Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"I Have Issues" - Again!

I had the privilege to be on Issues, Etc. this afternoon.  You can hear the interview here.  The topic was "Christian Dignity" and was in response to this piece called "Dignity Matters!" that I published at Gottesdienst Online yesterday.

The Rev. Todd Wilken is the host of the program, and Mr. Jeff Schwarz is the producer.  They are quite a team, and they make the program run like clockwork, putting guests at ease, and making live broadcasting interesting and fun.  They are unabashedly Lutheran, and yet they have a huge variety of guests on the program, addressing theological matters from the perspective of confessional, biblical, liturgical Lutheranism.  Issues, Etc. is something unique, a gem of not only worldwide outreach, but also of informative programming for the thinking Christian.

This was my sixth time at bat with IE - and I have enjoyed every interview.  Check out IE's On-Demand Archives for past programs.  I guarantee you will find something interesting!  

Leo sub crucem (The Lion Under the Cross)

Leo selected a cross to wear as a mark of one redeemed by Christ.  He chose for himself the San Damiano cross of St. Francis of Assisi, an appropriate crucifix as Leo is a seasoned animal rescuer - and we all know about St. Francis and his affinity for animals as constituent parts of God's creation.  In fact, we often refer to our home as the St. Francis Rescue Mission (no RSO status as yet...).

It is also a fitting reminder of the large version of the cross hanging in our kitchen that is a treasured gift from Leo's beloved "adopted uncle" Br. Latif Gaba, SSP (who also gave Leo the icon of St. Francis that hangs in his room).

Leo is a great help during and after the Wednesday night Divine Services: collecting the offerings, extinguishing the oil lamps, opening the door, sharing the altar guild duties with Miz Grace, helping me distribute the offerings and communion cards, and assisting with with shutting off the lights and locking up.  He has a true reverence for the holy things, and takes great care in his work.  I explained to him this morning (during our reading from 2 Chronicles) that his work closely mirrors the work of the Levites in the temple.  He goes about his work with great solemnity.

He also sings the hymns and the liturgy with gusto.  And the lad knows his theology and scriptures!  He leads all the family table prayers in either English or Latin (sometimes chanted Gregorian style).  We pray daily morning prayer together, and we are about to start saying the Apostles Creed in Latin.  He participates in our One Year Bible readings as part of morning prayer, and follows along in the ESV.  He will begin Confirmation class with me this fall.

Thank you to Leo for your (largely behind the scenes) help every Wednesday!  Miz Grace and I are blessed indeed!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bach Speaks English!

Summer School!

School is year-round at Beane Academy!  There are lots of extra things to do at our local library.  Leo had to read ten books to be named a champion and be eligible for a drawing (he just made it last year reading the required fifty books to qualify).  We do a lot of reading - officially and unofficially.

Math is in session six days a week this summer, and Leo is expected to start 4th grade math by Thanksgiving.  Good job!

Leo and Vicar helping to make catfood.  Someone might say, "Don't try this at home," but, that's exactly the kind of thing we do at home!

"Watch those fingers!"


Summer Art and Science 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Not My Boy, Not My School

Although he makes no reference to this song in the article, I can't help but think of Rev. Dr. Steven Hein's "The Intent and Effect of American Progressive Education" in A Handbook for Classical Lutheran Education.

His essay opens:
Very few of us today are aware of the history of education in America.  It is commonly thought that whatever innovations have come over the centuries and decades, they have been conceived and implemented with the goal of improving pedagogy to enable the learner to learn more and and to learn more efficiently.... with the goal of improving education for all our children - that is, to make our children better educated.  Unfortunately, this is not, and has never been, the case with compulsory, government-administered progressive American education whose beginnings can be traced to the middle 1800s in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia."
And it continues in this provocative and well-documented fashion, with a devastating look at how America went from being almost 100% literate to being pitiful in the area of reading - and this was not a failure, but rather a success, of the architects of progressive education.

Buy this book!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"I Am Their Flag" recited by H.K. Edgerton

"I Am Their Flag" is a poem written by Michael Bradley. It is recited here by H.K. Edgerton.

