Archive for August, 2012

That which stinks makes stuff grow

Nightsoil. Impoverished Londoners would collect human waste from cesspits and sell it for fertilizer. “Was stinkt, das duengt.”

It’s funny how something being in another language makes it more interesting.  I’m trying to find information on some German idioms I keep running into in translation, but I stumbled on some Bauernregeln [literally Farmer’s rules, ie folk sayings] instead.

Wer auf den Wind achtet, der säet nicht;
wer auf die Wolken siehet, der erntet nicht.

He who pays attention to the wind never sows his seeds;
he who watches the clouds never harvests his crop.

I think the Germans might have stolen that one from the Jews.  It sounds like a biblical proverb.

Ein Tag Regen tränkt sieben dürre Wochen.
One day’s rain drowns out seven weeks of drought.

Ein Blitz trifft mehr Bäume als Grashalme.
Lightning strikes more trees than blades of grass.

Färbt sich rot die Spur des Bären, wächst der Mut auch feigen Hunden.
If the bear’s track turns red, even cowardly dogs’ gain courage.

Was stinkt, das düngt.
That which stinks, fertilizes.

Have you ever felt like your life was very well fertilized?

London’s Stink in the 19th c.:


Great in the World and Great in the Kingdom of God

August 30, 2012 9 comments

Martyrdom of John the Baptist (observed)/ Altar Guild Opening Service

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Mark 6:14-29

August 30, 2012


Dear sisters in Christ, fellow servants of our Lord who was crucified for us:


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.


Yesterday, August 29th, was the festival day of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.  As I’ve said before, originally Lutherans kept the saints’ days for the purpose of teaching how people in the past lived the life of faith in Christ.  What they got rid of was the invocation of the saints, the prayer to the saints.  In those days the idea was that the saints were spiritual giants that we could never hope to be.  So you went to them so that they would pray for you and ask God to give you grace. 


But as Lutherans, we don’t get off that easy.  We don’t get to have other people be saints for us.  We must become saints ourselves.  That’s why John’s martyrdom is such a useful story and example for us.  It shows us exactly what we are signing up for when we are baptized and confess faith in Jesus.  It shows what it means for us to receive Jesus’ body and blood.  To be a Christian is to receive salvation as a free gift through the death of Jesus, apart from our works.


And to be a Christian is also to die with Jesus Christ, to share in his rejection, as John did.


We have a clear picture of this in the gospel.  Consider the contrast between


            The great men and women of the world and

            Those who are great in the kingdom of God, men and women.


And also

            The feast of the world contrasted with

            The feast of Jesus. 


Who does Herod spend his life with?  Not with John the Baptist, a man of God who comes out of the wilderness and says, “Repent.”  He comes into contact with John, and for awhile he listens to John.  But that is not who his life is spent with. 


Herod’s life is among the powerful, among the beautiful, and among the wealthy.  The rich, leading men of Galilee—the foremost citizens.  Men who have operahouses named after them.  Among generals and officers.  Men who carry swords.  Killers.  Among lesser lords whom Herod has to control but also keep happy.


Herod lives among celebrities, but the world is also treacherous.  Powerful people, wealthy people, violent people—they have to be tough, clever, or smooth, or some combination of all of them.  It is a tough world in which to be honest.  It’s hard to be rich, powerful, or a successful warrior without knowing how to get what you want and forcefully pursuing it.  People trying to get power or wealth, men aiming at being successful fighters or soldiers—they don’t usually understand or respect the meek.  Meekness makes you a victim.


But in secret, Herod’s life in this world is thrown into an uproar by John the Baptist, who fearlessly says, “You are damned because you have married the woman who was one flesh with your brother.  Repent.”


He speaks with that kind of boldness to Herod, and calls Herod to kneel.  But not before him—before God.  Who speaks this way to a king?  Only someone crazy; or someone who really seeks nothing else than to speak the truth in the sight of God.


