speaking evil of God, but preventing Jesus from being God and man and preventing Jesus from going to the cross.

True blasphemy is denying that Jesus is both God and man and that He died and rose again. Thus, when we get to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy, it is not simply our sinful judgment of God and others, but it has to do solely with Jesus.

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a rejection of the gift of forgiveness that Jesus spent all of history accomplishing. If you don’t think your sins need forgiving, then Jesus didn’t die for them. That is unforgivable blasphemy, because there is nothing to forgive, rather you think there is nothing to forgive and so keep your own sins.

The Good News? The Good News is that blasphemy is a forgivable sin. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people…” (Mt. 12:31). Because you feel that guilt, because you feel that contrition, because you still believe that your cursing and blasphemy is sinful, you are still on the right track.

You know what else is a forgivable sin? Scourging, crucifying, and killing Jesus! In fact, it was that sin that made the forgiveness of sins possible. The crucifixion of Jesus stands as the demarcation between praise and blasphemy. Is Jesus on the cross for you or is He not?

Jesus did not curse you or swear against you in His suffering. Jesus did not lie or deceive by God’s Name in any of His miracles or good works. Jesus did not use satanic arts to raise Himself from the dead.

Jesus called upon the forgiveness of our heavenly Father from the cross. Facing His own unjust death, Jesus prayed for others, praised our Father for His almighty will, and gave thanks that one should suffer and die instead of all of you.

This, sin, death, and the devil can’t stand, because in Jesus’ actions, they are blasphemed. The Lord blasphemes against sin by becoming a man, living a perfect and holy life, and dying for everyone else. Christ blasphemes death by forcing life to Himself Who once had died. Jesus curses the devil by proving that the Lord is slow to anger and quick to forgiveness.

In God’s blasphemy of sending His only begotten Son to the cross, the entire world is saved. God allows the world to curse Him, swear at Him, use satanic arts against Him, lie about Him, and deceive by His Name in order that salvation be brought to you. Jesus opens Himself to history, to investigation, and to sharp criticism in order that the forgiveness of sins be preached to the whole world.

Because the only way to fulfill the law; the only way to avoid the sin of blasphemy is through love. Brow or Bible beating is not going to do it. Rooting our all blasphemers and burning them at the stake really won’t do it.

But, the love of Christ shining on the cross, will do it. The Holy Spirit, freely given, convicting us of sin, of Christ’s righteousness and justice, will do it. Living among the Word and sacraments of Jesus will continue to strengthen us and give us confidence that all of His promises are true.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Intemperance [Trinity 18; 70th Anniversary; St. Matthew 22:34-46]


Jesus speaks to us today, saying,

Just when you think that the Son has come to set you free indeed, Jesus turns on us and tells us that there are two important laws that the Law, the Prophets, everything depends on. And, as we all know, laws are a limiter of freedom, not a proponent, and when the laws get too heavy, we throw in the towel and shout, “I can’t!”

However, in the hands of sinners, freedom becomes a problem; it becomes a weapon. The great example of this is the Reformation. As wonderful and necessary to the preaching of the Gospel as freedom is, once it was given, people ran wild starting so many new denominations, smashing churches, and beating priests.

Freedom is given by Jesus, but it is ruined by us sinners. Thus, the giving of the Law tempers the sinner and the saved. The virtue of temperance is concerned with overcoming the overriding condition of our fallen human nature. Practicing temperance means that you know you have freedom, but you also know that you’re horrible at it.

Temperance is a difficult thing which is why we first figure out how to act rightly (prudence), then we give each man his due (justice), then we stand strong in those things (fortitude), and finally we find our own place, not in exercising absolute freedom, but in restricting our freedom. As Jesus commands us to love God and love neighbor today, temperance reminds us that there is no room for loving self in those commands.

Thus the Law tempers life, even though for the sinner and our sinful self it still means guilt and death, Jesus does not remove one iota of the Law. Though His suffering and death has removed the punishment and guilt of the Law, you remain in your flesh until Christ returns for you.

