Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Exaudi 2018 The Mother of Christians and Her Testimony

jesus ascension cavedone.PNGExaudi, the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 15:26-16:4

May 13, 2018

The Mother of Christians and Her Testimony


Iesu Iuva

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!


Proverbs chapter 30: There are three things that are too wonderful for me, four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin.  (18-19)


I’m not sure I understand the meaning of this proverb.  But I can think of another thing that is “too wonderful for me” and that I “do not understand”—the way of a mother with her child.


When the girl carries the little human being inside of her for months, and no one can see it, but she can feel her son or daughter moving inside of her.  She nurtures and cares for her child before anyone else has seen it.  For her the baby that has not seen the world yet is the center of her world.  Nobody else in the world will ever see that child the way she does.  This is too wonderful for me.


And then in pain and danger she labors to bring the baby into the world.  And then for months her baby is no longer within her, but almost as close.  She carries him or her on her own body,  feeds the baby from her own body.  This is too wonderful for me too.


But what amazes me even more is the love mothers have for their children not only when they are little but when they are grown.  Mother’s love is so tender toward their children, usually, but so fierce toward other people who appear to be a threat to their children.  Mothers are often blind to the faults of their children because their love is so intense.


Most of the time, love doesn’t come naturally to human beings.  Most people have to work at loving and showing love.  You seldom hear mothers say they are working on loving their children more.  For the most part God gives this love to mothers for their children.


So as we take today to honor our mothers and to show them our love, let us also consider our spiritual mother and the words of our Lord about her today.


We have a spiritual mother, and she loves us and cares for us like a mother loves her child.  She give us birth and nurses us like a mother does her child.


Learn, then, to understand this article [of the Creed] most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a [unique gathering of people] in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.

The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, according to Martin Luther in the Large Catechism, is “the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God.”  The Holy Spirit works through the Holy Christian Church to give birth to Christians and then nurture them in faith, by which they are holy, set apart for God.


Human beings do not build up the Church the way a businessman builds a clientele, the way a politician builds a political party, the way a general conquers a city.  The Holy Christian Church is the mother that bears and gives birth to Christians, to sons of God.  The Holy Church of Christ doesn’t win friends and influence sinners to like her and join her cause.  She doesn’t “sell” herself to sinners like a prostitute.  She doesn’t convince sinners to like her.  What happens to girls that are desperate to have people like them?


The Holy Christian Church gives birth to new people.  She gives people “birth from above”, rebirth, new birth, as Jesus talks about in John chapter 3: No one can see the Kingdom of God unless He is born again or born from above.


She is involved in a work that no human being has the power to do.  Human beings can build followings.  Gifted leaders can do this and so can gifted salesman and talented liars.  No human being is able to make someone go from being dead in their sins to being alive to God.


Only God can do this.  And if He does not do it, a person remains in his sins, and an enemy of God, and perishes forever.  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).


Jesus has been saying for the last few weeks that He was going to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples.  Forty days after His resurrection, His disciples saw Him ascend into heaven; we celebrated this on Thursday.  Before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until He had sent the promised Holy Spirit to them.  This Sunday, if we lived around the year of our Lord 31 and were with the disciples, we would be in a house in Jerusalem, praying and waiting for Jesus to pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit on us.


Jesus tells them (and us) in the Gospel today what the Holy Spirit will do when He comes—how He will give people new birth so that they become new creatures and sons of God.  The Holy Spirit will testify of Me or bear witness concerning Me. (John 15:26).  Then He says, “But you also will bear witness or testify, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27). 


How does the Holy Spirit give people new birth, so that they enter the Kingdom of God and are saved from their sins and everlasting damnation?  He bears witness of Jesus.  He testifies to Jesus.  He tells who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.


If a pastor preaches principles from the Bible that will give you a happy life, that is not the proper work of the Holy Spirit.  It will not make you a new creature.  If he is preaching the actual law of God, it will indeed show you what is righteous and pleasing to God, but it will not give you life.  It will bring death and condemnation, because what God commands, you cannot perform.  The Law of God (but not human principles) must be preached, but that preaching is not the special work of the Holy Spirit to give you new birth, and to nurture you as a mother does her child.


The work of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness to Jesus.  He tells us what Jesus said and did; He tells us how Jesus suffered and died, descended into hell, and rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God.  And He testifies to the good news of God, that what Jesus did was for sinners and their salvation.  He testifies that Jesus has reconciled you to the Father, if you are a sinner who cannot make yourself righteous, that through Him alone you are forgiven and counted righteous.  That is how the Holy Spirit causes people to be born again as new creatures who love God, hold to His word, who are holy and growing in the image of Christ’s holiness.


But the Holy Spirit does not do this testifying alone.  He does it through the mother of Christians, the Church.  He testified with or through the disciples, who received the Holy Spirit.  Then after the apostles died, through the believers who followed them.


Now it should be clear to you how much harder this is than building the membership of an organization we call “church.”  It is much harder to give birth to a human being than to get one to join something.  But this is even harder.  To be a member of the Holy Christian Church, you have to be born again of God by the Holy Spirit, and we can’t make this happen for anyone.  We can’t make a person be sorry for their sins and want to be free of them, fear eternal judgment; we can’t make a person who has been brought to that state of contrition believe that their sins are forgiven without their works, solely through Jesus Christ.


But we aren’t called to do that.  The Church simply bears witness to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit is called in Greek “the paraclete”, which is translated “Helper,” and sometimes “Comforter.”  But the word implies “someone who speaks for you”.  An “advocate.”  It is hard to testify about Jesus—not because it is complicated, but because it encounters opposition.