What about the great women of the world?  Like Herodias, they know how to get what they want.  This man, that man; but it’s not necessarily the man she wants but the man’s status and power.  And when a crazy, fundamentalist, bumpkin man of God comes and tells her husband, “You should not have married your wife.  You have incurred God’s wrath.  Repent”—Herodias’ eyes narrow.  This man must die because he interfered with her pursuit of happiness. 


And her daughter is growing up to be just like mom.  She’s learned to use her sexuality to control men and get what she wants.


And isn’t this how our daughters are being taught that they should live today?  And aren’t are sons taught to be Herods?  And if you’re not powerful, rich, violent, sexy, what good is your life?  If you don’t know how to get what you want, you’re a chump.  A lamb to the slaughter.

Small Passion: 16. Christ before Herod

Small Passion: 16. Christ before Herod (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



But those who are great in the Kingdom of God are different.  In opposition to Herod, and his generals, and the rich men and nobles of Galilee, you have John the Baptist, John’s disciples, and the disciples of Jesus.


John does not seek glory in this world.  And he doesn’t get it.  He gets crowds of miserable, poor, wretched sinners who come to be baptized.  He gets the hatred of Herod’s wife. He gets prison, and in the end he gets neither love nor honor.  His wild man, hairy head is cut off and put on a plate and given to a teenage harlot.  He is hated and written off as demon-possessed by respectable, orthodox religious leaders as well as powerful, wealthy, ungodly rulers. 


And what about John’s disciples?  All these poor ragtag nobodies can do is take the headless body of John and bury it.  And mourn that once again the sheep are torn apart and the wolves are fat and sleek. 


Jesus’ disciples have it no better.  John’s story is recounted because Herod, addled and tormented with a guilty conscience that is unwilling to part with sin, hears about the miracles that Jesus’ disciples are doing and begins to think that God has raised John the Baptist from the dead.  You can see the terror with which John’s preaching burned Herod’s conscience. 


The disciples would like to think that their miracles, done by Jesus through them, mean that they will have a different outcome to their discipleship than John the Baptist did.  They do not want to listen to Jesus that He will be killed in shame, brutally humiliated and broken; they do not want to hear that the same fate awaits Jesus’ disciples. 


We don’t want to hear it either.  We are not able to accept it.


And what about the great women in the kingdom of God?  They were not loud and brash.  They did not use sex to manipulate men.  They served—Jesus and the disciples while they taught God’s Word.  They submitted.  They did not presume to teach and dominate men, as Eve had done.  They did not perfume themselves and make themselves up to own male attention and get their way.  They poured perfume on Jesus; they used their hair and their beauty in service to Jesus.  Even when Jesus was crucified, they tried to honor Jesus and in some way to show the great honor that was due to Him.  They loaded his body with expensive spices and ointments.  They were back early to do more to care for His body.  They were lowly; they served Christ and his disciples.  They put themselves in subjection.  Just as the world despises men who don’t know how to take what they want, and how to manipulate power, the world despises women who submit themselves to their husbands and who do not usurp authority over men.


Yet these women were great in the kingdom of God. 


What they did is also what you do.


Just as they cared for Jesus’ body even though no efforts of theirs could properly reveal His glory, so you prepare this earthly building so that it will in some way proclaim in our poor, weak way, something of the glory of Jesus.


Jesus was dead and laid in the tomb, yet they still lavished rich, expensive spices and perfumes on him to try to say, “Even as a dead man, this is the King and the Son of God.” 


Even though Jesus’ body and blood come to us in such a scorned and despised way, nevertheless your work proclaims—Jesus the Son of God is here in our midst in this church giving us salvation!


Let us compare briefly the feasts of the great people of this world, and the feast of Jesus Christ, the world’s true king.


People want church to be more like Herod’s party, with more people willing to come, especially more of the lords and great men of Galilee.  So even if we don’t put out caviar and fine wine and have the daughters of successful harlots shake it at the church’s feast, we do come up with things along the same lines.  Music that people like.  Sermons that are appealing to our world, which tend to be Americanized versions of the old rationalistic preaching in the Lutheran church in Germany that caused the true Lutherans to move to the US.  Then the pastors would come out and preach that God was the Father of us all and was willing to forgive everyone who tried to do what he knew was right; God didn’t really  need the bloody death of His Son to forgive us.  And they preached “useful” sermons, like modern farming techniques, or 5 steps to controlling your temper, or 3 to drinking less beer. 


