St. Peter Lutheran Church
The Seven Words of Christ from the Cross
March 29, 2013
1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared. Psalm 130
Watch out. Be careful. There is forgiveness with the Lord Jesus.
You may be hard at work, trying to enjoy your sin, and all of a sudden His eyes might catch yours in the place where you thought He would never come, where you are trying to silence His voice forever. And then when His eyes meet yours you would see that He forgives you, even after all this. And that will either torment you further, that He just won’t leave you alone, just won’t let you be, but keeps loving you. Or, it might make you lose your freedom.
Father, forgive them. They shouted and shouted for Him to be crucified. They chose a robber and a murderer instead of Him. They looked for anything they could find to condemn Him. They needed forgiveness, and He prayed for them while they hammered home the nails.
Is He such a threat?
He threatens forgiveness. The threat of forgiveness puts at risk the one sure thing, the one rock all people are sure will not move—that we are free. And if we aren’t right with God now, we can get there if we are serious about it.
Forgiveness. It meant all they had tried to do for God could not stand. The cracks had appeared, and it was all coming tumbling down. You’re no better than the Gentiles, priests, wide phylacteried Pharisees and scribes, hypocrites! God did not smile on their offering or on them.
He did not look on Cain’s offering with favor, either. He did not praise it. He had no pleasure in the bulls and goats burned by the priests. He did not accept the long prayers and handwashing, the fasting and tithing of the Pharisees.
Instead He demanded a strict accounting, absolutely impartial. The sins that we consider not worth thinking about because they are unavoidable—such as pride, selfishness, evil thoughts that fly through heart and mind like sparrows flying through a barn—God forgot nothing of them. Every one was recorded, and the ledger had to be balanced.
No smiles from the Lord at Cain’s dutifulness in bringing an offering. He was not pleased with the knowledge of the Scribes, the tithing of the Pharisees, not even, at the end of the day, with the ministry of the priests, even though He had commanded it. He had commanded it, but it had never really been sufficient. The priests were sinners. The animals they slew did nothing to help pay back their outstanding debts, much less other people.
Only one worship was pleasing to the Father: the innocent, spotless, pure life of Jesus, and the offering of that life to pay the debt of His sinful brothers. His blood which poured for the sin in the heart, and the sins of our hands and our lips. Which poured for the sins of our fathers and the sins of our sons.
For our willful sins, the ones which make noises in the dark room of our conscience. And our daily sins, which are too many to count, which for the most part our hearts are too sick and dead to feel. Our unavoidable sins. They cry out for punishment. They cry out for blood. They cry for Jesus’ crucifixion. He prays for the crowds then and the crowds of sinners throughout history whose hearts cry out for His blood. Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do.
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker” in Four Quartets
I will gladly agree that the faith which I have called the true priestly office is truly able to do all things in heaven, earth, hell, and purgatory; and to this faith no one can ascribe too much. It is this faith, I say, which makes us all priests and priestesses. Through it, in connection with the sacrament, we offer ourselves, our need, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving in Christ and through Christ; and thereby we offer Christ to God, that is, we move Christ and give him occasion to offer himself for us and to offer us with himself. And as I have said above, if Christ promises to two persons [Matt. 18:19] the answers to all their prayers, how much more may so many obtain from him [in the mass] what they desire!
…Therefore my advice is, let us hold fast to that which is sure and let the uncertain go. That is, if we would help these poor [departed] souls or anyone else, let us not take the risk of relying upon the mass as a sufficient work. Rather let us come together in the mass and with priestly faith present every urgent need, in Christ and with Christ, praying for the souls [of the departed], and not doubting that we will be heard. Thus we may be sure that the soul is redeemed. For the faith which rests on the promise of Christ never deceives or fails.
So we read that St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, desired on her deathbed to be remembered in the mass. If the mass were sufficient of itself to help everyone, what need would there be for faith and prayer? But you might say: If this is true, then anyone might observe mass and offer such a sacrifice, even in the open fields; for anyone may indeed have such a faith in Christ in the open fields, and offer and commit to him his prayer, praise, need, and cause, to bring it before God in heaven; besides he may also think of the sacrament and testament and may heartily desire it, and in this way receive it spiritually (for he who desires it and believes, receives it spiritually, as St. Augustine teaches)—what need is there then to observe mass in the church?
