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Archive for April, 2017

 “…what Christ cannot abide is if I assume that His kingdom is built on my wisdom and riches and that it cannot stand firm and endure without the protection, counsel and service of kings, princes, and lords.  Christ can very well dispense with all this.  He wants it clearly and definitely understood that all who seek entry into His kingdom must seek it by nothing but grace.  Christ has regard for no one because of his pile of guldens (money), his beauty, his wisdom, his golden hair, or because he wears a garment embroidered in gold or silver, or a gray coat. No, it is grace alone that counts.  His is to be a kingdom of grace, belonging to those who are wretched and poor, whether they be men or women, rich or poor.”

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Meme of the Day

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Text: St. John 20: 19-31

I saw this bumper sticker a few years back: “Don’t believe everything you think”. We live in a time in which too many believe everything they think.  So a man thinks he is a woman and vice versa.  A white person thinks she’s black.  Back a few years, people were convinced they could relive past lives.  People thought they go through a rebirthing process of reliving one’s own birth.  Or the more everyday belief in a piece of salacious gossip: now that’s the truth about John!  Now it is good to doubt God but believe in yourself.  Then there is the belief of worshipping the ‘god within’: “That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones.” (G. K. Chesterton)  What a sad deity I see in my bathroom mirror. Believing in the Lord is debunked, but not believing itself.  It comes down to who or what we are believing in.

Thomas was locked into his own thoughts, his reason and rationality. Thomas believed, he believed in himself, he believed in his own reason. “Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” ― G.K. ChestertonOrthodoxy “This is a key element especially to the devil, as he seeks ways to tear us away from the Word, and then apart from the Word, leads us to think our own thoughts.  For then he knows he has won and we have lost.”  The measure of a man is not his mind alone, but heart, soul and mind by which we believe and trust and know and the Lord draws us to Himself.

 Back to Thomas:

The vision of his skeptic mind
Was keen enough to make him blind
To any unexpected act
Too large for his small world of fact.

(Lutheran Service Book, #472)

This hymn is contemporary.  Thomas was a thoroughly 21st century man’s contemporary, our contemporary.   Thomas was not there in that locked room with his brother disciples but he was just as  locked up as they.   The Lord opened up Thomas to the wonder and joy of His Wounds for him, for us all.  These things were written in the Gospel, wrote John, that we believe and believing have life in His Name, that is the Word of God, the Word of His Wounds.  Hearing of his Wounds we believe, as the Lord said, Blessed are those not seeing but hearing. The world says seeing is believing, the Lord says believing is seeing.  His wounds are key to unlock and open us to His forgiveness which releases us from our prison cells.  

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53: 5)

Then to see the wounds of others and in prayer and conversation and  pointing them to the Wounded Healer, Jesus Christ is His angels, His messengers, His work below here and now. His wounds bring us His peace.

Believing in ourselves, believing in the gods of our technology, believing in our self help philosophies, and the result is that atheism is on the rise.  Those gods only inspire knee knocking fear and the absence of peace.  They will do anything to debunk the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ because as in the Gospel today, He will enter into our rooms, our homes, our hearts, our nation. So two points on His bodily resurrection:

  1.  We can trust the trustworthy witnesses of the Resurrection. Thomas was told by His brother apostles Christ is risen. Then Thomas made his famous statement, Unless I put my hands in his side, etc. I will not believe:  but Thomas did not believe the eyewitness of his brother apostles!  The brother apostles did not believe the eyewitness of their sisters in Christ!  Thomas did not believe the Word of God and neither did the apostles:  they had heard the Lord say three times, The Son of Man must suffer, be crucified, die and be buried…and on the third day rise again.   He then heard the Word of God, the Word of Christ, Thomas, put your hands in my side. As the Apostle Paul reported in 1 Corinthians 15: Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. There were more than 530 witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus, including a downright enemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus, that is, St. Paul. What convinced the disciples it was Jesus’ Wounds!  His wounds are the only true and real stigmata. Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…Buddha, Joseph Smith, Mohammed were not wounded and did not die for sinners. Only the one true God was wounded for us and rise again. By His Wounds they knew it was the Lord and by His wounds we, with the Apostles, are healed. In sign language, this is the sign of Jesus

