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What We Deserve. Wed. After Judica, 2018

Wednesday after Judica

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History: Calvary

March 21, 2018

“What We Deserve”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

They lead Jesus away to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place where they crucify Jerusalem’s criminals.  Even on this occasion a great crowd follows Him.  And is usually the case with the people who follow Jesus, they do not understand Him.  The crowd of women who follow Jesus and the North African visitor to Jerusalem, Simon, who has been made to drag Jesus’ cross, weeps.  Jesus turns His face toward them, bruised by fists, cut by thorns, and says to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children…for if they do these things with a green tree, what will happen with a dry one?”

 

If they do these things to the Son of God, green with everlasting life, what will happen to you, who are by nature dry wood, dead in trespasses and sins?

 

Jesus did not come so we could feel sorry for Him.  He did not come for our pity.  He came to save us from what we deserve.

 

And so, about nine in the morning, they arrive at the place of execution.  They give Him wine mixed with gall, which is a poison, which perhaps deadens the pain of what comes next.  Another evangelist tells us that there was also myrrh in the cup, which is a painkiller.  Long ago David foretold this, though the passion history does not quote him: I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They also gave me poison for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.  (Ps. 69: 20-21) Whether it was meant in mercy or malice, Jesus refuses the drink.

 

And they crucify Him.  As the nails are driven through His hands and feet, Jesus prays to His Father to forgive the ones who pierce Him.

 

In case we are forgetting why this is all happening, the enemies of Jesus, standing beneath His cross and mocking Him, remind us.

 

The people say, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!”

 

Then the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!”

 

And the soldiers: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 

 

And finally, at the bottom of the barrel, one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus: “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”

 

Saving is on everyone’s mind at the death of Jesus.  The four groups of people all tell Jesus, “Save yourself!  Then we will see that you are the Son of God and the King of the Jews!  Then you will be worthy of our allegiance!  Then our opposition toward you will change into admiration.  We will cast our vote for you.”

 

Jesus is taunted because all they believe that if Jesus really is the Son of God, worth loving and trusting, He should show it by saving Himself from the cross.  And the criminal adds that Jesus should also save him from the consequences of his deeds.

 

The world’s mind hasn’t changed at all in two thousand years.  Jesus isn’t worthy of our attention—unless He can provide us with a path to bliss and power right now in this world order.  Unless He can save us from dying, or pain, or the feeling of insignificance, poverty, and emptiness that still gnaws at us who live in the greatest material comfort history has ever known.

 

You can be so close and yet so far away.  It is right when people expect Jesus to save, especially here, at Golgotha.  Jesus is here to save.  He is here to save us from our sins.  And because that is why He is here, He cannot save Himself from the cross.

 

The other criminal grasps this as he hangs on the cross near Jesus.  Imagine hanging from your pierced hands and your pierced feet, dying slowly, in agony, like this man does.  What realization are you likely to come to then?  At that time people have a hard time thinking or concentrating on anything.  But this man realizes what most people never realize—We are getting what we deserve for what we have done.

 

He tells the other criminal, hanging mangled and pierced from the other tree: Look at us.  Look at where we are.  You and I are here because this is what we deserve for our lives.  We deserve to have this be the final verdict on us and all we have done in this world.  Don’t you fear God?  We’re here because we deserve this. But Jesus has done nothing wrong.  He is innocent, and suffers the same death as we do.

 

Can you imagine experiencing the pain and shame this criminal did and saying, This is what I deserve?  Is that what we here from parents and relatives when a kid murders classmates or shoots a cop?  No.  They say: “He was a good boy.”  And we probably would too if it were our kid.  Because we love them and cannot bear to face that the one we loved is evil.

 

Is it what we say when people criticize us, suggest we have failed, suggest we have done wrong?  I am getting what my deeds deserve?  No.

 

Of course, the criminal on the cross next to Jesus had probably beaten people, robbed them.  Left them lying bloody in a ditch.  Perhaps he murdered someone.  Probably none of us have done those things.

 

But we have stolen from God.  We have wasted the heartbeats and breaths he has given us to gather for ourselves, to hoard for ourselves gifts He gave to be used in thankfulness and trust in Him.  We have demanded that people treat us with honor and respect that we have no right to claim when all our lives we have thought and done what we know God has declared is worthy of death.

 

This is what we have deserved for our lives too.  This is how our lives ought to be summed up.  Not that we die looking back with pride and contentment.  But that we die condemned, in pain, in shame, in regret.  And after that, to be forsaken by God forever.

 

Otherwise, why is God’s Son, who has done nothing wrong, experiencing this agony?  Is God so unjust that He would allow this to happen to His Son, who never once displeased Him?  That He would even forsake His Son while He died cursed and mocked by men?  After His only Son had lived a life of perfect obedience to Him?  We don’t deal with our children this way even when they have turned out to be no good by human standards.  Would God deal this way with His faithful, ever-obedient Son?

 

No.  This man who has done nothing wrong, who is truly the Son of God, is dying to save us from what we have deserved for our deeds.

