Monday, March 27, 2017

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


Jesus speaks to you today, saying:

In the Gospel according to St. Mark, there is a place where Jesus commands His disciples to make a boat ready for Him to cross the sea in order to escape the crowds. Quite literally, He asks them to make the boat persevere or continue steadfast.

This does not seem like such a great detail, because what does the boat persist in but sitting there. Pretty meaningless in the eyes of the world, but to the eyes of faith we see great faith in this boat. No, boats cannot have faith, but they can persist in what they were made for.

The boat waits as a boat. It persists in its boat-ness, simply waiting to be used properly, content in its lot in life. It remains steadfast in that which it was made for: floating. This shows forth an intelligent creator where, what He creates, works.

Wood floats, water is wet, and crafters ply their craft making use of the constant way wood floats on water to constantly make boats. God has made all of Creation to work in a certain way. Creation works.

This becomes extremely important when we hear about Jesus feeding the 5000. In this miraculous feeding, we get to see creation beginning to work as it was intended. Food is supposed to feed, to nourish, to fill up. However, we find ourselves eating at least 3 meals a day.

So when five loaves of bread and two fish are unleashed upon 5000 people actually produce leftovers, we are beginning to get a glimpse of what food was originally supposed to do: actually feed us. However, this is not the end of the story for bread. It is not just made to feed us so that we will never be hungry again, but it will be pointing to its greatest and perfect use.

This finally comes to fruition in Acts chapter 2 when we hear the disciples persisting in …the Apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Teaching; every teaching ever, all fellowship, all prayers, and all bread has been waiting since the dawn of Creation, persisting steadfast in the ways they were made for, all in order to bring Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, true God and true man to your eyes, your ears, your nose, your fingers, and your tongues.

Now that all of this has been elevated to its true purpose in the Kingdom of Christ Crucified, it is your turn, because Christ did not come as a boat or a piece of bread. God has taken the form of a man. A real man. Like you in every way, in order to accomplish His greatest work: your salvation upon the cross.

40 days after Easter, Jesus ascended into heaven. 50 days after Easter, Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to save and guide His baptized believers. And with this divine guidance of infinite wisdom freely given to them, they go to Church.

In faith, with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and disciples and every believer persisted in; continued steadfast in, what they were created for: communion with God. And they did not seek Jesus in mystic, ethereal paradigms, they did not work towards Jesus through progressive sanctification, and they did not find Jesus in their neighbors or their neighbors’ hearts.

They sought Jesus out in His Word, the Word that was handed over to the Apostles with the Holy Spirit causing them to remember all that Jesus said. They worked at congregating and found Jesus in the breaking of the bread, not because they felt like Jesus was there in their hearts or that He magically appeared, but because Jesus promised to be there and was.

Repent. Not only do we seek love and trust in earthly things, but we believe that when we find the Lord, that it is purely a spiritual and emotional experience. That boats, bread, and prayers are the spiritual places where we meet with God and feel overcome by His presence, instead of where Jesus says He will be.

When Jesus promised that His Name would dwell forever with His people on earth, everyone thought He meant in Jerusalem and in the Temple. But these were simply temporary things pointing to that which would actually fulfill His promise.

It would not be a temple made with hands. It will not be a city that could be plundered and destroyed. It will not be in bread which rots and wastes away and it will not simply be a meal that memorializes a past event that has nothing to do with today.

Or nothing to do with you in your suffering. Ideas, thoughts, and emotions do not hold up in difficult times. Memorial meals do not alleviate pain and loss. Earthly things do not give heavenly comfort, until Jesus.

Now water covers a multitude of sins. Now words produce everlasting salvation. Now bread and wine give the forgiveness of sins. Now a man can proclaim the Word of God in all these things and that Word brings all these things to pass for the Christian.

From the beginning, Jesus had in mind to leave His Spirit with His holy Church and by the Apostle’s example, they understood that too. For it was right after Pentecost that they steadfastly devoted themselves to hearing the Word, Communing, and praying. Not because they are nice things to do, but because in these things Jesus promises His presence.

In Jesus, we see humanity come to its full purpose: communion with God. Not just communing with God, but communing on God, Body and Blood. Not just being with God, but being in God, Body and Soul. Your true purpose in life; what you were made for comes to pass when the Gospel in preached in its purity and the Sacraments administered according to it.

I am the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35), Jesus says, and death is swallowed up forever (Is. 25:8) when this meal is placed in front of you. For we are not simply eating here, but are being made a part of the Body of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, because this is what you were made for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Good doggie [Lent 2; St. Matthew 15:21-28]

Jesus speaks today, saying:

It was Jesus Who also said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matt. 7:6)

So right off the bat, dogs have a bad rep and you can attest to that. Dogs do not belong inside. They do really disgusting things with their biles and they have gross habits and tendencies. Its amazing that we keep them around.

Even the philosopher’s use dogs to describe a man who is of an impure mind. We actually carry this thought in our own language today, when we talk about unfaithful or wayward husbands. And it is true when St. Peter quotes the Proverb speaking of fools, “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Pet. 2:22)

However, despite all that dogs are called man’s best friend. They are fiercely loyal, even to those who beat them and mistreat them. They remain constant and persevere under harsh conditions, continuing to wag their tails in front of evil masters, though not out of intelligence.

So what do we say then of one of Jesus’ harshest comments made to a suffering person? Do we say that this is how God is, Almighty first, demanding perfection and worship before He performs mercy? Do we say that Faith given to us is given solely to strengthen us to face a bipolar God?

If your only answer to this event is that Jesus is Almighty and He can do what He wants, then you are dead wrong. Although you would be half right. For in this exchange we do see what power faith has. That it can take God by the scruff of the neck in prayer and hold Him accountable to His Word saying, “Your Word promised me this. Where is it?!”

Faith bites into God like a dog, not letting go until it has received a blessing, even though it is buffeted and shaken. Faith hangs on till the end and receives its reward.

Thus, your faith will hang on to this Gospel reading until the end, until it finds peace, like a dog. For in it, we do not find only a woman being insulted, but something greater than the woman.

We look to 2 Samuel for this answer. In it we find that Saul has died and David is king. Saul’s son, Jonathan has also died. He was David’s best friend and David wished to show the Lord’s kindness to Jonathan’s family and household.

The last person David encounters is one of Jonathan’s sons who is crippled in both feet. The son says to David, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Sam. 9:8). And David commences to restore all the lands of his grandfather to this boy and commands that he regularly eat at the king’s table.

And another place which says, “But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Eccl. 9:4)

Repent. You are the person with the impure mind. The dog of war, against God, that is never at rest, never satisfied, and never grateful. What more of an apt description for a person with a rebellious, unclean heart that makes petition before a holy God.

And since Jesus is using the phrase, He agrees. Even the Greek word for “worship” is eerily similar to the word for dog, meaning to bow down to the position of a dog: face in the dust. But, a living dog is better than a dead lion. We just want to know how that is.

Jesus says, “But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
 All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Ps.22:6-8)

On His cross, Jesus claims mastery. He does this by assigning Himself the position beneath the dog, that of worm. Are we bowed down to the dust? Christ is down in the dust, eating it. Are we severely oppressed by demons? Christ has taken them all upon Himself and judged them. Are we beggars in front of God? Christ was judged and found guilty by God.

Here now we see quite clearly, that the first is last and the last is first. The woman is not the dog. Jesus is talking about Himself. Jesus is the man Who would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of His God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Ps. 84:10)

Jesus has come down to exalt the sinners bowed down in the dust. Sinners that have been killed beneath the weight of their sins are now lifted up to the status of sons. Jesus returns to the vomit that is sinful creation and produces a lavish banquet at the King’s table.

Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross; being made a dog on your behalf, purifies every sinful thing. When He wrestled with Jacob, He did not beat Him down to prove a point, but lifted him out of his sins. In dealing with the crippled prince: he was also lifted to the status of king.

Now we can answer that boys cry. What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I? The Lord has revealed to you that you shall be king. In the Blood of Christ you shall inherit a kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:32). In the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God, you will be high and lifted up (Isa. 57:15) discarding dust and ashes for flesh and blood.

In the Kingdom of Christ the Crucified, the dogs never had it so good, because their Lord became like them in every way except without sin (Heb. 2:17, 4:15). There is no High Priest or Friend greater or more sympathetic, because He has been there and done what you have been through. He has suffered, He has been betrayed, and He has died.

But even the dog that takes on the sins of the whole world, eats at the master’s table. Even the Lamb Who was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), lives and reigns to all eternity. And because of His suffering and death on the cross, this woman need not be ashamed that she is called a dog, for she is a child of God.

In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the last story describes the end of the old heavens, the old earth, and the old Narnia, which came to a close in war and strife. But those who were to be saved were rescued and brought to the heavenly Narnia. One man that was saved was astonished that he was there with everyone else and said this:

[He spoke to me, saying], "'Beloved…unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek'...And since then…I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.”

To the repentant sinner who confesses his sins, wishing to do better, who trusts in His Lord’s promises, and believes that God sent Christ Crucified for him; no purer words of the Gospel were ever spoken. It is true you were dogs in your sins, but today you are kings in Christ.