Thursday, June 28, 2012

Suffering Servants in Christ Jesus

Good works and the suffering of Christ and the Christian go hand in hand. To live in Christ is to suffer for the sake of serving one’s neighbor and brother.

THE BOOK OF CONCORD READING
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
FORMULA OF CONCORD: SOLID DECLARATION
ARTICLE IV.7-12: GOOD WORKS

7 … it is God’s will, order, and command that believers should walk in good works. Truly good works are not those that everyone does himself from a good intention, or which are done according to human traditions, but those that God Himself has prescribed and commanded in His Word. Also, truly good works are done not by our own natural powers, but in this way: when a person is reconciled with God through faith and renewed by the Holy Spirit.…
8 … the good works of believers are pleasing and acceptable to God (although in this flesh they are impure and incomplete). They are acceptable for the sake of the Lord Christ, through faith, because the person is acceptable to God. … 9 Faith must be the mother and source of works that are truly good and well pleasing to God, which God will reward in this world and in the world to come. This is why St. Paul calls them true fruit of faith, also fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22–23]. For, as Dr. Luther writes in the Preface to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:12–13]. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. 11 It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works. 12Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all creatures. And this is the work that the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.

Condensed quotations from the Lutheran Confessions from Concordia:
The Lutheran Confessions, copyright 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rejoice with This Man Who Receives Sinners

"The two stories we have before us today are often thought of and used as 'evangelism' texts. And that they are, if we understand evangelism correctly. Evangelism is not just for those people out there--the pagan tribes of New Guinea, the un-churched folk of our communities, the drug addicts of inner city ghettos. Evangelism is for every sinner, every man, woman, and child alike until our Lord comes again on the Last Day. Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news that 'This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them.'"


To hear the entire sermon preached for the Third Sunday after Trinity at Trinity, Layton, "Rejoice with This Man Who Receives Sinners"--beginning with the Old Testament Reading and concluding with the Prayer of the Church, click on the following MP3 audio link. "Rejoice with This Man Who Receives Sinners"

If you would rather just read the sermon, or read along as you listen, the preaching outline/manuscript follows below. However, please understand some transitions are filled in and bullet points fleshed out from the pulpit that are not included in the ms.


TEXT: 1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

 
3So he told them this parable: 4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” -- Luke 15:1–10


Dear sinners,

 
“There is [indeed] joy before the angels of God” this morning—and even now. And you know why, don’t you?

Because each you is that one sinner; you are that silver coin, or wooden nickel, or copper penny; you are that one sheep: each of you is one who was lost from the time you were born until the time when God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—received you into His forgiven family and forever kingdom of heaven in the world-changing, life-giving splash of Holy Baptism. By this living water with which the Word and very name of the one true, merciful, gracious, mighty, and faithful God was poured all over your sinful flesh--and even into your ears and your very hearts of stone—that once was enslaved by the power and lies of the evil one, you were taken out of the his kingdom of darkness and into the marvelous light that is Christ Jesus the very Son and Sun of God.



Furthermore, as you got lost back out there in the temptations and evil of a fallen world and sinful race still enamored with and under the power of that Prince of Darkness, the Holy Ghost has swept you back up and out of its mouldy cracks and dusty corners and into the bright rays of the Son/Sun of God here in His holy Christian Church where that holy splash of life-giving water continues to pour forth in the absolution you receive as the Word of God is proclaimed, and sung, and prayed, and fed to you to forgive you all the sins that you have done and all the good you have left undone in your daily work-a-day world—even those sins and omissions of which you are unaware or most fearfully ashamed.

Yes, “there is [indeed] joy before the angels of God,” and I have great news for you this morning, because this Man, Jesus—the very Son of God His Father in heaven-- receives you, And, while He Himself does not eat with us until that day that [He will eat and] drink it new in the kingdom of God [Mark 14:25]; He does have you eat and drink with Him at the Sacrament of the Altar that He sets before us. This is what and why the pastor sings to you that greatest of good news in the Proper Preface:
“With angels and arch angels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying… “

All of which, of course, means that you have been received into His Father’s heavenly home to eat with Him at His banquet table, since this Man, Jesus, Who receives sinners and eats with them, at the same time is seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.

So those words hurled by the Pharisees and scribes to condemn Jesus are the sweetest words you could ever hear and truer, more beautiful have never been spoken regardless of the venom with which they were uttered according to Luke’s Gospel we have set before us to feast upon today.

"This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them." 

Can there be any greater news?

And yet the religious leaders grumbled.

Funny, that! Religious leaders still grumble about such words today.

So Jesus tells those religious leaders of days gone by—as well as the days in which we live, and the days yet to come—He tells all religious leaders a story--a trilogy really—the two parables of our Gospel today, along with the parable of the Prodigal Son and His loving Father that concludes the 15th chapter of Luke.

The two stories we have before us today are often thought of and used as “evangelism” texts. And that they are, if we understand evangelism correctly. Evangelism is not just for those people out there--the pagan tribes of New Guinea, the un-churched folk of our communities, the drug addicts of inner city ghettos. Evangelism is for every sinner, every man, woman, and child alike until our Lord comes again on the Last Day. Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news that "This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them."  

So, what about you? Are you a sinner? Of course you are. Of course I am. With Paul each of us is chief of all sinners. In other words, nobody else’s sin hurts you or separates you from God and keeps you out of the kingdom of heaven. It is YOUR sin that is your worst nightmare, not Osama bin Laden’s terrorism; not those crooked, self-serving politicians in Washington of either major national party; not your cheap, task master boss or teacher or disrespectful slacker employee or student; not that nosy, gossipy neighbor; not your ungrateful husband, wife, son, or daughter; not your mean old dad or mom. Oh, they are sinners to be sure, but they are not your problem you and your sin are your problem.



And Jesus came to save you from YOUR sin. "This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them."
Does this mean that Jesus tolerates your sin, even joins you in your sin? Certainly not!

This is how the Pharisees and scribes saw it, and why they grumbled, very much like Jonah grumbled because God chose to look with favor upon the wicked and violent people of Ninevah who were nothing but trouble for God’s chosen people descended from Abraham—like the Pharisees and scribes.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

He calls sinners to repentance, strips each sinner of his own self-righteousness and brings them in repentance to dine with Him at His Table alongside other repentant, sinners at a most heavenly feast of His body and blood for forgiveness, life and salvation.

So there’s no need to grumble! There is always room at the table for one more sinner. God the Father is always ready to welcome one more stubborn Pharisee who has finally admitted to being among the lost..

Today is Father’s Day. All across America today, thousands of dads are going to be opening up little boxes, about this big [hold hands apart about six inches]. You know what they are going to find? GPS units. Moms from coast to coast have picked up Tom Toms and Magellans and Garmins for the kids to wrap and give to Daddy on his special day—because as everybody knows, men just hate to ask for directions.

The Pharisees were no different. But you know what? Everyone since Adam and Eve has the same problem when it comes to heaven. We all would rather get there ourselves, traveling our own chosen roads, figuring we know exactly where we are and we’ll get where we want to go eventually.

Such is the highway to hell. And there are many travelers making it seem as though one is not lost at all.

Dear sinners, don’t ever forget that apart from Holy Baptism, apart from hearing the Word of God that forgives you, apart from the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, you too are among the lost. Each and every one of us is in the same predicament as the Pharisees if we insist we don’t need the things that are only for those sinners. 

There is no alternate route to heaven. It really is just that simple."This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them." –and only sinners, for if He didn’t eat with sinners our Lord would be dining alone.

Oh yes, you and I are the worst of all sinners. But as Jesus is telling the Pharisees and scribes so that they too might see themselves as the worst instead of the best--so that they too might desire to be received by this man and eat with Him in the kingdom of heaven--Jesus wants you and all people to know and believe and rejoice that He, the very Son of God, came for the worst to receive you and eat with you.

What is more, even became the worst—for you! [Take them to the Cross.]

Now that’s evangelism. That’s the good news, the great news, the best news you can ever hear. "This Man Receives Sinners and Eats with Them." 

And that is what is going on here today. The “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,” the “ joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” the feast of the fatted calve prepared by the Prodigal’s loving Father, that is what the Divine Service is all about. You and I, along with every member of Christ’s Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, rejoice now and forever with This Man Who Receives Sinners --in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Fellowship As the Body of Christ"--The Seventh Annual Theological Conference of The Augustana Ministerium & Confraternity

Surprisingly, in a time when the pendulum seems to have swung to the "right," faithful Lutheran pastors who take their call and ordination vows seriously continue to be disposed of precisely for being faithful. This assault on the Office of the Holy Ministry--which we confess was instituted by Christ Himself according to AC V "That we may obtain this faith" of the Chief Article, AC IV--if anything, has intensified of late. The faithful exercise of this office in regard to the public administration of the Sacrament of the Altar is almost always a primary bone of contention when a pastor is wrongfully deposed. The Augustana Ministerium & Confraternity is a pastoral association and supportingconfraternity of laymen formed to preserve and promote Lutheran pastors and adistinctively Lutheran Ministry of Word and Sacrament to Lutheran congregations in the face of such assaults. As such it exists to defend, encourage, and admonish its members; to upholdthe Office of the Holy Ministry, to foster missionary activity; and to promotethe raising up of qualified men into this holy office. This year’sSeventh Annual Theological Conference of The Augustana Ministerium & Confraternity seeks to confront thisabominable situation in our Lutheran churches by examining “Fellowship As theBody of Christ” August 7-9, 2012 @ Quality Inn & Suites, Elk Grove Village,IL. Registration details as well as the slate of presenters and topics follows my signature. This promises to be a vigorous and enlightening three days of theological study, fraternal discussion, and good old Lutheran Gem├╝tlichkeit. You can find out more about The Augustana Ministerium & Confraternity, make donations, and register for the Conference at our website, http://augustanaministerium.org/. The Rev. Kurt M. Hering, Dean of Pastoral Care The Augustana Mnisterium http://augustanaministerium.org/ Presenters and topics include: Rev. Robin Fish Jr. (Former Pastor and organist, LC-MS) "Fellowship and the Office of the Holy Ministry: Suffering and Honor in the Body of Christ" Rev. Bruce Ley (Pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of Albany, OR; BoD-Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations) "When Fellowship Isn't Fellowship: What Are Pastors and Congregations to Do? An Alphabet Soup from ACELC [intraSynod] to TAM [intraLutheran]and beyond [ACLC/ELDoNA fellowship agreement]." Rev. Brian Saunders (President, LC-MS Iowa East District)--"Communion Casuistry" Rev. Gregory Schultz (Pastor, LC-MS, Eastern District)--"Authority and Discipline: Their Roles in Fellowship As the Body ofChrist." Rev. Terry Small (Pastor, Saint John Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of Homestead, IA)--"Closed Communion: Where are the Boundaries" The theological portion of the program is open to members and non-members, clergy and laity alike. The Plenary Session of the Ministerium will be open to all attendees, except during an executive session, should one be called. The cost of the conference will be $30. (For members of The Augustana Ministerium or The Augustana Confraternity, having paid your 2012 dues—$50 for Ministerium members, $40 for Confraternity members—this $30 fee is covered by said dues. Thus, membership in the Ministerium or Confraternity is an amazing value for those who are able to attend the conference…and still a very good value for those who cannot attend!) Make checks payable to: The Augustana Ministerium c/o The Rev. Gregory J. Schultz, Bursar 721 Payne Avenue North Tonawanda, NY 14120 Discounted rooms are available at the Quality Inn & Suites for those attending the Conference and Plenary. Rates of $69.99 per night for a room with one king bed, or $74.99 per night for a room with two double beds are available when reservations are made before July 1st. Conference and Lodging location: Quality Inn & Suites, Elk Grove Village, IL (Chicago/O’Hare area) 100 Busse Road Elk Grove Village, IL 60007 (847) 593-8600 http://www.qualityinn.com/hotel-elk_grove_village-illinois-IL275 Please be sure to mention the Augustana Ministerium for the group rates, before July 1st. For further information or questions, please call Rev. Anthony Oncken at (847) 548-0448, or e-mail at onckenar@hotmail.com.

Monday, June 11, 2012

St. Barnabas, Apostle: Son of Consolation

You can listen to the service of Vespers with the Propers for St. Barnabas, Apostle, and a little homily bassed upon David Chytraeus' treatment of Barnabas, "Son of Consolation," at the link provided here. Vespers: St. Barnabas, Aposlte

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feasting Sumptuously

When Luther penned his last words from his death bed, he may well have had Christ's parable of the rich man in mind, "We are all beggars. This is true."

Every one of us Baptized believers in Christ is the poor, sore-covered Lazarus, neither able to earn nor worthy of being given our daily bread—let alone the sumptuous fare of feasts.

And yet, here we are.

To hear the entire sermon preached for the First Sunday after Trinity at Trinity, Layton, "Feasting Sumptuously"--beginning with the last two verses of the Hymn of the Day, LSB #565, "Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ;" followed by the Prayer of the Church; and concluding with the closing hymn, LSB #573, "'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee": click on the following MP3 audio link. "Feasting Sumptuously"

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

If you would rather just read the sermon, or read along as you listen, the preaching manuscript follows below. However, please understand some transitions are filled in and explanations fleshed out from the pulpit that are not included in the ms.

TEXT: 19[Jesus said:] "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
Luke 16:19-31

Dear baptized of Trinity,

When Luther penned his last words from his death bed, he may well have had Christ's parable of the rich man in mind, "We are all beggars. This is true."

Every one of us Baptized believers in Christ is the poor, sore-covered Lazarus, neither able to earn nor worthy of being given our daily bread—let alone the sumptuous fare of feasts.

And yet, here we are. Though each of us is, like Lazarus, a poor, helpless, unclean and therefore unworthy beggar covered with the sores and suffering from the ravages of our sin: we have not had not had to settle for mere crumbs fallen to the floor off some rich man's table, we have been invited—indeed carried into and seated at table of the Lord of the Feast and source of all riches "on earth as it is in heaven." We have all been given our daily bread--otherwise we would not be here, would we? Furthermore, our dear Lord has set the table of His altar, where we feast sumptuously as we are given to eat and drink the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in God's everlasting kingdom of heaven.

This is the most important lesson for us to take away from this parable of our Lord. But in order to get that lesson out of this parable, one must understand the context in which our Lord tells it—that is, to whom He is speaking and why? These words a few verses back from today's Gospel in Luke chapter 16, vv. 14-5 set the table for us, so to speak.

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:14-15

By this parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus is giving the Pharisees--the rich, self-righteous, religious leaders of the Jews and thus all who follow them and look to them as the rich man from whom they will get riches of their own and sit at their feasts with them—the warning the rich man begs Abraham to send to his brothers.

As the leaders of the Jews, Jesus is speaking to those who claimed Abraham as their Father, to whom Jesus replied according to the Gospel of John: "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." John 8:39-47

Jesus' warning is essentially the warning of Psalm 146:3-4: "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish."

We would do well to heed this warning today. We all have the sinful inclination and desire for an earthly rich man—a seemingly righteous king—with whom we can rub elbows and get at least piece of the feast at his table and a taste of his success as we look down at those who are not cut of the same royal cloth or belonging to the same royal family as are we.

Do you hear that dear Missouri Synod Lutherans? While we are all indeed Lazarus, we all too often are found to be living like the rich man, or at least the rich man's entourage. Too often we name and claim the Synod and our affiliation with it as our Abraham—our ticket to the feast and testament to our share of the wealth.

Too often Synod willingly plays the rich man.

But what is Synod? Convention, Convocation, and Congregational Voters' Assemblies to which we look for our guidance and from which we derive our identity.

And none of us is immune from, or stands above this sin. I have played the rich man in the past, playing fast and loose with the Sacrament here in the early days of my ministry here as your pastor. And doing so as a DELTO vicar who had yet to be ordained, thus undermining the Office of the Ministry in the eyes and hearts of God's people.

I have repented and been absolved—and ordained.

Yet the sin of Synod was greater and we as Synod have yet to repent of it. The program itself, while teaching the Confessions well, also undermined that very confession when it came to the office by both what it taught (pastoral heart and discretion, read will, rather than God's heart and will as clearly revealed in His Word) and what it practiced.

And some of that continues today: in our pulpits and at our altars where men yet to be ordained-- which signifies to the Church that a man has been rightly and regularly called—publicly preach and administer the Sacraments; in the DRP that puts a panel above the Office of the Keys, and in congs. that place VAs over the Word of God in dispensing of faithful and rightly called servants of the Word.

But if we are going to claim to be in the bosom of Abraham let us do so rightly.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" 31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:29-32

Luther tells us that Abraham's bosom is the Word of God. Hebrews 11 confirms Luther's explanation.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. . . . [Abraham] died in faith . . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead."

Abraham's faith, like all faith according to the apostle Paul, comes from hearing the Word of God [Romans 10:17], by which Abraham, the Apostles, and even you and I receive the promises of God.

Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the Word, Who became flesh to dwell among us [John 1:14]. In this flesh He did not become like the rich man, but he became like Lazarus. And when He, a lowly Lazarus bearing the sin of the world died and rose from the grave, He Himself was and remains to this day The Angel of God who bears every Lazarus, every baptized believer, in His flesh to the bosom of God, the Father in heaven.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

Finally, if this Gospel parable is about Jesus for you, it must be about His church, for that is where the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith [the bosom of Abraham]." [SC Creed Art. III] In other words, His church is the kingdom of heaven on earth where the Holy Spirit show[s] the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Christ's church is not to be the rich man, clothed in purple [or blue] and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day, flaunting the riches of the Gospel while ignoring the little people, even their nose around them who are hungry and in pain.

But let not your hearts be troubled, dear baptized of Trinity, dear Lazarus's all. Whatever your status in the eyes of the world--no matter your outward appearance, size, or success as measured by earthly standard--you have been carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham, that is the Word of and Him made flesh, and therefore to the right hand of God our Father in heaven in your Baptism by the work of the Holy Spirit who forgives sins by calling, gathering, and enlightening, and sanctifying you in the holy Christian Church where you feast sumptuously on the daily bread of forgiveness of sin--in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen