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Your Sorrow Turns to Joy. Jubilate 2014. St. John 16:16-21

May 14, 2014 1 comment

ImageJubilate (4th Sunday of Easter)+ St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet + St. John 16:16-21 + May 11, 2014 (Mothers’ Day)+ “Your Sorrow Becomes Joy”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

The disciples didn’t know what Jesus was talking about.  “What is this that He’s telling us—‘A little while and you will not behold me, and again a little while and you will see me,” and “because I am going to the Father’?  What is this ‘little while’ He keeps talking about?  We don’t know what He is saying.”

 

Jesus had already told them what He was talking about.  But they didn’t understand because they hadn’t experienced it yet and they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit.

 

In the same way Jesus has already told us what we are going to experience in His Church after His ascension, but we don’t understand apart from the Holy Spirit granting us faith through His Word.  Apart from the Spirit, relying on our own experience and reasoning, everything is dark. 

 

What He has told us is that in this world we will experience distress and sorrow, but that our sorrow becomes joy.

 

And to make this easier for the disciples and us to understand our Lord uses a picture that is very fitting for Mothers’ Day.

 

A woman when she is giving birth has distress, because her hour has come, but when the child is born she no longer remembers the sorrow because of joy that a human being has been born into the world.

 

Not that there is no distress and sorrow for mothers after childbirth.  Being a mother is full of distresses and sorrows.  It’s not only the near-death experience of giving birth.  Then it’s waking up in the middle of the night to feed and change diapers and years of caring for a little life that needs constant attention.  Then they become teenagers and need attention for other reasons but don’t want it.  And these days moms also often have to do most of the work of providing for her child, because Dad isn’t around.

 

It’s a lot of work that is demanding but not highly regarded, despite all the money that we spend on Mothers’ day.  How many people with a smart and talented daughter would be happy to hear her say, “I want to be a mother when I grow up”—if she didn’t also say—“and a doctor, or a CEO, or president…”

 

But Jesus said, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  (Luke 16:15)  We are impressed when men build cities and name them after themselves, when they build companies or nations, when they make themselves wealthy and famous, when they create art and literature.  But God calls it an abomination when one works to make a name for himself and instead of working and living for the honor of God’s name.  it’s what the people of the world did after the flood—they tried to build a tower to the heavens and make for themselves a name. 

 

It is supposed to be progress now when women have the freedom to pursue this same kind of idolatry that goes by the name “career”.

Work doesn’t exist to make ourselves a name or make ourselves rich.  It is a calling from God, a gift, through which He wants to work through us to give life to others. 

 

That’s why motherhood is highly esteemed by God and despised by the world.  Mothers who do what they are called to do trusting in Christ to work through them, who do what they are called to do in obedience to His Word—they are pleasing to God.  They do great works and get no praise from men.  Changing diapers and spending your attention and energy on little children isn’t building the Eiffel tower.  It’s more important.  Mothers bear life into the world for God and then nurture that life. 

 

Those kinds of works, done in faith in Christ, are not regarded as great by the world.  But God has regard for them.  He looks on works that are done not for the praise of men but out of faith in His Son, works that actually help our neighbor—help to give and sustain his life.  Things like towers and music and athletic ability can bless people, but mothers do the work that makes it possible to enjoy these other things.  They face death to bring a child into the world and they give up their youth and freedom to care for it. 

 

But you don’t hear mothers, usually, describing being a mother with the words “distress” and “anguish.”  That’s because the sorrows of motherhood God turns into joy, as He does with the sorrows of all callings He has ordained.  

 

The agony of giving birth and the difficulties of raising a child don’t remain agony and difficulty and distress.  They become joy.

 

The excruciating pain of labor becomes the joy of the mom holding her newborn, and the joy these two experience is greater than most joys ever experienced on earth.  Dads can only stand and watch it with amazement and gladness for them.

 

The hassles of raising kids becomes the joy and pride of seeing them go out into the world as adults to walk with God the way to life.  And even when they stray there is joy for a Christian mother, because she can turn to her Father in heaven for comfort and with confidence that He will care for her child just as He cared for her.  Jesus says that the experience of His disciples will be like the experience of a mother in labor.  They will have anguish, but the anguish itself becomes joy.  The sorrows of Christians don’t go away and then joy comes.  No, the sorrows and pains themselves become joy.  Believing this, Christians begin to rejoice in the sufferings themselves.