For the Christian then, the Law holds no sting or power to condemn to hell, but it still points out the way to live that is God-pleasing, because Jesus does not simply redeem you and then place you down in the midst of wolves and say, “Good luck.”

We are still in the world. We are still in our sinful flesh. The sacraments permanently tattoo God’s promises to us, but He leaves us in this world so we are in a constant struggle with our sinful desires.

You don’t think you have a problem with violence, until someone convinces you its God’s will. You don’t think you have a problem with chastity or fidelity, until that one person persuades you that its ok just this once. We never think we have problems handling anything our bodies desire, until it becomes a problem.

In regards to what Jesus is telling us today, we are free to love God and love our neighbor, but we are horrible at it. We never knew we had a problem with loving God or our neighbor until we heard it in black and white. In other words, until we heard it from the Law of God.

This sinful handling of Temperance is called concupiscence. Remember that word well. It means natural tendency and lustful leaning. That is us in our sinfulness. There is nothing more dangerous in this world than a temperate man. There is nothing more dangerous to the faith, than a concupiscent man that thinks he’s temperate.

So what does all this have to do with the Reformation, the LWML, and starting a church?

From the Genesis reading heard at the beginning of Service, we hear that the Lord is working in this world. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves, but instead works out all things for our good, including placing His Church on earth and placing us in it.

The Lord does all this while being intemperate. He showers His wedding feast with an overabundance of wine and food. He sows seed in excess, tossing them upon road, rock and thorn and weed alike.

He gives grace to the undeserving. He enriches in speech and all knowledge those who despise it. He does not spare any expense at revealing His true Son to any and all sinners, calling from every corner of the earth, and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins.

This intemperance climaxes at the cross. There we see the excess of life poured out into the ground. Feeding no one, nourishing no one, and benefiting no one as one would pour out milk into the ground. All of Jesus’ hard work: His words, His miracles, and His very person, seemingly wasted in grim death.

This is the price Jesus pays. His words fall on deaf ears. His miracles are undone. His body dies.

Yet through this abundance of waste comes an abundance of righteousness. As it turns out, this was the Father’s will; that the Son obey Him unto death on a cross in order that He would glorify Him by raising Him from the dead, permanently.

Thus it is not intemperance the Lord practices, but mercy and love. Though His words fall on deaf ears, those ears hear and, regardless, His promise remains true. Though His miracles only last for awhile (people get sick again and die again), Those people find eternal, permanent healing in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Though His body died, it is alive. Jesus has raised the lowly body to immortality, to imperishability, to glory, to power; to life. In three days, Jesus’ body has been torn down and rebuilt again. He has become the building built without hands.

Through this, whenever we ponder the Church, why its here, why we’re here, and what the good of it all is, we must always remember Christ Crucified and that intemperance. And, desiring to be Christ-like ourselves, then we must participate and commune with that intemperance, when it comes to the House of God.

Do we want Gospel preached in its purity and the Sacraments administered according to it in this place for only 70 years or 70 times 7?  The Spirit that has been given to us is not a spirit of wekness, but of power. Power to invest ourselves completely in the Church. Power to overcome our sinfulness and hatred for the apparent waste of time that is the Church on earth and see it for its eternal glory that it is.

The Church of God is the one unique place on earth where all of Scripture comes true because this is the Body of Christ. This is the place where we invest in eternity. This is the place where heaven opens its gates for us. This is the place where the Lord comes to set a table for us. This is none other than the House of God and this is the gate of heaven, as Jacob declared oh so long ago.

To our comfort and peace, the Lord is intemperate with His Church. He continues to sustain it wherever the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments administered. He continues to invest His entire being into those “successful” churches and those “unsuccessful” churches.

He continues to lavish this house with an overabundance of eternal gifts, though the walls remain brick and mortar. He constantly comes to His Supper, though it remains crusty bread and passable wine.

But that is the real Good News. That though these things are the lowest of the low; though we be the lowest of the irredeemable, Christ comes to us. He sets Himself as the Chief of sinners. He is the chief cornerstone that the builders rejected, because He was not virtuous enough.

