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The Captain of the Ship. Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany 2017. Matthew 8:23-27

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

jesus sleeping in the storm eugene delacroiz.jpgFourth Sunday after the Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 8:23-27

January 29, 2017

“The Captain of the Ship”

Iesu Iuva

 

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.

 

Amen

 

SDG

 

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Those Far Off–Epiphany 2016 (morning)

The Epiphany of our Lord (9:15 am—schoolkids’ service)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 2:1-12

January 6, 2015

“Those Far Off”

Iesu Iuva

 

–Today is the Epiphany of our Lord.

“Epiphany” means “the revealing of God.”

 

–It’s called that because God guided the wise men from far away to see Jesus in Bethlehem and worship Him. When they saw Jesus, they saw God, because Jesus is God become one of us, a human being.

 

–This summer in Vacation Bible School a little girl asked, “Where is God?”

I said, “God is everywhere.”

She said, “Why can’t we see Him then?”

A good question. What’s the answer?

One answer is—God is invisible. He is spirit. You can’t see Him with your eyes.

But another answer is that we don’t recognize God because we are born in sin, and sin

blinds us to God.

 

But now God shows Himself. He shows Himself in Jesus, the baby in Bethlehem.

 

–And the story of Epiphany is that God brings those who are far away from Him to see Him and be saved by believing in Jesus.

 

–How do we know God and come near to Him? We listen to His Word. We go to church, hear His Word, and believe in what the Word says—that God came to save us by becoming a human.

 

–But lots of people are not near to God. They don’t go to Church, don’t hear His Word.

 

–The wise men were like that. They were very smart and wise. They knew all kinds of things about the stars and the planets. But in their country they didn’t have God’s Word.

 

–But somehow they heard about the King of the Jews, the promised Savior. And then they saw a miraculous star that told them the King of the Jews had been born.

 

–So they followed that star. They packed up their camels with treasure and rode across the desert from the East for months to see the newborn King of the Jews and worship Him.

 

–Why did God lead them? Because the King of the Jews was for all people. He is God in the flesh who has come to save all people to the ends of the earth from the curse of sin.

 

–He saved us by being born without sin for us, by keeping God’s commandments for us, and then by receiving the punishment for our sins and dying under God’s judgment on the cross.

 

–Sometimes people in church take Jesus for granted. We forget that Jesus came to save all people, even those who seem the farthest away.

Sometimes people in Church don’t pay attention to God’s Word that tells them about this great

treasure from God, Jesus.

 

That’s why the people in Jerusalem and Herod were disturbed when the wise men came and said the king of the Jews had been born.

 

They weren’t ready for their king to come. They had other things on their minds, other things that were more important to them, that they loved more. They didn’t take God’s promise of the king and Savior as their highest joy and treasure.

 

That’s sometimes how we in the Church are. We take for granted the good news about Jesus that’s preached to us and have our hearts set on earthly things.

 

–But God wants all people to be saved through Jesus. He leads all people to His Son.

 

Those who are far away, who don’t have God’s Word or refuse to listen to it—who worship other gods. God calls them from far away to see Him come near to us in the baby at Bethlehem.

 

Also those in Church who don’t pay attention to His Word like they should and who don’t value it above all other treasures. God calls them too to see the great treasure of His Son. That means, He calls us to draw near and receive His forgiveness and salvation.

 

–Jesus is our great treasure.

 

He takes away our sins.

 

He gives us eternal life.

 

He makes us kings who reign with Him.

 

–The wise men gave Jesus kingly gifts—gold, frankincense, myrrh.

 

Jesus, the little baby in Bethlehem, is worth more than all treasures on earth. All earthly possessions that are dear to us, even the people we love most, even our own lives—are God’s gifts. But Jesus is God Himself, born a human being for us. He is the treasure that does not fade. In Him we receive God’s gift that endures forever and gives eternal life.

 

–The wise men bowed down and worshipped Jesus, giving Him presents because they believed that He was their Savior and a greater treasure than the wealth they were carrying with them.

 

–So we Christians, who believe in Jesus, also worship Him and lay down all our treasures before Him.

 

We do it because we believe in Him, that He is our Savior who called us to Him and gave us the forgiveness of sins when we were in the darkness of sin and death and couldn’t find God.

 

When we were little babies born in the darkness, He baptized us and put the bright star of His Gospel in our hearts.

 

And He continues to call us to Himself by the bright light of His Word.

 

So we in turn worship Him, lay our treasures and even our lives before Him.

 

And we pray to Him that He would make us stars that lead others to Him.

 

 

–Where is God? He is revealed in Jesus. And Jesus reveals Himself to us in His Word.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Gift of Glory. Transfiguration of our Lord 2015

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

transfig10The Transfiguration of our Lord

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 17:1-9

January 25, 2015

“The Gift of Glory”

Iesu Iuva

 

Beloved in Christ:

 

Look at the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Don’t pass over it.  Meditate on it.  It is a picture of the glory that is to be ours in eternity, when we see Christ face to face and know the splendor of the eternal God.

 

This is the reason we say, “Lift up your hearts” in the liturgy before the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.  Heaven is being opened before us, because our Lord Jesus is coming to us in His flesh and blood.  But our hearts are usually weighed down to the earth.

 

Here in the transfiguration the veil that covers heaven is parted for a little while, and we see what is always there in Jesus but which is hidden from flesh and blood.  We see Jesus’ form suddenly changed and the eternal glory of God shining from His human body.  His face becomes like the sun.  His clothes become dazzling white.  The saints who are in heaven appear and are talking with Him.

