Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Somewhere on Lake Michigan, ca 1994

Sit right down and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip . . .
This is something like how Laughing Martin ended up in the high desert of Utah. What follows involves a large fish, vomit, and speaking the truth with knees knocking.
Perhaps its the story of many of the brethren out there -- and Jonah 4:11 speaks to and about all of us who remain servants of the Word in the LCMS.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Give us This Day Our Daily Jesus

Looking at our Introit of the day, we find these words, "I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies." Psalm 119:146

The Introit, meaning entrance, marks the beginning of the Service of the Word. Our Confession & Absolution started out as a private matter, and was not a formal part of the Divine Service until latter times. As the priest entered the sanctuary and approached altar, a choir and or cantor would chant one of the Psalms, all the clatter & chatter & milling about of the congregation would stop, and everyone would assemble around the chancel.

Now if this practice sounds "catholic" to you, it is – for it is the way the church catholic, that is the true church throughout the world in all places and at all times. It is also orthodox – that is, it is the meet, right and salutary practice of the Word of God. It is also very Jewish, or Hebrew, for as is the case today and more often than not, the Introit comes from the Hebrew hymnal – the book of Psalms.

Back in the day of the Jerusalem temple, the people would chant a Psalm as they climbed the stairs and entered the temple court for worship. They had specific Psalms, called Psalms of Ascent, for this occasion. As with the gathering of the tittering masses in the cathedrals, the folk knew there was something very special about to happen, that happens nowhere else –the kingdom of heaven was being opened and they were being drawn into the presence of God.

The same is true today, though you would not know it from the way most "churches" worship on any given Sunday or other holy day.

Today’s Introit, while a wonderful message of God’s grace and the good news Gospel of salvation, is also an indictment on those who gather primarily as a way to make up for all the wrong that they have done during the week/month/year & earn their salvation, or to do a good work for God and others by which they may finish what God has started and get to heaven one day. Sadly, in the majority of churches, while you may get some mention of the forgiveness of sins because Jesus died on the cross, the majority of "worship" time is spent either in seeing how loudly & lavishly one can tell God what they think of Him and how much they love Jesus, or in learning how they can get to heaven one day if they only will have enough passion, and be filled with a blazing spirit that makes every human effort to live the Gospel for themselves and others.

Sadly, the sign found outside a certain LCMS Church for all the community to see, illustrates just how pervasive such false teaching about worship is:
"God takes care of our living when we take care of His business."

Our Introit today takes all that false worship and exposes it for what it really is – nothing more nor less than idolatry. Listen to the psalmist once again:
"I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies."

Here we have a very clear OT passage from the liturgy of the Israelites placing salvation not only prior to works, but also effecting them. God takes care of our life – that IS His business.
This is the reason for their ascent into the Temple, the reason for the gathering of the masses around the chancel, and your being here today. You have been called to receive the forgiveness of sins delivered to you in your baptism for your salvation – only then will you be able to observe all of His testimonies, that is to live according to the Word and will of God.
Relating this to the Lord's Prayer, as delivered to us in today’s Gospel lesson, this Psalm can by understood this way:
"I call to you; save me" -- (forgive us our trespasses),
"that I may observe your testimonies" -- (as we forgive those who trespass against us).

Is this not what the Word and will of God boil down to? God speaks His Word to a world of sinners that all might be saved and have eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This comes out in vs. 5-13 of our Gospel, where Jesus is actually telling something of a parable by which He catechizes us with the "what does this mean" of the text of the prayer He just taught His disciples. It seems that with the words, " . . . how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" Luke 11:13, Jesus is saying that His teaching of prayer in the "Our Father" is for the purpose of asking for the Holy Spirit. I.e., only by the Holy Spirit does the kingdom of the Father come and His will done on earth as it is in heaven -- and His will is to give us the daily bread of life, the forgivness of sins, to lead us out of temptation and deliver us from the clutches of the evil one. Thus this prayer explains/describes the work of the Holy Spirit, which is centered in delivering the forgiveness of sins that is the bread of life.

And even more, as that work of the Holy Spirit is by His testimony of Christ, the prayer is centered in Christ when we consider Christ's words of John 6 that He IS the bread of life. As Prof. Arthur Just of our Fort Wayne seminary writes in his commentary, "The earthly and physical necessities of life surely are included in this petition and should not be minimized, but they do not exhaust the significance of "bread" in the gospel." To this I would add, the earthly and physical necessities actually set the table and help us understand the heavenl;y and spiritual necessities. Just quotes Luther as saying in "An Exposition of the Lord's Prayer for Simple Laymen," -- "The bread, the Word, and the food are none other than Jesus Christ our Lord Himself. Thus He declares in John 6:51, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven."

