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Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)

(The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed.  Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do.  A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them, WWMD: What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ.  Because of the Christ in her womb, her body was the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful  to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). As Luther taught in the Large Catechism that the Church is a mother who begets every child through the Word of God.  As it is written:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galatians 4:3-5

The Word of God made the virgin’s womb as He made all wombs and so:

Every child is gift. The Lord is sheer gift times two: God and man for all the diverse manner of women and men.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb when Elizabeth heard the greeting, the Word. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea.  The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! The Church is made by His Word so that the Word be heard and sinners can hold fast to the Lord by His grace. As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer. He visits you with His Word, with His Baptism, with His Body and Blood!  Blessed Festival Day!  

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This past Sunday, the Second Lesson in the Three-Year Lectionary, in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was Revelation 21:  1—7.  This is a glorious passage of hope in Christ Jesus, the risen and ascended Lord and the, “… new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  It is not about earth ascending to heaven, just as the Word became flesh, the new creation.  The hope is clear in Christ, the Lamb of God,

 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

The nourishing of our hope in Christ is crystalline: 

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

The spring of water is Baptism. It is His Word. As it is written in John’s Gospel as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 The “water of life without payment” sustains us in our struggle in this world, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” And that is the last verse appointed to be read.

The next verse was not included which is obviously integral to John in the paragraph:

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

I do not know why the framers of the Three-Year Lectionary did not include verse 8.  When I was in The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I always thought that that liberal denomination did not want to hear it, so I was a little bit surprised it was not included for this past Sunday in our more confessional Lutheran church body. 

One thing that can be said about verse 8’s omission: no, it does not fit in.  It does not fit it with the sin denying culture we live in and move and don’t have our being. The people listed have been given over to the lusts of their unrepentant hearts.  They did not want God’s forgiveness and so their sins were retained (St. John 20: 22-23).  Like Judas, they turned their backs on the Lord. Those listed do not fit into the new Jerusalem as they are just too big for it in their overweening pride.  The second death is spiritual death, eternal death. They did not want the fire of God’s love in Christ and the Holy Ghost, as they wanted the fire of their sin.   The Lord did not choose that for them, nor for us, but He chose for us in Christ eternal life. His eternal decision in Christ is eternal life. 

By the way, I read the entire paragraph this past Sunday. I need to hear it as a warning and others need to hear it as warning as well, “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (St. Matthew 6)

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David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10-29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no fewer than seventy-three psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17]) and evil (as in his adultery with Uriah’s wife, followed by his murder of Uriah [2 Samuel 11]). David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel’s military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David’s leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  David was born in Bethlehem. Beth-le-hem means “house of bread”.   The Lord promised David that the throne of Israel would never lack a descendant of David upon it….and the Lord told Israel through the prophets that the house of David and Jerusalem would be desolate because of desolation of their idolatry and immorality;  then in 587 B.C. the Babylonian Empire captured Israel and brought her into exile and destroyed the Temple.  The Lord is true to His promise that a royal Davidide would sit on the throne forever.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. The genealogies in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels testify to His lineage.  Joseph, the Lord’s Stepfather was of the house of David.  

The first multi-part mini-series that was a mega hit was “Roots”, the story of Kunta Kinte and his family from West Africa.  They were captured by slavers and Kinte became a slave in the United States.  The mini-series was about his family and his descendants.  Commentators at the time noted that the “Roots” popularity had to do with rootless American society.  Few grow up and stay in the place they were born.  We forget who we are. Genealogical studies and websites are very popular.  Baseball’s whole goal is to go home.  Worse, we forget Who’s we are.  Christ Jesus has roots deep into in Israel and creation as the genealogies in Matthew and Luke testify.  Unto us a Son is born.  He made us part of the genealogy of Israel, adopted as the Lord’s sons and daughters, grafted into the olive tree of Israel (cf. Romans 11:  16-18). Here is an excellent article on St. Matthew’s Genealogy at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  

The true King rooted Himself in Israel and His creation for us wandering and lost.  Jesus is King David’s Lord and Jesus was so before He was born. When Jesus’ ancestor according to the flesh was hungry,  the priests gave David holy bread, the Bread of the Presence.  Jesus is the Lord of life.  He gives us our daily bread and gives us the Bread of His Presence.  We come as sinners in repentance and in need of His forgiveness so to receive worthily.  Come into His Presence  every First Day of the Week to receive the Bread  of Life, His Body and whenever the Sacrament is offered.The Church is Bethlehem, the House of Bread. 

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This mosaic of Ambrose might actually be a rendering of his likeness.

