Archive for March 18th, 2013

The farmers in the vineyard were tenant farmers. They were renting the land.  The owner entrusted his land to them as stewards of it, not masters.  So when the owner, after a considerable time, at the right time sends a servant to collect the fruit of the harvest that is the Owner’s due, the tenants proceed to beat the owner’s servant and send him away empty…as if the fruit belonged to them! Not once but three times.  What was the owner thinking about?  After one time, I would have clobbered those thugs. The owner of this vineyard is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His patience means repentance.    So two more times and then the owner decides, I’ll send my beloved son, “perhaps they will respect Him.”  This is now the 3rd time in  Luke we read “beloved son”:  when Jesus is baptized, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased and when Jesus is transfigured and the voice of the Father sounds forth on the mount, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, adding Listen to Him.  Three times…it is clear the owner of the vineyard is the Father and His beloved Son is Jesus Christ. 

Now many did listen to Jesus but others had their own plans for the vineyard and for building the Church apart from His Word and His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the beloved Son. One of the first words we learn as children is MINE.  The tenants said in effect MINE.  But as it is clear in Isaiah 5, the vineyard is the Lord’s.   They killed Him, cast Him out of the vineyard…as He would be crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem.    The builders cast Him out and killed Him, by both Jew and Gentile.  He was killed that the Old Adam, clinging to sin, is killed and the new creation arises in Baptism.  The beloved Son clearly warns, rejecting Him, the beloved Son is crushing.  We are included into His vineyard, His temple, as His temple, His house, His people through the beloved Son alone. In Him we are baptized, all members of His creatures, the youngest and oldest, from the first day to the last day and to the everlasting Day, the mentally able and mentally disabled, fast to learn and slow to learn, men and women, all colors and races.

When Peter confessed Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord said that upon Peter’s confession, “I will build my church”. He knows what He is doing. The Lord is quite capable.    The apostle Paul wrote Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, not the varieties of religious and spiritual experiences everyone has had, not the pope nor Luther.  The Church is His Body, His bride for our life He died. 

 Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
  Psalm 127, verse 1 and in this Psalm the word speaks of two houses:  Jerusalem and families. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
  The Lord, in His death and resurrection, in repentance and faith, has the building plan, for His Church and for your families in the Church.  If we build either house, on our own, the results will be less than true, false…in vain. Unless the LORD builds the Church, they labor in vain those who build it.  You are His church, His Temple, His vineyard.  Look what happens when plans and modes are rushed in for the Church and the family.   The world has all sorts of plans for Church and family.  For the Church, why don’t you get your doctrine up to date? 

“Everything will be quite different when you as a Church cease to have such an entirely different flavor – when you cease to practice preaching which is the opposite of what the world around you preaches. You really must suit your message to the world; you really must bring your creed into harmony with the present. Then you will again become influential and powerful.”

So preached Pr. Martin Niemoller in Berlin in 1933 as the Nazis began their persecution of the Church. 

Why preach and teach and live marriage between man and woman?  Can’t there be alternative families?  Or just no families, contracept and abort at will, love the one you’re with, just have “protection”.  Shouldn’t the church be an activist for peace and justice, a social ministry agency, a corporation for church growth…I could go on and on but none of that is Biblical.  The Church is His vineyard, I am the vine you are the branches…His Body, the Body of Christ.  This past week with the election of the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, I heard a lot about re-building the Church and I become afraid of the new builders’ blueprints.  I heard this past week that it is all about the pope as the successor of Peter.  He’s not, not a word about that in Bible.  Jesus said You are Peter, the rock of the confession of Jesus.  You see,

“You are Peter,” we all are Peter; not the Pope, as the Roman Catholics would have it; not this person or that, but all of us, who simply live from our confession of faith in Christ, as the timid, faithless, fainthearted, and yet who live as people sustained by God.” (from Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermon, preached  July 23, 1933 at Trinity Church in Berlin). 

There is no plan for His Church except Him, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit  in the glory of God the Father, the plan for Church and family laid out in the Scriptures.  I’ve been around the block enough and heard all sorts of building plans for Church and family in denominations and society. 

But it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he 

builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are.  Christ builds. (from the same sermon by Pr. Bonhoeffer)

Pastor and Bishop Patrick in his evangelization of the Irish people followed the sound Biblical pattern of the Church: preaching the Word and administering the blessed Sacraments, especially Holy Baptism as Patrick baptized thousands of people

Two sayings associated with St. Patrick’s Day in our day: “Everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s” and “The wearing of the green”. We are Irish in so far as one is baptized into Christ Jesus along with our brother in the Lord, Pastor and Bishop Patrick. One of my favorite legends about Pr. Patrick was he was witnessing to a  powerful, pagan tribal chieftain who was stymied over the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  They were standing outside and Patrick bent over and plucked a shamrock and said, “The Trinity is like this shamrock:  3 leaves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one stem, one plant, one life”.  “Wearing of the  green” reminds us of the color of the altar cloths (paraments) for most of the Church year, green during the many Sundays after Pentecost. Along with Patrick, we only come to life in the Lord, in Holy Baptism, in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.  Faith is the Lord’s utterly gracious gift.  We are green and growing in Christ alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father, baptized into His Name alone. “…salvation is of Christ the Lord!” As the Lord said, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.” This is the Lord’s own appointed means to build His Church and us and our families.  We wear not the green of Ireland, but of our only Homeland coming into the world now by faith, then by sight. We wear the green of our Baptism, of the Holy Spirit, in faith in Jesus Christ.  In the surviving writings by St. Patrick he knew he was an earthen vessel by which God’s glory was shown in Jesus Christ.  The Lord builds, we confess Christ, serve Him, love Him. From the baptismal hymn “I Bind Unto Myself this Day”

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word;
praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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“When the Festival of the Reformation shall come and shall wake no throb of joy in (the Church’s) bosom, her life will have fled. For if the Reformation lives through her, she also lives by it.”

-Charles Porterfield Krauth, (1823-1863), The Conservative Reformation

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