St. Peter Lutheran Church
Revelation 12:7-12 (Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3)
September 29, 2013
Out of Nothing, Week 3. Prayer.
“We are waited on by angels”
There’s nothing like seeing an angel to make you understand clearly what you are apart from Christ.
Apart from Christ, you are nothing. The greatest of saints experience this when they see the holy angels. Because the angels are in the presence of God. They reflect His glory. The light that shines from them exposes the corruption in us like a searchlight.
Godly people like Daniel see an angel, and it kills them. The angel has to pick Daniel up and put him on his hands and knees. Daniel is a godly man, greatly loved by God, but not because of any goodness in him. The goodness of the angels is spotless. Angels exist wholly to praise God and serve Him and look upon His face. When the angels praise God, there is nothing in them held back from God. But Christians never praise God without reservation. Not while we are in the flesh. And the truth is, we don’t want to. We think it’s unreasonable to do nothing but praise God—at least in the flesh. Daniel was no exception.
The angels are with us. We don’t see them. If we did we’d be terrified. Yet they are with us. In the liturgy we sing it repeatedly. First the Gloria in Excelsis, which is the angels’ song at Christmas—Glory be to God on High, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Then at the Sacrament of the altar: Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth”. That is the hymn that Isaiah the prophet and St. John in Revelation heard the angels singing. Sabaoth is Hebrew for “hosts” or “armies”. In singing those hymns we are announcing something to the congregation and the world that is terrifying to anyone who is paying attention and believes what the words say. We are in the presence of the angels, singing their songs to God; their glory is among us, the glory that laid Daniel in the dust. Even more we are in the presence of their Lord, the fountain of all glory, daring to open our lips to sing praise to Him—our unclean lips and hearts which, because of the sin inherited from Adam, do not want to give God all glory, but instead want to hold some of it back for ourselves.
Yet we do not die. The Scriptures say that God sends the holy angels to serve us. Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? asks the Epistle to the Hebrews (1:14).
The angels are spirits. They are not flesh and blood, although they appear in the Scriptures usually in the form of a human being. Their work is to praise God forever, constantly, and to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27). That is what heaven is; to see God’s face and praise Him constantly.
They also serve human beings. They pray and intercede for the Church. They lead and protect Christians. We see that in the readings from Daniel and Revelation today, and it’s hinted at in the gospel also. The little children are protected by guardian angels who are assigned to them personally, Jesus tells us. The angels fight against the devil and his fallen angels on behalf of God’s people. St. Michael the archangel is depicted in Scripture as being the commanding officer of the angelic army; he fights alongside the angel coming to speak with Daniel, and he and the angel host fight against Satan in Revelation and throw the devil out of heaven. In 2 Kings Elisha is alone with his servant in an enemy city. The servant is afraid, and Elisha prays that the Lord would open his eyes. And when his eyes are opened, he sees that Elisha is surrounded by horses and chariots of fire—an angel army.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 10:25-37
August 25, 2013
“Jesus Walked Your Road to the End”
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 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.
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.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 19:41-48
August 4, 2013
“We Beg You on Behalf of Christ”
Dear ones in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel reading shows us that our Lord Jesus Christ is not carved out of marble like the statues the Greeks made of their gods. He was not put together by dietitians, personal trainers, and cosmetic surgeons like the celebrities whose superhumanly happy lives Americans set before themselves on television to worship, either.
He isn’t cut out of stone. He isn’t airbrushed. Jesus is flesh and blood. He breaks down in sobs. He gets furious in the temple. He gets loud.
Jesus is not one of our gods who lives above it all. He’s one of us. He loves someone who doesn’t love Him and is left crying, pleading, begging.
He is one of us, and He is the true God.
This is the time when our Lord should be rising above it all. He’s on the way to Jerusalem riding on a donkey with the crowd praising Him and waving palm branches. He’s like the high school basketball player who just got drafted to the NBA or the young musician who just got a contract with a major record label. Except better: He’s not on His way to being one of the immortals. He’s being recognized as the king promised by the only true God.