 

He isn’t dying to save the criminal or us from the pain with which God corrects us.  The pain of God’s correction is to spare us everlasting pain.  He lays His rod on us so that having been chastened, we become better.  So that we turn from our ways of straying like an errant sheep and direct our steps to walk with Him and His flock in the way of eternal joy.

 

No, He has come to save us from eternal pain, eternal shame, from an eternity of being abandoned.  From a condemnation that does not end.

 

This is the saving we need.  And that is what Jesus is accomplishing.  When you see Jesus’ agony and shame, you see your own.

 

He was right in what He prayed while these sinners pounded nails through His innocent hands: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

 

When the people, the priests, the soldiers, the criminals all said, “Save yourself, and we will believe you are the Messiah”—and when the world demands that Jesus prove Himself, and we also demand it—they, we, do not know what we are saying.  We think that if Jesus saved Himself from the cross, He would prove that He was the Christ, the Son of God.

 

But if He had saved Himself, He would not have saved you.  He would have been no Christ at all if He had saved Himself.  He would have done a miracle that would leave us unsaved, still in our sins.

 

We too have pounded in the nails in Jesus’ body.  We have spoken and thought what we wanted, without considering the consequences, like Jesus told Peter: When you were young, you dressed youself and went where you wanted.  But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will lead you where you do not want to go.  We went where we wanted.  We injured and insulted and hated the people Jesus bore on His own body.  And then we demanded, “Save yourself and us!  Get down from the cross and get us down too!”

 

Jesus did not save Himself from our hands.  He gave Himself into our hands, and while we did what we wanted, He went where we did not want to go.  He was numbered with the transgressors and died as one of the guilty, though He had done nothing wrong.

 

So when you come to Jesus with your life that can only come to this, to the place the criminals found themselves—rightly under God’s condemnation—and you dare to ask, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom,”—when you come to this church the next time asking, “Be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being,” Jesus says to you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

It is a bold thing this criminal asked the man he knew was dying on a cross though He had done nothing wrong, when he himself had lived a life even other mere men condemned as evil.  “Let your innocent suffering benefit me.  Let my stealing and murder be at your expense.”  But that is what we say when we ask Jesus to forgive our sins.

 

And in response He says, “All my suffering is for you.”

 

“Today I save you by not saving myself.”

 

“And by the price I payed for you on Golgotha when I was forsaken by God, I declare the grace of God to you, and forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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Peace with God. In Memoriam Janice Uffelman. Romans 5. Feb. 23, 2018

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

cranach crucifixion 1In Memoriam + Janice Uffelman

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Romans 5:1-6 (Job 19:21-28, Luke 2:25-32)

February 23, 2018

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Keith, Brad and Mayme, Rachel and Aaron,

Jan’s friends and family,

Members of her church,

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

 

The word of God for our comfort comes from the fifth chapter of Romans: Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).

 

Peace is rare in this world.  In the little world of people’s hearts, there is seldom peace.  In the little world of our homes peace is often missing, or the peace is a cold war where certain topics are just not discussed.

 

Even those unusual people like Job and Simeon in the readings, who are visibly godly and upright, do not escape this.  Their peace is disturbed by pain or by persecution.  For some reason, not explained in the book of Job, God allowed this righteous man to be tormented, and everything but his life to be taken from him.  Job’s friends said, “Surely you must have sinned.  God is just and would not punish you for no reason.”

 

And in a sense they were right.  Peace is missing in this world for us because peace with God has been lost.  That is the testimony of the Bible.  The reason why there is suffering and the reason why there is death is not simply because this is a necessary part of the grand plan.  It is because the peace between human beings and God has been destroyed by sin.  That’s why we suffer.  That’s why even the righteous die.

 

And yet in the midst of his turmoil Job confessed a bold hope: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”  (Job 19:25-26)  After I die, says Job, my rescuer will come and bring me out of the prison of death.  He will raise me from the dead, and in my body I will see His face.

 

It is a brave thing to say, a bold thing to live your life by, especially when it seems as though God has abandoned you to suffer, when it appears to your eyes and everyone else’s that God is indifferent to you, or that He is against you.  Not just because it goes against what we see, but because it is a brave thing to claim about yourself.  Even if God will give eternal life to holy and righteous people, how do you know He will give it to you?

 

That’s not the way most people are accustomed to think anymore.  Only fundamentalists of one sort or another worry about how God will judge them.  The general idea is that God gives eternal life to everybody, as long as you do your best.  Yet we see all the time how the best we can do is not enough to bring about peace on earth, or peace in ourselves.  Our best doesn’t prevent us from disappointing or hurting the people closest to us.  Why would we think our best would be sufficient to stand the judgment of God, who is true and holy and pure?

 

Even the saints in the Bible recognized this clearly.  David, the man after God’s own heart, wrote, in the 130th Psalm: If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  And even Job didn’t say he would stand in his own righteousness when God judged the earth.  He said, I know that my Redeemer lives.  He was hoping for the day when the one God promised would come to redeem him not only from the world’s suffering and from death but from their cause—sin.

