Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sermon: Laetare (Lent 4) – 2014

30 March 2014

Text: John 6:1-15 (Ex 16:2-21, Gal 4:21-31)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The cause of all human dissatisfaction and unhappiness is not the want of food, but the want of faith.  For without faith, we are left to depend upon ourselves.  And so we use all of our supposed superior intellect to plan our lives, to pass laws and rules and regulations to ensure fairness, and then convinced of how smart we are, we see every human attempt to end poverty fall into total failure. 

It’s not that we lack enough bread.  For Jesus has already proven that this is no obstacle to Almighty God.  Rather we lack faith.  We would rather grumble that God is not feeding us our way than to submit to His way and to be filled with all that we need according to His will and ways.

It all began at Eden when superabundance of all the perfect food for mankind was freely available with no labor needed – and that was still not good enough for Adam and Eve, who were talked into grumbling by the serpent, who then talked them into taking matters into their own hands.  For again, they did not lack food, nor anything material at all, they lacked faith in the promise of God to provide for them.

When Moses had miraculously led the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery, when they saw God repeatedly strike Egypt with plagues while sparing His people, when they experienced the hand of God delivering them across the Red Sea while drowning Pharaoh’s army, instead of praising God with faithful hearts, eagerly awaiting His next blessing, rather “the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”  They lamented that they didn’t die in Egypt with bellies full of meat and bread.  And they blamed Moses and Aaron and accused them of bringing them out “into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

And in the face of their rebellion, grumbling, and desire to take matters into their own hands, the Lord continued to bless them and provide for them, giving them the miraculous bread of the manna in the wilderness.  And if that weren’t enough, the Lord provided huge quantities of meat for them in the form of quail.  And even then, some of the people tried to hoard the manna in direct violation of the Lord’s instructions.

Again, even when they were loaded up with meat and bread, they were still not satisfied, because they lacked faith.

Our Lord Jesus Christ directly addressed the problem of scarcity and want, of poverty and hunger, when He challenged His apostles to provide food for the five thousand men (not counting the women and children) who gathered to hear Him speak.  For the essence of the problem is not a lack of food, but a lack of faith.  Reason itself cried out that one boy with five loaves and two fish could not feed thousands of hungry people.

And yet, in the face of all that our minds tell us to the contrary, in opposition to what reason said to the disciples, and even over and against the expectations of His thousands of listeners, Jesus did what reason says is impossible, but which faith says the Creator in the flesh can do with nothing other than His will, using nothing but His Word, and motivated by nothing except His compassion.  Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, and not only fed the multitudes, but even arranged for twelve baskets of leftovers to be carried away.

For the problem was not a lack of loaves and fishes, but rather a lack of faith.

And even after eating this miraculous meal, dear friends, the crowds sought to take matters into their own hands, and instead of submitting to His will, sought to “take Him by force to make Him king.”  Again and again, dear friends, this is our problem.  It is not a lack of food, not a lack of money, not a lack of fortune or luck or a job or education or circumstances or wealthy relatives or natural resources.  Our problem is a lack of faith!

And our Lord is calling us to repent of this!  We need to stop trying to micromanage our lives, trying to manipulate God, trying to use force to get our way with Jesus.  Dear brother, dear sister, you are not in control.  You are not God.  You cannot multiply loaves and fishes.  You cannot force God to do what you want.  You cannot control the circumstances of your lives, your boss, your grown children, your aging parents, your desires, nor even your own bodies.  And grumbling about it doesn’t help either.  Jesus calls upon us to hear His Word and allow that Word to build faith in us, the faith that comes by hearing, by hearing the Word of Christ, by hearing because you have someone preaching, and by hearing that preaching because a preacher has been sent to you.

Our problem, dear friends, in case I have been unclear to this point, is not our lack of material goods; our problem is our lack of faith.  Our problem is our lack of faith.  Our problem is our lack of faith.

For when we trust ourselves to achieve our goals, when we impede our own faith by shutting out, distorting, ignoring, or misinterpreting God’s will, we act like we are the slave children of Hagar, in bondage to sin, by the flesh, by the stubbornness of the will, enslaved by the law, rather than claiming our heritage as being the free children of promise, the sons and daughters of Sarah, not only hearing the Word, but rejoicing in the liberating forgiveness of that Word, the Word that went to the cross for us, the Word that declares us forgiven, the Word whose body and blood satisfy us with superabundance by faith in the promise given to us to eat and to drink in another miraculous Passover meal presided over by our Lord Jesus Christ!

In Christ, this food never runs out.  The bread and wine are joined to the Lord’s Word, and we are fed by the millions over thousands of years, by grace, through faith, according to His promise and testament, and multiplied by nothing other than His Word spoken over the elements – which are in turn received by us in faith, the true body and blood of the Lord.

And in this holy meal, dear friends, there is no dissatisfaction, no unhappiness, no want, no poverty, and no lack – because there is no sin!  The root cause of all poverty and want and hunger is done away with, and it is done so not by force but by faith.

Dear friends, we have been invited to “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her.”  This is because we bear the promise, we hear the Word, we partake of the fleshly bread of Christ’s body, and drink of the atoning wine of the Lord’s blood, we receive these miraculous and satisfying gifts by faith.  For “this is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  We do not have to force Him to be king, for He is also our King and Priest, the host and the victim, our very life in the midst of death.  He is the source and the object of our faith.  Although reason itself cries out that one Man nailed to a cross cannot forgive the sins of billions of sinful people, faith confesses that this is so!  Indeed, dear friends, through this faith, satisfied by the bread of life, let us “rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her” – now and even unto eternity.  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. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sermon: Wednesday of Oculi (Lent 3) – 2014

26 March 2014

Text: Psalm 25

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.”
This week is known by the Latin name “Oculi,” which means “eyes” – our eyes which are “toward the Lord” according to Psalm 25. 