As you can see, it is consistent with the Word and teaching of Jesus Himself that Lord's Prayer, as with all of Scripture beginning with Moses and the prophets, speaks of Him, Christ the crucified and risen Savior. So when we pray the Lord’s prayer aren’t we really praying, "Give us this day our daily Jesus?"

There is no end to the places in this world from which we can receive our daily bread, if only we are given the freedom to seek it – i.e. "The pursuit of happiness." But without the daily bread of the forgiveness of sins it is all for naught.

You can have your daily bread, and your daily dessert too for that matter – RVs, vacations, entertainment, automobiles, homes far greater than what you need, etc. – but without the forgiveness of sins, without your daily Jesus, after a few short years of happiness relative to eternity, there will be an eternity of suffering and doing without the least of these things.

Luther speaks of the receiving, or not receiving, of the forgiveness of sins in Worship this way:
"God through Moses had issued a most rigorous prohibition against the impudence of inventing new forms of worship, as when He says: ‘You shall not offer in every place but at the place which the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name and make His habitation there; . . .’" (cf. Deut. 12:4––6). . . . the false prophets used to fight against this viewpoint and say: ‘God is everywhere; therefore He can be adored and worshiped in every place, both in Bethel as well as on any other mountain.’ They did not have regard for the commandment of God. For when God fixes a certain manner and designates a certain place for His worship, it must not be said: ‘Wherever I will worship God, it will be pleasing to Him if only I do it in a godly and devoted manner,’ or, ‘I shall make offerings to Him wherever it pleases me.’ . . . The Turks and Jews are accustomed to speak in this manner today, claiming that they are able to serve God outside of the unity of faith and the church of Christ. Mohammed claims that anyone is saved in his own religion if he prays, if he gives alms, if he does other good works. It is not necessary for him to be a Christian or that he should be in the unity of Christ and the church. . . . This is true, indeed, that God is not bound, neither to Jerusalem nor to any other place, and that He is able to save also elsewhere. No one will deny this. But try it and see what you will get! If you invent forms of worship according to your own judgment, you will be in danger of God’’s wrath. By His almighty power God could save the human race without Christ, without Baptism, and without the Word of the Gospel. He could have illuminated men’’s hearts inwardly through the Holy Spirit and forgiven their sins without the ministry of the Word and of ministers. But it was not His will to do so. And God very strictly prohibited all erring forms of devotion and worship. When hypocrites say: ""Whatever is done with good intention is pleasing to God,"" those self-chosen devotions are to be condemned, and men should be reminded that they should direct their eyes where God has revealed Himself. . . . God abominates and condemns all erring thoughts outside the one and only revelation made in the Word and sacraments, to which He wished to gather us and in which He wished to include us. . . . He wants us to be gathered in connection with the Word and Baptism as by a sure and infallible sign because He wants to save us and help us, just as He promised He would listen at the mercy seat among the people of Israel. If you want to be absolved from your sins in this manner, go to your pastor, or to your brother and neighbor if your pastor cannot hear you; he has the command to absolve you and comfort you. Do not invent a special absolution for yourself. If you want to receive the Lord’’s Supper, go to the assembly of the church and the public congregation and receive it there. Do not devise a special administration and use of the sacraments. For God does not want us to go astray in our own self-chosen works or speculations, and so He gathers us together and encloses us within the limits of the Word so that we are not tossed about by every kind of doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:14). . . . So God wants all these things to be removed, and He sets forth His Word, which says: ‘Here you shall adore, worship, and make offerings. In the Word, in the Lord’s Supper, and in Baptism you have the remission of sins. With these you will have to be satisfied if you wish to be saved.’"

The sad and undeniable truth is that there are precious few places in this world that stick to these things the Lord has given and let them be sufficient -- where the daily bread of eternity, the daily bread of the forgiveness of sins, the daily bread of Jesus is available. However, this is not because there is a limit to Jesus and His forgiveness, but because so few seek Him where He is to be found according to His own command, so few are those that ask for what the Holy Spirit so freely gives.

Even within what is known as Christianity today, this daily bread is scarce. On the one hand you will find churches that tell you what you must do in order to earn the right to be forgiven. And on the other hand you will find churches that tell you what you must do to finish what God started. Neither of these actually deliver the complete loaf of forgiveness. Both reserve the daily Jesus for those who work for Him.

There is a saying that "you don’t know what you got til it’s gone." If people get so caught up in earning and fighting for the daily bread of this world, as well as their just desserts, they may find that they have no place left where they can receive the daily bread of eternal life.