The Confederate battle flag did not stand for a government. It is a symbol of soldiers and civilians, white and black, men and women, elderly and children, who stood defiant against invasion at the hands of a foreign state. It is a symbol of common shared history, heritage, suffering, and the aspiration of for freedom, for independence from a domineering and aggressive federal government.

Like any symbol, it is abused and misused by people all across the political spectrum for their own agendas. But this is what the flag means to those descendants who today see past all the self-serving rhetoric of politicians and their gullible acolytes from the fringes of the left and the right. This is what the battle flag means to those, like Mr. Edgerton, whose ancestors defended their families and homes from aggression - a struggle that goes on in every time and in every place around the world.

We will not be bullied or intimidated by cowards and quislings (regardless of their political views) who don't get it and who never will.

God bless H.K. Edgerton, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and all other historical organizations dedicated to the memory of those who sacrificed, fought, and in hundreds of thousands of cases, died for independence during the Southern national period and in all other epochs of human history when brave men and women said "no" to tyranny.

The "you lost get over it" attitude of ignorant mockery displayed by many today is yet another example of the slide of our culture into barbarism, where "winning" is more important than honor.  What a slap in the faces of, say, the more than 58,000 Americans who perished in the lost cause of the Vietnam War to imply that they should not be remembered or honored because "they lost."  The Confederate battle flag stands defiant also against such cultural shallowness and outright hatred of anyone who wishes to be left alone.  It is a symbol that is as relevant today as it was when our great-great-grandparents first unfurled it.  It is the property of all Americans, and indeed of all people around the world, who refuse to bow before the idol of Caesar.

Deo vindice!

Sermon: Trinity 9 – 2013

28 July 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 16:1-13 (2 Sam 22:26-34, 1 Cor 10:6-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.”

This is how the Dishonest Manager got his nickname.  It’s not that he was treating people unfairly, making people lie about their time cards, or embezzling funds.  No, his dishonesty is rooted in “wasting” the “possessions” that he was supposed to manage.  For when we are entrusted with property that is not ours for the sake of management, we sometimes begin to think the stuff actually belongs to us.  We feel entitled.  We serve ourselves instead of the real owner.  And that is dishonest.

In the world of business, this might take the form of using the company car for personal business, or using the company credit card for purchases unrelated to work, or cashing in personally for research done on company time.  Of course, if the boss approves of such things, there is no wrongdoing.  The owner of the business may well grant such privileges.  But in our Lord’s story, the owner finds out some other way, saying: “What is this that I hear…?”  This offense goes way beyond the using of the wrong cover sheet for TPS reports. 

The Dishonest Manager has been caught breaking the seventh commandment – not necessarily by outright theft, but by poor stewardship of resources entrusted to him.  “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions,” as we say in our catechism, “or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”

The protagonist of our Lord’s story is dishonest because of his poor stewardship.  He squanders that which is not his own, rather than helping the boss to “improve and protect his possessions and income.”

All Christians are stewards, managers of property that really doesn’t belong to us.  And we become so entitled as to believe that we own that which belongs to God.  Now, we are given the gifts that the Lord provides us, especially life, liberty, and property – as we learn from natural law.  But the deep reality is that these gifts are on loan to us by our Lord.  He breathes life into us, and then He recalls us according to His will.  He grants us freedom to move about, and may also, by allowing persecution, infirmity, or financial limitations, cause us to stay in one place.  He provides us, whether directly or by opportunity, with the daily bread we need “to support this body and life,” including necessities and luxuries, including money and property – and we are to manage all of these things – even our very lives – for the sake of the kingdom.

So where does the kingdom of God fit in to our priorities.  If we get a raise, do we give to the Lord first?  To we put less in the plate in order to save for a vacation?  Are the tickets to the game more inspiring to us than the spread of the gospel through the work of the church?  Do we spend more time shopping for clothes that we don’t need than we do clothing our impoverished brethren here and around the world who lack the simple necessities of life?

And what about our time, dear friends?  Do we spend more time on facebook or in the Holy Book?  Is a one hour church service “tortuous” while even double overtime in a Saints or LSU game goes by in the blink of an eye?