Our flesh doesn’t want to talk about Jesus.  It wants to talk about ourselves and what we think.


But even more, the devil and the world do not want testimony to be given about Jesus.  Jesus warns the apostles: You will be put out of the synagogues.  Even worse, the time is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering God priestly, holy service.  They will do these things because they do not know the Father or Me.


To testify to Jesus and His free salvation is also testifying about human sin and helplessness in it.  We are telling the world, “There is nothing you can do to get right with God.  Everything you are by nature is sinful and unclean.  Only through faith in Jesus and His work are you saved.”  The world says, “Who are you to judge me?  Look at all your sins.”  And that is on a good day.  What the devil really wants is to kill us, if he can’t turn us away from Jesus.  Humanly speaking, it makes total sense that we want to find another way to “build our church” besides testifying to Jesus.  The stakes of testifying to Jesus are much higher than we want to believe.  Be sure—it comes with the price of death.  If the world doesn’t kill you outright, you will still have to die daily to remain in Christ and faithfully bear witness to Him.


Yet it is sinful for us to be afraid and to try to run away from this.  Jesus has not left us alone.  He sends us the Helper, the Advocate.  The third person of the Trinity lives in us, testifies to Jesus in us and through us.  That is why there is nothing better in the world than to have the Holy Christian Church as your mother.  In this Church that testifies to Jesus and holds to Him and His Word alone, the Spirit gives us new life, comforts and consoles us by pointing us to Jesus, who has made peace with God once and for all for us.


Our mother the church no doubt looks ugly and old fashioned to the world.  But in her the Lord and giver of life, the Holy Spirit, is present with power to do what no power in the world can do—to give us new birth by testifying to Jesus who was crucified for you and did away your sins.


Now He comes and bears witness that you are members of Christ’s body, begotten of God, by nourishing You with the body and blood He gave for you that you may have life.


Come, Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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


Soli Deo Gloria



The Regime of the King of Peace–Advent 4 Midweek Vespers 2016

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

jesse-tree-ingeborg-psalterAdvent 4 Midweek (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 11:1-10

December 21, 2016

The Regime of the King of Peace—adapted from Stoeckhardt’s Adventspredigten, “Siebzehnte Predigt”



Iesu Iuva


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

A Mighty One Whom You Do Not Know–Advent 4 2016

December 18, 2016 Leave a comment

john-baptist2b.jpgFourth Sunday in Advent—Rorate Coeli

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 1:19-28

December 18, 2016

“The Mighty One Comes to You”

Iesu Iuva


O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times didst give the Law

In cloud and majesty and awe.


God is omniscient, all-knowing.  He is wise and knows the right way. God is omnipotent.  He has all power.  He is mighty.  He not only knows what needs to be done but is able to do it.  But we are not mighty.  How often have you sat down and said to yourself, “I can’t do this anymore,” found your strength insufficient for the difficulties you had to face in your life?  How often have you become tired, exhausted by life?


If we get exhausted and confused when it comes to the things of this life, how much less is our knowledge and strength sufficient for the things of God!  We know God’s commandments, but often we don’t know how to apply them.  And even when we do know, we don’t fulfill them.  Not well enough to be able to rest easy at night and know that we have done God’s will without leaving anything out.


But from the beginning of the Bible God has made a promise to weak and foolish human beings—that His wisdom and power would come to save us.  A son would be born to a woman who would be wise and powerful, and His great wisdom and power would be our salvation.  So God’s people before Christ’s coming and those after did not despair over their weakness, nor pretend that it didn’t exist.  They prayed and cried out, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!  Come, mighty One, and save us!”



Out in the desert by the Jordan River, John the Baptist is preaching and immersing people in the dark water.  Some men have come from Jerusalem to talk with him—priests and Levites, appointed by God to serve in His worship in the temple.  They ask John, “Who are you?  Which of the people that God told us would come are you that you are doing this new thing, washing the people of God, saying they are unclean and must repent?  Are you Elijah?  Are you the prophet that Moses said would come after him?”


John replies, “I am none of those.”

So the priests and Levites say, “Who are you then?”  “I am the voice of one crying, ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord’, the one Isaiah talked about.  I am not somebody that you expect; I am just a nameless voice that says “the Lord is coming.”


“If you aren’t anyone important, why are you doing this new thing that no one has ever heard of—baptism?  Why are you washing God’s people, who are circumcised and marked with the seal of his covenant, telling us that we are unclean, even though we do not worship idols, even though we avoid unclean meat, even though we have God’s Law?”


John answers, “My baptism is only with water.  It can’t make you clean to stand before God.  It is only a picture.  But there is one standing in the midst of you that you don’t know.  You are looking for someone great and powerful.  This one you don’t know is so mighty, so glorious, that I am not fit even to untie His shoe, much less take them off and wash His feet.  I have come as a messenger so that when He begins to preach and reveal himself you will not miss Him.  Even though you have God’s Law and His promise, you are unclean, just like the Gentiles who worship idols.  But the One who is standing among you is powerful enough to make you clean before God.”


A great and mighty One is coming to you to make you clean.



It seems like the story from John’s gospel doesn’t have much to do with us today.  The Messiah has come already.  We all believe this in the Church.  We look for Him to come again on the Last Day to save us.


But John’s preaching to the Jews is also a word for us.  Among you stands one you do not know, he said.


Jesus is among us as He was among the Jews.  St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13: You seek proof that Christ is speaking in me.  He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you…do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?  (v. 3, 5)  Even though Jesus had already come and ascended into heaven, He was in the midst of the church in Ephesus.  He still is among the gathered people of the Church.  He is present in the church through the ministers of the Word when they preach His Word—present not in weakness, but in power.  He is present in His Word when it is joined to water and to bread and wine—in the Sacraments.  He is also present in those who believe the Word.