 

That day arrived.  Simeon saw it when He saw a little child brought into the temple courts.  Now, Lord, you let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people—a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.  The glory of Israel is Israel’s God, the Lord.  The baby Simeon took up in his arms was not merely a human child, but the maker of heaven and earth.  He had come to make Himself known to the nations who were ignorant of God, and to redeem from death, as Job had hoped for thousands of years before.  His coming was what made Simeon able to die in peace, with confidence that God was pleased with him.

 

Jan might not have been Job or Simeon.  But she had the same hope, the same faith, and the same God.  She had a redeemer.  She still does.  He has taken her to Himself in peace.  And at the last He will stand upon the earth.  And then in this body she will see her God.

 

Jan experienced lots of things in life that disturbed her peace.  Yet she had peace with God that was not based on whether or not she felt it.  It was established by the person that Simeon held in his arms, the one who gave that saintly man peace, the one who upheld Job in his agony.

 

St. Paul explains: For at the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Jesus, God incarnate, became a man not simply to teach what God wants us to do, but to die for us who are powerless to fulfill His will.  To die and pay the penalty for our guilt.  To die and settle the record of our debt to God.  To die and destroy death.  To take away its power so that it does not hold us after we die in eternal death.  Instead through Jesus it must let us go into the reward of the righteous.

 

By His death for our sins He justifies us; He makes us to be righteous before God, since by the sacrifice of His life He atoned for our sins.  And the way this justification becomes ours is without cost, without price.  It is a free gift.  Paul says, Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

 

This is the glory of God’s grace toward Jan and toward all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  He does not keep a record of sins.  He has torn up that record, pierced it through when Jesus, His Son was pierced on the cross.

 

And now, believing in Him, we are righteous in God’s sight.  We stand in His favor.  We can boast and rejoice in confidence, like Job, that on the day when the Lord judges the earth, we will see His face in righteousness.

 

Jan had peace with God during her life.  She also took up the person that Simeon held in His arms, the Savior of the world, when she knelt at this altar.  But more importantly, He took her up.  He took her up and made her His own.  In great pity He died for her sins when she was powerless in them.  He drew over her whole life as a covering the sacrifice He made for her when she was baptized at a few months old.  Now her soul is sheltered with His presence, and her body rests awaiting the day when she, in her flesh, will see God.

 

Now the peace that was hers in Jesus she enjoys away from the suffering of this world.  This is not an uncertain hope, but the hope God Himself gives.  Jan’s righteousness was Jesus’ righteousness, her peace was established by His suffering for her.  May you also take hold of this peace in your grief that He offers you freely.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Fighting With God and Winning. Reminiscere 2018. Genesis 32:22-32

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

jacob wrestling2Reminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 32:22-32

February 25, 2018

Fighting with God and Winning

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

This isn’t the first time Jacob was after a blessing, but it was the first time he fought for it honestly.  This time Jacob didn’t get the blessing with the help of his mother by deceit.  And it wasn’t his old man Isaac he had to get this blessing from, who could be deceived easily because he could barely see.  He had to get this blessing from a man who could see very well, who can see in the dark.  He had to get this blessing from a stranger who attacked him in the middle of the night.  It was totally crazy for Jacob to think he would get a blessing from this unknown assailant.  But Jacob seems to know who it is, doesn’t he?

 

Yes, Jacob knows who is trying to pin him.  He knows the same way that Jonah knew who was in the storm that was about to sink the ship on which he had booked passage in the opposite direction from the place God had told him to go.  He knows the same way that Adam and Eve knew whose voice it was calling for them when they had eaten the fruit God commanded them not to eat.  Jacob knew who was wrestling him the same way you know, but try not to know, who it is that is taking you by the neck in your distress and trial.  When Jacob asks His name, to confirm his suspicions, he says, Why do you ask My name?  (Gen 32: 29)  You know who it is.

 

The blessing Jacob gets from this person in the night is a new name.  The man says, What is your name?  And he said, Jacob.  Then He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and men and have prevailed (Gen 32: 27-28).  Jacob means “he takes the heel” or “he cheats.”  He received the blessing of his father Isaac and the blessing of God through cheating and trickery.  But now he stood alone with God and fought, and he prevailed.  His new name is “He fights with God.”

 

That name became the name of God’s people.  God’s people strive and fight with Him.  Not the way that the Israelites did in the wilderness, complaining about the lack of food, water, doubting God’s presence, doubting God would bring them into the promised land.  That wasn’t fighting with God.  That was running away from Him.  The true Israelites, His true people, not only fight with the devil, as we heard about last week.  They strive with God and prevail over Him, like Jacob did.

 

The wrestling and fighting Christians do with God is called prayer.  And the way we win this wrestling match with God is we remind Him of His promises, of His Word.  That is what the name of this Sunday indicates—Reminiscere, “remember”, from the Psalm at the beginning of the service, Psalm 25, where David prays, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”  (Ps. 25: 6-7)  We remind God of His promise, His covenant with us that He made with us when we were baptized, where He promised to be our God, and to remember our sins no more. Jacob told God, I will not let you go unless you bless me, he wasn’t trying to force God’s hand by the strength of his own arms.  That is impossible.  He overcame God with God’s own promise.  God cannot break His Word.  If He did that, He would stop being God.   