That’s what church is, far too often, and it’s what we’ve come to expect out of church—it will be, like everything else, from the mall to fast food restaurants—a sensory experience designed in every way to appeal to your desires.  Like Herod’s feast, except with a religious spin, and the sex, drunkenness, and gluttony toned down. 


Herod’s feast is a display of earthly delights.  But you know that those delights often turn bitter in our mouths.  Neither wine, nor rich food, nor a much-sought after wife, nor the beauty of a young woman, can take away the horror and pain of a conscience that feels the weight of sin.  Herod is sorrowful about killing John because he knows he is committing grave sin—murdering the man who comes with God’s Word.


Earthly pleasures have their time and place.  But the feast of earthly pleasures that the great ones of this world struggle for—their pleasures last only for a time.


Christ’s feast is different.  Jesus is also a king, but His feast is not simply rich food and well refined wine.  He feeds us a different meal that also gives us joy.  But not the joy of wine, women, and song.  His joy is spiritual joy.  It is a sober joy, a joy that remembers that all of the pleasures of this world perish; Food for the stomach and the stomach for food; but God will destroy them both (1 Corinthians). 


At the feast of Herod the powerful come because they want something from Herod.  Herod needs to share the spoils of power and wealth with them.  But Herod needs their cooperation.  Everybody is at the earthly feast to get something.

At the feast of Jesus, we receive, but Jesus only gives.  In order to spread this feast for us He got only suffering from us; He took our sins and the fury of God’s wrath against them. 


Our participation in Jesus’ supper is a participation in His death, a communion in His death, in His pierced, crucified body, and His blood streaming down the tree to the earth. 


He participated in the righteous wrath of God against us—He bore it in our place.  He became a communicant in our sin, even though he did no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.


We are communicants in His death—in His martyrdom.  That means we are responsible for it.  We are also redeemed by it. 


Now if on this earth we have constant sorrow and cross—and we are despised, and people walk away from the church, and they cast out my name or your name as evil, if even sometimes members of the church despise me or you—we are only receiving a little bit of what Jesus received, and His disciples received.  It is not success, beauty, power that makes you great in the kingdom of God—that is what makes you great at Herod’s feast. 


In Jesus’ kingdom, you are great when you believe in Jesus and you share in His suffering–in being despised, laughed at, or cast out as evil. 


But none of this comes from us.  John didn’t do it on his own.  It comes from eating the food at Jesus’ table—the Word of God.


Jesus alone by His suffering and death has saved you and brought you through the red sea of sin and death.  In Your Baptism all of that was poured out on You.  And as you eat and drink His body and blood the life that He gave for You strengthens the life of Christ within you, so that you do not faint and falter and lose the victory given to you in Baptism. 


Yes, when you, me, and this whole congregation come and receive Christ’s body and blood—we are participating in the eternal feast of Jesus’ wedding, that will go on forever—the feast of salvation.  The glory of that feast will completely put to shame the Herod-feasts that the world throws for itself. 


But when we come to this altar, we sit at this feast already, because Jesus gives all of himself to us now.  That is why it is a beautiful thing that like the women who anointed Jesus for burial, you show love and honor to His body and blood by caring for the altar. 


But the body of Jesus, for the women who buried Him, as also for us, does not really need us to care for it.  Jesus allows us to do so.  He accepts our service.  But it is really Him who has saved us by His death in the body.  It is really Him who works in us through His body and blood so that, with John the Baptist, we cling steadfastly to Jesus with a good conscience, and do not let the hatred of the world or its contempt make us lose heart, or forget that the feast of everlasting life is made open to us now.


May the Lord bless you as you work to keep the house in which that feast is celebrated among us beautiful.  But even more, may the Lord work in us through His body and blood, so that we are and remain His house, His temple, now by faith and forever in eternity.