Then they come around a bend in the road and see the spires of the city of Jerusalem rising in the distance above them. This is when the crowd would start to cheer louder. And it’s the time when they would expect Jesus to lift up His head and smile and enjoy His glory.
But instead as Jerusalem appears, the shouts of the crowd quickly fall silent. Jesus does not smile. He breaks down in tears.
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Relationships depend on honesty. That’s what we say. If you’re unhappy about something in your marriage or in your friendship, but you don’t say anything because you want to avoid conflict, it destroys real intimacy. It’s not based on truth. The other person doesn’t really know you.
The same thing applies to God’s relationship to us. Of course in every relationship on earth there are things with which we have to be patient, things we have to forgive again and again. Our relationship with God is the same. Relationships can continue where there is sin as long as there is repentance on the part of the sinner and forgiveness on the part of the one sinned against.
But relationships can’t exist where one person refuses to acknowledge their sin or where another refuses to forgive. When one person sins and refuses to acknowledge it the relationship dies even where the other person is ready to forgive and doesn’t leave.
God’s relationship with Israel was like that. God was still with them. His house was in Jerusalem. So the Israelites said, “Everything is fine. The Lord and us are still together.”
But the Lord had been telling them for centuries that things were not fine. Our relationship is broken, He had told them through the prophets. For years you worshipped other gods. You committed adultery. And now, even though on paper you have Me alone as your God, your worship of me is false, hypocritical. Outwardly you say my name, but inside your heart is given over to other gods. You love pleasure and prestige, you trust money and your own wisdom, but not Me.
After telling Israel this for centuries, finally God sent His Son, who told them in person. He did miracles to show them they should pay attention to His teaching because He had come to heal them and make them worshippers of God in spirit and truth.
But they didn’t listen to God’s Son either. Some of them paid attention to the miracles but not to His preaching and they went on believing that everything was basically fine between them and the Lord. Others rejected Jesus and His miracles as the work of a false prophet.
There are two ways to try to wake someone up when you’re in a relationship with them and the relationship is broken. One is to make threats. “I’m going to leave if you don’t pay attention to this!” “If you don’t quit this, you’re going to be fired!” And Jesus has already done this. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in your presence had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” (Matthew 11)
The other way is not to threaten but to weep. That is when you say, “I’ve begged, pleaded, and threatened, and said and done all I could, and you still insist on going this way that not only destroys our relationship but will destroy you. What else is left but to weep for you?”
That is why Jesus weeps when He sees Jerusalem. Everything is not okay like the crowds think. If He goes and becomes king He only presides over a nation that is at war with God but insists that it has done nothing wrong.
He weeps because He wants blessing and peace for Jerusalem, but Jerusalem won’t have it. Jerusalem wants to continue to worship God with their lips but lift up their hearts to gods that they have made after their own image, that reflect the lust of their hearts—money, power, earthly comfort and pleasure. They love these things, not the Lord.
That is refusing God’s friendship and insisting on His anger. Jesus weeps because He knows what will come of it. He doesn’t want Jerusalem to be destroyed. He has no pleasure in it. But He knows it will come because they have shut the door on having a real relationship with the Lord.
43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
When you have chosen God for your enemy, insisted that you are innocent and have no disease and refuse the cure, the consequences are grim. The consequence is utter devastation.
God who loved Jerusalem and the forefathers of her children will tear Jerusalem to the ground and slaughter its inhabitants, showing no pity.
Not because He did not want to show pity! Look, He comes to Jerusalem weeping, warning, pleading!
But they didn’t want God’s friendship, because God’s friendship is found in Jesus, who is one of us.
So a few decades later a revolt started in Jerusalem. The Roman emperor sent an army to put the rebellion down. And he slaughtered so many people before he got to Jerusalem that the Jordan River could not be crossed because of the number of dead bodies that were in it. Then downstream the dead sea was also filled with bodies. The source of this information is the history of the destruction of Jerusalem which was in the first hymnal printed in our Synod; it was printed there because it was traditional to read that history in Lutheran churches in Germany.