The Son of God, being about to bring together His Church, first works through his young servant: and so it is well said: the word of the Lord came unto John, etc., so that the Church has its beginning not from man, but from the Word. (emphasis added; Ambrose on Matthew 3: 1-11, the Season of Advent)

“In Milan I found Your devoted servant the bishop Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there was few to equal in goodness.  At that time his gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of Your corn, the joy of Your oil, and the sober intoxication of Your wine.  Unknown to me, it was You who led me to him,so that I might knowingly be led by him to You.”  ( From the Confessions of St. Augustine)

Born in Trier in A.D. 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a prolific author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemptor gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, the style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the province of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a 34-year-old catechumen, led to his baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of the faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician he upheld the truth of God’s Word.

Ambrose by his preaching and teaching of Christ brought Christ to many including Augustine.  Ambrose is quoted six times in The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions. In the longest Ambrose quote in the Lutheran Confessions, in the Apology, Article IV, Justification, the Bishop wrote:

Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5:20: “The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Ps. 32:1,104].

Ambrose set the true New Testament doctrine of Justification to a hymn, the well renowned hymn for  Advent:  Savior of the Nations Come

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

It is not that we come to Christ,but Christ has come to us. He chose such a birth! Our worth is not in our works but in the Word, the Word made flesh. This is the reason Ambrose is cited in the Confessions and the reason Augustine, an adulterer and pagan philosopher, could hear His Savior. He did not bring people to Christ, but Christ to people.  In Matthew, He is called: Emmanuel, God with us.  He chose us, not because we were so good for ‘his team’, but we needed choosing to be cleansed in the laver of Baptism. This is the Gospel in a nutshell and it as the word “Gospel”, good news. 

(Read more on St. Ambrose here)

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JOHN2HEROD-1

“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” St. Mark 6: 18

King Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great.  Herod the Great had his wife killed because he thought she was having an affair with one of his soldiers, then Herod had her body embalmed in honey and kept in the palace.  Herod the Great ordered the murders of all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem because he heard from the magi that the true King of Israel was born.  Like father, like son…Herod Antipas has a luxurious banquet, a must party to be seen at, the invitations were probably coveted and did they have a story to tell after wards:  they brought in the head of the Baptizer on a dish, right into the banquet hall after Herodias’ step daughter danced for Antipas. Even though they did not go away hungry, they nevertheless went away empty and starving as that was a banquet of death. Wherever the world, even the apparently decent, cultured, fashionable world, celebrates her festivals, there the delights of feasting, of reveling and drunkenness, are indulged in, there one finds swearing, blaspheming, cursing, there gambling and dancing and rioting are the order of the day, and wine and passion inflame heart and mind. (As quoted by Pr. Kretzmann in his 1924 Commentary on the Bible).

 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 John 2: 16, KJV) 

The goal is to do the will of God which is life, the very life the Lord has given us by His cross and resurrection. When John preached to King Herod Antipas that his marriage was not lawful, the important word in that sermon was, “lawful”. “Lawful” means in John’s sermon, not civil law but according to the Law of God. Remember: everything legal is not necessarily lawful according to God’s Holy Law.   Herod and Herodias both knew their marriage was wrong but Herod decreed it was right and he probably liked hearing John the Baptist preach and prick his conscience, but not Herodias.  She wanted everyone to agree with her on the marriage, no one opposing. Herodias wanted no dissent, everyone in lock step with their insistence on their immorality, no free speech and especially speech which frees us to repent, the speech, the Word of God, Law and Promise.  Last week’s Gospel Jesus sent out the disciples to preach and to heal, to preach repentance of sin, turning away from death and turning toward the Lord slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  This Word means people change. Herodias would have no part of it.   Herod and Herodias denied God’s Law but God in His accusing finger of the Law, as preached by John, kept pointing out their sin.  Herod thought he had John figured out but even a larger puzzle to him was this Jesus, so Herod Antipas’ theological conclusion:  Jesus is John raised from the dead.  His theological conclusion was convenient for two reasons:  it assuage his guilty conscience as he had given the orders to decapitate John that John had risen and then secondly he thought he had Jesus put into a box. The King was wrong on both counts.  Yet this did not prevent John from preaching, as John kept on saying and preaching the truth.

As the old saying goes, There is no rest for the wicked, is true here again.  The world’s banquet provides no rest for the wicked, just forgetfulness of who we are and Who’s we are.  It is a 24/7 world of plotting and planning.  Psalm 36: 

Transgression speaks to the wicked     deep in his heart; there is no fear of God     before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes     that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;     he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed;     he sets himself in a way that is not good;     he does not reject evil

