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Shut In. Easter Vigil 2018 Gen. 7:16

March 31, 2018 1 comment

easter vigil.PNGVigil of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 7:16 (Daniel 7, Gen. 22, Ex. 14)

March 31, 2018

Shut In

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

And the Lord shut him in.  Gen 7:16

 

All the readings for the vigil are ominous except for the first.  Abraham is told to go offer his son as a burnt offering.  Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb?”, seeing the knife in his father’s hand.  “The Lord will provide Himself the lamb, my son.”

 

Then at the Red Sea.  Israel is trapped between Pharaoh’s chariots and the deep waters.  They cry out and Moses says to them, “The Lord Himself will fight for you; you have only to be still.”  Then they have to walk into the sea, with the surging, massive walls of water towering over them on either side.

 

Nebuchadnezzar tells the three young men, “If you are ready to bow down to the god I have made, well and good.  Otherwise you will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace, and what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”  They say, “Our God is able to save us from the fiery furnace.  But even if He doesn’t, we will not bow down to your idol.”

 

But Noah has to go into an ark of gopher wood along with 2 of every kind of animal, into a cramped, dark, soon to be foul-smelling box.  It’s probably better than trying to stay outside in the rain.  But Noah doesn’t know how long he will be locked into this tomb with the remnant of God’s creation as His wrath wipes out every living thing from the face of the earth.  And even if God tells you he will bring you out again, who doesn’t feel afraid when asked to go into a dark hole, like a coffin, even if they promise you they will bring you out later?  He has to trust God.  Then Genesis says: The Lord shut him in.

 

Imagine the sound: the ark door slamming shut.  The roar of the blazing furnace when its door is opened.  The sound of Abraham tying the knots that bind Isaac to the altar, the sound of the knife leaving its sheath.  The sound of the roaring wind and waters at the Red Sea as men, women, and children walk in their midst, where no human foot has ever walked.

 

These all have the sound of finality, like the last things the people hearing the may ever hear.

 

Final like the sound of the book slamming shut in the Tenebrae services.  This was the sound the women heard at Jesus’ tomb as Joseph and Nicodemus rolled the great stone in front of the entrance and sealed His body in.  The end.

 

And it was the end.

 

But the one who was sealed into the tomb Himself is the end, and the beginning.  His are time and eternity.  He is the alpha and the omega.  The world’s beginning, in all its goodness, came from his mouth, just as with the cry of His voice it will end.

 

And the sound of His grave shutting was the end of the world that had been before.  It was the end of the wicked, their death-knell.

 

When the ark opened again, God’s enemies, Noah’s enemies were no more.  Israel’s enemies lay on the shore.

 

So when Jesus was sealed into the grave and death.  It was the end of His enemy and ours.  He descended into hell and destroyed our oppressor.  He went down in exaltation with the double-edged sword that comes out of His mouth and ran it through our enemy and oppressor, and the devil’s power seeped out of him like blood on the word that is preached to us, the word of Jesus’ death for our sins.

 

When the book closes on our life, and the door of the ark is shut, and the knots are tied, the knife is raised, the walls of water loom over us, close us in, and we hear the roar of the furnace, it is the end for us—of the vestiges of our slavery, of our unholiness.  We are sailing through the flood and the fire into Jesus’ resurrection.  When we pass through, the fire cannot burn us.  The devil cannot touch a hair on our heads.

 

We aren’t scared when we read about Noah going into the ark or Shadrach and the others going into the furnace because it has already happened and we know the ending.  But it was different for Abraham and Isaac as the old man arranged his son, his only son on the wood.  He had to see past the eyes of his son, looking at him, and see what he could not see, see the lamb that God would provide by faith.

 

So it is for us.  We have seen the lamb whom God provided die, and we have seen Him rise.  But we must also see what we cannot see; see Him opening the door that He has shut on us, with which He has shut us in.

 

We are already in the dark hold of the ark.  We were shut up with Jesus, closed in with Him, buried with Him in Baptism, so that we may rise with Jesus and come out into a broad place, into a new world, as people belonging to that world, who are all brothers of Jesus the righteous.