Do you know more trivia about the royal baby than the truly eternal important confession of the real Royal Baby, the King of the universe who came into our world not to be photographed by mobs of paparazzi but to be beaten and crucified by the raging mob for our sakes?  Are you more enamored with trashy television celebrities than you are of the holy prophets, apostles, and saints of the Church?  Do you spend more money on crawfish boils than on supporting the fishing of men through missionary work?  Do you know the words to pop songs better than the hymns and liturgy of the church?

These are hard questions, because none of us are very good stewards.  We in the United States live like kings and queens compared to the rest of the world, and yet our churches have to struggle just to meet the most basic bills. 

Brothers and sisters, this is Dishonest Management.  We need to take a good hard look at how we manage our time and money, our talents and our very bodies.  And we can start by examining how we view God.  As King David speaks to Him: “With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You deal purely, and with the crooked You make Yourself seem torturous.”

Is God an imposition on our time and treasure?  Does Christianity cramp our lifestyle?  Do we offer sacrifices of our possession and time only when we feel like it? 

The Lord is calling us to repent.  Repent, dear friends!  Let us repent with the urgency of our Dishonest Manager to save his own skin.  “What shall I do,” asks the manager when he realizes he is in trouble, “since my master is taking the management away from me?”  Dear friends, the Lord has not taken your management away from you.  There is time to repent.  There is time to become an honest manager, a good steward.  Now is that time!

The Dishonest manager’s plan is radical, because he realizes the dire straits he is in – and that is a blessed realization.  And though his solution is to cheat, the owner sees into the manager’s heart, and realizes that he is zealous to protect that which he was entrusted with.  Jesus said, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.  For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”

Jesus is telling us to repent.  The secular world is more devoted to its religion than we are to ours.  The unbelievers operate with more shrewdness than we do.  And even though the Lord Jesus has given us everything as a free gift, has made us co-heirs with Him of everything the Father has given Him, we are still stingy and selfish and not satisfied.  We want to justify ourselves in our messed up priorities.  Again, dear friends, this parable is a call to repentance.

For “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.  If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

“One who is faithful in a very little….”  We need not start with much.  The Lord sees our faithfulness even in a little.  Even a mustard tree begins with a tiny seed.  But we need to repent, by, in the words of Luther, letting God be God.  He needs to be our priority.  If you do not support the congregation, you can begin by committing, promising, and following through with putting a single dollar a week in the plate.  It is a commitment, whether you are here or not.  And if you currently do not pray or have family devotions at home, you can commit, beginning today, to pray the table prayer before meals.  It takes literally a few seconds.  And if you do not read the Bible on your own, you can make a promise to God and to yourself to take a Portals of Prayer with you and spend a few minutes a day in the Word of God.  And you can make a vow, a pledge, that unless you are ill or out of town, you will be here, listening to the Word and partaking of the sacraments, each and every week – no matter the weather, no matter what is happening in our community.  Doing so will enrich your life in ways you do not even know.

The Lord wants us to hear and to act because He loves us!  He does not want us scurrying after false gods, idols that will not make us happy, wasting His resources on things that ultimately don’t matter.  For in eternity, what counts is that which is eternal.  Nobody will even remember a couple years from now who won the game, what kind of wheels you have on your car, or what kind of jewelry you have. 

Remember, as St. Paul teaches us anew, “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God is faithful, dear friends!  He gives us everything we need to live and to provide for our families!  He even takes our suffering and death to the cross!  He forgives all of our sins and invites us into His kingdom with no strings attached, as a free and full gift!  He gives us eternal life and assures us that we are counted among the redeemed by Holy Baptism and by the faith He has given us to begin with.  All of this is yours, dear friends, by virtue of Jesus, by His blood, and according to His boundless love and mercy.  We are rich beyond measure, and the Lord invites us into His kingdom, where we are privileged to work for Him as the greatest and most generous Master of all, where we are paid an infinite sum, and where we are entrusted with the true riches of eternal life. 

To Him be praise, honor, and glory, forever and ever. Amen.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

States are Nullifying Federal Law!

Here is an article concerning the mainstreaming of the concept of nullification, which is being dusted off from the days of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John C. Calhoun.

This is one issue that unifies freedom-loving people from the left (who are resisting unconstitutional federal marijuana laws) to the right (who are resisting unconstitutional federal gun laws).  The federal government is too big, too intimidating, too powerful, too expensive, too expansive, and it is time for it to get back into its constitutional cage before it is too late.