 

So now Jacob is coming back to the land in which he was born, with his wives, children, his flocks and his servants.  But now he has to meet the brother that he deceived and sinned against.  He hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  And Jacob sends his family in two groups ahead, hoping that if Esau attacks, some of his family will be able to escape.  And while he is alone and afraid, God visits him in the night.  He attacks him.  He wrestles with him.

 

Some of you who are listening to me today understand exactly what it is like to be Jacob.  You know what it is like to be afraid and to be struck with calamity.  In the midst of it, you feel as though God is coming at you with your sins.  It feels as though you are being reminded of all the evil you have done, all the reasons God has to be angry with you.  If you haven’t had this experience, you certainly will—if not in this life, if not on your deathbed, then on the day when He judges the living and the dead.

 

But there is good news for you when this happens.  God wants you to prevail against Him in this fight.  In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.

 

We have good reason to feel as though God is judging or punishing us for our sins, that He is angry with us, when we are faced with death, dishonor, calamity.  None of these things would happen to us if we weren’t sinners.  And our sins are real.  We say we are sinners, but the seriousness of our sins seldom dawns on us.  By nature we don’t feel the gravity of sin and death, and we don’t seek God’s blessing.

 

And even when God has given us the gift of repentance, and we do grasp His blessing, our flesh divides us.  Our grasp is listless and weak.

 

So God wrestles us.  He scares us.  He wounds us.  He brings us down to the grave, so that He may raise us up, so that He may heal us.  We are healed when we grab hold of His blessing, when we grasp it with our hearts by faith.  And when we grasp His promise, our hearts overflow from our lips and we call out to God Remember your mercy!  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways!  According to your love remember me!  I will not let you go until you bless me, as you swore to me when you baptized me!

 

This prayer prevails over God so that He hears and grants it.

 

Yet it isn’t our faith that overcomes God.  Our faith simply grasps the man who overcame God’s wrath and won His mercy and favor.

 

Jesus also experienced this fight with God.  In the garden of Gethsemane, He was alone.  The hour was coming when He was about to die an agonizing death.  But even worse, the hour was approaching when He would have to endure what Jacob feared but did not experience.  Jacob was afraid that when he met Esau, Esau would remember the wrong Jacob had done and kill him; Jacob was afraid that God would abandon him to Esau’s wrath.  Just as Adam was afraid when he heard God call for him, and when he came out to meet him he must have been thinking “It’s all over.”  Just as Jonah knew that God was in the storm that hit the ship.  He told the sailors to throw him into the sea and the storm would stop.  He must have expected that when they did that the depths of the ocean would be the gate through which he entered the depths of hell.

 

But Adam instead heard the promise of the Messiah.  Jonah was saved by a great fish that swallowed him.  And Jacob’s brother Esau met him and forgave him.

 

But Jesus was not saved.  He went into the garden and saw the end approaching and began to be so sorrowful that He said to His disciples, My soul is greatly troubled, even to death.  Stay here and watch with me. But his disciples did not watch.  They slept, while Jesus prayed in agony, and his sweat mingled with blood as He wrestled with God.

 

What did He pray?  Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done.

 

But the Father was not willing.  Jesus had to drain the cup of God’s wrath.  The wrath and judgment of God that we fear fell on Him.  Not just whips fell on his back and left stripe after stripe; not just nails piercing his hands and His feet, and all the agony of crucifixion.  But God turned away His face from His Son.  He abandoned Him.

 

That is what we really fear, or what we really should fear—that God forsakes us for our sins.

 

But He does not, even though we have returned to our sins like a dog to vomit.  When we wrestle with Him to fulfill His promises, to give us His Spirit, to let His Word go forth, to keep us in the faith, to forgive us, to deliver us from temptation and give us eternal life—He is overcome by us.  Because He has been overcome by His Son, who took away His wrath and judgment and the record of our sins.

 

God comes to you in the night and wrestles with you so that you may take hold of Jesus, who overcame His Father’s anger against human sin and won His heart to human beings.

 

In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.  Be bold when God comes to wrestle you.  Be a fighter.  Strive together with Jesus and claim God’s mercy for you and His church and His world.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Jesus Seeks God and You. Wednesday After Invocabit, 2018.

February 21, 2018 Leave a comment

last supper godefroy.PNGVespers—Wednesday after Invocabit

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—The Last Supper

February 21, 2018

Jesus Seeks God and You

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the name of Jesus.

 

What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  Rom. 3:9-11

 

No one seeks after God, says St. Paul.

 

Not even one.

 

The priests are seeking to arrest and kill Jesus in secret.

 

Judas is seeking to betray Him for money.

 

And the disciples are seeking to be the greatest.

 

Who is seeking God?

 

What is Jesus seeking?  “You know that in two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 

 

Only Jesus is seeking God.  Jesus is the only one in this story seeking to do the will of God.  And His Father’s will is that He be nailed to a cross.

 

Lent began as a time for catechumens to prepare to be baptized on Easter.  They would be baptized into Jesus’ death.  So they had Jesus’ passion and His cross before their eyes.  And during Lent we are called to return to our baptism, to the death and life given to us there.  But to return to Baptism and to the Triune God who claimed us in it is to seek out the cross and its death, not metaphorically, but in stark reality.

