Wednesday, January 27, 2021

MoveOn Jury Tampering?

 

Because of a previous owner of my phone number, I am on MoveOn's text list.  I get all of their alerts.

I just received this one today "Trump's impeachment trial for inciting violence is soon.  Need GOP votes to convict.  Tell Sen Bill Cassidy: Convict Trump."

Ironically, MoveOn was founded during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, trying to get the country to just forget about the President's sexual abuse of power in taking advantage of an intern half his age within his chain of command - and then committing perjury about it afterward.  MoveOn wanted the Senate to just censure the president and just "Move On to pressing issues facing the country."  Obviously, this was in the era before the #metoo movement - although in Bill Clinton's case, they seem to approve of the sexual abuse.

But here we are when it is a Republican president being impeached, MoveOn wants nothing of moving on.  

As for their action item to call Senator Cassidy,

First of all, the trial hasn't even started yet.  No evidence has been presented.  Even in the House impeachment, no evidence was heard, nor was the former president given an opportunity to present evidence.  So on what basis is MoveOn calling for conviction other than their political views?  MoveOn has shown its colors, that it believes in Soviet- and Maoist-style political show trials in which political opponents are convicted without evidence.

But worse yet, did they commit the crime of jury-tampering?  Senator Bill Cassidy is one of the jurors of this case.  How is this any different than sending out the phone number of any other juror of any other case and urging people to call the juror to try to pressure him into voting for a conviction?  

This clearly demonstrates that this is a political, not a judicial, proceeding.  This has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with fetid politics.

Sadly, very few people on the Left will criticize one of their ideological bedfellows - even if laws are being broken in order to get the political outcome that they want.  

Is jury tampering within the legal rights of a 501c4 organization?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – St. Titus, 2021

26 January 2021

Text: Rom 15:1-13

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Today is the Feast of St. Titus.  He was part of the first wave of men ordained by the apostles, as St. Paul ordained both him and St. Timothy.  The books of the Bible named for them are actually pastoral letters that they received from St. Paul with guidance for carrying out the life of the holy ministry.

St. Titus, who as a Gentile, went on to serve as a bishop in Dalmatia, and according to tradition, went back to Crete, where Paul had previously left him to serve.  He ministered there as a bishop until his death in 96 AD.

While St. Paul was Jewish through and through, he lamented that more Jews did not confess Jesus as Messiah.  St. Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles, and brought the Christian faith to Pagan Europe.  And from where, the faith would be spread centuries later, as explorers sailed around the world. 

And as we near the end of St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome, he is focusing on the thorny issue of culturally and ethnically diverse people being grafted together into one holy catholic and apostolic church.  He counsels all of us to consider the faith “of the weak” as we exercise our Christian liberty, to “please his neighbor for his good” – even as our Lord Jesus Christ did.  And this is not easy.  It takes endurance, and through this endurance “and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  He goes on to call God the “God of endurance and encouragement” as well as the “God of hope.”

St. Paul cites several passages from the Old Testament to prove that the Gentiles are indeed part of God’s kingdom, even as are the believing descendants of the Jews who were chosen in the Old Covenant.  This is important to understand in its context, dear friends, for the word translated as “Gentiles” literally means “nations.”  And it was our Lord Himself who commanded the apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…”  St. Paul ordained St. Titus for this very purpose: to proclaim Christ to the nations and to baptize men and women from every nationality – so that they might have hope.

We have hope, dear brothers and sisters, because Jesus died for us, His blood was shed for us, and in His name and by His sacrifice, we have life – life that is eternal, life that overcomes death and the grave, life that conquers sin – that of the devil, of the world, and of our own sinful nature. 

What St. Paul wrote to the Romans applies to us today: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Super Bowl Ads: the Seen and the Unseen

Picture from:
https://nypost.com/2021/01/24/many-super-bowl-advertisers-wont-have-commercials-this-year/

It seems that several large Super Bowl advertisers are refraining from buying ads this year for fear that no matter what they say, they will offend someone.

This is an interesting phenomenon: the market responding to changing market conditions, as what was until recently a blue-chip advertisement investment has become volatile - causing some formerly stolid investors to flee. This in turn sends a powerful market signal to every other market player, that maybe the ‘woke’ movement has peaked, that perhaps the consumers’ tastes are reflecting changing patterns. 

This is good and healthy feedback. 

Institutional bureaucracies - like large, lumbering corporations and inefficient universities - have invested heavily in being ‘woke’ - including creating large and expensive bureaucracies within bureaucracies dedicated to racial and sexual hygiene for the purposes of “diversity” (which has come to mean “conformity” in the Orwellian and Huxlean culture in which we find ourselves today).  These dinosaurs won’t be able to react quickly by, say, refusing to buy a Super Bowl ad. They will be on the hook to pay these extraordinary costs (which, if the market signals are correct) may well be headed to zero market value, and may even become a liability in short order. Time will tell. 

No matter how hard the ‘woke’ crowd presses, you can’t fool the market in the long term any more than you can fool Mother Nature. Once the end-consumer has had enough of being preached to, shamed, scolded, hectored, and lectured during an event that is supposed to be entertainment, that will be the point when the channel will change, or the TV will get switched off, or people will find other things to do - and the ads will then become worthless expenditures which reach fewer and fewer people. 

The NFL thrives on ad income. If the public has genuinely had enough of the owners and players trashing the things that ordinary Americans hold dear, that will be the end of the NFL’s gravy train to pay themselves to live like Middle Eastern emirs. While most of the low-watt players don’t have a clue about such things, the bean counters on Mahogany Row certainly do. They are watching closely. 

The ordinary American has more power than he thinks he does. Two quotes from Ludwig von Mises (from The Quotable Mises) express it well:

“Go into the home of the Average American family and you will see for whom the wheels of the machines are turning,” and, “What vitiates entirely the socialists’ economic critique of capitalism is their failure to grasp the sovereignty of the consumer in the market economy.”

Keep an eye on those Super Bowl ads. They may well be the canary in the coal mine. 

Sermon: Transfiguration - 2021


24 January 2021

Text: Matt 17:1-9 (Ex 34:29-35, 2 Pet 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

After the Fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam hid himself from God.  He and his wife tried to cover their shame with leaves.  People typically (though not always) commit shameful acts when nobody is looking.  Criminals typically cloak themselves with the cover of darkness.  And until recently, walking into a bank with a mask on was a sure sign that a person was up to no good.

God also hides himself.  When Moses wanted to directly see God’s glory, all that God would allow Moses to see was his back – and even then, only when Moses was pressed in the cleft of a rock to withstand the blast of energy that resulted.

God also hides Himself because of sin: our sin.  For because of our impurity, we cannot stand to be in God’s presence.  Scripture often points out that seeing God’s face is deadly to us.  And in Scripture, we see examples of what happens when God lifts the veil even just a little bit.  Just before God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, the lay people fussed at Moses that it wasn’t fair that only he got to go to the mountain to talk to God.  So Moses “brought the people out of the camp to meet God.”  It was such an intense, sensually overloading experience that they begged Moses to never do that again.