Thanks be to God that is so. Thanks be to God that the Lord of all can be numbered with the sinners below me, descend to death and hell in front of me, and be there when I must go there. Thanks be to God for His Church on earth, for there would otherwise be nowhere to go to find Him.

The Lord sets up an oasis of life, in this desert of death, in no other place than His Church and this is where we find His full glory, His full power, His full kingdom, and His full righteousness and no where else. Period.

Earthly churches comes and go, but the true Church of the Lord endures forever. It is the Body of Christ and, like a passing rain shower, will be found here for a time and then to another place, but it never dries up and will never leave the earth.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fortitude [Trinity 17; St. Luke 14:1-11]


Jesus speaks to you today, in your hearing, saying:

Verse 6 from the Gospel today, is translated very weakly. That “could not” in “they could not reply” is not something to pass by lightly. Because that phrase is used so much by us: we couldn’t do this or that; it lacks punch. What Jesus is actually saying here is not that these men harassing Him couldn’t find a good answer or explanation, but that they lacked the fortitude to stand up to what Jesus was actually doing and saying.

That is, that Jesus was actually doing the miracles of God and that He was saying that He was God Himself.

But this is what happens when we are caught being in the wrong. We hate to admit it. We hate being found out, so we remain silent. We don’t have the fortitude to either see our position through to its logical end or give it up and say we were wrong. You should be able to sympathize with the Pharisees.

The reason you feel that way is because fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs. Fortitude is not just strength or ability or courage, it is the moral courage to stand against the evil spirits of the times, against fashions, against human respect, and against the easy way out. Fortitude is the virtue that helps us stand up for what’s right even when others say that Christianity is outdated.

Even when it means your death. Even when it means your suffering, poverty, or loss. This is what the Pharisees faced today, in your hearing, when they heard Jesus forgive sins and when they saw Jesus heal that man from his disease. If they were to agree with Jesus and accept what He said, they would be facing their deaths; social and physical.

It would mean that everything they had believed up to that point about God was wrong. It would mean that everything they had grown up with and was familiar to them would change. It would mean their family and friends would turn them out of house and home as an idolater, worthy of condemnation and death.

This is why the Jews lose their fortitude in front of Jesus. They would rather be silent in their sin than to admit that they were wrong and that Jesus is right. They would rather not stand up for their wrong, than to admit that Jesus is right.

We would rather curl up like the Pharisees than stand up for what’s right. Don’t rock the boat, the saying goes. “Just take it easy”, they say. “Don’t get so worked up” or even “God has everything worked out”.

True fortitude is not with us or even with the martyrs. True fortitude is found only with God (Jer. 12:16); beside Him; ruling with Him; dwelling with Him.

So, in one sense I will not get worked up and will take it easy, because the Lord had worked everything out through Jesus. Jesus is the Lord’s fortitude Who not only stands up to these Pharisees today, but also defies death and danger on the cross.

Yes, Jesus is the fire brand, talking about unpopular things at inopportune times. He confronts man-made superstitions about healing on the Sabbath. He defies the establishment that would rather have sacrifice than mercy. He stands up to and fights the law and the law doesn’t win.

But that is not what this is about. Yes, Jesus faces ostracization and capitol punishment by breaking these taboos and being a rebel, claiming to be God’s Son, but for what? To get debate points? To make sure everyone knows He’s right and they’re wrong? To argue, yell, and Bible-thump?

The real reason we see the fortitude of Christ on display is not to impress nor is it to target these men questioning Him. Jesus’ true objective, in showing true fortitude, is defying and defeating the powers pulling all the strings; the man behind the curtain: sin, death, and the devil.

Sin has many a silencing arguments for you and me, but sin can not reply to Jesus. Sin has no fortitude in front of the cross, because then it would have to double down on its own judgment and instead of justifying itself, it would have to claim that it is right and thereby bring to fruition its wages: death. But sin does not want to die, so it remains silent.

