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In A Broad Place. Quasimodogeniti 2018

jesus thomas.PNGQuasimodogeniti—The Second Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 20:19-31

April 8, 2018

“You Have Set My Feet in a Broad Place”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

A week ago from last night, we observed the vigil of Easter.  It started after darkness had fallen.  Then the new paschal candle that through most of the year stands next to the baptismal font was lit from a fire outside.  Everyone had little candles in their hands, like we do on Christmas Eve, and they were all lit with the fire from the candle that symbolizes the life of Jesus that conquers death.  Then we processed into the totally dark church.

 

Then there were several readings from the Old Testament.  All of them pictured some part of Jesus’ descent into the darkness of death and His resurrection.  One of them was the story of Noah, who went into the dark, cramped box called the ark for a year as the wrath of God descended and wiped out all life from the earth.  After he had gone in with the remnant of animal and human lives that would repopulate the earth, the Scripture says, The Lord shut him in (Gen. 7). 

 

In the Gospel reading, the disciples are also shut in.  Eleven men (ten on the evening of Easter), plus others, probably, are sitting in a living room with the doors shut (or locked).  They don’t go out lest people recognize them as the disciples of Jesus, and the chief priests do with them as they had done with Jesus.  They are alive, but in a prison, fearing that at any time there will be a knock on the door that will mean the end for them.

 

Even worse, they are shut up in the darkness of a bad conscience.  Have you ever been in a narrow place where you couldn’t stand up straight, where you were so packed in that you couldn’t move?  It’s like that when you have a conscience that condemns you as a sinner.  You would like to believe that you are at peace with God, but your sins press in on you, bind you up.  Every time you get your head above water another wave of condemnation hits you.  For the disciples of Jesus there were two waves that kept crashing into them.  The first was the events of the last week, the flogging, mockery, and crucifixion of Jesus, which made it seem that their faith in Him had been misplaced.  The second was the way they had abandoned their Lord when they were put to the test.

 

Some of you, most of you know what it is to have done what the disciples did.  You were faced with some temptation or other and you abandoned Jesus.  Maybe it was long ago.  And when the memory of it returns, you are closed in, shut up, fighting for air.

 

Or it is simply the awareness that every day, no matter how faithfully you have tried to live a new life in Christ, you have never quite accomplished it.  You always fall short of what a Christian life should be.  And so you are always in a dark room, like the disciples, fearing that when the knock comes on the door, you will not be ready to stand before God.

 

And others are closed in by the feeling of despair that your faith in Christ is in vain.  When you see how your life and the life of Christians does not seem to be one of “victory on to victory”, but instead one wave of trouble after another, the darkness closes in on you, and you are tempted to think that it is foolish to put too much confidence in Jesus.

 

When I was a little kid, I watched a movie on TV one Saturday.  You may have heard of it; it was called Star Wars.  There is a scene in that movie where the heroes jump into a garbage compactor to escape a bunch of storm troopers who are shooting at them.  They are knee deep in garbage and nasty water trying to find a way out when they realize there is some kind of giant snake swimming around their legs.  One of them gets pulled under, but then for some reason the snake lets him go.  They quickly discover why.  The walls have begun to close in to crush the trash.  They try desperately to brace the walls with big pieces of metal, but nothing works.  At the last minute their robot friends contact them on an intercom and manage to shut down the garbage compactor by hacking into the computer.  Then one of the robots hears them screaming over the intercom and thinks he is too late.  But they are shouting for joy because they have been saved.

 

That was what happened to the disciples.  In their cramped prison, with the doors shut, Jesus suddenly appears and says, Peace be with you. 

 

Instead of the knock on the door that means the end, Jesus comes in without knocking.

 

He doesn’t show them their sins and let the walls close in on them forever.  Instead, He shows them the marks in His hands where the nails had been and the place where the centurion’s spear entered His side, proving He was really dead.

 

Those marks are all there is left to say about their sins, their abandonment of Jesus.  Those marks are the signs that the walls of judgment have stopped closing in on them forever.

 

Then, as if that was not enough, He sends them out of their prison.  Therefore Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you.  Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And having said this He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven them; if you bind them, they are bound.”  (John 20: 21-23)

 

Jesus has the authority to open up the doors and unlock the chains of darkness, sin, death, and a bad conscience, and the authority to lock people in.  He has this authority because He was bound in that prison for us.  That is how He got the marks of the nails and the spear.  He also burst those chains and broke out of that prison for us.  That is how He stood before them alive after those mortal wounds being inflicted on Him.

