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.