Why? Because God’s wrath is a terrible thing. And everyone who refuses the true mercy of God and ignores God’s visitation in the Word of God will have God’s wrath. There is no third possibility—either God’s friendship and grace, where He remembers your sins no more and counts you righteous. Or the full force of His anger and wrath.
After slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people in Judea, the Roman general Vespasian came to attack Jerusalem, which was the last stronghold of the Jewish rebellion. He put up blockades around Jerusalem as Jesus said, and no food was able to get in. Before the invasion of the city countless people died of starvation. People gnawed the leather of their boots, belts, and shields, ate dung of cattle and from the sewers. They were found dead with straw in their mouths. One source says that 600,000 people had died by the time the invasion of the city had begun.
Then Vespasian became tired of waiting for starvation to break the resistance, and after taking the walls and the gates of Jerusalem, he ordered that the remaining soldiers, who were holed up in the temple, should be chased out with fire. So the temple was burnt to the ground. And then when the rebels were finally ready to make peace, there was no peace. Even though the general had commanded his men only to kill armed men, they slaughtered the old, women and children and set the whole city on fire. Of those who remained, many of the young were sold into slavery, and many of the older ones were sent around the Roman empire to fight lions and gladiators for the entertainment of the citizens.
According to the history in our old hymnal, which was drawn from the Jewish historian Josephus, 100,000 Jews were made prisoners and slaves during this war, and 1,100,000 people died in the siege of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem itself did not have that many inhabitants, but the attack on Jerusalem started during the feast of Passover, when there were pilgrims filling the city.
The destruction that comes from rejecting Christ.
Does Jesus weep over us?
Our world? Of course. It is doomed!
The churches of our nation? They were corrupt before, before theological liberalism was invented, when the Antichrist’s church really believed the antichrist’s doctrine, when Baptists really believed that people who trusted in holy Baptism received as an infant could not be saved. And now that they have rejected even the authority of the Scripture, are they likely to repent?
And our synod?
And our congregation? Does Jesus weep? We have the doctrine written down still. We have a constitution that says that we believe it. And like Jerusalem we have many traditions that make that doctrine difficult to hear. And when Jesus comes and fights against those traditions with the sword of his mouth, there are many who stand in the shadows, trying to figure out how to get rid of him and anyone with him.
Gross immorality is rampant in the nation but also among us. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s obvious. Yet we hunger less for God’s word than generations before us, we actually have the audacity to say “I know that stuff already,” and to insist that we not be interrupted with the catechism or with the few children God has given us to care for when we want to eat donuts.
The heart’s trust in other gods—pleasure, security, money—more than Christ. It’s not simply the gross immorality of our age and which is even inside the church alone that should frighten us…but above all the love of pleasure, the love of security that lives in the heart of good church people. The desire to be loved and spoken well of by all that is so deep rooted that we would rather deny Christ than risk being called bad people.
Thus when we have those things we are content. This disease afflicts the synod and our congregation and let us pray God that it has not reached the stage in us that it had in Jerusalem where there was no longer any repentance possible, where the Son of God could only look at it and weep.
Cleansing of the temple.
Why Jesus did it—to make the Gospel heard instead of performing rites; the temple is to be a place where God is truly worshipped—that is, by faith alone in the Gospel.
A house of prayer—the fruit of a happy conscience that believes the Gospel and is confident of the forgiveness of sins.
What was the point? Everyone fell away anyway. The priests stand in the shadows trying to decide how to kill him and put the salesman back in the temple a few days later.
Because He does not will the destruction of the wicked, but also because He will save His elect out of the judgment that is coming.
Just because the world will be destroyed, or (God forbid) corrupt church bodies—even (God forbid) this congregation does not mean the Church will be destroyed. Judgment begins with the house of God, and even the disciples fell;
But they were saved; they fell and rose again. They died and were raised. Jerusalem was razed but the church of Christ was saved out of the midst of the flames in order to preach the Word elsewhere before death or persecution sent them to another land, like a raincloud passing across the land.
Judgment has already begun with us.
He clears out His church so that His gospel will be heard—not with the help of men or demons, but in spite of them
He pleads and He fights even though it seems futile. Out of love for rebels, helpless and hopeless sinners.