 

Since He conquered sin and death, He owns them and is able to release from them.

 

And He not only released the disciples from their sins; He gave them His authority to release others.  He authorized them to forgive sins and to bind, to release and lock up.

 

That is how Jesus comes into the midst of us in the prison of sin and a bad conscience and stops the walls from closing in on us.

 

He comes and proclaims release by sending out first the apostles and then ministers to preach His death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins.  He entrusts to His believers the power to forgive and retain sins.

 

The message that He proclaims to us is not, “If you do this and that, you will be forgiven.”  He proclaims that sinners are bound and condemned to eternal death.  But to those who feel their chains, He proclaims unconditional release.  You are released, He says, because I have been released.  I bore your sins.  See the marks in my hands and my side.  I was closed in by death and judgment.  But now I am risen.

 

And if you still find yourself to be a sinner and wonder if you are still set free, see these marks.  They are the answer to any accusation made against you.

 

Jesus wears those marks before God His Father.  They always stand before Him.  He cannot see or hear about your sins without seeing the nails that went into His Son’s hands, and the spear that went into His side when He died for those sins.

 

Those marks always stand before God and speak louder than our sins.  They say, “It is finished.”

 

But Jesus still comes into our midst to proclaim peace to us, to release us from our chains and darkness and our old life.  It is His voice that speaks when the minister, called to exercise the public office of the Keys, says, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all you sins, in the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Amen.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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And Sinners Will Return to You. Wed. after Oculi.

jesus caiphas frangipaneWednesday after Oculi—Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—Trial Before Caiaphas

March 7, 2018

And Sinners Will Return to You

 

Iesu Iuva

In the Name of Jesus.

 

There is a fire in the courtyard.  Simon is trying to keep warm and trying to keep his head down.  He is also trying to keep an eye on Jesus across the courtyard without anyone noticing.  Jesus has His hands tied.  Around Him are the scribes, the elders of Israel, members of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests.  Jesus is on trial.

 

And as Peter listens, he hears his Lord give His testimony.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tears his robes.  Jesus has just referenced the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy and applied it to Himself.  He says that He is the Christ, anointed by God as king over all the peoples of the earth.  That He will return as God’s judge of the men assembled in this night court.

 

And the assembled dignitaries of Israel give their decision—Jesus must be put to death for blasphemy.

 

The chief priests and the elders of the people were wrong to condemn Jesus, of course.  He had not taught people to worship a false god or prophesied falsely in God’s name.  The man standing before them was the God of Israel.

 

But Jesus did not deny that they had the responsibility and the right to judge.  They were God’s representatives.  It was their duty to try and condemn blasphemers and false prophets.

 

What was true of the chief priests and Sanhedrin is also true of this church named after the apostle who fell so badly that night.  You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that apostle later wrote despite his great sin.  All who are baptized into Christ and believe in Him are, like Peter, priests, and share with Jesus the authority to forgive and retain sins.  To judge, despite the fact that we, like Peter, have ourselves sinned and denied Jesus.  Jesus has entrusted us with the office of the keys, that special authority that Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

 

St. Paul writes about this, “It is actually reported among you that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from you…  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 5:1-5)

 

Paul means that the Church in Corinth is supposed to remove the unrepentant sinner from fellowship; pronounce that his sins are not forgiven, just as after confession the Church pronounces the forgiveness of sins by the authority of Jesus.  This is not putting him to death physically.  It is pronouncing God’s judgment that He will speak on the last day.

 

Paul says to do this “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  By speaking it now, the unrepentant may turn and be delivered.

 

Most of us here relate with Peter.  We know that we are not pure.  We have denied Jesus ourselves, and so we are very hesitant to ever speak words of judgment to anyone else in the name of God.

 

We should be hesitant to ever judge or condemn anyone in our own name.  When we judge people on our own authority, we condemn ourselves.  But when we hold back Christ’s judgment from unrepentant sinners, we are not really showing them mercy.  We are going easy on ourselves, because we are afraid of being condemned by unbelievers as harsh and unloving.

 

Jesus preached, Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19-20)  About that Jesus we are saying, “I do not know Him.”

