Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

History is Telling

One of the charges atheists make against religion is that it is the major cause of violence in the world. Yet, history will can prove - depending on how you look at it - that 1) they are correct, but that atheism is itself a religion and is not exempt from this rule or 2) simply that sin corrupts all men and without the renewal of the Holy Spirit, there will continue to be murderous thoughts in the hearts of all men.

So often atheists will point to the crusades and to jihadists to say that religion is the source of hatred in the world. They'll look at select history and point fingers. As it turns out, atheism has an even larger history of the slaughter of mankind. The "goddess of reason" as it is for the atheists tends to be even more murderous. Let's begin with the results of the inaptly named Enlightenment. The Enlightenment produced the French Revolution, Robespierre began his reign of Terror and thousands were put to death. Clergy and "nobility" were slaughtered, guillotined by the state. All this in the name of reason and revolution. Moving forward a little over a hundred years we'll find The Soviet Union doing much the same thing. In the name of reason and equality it promoted the killing and murdering of thousands of its own citizens, slaughtering the clergy to the point that the nation's primary denomination, Eastern Orthodoxy, was put on the endangered list. "Reason" and atheism were key proponents of this slaughter. But such promotion and such devotion must lead one to believe that atheism itself is a religion that promotes even more violence than either Islam or Christianity, despite contrary claims.

Yet, it's evidence of a bigger problem. Original sin penetrates and corrupts all men. Despite "reason" men might still reason that the killing of others is acceptable, and that violence is good if carried out in the name of "reason". So that just as when Christians sadly cried out "God wills it!" to justify their killing, so atheists cry out "Reason allows it!" to justify their murderous inclination. Sin permeates all people.

And there is only one solution for us and for all, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christ paid for all sin and we are brought back into relation with God. The Holy Spirit, then, works in us to renew our hearts that we might no longer be inclined to kill a life, but to protect a life. It is only in Christ that these things are ever truly possible. For even Robespierre, before his Terror, was opposed to the death penalty, but later exercised it freely and harshly. Reason cannot stop the evil inclinations in men. The Holy Spirit can and does.

Might Christ and His Word be preached into our own hearts that we might be inclined to help and serve our neighbor. Holy Spirit do this.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Ambrosia is known in mythology as food of the Gods which bestows immortality.

Saint Ambrose, while His name may not be based upon this Greek godly food, certainly he has given the world a much more wonderful food to chew on. Perhaps with another even more powerful food of the God (note the True GOD here), music, he has made a significant impact on humans throughout history.

In his powerful hymn, Savior of the Nations Come, Saint Ambrose tells us of our wonderful God and his entrance and purpose in this world. Our Lord Jesus Christ step forth from his mothers womb, defeats sin in his own death, rises, ascends and returns to the Father victorious having forgiven our sins and freed us from the bondage of sin.

This message of salvation is the True Food of God, which is the powerful, nourishing, and transforming words of forgiveness. As we eat another Food of God, the Lord's Supper, rejoice in Christ who became incarnate that you might have life everlasting in His name - true immortality bestowed and sustained only in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank you Saint Ambrose for your wonderful hymn and a reminder to me and all people in these last days before Christmas where real food for thought, life, and eternal life comes from!

+Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, December 21, 2009

Epic Fail

I hugely erred last Friday.

I was delivering Christmas gifts for the wish tree on behalf of the church. I had already delivered to two families and was approached to deliver to one more. This last family happened to be the largest family we were delivering to. There were 8 large bags full of gifts. So I delivered to the address that I was told, but made the mistake of not making sure the family's name was correct. As it turned out, I had delivered this massive load of gifts to the wrong family.

Yes, I feel awful. Not only was I unable to retrieve the gifts, but now a large family was without gifts for Christmas. And even moreso, I cost the church financially, because they decided to buy gifts for this family out of unallocated church funds, from money the church doesn't have. It was an epic failure on my part.

If I had simple spoken a few little words - What's your name? - all the trouble and confusion and pain could have been avoided and there could have been much less stress this Christmas season.

Diligence. Diligence could have prevented this. I was not diligent.

But as through all my epic failures, I intend to learn from what happened. This was simply Christmas presents for a family. They were greatly needed presents, but merely material possessions. How much more then should I be diligent when it comes to things which affect both body and soul?

The epic failure that could result from not speaking a few words - Christ has died for you. You're sins are forgiven. - will result in much more than sadness on Christmas morning. It could affect the entirety of life here on earth and life and salvation with God forever. Without speaking those words, I could leave a person in the depths of hell and without hope. This is something which I immensely desire to avoid.

God grant this epic sinner a repentant heart and diligence with Your word of truth, that I might proclaim Your name in forgiveness.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I am, in general, not a fan of Christmas programs before Christmas Eve. It takes away from Advent. This year I had to make an exception.

Last night the 4th-8th grade classes here at Trinity Lutheran School sang and performed their Christmas program called "Christmas in Reverse." (I'm still boggled about why it was called that.) Nevertheless, the program took us back to Adam and Eve and through the Old Testament and then through the narrative of the birth of Christ and even pointed to the cross, death, and resurrection of our Lord!

It was incredibly well done, and proclaimed the Gospel message perfectly and clearly. The classes were well rehearsed and so not even did they detract from the message of the forgiveness of sins.

It was very refreshing, as this has been a busy time of the year.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Misinterpretation

Sometimes when you preach a sermon, it get misinterpreted. Even though the entire point of the sermon and every single line points to a certain wonderful revelation, I found that it is still possible for the entire sermon to be misinterpreted.

For example, this past Sunday I preached an entire sermon which pointed to the fact that the Church is not silent. It is not silent in the fact that, as Church, we make the confession about who God is and what he has done for us. And that forgiveness of sins and peace we have in our God, that is taught to us week in and week out, is then on our lips that we might confess as Church that very same peace to the world.

Yet, because I had in part an emphasis that the Church is not Silent, I think some may have interpreted it as, not a call to confess and spread the Gospel, but a call to be noisy in church, a call to interrupt the pastor's sermon with "Amen" as often as one likes, a call to wave your hands in the air and be a non-self-controlled evangelical in the worse sense.

But even still, that is the nature of the sinful flesh - to grasp onto the wrong ideas and cling to false hopes and self serving desires. And indeed that sinful failing is called to repentance, and even that sin is indeed forgiven.

Truly, that's the real point anyway, that people might hear of their God, repent of their sins and trust in that forgiveness found in Christ. God is still sanctifying his people - in the now. He is still by His Word bringing them to a right understanding. God willing, these people will one day understand even more fully what it means that the Church is not silent.

