Monday, April 17, 2017

The Body [Resurrection Sunday; St. Mark 16:1-8]


The risen Jesus speaks to us, even today, and we hear,

This Jesus is much more dangerous, now that He is dead. For now people will be after His body. They will cry out for His Blood in vengeance. They will rob His grave and make up a completely impossible story of how He has risen. They will steal it, maybe even eat it, in order to make His Word come to pass at all costs.

Do you believe the women’s story, St. Peter, you who denied Him three times? Do you believe the news, St. Thomas, you who doubted? Do you believe the Romans and priests, Judas, who betrayed Him?

Do you believe or do you also seek the Living One among the dead?

It is easy to determine the truth of the report: go find the body. You can follow where the body went as well as you can follow a body in a funeral procession.

Jesus was in the Temple day and night. He was teaching in the synagogues. He was eating, drinking, healing, preaching. His Body was a public spectacle. The only places He could hide was on top of mountains or walking on water and even there the crowds chased after Him.

Read the police report. His Body was taken into custody. His Body was found guilty. His Body was scourged by whip and rod. His Body was transported to hill and cross, where He was fastened, inescapably, to die, never to move again.

Please sir, tell us where they have taken Jesus. Go ask Joseph of Arimathea. He had Him last. He wrapped Him up in burial cloths and closed the tomb. Go ask the guards. They sealed the tomb tight and set a 3 day watch in front.

The Romans and the Priests keep strict vigil; they keep watch in your place. His death is not enough. Either the Apostles steal the body and claim to have seen the resurrection or the priests stand watch and the followers claim the religious establishment just denied it.

The Body is important. Likewise, at a funeral, the entire service, from start to finish, is focused on the body. We come to it, we offer our respects to it, we pray around it, we sorrow around it, we follow it to the grave, and we place it so securely in the ground that we always know where it is in order that we might return to it.

What a testament Christian burial is to the death and resurrection of Jesus! Better yet, what a testament the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is to us in how we treat our own bodies.

So, if you have been paying attention since Advent, the focus of all Holy Scripture has been, and still is today, the Body of Christ. Where is it? It is not here? Tell us, where may we find it? You find the Body of Christ where He has promised in His Word.

Every single popular religious leader has a headstone at which their worshipers pay homage, in despair. But we have nothing like that for Jesus, so what is it we do?

We follow the Body.
Now with the Apostles, eating, drinking, and breathing and talking. Now with 500 disciples proclaiming. Now with Thomas. Now with James. Now with Paul.

What about us today? Now the Body of Christ; the Body of a man is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Does that mean He is far away? No. This means that He can be even closer than what we know is physically allowable.

Now, at the right hand, Jesus can be everywhere at once WITH His body and blood. This means that He can appear and dwell among His people and be one with them. This means that each and every Altar that calls upon the Name of the Lord this Easter morning feasts and communes upon the one, holy, true Body of Jesus.

The Body that was on the cross purchasing forgiveness and salvation; the Body that was resting in the tomb from all the work He had done; the Body that appeared and is risen from the dead.

This Body dwells forever with His Church washing Her, speaking to Her, and feeding Her. As your own cardiovascular system carries life to your entire body in the blood, so now does the risen Christ nourish you in the one true faith, to life everlasting.

We follow the Body and the Body goes to Church, is revealed in the Gospel, and is received in the Sacraments. Do not doubt, but firmly believe. The Church holds not the Body of Jesus in a memorial, but in a living Feast of Heaven on Earth, given and shed for you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hidden [Palm Sunday; St. Matthew 27:11-54]


It is a glorious witness to the power of God when we hear the same Gospel reading from Advent 1, on Palm Sunday. Glorious, because Jesus is coming; not just to a Silent Night in Bethlehem, but to fallen creatures singing His praise today, but shouting “Crucify Him” on Friday.

Thus, Jesus speaks today, saying:

Why Advent on Palm Sunday? The same conundrum should also come to your noodle when you see the cross veiled and the church dressed in black on such a joyful Sunday.

The Lord declares to us, through the true prophet Isaiah, that He is truly a God Who hides Himself (Is. 45:15). Because, as my 5 year old loves to point out, she can’t see Jesus because He is invisible, but she wished He was here and Jesus gives her no direct answer.