 

The Scriptures say this in many places.  Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:  So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:16-17)

 

And Hebrews 12 says: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  (Heb. 12:11)

 

When the disciples didn’t see Jesus for a little while, all they could do was lock themselves in a house and weep.  He was shut up in the tomb; they were shut up in the house.  It was unthinkable.  They had seen Jesus calm the sea with a word, seen Him cure lepers and paralyzed people and raise the dead with a word.  Then He had died in apparent weakness on the cross.  Given up His Spirit.  Blood and water poured from a spear thrust to His heart.  He was dead.

 

Anguish seized the disciples.  How could this have happened?  They must have been abandoned by God.  And for a person abandoned by God there is nowhere to run.

 

That very anguish of Jesus’ death and burial did not go away.  It was transformed into joy, like the water at Cana didn’t go away but became wine.

 

So the disciples’ anguish turned into exceedingly great joy when Jesus appeared to them.  But He really appeared to them before He came into the room and showed them His hands and side.  He appeared to them when the women came and first proclaimed to them the message of the angel: “He is risen!”

 

That’s also how He appears to us. 

 

He appears to us in the Scriptures, risen from the dead.  HE appears to us in the preaching of His resurrection.  And in those Scriptures and in that preaching the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we see Him and share the apostles’ joy.

 

After seeing Jesus risen, do you think the apostles were ever unhappy or scared or in anguish again?  You might think they never were.  But you would be wrong.

 

Paul says: We [apostles] are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.  2 Cor. 4:8, 10-11

 

The apostles still had pain, confusion, great suffering even after seeing Jesus raised.  In the same way mothers have plenty of distresses after the great distress of childbirth is over.  There may be some distresses that equal the pain of childbirth later.  But mothers almost never refer to motherhood as “anguish”.  Why?  Because just as the anguish of labor became joy, so the pains that come after childbirth become joy.

 

The biggest anguish for us in the Church is over.  Christ Jesus suffered, was forsaken by God, died and was raised from the dead. 

 

The pain He suffered became the joy that He has now in justifying us while we are yet sinners. 

 

Because He was laid in the grave not for His own sins but ours.  He bore the wrath of God not against His sins, but ours. 

 

Out of the anguish of His soul came the joy for Him of our reconciliation with God.  Now nothing stands between us and God, not even for the chief of sinners.  His suffering became the joy of clothing us with righteousness in Holy Baptism, of feeding us the righteousness of God in His body and blood given and shed for us.

 

And out of the anguish of the apostles’ souls came the joy of their message.  The three days He was gone from us, they say, meant the reconciliation of the world to God.  He atoned for our sins and rose and showed the new life that is ours, which will be ours in fullness when we are raised from the dead.

 

And it is the same with your sorrows and pains.  You see Jesus.  Your pain does not disappear.

 

It becomes joy, just as these bodies of sin and death in which we live will be raised up and transformed into the likeness of His glorious body.

 

You see Jesus forsaken by God for you and raised from the dead in the Gospel.  He comes and preaches it to you.  For you I was forsaken by God and for you I am raised, He says, and for you I reign at the right hand of God.  For you I will return on the last day.

 

The anguish we feel over our sins becomes joy, because it is that pain which He uses to keep drawing us to see Him and hear His voice.

 

He does not change the face He shows us or change His message.  He says, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Though they be as dark as death and as deep as hell, I endured the darkness for you and I have come from the depths and pronounce your sins forgiven.”

 

No one can take this joy away from us, because Jesus is present in His church to the end of the world.  Whenever His word is read or spoken; whenever someone is baptized in the name of the Trinity, and whenever His body and blood is distributed as He instituted, Jesus is with us.  He is the very one in whom all our sins and agonies were transformed into righteousness and joy.  Look at Jesus’ head crowned with thorns.  Look at His hands pierced, crying, “My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

 

That is our sin and agony.  And it has become righteousness and joy.  The same Lord is risen and proclaims the forgiveness of our sins.  He bursts their chains—their legacy of guilt, sadness, and death.  In place He declares you righteous, free, alive.  And with this true liberating word comes joy—even though it may only be a kernel just starting to grow.

 

Indeed, all our sorrows will become joy.  We too are given over to death for Jesus’ sake so that His life may be revealed in these jars of clay.