So what does it mean to have our eyes “toward the Lord”?  Can we see God?  God is a Spirit, and moreover, God’s presence was withdrawn from us at the fall.  We are warned over and over in the Holy Scriptures that if we see God’s face, we will die.  Our Sanctus hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” was sung first by the prophet Isaiah, as he lay in terror on His belly before the presence of Almighty God.  “Woe is me,” he bellowed, “I am undone.”  Isaiah would never have dared raise his eyes “toward the Lord.” 

And we today can look up, down, left, and right, and we do not see God.  We do not have the beatific vision, we do not gaze upon the face of the Almighty as Adam and Eve did.  We don’t even get a brief glimpse of the Lord’s back, as Moses was allowed to do.

And yet, dear friends, as I entered the chancel in a priestly way on your behalf, we all sang together that our eyes are indeed “toward the Lord.”

In the beautiful poetry of King David’s Hebrew, our gaze is a symbolic one.  We are not able to see God, but we are able to look toward Him, as a sheep looks to his master, as a child looks to his parents, as the friends and foes of our Blessed Lord Himself were able to look to Him to address the charges that He was a demon.

We look toward that which is important.  Our eyes flit to what draws our attention.  We gaze upon that which we consider worthy of our time and notice.  And the Psalmist understands that it is the Lord who has rescued him, like someone releasing an animal from a trap, it is the Lord who is worthy of his attention and gratitude.

For we live in a broken, fallen world.  We are surrounded by traps and snares of demons and devils, by temptations and distractions, by the glitter and glamour of the world’s illusory and counterfeit glory.  The devil will not save us, but would rather destroy us; the world will not redeem us, but would have us weak and distracted; our sinful nature will not release us, but would see us curved in upon our sinful selves.  And any and all of these false gods would ensnare us in the net and drag us into the pit.

Dear friends, with King David, we confess that we are “desolate and afflicted.”  We know our condition.  We know that we have failed to keep the law.  We know that we are turned this way and that from focusing on the Lord who saves us.  We know that we are mortal.  We are as good as dead.

And we pray with David: “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed…. Bring me out of my distresses!  Look on my afflicted and my pain, and forgive all my sins.”

“And forgive all my sins.”

This, dear friends, is why our eyes are ever “toward the Lord.”  For who else can forgive our sins, cleanse our guilt, restore our souls, redeem our sinful flesh, and release us from the net of sin, selfishness, suffering, and death itself?

And we have an advantage that King David lacked, dear brothers and sisters.  For we can lift our eyes toward the Lord.  The Lord Jesus has come in human form, to live among us, to preach and teach, and to die and rise again.  We can look to Him in the way that He has promised to be with us, in the most holy sacrament of His very body and blood.  When the holy elements are lifted high, we gaze toward Him in His royal majesty, which is at the same time, in His humble nearness.  For our eyes are ever toward the Lord in His Word and in His sacraments, releasing us from the net, and liberating us to serve Him without fear.  We look to the cross, the atoning blood, the sacred iron-clad declaration of absolution from the Lord Himself.  We lift up our eyes and our ears, and He takes away our desolation and our affliction.

Dear friends, there is no other place to focus our eyes, no other presence in this universe worthy of our gaze.  For there is only one hope of being released from the net, and that is Him who filled the nets of St. Peter with fish and promised that he would catch men in those nets. 

The Psalmist concludes confidently: “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”  Amen, Amen, may it ever be so!

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.”  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, March 23, 2014

Sermon: Oculi (Lent 3) – 2014

23 March 2014

Text: Luke 11:14-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus makes it clear that it does matter what you think about Him. 

Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it matters what you believe about Him.  Opinions about Jesus today run the full gamut from those on the one hand who believe He is God in the flesh, to those on the other hand who believe He is a historical fabrication - and all points in between.  Some believe He is a fraud that was perpetrated by the early church (a very weird theory that meant that the people telling such a tale were willing to die under torture for the sake of it), others believe that He was a great rabbi (which doesn’t explain His betrayal to the hated Romans), a self-delusional Messiah (which doesn’t explain His miracles – including the empty tomb), and as our Gospel lesson reports, even as He was casting out demons, He was accused of being Satan.

From the moment of His miraculous conception, Jesus has been a lightning rod of the devil.  That is still true today.

However, even as Jesus is viciously attacked, He continues to teach and preach and cast our demons and heal.  He continues on the path set before Him by the Father.  He continues to reveal divine truths, to save those in need, to heal every manner of human sickness, and to entrap the devil in his lies.  Our blessed Lord continues to forgive sins and perform signs and wonders and beat back against the attacks of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, priests, scribes, the Sanhedrin, even as He will continue to defy and baffle Pilate, Herod, the high priest and his associates, and the mobs during His passion – and even on the cross, right up until the second of His blessed death.  And even there, dear friends, even on the cross, suffering unspeakable agony, bleeding, drowning in His own fluid, He continues to forgive, to heal, to carry out the sentence against the devil, and to preach and teach.