He gets his hands dirty. He weeps and He yells and does not cease to hold out His hands—not when they are nailed to the cross, not when He is risen from the dead. “therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5)
God makes His appeal through the ministers of the word; Jesus Himself still pleads with us to be reconciled to God.
When He comes and judges, He also bears the judgment and gives us deliverance.
His plea with us to confess our sin and wretchedness is His plea for us to see His cross for what it is—God’s reconciliation with us. Our peace. The evidence that the true God is not a marble celebrity rising above the weakness and pain of mere mortals. The true God is love; so He weeps and watches those He loves reject Him and be lost. The true God is love, so He makes a scene and disrupts the peaceful arrangements we’ve made to lie to ourselves and to silence our consciences with false peace. He makes a scene. Then He becomes a spectacle, lifted up in shame before men’s eyes on the cross; and He is our peace, and the horrible destruction that comes to the enemies of God comes to Him for you.
When He comes and visits, He comes not only to expose sin and to preach wrath but to give healing.
If you are weak in faith, know that He is your peace, even if you are the worst sinner in the world.
Then pray for those who do not believe; plead for them to God and plead with them, not as though it’s not your problem, but as if it is your own suffering, as Jesus does here.
Come to His table to be first of all strengthened in faith in Him who is our peace with God, and secondly to be filled with love that does not try to escape pain and weakness like idols, but takes it on out of love, like the true God, Jesus.
The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 5:1-12 (Revelation 21:1-7)
July 3, 2013
K, R, C, and all of Fran’s loved ones,
Members of St. Peter,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I know that growing up, Fran was poor. Poor in spirit? Certainly poor in material things. Dad was gone. Some brothers and sisters in an orphanage.
When your body is lacking something it affects you spiritually, or it can. When people treat you like you’re less than them because you’re poor it can enter your heart and rob you of joy. Somewhere inside you think, “Maybe God sees me this way too. Otherwise, why would He let it happen?”
But when your spirit is lacking what it needs, that is worse. You can be hungry and poor and still be happy. But it’s the spiritual pain that’s the worst. If someone who is supposed to love you slaps you in the face, it’s not your cheek that really hurts. It’s your heart, that that person just said, “You’re not worthy of respect.”
When some of your brothers and sisters are in an orphanage, and you have to take care of the other ones—when you’re just a kid yourself—whose spirit wouldn’t be bruised by that?
There were other things too. [The year of tragedies in their family.]
There was also much to comfort Fran’s spirit, though. Loving children, family, church, friends.
You take the good with the bad in life. Everyone has to. Some people, like Fran, do it and manage to not add to other people’s misery.
But there are people who look at things differently. They say, “Look, we only have this life. And it’s not smart to spend this life thinking about others. You need to get what you need. And if you don’t, people will take from you.”
If you look at it that way, these things Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…blessed are the people in mourning…blessed are the meek…”—those aren’t just religious fluff words, but actually words to trick you and take away your life and give it to others who are willing to take what they want now.
What happens, so often, to the meek, the merciful?
This only works if there is a God who is going to set things right.
But how is he doing that?
Jesus, as far as most people could see, was just a rabbi, preaching to the crowds of mostly poor. Just like now, sometimes we have warm feelings about clergy, but what do they actually do? What can they actually change?
That was the secret.
What Jesus preached here, He fulfilled.
He was making things right. Not by coming as a conqueror with weapons; making things right by His weakness; becoming poor in Spirit with our sins on the cross. Mourning with us and for us. Gentle as He was delivered up to death.
He came, God in the flesh, as a peacemaker, to serve us.
God made His own Son a man of sorrows and destroyed death.
He did what He preached—for us. But it was hidden; it was under cover.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Not that our hearts are pure, but they are purified by seeing God working for us and making us and the world right in Jesus.
So is His work in the world now.
He covered up Fran in Himself in Baptism.
He lived in Her body.
He hides Her in His sheltering presence far from the eyes of men.