Among you stands one you do not know.  Christians, of course, do know Jesus.  Jesus is not unknown to you.  And yet we don’t fully know Him.  And what we do know, we often forget.  The One who is among us in the preaching of His Word, in Baptism, in His Body and Blood, is so great that John the Baptist was not worthy to untie his shoe or unbuckle his sandal.  He is great with a greatness that goes far beyond anything human beings recognize as great.  He doesn’t have the honor of a great family name; He isn’t a powerful, effective leader; a moving speaker; a great organizer.


He is the eternal Son of the Father.  The mighty One, God the Lord, whose word creates the earth, creates us. The all-knowing One, who by wisdom formed the heavens and laid the foundations of the world.  That is who is in our midst.


But often we forget about Him.  So easily He becomes a stranger to us.  We don’t see His power and wisdom.  We look at a preacher on television who fills a basketball stadium and say, “Surely that is a work of God.”


But this mighty One who is in our midst accomplishes a much greater work.  I baptize with water, St. John said, I baptize only with water.  You have God’s holy Law.  You know His name.  You have His covenant and promise that He has chosen you out of all the nations on the earth to be His own people.  But despite this you are still as unclean as all the nations that worship idols.  You fall short of the glory that God has promised you.


The One who is in our midst, Jesus, accomplishes something far greater than John, who was the greatest of all men who lived on earth and who had great crowds coming to hear him.  The best John could do was preach repentance, show people that they were unclean, unable to be God’s people, unable to make themselves clean.


Jesus, however, who is in our midst, makes us clean, makes us holy, makes us God’s people and able to receive His glory.


He brought that about by shouldering our debt of sin and uncleanness.  By His agony and suffering, He brought our uncleanness to an end.  He blotted it out from before God’s sight by suffering God’s judgment against us.  And now even though we feel and see this uncleanness, it has been brought to nothing.  It does not stand against us.  Nor does it rule us or define our lives.


God’s testimony that this is how it is is given to us in Jesus’ Baptism.  The Baptism you have received is not merely water, an outward sign of something that still needs to be accomplished.  Your Baptism is water joined with God’s Word, a life-giving water, a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit, in which you were joined with Jesus’ death to sin and His resurrection to live before God.


Jesus, the mighty and wise, the eternal God comes and visits us.  He comes to open our eyes to see Him in our midst when they so easily become closed to Him.  And He is coming soon to finish what He began when, however many years ago, you were baptized, born again, and cleansed to be a Son of God.  When He comes He will come not only to cover your uncleanness, as He has already done; He comes to cleanse and resurrect your body in the image of His glorious body.


A great and mighty one, Jesus, is coming to make you clean.


We know this.  We know Him, and yet we don’t know Him.  Our hearts are always closing up again so that we cannot see Him.  We forget Him and go back to the old life of the flesh, the life that ends in death.  And when the wages of that life come to us, when we are laid low and suffering, we make things worse by looking for another Savior.  We think, “If Jesus and His Baptism was enough, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”


So we look for something else to save our families, something else to deliver us from the destruction that falls on our churches, something else to save us from our wayward hearts that constantly lead us into sin.


The great and mighty one, Jesus, comes to make you clean.


But there is no one else to deliver and save us.  Jesus comes to us.  He will come soon and make us completely clean.  But He comes to us week in, week out, Sunday in, Sunday out.  And why does He come?  He comes to put on us the white robe He gave us long ago in Baptism, and to open our eyes to see Him.


He is mighty, far stronger, far greater than your sin and uncleanness.  He is wise.  He knows what you need, what this Church needs.  As foolish as we are, we are not more foolish than Jesus is wise.  He is from of old.  His eyes saw this day from eternity and planned how He would guide us through this valley of sorrows.


He comes again.  He puts on you the garments of salvation, the robe of purity and righteousness without any spot that He prepared for you in His death on the cross.  He leads you down the aisle to kneel and eat and drink the food of the wedding feast, the food that gives immortality and righteousness.


And though you cannot know Him perfectly in this life, know and trust this:  He is powerful.  He will not allow anything to harm you.  He is wise; He is leading you and He knows where He is going and how best to lead you.  John and all faithful preachers are no one—they are just a voice crying in the barren desert of this world, but the one who comes to you to help you is great, and comes to share His glory with you.


O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high

And cheer us by thy drawing nigh.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to Thee O Israel.









Advent 4–Rorate Caeli–2015

Rorate Caeli—4th Sunday of Advent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 1:19-28

December 20, 2015

Iesu iuva


It’s a few days from Christmas, but instead of “Joy to the World” we have John the Baptist in the desert by the Jordan River. He is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” He preaches that we must be prepared for the coming of our God even though in our secular celebration of Christmas everyone is trying to relax and enjoy the holidays. John preaches that we should be awake, not asleep.


The priests and the Levites who have come out from Jerusalem to talk to John are offended by this. What does John think the priests have been doing? They’ve been conducting the worship of God at the temple. They’ve been trying to teach the people the law of God. They’ve been trying to make things straight among the people of God.


But John acts as if all that is nothing. If people want to be straight for the coming of the Lord they must come confessing themselves to be sinners and receive John’s baptism. “Among you stands one you do not know,” he says, “even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”


But why are we listening to John? After all, we do know the One he was proclaiming. We know who Jesus is and why John wasn’t worthy to unite His sandal. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, the 2nd person of the Trinity—God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. He was begotten of the Father from eternity but born of the Virgin Mary; the true God has become man, so that He might deliver us from death. We know Jesus and confess Jesus, and we have been baptized in His name. So why is John still crying out to us, “Make straight the way of the Lord?”   Why is he telling us to prepare when we already know what is coming on Christmas?