Today’s Gospel can only be understood in light of human sin.  And I don’t mean individual acts of sin, but the entire corrupted nature of mankind – which includes all of us in this room and on the planet!  For how out-of-reality must one be to look into the merciful face of God in the flesh, even as He works marvels and amazes people with public displays of mastery over the demonic and asserting dominion over them, all the while demonstrating love and compassion to all men in a way that the scribes and Pharisees do not – and then conclude that this must be the work of the devil?  How perverse must one be to see the work of divine power, of love, of mercy, of healing – and then call it evil?

Even in the face of their blasphemy, Jesus calmly shows them their error and bids them to repent.  Jesus is reaching out to them even after being insulted in this terrible way.  And “knowing their thoughts,” He shows the logical fallacy in their thinking. 

And He continues to proclaim the Good News to a world so jaded by sin and so demoralized by death that it can only seem to be skeptical and hardened, for even here is the proclamation: “the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

And He puts the whole matter into perspective simply and in a way that no reasonable person could misunderstand without wanting to misunderstand. He says: “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”

So what does Jesus mean for us today when He says, “with Me” and what does He mean by “gather”?

Jesus promised His Church that He would be with us always, even until the end of the age.  He is with us when and where His Word is proclaimed and His sacraments are administered, where preaching and Baptism and Holy Communion are given and shared, where “two or three gather” in His name.  And what higher privilege does the Church have but gather around the Lamb, in thanksgiving, in praise, in prayer, and in participation in the Holy Supper?  What is more glorious and transcendent, what is more truly human and complete than to be at the Divine Service?  This, dear friends, is how the Lord continues to beat back the attacks of the evil one among us today.  For as our Lord Himself demonstrated, Satan cannot withstand the “It is written,” of Holy Scripture, for “man does not live by bread alone,” but indeed by every Word from the mouth of God.

To be with Jesus, to gather, is to join the resistance, to fight back against Satan, to reclaim your compromised humanity.  And now, just as then, the world will often call evil good, and good evil.  The Church is cast as evil, as followers of Beelzebub, as intolerant, hateful, and outcasts, typically mocked, sometimes persecuted, never accepted.  But in fact, it is the Church that defends the very weakest, the bedraggled institution of the family; it is the Church that opposes slavery and every form of human degradation, upholding the dignity of each and every person, whom she confesses was created in the very image of God. 

By contrast, today’s worldly heroes are wisecracking, self-obsessed purveyors of hatred, seeking court injunctions and restrictions upon the rights and freedoms of Christians and the public confession of what we believe.  Or more to the point, against whom we believe in!

And that is really it, dear friends.  It all boils down to Jesus.  What do we believe about Him?  What do we confess about Him?  Do we gather with Him or scatter from Him?  Do we desire to be with Him or to be independent of Him?  Are we going to serve the world’s “strong man” Satan, or are we going to serve the Stronger Man, the truly and fully Human One, the Man who is God, the Man who has paid the price of the sins of all men at the cross?  Are we going to serve His blessed mother, or are we going to serve her Blessed Son who is the Word in the flesh which she birthed?  Are we going to serve a world that calls evil good and good evil, or are we going to serve our fellow Christians in the name of Him who is the Bridegroom of the Church?  Are we going to serve ourselves by choosing other activities instead of gathering with Him in our eternal fight against Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, or are we going to serve the only One who has ultimate dominion over every manner of evil, every demon, and over the devil himself?

Our confession matters.  Our proclamation matters.  Whether we are with Him or not with Him, whether we gather or whether we scatter – matters!  And it matters eternally, dear friends.  It matters eternally.

Blessed indeed, brothers in sisters in Christ, covered by His blood and sealed by His baptism, redeemed by His cross and promised a resurrection by virtue of His resurrection, yes, blessed are we, when we “hear the Word of God and keep it.” 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. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

No Sermon: Wednesday of Reminiscere (Lent 2) – 2014

No sermon on account of illness.  

Rick Iverson led Responsive Prayer with readings from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sermon: Reminiscere (Lent 2) – 2014

16 March 2014

Text: Matt 15:21-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul has famously linked faith and hope and love – while reserving to love the greatest honor.  And indeed, it is only by the creation of a God who is Love Himself that explains a world and a people capable of such abstract concepts which are also very concrete realities in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were created to not merely have faith, but to be defined by faith.  They believe in God because they trust in God.  There is no room in their innocent minds to doubt God or to doubt what He actually said.  And so they exist with hope, because they know with all certainty (thanks to their faith) that tomorrow will be just as perfect as today, even unto eternity.  And they live in perfect love, for the God who created them, for one another, and for the creation that fits together so harmoniously.  This triad of faith, hope, and love are man’s destiny according to the plan of our good and gracious Creator.

But of course, faith was to yield to doubt, as the serpent tempted our first parents into surrendering their faith.  Hope was shattered as uncertainty entered our existence after the fall.  And love diminishes as mankind falls into a kind of savage existence competing with one another for limited resources, which decays into theft and conquest and war and rebellion.

And this, dear friends, is our world.  And it is getting worse: doubt, despair, and hatred.  These are the rotten fruits of sin: that of Adam and Eve, that of our original sin into which we are born, as well as the damage we ourselves cause by our own sins in thought, word, and deed.

This world of doubt, despair, and hatred, this world of darkness and death, this world of the hellish separation between what God meant for us and what we have corrupted, is the broken world into which Jesus comes in His flesh. 

And on the occasion of our Gospel lesson, our Lord is wandering out into enemy territory, the land of the Gentiles.  For unlike the Sons of Jacob, the Gentiles lack the faith of the covenant, the hope of a Messiah, and are ignorant of the prophetic love of God made known through the temple sacrifices.  The diabolical stronghold of Tyre and Sidon are places one would least expect to find the Shepherd of Israel. 

And yet, He chooses to go there.  For the Sons of Jacob are not the only ones destined to receive the faith, hope, and love of Christ, but rather all of the Sons of Adam. 

And so Jesus finds someone who is as far away from the promises made to Jacob as you can get.  She has many strikes against her.  First, she is a woman – and by virtue of her sex, lacks even standing to meet with Jesus.  Second, she is a Canaanite – a Gentile of very low degree, for it was the Canaanites that the Israelites were told to eradicate from the promised land.  Her very existence is a reminder of the failure of the children of Israel to obey God’s Word.  She is despised by the Israelites.  And owing to her faithless, hopeless, and loveless state, her family has been made open to the realm of the demonic.  Her daughter is possessed by an evil spirit, a demon.

But something motivates her to take a chance, to risk making a long journey for nothing, to leave her distressed daughter behind and to look for help from her apparent enemy, from the Israelite preacher named Jesus.  She has obviously heard His Word through others proclaiming what He has done.  And in her dark world of doubt, despair, and hatred there is just a little glimmer of hope, like a tiny spark glowing faintly as it hits the straw.  Motivated by this little faith, she comes to Jesus and prays: “Lord, have mercy.”  She invokes Him as Son of David.  She knows who He is, as does the demon who oppressed her household.  And she knows what the Son of David can do.  And so in faith and hope she prays persistently for Him to hear her prayer and to grant her petition.

And Jesus ignores her.  Or that’s what it seems anyway.  He tests her faith and allows her to exercise it.  And in doing so, we have a record left behind that teaches us about faith and hope and love.  The disciples even offer a competing prayer to Jesus that He would abandon this woman in her need.  At first, Jesus seems to answer their arrogant prayer and seems intent on refusing to answer her humble prayer of “Lord, have mercy.”  Jesus points out that He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  He says that it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

And here, dear friends, is the turning point.  The Canaanite woman could have retreated into the darkness and bitterness of doubt, despair, and hatred.  She could easily have become cynical and turned aside from Jesus and fixed her eyes on the world of the demons.  But she doesn’t.  For the frail spark of her faith and the ever-so-slight glimmer of her hope are enough.  They are enough to ignite a flame that will consume the demons in hell.  And they are enough to create warmth where there was formerly cold, and light where there was formerly darkness.

She said, “Yes, Lord.”  She does not argue with our Lord’s assessment.  She yields to Him, confesses her unworthiness, and then and only then, does her great faith become visible to all – even in her desperate condition.

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman. Great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed instantly.

The darkness has been dispelled by light.  Sickness has been replaced by health.  The demonic has been upended by the good.  The excluded and marginalized have been included and embraced.  The devil’s curse of doubt has been exchanged for faith in the Word.  The despair that results from sin has been replaced by the hope of forgiveness.  And the hatred of sinful man for the God who is perfect has been replaced by love: love manifested by a sinless Man who is perfect and who is God.

This is St. Paul’s vision of faith, hope, and love, and especially of the triumph of love: the love of Christ.  The fall in Eden has been reversed, dear friends, reversed at the cross, where faith, hope, and love are on display before all the world, visible and invisible, to Jew and Gentile, to angel and demon, to Adam and Eve and to children yet unborn.  The Canaanite woman’s faith, hope, and love abide.  And the greatest of these is love, Christ’s love, dripping with the blood of the cross: the love of God for us poor miserable sinners, a perfect love that gives us faith and restores our hope, now and unto the ages of ages.  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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sermon: Wednesday of Invocabit (Lent 1) Midweek – 2014

12 March 2014
Text: Ps 91

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

This week in the church year takes its name, “Invocabit”, from the first word of our Introit in the original Latin. 

And as this is the first full week of Lent, we not only begin our journey to Calvary with Christ, we begin our skirmish with Satan as we make our way to the resurrection.

Our Introit comes from Psalm 91, which has traditionally been used in exorcisms and house blessings, and in other situations in which it is necessary to confront Satan and his minions.  And it makes sense that this Psalm should be paired up with our Gospel lesson, in which Jesus defeats the devil by quoting Scripture.  Ironically, the devil quoted this Psalm to try to trick Jesus into killing Himself.

Dear friends, here are two truths which are unpopular in today’s world.  First, Satan exists and tempts us to sin and wants to see us severed from our God, bereft of faith, repudiating our baptism, scorning the cross, denying Jesus, and he seeks to see us dead and eternally condemned.  Second, as Shakespeare said, the devil can indeed quote Scripture.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus has set a pattern for us to follow.  We must be willing to do battle with Satan.  We must not fear him, nor ignore him, but fix our eyes firmly on Jesus and wield the sword of His Word.  Psalm 91 is irksome to the devil and comforting to us.  Listen to these promises:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

We cannot trust the devil.  We cannot trust the world.  We cannot trust our fallen nature.  But we can trust the Word of God.  We can trust the God who loves us, created us, redeemed us, sanctifies us, and promises us everlasting life.

“For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

A mighty fortress is our God, dear friends!

“He will cover you with His pinons, and under His wings you will find refuge, His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

Listen to the comfort in this passage!  We are surrounded by demons and devils and evil and corruption and temptation and sin and death.  And yet, dear brothers and sisters, and yet, we need not fear because we have a shield to defend us against the fiery darts of the evil one, against the long knives that come out to stab us in the back, against the venom of the ancient viper that would paralyze us and kill us.  The cross is our shield!

For “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”  As Luther teaches us, Satan is like a raving dog on a leash.  He can growl and snarl and slobber and put on a big show, but the Lord God Himself has this beast tethered.

“For He (the Lord) will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”

Satan taunted our Lord with this promise, and encouraged Him to put His Father to the test, to attempt to commit suicide.  But, dear friends, our Lord resisted the devil with God’s Word.  He would not take the bait.  And indeed, the Lord promised to protect Him from all harm.  And that promise is made to all of us in Christ, dear friends!  Angels are dispatched for our protection.  Even when we are baffled and beaten down, war weary and ready to give up, our Lord does not give up, dear friends.  Jesus Himself continues to wage war against the devil for us.  And just as our Lord fulfills the prophecy by crushing the head of the devil at the cross, we who are baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord, we who share His human nature, we whose flesh has been renewed in baptism, who are quickened with the Holy Spirit and called out of our graves by our Lord Himself, we unite with Him to trample the vile serpent underfoot.

The Lord continues: “I will deliver him… I will protect him… I will answer him… I will be with him in trouble… I will rescue him and honor him…. I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

All of these ironclad promises have been made, dear friends, and they are invoked by our Lord, made manifest by the Holy Spirit, honored by the Father, and given to comfort us in our daily battle with the devil. 

And we can hurl this Word back into the malicious face of the vile devil, and we can speak as our Lord taught us to speak: “Be gone, Satan, for it is written!”  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, March 09, 2014

Sermon: Invocabit (Lent 1) – 2014

9 March 2014

Text: Matt 4:1-11 (Gen 3:1-21, 2 Cor 6:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Did God actually say…?”

With this question, Satan began his sales pitch to Eve and Adam.  Satan was not trying to sell her a laundry detergent, or a car, or a set of steak knives.  He was trying to sell her, and her husband, something that no-one in their right mind would want: death.

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”  asked the serpent.

He waited for the customer to make her objection, which she did: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  And here is where the crafty salesman went for the close: “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And so the opening line: “Did God actually say…”, designed to sow the seed of doubt, was followed up by the lie that breaking God’s law would not lead to death.  The serpent appealed to her vanity, he offered her benefits of Godlike power for buying what he had to offer.  And he closed the deal: “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Satan made the sale.  He sold death to people who were immortal; he sold sorrow and suffering to people who lived in perfect joy and peace.  He sold every human being who was ever born into the slavery to sin. 

Except one.

For God in His mercy, redeemed Adam and Eve and all fallen men created in His image, but who were fooled and corrupted by the crafty serpent, by the devil, by Satan.  God promised Adam and Eve a Savior, saying to the serpent, “He,” the Savior, “shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.”  And that “offspring” of the woman, or as the Hebrew text literally reads, that “Seed,” would be sown in the womb of a future daughter of Eve, He would be a Son of Adam who is the Son of God, who will fulfill the promise and crush the serpent’s head, making war against the devil, defeating him, not merely setting the clock this way or that, but radically turning back the ravages of time and death, making all things new, in a new creation: a new heaven and new earth, and renewing men and women for everlasting life.

But, dear friends, it comes at a terrible price.  For God told Satan: “You will bruise His heel.”  And indeed, there is a consequence of death as a result of the fall, as punishment for our sins, and that death was paid by the Offspring, the Seed of the woman, who was born into our world not to buy the lie of the sales-pitch of death, but rather to give away the truth of the grace of life – purchased “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

Three years before Jesus was to conquer the devil at the cross, He would meet the devil in the wilderness.  Satan made the same sales pitch to this New and Greater Adam, this Son of Adam and Eve, who is also the Son of God.  The devil tried to distort God’s Word and close the deal on the Son of God once and for all, but our Lord Jesus Christ was not buying it.

There was to be no “Did God actually say...?” this time.  Instead, the challenge was to go the other way: “It is written.”  Rather than allow the devil to cast doubt upon God’s Word, Jesus, who is God’s Word in the flesh, uses the Word as a sword to beat back the crafts and assaults of the devil.

The tempter first tried the sales-pitch of food, knowing that Jesus was hungry.  Our Lord replied, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

The tempter then tried to misuse God’s Word, quoting Scripture, but doing so out of context, challenging our Lord, appealing to His vanity.  “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

The tempter then offered to give Jesus Godlike power to rule the kingdoms of the world, and make his pitch that Jesus worship him.  “Then Jesus said to him, ‘be gone, Satan!  For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and to Him only shall you serve.’”

Thus the fall in Eden would not be repeated. This time, the Man defeated the crafts and assaults of the devil.  He did not buy the pitch.  He did not make a foolish transaction.  And the serpent was to slink away until a more opportune time, when the real battle would rage: the battle of the cross.  And it is at the cross where the bloody heel of Jesus would crush and mortally wound the devil, his lies, and all of his works and ways.

Did God actually say that a Seed of the woman would come to defeat the devil and redeem mankind!  Indeed, He did, dear brothers and sisters!  Indeed He did!  Once and for all.  God actually said, and God actually did! 

And so here we are, dear friends, at a crossroads of our own, the intersection of our fallen nature and our renewed nature in, with, and under the sacrificial blood of Christ, the crossroads of the deadly lies of the serpent and the life-giving Word of the living God.  Here we are as baptized Christians given the gift of eternal life by Christ’s work, by the Father’s promise, by the seal of the Holy Spirit, and yet Satan continues to whisper in our ears: “Did God actually say…?

Dear friends, “It is written.”  The promises are “written.”  And they are written to be read.  Read the Word!  Study the Word!  Hurl the Word back into the lying sales-pitch of Satan!  Are you better than our Lord?  If Jesus used the shield of God’s Word to protect himself against the tempter, how much more should we “poor miserable sinners” do the same, dear friends?

Our Divine Service is a twice-weekly baptism and feast in the Word of God.  As a congregation, we gather to study the Holy Word together twice weekly.  We are called upon not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together to mutually beat back the sales-pitch of the evil one.  We are vulnerable to his lies.  And that is why the Lord has provided you with a community of brothers and sisters for mutual aid and comfort.  For what war was ever won by individual soldiers fighting separately, each in his own place and in his own way?  The Lord has called you, dear friends, called you, to be a part of this community: to hear the law convict you, to hear the gospel comfort you, to hear Christ absolve you, and to hear the Word beat Satan down.  The Lord has called you to join us in Bible class – as a community.  It is not only about what you get out of it (which is, incidentally, eternal life), but also about what you can do for your neighbor by participating. 

Satan loves a divided people to conquer.  Satan hates a people that are united with one another under the headship of the Lord, knowledgeable of His Word, and humbly submitting to His calling and election as Christians.  And better yet, Satan is powerless to take away the gift the Lord has given us in His mercy and in His Word, in His promise, and in His very body and blood.

As the holy apostle speaks to us yet again, dear friends: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”  Now is the time, dear brothers and sisters, now, this holy season of Lent, now is the time to recommit to the Lord, to make a vow to be here with Jesus week in and week out, without excuses and without the delusion that the Word of God is a low priority.  Now is the time to commit to joining your brothers and sisters to study God’s Word.  Would Jesus prefer you to sleep in or watch TV or play a round of golf?  Will any of those things arm you for battle with Satan?

Being in His Word does arm you for that battle, dear friends.  And better yet, it connects you to the person and work of Jesus, the one who defeated death and the devil for us men and for our salvation, for you! 

“Did God actually say…?”  Yes, indeed, dear friends, yes indeed.  God did actually say, and God continues to say in His Word:

“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”  It is written!  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. 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sermon: Ash Wednesday – 2014

5 March 2014

Text: Matt 6:1-6, 16-21 (Joel 2:12-19, 2 Pet 1:2-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  In this regard, we Americans are worse off than people living in third world countries.  We citizens of the United States are at risk in ways that do not affect much of the rest of the world.  They struggle with their want, while we struggle with our abundance.  Even in times of economic distress, of inflation and unemployment, we still have one of the highest standards of living on the planet. 

And that is our greatest danger.

For where is our treasure?  Where do we invest our precious time and our hard-earned money?  Do we give sacrificially of our first-fruits to the church for the ongoing mission of this outpost of the Gospel, or do we spend more time and money on entertainment and luxuries?  For this is our greatest temptation, dear friends.  When Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, he is talking about us.  Every person in this sanctuary lives like a king even compared to the richest people on the planet a century ago.  We have running water.  We have heat and air conditioning.  We have indoor plumbing.  We have television and computers and cell phones and cars and spare time to take up hobbies and sports and extracurricular activities.  We go on vacations.  We eat, drink, and are merry.

And again that is our weakness.  That is where Satan attacks us.

Our Lord says: “When you give to the needy...”  He is not talking about once a year writing a check for twenty bucks.  He means that giving to the poor is an ongoing way of life for His people.  Charity is not something to be done at special times of the year, while tooting our own horn about it.  Rather, it is as natural to the Christian life as breathing, sleeping, and eating, and we certainly don’t call attention to doing those things.

Is this how you live, dear brother or sister?  Do you regularly commit to support of the needy?  Could you do more?  Or does greed get in our way?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Our Lord says: “When you pray...”  He is not talking about once a week (or once a month, or twice a year) in church.  He does not mean every few years when we have a brush with an accident or a health scare.  He means daily and continuously.  Fathers, are you leading your families in prayer?  Mothers, are you teaching your little ones the prayers of the church?  Parents, are you making sure your children are at Divine Service week in and week out, as well as at Sunday School?  Or are other things more important?

Again, prayer to the life of the Christian is like breathing is to any organism.  When you stop doing it, you are dying, minute by minute, cell by cell.  Prayer connects you to the Lord, the Giver of life.  Prayer binds you in communion with your Master and Creator.  Prayer unites you with your Savior and Redeemer. 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Our Lord says: “When you fast…”  Many Lutherans actually brag about how they don’t fast, and ridicule those who do.  But our Lord says: “When you fast…”  He doesn’t set out a complicated schedule of when you can’t eat meat, or drink milk, or eat eggs.  There is no absolute prohibition against eating meat on Fridays.  But our Lord says: “When you fast…”  To give up meat (or dessert, or facebook, or any other pleasurable thing) on Friday is a reminder of the Lord’s cross, of Good Friday.  He does, after all, invite us to “take up your cross and follow me.”  If we can’t even turn down a helping of tiramisu or a t-bone as a discipline, what kind of disciples are we, dear friends?

Our Lord says: “When you fast…”  And again, He says: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And this, dear friends, is why we have ashes on this first day of Lent.  It is not to show your neighbors and friends how pious you are, but rather to confess how sinful you are.  You are marked with the death that you deserve.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Remember, O man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

But remember, O man, that the ashes are stuck to your forehead with oil, which we use to bless the newly baptized, which we use to anoint those who are confirmed into the faith.  The name “Christ” means “the anointed one.”  The oil that binds the ashes to you is the anointing of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the one and only one who died but never even began to return to dust.  For His treasure is in pleasing His Father.  And that is where His heart – pierced by the Roman spear and exuding blood and water – is also.