And even as we heard together this morning, the glory of God that reflected off of Moses’s face in the form of a glowing light was so disturbing to the people, that he had to wear a veil over his face after returning from God’s presence on the mountain.

And so, when God hides himself from us poor miserable sinners, dear friends, He is showing us mercy.  For looking at His face without some kind of veil would be like looking directly at the sun – only much, much brighter and louder and more deadly.

In the fullness of time, God the Son took human flesh in order to rescue us from the very sin that separates us from God’s glory.  The almighty and eternal God veiled himself in a human body, even an infant, whose divinity, though there, was hidden.  Our Lord grew in stature, obeyed His mother and stepfather, and developed into an adult man.  He veiled His divinity behind his humanity.

Sometimes Jesus lifted the veil just a bit, performing miracles, forgiving sins, and casting out demons.  Sometimes this caused great fear, as when St. Peter begged Jesus to “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  With their eyes, the disciples as well as the enemies of Jesus, saw only a man.  But with the eyes of faith, those who confessed His name, saw His divinity.  And  this confession of Jesus as God was by divine revelation, as Jesus told Peter: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.”

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, in which the church calls to mind a deliberate lifting of the veil and a bombastic encounter with our Lord’s divinity on the part of Peter, James, and John.

“His face shone like the Son,” as St. Matthew relates the narrative to us, “and His clothes became white as light.”  And amid this blast of pure, raw unbridled energy, time and space were ruptured, as Moses and Elijah appeared to the three disciples, and they held a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God. 

And as Peter was babbling in his stupor, “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.’”

This is almost the same shocking revelation that happened when Jesus was baptized.  For a few terrifying seconds, Peter, James, and John heard the voice of the Father and saw the brilliance of the Son blazing in glory.  And unlike the light that shone from the face of Moses, this light is the original source.

The three disciples “fell on their faces and were terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise and have no fear.’  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

Jesus told them to keep this revelation secret until after the resurrection.  For at that time, eleven of the twelve will see Jesus in His glory after walking out of His own tomb.

Jesus did not transfigure Himself as a prank, or just for something to do, dear friends.  He is teaching us about Himself.  For we can get so used to the humanity of Jesus that we forget that He is God.  We can become so used to sin that we forget that God does not abide sin.  We can get so used to the feeling that we are in charge, that we forget that God still upholds all things by His will – which is unknowable for us.

God continues to hide because of sin: our sin.  He does this because He is merciful.  And so He comes to us in a very real way, but a way that is veiled, hidden in His word, veiled under the forms of bread and wine.  Our eyes see only the material reality, but the eyes of faith know that there is more, there is the divinity of Christ, who comes to us poor miserable sinners to save us.  And we can stand in His presence because He has forgiven us, cleansed us, and made us worthy to stand before the Father’s throne – whether here on this side of the veil in the Divine Service, or in eternity when we join with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” in the eternal heavenly liturgy – even as we worship together, one church, separated only by the thinnest of veils, protecting us from God’s full glory until He wills that we are ready.

St. Peter, who was there at the Mountain of Transfiguration, says: “We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.”  But that said, St. Peter doesn’t direct us to his experience or even to a vision, but to “something more sure” that “we have.”  And that is “the prophetic Word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  He tells us to look to Scripture, for this is not “someone’s own interpretation” nor “cleverly devised myths.”  Rather the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit.  And this, dear friends, is where God hides Himself – in plain sight, to those with ears to hear.

Let us ascend to the holy altar to receive Him in His veiled forms of bread and wine, knowing that He is truly there, His glory held in check in mercy for us, but with nothing of His forgiveness held in check.  Jesus is here for us in ways that we can hear and eat and drink, in ways that we are not overwhelmed by His presence, but in ways that He comes to us just as powerfully and just as truly as He did on the mountain that day when Moses and Elijah spoke with Him.

For Moses and the Prophets, continue to speak to us in the Word, and their words confess and reveal Jesus to be God in the flesh. 

Dear brothers and sisters, don’t fall into the bad habit of hearing words that you think don’t matter, a narrative that you think has no effect on your life.  If this is you, Jesus, our transfigured Lord, the crucified Savior who rose from the dead and appears to you week after week – calls you to repent for your own sake.  Don’t think that what you are eating and drinking is a mere wafer and a sip of wine.  For this Holy Supper is truly His body and blood.  It isn’t symbolic.  It isn’t a representation.  It’s not a pious little harmless ritual.  The same Jesus whose radiant face and garments were accompanied by the voice of the Father comes to you now.  Yes, in mercy, He veils His glory.  But the glory is just as surely there even as the sun is still blazing in bright light even when we are in the shadow of the earth that we call “night.”

And after you have communed with Him in this sacred mystery, when you rise from your knees, allow our Lord to speak to you the very words He had for Peter, James, and John: “Rise, and have no fear.”

And when you lift up your eyes, dear friends, may you see “Jesus only.”  For only Jesus saves you, makes you worthy to stand before the Father, and gives you the free gift of eternal life by His blood.  Jesus only.

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Jan 19

19 January 2020

Text: Rom 9:1-18

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul is grieved that most of his countrymen rejected our Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah.  It is especially tragic as St. Paul recounts God’s grace shown to his fellow Israelites: “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.  Amen.”

But their rejection of our Lord does not mean that “the Word of God has failed.”  For what does it mean to be an Israelite?  St. Paul goes on to demonstrate how we Christians are “the children of the promise” who “are counted as offspring.”  For it is faith that matters in the matter of the covenant.

The apostle points out that Abraham and Sarah believed in God’s promise that they would bear a son, who was Isaac.  And so too, Isaac and Rebekah bore children through belief in the promise.  To be an Israelite in the covenant is a matter of believing the promise.  For children can be either biological or adopted.

Moreover, this is a matter of “God’s purpose of election.”  For He calls whom He wills based on what God told Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  And this is of great comfort to us, dear friends.  For whether our endeavors seem to be successful or a failure, it doesn’t matter.  It all depends on God’s hidden will.  We are called simply to be faithful, to preach the Gospel or support the preaching of the Gospel according to our own vocations. 

“So then,” says St. Paul, “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

We give thanks to God that He is merciful, and that He does not dispense His mercy based on the accident of ancestry or even based on our flawed human will and paltry works of the Law.  Rather God shows mercy to whom He shows mercy.  And this is why the Psalmist proclaims (and we confess with him): “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.  And His mercy endureth forever!” 

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sermon: Epiphany 2 - 2021

17 January 2021

Text: John 2:1-11 (Amos 9:11-15, Rom 12:6-16)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In our Old Testament reading from Amos, the prophet speaks of eternity.  He uses imagery of the people rebuilding their ruined homes and lands.  They plant vineyards and drink their own wine.  And it’s so abundant that the mountains drip with it, and it is “sweet wine.”  This wine will flow off the hills like rainwater, and the best wine will be served then – at the end of time.  

This is important imagery, for Amos was writing to the Israelites as disaster was about to befall them.  In just a few years, ten of the twelve tribes of Israel would be conquered by the cruel Assyrians.  The people would be removed from their own land and homes and either killed or resettled in Assyria as slaves.  They would never be heard from again.

