Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Invocavit: Call to Him Wednesday"--Lenten Devotion

Invocavit greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to all you freinds and readers of Laughing Martin:

Along with the church catholic throughout her generations, our Lutheran churches have "Called to Him" who is the One true God, and prepared for Easter Day's baptisms and the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord by praying and meditating on our catechisms' confession and explanation of the chief parts of Christian doctrine that form our Faith.

As we pray and meditate upon what our dear Lord's Holy Word has to say about us sinners and our Savior, we fast from the appetites of this world and our flesh and our pursuit of happiness in satisfying them.

Our Lutheran churches, again along with the church catholic throughout her generations, have used Sunday's lectionary propers (that is, the the liturgical verses such as the Introit and Gradual; the Scripture readings; the hymnody; and the prayers) in the weekly devotional and catechetical life of their weekday congregational and family worship practice.

With this as prescription and model, our 2012 Lenten midweek worship services at Trinity combine the liturgical verse, Scripture reading, hymnody, and prayer of the previous Sunday's Divine Service with responsive recitations from The Lutheran Book of Concord that treat a major theme of those lectionary propers.

Contrary to the folk wisdom born of our familiarity with sin and its effects that, "familiarity breeds contempt," when it comes to God's Word and our faith, familiarity breeds faith.

The Invocavit Wednesday Order of Compline (Prayer at the Close of the Day) with the responsive recitation of the Confessions treating the article of Original Sin begins following my signature line. If you would like a Word document of this material, please include your eamil address in a request via the comment forum on this blog.

God grant that these Lenten services of fasting, meditation, and prayer will free us of our sinful appetites and prepare us to be presented before our Lord as empty vessels to be filled with His Holy Spirit through the Baptism, Preaching, Absolution, and Communion of His Word in Christ Jesus.

Your Laughing Little Warrior in Christ,
Isaac Martin, aka Laughing Martin, aka Izzy Abaldy II

LENT: MIDWEEK 1 (INVOCAVIT)
COMPLINE, LSB p. 253
February 29, 2012

OPENING HYMN:
“O Lord, throughout These Forty Days,” LSB #418

PSALMODY:
P: When he calls to me, I will | answer him;*
I will rescue him and | honor him.
C: With long life I will sat- | isfy him*
and show him my sal- | vation.
He who dwells in the shelter of the | Most High*
will abide in the shadow of the Al- | mighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my | fortress,*
my God, in | whom I trust.”
Because you have made the LORD your | dwelling place—*
the Most High, who is my | refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to be- | fall you,*
no plague come | near your tent.
You will tread on the lion and the | adder;*
the young lion and the serpent you will trample | underfoot.
Glory be to the Father, and | to the Son*
and to the Holy | Spirit;*
as it was in the be- | ginning,*
is now, and will be forever. | Amen.

P: When he calls to me, I will | answer him;*
I will rescue him and | honor him.
C: With long life I will sat- | isfy him*
and show him my sal- | vation.


OFFICE HYMN:
“In Adam We Have All Been One,” LSB #569

SCRIPTURE READINGS: OT Reading ...... Genesis 3:1–21
Epistle ………...... 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Gospel ...……....… Matthew 4:1-11

RESPONSIVE CONFESSION READING:

THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION ARTICLE II: Original Sin

P: 1 Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam [Romans 5:12], all who are naturally born are born with sin [Psalm 51:5], that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. 2 Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit [John 3:5].

C: 3 Our churches condemn who deny that original depravity is sin, thus obscuring the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits. argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.


THE FORMULA of CONCORD ARTICLE I: Original Sin [THE CORRUPT NATURE]

P: 33 Original sin is like a spiritual poison and leprosy, as Luther says.
It has poisoned and corrupted the whole human nature.

C: So we cannot show and point out to the eye, human nature by itself or original sin by itself.

P: Nevertheless, there is the corrupt nature, or essence of the corrupt
person (body and soul—the person himself) whom God has created.

C: (Original sin dwells in a person. It also corrupts the nature and
essence of the entire person.)


P And there is original sin, which dwells in human nature or essence and corrupts it.

C: They are not one and the same thing.

P: For example, in outward leprosy the body that is leprous and the leprosy on or in the body are not one thing, properly speaking. But a distinction must also be maintained between our nature as created and preserved by God (in which sin is indwelling) and original sin (which dwells in the nature).

C: These two things can, and must, be considered, taught, and believed separately according to Holy Scripture.

P: 34 Furthermore, the chief articles of our Christian faith drive and
compel us to preserve this distinction. For instance, in the article of
creation, Scripture testifies that God has created human nature not only before the fall, but that it is God’s creature and work also since the fall. (See Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 45:11; 54:5; 64:8; Acts 17:25; Revelation 4:11.)

35 Job says:

C: Your hands fashioned and made me, and now You have destroyed me altogether. Remember that You have made me like clay; and will You return me to the dust? Did You not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and Your care has preserved my spirit. [Job 10:8–12]

P: 36 David says:

C: I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:14–16)

P: 37 In the Ecclesiastes of Solomon it is written,

C: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

P: 38 These passages clearly testify that God, even since the fall, is the creator of mankind. He creates his body and soul. Therefore, corrupt mankind cannot, without any distinction, be sin itself. Otherwise, God would be a creator of sin.

C: Our Small Catechism also confesses this in the explanation of the First Article, where it is written:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them.

Likewise, in the Large Catechism it is written:
This is what I mean and believe, that I am God’s creature. I mean that
He has given and constantly preserves for me my body, soul, and life, my
members great and small, all my senses, reason, and understanding.


P: Nevertheless, this same creature and work of God is sadly corrupted by sin.

C: For the material from which God now forms and makes man was corrupted and perverted in Adam and is thus passed along by inheritance to us.

P: 39 Here pious Christian hearts justly ought to consider God’s unspeakable goodness. God does not immediately cast from Himself this corrupt, perverted, sinful material into hellfire.

C: No, He forms and makes the present human nature from it (which is sadly corrupted by sin) in order that He may cleanse it from all sin, sanctify, and save it by His dear Son.

P: 40 From this article, the distinction is now clearly and indisputably
found. Original sin does not come from God.

C: God is not sin’s creator or author. Nor is original sin God’s
creature or work, but it is the devil’s work.


P: 41 If there was no difference at all between the nature or essence of our body and soul (which is corrupted by original sin) and original sin (by which the nature is corrupted) one of the following would be true: because God is the creator of our nature, He also created and made original sin, which would also be His work and creature. Or, because sin is the devil’s work, Satan would be the creator of our nature, of our body and soul. They would also have to be Satan’s work or creation if, without any distinction, our corrupt nature was thought to be sin itself. Both of these teachings are contrary to the article of our Christian faith.

C: 42 Therefore, in order that God’s creation and work in mankind may be distinguished from the devil’s work, we say that it is God’s creation that a person has body and soul. Also, it is God’s work that a person can think, speak, do, and work anything. For “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). But human nature is corrupt. Its thoughts, words, and works are wicked. This is originally Satan’s work, who has corrupted God’s work in Adam through sin. From Adam, sin is passed down to us by inheritance [Romans 5:12].

P: 43 Second, in the article of Redemption the Scriptures testify
forcefully that God’s Son received our human nature without sin. So He was in all ways—sin excluded—made like us, His brethren (Hebrews 2:14–17). Therefore, all the old orthodox teachers have maintained that Christ, according to His received humanity, is of one essence with us, His brothers.

C: For He has received His human nature, which in all respects (sin alone excluded) is like our human nature in its essence and all essential attributes. They have condemned the contrary doctrine as obvious heresy.

P: 44 If there were no distinction between the nature or essence of corrupt mankind and original sin, one of the following must be true: Christ did not receive our nature, because He did not receive sin. Or because Christ received our nature, He also received sin. Both of these ideas are contrary to the Scriptures.

C: God’s Son received our nature, and not original sin. Therefore, it is clear from this fact that human nature (even since the fall) and original sin are not one and the same thing. They must be distinguished.

P: 45 Third, in the article of Sanctification Scripture testifies that God cleanses, washes, and sanctifies mankind from sin [1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 1:7] and that Christ saves His people from their sins [Matthew 1:21]. Sin, therefore, cannot be a person himself.

C: For God receives a person into grace for Christ’s sake. But God
remains hostile to sin eternally. …


P: 46 Fourth, in the article of the Resurrection Scripture testifies that
precisely the substance of our flesh, but without sin, will rise again
[1 Corinthians 15:42, 54–57].

C: In eternal life we shall have and keep precisely this soul, but
without sin.


P: 47 If there was no difference at all between our corrupt body and soul and original sin, one of the following would be true (contrary to this article of the Christian faith): our flesh will not rise again at the Last Day, and in eternal life we shall not have the present essence of our body and soul, but another substance (or another soul), because then we shall be without sin. Or ‹at the Last Day› sin will also rise again and will be and remain in the elect in eternal life.

C: 8 It is clear that this teaching (with all that depends on it and follows from it) must be rejected. For it is asserted and taught that original sin is the nature, substance, essence, body, or soul itself of corrupt mankind. It is taught that between our corrupt nature, substance, and essence and original sin there is no distinction whatever. For the chief articles of our Christian faith forcefully and emphatically testify why a distinction should and must be maintained between mankind’s nature or substance (which is corrupted by sin) and the sin (with which and by which mankind is corrupted)….

+ + +

COLLECT OF THE DAY:
P: O Lord God, You led Your ancient people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide the people of Your Church
C: that following our Savior we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

CLOSING HYMN:
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” LSB #656

+ + +

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When You Call to Him

Today is Invocavit, "Call on Him," Sunday in the life of Christ's Church. To hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church at Layton, Utah, which is based upon the Gospel for Invocavit, Matthew 4:1-11, "When You Call to Him," click on this mp3 audio link.

The audio recording begins with the Old Testament reading, and includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #569,"In Adam We Have All Been One." The sermon begins at 14:20. The audio continues through the Prayer of the Church; skips to the Cummunion Hymn--LSB #458, vv. 2-7, w/o Alleluias, "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands"; and concludes witht the Benediction.

The preaching transcript follows below if you prefer to read along, or read instead.

Dearly beloved, children of God in whom He is well pleased, 14:20

That is what your Baptism means—that you are His children and in you His well pleased-- because that is what Baptism in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit does. It makes you well and it makes you pleasing to God by washing you clean of all your sin that is unpleasing to Him and that makes you unwell—that is to say, that makes you dead.

But having been buried with him in baptism [Paul writes to the Colossians in chapter 2] , in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead [that's pretty unwell] in your trespasses …, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14

Your Baptism-- the Baptism commanded and instituted by Christ for the apostles and the ministers of His holy Christian Church to go and take to all the sinners in all the nations of the world in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit; that one Baptism into the one faith and the one hope [Ephesians 4:5-6] in the one God who is the one Savior that we all share and have in common—has buried you into the depths of Jesus. It has buried you into the depths of His death and into the depths of into the depths of His grave and into the depths of hell itself, where all of the evil and filth of your sin and mine against our neighbors and all of our trespasses against God Himself and His holy Word that make you and I unpleasing to Him—all of those are left behind in those depths from which Christ has risen. For in your Baptism, though the rite at the font is long over or most of you, and the water no longer drips from your brow, you have been raised with Jesus through faith into the kingdom of heaven. Continuing to live in your Baptism you are still baptized.

That's what faith is: being baptized; living baptized; always baptized. Faith is remaining and abiding and being satisfied with Jesus after being buried into the depths of His life and His very heart—a life and heart that, unlike yours and mine, has remained without any sin of His own, though tempted in every way like you, and then some; a life and heart that has been raised from all that sin of yours and mine; raised from an entire age and world of sinners into the kingdom of heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. And so, Baptized into this Jesus, you and I are also Baptized into His Father and into His Spirit—and into the heaven wherein they all live and reign to all eternity, forever and ever, one God. Amen.

That was easy!

Hardly. It was easy to have that water poured over us. It was easy to hear that name placed upon us. It was easy to hear that our sins were forgiven. But we see how hard it was for the Christ, the Son of the living God in our Gospel text today.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God," Matthew 4:1-3a

According to Matthew, in the last verses of the chapter preceding our text and just prior to His wilderness temptation Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17

You see here is the prototype for our Baptism. We have here at Jesus' baptism the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; who from the very beginning and before have always have been Father , Son, and Holy Spirit—have always been one God. Where One is the others are, for they are One.

This is what goes on right before His temptation. In fact, Mark's account of the same events says upon hearing these very words of His Father in heaven, The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. Mark 1:12

Immediately after hearing His own Father in heaven say that He, Jesus, is God's beloved Son, the evil angel who has been cast out of heaven tempts the Son of God with that little word, "If."

This is very similar to a little word this evil one first used with Eve in the Garden, as we heard in our OT text.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, '…'?" That's an "if" right there, isn't it?

If You are the son of God, [Jesus]. Did God actually say [to you, Adam and Eve who were created in His image]?

If? Did? Herein--in these little one-word questions--lies the root and the very essence of sin.

Eve, under the pastoral supervision of her husband Adam, fell into the trap laid by Satan with this little word. She didn't go back to the source of the Word to answer the one little word added by the evil one. In fact, in consulting her own recollection of things and seeking the word in her own heart, she added her own word as well. And that was fatal. And it was all the evil one needed to seal the deal—to lead them into temptation and away from God and His Word.

Eve's recollection, her heartfelt words from God, she remembered as:
'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.

I don't know where the "neither shall you touch it" part come in. But it didn't come from God. And it was misleading to both her and to her husband, because as she says this, the serpent says to the woman, "You will not surely die."

Well, we all know very well, even without the redundancy of today's OT reading, how Eve and her pastor fared that day. And that is our fare as well.

Eve touched the food that her recollection said she shouldn't touch, and when she didn't die she proceeded to eat it. And Adam's watching all this and she still doesn't die. Well, that devil must be right! You won't die when you eat it.

Well, maybe not right away. But God is no liar [Titus 1:2]. We also know that Adam and Eve did indeed die. And that is our fare as well.

When we consult our own minds, when we look into our own hearts for Jesus, rather than to "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" [Matthew 4:4 via Deuteronomy 8:3 ], we fall into temptation also. We become our own gods. We set our own word, our own thoughts, our own desires above God.

That's what happened with Adam and Eve, and their fare was death. And that's our fare as well.

That is, unless and until we receive a portion of Christ's fare in Holy Baptism. So let us see how the Savior into whom we are baptized fared when faced with that dirty little word from the evil one--"If." "If you are the Son of God." That is to say, "Did God actually say you are His Son?"

"Why, yes! I believe He did," says Faith. And Christ is the Son of God. And He is the faithful One.

Right after hearing this ringing word of His Father that He is His Son in Whom He is well pleased, He's led out into the wilderness:
2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4But he answered, [the tempter's, "Did He?" He answered, "Yes! He answered in faith! He answered,] "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

[He didn't answer based upon His feelings, one of which was great hunger at the time. No, He answered by the Word of God, which is the living bread from heaven].

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"

[Again,] Jesus said to him, "Again it is written,.. [Don't give me that if stuff, Satan! There's no if; there's no and; there's no but about it! It is written! God did say!] 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" [There's no if about God. There's no if about His Son. There's no if about His love for His Son and all of those who are baptized into Him.]

[The devil didn't quit, though.] 8Again, the devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said,… [Well, he skipped the "if" this time. He just made the assumption—he made the assumption and answered the "if" himself; placing himself in God's place; placing Himself in the place of the Father, trying to make Jesus His own Son; saying,] "All these I will give [to] you, [as if he, as a father, had all these things to give] if—[oh, now comes the word,] if you will fall down and worship me. [That is to say, if you will admit you are not the Son of God]."

Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! [Be gone, you accuser! Be gone, you tempter! Be gone, you evil one!] For it is written, [There is no, "if."] "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"

And this is what the Son came to do, to serve only His Father--even though being God Himself--and in so serving Father, serving us as well.

And when He sent Satan packing away from Him by calling on the Word and the very name of God, then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

That wasn't easy. That was temptation, and temptation isn't easy. It's pretty. It's beautiful. It's stunningly charming. But it's evil and it is of Satan.

And when you throw all those "ifs," and "dids," and "buts," and "ands" of the devil away and call on the name of the Lord and His holy Word that he has given to you—when you call to Him as His baptized children with whom He is well pleased: that is, when you call to Him for Jesus' sake based upon what He has done for you, and Who He is, and Whose He is, and what His Word actually does, yes, say—no ifs, ands, or buts about it--as we sang with Jesus in our Introit today:
[He] will answer [you]; [He] will rescue [you] and honor [you]. With long life [He] will satisfy [you] and show you [His] salvation. [You] who dwell [as His baptized children] in the shelter of the Most High [that is, in the heavenly places] will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

When you call upon His name, and call upon His Word as did Jesus in answer to Satan, the angels come and minister to you too, because they are ministering to Christ in heaven and you are in Christ!

Why is that so for you as His baptized children? Because when Jesus was tempted in every way, He relied on every word of God as it comes from, comes with, and returns to His Father, and returns to Him every time--as He comes from, and with, and returns to the Father every time; and has come from and with and returned to His Father every time since before the beginning of the world and will continue to do until after the world is no more.

So being with Jesus in our Baptism means--in our comings and goings--we come from God, and with God, and return to God every time with Jesus. For this Jesus is the Word and the Savior into Whom you are baptized. This Jesus is the Word and Savior that came to you in the water with the Word. And with the same Word that was with the water He comes to you today—forgiving you all of your sin and keeping you with Him forever -- in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Islam v. Christianity: Church and State Perspectives

The "Human Events" article linked here treats the state perspective of Islam.
"People who are concerned about the spread of Muslim sharia law into American jurisprudence used to be dismissed as alarmists. That won’t happen again for a while, thanks to a Pennsylvania judge who just dismissed assault charges against a Muslim who was videotaped attacking a man dressed as “Zombie Muhammad” during a Halloween parade."

Now for the "church," or religious perspective.


The doctrine and practice of
Islam consists of the glory of
Allah being defined, confessed,
and completed in man killing
and dying for Allah.


The doctrine and practice
of Christianity consists of
the glory of God being
defined, confessed, and
completed in God being
killed and dying for man.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fasting of Repentance

Welcome to Lent!

To hear the sermon for Ash Wednesday preached at Trinity Luthran Church of Layton, Utah, "The Fasting of Repentance," click on this mp3 audio link.

The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, "From Dust We Were Made," following the sermon. This is a hymn written for Ash Wednesday, 2012, by Rev. Eric Stefanski, Holy Trinity Evangelical-Lutheran Church, UAC, Harrison. AR; v. 7 by Rev. Kurt Hering, Trinity Lutheran Church, Layton, UT. I am including the text for this hymn following the preaching transcript below for those who prefer to read along, or read instead.

TEXT: [Jesus said:] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where
thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21


Dear people of God,

We notice a couple of things in our Gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday. First of all, we notice that our Lord says, “When you fast”--not “if you fast,” but “when you fast.” This reminds us that we people of God’s Church have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. Like with so many things in so many Christian churches, out of an overreaction against the abuses that have been perpetrated in Christ’s churches throughout the ages—making them into works of men to be boasted of —we have thrown out fasting to a large degree: along with the liturgy in many places, and with private confession and absolution--that wonderful opportunity to confess sins to a pastor as to Christ Himself, those sins that you think maybe, just maybe, nobody else has ever done in their lives. And how could God forgive even that. That sin, that is that one to bring before the pastor to hear, yes, that one too is forgiven.

Throwing these good things that Christ has given us and even commanded us to do--like fastin-- is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In our Gospel lesson today we see Jesus speak of things like doing good works, that is, practicing your righteousness. Certainly it’s not that we ought not be righteous and do good works. It’s just that we do not boast of them to other people, or think of them as something that earns us
anything before God in heaven.

Giving to the needy, of course, is something that we do—giving alms to the poor, supporting those who are doing without. That is one of those good works given to us to do [Ephesians 2:10]. And we do it with joy, but without boasting of those things--not pointing to them as reasons for us to be saved, but just things that Christ’s people, His baptized children do because He has been so gracious to them.

And praying! Of course we pray. And of course we pray--even together as the Church. Shortly after this passage Jesus institutes, hands over, speaks the Lord’s Prayer to His disciples. And the very first words tell us that we pray them as a church and we pray them together. “Our Father,
who art in heaven…. Our Father—we pray them together. But not in order to be seen by people so they will see how pious we are. But that we pray together as one, as Christ’s holy bride coming before Him, beseeching Him of His mercies and asking for our daily bread in this world and the next—food for our flesh and that forgiveness of sins for our soul.

For the baptized children of God these just are things that we do, whether we even know it or not, as Christ says to those sheep on His right hand on the Last Day who ask, “When, when did we do these things?”

But these are the things that we do. And fasting is one of those things. It doesn’t mean that you go without any kind of food. It may not even be food that you fast from at all. But this fasting, of which our Lord speaks, that the Christian does, is a fasting of repentance—a fasting of relying
on nothing of this world and seeking nothing but His Word first, knowing that all these other things will be added to us [Matthew 6:33].

As Luther writes [in our READING FROM THE BOOK OF CONCORD for ASH WEDNESDAY from the LARGE CATECHISM on the SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

. . . 37 Fasting, prayer, and other such things may indeed be outward preparations and discipline for children, so that the body may keep and bring itself modestly and reverently to receive Christ’s body and blood. Yet the body cannot seize and make its own what is given in and with the Sacrament. This is done by the faith in the heart, which discerns this treasure and desires
it. . . .
39 . . . since we now have the true understanding and doctrine of the Sacrament, there is also need for some admonition and encouragement. . . .
40 For we see that people seem weary and lazy about receiving the Sacrament. A great multitude hears the Gospel. Yet . . . they go one, two, three years, or even longer without the Sacrament. They act as though they were such strong Christians that they have no need of it. 41 Some allow themselves to be hindered and held up by the excuse that we have taught that no one should approach the Sacrament except those who feel hunger and thirst, which drive them to it. Some pretend that it is a matter of liberty [Pastor: freedom to do as they please, but] … not necessary. They pretend that it is enough to believe without it. For the most part, they go so far astray that they become quite brutish and finally despise both the Sacrament and God’s Word. [Which God’s Word, after all says, “Do this often. Do this often in remembrance of Me”--that is, to bring it to your mind frequently what He has done for us. Luther continues:]
42 Now, it is true, as we have said, that no one should by any means be forced or compelled to go to the Sacrament, lest we institute a new murdering of souls. Nevertheless, it must be known that people who deprive themselves of and withdraw from the Sacrament for such a long time are not to be considered Christians. For Christ has not instituted it to be treated as a show [or to be taken or left as one pleases, I would add]. Instead, He has commanded His Christians to eat it, drink it, and remember Him by it—[often].
43 Indeed, those who are true Christians and value the Sacrament precious and holy will drive and move themselves to go to it. . . . For we know and feel how the devil always opposes this and every Christian exercise. He drives and deters people from them as much as he can.

And as a side note to that, the Sacrament is always available in Christ’s Church. In our Confessions we say, the priests stand willing, the pastors stand ready, and willing, and able to give the Sacrament to any who come and request it—and that is whenever they feel they are in need of it. [Augsburg XXIV.34-47]

And so we are back to this fasting of repentance. For those who come to the table, come empty--requesting that Bread of Life that fills their soul and even gives them the very body and blood of Christ to keep them strong in body and soul, keeping them in Christ and Christ in them unto
eternal life.

The imposition of ashes as we practice it is a part of the Fast of Repentance in our worship life. We do not do it to go out and show how Christian and how pious we are. In fact, before you leave today you may want to wash it off of your head. But if you do go out, you go out as a witness to
Christ, who took your sin upon Him—who took the sins of even the whole world upon Him. And so, though you may be reticent to speak of your faith, if somebody asks you what that cross is, you can tell them and not speak of your own piety and righteousness but of your gracious Christ!—your Savior.

And so, this fasting--including this imposition of ashes--is not a work of righteousness to be witnessed by men, but a penitential reverence for the Word of God as the one thing that is needful for us [Luke 10:42]--to come forward, to receive the very Bread of Life, the forgiveness of
sins.

Yes, true fasting is a matter of preparing and presenting ourselves to the Lord as empty vessels ready to receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins--in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

From Dust We Were Made
by Rev. Eric Stefanski, Holy Trinity Evangelical-Lutheran Church, UAC, Harrison,
AR; ; v. 7 by Rev. Kurt Hering, Trinity Lutheran Church, Layton, UT

1. From dust we were made;
To dust we shall go:
The end of our flesh
Is fitting to know,
So that we may hallow
Our God’s holy name,
Who to save us sinners
In human flesh came.

2. Now lowly we kneel
In penitence true,
As our whole burden
Is placed, Lord, on You.
You willingly take it
Our Savior to be,
E’er righteously walking
Unto Calvary.

3. For dust, Lord, You give
A life that endures;
Your taking our flesh
Revived flesh secures.
Our whole selves are holy
In God’s eyes by grace,
Alone through Your merit,
Your death in our place.

4. Thus You
have washed us
With water and Word:
That we should receive
You as our dear Lord,
Who, alone redeemed us,
And made us to live
The righteousness You made,
The Spirit us gives.

5. Oh, grant us to see
Through these forty days
The depth of our debt
For which Your blood pays,
That rightly we trust You
Who saves us from sin,
Who gave up Your own life
Our lives all to win.

6. So let us hail You,
That on the Last Day
In glorified flesh
We sing to Your praise:
“How worthy the Lamb is
Who for us was slain!”
Forevermore blessing
Your life-giving name.

7. For on that great day
Our dust shall arise;
Along with all saints
To see with our eyes:
The Son, who with Father
And Spirit is Lord,
Forever in flesh by
His baptized adored.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem


Dear beloved ones of God,

Just as faith is all about Jesus, so too is love.

To hear the sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday based upon the great Love Chapter of the Bible--today's Epistle, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and today's Gospel, Luke 18:31-34, "See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem," click on this mp3 audio link.

Please join me here this coming Wednesday evening--or better yet, at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, UT--for an Ash Wednesday sermon on "True Fasting--a Life of Repentance."

A servant of the Word and His people,
Laughing Martin
aka, Pastor Hering

Dear beloved ones of God,

Love is in the air--at least the world’s idea of love. Can’t you just feel it?—kinda sorta leftover from Valentine’s Day this past Tuesday? I don’t know about you, but for me I had forgotten all about it until sitting down to write this sermon. But, then, I’m a man, right? Typical.

Well, maybe you can still feel the love from Valentine’s Day. And maybe you can’t. But when it comes to the love of God in Christ Jesus, that Valentine’s Day kind of love is “just a box of chocolates—ya never know what you’re gonna get.” Andwhen it’s gone you have nothing to show for it except, perhaps, a tighter fitting waste band or a chocolate stain on the new love seat you bought at the RC Willey day after Christmas sale.

In one of those interesting coincidences of the historic Church Year Lectionary, we even have an Epistle reading about love from the great love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. How prescient of the Church fathers to place this reading where they did long before St. Valentine was even a glimmer in two lovebirds’ eyes?

And then we have the Gospel lesson that reminds us Lent is upon us as Ash Wednesday looms. Better enjoy all this love and joy while you can, because in three days that all ends, right? I mean, as far as Ash Wednesday and Lent is concerned, in the words of the dusty old song from back in the day, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Let’s hear what Luke, the divinely inspired author of today’s Gospel text has to say about what love’s got to do with it.
Taking the twelve, [Jesus] said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34

Just think about that for a moment. Is this not the most amazing love ever?

  • that this would be the very will of God for His one and only Son?—to “be delivered over to the Gentiles [that, unbelievers—pagans] and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.”? [Kill God—kill the Son of God, Jesus Christ.]
  • that Jesus the Christ--this Son of God, God in the flesh--would submit to and accomplish this will of the Father for us?—“and on the third day … rise” after being
    “mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon….[flogged, killed, killed on a
    barren cross]”?

Isn’t it the most amazing love ever, that this love that took Jesus to the grave and the very depths of hell now is being poured out over us in the baptismal life of the church, by which, you “See, We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with the ascended Lord?

For that is the very reason He “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”—to take us up to the
heavenly Jerusalem, that eternal city of peace with God, as “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from [whence] He will come to judge the living and the dead.” [Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed]

Paul puts it this way:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses [that is, had no love within us, had no ability to love Him, even then He], made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up
with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus—[in that heavenly Jerusalem!].” Ephesians 2:4-6


Wow! There’s that love word again. And, again, from none other than that doctrinely correct, rather prickly personality who once even sent the author of the second Gospel in our New Testament , Mark, packing because of what Paul saw as a shirking of his duty. Maybe, just maybe tis Paul is on to something. Maybe there is more to love than that warm, tingly feeling one gets from hug, a card, and a box of chocolates—and that burning in the bosom that is more likely to
lead to the eating of forbidden fruit than it is to revealing true love.

What, then does all of this say about God’s will—and His love for us?--[that the Father] will deliver [His Son] over to the Gentiles [Pagans! to] be mocked and shamefully treated and spit
upon. And after flogging him [within an inch of His life would finish Him off and] kill him [on a scornful cross], and on the third day he [would] rise [from all of that].

What then does all of this say about God’s will and His love for us, that the Son would not insist on His own way, and look after His own hide, but for the joy set before Him endure all this, even the cross [Hebrews 12:2]--or stubborn, ungrateful, impatient--yes, heathen Gentile folk like us?

Well, one very important thing all this does is it puts a whole new spin on the Lord’s Prayer, doesn’t it?

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What does this mean?
The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is this done?
When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but
strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.

How’s that for love?

And that will and love of God was accomplished—is accomplished in Christ Jesus on Calvary—as He says once and for all, “It is finished! [John 19:30]” “It is finished,” as God the Father’s beloved Son was “delivered over to the Gentiles, … mocked and shamefully treated and
spit upon. And after flogging
[killed], and on the third day He [did rise—for
you! For me.]

That’s love, people. That is love, you dearly beloved of God.

So, you see, love has everything to do even with Lent—that most austere of seasons in the Church calendar and in the life of Christians. And Lent has everything to do with love, because Lent is all about looking at the suffering and death of our Lord for us. And it is that “for us” part that is so important because love is about being and love is about doing for others rather than for self.

As we have heard, Jesus suffered and died--not for His own good, not because evil men didn’t recognize who He was--Jesus suffered and died in loving obedience to His Father’s will, and as a loving sacrifice for you and me.

As that prickly apostle, Paul, tells the newbie pastor, Timothy:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people [all heathens] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:3-6

And the writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated—[is seated]--at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Christ’s life was not taken from Him! He offered it, He gave it up as a fragrant offering to His Father on your behalf—on our behalf. Now that’s love!

As the apostle, John, wrote:
God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:8b-11

So now you can understand, and grasp, and live that love of which that prickly old stickler, Paul, speaks in our Epistle lesson. Love is all about Jesus, the Son of the living God.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [Jesus], I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not [Jesus], I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not [Jesus], I gain nothing.
[Jesus] is patient and kind; [Jesus] does not envy or boast; [Jesus] is not arrogant or rude. [Jesus] does not insist on [His] own way; [Jesus] is not irritable or resentful; [Jesus] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but [Jesus] rejoices with the truth—[oh, yes, He is the truth]. [Jesus]
bears all things, believes all things, [Jesus] hopes all things,[Jesus] endures all things.
[Jesus] never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes [Jesus], the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see [Jesus] in a mirror dimly, but then [on the Last Day] face to face. Now I know in part; then [on that Last Day] I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known [by God in Christ—now!]
So now faith, hope, and [Jesus] abide, these three; but the greatest of these is [Jesus]. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Faith and hope abide in us because Jesus is love—love that suffered and died for you and me, or His Church, His holy bride, His beloved. And that love also rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father to distribute His love throughout the world in order that we can live in faith and hope even amidst all the adversity and suffering we face in this world. Jesus abides in His one holy Christian and apostolic Church, wherein the Holy Spirit proceeds to love us as “We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with Him.

And as “We Are Going Up to Jerusalem” with Him, He lives His love through us as He baptizes sinners, preaches the Word of absolution, and feeds us with His very body and blood of love--that forgive us of all our sins and sinfulness, giving us eternal life and salvation--in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Abomination of Holy Baptism?

For all of you Christians out there who agree with the Latter Day Saint who writes, "baptizeing [sic] a baby who is innocent until the proper age is also an abomination[(1), see numbered footnotes below]," please read on.

Our Lord's command to baptize all nations(2), see numbered footnotes below] is His command to baptize all sinful peoples(3).

All sinful peoples includes all ages because even infants--both in and ex utero--and children are in fact people. Apart from Christ the Son of God, all people are sinners(4) because they were born(5) and even conceived(6) of sinful parents. This makes them sinful even as children who have not reached some “proper” age(7) as determined by the thoughts of men(8) but never mentioned by God in His holy Word of the Bible to be His thoughts(9) on the matter.

Therefore, even though an infant in utero is not guilty of any particular sin of the parent or parents that may have been a proximate cause for conception—whether it be rape, incest, adultery, or any other unseemly, reprobate, wickedness born of vain imaginations that dishonor the body(10)—the child regardless of age is nevertheless a sinner by nature of fleshly inheritance.

To baptize such a little one who has been conceived and born into this world a sinner, a child of wrath dead in trespasses and sins(11), then, is no more or less perverse than to baptize any sinner into the forgiveness of sins(12), the life of the Spirit(13), and salvation(14). In truth, is the greatest act of love(15) this side of the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of the world(16).

Why? Because Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, baptizes those who have been sinful even from the time of conception into faith and Christ Himself(17)—and even into His very death and resurrection(18). It also renews the baptized with the Holy Spirit(19); gives them the mind of Christ(20), and raises them into the kingdom of heaven with Him(21).

If you have been taught that baptizing an infant is abomination, then whoever has twisted God’s Word to convince you of such blasphemy is to be chastised and pitied above all men(22). For, as we have learned from God Himself in His Holy Word, what is Baptism if not receiving sinners in Jesus’ name, and thus by His Father in heaven?

(1) This photo
linked here
reference the
aforementioned
abomination.

(2) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matthew 28:19, kjv

(3) Remembering that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the word translated as “nations” in the King James Version is the Greek word, “εθνη,” pronounced ethnay. The word as used by the apostles of our Lord, who were Jewish, carries the meaning of heathen unbelieving sinners. Interestingly enough, in other places in the New Testament the English translates the same word into “Gentiles.” For example, Galatians 2:15, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,” kjv

(4) there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:22-23, kjv

(5) Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12, kjv

(6) Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5, kjv

(7) the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; Genesis 8:21, kjv

(8) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: Matthew 15:19, kjv

(9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9, kjv

(10) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:21-32, kjv

(11)And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Ephesians 2:1

(12)And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling
on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16, kjv

(13)Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38, kjv

(14)…even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:21, kjv
(15)Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13, kjv
(16)And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10, kjv

(17)For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:26-27

(18)Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Romans 6:3-5, kjv

(19)Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Titus 3:5, kjv

(20)Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, kjv

(21)But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 2:4-6, kjv

(22)And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! …Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 18:5-7, 10, kjv

Sunday, February 12, 2012

To You It Has Been Given

Dear Baptized disciples of God,

To you it has indeed been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. To hear the sermon for Sexagesima Sunday based upon the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8, "To You It Has Been Given," click on this mp3 audio link.

Have a blessed week as one planted into the kingdom of God.

A servant of the Word and His people,
Laughing Martin
aka, Pastor Hering

The preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along, or read instead.

In our Gospel text today, Jesus tells the parable of the sower to the masses
of people gathered to see this worker of miracles and then takes his disciples
(followers) aside to explain that which made the people wonder.

TEXT: 4When a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came
to [Jesus], he said in a parable: 5"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he
sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the
air devoured it. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered
away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns
grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and
yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears
to hear, let him hear. 9And when his disciples asked him what this parable
meant, 10he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom
of God," Luke 8:4-9

Dear Baptized disciples of God,

Once again our Gospel lesson humbles us by reminding us of who we are in
relation to God, and who does what for and to whom. This relationship is what
Jesus was speaking about when He told His disciples, "To you it has been given
to know the secrets of the kingdom of God." And by your baptism into faith--into
the life of Christ Himself--to you it has been given as well.

In ten days we will begin the season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday service, so named for the imposition of the ashes upon the foreheads of those gathered to begin the forty days of penitential preparation for Good Friday's commemoration of the crucifixion of our Lord and our Easter Day celebration of His Resurrection from death, hell, and the grave. As the ashes are imposed upon us, we hear those most humbling of words that echo the confession of Abraham as he pled God to have mercy on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah whose brazenly violent and homosexual behavior had incurred His wrath: "You are but dust, and to dust you shall return."

In the end, God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah—not for their behavior, so much as for not repenting of their behavior and even attempting to impose themselves and exercise their behavior upon the messengers of God.

The parable of the Sower reminds us we are but dust, soil of the earth that God has formed into His image in order to pour His blessings upon us, and into us, that we might bear fruit in abundance so others may in turn receive from God through us.

Like Abraham, and Adam before him, we are indeed all but dust. Our Lord formed us from the dust of the earth, and to dust we will return. And that is something to remember as we look at today's Gospel Lesson in which Jesus speaks of the Word of God as a seed, and those who hear it as the soil into which the seed is planted.

You are the soil—yes, even the good soil--for you are the ones with ears to hear and you are hearing.

That's what ears do, hear, i.e. receive signals that convey messages. And this is what our parable is all about. For soil is rather similar to ears in this respect, it must receive something from outside of itself in order to do its job. In fact, more than that, receiving is the very reason for its
existence. Certainly, once it receives it does bear fruit, but first and foremost soil is a receiver.

As you all know, this wasn't good enough for the first male and female. Adam and Eve weren't satisfied being soil—even soil bearing the image of God and receiving every good thing from Him they could or would ever possibly need. No, they wanted to be like God. Receiving wasn't good enough. The soil wanted to be independent and become its own source of power and decide what kind of fruit it would bear.

Of course they found out it didn't work out so well that way. They found out that their own power and decisions led only to death—but not before a whole lot of suffering under the curse they had brought upon the earth and her soil.

And this is what Jesus' parable of the Sower and the Seed in our Gospel text today is all about:
+ the cursed soil of our sinful flesh--hard as stone, open to predators and scavengers, full of thorns and thistles.
+ and the blessed soil of faith that has had the seed of life planted in it in Holy Baptism, is being cultivated with the continuous hearing of God's Word sown by the Holy Spirit, and is even bearing the fruit of the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion with Him.

The Holy Spirit, sowing the Word through Christ's apostle Paul and the ministers of the Word who follow in the footsteps of his confession of the faith, scatters this seed throughout the world, in every kind of soil. And the Holy Spirit sees to the harvest as well. For the seed will grow when and where and how He sees fit, regardless of the strength of faith or the quality of work of the men through whom He sows and tends it.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. [1 Cor 3:5 7, NKJ]

Whether the seed takes root and grows or not, regardless of the reception His ministers receive, what does the Holy Spirit do? He keeps sending His sowers out with the seed of the Word--which is Christ Himself--for God the Father to nourish from heaven and produce fruit according to His will that desires all to be saved.

Because of the Father's desire that all sinners, every sort of soil be cultivated and saved, God has sent and continues to send His messengers out to scatter His seed throughout the world. Again the Holy Spirit sows through the apostle Paul: Rom 10:18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.'" (NKJ)

So if everyone has heard, why doesn't everyone believe? Why are not all people saved? It is not the sower's fault. It is not God's fault, as Jesus said, "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." [Matt 5:45, NKJ]

Our parable tells the disciples - both then and now -- why not all soils will bear fruit:

• When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The Word just doesn't make sense according to the ways of the world. One needs to hear the Word explained in light of eternal, hidden things. This is where catechesis comes into play--in fact you see it with Jesus taking aside the disciples to explain the parable to them. And that becomes their vocation--preaching and teaching the Word of God—scattering the seed and
watering it.

"What does this mean?"--the question driving our Lutheran confession and practice of the faith gets to this very reason--that you may hear and believe.

This shows the importance of church and ministry, the way in which you receive gifts from God according to the Third Commandment for this very purpose—not to despise preaching and His Word, but to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The sower keeps sowing - and catechizing, explaining through His church and
ministry.

• But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word
and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures
only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the
word, immediately he stumbles.

This kind of soil, these hearers of the Word are what Luther calls "Schwaermer," or enthusiasts—those who welcome the Word when it makes them feel good and seems successful in all the works they are doing for God. But when the inevitable happens and something goes wrong—when the cancer comes back even though they have prayed day and night; when unemployment hits even though they have been faithfully tithing; when their spouse leaves them even though they have been faithful and forgiving—they blame it on God rather than the sinfulness of the flesh and the evil desires of men.

Still the sower keeps sowing even and especially in the face of tribulation and persecution. For though many stumble, it is in times tribulation and persecution that the church and the believer grow strong--just as the mighty oak is stimulated to hard growth by the winds that blow against it, and the muscles of the body are built by both healthy food and resistance exercise that breaks
down the muscle only to be built back bigger and stronger than before.

• Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Even the faithful can become beaten down and worn out by the cares world—by the daily grind to pay the bills, put food on the table, and protect themselves and their families from the wickedness and unbelief of the world that surrounds them with violence and hounds them with temptation. This is why Jesus says; "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." [Matt 26:4, NKJ]

And remember, when He teaches to pray He teaches us to pray like this: "Our Father . . . "

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same
sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. [2 Cor 1:3 6, NKJ]

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. [Heb 10:23 25, NKJ]

The sower keeps on sowing through the consolation of the brethren, the gathering of His people around the Word - even when that Word is ignored, rejected, or choked out.

So what are you to do, dear Christian? "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Because this is the way the Holy Spirit cultivates your stony, thorn infested sinful flesh and turns you into "good soil, . . . who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience."

Thank God, ‹today› a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd [John 10:11-16]. 3 For the children pray, "I believe in one holy Christian Church." This holiness does not come from [what we do to dress up, look nice, and impress God with the works we have] made up without Holy Scripture, but from God's Word and true faith. [Smalcald Pt. III, Art. XII The Church]

Dear Baptized, disciples of God, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God," by hearing the Word and hearing it often--and not alone, but amongst the gathering of your fellow redeemed, your brothers and sisters in Christ of the Holy Christian Church. For this is where the Holy Spirit continues to sow and sow and sow, planting Christ in you, while the
Father sends rain and nutrients to cause the growth and bearing of fruit as the seed grows in the soil of forgiven sinners -- in the in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Septuagesima Bowl Sunday

Are you ready for some GOSPEL?!

Dear Fellow Workers in the Vineyard of our Lord,
To hear how Jesus Christ is the true worker in the vineyard, who keeps us with Him in the vineyard that is the kingdom of heaven, click on this mp3 audio link: God Is Unfair--Thankfully. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #555, "Salvation Unto Us Has Come." The sermon begins at the 4:17 mark.
Have a blessed week in the vineyard of our Lord that is His Church and the very kingdom of heaven.

A servant of the Word and His people,
Pastor Hering

A preaching manuscript written by Pastor Aaron A. Koch of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church Greenfield, WI--including adaptations by Pastor Hering enclosed with [brackets]--follows below if you prefer to read along, or read instead.
Every once in a while comes a day where I need to hear a sermon from one of my brothers in Christ as well. And today is one of those days. Every week preparing for a sermon a pastor hears God's Word and God preaches to him through those who have sorted through and preached these texts before. But every once in a while I need to preach and hear something from the pulpit itself, and this is one of those days.
This is written by Pastor Aaron Koch of Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin. He says, "God is unfair—Thankfully!"
In our text today, the master asks the question of his workers,
TEXT: 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' Matthew 20:15
All of us are born with a natural instinct for what is fair. Without ever being taught, we seem to know when the treatment isn't equal. Even young children are experts at fairness. "How come her dessert is bigger than mine? That's not fair!" "He got to spend more time on the computer than I did. That's not fair!" [How come you pay more attention to Baby Brother than to me? That's just not fair!"]
[But] it's the same for us adults, [we play that game just as well, and probably better] too. [In fact we all like to retreat into our childish shells and play that game when things in this world aren't going right for us. And so not only have each of us heard grown-ups say at one time or another,] "Life just isn't fair." [It's pretty much a daily thought and lament of ours as well.]
[If you think about it,] when we bring up the issue of fairness, it's almost always because we're promoting our own interests. We've become self centered—or maybe not become so much as we just recall that and go back into our sinful selves.] "Management should be paying me more; my wages are unfair." "Hey, I was next in line; it's not fair that you're serving him first." "I shouldn't have to do all this work; you should take your fair share of the responsibility." Sometimes our complaints are justified; often they are simply an expression of greed or selfishness or laziness.
Where this becomes particularly dangerous, however, is when we try to apply the idea of fairness to our relationship with God. Because for us to demand fairness from God is for us to tell God what He should and shouldn't do. [Oh, that would be being god over God, wouldn't it?] It is for us to take ourselves and our standards and put them higher than God, to make God fit our requirements of how we think He should act. And to do that is not only arrogant, it is idolatrous; it is to make ourselves into gods above God.
Beware! [Repent!] Fairness comes under the category of God's Law. God's Law is about justice. [You know, that "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth stuff.] It's about getting what you deserve. And for the sinner who has fallen short of the Law--[yes, you and me]--justice means judgment. "The wages of sin," what you've earned by our works, "is death"[—eternal death.] You'd better think twice before you ask God to be fair with you. Fairness is what the devil wants. Fairness is hell. But God does not wish to deal with you according to His justice, His fairness, but according to His mercy in Christ.
[This is His] gift [to you. And that's what the Gospel is, a gift. Gifts aren't fair,] the Gospel isn't fair, and that is very good news indeed, news for which you ought be thankful.] For in God's unfairness is His love [is] towards you. You are "declared righteous freely by God's grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus [Romans 3:24]." "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast [Ephesians 2:8-9]."—even in their faith, let alone their good works.
That ultimately is the real difference between the first and the last in today's Gospel parable. The first laborers had an agreement, a contract with the landowner to work for a denarius a day. The other laborers, however, weren't operating under any legal terms. Rather, the landowner simply said, "Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right, I will give you." So the first were dealing with the landowner on the basis of what was fair; the last were dealing with him on the basis of trust in his goodness. The first were relying on their own works; the last were relying on the landowner's righteousness, and in so doing, they received more than they ever expected or deserved.
The owner of the vineyard in this parable is God the Father. By His Word and Spirit He sends out the call of the Gospel to come into His vineyard, which is the church, and for His people to be about the things pertaining to the holy Vine of Christ. Some come into the church from the first moments of their life, baptized as infants—[even baptized just barely out of the mother's womb in some cases] remaining faithful their entire lives [hearing God's Word on a regular basis]. Others are converted as adults. Some aren't brought to faith in Christ the Savior until their lives are almost over—[death beds]. Some are full of good works—[day by day by day]. Others are full of weakness and failure who yet cling to Christ [and His good, great work]. But God gives all the same thing at the end of the day: full forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, everlasting life with Him in heaven. He does this not because He is unfair, but rather, because He is generous and loving and merciful. He pours out His gifts on His people abundantly and lavishly. For the reward at the end of the day is given not based on our work but on the work of His Son, who lived and died and was raised again for us—for you.
The problem arises when some in the vineyard—[ yeah, and you and I sometimes are of that some, aren't we?] [The problem arises when some in the vineyard] of the church begin to think that their length of time and their service deserves some special reward-- [that it ought be trumpeted, that it ought be bragged about. This is just that thinking that] want[s] God to work on the merit system, isn't it?. But] that destroys the relationship of love that God wishes to have with His people. Love has nothing to do with what is owed or deserved. Real love is a freely given gift with no strings attached—[no a priori, prior, requirements]. As soon as we start wanting to deal with God on the basis of what He owes us, [what we do first], it is no longer a relationship of love, but in the end a business relationship, [isn't it?] You do for me, I'll do for you. To treat God like that is not to love Him but to use Him. [Do you really want a business relationship with God?]
Those who want to deal with God on the basis of their own works and measurements of equality will be sent away from His presence forever, as the landowner said to the first workers, "Go your way." [I mean, anybody that wants to deal with God on the basis of their own works, well what do they need Him for anyway?] Hell has been rightly described as the place where the damned suffer the anguish of growing infinitely more angry with God at His unfairness [in a never ending cycle]. But those who give up trying to deal with God on their own terms and instead rely on His goodness and mercy-they will receive from Him much more than they ever expected or deserved [or could ever use up]. If hell is the place where there is anger and weeping and anguish [on an ever increasing basis] at God's supposed unfairness, then heaven is the place where God's people laugh and sing and rejoice in God's unfairness-where they experience the ever-growing joy of the undeserved love and goodness and life that the Lord causes to abound to [and in and for] His people.
That is the difference between unbelief and faith. Unbelievers seek a God who is fair, and when they find Him, they don't like Him [so much—well, not at all]. Believers seek a God who is merciful and gracious, and when He finds them, they love Him—[because He is loving them]. Believers know that it is only by grace that they are even in the vineyard, no matter how long they've been there. They consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to contribute to the health and the growth of the vineyard. They are not jealous of the newcomer or of the one converted in his dying days, but they rejoice that the same mercy that saved themselves has also saved another. Even a faithful lifelong Christian recognizes that of himself he deserves nothing and that it is only because of Jesus that he has forgiveness and life. As it is written, "The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
It is as we prayed in the Introit, "The Lord will save the humble people, but will bring down proud and haughty looks." Or as Jesus said, "The last will be first, and the first last [Matthew 20:16]." Repentant thieves and prostitutes enter the kingdom of heaven while unrepentant Pharisees are excluded. The contrite new believer is at the front of the line while the self-righteous lifetime member is at the end. The self-sufficient are cut off. The humble beggars are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [Thus we recall Luther's last penned words from his deathbed, "We are all beggars. It is true].
[But we rejoice to be so because God is always giving to us beggars.] "The last [of the beggars] will be first, and the first last." For that is the way of Christ. He who is the first and the greatest humbled Himself to be the last and lowest on the holy cross. He was treated unfairly, [don't you think? Has anybody ever been less fairly? And that] so that you would be treated graciously. He Himself was the one who did the work in the vineyard. [He Himself is the One that continues to do the work in the vineyard—yes, through you, but it's Him doing it. And] that brings you the generous reward at the end of the day, [because that is He.].
Consider the times mentioned in this parable. Christ was handed over to Pontius Pilate at dawn. He was crucified at the third hour of the day. Darkness covered the land at the sixth hour, noon. Our Lord died at the ninth hour as the perfect and complete sacrifice for your sin. He was buried at the eleventh hour of the day just before sundown. [Do you get it? These are the times where, in our parable, the landowner invites the people in. He's inviting them in, because Christ is in and they are in Christ—you are in Christ. You see] is the true Laborer in the vineyard, that you may be living, [that you may be alive, that you may be] fruitful branches of Him who is the Vine, [that you may be overflowing with that goodness of life that He pours into you].
And now that the day's work has been done, Christ directs His stewards, His pastors, to give to you your denarius, the denarius of Christ's life and salvation—[His body and His blood], which He bestows [to you] through His [sacraments] and His preaching…. [So] do not despise this denarius as those did in the parable, and thus miss out on its benefit. Rather, receive this denarius with faith and thanksgiving. Trust that behind the poor elements of the Word and the Sacraments, the Lord imparts rich blessing-not because He has to or because it's fair, but simply because He delights in being generous and loving towards you. [That's your Lord].
[And the task that He gives to the pastor in the vineyard is that when you are looking at your own works and get focused inward, he is to take you to Christ--to give you Christ, and Christ alone. For] this is the true way of the Gospel, the way of undeserved grace. It is the way of Him who is Himself the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, Jesus Christ, the Savior—[the author, the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)]—yes, He is our faith]. Those who have His Gospel have everything they need. [You have everything you need, because the Gospel gives everything you need. It delivers you from the sin and death of this world and into the eternal life of the kingdom of heaven]--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Day the Music Died: February 3, 1959



You'll watch this video more than once. It is absolutley packed.

Yeah, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens &the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash.

But did you know Waylon Jennings lost the coin flip to be one of the three passengers on that plane? You didn't? Probably because Waylon refused to speak about it.

American idols today should take a lesson.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Laugh!

Gimpy saw his shadow today.


Looks like four more years of President Barack Hussein Obama.

Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.