 

Joy lightens our face when we look at Jesus—that is to say, when we listen to His Word.  When we see Jesus we are seeing the one on whom our guilt and our despair were placed.  And He descended into the depths of God’s wrath with that real and heavy weight.  But He has risen and proclaims our guilt finished and our pain turned into joy.

 

The pain of childbirth becomes joy—great joy.

 

Are you experiencing some great anxiety or pain?  Over yourself?  Someone you love?

 

Do things look like they are closing in on you?  It’s all too obvious that we feel that way in the church.  And many of you have felt that burden for many years.

 

Jesus promises that just as labor pains become the joy of a child, our labor pains, your labor pains, will not be stillborn.  They will become joy, and no one will take your joy from you.

 

Indeed, Jesus has already turned them into joy.  He has borne them and the eternal wrath of God and risen again with the keys of death with which He sets you free.

 

And today He invites you to sit down and receive the testament that your sorrow has been changed into joy—the sacrament of His body and blood, which pledge that His agony has ransomed us and purchased us for everlasting joy.

 

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

 

SDG

 

Palm Sunday 2014. At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow. St. Matthew 21. 1-11

April 13, 2014 1 comment

palm sundayPalm Sunday + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. Matthew 21:1-11 + April 13, 2014
“At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow”

Iesu iuva!

Jesus is king. He gives an unmistakeable sign that He is king of the Jews when He sends His disciples to fetch the donkey and rides it into Jerusalem. And when the crowds respond to Him as the Christ, the anointed One, the promised King, He does not refuse their praise. He allows them to lay down their cloaks on the road in front of Him with leafy branches of trees as a royal carpet. He doesn’t stop them when they cry out “Hosanna!” Save us! “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord has appointed you to rule in His Name!

The crowd reads Jesus’ actions as proclaiming that He is the King. And even the people of Jerusalem pay attention, the citizens of the city the Lord chose for His dwelling place, the temple. Living in such a holy place, the people of Jerusalem aren’t easily impressed by people claiming to be prophets. But today, on Palm Sunday, when the crowds of Passover pilgrims raise the festal shout of salvation, they ask, “Who is this?” (21:10) And the answer comes back, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:11)

Everything seems to be going so well. Jesus makes signs that He is the King, the Messiah. The people greet Him as their King. So what if Jesus has a few enemies? What are they going to do when the people are laying their cloaks on the road in front of Him? God seems to be making Jesus’ way straight before Him straight to the throne of the King of Israel, and from there Lord and King to the very ends of the earth, over all the nations.

The donkey Jesus needs is right where He says it would be, and its owner sends it just as Jesus said he would. Jesus goes into the temple and throws out the money changers, and no one does anything to Him. He comes back on Monday and Tuesday and silences and rebukes the priests and scribes with their false, godless teaching. God seems to be preparing everything.

And then everything changes. Doesn’t it? Was God really making His way straight before Him? Was He really being made King when He was flogged to the point of barely looking human (Isa. 52-53), clothed with a scarlet robe and crowned with a wreath of spiny thorns? Was He really being made king when the soldiers knelt down in front of Him and spit in His bloody face? Had God really prepared His way to the throne when Pilate brought Him out in front of the crowd, dressed up in this royal apparel, and said, “Behold the man,”? Had God made Jesus king then when the crowd roared “Crucify, crucify Him”?

Yes!

 

Read more…

Tuesday Midday Prayer–Eichorn

March 4, 2014 1 comment

gethsemaneJohann Eichorn

Rust und Schatzkammer (Spiritual Armory and Treasury)

 

Midday Prayer—Tuesday

 

Passages of Holy Scripture

 

Fear God and give Him the glory, because the time of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth and the sea and the springs of water.  Rev. 14.

 

He who serves God with gladness is acceptable to Him.  His prayer reaches up to the clouds; the prayer of the wretched pierces through the clouds, and does not desist until it enters [God’s ears], and does not cease until the Most High sees.

 

Let the book of this law not leave your mouth, instead, meditate on it day and night, that you may keep and do according to what is written in it.  Then you will be successful in all that you do and will be able to handle things wisely.

 

Prayer

 

O Jesus Christ, my Lord and God, You know—yes, You have taught us Yourself how great is the weakness and foolishness of man, yes, how he can do absolutely nothing without Your help and assistance.  Where he trusts and believes in himself, he is bound to fall into a thousand disasters.