The peace of God, that surpasses understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



Taunting Death–Funeral Sermon

August 30, 2012 4 comments

In Memoriam+Esther…

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, St. Luke 2

August 30, 2012

“Taunting Death”


Dear John,

John Jr., George, Jennifer,

Esther’s brother George, grandkids, family, friends,

Members of St. Peter:


Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


God’s Word for our comfort this morning is from St. Paul’s letter to the Christian Church in the city of Corinth: Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:56)


Since Esther and John had two boys and a girl, I am sure that you know what taunting is.  I am sure that you and Esther heard your share of it around the house.  Oh, the joy of taunting your siblings when they get in trouble and they can’t do anything about it.  When one kid gets in trouble, and the other waits until dad or mom isn’t looking and then says, “Ha ha, nah nah nah nah nah nah,” and the other kid hits him and gets in trouble again!


Of course that’s a sin.  Jesus wants us to love our enemies, not to mention our brother and sister, as I’m sure at one time or another mom probably told you. 


But there is a right time to taunt and gloat.  Not when we win a battle and get glory, but when God does.  God will shout in triumph over his enemies on judgment day.  And in the verse from First Corinthians, St. Paul, a man just like us, is taunting and bragging over death and the devil.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?


To say something like that you are either crazy, or kidding yourself, or you have something amazing within you that is almost scary that the world and human beings can’t understand.


What is it people say?  ‘Your mouth shouldn’t write checks your body can’t cash.’  If I’m going to pick a fight with someone or taunt them, I better be sure I will win. 


If I’m going to pick a fight with death and the devil, I’d better be pretty certain that they won’t be able to take me.


Today, hasn’t death won a victory? 


From what I’ve seen from spending time with you, your family is a happy one with a treasure chest of happy memories.  Even though I only saw a little bit of your life together, it is still true that you have had much happiness as a family, much to be thankful for.  And I know from the time I got to spend with Esther what a comforting, beautiful person she was to me, so how much more to you?


None of us were ready for her to be taken away now.  Yet here we are, missing her.  Now we have to live, but now a huge source of happiness and joy for you is gone.  So how can we say, “O death, where is your sting?”  How can we taunt death, as though it is beaten?


Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Those words are said a lot, so they are easy to ignore, but let us hear God again: 


The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Those are easy words to read and say, but impossible for us to believe, apart from the miracle of God’s Spirit raising us from unbelief to faith, from eternal death to eternal life.  Believing in Jesus as our Savior is easy as long as the weather is fair and the seas are calm, but when the seas are rough, then we start to cry out, “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?”  Or like the apostles and Peter, we falter in the time of darkness and then we lock ourselves in a room, forgetting that Jesus told us that He was going to suffer and be abused and mocked and crucified, and then rise from the dead on the third day.


It was not the will of the disciples that those things should happen to Jesus.  They wanted Him to go to Jerusalem and have everyone accept Him as the Messiah and then have His glorious kingdom come to the whole earth.  But He told them, “It is necessary” that he suffer and rise from the dead.  It was necessary—that was why He had come—to bear sin and bear God’s holy judgment and wrath against sin.


That looked like the end of the world, and in a very real sense, it was.  The sun was dark.  The rocks split and the earth shook.  But Jesus let out a loud cry at His death.  It was not a cry of despair but a cry of triumph.  Now the awful power and guilt and punishment of our sins was removed.  Jesus came as our brother, helper, and friend, and swallowed up sin and death and Satan’s power in His suffering and death.


That is the word of comfort, of unspeakable comfort, that Isaiah speaks about; God binds up the hearts of the brokenhearted.  He opens the prison.  He proclaims the year of His favor, that His anger is gone and His gracious, fatherly heart is open to us, because our sins have been paid for, and our enemy Satan has been defeated. 


Satan likes to tempt us to sin and then remind us of the law of God that threatens death, anger, and judgment against sinners.  That is the sting of sin Paul talks about.


But the devil’s power is all just an empty show now.  It looks terrifying, but God’s Word says that he is stripped of his power.  He pretends to be strong and mighty, but he no longer has power over us. 