 

Jesus is true God and true man.  In Him is all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.  But the image of His glory was hidden when He was on earth until His resurrection.  We call this “the state of humiliation.”  Jesus hid His glory under the form of fallen human beings that have no glory.  He became like us who have lost God’s glory and are under the curse of sin.  As scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  When we were created, we reflected God’s glory and shared in it, but through sin we have been cut off from the glory of God.

 

But now God’s glory is pouring out of the body of a man.  Heaven is present with Him on earth—the departed saints are revealed alive, speaking with Him.  And in case we were slow and didn’t get it, the father’s voice thunders from the cloud and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.  Listen to Him!”  God the Father is saying—if you want to know what I think, if you want to know what pleases Me, if you want to know Me and come to Me, then listen to this man Jesus, for He is My only-begotten Son and He pleases Me in every way.

 

So when we have Jesus, we have this glorious God and man.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It doesn’t matter if you have Him asleep in a boat, or crowned with thorns and spit upon, or buried in a tomb.  If you have Jesus you have the glorious Lord we see in the transfiguration.

 

If you have Jesus hidden under the water of baptism or hidden under the bread and wine of the sacrament or presented to you in preaching and the Scripture, you have this glorious Lord whose face shines like the sun in today’s Gospel.  And it doesn’t matter if you receive Him when you are a baby, a teenager, old or middle-aged.  It doesn’t matter if you are sick or suffering, burdened by sin, even if you are lying in your grave—if you have Jesus, you have the glorious Son of God who is presented to us today in His transfiguration, in all His glory and life.

 

We long and hunger and thirst for glory.  Is that true, really?  It seems like most of the time what we are hungering for is pleasure, or rest, or security, or health, or love, but not glory.  But isn’t it true that we want more?  We are frequently not content with our lives, our jobs, maybe our families, our relationships.  We want more.

 

We were created for more than to eat and drink and work and die.  That’s what Scripture tells us.  God created us to bear the image of His glory and to have fellowship with Him, the most High.  It’s no wonder that people feel dissatisfied and restless in this world.  We were created for more.  We were created to see God’s glory.

 

And in the beginning God gave human beings glory.  We were to bear God’s image in the world and see and know Him.  His glory was given as a gift, but we tried to make it our possession.  We tried to own and control God’s glory for ourselves and ended up instead under the curse.  Our curse is that our labor is in vain.  Man works the ground and it brings forth thorns.  Woman gives birth to children in great pain and her husband rules over her.  And both are condemned to return to the ground from which man was taken, and after that to be judged.

 

All our lives we rebel against this curse.  We try to find a way to secure our lives and whatever little piece of glory we think we can hold on to.  Those are our idols.  Sometimes people make an idol out of their work.  Even though work is good it’s not meant to give us life or save our souls.  God gives us work so that we may serve our neighbor.  Sometimes people make an idol out of family or love and try to find their little bit of heaven and glory there.  But even though God made marriage and family He didn’t make them to satisfy our thirst and hunger for God and life.

 

But now God has given us His glory again as a free gift.  He has given us Jesus.  In Jesus all the glory of God is hidden.  And everyone who believes in Jesus, who listens to Him in faith, receives God’s glory and shares in His glory.

 

You may notice, though, that Jesus did not give a vision of His glory to everyone.  Only three disciples went up on that mountain and saw Jesus transfigured.  And Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone about what they had seen until after He was raised from the dead.

 

It may seem like if Jesus wanted to have everyone believe in Him and honor Him all He would have had to do was have a transfiguration in front of all His critics.  But Jesus didn’t want to do that.  He didn’t even want His disciples to tell people about this transfiguration or that He was the Christ.

 

The reason was that it was necessary for the Christ to be rejected and suffer.  It had to be that Jesus would not stay on the mount of Transfiguration but go down it to Jerusalem where He would be transfigured into the man of sorrows.  His face would be so disfigured by blows and blood and scorn that Isaiah says He would almost be unrecognizable as a human being.  It was necessary that the glorious Lord have His glorious head pierced with thorns, His garments stripped and His skin torn with whips, His hands and feet nailed to the tree of shame.  It was necessary that He cry out to God in Gethsemane and from the cross and receive no relief from God’s wrath.

 

All this was necessary that He might take away our curse and crown us with glory.  It was necessary that the glorious Lord be laid in the dust to rescue us from sin and death, to turn away God’s wrath from us and bring us His favor.  That is why this glorious Son of God has come to earth and been made man.  Not merely so that He might show us His glory for a little while on earth, but so that He might take away all our shame and make us sharers in His glory and the Father’s good pleasure forever.

 

This is why there is joy for you even though you are carrying a heavy cross, and God’s glory seems far away.  Christians experience suffering.  There’s no doubt about that.  We struggle with boredom and restlessness as we live in a cursed world.  We live with the gloom of death looming ever larger over us as we grow older.  We live with physical and spiritual affliction.  We struggle with doubt over God’s care and concern for us as we see loved ones die and the church growing smaller.  Sometimes we are afflicted by doubt over the forgiveness of our sins.  If Jesus would only show us His glory, we think, that would be enough for us.

 

But just as it was absolutely necessary for our salvation that Jesus hide His glory and willingly accept the suffering of the cross, so it is necessary for us to bear the cross while we trust Him.  For we are not merely spectators, watching Christ.  We are participants in all that is His.  The glory we see shining from Christ’s face is the glory that will be ours in heaven and which belongs to our loved ones who have gone to be with Christ in paradise.  Jesus doesn’t just give us a glimpse of His glory, but to reflect it and share in it forever.  We have been baptized into Him.  His life is our life.  His glory is our glory.  Our lives are hidden in Him at the right hand of God.