And if not then God will have mercy and He will come again. (Advent Thought of the Day)

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Father, Provider

Finding the reason why we give thanks can sometimes be lost on Thanksgiving. Thankfully (truly), I heard a wonderful sermon on giving thanks at the Thanksgiving Eve Service here at my vicarage congregation. It was about giving thanks in thought, word, and deed for all the first article gifts that our Lord provides.

I also had a conversation with our church secretary (who is simply indispensable) on Tuesday about giving Christmas gift. We discussed how hard it is to shop for dads. The joke is, as you know, that dad always gets a tie for Christmas, Father's Day, Birthday, etc. In my family it's always DVDs. :)

That conversation got me thinking about why it is so hard to buy gifts for dad, and thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday got me thinking about all that God provides me. And the light bulb (at least the loosely screwed in one) in my head went off.

I think one of the reason why it is so hard to shop for dad is because of Dad's vocation. God has given my father the role of provider, this is the one whom He has put in place to provide me with many of those first article gifts. So when I go to buy gifts for my dad, I think what does dad want? And it is hard to figure that out, because dad is the provider, he has and is the one who gives. Is there anything that I could give my dad, that He could not get for himself? Truly no. And indeed the one thing dad really wants is to be with me and provide for and care for me. Basically he want to love his son.Certainly he would love to receive gifts, but what gift is better than a son who looks to his father for care and comfort?

And my father truly is simply an imperfect picture that points to my heavenly Father. He provides me with all things. What could I hope to provide my Father with, that He has not provided me? What could I offer my Father as gift and sacrifice of thanksgiving that is not already provided by Him? And the answer is truly nothing. Surely my heavenly father rejoices that I would seek to bring him a gift. But I am sure that His ultimate joy comes from knowing that I look to Him for all thing with the very faith that He has given me through His Son Jesus Christ. His ultimate joy comes from knowing that He cares for me and I look to Him for that care.

Thank the Lord for fathers and mothers that provide for their families, fathers and mothers that love and care and point to a reality that there is a greater Father at work loving and caring for His children.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Snares of Death

We walk about this life and the snares of death surround us. Sin seeks to entrap us and entangle us. It seeks to bind us that we may not get away. It seeks our death as is the wages of such binding sin. The drunkard knows this well, so does the addict. The fornicator and the gossip understand as well the strength of such holds. They understand the death which comes from such a strong stranglehold on one's life.

Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope. In fact he sought out the snares of death, every sin that would cause every man to die. He was bound in that snare of death, bound in our sins , releasing us from that bondage and taking death upon himself. Yet, the snares of death could not hold Him, and he broke the chains of death and rose again.

He was bound that I may be free. He died that I might live. He rose that I might live in Him with the confidence that no snare of death may ever hold me forever. Amen.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Participants in the Altar"

A question was brought up this morning concerning the Lord's Supper and closed communion. The struggle was that if in the Lord's Supper was truly god's forgiveness being given, then why do we refuse to give communion to those who believe "the same" as we Lutherans do?

And the question that must be answered is this: What does it mean to believe the same?
The best understanding, I think, would mean to believe exactly the same as the person who is sitting next to you. The expression of this common belief would be holding to a common confession of faith or creed. And indeed from that common confession, understanding of terms and presuppositions must be conveyed as well, as best as can be taught. (As I hesitate to write even "as best as can be taught", because it borderlines on disunity.)

Here is my case study. My real life example of closed communion. I had a buddy in college who was a biblical baptist (and I say biblical, because if he could be convinced according to scripture of something other than what the Baptist confession teaches, then he would believe otherwise). Needless to say, through our conversations, he believed the real presence of Jesus Christ was in, with and under the bread and wine. He believed "is" means "is". Scripture convinced him. Yet, even with that, he did not believe in the grace bestowing gifts of Baptism. He continued to attend service at his Baptist church, and still believed their unwritten common confession.

And here is the important part, by partaking in their communion (their fellowship, if you prefer), literally by worshiping at their altar, he was then a participant in their altar making the confession that he believed what those others around him believed. By his worship he was adjoining himself to their fraternal communion and even a confession that was contrary to his own. He was a participant in their altar.

So also this is what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22. He speaks of being a participant in the altar of demons or in the altar and communion of the Christ. One cannot be partakers of both. In the same way, one cannot be a participant in two different altars whose beliefs contradict. I'm not trying to say one Christian altar is of demons and the other is of Christ, but I am saying they make different confessions.

A man can only participate in one altar. One altar is correct, one altar is incorrect. One may have the Supper, one may not. And if he serves the altar that does not confess the body and blood of the Lord, and then participates in the altar who confesses and indeed gives the body and blood of the Lord through bread and wine; that man beware, for though he confesses correctly, his heart is far from the Lord, and it is quite possible that judgment is upon him.

Comments are welcome.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Am an Uncle

I have been an uncle for sometime over a little more than two months now, because that is how long my sister Betsy has been pregnant.

Some may say, "Jay, you're not an uncle yet. Your niecphew hasn't been born."

Well, I have decided to let the theology surrounding "life" shape my worldview. As Christians we rightly call the child a child from the moment of conception. It is a child. That being said. I now have relation to that small child living in my sister's womb - I am an uncle. This is a wonderful revelation. For now, I rightly see my place as a person in relation to my sister's child. I now have a whole 7 months to ponder this new relationship that God Himself has placed me into. What a wonderful blessing to be able to think of the many ways that I can serve and love my niecphew before I see this child face to face!

I am so happy to be an uncle and I can't wait to hold my niecphew come June 19th(ish), 2010!

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rome: Total War

I bought a video game a few months ago called Rome: Total War, but I never had the opportunity to really sit down and play it. I really enjoy Roman history and ever more as I realize how intensely it has impacted Christianity.

The real reason I bought the game was for one reason. The History Channel had a show on that boasted "video game technology" called Decisive Battles Of the Ancient World. It used the game engine from Rome: Total War to recreate its battles. I watched the show on a regular basis while in college until it had run its course.

Anyway, I just started playing it recently. The goal is to play as one of the major Roman families or one of its enemies such as Carthage or the Selucid Empire and conquer the whole of the world. Pretty straight forward, but really immerse.

Now if they'd only come out with Christianity: Total Conversion...

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Little Poetry

I started reading a little poetry.

I really like the hymn Of the Father's Love Begotten. Aurelius Clemens Prudentius wrote it. So, I bought a compilation of some of his hymns.

Here is a discriminate sampling from his Hymn at Cock-Crow taken from The Hymns of Prudentius.