Because God has “clothed us with the garments of salvation” and “covered us with the robe of righteousness” as a bridegroom decks himself out, as a bride puts on jewels at her wedding.  He clothed us with Christ’s righteousness by pouring on us the water joined with His Name—Baptism.  Then Jesus’ death that paid for our sins washed us clean. 


That is why the white cloth covers Esther’s casket.  We are taunting death.  Death looks like it can destroy everyone and everything that we love and that makes life worth living. 


“Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave, and at death no longer tremble.”

But not so.  Esther’s death was received by Jesus.  Esther’s body  is wrapped up in Jesus’ body that rose from the dead.  Her whole life is covered in the white garment of Jesus’ holy life and His payment for the sins of the world on the cross.


Our will for ourselves is not as loving as God’s will for us.  Our flesh would never want to leave this world, even though it is sinful, we are sinful, and there is much heartache and pain here. 


God’s will is to bring about the final victory and make it so that we rejoice over our enemies forever.


“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; listen, I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  When the perishable has put on the imperishable, and the mortal has put on immortality, then will come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.”


We are still living in perishable, mortal bodies that can die, and will die, unless Jesus returns first. 


But our Lord Jesus, into whom we were baptized—will never die again.  Death has no claim on him.  He paid for sin forever; He lives and reigns forever.  He shares human flesh, but His human flesh can no longer die; it is immortal.


God has prepared for us a body like Christ’s.  We will be resurrected and wear that glorious body forever.   Then death will be gone forever, and misery.  But first we must take off  the mortal body. 


Our flesh is sinful—it constantly pulls us to sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is subject to death.  But in baptism it was crucified with Jesus, and the risen Jesus, the new man, came to live in us.  Yet we still daily are in a fight with the old flesh until it finally is put off.


But today Esther is no longer fighting that fight.  Instead her soul rests with Jesus and sees His face.  Her eternal joy has begun.  All that remains is the day when the body will be raised and put on eternal life, immortality, the glory of God.


Christ has baptized us for that same day; and all who believe in Christ, have the Holy Spirit, and live by faith in Christ, daily putting off the old Adam with its evil desires—we have eternal, everlasting union with Jesus, and with all the holy ones who have finished the race and begun to taste the joy of our Lord.


Esther rests.  She is not  a ghost, who you should pray to; let her enjoy her rest with her savior.  But she is not separate from you, if you are a Christian.  Because she is united to Jesus.  And all of us who by the Holy Spirit believe in Jesus alone as our righteousness, and who fight against the sinful flesh and desire forgiveness for the sin still remaining in them—we are also united with Jesus.  That is what the funeral pall shows.  We have his righteousness covering us, because we were put into Him in Baptism—into His death for our sins, and also His victorious resurrection over death.

When we come to receive Jesus’ body and blood at this altar, we don’t just come ourselves, the 100 plus people of this church.  We come together with the whole family of God, the Holy Christian Church in heaven and on earth.  We can’t see them, but they are with us, because they are with Jesus, who comes to us in His body and blood and gives us a foretaste of heaven.


That is why, even though we grieve, we can boast over death and the devil.  It is not boasting in ourselves but boasting in Jesus, God and Man, our friend and the deliverer of helpless sinners.


 In the midst of tears and grief, and the recognition of your own helplessness, know for certain that the almighty power of God is for you.  His victory over sin and death is for you. 


So you have the right to comfort yourself and to rejoice even as you go on in a world that is broken by sin and death.  Simeon said, “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation.” The Lord’s salvation was a little, poverty stricken baby that he held in his hands. 


Jesus hardly looked like the world’s salvation then.  And compared to the power that death seems to have, it’s hard to think that the Jesus who speaks to us in His Word, who baptizes us, who feeds us His body and blood under bread and wine—it’s hard to see that those humble gifts give us the world’s salvation and the blessing of the Lord of the whole earth.


Yet Jesus promises.  So may God grant you comfort and strengthen your faith, and mine, and the whole church to look at Jesus’ resurrection, and His baptism, and taunt death, saying, “Where is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?”


Look at Jesus Christ crucified, and risen.  He is for you.  He is your Savior.  And He gives you the victory already over death.