 

And because we are baptized into Him, His suffering is also our suffering.  His cross is our cross.  His death is our death.  When we feel alone, forsaken, overwhelmed, we are not forsaken by God or being punished by Him.  We are simply sharing in Christ’s sufferings, for we were baptized into Him.  And the Father says about you and I as we cling to Christ and endure our cross—“With you I am well-pleased.”  We are God’s beloved sons and heirs through Him who bore God’s wrath for us.

 

I saw a member of St. Peter at her work not too long ago by accident.  I asked her how it was going, and she said, “You know, I’m just living the dream.”  That of course was good German Lutheran sarcasm.  But that’s exactly how we feel many days in our lives.

 

But God has given His glory to these lives that don’t feel like dreams.  All His glory is hidden in Jesus, who died for us.  And your life is hidden in Jesus through your baptism into Him.

 

Today you share in Jesus’ weakness and suffering, but you are also a sharer in His glory.  We are being transfigured into that image of His glory just as we are being conformed to the image of His death.  And the day will come soon when the old Adam will be put off forever and we will know nothing but the glorious image of Christ, the only Son of God.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

2nd Sunday after Epiphany / Life Sunday 2015

January 18, 2015 Leave a comment

2nd Sunday after Epiphany/Life Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 2:1-11

January 18, 2015

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  It’s today because this is the closest Sunday to January 22nd, which was the date in 1973 when the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision legalizing abortion.  This year abortion will have been legal for 42 years in our country.  People who are my age have never lived in a country where abortion wasn’t legal.

 

Some estimate that in the years since 1973 one third of babies conceived were aborted.  That would be something like 56 and a half million lives that ended before the baby ever left its mother’s womb.  56 and a half million human beings put to death without the interference of the government, whose calling it is to protect innocent lives.  56 and a half million people who died as though they were not human beings, not allowed the most basic of human rights—the right to live.

 

If we reflect on this a little bit, it will change our whole perspective on what the mission of the church is in this age.  We are living in a society that has killed 1/3 of its children.  How can we think that its just a matter of being nice and friendly or packaging our message the right way to make people want to come to church?  How can we imagine that in a society that murders 1/3 or its children, we can expect our living children to remain Christians if Christianity is something we do on the side but is not at the center of our lives?

 

The Church isn’t called to win over society.  We are called to bring light into the darkness.  We are called to preach the forgiveness of sins from God to a world that is evil, that is under the power of the devil.  And we are first called to receive that same Gospel ourselves—that we are by nature sinners and wicked before God, but that through the death of His Son God forgives us and counts us righteous.

 

The good news we bring to the world is that even now, with the blood of 56 million babies rising around us like a flood, the God who authored those lives does not want to destroy us.  He comes in peace, to give us life and peace and pardon.  See Jesus going to the marriage at Cana in Galilee.  He was the same holy God that He is now, and human beings were just as corrupt then as they are now.  But Jesus is among them as a brother, not as a judge.  He goes to the wedding.  He doesn’t stand apart from human life and human joys, even though human beings are sinful.  He isn’t above it.  He goes to the wedding and participates in the joy of the bride and groom.

 

That’s because human life, despite being fallen and corrupt, is still God’s creation.  He does not want to destroy it, but to redeem it.  Life and the institutions that create and protect life are God’s, even though they are stained by the sin of the people who enter them.  Marriage is still God’s good creation, despite our abuse of it.  The bearing of children is still God’s work, even though children are conceived in sin.  Sex is God’s good gift and Jesus does not scorn or despise it, but blesses it when it is used as God ordained it, between a man and a woman who are united together for life in holy marriage.  Jesus doesn’t scorn or disallow the pleasure of eating and drinking, not even drinking wine, but creates gallons of the best wine for the wedding party to enjoy.

 

All this Jesus does even though He is dealing with the descendants of Adam and Eve, who are born corrupt and wicked, just like us.  Why does He bless marriage and the eating of food and the drinking of wine and life in this fallen world for those who deserve God’s punishment and not blessing?

 

Because God has come to earth not to destroy human life but to redeem and save it.  He came to reclaim human nature from sin and death and the devil.  That’s why God is at the wedding of Cana as a true man.  He has united human nature to Himself, to God.

 

Thhis is the great hope that we hold out to a world that has killed its own children.  It is the hope by which we ourselves live.  All the darkness and depravity of human nature and all our wicked deeds God comes to forgive and clear away, not to torment us for.

 

When His hour has come, He will take all the darkness and depravity of our hearts and our bodies on Himself.  He takes the sexual impurity, the murder of the innocent, and the failure to love and trust God on Himself when His hour has come.  And He bears God’s righteous wrath against all the sin s of the world so that His wrath might not rest on us.

 

All of God’s wrath that is hanging over our country for the murder of those 56 million babies and all the wrath of God against every sin of thought, word, and deed from the first sin of Adam all fell on Jesus and was paid for by Jesus.

 

In place of the shame and guilt and regret that follow us for our sins, Jesus gives us the wine of joy.  It is the toast that celebrates our new life with God.  For God in Christ has wedded Himself to us, as the alternate epistle from Ephesians says.  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her with the washing of water by the word…”  Jesus is the bridegroom, and all who believe and are baptized into Him are the bride.

 

He doesn’t shame or criticize or beat down His bride.  He takes all her shame and sin on the cross.  He puts on us the wedding garment of His perfect righteousness in Baptism.  He invites us to the wedding feast of heaven, where He gives us the bread and wine of heaven—His own body and blood.  In them He gives us life in a dying world.

 

We often complain as we see the church seeming to weaken and the world becoming more godless.

 

But whether we are great or small, few or many, we have Jesus with us.

 

He gives us life through His death.  Life in a murderous world.  Righteousness in place of our sin.

