Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 8:23-27
January 29, 2017
“The Captain of the Ship”
Jesus gets into a boat, and his disciples follow. Then a great storm arises. It must have been a really great storm. At least four of Jesus’ disciples are men who fished on this sea six days a week for years. They were familiar with the weather. They have been through storms before, and I’m certain that, being men who made a living with their hands and their back, they were not the type of men to show fear easily. But when they come to wake Jesus up, they cry like terrified children, they humiliate themselves: Lord, save us! We’re dying!
I’ve known Christian men who were dying. Men don’t want to admit fear of death and God’s judgment in front of another man even when death is imminent. Yet these fishermen in the boat cry out to Jesus in terror.
This must have been an incredible storm.
I am sure that you have had storms like this throughout your life, whether you are listening on the radio or here today. You may very well be in one right now. It may be that the doctor told you how many months he thinks you have left; it may be that the doctor isn’t sure what to tell you. Or it may not be a storm that threatens you with literal death, but it’s bad enough that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, or it’s hard to bring yourself through the doors of the church.
Then there’s the storms the Church goes through, which is really what this story is getting at. The boat that holds Jesus and the disciples is a picture of the Church. Look up there, at the ceiling; it kind of looks like the bottom of a boat. That’s why the Latin word for the part of the church on your side of the altar rail is called the nave; it comes from the navis, which means “ship”, which is also where we get the word “navy”. The Church of Jesus is a little boat or an ark. It sails through the rough waters of this world, the storms of persecution, the flood of God’s judgment, the depths of death and hell, and lets those inside out on the dry land of the new creation. And Jesus is in this boat with us. We aren’t sailing ourselves to heaven. He is the Captain of the ark of the Holy Christian Church.
But the whole way on this voyage the boat is hit by storms. And throughout the 2000 years since Jesus ascended to the Father, the Church has cried out in desperation, feeling like the ship was sure to sink, and the Christians inside would perish.
Anyone who’s a member of this congregation and cares about it at all, for whatever reason, knows this feeling. This Gospel reading today is your story, isn’t it?
And if the Church sinks, it’s far worse than when storms hit us individually. We come to the Divine Service, to other Christians, to the pastor, to find help when the storms hit us privately. We rely on the Church to be there when our child is going astray, when we are laid low with illness—to tell us what God says; to correct us when we live or believe contrary to His Word, and above all to proclaim to us the forgiveness of sins in His name. We come to the Church when our father or mother, husband or wife has died. We bring the bodies of the people we love most so that the Church—or rather Jesus through the Church—will preach to us that our loved one will rise again.
But if the Church goes under, destroyed by persecution or twisted and mutated so that it no longer proclaims God’s Word—who will bring us the Gospel of Christ crucified? Who will tell us that it applies to us too? Who will forgive our sins in Jesus’ name? Who will baptize our children? Who will give us the body and blood of Jesus? And not only us: if the Church goes under the waves, who will proclaim the coming judgment of God and the forgiveness of sins through Jesus to the world that falsely believes it has God already, without Christ?
+Our storms at St. Peter are not unique or new
–when all of Europe was supposedly Christian, a false gospel of salvation by human effort made the true Gospel for all intents and purposes unknown, until 500 years ago God worked through Martin Luther to restore it
–Since then the devil has worked to almost extinguish the pure Gospel again through luxury and wealth, through doctrinal indifference.
+Yet very few Christians realized that this was a storm that threatened to destroy the Church; very few even realize it today. We are only starting to realize in our Church that true faith in Christ was being eaten away for a long time; we started to realize it because this congregation is almost underwater.
We aren’t the whole Church; but what is happening here is happening all around us.
+So we go to Jesus, like disciples:
And notice: when the disciples wake Jesus up, they don’t have quiet confidence, fearlessness. That’s what firm faith brings. Instead they have terror and fear that Jesus is just going to sleep while they drown.
Their prayer comes from fear more than from faith. It seems to express anger at Jesus—“How can you not care that we are going to die? What are you doing, still sleeping?”
When a ship has no captain, or the sailors don’t trust the captain and they think the ship is going to sink, all hell breaks loose. Sailors stop working together and letting the captain direct; they all start trying to save the ship as individuals, which is absolutely not going to work, or maybe they try to mutiny and set up a new captain. And when all these things become hopeless, people start grabbing something that floats and taking their chances in the sea. When no one listens to the captain anymore, the ship is doomed.
But Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church; He will safely bring it through all storms into the eternal calm and peace of eternal life.
When Jesus gets up from sleeping, notice who He speaks to first—not the wind and the waves. Not to the thing the disciples think is the danger.
He speaks to them first, because the danger is not the storm. In our day, the danger is not the declining numbers in the Church, or declining bank accounts, declining prestige in our society.
The danger is within us—unbelief. That instead of Jesus, we trust in what we see and feel, in our own thoughts, in the wisdom of the world and the false religion pushed by the devil and the world.
Unbelief is the danger because it is idolatry: we think the storm is more powerful than God; we fear it more than God. The first commandment: You shall have no other gods—We should fear, love and trust in God above all things. The storm is more powerful than God, and we know better than God’s Word what is necessary to save ourselves or the Church.
So Jesus speaks first to the disciples, rebuking the storm in their hearts, the storm of unbelief and the cowardice that comes from it.
Why are you so cowardly, you of little faith?
Jesus understands why they are afraid. What He is telling them and us is that we don’t have anything to fear. Not if we have Him.
+Really? We have nothing to fear? Nothing. How can you say that, if the boat is about to sink and the disciples are going to perish?
Because Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea and there was a great calm. Not only does Jesus know how to steer the ship safely. He simply speaks and nature obeys. Who does that?
The answer is, only God does that. God was with the disciples in the boat, living with them, sharing their bread, sharing their storms, sharing their sins.
The prophet Jonah brought a great calm when he was thrown into the sea. The storm came because of Jonah’s rebellion against God, when Jonah ran away from the presence of God. It went away when the sailors handed over Jonah to certain death.
But God rescued Jonah from his rebellion and its punishment; from certain death, sending the fish, who vomited him onto dry land.
Jesus also brought great calm that lasts forever; He took on our rebellion against God as His own; He willingly was thrown into the boiling, angry flood of God’s wrath, making our sins His own and being nailed to the cross. Then He stepped out of the belly of death into the land of the living, having put our sins away forever. Now there is a great calm; peace with God.
That great peace comes rolling across the storms of this world to us from the eternal God in our flesh; not a temporary calm, like the one in Matthew 8, but an eternal one.
Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church. He can be trusted to lead us safely through the storms of death and hell, because He has already gone through them and destroyed them.
Jesus will not fail to bring His church safely to land.
His Church includes the weak in faith.
But those who reject Jesus’ word are not Jesus’ Church; they are not in the boat where He is. They are mixed with the saints around the Word, but they don’t believe in Him. When storms come, they mutiny against Jesus, don’t listen to His Word. They try to take over the boat from Him, or jump overboard because they think it’s doomed.
Brothers, we are weak; we do this in spite of ourselves. But let us be comforted and listen to Jesus. He is worthy to be trusted. He isn’t a fool or a con artist. He tells us, “You have me in the boat in my preaching, in my pure doctrine, and my Sacraments. Hold on to me; you have nothing to fear.”
We have many sins, but He doesn’t cast away sinners who trust in Him, the Savior of sinners, the sin-bearer.
He will not let the floods overwhelm us or let His Church sink. Our traditions will perish, our will that contradicts the will of God will not be done. But Christ’s Church is more than that—it is the whole company of saints throughout the world, through time and eternity, who cling to Jesus alone.
It will never perish, and neither will those who trust Him. He cannot perish; He died, and He lives forevermore. And we who are baptized into Him have been joined with Him who joined Himself to us—we also have died and risen. The new creation that will appear on the last day has already begun in all who believe.
17th Sunday after Trinity (First Sunday of Fall Series)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
September 18, 2016
“What the Spirit Says to the Churches about the Lord of the Church”
Six things—Divine Service. Scripture. Prayer. Giving. Serving. Witnessing. A person who is growing in faith in Christ through His pure Word also grows in these six things. That’s why for the last nine years I’ve taught about those six things every fall, and urged you to work to grow in them.
And so we can easily evaluate right here this morning, in the quiet of our hearts, whether we can say of ourselves that we have grown in these six things in the past nine years. Whether we have made a serious effort to do so. Not in order to make ourselves feel guilty—or proud—but realizing that whether or not I am growing in faith is a serious thing for which I will one day give an account to God; realizing that our growth or decline in faith and its fruits has consequences not only for ourselves, but for this congregation’s health.
Those six things—attending Divine Service, reading Scripture, praying, giving, serving, witnessing—are all gifts from God. And yet a person could easily look at them and think that they are all things that we have to do.