 

Have mercy on me, dear Lord, on account of this works-righteousness of Your child.  Graciously assist me, that through Your enlightenment I may see what is righteous, through Your admonition desire it, and through Your power finally also might obtain it.  Now I surrender myself, yes, commend myself wholly and completely, in body and soul, to You alone, who with God the Father and God the Holy Ghost are praised, one true and Almighty God forever and ever.

 

Amen.

Christmas Day 2013–The Life: Not taken, but given

image_Mary_And_Baby_Jesus023The Nativity of our Lord—Christmas Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 1:1-14

December 25, 2013

The Life—Not Taken, but Given

 

In Nomine Jesu

 

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. [ St. John 1: 4-5]  The darkness hasn’t even understood it, as the bible of King James puts it: The darkness comprehended it not.

 

There is wisdom in the church, but it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  [1 Corinthians 2:6-8]

 

The devil and the fallen angels who rule this darkness don’t understand the wisdom imparted in the church.  If they can’t understand it, certainly human rulers, celebrities, intellectuals won’t.  Nor will our own minds.

 

But God reveals it to little children (Matt. 11:25), to the saints (Col. 1:26), this mystery hidden for ages and generations.  God’s mystery (Col 2:2), the mystery of the Word made flesh, Christ.

 

Thy mind so weak/ Will seldom seek

Its comfort in the midst of sin and danger.

So turn thine eyes/ down from the skies

And find thy comfort in a lowly manger.  (Gerhardt # 39 st. 10 Walther’s Hymnal)

 

What the vast intelligence of the devil can’t comprehend is revealed to little children in the Church. It is the light which enlightens every man, the life which is in the Word.  To these little ones God is pleased to reveal His mystery.  Through these little ones He is pleased to make known His wisdom and to make fools of the lordly angels who rule this darkness.  In these children of Adam who were enslaved to death He is pleased to reveal His life.  And His life erupts in triumph over death and its lord—in us.

 

The Life can’t be overcome or comprehended, seized by the will, or the emotions.

 

The Life is not taken, but given.

  1. 1.       The Life is Not Taken

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  [John 1:1-3]

 

The Word is not an idea that can be grasped.  He is a He, a person, eternal with God, yet a distinct person.  Through Him all things were made, angels, archangels, thrones, men.

 

The Word is a person of the Godhead, so He and His life can’t be comprehended by His creatures.  We need Him and the light He gives even  to stage a rebellion and fight Him.

But the light always seems weak and contemptible to the darkness.

 

Today the Church appears to be marked for death, with no future, except to the extent that we are willing to make concessions to the darkness and to appeal to the darkness’ lust for glory.

 

This is not new.  When the Word entered the world, He seemed utterly feeble, without a hope and a future.  He came in a form despised by both demons and men—weakness.  He became an embryo in the womb of a young virgin.

 

What could be more fragile and helpless?  Embryos are easy to kill.  Desperate mothers do it.  Brutal soldiers and bandits do it.  Well-trained, intellectually superior doctors do it.  It is easy to erase the life of a baby in the womb—to end it and pretend it never existed.

 

And if God is a human baby, what easy prey He is for the lord of this world!  He didn’t put Himself in the hands of reckless human beings only, but made Himself helpless before the one who hated Him most—Satan.

 

Why did the Word become so weak—an embryo that could be cupped in your palm, a baby nursed by a woman?

 

He knew that if Satan saw that He was really one of us—not only flesh and blood, but one with us under our sin, able to be tempted and suffer and die—Satan would murder Him.  He would not be able to pass up this chance to erase Him.

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Categories: Christmas Tags: , , ,

The Gospel for the Unforgivable

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

cranach jesus adulteress 1532reposted from Chad Bird’s blog “The Flying Scroll”

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent.  Each step up took them closer to the fall–the abbreviated, fatal fall to come.  As the criminal stood above the trapdoor that, moments later, would open to rope him into eternity, an officer asked him if he had any final words.  ”I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,”  he said.  Then, turning toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul during his incarceration, who had been his confessor, his preacher, and the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper, he said, ”I’ll see you again.”  Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

As gripping as this account is, no doubt many similar scenarios have played out in the course of history, where condemned men have found repentance and faith when certain death looms nigh.  What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with many others who were hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history, guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them.  These were Hitler’s men.  His closest confidants.  His very own pack of wolves.  Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs thanks to the ministry of a farm boy from Missouri, who grew up to be a pastor, and who reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the fifteen Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II.

