Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Price check... on the Gospel.


What is the price of the Gospel?

Death.

This fact you cannot escape. The death of Jesus Christ brought to fruition the Gospel, God's promise of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

Furthermore, when you deal with the Gospel, you always deal with death. This appears at odds with what we normally hear about the Gospel. But we often hear only one side of how the Gospel works. We hear about how the gospel gives life. We hear about the wonderful promises of God given to his people. This is of course all true and all very comforting.

However, again, the Gospel deals with death. Everything surrounding the Gospel is chock full of death. The Gospel comes to give life to those who were dead in their trespasses. The Gospel is persecuted and covered with the blood of martyrs of all ages. And again, this life giving Gospel was won for us by the death of Jesus Christ.

Hearing and proclaiming the Gospel is a deadly business, and it has been so from the very beginning. But of this you can be certain, life through the Gospel will always win out. Martin Luther's Easter hymn says it best:

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When Life and Death contended;
The victory remained with Life,
The reign of Death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That Death is swallowed up by Death,
His sting is lost forever.
Hallelujah!

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bad Exegesis, and Reading Things into Scripture

I recently read a article on the Newsweek website entitled Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy. It is an article trying to show that Scripture actually backs gay marriage. Here is the front piece:

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.


It's an annoying article. The author doesn't see the bigger picture that the entire Bible is written in the frame work of salvation through the promised Messiah, who was revealed to us in the New Testament as Jesus. It is in that framework that we see in all times and in all places sin has persisted. Jesus came to takes away all that sin.

The author doesn't understand that, and in effect doesn't understand what God's love is. She doesn't see God's love in Christ, but instead tries to find what love means by reading between the lines and get behind the text to understand what the text is really saying. By doing this she reads into Scripture what she wants to see, and thereby loses the Gospel. When you lose the Gospel framework, then you can really say anything you want about what the Bible says.

If you want to read the rest of the article you can find it here.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A BCS Playoff...

If you ever wanted to see how a playoff in college football might work, read this article from Rivals.com. I think it does a pretty fair job at presenting a playoff that is fair AND incorporates all the weaker conferences. Yes, teams still get left out, but now there will be good reason to leave them out.

Granted it probably won't happen for another 10 years if it ever does.

A Great Start


Yes, after a 1-month break I have finally posted again. Here's to posting more regularly than once a month.

Winter Quarter is here. And I think it should be less busy than I first thought it would be. So here's a rundown of my classes from the ones that demand the most work.

1) Church History II - There is a lot of reading and Prof. Coles is going to kill a lot of trees with all the handouts I have to memorize. However, I love this time period. So, although the workload (150 pages of reading a week) is great, it should be fun and manageable.

2) Pauline Epistles - The big thing here is exegetical work and the papers that I have to write. I have two 10-12 pagers for this class as well as weekly quizzes. Not bad, just time demanding. However, I am not too worried about this class either. I had both the professors, Dr. Peter Scaer and Dr. Nordling, for Gospels I and Gospels II respectively. I did well in both their classes and I know what they are looking for in my exegesis.

3) Catechetics - Prof. John Pless on learning how to teach the catechism and other catechism benefits. A project and a paper in here make this class thrid on the list. Oh yeah, and I get to remember/memorize the small catechism for recital, again.

4) Church History IV - I have heard that Dr. Rast's tests are hard and that the first test could end up being my only grade in the class. I guess it's just extra incentive in doing very well on the first test.

5) Pastoral Counseling - 2 tests - Pretty much all the answers are given in class as "Tuition Dollar" questions. It shouldn't be too tough.

6) Greek readings and Field Ed - Prof. Harvala and Prof. Pless are teaching those respectively. I think I will learn much from Prof Harvala as his approach is to exegete a text for preaching. These are simple classes.

That's a rundown of my classes.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, November 3, 2008

Before Bed...

Three things you should not do before bed...
1) Eat a bag of Sunflower Seeds
2) Eat a Snickers Bar
3) Drink a Beer

(I had a munchie craving)

All fine things, of course, but not the best things to have just before bed.

Three things you should do before bed.
1) Pray
2) Pray
3) Pray some more.

If you think this is Law you are right. In fact, in the Large Catechism, Luther says we must first pray because God has commanded it. He places it under the authority of the Second Commandment in rightly calling upon God's name.

However, more importantly, Luther places prayer under pure Gospel. For with prayer, we look at the Lords Prayer and pray to God knowing that we are asking Him as dear children ask their dear Father and he gladly gives to us. With prayer, we have a sure defense against the devil, the world and our sinful flesh. Why? Because it is the last thing the devil wants. He never wants God's name upon our lips calling out to him for help and guidance against the evil one. It is when he can make you go your own way, not calling upon God, that the devil would have you go.

So pray before you go to bed. Pray and have always the name of the Lord upon your lips crying out to Him for strength to live lives according to His Word, for the Holy Spirit that He would continue to keep us in the one true faith, for the will of Satan and all evil things to be broken and no harm come to us, for everything that we need to support this body and life, for forgiveness and the strength to forgive our neighbor, for endurance against temptation, and steadfastness against the evil one himself. It is God's good will to give all this you.