So Jesus teaches us how to pray, not because we are illiterate and unable to speak for ourselves, but because we do not know what it truly means to pray in the Spirit for the things of the Spirit.
Every single petition of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what the Father wishes to give us according to the Spirit and finds its fulfillment in Jesus.

  • Our Father who art in heaven – gives the power of His right hand and the rule of all things visible and invisible to His one and only Son who is seated there with Him.

  • Hallowed be Thy name – there is no other name but Jesus by which men might be saved, and no other name by which the Father might be known but through His Son.

  • Thy kingdom come – only through Jesus does the kingdom of God come near to us, and only when He comes again will the resurrection fulfill that kingdom.

  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – again, only through the Word and Him made flesh, is God’s will done. His will was for Christ to suffer, die and rise and for us to suffer, die and rise with Him.

  • Give us this day our daily bread – Jesus IS the bread of life, that bread that never runs out, the bread that does not decay or leave one hungry and hour later.

  • Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us – it is finished in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit testifies to Him that we may receive it in our day and having received it, dispense the baskets full that are always left for as many as will receive it from us.

  • And lead us not into temptation – as part of fulfilling all righteousness for us, Jesus overcame temptation in the wilderness and, as we hear the voice of our Shepherd, He leads us into temptation free pastures.

  • But deliver us from evil – this our Father has done by uniting us with Christ in Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever – all of these things has the Father given to His Son, who has poured His Spirit out upon us in abundance in order to deliver them to us here that we may have them to eternity.

  • Amen. – Let it be so among us, even as Christ makes it so by dwelling among us today wherever His Word and Sacraments are delivered in all their fullness and purity.

Yes, the Spirit is given to all those that ask the Father for their daily Jesus and God’s kingdom comes on earth among us now even as it is in heaven where sin is nowhere to be found and life abounds – in he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, July 27, 2007

Taking Care of Business?

The message goes something like: "Let's all quit being so concerned about how what we are doing reflects on God's Word and just get along no matter what for the sake of our mission." This is another way of saying that it is our effort rather than the specific teachings God has given us to teach others by which "all nations" are saved.

The words recently seen on the marquee of an LCMS church sign are evidence that the Gospel message we bear is suffering from our incessant need to be ABLAZE!, to wit: "God takes care of our living when we take care of His business."

So God does not take care of our lives if we are not doing His business? Whatever happened to Matthew 5:45 & Romans 5:8? And exactly what is our Father's business if not faithfully teaching what His Son first taught us? It is by the right teaching and living (read practice) of the faith that God takes care of our lives for eternity (1 Timothy 4:16), which is the sole/soul reason the church exists.

Shame on the LCMS and ANYBODY for ever thinking, let alone publicly claiming, otherwise.

What follows are a couple of items regarding the LCMS Convention as published in the LCMS Enews service, Stewardcast, along with my satirical look at the meaning behind what is being said.

From LCMS *Vice* President Paul Maier’s Bible Study comparing the LCMS to Corinth:
“'St. Paul's remedy in Corinth,' Maier said, 'is the same remedy the LCMS should use today-unity in Christ and following Christ's example.' Maier said his dream for the LCMS is that, 'if Jesus were addressing this convention today, He might say something like, "I understand your concerns about communion, church, ministry, worship, the roles of women and men, and your outreach to the world, but in the name of the cosmic God who created this marvelous universe, get over your quarrels and be about your Father's business!"’"

According to the Stewardcast report, the LCMS Convention 2007 Resolution 4-01a states: "Personal opinions and differences regarding practical application of clearly stated doctrine have made for continued discord, . . . Such discord has and is hindering the mission and is disheartening to God's people to the point of withholding their support for 'the common good.'"

I suppose the Maier nightmare must then conclude:
“Oh, and that bit about ‘ . . . And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ -- Never mind! Now that I think about it, you guys are right. I didn’t realize how much discord and mistrust that would cause. Just make sure you go out and get everybody to give you lots of money to do something, ANYTHING, in My name as long as you are engaging the world and I’ll hang with you. And to think I’ve been causing all this dissension all these years by my silly and incessant concern and warnings about keeping my teachings holy. Thank you Missouri! -- your 2007 Convention, and hopefully the Special Convention to come, is straightening out the mess I left you. My Father will be so pleased.”

Father forgive us!

Monday, July 23, 2007

You Have Seen the Lord

A Sermon for the Festival of St. Mary Magdalene and the Baptism of Alexa Marie Hering

TEXT: On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
. . . she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. John 20:1, 14-18 nkj

As if I need to tell you, today is one of the most joyous days of my life. To welcome my first grandchild, little Alexa into the Kingdom of God is the stuff of dreams and a miraculous work of God for which I am not worthy, and I am sure any pastor would say the same.
It is also illustrative of the Christian life. In the midst of one of the most tumultuous weeks of my life, this great blessing is unfurled.