–First of all, not everyone does know Jesus.

Some think of Him as a prophet or a teacher


Others believe He is God, but that He has come as our example or lawgiver


He is so great and mighty that John is unworthy to touch His feet.


He has come not merely to teach the way of righteousness, but to bear sin, to restore, to bring human nature into union with God.


–Secondly, even when we do know Jesus by faith we are still always coming to know Him.


Ephesians 3:18-19 Paul prays that the Ephesians would “have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”


Philippians 3: Paul says he knows Christ—“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” But he goes on to say: “[I want to] know Him and the power of His resurrection, and…share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”


Through repentance and faith we come to know Jesus again and again and more intimately. We participate in His sufferings, His death, and His resurrection. We experience life in Him, not merely knowing about Him intellectually, but participating in His sufferings and His resurrection.


–Third in Baptism Christ gives us a new life in Him, not merely knowledge.


A life lived in the assurance of the forgiveness of sins.


A life in which we are united to the glorious One whose sandals John was not worthy to touch.


Together with Him we are not merely servants, but sons and heirs of God.



As Christmas approaches let us heed John’s call:


Turn away from our self-willed lives, our life of sin apart from Christ


Look in faith to the coming one whose righteousness unites human beings to God.




Soli Deo Gloria

The Willing Obedience of Christ and His Christians. Advent Midweek 1, 2015

December 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Advent Midweek 1

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Psalm 40

December 2, 2015

“The Willing Obedience of Christ and His Christians”

(adapted from G. Stoeckhardt’s Adventpredigten, 10th Sermon)

Iesu Iuva

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!


Then I said, behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.


These words are at the center of this Psalm. But who is talking here? Is it David? No, the patriarchs did not write about David in the scroll of the book; they didn’t wait and hope for David. David isn’t the Messiah of Israel. These are the words of the Son of David, who speaks through David’s mouth. He is the One the Scriptures promise. The epistle to the Hebrews explicitly puts these words of the Psalmist in the mouth of Jesus Christ. In the tenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, which we just heard, it says: “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burn offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” (10:5-7) These words refer to the arrival of Jesus Christ in the world, His advent. But the whole Psalm deals with Christ.


It’s hard to grasp that, because so much of the psalm sounds very human, as if a sinful human being is crying and begging God for help. He says in verse 18: I am poor and needy. But the Son of God, who came into the world, has become true man and has made all the poverty and needs and distresses of us poor children of Adam to be His poverty and need, His distress. We cannot draw Christ down deeply enough into the flesh; He fully shares in all that is ours, all our woes and suffering.


Even more, it sounds like in this psalm a sinner and transgressor is talking to God. “My iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head.” V. 13 How could those words be in Jesus’ mouth when He had no iniquity? Because Jesus has truly taken on Himself humanity’s sins; He has reckoned them to Himself, as if they were all His.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O My God; your law is within my heart.” (v. 7-8) These words are the heart of this psalm. Christ, David’s Son, is showing in these words His willingness to carry out the will of God, God’s mission and desire, in the world. This willing obedience of Jesus is what gives Jesus’ office and work its great value.


But the Psalmist also speaks of the congregation of God in this psalm, those who “see and fear and put their trust in the Lord,” those who “love His salvation and say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” Jesus the King stands these people who receive Him and serve Him next to Himself. And He is the one who rouses His people to willing service and obedience.


So we now consider


The willing service and obedience of Christ and His Christians.

This was Christ’s will, desire, and joy—to do the will of God and to serve us men.

He gives Christians willingness and joyfulness to serve and obey Him.



“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (v.8-9) Those are the words the Son of David spoke when He came into the world. He was in the beginning with God; He came into this world from heaven, from God, eagerly desiring to do the will of the Father.


And He says, “In the scroll of the book it is written of me.” The holy men of God, moved by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning wrote of Jesus and spoke of Him; they told of His coming in the Scriptures and prepared God’s people for His coming.


And Jesus longed for His humiliation. He longed to come and serve mankind, to redeem us. He said, “I delight to do your will, O my God.” It was the Father’s will that He should save the world, that He should take on Himself all our misery and wretchedness. But it was also the Son’s own will. He delighted to be born, to empty Himself, to bear our sins. He said: “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly/ I’ll do what you command Me./ My will conforms to Your decree. / I’ll do what You have asked me.” Or as another hymn says: “He comes, He comes, all-willing, moved by His love alone, all fear and anguish stilling, for all to Him are known.”


I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart…In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given Me an open ear.” Jesus had an open ear that listened to God’s Word and accepted His will. He carried the Word and Law of God in His heart. He was obedient to God in everything and by His obedience He served us, making His obedience stand in for our disobedience. None of us have fulfilled God’s commandments. In fact, nothing is more disagreeable to human beings as they are by nature than to have to obey God’s commandments and Law. By nature we want to bring sacrifices and make up all kinds of other works for ourselves to please God. But none of this earns God’s approval. But now, behold, Christ has come, and He has gladly fulfilled from His heart the Law of God. He has satisfied the law for us by His obedience to it.