+Kyrie Eleison. Amen.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Really? #1

This is the first installment of my new mini-series of posts called Really? In this series I am going to point out some things which are common misconceptions about certain aspects of Christianity. Hopefully, it will be helpful to some, and thought provoking to others. And to others, simply enjoy what you already know, or dispute with me how I could be off kilter.

Here we go.

One common misconception that I have found:
People don't realize the devil and demons are really real, or they simply don't think these beings have any power.

We have all kinds of examples showing that Satan and his demons are real.
In Genesis, Satan himself shows up as a serpent. He tempts Eve away from God and ultimately Adam as well. The book of Job shows that Satan there also is very real. If we look in the Gospels, Jesus is casting out demons and rebuking Satan himself. Truly, Satan and demons are real. And they at least have some power to cause harm and danger in this world.

But, it is easy for us today to not even think of Satan nor his demons to cause us any grief today. We attribute almost anything and everything to a rational explanation (thank you enlightenment) and are just as skeptical if someone tells us that demon possession is real. But here, we must stick to what God's Word says. If Jesus cast out demons, then they are real. If Jesus rebuked Satan, then Satan is real. If these demons could possess a human, or cause a person grief, then demons really do give people grief and lead them away from the one true God.

I am not going to go into detail trying to decipher what might be a demon as compared to what might simply be an actual medical condition. However, I think there is room to say that temptation and grief and burden can, in fact, come from actual attacks of devils.

This is why Luther writes so adamantly that prayer (especially the Lord's Prayer!) is the main offense against the devil and all his ways. Because of this very real threat of the minions of Satan, prayer is essential in calling out to God against Satan and assuring the believer that they have God's promise of salvation from these attacks.

Looking at it from another perspective. What does this mean if you don't believe that Satan and his minions actually exist? It means that Satan has you where he wants you. He doesn't want you calling out to God for help! If there is not enemy, there is no need for a savior. There is no need to cry out. There is no need for salvation.

That there is no need for salvation!

This is what Satan wants you to believe. This is Satan's vanishing trick that turns people away from God. If he can tell you it's all good, then he'll let you believe also that you don't need Jesus.

Into temptation lead us not.
When evil foes against us plot
And vex our souls on every hand,
Oh, give us strength that we may stand
Firm in the faith, a well-armed host,
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost!

From evil, Lord, deliver us;
The times and days are perilous.
Redeem us from eternal death,
And when we yeild our dying breath,
Console us, grant us calm release,
And take our souls to Thee in peace.

- "Our Father, Thou in Heaven Above"
The Lutheran Hymnal #458
Stanzas 7&8, Petitions 6&7 of the Lord's Prayer

+Kyrie Eleison

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Writing a Hymn


If you didn't know. I am on the chapel staff. I help out with the 4:00 Vespers Service preparing the sticky notes in the hymnals, for the lectors and liturgists whom I hi-jack from the student body and faculty. One of the duties in preparing the services is to pick out the hymns for the week. Here is a few interesting discoveries I have made:

1) There are a large number of hymns which come from the psalms... and rightfully so. Since, the psalms are the hymnbook of the Old Testament, it is only fitting that we sing many of the songs which they did then.

2) The second thing however, is how much explicit Christology is missing from the hymns which are based solely off of hymns.

Addressing the second point, I, of course, understand that all the psalms are to be understood with Christ in mind. But, I am not sure that many people do have Christ in mind when they are singing. In fact it is often is easier to make God seem abstract in singing the psalms, than understanding that the psalms really speak about Christ.

With this in mind, Kurios, the name used to address Jesus is, in fact, the same word used over and over again in the Old Testament and the Psalms. This title, Kurios, points to Jesus as God, as the one who has done the marvelous deeds and as the one to whom Israel cries out when they are in distress.

But, you understand all this from a careful study of the text and a proper understanding of the Scriptures. So, what of a psalm made into a hymn? Often, it is hard to see Christ in the hymn text without reading Him into it. The hymn does not explicitly show Christ, and thus, I think is very deficient.

We know who Jesus is and what he has done. The Jews and others in writing the psalms only knew what God had done for them, and what he was going to do for them, even though they didn't know exactly how. We have that advantage; we know how Jesus has fulfilled the promises of God. I think that it is sad that we did not take the opportunity in writing psalmic hymns, sermons of the Church, to include Jesus and what he has done.

Without Jesus the church is nothing. Without preaching Christ, specifically Christ, then people are not saved, and Christians are not edified.

+Kyrie Eleison

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mid-Quarter Break

Today is the Mid-Quarter Break. What better way to celebrate the halfway point of the quarter than with "Keg and Eggs."

Breakfast and beer. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I am going to take a nap now.

+Kyrie Eleison

Monday, September 29, 2008

Read it.

It has been two weeks since a post. Why?

Reading.

And this is a good thing, because that means I have been reading. So what am I reading? Lots of things.

Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible by Thomas G. Long.
Ia m about half way through with this book. Thus far, it is not so bad. It's a basic text on preaching the literary forms of the bible: Psalms, Proverbs, Narratives, Parables, and Epistles. It's not bad, and I can see how it can help shape the mind in going about preaching the text.

Christian Dogmatics vII by Francis Pieper
If you love Christology, you will somewhat enjoy this book. Again, I am only about half way through this book and Dr. Scaer has said this book in itself doesn't do a satisfactory job of covering the fullness of the work of Christ in the atonement. We shall see when I get to the atonement section.