He will raise her up on the last day to inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who share in God’s weakness now.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 5:1-11 (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2 Kings 19:1-11)
June 30, 2013
You’ve stood in a checkout line before, haven’t you, behind a mother with her kid who pesters her to buy him some candy or a toy? Mom says, “No.” The kid tries to reason with her, explaining why it is a good and sensible idea for him to get this Snickers bar, and how it would benefit her and him alike. And Mom still says no. And the kid continues and reminds his mother how often he is deprived of simple pleasures like this Snickers bar which nearly every other child in America is given every time they enter a store. If mom still says no, maybe her child begins to call into question her justice and her compassion. After all, you, Mom, quite frequently buy yourself a Snickers bar when you go to the store. So you are not being fair. You are not treating me equally. On top of this it is questionable whether you really love me as you ought to as my mother, because so often I ask you for things and you don’t give them to me. Yes, how could you love me when you never give me what I ask for, but you constantly yell at me and punish me, make me eat the terrible food you cook, make me do incredibly boring things that no one else has to do like go to church and do chores, and on top of it all you clearly love my brother more than me and give him whatever he asks for?
Sometimes Mom breaks down. Maybe she feels guilty about her failures as a parent, or maybe she thinks that love means doing what the person you love says will make them happy. Or maybe she’s just tired that day.
Of course, the child will always remember this act of kindness, right? He’ll never say that his mom doesn’t love him again. He’ll see this act of kindness and honor his mom from this point on and eat his Hamburger Helper without complaining and wishing he had a Happy Meal.
Hm. You seem skeptical about this. I’m surprised to see that you are so cynical about human nature.
But you may have a point. It does seem to be true that a lot of times when you show grace to kids they don’t respond to it by realizing how selfish they’ve been and becoming more thankful and obedient to their parents. The kids that do usually are kids who’ve learned through firm discipline that they really aren’t entitled to whatever they desire. Sorry, that’s just not the way the world is.
But adults in America have become this way too. Haven’t they? Particularly the generation born just after the war. But then again their children are even worse, for the most part. I’m talking about me here. I share the characteristics of my generation. We think the goal in life is our own personal happiness. Responsibilities and duties and laws and morals and people and traditions that get in the way of our personal fulfillment—those we feel free to ignore. And if you criticize or judge me it’s you that’s the bad person. Who are you to interfere with my happiness with your demands that I be polite and wear nice clothes to church and follow all these empty traditions?
So we have the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down the federal law restricting marriage to a man and a woman. This was a decision for fairness and equality, we’re told. If you’re above a certain age it’s likely you shake your head and change the channel whenever this kind of news comes on the tv.
If you’re younger, 60 or 50 maybe, definitely if you’re 40 or under, the likelihood increases that you feel like it was a fair ruling, or at least that it’s hard to say anything about it even if the Bible says it’s wrong. People can’t help how they feel, who they’re attracted to, right? And we no longer punish other types of sexual sin. Adulterers and people who have sex with people they’re not married to aren’t shunned or stoned.
But the same thing applies to us as to the whiny kid in the checkout line. Not everything we want is good. And treating people fairly is not the same, always, as treating them equally, because God made people different. He gave some people more gifts than others. He makes some people governors and the rest of the people the governed. He made some people male and some female.
It’s not good for kids if parents let them live on candy, fast food, and pop tarts just because that’s what they want. It’s not good if a kid is born a male but feels like a female, so his parents submit to the child’s feelings and pay for him to be mutilated and drugged to look like a woman (and this is happening now in America). And it’s not good for the government to give the name, privileges, and honor of marriage to gay unions and act as if they are the same as marriage between a man and a woman just because people want it to be that way.
After each day of creation, God saw that what He had made “was good.” And when He created man male and female, in the image of God, He blessed them this way: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1). Then after this final work of creation God saw “that it was very good,” everything He had made.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
May 30, 2013
Family and friends of Katie,
Teachers, fellow students, parents, school board members,
Members of St. Peter Lutheran Church,
And above all, this years’ graduating class—
That’s you, Rib:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther’s wife was named Katie, and he referred to her as “my rib.” So for the last 3 years in catechesis at St. Peter you answered to the name “rib.”