 

Maybe you don’t like the idea of dying on a cross.  Maybe you would like to believe it’s not true that Christianity is like this.

 

St. Paul, quoting the psalm of David, says, “there is no one who seeks God, not even one.”  We seek the approval of the sinful world.  We seek to satisfy the desires of our flesh, to scratch our itch for praise and respect, pleasure and comfort. But no one can serve two masters.  The master we have by nature, whom we seek to please, is sin.

 

But Jesus our Lord seeks God, and in seeking God He also seeks us.  He knows that on this Passover in Jerusalem He will be the lamb who is sacrificed. But He is not running away.  He goes into Jerusalem, tells His disciples to prepare the feast, and then, in the course of the meal, gives them His body and His blood to eat and to drink.  He desires this.  I have earnestly longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

 

At the Jordan River His cousin John argued with Jesus that Jesus should be baptizing him and not the other way around.  Jesus should not be in the lower position, but the higher.  But John accepted Jesus’ word that it was necessary for Him to accomplish all righteousness.  So John plunged him beneath the water in which thousands upon thousands of people had been plunged before Him, to be forgiven their cursing, unbelief, lying, their innumerable sins against God.  And Jesus went down into the water with them, though He had committed no sin and knew no sin.  He went down into the water in which others left their sins and took them up.  He was numbered with the transgressors.

 

Then heaven opened to Him.  The Holy Spirit came down on Him.  The Father said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  How strange that the Father was pleased with His beloved Son when He was made sin for us.  By becoming sin for us, Jesus was seeking God.

 

Seeking God for us who could not seek Him ourselves.  A sinner who tried to come to God while he is still in his sins would only find an angry God, a consuming fire.  He would not only find heaven closed.  He would find utter destruction, eternal pain.  That’s why no one seeks God.  We run instead, like Adam at the sound of God’s footsteps as he and Eve were finishing putting on their fig leaves.

 

Our road back to God is a road Jesus alone can walk.  He must pave this road with His bruises and His blood.  He alone is able to bear the punishment for our sins against God.  He alone is able to endure the stripes justice requires for our refusing to hear Him.  The times we knew what His will was and rejected it.  The sins we committed in carelessness.  The impurity and disobedience that we did not choose but which is born in us.  All these have a price, and Jesus must pay it in agony.  This is why Jesus tells Peter, Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow after.

 

Everyone will follow Jesus into death.  That is certain.  But to follow Jesus to death, so that we can say with him, “Now I am glorified, and God is glorified in me”—that is not something we have the power to will.

 

No, He must give us a share in Him. He must serve us.  He must gird Himself like a servant and wash our feet.

 

Just like John the Baptist had done before Him, Peter resisted being served by Jesus.  You can understand why.  How demeaning it seems for Jesus—especially on the night of His death!—to behave like a servant instead of the Lord.  But He has much lowlier service He must do for us.

 

He must be handed over for our sins and rejected.  He must be tried and sentenced for the evil we have done, and give His life to pay for our sins.  He must even give His flesh to be our food and His blood to be our drink.

 

No one seeks after God, Paul said.  He meant no one born with Adam’s fallen flesh.

 

But Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit of the virgin, does seek God with His whole heart.  And with His whole, pure heart, He seeks God for you.  And with His whole heart He seeks you for God.

 

Knowing full well all your unfaithfulness, knowing it before it happened, knowing it intimately, better than you do, because He paid for it in stripes, in tears, in agony of soul.  See how He tells His disciples today: You are they who have continued with Me in My trials, and I appoint you a kingdom.  He knows full well they are about to abandon Him in His greatest trial, yet He speaks to them this way!  Because He seeks them, and He carries them and all their unfaithfulness as His own, and pays for it in full.  That is how the disciples are counted faithful.  That is how they came to sit on thrones with Him.

 

If you are to seek God’s glory and share in it, You must be served by this man.  You must have a part in Him, a share in His flesh.  You must be born anew of Him who does seek God, since in the flesh you do not and cannot.

 

And He has given you a share in Him.  He has baptized you with His Baptism.  You were washed with the water into which He plunged, and joined with Him who made full payment for your sins.  You seek God not by the law, but through faith in Jesus, the Son of God, who gave Himself as your servant, to pay for your sins.  And He serves you still.  He gives His very body that endured the cross to you to eat.  He places the cup of His blood of the new testament to your lips, pledging that you inherit the free forgiveness of your sins through His death.

 

You have a share, a part in Him.  You have communion with Him through the Sacrament of His death.  Through your participation in Him you are righteous, and seek God, and find His approval.

 

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

 

You Will Trample the Lion and the Dragon. Invocabit 2018.

February 20, 2018 Leave a comment

serpent trampledInvocabit—The First Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 4:1-11

February 18, 2018

You Will Trample the Lion and the Dragon

 

Iesu Iuva

 

You really had a lot of nerve. Now you’re surprised that you have enemies who are waiting for you to fall.  You tell yourself that if they just knew how good your intentions are they wouldn’t be angry.  But you forget what you stood up and claimed in front of the altar of God.  Twice, most of you.