He proclaims that our righteousness must be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven.  For that He was condemned to die on the cross as a blasphemer—for confessing that He would return with the clouds in divine majesty to judge the living and the dead.  The priests tore their robes and called it blasphemy and handed Him over to Pontius Pilate.

 

We do not want to stand with Jesus and proclaim His judgment.  We do not want to be His Church that proclaims His judgment and His forgiveness because we are afraid.  “I do not know Him,” we say, with Peter.

 

Repent.

 

Before us is Jesus, the Son of the Blessed.  He is the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.  (Rev. 3:7)

 

He preaches the judgment of God on us and through us, His Church, so that the world may be saved from eternal death.  The times have changed, people say.  The times have changed; the hour is late.  Judgment is very soon.  But the judgment of God has not changed.  The torment of hell will never change.

 

Jesus preaches the judgment of God so that the lost may be brought to repentance and saved from eternal death.

 

When the priest questioned Him, He confessed the truth—that He is the Christ, anointed by God to be king over human beings and to be priest for human beings.  He alone will rule over human beings, as their Redeemer and Savior, or as their judge.  He alone is able to reconcile God to us.  Our leniency toward sinners cannot take away their sins or our own.  Our leniency has no more validity before God than our self-righteous judgment, our unjust judgment, like the unjust judgment of the priests that Jesus was a blasphemer.

 

Only God’s mercy makes sin go away, and only His condemnation makes us truly guilty and condemned.

 

It was God who condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, and a denier.  It was His mercy that permitted His only Son to take up our sins as His own; it was His mercy that allowed Him to be condemned for them instead of us.

 

Only those who know that they are condemned by God are able to come to Jesus and receive God’s mercy.

 

Jesus was silent before the accusations they made against Him to the high priest because He was willing to bear every charge against us and the whole world and be condemned for them..  He was willing to shed His righteous blood so that we would be acquitted by God.

 

He was willing to be Christ for us, to be anointed as our king and priest.  He was willing to be our King and be led into hell to rescue us.

 

He was willing to be our priest, and to offer up Himself as the sacrifice that brought the wrath of God against us to an end.

 

This is why you are no longer the one who has denied Jesus countless times.  This is why you are no longer the hypocrite who has no right to speak His Word to anyone.  The judgment and the forgiveness that you speak and that I speak in His name are not spoken on our own authority, but in the authority of the Son of the Blessed One, the Christ, anointed by God, the rightful King who judges the living and the dead.  What He says, and what He authorizes and calls us to say, is not for the destruction of our family, neighbors, brothers.  It is for their salvation.  It comes from the mouth of Him who was silent as He was tried and condemned for the sins we try and fail to deal with ourselves.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joyful Mission. Quasimodogeniti 2016

jesus risen with thomas

Quasimodogeniti (2nd Sunday of Easter)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 20:19-31

April 3, 2016

“The Joyful Mission”

 

Iesu Iuva

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

 

It is the evening of the first Easter Sunday. St. John pictures the eleven disciples of Jesus sitting inside a house with the doors locked “for fear of the Jews.”

 

Why were the disciples afraid? It’s simple. Outside was death. Jesus had been murdered days before, and Jesus’ disciples were nowhere near as strong as He.

 

But then, says John, this miserable handful of scared men begins to rejoice. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

 

Our flesh might expect the story to end here, happily ever after, with the disciples basking in the peace of God.

 

But it is not the end of the story.

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at proclaiming forgiveness of sins and peace with God to His beleaguered disciples in that room. His reign of salvation and life extends to the ends of the earth, to all people and throughout time. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’” (John 20:22-23)

 

Jesus empowers and sends the disciples to be the risen Christ, so to speak, to the world. They aren’t Him, but they are given His power and authority, so that when they say, “Peace be with you,” it is the peace of the Lord and conqueror of death.

 

He’s sending them out of those doors that they have locked to try to keep out death. He’s sending them out into the world that killed Him and which will also kill them. But they are no longer to fear death. They are to reign over it.

 

He’s sending them out to reign with Him as King.

 

They will go out into the world and exercise Jesus’ authority to forgive sins and to hold sins unforgiven. They will go out into the world like little Lord Christs, and in His name they will forgive some sinners and they will hold some sinners bound in their sins until the day of judgment.