The devil has a mouth that oozes sweet and sickly words in order to convince the sinner to continue in his sin, but he has no answer for Jesus. The devil does not have the fortitude to stand in outright war against God and His true Son. This he knows would only result in his defeat. So he hides behind creation, ever corrupting, never creating, and remaining silent.

Death is the final answer to a lot of worldly arguments and one could say that it has the fortitude to stand up to God, doubling down on its role and standing up to the Lord of Life, confronting Him on the cross. But death is not a person, it is simply a result.

At this point, we can work backwards to undo all of this un-virtuous living. The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56). In this way, Jesus claims the victory. Life wins out over death, because Jesus does have an answer to all of those arguments and temptations: Himself.

Jesus offers Himself, both God and man, on the cross, suffering and dying and rising again and all your arguments are invalid. Prudence, justice, and fortitude bow down at the foot of the cross and yield to the undying and everlasting love of God, that sacrifices itself, rather than see His enemies win.

So I will not remain silent, because the Church does not remain silent. Every argument, debate, or discussion begins and ends with the cross of Jesus. It is lawful to dine with Pharisees because Jesus is on the cross.

It is allowable to touch and mingle with the diseased, because Jesus is on the cross. It is lawful to heal and do work on the Sabbath, because Christ forgives sins from the cross. It is ok to take the higher position or the lower position, because Christ is in the lowest position, hell, and also occupies the highest position, almighty God.

I will not double down on my sin, my life, or my courage and strength. I will double down on Christ and His Person, Word, and Work.

Because these things are Christ’s and not my own, I have the fortitude to be His instrument in the Divine Service, to robe as one chosen by God, and stand in this pulpit.

Because you have the fortitude of Christ, you are able to return to His presence, in His Word and sacrament, repeatedly and find pardon and peace. Remember that loving God means receiving what He is giving, not giving your own stuff to Him.

Remember when Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all soul and mind and fortitude? Same word there. You have pledged your fortitude to Christ and His Word, as you have been taught, in your confirmation vows. In them, you state that you would rather face death than to fall away from this doctrine.

But true fortitude is not being the loudest or most persuasive to the most people. True fortitude is found in Confessing your sins to your Pastor and receiving forgiveness from him as from Christ Himself. True fortitude is not going in front of the enemy and seeking a martyr’s death. It is humbling oneself in the presence of God in the Divine Service, knowing that He is here to commune with you.

The world is very evil and the times are waxing late. Jesus is at the door, preparing His final judgment to terminate the evil and crown the right. In this life we must strive and toil, but we do so in hope. And we throw that hope all around us and as far ahead of us as we can, knowing it is our only hope.

Our hope is that this pile of dust and ashes will be exalted. That our fortitude, as weak as it is, will not be needed. The promise is that the Lord will be our part, that we will be His only and forever. And so it is.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sufficient injustice [Trinity 16; St. Luke 7:11-17]


Jesus speaks today, saying,

The word used to describe our funeral crowd this morning, read as “considerable”, is a pretty broad adjective. It can mean larger than normal, but it can also be interpreted as sufficient or adequate.

So, in the case of us hearing the Gospel today, we hear it in two ways. The first was already spoken, as in a larger than normal crowd was there. The second way is that the crowd was sufficient, as in it was just enough to do justice to the grieving mother and to the city’s image.

This second reading suggests an uncaring attitude, as in we will provide just enough mourners to make it look good. And you can relate. If you have ever lost a loved one, you feel as if the whole world should be paying respect, especially those people who don’t stop for the funeral procession on the road.

Here is the evidence for reading it this way: In I Kings, it was not sufficient enough for King Ahab to walk in the sins of his predecessor, but he had to serve Ba’al as well. Going back to Genesis and hearing about Rachel and Leah, Jacob’s two wives, fighting over who is giving more children to their husband, Leah, who is not having any children, complains to Rachel demanding to know why it is not sufficient enough for Rachel to take Jacob, but she also needs to take Leah’s livelihood as well.

Finally, it is the Lord who prophesys against the pastors of Israel, because they are abusing the Lord’s congregation. He asks them why its not sufficient enough for them to feed on the good pasture the Lord provides, but they must also trample it for the sheep when they have finished eating.