 

Do you renounce the devil?  Do you renounce all his works?  Do you renounce all his ways?  Do you believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  Do you desire to be baptized?  And the second time they asked, “Do you acknowledge the gifts God gave you in your baptism?”  And you said, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

 

You were the one with the nerve to claim to be a son of God.  You were the one who claimed to be free from the devil’s power and no longer destined for the eternal fire prepared for him and all who follow him.

 

So now he tests you, like a thousand degree furnace tests a bar of metal.  And the whole world of people that has given their allegiance to Satan tests you too.  Let’s see if you’re really a son of God, or if you’re really just like us and just putting on airs.

 

“To tempt” in the biblical sense is “to test,” the way you might test a car on empty highway with no police around.  With the pedal to the floor.  To see what it can do, what it can take, how it will hold up under stress.

 

The world tests you because it wants to prove to itself that God’s Word is not true; it wants to prove that it’s not going to be judged.  Your flesh tempts you because it doesn’t want to be affixed to the cross, pinned there, unable to break free, until it suffocates.

 

And the devil tests you.  He never sleeps.  He never stops.  He is a lion hunting gazelles.  When he isn’t pouncing on the unwary, he stalks.  He hides in the grass, motionless, watching.

 

Then, suddenly, he’s with you.  Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, Jesus told Peter on the night of His arrest (Luke 22:31).  Now he has you in his sieve and shakes you to find out if there is any wheat with the chaff, if you are a son of God.

 

And what are the results of this testing, this temptation?  What remains of you after the lion has pounced on you?  Did you, like Samson, tear the lion in pieces (Judges 14) by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Or like the boy David, did you catch him by his beard and strike him and kill him (1 Sam. 17:35)?  Did you overcome the Philistine giant?  Did you show yourself to be a son of the Most High?

 

No.  No you did not.  You were tested in your claim to be a son of God, and you were found wanting.  The rooster crowed.

 

Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)  A son of God knows this and is free.  A son of God knows that life is more than food and the body is more than clothing (Matt. 6:25).  He serves God, not earthly possessions.  He trusts in God, not in food, drink, house, clothes, cars, money.

 

But when the devil tested to see whether you would trust God when the cupboard was bare, you bowed down to your stomach.  You acted like a slave, not a king, not a son of God.  You were willing to be unfaithful to the Lord whose name you bear if it seemed like your income was threatened, like a comfortable life would be denied you or your children.

 

And other times, you acted as if you were more spiritual than God.  Your Father called you and appointed you to a place in His kingdom, to serve certain people.  [But when the devil tempted you not to fulfill your calling and use the means He had given you to carry it out, you liked the devil’s way better.  You neglected the Word and the Sacraments and said, God can give Me His Spirit another way.  You said, “God will make His Word bear fruit,” and you neglected to work to spread that Word, to teach it diligently to your children, to do everything in your power to not cause people to stumble over His Word.]

 

And when your Lord told you He must be rejected and killed in Jerusalem, and then rise from the dead, and when He told you that you also would have to be rejected by the world and die, you didn’t listen.  You thought He was being metaphorical.  He is the Son of God, and sons of God don’t get killed by the world.  They conquer the world.

 

So Satan whispered to you every time the world opposed you for Christ’s sake, every time the world opposed another Christian who faithfully confessed Jesus and His Word, he whispered, “The world is not being conquered.  You must be doing it wrong.”  And you listened to Satan.  You wanted to gain the world—for Jesus, of course—so you lived your whole life trying to never offend anyone with Jesus’ Word.  All this I will give you if you will fall down and prostrate yourself before me, said the adversary Satan to Jesus.  But this hasn’t turned out to be true for the Christian Church in our country.  We haven’t gained the whole world. The world just walks all over us.  By agreeing not to offend anyone in Jesus’ name, you have bent the knee to the prince of this world, in the hopes that he would give the world to you.

 

Instead, he only laughs at you.  You have been tested, and you have failed the test.  There are so many circumstances under which you will abandon your God.  But a true son of God, in whom God is well-pleased, trusts God and never departs from Him.  That is why God counts him worthy to be called His Son and to inherit eternal life with Him.

 

The one who conquers the devil and his tests will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the unbelieving, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.  (Rev. 21: 7-8)

 

A son of God conquers the devil and does not depart from God.  And the devil’s tests reveal that you are not by nature a son of God.  Your inclination is to depart from God, like Adam your father, like Eve your mother, like the devil himself.

 

When Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit, he was wet baptism in the Jordan River.  When He was baptized, a voice came from heaven: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Mt. 3:17).  How many of you who are fathers have ever felt that way when you looked at your son?  How many of you children ever felt your father’s approval that way, that your Father was well-pleased with you?

 

But then Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tested by the devil.  At the end of forty days and forty nights of fasting, when Jesus was weak with hunger, the lion pounced on Him.  Just like you are tempted as a baptized Christian.  He tested Jesus to see whether he would still be the Son of God when he was famished and weak, or whether he would break as every human being had in thousands of years.