I will not take our precious time here to list the happenings of the week, for I am certain each of you have also had such weeks of blessings and disappointments, joys and griefs, joinings and separations, life and death.

Baptism, and the life of faith, is not a guarantee of a trouble free life
But Baptism IS the promise of a forever life with God. A forever that starts even as the precious Word of Christ begins to make your ear drums quiver and the water first splashes upon your brow to drown the sinner and wash you clean.

So why all the misery?

Among other reasons:

  • Sin does not go away without a fight.
  • Sinners do everything they can to avoid the fight

No sin does not go away without a fight.

As we sing in A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, "The old evil foe Now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight; On earth is not his equal."

Thanks be to God, the risen Christ ascended and seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven is more than his equal. And He stoops down from heaven in Baptism to win that fight for little Alexa today, joining her to the body of His one and only Son, and to you –in the holy Christian and Apostolic Church, the bride of Christ – those who already participate in Christ’s victorious fight over sin, death, and the evil one himself.

Yet sadly, sinners do everything they can to avoid the fight.
As Paul, the Apostle of our Lord tells us of this fight with sin from his own perspective, saints though we are through Baptism into Christ Jesus, we are still in this world sinners:
". . . carnal, [that is earthly flesh and blood born of Adam, that first sinner] sold under sin.
[So with Paul we wonder] ". . . what I am doing, I do not understand. . . . what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. . . . what I am doing, I do not understand. . . . . what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. . . . I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. . . . the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
"I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
"And with Paul, hearing the Good news of salvation, we rejoice and thank God__ through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:14-25 nkj

Nowhere is this conflict between will and performance -- this struggle of the inward, baptized man’s delight in the Lord against the sinful man’s desire for pleasure to hide from the conflict – more evident and profound than in our relationship with God in our worship life.

Like Mary Magdalene, we do not recognize Him where He is to be found without Him speaking and revealing Himself to us.

Yet, in a sense, we have the opposite problem of Mary Magdalene. We have been given the body of the Lord, yet we do not hold on to it, to Him, where He is to be found, in favor of where we would like to find Him. We would rather seek him by our own striving and prove our own worthiness, presenting our great love for Him as something special that is best evidenced in our emotional outpourings wherever and whenever we decide to offer them.

But God tells us to seek Him where He may be found, that is, in the places He has promised to be, And that means Church, where He brings heaven to earth to forgive sins in the preaching of His Word and the distribution of His Sacraments – what we call His means of grace, the packages He uses to take what Christ purchased on the cross 2000 years ago and deliver it to sinners of every generation in every corner of the world.

Mary wanted to hold on to Jesus right there on earth. But that would have prevented Him from ascending to heaven, where He was to go in order to bring Mary there with Him – where He has gone, and has brought you there to live with Him in heaven as well, as the Paul the Apostle of our Lord tells us:
"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? herefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection," Romans 6:3-5 NKJ
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJ

So, because Christ is indeed seated at the right of the Father, you cannot really hold on to Him either, at least not as you would like. You cannot have Him in anything of your choosing or in the things of your making, but only in the things He has commanded and given for you to find Him. Those are His means of Grace, Word & Sacraments. In and through those things He holds on to you.

Have you seen the Lord?

Not in the same way as Mary Magdalene and the disciples.

But here, in Baptism – at the font, and as your Baptism continues to pour out over you in the Divine Service and the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever it is heard, whether by the preaching of His pastors and teachers or by the grateful praise and thanksgiving of His baptized children in their daily lives. For every baptized child of God is a mean by which others may say with Mary Magdalene and with us, I have seen the Lord.

And here in the Lord’s Supper, in the bread placed, and the wine poured, upon your tongue, you have seen the Lord, He gives Himself to you, and you know where He is to be found and grasped – that is faith.

What is even more important is that He knows you. And, ascended to His Father and your Father, and to His God and your God.' – that is what faith grasps onto. A God who is here with you in the flesh, even as He is enthroned in heaven, where He forgives you all of your sins, defeating the evil one and even your own sinful self, and gives you life in His kingdom forever –

. . . in the name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It Is Finished!

It is finished!
The name of Alexa Marie Hering has been sealed in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Pastor Grandpa had the blessed privilege of drowning the little sinner and welcoming her into the Kingdom of Christ at the font of Trinity, Layton in today's Divine Service. Here is the little saint with Uncle Luke, Grandma Donna, Papa Kevin, Mama Ciara, & Grandpa Pastor.