Key Words in Church Music ed. Carl Schalk
An expanded and updated edition of the work that came out in 1978, this is good broad selection of essays on Church Music in general. I bought this book in order to study the music of the church. I wanted a foundation in hymnody as I study. But, I got side tracked and learned that Luther added O Christ to the beginning of each petition of the Agnus Dei.

Where God Meets Man: Luther's Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel by Gerhard O. Forde.
I started this book at the beginning of the year in my spared time. I am halfway through it. It'll probably be on the back burner for another two weeks until the 1-day fall break gets here.

Luther: Man between God and the Devil by Heiko A. Oberman
I will begin this tonight. It's a book on Luther and I am looking to sink my teeth deeper into something a bit more than a general Martin Luther biography. It's for a paper in Church History III, so it'll be read by Sunday evening.

The Song of Roland
Hey, everybody's gotta have a little something as a break from class reading.

Well, that's about it.

+Kyrie Eleison

Monday, September 15, 2008

Burdens


<------Being a seminarian is rough sometimes. We carry a lot of burdens.

The temptations are always coming at us. Satan and his allies, the world and our flesh, struggle ever on to lead men away from what they are supposed to be doing. It's easy to get lazy, and get behind on reading. It's easy to get so caught up in seminary "stuff", the reading and the papers, that we spend less time on reading God's Word in its own right. The pressure of being a single seminarian has its own difficulties and temptations. And the list goes on.

Furthermore, seminarians have the further advantage of being the piece of iron thwacked by God to mold them in rough-shod Pastors in the course of a few years. Tried and tested to the limits to help us better understand the realities of being a Pastor can have a wearing effect as well. This burden at times can seem unbearable.

But all this is not without hope. For with these burdens Christ says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Christ calls out, and we hear. Christ gives us his light and easy yoke in our Baptism, and he took our burdens of sin and shame and nailed them to the cross.

There at the cross is where we find true comfort and rest, because there is the forgiveness of our sins. There is our escape from the burdens of this world. In Christ we have comfort, in Christ we have rest.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Day Back


Classes begin anew.

Pentateuch Uno, Dog II, Church History III, Hom II and Lutheran Confessions II. It looks to be a good quarter albeit a busy one.

Moses authored the Pentateuch, but maybe or maybe not using sources; Baptism is the most important thing the first years will learn at seminary; and reading the Nicene Creed in Latin prevents people from swimming the Bosporus.

That was my first day as a second year student.
We'll see how Hom goes tomorrow and Confessions goes on Thursday evening.

+Christ Have Mercy on us this year+

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last Day


This is the final day for my summer vicarage in Worden, IL. Overall, it has been a great experience. I learned a great deal from Pastor Curtis and from the members at Trinity and Zion. May God continue to bless them all with faithful hearts and minds toward Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Voice of the Church

How does the church respond to happiness or sorrow? It uses its voice and its voice is the hymn. The hymns of the Church possess what is most important to the body of all Christian Saints. Now, what is voiced at different times may be voiced in different ways, but ultimately - hopefully - there remains the salvific message of Christ crucified.

Today there are many ways to express the extreme happiness that the church feels. In fact, this could cause a problem for future generations of Christians. For us, here in America, we have it good. The Church is protected from governmental persecution and sorrow and toil and trouble do not rear its ugly head as it did during the early persecutions of Christians. We have better medicines today, unlike the widespread deaths caused by the Plague, the Black Death. So we have in essence become unaware of what hard-times really are, and to what brink sorrow and toil and turmoil can bring the church.

These happy songs seem to flow out of different parts of Christendom. Christ Tomlin wrote "How great is our God" (voted Worship Song of the Year for 2008) and truly God is - although not necessarily for the reasons Tomlin describes. Martin Luther writes "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice" (Nominated for best Worship Song in 1523, but lost to "You are stupid laity and don't know Latin" by the Pope Clement VII) and truly we should rejoice. But what of times of sorrow? What of times when things aren't happy and bright? How then does the church respond?

It seems that today's Christianity has no answer for this. All it knows is happy happy joy joy. It doesn't fully understand sorrow. And truly, neither do I. Yet, while I may not fully understand the extent of sorrow, when sad times do come, a solid part of Christendom does understand sorrow and how to handle it. And that solid bit of Christendom that holds to Lutheran hymns and Lutheran hymn writers gives the church its voice in the times of sorrow. How?

Well, Luther wrote "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice", but he also wrote "In the Very Midst of Life" a hymn which tells of the sorrows and tribulation a Christian faces. In the Hymn the answer is Jesus Christ to all sorrow and woes, yet tells us this very clearly and with a fitting tune to the occasion. In the 17th Century, Paul Gerhardt gives even more life to this voice of sorrow trusting in the promises of God. With a hymn like "Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me" there is no doubt that Christ is the focus of all things and we can cling to him even in times of sorrow. The text and the tune are appropriate for the occasion.

These texts and tunes for sorrow come out of times of great grief and sorrow and they give comfort to us today in times as sorrow as well. Rejoice then, that Lutheran hymns still hold a firm voice for the Church in times of sorrow which cling to Christ and the salvation he has won for us!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is Jesus not enough?