 

We may be too small individually to turn back the tide of falling away and the lack of regard for life in our society.

 

But we have His assurance that He is pleased with us.  He is our bridegroom.  He comes to us and give us what is His—life, victory, righteousness.

 

He doesn’t ask us to overcome the world.  He has overcome the world.  We receive His victory and live in our callings as those who have already won the victory even though we may seem to be losing, trying to do an impossible task.

 

If married, we love our spouse, welcome children, and rejoice that He is well-pleased with ur lives through faith in Jesus.

 

If single, we live in chastity and rejoice that He is well-pleased with the life that He has called us to.

 

Our bridegroom Jesus gives true meaning to our lives in a world that is trying to steal paradise for itself.

 

He gives us the joy of God’s favor and good pleasure through His suffering for our sins on the cross.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Losing Jesus. First Sunday after Epiphany, 2015

January 12, 2015 Leave a comment

1st Sunday after Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 2:41-52

January 11, 2015

“Losing Jesus”—heavily indebted to Tilemann Heshusius

Iesu Iuva

The first thing to notice in the Gospel for this first Sunday after Epiphany is the diligence of Mary and Joseph in keeping the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”  Because every year they went up to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.

Now God had instituted three holy festivals in which all the males in Israel were to appear before God’s presence at the temple.  These were the feast of tabernacles, the Feast of weeks (which we know as Pentecost), and the Feast of the Passover, which occurred at our Easter.  As you can imagine, it was not easy to do this.  It was several days’ journey on foot from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and if it is difficult for us to get all the kids into the car to go to church on Sunday morning, or to get aching bones to make the treacherous walk up steps and across parking lots into our church, you can imagine how it was difficult to take young children and old bones on a several day journey into a strange city to worship the Lord.

Yet the Gospel tells us that the Holy Family made this journey every year.  Why did they do it?  Because it was the law of the Lord.  But it was a joyful duty, just as going to church is a joyful duty.  Because there the were gathered together with all the people of God to hear His word and rejoice in His salvation.  Every Passover, before the presence of God in the temple, the story of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery in Egypt would be proclaimed, and they would eat the Passover lamb which died so that judgment would pass by the Israelites and they would become God’s redeemed people.  They were redeemed with the blood of the lamb.  And in the same way we also gather together with God’s people on Sunday and eat the true Passover lamb who was slain for our redemption from sin—the body and blood of our Lord Jesus who redeemed us in His crucifixion on the tree at Calvary.  So it is not simply a commandment of the law that we fulfill because God threatens us with punishment if we don’t.  It is a joy to hear God’s Word, because in it He gives us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

So first from this Gospel we should take to heart the example of Mary and Joseph and cling with diligence to the public preaching of God’s Word.  Many people ignore and treat lightly the preaching of God’s Word.  They figure they know already what the pastor is going to say.  Or they may say, “I can read the Bible at home.  Why do I need to go to church?”  Sometimes people are blessed to have a gifted preacher as a pastor, but more often the pastor’s gifts at preaching are average.

But we should not regard the preaching of God’s Word in this way, according to human reason.  God highly exalts the public preaching of His Word.  Through the public preaching of His word He wants to be active through His Holy Spirit in convicting us of our sins and in working faith in Christ in our hearts so that we are saved and also living and active in good works.  God has highly exalted the preaching of His word and the ministry of the word and sacraments.  He says of His preachers in Luke chapter 10: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me.”  As a result whenever a minister is preaching faithfully, no matter how humble his skills at speaking, he is speaking as Christ’s own ambassador and messenger, bringing Christ’s own message, which is a powerful word that brings with it the Holy Spirit and works faith and eternal life.  Thus we should cling to the public preaching of the word and regard it highly, as Mary and Joseph did.  We should not despise it but regard it as God’s own word, this preaching, and seek to hear it as often as we can, while at the same time reading the word in our homes and learning the catechism diligently.  That’s the example the Holy Family sets before us, and if we follow it and treasure preaching and God’s Word our homes will be blessed.

They will be blessed, like Mary and Joseph’s house.  But being blessed does not mean that they will be without affliction, suffering, and hardship.  In this Gospel reading we also see that Mary suffered a great and terrible affliction even though she was living a godly life of hearing the word of God and being faithful in her calling.

Her affliction was that she lost Jesus, who was 12 years old at the time.  The story is short, so it’s easy to miss the seriousness of this.  Imagine if one of the mothers in our church lost a 12 year old child of theirs for 3 days.  The parents wouldn’t be able to eat or sleep.  They would drop everything and think of nothing except finding the lost child.  And the parent’s hearts, particularly the mother’s, would be torn in two.  There would be crying and grief that would cut to the heart anyone who heard it.  And it wouldn’t just be the parents.  All the loved ones and relations would be worried and upset.  The whole church would share in the parents’ grief.

This was the grief and agony Mary had when Jesus turned up missing during the journey back to Nazareth.  But her grief was still worse.  This was no ordinary child who was missing.  Mary had heard from the angel that this child was the Son of God.  She knew He had been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And she knew from the shepherds who had visited her and from Anna and Simeon’s prophecies that Jesus was the Savior of the world.  Can you imagine, not only losing your beloved only son, but also losing the world’s Savior?  Mary was not only burdened with the grief of her own loss but with guilt at having lost the only Son of God who was to bring salvation to the world.

Sometimes Christians experience Mary’s sorrow.  They seem to lose Jesus.  For unbelievers the sorrow a Christian experiences at seeming to have lost Jesus is incomprehensible.  But to a Christian it can be the most severe pain imaginable.