Awake! the shining day is born!
The herald cock proclaims the morn;
And Christ, the soul's Awakener, cries,
Bidding us back to life arise.

Though sleep be but a passing guest
'Tis type of death's perpetual rest:
Our sins are as a ghastly night,
And seal with slumbers deep our sight.

But from the wide roof of the sky
Christ's voice peals forth with urgent cry,
Calling our sleep-bound hearts to rise
And greet the dawn with wakeful eyes.

Gold, honours, pleasure, wealth and ease,
And all the joys that mortals please,
Joys with a fatal glamour fraught--
When morning comes, lo! all are nought.
But Thou, O Christ, put sleep to flight
And break the iron bands of night,
Free us from burden of past sin
And shed Thy morning rays within.

This is just a fantastic hymn overall. And is much longer than what I have given. It beautifully and wonderfully wraps into itself lots of imagery of sleep, death, morning, life, sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wonderful.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"God" - The Biggest Heresy Today

Dr. Scaer the Elder, one of my seminary profs and an authority on Christology, said in class once something that at the time was hilarious and absurd,
God is the biggest heresy of all!
As I think back now on that now, I can see how scarily accurate that striking statement really is. The problem is not "God" as it is, but indeed is "God" as He is turned into "god". It happens when God is seen merely as Almighty, Awesome God to the exclusion of Jesus Christ. This is a problem. And this heresy, if you'd like to call it that, is rampant in churches throughout the U.S. and I see it more often than not turning up in the church growth movement.

Listen to the way people talk and pray. If there is more a talk of "God" than of Jesus Christ, there is indication of a huge problem. God then becomes merely deistic, or theistic (apparently I must use both for my Latin and Greek etymologists) and is not found in Christ Jesus. Truly the fact remains that God is only revealed to us in Christ Jesus. We can know God no other way, for Jesus himself said, "No one comes to the Father, but through me." There must be a clarity of the Triune God focused clearly through the lens of Christ. Without that any talk of God is truly heresy, and clearly so when Christ and His redemption gets pushed to the side. The truth that Christ is central to Christianity must be seen. Without Christ, "God" (or god) is truly a sinful belief.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Monday After

As a vicar, the Monday morning after preaching a "sermon" can be either a big relief or a day when you realize that what you preached on Sunday may not have been very good at all.

The first comments come right after the service (a few actual examples said to me):

"A wonderful message, vicar."
"I enjoyed your sermon, Pastor."
"I'm proud that you call a spade a spade. Not many want to do that these days."
"When you said that, you really made the older members of the church lean forward to hear what you were saying."
"I'm glad you added that part about the rowdy kids vicar."
"I like the way you handled the text."

The second comments come later and are more helpful:

"Your delivery was good, but it seemed like there were three different thoughts that weren't finished."
"You could have focused on X,Y,and Z to make it better."

As a vicar I know I am here to learn. I know I do not know how to articulate the word of God in such a way like many learned pastors can. But the fact is, from the feedback I have been getting, this was a crappy "sermon". Now I know that the question to ask when evaluating a sermon is "Was I faithful to the text?" I thought I might have been. At least, in my thought processes in coming up with what to write, I thought I was faithful. But from the comments I have to question myself.

First, the latter set of comments.
Does the manner in which you present the text affect faithfulness to the text? I think yes. If you do not articulate clearly then you cannot convey the correct meaning of the text. It, as was the case with my sermon, was too disjointed to be understandable. Thus, in that respect I was not faithful to the text.

Secondly, the second set of comments deals with something that has troubled me.
I know the law needs to be preached. The way things are needs to be presented in the way things really are. But if you look at my comments, it seems the law won the battle in the minds of the people and I'm not sure what to make of it. Did I not preach Christ? Did the Gospel not predominate in my sermon? I worry about such things. Or was it simply that the Holy Spirit chose that they dwell upon the law and understand its significance, even in the light of the Gospel? I don't know. That is my hope. I hope that I wasn't a preacher of works without Christ.

And this is my struggle. Hopefully, I was faithful. I fear I was not. But then again, perhaps I put not enough trust in Christ. Perhaps I am the weak in faith that I spoke of on Sunday. Perhaps God did see me faithful to His Word and was using it to accomplish His purpose. How much responsibility do I take? How much do I trust and leave in the hands of God despite my failings? God sustain me in this task, because I'll be paralyzed to speak Your Word should You not.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

It was four years ago today that my Grandpa Morris fell asleep in the Lord.

It was really early on a Sunday morning, probably around 2am. I was sleeping and Betsy came and woke me. Apparently mom had called and said that Grandpa wasn't going to live much longer. Then the phone rang and it was either mom or dad telling Betsy that grandpa has passed away. All I can remember is that I wasn't really affected by it then. So, I went back to bed.

I went to church the next morning by myself, Craig might have gone as well. I don't remember exactly. I think it was just me. And it was hard listening to the liturgy and hymns because it wasn't simply rote singing. It was true. Don't ask me what the hymns were, I don't remember. But the liturgy was either page 5 or 15 from The Lutheran Hymnal. There's something special about confession and absolution after a loved one dies. It sinks in a little bit more. The singing of "Lord, have mercy upon us" has a truer ring when your heart is torn by a loss. And a pronouncement of "On on earth peace, good will toward men" makes men mindful of the peace God gives even in the midst of such turmoil. I cannot tell you what the reading for that Sunday were, nor what the sermon was about. And we must have had communion (so I guess pg 15) because I remember the Nunc Dimittis so very well:
"Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word."
Then I can remember that I was an usher that day. But, I felt bad because that was the day we also welcomed Sasha and her husband (whose name escapes me at this time, sorry!) to the church as members, yet everyone was so intent on saying how sorry they were for my loss that I felt as if the new members were being overlooked. I think it would have been best had I not ushered that day.

I went back to OU that evening. I had classes the next day. It also happened to be my birthday. I don't remember much about that day, except that I went on a quasi-date. It probably wasn't a date, but it was nice to have her around. Her name was Shirley. I was living at Campus Lodge then, and we went for a walk. There is this small wooden bridge that sat out on the frisbee golf course that was next to the apartments. There we sat, talking and chatting. She just listened sometimes, and I think that helped. - My Grandpa's viewing was that night, and I wasn't able to go.

The next morning I drove home for the funeral. And we gathered at Uncle Tracy's house before the service. Kurt Sharp was the man who was working for the funeral home. He was a family friend. I'm not sure what made me cry more: Kurt seeing our family and tearing up when he was trying to tell us procedure on how things were going to go, or when Grandma had him cry on her shoulder. We went over to Ladusau-Evans funeral home for the service. I could literally feel all the emotion in the room. Then I saw Grandpa and I cried. I don't think I've cried harder in my life. It was humiliating, with all the family friends gathered near. But I didn't care. This wasn't supposed to be this way.

