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Posts Tagged ‘Jesu’

The Lessons

The Text for the Sermon:  St. Luke 21:  5-36

Signs, signs, Everywhere there’s signs, Jesus said. They are signs about the end, the last day…and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth.  Can’t you read the signs?  Therefore, the Lord gives the disciples this crucial tutorial in reading help for the signs of His coming again. Signs point us in the right direction so that we do not get lost.  The world, the flesh and the devil want to darken the true path of righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ, especially as He is always near to those whom He has saved in Baptism and faith:  you, His Church.  As recorded in St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus refers to the signs as “birth pains”.  As the delivery gets closer so do the contractions, of the heavens and the earth, pain in child bearing:  in sea and sky, in persecutions, in wars and rumor of wars, in all that is anti-Christ.    Signs, everywhere signs…it is the sign of the those who say I AM the Christ that I concentrate.  And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.   First those who come in the Name of the Lord will say I AM, the Greek could be rendered as last week’s Old Testament lesson in Exodus of the burning bush when the Lord said to Moses: I AM sent you, I am who I am.  Then the false Christs will say, The time is at hand.  Don’t go after them.  Luther preached on the Gospel:

” This pertains not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world and, especially, the Christian church, which has been illumined by the light of the gospel. What will be its lot at the end of the world? When once the gospel has come into the world, Christ is saying, the devil will multiply the enthusiasts and the sects, false prophets and false teachers around the believers, so that those who view the world through spiritual eyes will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved. The seduction will be so pervasive and the false prophets will perform such great signs and wonders, that even the elect—were that possible—succumb to error.”

 In fact, John warned in his first Epistle that many “anti-Christs” will come.  Luther was being pastoral:  it will result in those with “spiritual eyes”, that is the eyes opened by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection for sinners, “…will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved.”  All this begins bit by bit step by step with every accommodation of the truth of Scriptures and the Faith to make it palatable to the public because of being ashamed of the Gospel.  Today’s Hymn of the Day, Built on the Rock was misnamed in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Built on a Rock.  The change from the definite to the indefinite article  seems small but it is significant. This past week the reportage burning up the internet was 2 British comedians who are starting up atheist mega-churches.  In article about these atheist mega-churches a professor said:

 “When we think about religion in America, we talk about oh, belief in God, belief in Jesus, but for a lot of people, it’s the community. It’s the Sunday school, it’s the seeing people afterwards in the foyer or in the courtyard, it’s the having coffee”

“They want that kind of moral community that is about connecting with others and is about celebrating life, celebrating morals and ethics in a non-supernatural context”

 Hmm…it sounds like what goes for church in general in the United States:  a club with singing.  Salvation without the Savior…and no forgiveness, no grace, mercy and peace…no Cross, no heavy stone rolled away and no resurrection, no hope, no faith….just OUR love.  A community built upon our natural affections is like a wagon wheel with only the rim and spokes but no hub, no center, no core, but nature abhors a vacuum. Pretty soon there will be a hub,  Lo, here is the Christ!  And as happened at Mount Sinai, Exodus 32, man makes the golden calf of his desires when he denies there is God: political, entertainment, religious gods to whom we cry, You brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage.  The gods come from the womb of the people. The professor said such a church of the world is for people “celebrating morals”. Will such a religion have morals?  Yes, only the morals we want.  Only the morals that the political elites will permit. Only the beliefs we want.  Yet, it stands in the Bible, All Scripture is inspired by God not just the parts I find inspiring. 

 Jesus taught His tutorial on reading the signs in His last week on earth. After His triumphal entry He taught day by day in the Temple.Right after this, Judas betrayed Him to the chief priests.  Yes, signs, signs, everywhere there are and will be signs…but there is only one Sign which signifies salvation for the world in tumult and turmoil, in fear of the roaring of the seas:  the sign of the Cross.  In His holy body,

“…born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!”

Read, learn and inwardly digest the sign of His Cross. The world’s terror is death, and death is the wages of sin.  Jesus knew the terror: take this cup away from Me, He prayed in Gethsemane. He received the wages of our sin: death and it was not the minimum wage.   All of the sin of the world was laid on the sinless Lamb of God.  All that mankind treasures as gods:  mammon, power, fame is smashed as the nails were driven into Him.  In His Holy Body is the end of the world, the flesh and the devil.  “In many and various ways God spoke to His people by the prophets, but IN THESE LAST DAYS He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1).  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11) Here, not only the Pastor, but the whole Church in His congregations, you preach and proclaim His death for our salvation, because He died, yes! But more, He is risen. . This is the apocalyptic Supper:  His Body, His Blood.  All humankind would agree love is central, the Cross and His supper is proof of it. 

“Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!”

