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Archive for October 8th, 2019

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Texts: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”  (Habakkuk 2: 4) “Increase our faith! (St. Luke 17: 5)

Habakkuk had a lament.  It was lament in way Judah was going. What Habukkuk saw, and so laments, where is the Lord? Read these verses as if the Lord is describing our times:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.

These verses from Habukkuk surely describes almost too perfectly our day and time.  The prophet points out to the Lord, “Violence!”  There is an organization in the Middle East called in English “The Islamic Resistance Movement.” In Arabic the group’s name is an acronym:  “Hamas”.  Hamas is a terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, right next door to Israel.  Hamas in Arabic means zeal.  Hamas is also the Hebrew word for “violence”, as in Habakkuk. And you will not hear, not save, O Lord? The prophet prays for an answer and his lament is heard.  “A lover’s lament” is a sorrow over lost love or unrequited love. A lament comes from love.  My loved one is so ill.  The death of unborn.  Suffocating greed. I have done wrong.  Why is there wrong, where are You, O Lord of my salvation? Yes, we have laments before the Throne of grace.

Sinful man can all to easily transgress from lament to violence.  Our zeal can become violent and God’s Law says No to that and the Lord rebukes us.  The Lord hears our laments but does not respond in the affirmative to our hate.  True lament comes from faith, active in love, steadfast in hope in Lord all on account of Christ.

The Lord hears and answers the prophet’s lament but not as one would expect.  In Habakkuk is one of the few times we read the Lord saying write down my word.  The other time is the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai.  Engrave these words on stone or wood and run with them.  Be my messenger, be My angel. The Lord’s promise may seem slow as man measures slowness, but the promise will be fulfilled. The Lord said the soul of man is “puffed up”, literally swollen with pride like a tumor, not upright “within him”.

 What can save man?  “…but the righteous shall live by faith”.  Man can do much to right what is wrong in society and culture, but not his heart, soul and mind. Yet, our social solutions can become monstrous terrors: see communism and socialism. If I have beheld violence, so by God’s Law, I know the violence is adheres in my will. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  In the Spirit, we walk and run in Christ. “…the law knows how to obey but not how to help; the law can point out sin, but it cannot take sin away from people.” St. Caesarius of Arles (+542) “(The Lord)….saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  Since the Lord’s purpose and grace are in Christ, “before the ages began”, we are saved by the Gospel alone in Christ alone, His grace was there for Habakkuk:  the just shall live by faith.

 “The just shall live by his faith. Here he says, first, that men are just by faith, by which they believe that God is propitious, and he adds that the same faith quickens, because this faith produces in the heart peace and joy and eternal life [which begins in the present life].”

How do we know the Lord is favorable toward us:  He has reconciled us in His Son, Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. Look to the Cross and the fruits of the Cross which is forgiveness and so faith, hope and love.

A year ago, white Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, tired after a hard day’s work, entered into her apartment and a black man was inside watching TV and she shot him to death. This tragedy was compounded by the fact Officer Guyger walked into the wrong apartment.  This past week, she was sentenced to 10 years.  After sentencing, this courtroom scene took a surprising turn.  The victim’s brother Brandt Jean asked the Judge, Tammy Kemp for a favor. Brandt Jean, citing his Christian faith wanted to forgive her. The judge agreed.  Mr. Jean said, “”I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you” and then he asked the judge, “ “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please?” Surprisingly the Judge agreed.  Then Judge Kemp, a black woman, came down to Amber, Judge Kemp gave Amber her Bible, and hugged her and whispered to her.  It was overheard and in what she said the Judge cited John 3: 16.  Sobs rang out in the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, protesters chanted, No justice, no peace.  A headline from The Babylon Bee, Christian satire website:  Media Warns Excessive Forgiveness Could Set Back Outrage Narrative Hundreds Of Years. 