As I reflect and a few of those emotions come back I think that that was not how God intended the way for it to be. he did not intend for the life he created to be destroyed. He did not want the relationships that he had established severed. But it was, all on account of sin. Now, I don't recall everything in the sermon, but I know that the Gospel was preached. Grandpa would not be that way forever. He would be resurrected as would we all, because of the death and resurrection of Christ. We would be reunited with him on the last day. It was true, but just hard to hear.

Wonderfully hard to hear.

Melvin "Dwayne" Morris
August 13, 1927 - September 18, 2005
Baptized and Redeemed

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Having Children

I read this article concerning women who have lots of babies. I thought it did a fine job detailing the risks involved with having so many children, while also addressing the possible health benefit. (Although, naturally, it mentions nothing of the fact that children are blessings.)

What really bothered me was not the article itself, for it was surprisingly less biased than I expected, but rather the comments that followed. The majority of them were rather critical of women who had large families. I found more often than not there was a concern over money and who was going to support these women and their children - most claiming the family irresponsible and freeloaders off the government.

Talk about the hold money has on a person. It's clear that money is valued more than children from the numerous comments. And it really saddens me.

I applaud mothers who take on the responsibility of a large family and I mourn with those who have trouble or cannot conceive. But to me it seems, life is life. If the woman is blessed with many children we should not scorn her, but love her all the more for the cross of motherhood that that God has given for her to bear. We should not think her odd for having many children, but embrace the gift of life that God has given.

Honor your father and mother.
And thusly you, "Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice." Proverbs 23:25

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is God "Green"?

This is an interesting question and one that at least need to be considered in the light of three things 1) God's actions, 2) God's actions in light of sin, and 3) the implications for man.

When we think about God, we do understand that God indeed does take care of his creation. It is his earth: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 24:1). We are told to "Consider the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet Your heavenly father feeds them... the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these." (Matthew 6: 26, 28b-29) God himself takes care of all things. God takes care of and preserves all his creatures and his land. We understand that all first article (of the creed) gifts come from and are preserved by God.

Yet, think on sin and its consequences. Did not God, who takes care of all things, destroy the earth in the flood? It's a harsh reminder that the world we live in is fallen and after the fall, sin had to be dealt with. God's plan of salvation had always been one of sending a redeemer to reconcile all the earth to himself. "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:20-21) And truly the earth will be created anew in perfection on the last day. But until then we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is falling into chaos, not merely because of what man does in polluting the environment, but also because it too is a fallen creation.

But, finally, how does this effect man. Man as we know was commanded by God in the garden to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over... every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28) We also know that man was created as the capstone of creation. No other creature was made in the image of God, nor was the command to subdue creation and have dominion given to any other. We are the stewards of God's earth. We are not equal with the other creatures, nor are we even subservient to them. We are the overseers of creation working and tending as commanded by God.

So the real question in all of this - concerning how God acts, the state of the world and the role of overseer that God as given us as human beings, is failing to be "green" (defined in the best sense) a sin?

As I understand it - yes. Failing to be a good steward of God's gifts is a sin. And one can follow the rabbit hole all the way down, and it will drive a man to despair that he is such a dreadful sinner deserving of hell since he cannot be perfectly "green".

But why stop there? If you look at any aspect of life, you will find the same thing - an endless trail of things to do that God desires of you, lest you sin. Yet, it seems that because it is not on the forefront of the public display, you can easily fool the mind and heart into believing it has fulfilled God's law, when it has not.

But, thus is the fallen world. There is sin there. There will always be more and more ways to do the will of the Father. And, it is too much for a sinner. He has not the strength to do it all himself. That is why Christ came, and forgave man by his blood. All this that you might live in the freedom of the Gospel not bound by the law but free to do the good works with a free conscience. That you might not be paralyzed by the greatness of your sin, but free to serve God and your neighbor... even by being "green". :)

+Kyrie Eleison

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jenga Church

What happens when we begin to remove all the theology from the church? What happens when we think that the preaching of Christ is less important than discussion of a certain text? What happens when we think living like a Christian is more important than living as one who is Baptized? What happens when we think church communion is more important than Holy Communion?

Well if you remove too many of the building blocks of the church, then you end up with a pile of rubble. And Jesus will lie in ruins at the bottom of your Jenga pile.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Drunken Swagger

There is much talk about our "Faith Walk" or our "Walk with Jesus Christ" in the church today.

Not my favorite language, but allow my two cents.

A walk of faith is more like a drunken swagger. I hear Jesus' voice and try to come near him, but then I get distracted and wander off where I will. The voice of Satan cries as one in the wilderness saying, "Come, drink of my fruit and you shall have everything you would ask on this earth." And I am led astray. I see the thorns and thistles of this life and in my fallen mind think that these are the most glorious fruits a man can have. And even my own flesh falls on itself, too drunk on its own pride and vanity to even stand. The road cannot be completed and I am left in a world of misery and desert that bears no fruit and leads to eternal damnation.

But then the True voice of one crying in the wilderness rings forth. The voice of John the Baptist echoes through the land calling out for repentance and belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And Christ is at my side. He restoreth my soul and leadth me beside cool waters. He poureth down my gullet the sweet fruit of forgiveness in the softness of his Word, and the nectar of sweet communion. He cures the drunkeness and stagger and sets my feet on his holy and righteous path, bringing me safely out of the desert and into His new creation which is a land flowing with milk and honey.

And as I travel down the road. Satan, the World, and My Flesh entice me. And I drink and stagger and stumble and fall and wait for death. But, it does not come. For, Christ always comes to me.

+Christe Eleison+

Friday, August 7, 2009

Acceptance Theology

I read this on a church marquee,
God accepts you for who you are, and so do we. Come as you are to church.
God accepts you for who you are? This type of acceptance theology is creeping into the church and has the potential to be a severe attack on the Gospel. This acceptance theology is a subtle and dangerous shift away from the forgiveness of sins.

I have been trying to word this correctly and adequately for the past two days... but have been unsuccessful so I gave up because nothing sounded good. But, here are the conclusions I have drawn:

Acceptance excuses sin and is self-justifying. Forgiveness destroys sin, and God justifies man.
Acceptance overlooks sin. Forgiveness takes care of it.

If you have any comments on this, I would be glad to hear what you have to say. Dialogue anyone?