Always trying to hide makes for no rest.  Trying to hide from God and say one’s sin is good, as in Herod and Herodias’ marital relations, or in any relationship outside of marriage between man and woman, or any relation to false gods such as money,  is to deny the reality of God’s law and so the rage.  Herod Antipas was the king of death, and Jesus Christ, the King of life.  Kings of this world associate with the famous and the powerful, Jesus with sinners and outcasts.  Tyrants, for all their terror, are weak and unable to deal with people except by brute force.  Jesus, the king, instead bore our weakness and woes and is strong, as John, to stand-up for the truth of the Father’s Word for others, not by brute force, but steadfast love in the Word.  Herod Antipas was cowed by others and his polling numbers, but Jesus is in control, over wind and wave and storm, and the storms of wickedness.  Rulers of this world, while making all sorts of noise about serving others, want to be served, our King, our Lord serves by His life given to us. Herod Antipas, and most rulers, only have finally the threat of death and gave John over to death, Jesus offered Himself to death for others, as recorded in Mark’s Gospel:  “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  He has the promise of eternal life, for we are already are dead in our trespasses and have been made alive in Christ through faith in Holy Baptism.  We are dressed in Christ for His Table.  Yet there is rest from wickedness, from sin and sorrow. There is actually rest from the wicked.   The banquet of death fills but never satisfies but the Lord’s banquet of life fills the soul with His good things: grace, mercy and peace.  The world at its table, with it’s sweet meats and enticements is folly and all who eat are only fooling themselves, but the Lord, our wisdom has invited us to His House of Bread, Bethlehem and the banquet of life. Yes, John the Baptist preached to a tyrant overthrowing the commands of marriage and his life was forfeit for his preaching. We have the duty from the Lord so to teach.  We reject evil and the devil and his empty promises.  We openly confess Christ. We confess the Word, Law and Promise.  The Lord calls us  to rebuke a brother when he is wrong. But one may say,  Oh, I have nothing in common with him, yes we do:  we are all sinners and for us all Christ has died and rose again, that we have life.  We are all created by the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We are all fed on this earth by His almighty hand.  We all share this earth. We all have received the same laws. We are all invited by the Lord to His table and His Body and blood, and let us not say we have nothing in common with them.  As kind of bridge verse, the next verses after today’s Gospel the disciples return from their first missionary journey and Christ sees they need rest and they go apart to a desolate place.  Then next week’s Gospel the feeding of the 5,000 and the contrast between the Lord’s banquet and Herod’s.  The thousands come only with their hunger.  After Psalm 36 verse cited earlier,

He plots trouble while on his bed;     he sets himself in a way that is not good;     he does not reject evil.

then,

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,     your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;     your judgments are like the great deep;     man and beast you save, O Lord.

Such a contrast between the plots of men and the steadfast love of the Lord!  The plots of men and tyrants are stifling and temporal, but the will of the Lord is freedom and eternal and He has freed you.  It is only by the promises of God fulfilled in Christ that we can live in these dark days. The Lord has a better plan than all the plots of men and tyrants:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will,according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1)

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St. John the Baptist is portrayed on the right, pointing, preaching to Christ and Him Crucified (from the Isenheim Altarpiece)

St. Mark 6: 17-18:

“…it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

John the Baptist, or the Forerunner was born to preach and that this is the reason the Lord sent him.  John is noted for his short sermons:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Even shorter is the sermon above to Herod Antipas and his wife and court:  “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife”.  The verb in Matthew’s Gospel about John’s preaching is that he “kept on saying”.  Herodias, Herod Antipas’ wife, divorced Antipas’ brother Philip to marry Philip’s brother.  This is against the Law of Moses, Leviticus 18: 16 and 20:21.  John preached the sanctity of marriage as he saw growing up the solid exampel of the Godly marriage of his old parents Zechariah and Elizabeth. John preached the sanctity of marriage  to the government.  The government did not want to hear and so he was beheaded. The Scripture is clear for the reason of John’s execution. 

This Gospel lesson has clear implications for us today in the wake of dishonoring of marriage in serial divorce and remarriage, pornography, adultery of both will and fact, and now pseudogamy, that is false marriage between two people of the same sex.  I am not suggesting that beheading and execution of faithful pastors, ministers and priests  for preaching the sanctity of marriage is in the works, but societal pressures of false witness and ridicule will increase, and if the Supreme Court makes pseudogamy the law of the land, then legal pressures such as litigation, even undending litigation. Yet, as John, the Church and her pastors, ministers and priests must also keep on preaching to this wayward world the Word of the Gospel to sinners:  “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

 Our Lord said of his kinsman, John:

“Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

Luther called preachers shaken by a reed, by popular opinion in order to “…temper the truth to the sensitive fastidiousness of fashionable hearers”, ”reed preachers”.  John was no reed-preacher. John also did not preach his own deeds.  He preached the Creed, the Word of God in the darkness as he pointed to the Light of world. Herod Antipas’ father, Herod the Great massacred all the male children in Bethlehem to stop the Messiah.  His son and his illegitimate wife killed John to stop the preaching.  Neither father nor son could stop the Word of the Lord.  Pray that all pastors, ministers and priests are creed preachers like John during this time of societal storms.  Pray that the Church remains steadfast in the Word and to the Word and does not bend with the times. Pray that many repent of the lusts of pseudogamy and pornography and divorce and adultery and are cleansed in Christ Jesus.