No greater love than this…nothing we treasure as number 1, wealth, fame, power…things do not love. Even family and friends cannot so love, yet in Jesus Christ, love is made alive in His forgiveness, the fruit of faith for the faith of others.  All our idolatries are shattered  around His Cross shown for what they are:  death things, with no life in them. The almighty dollar did not die for you, but the Almighty God did.

 What do we do?  We do as the Lord commands: pray and witness. 

When we are asked to give an account of the hope that is in us, be prepared: know He loved and died for you.  He is the end of the world.  He will come again.  He will give you the words to say, you don’t have to prepare the script of the witness. He has provided the Script:  the Scripture…to invite others to His apocalyptic Supper…and He invites us to Himself daily in prayer for our lives in His Church to proclaim His death and resurrection for us all, the sign of His salvation once and for all. The Apostle’s inspired, God-breathed prayer is mine:

 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you andguard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lessons for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, can be found here.

The Sadducees thought only the first five books of Moses, the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy were really the inspired Word of God, but not the remainder of the Bible.  Since the Torah does not mention resurrection,  they said there is no resurrection.  The church of the world bends the Word of God to its own fancies.  The Sadducees robbed themselves of such sweet comfort the Lord gives to men and women:  the hope of the life of the world to come. By their false doctrine or teaching, they robbed others as well of consolation, the Lord’s own Word.  Maybe to make Biblical teaching more palatable and  more in tune with people’s need.  Maybe to control them. Maybe they had a hard time understanding the resurrection of the body. I do.  However, when Jesus says to Martha at Lazarus’ tomb, I am the resurrection and the life, that there is no death, the stench of sin and trespass in Him, I get it but more He has me, not as His plaything to use us, but as baptized sons and daughters to love you all.  By His Word Lazarus comes forth.  He is the Lord and by His Word saves, utterly out of the control of the Sadducees, the Pharisees and all false teachers. His Word is not chained. It is not bound. Therefore, the church of the world comes with trick questions to the Church of the Word as it did to Jesus.  The Sadducees brought up levirate marriage.  “Levir” is Latin for brother’s wife. According to Moses command to Israel in Leviticus, if a man dies childless then his wife marries his brother. The Lord provided social security to Israel. This is God’s good for Israel, but in a religious argument, men twist God’s Word. What happens if this happens 7 times, since there were 7 brothers and each brother died childless:  Who’s wife shall the woman be in the resurrection? 

 Jesus’ answer is two-fold:

  1. The life to come will be the new creation.  It will be qualitatively different.  In the resurrection men will not marry nor be given in marriage.  As the Lord said in Hosea, the land will be called, “married”, the whole land, the whole of God’s people, His Church is the bride of Christ and for her life He died.  Those who are deemed worthy, of worth, deemed worthy by someone else, the Lord:  by His grace for us all, to His sons and daughters, sons and daughters of the resurrection.  
  2. Jesus quotes today’s Old Testament lesson:  I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Present tense God, I am, for present tense people, whom I saved. The blessed patriarchs are before the Lord who made them His own and He does not give up on them in death, neither you. Moses was standing on holy ground and so were the Saduccees but they did not know it.  Moses saw the bush on fire but not consumed, such is the work of the Holy Spirit. On fire, the dross of sin melted away but the branches alive in Christ’s forgiveness.  The Lord, said Jesus, His Father, is not the God of the dead, of sin, but of the living, for all live to Him and through His Son, by faith, makes all alive.  He is the present-tense Savior for present tense sinners. 

 Jesus ended the argument with the truth of Biblical doctrine or teaching. They could not ask him another question. I think Jesus would have been a real kill-joy on a blog. No endless thread of discussion, for He weaves our the threads of our lives into His life, the life of all the living, the death of death our foe.

The Church of the world is unsettling, as the Apostle Paul knew. The Church in Thessalonica had heard false doctrine. “… not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”  As for the Lord, so for His Church: the Thessalonians concern was the resurrection caused by false teaching. First, before the day of the Lord the “lawless one” is to be revealed, that is, the antichrist.  The lawless one has not been revealed because the day of the Lord has not come, yet, lawlessness is all over and building. The man of lawlessness is at work but the Lord is restraining him.  

What is meant by “lawless” in 1 Thessalonians?  Answer: Without the Law of God.  Note that in so many serious discussions folks begin by saying, “I feel that…”  “What I feel about that…” As feelings is the final criterion of truth.  So even if a book is recognized as authoritative, its inherent truth is trumped by what I feel or experience.  This is a functional definition of lawlessness, in particular when the book in question is The Book, The Bible, as did the Sadducees, so all false teachers. Lawlessness: 

Disregarding the Law of God when it comes to the 5th commandment, you shall not kill, and allowing for abortion. 

Disregarding the 8th commandment about not bearing false witness and lying has been institutionalized in our politics, or worse, the churchly institutional lying about what the Bible says. 