+Kyrie Eleison

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Way We Speak

Growing up, I learned how to speak. I didn't merely learn to talk, but I learned the language itself - the nouns and verbs and inflections and all the nuances that come with learning to speak. And it wasn't taught primarily in school, but at home - I don't think "fixin' to" is in any vocabulary lists throughout the educational system. And learning was not a matter of sitting down and cracking homemade textbooks, but it was done by mimicking.

I learned to mimic the language of my father. He wouldn't sit down and teach me to say "fixin to" but it was how He talked, and so I followed the way he talked. I loved my father then, as I do now. As a boy growing up, he knew everything. My father was the greatest guy. I loved my father so much, I even took after the way he talked.

In the same way we are born into a family of Christian believers. Our Heavenly Father teaches us how to speak of Him through his Holy Word. Now, like our father on earth, God doesn't sit down often and tell us exactly how to speak - with exception perhaps in the Lord's Prayer as elsewhere. Instead, because He is our Father, we love Him. We look and see how He speaks, and we speak the same things. We look to God our Heavenly father with so much love and appreciation because of the gift of salvation he gave in Jesus Christ, that we too as the church, rightly speak the language of our Lord.

Unfortunately, this tends to be a dying trend. Instead of seeing the way our Lord speaks and mimicking his language, the church seems to be finding "more popular" ways of speaking. The church has begun to adopt language less biblical and more worldly in character. Yes, I am keeping this vague. But, you can see the changes if you just look at the language some churches are using now days. You can see these churches have moved away from the way God uses words and phrases, to using their own forms and catchwords. Some astonishingly even re-define the language God has originally spoken. These churches have left their Father's Word, for the words of others.

If they have decided the Words of their Father insufficient, what else of the Father's might these deem undesirable?

+Kyrie Eleison

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Pray

Luther wrote a wonderful letter to Peter the Barber. Peter had asked Luther how one was to pray. And Luther sent him a response. This letter was sent early in the year 1535.

The most basic way to pray Luther says is to go to the Lord in humility knowing that you are a sinner, but that it is the Lord's command that you do pray. Then, use the Lord's Prayer as a template for all other prayers. Pray on each petition and expand as you see fit. Then perhaps a prayer with the Ten Commandments, and then parts of the Apostles Creed. Pray as is needed.

Luther thought the Lord's Prayer is the best of all prayers, even superior to the psalter. And Luther really loved the psalter.

So when you pray pray the Lord's Prayer and then delve into the petitions. Or pray the Ten commandments, or the Creed. And if you need help, grab your catechism and use it as a guide.

If you are not used to praying like this, it will take some getting used to. But, it is worth it. Pray in this way, and you ground your prayers on the Word of the Lord. This, I have found, is a good way to learn how to pray.

+Kyrie Eleison

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finding Some Ground to Stand On

Today was a little bit of an off day for me. I woke up and just felt odd. Nothing was quite right. I couldn't concentrate well enough to be productive and my mind was in other places.

I tried reading a blog or two on theology, but they just made me even more irritated than I was. Everything was off kilter.

Now, it may sound odd, but I decided to go over to the church and just do some liturgy. So I grabbed my Bible and walked over.

Trinity here in Saint Joseph, MI has a beautiful sanctuary. Not only that, but the church is well designed and singing is very easy. They spent a large sum of money on refurbishing the organ. It sounds incredible. But this morning, I didn't have the organ. The church was quiet and no one was around, so I went up the railing and started through Morning Prayer from the Lutheran Service Book. I sang all the parts myself. I chanted a psalm. I happen to be reading through Luke, so I read from Luke 14. I said some prayers and ended with the alternate benediction.

Now it is later in the afternoon. I still feel out of kilter. It is slow around here, and I can't get into any kind of rhythm.

But for the 20 minutes it took to go through the brief service, I had found some footing. I knew this. It was familiar. It was God's Word. It comforted me today. I needed it to comfort me. Now, there are some days when any liturgy will be a little more rote than usual. However, it's days like these that Jesus' familiar Words can make all the difference.

+Kyrie Eleison

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sin vs. Sin

Are all sins equal?

Truly this depends upon what you are asking? With respect to what are you asking the question?

If it is with respect to the law of God, then yes. All sins are damning from the white lie to the adulterer and murderer. Each and every sin separates us from God and judges us unworthy of eternal life. We read in John 8.34 that
everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin
and from Psalm 14.3,
they have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Perhaps you ask this in respect to the judicial law of our government? Here the answer is shows that not all sins are equal. For when you tell a white lie and sin, the police do not come and give you the death penalty. Whereas if you commit a crime, a sin, which is considered bad enough, the death penalty may be given. And there is a wide variety of punishments in between depending upon how severe the crime has been judged.

It is pretty well understood that whatever you do sinfully, there will be some punishment for it, whether that be before God or before men. You could say that a problem occurs today when the free given grace of Jesus is given in the picture and also when the kingdom of the left (the government) is not checked in its foray into the kingdom of the right (the kingdom of God).

When the grace of Jesus is given, all sins are forgiven. He paid for all sins, and was our propitiation to the Father. As we read in Matthew 20.28 that the Son of Man came
to give His life as a ransom for many.
and from Roman 3.25 that the grace of Jesus Christ was
put forward as a propitiation by His blood.
And with respect to this. It can often be sorely abused. For example, if a man and woman are living in sexual immorality, they may justify the fact that they are living that way by saying (In good straw man fashion) that Christ has absolved them from all that. "What then," they would ask, "is the difference between what they are doing and what a person who tells a white lie often enough? A sin is a sin and all are guilty for them, and Jesus Christ has die for all!"

And the secular laws haven't helped either. As "we" (Christians who think our nation was founded on Christian principles, I exclude myself from this group) have decided that the Ten Commandment belong in the courtroom, it has back flowed into Christianity. Thus, the consequences become such that if there is no legislation on a certain action, then it must be permissible. (I thank David F. Wells for his discussion in his book Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover It's Moral Vision for my conclusions) Thus, the same couple living in sexual immorality can also say, well there's no law (secular) against it, so it isn't wrong.

And thus the grace of Christ and the secular laws have given us a problem... it seems.

But, what is missing? What are we leaving out of the picture? The answer is faith. Saving faith and a "fear, love and trust in God above all things" is missing from the picture. What we are dealing with here is the battle against unbelief, which is at the heart and center of Christianity.

It is unbelief which leads a person to no longer fear the consequences of breaking the law. It is unbelief that looks for reasons to circumvent or ignore the law of God. It is unbelief that allows that couple to say it is alright to continue living in sin.