 

But while you are shut up in the darkness and hear the roaring of the waves, destruction all around you, fear not.  It will not harm you.  The Son of God who is with you in the flame will not allow a hair of your head to be singed.

 

He is the eternal, consuming fire, but He does not burn you.  The light shines quietly on you and gives light, just as the paschal candle gives the light of the fire outside, but we are not burned.  The consuming, eternal fire shines in His flesh, and from the light in Him we have been set alight.

 

All unseen, while all was still dark, He descended into hell in victory and shattered the ancient foe forever.  And now the window of the ark has opened, the stone has been rolled away, and He has risen, bursting open the grave.  “Death is swallowed up in victory.  Oh death, I am your pestilence, Oh hell, I am your poison.”  They cannot hold you because they cannot hold Him.

 

While you are shut in, He will be your light in the dark, cramped hold, as the flood rages around you.  His hand that shut you in will open it again for us into a new world after we have come with Him through the great deeps, and in Him conquer.

 

Let us gladly die with Jesus.  Since by death He conquered death,

He will free us from destruction, Give to us immortal breath.

Let us mortify all passion That would lead us into sin;

And the grave that shuts us in

Shall but prove the gate to heaven.

Jesus, here with You I die,

There to live with You on high.  (LSB 685 st. 3)

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality. Ash Wednesday 2018.

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

nineveh.PNGAsh Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:16-21

February 14, 2018

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Death has been in front of our eyes in recent weeks, and today we are reminded again with the black ashes on many of our foreheads that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Today the black ashes are on our foreheads, tomorrow they will be gone.  But even when they are gone, we will still live in a world in which death’s mark is stamped on every person in it, as though every person we meet had a forehead smeared with black ash.

 

But death does not reign in the Church, over Christians.  Our Savior Jesus Christ…abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, the apostle says (2 Tim. 1:10).  And we are His people, baptized into His death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6)  We have a beautiful picture of this whenever a little child is baptized.  We light a small candle from the paschal candle, the candle lit on Easter, that symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  That little burning flame is a picture of the new life that we have received from Christ.

 

The new life that is in us is Christ’s life.  It is more powerful than death.  On Christmas Day we heard the words of St. John’s gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The little baby in the manger, and the little light born in us in Baptism, are stronger than the darkness of death in us because the life of Christ is the life of God.  It is not overcome by the darkness of sin and death in us.  It burns in the midst of the darkness in our flesh and, growing ever stronger, finally burns up the darkness and fills us with the light of life

 

Why is it, then, that the darkness within us seems to blot out the light of Christ’s life?  St. Peter says this in the epistle reading: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness [1 Peter 1:3].  It is ours, yet we must make every effort, as St. Peter says, to take hold of itAnd when we do not, the flame begins to sputter.  Faith flutters.  The new life grows dim.

 

So during Lent we examine ourselves to see where the darkness remains in us, where death has crept back in.  We meditate on Jesus’ passion to see the reflection of our sin and death.  And to aid our meditation, Christians fast.

 

We are called to do this not just during Lent but always.  We heard St. Paul discuss this a few weeks ago: Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…[so] I discipline my body and keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:25, 27).  Fasting is self-discipline; it refers specifically to moderation in eating and drinking and to abstaining from food or drink for a period of time.  We do this to keep alert, to keep sharp so that we may devote ourselves to meditation and prayer and to serving our neighbor.  More broadly, fasting includes throwing off every hindrance to rising to new life with Christ, moderating our use of television, internet, phones, or abstaining for a time so that we may give our attention to the one thing needful—Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus expects that his followers will fast.  When you fast,  He says in the Gospel reading.  What does that mean except that Jesus expects that we will fast, that we need to fast?

 

He doesn’t reject all fasting, but false fasting, done to win praise from other people, done so that we may be proud of our own spirituality. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. 

 

Piercing words from our Lord for those who fast, or do other religious works only to take pride in themselves!  Jesus calls them hypocrites.  They have a reward—in the misplaced admiration of other people, in their own high esteem of themselves.  But they have no reward from God for this.

 

Instead God condemns their fasting, churchgoing, praying as false and empty.  They are only pretending to pray, or go to church, or fast, pretending to love and serve God. In reality, they are loving and serving only themselves.