John also baptized so the Lord could give us in His death and resurrection our Baptism in Him (see Romans 6: 1 and following): 

1 Corinthians 6: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If you would like to read more on John the Baptist, read this.

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Text:  St. Mark 4:35–41

There is some rock song with the nutty refrain, “But I choose free will”.  “Free will” means we  choose God, the good etc. So why didn’t those disciples, since by free will, they supposedly chose God and His Christ, have great faith, that the Author of all good would care enough to save them?  The disciples had no faith as when they said to Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing. Regarding those think they choose free will, “I might wish that  they had been in the boat with the disciples and experienced free will’s capacity in time of extremity and need.”  Those who boast in great faith are likely to be bold, impudent souls, like Peter, Let me walk on the water  to you, I won’t forsake you, etc. have such ‘great’ faith as long as the sea is calm and the weather is good.  When disaster strikes such faith sinks like a rock in the stormy gale.  “So much for ‘glorious’ free will then!” (Luther)

Even when disaster looms and the enemy looms like a flood about to sweep us, as the Psalmist prayed,

“…Blessed be the Lord, (not our good decisions about the Lord)
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!

The Psalmist learned through the Lord’s salvation from the enemy, from disaster:

“Our help is in the name of the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.”

There are times we all know in our lives this is true…and there are times in the Lord saved us from disaster and we don’t know it but we will find out about in the Day. Either way, the Word is clear:  The Lord saves us from disaster.

If my faith is built on a feeling inside then the ride is going to be really rough.  The world, the flesh and the devil want us to be looking only one way:  inside, incurvatus se, curved in upon one self.  At the least the disciples were learning through the storm, they could not save themselves through it.  As the old saying, Man’s necessity is God’s opportunity.  They had enough faith to waken Jesus but not the faith to trust Him at His Word and in His Word as to Who He was and is, that even asleep, He cared more than they could of ever imagined at the time.  The disciples knew they had nothing then and there in themselves to save themselves.  If we did, Jesus would have been a spiritual coach, not the Savior of the world.  He is the Savior.  The Lord always wants us to look out and up, not in.

When disaster strikes the mad world, when it’s supposed free will utterly fails, it seeks someone or something to blame.  We can hear it again as we listened to the news reports about the murders in Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC.  It’s lack of gun control, lack of free mental health counseling, it’s Fox news, it’s video games.  Nine people, including their shepherd, murdered during Bible study and prayer.  The media is amazed as to the other response:  people inside and outside Emanuel A. M. E. praying.  These are men and women of faith, not flaying about looking for victims to blame, but praying to their Lord their sorrow, doubt and need. I would guess even praying for the murderer, who bears the blame, and as we heard the family members forgiving Dylann Roof.  Lord, save.  Kyrie eleison.  One day it will be known that as Jesus wanted to go to other  side that day in Galilee, and He guided the disciples through the storm to the other side, so it will be known He has guided His 9 daughters and sons to the other side, where there is no world media reporting, only the angels rejoicing. Indeed, “Our help is in the name of the Lord,  who made heaven and earth.”   The Lord saves us through disaster. 

We can understand the Lord who saves us from a disaster, and even through the disaster, but there is a third way He saves and it is contrary to all human reasoning and powers.  The Lord who saved the Psalmist, and with him Israel,  from the disaster of the torrents of the enemy, and saved the 12 disciples, and His Church, through the storm, would Himself be overwhelmed and all the flood of sin washed over Him who knew no sin.  He bore the filth of wrong to make us clean as His own to do the right in Christ alone, for as He said, without Me you can do nothing. The ship of His Body, true God, swamped with the deluge of our violence.  The Lord saves us from disaster. The Lord saves us through disaster. He became our disaster, not a disaster waiting to happen, but as it has happened.  

Je suis Charlie, became the slogan after the massacre in Paris at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo:  “I am Charlie”.  It can be said,  Je suis Dylann.  I am Dylann. We have met the enemy and he is us.  Now it is said about the murderer, he is just plain evil.  Maybe, but that means we’re off the hook, until God’s Law shows us we too are capable of all sorts of evil, as King David found out after he went into Bathsheba. When we see evil it is also to show it is within us.  When the Lord called out to Adam and Eve, Where are you?, He knew where they were:  hiding, running away.  When we do wrong, hiding and running away are the first impulse. Adam came out and said , I was afraid so  I hid.  He confessed his feelings of guilt, but not his guilt.  The Lord’s just judgment upon us  fell upon Him who is the judge of all, and this is the atonement.  The Lord has saved the world, us, by the disaster, the disaster of the Cross, when the sun did not shine and 3pm became as midnight, and the stars did not shine.  The disciples took Jesus into the boat, we are told, “…just as He was”, not knowing Who He was…and is.  He was nailed to the Cross, just as He was, bleeding, sweating, dying, just as He was bearing the disaster of sin and evil upon Himself. He was taken down from the Cross just as He was:  dead, dead in sin who knew no sin.  On the third day, He arose, just as He is:  the crucified and risen Lord of us all, carrying no sin, only our salvation.  Then the disciples knew the answer to their question in the boat:  “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”  He is natural man and absolutely God. Looking in is confession of sin, looking out and up is to the Word of Christ, Christ Jesus Himself, is for His forgiveness, absolution. The Lord saved us by the disaster.