Disregarding the Law of God as to the 4th and 6th commandments and the biological and spiritual marriage between man and woman is denied, and marriage, and the abuse of women and abuse of the family.

Disregarding the regular abuse of the 2nd commandment, regarding God’s Name and its regular abuse and the attendant demons of foul language.  …the 1st commandment.  Lawless ones become their own law and are worshiped: from politicians to singers to athletes etc. etc. etc. The gods of the church of the world, the golden calves, are to be seen and demand sacrifice for their policies and programs. (The lawless one)  acts as though he were not under, but over God’s will and Law; he treads all true religion under his feet, making the service of God a play and a farce. So Pr. and Prof. Paul Kretzman, Missouri Synod wrote in his commentary on the Bible in the ‘20s, on the Epistle reading.  Back then radio preachers were the media evangelists who in the hands of Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple MacPherson made the true religion into a play and a farce.  Look how many times the service of God is made into a play and farce on television these days. The problem is not too little religion but too much religion, that is,  false religion and the idolatry of lawlessness. These false gods demand sacrifice as much as Israel willingly gave up all their gold and silver and gems to make the golden calf.  As lawless as the day of the Judges and the last verse of the book of Judges, Everyone did that which was right in their own eyes, for their was no King in Israel.  Beloved!  The King lives in His Israel, His kingdom, His reign, not of this world.   The Lord calls and makes His Church by and through His Word, the Word made flesh. Church of the Word is called to hear.   

 Paul wants not only to warn but to point to the blessings of the Lord in Thessalonica and for us as well. The work of the Father is particularly emphasized in this connection. He loved us with an everlasting love, with a love so great that He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all. In His grace, through His Word, He gives us everlasting comfort and consolation, namely, the certainty of our salvation through the merits of our Redeemer. And by reason of this same grace we now have a good, a certain hope; we know that our souls, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, are secure in His hands, not only to the last great day, but beyond that day throughout eternity. (From Rev. Kretzmann’s commentary on the Epistle reading)

 Therefore, stand firm wrote the Apostle.  The Psalmist prayed:  “Lead me to a rock higher than I.  The Lord has: Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. The One has set us within His kingdom so our feet do not follow the dead ends of the gods of the church of the world. He has called you through His Gospel, His forgiveness, His grace and peace, sanctified in the hope of the kingdom come so that others may hear the clear call of His mercy to sinners. I end the sermon with the same benediction the Apostle Paul did in today’s Epistle reading:

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

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Text:  St. Matthew 5: 1-12, The Beatitudes

Some of you may remember the child’s rhyme about the Church: “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and there’s all the people:.  In The Large Catechism, Dr. Luther explains that when we think of “church”, we usually think of the church building, as “we are going to church”, but he points out that the only reason a sanctuary is called a “church”,  

“…the house should not be called a church except for the single reason that the group of people assembles here.”  The people who assemble are the Church, the communion or the community, “the holy Christian Church” (Third Article of the Apostles Creed). Meeting here in the library, it is difficult to say we are “going to church”, nevertheless, we go as His Church, His people.

 The rhyme above could be redone:  ”Here’s God’s House, here’s the steeple, open the door and see God’s people.”  Lutherans and Christians have spent a lot of time of fussing over the church building, instead of concentrating on building up God’s people, His Church.  This is done by preaching, teaching, praying and administering Christ’s Word and Sacraments. As the Apostle Peter wrote:  “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5). 

Further, this building up of Christ’s holy people, His baptized saints, is not according to our building specs, plans and blueprints. It’s according to the Lord’s Word alone.  That day in Palestine, on a mountain, Jesus drew forth His disciples and the crowd.  This was not a scary mountain, nor a mountain top “experience”. This was the mountain of blessing and by His Word Jesus was separating His disciples from the world to be sent into it with the Word.  Whom did the Lord bless?

poor in spirit

those who mourn

the meek

those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

revile

the pure in heart

the peacemakers

persecuted

the merciful

This is not exactly a recruiting poster for Church. Exactly what the Old Adam does not want to be.  We want to be the rich in spirit, go along with the world and make it,  the proud , the filled and popular, realistic, mighty warriors, at least in videogames, showing no mercy, admired. 

