Sunday, January 29, 2012
It is good that you are here to hear (and/or) read what God is doing for you today and everyday in His holy Christian Church. To listen to how the Lord opens the kingdom of heaven in the sermon for
The Transfiguration of Our Lord, "It Is Good That We Are Here,"-click on this mp3 audio link.
Have a blessed week in the kingdom of heaven.
A servant of the Word and His people,
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along, or read instead.
TEXT: 1After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:1–4
Dearly beloved of the Father,
It is good that we are here—very good indeed. For just as God opened up the kingdom of heaven to give Peter, James, and John a glimpse of its glory and what was waiting for them on the mountain of Transfiguration, He opens heaven to us in the Divine Service. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit you were baptized into the kingdom of heaven. And so those words as you hear them today declare once again that God has opened the kingdom of heaven to you. And what is more, you have a seat in those heavenly realms with Jesus at His banquet table—even now—eating and drinking with Him and of Him in the Sacrament of the Altar.
For those of you not yet partaking, that is what you are being catechized for and to, that you might know and believe what you cannot see to be true for you.
It was good, very good indeed, that Peter, James, and John were there on the Mount of Transfiguration that day too. Good for them—and us. They needed to see what they saw, for their faith. And they needed to see what they saw to report it to us for our faith—that we might know that this Jesus is the Christ of God and by believing have life in His name.
But even more than they needed to see what they saw, they needed to hear what they heard--because their reaction at seeing only is the same as ours. It is the response of sin. “What can we do for you, Lord?”
Now think about that for a moment. What can we do for the Lord? What could Peter, James, or John have done for the Lord? The fact is, He does everything for us.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
From cradle to grave, from conception to ascension, Jesus is the Christ the very Son of God who does everything He does for us out of love for His Father and ours. And this Father in heaven breaks through the foggy thinking of the disciples and silences their spokesman, Peter, [Who] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
WOW!!! Talk about being cut short and put in your place. Here they are trying to do something for their Lord offering their very best effort and the Father’s voice thunders from above, ignoring and dismissing their words and work, and directs them to listen to His Son.
No wonder, 6When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. Matthew 17:6
7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” Matthew 17:7
Ah, this is what our Savior does, that for which He came to Peter, James, and John; that for which He still comes today for you and me—to calm our fears and raise us to walk with Him, knowing He is His Father’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased to let all who walk with Him, walk in the kingdom of heaven.
8And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:8
This is the way it should be for every disciple, every believer, every baptized child of God. When we lift up our eyes, when we are examining spirituality, when we are looking at heaven and heavenly things, we are to see nothing but Jesus only. All else is of this world and misleading.
Seeing Jesus is what the Faith is all about
Heb 12:1 2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NKJ)
Can we look to and honor such as Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John; Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walther? Certainly, but only insofar as they show us, preach us, give us – Jesus.
I Jn 4:1 3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (NKJ)
Now this is how we should test every spirit, that is every pastor, evangelist, teacher, anyone who would present himself/herself to us as speaking of things spiritual, things eternal, things of God. And it is how we should test our worship practices to see that they are first and foremost about listening to God’s beloved Son. Do they lead you to and give you nothing but Jesus and His Word as did Moses and Elijah; Peter, James and John; Luther and Walther--and that by the means that Jesus Himself in the flesh authorized and instituted to do so?
Here is how our Lutheran Confessions speak of testing the spirits:
“ We must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward Word (Galatians 3:2,5). This protects us from the enthusiasts (who boast that they have the Spirit without the Word).
“ Enthusiasm dwells in Adam and his children. Its venom has been implanted into them by the old serpent. It is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the papacy and Muhammad. We must maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit without the Word and Sacraments is the devil himself. God wanted to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word (Exodus 3:2 15). No prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments or the spoken Word. John the Baptist was not conceived without the word of Gabriel coming first, nor did he leap in his mother's womb without Mary's voice (Luke 1:11 20,41). Peter says, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy. Much less would the Holy Spirit have moved them to speak when they were still unholy. They were holy, says he, since the Holy Spirit spoke through them.” (SMALCALD ARTICLES, PART III, ARTICLE VIII: CONFESSION paragraphs 3, 9 13)
For us that seeing “no one but Jesus only” is with the ears:
Rom 10:13 17 For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (NKJ)
Yet, we are always tempted to want more than the hearing, more than the Word of God. So God’s voice breaks into our world with the preaching of His Law, to terrify us and lay us flat. He takes the wind (the breath, the spirit) right out of us and renders us silent, like Peter, James, and John with the realization that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6] And only then are we ready to really see, and hear, and receive Jesus as He is, as He gives Himself to us, as we need Him--hidden now in the rather less than glorious looking things of His Divine Service of Word and Sacrament—where [Jesus comes and touches us and says], ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’":
• in Baptism where we are united with Him in His death and resurrection and made beloved sons of God;
• in the hearing of His Word preached into the ears of congregations great and small, as well as to the ears of individuals who confess their sins and faith privately to their pastor;
• in the eating of His body and drinking of His blood at His holy Supper.
In all these things Christ gives you through the work of the Holy Sp[irit in His holy Christian Church, “When [you lift] up [your] eyes, [see] no one but Jesus only.”
For that is the definition of saving faith-–seeing no one but Jesus only, and trusting that He is enough. Seeing no one but Jesus only with your eyes of faith means you have been delivered into the kingdom of heaven, for that is where Jesus lives and reigns to all eternity at the right hand of God, from where He sends the Holy Spirit to gather you in His church to keep you with Him as He forgives you all your sins
So you, dearly beloved of God, It Is Good That We Are Here--receiving that forgiveness and eternal life-–in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
“Christ For Us: The Lord’s Supper”
@ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Lincoln Nebraska
Few matters have stood so consistently central as a point of contention in the Christian Church than the doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper. From the first century controversy in Corinth regarding the very nature and purpose of the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 10-11), to the Reformation debate between Luther and Zwingli concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper (Marburg Colloquy), to the contentious councils of early American Lutherans over Communion fellowship (Akron/Galesburg Rule), we still find today ongoing controversy as to who and under what circumstances is Holy Communion to be administered at our Lutheran altars.
Though already resolved in the Missouri Synod in C. F. W. Walther’s Theses on Communion Fellowship With Those Who Believe Differently, these matters have nevertheless come to be points of contention today within our own fellowship, leading us to ask: How did this most blessed expression of Christian unity become such a matter of disunity in the LCMS? What do Scripture and the Confessions of the Church teach us, and are they still relevant for us today? Do historical context and situational ethics justify variances in understanding and application of the Supper in our times?
In keeping with our objectives to address errors within our fellowship “and institute Biblical practices that hold the promise of God’s blessing” (A Fraternal Admonition), we offer this Conference as an opportunity to provide the pastors and congregations of our Synod with both theological and practical helps from which to evaluate our current practices and challenges toward both faithful administration of the Sacrament and unity of faith in our common ministry and mission in the LCMS.
This Conference is designed to be a “working” Conference which will include both presentations for doctrinal study and Table Talk discussions to engage in “what does this mean” in carrying out faithfully the ministry and mission of our Lord. We pray that you will consider joining us in this fraternal effort to again find unity in our understanding and administration of the Holy Supper as taught in Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions.
Rev. James Gier, Conference Committee Chairman, ACELC
Guest speakers at the conference:
Dr. Detlev Schulz, Professor and Chairman of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, Concordia Theological Seminary—“Fellowship in Holy Communion”
Rev. Clint Poppe, Senior Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Nebraska—“Walther, The True Visible Church, and Holy Communion”
Dr. Holger Sonntag, LCMS Pastor and Author—“The Ban and Church Discipline in Holy Communion”
Dr. Mark Buchhop, Senior Pastor, Wittenberg Chapel – University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota—“TABLE TALK – Teaching Orthodox Communion”
Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, Concordia Theological Seminary—“Holy Communion: Doctrine and Practice”; “TABLE TALK – Orthodox Communion Statements”
Rev. James Gier, Senior Pastor, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Excelsior Springs, Missouri—“Exceptions in the Practice of Holy Communion”
Rev. Brent Kuhlman, Senior Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Murdock, Nebraska—“Berthold Von Schenk: Historical Context and Critique”
Rev. Brian Saunders, LCMS District President, Iowa East District—“TABLE TALK – Orthodox Communion Casuistry”
Rev. Richard Bolland, Pastor Emeritus, Holy Cross Lutheran Church Kansas City, Missouri—“Our Lutheran Heritage”
Monday, January 23, 2012
According to research cited in an article entitled Baby Immunizes Mother:
"As we have learned more about the immune system, doctors began asking themselves why a pregnant mother’s body doesn’t reject the foreign tissue of the baby growing inside her. . . . From conception the unborn child is a genetically unique individual. It appears that under normal conditions the trophoblast is a special set of cells that the body cannot identify as foreign. In addition, the trophoblast makes cells that encourage the mother’s immune system to protect it. Scientists now believe that this amazing feature may actually be provided by the father’s genetic information. In effect, the baby, with the help of the father, immunizes the mother’s system so that it doesn’t reject the baby! So, even before birth, the mother nurtures and the father protects the child." [Creation Moments, July 13, 2006, http://www.creationmoments.com/]
Wow!!! That IS a blast, isn’t it? A blast to evolutionists and pro-abortionists alike.
Trophoblast fits perfectly with God’s revealed Word of the Bible in regard to both the history of creation and the promise of salvation. While evolution requires millions and billions of years of trial and error and death in order to develop genetic characteristics that will enable life to survive and develop into more advanced forms, trophoblast is evidence of a genetic programming that protects a life which already contains everything needed to develop into its mature, advanced form. According to genetic research, there is NEVER a time, from conception to death, that human life is ever anything short of fully human – the chromosomes remain the same.
According to the psalmist, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me." [Psalm 51:5]
The human trophoblast cells that beg a Creator also confess a Savior. This built in protection of a little sinner is God the Father’s means to deliver that sinner from the amniotic waters of the womb to the baptismal waters of the church.
Just as no one is born into this world without a mother, no one is born again into the kingdom of heaven without church. Trophoblast is one earthly means that Our Father has created and continues to use in order that His command -- as spoken by His only begotten Son -- may be fulfilled and come to fruition:
- In John 3:5, "Jesus answered [the Pharisee, Nicodemus], ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’" [NKJ]
- Or as we learn from the Small Catechism explanation to the Apostles’ Creed, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."
Thankfully, just as God has created and continues to use the earthly means of trophoblast cells to protect and deliver human life into the world, so He has instituted and continues to use the earthly means of the spoken and sacramental Word of the Gospel to deliver and protect human life in His church by faith – for in this, and this alone, is the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.
Yup! Creation is a blast from God. And God does everything to protect and deliver His creation – especially those whom He has made His own children by Baptism.
Let us pray to the Father that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we baptized and forgiven children of God will always abide in the Word – never forgetting or betraying Him who has created human fathers and mothers to nurture and protect their babies in order to bring them into the world and also to the Baptismal font that bestows forgiveness of sins and faith unto eternal life. Amen
Sunday, January 22, 2012
To hear how Christ stretches out His hand to touch you on this Life Sunday that you "Be Clean"-click on this mp3 audio link.
Have a blessed week in the Lord rejoicing to be clean in the life He gives.
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: 1When [Jesus] came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." 3And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:1-3
And there you have it. The answer to the age old question, the answer to your question, "What is God's will for me?" Here it is revealed to you in the words of Jesus Himself, "I will; be clean."
Since the sin of Adam and Eve, every last one of us born into this world is born a leper—our flesh is being ravaged and destroyed by sin every day, and our senses have become so dulled by the disease that we cannot even feel or notice the deadly toll it is taking on us.
So Christ comes down from His mountain, where He sits at the right of the Father, and He breathes His Holy Spirit out into the world in the Divine Service that you and all who receive His Word of forgiveness in faith will be clean. That is His desire, His will for you and for all people, as we learn from the apostle Paul urging Pastor Timothy to lead the people under his spiritual care in "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [Because] this is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4
And if God wants all people to be saved, as with the all nations to be baptized, this must include the littlest people among our nations. So I would be remiss on this "Life Sunday" if I were to neglect to mention the little ones carried in the womb among all the people He wants to save and to be cleansed. Today, January 22, 2012 marks the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the case of Roe V. Wade. This decision has resulted in over 54,000,000 innocent human beings to lose their lives since 1973 to what the medical community and women's choice advocates voluntary pregnancy terminations, that is, abortions.
We trust God has dealt mercifully and His will has been done with these hosts of little ones--innocent as to their role in whatever distress a pregnancy presents, but still in need of the merciful cleansing of our Lord as to their having been conceived in sinful flesh. We pray that He would lead us out of the temptation to sacrifice more little ones for the sake of our own selfishness and deliver us from this evil taking of life so that they may be brought to the font of living water to be cleansed and saved.
What is more, it is His will to lead those mothers who have terminated the lives of their babies in this manner—and even the doctors and medical personal and counselors and spouses and significant others who have been complicit—to repent and come to Jesus to be cleansed as well. Yes, He died for their sins, too. He died to save each and every one of them and give them life with Him in heaven. If not, how is it you could think He died for your most grievous sins, to save you, and bring you into the kingdom of heaven with HIm?
Yes, each and every one of us needs to be made clean, because each and every one of us is infected and infested with the leprosy of sin that will eventually destroy this body and take us to the grave--back to the earth from whence God formed us. And unless the God who created you does something to change this course of events, to cleanse you of this deadly disease of sin, to come and touch you and give you life, you remain as you are, unable to do anything about your disease or even to know how advanced and serious is your leprous condition.
That's what Baptism is for.
What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. As Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" [Mark 16:16].
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the Word of God, which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is simple water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul says in Titus chapter three, "He saved us … by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy" [vv. 5-8].
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts. And also it shows that a new man should daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever. As St. Paul says in Romans chapter 6, "We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" [v. 4]. [Small Catechism Explanation of Holy Baptism]
That's what Confession and Absolution is for, both in the Divine Service and privately with Christ's servant of the Word. Indeed everything the pastor does is to lead to just this, that you confess your sin and receive the forgiveness of our Lord that He came to win for you on Calvary and deliver to you in His holy Christian Church.
Confession has two parts: the one is that we confess our sins; the other is that we receive Absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no way doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven by this. [Small Catechism Explanation of Confession & Absolution]
That's why we sing "Create in me a clean heart" as the offertory every Sunday.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.
That's why our Lord invites and even commands us to eat of His body and drink of His blood often in the Sacrament of the Altar.
What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
In order that we can know and believe that Jesus comes down from His mountain of heaven with the same flesh of His human nature--to cleanse us and abide with us and replace our rebellious, leprous, death seeking spirit with His pure life giving Holy Spirit in all these gifts He has given to and through His Church and Office of the Holy Ministry.
This is why Jesus is called the Christ, because He and only He has been anointed in the flesh with the Holy Spirit of God to give this Spirit of Life to sinners in their flesh for eternal life. And this is why Jesus, the Christ sends the Holy Spirit in all these things of His Church--to transform us back into the image of Christ we were created to be in the beginning, but which has been perverted in and lost to us as sinners. Without Christ coming to us in these things we remain dead in the leprosy of our sin and unable to do a thing to save ourselves, to get rid of our own leprous sin, or to rise from the dead.
1When [Jesus] came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." 3And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Just as Jesus came down from the mountain to stretch out His hand and touch and heal the leper and others, He has come down from the mountain of heaven to stretch out His hand and touch and heal each of us most profoundly in our Baptism. What is more, He is touching us even now in His Divine Service--stretching out His hand through the preaching and praying of His holy Word, touching you in your repentant request. As you bow before Him at the throne of His altar He is saying, "My will is to do this for you. Be clean, for you are mine and I am here for you to heal you and give you life."
Just as the leper was healed by the Lord Jesus Christ as He came down from preaching the Sermon on the Mount, He has come down from heaven today, preaching His sermon of forgiveness and giving you His body and blood to heal you for eternity --in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.