And so the remaining people, known as Judah, had good reason to read the words of the prophet Amos.  For in spite of what happened to Israel, and in spite of what was to come to Judah as well in a few hundred years – in the end, the people of God will plant vineyards and drink wine.

To plant a vineyard means you own your land.  It is secure.  It is safe from invasion.  Amos speaks the Word of God: “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord your God.”  You only plant grapes, tend the land, and leisurely drink the product of the vineyard if you are free from worry about invaders.  Of course, the opposite is also true.  If you are under constant threat, you will lack wine.

This imagery of what God has in store for us in eternity appears again in the Scriptures – as our Lord Jesus Christ attends a wedding.  And at the feast, “the wine ran out.”  This lack of wine is, of course, a social embarrassment.  It is a bad way to start a marriage.  

Our Lord fixes the situation by being God, the Creator.  He takes water from the old stone jars used for the “Jewish rites of purification,” and He miraculously turns the water into wine.  And so, our Lord Jesus Christ takes a lack of wine – which is the case if you are under threat of attack or if your situation is perilous – and He changes everything, by His Word and by His deed.  The lack becomes abundance.  The worry becomes rejoicing.  And like the wine prophesied by Amos, this is the very best of wine.  

We know this because the “master of the feast tasted the water now become wine.”  He said to the bridegroom: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”

This is a clever way of teaching us about Jesus, dear friends.  For He is the Church’s Bridegroom.  And He doesn’t serve the good wine up front, not wanting to waste it later.  Rather Jesus, ever countercultural, serves us the best at the last, in eternity, when our troubled world will be at peace, when we will own our own land and will leisurely plant vineyards, and we will enjoy the fruits of the earth unmolested.  And it will be abundant and magnificent.

Wine is associated with wedding feasts.  It is central to the celebration.  It is part of the hospitality and the rejoicing.  It represents the pinnacle of what our Lord’s created world has to offer.

And think about the Lord’s Supper, dear friends.  For it is a little taste, an appetizer of what we will enjoy in eternity.  For what makes this bread and wine extraordinary is not the early element itself.  What makes this bread and this wine unique is Jesus.  For just as His word and His will turned the water into wine and shared it with the guests at the feast, Jesus takes wine, and at His Word, it is His blood, “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  This bread, according to the Word and command of our Lord, is His body, given for you.  For just as bread is kneaded and baked, and just as wine is trampled and aged – our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died, offering His body and blood for us, shared with us at table, a picture of the wedding feast to come, when we the Church will sit at table with our Bridegroom, drinking the fruit of the vine with Him in eternity.

And so the Eucharist is this prophetic foretaste, dear friends.  Jesus invites us to His table, to His supper, to His sacrifice that atones for us, to His fellowship in eating and drinking together.  His Word has done this.  His love has made up for our lack.  His will has given us everything to be enjoyed in eternity.  And no evil shall come near us – not the world, the devil, nor even our own sinful flesh.  For we will be completely renewed, and we shall be safe and secure on our own land, with vineyards producing the finest grapes which will become the finest wine.  

And we will feast together in eternity: Jesus, the Bridegroom, and we, the Church, His bride, whom He loves and for whom He lays down His life.  

What is interesting is the Lord’s mother’s advice to the servants.  She does not seek glory for herself.  She points everyone to her divine Son: “Do whatever He tells you,” she says.  

First and foremost, our Lord tells us to believe Him, to hear His Word, to receive His gifts, to rejoice at the Good News of salvation, to receive Him in His body and blood, to live a life of prayer and confession and waiting for His return.  “Do whatever He tells you.”  What He tells us, dear friends, is in His Word.  

In our Epistle reading, St. Paul lists a litany of things that we Christians ought to be doing.  And all of these things are things that our Lord Jesus Christ has also told us to do.  For we are the Bride of Christ.  The advice that we men often give one another: “happy wife, happy life,” is backwards in terms of Christ and the Church.  For in that case, “happy life, happy wife.”  In other words, if we strive to live as St. Paul teaches – which is really what our Bridegroom Jesus teaches – we will have a happy life, and we will be happy as the Bride of Christ.  

“Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good,” says Paul.  Be honorable and zealous to serve the Lord.  The apostles also says: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  We should look out for other Christians, be hospitable, and we are to bless even our persecutors – which is what our Lord exhorted us to do in the Sermon on the Mount, which He Himself did when He died for us.  We must “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  Let us live harmoniously with each other.  And never be arrogant or think too highly of yourselves.  

“Do whatever He tells you,” says the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We don’t do all of these things in order to impress God so that He saves us, rather God saves us, and so we should strive to live a good life out of gratitude to God and love for our neighbor – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.  

It is fitting, dear friends, for us Christians not only to share the table of the Lord’s Supper and to drink the wine that is His blood, it is also a blessing to enjoy the hospitality of Christians joining together to break bread and drink wine at the table, calling to mind the Lord’s love for us which we enjoy in love for one another.  And when we do share the table with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we look forward to the end of time, when “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it,” when we are secure in our lands and homes, when our doors are open, and when we “shall never again be uprooted” by sin, death, and the devil.  

And let us reflect on the “life of the world to come” when we come to the table of the Lord’s Supper, eating His body and drinking His blood, for Jesus has saved the very best until now, and we will enjoy the fruits of this vineyard even unto eternity.

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Holy Estate and the Unholy State




We have it exactly backwards. 

We Americans have ‘no fault divorce’ because we no longer believe marriage to be sacred and inviolable. It’s merely a human arrangement based on convenience that can be dissolved - or even redefined - at will. And government defines and administers marriage. 

But we outlaw divorce between states and consider even discussing a reconfiguration of government to be ‘sedition’ and ‘treason.’  Moreover, even our government buildings are now considered sacred - as church sanctuaries were once upon a time. 

We have replaced God with the State, and instead of recognizing marriage as a sacramental estate that precedes and supersedes government, we have placed it firmly under government.  Instead of recognizing government as a mere human arrangement designed to serve our purposes and protect our rights and liberties, we now see government as our master, who giveth liberty, and who taketh it away. 

The State is now our god. For even when churches can be closed and declared nonessential, government must remain open.

In our statist religion, marriages are dissolved every day, but our current and specific form of governance is indivisible. We are wedded to the State until death do us part.

American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God

The old saying: "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God" certainly applies to me.

I'm an ethnic Southerner who was raised in the north - but who, for the past 25 years (with the exception of my three year educational exile to the permafrost of Fort Wayne, Indiana) has lived in the Deep South.  In fact, for the past 17 years, I have lived so far in the Deep South that it is really barely Southern at all - being south of the South.  But we were graciously permitted membership in the Confederacy, given the tolerance and ethnic diversity of that particular manifestation of American federalism.  Moreover, only two other states suffered as long as we did in the so-called Reconstruction as did Louisiana.  So we - my state and my person - have earned the bona fides to consider what it means to be Southern, though perhaps by means of a circuitous route.

So permit me to ponder - while pondering is still permitted in our Reunited States.