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50′s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous ‘congregation’ and to invite them to chapel services.  Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there.  Of the fifteen chairs set up for the first service, thirteen of them were filled.  Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers prayed.  And, through it all, hearts were changed.  Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, ”Heil Hitler!” spoke a repentance-confessing, faith-affirming Amen as they knelt to eat and drink the body and blood of their forgiving Lord.  They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized.  One of them, though he began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, ended up being led to faith by the very same divine words.  So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke, begging her to ask him to stay.  On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis, men who had enjoyed power and rank, now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay.  In her brief reply, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two very important reasons.  The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ.  The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there.  Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men, guilty of such atrocities, into the flames of hell.  But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie, but because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross, and earned a place for them in heaven.  There is no one who is so vile that he is beyond redemption, because the redemption of Christ envelops all people.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation, and those who share it.  What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance?  But Gerecke visited each cell anyway, invited each man to hear the Word, and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals.  Nor did he mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them.  On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Goering, asked to be communed, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims.  But Gerecke refused to give the Sacrament to one who so obstinately refused repentance, and treated the Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy.  When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful.  They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit.  They are to give the word of Christ to sinners, and let the Christ of that word do his work.  And he does.  He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes one and all into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of sixty-eight, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next.  He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him, some of whom had been among his flock during his years of ministry, one of whom, atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.”  And he did.

Online Resources:

I strongly urge you to click on one or all of the links below to read Pastor Gerecke’s story.  The details and quotes I included above are from these resources.

Gerecke’s story, in his own words, was published in the Saturday Evening Post, 1, September, 1951, pp. 18-19, under the title, “I walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs.”  Click here to read his story:  http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=54c3a380-d341-4df2-92f0-e25631014730%40sessionmgr4&vid=2&hid=18

Don Stephens, in War and Grace:  Short biographies from the World Wars, (Evangelical Press, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL3 0PH, England) devotes a chapter to Gerecke and his ministry.  The chapter is available online at:  http://www.messianicgoodnews.org/henry-gerecke-chaplain-to-nazi-war-criminals/

In 1950, Gerecke was called to be Assistant Pastor at St. JohnLutheranChurch, Chester, IL.  That congregation’s website includes audio files of Pastor Gerecke speaking about his experience.  These can be listened to by following the link below, and clicking on the audio files on the right side of the website. http://www.stjohnchester.com/Gerecke/Gerecke.html

http://birdchadlouis.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/from-hitlers-wolves-to-christs-lambs-how-lutheran-pastor-henry-gerecke-brought-the-gospel-to-hitlers-highest-ranking-disciples-before-their-executions/

 

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy–Hesshusen

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

hesshusiusUsually Lutherans are quick to point out that God does not command the observance of a certain day in the third commandment, but rather that we gladly hear and learn His word.  This sermon from the mid-1500’s is eye-opening for anyone who tends to think that way about “keeping the Sabbath.”  Generally Lutherans are used to think of the insistence that one do no regular work on Sundays as a Calvinist or Puritan phenomenon.  Hesshusen’s treatment is useful for pastors when thinking about how to approach teaching the third commandment to their congregations.

From Tilemann Heshusen’s “Sermon on the 17th Sunday after Trinity”, Postil (1590).

…The works forbidden by God on the Sabbath are those which are hindrances to the office of preaching, such as the works expressly declared in the law.

 

“You shall do no manual labor on the seventh day”—that is, your labor by which you make a living and by which you feed yourself—your trade, your work in the fields, your worldly business, taking care of your house—all that keeps you away from the preaching office and hinders God’s Word.

 

But on the seventh day you should let other works continue which do not hinder the preaching office and which help the neighbor in his need.  For that purpose God commanded that one should keep the Sabbath day…with the beautiful, holy works which are required by the 3rd commandment, such as: diligently hearing and learning God’s Word, instructing one’s neighbor, spreading God’s Name, helping to build up His Church, comforting sorrowful consciences, and openly giving thanks in the midst of the congregation for His gracious works (by which others are provoked and stirred up to faith), receiving the Sacraments, upholding and preserving the preaching office and the schools (that the knowledge of God may be brought to those who come after us).  That is the right understanding of the third commandment, and this is what is called “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.”