Once again, the Lord teaches His disciples, us, His Church that if a brother sins, rebuke him, showing him his fault. If he repents  seven times, “you must forgive him”.  Welcome home even 7 times a day, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son? Not if you feel like it, most likely I won’t, but this is a must.  Excessive forgiveness!? Yes! Oh, I want to be forgiven, but forgive the dope who cut in front of me in line?!  Let alone forgive the woman who killed my brother. I think this seven times a day is connected to Psalm 119:  164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Truly, the Lord’s righteous rules are cause of the psalmist’s praise of the Lord. By His righteous rules we know we are to love the Lord with all our heart soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves.  But even more and deeper: By His righteous rules we can find out seven times a day, that we have not so loved our Lord and Savior nor our neighbors as ourselves…at least seven times! And you want to be forgiven, don’t you?  Then, love your neighbor as yourself. Ahh, there’s the rub. By His righteous rules , we know by His Law that my brother and yours, sins, and he is shown his sin, and he says, I repent, you must forgive him. What a lot of work. Jesus truly  teaches in the Gospel “excessive forgiveness”.

So when the disciples hear this teaching about forgiving seven times a day, as they  had heard the excessive mercy of a shepherd, a woman and a father in the parables of the lost sheep, coin and son, the apostles cry out in pray, “Lord, increase our faith!”  If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  Mulberry trees are deep-rooted. Did the Lord ever do a miracle of uprooting mulberry trees and planting them in the sea?  Planting something in sea is absurd.  I think that’s the point. Uprooting mulberry trees and planting them in the sea is so unnecessary. This kind of miracle is a snap, you see, compared to forgiveness which is so necessary and so much harder, infinitely more difficult. Compared to a mulberry tree,   behold how deep rooted sin is, entangling the soul, rotting souls, society and congregations.  And notice:  Jesus did not answer the apostles request.  The message of forgiveness in the Name of the Lord will be their divine task of plowing and shepherding.

“Lord, increase our faith!”  Did Jesus ever answer the apostles’ prayer?   Yes! On the Cross, the author of life whipped and spat upon, crowned with thorns, bleeding blood first in His sweat and then upon His sacred head now wounded, full of grief and shame. What a lot of work!  Excessive forgiveness can occur in the unlikeliest of places like a courtroom and it began in His Cross and by it the verdict is rendered: not guilty, FORGIVEN.  The Lord went into the depths of the rootedness of iniquity and wickedness even into hell.  Let’s talk about excessive forgiveness for sinners, for you and for me and His excessive forgiveness is so necessary, and just what the doctor ordered. Still does.  Our outrage culture needs His excessive forgiveness more than ever from the church as the salt of the earth with the message we can run with:  the just shall live by faith.  Forgiveness of sin, not though apologies for sin. Repentance of sin, not acceptance of it. Yes, faith by and in the justification of the ungodly but never justification of ungodliness. Only out of His rich mercy can we live in forgiveness of others.

The righteous will live by faith, by faith in the Lord who’s righteousness rules. This engraved message we can run for all to read and see.  It is the sum and substance and goal of the Bible. The message of the cross deflates our bloated pride and puts us in Jesus’ side.   Righteousness by faith is the trust that the Lord has fulfilled all righteousness in His suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection, His atonement. All of Scripture is about our atonement in Christ, He is the power to live, He is the only way to the Father, He is “…wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 In the satiric Babylon Bee article, it is ‘reported’:

“What people have to understand is, if we keep toying around with all this grace and mercy stuff, this whole racial divide could come toppling down,” explained Brad Hunter of CBS News. “Are people really ready to say goodbye to that? I must say that, as a journalist, I, for one, am not.”

We have a hard time saying goodbye to our dearest souvenirs of hell. Man likes his outrage. “Lord, increase our faith!” “Look to Me, My hands, My side” and  the unfathomable riches of Christ are here today in His Word, the Scriptures, His Sacraments. Babylon Bee:

“What Brandt Jean did in that courtroom sets black people back hundreds of years. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say it sets us back about 2000 years,” said Janelle Taylor of ABC. “What year does he think this is? 33 AD?”

In Christ, crucified, risen and ascended, 33 AD is today, today is the day of salvation.

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