For those of the "experiential age" of Christianity, Jesus is not enough.

It is not enough that Jesus comes into their midst, every Sunday in the Lord's Supper. It is not enough that God has promised them salvation under His triune name in Baptism. It is not enough that the Holy Spirit chooses to work through the Word of God in a sermon, whether or not that Word is excellent preached.

Feeling, apparently, is the paramount of Christianity. Sensuality, almost. Borderline sexual desire, talking about Jesus as if he were a lover. And then to top it all off, there is a general feeling that you have no idea what is happening to you, so you call it the Holy Spirit to cover your tracks.

That is not Jesus. That is not God. He has done his work concretely, by becoming a man and going to the cross. And he continues to still work concretely to give you the forgiveness he won: His Word and the Sacraments.

Looking at yourself takes your eyes off God and off the cross. "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." Psalm 118:8

Kyrie Eleison+

Homily for St. Romanus, Martyr

Trinity Lutheran Church
Worden, IL

August 6th, 2008

Matthew 10:26-32

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“So have no fear of them.” “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” For Saint Romanus, the converted soldier, these words were all too real. He was martyred. Evil men killed his body, but they didn’t have the power to kill his soul. We, on the other hand, live lives of comfortable security protected from persecution by the Constitution. But then again, while it protects us from men, it cannot protect us from the effects of sin in this world and the fear this puts in us.

There are plenty of things to fear and worry about in this life. You might be fired from your job. Money may run dry and bills left unpaid. Children could grow up and make bad decisions. A loved one could be taken away at any minute. But truly, these are minor cares and worries for they only take their toll on our bodies. And these bodies are bound for death anyway. Jesus says, “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is the fear that matters.

Who is the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell? It cannot be the devil. Christ has beaten Satan. He’s judged. The deed is done. One little Word can fell him. He has no power over us. So then, the one who can destroy both body and soul is God, the almighty and everlasting. He is the judge. The one who will come to judge the quick and the dead. The one who will come to judge men by their deeds and destroy all those who are not perfect in his sight. He is the one to be feared. For are your deeds perfect? Are you spotless and blameless in the sight of God? Standing naked in front of God with only your imperfect and shameful deeds to cover you is indeed a frightening prospect.

But while he is to be feared, He says, do not fear nor be afraid. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God watches over all living things, and you are of more value to him than they are. Repent therefore from all your sins, take comfort and see what God has done that he is able to love and value you.

God sent Jesus to stand naked on the cross. But he was not really naked, for he was covered in your shameful and sinful deeds. Jesus Christ the Son of God hung before the face of God and was condemned. The wrath of God, intended for you, was sent against Jesus Christ. Your sins were paid for bought with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Yet, the grave could not hold God. And Jesus came out from the tomb no longer clothed in your sins and shamefulness, but with fresh garments of his own righteousness. And through his Word in Baptism he clothes you with these pure white stainless shameless garments.

This is why he says, do not fear. In those pure white garments given to you by Christ your will be judged at the final judgment according to deeds. But God will look at you and no longer see your shameful and imperfect deeds. He will see you clothed in the deeds of Christ. Clothed in the merits of Christ our Lord and Savior who won salvation for you on the cross. And you will not be destroyed in soul and body but be preserved until life everlasting.

So we rejoice in this salvation and gladly do as Christ our Lord says, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven.” And what better way of acknowledging God before man than by receiving the things which God wishes us to receive? We come to church and hear God’s Word in the Sermon. We take and eat and drink to our forgiveness the body and blood of Christ. And we live in our Baptisms, daily receiving the promise of forgiveness which he gives. Yes, Jesus gives and gives and forgives and forgives. In these things Christ acts, and by receiving we proclaim to others that He is the Christ.

So we fear the Lord, trusting in His promise when he says to us - Have no fear, for my Son has stilled my wrath and you have life, in soul and body, everlasting.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Homily

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He (that is Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus is building. He is building a church. How does Jesus intend to build the Church?

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be bound in heaven.” Jesus doesn’t keep this a secret. He isn’t trying to fool anybody. He is plain and clear about how he is going to do this. The Church is built on the forgiveness of sins. It is as plain and simple as that.

Repent, then, from any other understanding about how the Church grows. Repent, also from the things which you do to keep the Church from growing. Which one of you hasn’t argued with your neighbor, with your friend, or with a relative about anything? Satan caused division within the house of Jacob, turning brother against brother. If Satan did this to Jacob’s family, don’t you think he will try and cause divisions between brothers and sisters here at Trinity? The prideful, sinful self put strife and stress between the apostles Peter and John, the very disciples of Christ. Have you not also held onto your prideful self, your sinfulness way too often and have cause strife and stress between you and someone you care for.

Repent from these sins for they condemn the church and tear it apart. They do nothing but bring hate, deceit, anger, rage, pain, suffering, and destruction to the Church.

Take heart. We are not left to ourselves to tear apart the Church.

You see Christ went to the cross, for you. He suffered and died, for you. He took upon himself all the hate, and dissention, and division, and anger, and pain that you would cause the Church, that the fault may no longer rest upon your shoulders but upon his. And you are forgiven. You are forgiven for all these sins. And in his resurrection, he heals all wounds and restores all things with that forgiveness of sins won on the cross.