 

How evil it is to use God’s name to make yourself a name!  Yet isn’t this what most religion boils down to?    Don’t even true Christians do this?  How many times have you acted piously, religiously, when your heart was far from God, not humble, not grieving over your sins, not desiring his grace, full of self-righteousness?  Oh, the bitter ashes we taste when we realize this about ourselves, that so often we ignored Jesus whipped, condemned, and pierced, and sought to glorify ourselves!

 

God relented from destroying Nineveh because they confessed their sins and eagerly sought His grace with fasting and prayer.  Most Lutherans do not fast, so we are not liable to be proud about it.  But in our worship, prayer, and work in the church we frequently forget that like Nineveh God has pronounced our overthrow, together with all who disobey His Law.  Before we realize it, we have forgotten what we are, become confident in our religious works, satisfied with ourselves because we seem to be doing more than others.

 

True Christian fasting is not done in this spirit.  Christian fasting is not done for men, not even for ourselves.  It is done because we desire life from Christ, because we confessing from the heart that we are dust and ashes. It is done because we desire life from Christ; we desire forgiveness, and we desire not to live in sin any longer.  It is done because we want to become like Christ.  A Christian who fasts in the way approved by God forgets about himself and what others think about him because he is looking at Jesus.

 

This kind of fasting has a reward from God.  Jesus says, When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

The reward of the Father is life.  He sees what is in secret.  He sees the broken and contrite heart yearning to be forgiven, to be at peace with God, to become like Christ.  And He rewards such a heart with its desire.  He forgives our sins and makes Christ’s light burn more brightly in us until all darkness in us is burned away.

This new and contrite heart is God’s work, not ours.  He creates it in us through His Law.  And when faith in the good news of Christ enters the contrite heart, life comes in.  When we fast, we train the members of our bodies so that they do not lead us astray with the desires of the flesh and put out the life of Christ in us.  We train our members to seek life in Christ; our ears to hear His Word, our heart and mind to meditate on the Savior that the Word proclaims, our tongue to call upon Him.  And the reward is that this life grows in us.  We grow in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love; vice, ignorance, self-indulgence, cowardice, and selfishness dies off in us.  And as Peter says, we make our calling and election sure; we grow in the assurance that the life God has planted in us will reach its fulfillment, and the light of Christ’s life will fill our whole bodies with light.

 

That is what we are after during these forty days of Lent.  We are straining ahead to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us when we were baptized.  We are straining toward the heavenly reward of the Father, when we will be like Him, when we will be completely new, and life will replace death.

 

It seems far away and difficult, and it is.  Between you and that reward stands the cross to which you and I must be nailed and die.

 

But if you desire it, it is not far; you only need to come a few steps to take the body of Christ and to drink the blood which He poured out for the life of the world, for your life.  If what you long for is everlasting life in heaven—come, for everlasting life is here.  Everything is ready.  Come and receive the life of the Son of God.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Died and Was Buried. Good Friday Tenebrae 2017. Psalm 88, John 19:38-42

deposition raphaelGood Friday Tenebrae (7 pm)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Psalm 88:8-14 (John 19:38-42)

April 14, 2017

“Died and was Buried”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead?  Do the departed rise up to praise you?

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of

forgetfulness?

 

But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?  Why do you hide your face from me?

(Ps. 88:8-14)

 

Around this time on that Friday almost two thousand years ago, Jesus was buried.  Imagine.  Someone had to climb up on the ladder and remove the nails from Jesus’ hands or wrists.  As that man did so, He would have had to look into Jesus’ face.  It would have been covered with blood from His wounds, covered with bruises.

 

After the nails were removed, Nicodemus and Joseph would have carried Jesus.  Maybe they washed His body before they wrapped it in the linen sheet with the seventy-five pounds spices, myrrh and aloes.

 

They buried Jesus quickly and rolled a large stone in front of the door to the tomb.

 

And just like at our funerals, it seemed like it was all over.  All that was left was loss.

 

We know that death is the way of this world.  That doesn’t help it become easier when your mother dies, when your child dies.  It doesn’t help that everyone dies when you are lying in the ICU in pain, dying, or sitting in the nursing home, wondering when death will come.  If you have been sick and in pain for a long time, you may accept death simply because life has been too painful.  But otherwise, we don’t want to die.  We think of what else we wanted to do in this world.