The South is an embarrassment to many in the various other regions of America as it is constituted today.  We are especially anathema to our Betters on the coasts. 

Indeed, we talk funny. We’re slow and dumb and backwards and conservative. We cling to our Bibles and guns. We got Donald Trump elected. That alone should make our separated brethren in the Disunted States to want to retroactively secede us.  Typically, our kids say “sir” and “ma’am” and, shockingly, we treat men and women differently, and hold comically to the long-since discredited fantasy that only women bear children. We still put flags and flowers on our ancestral graves - especially those of our our veterans - which is apparently why some folks come South for the winter in their black socks and sandals, wagging their heads, and honking nasally and incredulously: “Look Martha, these people are still fighting the civil war.”

Apparently, we are not Enlightened and Educated like our brethren from the Better Regions. We don’t read the New Yorker. We don’t listen to NPR and watch CNN. We don't care what Whoopi and Joy have to say on the View. We don’t realize that we hate our black next door neighbor (whom we are so deluded as to believe that we actually like) on account of our persistent and systemic ‘white privilege.’  It is so systemic and persistent that we don't notice it.  And we don’t know this because we are ignorant, for our children don’t go to Columbia and Stanford.  In fact, most of us dropped out of school in the third grade, when the booklarnin' began to exceed our cerebral potentiality.  

It seems that we go about in bare feet and overalls. We spit tobacco all over the place and drop our R’s and final G’s. We marry our cousins - but only after asking our uncles for their hand in marriage. Moreover, we eat roadkill and still have outhouses. In Louisiana, we speak gutter French and eat bugs. In that sense, we are apparently better than the people of South Carolina who apparently eat dirt.  There are experts in the field of judging groups of people and rating them according to their human worth.  This is apparently called "Intersectionality" and is taught at Columbia and Stanford.  Eating bugs, per se, is good for the environment.  And so it's good when we do it - not our Betters, of course.  The exception is when they come to Bourbon Street to debauch themselves, vomit on the streets, and disrobe publicly, thus providing us locals with a free spectacle.  Regardless, many of our fellow Americans mock us and treat us like the drunken uncle sleeping on the couch. 

Of course, they don’t mind when Billy Bob pulls off to the side of the road to help them change a tire, or when thousands of Billy Bobs join the military and fight America's wars.

Just so long as we and our filthy kids with mullets don’t move next door to them with our truck on blocks and our dog on a chain blaring our country music and slaughtering our chickens in our back yards, right?

But you dummies had a golden opportunity to be rid of us in 1861 without firing a single shot or spending a dime. You people hate us, but wouldn’t let us leave!  And you’re supposed to be the smart ones!  

Now you’re stuck with us. You created an ‘indivisible union,’ and hence you are joined at the hip with the very people that make you roll your eyes in disgust, the ones that cost Hillary Clinton her destiny, the impediments to Progress, the ones who make you cry and shriek at the sky and dye your hair various and sundry shades of magenta. Yep.  We did that.  And worst of all, nous ne regrette rien.

And now, in spite of the largely successful program to vilify our region, our culture, and our ancestors, to destroy our monuments, rewrite our history, amnesiate even the memory of our memories - Deo vindice, people even in the belly of the beast of the People's Republic of California are once again speaking the forbidden word, thinking the unthinkable thought, dreaming the impossible dream, and considering the unconsiderable consideration: secession.  And so, you might just yet get rid of the people you loathe.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But in spite of all y'all's vitriol and opprobrium, we’re still always and ever hospitable to all who come to visit.  We will gladly share some possum stew with y’all, but only after we all gather around the old table, rise for prayers, and sing Dixie

I have shocking and scandalous news to deliver to my perhaps soon-to-be ex countrymen, so I do hope you like the smell of irony in the morning: We're all Southerners now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Jan 12

12 January 2020

Text: Rom 3:19-31

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

When someone meets me for the first time and finds out that I’m a pastor, sometimes my new friend will explain why he is a “good person.”  And the explanation usually involves giving money to the poor, being nice, not cheating on his spouse or committing acts of genocide.  It helps to keep the bar very low.  And certainly, striving to keep the law is commendable.  But no matter what you might think, you’re not a good person.  You just aren’t.  That’s why you need Jesus.

St. Paul says when you start talking like this, shut up.  That’s a paraphrase.  What he actually says is: “Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being is justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

St. Paul says that you are not a “good person” – for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

Since no “works of the law” can justify us, and to the contrary, they condemn us – “what becomes of our boasting?”  What does this reality do to our desire to say, “I am a good person.”  Well, the apostle says: “It is excluded.”  So our boast cannot be ourselves, our conduct, our obedience, our goodness – it’s all “excluded.”  For we have no righteousness of our own about which to boast.  Rather our boasting should be in Christ, for “we are justified” not by our works, but “by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  We are recipients of charity.  The word “charity” is derived from the Greek word for “grace.”  We are redeemed like an old glass bottle headed for the dump, until someone comes along and claims us because there is a redemption price.  What was formerly garbage has been recycled, because there is a value assigned to it, a value not of its own. 

Jesus redeems us from the garbage, and this is a free gift, dear friends.  It is charity.  We are rescued by God’s grace by means of Jesus’ blood, by which we are “propitiated.”  In other words, by Christ’s blood shed on the cross, our sins are expunged, His goodness is given to us as a gift, and the Father considers us to be good and righteous – again, not by our works, but by His grace.

So when you meet a pastor and want to explain why you are a “good person,” you can boast in Christ.  You are a “good person” not by your own works – which are evil – but by virtue of being redeemed by Jesus, the propitiation of your sins, by His blood and righteousness, by Him who truly does keep the Law, whose charity, whose love, toward us is perfect. 

Indeed, that is why we all need Jesus.

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sermon: Baptism of our Lord - 2021

10 January 2021

Text: Matt 3:13-17

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Baptism is a washing.  And you wash because you are dirty.  We are baptized because we are sinners.  So why is Jesus being baptized, dear friends? 

In fact, being God, why does Jesus incarnate Himself into the flesh of a single cell in His mother’s womb, being born and becoming helpless as a newborn?  Why must He be circumcised to make Him a member of God’s chosen people?  Why was He presented at the temple?  And once again, why is He who has no sin being washed in John’s baptism of repentance?

All of these things are a paradox – for Jesus is the eternal God, who has no beginning, and yet He was conceived and born.  He is the Creator of everyone and the one who wrestled with Jacob nineteen hundred years before His own birth – and yet He is circumcised as part of a ritual to receive Him into God’s people.  Although He is the Lord and He is holy, He was brought to the temple in His infancy to be symbolically sacrificed as the firstborn male, to be officially recognized as “holy to the Lord.”

And again, though He is the only person who ever lived who was without sin, yet He is washed in the waters of repentance by His cousin who admits that he is unworthy even to untie our Lord’s sandal. 

All of these things teach us about Jesus.  Not that He is a sinner who needs to fulfill the Law, but rather He fulfills the Law for our sake, for we are sinners.  He is the righteous one, and we, dear friends, lack righteousness. And so He gives His to us.