 

…Everyone should hallow the holy day with all diligence, and therefore be on guard against the works with which the Sabbath, which God Himself made holy, is profaned to the highest degree.  For instance—false doctrine, false worship and service of God, idolatry, blasphemy, despising the divine Word, persecution and slander of pure teachers, suppression of the preaching office when temporal authorities want to shut the mouth of the Holy Spirit, robbery of churches and schools, public scandals and offenses to the Church of Christ, and despising the most worthy Sacrament…

 

Accordingly, God also forbade all manual labor, worldly activities, and cares of the household, which pertain to the preservation of this life, such as baking, brewing, laboring in the field, plowing, threshing, practicing one’s trade, buying and selling, carrying out worldly affairs, and everything that keeps us from the preaching of the divine Word.  For God has ordained six days wherein we should work for our household and care for our bodies.  The seventh He set apart for the preaching of the divine Word, wherewith we are to take care of our souls for life everlasting. 

 

All of the trades, worldly stations, and work of the house are indeed made holy through the word of God…but God still set apart the Sabbath day on account of those things which hinder the Divine Word.  That’s because a person can’t plow his field, or be working at his trade and at the same time learn the Word of God.  As a result all such work and servitude on the Sabbath day has been forbidden.

 

Of course in an emergency…there we can use Christian freedom.  For instance, when in harvest time it keeps on raining but then on the Sabbath God gives good weather.  Then one can without sin and offense harvest grain and hay, without which God’s blessing would perish and die in the field.  The army does right and well that they go about war on the Sabbath day and have pushed  back the enemy.  Through this the Church of God was protected. 

 

Just as it is not right that one should conduct weddings on Sunday, it is also not right that worldly judgments and executions should be carried out on the feast days and on Sundays.  It is not only against God’s Word but also against the Imperial law.  Because even if the judgments of magistrates are not merely judgments of men but of God, nevertheless they only have to do with this life, and so they interfere with the holy preaching office which proclaims the judgment and absolution of God….

 

…Indeed how much greater a sin it must be when one indulges in frivolity and goes to see shows, jugglers, or fencing-schools.  How the devil has a special pleasure in seeing people engage in shame on a holy day and holding them back from the word of God. 

 

The guilds have set up their debaucheries on Sundays and have in many places imposed a fine on anyone who doesn’t come and drink beer.  Also the evil foe drives the people to set up their yearly markets on the festival days and to set up shooting tournaments and other practices on the high feast days—Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, St. John’s day. 

 

If some magician comes into a city, he soon seeks out the authority that he might push his juggling and devil’s ghosts at city hall on Sunday, so that they can get the young people together.

 

The fencing schools and comedians will be commonly be employed on Sundays because they are more popular.  Meanwhile the blessed, saving Word of God must give way before the tricksters and moneychangers which lead to damnation.

 

In many villages there are frivolous dances on Sunday doing such damage to the catechetical instruction that one simply wants to get rid of it.  Satan works so hard to keep these dances going so that the servants do not want to serve.  Is it not great misery and blindness that one allows this to go on, the servants not learning the word of God, hence becoming disorderly and the whole household estate thrown into an uproar?

Jesus Walked Your Road to the End. Trinity 13 Sermon, Luke 10.25-37

September 6, 2013 2 comments

pieta mantegna13th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 10:25-37

August 25, 2013

“Jesus Walked Your Road to the End”

 

Jesus

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

 

 

If we want to live forever, how should we live now?

 

Not everyone worries about that question, but many people do.  People you wouldn’t expect.

 

But people don’t ask the question out loud.  They already know the answer.

 

Does it take an expert in Hebrew Scripture and the teaching of the rabbis to know that you should love God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself?

 

No.  The pagans knew it too.  Not only wise people know it.  Children know it. People who try to love God and their neighbor and people who make no effort whatsoever all know this.

 

So the question is seldom asked, “How must I live now if I want to live forever?”  Because people know.

 

The question only becomes a question when people begin to do what their consciences tell them they must do if they want to live and not die.

 

Then the question arises.  “How must I live?”  It is evident enough that we ought to love God above ourselves and our neighbor as ourselves, but when a person begins to try to do what he already knows he should do, begins to behave as if eternity depends on whether or not he loves God and his neighbor (as it does), then the questions begin.  Which God is it that I’m supposed to love with all my heart?  Who is my neighbor and what does it mean to love him?

 

The text

 

The lawyer who asks Jesus, “What must I be doing to inherit eternal life?” does it to test Jesus.  It seems as though he already has decided on the answer and is looking for a way to find fault with Jesus and discredit His claims to be the Messiah.