 

When death comes we feel attacked, blindsided.  We are right about being attacked, at least partly.  Death doesn’t just happen, the way rust happens.  Death comes from God.  It is—judgment.

 

Many of the readings and Psalms tonight express this thought of being attacked by God.  King Hezekiah, suddenly dying, says of God, Like a lion He breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end (Is. 38:13).  Jeremiah mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem, which has happened because God is punishing them for rejecting Him as their God.  God is using the foreign enemies as His rod.  Our pursuers are at our necks, says Jeremiah; we are weary and given no rest (v. 5).    And the Psalm I quoted, Psalm 88, which we will sing in a moment, says, O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?  Why do you hide your face from me? (Ps. 88:14)

 

Those words remind us that the subject of the Scriptures, both old and New, is Jesus Christ.  In them we can hear the echo of Jesus’ fourth word from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?

 

Jeremiah’s people were forsaken by God because of their unfaithfulness; they were cast away because they cast God away.  And the same thing could be said of everyone whom God casts away, everyone He attacks, everyone He slays.  Hezekiah was one of the good kings, and there weren’t many.  The writer of Psalm 88 was Heman the Ezrahite, who was a grandson of Samuel the prophet, and was a prophet himself.  Yet Hezekiah was a sinner; so was Heman the prophet, and so was Samuel, his father.  Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you, says another Psalmist to God (143:2).

 

Yet God does enter into judgment with us, or so it seems.  He casts us down and puts our mouths in the dust.  We are struck with illness and the sentence of death.  Our congregation becomes like Jeremiah’s Jerusalem: How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed!  The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street…the tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst (Lam. 4:1, 4)…Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!  Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners (Lam. 5:1-2).  The families that once were members of this congregation are now the parishioners of congregations where the body and blood of Christ is not confessed, churches where infants are not baptized, or members of no churches at all.  And those that are left no longer grow up in the house of God or are taught the Word.  The day is drawing near, it appears, when there will no longer be Good Friday services here in this Church.

 

When we think about this, how do we not feel that God is striking us, attacking us because He is displeased with us?  And like Hezekiah, Heman, or Jerusalem, are we righteous before Him that He should not judge us?

 

Let God be true and every man a liar, as St. Paul says.  Or with the thief on the cross, let us say: We are getting the due reward of our deeds.

 

Then let us look away from our suffering, like the thief did, to Jesus.  This man has done nothing wrong.  There was no deceit in His mouth.  He never displeased His Father.  He never spoke lies.  He is the man Psalm 24 speaks about:

 

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up His soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of His salvation.  (Ps 24:3-5)

 

Jesus’ hands are clean and so are His lips.  His heart is pure.  Even crucified, in great agony, as He is attacked by the Father and His soul is cast away, He says, “My God!”  He trusts God not to forsake Him.  He commits His soul, dying, into His Father’s hands.

 

Jesus is forsaken by God, attacked in His wrath, humiliated before His foes, brought about before bloodied, spit upon, dressed like a king.  The Father gives Him into their hands, and allows them to have their way with Him, to crucify Him, to make Him die on a tree, of which the Law says, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.  He does not intervene to save His Son from receiving a portion with all sinners in death.

 

We come around again to Joseph and Nicodemus burying Jesus, and sealing the tomb.

 

You know why Jesus is ambushed and attacked by God.  It is for you, to win God’s favor and grace for you.  Even while God casts Him away like an unclean thing, Jesus goes on trusting His Father.  He breathes out His soul in death and His last words are “Into your hands I commit my Spirit.”  How thoroughly He trusts His Father with all that He is, even when His Father seems to hate Him, seems to not know Him!  Makes Him suffer!

 

How pleased the Father is with His Son’s trust and obedience!  How much He loves it!

 

He loves it so much that He is pleased with you and all who believe in His Son, believes that through His Son’s obedience He will be gracious to them!