And remember, O man, that the ashes are stuck to your forehead in the form of the holy cross, the sign traced both upon your forehead and over your heart when you were baptized into Christ unto your redemption and salvation.  For though the cross is a symbol of death and suffering, the Lord Jesus Christ bore our cross, suffered our passion, and died our death to pay for our sins and to deliver eternal life, forgiveness, and everlasting righteousness and blessedness to us.  He has transformed the cross into a symbol of life and fulfillment.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, take this body of death that has been corrupted by sin, imposed with the dust to which you will return because of sin, and remember, O man, that Jesus went to that cross, that Jesus, who was anointed Messiah and Savior of the whole world, has died for you.

It is in His name that we ponder our own sinfulness and are called to repent and turn away from the evil one, to change our hearts and minds to reorient them away from the broad way that leads to death, and to place them firmly on the narrow way of life.

Let us treasure the Word of God and the preaching of the Gospel!  Let us treasure every opportunity to be in His presence and to be in fleshly communion with Him!  Let us treasure the chance to be called to repentance.  Let us treasure every moment the Lord grants us to serve Him in His kingdom.  And let us treasure His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.

For our Lord Jesus Christ promises us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  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. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Introductory Libertarian Videos

The word "libertarianism" has erupted into our cultural lexicon as we see the political and cultural disintegration of the United States into extreme debt, division, authoritarianism, and a seemingly endless cycle of the welfare and warfare state.

The Left is still blaming Bush, the Right is still blaming Obama, both sides claim the mantle of the Constitution. In reality, both sides are wrong. Both sides have betrayed the original philosophy behind the American republic and its libertarian heritage that extends back to Magna Charta. Instead of buying the propaganda of the professional political establishments of the Democrat and Republican parties, a groundswell of people are considering a different way that doesn't empower the state, but rather limits it, or theoretically even dissolves it, leaving people themselves empowered to live out their lives seeking harmony with others around them based on the right to life, liberty, and property.

There are many terms for these concepts: libertarianism, voluntaryism, the non-aggression principle (NAP), miniarchism, anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. There are some differences between the terms, both in emphases and in the acceptance of some different premises, but the overarching similarities are greater. All of these terms embrace personal liberty, personal responsibility, economic freedom to work and hire and make contracts, respect for private property, freedom of travel and trade within the realm of private property, all without relying on the state as a monopoly of violence and a tool for the forcible transfer of wealth for social ends and goals.

While no political or economic system will ever create a Utopia, and, as Jesus taught, we will always have the poor among us in this fallen world, societies that embrace more freedom and less coercion enjoy exponentially more material prosperity and personal happiness over and against coercive states and societies that rely on threats, terror, prisons, torture, invasion, redistribution of wealth "for the good of the people" - as graphically illustrated here.

But where are we headed in the United States?  Are we seeing personal liberties expand or contract?  Do we see more or less involvement in our lives by governments at all levels?

As the U.S. collapses into a larger segment of the population being dependent on an increasingly smaller segment, as the dollar continues to decline due to continued Fed "quantitative easing," as unemployment continues to spiral, as Christians and other religious minorities are being increasingly bullied by public and political institutions to violate their own religious tenets or face jail time and fines, as the military/industrial complex rattles sabers and entices Washington into further undeclared wars and quagmires that destroy the lives of thousands of young people, and as the leaders of both major parties mouth platitudes about "change" - we need a real philosophical paradigm-shift instead of just a sideways reshuffling of the ruling parties.

Thanks to YouTube and other technologies, these concepts are accessible in ways that demonstrate the common sense of the matter. Here are just a few thought-provocative videos: 

1) The Conversation 

Two college students have an intriguing discussion:

2) George Ought to Help 

What is the best way to help people in need?


3) Edgar the Exploiter 

Minimum wage laws and greedy bosses:


4) The Broken Window Fallacy 

Do things like war, make-work jobs, and repair of damage stimulate an economy?


5) I, Pencil 

The remarkable process by which goods come to market:


6) If You Were King

What about a benevolent State?

7) You Can Always Leave

What about the social contract?

8) Diner from Hell

What about democracy?

To learn more, the Ludwig von Mises Institute probably has the largest free online library of literature and audio/video materials on libertarianism. Feel free to click here!  And though this list is now about five years old and may not be completely up to date, here is a list of 100 libertarian websites.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sermon: Quinquagesima – 2014

2 March 2014

Text: Luke 18:31-43 (1 Sam 16:1-13, 1 Cor 13:1-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christianity is very popular today.  Christianity is very unpopular today.  And this paradox is as old as the faith itself, as we can see clearly in our Gospel for Quinquagesima.

In today’s culture, Jesus is beloved as a teacher of ethics.  He taught the golden rule.  He preached against religious hypocrisy and obsession with religious ritual over and against love.  He promoted peace and encouraged the taking care of the poor and the marginalized.  The world connects the dots between Jesus and Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. 

However, it is also true that in today’s culture, Jesus is hated and feared.  He opposed promiscuity, divorce, homosexuality, and preached about repentance and hell.  He upheld the Ten Commandments and drew a clear line between right and wrong.  He closed every loophole to personal interpretation.  He taught an exclusive faith, and flatly stated that you were either with Him, or you are destined for the fires of hell.  The world connects the dots between Jesus and Christian fundamentalism, the literal reading of the Bible, the opposition to gay marriage and women’s ordination, and Creationism.