Christ has founded the Church on himself. He has built is with the sturdy wooden beams of the cross which cannot fall to the sin of the world, our flesh, or Satan. It is from the cross that he gives the forgiveness of sins. And it is with the forgiveness of sins that God brings people into the Church by faith. See in Baptism that God places his name – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – upon you. His very words created faith in you and brought you the forgiveness of sins which Christ won on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives you himself, his body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins. Christ is the foundation of the Church.

But there is one gift God gives that we often overlook. There is one gift we fail to think of as important as Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. And in fact this gift can be the most comforting of them all. For Christ has given us absolution. He has given us Pastors, to absolve us of those sins which weigh upon us the most. Think of it, Christ tells Peter that he has Christ’s authority to forgive sins, and that they will also be forgiven in heaven as well. Pastors do this. Pastor stand in the stead and by the command of Jesus himself to forgive sins. And this is pure gift to you. For God knows that we are weak. So he gives us a spoken word: the spoken Word of the Pastor. In that word God gives you comforting absolution, the forgiveness of sins. Here, you have your sins forgiven, that you may learn to forgive as well. That you may learn that forgiveness heals all wounds of division caused by sin. So take heart, for you have God’s promise that you have salvation, that you stand in Christ’s righteousness, and that you have life everlasting.

In the name of the Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Church is built on Absolution


Read Matthew 16:13-19. "Who am I?" Jesus asks. "You are the Christ Son of the living God." Peter replies. Peter you rock (very punny, no?), upon this rock I am going to build my church. So the argument goes, Is the church built upon Peter or the confession? Stupid question.

It is neither and both. Neither, because Jesus goes on to explain how the church will be built. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The church is built on absolution.

So it is also both, Jesus (the object of the confession) has won absolution for us. But at the same time he give all authority in heaven and on earth (hey sounds just like the keys in absolution) to the disciples to deal out that absolution.

The church is built on forgiveness, and Christ is the solid rock foundation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Most Influential Theologian Today?

Who is the most influential theologian of our time? Does it come from the seminaries or somewhere else? Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller interviews Chris Tomlin on Table Talk Radio and makes an astute observation.

Listen to the interview here. http://tabletalkradio.org/scraps.html

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Simple Faith


Being away from seminary for a while put some perspective on my seminary education. At the seminary I learned a slew of intricate details about how God interacts with man, much more than the average Joe probably knows. I am specifically talking about how man comes to salvation.

When I begin to talk with Joe about God's plan of salvation, how everything revolves around Jesus Christ and what HE did and that it has nothing to do with what Joe did, Joe can accept that. But the poo hits the whirligig when I begin to explain how this is possible, such as that Christ is both God and man at the same time, or that man is bound in sin until God acts upon that man. The most common response I have gotten is "I have a simple faith." - All that just confuses me, do I really need to know that.

Fair enough, if you want to look at it that way. It may be true that all of our faith is simple. The preaching of the Law shows the man his sin and shows him that he needs a Savior, bringing about repentance. Then the Gospel is preached creating faith and giving the man forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And this is simple faith. Truly, it is not about giving all the right answers about everything in the bible. See Pastor Hall's blog for a good explanation http://christopherdhall.blogspot.com/2008/07/error-christ-and-salvation.html
Although, are there some things that inevitably come to question more than others? Does the battle cry of "simple faith" hold when serious questions are asked?

With such talk about simple faith, is it possible that Christ wants us to know more about him? And if so, why? Shouldn't this simple faith sustain us through life to get us into heaven.

Of course Christ wants us to know as much about him as we can. The question "Who is Jesus?" must arise. People were killed over this question during the first 600 years of Christendom, and that was between the Christians themselves. Would not the simple Arian Christian say along with the simple Catholic Christian, "I have a simple faith!"? Or would not a Monophysite, or a Nestorian do the same? Perhaps a Pelagian?

If having a correct answer to the question "Who is Jesus?" doesn't matter, then why does it matter that Jesus is who he says he is anyway. Why does it matter if we have the right answers to "Who is Jesus?"

I can say to Average Joe, " Do you know Bob?"
Joe can say, "Sure I do. He lives over on Second Street."
Then I say, "No, Bob lives in Toronto."

Then point is, I can say, "Do you have faith in Jesus?"
Joe can say, "Sure I do. He is simply a means by which Salvation was made available for people to gain, should they so desire."
Then I can say, "No, Jesus gives salvation and does not simply 'make it available', we must have faith in a different Jesus."

The sad thing is. This is true. These people do not know the same Jesus. Though, unlike Bob, only one of the Jesus' is real. The other one is one of a person's own creation and disbelieving in the True Jesus.

So here then is the dilemma. If it is enough to have a simple faith, one that was qualified above, should I proceed then to teach further who Jesus really is at the threat that Joe might disbelieve the things said about who Jesus really is? Ah. But that is the heart of the matter. If Joe is unwilling to believe in who Jesus really is, then Joe has put up a false Jesus in his heart based not upon what God's Word says, but upon who Joe wants Jesus to be for him.