“Behold, I have come…I delight to do your will, O my God.” Jesus said this, that He delighted in God’s will, even when He was sunk into the depths of suffering. He remained obedient to the will of God even to death and the cross of shame. He was plunged into “the pit of destruction…the miry bog”—into shame, humiliation, and agony, the likes of which no human being has ever experienced. He cried out: “Evils have encompassed me beyond number” (v. 12). He was surrounded by a cruel army of torturers and mockers, who spit on Him, flogged Him with whips, tortured Him. Enemies sought “to snatch away his life.” (v. 15) Enemies rejoiced as He writhed in the agonies of death. They gleefully called out, “Aha, aha! Let God help Him now!” But the most painful suffering was that He felt the sting of sin. He called out to God, “My iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see, they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.” Did you hear that? “My iniquities.” He calls the sins of the entire world—yours and mine—“My iniquities”. In His own person He was without sin. He never broke God’s law, whether by word or even by a thought in His heart. But now His heart failed Him, as though it was sinking in quicksand. Why? Because He was suffering the agony of our souls before God. He calls your sins, “My sins.” But even there, as the sins of the world lay heavy on Him, and He drank from the most bitter cup of God’s wrath, He was obedient to the Father and said, “Not my will, but Your will, be done.” He said, “I will gladly suffer it;” “I delight to do Your will, O My God.” And what was the Father’s will? That He should not only fulfill the Law for us, but that He should bear the punishment belonging to us. Willingly, with great patience, even with joy, Jesus gave Himself to be the burnt offering and the sin offering for the whole world. He came in order to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. In the midst of pains and agonies of death and hell, He did not murmur against God’s will. Nothing else came forth from His lips except prayer and thanksgiving.


Because He learned and practiced obedience in what He suffered, because He was obedient unto death on a cross, because He so willingly gave His life into death, Jesus’ sacrifice was sweet and acceptable to God. So God redeemed His life from the pit. He drew Him out of the pit of destruction, set His feet on a rock, and put a new song in His mouth. He raised Him from the dead.


Through this we are reconciled to God. God is propitiated; He is satisfied and pleased with us through the willing obedience of Christ, through His obedience in suffering. By that will, says the letter to the Hebrews—by the will of God that Jesus fulfilled, we are sanctified, redeemed, delivered.   (Hebrews 10:10)


And what does Jesus do after He suffers and then is drawn up from the pit of destruction and set on a rock? The Psalmist sees Him sitting on the throne of His father David and ruling His kingdom. That is, He gives joy to His congregation with His Word. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us…I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and salvation…” (v. 9-10) What does Jesus do after His resurrection? He preaches, proclaims, and will not be silent. His desire and joy is to make known before the great congregation, the Church, the wonderful thoughts of God, the counsel that God has brought about through Him. Jesus preaches God’s righteousness in His suffering and death by which He justified us. He proclaims the salvation which we receive through Him. Through His Word and preaching Jesus testifies to Himself as the Lord and Savior of the world, to the salvation that He accomplished in His cross and resurrection. He proclaims that in His suffering God punished our sins and in His resurrection God raised us up and counted us not guilty. Through the preaching of His Word today Jesus still fulfills God’s will in giving us the righteousness that He accomplished on the cross. And through this He gathers a people of His own, who are willing and eager to serve and obey God.




Christians have the mind of Christ. We receive the Holy Spirit from Christ, who is a willing, joyful spirit. Christ the Son of David speaks in our psalm, “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (v.4) In the Word Christ holds before our eyes what God has done in and through Him. And many see it; they hear these new great things which the Lord proclaims to them. They are amazed and glorify God, and believe in the Lord who has redeemed them. And this very Word, this Gospel of God’s grace, love, and faithfulness, is the thing that changes the heart, that wins over the rebellious, that converts the sinner and causes him to improve his sinful life. When a sinner truly realizes what the Lord has done and suffered for him, how He willingly gave Himself up for us, this melts our hard hearts and we begin to love the Lord who loved us unto death. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. In this way Christ gathers through His Word a “great congregation,” a people for Himself, which is devoted to Him, which obeys His Word from the heart, which serves God with joy, which carries God’s law in the heart and is eager for all good works.


And Christians, who belong to Christ, remain in faithfulness and obedience to their King even in suffering. The psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!”(v. 4)


It is true that those who serve Christ the king have a difficult time in this world. The proud, the liars, those who mock and hate this gracious King, also go after the souls of Christians. If Christians ever stumble and falter in their obedience to God, the world cries out in malicious joy, “Aha! Aha!” And besides this there are evils without number to which only Christians are exposed. It is precisely those who are Christians who will often be seized and frightened by their sins. The evil one plunges them into the pit, into the miry bog of fear and temptation, telling them, “How can you be a Christian when you are such a sinner?”


But blessed is the man “who makes the Lord his trust” even in such times of affliction, who trusts in the Son of David who suffered for our sake and has overcome all fear and agony in His resurrection. Blessed are those who willingly endure all humiliations, submit their will to God’s will, and even under the hardest beatings say, “Great is the Lord” (v. 17). Blessed are those who cry and pray out of the depths with a childlike spirit: “I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me…Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!” “O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” Blessed are those who in this way suffer, sigh, call, and pray with Christ. In the end they will be able to glory with Him: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Those who suffer with Christ will be delivered with Christ and by Christ. Those who suffer with Christ will be raised from the dead in victory with Christ. Christ, their Savior and King, upholds our courage and faith during the anguish of our hearts. And in His time He will also raise us up and refresh us.


Those who are Christ’s own say, in joy and pain, throughout their lives, “Great is the Lord!” Christ Himself puts His new song in our mouths. Through His Gospel He fills our hearts with joy, delight, pleasure, and love. So we sing to the Son of David a joyful “Hosanna” throughout our whole life. And one day, when He comes again and redeems us from every evil, we will sing His praise in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.