I answer: It is true, such faith is enough and truly accomplishes everything. But how could you think of this faith, sacrifice, sacrament, and testament if it were not visibly administered in certain designated places and churches? The same is true in the case of baptism and absolution: although faith is sufficient without them, where nothing more can be done, still, if they never existed anywhere, who could think of them and believe in them or who could know or say anything about them? Moreover since God has instituted this sacrament, we must not despise it, but receive it with great reverence, praise, and gratitude. For if there were no other reason why we should observe mass outwardly and not be satisfied with inward faith alone, then this is reason enough, that God so instituted it and wills it. And his will ought to please us above all things and should be sufficient reason to do or omit anything.
There is also this advantage: since we are still living in the flesh and are not all so perfect as to govern ourselves in spirit, we need actually to come together, by example, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to enkindle in one another such a faith, as I have said above, and through the outward seeing and receiving of the sacrament and testament to move each other to the increase of this faith. There are many saints who, like St. Paul the Hermit, remained for years in the desert without the mass and yet were never without it. But such a high spiritual example cannot be imitated by everyone or by the whole church.
But the chief reason for holding mass outwardly is the word of God, which no one can do without. It must be used and inculcated daily, not only because Christians are born, baptized, and trained every day, but because we live in the midst of the flesh, and the devil, who do not cease to assail us and drive us into sin. Against these the most powerful weapon is the holy word of God, which even St. Paul calls “a spiritual sword” [Eph. 6:17], which is powerful against all sin. This is shown by the fact that the Lord, when He instituted the mass, said, “Do this in remembrance of me” [1 Cor. 11:24-25], as if he were saying, “As often as you use this sacrament and testament you shall be preaching of me.”
…And had there been no preaching, Christ would never have instituted the mass. He is more concerned about the word than about the sign. For the preaching ought to be nothing but an explanation of the words of Christ, when he instituted the mass and said, “This is my body, this is my blood, etc.” What is the whole gospel but an explanation of this testament?
Martin Luther. “ A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass.” Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 35. Pp. 102-106.
- The Church as sacrament of Unity and Salvation (lionessblog.com)
- “Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
We should, therefore, give careful heed to this word “sacrifice,” to that we do not presume to give God something in the sacrament, when it is he who in it gives us all things. We should bring spiritual sacrifices, since the external sacrifices have ceased…What sacrifices, then, are we to offer? Ourselves, and all that we have, with constant prayer, as we say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” [Matt. 6:10]. With this we are to yield ourselves to the will of God, that he may make of us what he will, according to his own pleasure. In addition we are to offer him praise and thanksgiving with our whole heart, for his unspeakable, sweet grace and mercy, which he has promised and given us in this sacrament. And although such a sacrifice occurs apart from the mass, and should so occur—for it does not necessarily and essentially belong to the mass, as has been said—yet it is more precious, more appropriate, more mighty, and also more acceptable when it takes place with the multitude and in the assembly, where men encourage, move, and inflame one another to press close to God and thereby attain without any doubt what they desire.
For Christ has so promised: where two are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of them; and where two agree on earth about anything they ask, everything that they ask shall be done [Matt 18:20, 19]. How much more shall they obtain what they ask when a whole city comes together to praise God and to pray with one accord! We would not need many indulgence letters if we proceeded properly in this matter. Souls would also be easily redeemed from purgatory* and innumerable blessings would follow…
To be sure this sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and of ourselves as well, we are not to present before God in our own person. But we are to lay it upon Christ and let him present it for us, as St. Paul teaches in Hebrews 13[:15], “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess him and praise him”; and all this “through Christ.” For this is why he is also a priest—as Psalm 110 [:4] says, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”—because he intercedes for us in heaven. He receives our prayer and sacrifice, and through himself, as a godly priest, makes them pleasing to God…
From these words we learn that we do not offer Christ as a sacrifice, but that Christ offers us. And in this way it is permissible, yes, profitable, to call the mass a sacrifice; not on its own account, but because we offer ourselves as a sacrifice along with Christ. That is, we lay ourselves on Christ by a firm faith in his testament and do not otherwise appear before God with our prayer, praise, and sacrifice except through Christ and his mediation. Nor do we doubt that Christ is our priest or minister in heaven before God. Such faith, truly, brings it to pass that Christ takes up our cause, presents us and our prayer and praise, and also offers himself for us in heaven. If the mass were so understood and for this reason called a sacrifice, it would be well. Not that we offer the sacrament, but that by our praise, prayer, and sacrifice we move him and give him occasion to offer himself for us in heaven and ourselves with him.
Martin Luther, “A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass.” Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 35, pp.98-99.
* “A Treatise on the New Testament” was published in 1520. In 1518 (according to the footnote in the American Edition”) Luther affirmed that he believed in the existence of purgatory. But already in the same document he insisted that “every matter concerning the souls in purgatory is most obscure.” By 1521 he would say “Those who do not believe in purgatory are not to be called heretics.” The first time he wrote a treatise directly on the doctrine of purgatory was in 1530 where he attacked the traditional arguments in support of the doctrine.
- Martin Luther: Fewer laws, better government (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
“Experience, all chronicles, and the Holy Scriptures as well, teach us this truth: the less law, the more justice; the fewer commandments, the more good works. No well-regulated community ever existed long, if at all, where there were many laws. Therefore, before the ancient law of Moses, the patriarchs of old had no prescribed law and order for the service of God other than the sacrifices, as we read of Adam, Abel, Noah, and others. Afterward circumcision was enjoined upon Abraham and his household, until the time of Moses, through whom God gave the people of Israel a variety of laws, forms, and practices, for the sole purpose of teaching human nature how utterly useless many laws are to make people righteous. For although the law leads and drives away from evil to good works, it is impossible for man to do them willingly and gladly, for he has always an aversion to the law and would rather be free. Now where there is unwillingness, there can never be a good work. For what is not done willingly is not good, but only seems to be good….
Another result of many laws is that many sects and divisions in the congregations arise from them. One adopts this way, another that, and there grows up in each man a false, secret love for his own sect, and a hatred, or at least a contempt for and a disregard of the other sects. Thus brotherly, free, and mutual love perishes and selfish love prevails.”
Martin Luther, A Treatise on the New Testament, That Is, the Holy Mass. AE 35, pp. 79-80
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 21:1-9 (chs. 26-27)
March 24, 2013
“Jesus knows what He’s doing.”
Jesus knows what He’s doing. The crowd gets it right, and the little children get it right. Not that they realize it. If they knew what Jesus knows they would not be waving palm branches and cheering. They’d be wailing and tearing their clothes, throwing dust on their heads.
But they get it right. By accident, it’s true. But they are right to treat Jesus’ coming as the coming of the long-awaited promise, the arrival of final, unalterable victory.
When Jesus comes, it is time for rejoicing, even if Jesus comes dragging a cross, His face marred beyond human semblance. Even if He comes with condemned criminals and crazy people for companions, with cripples, former prostitutes, deformed and paralyzed people for His companions.
Whenever Jesus comes it’s time to sing Hosanna and wave the palm branches like the battle’s over, even if all your problems aren’t solved yet and you don’t see how they’re going to be. He knows what He’s doing.
The disciples should know this by now, anyway. A little while before in Bethany Jesus was crying with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb; then He said “Take away the stone.” Martha said, “But Lord, by now he will stink. He’s been dead four days!” Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Jesus knows what He’s doing. Otherwise He would not have opened the grave or told Lazarus to come out. Because if Lazarus had not come out it would have been seen that Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead, but not those who had been dead long enough to rot.
But Lazarus came out with the burial cloths still on him.
Jesus knew what He was doing then, and He knew what He was doing when He postponed coming to Bethany until after Lazarus had died.
And now He reminds us once more that He knew what He was doing when He came to Jerusalem. He tells two of his disciples: “Go over there and get the donkey and her colt that you find tied up, and if anyone asks you what you’re doing, tell them that the Lord needs them.” Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing as He goes into the city where He will be surrounded by enemies plotting in the shadows to do Him harm.
It is not as a naïve, idealistic child that He goes into the city as a king with no weapons or army except the Word of God.
He is embracing the cross which the Father has given Him. It’s not that He doesn’t see it. With all wisdom and knowledge and all power He goes to meet it.
But everybody around Him can’t believe Jesus knows what He’s doing. The chief priests and the elders, the Jewish ruling council—the Sanhedrin—knows that Jesus as Messiah simply won’t work in the real world. He will get their holy place torn down by the Romans. If Jesus keeps getting followers, He will destroy everything.
Brother pastor, I want you to know that I’ve got your back. My first move will always be to believe you and to believe in you. When I hear accusations against you, my first assumption will be that they are not true. I will not speak publicly about accusations as if they were true.I say this because I know what it is like out there in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It’s open season on pastors, and especially on pastors who want to practice what the Scriptures say and what the Book of Concord confesses.
….When you were ordained and installed…you believed what the Scriptures say about the Office and its responsibilities. You knew that Paul had
said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28). You knew that that Peter wrote, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3). And so you knew that God had placed you to care for that congregation. God had placed you, and therefore you were keeping watch over those for whom you “will have to give an account” before him (Heb 13:17).
You believed what your ordination vows say: that the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice; that the Ecumenical Creeds are faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures; that the Book of Concord is a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 166-167).
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It is found the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties and in the installation rite of a pastor (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 180).
And so you believed the congregation when it answered “We will, with the help of God,” to the question, “Will you receive him, show him that love, honor and obedience in the Lord that you owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and will you support him by your gifts and pray for him always that in his labors he may retain a cheerful spirit, and that his ministry among you may be abundantly blessed” (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, 180).
But I also know the reality. There are congregations that don’t believe Lutheran theology all that deeply. Some congregations would rather operate in the way of American evangelicalism….. Some congregations don’t want to practice closed communion, even though it is the biblical and the official stance of our synod – especially when it involves their ELCA family member. Some congregations don’t want to practice pastoral discipline towards those who are living together outside of marriage – especially when it involves their son or daughter. Some congregations have powerful forces who know it is their church. Pastors come and pastors go but the congregational leaders are really in charge and they don’t need to follow anyone. There are alligators in the water.
Awhile back under the previous synodical administration there were a series of conferences about the ministry entitled “Who’s in charge.” You had already learned the answer to that question for the LCMS. The congregation is in charge. In a congregational polity, they write your pay check and therefore they are in charge. They are in charge because you learn very quickly that from the district president’s perspective the pastor is expendable. You can always get another one. Congregations can’t be replaced. Therefore the congregation can do almost anything because no one is going to remove it from synod.And so here’s how it works. Influential congregation members decide for any number of reasons that they don’t want you as pastor. The reasons are not legitimate. But that doesn’t matter. They begin to work in the congregation to stir up criticism and resentment. They look for any opportunity to take offense at you. They make life uncomfortable by refusing to give you a raise and by lowering your health care coverage.
If this doesn’t get rid of you fast enough, they start to contact your circuit counselor and district president. They are still operating in the church and so they couch
their accusations in the form of: “He doesn’t have good people skills.”; “He’s lazy.”; “He’s too rigid.” The circuit counselor and district president may share the same beliefs as the congregation. They may not want to be biblical and Lutheran in practice, and so they are only too happy to take its side. There is talk of “syndical reconcilers” and the like, but the die has been cast.
Finally, the congregation just declares that after such and such a date, it will no longer pay you. Perhaps the leaders have met with the district president and out of “Christian love” they have agreed to give you a six month “severance package.” You learn that your divine call means nothing because the congregation writes the checks and the district doesn’t want to lose the congregation.
…Because of what the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions say about the Office of the Holy Ministry, there are occasions when you or I may need to be removed. This is necessary when there is immoral conduct such as
fornication, adultery, sexual abuse or theft. It must happen when there is false doctrine and a refusal to admit this and repent. It will be necessary if you or I abandon the responsibilities for which we have been called (and the standard of proof on this must be exceptionally high – this is not to be a tool for removing faithful pastors). Where there is clear and unambiguous evidence this must happen.
What I won’t do is speak publicly about accusations as if they were true when there is no such evidence. I won’t do it because the greatest threat to the ministry of the LCMS is not lazy pastors or pastors with bad people skills or pastors who make mistakes. The greatest threat is a general denial of the Office of the Holy Ministry and what it means for the way God deals with the congregation and the way congregations need to relate to their pastor. I won’t speak in a way that supports this denial. Brother pastor, I’ve got your back.
- “Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- The Cult Leader Who Did Not Change With the Times and Went out of Business. Quinquagesima 2013 Sermon. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)