By denying the correct answer, Joe is confessing a different Jesus. He is creating a false God in which to believe, thus again destroying the first commandment. And even more detrimental, (as if breaking the first commandment wasn't bad enough) Joe denies how God works salvation and declares to everyone else that "simple faith" is best and that to delve into who Jesus says he is, is too complicated and distracting to salvation.

But then, I guess Joe's faith isn't as simple as he'd like to claim. He has his own idea of who Jesus is. Joe sees Jesus as one who doesn't split hairs concerning what is and isn't said about Jesus. Joe sees Jesus as unconcerned about that false teaching can lead astray. Joe sees Jesus as a given and takes it for granted that Jesus has gained him salvation. He fails to make the distinction between faith and the faith.

So yes, faith is simple. It believes upon the promises of God and is in fact given by God that we may receive him and his gift of salvation. Understanding The Faith is hard. It takes study and hard work to understand it better day by day, granted only by the Holy Spirit. Faith is bound to The Faith in that we can only believe in that which has been proclaimed as true. But to deny what is part of The Faith causes faith to be weakened and have foundations built on sand and not the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Homilies Attack!

Preaching a bad homily is something to fret over. It is a sin. And, as such, should be taken seriously.

When God's Word goes forth from the mouth of the Pastor (in this case, from the mouth of the Pastor through the seminarian) it isn't idle. It has power to kill and make alive. When you are not clear, you can confuse the people and confound law and Gospel for them. Thus, effectively preaching them into hell without ever preaching them back into heaven. Or you may effectively create secure sinners and thus lead them by the hand to hell in their smug state.

I preached a bad homily yesterday. I sinned and needed forgiveness. I should have been clearer. I should have better prepared my sermon. But I didn't, and there is no second chance for that moment in time when God was breaking once again into the lives of sinful humanity.

Always be bold when preaching. Then again, always remember that when you fail to preach rightly, as God has said you must do, trust in the promise of forgiveness of sins which Christ gives to you in the Supper you'll receive in a few short minutes later.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On the Will of Man

This will be a short essay focusing on the bondage of man to sin after the fall, and what Christ has to say about how man comes to salvation.

Does man have a will that is free, or is man’s will bound? Jesus says in John 8:34 -36 in reply to Jewish unbelief that they are not already free, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Clearly, Jesus tells man that he is in bondage. He is a slave to sin. This bondage, which by all means begins with original sin, begins with Adam and Eve and their first fruits of sin which bound man in sin.

Paul says in Romans 6:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Follow this train of thought. Since all men from the moment they are born show the signs of aging and death upon them, it goes to follow that all men have sinned. and if all men have sinned, then as Jesus says, all men are slaves to sin. But understand that this type of bondage does not continue against the will of man.

This bondage is one in which the man bound has no understanding that there is any other way than that which sin provides. In fact, in this bondage man takes pleasure from sin, indeed, from doing things against the will of God. We see that in Romans 5:10, man without God’s intervention is an enemy of God, in that he sees God as an enemy. Understand “enemy” to its extent and you can understand that an enemy has every intention other than doing what his enemy wills.

Paul also describes this bondage in other terms. In Ephesians 2:1-10 we see that we were described to be “dead in the trespasses and sins” (v1) and “even as we were dead in our trespasses” (v5). Again, follow the logic. Normally when we think of a dead man, what do we think of a dead man doing? Nothing! Paul goes on and defines this death. It is not simply “nothing” that happens with one who is dead in their trespasses. No, that person lives in their trespasses. Following up verse 1, with verses 2 and 3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - 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.” A person who is dead in their trespasses lives a life of the living dead. A person who Christ has not lighten with the Gospel takes pleasure out of doing the things of this world and cannot see that there is anything different.

In fact, what does Christ say is his reason for coming to Earth for anyway. Look at what Christ himself says in Luke 4:18,19 “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Reflecting to back to the Jubilee in Leviticus 25 when liberty was proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land, and also to Isaiah, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that passage in bringing permanent freedom to those who are in bondage and held captive.

Man is completely in bondage to sin. Scripture has said so. So how then does man gain salvation? Again we need only recall Jesus’ words in Luke 4 telling how God is the actor who frees man from bondage and not man.

Look at John 1:9-13, The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus Christ is the true light. as he says elsewhere in John clarifying this, “I am the light of the world.” He is the one who enlightens. The world did not known him, though he made everything. He went to his people. Jesus is the one who acts! The ones who received him, not by anything of their own accord became children of God.

And John tells us how that happened. They were made children of God not by blood or being born into it in the hereditary sense (as the Jews were often apt to claim they were children of Abraham), nor by the will of the flesh (for the flesh desires that which is flesh), nor by the will of man (for it is bound in sin), but of God! God acts! God saves! And He does this through his Son Jesus Christ!

Matthew tells us how He is going to do this. 1:21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Christ is designated actor of salvation from the beginning. And this is so throughout his life and death and resurrection which is the salvific act for all of man throughout history. God acts. God acts through his Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ. All our responses are only after the fact of hearing the preached Word of Jesus Christ. God has always acted first and man can only give a response to this working of the Holy Spirit in him.

And of course we know that the Holy Spirit is God and his work is such that it is through Him that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Romans 5:5. And that love is the merits of Christ Jesus.

Kyrie Eleison.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tour de Donut Update

I am alive.