But He doesn’t. Indeed it appears as if we are left to fend for ourselves and search under every rock for the Lord. Maybe we should just take the advice of those who wish to tell us that true prophets are the poor and the oppressed who rise above their circumstances and give lip service to God.

Its either that or stare at this blank wall another Sunday and pretend that we feel Jesus here. Its either that, or [pretend that God is with us and fumble with some words of positive thinking to offer as proof to those who ask.

And there is some truth to this. St. Paul tells us in a few places that “…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

The Lord also says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

So we are left with a God that appears on the scene as much as a flying spaghetti monster and is just as believable as a unicorn. What do we say then to Jesus Who tells us to love this invisible God with all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength? What answer do we give to St. Peter who says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:18)?

Repent! Yes, God hides Himself. He is hidden in every rock, in every tree, in every stream, in every fractal, in every quantum singularity, and in every one of your neighbors. But, He Hides Himself in such a way that you will not find Him, no matter how hard you look.

You may find pieces of Him, or traces of His attributes, but you will never, ever find God in the places where He has hid Himself. Even when He hides behind the death of a son.

Because that is exactly what the Lord of all Creation does: He hides behind His own death on a cross. He will not be found by you as a miracle king, a bread king, a creator king, or a palm king. He is the bloody king, handing over both body and soul to atone for the Father’s wrath against sin.

Though the splendor of creation lies all about us, God is hidden. Though the effects of the Flood still affect the earth, God is hidden. Though Egypt reels from pestilence and plague from heaven, God does not answer. Though Israel conquers the Promised land, God remains silent.

Though Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons and rides with pomp and fervor into the city of Jerusalem; His City, in joy and triumph, the joy and triumph is not that of earth, but of the cross. God hides Himself in Jesus and Jesus hides His one and only greatest work in His sacrifice on the cross.

Though we joyfully and loudly sang out “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” and flitted our own palms through the air in praise and adoration, did you think that this royal march had a happy ending?

Indeed it does, if seen with the eyes of faith. For faith does see a triumphal entry; a conquering march by a victorious hero from eternity. Faith sees the Mighty One, strong to save, on His Warhorse with His legions upon legions of immortal angel warriors; swords unsheathed, spears glinting red, boots tramping; thousands upon thousands marching upon the way.

With the one single mission in their briefing folders: take that hill. The hosts then advance, unrelentingly, and take the hill, the hill of Golgotha. They incite the people, they place Barabbas in prison, they agitate the High Priests, they ignite the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they urge on Judas.

The Palm Sunday crowd is worked into a fervor, clearing the way of naysayers and non-believers, in order that Jesus’ way would be prepared; that His highway in the desert would be made straight. Such that every valley be lifted up and every mountain made low; that the crooked be made straight and the rough places plain. (Is. 40:3-4)

Then, then shall the glory of the Lord be revealed (Is. 40:5). Then shall the true goal, the real God shall unveil Himself in all His glory. The God Who can suffer; the God Who can bleed; the God Who can die.

The reason Jesus hides Himself, never to be found; the reason the Church veils her art for Passion and Holy Weeks is because Christ will be found nowhere else except in His Gospel and in His Sacraments.

The Joy of Palm Sunday is that the King has triumphally entered this place and has conquered. The exaltation of Palm Sunday is Jesus tramping over sin, death, and the devil in your life. The splendor of Palm Sunday is found, not in rapture, but in receiving. Receiving the Word, remembering the Baptism, and taking the Body and Blood given and shed for you.

Jesus hides behind the cross, answering all prayers, all cries for mercy, and all sorrow with His own death and burial. Jesus hides on Palm Sunday in plain sight, to the eyes of faith. Jesus hides in your own life, but in the very place He has promised to be found: His Church, purchased and won not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious Body ad Blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

That is where Jesus answers Pilate’s questions and that is where Jesus answers your questions as well.

"Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior… I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’
I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together… Turn to me and be saved;” (Is. 45:15, 19, 20, 22)

Monday, April 3, 2017

He Who Is [Lent 5; Passion Sunday; St. John 8:46-59]


Jesus speaks to you today, saying:

The part of the text we are focusing on today is “whoever is” in the phrase “Whoever is of God…” The reason for this is because “whoever” is a modern attempt at translating the Bible in a gender neutral, PC way in order to sell more copies. What they miss in translation is a very important sacred name for Jesus.