The Law of God remains true and clear and its threat of eternal punishment is there for all who choose darkness and unbelief. Thankfully, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the message of the forgiveness of sins given to us, is the combatant against this unbelief. For, it brings light to the darkness and life to the dead and unbelieving heart. It drowns the Old Adam and proclaims upon us the righteousness of Christ, giving us new hearts to accept and fulfill the law of God with a willing spirit.

Yet, the hard question still remains if all sin is forgiven, what is the difference between a white lie and living in sexual immorality? Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his Ethics has a very good quote that I think is spot on. He writes,
One sin, then, is not like another. They do not all have the same weight. There are heavier sins and lighter sins. A falling away is of infinitely greater weight than a falling down. The most shining virtues of him who has fallen away are as black as night in comparison with the darkest lapses of the steadfast.
Again, it comes back to unbelief. Those who are living in sin are in a cosmic battle for their souls. The devil is guiding them by the hand into unbelief and damnation. He teaches them to treat the Word of God, especially the threat of condemnation, as though it were inconsequential. Thus, the couple living in sin, accepting of that sin, are on the road of unbelief. But again, thanks be to God. For by His great mercy He has given us His Word that we might have eternal life. This Word is good for reproof, teaching and salvation.

So it seems that Bonhoeffer's assertion is correct, and the reason is a battle against unbelief. So are all sins the same? Yes. The answer must be yes. But the hold that a given sin has on a person may vary, as Bonhoeffer points out. Yet even still, the Gospel overcomes all sin and unbelief through the forgiveness of sins.

+Kyrie Eleison

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Harvesting is a Dirty Job

Luke 10:2 speaks of a harvest being plentiful, but the laborers being few. Also that we should pray the Lord would send these men.

But what of this harvest? What are the laborers to expect?

Looking back through time since Adam first cultivated this ground and brought forth fruit by the sweat of his brow, harvesting crops has always been a dirty and hard and tiresome task. Even today this is true. Despite all the advances that have been made with technology, harvesting a crop is still a dirty and tiring job filled with all sorts of mishaps.

For example, this year during harvest, we had a few things break down (the truck and the auger) and the combine had it's problems. It should also be noted that dirt and grossness necessarily had to cover us as we fixed the problems. Of course, don't forget about the 100 degree weather we had as well!

Things go wrong and it is no fun for those who are harvesting.

If the task of harvesting a crop is any indication, there are many implications for those laborers being sent into his harvest. It means that harvesting, or being a pastor, is a dirty and hard and tiresome task! There will be times when things don't go the way they should. There will be times when you will get tired and worn out in caring for God's people.There will be times when the beating heat of the devils attacks wears you down.

But the harvest must go on. And it will go on. Not because of the men and their strength, but because of Christ and his strength. Christ is the True Harvester. He is the one who plants the seeds, He is the one through the Holy Spirit who brings these seeds to fruition and it is because Him that the Father cares for and nourishes these seeds throughout their time of living and dying.

And it was no easy task for this Harvester either. For to ultimately harvest His crop, he took upon himself a grueling, hard, filthy, blood stained task. He went to work in the field of His Father and by His suffering and death watered the ground with His own blood. Thus, bringing to life the seed which was dead and making it ripe because of the forgiveness found in that blood.

If the True Harvester endured so much, how much more will the servants, the laborers sent by the Harvester, endure? They will be persecuted and the task will be tiresome, but Christ is ever guiding them in their task. But the harvest is ready. He will call men. Pray that the Lord would send these men into his fields and harvest the crop according to his good and gracious will.

+Kyrie Eleison

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Day

The first day of anything is always fun. Unless you have nerves of steel, any "first" can be quite nerve rattling.

But, today has gone well for me. I think it is because Pastor Roth is still off at the Michigan District Convention. This makes my first day less stressful. The only responsibility I really have is getting here and getting organized. So it has been a good first day...for the hour and a half I've been in the office. Perhaps I'll begin working on my first sermon. I'll at least start the exegesis.

Hopefully since I will be around my computer much more often, I can begin to post regularly. We shall see how busy I get. :)

+Kyrie Eleison

Friday, May 1, 2009

A New Song Shall Now Be Begun

It was the year 1523. Two men are martyred for the proclamation of the Gospel in Brussels. Their names were John and Henry. These men are some of the first men killed during the Reformation for proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel that Christ alone saves us without any merit or worthiness in us, but solely by the imputed righteousness of Christ himself.

Dr. Martin Luther wrote a hymn about the death of these two men. Friends, this is a powerful hymn. Life, suffering and death. These things are real for the Christian. In this hymn "A New Song Shall Now Be Begun" Luther proclaims in such a simple way the Gospel at its barest. Yet, he does in such a beautiful way.

When this hymn was published it spread like a wildfire across the land. People sang this hymn all the time. It was on their lips and gave people hope once again in the purest Gospel which these two men held onto.

Perhaps when we think of Saints, we have become to callous to the superstitions of Rome. However, these two Saints in God's Kingdom lived and died for the Gospel, and should be remembered as Luther so eloquently composed it. For these men remind us of the high cost of the Gospel. These men remind us that the Gospel does matter and must be kept pure at all costs. May God grant us such a strong confession!

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coffee and the Gospel

I was drinking coffee today, not an uncommon thing. My first cup was the good 'ole Reformers Roast. It's a strong coffee with a good full flavor. Since I didn't want to be wired for the entire afternoon, my second cup was Colombian Decaf. It tasted really good too, but I began to think to myself,
"Hmm, this is hot like coffee. It smells like coffee. And by golly it even tastes like coffee. But is it really coffee?"
Now you may disagree with me, but in my opinion it had lost it's right to call itself coffee. It is not as it should be. The caffeine which made up what it was, was missing. Decaf is not coffee, even though it smells and tastes like it is.

Why do I bring this up? Well, in too many churches today - and you can see it everywhere - we hear about the Gospel. Now what does the Gospel look like? The first and most important is that it always focuses around the birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the heart and soul of the Gospel.

Yet, there are other things that are present often when the Gospel is heard, the Word of God Himself in the bible. Often, there is great ceremony. In most instances there is music of some sort which is accompanied along with the proclamation of the Gospel. Many times there is actual heartfelt emotion which is produced from the hearing of the sweet Gospel itself. There are many things which often accompany the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings salvation.

But now I ask the question, is everything that is called Gospel, really Gospel? Just as in Decaf coffee is not really coffee. So neither is the Gospel really the Gospel if the atoning work of Jesus Christ is left out. If the Gospel becomes deJesus-ed, then the Gospel is not really the Gospel anymore.