We are all in the same boat, the Church and Christ is with us. The place in a Sanctuary where the Lord’s people sit, stand, even kneel in prayer to receive the Lord’s gifts is called the “nave”, from the Latin, “navis” or “ship”, from “navis” comes our word “navy”.    When the storms hit and the threatening waters start coming in, there is no way to bail it all out on our own, and…

“…it seems that He doesn’t see them, knows nothing of their trials, is indifferent about them, yes, as though they were not His worry—like here in the ship. He lies there sleeping and pays no attention to the weather, His disciples, or the ship. But He is with the ship even though He sleeps. Even though we think that Christ does not hear or see the thunderstorm, the wind, and the sea, He hears and sees it nonetheless. Therefore, we should make this a maxim: Even though He sleeps, Christ is in the boat.(Luther)

There is a Yiddish tale of men in a boat and the storm comes up and the boat is taking on water.  They start bailing but one man where he is sitting calmly  takes out a drill and begins to drill  a hole in the bottom of the boat to let out the water. A man yells at him, Why are you doing that, we’re sinking?  The man replied, But it’s under my seat.  Such is the suffocating selfishness that only holiness can ventilate and the Holy Spirit preaches and teaches us Jesus Christ. And when such happens, again, don’t look inside to your feelings as the norm, look to the One who is the Savior, so…

On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune—shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him…. A temptation arises- it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of those words: “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.” (St. Augustine)

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

.

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About Elisha: Elisha, son of Shaphat of the tribe of Issachar, was the prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 849-786 BC. Upon seeing his mentor, Elijah, taken up into heaven, Elisha assumed the prophetic office and took up the mantle of his predecessor. Like Elijah, Elisha played an active role in political affairs. He also performed many miracles, such as curing the Syrian army commander Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kings 5) and restoring life to the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-7). A vocal opponent of Baal worship, Elisha lived up to his name, which means “my God is salvation.”  

 Elisha was the Lord’s prophet who by His Word many great deeds (miracles) were accomplished in Israel in the midst of it’s apostasies, Israel still heard the Word.  I think the greatest “miracle” was the healing of Naaman the Syria

n:  2 Kings 5. Naaman was a VIP and significantly, a Gentile and a leper.  Being a Gentile and a leper meant Naaman was unclean twice.  (And it be must be noted at this time in the news:  a Syrian).

 Naaman the Syrian went afar to find relief and he received even more.  Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, like  a 4 star general.   It just so happens he has a young Israelite girl that he had taken captive as a servant.   He hears from her that there is a “man of God” who might heal him in her country:  Elisha.  General Naaman goes to Israel with his entourage and eventually comes to Elisha’s home:  it would be like a limousine pulling up to a bungalow. “If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) Elisha tells Naaman to Go wash 7 times in the Jordan and you will be clean;  but Naaman responds to the prophet, “Can’t you just wave your hand and make me clean? Are not the rivers Pharpar and Abana in Syria better than the Jordan?” (fwiw:  I have seen the Jordan River and the Syrian rivers are probably better!)  Then we are told:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (NIV;   this verse is not in all translations)

If the prophet had told you to do the 40 days of the purpose-driven life, wouldn’t you have done? If the prophet had told you to join a monastery and fast and pray, would you not have done it?  If the prophet told you to witness to a 100 Syrians about the God of Israel, would you not have done it? But just washing in a river?  Everyone does that!  Naaman finally does so as the Word of God spoken by Elisha told him.  Naaman made his decision for God? Hardly, he was at his wit’s end.  The General did as he was told without even faith in the Lord.  And he was cleansed…but this great deed is the more remarkable for what followed:

15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 
16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.  
17 So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18 Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” 
19 Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.

 Naaman confesses to Elisha his faith: I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.  Naaman wants to respond in the only way he probably knew how:  monetarily.  He wants to pay for his baptism.  Naaman urged Elisha to accept the gift.  No, says Elisha.  Why?  The greatest miracle for Naaman was faith.  But the story continues with Elisha’s servant Gehazi shaking down Naaman for money.  And Elisha’s response, the judgement of God, drives home the point:  you can not buy God’s grace and favor.  It is free. Gehazi becomes a leper.