The “whoever is…” should read “He who is…” and I want you to know this because in the ancient church, if you were to find and icon or a crucifix, you would most likely find the two Greek words translated “whoever is…” in the cross-halo of Jesus. They will look like an “o” by itself, followed by a “wv”. (Or "O WN", in capital lettering)

Now, if those two words in Jesus’ halo stood for “whoever is” then that would be very confusing, at least to me. What does “whoever” have to do with Jesus and His cross? What does “whoever is” mean? Does that mean whoever could be on the cross or whoever could be just as holy and sacred as Jesus?

No. The words there are “He Who is” and we hear the rest of the message of the Bible to back us up. In John 6, the One that has seen the Father is He Who is from God (v.46). In Revelation, St. John gives peace from He who is, He who was, and He who is to come (1:4,8).

In the same book, the four living creatures bow down giving glory, honor and thanks to the Lord God almighty, He Who was, and is, and is to come (4:8, 11:17). This is not just idle naming or correct grammar, but a revelation to Who Jesus is. God is the only One Who is, was, and is to come. He is eternal. Thus, this sacred name equates Jesus with God; a necessary Christian belief.

So, what we miss in the English is Jesus. It is not “whoever” on the cross, but it is Jesus. Jesus Who is from God, Who hears God, because who are we? It may make you uncomfortable to hear the demons ask you that question, yet they do in Acts 19.

There, certain Jews were attempting to get back into the exorcism market by using Jesus’ Name, whom Paul preaches, they said. The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this and the demon they encountered said, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:13-16)

They were then possessed themselves and failed in their attempt at the exorcism.

Who are you? Or as we heard today, who do you make yourself out to be? Are you popular? Are you amazing at what you do? Does everyone look up to you and compliment you? Do you have no need for anything except you? Who are you?

Repent. We fill our entire life trying to answer the question to who we are and think that some magical-peace-rainbow lies in wait for us when we finally figure it out. If we could just get to know ourselves better, then our lives would not be the mess we make them.

Indeed, some people spend their entire lives looking for that answer and never find it. Others destroy many lives in their quest for the answer and still are not satisfied.

Who is Jesus? He was and is and is to come, but He is also your brother in the flesh. He is your captain at the helm. He is your God on the cross. He is Lord in the tomb. He Who Is will be the one to not only save you, but give you a real identity in Himself.

Jesus is the man Who is washing away your old self and giving you a new self: Himself. Jesus is the man Who is giving you new words to speak and new songs to sing, which are His Word. Jesus is the Man Who is transforming this lowly body to be like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).

Jesus is He Who Is and Jesus recreates you to be just like Him. Your identity is now Christ, the only Son of God, inheritor of heaven and earth, eternal Life and eternal wisdom. You may not know how this will be, but by His Word and Sacrament, you will be like Him when He returns for you.

Now, the real question is not, “Who am I”, but “Who am I, in Christ?” and who I am in Christ is exactly like Him: forgiven, sanctified, justified, comforted, loved. This is the comfort we take along with us wherever we go. This is the courage that sees us through the agonizing nights and days of sorrow.

This is the reason for our hope, because He Who Is has given us His life and His Name forever. He Who Is of God hears the Word of God and whoever believes and is baptized is of Jesus.

Jesus is not a “whoever”. He is the most high God, crucified for your sins. In Christ, you are not a “whoever” either, but a beloved heir to the Son’s Kingdom. There is no ambiguity in the Bible. Jesus is the recipient of all the promises of God; every single good thing goes to Jesus alone.

In Jesus, you are assumed into the Godhead that we confessed today. In Jesus, you are now an integral part of the Body of God; the Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity; the uncreated, the infinite, the almighty; He Who Is.

But, you don’t go around saying, “I am He Who is’s” or “His Who Is is”…because the Pharisees, the princes of this world, and the demons will most certainly accuse you and interrogate you concerning your sin, asking, “Who are you”.

However, when that happens, and it will, you already have your answer: “I am a Christian”. For, Christ Who Is has made full atonement and satisfaction for my sins. Christ is He, Who died and shed His blood for me, for the forgiveness of my sins.