The point is, Justice is supposed to be a virtue, but in our sinful hands it turns into a weapon. We see the oppressed, we give them just enough which is their due, and that’s it. Now, you would say, what’s wrong with that? And I would reply, Repent.

In the Kingdom of heaven, justice is not enough. If your brother asks for your cloak, give him your shirt as well. If he asks you to walk one mile with him, go two. Yes, give them justice; give them their due, but if you are to show mercy as the Lord has been merciful to you, then you must go beyond Justice.

Charity, or love, is beyond justice in this way. It is just for God to punish us eternally. It is love that stays His sentencing. Our example in the faith is Cain, the guy who gets the ninth circle of hell for his injustice towards his brother. He cries out how he can not bear God’s justice against his sins, saying, “My punishment is greater than I can bear…whoever finds me will kill me.”

In remembering and recognizing our sins, Cain’s cry is our cry. If our friends and family knew who we really are inside, if they ever found out, surely they would kill us. And it would be a justice to the world to remove such a sinful and corrupt creature from it. And yet, it wouldn’t, because then Jesus would have one less sinner to receive His free, public forgiveness of sins.

For Jesus, it is not sufficient enough to redeem this only-begotten son from this just-enough crowd and from death. It is not enough for Jesus to restore this family, mother and son, on earth. Therefore, Jesus does not give us our due. He does not give us what we deserve. He gives us what we don’t deserve.

In the Garden of Eden, when Adam betrayed Jesus, there were no mourners for Jesus. At Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, there was no considerable crowd for Him. And yet, even though He lost His entire creation, all His first-born, and only-born, and every-born person to sin, death, and the devil, it was not enough for Him to sit idly by.

Jesus switches places with the funeral; all funerals. Where there is a considerable crowd or no crowd at all, it is Jesus in the coffin; Jesus in the bier. Jesus weeps in our place. Jesus suffers, in our place. Jesus dies in our place.

This is injustice. That the holy, innocent Son of God should give His life for those who hate Him and rebel against Him is not justice. Yet, by the mercy of God, His injustice is punishing the innocent. The justice of the Kingdom of the heavens is sending One to die for the many. Justice is laying the One into the grave Who built the earth’s foundation.

And Jesus’ grave is still open. It stares at us and it stares at the widow of Nain. We know we are going down, but because Jesus left the door open, it is no longer a pit of death, but a portal of life.

Thus the church sings not because she is happy, necessarily, but because she has hope. She sings because, contrary to popular opinion, the clouds are breaking and the storms of time will cease. Death, sorrow, and earth’s dark story will all come to and end.

This end will not just be sufficient or even considerable. It will be perfect. It will be complete. It will be an end that not only delivers justice, but love 100 times over what was done to us here and 100 times over what we have lost here.

Jesus lives Who once was dead! He has blessed us and not cursed us. He has washed us and not left us. He has spoken to us and not ignored us. He has fed us and not left us hungry. The Church is not selling these things, but giving them away for free.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…” in Body and Blood.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mammon loses [Trinity 15; St. Matthew 6:24-34]


Who speaks to you today saying,

Mammon is the name that the Jews gave to describe two things: money and gain. It is Aramaic, not Hebrew, but both still have to do with having no other gods before the Lord. So where does mammon affect us today?

For one, this flag to my right represents a government who serves mammon. Last year, the average person in America paid more in taxes than they did on food and clothing combined, even forcing families to worship mammon as well, if they want to live.

This flag to my left also represents service to mammon. Whether or not the family of the man who designed it still receives royalties, you still must pay for it. This oppositely represents the Gospel its supposedly for, which can not be bought or paid for. This also coming from the churches who are adamantly opposed to a crucifix, but gladly fly this piece of cloth in the Chancel instead.

Finally, you say you don’t serve mammon, but there is a way to disprove that. All I would have to do is set fire to either the flag of the United States, a 100 dollar bill, or your credit score and your reaction would reveal your true heart and your true god.