Alexa is already exercising her priesthood as her Baptism was cause for the maternal grandparents and her cousins, non-practicing Roman Catholic & LDS, to hear the Word of God and meet the risen Christ & His Bride.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

In der Liebe Christi,
Rev. Kurt Hering, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran ChurchLayton, Utah

"Now, wherever you hear or see this Word preached, believed, professed, andlived, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, 'a Christian holy people,' must be there, even though their number is small. . .And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to provethat a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God's word cannot be without God's people and, conversely, God's people cannot be without God's word." - Luther On the Councils and the Church in 1539

Sunday, July 15, 2007

“What Must I Do?”

SERMON for the Seventh Sunday after PENTECOST

TEXT: And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what [must] I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 10:25

Pr. Doug May of Socorro, New Mexico introduces the Book of Concord reading he has selected for this 7th Sunday after Pentecost with these words:
"To those whom God has called to be His people and established them in His family, He calls on them to keep His statutes, to help the distressed and to love your neighbor. Obedience follows God's love and mercy."

The Book of Concord selection itself is from the Apology, Article V: LOVE AND FULFILLING THE LAW, pp. 167_169, in which our fathers of the faith state:
"The way of justification (legally clear of wrong doing, and so a citizen in good standing) they teach is that people merit grace by good works. This way is the doctrine of reason. For reason, not seeing the uncleanness of the heart, thinks that it pleases God if it performs good works. Therefore, other works and other acts of worship are constantly invented. The Fathers did not intend that we follow the ordinances in order to seek after righteousness, but they were given for the sake of mutual peace among people, so there might be a certain order in the church. Another way of justification is handed down by the scholastic theologians when they teach that we are righteous through a habit infused by God, which is love. They say that, aided by this habit, we keep God's Law outwardly and inwardly, and that this fulfilling of the Law is worthy of grace and of eternal life. This doctrine is plainly the doctrine of the Law. For what the law says is true, "You shall love the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 6:5). Also, "You shall love your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:18). Love is therefore, the fulfilling of the Law.

"Both of these ways [of justification] exclude Christ. They are, therefore, to be rejected. They do not teach that justification is the forgiveness of sins. Nor that we overcome the terrors of sin and death through faith in Christ. They claim they fulfill the Law and come to God, without Christ as the Atoning Sacrifice."

Simply put, in terms of our Gospel text today, any religion that revolves around the question "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is on a wild goose chase!

The question itself is a temptation of the devil and the inclination of the hearts of men. It is precisely this quest for what I must do, into which every single one of us is born. It is precisely this quest for what I must do, upon which every other religion than true Christianity, and the false teaching within Christianity, is based. And it is precisely this quest from which we as individuals, congregations, and greater church bodies must be delivered, for it is the path to hell that is paved with good intentions.
Think about the good lawyer’s question very carefully for just a moment. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

What does it mean to inherit something? What is the one thing that absolutely must happen before you can inherit anything?

Someone must die, right?

Ultimately this is the point that lies behind the whole conversation between Jesus and the lawyer. And it has been laid before us in Luke’s Gospel that we heard two Sunday’s ago:
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to die in order that we might have an inheritance with Him in the estate of the kingdom of His Father.
Now given that someone has died, in order for that person’s death to be anything meaningful in terms of inheritance, that person must have something of value to pass on to his heirs.

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel, verses that until fairly recent times were included by the Church with the reading for today, Jesus specifically sets the stage for all this talk of inheritance by speaking of the valuable gifts He has for us to inherit by way of His death.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Luke 10:21_22 NKJ)

Finally, for us to actually benefit from and receive the inheritance bequeathed to us, there must be a reading of the will and distribution of its benefits. This reading of the will and distribution of its benefits is what Christ, the Son of the Living God, has sent His called servants of the Word to do as we heard in last week’s Gospel, Jesus sent the 72 to, "heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' Luke 10:9

By the term sick, Jesus does not mean merely those with physiological maladies, but those who are weak and lacking by way of their sickly, sinful nature. Jesus gets more specific about the delivery of His kingdom, His inheritance later, telling the 12 --
"If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." John 20:23
"And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matt 16:19

And isn’t this reading of the will and distribution of its benefits what the Divine Service is all about? Throughout our worship service, in virtually every part, you are hearing the reading of the will and having its benefits – the forgiveness of sins, life , and salvation – delivered to you by the executors Christ has appointed. This is most clear and tangible for us in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In Baptism is where the water poured over the heads is accompanied by the words of inheritance: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

By these words you are born again, the last piece of the puzzle, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" You must be born into, made part of, the family to whom the estate has been bequeathed and among whom it is divided and distributed. And, obviously, just as inheriting is not something you do, neither is being born again.