  2. The Resurrection so transformed fearful disciples into bold witnesses in such a short time. Easter is 50 days.  In forty days after the Resurrection Jesus bodily ascended into heaven.  Ten days later Pentecost.  On the day of Resurrection, Peter and the apostles locked themselves up for fear of the Jews..  Understandable:  if their leader was crucified, then…In fifty days, Peter faced imprisonment, and possible death,  for preaching publicly in the Temple (!), “We must obey God rather than men”.  The same Peter who denied Jesus three times, What happened?  Jesus happened. Peter denied Him thrice and thrice the risen Jesus charged Peter: Feed my sheep. Only one explanation is needed and it is written in the Bible and in the witness of Christ’s Church: Christ is risen.  Bodily and spiritually, the risen Lord sought Him after the resurrection to unlock him and the apostles.  If Jesus had not bodily risen, Peter and company would have eventually left that locked room scurrying away like rats on a sinking ship.  But the ship had not sunk, for the captain was on board as He was that time on the Sea of Galilee in the storm, walking on the deep.  He is risen.

 

Now this theologian got it right:

The experience of the resurrection as the foundational act of the church which has carried the faith in the God of Israel into the whole Western world must belong to God’s plan of salvation. . . . Since this Christianizing is based irrevocably on the resurrection of Jesus, the Easter faith has to be recognized as part of divine providence” (pp. 142-143).

That is a quote from Pinchas Lapide, Jewish theologian, historian and Israeli diplomat from his book, The Resurrection of Jesus:  a Jewish Perspective, written by him in the ‘90s.  He wrote that a historian cannot account for the growth of Christianity except He rose again on the third day, just as He said.  He understood better the Resurrection than do many Christian theologians, so-called.

The disciples locked themselves in that house for fear of the Jews. They were afraid and they were taking counsel of their fears.  Fear takes does not believe, it is unbelief. And so not just once but

Three times the Lord says Peace be with you.  “Peace be with you” is not just fine how do you do. Peace is Shalom/reconciliation John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 

It says in the little red book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Ze Dung of China, one of the ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrants of the 20th century that peace comes from the end of a gun barrel.  Yes, if there was chaos here, fighting and stabbing and I produced a weapon, there would be peace.  Christ’s peace comes not from the end of a gun barrel, but the foot of the cross.  Peace in this world is exacted in vengeance and conquering.  Christ’s peace is not vengeance, it is the forgiveness of our sins.  In His love we are conquered and more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

In the world, peaceful feelings are so sought and many a book is written about how to obtain it.  I can get peaceful feelings with a couple of beers…but this does not last.  The peace Jesus gives has content: Himself, as it is written in Colossians:   Christ is our peace.  He is our  reconciliation. He was wounded to heal, risen to forgive, and His peace is not a feeling but an actby His command and promise

You may be familiar with the old  folk song, put your hands in hand of the man of Galilee. It is more like:  Put your hands in the side of the man of Galilee. Thomas heard and believed.  These are written that you believe.  Remember, the prowling lion the devil, seeking someone to devour, and the devouring sinful flesh, has tried to do a number on the Scriptures now for a century or more.  The result is we do what we want to do (Old Adam) and in the last century genocide, wars, and terror inside and out, has been unleashed upon the earth as never seen before in the history of mankind.  “Art, like morality, must draw a line.” (Chesterton) The Lord in His Law has drawn the line and He crossed the line to an iniquitous land to save us.  He sent the apostles out into a small world of fact.  His Word of  His wounds seek a wounded mankind with His peace.

 

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New Testament Reading for Today:  Hebrews 13: 1-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Earlier on in the Gospels, Jesus sent forth the 12 disciples to preach and cast out demons.  Jesus also sent out the 72.  Jesus sent the disciples to teach all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Holy Trinity.  He promised He would be with always even unto the end of the age.  Jesus sent the 11 disciples on the first day of the week, breathing on them the Holy Spirit in His forgiveness:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Christ’s message is forgiveness.  He sent them out, knowing fully well that they are frail clay vessels so that others may know that the glory is not from them but from the Lord.  