I was pumped, psyched and ready to go throughout the whole race. When you have competitors, you have a bit more energy. It was a blast.

I finished the course in just over 2 hours. I ate two donuts. Hooray!

Tour de Donut

This morning, I am cycling the 20th annual Tour de Donut here in IL. It's a 30-mile bike race where you get to eat donuts. For each donut you eat, you get a 5-minute deduction off your total time.

It looks like it might rain. Let's hope it doesn't. Race at 9am. I am going to go and work on my bike to get it ready. If I don't update again after the race, I might have died from exhaustion.

Who knows when death may over take me
Time passes on, my end draws near
How quickly can my breath forake me
How soon can life's last hour appear
My God, for Jesus' sake I pray,
Thy peace may bless my dying day.

Kyrie Eleison.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Check Please...

To tip or not to tip... Shakespeare is catchy, and now cliché. Oi.

You go to a restaurant. You are waited on. You are served. You are taken care of. You pay your hard earned cash to buy a decent meal. And after all that you come to the realization that for the service you received, tipping might or might not be a good idea.

Looking at this in the cynical way, the server knew he was going to earn less than minimum wage to begin with when he signed on for the job. He expects to be paid in tips to make up for this loss. But why should you tip? It was the server's own fault that he took a job with less pay. Again, cynical, but nobody wants to be expected to pay more than what they have already paid for the meal.

Sure, restaurants could operate differently. But they don't, so what should I, Joe Blow Christian, think about all this. Politicking aside, there is a sense in which we are called to love our neighbor despite what our neighbors intentions are. Our neighbor, the server, may intend to butter you up in order that you'll fork out the cash. Our neighbor, the restaurant, may intend you to fit the waiter's bill. You may be getting waylaid by the both of them, but that is no reason not to love your neighbor.

Instead of thinking this guy is stupid for taking such a low paying job and why should I help him (which, indeed, is breaking the seventh commandment), why should we not desire to help our neighbor? The fact is that sin prevents us from seeing this side of coin. All we can see is how we are getting ripped off. (Again, breaking another commandment by making ourselves the most important person.) St. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:10) "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils". This just goes to show how money can put enmity between us and our neighbor in something as simple as tipping.

However, take comfort in the fact that Jesus Christ has taken our sins against our neighbor upon himself when we do sin against them. And that he has given us his righteousness in return that we might not be condemned forever to an eternity of hell. We also pray that the Holy Spirit would work in us to produce to good fruits of faith that we might always help and serve our neighbor.

Now, I am not saying that when you don't tip it is a sin, but just remember that when you greet your neighbor wherever that may be, that person is your neighbor, so love him.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What am I to preach?


Recently, I had a conversation about what needs to be preached to a person that they might have salvation. Looking at things from a minimalist position, I amused myself with the question: Does a "Jesus loves you" bumper sticker do the trick?

Let us look at 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 for the answer. Paul speaks often of what we are to preach, and he does so throughout his epistles. If we look at verse 23 we have the answer spelled out, "but we preach Christ crucified."(emphasis added) This is not surprising, look at Luke 24. Verse 26 sums up what Jesus wants preached about himself. Preach suffering and the resurrection, repentance and forgiveness, to everyone, in Christ's name.

Acts is no different. Peter's Pentecost sermon certainly includes preaching that Christ was crucified and made sure the Jews knew who put him there. He then preaches about the resurrection which even David foresaw in the Christ. So Peter says, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. " Again, this formula, preach Christ crucified and the resurrection, repentance and forgiveness, to everyone, in Christ's name. Funny how that works, eh?

So what then does Paul preach? Look here to Acts 13 Paul preaches in Antioch of Pisidia. He preaches the suffering and death of Christ, and his resurrection, repentance comes about with an accusation of the law from accusing the people of unbelief, and forgiveness of sins is freely offered, no strings are attaches to this proclamation, and all of this in Christ's name shown with the scripture Paul uses to show that the Christ has indeed come. The same formula. Remarkable.

Loop around now... so does the "Jesus loves you" message seem to be the prominent message which brings those to salvation. No... but it is a response that comes automatically from what Jesus himself wants us to preach. Let's put it this way. I can tell you that Harrison Ford loves you. You might even believe this. But when the message that Harrison Ford did something extraordinary for you personally, that's when you have assurance. That's when you know that Harrison Ford loves you. Stupid analogy... but it works. "Jesus loves you" can be said to a person. But unless that person hears that Jesus did something extraordinary for them: dying on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins, rising from the dead that they can be assured of their own resurrection. When faced with depravity of body and soul, they repent of their sins and reach for a Savior, then they are freely offered the forgiveness of sins in the preaching in the solid foundation of Christ crucified.

Naturally, our sinful selves want to see the cross as folly. That is what sin and the devil want to do. They want to turn us away from where Christ has assured us that we have the forgiveness of sins. That is why we preach Christ crucified, that the forgiveness of sins may always conquer the wiles of the great deceiver.

Does "Jesus love you"? Absolutely! But you can be assured of this in the cross of Christ where he established it with the forgiving blood that ran from his pierced hands, feet and side. There you can be sure that Christ loves you and will always love you!