And in the Lord’s Supper you get clear words of inheritance along with a portion of the will itself: "Drink of it, all of you; for this cup is the new TESTAMENT in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11.

"What must [YOU] do to inherit eternal life?"

There is nothing you can do! Inheriting is nothing but receiving that which someone else has worked to establish, stored up for you, and left for an administrator to divide and distribute among you and all your brothers.

Having come into this inheritance, now you have the resources you never had before to share with others. Once again, in the words of Pr. May, To those whom God has called to be His people and established them in His family, He calls on them to keep His statutes, to help the distressed and to love your neighbor. Obedience FOLLOWS God's love and mercy.

As one who has the inheritance of heaven, you have all of God’s gifts at your disposal. You can be a neighbor to those who lack what you have to give.

Indeed Christ is THE Good Samaritan who has rescued you from death at the hands of those robbers prowling along the road of this earthly life – the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh. Christ has bound up your wounds with the forgiveness of sins, and has delivered you to the inn-keeping care of the Holy Spirit in His church with her called servants.

And now, in the words of Luther, you are all "little Christs" to whom the Christ Himself says, "Go and do likewise."

Christ has been a neighbor to you, indeed even more than that, He has been your eldest brother to whom the kingdom of heaven has been given. And He has passed that inheritance on to you who are baptized and forgiven all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, July 14, 2007

With Apologies to President McKinley

On this day in 1894, in a speech before the Christian Endeavor's International Convention in Cleveland, William McKinley, 25th president of the UNITED States of America, stated:
"There is no currency in this world that passes at such a premium anywhere as good Christian character.... The time has gone by when the young man or the young woman in the United States has to apologize for being a follower of Christ."

Don't look now, but that time has come again and now reigns supreme in our beloved country.

Lord have mercy on us all!

Laughing Martin Is a Grandpa!

Alexa Marie Hering

Born to Kevin & Ciara (pronounced like Sierra) Hering at 5:44 p.m., Thursday, July 12, 2007.

8 lbs. 9 oz., 21" long

You can't see it here, but she has her mama's eyes!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

By the Shedding of Blood We Are Free

A SERMON for the Fourth of July

In the text for the message today, we revisit the Old testament Lesson from the 3rd Sunday of Pentecost as follows:

Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?"

And he said to her, "Give me your son." So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. Then he cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?" And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him."

Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, "See, your son lives!"Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth." I King 17:17-24 (NKJ)

President Ronald Reagan wrote about "What July Fourth Means to Me" . . .
-- There is a legend about the day of our nation's birth in the little hall in Philadelphia, a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headsman's axe," and the issue remained in doubt.
The legend says that at that point a man rose and spoke. He is described as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice falling, he said, "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever."
He fell back exhausted. The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed that document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not to be found, nor could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.
Well, that is the legend. But we do know for certain that 56 men, a little band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.
What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. . . . They had achieved security but valued freedom more. --

This is what the Fourth of July, Independence Day, is all about –– freedom and separation from tyranny, taxation without representation, and government imposed worship. It is about men who shared a common ideal as expressed in the New Hampshire state motto: "Live free or die."

Odd isn’t it – that these men would value freedom even more than life itself?

While this has been a very good thing for us, for the U.S. and arguably, even the world, if we look back to the beginning, we see it is also the very source of all our problems. For in the beginning, "the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen 2:16-17, NKJ) But the first man and woman decided that freedom to eat of every tree in the garden but one wasn’t freedom enough. So Adam and Eve declared their independence from God that day in the garden and they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and with their eating brought certain death to themselves and all their kind. And thus their motto, and the motto for all of sinful man to this day has been not, "Live free or die," but "Live free AND die."

But there is another analogy to be drawn, another lesson to learn as well – the cost of freedom is blood. The Revolutionary War established the freedom of this country by the shedding of blood. Whether you know it as the Civil War or the War between the States, blood was shed so that all men might be free. Two World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam and others too many to name in our time this morning are witness to the value of freedom. Tens of thousands shed their blood for freedom for their loved ones and even for freedom for those they never knew.

We are experiencing that again today in the battlefields of the Middle East. Men and women shedding their blood so that we can remain free at home in our country and the people of Iraq may have the hope of becoming free at home in theirs. It is a solemn and sobering reality -- without the shedding of blood we would have no freedom, no country, for it seems there is no end to those who would shed their blood to take it away from us.