And so this is why Jesus is born, circumcised, presented, and baptized.  He says it Himself. 

And His cousin, John the Baptist, doesn’t understand either at first.  He wanted to prevent Jesus from being baptized!  Can you just imagine?  Not because our Lord was unworthy, but because He is truly the only worthy person.  John says, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”  This is an awkward moment, but it is also a teaching moment – for our Lord begins His teaching ministry as a rabbi right here, at His baptism.  He teaches John the Baptist why He has come, and what the meaning is of His baptism: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

This word that we translate as “fulfilled” literally means to make full, like topping off a glass with water.  And the word “all” means just what it says: “all righteousness.” 

All of the righteousness that we lack, dear friends, all of our sins and the sins of the whole world, that is, the lack of righteousness, the emptiness of our cup – is brought to its fullness in Christ, in His fulfillment of the Law, in His baptism, in His ministry, by His Word, by His death, by His resurrection, by His grace given to us at our own baptism! 

John’s hesitancy is overcome by the Word of Jesus, by the promise that in obeying the will of the Father, John is serving Jesus so that Jesus may serve us: fulfilling all righteousness for us, and repairing the damaged and destroyed communion with God that we have suffered from the first sin in Eden.

For we poor, miserable sinners have no righteousness of our own.  We are broken.  We have abandoned God’s image in us – both because of Adam’s sin, and because of our own.  We are so broken that we aren’t even capable of a little righteous.  We are helpless.

And so to save us, Jesus comes to where we are, in a broken world.  He redeems us who are helpless by becoming helpless.  He fulfills the Law in every aspect, while we are unable to do so.  And His baptism is the beginning of His ministry, where He gathers His redeemed brothers and sisters in the Church of every age, from the first disciples to the very last baptized Christians before His return and the end of the world. 

And the work of baptism is God’s work, dear friends.  For “when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him.”  And we see the action of the Most Holy Trinity, as the Son fulfills the Law, as the Holy Spirit descends upon our Lord “like a dove,” and the voice of the Father is heard: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

For the Son is perfect.  He has no sin.  He fulfills the Father’s will in perfect obedience.  The Holy Spirit descends upon Him.  And for the first time since the Garden of Eden, a man is publicly declared to be perfect, to be the Son of God in the flesh, confirmed to be beloved of the Father – and yet He will, in three years, receive the wrath of the Father for all of the sins ever committed. 

For this is what it means, dear friends, that Jesus fulfills “all righteousness.”  Apart from the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope of being rescued.  We deserve hell and death.  But by His fulfillment of righteousness, we too become adopted children of God, well-pleasing for the sake of Him who is the only-begotten of the Father.

And this righteousness is given to us as a free gift, dear friends.  For that is the meaning of the word “grace.”  Our Lord will receive God’s wrath upon Himself, as the one true sacrificial Lamb, without blemish, whose blood is sprinkled on us at our own baptisms, when the mystical action of the Trinity is called again to mind – for we are baptized with water, and we are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Righteousness is fulfilled.  We are rescued.  We are renewed.  We are made disciples.

This is how we poor miserable sinners have salvation, dear friends.  We deserve hell, but instead, we are raised to heaven.  We deserve death, but we are resurrected bodily from the dead.  We have earned separation from God and from each other, but we are gathered together and promised an eternal heavenly reunion and bodily resurrection with our deceased loved ones, and with our Lord Jesus Himself, our Savior and Redeemer, who fulfills all righteousness on our behalf.

And so we Christians are liberated from striving to keep the Law out of fear.  For we do not have to fear death and hell.  We are baptized.  We are redeemed.  We are beloved children of God in whom the Father is well-pleased.  And though we continue to struggle with sin in this life, we who have been graced with faith are also given the desire to repent, the call to strive to keep the Law, not out of fear, but out of gratitude to God and out of love for our neighbor.

When we are baptized, we are born again, and we do indeed grow in the love of God.  We grow by encountering Jesus in the Word of God and in the sacraments.  When we are absolved, we return anew to the baptismal font, where we are indeed again forgiven and declared to be His children with whom He is well-pleased.  And when we receive the Lord’s Supper, we participate in the sacrifice of our Lord at the cross, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, “for the forgiveness of sins.” 

We are here, dear friends, like John the Baptist, doing what Jesus invites us to do, what pleases the Father, what the Holy Spirit guides us into – as His beloved baptized.  Our sins are forgiven, and we are day by day being renewed into the image and likeness of God.  We are called to daily repentance.  And His fulfillment of all righteousness was given to you in your own Baptism.  It is a treasure. 

You are baptized.  You are forgiven.  You are saved by grace.  Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness. 

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The 2020 Election and a Dose of Reality

Hopefully, conservative people have learned something today. Violence is useless. The GOP is useless. Third parties are useless. Elections are useless. 

The Deep State is everywhere, and will not relinquish power. We do not live in a republic. We are ruled by technocrats and oligarchs. 

We are entering a period of one-party socialist globalist government. We have already been in cultural decline for quite some time. The Trump presidency was a speed bump on the way to the Great Reset. But it has been overcome. It took a bioweapon and election fraud, and it was achieved at a great price - but they pulled it off. 

We are looking at a radicalized Democratic Party controlling both houses and the presidency. They have the votes to pack the Supreme Court and take the judicial branch very quickly as well. Nothing can stop this. They have the votes to admit new states, open the borders, and consolidate their power for years to come. Again, nothing can stop them. We need to come to grips with this reality. 

There is nothing that any opposition can do. They have a radical and ambitious agenda that is economically and culturally Marxist. They control the schools, the popular culture, Hollywood, Wall Street, sports, entertainment, the mainstream media, Big Tech, Big Pharma, and the Academy. 

So we are going to have to look for solutions outside of the federal government and outside of their social and political control. There may be some respite at the state and local level - depending on where you live. But real resistance will take place in private communities. We must culturally secede. 

If you have money, figure out how to invest it or save it in ways that it can’t be tracked or seized. It may be crypto or gold or stuffing bills in a safe. It may be buying life insurance or land. No matter what your financial situation is, plan on frugality and thrift.  The state will try to get its fangs into you. 

Engage in offline economic activity: cash transactions, barter, etc. Disengage from government as much as possible. Pull out of public schools. Stay off of the government radar. Expect high taxes and inflation - and plan accordingly. 

Also expect a crackdown on the first and second amendments - and find ways to continue to exercise your God-given rights without any unnecessary contact with government. Be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. 

Understand that this could be a very long captivity. Babylon and the USSR were both 70 years. Read and collect subversive literature. Teach your children banned history, literature, and market economics. Associate with others who share your views, and get educated together. Remember, this is a long-term rebuilding project. We are planting seeds of trees that we will probably not see bear fruit in our lifetimes.

Be guarded in your speech and be selective about whom you trust.  You will need to think long and hard about lines that you will or will not cross. 

Encourage your children to get into the trades. We will always need plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, IT, etc. Be wary of mainstream universities. They not only generate debt and prepare students for careers that don’t exist, they also pervert the minds of young people. 