 

 

But why would Jesus give this prerogative of God to eleven men who were unable to stand by Him when He suffered?

 

That is a good question. But it’s not simply a question about the disciples then; it also concerns us, who have been made Jesus’ disciples by Baptism and catechesis.

 

All Christians are called to reign as little Lord Christs. Every Christian is called to participate in forgiving and retaining sins—by supporting the Church and the ministry of Word and Sacraments, by proclaiming God’s Word to family and neighbors. Every Christian is called to reign with Christ by serving the world with words and deeds. Finally, every Christian is to share the marks of the Lord Jesus’ Christ’s Kingdom; to endure the cross and suffering for the privilege of proclaiming His forgiveness and judgment.

 

But the question is how Jesus can give you this royal privilege, the authority to “forgive and retain sins”, also known in the Catechism as the office of the keys. You too have proven untrustworthy. You have been embarrassed of Jesus, have run away to save your skin when you should have willingly endured the cross with your Lord.

 

This is not the way who believe in risen Lord should act. They should not be afraid, but be joyful. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the risen Lord; they didn’t remember how they were small in number, how their enemies were great and powerful, how death was waiting for them outside the door. They rejoiced when they saw Jesus, because in Him they had peace with God. It was as if they no longer remembered their weakness, their sins, the hostility of the world, or death.

 

Yet many baptized Christians act as if all they can see is the church’s weakness, the hostility of the world, the pain of the cross, and the power of death. It’s as if Jesus hasn’t risen, conquered death, loosed us from sins, and as if He isn’t present in our midst in flesh and blood.

 

In other words, they manifest unbelief.

 

And as a result, by no means are they willing to go outside the locked room and reign with Jesus.

 

What is this but to live as if Christ is not risen? Hypocritical Christians don’t recognize this. They don’t realize they are called to reign with Christ; they are content to live what they consider virtuous lives in the flesh. They say, “I do enough. I go to church. I’m as good a Christian as anyone can expect. Surely Jesus doesn’t expect me to put my life, reputation, comfort, or standard of living at risk to be a Christian. After all, we’re supposed to be saved by grace apart from works.”

 

Real Christians, however, are troubled by this failure to follow Jesus out of hiding and self-protection. They recognize that when Jesus gives us peace with God, it’s not an earthly peace. Peace with God means that God exalts us with Christ. We become “a royal priesthood”, as Lutherans are fond of saying—kings and priests together with Jesus. But as kings with Jesus, we go into the world not to be served, but to serve. We proclaim God’s law and His Gospel, we serve our neighbor in every way. But we also endure hostility from the world and the devil. To receive Christ’s blessing, “Peace be with you” by true faith at the same time means to receive His cross. Christians are troubled to recognize all the ways we try to avoid the cross. They are all manifestations of our unbelief in Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the world.

 

And this is another reason why Jesus gave the office of the Keys to the Church. It isn’t simply so that we may forgive and retain the sins of those outside of the visible boundaries of the Church. Jesus gave this authority also for the sake of those within the visible Church, so that those who are baptized and yet struggle to leave the locked room may be loosed of their sins.

 

When Jesus rose from the dead and proclaimed, “Peace be with you” to His disciples, He was proclaiming not only that they were forgiven, but that they were new creatures. What they saw themselves to be—men who a few days before had fallen away from Christ, who were weak and unworthy to be His disciples—was not who they were anymore. Jesus forgave them everything, and His forgiveness also meant that the old disciples had died and new men had risen in their place.

 

And when you are absolved of your sins, Jesus frees you from them as well. Their guilt is taken away. But you are also not the person you were before. You live now by His Spirit. Your sins, inscribed on His flesh with nail and spear, died when He lay in the tomb; now that He is risen, the wounds are memorials before God of your priceless worth to Him. The old you has died, nailed to the cross with the Lord, and you now live in Him who died and has been raised again, in Him over whom sin and death have no dominion (Romans 6).

 

That is what enables us to go out into the world to reign with Him—this appearance by Jesus declaring that His work for our justification is finished.

 

Yet in the Church so many people seem to be unaware of the fact that in the Divine Service, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, and in Absolution, Jesus is appearing to us with peace just as in that locked room on the first Easter. This is shown by so many people’s lukewarmness toward His Word and Sacraments. People don’t come to pastors and say, “Show us Jesus.” Generally pastors have to urge people not to despise the Divine Service, Bible Study, and so on. But nowhere is this more evident than in people’s disregard of absolution.