Soli Deo Gloria


The Unknown Christ–4th Sunday in Advent 2014

December 21, 2014 Leave a comment

John_The_BaptistFourth Sunday in Advent—Rorate Coeli

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 1:19-28

December 21, 2014

“The Unknown Christ”

Iesu Iuva

“Among you stands one you do not know…” John 1:26


We preach an unknown to the world.


The world is ready to receive great men.  That’s why the Jews from Jerusalem made overtures to John the Baptist.  They saw in him the marks of a great man, perhaps a prophet.


But John was not coming to be a great man.  He was there to prepare the way for someone else.  He was there to prepare the way for the LORD.


The world understands human greatness, but it does not understand the Lord.  The Lord is above human greatness.  As Luther puts it in His Christmas hymn:

Worldly honor, wealth, and might,

                Are weak and worthless in His sight.  LSB 358, st. 12


The Lord is not coming to do anything the world thinks is great.  He comes to establish no empire, build no company, make no money, win no Super Bowl.


He is coming to destroy the kingdom of the devil.  But what is that to the world?  The world does not believe that it is under the power of the devil and cannot free itself.


The Lord cannot be known by fallen people.  It doesn’t matter whether they are spiritual or religious or not.  Unless we receive a new heart we cannot know Him or the work He comes to do.


That’s why John’s work was to preach “Make straight the way of the Lord.”


That means the pride of men’s hearts must first be extinguished.  We are eager to receive great men because we are arrogant and proud.  Proud and arrogant hearts cannot know the Lord, because He is meek and gentle.


“For thus says the Lord who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in a high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Is. 57:15)


The Lord does not dwell with hearts that are assured of themselves, of their own worth and goodness.  For the high and exalted Lord dwells with the lowly.


The Jews, though they were religious, didn’t know the Lord, because their hearts were lifted up.  We struggle against the same sin in the church today.  It pains us that Christianity doesn’t come with earthly benefits, or even with respectability anymore.  Instead we are forced to join with a small bedraggled band of believers who seem to be abandoned by God rather than chosen by Him.


This sin of pride, together with its cohorts—self-righteousness, despising of God, love of the world–are what make the Lord of the world and unknown.   They keep people from seeing the Lord and from valuing what He has come to do, that is, set us free from our sins.  The world despises the Lord’s work because it doesn’ t believe that it is in bondage to sin and the devil.  It doesn’t believe that no one can free it but the Lord.


The world thinks that it is already right with God, or that by making good choices it can make itself right with God.


And by nature this is what we believe too.  We insist on believing it, because if it is not true we cannot save ourselves.


This makes us, too, idolaters who don’t know the Lord.  We don’t recognize Him or His work.  We despise and reject Him in our proud flesh.  This is how every one of us is by nature, and we have no power to free ourselves.


We understand human greatness but do not regard the works of the Lord.



But to crushed sinners who fear when they hear John’s preaching, the mighty Lord is revealed.  He is no longer an unknown.


He makes Himself known in His might and His gentleness to save those crushed and burdened by their sins.


He reveals Himself as God in the flesh who has come to fulfill the demands of God’s law for us.  He comes with the power to love God with His whole heart and His neighbor as Himself, so that not a jot or a tittle of God’s law remains unfulfilled.  It’s not a false self-righteousness He accomplishes, that simply pretends to itself that it is good enough for God.  He accomplishes the righteousness that God accepts.  He accomplishes the whole burden of the law.  And this spotless, flawless righteousness He comes to bestow on us.


He comes with divine power in our human flesh to remove the curse of sin.  Sin blinds us so that we do not know the Lord.  It also divides us from God.  God does not have fellowship with sin and those who commit it.  Instead His anger remains on sinners.  But the Lord comes to do what the world doesn’t understand and doesn’t think it needs.  He comes to remove our sin and its curse so that we are not divided from God anymore.  He comes to bear sin and its curse for us.  He receives God’s wrath against all our sins.  He lets Himself be divided from God.  And now all who believe in Him are reconciled to God.  God no longer counts their sins to them, but regards them as having fulfilled His will.


The Lord comes in His might to reconcile us to God and at the same time takes away the devil’s reign over human beings.  Without Christ’s work the devil holds us in iron chains.  All he has to do is remind us of our sins and God’s wrath against them and we are enslaved to despair.  But Jesus put His heel on the ancient serpent’s head.  By suffering for our sins He took away the devil’s argument.  He broke the chains with which we were held.  And now He frees us by the preaching of His cross and the forgiveness of sins, causing our hearts to believe that we are set free from condemnation.  He teaches us to defy Satan and say, “Yes, I am a sinner, but Jesus has paid for sinners with His blood.”

And with might Jesus makes Himself known as death’s destroyer.  He is the Lord of life.  “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  When the Lord of life entered into our flesh and tasted death, He wrecked and ransacked death as He did the kingdom of Satan.  And now He gives us back death, and it is no longer death.  It is a rest, a sleep, a rest for the flesh in the earth, and a rest for the soul with the Lord, awaiting the resurrection.


The mighty One who is in our midst is unknown to the world, but not to sinners who mourn.  The one whose shoes John was not worthy to untie is the Lord who is mighty to save the sinful and lost.


But He comes in gentleness to those who are terrified by their sins.  He does not shake the earth and tear the heavens open and thunder in His glory.  He comes meek, among us as one of us, as a man also subject to weakness and pain and death.  The world despises His gentleness as weakness.  But to us who are terrified by our sins His gentleness is consolation.


See, He comes in every way like us, even though He is high, holy and mighty, so that He might console us and soothe our terrified hearts.