You can see men waving the bible around in their hands, but does that mean what they are reading from that bible is always the Gospel? You can have great ceremony, but just because there is great ceremony is the Gospel necessarily present? You can have great music, Bach or Thousand Foot Krutch, but does that mean the Gospel is always present along with that music? Pleasant heartfelt emotions that are present, are they always borne out the Gospel? All these things can be present, but without the message of Justification in Christ Jesus, is the Gospel message still the Gospel message?

Or do the things, which cause you to taste and feel like the Gospel is present, simple provide the illusion that the Gospel is there? Just as decaf coffee is not coffee without the caffeine, so also are the things which look like the Gospel not the Gospel without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lord, help us to always look to you. Keep us steadfast in Your True Word of Salvation in Jesus Christ.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is Arisen! Alleluia!

He is not here! He is Risen!

Why does Easter bring so much joy? The answer can only be found looking back.

When we look back from Easter we see what Jesus went through. We see the death of Christ. We see Him hanging on the tree in bloody and sweaty agony. We see Him carrying His cross forward from Jerusalem to Golgotha. We see Him being sentenced by the crowd saying, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” We see Him being beaten and whipped within an inch of His life. We see Him being spit upon and slapped around. We see Him being taken and bound. We see Him also crying in agony from the garden, that the cup of God’s wrath be taken from Him. We see Him being cruelly attacked by the Pharisees and Sadducees. We see Him being challenged by demons. We see Him being rejected in His hometown of Nazareth. We see Him being tempted by Satan himself. We see Him bearing our sins in His baptism. We see Him being plotted against even as a little child. We see Him finally born in the flesh as a man.

This was the road that Jesus chose. This was the road He chose to walk. Did the Son of God deserve any of this? Certainly not! Yet, in order to save man, He walked this road of suffering His whole life long until His death.

If we look back upon our own lives, there is pain and suffering. Everyone has lost a loved one. If you haven’t then you will. Everyone has seen the sufferings of a fallen world, be it through a bad economy, or through warfare, or through drought or flood. Pain and suffering is a constant companion throughout our lives. And even more so we have made poor choices. We have sinned against our neighbor time and time again. If not in deed, then by word. If not by word, then in thought. If not by thought, then our own sinful corrupt nature sinned all the more keeping our eyes off the One True God. Our lives are filled with pain which indeed we ourselves can create as well. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing we can do about it. The corruption is too deep. The pain is too real. Any belief that we can change it substantially by ourselves is only a mere illusion. We were stuck in this world, and, believe Jesus, we were content with our sinfulness, though it drove us to destruction.

But then again, that is why Christ came, that He might walk that road for us. And walk that road He did. For, we have looked back on the road He chose to walk. The path that was ours leading to destruction, to our death and eternal death. Yet, now this morning we see the end! Christ is Risen from the grave. He has paid for our sins. He has released us from all guilt. He has set us free from our bondage to sin. He has stayed the Fathers wrath. He has declared us righteous in His resurrection.

Brothers, in this life the road that Christ walked still lays before us. For we as sinful men must still suffer, we must still have trial and temptation come against us. And we will falter on this road. We will stumble. We will fall. We may even break our back and our necks in each fall. Yet, Christ has walked the road. Christ has completed the journey. And as Christ has completed the journey, so also shall Christ raise you again to continue your walk on this sorrowful road. And when you come to life’s end, you shall die as Christ died. You shall be struck down by the very sin that corrupts your nature. Yet, you will not remain dead. For Christ, has walked the road of death as well and has overcome it.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

You have been baptized into Christ. What does this mean for you? It means that as you walk through this evil of tears, through this valley of the shadow of death that is life, you have the assurance that all your sufferings are not without purpose and are not without end. For you know the end. Christ has walked the road to cavalry for you, and there is no longer death, but life at the end of the road. Christ has arisen and so shall you with Him. For you have life in Him.

This is why Easter is such a blessed and wonderful day. For when we look back at our lives, they are all clouded and tainted with evil and sin. Yet, Christ has undone it all. Christ has covered it all, because He loves you. So, rejoice this Easter day! And again, I say rejoice your whole life long. For your road is paved. Christ is with you on the way. And the end is life eternal. Alleluia! Amen.

+Christe Eleison+

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leave it to me...

to Promise at the beginning of the month to post more often. I forgot that this was not a good idea during the last four weeks of the quarter.

So, for now, I'll put in a plug for Table Talk Radio.
One of the hosts, Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller interviews Dr. James Nestingen. It's worth a listen, if you have the time. Click here to listen to their conversation.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Third Article

How radical does this seem to modern ears?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.
This article is a direct assault on Americanized Christianity. The "American Spirit" which has in it's mind that a man can do anything for which he strives. Every little 1st and 2nd grader is told that, yes, if they so strive, they can even become president of the United States. But, this is all just a lie.

Not every little 1st and 2nd grader can become president no matter how hard they strive, only 44 men in the history of the U.S. have become president. 44 men out of millions. And those 44 men in no way got to that honored position by their own reason or strength. Each one had his friends. Each one had is backers with money to support him. Perhaps even some of them have been qualified for the position, but it was not simply by their own reason or strength that got them there.

How much more honorable then is the position of being one of God's children? Is not this position far greater than that of being the President of the United States? So, then how could something of more honorable position be even more attainable by the self than that of the presidency? The fact is, it is not more attainable.

Though being God's child is not even remotely attainable by us, herein lies the greatest thing comfort. We need not be concerned to attain such a high position by our own doing. Instead, we can take comfort that the Holy Spirit has indeed brought us to such a position in that he,
called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
For while, not every 1st and 2nd grader can become president, God desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. And that Truth is life in Jesus Christ who has borne the sins of the whole world on his back, that you might have sonship in Him.

This is why he does not leave it up to you to be saved, but has instead given this as the task of the Holy Spirit in His Holy Word.

+Kyrie Eleison+ for this late night post.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Geese are back...

It warmed up enough.
Now those pesky geese are back on campus.

Although, I think they may be confused a bit. See, the pond has had to be almost completely drained in order for the construction company to do some preliminary work on the foundations for the new library.

It'll be interesting to see how the geese react to this. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Discussing Speculation

Theological speculation has been the problem with many theologians in the past and it led to heresy. Too often does scripture speak on a subject then the human mind makes that extra non-biblical jump into a reasoned guess about what the conclusion is. The problem that many people have is letting scripture speak where it speaks and letting it be silent where it is silent.

However, I think too often this is used a cop out when we don't know about a certain aspect of Scripture. Too quick, I think, do we jump to this conclusion and let things lie.