 

We deserve suffering and death because of our sins.  But God doesn’t give it to us because He hates us in His wrath and we are getting what we deserve.  The Father no longer recognizes the sins of anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  The Father is not stupid or kidding Himself.  He knows our sins, but He also knows the ransom His Son paid to release us from God’s wrath against our sins.  He will not lie or go back on His Word.  It is, as the readings from Hebrews will soon say, Jesus’ last will and testament.  It can’t be altered, and God is not a liar.  He will not impute sin, count sin, to anyone who believes that Jesus has made payment for his sins.  That means you, even with your weak faith.

 

Instead, He imputes His Son’s pure heart, His perfect, unfaltering trust, His holy obedience even to death, to all who believe in Jesus. That is His unfailing promise in your baptism, and in the Holy supper of His body and blood.

 

When we die and are attacked by God (so it seems), we are not being brought into judgment, dealing with a God who is going to destroy us in His wrath and never build us up again.

 

We are dealing with a God who counts us to have clean hands and a pure heart, who says of us, He will receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our salvation. 

 

We are dealing with the God who desires to build us up, to raise us again; that is why Hezekiah sang O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit…behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness, but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

 

Today He cast our sins behind our back.  Jesus said, It is finished.

 

Psalm 88 asks: Do you work wonders for the dead?  Do the departed rise up to praise you?  Is Your steadfast love declared in the grave, or Your faithfulness in Abaddon (that is, destruction?) 

 

The answer is: yes.  For today God’s beloved Son joins us in the tomb, among the dead, making it holy, a place of rest.  When we lie down as Christians, we go with Jesus, who remains the eternal God, whose battle has ended, whose righteousness and victory will be revealed in us.

 

Amen

 

SDG

Jesus’ Groan. 12th Sunday after Trinity, 2015.

12th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Mark 7:31-37

August 23, 2015

“Jesus’ Groan”

Iesu iuva

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” says St. Paul in Romans chapter 8. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:18-23)

 

Groaning. Paul says creation is groaning with birth pains, waiting for the revealing of God’s Sons. In the Gospel reading today Jesus groans. It says, “sighs” in our translation, but it is the same word Paul uses in Romans chapter 8.

Paul says creation is groaning as it waits for God’s Sons to be revealed. When God’s sons are revealed, then creation will be set free from futility and corruption.

Not only creation groans. We groan, says Paul. Christians groan. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Why do we groan? We are waiting for the same thing as creation. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies, when we will put off death, futility, corruption, and put on glorious, immortal, resurrected bodies.

And not just we and the creation groan. The Holy Spirit also is groaning. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

 

Groanings too deep for words are what comes from Jesus’ body as He sighs over this deaf and mute man. “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed (or groaned) and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened.’”

Jesus is not just groaning over this deaf and mute man. He is groaning over the futility and corruption that binds all creation.

“’Vanity of vanities,’ says the preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 13-14)

 

Jesus is groaning as with labor pains to bring in the new creation that God has promised. In the new creation there is no more death and no more futility, no more sickness and infirmity. In the new creation there will be life and the glory of God.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22-23) And the new creation will appear when the sons of God appear. Right now God’s sons are hidden. They are subject to death and futility like the rest of creation. But when God’s sons are manifested, then creation will be transformed. God’s glory will not be hidden, but will give light to creation like the light of the sun.

But that is not yet. God’s sons are not yet revealed. How could they be? Even God’s only-begotten Son is not yet revealed except through the preaching of the Word. When He was on earth Jesus was subject to the same futility as us. He lived in a world that was always dying because it was under God’s curse. And Jesus was not visibly any different from the rest of human beings. He “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) Though He was the Son of God “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death…even though He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7-8) Jesus’ glory was hidden, even though He was “the Word made flesh.” He was the world’s Creator, yet He was made like His brothers in every respect (Hebrews 2:17)—His brothers being the sons of God—you and me. He was made subject to futility and death. That is why Jesus sighs and groans over this deaf man. He is groaning as in labor pains that this man and all of us might come into the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

 

What this groaning means is that He, the Creator, has taken the curse of vanity and futility caused by sin upon Himself. Creation is in bondage to death and corruption, and so are we. Our groans would not be the groans of childbirth, but the groans of death, except for the fact that our God has taken on Himself our groaning. He groans and sighs here to God as a great high priest for this deaf and mute man who is brought to Him. He takes his deafness and muteness upon Himself and brings it to the Father, groaning.   And the Father hears His sighs just as He heard the groans of Israel in slavery. We are in slavery, in bondage to corruption and futility and vanity, and Jesus groans the groans of our slavery.