The most radical things that young people can do is not to start a podcast or run for Congress - but rather get married, have children, stay married, faithfully attend church, and form local communities. Stop watching TV and movies. Secede from poisonous pop culture.

Take care of your mental and physical health apart from the healthcare system where possible. Use preventive measures to stay healthy, and use natural medicine wherever you can. Expect a much more expensive and shoddy healthcare system - one that will be laden with waiting lists and bureaucracy, that will embrace euthanasia for the elderly. Expect a mental health system that will target the politically undesirable - and try to stay off of their radar screen. 

If ordinary people begin to see the folly of what the Democrats have in store, and begin to wake up, outstanding. But don’t expect to see anything of the sort for decades. People love the promise of ‘free stuff.’  They will have to learn for themselves how costly ‘free stuff’ actually is. We will need to hit Venezuela-style rock bottom before there can be a change in direction. Sadly, people need to lose their liberty before they treasure it and start to demand it again - and this is a generational thing. We didn’t get here overnight.

This is going to be quite a ride. It will be ugly. Business as usual is over. Don’t underestimate their malice and potential for inhumane and demonic behavior. Think before you act, and strategize like a chess player. 

And remember, God is still in charge. He allows His people to suffer, both as chastisement, as well as to accomplish His inscrutable will.  Be fervent in prayer and seek His will - knowing that Christ will come again. We ultimately know how it all ends!

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Sermon: Epiphany - 2021


3 January 2021

Text: Matt 2:1-12 (Isa 60:1-6, Eph 3:1-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany.   

Epiphany is a Greek word that means “showing.”  It has the sense of taking something invisible and making it visible.  And the only way to do this is to shine a light on something.

In the ancient world, light was a bigger deal than it is for us.  We can make artificial light and turn it on or off with the flick of the wrist.  Light is so abundant for us that we don’t even think about it.  We walk into a dark room and we flip the switch.  The only time we really notice it is during a power outage, when we still flip the switch out of habit and no light appears.

The word “light” appears in the Creed, describing Jesus as: “God of God, light of light, very God of very God.”  In our Christmas reading from the first chapter of John, the apostle testifies about Jesus: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

To see anything, dear friends, requires light to shine on it – whether it is the sun by day, the moon by night, or a lamp in the darkness.  The Psalmist calls the Word of God a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” 

And the very first thing that God created by means of His Word, on Day One of creation, saying “Let there be…” – was light. 

Light is pure radiant energy.  Nothing in the universe travels faster.  It behaves like a wave and like a particle.  And so, dear friends, Jesus is the uncreated light who created light; He is the Word by whom all things were made, and by Him, light was the first thing in all of creation.

But what does this have to do with today’s feast and the season of the Church year?  Today we reflect upon the coming of the “wise men from the east.”  They were not of the people of Israel.  They were Gentiles.  But even they knew about the coming of the Messiah, the Word made flesh.  And they “have come to worship Him.”  For Jesus came to take away the sins of the world – not for the sake of the Jews only.  All people, regardless of race or tribe or language have salvation by the coming of the Light into the midst of the darkness.  And what guided these wise men to their destination, to the child Jesus?  A star.

Of course, we don’t exactly what the star was.  Some say it was Halley’s comet.  Some say that it was a supernova.  Others say that it was a conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  But whatever it was, it led the wise men, these astronomers from the east, to the child Jesus.  It was by light that they were led to Him who is “God of God, light of light, very God of very God.”

But darkness hates the light, dear friends.  Evil hates the good.  Chaos seeks to overturn the created order of God.  Hatred wishes to destroy love.  Satan sought to extinguish the light by means of a man whose heart was enrobed in darkness, by the sinister King Herod.  For Herod loved his power, and he allied himself with the devil, the prince of darkness.  He tried to trick the wise men into revealing the child of light to that he could extinguish that life and that light through murder.  But the wise men were enlightened by an angel “not to return to Herod.”

The wise men followed the great light in the heavens, and they found the Christ child.  They offered Him expensive gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They “fell down and worshiped Him.”  For Jesus had shown Himself to them, and thus to the world.  Jesus gave them the great Epiphany: taking the hiddenness of the Creator of the universe and making Him visible to their eyes, making Him manifest to the nations of the world, whom Jesus will save by the greatest Epiphany of all: His sacrifice upon the cross.

The coming of the wise men was prophesied in our Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah, who begins by saying: “Arise, shine, for your light has come.”  He points out the “darkness” that “covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.”  But “the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Even the gifts that the wise men brought was mentioned by Isaiah: “gold and frankincense.”  And they brought gifts back from the Christ child, the light of the world: “good news, the praises of the Lord.”

The pattern of light all throughout the Bible – from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation – is there, and it is always associated with Jesus.  For He and He alone illuminates us and frees us from stumbling around in the dark.  He shines forth in our lives and leads us just as surely as God led the wise men by the light of the star.

And even in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it is impossible not to speak of our Lord’s ministry to the Gentiles in terms of light, dear friends.  For the apostle speaks of his own ministry to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”  And St. Paul goes on to say that it is the mission of the Church to bring the light of Christ, the “manifold wisdom of God” to “rulers” and “authorities.”  And what do we know by this light, dear friends?  It is revealed to us in the great epiphany of Jesus that in Him we have “boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.”

And by this light of the world, we learn another “mystery of Christ” that is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 

So, dear friends, whether your background is Jewish or Gentile; whether your ancestors came from Europe, Africa, Asia, or were native to this land; no matter what language you call your own –

the light of Christ shines upon you even as the Star of Bethlehem illuminated the entire world.  Jesus has come for you and to you.  He shines the light of His grace and mercy upon you.  He dies on the cross for you, and He rises from the grave for you.  He comes to you in the Lord’s Supper, where the words “for you” are repeated each and every time bread and wine are consecrated by His own enlightening words.  And our Lord will come again for you, to guide you safely to eternity, where it is revealed in the Book of Revelation that “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sermon: Funeral of Janet Duhon

29 December 2020

Text: Luke 2:25-32 (Job 19:23-27a, 1 Cor 15:51-57)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Bobby, Marilyn, Michelle, Sean, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: Peace be with you!  This greeting “Peace be with you” is used by Christians all over the world.  These are the first words that Jesus spoke to His disciples when He first appeared to them that first Easter as they were mourning His death.  You, dear friends, have been separated from a beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, colleague, and friend.  It is a terrible cross to bear at the end of such a difficult year.

Death has come to my household recently as well, dear brothers and sisters.  It is a pain that at times seems too much to bear.  Yes, indeed, we Christians mourn for our loved ones, but St. Paul teaches us that we don’t mourn in the same way as unbelievers, because we have hope – hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is risen!  And that makes all the difference.

For we are all condemned to death because we are all sinners – even the very best and most beloved among us, everybody: including you, me, and Janet.  But the Good News is that Christ died in our place, and gives us salvation by grace.  He rescues us because He loves us, not because any of us can save ourselves.  And it is precisely because we can’t that He died for us at the cross.