Thus, it went in a discussion from lunch today. The topic of "When did the fall of Satan and his angels occur?" came up because it was brought up in another seminarian's youth Sunday School class. Upon hearing this another seminarian chimed in "We have no idea, so there nothing to discuss." But should the discussion really end like that?

Truly, we have no exactness of when this occurred. However, it would be wrong to simply state this to the kids. For Scripture does speak on the fall of Satan. What would be best is to discuss those passages which speak on it then make the conclusion that Scripture does not explicitly tell us when.

In this way do you let scripture limit the conversation, while at the same time the "people" see that you have not simply brushed the question aside but have actually thought about this. Thus, you build their confidence in you for future conversations.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Goal for February

I have a goal for February.

I am going to try to post about three times a week during this month. So, be on the look out for upcoming posts.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Sermon: Holy Innocents

Dec. 28, 2008

Zion Lutheran Church

Lahoma, OK

Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 13-18

Just as the angels proclaimed at the birth of Jesus, peace be to you. Amen.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary And was made man. These are the words of the Nicene Creed. Often we don’t think of it, but this is our year-round confession of Christmas. Yes, by this we confess our Christmas in July, or June, or whatever other month we speak it. But, at this time of the year we especially reflect upon what the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ means to us for each month of the year and for our entire life. Today, Saint Matthew tells us of the toddler Jesus’ flight to Egypt and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, those helpless children in Bethlehem murdered by Herod. From these texts we’ll look at what it means that the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, has come into this world, and what that means for the Christian life.

So, in our Gospel reading, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. Imagine the surprise of Joseph! It’s not exactly a common thing for someone to be visited by an angel once, but a second time. Wow. That’s something. The first visit God had told him that he would be the step-dad of God incarnate. This second visit was not an angelic “Gloria in Excelsis” follow-up visit. God had sent an angel to warn Joseph against a plot against the Son of God, to destroy the savior of all mankind. The angel said to Joseph, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.” Take the child and flee to Egypt Joseph, God will protect you and Mary and most importantly the little tyke learning how to talk and eat solid food. God will protect you from Herod who would take your son’s life. God will protect you.

And this is not something new that God has been doing. He has been protecting his promise of salvation through the Messiah from the very beginning. He preserved the promise through Adam’s son Seth despite the death of Abel and the exile of Cain. He preserved the Israelites and His Word by taking them from out of Egypt and the despair of the desert. He preserved David, the promised line of the Messiah, always from the hands of his enemies, and he preserved the exiles through their Babylonian captivity by His steadfast Word. And he hasn’t stopped doing this today. He takes care of you always keeping his promise of salvation presently before you. By His Word he preserves you in the faith just as he has preserved every person of God through history. And he gives you his Sacraments to hold you steadfast in the faith and strengthen you in faith toward Him and love toward your neighbor.

And for that reason did God did preserve his promised savior, his son. He saved the Messiah that all might one day live again with Him in Paradise. Unfortunately, this only tells half the story. For the second half of the Gospel reading goes like this: “Then Herod…sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” Too often when we hear this text we wonder - how could Herod do such an awful thing? Too little do we think of those whom Herod hurt. Yes the children were murdered, but they also had parents. Think of how they must have felt. Grief, Pain, Suffering. The murder of a child, that’s something no parent wants to live through. Now, These men and women in and around Bethlehem were faithful people of God. They believed in the Messiah. Yet, despite that, the children were still murdered. Why couldn’t God have warned them to flee with their children? Why couldn’t God have saved these faithful little ones of God, as he had saved Jesus?

This is a question that many of us would ask today if this tragedy had befallen us. In fact, we often do, if only for different circumstances. We question God. We wonder why he has let any tragedy come upon us. Crop failure, losing a job, losing a house, losing a friend, or a child or a spouse. We wonder how could God allow such infliction to come upon his people? Now rightly, we don’t know the answer to that question. But we can know that all things happen for our good, even our suffering is to strengthen our faith in Him. It is our sinful flesh that would have us think otherwise. It is our sinful nature that would reel against God saying, “I don’t deserve this!” Our sinful flesh wants to blame God for our suffering. However, we fail to look that it’s our own sin that truly condemns us and is the reason why we are even subjected to suffering in the first place. We shouldn’t blame God, it’s sinful and it plays right into the plans of one who has wanted to thwart God’s plan to save us from the very beginning.

For you see, just as God was faithfully at work protecting his people throughout the history of the world in order that he might save them, Satan was equally at work trying to destroy God’s plan of salvation. Was Satan not the one at work in Cain when he killed his brother? Was Satan not also present at Mt. Sinai leading the Israelites into the worship of the golden calf at the same time God was present with them at that very same mountain. And considering that God had told Satan that the Messiah would be born of a woman, do you really think that it’s a coincidence that the worshippers of Baal sacrificed their children to this false God? No, Satan has been working and trying his darndest to destroy the Messiah and to drive people away from God’s promise of salvation.

But, God is faithful to his people. He has cared for them throughout all generations – from generation to generation. This is why he had to preserve his Son at this moment of Jesus’ life. He had to preserve his life now, so that Jesus could give up his life later. He had to preserve his Son’s life now so that Jesus could take on the sins of the world and go to the cross to perish on our behalf. And throughout Christ’s life he battled Satan. God fought against the evil one from Herod’s attempt on Christ’s life, to the temptation in the desert, to the cross. And in Christ’s death, Satan was defeated. Your sins which gave Satan claim over you were paid for. You were and now are forgiven. You are Christ’s own and nothing can rip you from his merciful and mighty hand.

And take Christ’s death on the cross as assurance that God has won the battle against sin and temptation for you. He has defeated all evil things in this world. But, take also this text for today as a marker for the Christian life. Wherever the Gospel is there Satan will be there also trying to defeat it. Wherever there are faithful Christians being sustained by God himself, there Satan will be trying with all his might to tear Christians away from God. Satan will bring disaster and suffering to you. He will bring temptations to you and distraction from God’s Word to drive you away from the source of all comfort. Because you are a Christian this will happen.

But you don’t need to ask the question – why did God let this happen? For you are assured that before any tragedy ever hurts you, God, through Christ Jesus, already holds you in his care and has a plan that you might be strengthened because of it. And this plan, is one where he feeds you and nourishes you through His very life giving Word. This plan is one where he takes you under His mighty care, day in and day out, because you are baptized. This plan is one where he gives you his very body and blood to forgive your sins and comfort you with His own self. By the Lord Jesus Christ, know that you are forever in his loving care. He will comfort you throughout your Christian life of suffering and sorrow. Amen and Amen!