 

Even if that is the reason the lawyer asks, it is also true that Jesus, in His preaching and in His deeds, has disturbed the lawyer’s assurance that he was living as a son of Abraham who would inherit eternal life with Abraham.  Jesus’ preaching and His actions had accused the expert in the Law of sin, of not living in a way that would be rewarded with eternal life.  Jesus had preached what John the Baptist came before Him preaching,–“Repent!”  John didn’t say it only to the notorious sinners, but also to the Pharisees and scribes and lawyers, the good, zealous, religious Jews.  “Repent!  Turn around and become totally different than you are or you will perish, for the kingdom of God is near”.”

 

Even with your disciplined life and your study of the Scriptures you are not the children of Abraham, heirs with him of eternal life.  You are Satan’s children—a nest of baby snakes, Jesus and John preached.

 

So if that’s how it is when I’ve lived my life as a religious man, the lawyer is asking Jesus—if these works aren’t good enough, then what works should I be doing in order to inherit eternal life?

 

Our Lord points the lawyer back to the Scriptures.  “What does the law say” which you read and teach for your living?  It says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Well, there you have it, says Jesus.  That is how you must live to inherit eternal life.  That is what you must turn around and do.

 

How frustrating an answer was that!  Obviously that’s what we’re supposed to do.  Even pagans know that!  But You are telling me I haven’t done it, and these supposedly converted prostitutes and tax collectors with whom You fraternize, who never cared about God’s law a day in their lives—they’ve done it?

 

Obviously I love God with all my heart.  I’ve dedicated my life to studying His word.  If Jesus were to find fault with my life, thinks the lawyer, it would have to be in loving my neighbor, because He says we don’t do enough to reclaim the sinners.  He says we should love our enemies, including the Romans who oppress us and the Gentiles who make themselves unclean with their idols and their detestable practices.  “Who is my neighbor, then, Jesus?”

 

And to this Jesus responds with the story of the priest and the Levite who walk by the man who has been stripped and beaten by robbers, and the Samaritan who interrupts his business, puts medicine on his wounds, takes him to an inn and pays for him to be nursed to health while he finishes his journey, promising to cover all expenses when he returns.

 

The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews.  They were people of another country whom the Assyrians had settled in the land after they conquered the northern tribes of Israel and taken them as captives.  The Samaritans had adopted a form of the worship of the Lord, but it was unorthodox.  They claimed that God had commanded people to worship Him in Samaria instead of the temple in Jerusalem.

 

On the other hand the priests and Levites served God at His true dwelling place, the temple in Jerusalem.  They had a holy calling.  They were called to serve in the holy place of the most High.

 

The Lord requires you to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus tells the lawyer.   That’s not done just because you know where to find the true God, or even because He honors you to stand in His presence and serve in His house.  The life that you must be living to inherit eternal life is not simply that you have a holy calling but that you love your neighbor as yourself, which means you don’t stop to ask “Who is my neighbor that I have to love?”  But instead when you see someone suffering or in need you become his neighbor, even if he is your enemy.  You spend your time and your wealth to save his life.  You trouble yourself for him.  You have compassion and serve him in any way that he needs, as though he were your own self.

 

That is what you must be doing to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells the lawyer.  It’s not enough to be a priest, a levite, or a circumcised Jew.  It’s not enough to have orthodox knowledge of God, or to love people you regard as holy and worthy.  God commands that you love your neighbor as yourself, which means that you become a neighbor to everyone in need, having compassion in your heart for them and showing compassion in your deeds toward them, whether they are friend or enemy, deserving or undeserving.

 

Now what can the lawyer say in response to Jesus?  He can go away muttering, “This guy is a fanatic.  No one can live that way!”  But he can’t deny that this definition of “Love your neighbor as yourself” sounds a lot more like what the words mean than the explanation we usually give them, which always involve in some way shrinking the commandment into a shadow of itself, something which does not require that we become completely different than we are.

 

Chorus

 

But this kind of love is not something Jesus only preaches; He performs it and does it.  Jesus loves you as Himself.  So He takes you upon Himself, walks to the end of your road for you, and comes to bring you to the end of His road.  He loves you as Himself, so He takes your life into His, so that you no longer live, but He lives in you—so that the life you live in the body you live outside of yourself by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.

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