How do we lose Jesus?  We can’t really lose Him, can we?  We can indeed lose Christ and salvation through willful sin, but I’m speaking of another kind of loss.  This is when a Christian wants to believe in Christ and be comforted by Him but their faith is shaken.  Perhaps they are assailed by doubts about the truth of parts of the faith or the Scriptures even though they don’t want to be.  Perhaps they are overwhelmed by temptations to sin or renounce Christ, even though they fight against them.  Perhaps suffering or death has driven out all the comfort they once experienced from believing in this child Jesus.  Perhaps the devil confronts us with the magnitude of our sins or our repeated falls and holds before our eyes the picture of God’s wrath with such clarity that we begin to despair of being saved.

There are innumerable ways that the world, the devil, and the flesh have of driving the comfort of Christ and the feeling of faith from our hearts.  At those times Christians feel like they have lost Christ and can’t find Him anywhere.  This is a terrible affliction.  It is the feeling of hell pressing in on us while we are still alive in this world.

If we experience this, we should remember this Gospel.  It shows that we are not the first to feel like we have lost Jesus.  Mary, the mother of God herself, had the experience of losing Jesus, and it seemed to her like all the grief and terror in the world had closed in on her.  But God brought her consolation again.  And this experience was not unique to Mary, but is common to saints, that is, to believers in Christ.  Time does not permit listing all the examples.  The disciples had this experience more than once.  They thought that they were doomed in the storm on the sea of Galilee when Jesus was sleeping in the boat.  Then when they had denied Christ and He lay hidden from them for three days in the tomb, they were sure that they had lost Jesus.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that God allowed him to have a messenger from Satan in his flesh to torment him.  And David tells the story in the Psalms repeatedly of feeling like he had lost Christ.

What are we to do when this happens to us, and we feel like we have lost Jesus?  The first thing Mary did was look for Jesus among her friends and relatives.  However she did not find Him there.  Sometimes if we are experiencing depression or some other earthly affliction, we can be helped by seeking advice and comfort from family, friends, doctors, and so on.  But Mary didn’t find Jesus there, where reason and human nature would think to look.  She found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers.  Jesus was found in the things of His Father.  He was found where God’s Word is.

This is where we will find Jesus when we feel we have lost Him.  When this happens we shouldn’t sit still and simply despair or hang our heads or give way to spiritual depression.  We should look diligently for Jesus in the things of His Father.  We should cling to the preaching of God’s Word, because there the Father reveals Jesus, makes Him known, gives Him to us, kindles love for Him and comfort in His salvation.  We should receive the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, because that sacrament is instituted for the strengthening of weak faith and the comfort of those who are distressed by sin.  We should diligently pray and read God’s Word and not give up.  And we should seek out the consolation of experienced Christians, particularly the pastor, whose office it is to speak God’s Word to comfort us.  Especially the pastor can pronounce the forgiveness of sins to you personally, which is of great comfort in spiritual afflictions.

Jesus is found where God’s Word is.  When we feel that we have lost Jesus, we look for Him in the word and sacraments.  There He will restore comfort to those who fear that they have lost Him, just as He did to His mother Mary.

For He is the true Passover lamb who was slain to redeem us from all our sins.  Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that it might be saved through Him.  This is a trustworthy saying, says 1 Timothy chapter 1—that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

When Mary found Jesus in the temple they were probably discussing the meaning of Passover.  Jesus was learning God’s Word, learning from it about His work to redeem sinners.  So when we feel that we are lost sinners who cannot find Christ, we should look for the Lord Jesus where He is to be found—in His Father’s things, in the preaching of the word.  There the Father gives His son to us as our Passover lamb who was slain to redeem us from all sin and make us God’s own people.

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

Soli Deo Gloria

Epiphany 2015

January 6, 2015 2 comments

The Epiphany of our Lord

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 2:1-12

January 6, 2015

 

Iesu Iuva

 

People are born in the darkness and live in the darkness.  They can’t see the true light.  They don’t want to; they refuse to see it.

 

“And this is the judgment,” says our Lord, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”  (John 3:19)

 

Because people are in the darkness and refuse to see the light, they don’t come to it.  It is a miracle whenever someone arrives at the light that gives light to every man; it is a miracle when someone comes to Jesus Christ.  It is a miracle whenever someone firmly believes the articles of the Christian faith.  It is not something that people will to do or can do.  It is the work of God.

 

Yet it is a miracle and work that God wants to do.  He wants to bring people from the deepest darkness of unbelief and sin to the light of Christ.

 

We have a picture of this in the Gospel for Epiphany.  The wise men were physically far away from Jesus.  They were probably from Arabia.  A month’s journey across the desert stood between them and Jesus.  But there was a greater distance that stood between them and the Messiah of Israel—a spiritual distance.

 

Some historians say that the kings of Yemen had converted to Judaism, so it might not have been that the wise men were in total idolatrous ignorance.  They may have heard something about the Messiah of Israel.  How much, we don’t know.  But they surely were not taught for generations from the Holy  Scriptures like the Jews were.

 

Yet these wise men came from a distant, dark land and bent the knee to worship Jesus.

 

On the other hand, the scribes and priests of the people of Israel were close to Jesus.  They were only a few miles from Bethlehem where He was born.  And spiritually they seemed to be close, too.  Trained from their infancy in the Scriptures, they could quote chapter and verse from the prophet Micah where the Christ would be born.  They were the leaders of the people of God, holding positions of respect and high honor among them.  If anyone should have been close to God’s kingdom, it was they.

 

Yet it was the wise men from far away who came and worshipped the baby Jesus, opening to Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The priests and scribes didn’t come to the king of the Jews.

 

This shows us two things.  First, we can seem to be near to Christ and yet be far away.  Second, God wants to bring those who are far away to His Son.