But there is one other thing in the fall series that is not something we do in any respect. It is something we can only receive from God. And without it our efforts to grow in the other six will be in vain. We can only rightly do and grow in them if we first receive this first thing.
That thing is Christ.
That is so basic that it may seem insulting for me to mention Him. Of course we’ve received Christ! We’ve been coming to church for decades!
And I’m certainly not disputing that you have received Christ. I’m a Lutheran pastor, not a Baptist. So I preach and believe that when you as a little baby were baptized you received Christ—or He received you.
Yet many people receive Christ and then lose Him again. It’s easy for the real Christ to be replaced by a false Christ in the preaching of the Church and even in the hearts of Christians. Again, if I was a Baptist or a Calvinist pastor I would deny that it’s possible for a true Christian to ever lose Christ. If you lost Him, they say, you never really had Him to begin with. But Scripture teaches: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for awhile, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)
Christians are led away to false Christs. In the Catholic Church the Jesus who atoned for our sins with His death and gives us the forgiveness of sins freely, only through faith, is replaced with a Jesus who came to give us a new law to fulfill. But for many Christians the false Jesus that replaces the true one is a “tame” Jesus. It is a Jesus who is gracious and forgives us and may even help us when we die. He makes few demands on us and He is kind. He makes us feel comfortable and peaceful when we are able to get away from all the irritations and stresses we have to deal with in this life. He certainly doesn’t do anything that scares us or terrifies us or causes conflict. And people usually divorce this Jesus from the suffering in our lives. He doesn’t have anything to do with that, because He loves us and doesn’t want us to feel pain.
The problem with this false Jesus is that He is impotent. He comforts you when you die and any time you happen to really feel guilty about your sins. But since He has nothing to do with pain and suffering, when we experience pain and suffering we are, in essence, dealing with something beyond Jesus’ control. He doesn’t want us to suffer, and yet we do—all of us—and some of us a lot. He never does anything that makes us uncomfortable or afraid, and so—in spite of ourselves—we sometimes get bored with Jesus. We know what He’s going to say before we walk in the doors of the church.
This may be a little bit of a caricature, but isn’t it at least a partially accurate description of the way people think about Jesus?
That is the problem with idols, though—they are often boring. They’re boring because we have them under control. They can’t hurt us or scare us. But they can’t help us either. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear…feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8) Idols are perfectly safe—but boring. And if we worship an idol we will probably be boring also.
However the safe, tame picture of Jesus that interferes with faith in the real Jesus and that sometimes replaces it is not the Jesus who stands before us in the reading from Revelation. Spiritual health begins with receiving Jesus—the true Jesus. Not just one facet of His character or person isolated from the rest of Him. If we want Jesus, we have to receive also the beautiful yet terrible Christ who appeared to St. John. But this Christ many of us have forgotten. He is not merely the friend of the church, but the church’s Lord.
In the reading, St. John is on Patmos, a small island off the coast of modern-day Turkey. He has been imprisoned there for preaching the word of God, bearing witness that Jesus is Lord. And one “Lord’s Day”, one Sunday, the Holy Spirit comes upon him, and he has a vision. He hears a voice behind him that sounds like a trumpet blast, telling him to write down what he sees in a book and to send it to seven churches on the mainland of modern-day Turkey.
Imagine if someone came up behind you and blew a trumpet, how startling that would be! So when John turns around to “see the voice”, he suddenly sees seven golden lampstands, “and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man (Rev. 1:13).” And this person who is “like a son of man” has hair as white as snow, eyes like a flame of fire, feet that gleam like burnished bronze. His voice is like the roar of many waters. He holds seven stars in His right hand. Out of His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword, and his face is like staring into the sun.
The phrase “son of man” we recognize, because it’s what Jesus always called Himself. But the rest is alien to us. We’re used to thinking of Jesus’ voice as a comforting sound, like the sound of a shepherd’s voice is to a sheep—but here it sounds like the roar of an ocean; and the word that comes out of His mouth is not a collection of comforting truths but a weapon of war. His eyes are a flame—suggesting zeal and passion or jealousy and anger. The light that shines from His face is like the sun shining in full strength, threatening to burn our eyes.
We know that people outside the church today have false ideas about who Jesus is. Some people claim that He is a myth, a person who never existed. Others say that He was simply a man who thought He was the Messiah and was proved not to be when He died on a cross. Many others think Jesus was a prophet, a great religious teacher who taught the same thing as all the other so-called great teachers, like Buddha or Muhammad.