He stills sends out His pastors with the very same message, in the very same power of the Holy Spirit. Like Luther preached that if you found out that in such and such church God was speaking, everyone would flock to it.  Well, preached Luther, there are such Churches, where and when the Gospel is preached by a pastor.  We do not have a “Word-less” Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit preaches the Word through the words of a pastor. Jesus said to Peter three times: Feed My Sheep.  Don’t feed them the thin pasturage of the world and it’s vain philosophies.  The ministers come with the same message as during Bright Week:  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Hear the message every Sunday with His People to be strengthen in faith toward God and in fervent love of others.  As Martin Chemnitz, the “Second Martin”,  taught from Scripture that the voice of the Christ is the Gospel preached by a faithful and faithfully called Pastor:

“He who hears you, hears Me; he who rejects you, rejects Me,” (Luke 10: 16)…This saying of Christ contains the sweet teaching and consolation that when the ministers of the Word prove from the Word of God what they teach, they are to be heard in no other way than as if the voice of God were speaking to us from heaven. For God is present with the ministry and speaks to us through that medium, and it is efficacious, as the Baptist says: “I am the voice of one calling.” For it is God who calls through the Baptist. In 2 Cor. 13:3 Paul says: “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.” Thus in 2 Cor. 5:20 he says: “God makes His appeal through us.” But how? By “entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” So we read in Is. 59:21: “My Spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth, etc.” This teaching wins true reverence for the ministry and inclines the minds to obedience, according to the saying, Heb. 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” When the ministers bring and set forth the Word of God, the hearers accept it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the Word of God, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:13. And it is most comforting that we can truly conclude that when we hear the Word of God out of the mouth of the minister, the Son of God Himself is with us, speaks to us, and is efficacious through that Word. For upon this depends what Christ declares: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven,” “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” But this dignity, reverence, obedience, and efficacy of the ministry depend on this, that it brings and sets forth the Word of God.

—Martin Chemnitz

 

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Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” St. John 12:  23-14

The seed of Jesus in the ground, risen from the dead, bore fruit both today, tomorrow and yesterday: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8).  The Lord was bearing fruit through the hope of His coming, the promises of God fulfilled in Him, through out the time of the Old Testament, from the beginning, Genesis 1 and following. What is this fruit?  The saints in Christ. This is the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11.  So much of Hebrews is encouragement for discouraged brothers and sisters. The Epistle Reading for Today, from the Daily Lectionary:  Hebrews 12:  1-24. The writer calls it, “my letter of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:  22), and as it Scripture, for us as well:  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

In the marathon of faith in Christ, Christ before us, Christ beside us, Emmanuel, God with us we are surrounded, “…so great a cloud of witnesses”, of the saints in the Old Testament.  In these last days (Hebrews 1:2), this cloud has more billows of the saints who have died in Christ.  We do not perfect our faith by our works but in His Word to do the good works He has prepared beforehand to be our way of life. The saints do not point to themselves but ever and forever to the Lord: Christ is risen!  This cloud is not a storm cloud, but a cloud filled with the dew of Baptism, a rain cloud, on this parched earth.  The saints are the Lord’s “Word cloud”. We do not have to go searching for extra-terrestrials to assert with faith and hope that is in Christ:  we are not alone.  The cloud of witnesses is praying us on, to lay aside “every weight, and sin which clings to closely”, confessing the weight and so praying to the Lord ahead of us and beside us.  

G. K. Chesterton, Roman Catholic convert, novelist, writer:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

Reread the quote above and substitute “the Church”,  for “tradition”.  Even two or three are gathered together at the Lamb’s High Feast and there are more:  angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. We do not grow the Church, the Lord does.  No usher can count any congregation gathered by the Lord around His Altar.

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Text:  Hebrews 11

Today’s Epistle reading is the Roll Call of the Heroes of Faith in Jesus Christ with the theme verse, the 11: 1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.

In the middle of the Roll Call, there are verses of hope in Christ, by faith, toward the Lord’s will in Christ for all:

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

From the hymn “I’m but a Stranger Here” (#748, Lutheran Service Book): 

I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.

We like it here.  We have a hard time with the understanding that the, “earth is a desert drear”.  Never before in the history of the world have so many people enjoyed the life that just a century before was limited to the wealthy few:  single family dwellings, lawns, vast entertainment possibilities through, radio, TV, internet, even indoor plumbing.  Prosperity preachers make much ado about this that we can even have more if we strike a deal with the Almighty. We are very much at home here and now and want to hold on for dear life, even Christians. Our faith is not as strong as many purport it to be. 