But you are not any man’s rib yet. Except you are Jesus’ rib. You are His bride, together with all His Holy Church. Bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, because He loved you together with the whole Church.
Jesus doesn’t love the way we love. When He loves He loves with all the strength there is in eternity. All of that strength which is His He pours out in His love, except that it can never be finished pouring.
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, giving Himself up for her…”
When Jesus loved you, He let His heart be pierced with a spear. Water and blood gushed out. John witnessed it. It means that He, God, died for His Church.
The water and blood that gushed from His side meant the end of His life and the beginning of the life of His bride.
Eve was made from the rib that came from Adam’s side. The Church is made from the pierced heart of Christ. He died to make us holy, washing us clean in His death by the Word joined with the water in Baptism.
You are the bride of Jesus, taken out of His side and joined to Him, flesh of His flesh and bone of his bone.
So you have a hope and a future as long as Jesus has hope and a future.
When Jeremiah wrote the words you chose for your confirmation verse, Christ’s wife looked like she had been divorced and sent away to live with the devil. His rib, His bride, had been torn from His side and thrown out of His house and sold as a slave.
Who sent her away from the city of God to Babylon, the city of the devil? It was the Lord of hosts. Nothing slips through His fingers. “The deep places of the earth are in His hand; the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”
Wednesday after Oculi
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Catechism: “How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”
March 6, 2013 (2nd rvs. Vespers)
“How Do You Know?”
How do you know that you’re saved? Sooner or later that question comes. It rises within our hearts. It comes from the mouth of another Christian, or from an unbelieving acquaintance. But it must come. If not now, sometime in our lives. How can it not come?
If you are saved, will the devil permit that to go unquestioned? Absolutely not. He didn’t allow Eve and Adam to live in God’s blessing in paradise without raising questions about God’s word. “Did God really say…?” How do you know that God isn’t keeping you in slavery when you could be gods yourselves?
Satan didn’t even shy away from questioning Jesus’ blessedness. “If you are really the Son of God, why are you left alone with me in the desert with rocks for bread?”
But God also asks. He questions those who have deceived themselves with false faith, “How do you know you’re saved?” He also questions those who believe in Christ and are His children. Through the apostle Paul he exhorts Christians to question themselves. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Cor. 13:5)
So is it God or the devil asking “How do you know you’re saved?”
Is it God or the devil speaking through the chief priest to Jesus: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Is it God, seeking to have Jesus confess the truth before the high council of Israel? After all, isn’t he in the office God set up to represent His people before Him in the temple? Or is it the devil, trying to make Jesus afraid, using the high priest’s appearance of holiness to make Jesus question whether His teaching is really the Word of God?
Is it God who asks Peter, warming himself by the fire, if he is a disciple of Jesus, so that Peter will be confess Jesus before men, so that Jesus may acknowledge Peter before the Father on the day of judgment?
Or is it the devil who asks Peter, trying to make Peter afraid, saying, “Are you sure Jesus is the Son of God? Are you sure that you are saved through Him? After all, Jesus is about to be condemned to death by the high council that God gave authority to judge in His name. They’re saying He’s not God’s Son, but a blasphemer. Are you sure that you’re ready to confess Him and die as a blasphemer with Him?”
This is not a question we can avoid any more than Peter could. Are you sure that you’re saved? How do you know?
We can say, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!” Jesus does not put out the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed. But a person with such weak faith cannot be content to remain there. He prays, “Help Thou my unbelief” because the unbelief is sin. It is painful to be full of doubts about whether God receives you or whether you will be cast into the lake of fire.
When you are asked “How do you know if you’re saved?” the devil is asking to cast doubt on God’s Word. But God asks the question to remove our faith from ourselves and place it on solid ground—His promise. God asks to strengthen faith in His Word and weaken trust in ourselves. The devil asks to undermine faith in God’s word and to fill us with false confidence or to make us despair of God’s mercy.
How do you know if you’re saved? Do you have to do something to be saved?
The answer is…no—right? No, we don’t do anything to be saved. Jesus died for our sins on the cross. God promises us in the Gospel that our sins are forgiven because Jesus suffered and shed His blood for us.