 

But unlike us, Jesus passed the tests.  Jesus believed the Word that had been spoken about Him from heaven, that He is the well-pleasing, beloved Son of God.  And the devil’s tests only proved Him to be God’s Son.  He did not trade in His inheritance for a few loaves of stones made into bread, but was fed by the words that came from the Lord’s mouth.  Those same words came from His mouth in the time of temptation, and they defended Him.  He did not test God to prove that He was His Son by doing an unnecessary miracle.  He patiently held to God’s Word as His rock while the howling storm of temptation tried to pull Him away.

 

And when the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, and promised to give Him the world in an easier way, Jesus despised both the devil and the glory of the world.  A king does not pay homage to His slaves, much less to his enemies.  A Son of God does not fall down and worship the devil.  He trusts in the Lord, God His Father, and seeks the glory of His Kingdom.

 

Jesus did not seek that glory for Himself.  He was seeking it for the people of the kingdoms of the earth, who are held under Satan’s power and deceived by his lies.  Jesus knew that Satan must be overcome if people are to inherit the kingdom of God and be His sons.

 

So that is what He came to do.  When He was baptized with John’s baptism of repentance, Jesus was announcing Himself to be a sinner.  Since Jesus was not a sinner, and since it would be a lie to receive a baptism of repentance if you have no sin, what was Jesus doing?  He was receiving sin, becoming sin, so that He might take it away, pay for the sins of all people, and make them sons of God.

 

When the devil presented him with a different way to reign over the earth, Jesus spoke to the devil like he was a dog or a slave: Get out, Satan.  Our Lord was not afraid of Satan, because Satan, although he is stronger than human beings is nothing compared to God.  And God has now become a human being.

 

Jesus knew what this meant.  It meant warfare with Satan.  It meant a life of suffering.  It meant hatred from the world, and the worst death it could give Him.  It meant enduring God’s condemnation and the suffering we have earned for turning away from God, falling from God.

 

But He despised the devil and embraced the war.  He did it to conquer Satan, to break His back.  At His temptation He proved Himself to be the Son of God.  But He also showed Himself to be our conqueror, our victor.  He was victorious over Satan’s temptations for us.  And when He tasted death and God’s wrath on the cross, He entered into battle with all our falls and sins and destroyed them too.

 

Jesus is our victory over Satan.  None of your falls excludes you from being God’s Son, because the well-beloved Son of God destroyed them on the cross.  Your falls are not your own.  God says they have passed away, departed.  They lie in the grave with Jesus, and you have emerged from the grave with Jesus.  And when sin shows up, and you fail to conquer the devil, you plunge them into Jesus’ wounds, into His grave, into the waters in which you died with Him.  And you come out with Him again, a Son of God and a conqueror.

 

Because Jesus has conquered Satan, here at His temptation and finally at the cross, you will also conquer him.  You will tread on the lion and the cobra.  You will walk on Satan’s back, as he and the world have walked on yours.  You will overcome his temptations through faith in the Son of God.

 

Not that you can do it through hard work and positive thinking.  Not you, but Christ who lives in you will do it, because He already has destroyed the devil’s power.  He has taken away your sin and made it His own.

 

He will stand with you when you are tempted, with great pity.  For we do not have a high priest [ch. 5:2; Isa. 53:3]who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been [See ver. 14 above]tempted as we are, ch. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5; [ch. 7:26; John 8:46; 14:30]yet without sin. (Hebrews 2:15).  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 2:16). 

 

Let us draw near to our Lord’s altar, where He will give us mercy, His body and blood that have removed the record of our falls and have made us sons of God and more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  Let us draw near to Him and remember His bitter suffering and death for our sins at His table.  Then let us go forth as the sons of God we are, ready to fight and conquer the devil, the world, and our flesh.

 

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected…

But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.

Ask ye, who is this?  Jesus Christ it is,

Of Sabaoth Lord,  And there’s none other God.

He holds the field forever. 

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

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

Seed, Not Soil. Sexagesima 2018. Luke 8:4-15

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

sower van gogh.PNGSexagesima

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 8:4-15

February 4, 2018

Seed, not Soil

 

Iesu Iuva

 

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)

 

Jesus just told His disciples, and us, a mystery of God.  He told us how God’s Kingdom comes.

 

He didn’t tell how earthly kingdoms come.  That’s no mystery.  If Jesus wanted that, and wanted to teach His disciples how to do it, He would not have preached this parable to the crowd.  If Jesus wanted to have an earthly kingdom, He would have told that great crowd that came to Him, “You are all my disciples.  Follow me, and the whole earth will be ours.”

 

That’s not what He did.  He told them a story about seeds and didn’t explain it.  If He had explained it to them, they would have heard that they were not all His disciples.  They would have heard that He was not interested in making them winners in this world, rulers of this world.  They would have heard that God wants to make them despised by this world, offensive to this world, and pleasing to God.

 

God wants to make us His seed, His offspring, begotten by His Word.  He says: You are not soil, you are My seed.  You are not the man of dust, from which I made Adam, cursed by sin, able to produce only thorns and thistles. You are born of the seed of my Word, which bears fruit a hundredfold.