 The Bible is a story of mountains beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, or the mountain: 

 Sermon on the Mount and Jesus climbs the mountain, takes the position of a Teacher, seated and the disciples come near Him.  At the end of the sermon in chapter 7, we are told that the crowds were astonished at His teaching.  They were there like empty vessels to be filled. Jesus was forming the Kingdom, His Church, His Body.  They needed to be filled.  The Psalmist prayed, Be still and know that I am God.  You can’t fill an empty cup by continually moving it. They were still and He came to them in absolute Beatitude that is blessing. Blessed are…Blessed are…nine times over.  They maybe knew they were empty because of another mountain that loomed in background:

 

Mount Sinai where God gave His law in majesty and awe.  It was a terrible sight as reported in Exodus. Anyone who touched the mountain would die, complete with fire and smoke and thunder. For the wages of sin is death…for all have fallen short of the glory of God…for the wages of sin is death but the free gift is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.   Sinai shows us our need for the Lord. And when Jesus preached on the Mountain of Beatitude, another mountain was still in the future:

 Golgotha and it was more of a hill, literally the place of the skull.  There he was crucified and there He bore all the sin of those listening to His blessing on the Mount of Beatitudes. Only by His Word are we healed, forgiven, sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Golgotha points us to another mountain, the last mountain

 Mount Zion as He drew forth the last, the least and the lost to the Mount of Beatitudes, He promised to draw all people to Himself on the Cross and by the giving of the Holy Spirit to worship on Mount Zion, the very temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church and this place is the mount of beatitudes.  In between mountains there are valleys, where we work, live, play, study.  

In the valleys and Golgotha tells us in no uncertain terms:  I am with you.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

His rod and His staff is His Word that faith can grasp and lay hold.  He prepares an table before us in the presence of our enemies, and the cup overflows: His Body and His Blood.

 

Jesus by His majestic Word of blessing was beginning to form His kingdom and His Church to be in the world but not of the world, His ridiculously blessed people. “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…” We are being built, passive tense. In my cynical moments, I have redone the rhyme above, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and where’s all the people?”  And sadly stats and surveys have been documenting the downward spiral of church attendance.  Well-meaning Christians cry out: “We’ve got to do something!” When we should be crying out,  “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  When cry out, we’ve got to do something,  come the ways to save the church.  We see what happens when men and women build the church according to their best laid plans of mice and men: see the Mormons, see the feminist church, e.g. as “womanchurch”.  . Those are the more egregious examples of not building according to God’s Word. Not a lick of the Gospel for the poor in spirit, those who mourn the way the world is,hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, His love which He has freely given in His beloved.  It is our time that has made popular the saying, always about someone else:  He’s so filled with himself.  Filled with ourselves, the Lord can fill us with  His grace. The false church doctrine teaches only conditional sentences: If you just do this, then you will saved or rich or powerful.  Everything is on you but all was placed on Jesus Christ.  Over the years, I have seen “models of ministry” paraded before pastors’ groups, and new programs like mega-church.  A seminary friend, asked me to be a groomsman for his wedding. It was the ‘70s.  The groomsmen wore robin-egg blue tuxes.  It was all the rage.  Even orange tuxes were worn. Remember avocado or harvest gold colored refrigerators, kulats, dickies, and the like?  We most likely want to forget them all! As I do all those programs that steered us away from God’s Word.

  Fads don’t build up His Church, only the labor of love of God’s Word in His saints by faith through His grace alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in our families, amongst our friends, all our neighbors.  Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton wrote that the Church is the democracy of the dead, those saints before us have a vote.  This is what All Saints is also about.  When we gather for Holy Communion, the pastor will pray, “…with angels and archangels, AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN…” and even with 2 or 3 gathered together, there are countless more!  ZION: The saints before us were built only by one way:  the Word of Law and Grace. Too many want to disenfranchise the dead in Christ, who are with the Lord. The Lord makes all things new, He does not make all new things. We are called to keep the faith with the dead, who live in Christ waiting together the day of the general resurrection.  

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12

 “The fellowship of the Beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified.” (Bonhoeffer)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.-Philippians 4: 7

Post-Script: the idea of the story of the mountains from an excellent book: Why I am a Lutheran: Jesus in the Center, by Pr. Daniel Preuss.

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Revelation 7

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The photo is of the pulpit above the Altar (!)  in the city of  Erlangen‘s Neustaedter-Kirche.  The first time I saw a similar pulpit suspended above an Altar was in a mid 20th century Lutheran sanctuary in Berlin.  I worshiped in a late 20th Century Lutheran sanctuary in the USA in which  the pulpit, altar and font are all connected,  As the pastor in Berlin commented:  They wanted to emphasize the centrality of the Word of God!  Yes, Amen!  Orthodox priest and professor, Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote the Word is sacramental as the sacraments are of the Word.  I think that is a very orthodox Lutheran understanding of Word and Sacrament.  Tomorrow is All Saints Sunday and the Gospel is the beginning of  the Lord’s  Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes.  Where Christ is proclaimed for the blessing of the poor  in spirit, and His Sacraments for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is Mount Zion and the angels support the Word for us, for faith to take hold of again, for our salvation.  Give thanks for all His saints in your lives tomorrow,  in joyful remembrance of those who have died who shared the pilgrimage.

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