Even if you are against marijuana and for gun control, these laws should be passed in accordance with the federal constitution and the rule of law.  Governments that are permitted to act above and outside the law quickly descend into the realm of concentration camps, police states, and Orwellian totalitarian bureaucracies.  The founders created a federal system of checks and balances - one of which is the check of the states against the federal government.  As it stands now, the only arbiter to determine the extent of federal power is the federal government itself.  This is antithetical to the very notion of republican government and individual liberty.  It is the legacy of Marx, Lincoln, Bismarck, and Mussolini.  And we see how it has worked in the international failure of 20th century history.  Every one of these advocates of big, centralized government acted "for the good of the people."

So they claimed.

It is gratifying to see the 21st century American people - from both sides of the aisle, as well as those who have opted out of the left-right paradigm - coming together in defense of liberty.  Nullification is a peaceful and lawful response to tyranny.  And it works!  We see an apostolic example of individual nullification in Acts 5:27-32.

For more about nullification, check out this magnificent book.  And here is a primer on the various kinds of nullification.

You can read more here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Catching up...

Dear FH readers:

Blogs are not what they once were, and I allowed FH to pretty much lapse.

My recent trip to Fort Wayne was really overwhelming as to how many of my friends and colleagues (old and new) are FH readers.  I have been limiting my writing (for the most part) to Gottesdienst Online and to my facebook timeline (the latter of which is locked down considerably for the sake of my family's security).

I am working on getting caught up with my sermons, and am posting them in reverse order.  I also have some articles floating around in my head that I have been planning on writing, but have not done so.  My only impediment is time.  To me, writing is a form of relaxation - which takes time - something that nearly every parish pastor is short of.  Nevertheless, writing is both relaxation to me (which is important and can be grabbed  a few minutes at a time), and is good mental exercise.

So I'm going to try to post more often.  All of my FH posts do automatically post to my fb page - except older sermons which I post here by the date that I preached them.  Facebook has a time limit.

I have a lot of wonderful pictures from my trip back to the Fort, and it was a pleasure and an honor to spend valuable time learning from, and with, many of you - especially my colleagues at Wittenberg Academy and many of my former professors at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Peace in Christ!

The Excitement and Beauty of Free Market (Austrian School) Economics

Tom Woods opens this year's session of Mises University.  This is a brilliant introduction to Austrian Economics, cogently presented with the blend of intellectual acuity and conversational enthusiasm that typifies Dr. Woods.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon: Trinity 8 – 2013

21 July 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 7:15-23 (Rom 8:12-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  The Lord tells us that “on that day,” many will point out that they have prophesied and exorcised in His name, and even worked miracles – expecting these works to save them.  The Lord will reply to them: “I never knew you; depart from Me you workers of lawlessness.”

Is this the Gospel of the Lord?

Are these the words of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Are we judged by our works?  Are we to seek admittance to the City of God based on our deeds?  If this is the long and short of it, dear friends, we might as well quit right now.  We are indeed poor, miserable sinners.  For by the fruits of our sins the Lord knows us. 

And while our Lord’s words are sobering, and while they do exhort us to good works by putting our faith into action, our Blessed Lord is truly preaching the Gospel to us.  For not even workers of miracles, exorcists, and prophets can use their supposed good works to gain admittance to heaven.  Their works are counterfeit, because their faith is counterfeit. 

Our Lord explains this in the previous paragraph: “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”  A better translation is: “A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can an evil tree bear good fruit.”

It’s all about the tree.  For if the tree is bad, the fruits will be bad, though they may even appear good.  Just as a peach may look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside it is sour, filled with bugs, and bitter to the taste.

This is the Lord’s point, dear friends.  The goodness of the fruit depends on the goodness of the tree.  If the tree is evil, not even the good-looking fruits are truly good on the inside.  And if the tree is good, not even the sad and unimpressive fruits are evil.  It’s all about the tree.

Our works that “serve our neighbor” do indeed “supply the proof that faith is living” in the words of the great hymn “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.”  We are not righteous because of these works.  Rather our righteousness comes from the source of these works: our faith.  A healthy faith produces good works.  A counterfeit faith produces fraudulent works.  Man can be fooled by phoniness, but not the Lord. 