Divorce is a separating of what God has joined together; a gory slicing apart of one flesh, yet it does not receive the same strong reaction.

Abortion is murder, yet sports games receive more of a reaction than does this abomination within our midst.

Children are being publically taught that money and career is more important than fatherhood, motherhood, and having families. Yet, by keeping all this among us, we think we offer service to God, but our actions betray us.

The real evil is in the “necessity of money” that modern society preaches.
We should offer recompense for work done on our behalf. We should expect recompense for our work in order to do good with it. We need it to live, but that is exactly the chink in the armor that mammon slips in through, corrupting our good intentions with sinful desires.

This is why mammon is usually referred to as “unrighteous gain” in Scripture, because this freedom is a two-edged sword. Yes we can use money, but it can be used for evil or good. It is a tool, not a god.

The Lord says to honor Him by sacrificing your mammon to Him (Prov. 3:9). He also says, 
“Woe to him who builds his house with mammon and his upper rooms without justice,
Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages” (Jer. 22:13).

This is because you must destroy lives, what God has created, in order to get dishonest gain (Eze. 22:27). Blood must be shed to worship mammon. Faith must be sacrificed in order to worship mammon. This we see as our sins crucify Jesus on the cross.

If you are ever in doubt as to whether or not you serve mammon or are guilty of any other sin, you need only look at the cross of Christ. If He is there, in His Word, suffering and dying, you are indeed sinful and guilty.

Jesus says, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Thus, Jesus can go on in the Gospel to say be anxious for nothing, because everything you have is on loan. Your money does not have your picture on it, but your ruler’s picture. Give it back to him.

Likewise, your body has Christ’s picture on it, not yours. Give it back to Him. One way or another both of these things happen. The government takes all your money and the Lord retrieves your body from you. With the world there is no mercy. Yet, with the Lord there is mercy and redemption of both body and soul.

Trust not in princes, or money, or gain, they are but mortal and soon decay. Though you need money, use it, don’t let it use you. As all things, sacrifice them at this very altar, which Jesus has prepared for you in the presence of your enemies. Give them up, for though your service is incomplete, God’s Service to you is full and free.

For unlike unrighteous gain, the Lord is righteous. He gives good gifts both of earth and heaven. Not only does He know your earthly needs and provides for you, but He knows your eternal needs and provides for them in His Church, through Jesus.

Faith purifies all things for the believer, because faith in Christ leaves no room for any kind of earthly gain. Faith knows that it is not our service, but God’s that counts for eternity. Thus, in the Church we call it the Divines Service, because it is the Divine (God) that serves us, not us serving God, much less our mammon.

Since the Spirit of the Lord has given us faith, we want nothing in the way of or obstructing that service. It is Jesus’ work, Jesus’ Church, and Jesus’ gifts. Jesus keeps His work pure for you. He purifies His Church in His Blood, for you. He offers you heavenly gain at no cost to you.

In Christ, neither money, nor food, nor any other thing can bar salvation from us, because it has been freely purchased and freely given. Your misplacement or misuse of your fear and love and trust are forgivable sins, because faith trusts that Christ is on the cross for you.

Our sins may have hung on the cross with Jesus, but it was His love and mercy that put Him there, Himself. It is not a diet free of polyunsaturated fats, or free of processed foods, or free from money that will save us, but only the Son of God.

And His Church reflects that. There is nothing but Christ Crucified here. Christ Crucified on the Altar. Christ Crucified in the Gospel. Christ Crucified in the font and Christ Crucified and living in you. Church comes first because that is where God and His Kingdom and His righteousness are.

Now, by this cross, we know what it looks like to serve God and not mammon and it is completely backwards in our estimation. What serving God looks like this: that we set aside the work we do so that God may work in us. Serving God is receiving what He is serving us, that is the full remission of all your sins in Jesus.

Thus, if you are ever in doubt as to whether or not you are saved by grace, you need only look at the cross of Christ. If He is there, in His Word, suffering and dying for you, you are indeed saved and forgiven.