We heard St. Paul’s mockery of death: “O death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?”  For even though we suffer on account of death, it is Christ, the one who died on the cross to save us, the one who rose and defeated death, the one who appeared to the disciples after walking out of His own tomb, the one who destroyed death by His death, who said, “Peace be with you.”

It is for His sake alone that we too get to mock death.  For Jesus gets the last word.  And He gets the last word regarding His servant Janet, whom He called out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Jesus claimed her at her baptism, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death….  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

And so I will say it again, dear friends, the very words of our Lord: “Peace be with you!”

Our Gospel reading from Luke 2 just happens to be the traditional text that has been preached on the Sunday after Christmas for centuries.  And, within our Lutheran tradition, we sing this very passage of Scripture every Sunday after we receive Holy Communion.  And you will hear it again, dear friends, at the end of this service.

We treasure the account of St. Simeon because we are all just like him.  He is weary of life in this world, of waiting for the Messiah, for the “consolation of Israel.”  For God had told him that he “would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  And so Simeon, whom Scripture suggests was an elderly temple priest, treasured this Word of God in his heart.  And then, after waiting and waiting, it happened.  He encountered Jesus.  And his joyful words are now our song: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

Simeon could now depart “in peace.”  Death is not a terror for him, because He has encountered our Lord in the flesh.  For salvation is not some abstract idea or an intellectual concept.  Salvation is Jesus, dear friends: God in the flesh.  And now Simeon was at peace – the same peace our Lord refers to when He greets the disciples after His own death and resurrection: “Peace be with you!”

We are prepared for death, and we are at peace knowing that we have seen our salvation.  And for the Christian, death is just a temporary separation, for Jesus died for us, rose again for us, and saves us.

We also heard the words of Job, who said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”  “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” is a popular hymn sung at Easter in our tradition.  And notice that Job doesn’t say that he is going to be some kind of spirit floating around, or a disembodied angel in the clouds.  He speaks of the Lord standing on earth, and He speaks of being “in the flesh.” 

And this is so important, dear friends.  We Christians have so much more to look forward to than “going to heaven.”  We have the promise of the “resurrection of the body, and he life everlasting,” as we confessed in the Creed.  We know that God will create a new heaven and a new earth.  What this means, dear friends, is that you will see Janet again, in the flesh.  You will look into her eyes.  You will hear her voice.  You will share hugs and laughter.  You will eat and drink together again.  For Jesus did not come to turn us into anything other than what He created us to be: flesh and blood human beings, created in His image, and raised from the dead in the body, even as He was.  This is His promise.

And this is all packed into that little word “Peace” that St. Simeon spoke of, that Jesus greeted His disciples with, and that which we Christians constantly encourage one another with when we greet each other with “Peace be with you.”

And even as Simeon was waiting for the coming of the Christ, so too we await His return.  From the looks of things, we may not be waiting much longer.  So look to our Lord Jesus Christ, dear friends.  Do it now.  Look to Jesus, to our Redeemer, to Janet’s Savior, to the only one who can comfort us even in our mourning, to the only one who gives us peace: the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that surpasses all understanding.   

Peace be with you, dear friends, peace be with you!

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sermon: Christmas 1 - 2020


27 December 2020

Text: Luke 2:22-40, Gal 4:1-7

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The coming of Jesus had been foretold by prophets, and had been predicted by the Scriptures for four thousand years of human history.  And as the centuries rolled by, God revealed more and more about how His divine plan would unfold.  We learned not only details, like His descent from the tribe of Judah and from the kingly line of David, and His birth in Bethlehem of a virgin mother, but also the big picture: why God was coming into space and time, and taking on human flesh.

Jesus is leading the largest rescue mission in human history.  And he is not merely saving us from enemy soldiers, or a malicious worldly ruler, not just from some dread disease, or from an assault in the middle of the night.  Jesus is not just protecting our house from going up in flames, or merely preventing us from growing up in ignorance.  Of course, we have all kinds of human vocations through which God works to save us from these things.

But there was one thing that God could not do through ordinary men and women: to save us from our sins.  Jesus is God who broke into our sinful world, like a commando dropped behind enemy lines, to grab hold of us, to pull us out of harm’s way, and to return us to where we were meant to be.  His does this by redeeming us from our sins, by the shedding of His own blood as a redemption.  And this is not merely a king’s ransom, this is God’s ransom – for the cost to save us will be the physical life of God Himself.  This is a great mystery, and it is not something we fully comprehend.  But we do understand one thing, dear friends: love.  We understand what it is when someone loves us and is willing to do anything for us.  And in our lives, this is typically a parent or a spouse, though it might be a more distant relative, a friend, or even a complete stranger who risks his life to save us from some tragedy or other – even death itself.

We understand love, because even though we are broken sinners, we do experience our own imperfect love, love that is willing to sacrifice itself for the beloved.  Sometimes we are the one who serves others in love, and sometimes we are the beloved.  Love is what is needed to redeem us from Satan’s hatred, malice, lies, violence, and desire to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so it was necessary for our Lord to enter into a pitched battle with the devil, and to engage in mortal combat against him.  And mortal is was, dear friends.  For Jesus spoke of Himself when He pointed out that the greatest love of all is a person dying to save his friends.

But like any plan, this one was laid out logistically in advance.  There is strategy.  There are intricate alternatives.  And the mind of God was able to conceive of this plan even before the foundation of the world.  All that was needed was the “fullness of time” spoken of by St. Paul, when “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  For this is what we are, dear friends, adopted sons of God, adopted by virtue of the flesh-and-blood Son of God, who redeems us and gives us this gift of adoption.  And we are all sons whether we are men or women, for “son” here is a legal term, one who inherits property from the one who wills it.  God wills us everything, dear friends!  He wills us eternal life and all of creation that He has made for all of us, even though we foolishly rejected Him in the Garden of Eden, and we continue to do so today.  This love He has for us is what grace is.

His mission is to free us from slavery, for as sinners, we are slaves of sin.  But by His salvation, we are liberated, freed to be who God created us to be.  And so in Christ, as St. Paul says, “You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, an heir through God.”

And this was what was happening when the “righteous and devout” man named Simeon, whom we believe was an elderly priest who recognized the young child Jesus when His family brought Him to be presented at the temple.  Simeon had received a message from God, for “the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

St. Simeon was one of the final prophets of the Old Testament, an old man, a priest of the Law, who was to see the great shift from the Old Testament to the New, who was to see the young one who would fulfill the Law, by whose blood the Gospel, the good news of salvation, would be proclaimed.  Simeon received a preview, and even as he awaited the “consolation of Israel,” he was indeed blessed to see the Lord’s Christ, as promised.  For this Christ was not some kind of idea, not a spiritual goal for everyone to attain by meditation or spiritual formation, not a cosmic idea or life force.  No indeed!  This Christ was, is, and ever shall be Jesus, the second person of the Trinity who took human flesh, born of the virgin, who was crucified and risen from the dead, our Lord, our Savior, our Master, our liberator, our brother according to the flesh, and also our God!