 

Yes, we’re willing to be absolved in general, as we do in the service. But that’s really not much different than what happens in preaching, except we add a general confession of sins to it. A sainted member of the church once remarked to me that private confession and absolution probably made it seem “more real”. This person never came to private confession but understood that it’s easy to admit in a general way “I’m a sinner” without owning the sins by which we have earned damnation. Similarly, it’s easy to hear “I forgive you all your sins” in the same way—as a general statement about the way God works instead of a personal forgiveness for our personal unfaithfulness. General statements don’t usually provide much comfort.

 

The reality is that everyone struggles with sin. It’s true that God has already assured us of the forgiveness of sins in the Scripture. Yet it is also true that many people doubt whether that forgiveness applies to them because of the state of their heart. When you reveal your sins in front of the man God has called to speak in His name, and that man forgives your sins with the authority Christ here gives to His Church, it provides comfort and assurance that is greater than your heart.

 

In private confession and absolution God’s forgiveness spoken in response to the very things that make you feel alienated from God. The absolution says those things are forgiven, and that you are not the person that you see in yourself, who has repeatedly failed Christ and cannot be trusted to reign with Him. You are a new person, raised from the dead to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

 

Private absolution says, “You can speak God’s judgment and grace to the world because you are not the slave of sin you once were. You are released from sin and condemnation; peace be with you.” You are righteous through Christ, and everything He has is yours. You are no longer under the law’s curse; you have been set free from the law, having died to it through the body of Jesus.

 

Of course, no one is going to force you to confess and receive absolution privately. No one should be forced to receive the gifts of Christ. If our need and the greatness of the gifts don’t compel us to come to hear God’s Word preached, or to baptize our children, or receive the Lord’s Supper, or go to Bible study, or read it at home, or confess and be absolved, external force won’t help. It would be wrong for me, however, not to show you the greatness of Christ’s gifts and remind you of your need.

 

But mostly I preach this for those who see their need for it and desire the blessing, but who are afraid or ashamed; I preach this to encourage you to come. I cannot invite you as graciously as Jesus invites you; I wish I could. I can tell you that Jesus welcomes sinners and those who are weak in faith. He wants them especially to receive His comfort and pardon. I can tell you that the greater our sins appear to us, the more worthy we are of condemnation, the more graciously Jesus invites us to come to Him. When we come, He will not only forgive us. He will wipe our guilt and shame away entirely. He will make us reign with Him, seat us above the holy angels, make them our servants.

 

I can tell you that when Jesus showed the disciples His hands and side He didn’t do it simply to show it was Him, nor did He do it to remind them of their sins. It was also an invitation to them to consider how sincerely He loved them and had how completely He had forgiven and put away their sins. The place of the nails and the spear in His body are seals to us that we no longer have anything to fear, but have peace with God that can’t be taken away.

 

By those same marks Jesus invites and urges us to come to Him so that we may hear Him say, “Peace be with you”. I pray that you will hear His invitation and recognize that when He opens His Word, bestows His Sacraments, and absolves us, He comes into our midst with peace as He came into that locked room. And when He does so He enables us to leave our locked rooms and go forth into the world with His peace to reign with Him.

 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

No Way. Quasimodogeniti 2014. John 20:19-31

Guercino_-_Doubting_Thomas_-_WGA10951Quasimodogeniti + St. Peter Lutheran Church + St. John 20:19-31 + April 27, 2014

“No way”

 

No way.    Sorry.

 

I’ve been with you guys for 3 years now, so I know how you operate.

 

You’re on fire for Jesus until it might cost you something.  Then it’s, “No, I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

 

You’re all about Jesus as long as you think you stand to gain something.

 

So you tell me you saw Him.  You say you know it wasn’t a hallucination because He showed you the holes in His hands and the slit in His side.  You tell me He sent you, He breathed on you, gave you the Spirit.

 

No way.  I’ll believe you when I put my finger through the holes where the nails were and reach my hand into the gash in his side.

+++

 

Poor Thomas.  This wasn’t just about the facts—whether or not Jesus rose from the dead.

 

This was about jealousy.  He rose from the dead, and all the disciples got to see Him except Judas and Thomas.