In our Gospel lesson today we are reminded of another who willingly shed His blood for us, "The Christ of God." This Christ of God Himself tells his disciples, and reminds us today, why he took on human flesh for us, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." Luke 9:22

All this because of our insatiable appetite and thirst for freedom. Yes, the cost of freedom has and always will be the shedding of blood, the giving up of life – including our own.

As a result of our Declaration of Independence from God in the Garden of Eden, God says we will surely die. He also said that His Son would surely die as well.

These are harsh realities, but necessary and in the end very, very good. For they are also the realities by which God makes us truly alive and truly free once again for eternity.

The poor widow in our sermon’s text was providing room and board for God’s prophet, Elijah – and loses her only son for her trouble. So she said to Elijah, "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?"

So that she, and generations to follow including ourselves this day would know that Elijah was a man of God, and more importantly, that the word of the LORD in [his] mouth is the truth, the Lord let this child's soul come back to him in answer to Elijah’s fervent prayer. The word of truth of Elijah was a call to repent and return to the Lord – preparing the way for the Christ, the promised messiah of God who would deliver His people from their sin.

Yes, the Lord raised this widow’s son back to life, demonstrating His power and His love. But the truth is, even though raised that day, the widow’s son as well as the widow would surely die. Remember the widow’s plaintiff cry? "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?"

Because of our sin, our declaration of independence of God, the truthful answer to that question when asked of God, is an emphatic yes. Yes, I sent this man of God so that your son would be killed. And I will send mine to be killed as well.

'Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. Deut 32:39 (NKJ)

God gives us the Word of His law, indeed, to kill us. For unless we die to sin we can never know true life with Him. The prophet Ezekiel puts it this way, "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!" Ezek 18:30-32 (NKJ)

Our sin must be put to death, separated from us.

According to The Smalcald Articles Part III:
Repentance... does not debate over what is a sin or what is not a sin. Instead, it simply lumps everything together and says, "Everything is pure sin with us. What would we want to spend so much time investigating, dissecting, or distinguishing?" Therefore, contrition is not uncertain because there remains nothing that we might consider a "good" with which to pay for sin. Rather, there is plain, despair concerning all that we are, think, say, or do, etc.
Confession cannot be false, uncertain, or fragmentary. All who confess that everything is pure sin with them embrace all sins, allow no exceptions, and do not forget a single one. Thus, satisfaction can never be uncertain either. For it consists not in our uncertain, sinful works but rather in the suffering and blood of the innocent "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world " [John 1:29]. (paragraphs 33-38)

So the harsh reality is that we and our sin must indeed be put to death. In the death of sin is the certainty of life. This killing of sin is what the Lord does in our Baptism . . .
Q. What is the meaning of such a water Baptism? A. It means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance, and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, in turn, a new person daily come forth and rise from death again. He will live forever before God in righteousness and purity. Q. Where is this written? A. St. Paul says to the Romans in chapter six: "We are buried with Christ through Baptism into death, so that, in the same way Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, thus also must we walk in a new life.'' [Luther’s Small Catechism, Baptism Part IV.]

This daily living in our baptism is also what Jesus is speaking of in today’s Gospel when he says, "anyone who desires to come after [Him], let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily." Luke 9:23

United with Christ through Baptism, we do not have to fear our certain death to this world, because like the widow’s son, our soul will be returned to us – but in a permanent and everlasting way. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Rev 20:6 (NKJ) -- and even forevermore.

A most blessed Independence Day to you all. Rejoice and be glad in the freedom we have in this land by the shedding of the blood of many who have sacrificed themselves for you.

But even more may you rejoice and be glad every day in the freedom from sin, death, and the devil that Jesus Christ has won by the shedding of His blood for you and for the whole world -- the same blood he gives to you to drink this day for the forgiveness of your sins. And may you celebrate today and everyday through your Holy Baptism, that the Holy Spirit has delivered you back into that dependence on God we call faith, so that you will most certainly partake in His resurrection unto eternal life. Amen

Monday, July 2, 2007

Here's to a Happy Fourth and a Blessed Convention

As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, and shortly thereafter, to convene as a Synod in Houston, perhaps it would be helpful to remember these words of Ronald Reagan:

“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Happy Fourth of July.” —— Ronald Reagan

In the spirit of our national holiday and our Christian freedom, allow me to take the liberty to paraphrase these words and apply them to our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

Let the Convention of Synod always be a reminder, and an occasion to reassert, that the LCMS views its democratic form of governance as an adiaphora, but one created and managed by its members for the sake of good order and the pure preaching and teaching of God’s Word among us and going forth with the same out into all the world. This Synod has no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Lord bless our Convention in Houston.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tell What Great Things God Has Done for You

SERMON for the Fourth Sunday after PENTECOST: June 24, 2007
"Tell What Great Things God Has Done for You"

TEXT: Luke 8:26-39

We have three great examples of the faith laid before us in the Divine Service today.