Do you grieve because you are a sinner?  He doesn’t come to shame you or destroy you because of your sins.  He comes to bear them.


Do you grieve because you are sick or in pain?  See, the mighty one lays His majesty aside and takes your suffering and sickness on His own body.  He sweats feverishly in Gethsemane.  He hobbles in pain up to the platform after His beating.  He thirsts on the cross.  And if He who suffered for you still lets you have pain, it is not to hurt you but to heal you.  It is as if He has taken a stripe off His wounded body and applied it to you as a spiritual dressing.


Do you grieve because you are poor, always struggling to make it?  See, the mighty One comes in your image.  He has no place on the earth to lay His head.  He will be born in a stable and laid to sleep in a manger.  He is poor, but His poverty is your wealth.  He hasn’t come to bring you money but heavenly treasure, so that you may see the face of God.  One day you will see it in heaven, with no more sin or tears to cloud your eye.  But also today you may see God’s face in the midst of your suffering, in the face of Jesus, who bears your image of weakness, poverty, and sin.  One day you will also see His glory and your face will reflect it.


The Lord is unknown to the world, but not to terrified sinners.  He shows His face to us.  He shows us His might, breaking the power of sin, death, and the devil.  But He also shows us His gentleness, preaching that our sins are forgiven through His wounds and death.






Soli Deo Gloria

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Christ is the Way to the Life of God–Advent Midweek 3 2014

December 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Third Week in Advent—Midweek Services

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Psalm 16

December 17, 2014

“Christ is the Way to the Life of God”

Adapted from Georg Stoeckhardt’s Advent Predigten, 9th Sermon


Iesu Iuva


In Paul Gerhardt’s great Christmas hymn, “O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is”, we sing:


Thy light and grace

Our guilt efface

Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.


That is a comforting thought–that everything we lost in Adam and Eve Jesus has retrieved for us.  And it is not only comforting.  It is true.  Our communion with God has been restored by Christ.


We have heard from the prophecies of Psalm 2 and Psalm 8 about the majesty of the Son of God and the humiliation and exaltation of the Son of God.  Psalm 16 teaches us that


Christ is the way to the life of God.

-By nature we are all estranged from God and His life.

-But Christ is in communion with God and lives to Him in eternity.

-And Jesus helps us live godly here and in eternity.



Thy light and grace

Our guilt efface

Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.


What loss is the hymn referring to?  It’s referring to what we lost in Adam and Eve.  Adam enjoyed the glory of paradise.  He ate the costly fruit of the garden of God and had all the animals in subjection to him.  But he was not fulfilled by this; it was not good for the man to be alone.  So God gave him the woman.  The two were to support and serve one another, fulfilling their callings together and enjoying the goodness and glory of God.  But even the love which Adam shared with his wife was not the highest blessing of paradise.  That was the communion that they enjoyed with God.  God dwelt with them and spoke with them as a father speaks to his children.  This was the crowning joy of paradise.  And human beings’ hearts were fixed on God—they had Him “always before them”, as the Psalm says.  They feared, loved, and trusted Him above all things.


This is what we have lost in Adam and Eve—the blessed, perfect communion with God.  All those who are born of Adam’s race are now estranged from God and His life.  Our hearts and reason are alienated from God.  They are stuck on the creature instead of the Creator.  We are more than alienated from God—we are hostile towards Him.  Our hearts “run after another god and take their names upon our lips”, as the Psalm says.  Human beings put their trust in earthly wealth and honor.  They spend their entire lives running after the passing pleasures of the world and its evil lusts.


And God for His part has dissolved His connection to man.  Because their hearts did not abide with God, did not honor and thank Him as their God and Creator, God gave human beings up to the lusts of their depraved hearts.  Human beings are now without God in the world, devoid of His comfort, His light and His life.  And having lost their communion with God, people have also lost the bond that connected them to each other—the bond of love of the neighbor, of brotherly love.  They offer drink offerings of blood. They are quick to anger, quick to hate, quick to violence and bloodshed.  And the worst thing about the fall of man is that having lost so much, man does not fell his loss or stir himself up to recover it.  He does not seek communion with God or a restoration to paradise, but continues in his degradation on the way to the eternal loneliness of damnation.


But even from the beginning God was planning a new way to come to mankind that had gone astray from Him.  Since He could not draw near to man in the old way—with His direct, unmediated presence, since human beings hate God and flee from Him in terror, He drew near in the word of the promise.  He told Adam and Eve and those who followed them that He would restore to them all they had lost.  And through this word of promise He inspired sinners to long for the lost communion with God and one another.


[That word of promise is what we have been tracing through the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament.  From the promise of the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head, to the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring, to the promise that David’s offspring would reign on his throne forever—God was inspiring those who heard the word to long for the communion with God that had been lost.]


That’s what the patriarchs and prophets longed for—not just the promised earthly inheritance in Canaan, but the city which is above, whose architect and builder is God.  The sigh and prayer of the patriarchs, prophets, and all believing Israelites was, “My soul longs for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God’s face?’


We too, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, long for God and communion with Him, long for what we lost in Adam.  We still feel our wicked flesh that draws back from God and His life.  But we long to be free from the sinful nature and see God’s face in righteousness.




Our longing has been fulfilled.  There is a man in whom communion between God and man has been restored.  That person is Jesus Christ; He is the man who is in communion with God and lives to Him in eternity.  And the perfect communion with God in Jesus Christ is for us, that we might share in the good pleasure of God for His sake.