Then after He has groaned and taken the anguish of the man’s bound ears and tongue to God, He returns from the presence of God as a priest does, with blessing for those for whom He has interceded. He comes out from the glorious presence of God and with shining face speaks a word of glory, freedom, and new creation—“Ephphatha”—that is, “be opened.” In the flood the windows of the heavens and the fountains of the deep were opened to destroy and cleans the earth, but here the Word of God opens the closed ears and mouth of the deaf man to the world outside him. He is opened to creation.

In the same way Jesus took our bondage upon Himself at Gethsemane and Calvary that He might speak the word of glory and freedom to us after His resurrection—the word that opens us to the new creation. He groaned in the bonds of our corruption in the garden, sweat poured from Him like great drops of blood, and He groaned as He surrendered to the bonds of death for us. Nailed to the cross, He groaned in the presence of God as He was forsaken for us and became the ransom-offering for us. He groaned in anguish as He paid for us to be set free from death and corruption, from futility and hell.

And on the third day when He exited the tomb and appeared to the disciples with a shining face, after having made intercession with God for us, He spoke a glorious Word of freedom. “Peace be with you. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.” Just as He loosed the bond of this man’s tongue and opened His ears, He forgave His disciples their sins, loosed them and gave them the key to loose the bonds of sin.

That is what the groaning of God’s Son merits us—a new creation. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” says St. John, “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 1, 3-4) When Jesus pronounces our sins forgiven through a man, the pastor or another brother in Christ, the former things have passed away. The old has gone and the new has come and we are a new creation.

When the water pours on the baby’s head with the name of the Triune God, Jesus glorifies that baby and sets it free from bondage to sin and death. He glorifies and pronounces us sons of God in Baptism and the absolution. The old has gone, the new has come. Jesus’ miracles were signs that the kingdom of God was among them, about to break out into the new creation. Today His Word and Sacraments are the signs that the kingdom of God is among us, and that the sons of God will soon be revealed among us who participate, who commune, in the only Son’s flesh and blood.

Jesus groaned for us in Gethsemane and on the cross. Now, risen from the dead and glorified, He says, “Be opened. Your sins are forgiven.” His word glorifies and liberates from corruption and sin everyone who believes it. It opens our ears to hear the glorious news of salvation, and looses our tongues to praise God and proclaim Christ’s name to those around us. Just as at creation God looked at everything He made and saw it was very good, so He looks at us who have received the firstfruits of the new creation, the Holy Spirit, and pronounces us “very good,” for the death and resurrection of Jesus covers us. And now we groan, not in despair, but with eager longing for that glory which is ours to be revealed when Christ is revealed in His glory. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

 

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Through the Ears. Trinity 12. Nursing Home Sermon

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Trinity 12

Sunny Hill Nursing Home

St. Mark 7:31-37

September 5, 2014 (reworked from sermon from 2012)

“Through the Ears”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

How did death enter our lives?  Through the ears.

 

From the serpent’s lying tongue came syllables which entered the ear canals of the woman.  Words formed in her mind.  Then her soul received the words.  Ate them.

 

When you entertain lying words that deny the words of God, you are not on neutral ground.  There are only 2 possible stances toward God’s word—to accept it as the truth, believe it, cling to it, and reject everything that opposes it; or to debate it, critically examine it, think about whether it pleases you or not.   To do anything other than acknowledge God’s word as the eternal truth is to disobey it.

 

So when Eve did not reject the lies when the sounds entered her ears and the ideas formed in her mind, her soul became pregnant with sin.  Sin captured her eyes, so that she saw the forbidden fruit as attractive.  Sin captured her will and her body, so that she disobeyd God’s command and warning and took and ate.  Finally, sin, not content with destroying her, took control of her tongue, which it now used as Satan had used the serpent’s tongue—to lie and murder.  She enticed her husband to abandon fellowship with God and to join in fellowship with her in death and the rejection of the truth.