Yet, if what I have written is true, we are being false to the faith and hope the saints of old lived in Christ:  the Lord has a better plan.  The Lord laid out this plan in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:  an enduring city, who’s builder is none other than the Lord Himself and a foretaste of that hope is the Church Who’s Builder is likewise the Lord. Smart phones and computers deliver a constant barrage of sin, death and the power of the devil and on our own we are powerless to stop. We cannot delete the unholy trinity.  Even our desire, well,  lust for the “good life”, the “best life” now and forever demonstrates that eternity is part of our very thoughts, reflecting in a fleshly way, the Lord Himself. Ecclesiastes 3:

 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Eternity is in our will, that we know we were made forever with the Lord, yet on our own we can not find out “what God has done from the beginning to the end”.  Now with the Lord’s revelation finally and fully of the Incarnation, Ministry, life, death, resurrection and ascension of His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, we know by what the Lord is doing.  For all our pagan attempts to hold onto life, grab all the gusto, we are looking to ourselves, inwardly, the despair of our times.  All the heroes of the faith, from A-Z, from Abraham to Zechariah were directed by the Lord to seek a “homeland”.  “Homeland Security” cannot give eternal  security and yet we seek eternal homeland security for the here and now.  The hope of the homeland which is secure forever has been given:  the city of God.  We think our I-Phones/Pods and Pads are the “bomb”, giving us information and control at a finger swipe but all the while we want to be loved.  We live as if this were it, and fear and tremble that it is not. But,

“With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning”,

We know by the Lord’s scarred hands that this world is not the final resting place.  Christ is.  I am, maybe like you, not too crazy about dying…but when we know sin is death, Christ is life eternal, seeking His homeland is sanity in this dark world for which Christ died.

In the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, note that all the saints therein were looking forward in hope, in the hope of Christ to come.  They had no cathedrals, except the Temple not made with human hands:  Jesus Christ (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ).  We pray many will hear the Word and come to faith.  But if faith is only for this world, or even for our congregation alone, then we are of all people the most to be pitied:  but Christ is raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:18-20).  It is clear from Hebrews 11:  Faith not only clings to Christ for what He has done for us but what He will do:  Thy Kingdom Come, based upon the Rock of our salvation,what He has done from womb to tomb to the Resurrection. Our national pastime, baseball, has it right:  to go home, after all the strike outs, errors, missed catches, we can in Christ. The homeland is given even now:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.-St. John 14: 23

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 61

 Colossians 3:1-7 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel LessonJohn 21: 1-14:  I led a Bible study on Easter, concluding our Lenten look at People of the Passion and we studied Peter for two Sundays. We looked at some of many narratives involving Peter:

  • After Jesus walked on the water, Peter almost commanded the Lord in Peter’s disbelief: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14)

  • Peter denied Jesus three times.

  • The risen Lord asked Peter 3 times, Do you love me more than these? 3 times the Lord said, “Feed My sheep”.

  • Peter does not want to go to the Gentile Centurion, Cornelius’ home because Peter would eat unclean animals.  3 times a sheet is lowered with unclean and clean animals.

I asked that adult Bible class:  How would you characterize Peter’s personality? “Impetuous”“Acts before thinking” “Trusts himself” The class nailed it which is reflected in this insight from Johann Gerhard in which he reflected the same:

“We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

“I have my faith”, I have heard that much over the years.  Those well-intentioned statements sound like faith in faith. Faith in faith even has a name:  fideism.  Now Lutherans believe we are saved by faith through grace in the overwhelming gift of Jesus Christ’s Incarnation, Sufferings, Crucifixion, Descent into Hell, Resurrection, Ascension and Presence in His Church.  Faith takes hold of the promise in the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.  Faith looks out to Christ and looks out for one another.  But faith in faith is once again being bent in upon one’s self. Even our “good heart and good intentions” won’t do it.  Peter said he was willing to die for Jesus. Peter’s good heart was like a rock and it sunk him.  He would one day die for Jesus but not that day because his faith was in his faith, in himself.  Americans are really good at fideism, good hearts and good intentions…but we always are hitting the brick wall of sin, death and the power of the devil:  that wall we can not breach. Christ has!  He fed the disciples fish in His resurrection.  He alone allows the full catch of fish for Peter and the Church.  The Church, this fishing boat  seldom rides in the seas of tranquility. So today, we need to remind ourselves the Lord alone has , “… brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1 Timothy 1:10b).  We do not. We do not preach faith, we preach Christ Jesus.  

Peter had a whole lot more fishing to do.  So does the Lord’s Church!

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