He is true God of God, the eternal Son of the Father.  He is the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.  The Son has never been separated from the Father’s bosom.  He is in perfect communion with Him.  The Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son.  The Son knows the Father, and the Father knows the Son.  The Son loves the Father, and the Father loves the Son.  The  Son was and is happy forever in the light and splendor of God.  He is the exact imprint of His being and the brightness of His glory.


But the Son is not only in perfect communion with God according to His divine nature.  The human life of Jesus also was and is directed entirely to God and fixed on God.  This man, Jesus Christ, has perfectly given God His honor and glory.  Jesus feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things, with His whole heart, soul, mind, and all His powers.  From His childhood on, He said, “The Lord is my portion and my cup; You hold my lot.”  (v.5)  He loved God above all things.  When He was only 12 years old, He told His parents: “Didn’t you know that I must be in the things of my Father?”  When the devil offered Jesus all the wealth and glory of the world, Jesus rejected it.  He wanted to serve God, God alone.  HE hated and reproved the adulterousness of the generation He lived in, which “ran after another god and took their names on their lips” (v.  4).


Even though His life was full of hardship and deprivation, He said, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.  Surely I have a delightful inheritance.”  (v. 6)  The Lord was His lot, His portion, and His joy.  His heart was not fixed on the passing, temporary pleasures of this life, but on the eternal glory of the living God.


He had the Lord always before His eyes (v. 8)  Even in the midst of His work, His eyes were fixed on God.  When He wanted to heal the deaf-mute, He first sighed to His Father.  When He was going to hand out the bread to the 5000 and when He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He first gave thanks to the Father.  He lived His life in constant communion with God.  “I praise the Lord, who counsels me.  Even at night my heart instructs me” (v. 7)—that means that even in the night His heart exhorted Him to give thanks and pray.


All night long Jesus spoke to God in prayer.  And the Lord held His lot, that He might come into His inheritance—the glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world.


The whole life and work of Jesus was uninterrupted communion, uninterrupted sharing with the Father.  And even when He finally had to suffer, He still prayed, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge” (v.1)  As He wrestled with death in Gethsemane and as He writhed on the cross, He still had God before His eyes.  Even there He said, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.  I will drink the cup of salvation.”  He knew and did not doubt, “The Lord is at my right hand, therefore I will not be shaken.  Even in death I will remain well and will not be put to shame.”


And as Jesus believed, so it happened.


Christ died and lives forever.  Death divided His body and soul.  But the bond that bound Him to God was not destroyed by death.  He gloried in the midst of death, “My heart is glad and my whole being rejoices.  My flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to hell, or let your holy one see corruption.”  V(v.9-10)  Jesus’ soul was with God in paradise.  His body rested in the grave, but He was still in God’s hand there.  Therefore He did not see corruption.  It was impossible that the prince of life, the Son of God, should be held by death and see corruption.


Christ is risen and lives to God in eternity.  His hope has been fulfilled: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there si fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  V. 11  He now sits at the right hand of God and beholds also as man the glory that He had with the Father before the world began; He has joy to the full and sees the pleasures that are at the right hand of God.




And Christ helps us now, that we live godly here in time and there in eternity.  Christ is the way to life.  Everything that He did, He did for our benefit.  He has perfectly given God the glory in our place.  He is the perfect man of God.  All God’s good pleasure rests on Him.  And we are included in this good pleasure of God.  Whoever of sinful mankind believes in the Son who has become man, who in life, suffering and death has honored God, that person in righteous.  Whoever is baptized has a pledge from  God that Jesus’ perfect fear, love, and trust in God is credited to him.  Whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks His blood has a pledge from God that he has communion and fellowship with God through faith in Christ.  Through Christ we have communion with God not in our works and experience, but through faith.  His perfect obedience to God is counted to us.


But Christ does more—He imparts His nature, disposition, and attitude to us.  He helps us, so that we live godly here in time.  Through His honor of God in perfect obedience we begin to honor God.  WE believe in Christ and honor God through faith in His Son.  We also begin, as justified sinners, to have our hearts and eyes turned toward God, so that He is our portion, our delight, our inheritance.  He makes us in His image.  He gives us a new mind—the mind of Christ.  There are saints on earth, holy, sanctified people, in whom the mind of Christ lives.  In these holy ones God has all His good pleasure for Christ’s sake.  They renounce the world and all other gods and do not take their alien names on their lips. They say, “I will not offer their drink offerings of blood.”  They say to God, “You are my Lord.  Apart from You I have no good thing.”  V. 2  “The Lord is my good and my portion; Yes, I have a delightful inheritance; God is my inheritance.  And if I have You, then I don’t ask about heaven or earth.  When my soul and body languish, then You are still my God, my heart’s potion and comfort.”


What these saints do in word or deed, they do in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  They live to God, speak with God at night on their beds.  They have the Lord always before their eyes, even in the hour of fear and distress.  Then they say to God with Christ, “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in you.”  V. 2 And they are certain, for the sake of Jesus who won for them the Father’s good pleasure, that the Lord is at their right hand and they will not be shaken.  The Lord holds their lot and preserves their inheritance at His right hand.  Yes, there is a congregation of holy ones and saints on earth, which serves God and thanks Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.


These saints are “the excellent” or “glorious ones” of whom this psalm speaks.  Christ will glorify His own.  He helps us so that we live godly here but also in eternity.  We will not be shaken, even by death.  Death divides soul and body, but does not divide soul and body from God.  The souls fo the saints rejoice in God, and even their flesh will dwell secure.  The bodies of the saints will continue, even though they see corruption.  They will not be held by death forever.  They will be resurrected, and then body and soul will rejoice in the living God.  Then we will behold our inheritance, the glory of Christ.  Then we will glory and say, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”




Soli Deo Gloria



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