 

Poor Thomas could see all the reasons why Jesus shouldn’t send these ten disciples to be His messengers.

 

He could see their sins, but couldn’t hear the joyful message—“We have seen the Lord!”

 

If Thomas could have heard that, then he could have heard the grave that was so much bigger than who got to see Jesus and who gets authority and who gets to be first.

 

Christ is risen!  That means—you’re free.

 

Whether you saw Him or didn’t.  It doesn’t matter if you are the one who saw Him or who gets to be in charge.  You’re free!  Death and hell no longer hold you!

 

Thomas didn’t hear that.  Didn’t see Jesus sending the others with this key of freedom for Thomas.  He just saw theses sinners trying to exalt themselves over him again.

 

Poor Thomas!  Look what he almost missed!

 

Poor us!  Look what we are missing!

 

Read more…

Familiar Chains. Wednesday after Oculi, 2014.

False Witnesses Before CaiaphasWednesday after Oculi + St. Peter Lutheran Church + What sins should we confess? [Small Catechism] (Passion History Part III) + March 26, 2014 +  Familiar Chains

 

Iesu iuva!

What sins should we confess?  Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.  But before the pastor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.

 

…..

If you get away from God, you’ll have freedom. Absolute freedom. You won’t have to worry about doing what He says and you won’t have to worry about dying.

 

Get away from God or get rid of Him; then you’ll be free. Unlimited freedom.

 

 

But really, chains.

Adam hides. That’s his freedom.

 

Peter hides and he won’t come back because he’s trying to escape chains and death. But he gets a different kind of chain. He has to keep lying and stay away from God in order to maintain his freedom.

 

Jesus doesn’t look like He’s free to us, but He is.

He confesses the true God. He confesses Himself.

He knows full well what this means; the people will want to kill Him.

He also knows that it is the Father’s will.

It seems to us that denying His Father (and Himself) would make Him free and that doing the Father’s will has made Him a slave.

 

Sin is a chain.

It gets you away from God. It cuts you off.

But to turn back to God is to turn back to punishment; the wages of sin is death.

To confess your sins to God is not like a get out of jail free card. Confessing your sins does not earn you freedom. Confessing your sins is like turning yourself in to the police.

 

It is to agree with God’s law that you deserve death.

 

It doesn’t make you not a sinner anymore. It’s like if Jeffrey Dahmer turns himself in to the police or pleads guilty. He isn’t now good and fit for life in normal society. He’s still worthy of punishment. He still would do unspeakable things if you let him out on the street again.

 

It’s not confessing that makes us free from the chains of sin.

It’s Jesus receiving our penalty of death and hell for us.

Then rising from the dead with our new life.

 

 

Read more…

“I Appoint You to a Kingdom.” Wednesday after Invocabit 2014. “What is the Office of the Keys?”

Lenten Midweek Vespers + St. Peter Lutheran Church+ March 12, 2014

Passion History, Part 1 + “What is the Office of the Keys?  Where is this written?”

“I appoint you to a kingdom”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

As surely as I live God said, I would not see the sinner dead.

I want him turned from error’s ways; repentant, living endless days.

 

God doesn’t have pleasure in damning sinners.  He wants to see them turned, repentant, and forgiven.

 

It’s because David knew that about God that he is so bold when he prays to God for forgiveness in Psalm 51.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin, blot out my transgressions according to your steadfast love.  Purge me with hyssop and I will be clean.  Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

 

And when David is cleansed of his awful sin of murder and adultery?  Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

 

Because David will teach them who the Lord is—He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, eager to see those who have sinned be reclaimed.  David will say, “See, this is what the Lord did for me.  He cleansed me from bloodguilt.  He made me whiter than snow.”

 

God does not want the sinner dead and damned.  He wants him to come back and be saved.

 

But first the sinner has to realize his sin.  When they don’t, they have a different spirit.  They do have pleasure in damning, in condemnation.

 

See the priests.  They are not like the Lord.  They do have pleasure in the death of sinners.  They plot in the darkness to have Jesus killed.  They don’t come out in the open and say, “Jesus is a false prophet.”  They’re afraid of the people.  They’re more concerned about their well-being than about the people God has appointed them to serve by telling them the truth, His Word.