 

That’s what Jesus says: As for that on the path…The ones are the rock…As for what fell among thorns… He doesn’t say, “The path are the ones who…”  He refers to them as the seed that fell on the path, on the rock, among the thorns, in the good soil.  He doesn’t call people soil, but seed.

 

That’s because the Kingdom of God is not about getting a crowd together and exercising power and influence on earth.  That may be a byproduct of the Kingdom of God.  More often it is a counterfeit of God’s Kingdom coming.  There are still plenty of houses of worship that are packed to the gills with large crowds in this world, even many in our country.  But there are very few that fit the description of the Kingdom of God Jesus gives in this parable.

 

The Kingdom of God comes when the sower sows His seed.  What is the seed?  The seed is the Word of God.  Not partly the word of God, and partly the word of men; not seed that produces grain mixed with seed that produces weeds.  The seed is the Word of God.  Not the Word of God mostly, but they just don’t believe that Baptism saves, or the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ true body and blood, or they don’t believe that God created the world in six days, like Genesis says, or they don’t believe you have to believe the same teaching to receive communion at the same altar.  The seed is the Word of God says Jesus, and only the Word of God.  People may be saved when the Word that they hear is corrupted by man’s word.  But God’s kingdom only comes when God’s Word is heard.  If other words are mixed in with God’s, the Kingdom of God comes in spite of those words.

 

God sends out His word with a purpose; the purpose is to save sinners.  His Word saves people who believe it.  When people believe God’s Word, they bear fruit for God.  Without God’s Word they bear no fruit.  Gathering a big crowd around you, even gathering a kingdom that extends to the ends of the earth, bears no fruit for God.  One or two people who hear the word of God and hold it fast in honest and upright hearts bear much fruit.  Without the word of God people are fruitless and barren and dead. With it they bear much fruit, “a hundredfold.”

 

The mystery of the Kingdom of God is: out of the seed of God’s Word, God brings offspring out of the cursed earth, out of human beings who are dust, and who return to dust because of sin.  He grows these offspring not for this present world, but for the world to come, where the curse will be gone, where death will be no more.

 

He does this in a mysterious way.  Seeds are very small, aren’t they?  Very small, and very simple.  Seeds are not billion dollar business empires.  Seeds are not movie stars.  If someone goes to Harvard or starts a billion dollar business, we think that is something.  Nobody thinks it’s something when you start the seed of a tomato plant in a planter in your window in February or March.

 

But seeds are more impressive than we think.  In the little shell is encoded the information and the material to produce the plant that will produce life.  One seed will produce a million more seeds, as well as fruit that can be eaten and flowers that can be smelled.

 

What human life produces a hundredfold, a million fold?  That is what seeds do.

 

The seed God sends into the world is His Word that proclaims His Son, who was incarnate of the Virgin, who died, like a seed sown in the earth, and rose again bringing forth a multitude of seeds, of sons of God who would inherit God’s Kingdom and everlasting life.

 

He sows this seed in a very low-tech way.  He has it preached.  It comes in other ways as well, but this is the primary way.  And whatever way the Word is sown adds nothing to the Word.  All the power is in the seed.  When it is heard and kept by faith, it grows and produces much fruit for God.  Whoever believes this Word has this life growing in him, in the soil of his body and his heart.

 

But God doesn’t call us who have the seed of His Word sprouting in us “the good soil” or “the rocky soil” that contains the seed; He calls us the seed.

 

His will is that this seed that He sowed in your heart grow up to eternal life, and that you become a seed like the one sown in you.  Like Him in producing good fruit; like Him in patient endurance of tribulation because of the Word that is in You; like Him in His death, His resurrection, His glory.

 

That is what God wants, and that is what will happen, as long as the pure seed is sown, and as long as the ground that receives it is good.

 

Not that there are people who are by nature “good soil” for the Word.  In your heart by nature are all the characteristics of the bad soil.  Sometimes your heart is hard like the path, like the broad way of the wicked, that hears the Word but ignores and treats it with contempt and tramples it down.  Then the devil comes and snatches it away.  Sometimes your heart is stony soil; you rejoice to hear the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus, but as soon as temptation comes you fall into sin, as though you had never heard God’s Word.  And of course in your heart by nature there are lots of weeds and thorns, worries about this life, the love of this world’s wealth and pleasure, and these will choke the Word of God.

 

But Jesus doesn’t say that the good soil is those who have no weeds in their heart.  He doesn’t say the good soil is those who are never hardhearted.  He says: As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

 

Our hearts are purified by faith in Christ.  When we hear the Word and believe it, God counts us righteous for Jesus’ sake.  New life begins in us.  Christ’s life takes root in us.  God regards this life born of the seed of His Word as the real you.  And it produces new desires and loves in you.

 

So pull up the weeds, break up the soil of your heart, chase away the birds, the demons, who want to snatch away the seed God has sown in your hearts.  Come to the Holy Supper with your distractions and your idols seeking His grace.  It’s not you making your heart good soil.  You are not the man of dust, you are born of the seed of God’s Word, and He is tending what He has planted.

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

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