The Lord creates the faith by His Word which alone heals.  There was greater healing that day in the Jordan:  Naaman’s soul.  Just think:  From an arrogant General to a humble believer saying to a foreigner, “your servant“!  From a non-believer to a worshiper of the true and only LORD in the midst of temple of Rimmon.  

“If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1: 40) What a simple, clean faith.  You can make me whole, You alone.  The leper (Mark 1)  knew he could not make himself clean.  Naaman did not make himself clean.  Only cats clean themselves.  We are not spiritual cats!  We can not clean our souls by our actions or words.  We must turn to water and soap, outside of us, to clean our bodies and so our souls.  I speak of the Word of God.  His Word is in the water, the water of Baptism as it was for that time-conditioned sacrament for Naaman.  “If you will, you can make me clean” “I will;  be clean” (Mark 1:40) This is the I will of His sovereign grace to sinners and His  Word is His will:  Baptism.  This Baptism’s authority comes from the Name of God (Matthew 28:18 ) and the great and powerful deed, central to all human history and each and every individual’s history:  His death and Resurrection (Romans 6: 1-11)

From Luther’s Small Catechism:

How can water do such great things?f

By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

“(Naaman) was made clean”

Gnd with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: 

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elisha, You continued the prophetic pattern of leaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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Sermon Text:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

Psalm 127: 1

We receive periodically the “Liberty Journal”  from Liberty University in Lynchburg (for those not familiar a university founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder also of the “Moral Majority”:  Liberty is undergoing tremendous growth).  They have architectural plans to build the tallest building in Lynchburg:  “Independence Tower” in which to house their divinity school which  is a school to educate church workers, including pastors.  In the article about Independence Tower, “Standing Tall”, is a statement of Liberty University’s “…commitment to the uniquely American values of individual liberty, limited government, and Judeo-Christian principles.”  I agree that individual liberty and limited government are uniquely American values but not Judeo-Christian principles.  Moses and St. Paul were not Americans.  The Bible does not espouse “uniquely American values”, for this means our great nation lives by the 10 Commandments, and especially the first Table of the Law which all about the love of God and right worship, except the United States does not do so. It is not suppose to by governmental action and that is the uniquely American value. We the people do not want the government to build the Church nor interfere in the free exercise of the Church as it is the law of the land in the 1st Amendment.   I guess such a statement from Liberty, regarding our nation goes with the building of Independence Tower, as in America’s founding but a divinity school is not about independence, but dependence on Him who builds us up from the ground floor, the Cross.  

Adam and Eve bought into the serpent’s lie to “be like God”, which they already were, knowing good and evil, to build Independence Tower and eventually their ancestors would build the first independence tower in the plains of Shinar:  the people of Shinar built Babel to “make a name for ourselves”.  Now I do not want to equate Liberty University with Babel, but even our most sincere efforts for God and country are tainted by our own innate tendency toward idolatry. We must be careful on who does the building of the Church and the nation. Churches and nations still do want to make a name for themselves to secure the good. It is confusing to merge the two towers:  national and churchly.  When the churches do so, the idolatry is self-evident, but as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about life here and the life of the world to come, “”building from heaven,” “building from God, not made with hands.” 

“The verse” in the Liturgy is what we sing before the reading of the Gospel which is “Alleluia”, but there are verses appointed for each Sunday, usually a Scripture passage, which can be sung by the congregation or a choir.  The appointed verse for today is Psalm 127: 1a. Psalm 127 is one of the 14 Psalms of Ascent.  Families and extended families sung these Psalms as they went up, ascended to Zion, city on a hill, Jerusalem for the great feast days such as Passover.  Solomon wrote Psalm 127.  Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem so he knew about building, yet he knew, unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it build it in vain.  There are three types of building in this short Psalm:  our homes, the House of the Lord and the city, society and culture.  Church, home and nation are three interconnecting orders of creation.  

In today’s Gospel lesson we are told that the multitude is gathered around Jesus in a circle.  What or who is at the center? The Lord is whether confessed or not but here was the multitude gathered around Him and if the Son is there, so is the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is joy as Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  What was the multitude doing to do the will of God?  First, foremost and central: hearing Jesus, hearing the Word of God.  He was building them up by His grace and healing for His people. They were not independent but dependent hanging on His every Word proceeding from His mouth, and being freed, dependent yet  independent at the same time from the tyranny of the world, the flesh and the devil. 