 

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Christ’s kingdom is not like any other.  It’s not geographical.  Jesus doesn’t own a parcel of land and sit on the throne at its capital.  His reign extends over the whole earth, and He is present in every part of His kingdom.  So it’s not a question of being physically near to Jesus.  He is not far from any of us physically.

 

And a person is not near to Jesus by being born among or living among people who are His own.  There is no favoritism in His kingdom.  We are either His own or we are far away from Him in darkness.

 

Just as a miraculous star had to lead the wise men to Jesus, and their wisdom and learning and reason were useless, so miraculous, heavenly wisdom is necessary to bring us to Jesus.  If we are led by our own reason or intellect we will never find Him and salvation.

 

Our spiritual pedigree, our good lives, holiness, our position in the church do not bring us to Jesus either.  The priests and scribes had these things, but they did not come and worship the king of the Jews.

 

By nature we are in the darkness as much as those outside the church.  By nature we depend on our reason, like the pagan world we live in which considers itself too reasonable to be led by the Bible.  By nature we also depend on our birth and status among God’s people, just like the priests and scribes.  We figure that being leaders in the church or coming from a godly family will win us some kind of favor with God.  The world outside of the church depends on reason or their own goodness and as a result stays far away from Christ and does not come to Him.   We, just like the priests, scribes, and the people of Jerusalem, do the same thing by nature and refuse to come to the light of the Son of God.  We depend on ourselves.  Wherever human nature has its way, people remain in the darkness and are not led to Christ.

 

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But the good news of Epiphany is that God wills to guide those who are in deep darkness to the light of His Son.   His Son, the ruler born in Bethlehem, is the shepherd of Israel.  He gently guides and leads His flock to safety and to pasture, where they may feed on rich food and live forever.  God wills to draw those who are in deep darkness unfailingly to His Son’s light.  This includes the modern-day descendants of the wise men in Arabia who are lost in the teachings of the false prophet Mohammed.  He wills to draw modern American pagans, who have been captured by the wisdom of this age and no longer bow the knee to Christ.  They may seem too far away to us, but God wills to draw them to the light of His son.  He even wills to draw those people who profess faith in Christ but who are still far away from Him.  These are those who like the scribes and priests may know all about God’s word, and may even hold office in the church, but they do not come near to Christ in the only way He can be approached, which is by faith alone.

 

How does He guide us to His Son?  He first convinces us that we are in darkness.  The wise men could never have found the king of the Jews if they were guided by their own thinking.  They would have arrived at Jerusalem and said, “If even the leaders of the Jews don’t know about their king, we must have made a mistake.”  Or they would have arrived at Behtlehem, seen the child and His mother, and said, “How can we be sure this is the one?  There is no crowd and no big pile of gifts.  How can we be sure we’ve found the true king of the Jews?”  They did not do this, did not doubt, because they depended not on their own reason but on God’s direction.

 

So God convinces us through His law that our own wisdom and reason, our own spiritual intuition, our holiness, and everything in us is darkness.  He convinces us of this through the preaching of the law which not only shows us that we have committed sins, but that sin lives in us and has utterly corrupted all our powers so that we cannot find God unless God Himself reveals Himself to us.

 

Then by the bright shining light of the Gospel He leads those who are in darkness unerringly, surely, to His Son.  He proclaims to us who have no power to find God ourselves that God and His glory have come to us in this little child born of Mary.  He teaches us in His Gospel that through this child alone we have God and are included in His kingdom of salvation.  And this star, this light of the Gospel, will not lead anyone astray.  It leads us directly to Christ, who is God’s Son given for our salvation from the darkness that surrounds us and is in us.  His light overcomes the darkness.  It destroys the darkness of sin and the devil’s power forever.  It shines like a beacon from the cross where we see Jesus hanging dead for our sins.  There they are swallowed up and put away forever.

 

Jesus is the glory of Israel and the glory of the church.  God draws people from every nation out of the deep darkness to His Son’s light.  The wise men were not drawn to the priests and scribes and all their pomp and knowledge except to find out where the king of the Jews was born. Those in deep darkness today are not drawn to the church as an organization composed of holy or wise people.  They are drawn to the glory of the church, her great treasure, Jesus.

 

He is our treasure and our glory.  He is among us in His Word and blessed Sacraments—in the water of baptism, in the absolution, forgiving our sins, in the bread and wine giving us His Body and Blood.  He is among us as the true God, the Immortal Creator, now clothed in our poor flesh and bone.  He is with us and is one with us for our salvation.

 

He is with us as Savior, the one who takes away the sins of the world.  Churches may invent a million ways to try to get people to enter their doors—but the only true God and Savior of the world is the treasure God gives out in the Church.  Those who are weary and burdened by sin, who are lost in the darkness, will not be helped by anyone or anything else.

 

The wise men opened their treasures to Jesus, and they were rich treasures—caskets of gold.  Myrrh, a gum from an Arabian tree used to perfume, to heal injuries, to kill pain.  Frankincense, a resin that when burned clouds temples with sweet smoke.  But these rare treasures are nothing compared to the rarity of the treasure God gives us in Christ.  In Him He gives us His only Son whose suffering and death saves us from our sins.  He is the gold of our eternal heavenly riches, the healing ointment for the wounds of sin that makes them disappear.  He is the incense that makes us a sweet savor in God’s nostrils, as He offers us up together with Him in praise to God.