The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



Prayer of a preacher after the Sermon….Luther

August 27, 2012 4 comments

196.  Prayer of a Preacher after the Sermon.

 (Gebets Schatz)

Oh, You true Son of God, You who have spoken from eternity and into eternity: I, a poor servant [minister?] have at Your command sown Your Word, and given out to my beloved spiritual children [parish-children; Pfarrkindern] what you have taken, broken, and given to me.  Now I pray You, my dear Lord Jesus, that You would give to Your thunder, Your Word, great might, and confirm in my lambs what You have worked in them through me.  Speak prosperity to my planting and watering, that my congregation and I may bring forth much and abiding fruit together, and Your Word grow in us and accrue interest.  Seal, O Lord, Your Word in their hearts, that Your name may be hallowed, and I, investing my little talent, may win many souls to You, and bring them with me before Your face, when You will give the crown that does not fade away to faithful teachers and diligent hearers. We confess that without Your Spirit and blessing all our pains and work are in vain.  Therefore unlock their hearts, and keep Your Word in them, that no fear, distress, nor all the demons can tear away again that which You powerfully and effectively work through Your office of preaching.  Gather to You through Your Word proclaimed by human mouths an everlasting Church from all nations, which will praise and laud You into all eternity, with Your Father and Spirit.  Amen, dear Lord Jesus!  Amen.  Martin Luther (1483-1546)  

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Wine and Oil for the Wounds of Sin

August 22, 2012 1 comment

Martin Luther, Church Postil, Trinity XIII

39. Now here in this Samaritan Christ pictures and makes known the kindness, help and comfort, which he ministers in his kingdom through the Gospel; which is the same of which he spoke to his disciples at the beginning: “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see”, etc. He paints in the most Comforting manner what faith possesses in him, and how far his Gospel differs from the doctrine of the law of the priests and Levites; concerning which I have said so much heretofore. We see in this picture how we, who have fallen in sin against God, are under the wrath of God and must die the eternal death, are again rescued only by him, in that we receive God’s grace and comfort, and a quickening of conscience, and we begin to keep the law.

40. This is the principal article of the doctrine of faith, that says we cannot save ourselves, neither can anything we do nor the doctrines of the law; but he must begin faith in us, who does not force the law upon our attention, when we feel our sins and misery; for that is the work of the secure spirits like this lawyer, who resent being reproved as sinners. But he has tender mercy upon us, besides is friendly and consoling through his Word, and himself binds up the sores of the wounded, places him on his own beast, nurses and looks after him. For he had to accomplish our redemption alone and take our place, bear in his own body our sins and need; he himself publishes this and gives us the comforting word, by which our wounds are bound up and healed.


41. This is called pouring wine and oil into the wounds, both of which are good medicines for the injured. The wine preserves the flesh clean and fresh that the wounds may not corrupt or fester; likewise this balsam is especially given to the land of the Jews, namely, the noble, precious oil, that is, the best remedy known for all kinds of injuries. It is the preaching of the holy Gospel, which does both; it keeps the penitent conscience in the knowledge of its sins and wickedness, that it neither becomes secure nor ceases to long for grace, and besides he comforts the conscience by grace and forgiveness, and thus ever makes man better until he is again well and begins again to do the work of a healthy man.


42. And to this end he now makes use of the office and service of the Church, as Christ commands her to expect and take care of such by means of the same office and spirit, which he bestows, and asks her to be faithful in everything that ministers to their strength and improvement, to comfort, admonish, restrain, chastise, etc.; and assures her what she does and sacrifices in such cases, he will reward.


43. Behold, this is the doctrine and the power of the Gospel and the treasure by which we are saved; which brings us to the point that we also begin to fulfill the law. For where the great unfathomable love and favor of Christ are known and believed, thence flows forth also love both to God and to our neighbor. For by means of such knowledge and consolation the Holy Spirit moves the heart to love God, and gladly does what it should to his praise and thanks, guards against sin and disobedience and willingly offers itself to serve and help everybody, and where it still feels its weakness it battles against the flesh and satan by calling upon God, etc. And thus while ever rising in faith it holds to Christ, where it does not do enough in keeping the law, its comfort is that Christ fulfills the law and bestows and imparts his fullness and strength, and thus he remains always our righteousness, salvation, sanctification, etc.