What is at the center of the orders of creation, Church, home and nation?  The Lord is…whether acknowledged or not. What does it sound like when the Lord is acknowledged?  We hear it in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ relatives thought He was crazy and accusations fly like that or Jesus is Satan. Satan does not build but destroys and Jesus was binding that strong man to plunder his stolen house. He calls out Satan from men’s hearts to call us out to Himself.  What does it look like when the Lord is not acknowledged?  Adam thinks he is in the driver’s seat and as we heard in today’s Gospel, it is a curse. Adam thinks he can build a world apart from God. It is our kind of salvation without the Lord.  Life self-contained, as in humanism, and “…it provides for man no resources outside himself.”  Adam thinks he can progress and evolve on his own resources but if the weather turns bad, the sky is falling because there is no trust in the Lord who made Adam  and nature in the first place.  

Who is at the center?  It gets down to the basic crisis of our day:  creed or chaos. We do not want the government to build the Church, by any means, but when government and nation are hostile to the Church, we see the results around us.  We look at the waste of the wrath of our time and see life lived without the Lord in the center, without hope and God in the world (Ephesians). among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind .  The English poet W. B Yeats described our time, and for him it was after the wreckage of the first World War.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity 

It is darkness.  If I want to watch life without the Lord, see Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Walking Dead. “For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the cup of violence” (Proverbs 4: 17).   It is not that the center cannot hold, it is so many do not want to hold to the center, or even acknowledge the Lord. 

Insisting on doing evil and claiming Jesus does evil is the sin against the Holy Spirit.  “We are waging a war of religion.  Not a civil war between adherents of the same religions, but a life and death struggle between Christian and pagan.”  So wrote Dorothy L.Sayers in 1940 in England, in her essay, “Creed or Chaos?”  Chaos is all around us and has eaten into the very basis of creation, the order of the family.  The center is formed by the Creeds, the Center hearing His Word, praying His Word, teaching and preaching and eating and drinking and washed in His Word. We are baptized, secured by the Lord to eat His Body and drink the Cup of the New Testament in His Blood.  Allt hat’s not crazy, just read the news for crazy.  

The family going up to Jerusalem prayed,

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

This is our prayer as well as we ascend the steps here to this upper room.[i]The Lord builds the family, city and Church.  At every step prayer, every step His grace and mercy.   And here’s the truth if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  On our own, it is chaos. Beloved in the Lord, He has made His own so we labor at our work, in our households and in His House. The Lord builds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached it well in Berlin in 1933, in building the Church, and confessing Christ,  as the armies of darkness were again mustering their siren song of human salvation:

 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 timesof 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. 

And others will be built into His House.  We are not called to stand tall but to stand fast.  One of the hymn verses I go back to again and again is:

 Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.

(Martin Luther)

He  was always and ever will be build by His Word, for His Word, in His Name as by His Name He called us out of darkness into His own most marvelous light and does so day by day, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

[i] Concordia Lutheran Missions meets in the second floor of the two story rehabbed old Buena Vista fire station.

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I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 

St. John 15: 5

A church had this sermon theme on its outside sign:  “A Fruitful Life Requires Jesus”. Love, the fruit and so proceed to the vine, the root, the source. No, it is the opposite in the Bible “Jesus requires the fruitful life.” From the vine comes the branches and the fruit.  From Christ comes the Christian. This is plain from the Gospel lesson for today. He uses the word abide some 8 times so that we have the fruitful life in Him.  It’s not, so you want to be a branch, find the vine. The inherent nature and purpose of  the Lord’s creation is to make fruit.  The gardener plants seed for one purpose:  produce, fruits and vegetable, as the Lord requires fruitfulness.  It is His doing and our tending, abiding in Him to plant, water and wait.   Notice the main difference in the two statements:  “A fruitful life requires Jesus”, the subject of “a fruitful life” is you and I, not the Lord.  We’re in charge.  “Do you really want the fruitful life?” “Here are the 5 steps to the fruitful life”, or others might preach that the fruitful life is a certain attainment of material prosperity, the “prosperity Gospel”, your best life now, etc. And so you need to accept Jesus to have the fruitful life,  then Jesus is our branch. Jesus does not grow out of us.  We grow out of Him! If we don’t, we will be unfruitful and cut off. 

Like I said, it’s just the opposite. We are the branches.   “The Lord Jesus requires the fruitful life”,   who is the subject?  Yes, the Lord.  “I am the Vine”, not you or I:  we are the branches, the Lord is Vine, and so the life of the grapevine.  His will, His word is that we are clean in His forgiveness.  His will, His word is that we know His peace.   His will, His word in a world bent in upon itself, fills  us with His love to so love others as He first loved us. His will, His word is  we are found in Him and to so find others as a Shepherd searching today for  His lost sheep.  His will, His Word is fruitfulness unto eternal life as we abide in Him, if we do not then we are cast aside.   His will is His Word in His words which are  His life for you, not your best life, but His life for you, knowing His love, His grace, mercy and peace. 

How do we know this? Answer: I heard it through the grapevine!  Jesus is faithful in all the words of the Bible.  Every word from the mouth of God is bread.  I heard it through the grape Vine:  This is my body, This is my blood.  