And, dear friends, this is what our Lord means by “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  He warns us not to fall prey to them.  He says that you will “recognize them by their fruits.”  A wicked teacher teaches falsely and lives wickedly.  And a false prophet can lead the gullible and ignorant astray.  The Lord is warning us, dear friends!  You must be able to discern a false teacher from a good teacher, one who teaches the truth versus one who proclaims lies.  You will know them by their fruits.  For their teaching and life will not match the Word of God. 

This is why we preachers are exhorted to preach the Word, and you hearers are exhorted to hear the Word.  This is why we have Bible class.  This is why we study God’s Word.  This is why we pray the Psalms.  This is why we retain the historic liturgy.  This is why we teach children the Catechism.  This is why we expect every Christian to be able to discern truth from a lie.  This is why we insist that people come here to this sanctuary to hear the Word preached.  This is why if they cannot come, their pastor will go to them.  This is why the Christian life is no child’s play.  Living constantly in the Word of God, week by week, day by day, moment by moment is not an option.  For “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.”

The word translated “healthy” to describe the tree that bears good fruit is actually the Greek word “good.”  This is the same word that described sinless and perfect creation in the Garden of Eden.  The word translated “bad” is actually the Greek word “evil” from the Lord’s prayer: “deliver us from evil,” that is, “from the evil one.” 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the tree of your faith has been planted by the Lord’s Word and watered with Baptism.  It has been nurtured and tended through the tilling of the soil by preachers.  The weeds are removed by Holy Absolution, and the sunshine is the coming of the Son in Holy Communion.  A tree that is planted by God, watered by His sacraments, and fortified by His Word is a good tree.  It is not yet a perfect tree, but it is a tree that bears good fruit.

The warning of the Lord calls us to repent of that which produces bad fruit.  Our works will not save us, but if we are to have salvation and eternal life, we must have the faith given to us as a free gift: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  If our faith is genuine, we will see evidence of that faith.  If our faith is counterfeit, our works will show it.  And if your works point to a weak or dead faith, then this is a great gospel – for it calls you to repent and offers you a second chance.  It gives you the opportunity to pray that the Lord will heal the unhealthy tree and make it sound, good, and whole.  Only He can do this, He who placed man in a good garden surrounded by good trees.  Pray for the gift of repentance, dear friends!  Let us pray for a full life of good works that grow from a converted heart.  For this passage is not ultimately about the fruits, but about the tree. 

The Lord can and does take bad trees and make them good.  The cross is the prime example.  A tree of death has become the Tree of Life.  A tree of shame has become a tree of glory.  A tree of punishment has become a tree of righteousness.  And the fruit of the tree of the cross is the best fruit of all, the very blood of the Lamb shed for us poor miserable sinners for forgiveness, life, and salvation, the good miracle-wine that the Lord saves for last, given to us in the chalice as the New Testament in His blood, the cup of salvation, the good fruit of the Good Vine.

Every Christian is a bad tree made good.  Every Christian is a convert.  Every Christian bore bad fruit at one time.  Every Christian bears good fruit by God’s grace.  Today’s gospel is a gracious invitation to live a life of repentance, week by week, day by day, moment by moment.  It is not about our trying to make good fruit by our own effort, but rather about the Lord’s work on the tree so that the good fruit of forgiveness and eternal life is the result.  And that is indeed the Gospel of the Lord!  Amen.

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sermon: Trinity 7 – 2013

14 July 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our lesson from the Book of Genesis takes us back in time to the true Golden Age, the real “brief shining moment” from the play Camelot, when all was right with the world.

For “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

He was placed in a garden, a lush perfect home teeming with life, devoid of death, replete with vegetation, and where the idea of predatory behavior by man or beast was unknown and unimaginable.  And the garden was watered by four magnificent rivers, flowing into one, around the lands of gold and fine gems.  The man was to “work” and “keep” the garden – only this “work” was not what we have today.  It was not hard labor.  It was not a struggle.  For there were no weeds, no destructive bugs or diseases, no mutated forms, no fruitless vines, no need for fertilizer, and no thorns.  The man did not even need to break a sweat.

And the man was given rights to every tree in the garden, filled with genetically rich and perfect fruits.  Every tree, that is, except one.