And as the Bride of Christ confesses in the Athanasian Creed, “He is not two, but one Christ.”  We Christians are both Easter people and Good Friday people.  We simultaneously preach Gospel and Law.  At the same time, we love the sinner and hate the sin.

St. Luke captures this paradox by recording and reporting a glorious miracle of our Lord.  A blind man is begging along the roadside.  He hears that Jesus is coming.  He cries out just as we do in our liturgy: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And in spite of the hostility of the crowds and against the opposition of the world, this man of prayer continues to participate in the Divine Service with us, praying: “Lord, have mercy” all the more.  Jesus asks him point-blank what he wanted.  He replies, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”  And the Lord takes pity on him, and declares: “Recover you sight; your faith has made you well.”

“And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”  For this is the popular Jesus that the world loves.  This is the Jesus epitomized by St. Paul’s beautiful soliloquy on love from our epistle reading. 

But St. Luke makes a crucial connection between the Son of David’s miracle and the cross, just before this account of the healing of the blind man.  And this is the Jesus that baffles the world, and makes all of us – even us Christians – uncomfortable.

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem,”  Jesus tells them.  Moreover he informs them that He “will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” 

And not only does this demonstrate how the world hates Jesus, the text shows how the crucified Jesus confounds even the Lord’s disciples.  For, “They understood none of these things.  This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

The cross perplexes, confounds, offends, and challenges us.  Why?  Because we are sinners; poor miserable sinners who deserve nothing but death and hell.  That goes for the world, and that goes for Christians.  This is the whole point of our Lord’s incarnation.  The reason for Christmas is the need for Easter, and the path to Easter runs through Good Friday.  The highway to our blessed Lord’s empty tomb passes through our crucified Lord’s passion at Golgotha.

And that, dear friends, is a scandal to the world and is the part of Christianity that makes us Christians either embarrassed or uneasy.  Who can watch Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” without understanding, and even being appalled at, the blood-soaked sacrificial element of our faith.  Mel Gibson used his own hands to drive the spikes into the hands of the Lord Jesus in the film.  We Christians understand that we, the people for whom Christ died, are responsible for His death.  Before we look to the Jews, the priests and scribes, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pilate, or the Roman soldiers to blame for the cross, we must look to ourselves.  We must repent.  We are guilty.

And indeed, this is the part of the faith that we do not grasp.  It isn’t because it is intellectually difficult.  We just don’t like it.  And neither did the Twelve when Jesus spoke to them plainly about the cross.

The Twelve certainly understood the Lord’s Davidic heritage and claim to kingship.  The even jockeyed with each other arguing over who would sit closest to King Jesus in the throne room.  Similarly, the blind man appealed to the Davidic royal line of our Lord when he cried out, “Lord, have mercy.”  And we have the glorious account of King David, chosen for his royal destiny while yet a boy, the one who slew the giant with a slingshot, the one who was to lead Israel to national greatness by defeating her enemies.  Indeed, Jews and Christians display David’s Star as a symbol of glory.  But we are most uncomfortable with David’s need for forgiveness, and price to be paid with the death of his firstborn son whom he loved.
However, we are all enamored of St. Paul’s euphonic and profound tribute to love:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

These words are more than simply inspiring, they are inspired.  They are not merely the stuff of a greeting card, but these words are indeed about Jesus.  This passage does not only describe our Lord’s giving sight to the blind, but also His ultimate act of love: going to the cross for the sake of our sins, for the purpose of forgiveness, to the end of restoring us unto communion with God, and with the result of everlasting life for all who believe, for as our Lord speaks anew to us: “Your faith has made you well.”

Love is not only patient and kind, it is also bloody.  Love not only does not envy or boast, it also does not seek to be released from the cross.  Love bears all things, even injustice, even false testimony, even being spat upon, flogged, mocked, and nailed to a device to torture murderers and terrorists. 

For that, dear friends, is where our Davidic King of love reigns supreme.  He was declared to be King in three languages of the civilized world on the proclamation over his thorn-crowned head, even as He was put to death in the most uncivilized way imaginable by the very people He came to save.

And to this day, dear friends, the cross makes people uncomfortable.  If you wear a crucifix in public, someone will inevitably be offended.  It might be a Muslim or a Jew or an Atheist.  More likely, it will be a brother or sister Christian who is made uncomfortable at the depiction of our Lord’s suffering and death that we have caused.

And yet, dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is our eternal crucified King, divine love in the very flesh, He is our crucified Redeemer, and He is our life as the crucified conqueror of death. 

Indeed, Easter does follow Good Friday.  Our resurrection does follow our deaths.  Forgiveness does follow our sin and our confession.  Joy does follow sorrow.  Everlasting glory does follow shame and suffering.  Indeed, “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face.” 

Let us take no offense in our Lord’s cross, but glory in it.  Let us rather take offense at our own sins, and repent of them, pleading the blood of Christ as our propitiation for sin.  Let us gladly hear the Gospel and receive the invaluable gift of the Lord’s body and blood. 

And whether Christianity is popular or unpopular, received by the world or rejected, let us, dear friends, hear and pay heed both to our Lord’s death and resurrection, as well as the prayer that we should pray daily: “Lord, have mercy,” rejoicing in the miracle that He has cured us of our spiritual blindness and allowed us, by the faith that makes us well, to see the glory of the cross.  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.