 

But when Judas comes to hand Jesus over, they are delighted.  God has no pleasure in the death of sinners.  He condemns them and punishes them, but has no pleasure in it.

 

But the priests have pleasure in it.

 

How different Jesus is!

 

He is about to die unjustly.  His disciples are going to leave Him in the lurch while He suffers for them.

 

You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

 

If you knew you were going to be betrayed and killed in a matter of days, would you find it hard to think about other people?  Would you lament the injustice?  Would you be afraid?

 

All Jesus is concerned about is His disciples.  About the people He is going to serve and die for—the apostles, but also the Church that would come after them, born from their preaching and service.

 

He is loving them.  Proclaiming the Passover.  Longing to eat it with them.  Turning it into the new testament of His body and blood.  Teaching them about His kingdom and what greatness in His kingdom is.

 

He loves them to the end.  He loves them to the fullest.  He fills up the full measure of love toward them and us.  He gives Himself completely.

 

The Father gave all things into his hands—really?  As He is about to be handed over and to suffer not just nails, spitting, flogging, a crown of thorns, mockery, agony in the garden—but above all God’s righteous wrath against sin?  Really everything is in his hands?

 

Yes, right then, when He gives up everything for sinners, He reigns.

 

He reigns from the cross.  Because He pays for all sins, He has authority to forgive sins and retain them.

 

….

 

SDG

The Gates of the City are Always Open–Sermon, Quasimodogeniti 2013.

April 10, 2013 4 comments

IVNYI_~1Quasimodogeniti

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 20:19-31

April 7, 2013

Jesu juva!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Beloved of our Lord Jesus,

Jerusalem’s gates will never be shut (Rev. 21, Is. 60).  This means they have no fear of attackers.  Jerusalem is the Christian church, Christ’s little flock.

But the doors are shut where the disciples are.  They know there are bad people outside who want to hurt them.

This is not the life Jesus promised the Church.  John says in the Epistle: Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.  Who overcomes the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 

The church didn’t look like it was overcoming the world.  It was in hiding, running from the world for fear.

That’s because to overcome the world is beyond human power.  To be born of God is beyond human power.

People in Jesus’ day thought that they could recognize the truth and choose to follow it.  They think the same today.  Jesus will come in if we just open the door and let Him into our hearts.

Jesus disagreed.  You are not able to do that, He said.

And He is right.  If Jesus only could come to us if we held the door open for Him, the church would have died in the room with the cowering disciples.  In shutting the doors they were keeping the Jews out but also, unwittingly, showing that they didn’t believe Jesus’ word—Don’t be troubled.  I will rise on the third day.

We think, and it really seems true, that we and other people don’t believe because either Jesus has not done enough, or we have not done enough.

Thomas is ready to believe as soon as he can thrust his hand into Jesus’ side.

We don’t hold the door for Jesus.  He doesn’t come into our midst because we let Him in or because we are expecting Him.

He doesn’t carry out His mission in the world because we let Him out.

The stone wasn’t rolled away from the tomb to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in and see that He was not there.

We don’t hold the door open for Jesus.  Our old nature does not allow that.

To open the door to Jesus to our old nature is like the disciples opening the door of that room.  Jesus said He would come in.  But it seems a lot more likely some guards with spears and torches and chains will come.

We don’t expect God to do us good.  We call into question God’s good will toward us.  We act like His power is bound by our willingness or unwillingness.  This is nothing new.  Look at Sarah.  She laughed when she overheard that the Lord would return a year from that time and cause her, an old woman, to bear a child in her old age.  She laughed at God.  And she is one of the examples for Christians.

We do this continually, and even if we overcome it, it is always present with us—resistance, unbelief, calling God a liar.  Looking to another God.

We are truly helpless to save ourselves.  You can’t do anything to make God turn His heart toward you.  Nor can you rid yourself of your resistance toward God.

Even the apostles couldn’t.

What hope is there for us then?

Only this: that God has decided to be open toward us and freely forgive all our sins.

When Jesus was in the room with the disciples, He said, “Take, eat, this is my body…”  He was informing them that He was indeed going to death as He had said, and that they could not come with them.  But they should not be troubled.  It was all for them.  And just as clearly as He showed them that He was open to them and for them—washing their feet, giving them His flesh and blood even as they were about to forsake Him—He also explained to them that His Father was for them.  If you had really known Me, you would have known My Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.

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