When we fast forward to our epistle reading, as the holy apostle writes under the inspiration of the Spirit concerning the consequences of the end of the Golden Age, the conclusion of Camelot, the beginning of hard labor and enmity with nature, and the looming enemy of death itself – the language is quite different.

Look at the words St. Paul uses here: limitations, slaves, impurity, lawlessness, and death.  He speaks of fruit, but not the genetically rich and perfect fruits of paradise, but rather, the “fruit… from the things of which you are now ashamed…. For the end of those things is death.”

We are not only hereditary participants in Adam’s mortal sin, we are willing and eager purveyors of our own sins.  We sin much daily in thought, word, and deed.  We gripe against God, against our neighbor, against our parents, against those in authority, against our neighbors, and even against people we have never met.  We are despisers of God and murderers of men, adulterers, thieves, and liars – if not in deed then in thought.  We are covetous and shameful; poor miserable sinners the lot of us.

And we live in a world of hard labor, of weeds and thorns, of insects and disease, of predatory behavior both human and animal.  Our hearts are filled with envy, spite, lust, and wrath.  We are spoiled and generally unrepentant.  We lash out at anyone who calls us to repent.

And yet we invariably describe ourselves as “good.”

Scripture tells us otherwise.  We are not good, dear friends.  That word “good” fell by the wayside when the prophecy, the warning, was fulfilled: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”

And indeed, dear friends, you shall surely die.  That is our common lot in life.  I can’t predict anyone’s future in here, who will be successful and who will fail, who will find love and who will be lonely, who will enjoy creature comforts and who will suffer want, who will live healthy lives and who will bear the cross of lifelong sickness – but I can guarantee each person in this holy place one thing: “you shall surely die.”

“You shall surely die.”  And there is not one of us here that deserves anything else.

And yet, the apostle does not leave us in the grave.  For that Old Adam does not have the final say.  “But now…,” St. Paul assures us, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

Instead of the bitter fruit of death from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we have been restored to eating the sweet fruit of the tree of life.  And although the wages we have earned by our sins is death, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And instead of eating bread by the sweat of our brow, we are promised the very bread of life, as a free gift: the true body of the author of life, through whose blood we have the free gift of eternal life.

In our gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ confronts another reality of this broken, predatory, death-laden sinful world: scarcity.  Hunger is a reality in this world.  Much of what we do concerns staving off hunger, want, and poverty.  For the abundance of Eden has been replaced by the scarcity of the fallen world.  There is simply not enough to go around.  And mankind scrapes and competes against one another for the daily bread that ultimately comes down to us from above like the manna of old, though we seldom recognize it.

The miracle of the feeding of the four thousand is so much greater than meets the eye.  It isn’t only that Jesus is God with the power over molecules, atoms, time, and space.  For look at what He does with this power: He has mercy; He has compassion; He alleviates want; He sets aside the scarcity we deserve to give us a foretaste of the abundance that we do not deserve, and yet which is ours as a “free gift” from His hands, His nail-scarred hands.

He blesses the bread, breaks it, and hands it to His ministers to distribute to the people.  “And they ate and were satisfied.”  There was no want, hunger, poverty, or need there.  In fact, there was no scarcity.  There was abundance, as this holy bread was multiplied according to Christ’s Word and work.

What a glorious picture of the Church, dear brothers and sisters!

And though we yet struggle with scarcity in this sinful world, we have a foretaste of the Golden Age to come.  And here in this holy sanctuary where Jesus blesses, breaks, and hands off the elements to His ministers to distribute to the people, scarcity is set aside.  Sin is atoned for.  Bread and wine are eaten and drunk, and they are truly the body and blood of Christ, given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

And though in this time and this place, we experience this abundance as a “brief shining moment,” it is truly an eternal moment, as we look forward to the consummation of the kingdom with the eyes of faith, when all will again be right with the world.  That is the Lord’s promise and that is our hope.  That is the “free gift… in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Amen.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sermon: Trinity 6 – 2013

7 July 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:17-26 (Ex 20:1-17, Rom 6:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Jesus, at least in our English translation of the Gospel, actually uses the verb “relax.”  Normally, this is a lovely word: “relax.”  It conjures up wonderful summer images of the beach and sand, of massages, of taking a day off work, of rest and pleasure.