And so salvation is not some abstract idea for us Christians, dear friends, not some kind of intellectual pondering or spiritual state.  Salvation is living and breathing: flesh and bone and mind and soul.  Salvation is tangible, for as Simeon took the child Jesus “up in his arms,” he “blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

Jesus isn’t simply a person who brings salvation to us, rather Jesus is God in the flesh, who is our salvation.  “For my eyes have seen Your salvation,” says St. Simeon.  And we also say this with him, dear friends, for we sing Simeon’s Song, the Nunc Dimittis, after we too have seen salvation with our eyes in the Sacrament of the Altar. 

We will sing along with St. Simeon again today.  And these words are not only Simeon’s words, but are also God’s Word.  And what’s more, they become our words.  Instead of beholding Jesus as the God who is veiled in human flesh, we see Him veiled under the forms of bread and wine.  But nevertheless, this is the same Christ, manifested in space and time, incarnate so that we can experience Him even in our fallen flesh.  For it is here, dear friends, in the world, in the flesh, and under siege of the devil that we need Jesus: “in the presence of all peoples,” as Simeon says.

For the incarnate Lord is present in His body and blood and in His proclaimed Gospel here in this place, and at Christian altars, fonts, and pulpits around the world, spanning the centuries, from the holy prophets to the holy apostles, and even to us: His holy church, His adopted sons who together are also the bride of Christ.  There is no one nation or people or race that has a claim on the faith, for as we sing with Simeon: “My eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles, and for glory for Your people Israel.” 

St. Simeon’s confession of the Christ child is connected to this same Jesus who will be crucified many years after St. Simeon will “depart in peace.”  Simeon prophesies to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also,” for she will witness her Son’s crucifixion, by which He will indeed save the world.  This Christ will not remain a child, but will become a man, a warrior, who will lay down His life for His friends, for His brothers and sisters, and even for His enemies.

So when you have received the Holy Sacrament, dear friends, as the Lord’s presence is with you in this wondrous miracle, this  mystery of faith, as you sing: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” think of this consolation of Israel, this long wait for your salvation to come, your liberator to release you from your slavery, this warrior who fights behind enemy lines to rescue you – and your children, your parents, your friends, and even your enemies – this salvation who is not an idea, but who is a person, God in the flesh, the baby in the manger, the sacrifice on the cross, the risen Lord, and the King of the Universe, the consolation of Israel: even Jesus Christ our Lord! 

Let our celebration of Christmas continue, dear friends, and let the fulfillment of St. Simeon’s waiting be the joy of your own life – even unto eternity!

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Sermon: Christmas Day - 2020

25 December 2020

Text: John 1:1-18 

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Gospel for Christmas Day is known as “John’s Prologue.  It is not only a beautiful passage, it is an unmistakable confession of Jesus: both as God, and as man; both the Son of God, and the Son of Mary; both human and divine.  It is a confession of Jesus as God, but distinct from the Father.  And it confesses His mission to save us poor, miserable sinners, and the fact that He saves us by grace.  It’s all packed in there, dear friends!

This one passage from the Bible is a summary of many doctrines about Christ, and yet this passage is not academic theology, but rather living, breathing, grace-bearing, potent words that comfort us, deliver hope to us, and instill in us a living and saving faith.

Centuries ago, the Church recognized the power of John’s Prologue, and for centuries, this passage was read by the pastor at the conclusion of every Divine Service.  It was known as “the second Gospel.”

This passage is abominable to Satan.  For it exposes all of his lies to detract people from who Jesus is.  For nearly every major heresy in the history of the Christian Church has had to deny something that St. John wrote here in his little introduction to His Gospel.

On one occasion, I was interviewed by a European reporter.  She asked me what my favorite Bible verse was.  I explained that I don’t have a specific verse, but John’s Prologue is the passage of the Scriptures that I think are the most comforting and sublime words ever written, and that John’s inspired words sum up the ministry of Jesus and what being a Christian is all about.

She did not report on this in her terrible article – filled not only with inaccuracies, but outright lies.  She reported her favorite verse, which she twisted out of context to support her belief in Socialism.  Of course, Satan is the father of lies, and Satan much prefers the false Gospel of Marx than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ – especially this pure confession of who He is.

We often find ourselves as Christians making the case that Jesus “is the reason for the season.”  And so He is.  But the world has grown so ignorant of who Christ is that we now must explain the reason for Jesus.  Our Lord did not come to institute Socialist economics or woke culture.  His mission is not to scold us into being nice, or to instruct us into being “good people.” 

His mission is to save us from our enemies: from sin, death, and the devil, and even when our enemy is ourselves.  Jesus is the Word, who was with God “in the beginning.”  But He was not only with God, He was God.  And through Him, through the Word of God, “all things were made.”  Jesus is the eternal God, the Creator, the very mind and language of God, to whom we owe our being and the existence of the universe. 

And of course, even unbelievers understand that the world is not as it should be.  They have all sorts of ideas how to fix it, and these ideas never work, but only make things worse.  We live in the darkness of sin and the crushing burden of our mortality.  But Jesus breaks into our darkness.  For “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Jesus illuminates us out of sin’s darkness, and He revivifies us, and gives us life in the midst of death. 

Jesus came to us in the darkness.  He came first to His own family and nation.  As John testifies: “the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”

Of course, the rejection of Jesus resulted in His passion, His crucifixion, and His death.  For this is how Satan and the world deal with light: to try to extinguish it.  They deal with life by trying to kill it.  They deal with the truth by responding with lies and deception.  And, of course, our Lord used Satan’s own means to destroy him.  For our Lord’s death on the cross was not a defeat, but a victory.  It was the reason the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  He was born and laid in the manger so that He would die on the cross.  For in that act of love, that moment of His death, He declared “It is finished!” – and Satan and His demons, sin, and death, were all destroyed by the Word that was with God and the Word that was God.

For John continues: “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

And this is the true message of Christmas.  It is the message of salvation, of rescue, of the defeat of all of the things that oppose us.  Jesus, “for us men and for our salvation… came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”

And was made man!  This is the joyful mystery, dear friends.  This is why we celebrate this great and wondrous day.  God became man, the Word became flesh, in order to dispel the darkness, and to restore life to our flesh that was dead in sin.  He came into our world in order to defeat death by dying, and to rise, so that we too shall rise.

This is why in the confession of the Creed, the clergy traditionally kneel at the words “And was made man.”  In fact, the custom is not only for the clergy, but for all Christians gathered together to drop to one knee out of reverence for this great and joyful mystery that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” 

And He has not come bearing the Law.  Rather the Law comes to point us to Him.  For Jesus comes to bring us the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation, as John confesses: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

May His grace and truth, this light in the present darkness, this life who has come to our world of death, may Jesus bring you comfort, joy, courage, and a true understanding of who He is, and who we are as Christians, dear friends.  No matter what happens in this life, our Lord has come “full of grace and truth” in order to deliver to us “grace upon grace.”  Jesus is the reason for the season, and salvation is the reason for the Word taking flesh and dwelling among us.  The light dispels the darkness.  The truth stamps out the lie.  Life overcomes death.  Merry Christmas, dear friends.  Merry Christmas.

Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.