But what about us? Haven’t we forgotten this side of Jesus? That in Him all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Col. 2)? That He is the first and the last (Rev. 1:17), the Creator of the World, and also the one who will end it—its judge? Have we forgotten the flame of His eyes, His jealousy that hates sin with a passion more hot than any human love? Have we forgotten the power of His voice, roaring like the ocean, that swept the world into being in the beginning and will sweep it away in the end? That His Word, His doctrine, is not a safe, tame philosophy that we can master in a few months or years, but a divine weapon that maims those who handle it clumsily, and that He uses to kill His enemies?
When we are dealing with Jesus, we are dealing with the eternal God in human flesh, to whom all glory belongs, who is coming to judge the living and the dead. He is not a god that we have made and that we can control. He startles John in this reading and causes him to fall down at His feet as though dead. Jesus is the Lord of the world and most especially the Lord of the Church. He doesn’t exist to fit into our lives the way that we think He should. The church answers to Him. We exist for Him.
And we have forgotten where the Lord Jesus is. We would expect that when John sees this vision of Jesus’ glory that he had been transported to heaven. But Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands (Rev. 1:13). Jesus is in the midst of the churches. He is not somewhere else, far away, in His power and glory. He is here, in the midst of the congregation of people who bear His name.
Which means that His omnipotent power is in the midst of us. Yet so often Christians behave and talk as if Jesus has left us to build the church and govern the church. And when a church becomes weak or is dying we say, “What can we do when the society we live in no longer is interested in church, and nobody wants to come to the neighborhood we’re in, and we don’t offer the types of programs that attract new people to the church?” The creator of the world stands in the midst of the churches with omnipotent power, and we say, “Yeah, that’s nice, but without a better zip code, how can we make it?”
We have forgotten what our Lord has. He says, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for eternity of eternities, and I have the keys of Death and hell. (Rev. 1:18) He has all of history under His control—He is the first and last. He was there before we existed and He knows how all things will end—for you individually, for this church, for the whole world. For him it is not a question waiting to be answered; it is done, and He knows the ending. He has everlasting life, into endless eternities. Death and destruction have no power over Him. And He also holds the keys to death and hell. He has the power to unlock its prisoners, and the power to keep them bound.
To receive Christ means first of all to receive the Lord of all the earth. But our flesh cannot bear to face Him in His glory. When we see Him, we see the God we have rejected and despised since our childhood. Every time we inwardly groaned at the thought of listening to a sermon or going to Sunday School we were despising Him. Every time we declined to serve in the church or put less than our best into serving the church, we turned our back on the one who spoke to John. Whenever we have neglected to learn and continue to grow in His Word we pushed the Lord of the Church into the background, tried to steal His church and remake it according to human wisdom, as though it was ours.
The first part of receiving Christ is receiving Him as our judge. And to do that is to die, like John fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev. 1: 17)
Only then do we receive Christ as our Savior. Because He comes to those who are dead and lays His right hand on them, the hand of His power, and says, “Do not be afraid.” That’s what He says to all of us this morning who realize that we have not borne the fruit of those whose faith in Him is growing and increasing. The voice like the roar of many waters tells you not to fear Him; and His right hand of power raises you up to live not by your own strength, but His.
He is the first and the last. Long before you were created He knew you and He knew this church. And He is the One who will bring about the end of your story. The end of our story is in front of His eyes of flame as though it has already happened. Yet He says, Do not be afraid.
It is not the ending we fear or that we deserve; our ending is tied to the end of His story. I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive for eternity of eternities, and I have the keys of Death and hell. He is the living One. He is the life, and endless life was in Him before the world began. Yet the living One died. He entered our flesh, our nature. He suffered the curse that had come upon us. The living one died, bearing the penalty of sin; He was forsaken by God. The mighty judge was judged as having committed Adam’s sin and all its offspring—all the sins that flowered in His children. Yet behold, He lives for endless eternities; He was stronger than sin and death. He passed through them like a spider’s web. And the end that He sees for you, terrified sinner is life to eternity of eternities in Him.
And He doesn’t have life merely for Himself. When He died He took the keys to Death and hell. And now the Lord who is in the midst of the lampstands is here to use those keys. He does what no human power could dream of doing. He unlocks the door of Death and hell and lets its prisoners out.