 

We have no treasures worthy of such a king.  But He guides us to Himself and bends the knee of our hearts so that we open them to Him and receive His treasures.  He fills our dark hearts with His heavenly light, teaching us to trust in Him to guide us unfailingly to the eternal light of His face in heaven.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Categories: Epiphany Tags: ,

We Rejoice in the Hope of the Glory of God. Transfiguration Sunday 2014

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

transfiguration lottoTransfiguration Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 17:1-9

February 9, 2014

“We Rejoice in the Hope of the Glory of God”

Jesus

 

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God writes St. Paul in the third chapter of Romans.  It’s a passage of Scripture that is commonly taught to children because it teaches a basic truth that is necessary for salvation.  There is no one righteous, no, not one.  Since we are all sinners before God we are all in need of God’s grace to forgive our sins.  What we have deserved from God is not grace or forgiveness but condemnation and punishment.

But the verse says something more than that all have sinned; it says that all fall short of the glory of God.  That part of the verse tends to go overlooked.  I don’t know very many people who, if you ask them what they’re aiming at with their lives, would say, “The glory of God.”  They would probably say, “I want to be happy,” or, “I want my kids to have a good life,” or, “I want to be a good person.”

But God did not create human beings simply so that we could be happy or be good.  He created us to see His glory.  And without seeing His glory we can’t be happy or good.

Because of sin we fall short of the glory of God.  Our lives are like arrows shot from a bow.  They are aimed at a target—the eternal glory of God.  But not one reaches the target.  They fall in the mud.  Our lives fail to reach the destination for which they were created—the glory of God.

Well, what do you do if you miss a target with your arrow?  You go get it out of the mud and try again.  If you miss a shot in a basketball game you go practice until you can make that shot in your sleep.

But it doesn’t work that way with our lives.  There are no do-overs.  Either we hit the target—fly straight and true and live a life that is worthy of God’s glory.  Or we miss and fall short of the target, the glory of God.  And we fall forever.  Eternally we are those who were created to see God’s glory but went astray from the purpose for which our Creator made us.  Since He made us and He is good and has all glory forever and ever, whose fault is it that we went astray?  His?  God forbid.  We turned aside.

And because of sin we are off course before we even leave the bow.

 

On the mountain of transfiguration Peter, James, and John saw the glory of God.  It was shining from a man—a human being, a son of Adam.  This is already a strange thing.  Every human being, every son of Adam, every single one, has been flying off-course, falling short of the glory of God.  Not that there were no human beings with whom God was pleased before Jesus, but the Scripture says that they were not arrows that flew straight and true but that God “counted” them as though they were.  Abram believed God, and [God] imputed [or counted] it to [Abram] for righteousness.  (Gen. 15:6)

There was at least one human being before Jesus who had seen the glory of God—Moses.  When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, the “skin of his face shone” because he had been talking with God.  It was like radioactivity.  Moses’ face shone with the “fallout” of God’s glory.  And Aaron his brother and the Israelites ran away when they saw him.

But Moses’ face never shone like Jesus’ does here.  It radiated and reflected God’s glory.  But Jesus’ face shines like the sun.  A piece of glass can catch some of the light of the sun and reflect it, but those reflections do not compare to the sun’s light.  Out of Jesus’ face the light of God’s glory radiates like the light from the sun.  The sun’s light doesn’t come from another star.  It generates light because it is so hot, the scientists say, that hydrogen atoms collide to form a new element, helium, and the energy that is released sends light streaming to earth—light that plants use to make sugar which then feeds the lives God created on earth.

The sun is like a well of energy and light.  And Jesus is the well or the factory or the fire from which God’s glory streams and shines.  Except, like the bush Moses saw which burned but the fire did not go out, the well of God’s glory in the face of Christ is eternal, never diminishing, never running out.

What Peter and James and John saw on the mountain is what Moses and Elijah and all the prophets and the law had been prophesying throughout the Old Testament.  They were seeing the glory of God in a human being.  They were seeing what human beings were aimed at, but what they had fallen short of since Adam’s sin.

But now what human beings were aimed at is a reality in front of their eyes.  There is a human being—their master, Jesus—who not only reflects the glory of God, but participates in the glory of God.

In the previous chapter Jesus had just had a discussion with His disciples about who He was (and who He is).  You quite possibly remember it.  Who do people say I am?  The apostles said, “They say you’re a prophet.  Or Elijah.”  And Jesus says, “But what about you—who do you say I am?”  Peter said, “The Christ, the Son of the living God.”  To which Jesus responds, “Blessed are you, Simon, for this was not revealed to you by men but by my Father in heaven.”

But immediately afterward Jesus began to teach them that He had to go to Jerusalem, be rejected by the priests, handed over to the Gentiles, be abused, rejected, and killed, and that God would raise Him up on the third day.  This is not new information for us, but for the disciples it was unthinkable.  So Peter said, “Jesus, what you are saying is blasphemous.  God will never let that happen to His Son.  Stop saying that!”  And Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan!  You don’t have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”  And Jesus went on to tell them that anyone who wants to be His disciple must deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him; that it will do us no good to gain the whole world if we lose our soul.  If we embrace Him we also embrace His suffering and death.  We embrace those and then, when He appears in glory with His father He will also glorify us.

Then He told His disciples, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

And that is what they see here.  The Son of Man coming in His kingdom.  A glimpse of the glory of God in the body of a human being.  This is what Jesus will look like when He comes again, except probably He will be even more glorious.

And when He appears, those who are His will share this same glory.  We too will not only see the glory of God, but participate in it like Jesus does.  The difference is this—that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh.  In eternity the saints will be His brothers.  We will not be God, but we will share His glory.

 

That is why God the Son became a man and appeared on earth.  You were created for the glory of God, but in Adam you traded what God made you for for the empty dream of being a god apart from God.  And what do we have?  We are not gods.  We no longer even dream consciously of being like God.  We aim much lower than God had aimed us.  He aimed us at seeing His glory and sharing it.  We aim at being happy with food and drink and tvs and maybe, if we’re ambitious, power and prestige and money in this short life of a few decades.

