Monday, September 21, 2015

Bodied and Blooded Together.

One bread, one body,
one Lord of all,
one cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many,
throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

-John Michael Talbot

The song lyrics posted really hit home during Distribution of the Eucharist. It is another amazing benefit of the gift we have in the Supper of Our Lord. It is based upon the following passage:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
(1 Corinthians 10:14-17 ESV)

This is fantastic! When receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord we not only have an intimate connection with him but also with those joining us. This also unifies us with other Christians around the world. And in a Real sense due to the Real Presence of Christ we have union with those who have gone before.

Here is a wonderful chorus to sing prior to the Supper:

Let the vineyards be fruitful Lord
And fill to the brim our cup of blessing
Gather the harvest from the seeds that were sown
That we maybe filled with the Bread of Life
Gather the hopes and dreams of all
Unite them with the prayers we offer
Grace our table with your Presence
And give us a foretaste of the feast to come.

This declares the Supper is indeed the work of Our Lord for us. Rather than having it as our obedience, which would accomplish nothing, it is his firm and tangible gift to us. It is his victory on the cross that makes this gift so powerful. It is the Resurrected and Ascended Jesus we are receiving. This is a joyous feast. Not a funeral meal at which to be sad. Rather have tears of joy than of sadness. Your sins are forgiven!

Trust this good news, his promise, and live in  peace and certainty. †

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Gift of The True and Living God's Image. For You.

When speaking with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ the subject of Crucifixes, pictures of Jesus, a dove representing the Holy Spirit, etc. presents itself. This is even said to those of us who believe Christ's Real Presence in the Supper of his Body and Blood. This statement in the Decalogue springs to mind:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

What happens here happens in many cases when it comes to Scripture. People will stop at the first part of it then formulate the idea from it. But that is not the entire story is it. One should always read at least the rest of the statement before reaching a conclusion. It is referring to the worship of an image rather then forbidden all art and such in congregation houses and homes.

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

(Exodus 25:17-22 ESV)

In the design of the furnishing to be included in the Temple the above item was to be included. Very intricate in detail. And he promised to locate himself there to speak with those serving him in the Temple. If Our Lord prohibited any images or artwork in worship places he would never have included this in the Temple.

Even more important in Holy Communion Jesus has promised his Presence in the bread and wine. So the charge of idolatry is wrong in this belief as well. Of the bread he said "this is my Body. Of the cup he said "this is my Blood of the new covenant. Firm statements that are to be believed not just shunted aside because we cannot comprehend them.

So how are we to understand this command about images if not the total prohibition? It is to have God describe himself to us. Rather than forever mulling over who God is and how he goes on being God he describes himself in all the detail we can ever hope to fathom. We would imagine a Holy God as One who would look upon a sinner as disgusting and would destroy him. If we were God we would take care of that sinner in short order. And of course God must be like we are. 

Rather than that horrible image he loves the sinner, had himself pinned to a Cross bearing the sinner's sin and Resurrected for the sinner thereby Justifying him. In a word he has balanced the books for us. And this is done for each and every sinner that has been on earth, Every sinner on the earth today. And every sinner who will ever be on earth.

How are we to comprehend such a God as this? We will never comprehend him. Rather trust in his work. And live in the peace it gives. †

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Gift of God Himself to Us.

How quickly we will find ourselves fearing, loving and trusting in an idol. No. Not necessarily a false deity but something with which we concern ourselves to supply our needs. This we have found to be true the times we were forced out of the work force due to economic conditions and health challenges. This still occurs as we face uncertain future as far as health as well as finances are concerned. This is all quite repulsive when we consider all those things in which we are trusting are gifts from Our Heavenly Father.

And do to this we have this gift from Our Heavenly Father:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me."

(Exodus 20:2-3 ESV)

This was originally given to Our Lord's people after he brought them out of bondage to once again love, serve and worship him. During their captivity exposure to false deities in all forms from the Nile river to insects were their experience. Our Lord wanted them to be reminded that he is the True and Living Creator of all things and he wanted them to not be enslaved to the false ones who could not help them.

One is embraced by the thought: "What has this to do with me? I live in my choice of house, I work a job that I chose. I even got my own retirement savings account for when I am too old to work. By living in the United States I have the ability to also choose my leaders. I am not in slavery to any false god."

Those are indeed good things. They can make life comfortable and give us freedom to serve our neighbors which a slave would never posses. However, we never want to sacrifice the good and wonderful gift Our Lord gives us by giving himself to us. The false idols we create are in constant need of our sacrifices to them. Our True and Living Lord sacrificed himself for us to reconcile us to himself the God and Father of all.

In Holy Baptism he places his name on us and by being a Baptized child of God we can have certainty.

In Confession and Holy Absolution he once again confirms to us his forgiveness of all our sin in spite of who we are, what we have done or left undone.

In Holy Communion, by his institution and promise, he unites himself to us by feeding us his True and Living Body and Blood.

Through his Sacrifice we are set free from our idols and have Our Creator as his gift to us. 

Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †

Friday, July 17, 2015

God's Own Child I Gladly Say It.

"In the name of the Father the † Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen"

Very little gives me as much profound joy as to hear this statement at the start of a worship service. Also it is a privilege to invoke the name of God before and after prayer and Scripture reading. During times of testing, sadness and when the adversary bothers it is a very useful tool. What
makes this such a wonderful practice? Paul
points this out here:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

(Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

In Baptism God placed his name on us. Just as adopting parents
give a family name to there adopted child. We are truly children
of the Most High. The Creator of all things seen and unseen. Jesus
is our brother and we join him as being heirs. What a wonderful
position to consider when facing trials and troubles that everyone
faces in this life. We need not fear what will happen to us.

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine. 

This is a quote from the hymn titled "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It." This is sung many times in worship when a Baptism takes place. All the promises belong to the person(s) being Baptized. And they belong to us who were Baptized many years previously. It is the gift which keeps on giving.

How is it that water can do such power things? It is due to it not being mere water. Nor is it being the location of the water. It is not the faith of the minister who is applying the water and invoking the name of God. It is water connected with the institution and promise of Our Lord Jesus:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Rather than thinking you are being punished when you are facing the most difficult situations such as loss of friends, family, employment, health, etc. Having been Baptized into Christ you have full certainty that he has you in his Crucified and Resurrected arms to carry you through these times. He understands your suffering like no one else is able to understand. And he is there at the end of life to welcome you into his eternal home. He has got you! "In the name of the Father, the † Son and the Holy Spirit." Amen.

That Sinner Over There.

 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

(Luke 18:10-13 ESV)

"God hates the sin but loves the sinner."

The above statement is constantly contradicted by some Believers in Jesus. Although it is treated as a cliche' and to excuse sinners of guilt one must be careful in contradicting it. It is a common misconception that a Believer in Jesus has somehow became a better person than his or her unbelieving neighbor. How does one explain easily besetting sin if this is the case.

This is a return to the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Infused Grace. 

Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.*

This teaching understands Grace as a spiritual steroid which will enlighten the mind and strengthen the will to do good and avoid evil. This is treating the Christian life as if the Reformation never happened. One can almost come away with the idea that one needs Jesus less and less as time goes on.

Grace in its proper understanding is the attitude God has where he is willing, and through the Sacrifice of Jesus, look upon a sinner as his holy child and co heir with Jesus. As a loving child of Our Heavenly Father we certainly will seek to battle sin in our lives and seek to please him. However, we will fail miserably because we are not any better than the run of the mill unbeliever who is trying to live life as a good citizen, spouse, parent, etc.

Infused Grace is not Good News. The previous mentioned idea that over time one does not need Jesus as much as time goes on may lead to impenitence and ultimate casting aside of the faith. Also it may lead one living in doubt to the place where one may also fall into impenitence and reject the faith.

Rather than to fall victim to this fiction we must boldly confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. The good news is that Our Father is overjoyed at forgiving us our sin and cleansing us from all unrighteousness for the sake of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus. Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †

*Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thy Kingdom Come

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32 ESV)

The massive tree pictured above the passage of Scripture is a mustard tree. I always wondered about this comparing the Kingdom to a mustard tree. Being from Michigan the only mustard anything I ever seen in a plant is a scrawny, ugly little plant invading our garden.  I was sure Our Lord did not mean this little plant familiar to me as the best allegory for the Kingdom of God.

In his Small Catechism Martin Luther speaks of the second petition in the prayer Jesus taught us:

The Second Petition.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?--Answer.

The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

How is this done?--Answer.

When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

In the close context we see Jesus speaking of a sower going into a field to cast seed. Who is this sower? One initial thing to look for when examining a parable is to determine where the Holy Spirit has located himself.

The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

(Mark 4:14-20 ESV)

We see that the Spirit of Our Lord spreads the seed of the word. He does this through the means of those men he has called to the public ministry. It is necessary that each believer in Christ attend to the means God uses to give unto us his grace and the forgiveness of sins. To remember the promises of the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit Our Lord gave us in Baptism. To hear the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in the name of Jesus. To receive his Body and Blood in the Supper of Our Lord for the forgiveness of sin, life and Salvation.

Also every believer has the privilege of participating in the spread of the Gospel. Those of us who have children can share the joy of reaching them with this Good News. We can speak with family members, co workers and neighbors as Our Lord gives us opportunity. It is incredible what can happen when we prayerfully make ourselves available for this purpose.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pierced Feet For You!

The other day a brother in Christ on Facebook posted a link to a sermon on Nahum. The preacher, Steve Brown stated this prophecy is almost totally ignored in the preaching we hear in our time. This is tragic. It is chuck full of wonderful good news of peace!

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
he is utterly cut off.

(Nahum 1:15 ESV)

This comes at the end of the first chapter. Prior to this we read some of the most terrifying of preaching. This was directed at Nineveh, the city who repented, later turned once again into Our Lord's enemy. And it is to us who are fickle. One is tempted during tough times to turn against Our Father thinking we have to help ourselves. 

We see today that our Adversary still has people who will attack Christ's faithful. When we can we should try to resist it by electing those who believe in religious liberty. However, if it comes down to that being taken away from us Our Lord is still active in cutting off the worthless.

However, the good news is also for those in this city who had not turned against Our Lord and those who repent at this warning. We need not fear when Christ's halting the evil ones in their tracks. 

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

(Psalm 6:8-10 ESV)

And here we see Jesus. His feet were pierced on Mount Calvary. This publishes peace to those who turn from evil self security and trust in him. Turn to Jesus. Trust his good news of peace and live in its peace. Amen.  †