That is what is happening when He sends His messenger, His angel, to say, “I forgive you all your sins in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ.” Death and hell is opened, no matter how many times you seem to have gone back to your cell.
It’s what happens when the word of Christ is proclaimed. It’s not merely that a man is talking. The key of death and hell in the Lord Christ’s hand is inserted into the lock of your cell, and the lock clicks open, that you may enter into endless life and freedom—that you may enter into Jesus by faith.
Only when this happens do the other six things—divine service, scripture, prayer, giving, serving, witnessing—become possible. Until then they are just ways that we are trying to escape from the prison of death and hell. But for one set free they are the new life of freedom, an endless life.
Write therefore Jesus tells John. Because I have raised you by my power and freed you from death and hell, bear witness to me. Not to by your own power, to build your own church, bearing witness to me, the Lord of the Church. I build it. I wish to speak to the Church and to the world that I purchased with my blood. Your calling is merely to testify to me with your words and your life.
Soli Deo Gloria
Advent 4 Midweek (Vespers)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 21, 2016
The Regime of the King of Peace—adapted from Stoeckhardt’s Adventspredigten, “Siebzehnte Predigt”
Jesus is a King. That is what His name means: “Christ”—anointed one. King.
But where is Jesus’ kingdom? Do you know? Even those who can tell you the right answer are often embarrassed to say it, because it seems so impossible.
Yet there is nothing greater that a person could desire than the Kingdom of Jesus. Isaiah just pictured Jesus’ kingdom for us in the reading—as Paradise. And that is what it is to be part of Jesus’ Kingdom—Paradise. To be in Jesus’ Kingdom is to be in God’s gracious presence; and it is to have—peace.
But the problem with Jesus’ kingdom is that we can’t see it. He said this a long time ago to some fools who thought it was impossible that the Kingdom of God could come without them seeing it a long way off. The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you—or perhaps within you (Luke 17:20-21).
The Kingdom of God can only be seen through the Word of God. Otherwise we will see it and despise it. Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus about this Kingdom and its King. He describes Jesus as the King of Peace and Jesus’ Kingdom as a Reign of Peace.
Unless a person has eyes to see, he will laugh at Jesus’ Kingdom.. Isaiah foretold that this is how it would be. Jesus’ Kingdom looks like nothing in our eyes because its king looks like nothing in our eyes.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Jesse was King David’s father. David became the King of Israel, and God promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne and reign forever. Yet Isaiah says that David’s house would be torn down and left desolate, like a stump in the ground.
Imagine a big, five-hundred year old oak tree. It’s beautiful. Its branches spread far and wide; it give shade in the summertime. Someone ties a rope to a branch with a tire on the other end. Kids swing on it and laugh. When they get thirsty they run to the porch and their mom gives them a Dixie cup of Kool-Ade.
Then one dark day the family gets evicted and someone comes with a chainsaw and cuts that big tree down. What is left? Only a stump. Now when you go out to see that big old tree that you loved all that’s left is the stump. If it ever grows back, it won’t be in your lifetime. That tree is gone, along with the tire swing, the Kool-Ade, and the happy memories.
That is what happened to David’s house. The house of David was a big beautiful tree that had been cut down. And the Son of David that brings peace never came.
But Isaiah says: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. A little branch came up from the stump of David’s house. If you came out to see the tree that had been there before, you wouldn’t even look at it. You’d say, “If only we could have the old oak tree whose shade we played in as children.” You wouldn’t even see the twig sprouting from its roots.
That little twig was Jesus. His mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were from the house of David. They weren’t kings and queens anymore. The glory of David’s house was a thing in the history books; nobody remembered. Nobody cared.
When they went to Bethlehem to be taxed by a foreign king there wasn’t even a place for them to stay. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn or maybe a cave where they kept animals. Jesus was just a little twig growing from the stump of a once great tree.
But Isaiah prophesied that this branch from Jesse’s roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Is. 11:1-2) Jesus would “bear fruit” because He had something that the great branches of David’s house that had been before Him did not have. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him. The same Spirit that hovered over the empty waters at creation, in which there was no life, the same Spirit who caused order to come out of the chaos and life to spring forth out of barren darkness—rested on this little branch.
Though He was small and unimpressive as humans see things, in this little shoot was all the glory and power of God. “In Him all the fullness of [God] dwells bodily”, St. Paul wrote in the epistle to the Colossians [2:9]. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through Him and in Him all things hold together…” [Col 1:15-17].
This twig is the living God in our flesh, the God of abundant life in the body of a newborn. And so this little branch that seemed like nothing bore fruit that the great tree of the house of David, with all its grandeur, had not been able to bear.
The fruit Jesus bore was a life of complete obedience to God, of utter purity, a life that earned God’s seal of approval, His honor. And this priceless gem, never before seen by the world—a human life lived in unity with God—Jesus gave away. He offered up this precious life on behalf of those who had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. He offered it in exchange for the lives of all who had rebelled against God, of whatever stripe… He laid that life aside as though it were not His, and took up the guilty verdict that belonged to all of His brothers, and was condemned for our unfaithfulness. He endured the agony of body and the anguish of soul that was the just reward for the lives we have lived. In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether in earth or heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:19-20)
That is how Jesus is the king of Peace. He made peace for us with God. It is a perfect peace that cannot be added to or undone by you or me. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah prophesied in a later chapter [Is. 53:5].
If you’ve lived long enough, I am sure that there has been a time when you longed for peace—when your heart was full of anger or anguish or fear. Many of us have repeatedly cried out to God for peace. And some of you have probably had the experience of longing to feel that you were at peace with God.
That longing need no longer gnaw at you. This King, this little shoot from the stump of Jesse, has made peace with God for all people.
Your sentence has been served in full by this strange king of peace, when He was forsaken by God for your sins, and when He shouted in victory “It is finished.” [John 19:30] God is reconciled to you by this King, and desires you to no longer hide from Him, flinch at His presence—but be reconciled and enter back into Paradise through the gift of His Son.
That is how Jesus won His Kingdom of Peace. After He conquered in the battle with Satan, He ascended to His Father’s throne and began to reign.
But of course we don’t see Jesus reigning. What we see is those who refuse to accept Him as King behaving as though the world was theirs. How is Jesus reigning?
Isaiah says: He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked. [Is. 11:3-4]
In paintings a king often holds a scepter or a staff in his hand. It symbolizes the power by which a king maintains justice, defending the innocent and punishing those who oppress the weak.
Jesus does not hold a staff in His hand. His scepter comes from His mouth. The rod of His mouth by which He reigns in justice is His Word.
That sounds like a joke to the world and even to our own flesh. We know very well that evil is not restrained with words—it takes guns, tanks, missiles, armies.
But the rod of [Jesus’] mouth and the breath of His lips are not like everyone else’s words. With the rod of His mouth He laid the foundations of the earth; by the breath of His lips He stretched out the heavens. By the breath of His mouth He breathed into Adam’s nostrils and the man of dust became a living being. He speaks and it comes to be. His Words spoken in time are reality now and forever. Whether people listen or refuse to hear, the judgment Jesus pronounces through the Scriptures, through His preachers, will endure until it becomes visible on judgment day. The one who rejects me and does not receive My Words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day, he said in the gospel of John [12:48].
Jesus reigns. When He condemns the evil one, the demons, false teachers, unbelievers, it is not just an opinion. He slays the wicked with the breath of His mouth; the reality of His judgment will appear on the last day, In the same way, He gives justice to the poor by the rod of His mouth. Poor sinners who come desire relief from the oppression of sin and the devil receive a favorable decision from the King of Peace. He finds in their favor. He declares them innocent of all Satan’s accusation, free from condemnation and sin. From heaven Jesus extends the scepter of His Word and justifies us, the ungodly. When you hear this happening, you can be sure that you are in the presence of the King of Peace as He reigns. And when you believe His judgment, you know that you are in His Kingdom. And though His Word seems insubstantial to our eyes, be sure that it is more powerful and more real than the barrel of a gun, than an open grave. This Word is the power of the living God. What it declares, happens. When it justifies you and says you have peace, rejoice! It is more sure than the ground beneath your feet.
Soli Deo Gloria
(Tilemann Heshusius, Sermon for Christmas, Postilla)
Der Allmechtige und Gutige Gott/ hat nicht allein der gantzen Welt seinen Son geschencket/ und verehret zu dem reichen Trost/ wie wir jetzt gehoeret haben/ sondern auch geleret/ wie wir seiner moegen geniessen/ Und alle der Gueter theilhafftig werden. Er begeret zwar nicht von uns grosse Schetze oder Bezahlung/ das wir im solche Gueter abkeuffen muesten/ Oder das wir uns zubesorgen hetten/ Unsere Armuth were zu gros/ Wir koendten zu solcher Herrligkeit nicht kommen/ Er fordert auch nicht von uns schwere harte Dienste/ damit wirs muesten verdienen/ Sondern alles wil Er aus gnaden schencken. Eines fordert er nur/ das wir solche thewre Gaben mit Glauben annehmen/ An dem Newgebornen Kindlein alle unsern Trost und frewde haben/ unnd durch in von Suend und Todt uns helffen lassen/ Gott spricht selber/ Jesa. 55/ Wolan/ alle die ir duerstig seid/ kompt her zum Wasser/ Un die ir nicht Gelt habt kompt her keuffet/ und Esset/ Kompt her/ Keuffet one Geld und sunst/ Wein und Milch. Das ist One alle Vergeltung wil uns Gott solche thewre Gaben widerfaren lassen/ Das wir durch seinen Son den Himmel und die Seligkeit erlangen moegen.
How we Should Make Ourselves Participants in the Saving and Joyful Birth of Jesus Christ.
Tilemann Heshusius, Sermon for Christmas, Postilla
The Almighty and Kind God has not only given the whole world His Son, and set Him forward to give rich comfort, as we have now heard. But instead He also teaches how we might enjoy what is His and become participants in all His good things. He does not at all require of us great treasures or payment, that we must buy such great good things from Him, or provide ourselves with them. Our poverty is too great. We could never come to such glory. He also does not demand hard service of us with which we must merit these good things, but instead He wants to give them all out of grace. He only requires that we receive such precious gifts with faith, that we have all our comfort and joy in this newborn child, and let Him help us from sin and death. God Himself says in Isaiah 55, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come here to the waters; and he who has no money, come here, buy and eat. Come here, buy wine and milk without money and without price. That is, God wants to let these gifts come to us without any payment, that we might receive through His Son heaven and blessedness.
“And then we become open, like our Jesus was, to the big nasty world full of evil people who want to kill us. But unlike the disciples before this, we are not terrified, because the Lord who says “Peace to you” each Sunday also says, “I am sending you. Fear not, I have overcome the world.”
When Thomas touched Jesus’ wounds, He came to see what He did not grasp before. “My Lord and My God!” The side of His Lord and God was pierced for Thomas. Blood and water flowed from God’s heart. Then He came and allowed him to thrust his unbelieving hand into His holy risen body.
God loves you and is for you. Is anything too hard for the Lord? He has saved you. Is it possible for you to undo His Work? Take the wounds off of His hands and feet?
If God is for you, who can be against you? Who can condemn you if Jesus justifies you?
Peace be with you. Amen.”
Prominent American Muslim, Umar Lee, leaves Islam: “We were lied to”
from Jihad Watch:
Umar Lee, a convert to Islam from St. Louis, was once enough of an Islamic supremacist to write to a rival: “i could cut your neck with the sword of islam and watch you squeal like a bitch like daniel pearl.” In an email exchange with me, he endorsed the death penalty for apostasy.
But now he has left Islam and returned to Christianity. Watch the video; in it he makes many, many important points about how converts to Islam are lied to, and how Islam establishes an empire of fear.
Note especially this, starting at 4:04:
“We can talk about the grievance industry, CAIR, etc., trying to hype up the threat of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is very minor. You want to talk about religious bias? You convert to Christianity in Saudi Arabia, you’re murdered. You convert from Islam in so many Muslim countries, it’s the death penalty. Why are Muslim societies so afraid of missionaries? Why are Muslim societies so afraid of freedom of speech? Why are Muslim societies so afraid of the Gospel? Why are Muslim societies so afraid of the message of Jesus Christ? If you believe Islam is the truth, why don’t you believe Islam can compete in the marketplace of ideas? Obviously you don’t, or you wouldn’t kill people that convert to Christianity and put missionaries in jail.”….
- Saudi Arabia to punish men for converting woman to Christianity, reports newspaper (irishtimes.com)
- Saudi torture men “converting’ woman to Christianity (ivarfjeld.com)
Look, how he glows for heat!
What flames come from his eyes!
‘Tis blood that he does sweat,
Blood his bright forehead dyes:
See, see! It trickles down:
Look, how it showers amain!
Through every pore
His blood runs o’er,
And empty leaves each vein.
His very heart
Burns in each part;
A fire his breast doth sear:
For all this flame,
To cool the same
He only breathes a sigh, and weeps a tear.