The saying,  “I heard it through the grapevine.” actually refers to gossip.  When someone passes on gossip it’s usually to help, I just thought you should know what they’re saying about you.  Or you should know about Sally so we can help Sally.  The false prophets and spirits are gossips about God in all their fine theories about the Lord who loves us.  They will say Jesus is not from God and He came in our flesh.  Test the spirits.  Hear them but do not listen to them that is obey them. The false spirits lead us from our Lord who so loves us. All those who deny Jesus came in the flesh are spreading gossip and rumors under the pretense to help  you.  The false spirits primarily say Jesus is not the incarnate God, come in the flesh. Gossips distort the truth.  They do not state it correctly.  Heretics are gossips. They speak as if they know but they do not, they trim the message to their own flesh and to acceptance in the world.  Jesus was a good teacher, a social revolutionary, a way to God and the like.  When the grapevine is the Lord Jesus we can hear and know that the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever.   His Word of forgiveness and grace cleanses us.  Abide in His Words He taught, His Words are true as is the entirety of the Word of God.

How does the Lord nourish our life as we abide in Him?  Answer: I hear it through the grapevine.   If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  Abide in Him and His words abiding in us and so it is logical to hear Him is to pray to Him and for Him and it is done.  This is child-like faith. We are heard as we hear Him,  the grapevine.  

“…everything has been heard, even though one does not know what has been heard. Even when Christ asked for His life, He was heard.  But the flesh does not recognize how the hearing takes place. Therefore every prayer is heard, and whatever we ask for happens, even though we do not recognize in what ways it happens… God sometimes hurls us into greater evils in order that He may put an end to the evils. And thus He has heard our prayer.” (Luther)

The Father will prune us.  He will cut off the suckers that take away from fructification.  The wild shoots.  Sin is a  sucker.  Sin sucks. It takes life away and deters the true Vine.  His pruning is confession and absolution. 

How are we made clean by His Word?  Answer:  Baptism and Faith. We heard today another witness in the Bible of a man made clean by Jesus:  the Baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.  He heard the Word and the Word was poured over him in the waters of rebirth in Jesus Christ the true vine.  He heard it through the grapevine and Philip was no gossip, but he taught the Good News of Jesus who suffered and died and rose, as Isaiah prophesied 5 centuries before the Incarnation. And according to a reliable tradition, the Ethiopian eunuch did bear much fruit, even though there could never be fruit from his body.  He went home and may have told of the Gospel of Jesus as Philip told him. From early on,  Ethiopia became a Christian nation and today Ethiopia has one of the largest Lutheran church bodies on earth, a  whole lot bigger than all the Lutherans in the United States. I dare say, if we could ask the Ethiopian eunuch so how did you bear much fruit, tell us your secrets for the fruitful life?  His answer:  it was not me.  It was the Lord Jesus.  “This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s” (Luther, page 226 LW vol. 24).  He spread the truth, not gossip He was in charge of all the treasure of the Queen of Ethiopia and on that day, in the arranged meeting with Philip, the eunuch heard of the treasure beyond measure:  the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

How do we know this? Answer: I heard it through the grapevine!  Jesus is faithful in all the words of the Bible.   How does the Lord nourish our life as we abide in Him?  Answer: I hear it through the grapevine. He came in the flesh.

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

The Lord uses the word abide as an imperative, a command.  We are to keep His commandments, wrote the evangelist John.  And he wrote, “And His commandments are not burdensome”.  His commandments relieve our burdens. As His command,Come to all who are burden and heavy lade and I will give you rest…”  As His command, Take eat, take drink, this is My Body, this is My blood.  Forgive one another as I have forgiven you. Forgive your brother even 70 times 7 as I have forgiven you a humanly speaking unforgivable debt.  Love one another as I have first loved you.  Go ye therefore and teach all a nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I hear it through the Vine we are to love as He first loved us.  The devil hates the Holy Spirit’s fruit, especially the first one: love. We do not love to be saved but we have been so loved so we are saved to love. “We derive the greatest joy from the fact that we have people to love, either a wife or children, and we thank God, who gives us people to love.”-Martin Luther, commentary on 1 John 4: 11 And in all His freeing commands, it is the true Vine, Our Lord Jesus, we can do nothing without Him. 

I hear it through the grapevine. Look again at the picture of  the icon for this sermon. The icon with the depiction of the branch coming from the Lord’s side reminded me of the creation of Eve. It also shows Jesus squeezing grapes into a Chalice to be for His blood. Remember the Lord took a rib from Adam’s side to make a helpmate suitable for him, his wife to whom he would be married.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  We come from the Lord’s side by His grace and favor, His love just as when the Roman soldier pierced the Savior’s side, blood and water flowed out, so we are nourished in the Word of God, Baptism and Holy Communion.

 

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