 

Our physical ears and tongues are more closely tied to our souls than we normally realize.  It was by means of our physical ears that sin was first conceived in human beings.  It was by means of the tongue that sin began to spread.

 

But now the sin and Satan don’t need to approach us from outside anymore.  It lives within us, and begins to stir up the desires of sin and death from inside.

 

Now life enters us from the outside.

 

 

  1. Jesus opens our ears. The law—we are dead. He proclaims the forgiveness of sins and our ears become open to God’s Word.
  2. Jesus opens the new creation to us. He stands in our place between the wrath of God and us. He takes our groans, pain, and death in Himself before the Father. Dying and rising again, He brings to us the Father’s word that unlocks healing and the new creation.

We join with Jesus in praying for others, mediating for them, serving them. This is the beginning of the new creation, of everlasting life.

The Great Chasm. Trinity 1, 2014.

rich man and lazarusFirst Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 16:19-31

June 22, 2014

“The Great Chasm”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Lord, let at last thine angels come

To Abram’s bosom bear me home

That I may die unfearing.

 

I was at the hospital, visiting a lady who had been a member of St. Peter at one time.  She was busy with the doctor, so I was packing up my books and getting ready to leave when the doctor turned to me and said, “What denomination are you?”  I told him, “Lutheran.”  He asked me, “Do you believe in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”  I said, “Yes.”  Then he asked me if I would like to lead them in prayer.  So we prayed: the doctor, me, the lady, and her family, holding hands in a circle.  Before I left, the doctor said something about being saved three years ago.  I said, “That would be an interesting story I would like to hear sometime.”

 

So he proceeded to tell me the story right then.

 

The story was that he had a co-worker who had been trying to convert him to Christ for twenty-five years.  But he was an atheist.  He said that three years ago they were discussing death in reference to a patient.  He said, “Well, we’re all going to the same place, after all.”  The “same place” he meant was the dirt and then—nothingness.  His colleague looked at him and said quietly, “No, we’re not going to the same place.”  “What do you mean?” he asked her.  She said, “Doctor, you’re going to hell.”

 

He said the statement was like an arrow through his heart.  He began to be terrified at the thought of spending an eternity in anguish without a loving God.  He began to read the bible.  Soon after he told his girlfriend he had to go to church, at which he made a public confession of faith in Christ and was baptized.

 

What is striking about this doctor’s story is the same thing that is striking about Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Jesus paints a very clear picture of what happens after death.  We are not all going to the same place after we die.  There is a great chasm fixed between people after death.

Read more…

In Memoriam + Mildred F. “The Desires of Thine Heart”

December 11, 2012 2 comments

Der-Auferstandene_1558In Memoriam + Mildred  (Sept. 3, 1912-December 7, 2012)

C H S Funeral Home

Psalm 37:4, Isaiah 57 (1-2, 14-15), Philippians 1: (20-23), St. Luke 2 (25-32)

December 11, 2012

 

Alberta, Diane, and all of Mildred’s flesh and blood, who allow us to add our tears and our joy to yours,

 

You members of St. Peter Church, who have been Mildred’s co-workers in Christ during these years of her pilgrimage, with whom I have been allowed to walk for a short time,

 

And everyone here today who gives thanks to God for the life of Mildred, in whom He showed us His grace and kindness, and His eagerness to bless us richly without asking about our worthiness or our faults;

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

God’s word for our comfort this morning is drawn from all three of the readings, but in particular this verse which was given to Mildred at her confirmation in 1926:

 

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

 

1.        The desires of the heart of unbelievers and the sinful flesh

A.  Unbelievers want

            i.  Happiness, comfort, success, family

            ii.  They want to live in order to pursue these pleasures.  When they can no longer get them

                 they no longer want to live.

 

B.  Christians may desire all these things also.

           i.   But they don’t always get them.

           

                        a. Most women want children—Mildred had none.

                        b. She was poor and a widow for many years.

 

C.  Christians desire above these things to serve Jesus and do His will; that “Christ be glorified in my body, whether by life or by death.”

             i. And the flesh of Christians constantly battles against this desire of the Holy Spirit.

ii.  Through affliction we learn to love Christ and the forgiveness of sins through HIs blood more than the

desires and will of our flesh.

Read more…

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