Categories: Piles in my office

Sermon–“Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus”

August 22, 2012 2 comments

First Day of School Year

St. Peter Lutheran School

Colossians 3:17

August 22, 2012

“Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus”


Dear teachers, old students, new students, parents:


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Story about names—about the authority of a name, about making a name for yourself.


In the part of Africa where my dad came from the people who lived there told a story which my dad told me when I was a little kid about names.  See, I always told my parents that I was going to change my name when I got old enough.  Have you ever wanted to change your name?  Or do you like it?


The story is this: there was a kid who had 13 younger brothers and sisters.  I don’t know how to pronounce his name, so we’ll just say his name was Brad.  But what was kind of funny was his last name.  In English his last name would be “Your Majesty.”  So his name was “Brad Your Majesty.” 


You can imagine how much other kids would have made fun of him for this.  But it gets even worse.  Brad Your Majesty’s family was really poor and wore shabby clothes.  His dad dug ditches for a living for the other kids’ dads.  But in spite of this Brad’s father and mother and his 13 brothers and sisters all acted different from the other people in the town.  Even though they all had dirty clothes with holes in them, they all kind of acted noble.  They spoke very properly and used big words, they had very proper table manners.  They weren’t exactly stuck up.  They didn’t think they were better than the other people in the town, but they were definitely different and didn’t try to fit in.


So the men of the town made fun of Brad’s father and made jokes about his last name.  And the kids did the same thing.  They went out of their way to point out how little like his last name Brad really was.


When they were sitting around the dinner table, Brad’s father would sometimes tell the family the story of their last name.  “The reason we have the last name “Your Majesty” is, my father’s father’s father’s father’s father was the emperor of all of the land from the great forest to the north and the great desert far to the south.  He ruled over all the people that lived in those lands, and was the most wealthy emperor anyone had ever known.  And one day we will reign once again.”


When Brad got older, he started to get really tired of listening to this story from his father.  He was tired of being made fun of all the time.  But something good started to happen in his life when he was about 12.  In that part of the world, wrestling was the big sport, kind of like football here.  If you were the best wrestler in the town, your town would send you to other towns far away to wrestle their best wrestlers, and if you won, you would win honor for your town and yourself.


Brad was a great wrestler.  He was naturally good at it.  He easily beat all of the other boys in his town.  Soon he beat the older boys too.  By the time he was fourteen he could beat all the men in the town.  People stopped making fun of his last name. 


You’d think his family would be happy, but they were not.  “Emperors don’t wrestle,” his dad said. 


A few years later Brad Your Majesty was the champion wrestler all throughout that country.  But all his family kept talking about how the days were soon coming when they would rule again.


One day as they were talking about this, Brad’s father said, “Yes, soon what we have been waiting for will come.  However, I will not live for much longer, so it will be Brad who sits on the throne.”  But Brad’s brother said, “Then, finally, he will stop rolling around in the dirt.” 


But Brad had had enough.  “No,” he said, “This is just a ridiculous story, and I’m tired of having this silly last name.  From now on I am going to have a new name.  I will be called, “Brad the Wrestler.” 


And from that day, Brad became known as “Brad the Wrestler.”  He moved out of his house, got married, and started his own home with a new name and was treated with utmost honor and respect by his neighbors.  Soon, his brothers, who were still poor, had to work for him digging ditches and doing other lousy jobs for little pay.


Some years’ later Brad’s town and the whole country around was in a war with another tribe.  There was a great battle.  In that battle, Brad’s brothers and their sons were a large part of the army because there were so many of them.  And in that battle, the Your Majesty family showed such intelligence, bravery, and talent for leadership in battle that the whole region was credited them with saving them.  The town and their neighbors defeated the enemy tribe and conquered all their lands.  And the people universally decided that the head of the Your Majesty family should be made emperor, immediately. 