Homily for the Visitation of Mary

July 2, 2008
Trinity Lutheran Church
Worden, IL

Visitation of Mary

Luke 1:39-47

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” exclaimed Elizabeth. And why not? Jesus had spoken greetings to Elizabeth through Mary which had caused baby John the Baptist to leap in faith in his mother’s womb and for Elizabeth herself to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, why not proclaim the wonders of what had just happened? But there is something more important going on here. Something which Elizabeth realizes when she proclaimed that “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” For it was told to Mary just weeks earlier that she would carry the Son of God in her own womb. But why then did God even need to come as a child in the first place? Couldn’t He have chosen some other means of salvation?

Repent for thinking such a blasphemous thought. Look at instead, the fruit from which you come. Adam was created in the image of God, a son of God in the very sense that he was created by God. Yet, he sinned. Abraham wasn’t much better. He mocked God and laughed when God said that his old wife Sarah would bear a son. Moses disobeyed God’s command and didn’t uphold him as holy in the sight of Israel. God prohibited him from entering the promised land. David was an adulterer with Bathsheba. Solomon had 700 wives which he loved more than the Lord so he turned and followed their pagan gods. This is a broken lineage filled with sinners.

And these men, we hold them up as example of faith! Repent, for you are as much sinners from the fruit of Adam as these men are. Abraham doubted God would provide for him. Have you not also doubted at times whether God will provide for you? God said, “Moses, do this”, and Moses disobeyed. Jesus says love your neighbor, but how often do you get angry at your neighbor for the slightest mishap? David was an adulterer to break the 6th commandment, but how often do you not love your own spouse perfectly and thus break it as well? Solomon certainly broke the first commandment by turning to others gods, but do you not also choose sleep or money or some other worldly thing over the things of God?

So, see your sin and cling to Christ. For this fruit of Mary’s womb was born into the lineage of sinners that He might break sin’s hold on you. He was born a man that he might perfect all the failures of all men, including you. God became man, so that where you doubted God, He trusted the Father perfectly. God became man, so that where you failed to do the Father’s will, He did it perfectly. God became man, so that where you failed to love your spouse perfectly, He became bridegroom to the church, to you, and loved her perfectly. So also as all men from the fruit of Adam must do, He died.

For this is the reason God chose to be born as a human. This is the reason why Mary is called blessed. This is the reason why the child who was growing inside Mary had come: that He might go to the cross, that he might suffer for your sins, that His righteousness might be counted as your righteousness. And in his resurrection from the dead you have the assurance that you too will have life. For just as you were born into the sinful lineage of Adam, through your Baptism into Christ, you were born from above into the forgiveness of sins. And there you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. And sin, and death, and the devil have no power over you. This is what Christ has accomplished for us.

So, like Mary we too magnify the Lord. Having been given the gift of salvation by the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, we rejoice in what He has done. We rejoice in loud Glorias and Hosannas that our Lord still offers this same forgiveness to us today in His Supper. Rejoice that God became man, that you might eat and drink of him unto life eternal.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't Pat Yourself on the Back Too Quickly

How often do we find ourselves looking at the things which we did during the day and were satisfied with them? "Well I helped that old gal carry her groceries, and I helped haul some stuff for my friends, and I got all my work done early, I was great today!" (Ok maybe a bit over the top excited, but you get the point.) So we pat ourselves on the back and say, Oh what a good boy am I.

Saul did much the same thing. The Lord told him to go out and defeat and utterly destroy the Amalekites. So Saul kills all the people and destroys the bad things, but he saves the King Agag and all the good sheep and oxen and all the good things to sacrifice to the Lord. He thinks to himself, Oh what a good boy am I. I did as the Lord commanded and even brought back the goods to show the Lord how much he means to the people of Israel.

Samuel puts him in his place. Saul you didn't do as the Lord commanded. You didn't fulfill His will perfectly and so You can no longer be king. He fell short and so he is punished for it.

We are the Sauls of today. Ok, well what does Jesus say. Love your neighbor and then Paul spells it out in 1 Corinthians 13. We say we have love and helped our neighbor and say to God, See what I have done for you. Then God says, You wicked servant who does not do exactly as I have commanded. Have you been perfectly patient and kind to your neighbor? have you been rude or arrogant? Have you borne all things for your neighbor? The answer is a resounding no. No, we haven't. We have patted ourselves on the back too soon and have not seen that we cannot love our neighbor as God desires. And so punishment and ruin was to be our end.

The Lord had mercy on Saul. Saul repented for what he had failed to do. He saw that he had sinned against the Lord command. So he clings to the robe of Samuel that the Lord might have mercy upon him. And the Lord does. And Samuel made intercession to right the wrongs of Saul.

We too have one who interceded for us, but in a much greater way: Jesus Christ our Lord.
God himself saw our sorry state, saw our helpless condition and came down from heaven, and suffered and died perfectly obedient to what God had desired. And in his death Jesus Christ took our sins and our shortcomings and paid for them with his blood that we might remain with Him in joy and happiness throughout all eternity.

So remember that when you help your neighbor, don't be so quick to pat yourself on the back. You could always do more. But more importantly remember that Your Lord Jesus Christ paid for your shortcomings with his perfection, that those sins of yours are forgiven, and that you shall be forever in good standing with God on account of what Christ has done.

Kyrie Eleison.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today...

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.