First, the day itself, the 24th of June, is the day the church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist-the prophet who made way for the coming of our Lord.

Second, in the Hymn of the Day, we have the Magnificat, the Song of Mary the Mother of our Lord.

Third, in the Gospel lesson, we have the man possessed by a legion of demons.

And what do they have in common?

They all tell their world what great things God has done for them.

John preached repentance and baptized for the forgiveness of sins, announcing the coming of the Lord and His kingdom.

Mary rejoices that the very one she carried in her womb was her Savior and goes on to tell how He is also the one who saved the people of Israel and spoke to Abraham to deliver him in days gone by.

The formerly demon-possessed man shows himself and proclaims to the whole city the great miracle that Jesus worked in his life.

The formerly demon-possessed man, Mary the mother of our Lord, and John the Baptizer - all tell what great things God has done for them.

Here is one more thing, as Mary proclaims in her song, all generations since have called her blessed. And the same is true also of John the Baptizer and even the formerly demon-possessed man as all three are remembered in the preaching, the hymns, and the liturgy of the church - i.e. the gathering of God's people in the kingdom of heaven on earth.

This is obvious in the cases of Mary and John, but if you recall in the post-communion canticle of Divine Service II we sang during the season of Easter -- "tell everyone what He has done," as well as in a portion of Mary's song, the Magnificat of Vespers -- "the mighty One has done great things to me," and another church hymn or two, you will recognize the words of Jesus to the man whom He had freed from demon possession from our Gospel lesson today,- "tell what great things God has done to you."

And therein is the very definition of praise- "tell what great things God has done to you."

In explaining the The Second Commandment: [LSB p. 321 ], Luther notes that Scripture tells us not only that we should "not misuse the name of the Lord our God," but even more, to "call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks."

Further, what the Commandment requires of us, the Creed delivers.

The Creed is not satisfied to declare, I believe, or even I believe in God, but it specifically sings the praise of what God has done and continues to do as the baptized confess, I believe in . . .

  • God the Father almighty who created heaven and earth
  • His only Son, our Lord, who took on flesh, suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven
  • The Holy Spirit, who through the Holy Christian Church communes with the saints to forgive their sins and raise them with Christ to everlasting life

This praising of God, telling what great things He has done, is normally a pretty low profile, relatively unspectacular thing in the life of a Christian. That which the believer hears and receives in the weekly Divine Service, he then repeats in word and deed during the course of his/her every day life.

Not all, in fact very few of the priesthood of all believers, are called to be apostles, prophets, or pastors. If you think about it, of today's three great examples of the faith only John the Baptizer fit in one of those categories. He was a high profile, even rather spectacular, prophet indeed. However, Mary, even though she is the blessed mother of our Lord, simply told what He had done in a rather normal, every day way, as did the man relieved of the legion of demons. Mary sang the song to her cousin, Elizabeth on a family visit in the private setting of her life as a young expectant mother. And, of course, the man healed of demons went back to his own town, among the people with whom he lived to tell them of God's wonderful work.

What does that tell you?

Unless you have been called and ordained by God through His church into the public office of the ministry, you can be confident and comfortable with confessing the great things God has done in Christ to those with whom you live -- your neighbors at home, work, school and play.

You don't even have to use your own words to tell what He has done. That is why we have the Scriptures, the Liturgy and the hymns - not just for the strengthening of your own faith, though that is reason enough, but also in order that you can be ready to give a bold confession of the saving work of God in Christ - without fear of error, and with full confidence in its truth and power. As the disciple whom Jesus called a rock for his confession tells us: ". . . in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

You might say you don't have much in the way of wealth; that your life is not so great right now due to sickness, unemployment, or estrangement from loved ones. And that might lead you to conclude you don't have much of a song to sing in terms of what great things God has done for you. But the fact is, that whatever you DO have -

  • that you even have the ability and strength to make such a statement or form such a thought is a gift from God the Father.
  • That you have a place in His kingdom, forgiven and loved by Him, is a gift from Jesus, His Son.
  • And that you have faith to believe this and confess/proclaim that Jesus is the Christ and your Savior is a gift from the Holy Spirit.

Are these not great things -- even the greatest things?

God grant you the faith of John the Baptizer, Mary the Mother of our Lord, and the nameless man released of his demons -- to tell your world, both by the Word of God you have heard and the good works He has given for you to do, what great things God has done for you - in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen