Saturday, June 28, 2008

At The Lamb's High Feast

Oh how I long for the Divine Service. Jesus being true God is with us each and everyday. However, in this service Jesus promises to be present in a very special and salutary way. The high point of this service is the reception of the body and blood of our Lord for the forgiveness of sin.

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing

Praise to our victorious king,

Who has washed us in the tide

Flowing from his pierced side.


Praise we him, whose love divine

Gives his sacred blood for wine,

Gives his body for the feast

Christ the victim,

Christ the priest.


Where the paschal blood is poured,

Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword;

Israel’s hosts triumphant go

Through the wave that drowns the foe.


Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,

Paschal victim, paschal bread;

With sincerity and love

Eat we manna from above.


Mighty Victim from the sky,

Hell’s fierce powers beneath you lie;

You have conquered in the fight

You have brought us life and light.


Now no more can death appall,

Now no more the grave enthrall;

You have opened paradise,

And your saints in you shall rise.


Easter triumph,

Easter joy!

This alone can sin destroy;

From sin’s power,

Lord, set us free,

Newborn souls in you to be.


Father, who the crown shall give,

Savior, by whose death we live,

Spirit, guide through all our days;

Three in One,

Your name we praise.


The above hymn is frequently sung during distribution. It drives home the point Jesus made on the night He was betrayed:

Matthew 26: 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ESV

Through these words of promise we know that when we receive the bread and wine in our mouths we are receiving the true body and blood of our Lord. In this way we can receive our sins forgiven. We cannot go back in time to Calvary to receive the fruits of Jesus’ work. He has promised this meal does deliver those benefits to us each and every time we receive it by faith. To say otherwise renders this an empty work one does for God instead of a powerful work God does for us.

We also come to appreciate another promise of Jesus:

Matthew 28:20b And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fruit Inspectors.

In speaking with Christians who are Bible literate and the subject of how one knows if one is saved fruit inspection will come up. In the sermon on the mount Jesus said these words:

Matthew 7:16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ESV

From the first reading one can come away with the idea that one knows another’s faith by what they do. This is also how many will claim to know that he or she is a Christian as well. What this leads to is to always judge another person to see if he or she is in the faith. Now humans are quite adept at finding fault with another human. I have heard many people toss doubt at another person due to perhaps a loss of temper or a word will slip that should not be used. Or man made pietism will take the place of God’s law for a person to live up to in order to have knowledge of peace with God.

Another problem with this is that due to our flesh still being with us it is easy to either not recognize our own sin or excuse it away. Perhaps and unkind word was said to another. The person speaking it is called to account for it. “Well they made me mad and I was right in saying this to them!” That is impenitent sin. Impenitent sin is a sign of unbelief.

1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ESV

In addition we should back up one verse in the Matthew 7 scripture to see in context to what Jesus was speaking.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. ESV

Jesus was finishing up teaching about Himself. In that he was comparing and contrasting himself with those who contradict him. This is not at all about how to examine another or even yourself to find out if you are in the faith. What shows that to us are the promises that God has adopted us in the waters of baptism and Jesus comes to us in the Holy Supper in the form of the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sin. In these very tangible ways he delivers to us the fruits of his cross. In this way we do not have to subjectively examine our works to determine how God regards us.

We praise you Oh Christ. †

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Large Part of God's Heart.

We just cannot understand God can we? Throughout the Christian church we hear of this harsh Creator who is waiting to zap us. Pastor Shrank today mentioned how he met a Christian family who in conversation told him at their church they were taught if you missed worship during one week and died that week you would not go to heaven. He was amazed at that. As a life long Lutheran he has never heard of such a thing. As a pastor he would never dream of saying such a thing. He was hoping they were misunderstanding or misinformed in this. Well those of us who were raised in other parts of the holy Christian church have heard similar things. Obey God or else!

Exodus 20: 1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 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. 5 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, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ESV

In the above passage I have heard many Christians concentrate on God visiting the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generations. This is certainly true. Approaching God from His attributes of Sovereignty and Holiness we are toast. This is how all religions in the world try to approach God apart from Christianity. However, we see the next statement that He shows steadfast love to thousands who love Him and keep his commandments. We must resist the temptation to make God like one of us. We are more judgmental than forgiving. We keep a record of sin against others. How sad when we think to ourselves and say to others that God is like we are in this way. So He allows us a glimpse inside His heart where there is justice and judgment but also much more mercy and grace.

God in His kindness has gone through the trouble of bringing us out of slavery to sin. Jesus by taking on Him human flesh, living the life for us He requires, taking our sin upon Him and suffering our just punishment and rising from the dead for our justification He shows His heart for us and frees us from slavery to sin. Jesus having gone through all that it does not follow that He would look for opportunities to zap us as if that opportunity would be difficult to find. No He gifts us with His righteousness and in His sight we love Him and keep His commandments by His grace through the gift of faith.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Something to Brag About.

The theology of self glory is running rampant in this Purpose Driven, Best Life Now, and Christian Hedonistic Church where Christ crucified is seldom the main topic of sermons. It is no wonder one can usually hear another trotting out his or her sanctified life as some sort of encouragement. Granted good works and victory over some temptations is part and parcel of a Christian’s life. In fact these works are incidental since we have God’s Name placed on us in the waters of Holy Baptism.

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ESV

Why all the bragging as if it is the work of the Christians instead of the Spirit of Christ delivering the fruit of the cross to us? As mentioned earlier it is the Christian centered sermons which are so living under the law based the cross is hidden and that which Christ won for us is minimized. When one however, is hit upside the head with the law it is a dismal outcome. The law when it is presented to us in all its crushing accusation will terrify the reader or hearer of even his or her salvation. And they should be terrified if they look to their works for anything with God. Nothing new about this problem:

Martin Luther in his Heidelberg Disputation stated:

By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

He further comments: The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.

So we see the good that a believer does is sin which the Lord hates because of the pride associated with it when it is done to gain merit with God. This is why we should never look to our good works to gain anything from God. Jesus did all the good works necessary for our being pleasing in God’s sight. This is liberating for we do not have to be concerned about how much our works are done out of love for God and how much because we may like the person we are serving. We are set free to do that which is pleasing in God’s sight not in order to please Him.

Thanks be to God. †