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In A Broad Place. Quasimodogeniti 2018

jesus thomas.PNGQuasimodogeniti—The Second Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 20:19-31

April 8, 2018

“You Have Set My Feet in a Broad Place”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

A week ago from last night, we observed the vigil of Easter.  It started after darkness had fallen.  Then the new paschal candle that through most of the year stands next to the baptismal font was lit from a fire outside.  Everyone had little candles in their hands, like we do on Christmas Eve, and they were all lit with the fire from the candle that symbolizes the life of Jesus that conquers death.  Then we processed into the totally dark church.

 

Then there were several readings from the Old Testament.  All of them pictured some part of Jesus’ descent into the darkness of death and His resurrection.  One of them was the story of Noah, who went into the dark, cramped box called the ark for a year as the wrath of God descended and wiped out all life from the earth.  After he had gone in with the remnant of animal and human lives that would repopulate the earth, the Scripture says, The Lord shut him in (Gen. 7). 

 

In the Gospel reading, the disciples are also shut in.  Eleven men (ten on the evening of Easter), plus others, probably, are sitting in a living room with the doors shut (or locked).  They don’t go out lest people recognize them as the disciples of Jesus, and the chief priests do with them as they had done with Jesus.  They are alive, but in a prison, fearing that at any time there will be a knock on the door that will mean the end for them.

 

Even worse, they are shut up in the darkness of a bad conscience.  Have you ever been in a narrow place where you couldn’t stand up straight, where you were so packed in that you couldn’t move?  It’s like that when you have a conscience that condemns you as a sinner.  You would like to believe that you are at peace with God, but your sins press in on you, bind you up.  Every time you get your head above water another wave of condemnation hits you.  For the disciples of Jesus there were two waves that kept crashing into them.  The first was the events of the last week, the flogging, mockery, and crucifixion of Jesus, which made it seem that their faith in Him had been misplaced.  The second was the way they had abandoned their Lord when they were put to the test.

 

Some of you, most of you know what it is to have done what the disciples did.  You were faced with some temptation or other and you abandoned Jesus.  Maybe it was long ago.  And when the memory of it returns, you are closed in, shut up, fighting for air.

 

Or it is simply the awareness that every day, no matter how faithfully you have tried to live a new life in Christ, you have never quite accomplished it.  You always fall short of what a Christian life should be.  And so you are always in a dark room, like the disciples, fearing that when the knock comes on the door, you will not be ready to stand before God.

 

And others are closed in by the feeling of despair that your faith in Christ is in vain.  When you see how your life and the life of Christians does not seem to be one of “victory on to victory”, but instead one wave of trouble after another, the darkness closes in on you, and you are tempted to think that it is foolish to put too much confidence in Jesus.

 

When I was a little kid, I watched a movie on TV one Saturday.  You may have heard of it; it was called Star Wars.  There is a scene in that movie where the heroes jump into a garbage compactor to escape a bunch of storm troopers who are shooting at them.  They are knee deep in garbage and nasty water trying to find a way out when they realize there is some kind of giant snake swimming around their legs.  One of them gets pulled under, but then for some reason the snake lets him go.  They quickly discover why.  The walls have begun to close in to crush the trash.  They try desperately to brace the walls with big pieces of metal, but nothing works.  At the last minute their robot friends contact them on an intercom and manage to shut down the garbage compactor by hacking into the computer.  Then one of the robots hears them screaming over the intercom and thinks he is too late.  But they are shouting for joy because they have been saved.

 

That was what happened to the disciples.  In their cramped prison, with the doors shut, Jesus suddenly appears and says, Peace be with you. 

 

Instead of the knock on the door that means the end, Jesus comes in without knocking.

 

He doesn’t show them their sins and let the walls close in on them forever.  Instead, He shows them the marks in His hands where the nails had been and the place where the centurion’s spear entered His side, proving He was really dead.

 

Those marks are all there is left to say about their sins, their abandonment of Jesus.  Those marks are the signs that the walls of judgment have stopped closing in on them forever.

 

Then, as if that was not enough, He sends them out of their prison.  Therefore Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you.  Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And having said this He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven them; if you bind them, they are bound.”  (John 20: 21-23)

 

Jesus has the authority to open up the doors and unlock the chains of darkness, sin, death, and a bad conscience, and the authority to lock people in.  He has this authority because He was bound in that prison for us.  That is how He got the marks of the nails and the spear.  He also burst those chains and broke out of that prison for us.  That is how He stood before them alive after those mortal wounds being inflicted on Him.

 

Since He conquered sin and death, He owns them and is able to release from them.

 

And He not only released the disciples from their sins; He gave them His authority to release others.  He authorized them to forgive sins and to bind, to release and lock up.

 

That is how Jesus comes into the midst of us in the prison of sin and a bad conscience and stops the walls from closing in on us.

 

He comes and proclaims release by sending out first the apostles and then ministers to preach His death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins.  He entrusts to His believers the power to forgive and retain sins.

 

The message that He proclaims to us is not, “If you do this and that, you will be forgiven.”  He proclaims that sinners are bound and condemned to eternal death.  But to those who feel their chains, He proclaims unconditional release.  You are released, He says, because I have been released.  I bore your sins.  See the marks in my hands and my side.  I was closed in by death and judgment.  But now I am risen.

 

And if you still find yourself to be a sinner and wonder if you are still set free, see these marks.  They are the answer to any accusation made against you.

 

Jesus wears those marks before God His Father.  They always stand before Him.  He cannot see or hear about your sins without seeing the nails that went into His Son’s hands, and the spear that went into His side when He died for those sins.

 

Those marks always stand before God and speak louder than our sins.  They say, “It is finished.”

 

But Jesus still comes into our midst to proclaim peace to us, to release us from our chains and darkness and our old life.  It is His voice that speaks when the minister, called to exercise the public office of the Keys, says, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all you sins, in the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Amen.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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And Sinners Will Return to You. Wed. after Oculi.

jesus caiphas frangipaneWednesday after Oculi—Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—Trial Before Caiaphas

March 7, 2018

And Sinners Will Return to You

 

Iesu Iuva

In the Name of Jesus.

 

There is a fire in the courtyard.  Simon is trying to keep warm and trying to keep his head down.  He is also trying to keep an eye on Jesus across the courtyard without anyone noticing.  Jesus has His hands tied.  Around Him are the scribes, the elders of Israel, members of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests.  Jesus is on trial.

 

And as Peter listens, he hears his Lord give His testimony.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tears his robes.  Jesus has just referenced the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy and applied it to Himself.  He says that He is the Christ, anointed by God as king over all the peoples of the earth.  That He will return as God’s judge of the men assembled in this night court.

 

And the assembled dignitaries of Israel give their decision—Jesus must be put to death for blasphemy.

 

The chief priests and the elders of the people were wrong to condemn Jesus, of course.  He had not taught people to worship a false god or prophesied falsely in God’s name.  The man standing before them was the God of Israel.

 

But Jesus did not deny that they had the responsibility and the right to judge.  They were God’s representatives.  It was their duty to try and condemn blasphemers and false prophets.

 

What was true of the chief priests and Sanhedrin is also true of this church named after the apostle who fell so badly that night.  You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that apostle later wrote despite his great sin.  All who are baptized into Christ and believe in Him are, like Peter, priests, and share with Jesus the authority to forgive and retain sins.  To judge, despite the fact that we, like Peter, have ourselves sinned and denied Jesus.  Jesus has entrusted us with the office of the keys, that special authority that Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

 

St. Paul writes about this, “It is actually reported among you that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from you…  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 5:1-5)

 

Paul means that the Church in Corinth is supposed to remove the unrepentant sinner from fellowship; pronounce that his sins are not forgiven, just as after confession the Church pronounces the forgiveness of sins by the authority of Jesus.  This is not putting him to death physically.  It is pronouncing God’s judgment that He will speak on the last day.

 

Paul says to do this “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  By speaking it now, the unrepentant may turn and be delivered.

 

Most of us here relate with Peter.  We know that we are not pure.  We have denied Jesus ourselves, and so we are very hesitant to ever speak words of judgment to anyone else in the name of God.

 

We should be hesitant to ever judge or condemn anyone in our own name.  When we judge people on our own authority, we condemn ourselves.  But when we hold back Christ’s judgment from unrepentant sinners, we are not really showing them mercy.  We are going easy on ourselves, because we are afraid of being condemned by unbelievers as harsh and unloving.

 

Jesus preached, Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19-20)  About that Jesus we are saying, “I do not know Him.”

He proclaims that our righteousness must be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven.  For that He was condemned to die on the cross as a blasphemer—for confessing that He would return with the clouds in divine majesty to judge the living and the dead.  The priests tore their robes and called it blasphemy and handed Him over to Pontius Pilate.

 

We do not want to stand with Jesus and proclaim His judgment.  We do not want to be His Church that proclaims His judgment and His forgiveness because we are afraid.  “I do not know Him,” we say, with Peter.

 

Repent.

 

Before us is Jesus, the Son of the Blessed.  He is the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.  (Rev. 3:7)

 

He preaches the judgment of God on us and through us, His Church, so that the world may be saved from eternal death.  The times have changed, people say.  The times have changed; the hour is late.  Judgment is very soon.  But the judgment of God has not changed.  The torment of hell will never change.

 

Jesus preaches the judgment of God so that the lost may be brought to repentance and saved from eternal death.

 

When the priest questioned Him, He confessed the truth—that He is the Christ, anointed by God to be king over human beings and to be priest for human beings.  He alone will rule over human beings, as their Redeemer and Savior, or as their judge.  He alone is able to reconcile God to us.  Our leniency toward sinners cannot take away their sins or our own.  Our leniency has no more validity before God than our self-righteous judgment, our unjust judgment, like the unjust judgment of the priests that Jesus was a blasphemer.

 

Only God’s mercy makes sin go away, and only His condemnation makes us truly guilty and condemned.

 

It was God who condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, and a denier.  It was His mercy that permitted His only Son to take up our sins as His own; it was His mercy that allowed Him to be condemned for them instead of us.

 

Only those who know that they are condemned by God are able to come to Jesus and receive God’s mercy.

 

Jesus was silent before the accusations they made against Him to the high priest because He was willing to bear every charge against us and the whole world and be condemned for them..  He was willing to shed His righteous blood so that we would be acquitted by God.

 

He was willing to be Christ for us, to be anointed as our king and priest.  He was willing to be our King and be led into hell to rescue us.

 

He was willing to be our priest, and to offer up Himself as the sacrifice that brought the wrath of God against us to an end.

 

This is why you are no longer the one who has denied Jesus countless times.  This is why you are no longer the hypocrite who has no right to speak His Word to anyone.  The judgment and the forgiveness that you speak and that I speak in His name are not spoken on our own authority, but in the authority of the Son of the Blessed One, the Christ, anointed by God, the rightful King who judges the living and the dead.  What He says, and what He authorizes and calls us to say, is not for the destruction of our family, neighbors, brothers.  It is for their salvation.  It comes from the mouth of Him who was silent as He was tried and condemned for the sins we try and fail to deal with ourselves.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolution Hymn–Missing Stanzas

 

absolution according to jack chick

Don’t put words in God’s mouth that He doesn’t say!  That’s a bad move. God actually says the exact opposite of the “god” in this comic.  Men can and do forgive sins when God has authorized them to do so, even if it bothers the Pharisees: Cf. John 20: 22-23; Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18: 18, 20; Matthew 9:1-8

People at my congregation know this hymn, although in a different translation, but there are some stanzas that sadly aren’t in our hymnal.

On this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, one of my chief prayers is that God would cause people to recognize the gift He preserved in the Lutheran Church of the practice of private confession and absolution.  This is a gift that exists in no other church as it does in the Lutheran Church (except where they have learned it from us), and is one of the key examples of how the church of the Reformation differs in spirit from those of other protestant churches as well as from the church of Rome.  You get a glimpse of these different spirits in action when you read the sentiment expressed in the Jack Chick tract above and then compare it with the stanzas of the hymn below.  This is clearly not a minor issue.  The tract shows how fundamentalists (and American evangelicals typically) think: to trust in absolution leads to damnation.  Contrast this with the scriptural faith of the reformation that breathes in the stanzas below:

1.Yea, as I live, Jehovah saith,

I would not have the sinner’s death,

But that he turn from error’s ways,

Repent, and live through endless days.

 

2.  To us therefore Christ gave command:

“Go forth and preach in every land;

Bestow on all My pard’ning grace

Who will repent and mend their ways.

 

3. “All those whose sins ye thus remit

I truly pardon and acquit,

And those whose sins ye do retain

Condemned and guilty shall remain.

 

4.  What ye shall bind, that bound shall be;

What ye shall loose, that shall be free;

Unto My Church the keys are giv’n

To ope and close the gates of heav’n.”

 

5.  They who believe when ye proclaim

The joyful tidings in My name

That I for them My blood have shed,

Are free from guilt and Judgment dread.

 

7.  However great our sin may be,

The Absolution sets us free,

Appointed by God’s own dear Son

To bring the pardon He has won.

 

9.  This is the pow’r of Holy Keys,

It binds and doth again release;

The Church retains them at her side,

Our mother and Christ’s holy Bride.

 

–Nicholas Herman, 1560.  Trans. M. Loy, 1880.

An Example of Announcement for Communion or Confession (2nd Discussion)

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

loehe5 profileHere’s the second of three discussions from Loehe’s example of announcement for confession.  I call it “announcement for communion” because that’s how it was referred to in the Missouri Synod.

It can be found in Der Lutheraner volume 3, p. 44.  And you can get an English translation of the book here.

 

Second Discussion

Margaretta: I would like to come to the confessional.

Parson: That’s good, why do you want to?

M.  So that I confess my sins.

Pn: So, even you have sins?

M:  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory we should have before God.

Pn:  Do you also know your sins?

M: Some we know and some we don’t.

Pn.: But one must still know those that are known, else, there wouldn’t be known sins, so do you know them?

M.:  I’ve never done anything wrong, and no one can say I have.

Read more…

An Example of Announcement for Communion

September 27, 2014 Leave a comment

loeheA little before I was born a practice that had been common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod passed into oblivion.  It was called “announcement for communion.”  People used to go talk to the pastor before they went to the Lord’s Supper.  I’ve never really been too sure what went on in these talks.  From asking older people in the church I’ve gathered that over time it became little more than a ritual of going to church and signing your name in a book as intending to commune.  Later people began to phone in their announcements.

But it always struck me as interesting that there was this practice in the Lutheran Church that bore some resemblance to confession prior to communion and that it only recently died out.  Yet you never hear anyone talk about it or suggest resurrecting it.  I’ve written another post touching on the subject (here), but that was two years ago and I can’t remember what I said.

I’ve been flipping around in a fantastic book I bought recently–a translation of C. F. W. Walther’s early volumes of Der Lutheraner, the newspaper he started before the Missouri Synod was even founded.  (Thanks to Pr. Joel Baseley for his work in translating it; you can find the book here.)  I stumbled upon a sample dialogue between a pastor and would-be communicants at announcement for communion, authored by no less than Wilhelm Loehe.  I reprint part of it here for your edification and perhaps to entice you to buy a copy of the book.

A note: the confession referred to in what follows seems to have been a corporate service of confession and absolution rather than private confession and absolution.  Although in the first century and a half or so after the reformation it was normal for Lutherans to go to private confession before communion, by the time this was published (December 1846) private confession and absolution was seldom used.

 

Announcement for Confession

A sketch as to its nature.  by W. Loehe

 

First Discussion

Balthisar: Good day, Parson.

Parson: Good day, Balthisar, what do you want?

B.  I want to announce for Confession this Saturday and the Lord’s Supper Sunday.

Pn.  So why do you want the Lord’s Supper now?

B.  Why?  I think it is now the time to have the Lord’s Supper again.

Pn.  Why now?  Is it because you do that every year at Advent?

B.  Yes, in my family we’ve always thought we should observe that, so if it’s Pentecost or Christmas day or in Advent we go to the Lord’s Supper.  So I do that, too.

Pn.  So you are going because of that custom?

B.  Sure, why not?  I don’t agree with the tradition many hold, who go but once a year.

Read more…

“Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013

March 21, 2013 7 comments

 

cranach let the little children 1Wednesday after Judica (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:9-17/ Passion History/ Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate?

March 20, 2013

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it”

Jesu juva!

INI

 

Jesus died for you.  You are saved.  That is a short and sweet rendition of the article of justification.  Lutherans have always said that the Christian Church stands or falls on the article of justification.  If you keep that front and center, it will save people; God will build His church on it.  When it is kept straight the conscience is comforted, and all the other articles of the Christian faith will be preserved.  But without it all of the teaching of the Church is corrupted.  Without it there will not be harmony in the Church.

 

That sounds good.  But in practice it doesn’t look true.  Jesus died for you, you are saved.  That’s enough for salvation?  That’s enough to keep the Churchpastor with black eye alive and together?  Have we found that to be true?  No, it looks to us like either the Lutheran reformers were wrong or it hasn’t been taught clearly here lately.  Because the churches that have other things to boast about besides the article of justification do well and we feel like, to quote the Psalms, “A sparrow alone on a housetop, like an owl in the ruins.”

 

Once a catechumen told me, respectfully and honestly, “That seems too easy.”  He had a lot of Roman Catholic family, so it was understandable.  But it’s not just the pope’s church.  If a Baptist asks you, “Are you saved,” tell them yes, and then if they say, “How do you know,” say, “Because Jesus died for me on the cross.”  What will many of them say?  “Yes, that’s true, but did you accept him into your heart, really and truly?  Do you have a relationship with Him?”

 

And it’s not just them either.  A lot of times it seems too easy to Lutherans, to Lutheran pastors.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  But I’d like to see some evidence.  Holiness, victory over sin, any kind of victory.  What good is it if I preach Jesus died for us, and then everyone is just as angry and anxious as they were before?  Sometimes I ask that of myself, and sometimes you do too.

 

But there are some Lutherans, and not just little kids, either, who know in the time of trial, that the article of justification is their refuge.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  It’s not easy to comfort yourself with that when the mountains are removed and tumble into the heart of the sea, when it looks like you are going to die or maybe your congregation is, and maybe it’s your fault, at least partly.  Can I get an Amen?

 

But there are some Lutherans who God has enabled to do it.  That’s the difficult art that Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit—to say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ word will never pass away, and His Word says that He saved me from my sins by His death on the cross.”

 

crucifixion thief on the crossBut there are even fewer who know how to comfort themselves with their Baptism, who can sing the hymn we just sang tonight and find comfort in it when Satan attacks or when death is near:

I am baptized in Jesus’ blood;

this is my pearl, my highest good,

which calms my soul in all distress

against the devil, hell, and death. 

 

Or as the old hymn in the Lutheran Service Book teaches us to sing:

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!

 I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. 

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

 

If saying “Jesus died for me on the cross, so I’m saved” seems too easy to us, saying “I am baptized” seems even worse.  Especially if you were baptized as a baby.  A man who plays the piano at one of the nursing home services was raised at Messiah Luth. Church.  But now he’s a Baptist or a Nazarene.  He always really likes my preaching, except when I talk about Baptism.  One time he said, again, honestly and respectfully—“If all you have to do is be baptized as an infant to be saved, why don’t Lutherans just baptize babies as often as possible, even when their parents aren’t looking?”

 

But the baptism of infants is possibly the clearest picture we have of what it means when we say that salvation is by grace alone.  That is what Jesus is getting at when He says “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (St. Luke 18:16-17).”

  Read more…

Prayer of a Person desiring to go to confession for the sake of the holy Absolution. Gebets-Schatz

February 12, 2013 8 comments

454pxWiblingenbeichtstuhl1298.  Prayer of a person who wants to go to private confession and desires the holy Absolution.

Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer!  You have bequeathed to Your beloved church here on earth and her faithful butlers (servants; ministers) the holy Office of the Keys with the promise attached to it, that what they  in the power of this office will loose or bind shall also be loosed or bound in heaven.  For such a grace-rich means and instrument of Your Spirit, I declare Your eternal laud, glory, and praise.  I beseech You from the bottom of my heart: since as a poor, bound sinner, I am  in need of this comforting loosing-key, and so that I will not be held in the fetters of the jailwarden of hell, let it come upon me through my Christian father-confessor, and for the sake of Your blood and death graciously release and acquit me from all my sins.  Lend me Your Holy Spirit alongside of the holy Absolution, that I may take hold of it in genuine repentance, unwavering confidence, good purpose [to amend my life], brotherly love, and thankfulness, and finally come to everlasting blessedness in heaven.  Amen.

–Sigismund Scherertz (1584-1639)—Superintendent at Lueneburg (Germany)

 

S

Seelen-Arznei und Spiegel der geistlichen Anfechtungen  (Soul-Medicine and Mirror of Spiritual Afflictions)

From Evangelische-Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz

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