Jesus appeared so that we would share the glory shining from His face and be kings together with Him.  That’s why He came and it’s why He suffered.  And it’s why you were baptized—so that you might become like Jesus in the glory we see on the mountain.

But do you live as if that is true?  No.

 

No, we come into the presence of this Jesus, Sunday after Sunday.  But we forget the vision these three saw on the mountain.  Because Jesus doesn’t show His splendor and power we act as if He doesn’t have it, and we come into His house with worldly thoughts and worldly manners.  Peter was rebuked because He offered to build three tents for Jesus, Moses, Elijah.  That seems like a well-intentioned mistake.  The well-intentioned mistake of Peter met with such a rebuke that the three men were left on their faces in terror, fearing death, fearing judgment.  But we come into the presence of Christ much more irreverently.  Ill-prepared, not ready to listen.  Showing by our actions that we fail to understand whose presence we have come into and why He is here.  [We show disrespect and a lack of fear in the way we talk, the way we conduct ourselves here, our lack of preparedness…]

No one can draw near to Jesus without drawing away from sin, hating it.  God does not call us to become good American citizens.  We are to be those, but He calls us to more—to be participants in His glory.   And participants in His glory must first hate sin—not only gross sins, but also the uncleanness of the heart which is always with us.  Peter wasn’t rebuked for committing adultery or murder.  He was rebuked for speaking foolishly and proposing to serve Christ according to the wisdom of his flesh.  He thought, “The way for us to share in the glory we see in Jesus here is to stay here a little longer.  So let me offer to build tents.”

He meant well, but instead of listening to Jesus he was talking and proposing his own plans.

Jesus had already told them the way that He was going to bring them to the glory of God.  That was, He was going to Jerusalem to be put to death.  Then He would be raised from the dead for them, ascend into heaven, and sit at the right hand of the Father for them.

And the disciples would share in the glory of God through Jesus—through suffering and dying with Him, being raised from the dead with Him.

That is also how we share in the glory of God.  We do not stay the arrows that have gone off course from the moment we were put on the string of the bow.  We must become different.  And that is impossible for us.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.  That is what is happening on the mountain of transfiguration.  Moses, the law giver, and Elijah, the prophet, are talking with Jesus and bearing witness to Him who is the righteousness of God.

He is the righteousness of God.  Jesus.  He was with the Father from the beginning and shared His glory.

He laid it aside so that He might merit the glory of God for the sons of Adam who had gone astray.

He, Jesus, is the man who flies straight and true and is righteous according to His works and merits the glory of God.

That holy and spotless life, in which God and man are one person, He is going to offer up in Jerusalem.

He will suffer and die for our shame and sin and then be raised from the dead for our justification.  He alone is going to destroy and cancel the sin that lives in us from the womb in His own body.

We don’t come to God through trying to imitate Him, although we do try to imitate Him.  We come to God through being joined to Him, to His flesh.

We come to God through believing the Gospel, that in Him and His suffering God has cancelled our sins and declared us righteous.  The righteousness of God has been manifested…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a [sacrifice of atonement] in His blood….

That is why the Father says “Listen to Him!”  to Peter.  Peter’s thoughts are not going to bring about the righteousness of God.  Neither are yours or mine.  Our thoughts according to our wisdom and reason, what we see and feel in the flesh—even when we think we mean well—oppose God and His salvation.

So He thunders.  “Listen to Him!”  He condemns our unbelief, our refusal to hear Christ’s word, our desire for earthly glory, our love of earthly things.

Then Jesus comes in His church.  He does not show His glory and His shining face.  But He speaks to us without visible glory and says, Rise and have no fear.

He absolves our sins.

He baptizes us with water with the hand of a man and the mouth of a man.

He gives us bread and wine which He says is His body and blood.

 

Those words are the words of the glorious Lord in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.  They are not man’s words but God’s.

 

They tell us that the glory that appeared on the mountain is ours by faith.

 

He tells us, “Rise.”  On the last day we will rise.  And these mortal bodies will put on immortality.  These earthly tents will be put off and the body that Jesus wore at His resurrection will be given to us.

 

So we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  We have this hope not because we have flown straight and true to the glory of God.  Anything but that is the case.

 

But Jesus has.  And He is given to us in His Word.  What Jesus is, He is for you, He is for me, even while we feel ourselves to still be sinners.

 

We listen to Him.  He builds us an eternal house, a risen body that shares in the glory of God as a brother of the only-begotten Son.  He built it in His resurrection and poured it on us in Baptism.

 

We go with Him in the way of the cross and experience that we are being torn down.  But He says, “That is because I have to take off the old tent you wear and put the new on you.  Flesh and blood does not inherit the kingdom of God, but you shall all be changed, transfigured.  In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound and you who died with me in Baptism will be raised imperishable and you will be transfigured so that your lowly bodies will become like my glorious body, even as my glory was laid aside in the dust when I was put to death and condemned to die as a curse on the cross.”

 

We are dying because we were baptized.  Let us not try to build our own tents and stay away from the cross.  That is to stay away from Jesus.

 

He doesn’t want to live in a tent so we can simply look at His glory.  He died so that we could also share in the glory of the Father in our bodies.

 

So He puts us to death and daily strips off this old man so that we can put on the body of His resurrection.

 

Let us rejoice in this hope as we receive His body and blood which were given for us and which have made us holy.  Let us eat and drink and rejoice as our earthly glory is stripped away so that, together with Moses and Elijah, and our loved ones, we may rejoice when we rise from the dead and see Jesus in His glory and our bodies are made like unto His glorious body.

 

Amen.

 

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

Soli Deo Gloria

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