And so Brad’s younger brother, Tim, became Emperor Tim your Majesty.  Brad the wrestler, who had nice clothes and a big house, now had to serve his family members, when he would have been the emperor.



Doing according to God’s will (His Name): What does this look like for schoolkids.


Our bible passage for this year says: Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 


Just like Brad in the story, we have a family name given to us.  Through faith in Jesus, we are adopted as children of the true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


When you have a family name, you represent something bigger than you.  And we have the family name of the Triune God through Baptism into Jesus.


That means: we should live like members of the family—like Jesus.  It’s not just that we should copy Him.  It’s that God has adopted us in Him.  We live in Jesus.  We belong to His Name.


What does that mean for you?  It means that you should not live for your OWN name, like Brad.  He wanted to make himself famous.  He made himself a name.


Unfortunately, we do that by nature too.  We do not live like we belong to the name of Jesus; it comes naturally to us to live seeking the honor of our own name.  That is what the first man did when he sinned against God; and we by nature do the same thing.


That’s why all the trouble happens in school.  Kids don’t honor their teachers or do their work as hard as they should.  Instead of living in Jesus’ name—like a son of God—one kid calls another kid a name, puts another kid down.  ‘I’m more important than you,’—that’s what we are saying.


That is not what Jesus is like.  His name means “The Lord Saves.”  He does not condemn us even though we deserve it, but He covers our sins and seeks our good, even when that costs Him the cross.


By faith in God’s name


So it almost seems like an impossible verse.  “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That means everything I do should reflect who Jesus is, “What would Jesus do?”, right? 


But that is not the way it is.  Before I even know it I am seeking the glory of my own name and throwing away the name Jesus has given me in my baptism, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


The name He died on the cross to give me. 


St. Paul knew very well what it was like to not do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Before he became a Christian he was very religious.  But everything he did was for himself, even though he said he was serving God.  At the same time that he said he was serving God, he was really trying to justify himself and get honor for his own name. 


But it changed when Paul saw Jesus and then was baptized.


Not that Paul no longer had a sinful nature that wanted to seek his own name.


But he learned this—that Jesus had died even for the proud nature Paul still had.


That is how we do everything in the name of Christ—we seek to serve Jesus.  We do our homework, respect the teacher, pray for and love our classmates.  When we sin against them, we ask God and them for forgiveness.


But we live trusting in the name of Jesus.


Jesus’ name means savior.  He put the adopted name of God on us in Baptism.  He says we are God’s own children, not because we live according to God’s will in the law, but because we believe in His name.


We trust in Him who died for us.  We take refuge in Him when our sins accuse us.


Thanksgiving in everything.


That is why Paul says, “Give thanks to God the Father through Jesus in everything.”  That’s impossible, humanly.


We don’t rejoice when things go badly.


But in Jesus, everything is a gift.  All of our sins are covered.  We are called by God’s name.


We don’t always know why God is leading us this way, or why we suffer, but we do know that  we have the name of the King.  We are “your majesties,” not in ourselves, but because Jesus has given us His name through His death on the cross for our sins.


In that hope we go forth to serve Him this year, with confidence that He won’t allow us to  be snatched from him.



 *Footnote: I should point out that I made this story up, if that’s not obvious.  Also, the thing about wrestling in Africa I got from reading Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.”  I’m not really sure if they actually wrestled in the part of Africa my dad came from. 

Prayer in Fear and Horror of Death and Hell. (Luther)

August 20, 2012 8 comments

473.  Prayer in Fear and Horror of Death and Hell.  (Luther)

Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Dear Lord Christ, even though I have not fulfilled the law, and even though sin still very much remains within me, and I am afraid of death and hell–I still know this from the Gospel, that You have given me all Your works as a free gift.  I am certain of this, because You cannot lie, and You will hold faithfully to Your promise.  I have received Your pledge of this in Holy Baptism.  Since You, then, dear God, are mine, I want to die gladly; because to die so is pleasing to You, my Father, since death cannot harm me, being swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15).  Now to You, dear Lord God, be thanks, You who have given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.    

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