As timely as this might be according to the world’s calendar in the middle of summer, this is not what Jesus means.  Sorry.

The word here means to “loosen,” as in a shoelace or a horse’s rein.  Jesus said: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”  He goes on to state the opposite, that greatness in God’s kingdom involves doing the commandments and teaching the commandments.

We heard yet again those Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, inscribed upon two tablets of stone by the very finger of God.  We learned these commandments very likely as children, as we learned the explanations in the catechism answering the question: “What does this mean?”

And we Christians have a strange relationship with the Ten Commandments.  We can’t keep them, and yet we are expected to keep them.  Jesus has fulfilled them, yet we are still to do and teach them.  The Commandments accuse us and condemn us, and yet we pray with the Psalmist that we love the law.

Dear friends, this only makes sense because we are Christians. We are sinners who have been redeemed by Christ.  We are baptized.  We are reborn.  We are called by name and baptized into the name that is above every name.  We are Christ’s and He is ours.  We are His sheep; He is our Shepherd. 

And as our Shepherd, the Lord warns us about the greatest temptation of all: to “relax” the commandments.  That is not a relaxation that is good for us at all.

For you see, we know that we are sinners.  We know that we cannot keep the law.  We know that Jesus died for us to forgive us.  We know this gospel, this good news of our redemption in Christ.  And so our Old Adam, our sinful flesh, is tempted to sin because of that redemption.  After all, we’re forgiven.  After all, Jesus said that even committing lust and wrath (two of the seven deadly sins that are the 6th and 5th Commandments as we’ve learned them), committing these sins only in our minds is still to commit the sin.  So, if we are sinning just by thinking of them, thinks our sinful flesh inwardly, what’s the difference if we actually do them?  After all, we are forgiven, right?

“Therefore, whoever relaxes…”

For Jesus did not come to “abolish,” but to “fulfill.”  And He fulfilled the law not only by not sinning, but also by suffering, by dying, by bearing our cross and paying our penalty, by being buried for us, and by rising again to lead us to the way to eternal life!  “For truly,” He says to us, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Dear friends, look at what a gift that our Lord Jesus has given us!  See how much He loves us!  Behold the victory that we have in Him!  Each and every commandment protects those gifts, those sacred and divine graces, given to us that we don’t deserve.  And by His grace and mercy, we have triumphed over Satan.  There is no fleeting pleasure in any sin that makes that sin worthwhile; there is nothing to be gained in the short term by wrongdoing that is greater than the joys that await us in eternity that were won for us by our Lord upon the cross!

For our Lord tells us what it means to be righteous, truly righteous: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Now the scribes and Pharisees were devoutly religious people.  They studied God’s Word daily.  They prayed around the clock.  They gave huge offerings to the temple every week.  They fasted twice as often as was required.  They were not content with merely keeping the Ten Commandments, and so they made up hundreds of new laws to keep.  And they found clever and creative ways to keep them.  And that, dear friends, was the problem.

Jesus punctures their self-defined righteousness like a balloon being popped by the sharp, fine point of His Word.

“You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not murder…. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother,” or “insults his brother,” or says “you fool,” is subject to punishment – including “the hell of fire.”

We are not sinners because of what we do.  We are sinners because of what we are.  And no amount of rules and regulations will change that.  No clever way of interpreting the law will save us.  For in spite of what we might think, Jesus has not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets… not an iota, not a dot.” 

Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Our righteousness must exceed…

And in Christ, dear brothers and sisters, in Christ, it does.  Our Lord has won forgiveness for us because we could not do it.  Jesus has kept the law for us because we are unable.  There is no room to boast.  We have no cause for pride.  For we are expected to keep the law, and yet we fail.

And yet, dear brothers and sisters, in our failure, the Lord wins the victory for us.  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

And though we dare not relax the law to conform to our sinful flesh, we can relax from our anxieties and our fears that we are not good enough, that our righteousness does not exceed the scribes and the Pharisees.  For we have been baptized, and dear friends, we have been called to walk in newness of life in Christ and with Christ, through and by the same Christ who did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it!  He has done this for you, dear friends.  Let us consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Amen.


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