Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sermon: Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist - 2018

29 August 2018

Text: Mark 6:14-29 (Rev 6:9, Rom 6:1-5)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In our fallen world, evil wins.  If you hold fast to your Christian faith and confession, you will be hated, abused, mocked, sued, fired, your life ruined, your reputation trashed, and in some places, you will be arrested, tortured, and put to death.

But if you celebrate evil, you will be loved.  You might become a celebrity.  You may well become wealthy.  You will have opportunities for pleasure beyond your wildest dreams.  You will be able to take from others, and not even have a twinge of conscience about it.  You can put children to death for convenience, use people for sexual pleasure, and destroy anyone that gets in your way – while claiming to be virtuous as you lead a life equivalent to an open sewer.

Is it any wonder that our churches are becoming increasingly empty, and our movies, magazines, and music, our television and internet programming on demand, our sports and their heroes, our politicians and barons of business are ever more course, vulgar, hateful, sexually deviant, self-serving, pro-death, antichristian, and dedicated to pleasure without boundaries, without consequences, and without criticism?  Is it any wonder that those who disapprove are silenced by force?

While we have seen things in our culture degrade ferociously, this isn’t anything new.

John the Baptist was called to usher in the Messiah in a day and age when those who believed in God were a tiny, persecuted minority, when the nation’s rulers worshiped pagan gods, and when even within the people of God, their rulers were sexual deviants, political collaborators with their enemies, and ambitious hustlers who rode the backs of their own people.  Sexual deviancy and preying upon minors was a badge of honor.  Children were aborted and killed after their births for frivolous reason.  Public entertainment included death-sports, live torture, and open and perverse sexuality on stage. 

And of course it was all justified, because, after all, might makes right.  Those who didn’t approve were the “barbarians.”  If you were a believer in the true God, you better just keep your religion to yourself and play along.

This is the world Jesus came into, dear friends.  And St. John the Baptist announced His arrival to a world obsessed with debauchery, violence, deviancy, and death. 

John was called directly by God to preach the Word of God: to proclaim the Gospel, but to also proclaim the Law.  He preached and implored the people to repent.  And he did not spare the rich and powerful, not even the king.

The king was a half-breed pretender to the throne, a vile collaborator with the Romans, and a sexual pervert to boot.  And John’s message – which was actually God’s message – was “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”  And as Luther said, when one throws a stick into a pack of dogs, the one that howls is the one that got hit.  The Law hit the amoral Herod.  Not in the sense of guilt, but in the sense of his perceived entitlement to be beyond criticism, to be above reproach.  Who did this bizarre, miserable preacher think he was, anyway?  How dare he call the king out for sin!  Of course, John the Baptist’s and Jesus’s ancestor was Israel’s greatest king, David, who when called to repent, confessed his guilt and became repentant.  We sing King David’s very words again and again: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me….  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”  Instead, the unrepentant King Herod “seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her.”

And it was the amoral self-serving Herodias and her daughter who manipulated Herod into ordering John’s execution.  For they wanted to carry out their perversions with the approval of everyone.  The fact that John had no power other than the words he preached (he had no standing in government, no army to prohibit evil behavior) didn’t matter.  Then, as now, is it any wonder that those who disapprove are silenced by force?

For everyone knows right from wrong.  The Law is written on our hearts.  The preaching of John pricked the consciences of Herod and his clan of perverts.  The testimony of the saints in our reading from the Book of Revelation caused the Roman government to behead them, feed them to lions, and use them as props in their vile death-sports.  They knew it was wrong to kill babies and use people – including minors of both sexes – for sexual gratification.  They knew it was wrong to torture people and to be titillated and entertained by their fear and their pain.

Today, our brothers and sisters from the ages of ages continue to await the Lord’s return and their vindication, having prayed: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete," who were to be killed as they themselves had been.  They continue to rest as Christians in countries ruled by Muslims are imprisoned and tortured and beheaded.  They continue to rest as Christians in Communist countries are imprisoned and executed.  They continue to rest, as Christians in even supposedly free countries are silenced on social media, are marginalized in the popular culture, are sued and crushed by the state for refusing to play along with the current lie that marriage is anything other than what God made it to be.

And of course it is all justified, because, after all, might makes right.  Those who don’t approve are the “barbarians.”  If you are  a believer in the true God, you better just keep your religion to yourself and play along.  The more things change…

But ultimately, dear friends, what is the message of John, then and now?  What did he really preach to Herod and his family?  He told the truth.  He confessed God’s Word.  He preached the Gospel in its beauty.  For this is John’s proclamation, the Church’s proclamation, our proclamation – to a world that has lost its way: “repent and believe the Gospel!”

The kingdom of God is at hand, not to condemn you, but to forgive you.  Jesus has come not to imprison you and behead you, but to change you and glorify you.  Jesus paid the price of your iniquity.  He took all the violence and hatred and deviancy and lust for domination upon Himself, dying in your place, exchanging your guilt for His righteousness!  Jesus has come not to condemn but to save, not to put to death but to give life!  

Jesus invites all of us to repent and believe the Gospel, and John invites all of us to follow Jesus.

For in the long term, evil does not win.  If you hold fast to your Christian faith and confession, you will be saved, vindicated, given the gift of eternal life, and dwell with God and man and all creation forever in glory, happiness, joy, and riches beyond the wildest imaginations of any king or celebrity.

For as St. Paul, another murderer who repented upon hearing the Law, preached and wrote: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?  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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

John does not call us to repent to shame us, but to glorify us.  For that is what Jesus does.  The martyrs of the Church staked their souls upon it.  And we all rest with them, hearing the unsilenced Word preached by John, even as that Word shapes us and saves us, transforming us from the ugliness of sin to the beauty of the eternal.

And the very thing that Herod feared will come true, as John the Baptist will be raised from the dead, those who gave their lives for the sake of the Word will be avenged, and our confession of Jesus Christ will continue to bring those who repent to everlasting life and glory.  Amen.

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 13 - 2018

26 August 2018

Text: Luke 10:23-37 (Gal 3:15-22)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of our Lord’s best known stories.  And to people who are hostile to the church (at least if they knew enough about the Bible to even know this parable), at least at first glance, this ought to be one of their favorites.

For who are the villains in this parable?  The priest and the Levite, who are the clergy, who represent organized religion.  They are the bad guys.  And who is the hero in this story?  The Samaritan, who is a guy from an oppressed and mistreated ethnic group.  And what does the Samaritan do?  He avoids doctrinal disputes or arguments about marriage and abortion, and instead helps the victim in a non-judgmental way.

And indeed, all of this is true!  But sadly, most of our university students (who are taught to hate Christians) are so alienated from their own western civilization in their educational experience, so removed from the history of Christianity and its great foundational text, the Bible, that they don’t even know what they don’t know.

So is Jesus telling us to abolish the church, get rid of the clergy, adopt an anything-goes approach to doctrine, to ditch our creeds for deeds?  No indeed!

In fact, the main teaching of this parable is about Jesus Himself.  He is the Good Samaritan.  He is the one who is treated as an outcast by His own people.  He is the one who comes into the highways and byways of our fallen world, who happens upon all of us who have been beaten and battered and bruised by Satan and by our own sinful nature.  And even when the same people who hold Jesus in contempt likewise ignore the suffering of those victimized by the devil, Jesus, by contrast, has “compassion.”  Jesus binds up our wounds.  Jesus applies the oil of Holy Baptism and the wine of the Holy Eucharist as a balm and a medicine to cleanse us, and to heal us.  Jesus gives of Himself and oversees our rehabilitation.  Jesus provides a home for us to receive care.  Jesus provides people to look out for us and places us in their care under His orders.  And Jesus promises to come back.  

Much to the consternation of those who hate Christianity, those who see Jesus as nothing more than a sort-of storybook Mister Rogers with a beard, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is actually about the doctrines of the incarnation, the cross, and the atonement; it is about Jesus: His victory over the devil and the grave; it is about forgiveness: the doctrine of justification.

Jesus does not entrust our spiritual care to the Old Testament priests or to the Levites, not to the “blood of bulls and goats,” and not to ceremonial cleanliness.  Rather, Jesus entrusts us to Himself as our High Priest, our Messiah, our Savior, our Redeemer, whose blood literally atones for us.  Jesus works His mercy and compassion through the men whom He calls, who are charged with proclaiming the Word of Christ, and who are under holy orders to administer Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, who are ordered to forgive sinners who confess and repent, the innkeepers who take in those victimized by the devil, the world, and their own sinful nature in order to care for them, with Christ’s mercy and Christ’s compassion.

And yes, all of us, in our various callings, pastors and laypeople alike, are charged to “go, and do likewise.”  For Jesus works through Christians in all of our holy vocations to be merciful and compassionate to those who are “half dead” in our own journeys from Jerusalem to Jericho – wherever that may be for us.

But what started the whole parable in the first place is something that is indeed both “creed” and “deed.”  For the lawyer did not come to Jesus humbly, to learn, to hear His Word, and to live out a daily life of repentance.  Instead, he came to Jesus filled with pride and oozing with hubris.  He came to put Jesus to the test.  He came to pit his education against the Word of God.  He came with arrogant contempt and pride in himself.  And though his answers were correct in a technical sense, the lawyer needed to hear this lesson about mercy.  And so do we, dear friends.  This parable is for us as much as it was for the lawyer.

For what was our lawyer seeking to do?  He was trying to “justify himself.”  In other words, he was trying to declare himself righteous by his own understanding, his own words, his own works, his own reason.  He was trying to tell Jesus that he was already righteous.  Like the priest and the Levite, he lacked compassion and mercy.

Dear friends, we all need the compassion and mercy of Jesus, and we all need to “go and do likewise.”  We need to stop justifying ourselves for whatever reason, be it our position in the church, our standing in the community, our education, our lack of education, our church attendance, our lack of church attendance, or any other reason that our sinful flesh likes to boast in as self-justification.  We need to repent of this pride.

We cannot justify ourselves, whether we are Christians or haters of Christianity.  For in our sins and trespasses, we are half-dead.  In the fallen world that we live in, breathe in, work in, and will die in, we are constantly under assault.  And as St. Paul points out, if the “law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.”  And if that were true, our lawyer could indeed “justify himself” through the law.  But St. Paul says, “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  In fact, the Greek text says that what is given to us is “the faith of Jesus Christ.”  It is the faith of our Good Samaritan, His compassion and His mercy, that justify us.

And so, dear friends, Jesus again teaches us that we are not rescued by our own knowledge, our works, our position, our education, or any other way in which we might justify ourselves.  Rather, we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ: the faith of Jesus Christ, according to His promise and through His means of grace, through which He binds up our wounds, applies oil and wine, brings us to safety, and promises to return for us.  

Let us indeed believe, that is, have faith in what our Lord teaches us.  Let us humbly receive His gifts, His merciful care, His compassionate redemption, let us go and do likewise, even as imperfect as we are, striving to be a more merciful and compassionate innkeeper to whom the Lord brings people who have been beaten half to death – by the evils of this world and of our own flesh.  Let us not justify ourselves, but rather praise the One who justifies us by grace through the “promises of God.”  

Jesus tells us that “many prophets and kings desired to see what [we] see, and did not see it, and to hear what [we] hear, and did not hear it.”  So let us see and hear our Good Samaritan’s merciful compassion, and let us rejoice in it!  Amen.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Don't Mess With Chris!

Here is a clip from the December 17, 1986 Times Picayune about Chris Ziifle that Facebook keeps deleting. 

Violent pictures of Antifa mobs assaulting people and destroying property with rants of profanity are okay for Facebook, but not a 32 year old picture of a law-abiding citizen working in her gun shop. 

Chris retired in 2014, and the Picayune ran this piece about Chris's life and career.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 12 - 2018

19 August 2018

Text: Mark 7:31-37 (Isa 29:17-24, 2 Cor 3:4-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We live in confused times.  In our day and age, we are eager to describe moral failings not as sins to be repented of, but of diseases to be treated or cured.  This gets the sinner off the hook, and can even become a source of empathy.  After all, we wouldn’t blame a man who had a heart attack while driving and killed someone, so why would we treat a person diagnosed with alcoholism or drug addiction the same way if he were also to cause an accident?  Or if a person threatens others or is a persistent thief, maybe we can call this “mental illness”: diagnosing it as bipolar disorder or kleptomania – and then it’s really nobody’s fault when crimes just so happen against person or property.

We live in a world where apparently none need to repent; they merely need treatment.  None are held accountable, but all are entitled to excuses for their behavior.  None are perpetrators, but all are somehow victims.

But even though this is a demonic distortion, there is some truth to the relationship between sin and sickness.

But this too, is offensive.  To say that deafness or blindness or being crippled are related to sin makes people angry.  It is as though we are insulting the hard-of-hearing, the visually-impaired, and the person in the wheelchair. What a confused culture we have, dear friends!  It’s okay to reimagine sins as illness, but not acceptable to say that illness is the result of sin.

Sins (meaning sinful acts of our own will and fallen nature) and illness (meaning things that ail us in mind or body that we have no control over) have a common source: the fallenness of our world and of ourselves.  This is not to say that the deaf-mute committed a specific sin that he was being punished for.  Far from it.  But everything that makes us suffer is a deviation from the perfection that was, and is, God’s will for us!  

Think about it, dear friends.  We were created to live in a perfect world without deafness, blindness, or lameness, without colds and allergies and upset stomachs, with not even the knowledge of cancer and ALS and heart disease.  This is because we were free from anything that could lead to death in both body and mind.  Those things didn’t even exist. We were mentally and physically perfect, just as God is perfect – and just as was the world that He had created.

But now, dear brothers and sisters, we are mortal.  Ever since the fall in Eden, we live with the inevitability of death.  Each day that we live on this side of the grave is one less that we will live.  We are terminal.  Our bodies wear out.  We have diseases.  We have accidents.  Many of us have defects that we were born with.  All of us will have some kind of disease or disorder or turn of events that will kill us.  And this is because of our will, not God’s will.  God gave us the freedom to choose, and we chose badly.  We still do.

This is the harsh reality.  And it not only affects our bodies, but also our minds.  Thanks to our fallen nature, we make bad, and even deadly, choices.  When we sin, we are acting contrary to what God has in mind for us in His love, in His all-knowing mercy for us, in His plan for us.  When we sin, it is as though we are beating ourselves in the head with a hammer – and then cursing God for the pain that we experience.

Once again, this is not to say that every ache and pain and disease and disorder is because we have committed some individual sin that we’re being punished for.  This is a Satanic lie.  The truth is that we are simply broken.  And far from desiring our punishment, God is interested in our restoration – because He is not only just, but also merciful.

And this is why Jesus comes into our broken world of disease and disorder: to fix it.  In our Gospel, we get a little preview of what is to come in eternity.  The deaf and mute man is suffering.  His friends beg Jesus to “lay His hand on him.”  For they know that Jesus has authority, and His authority usually carried out through direct physical contact.  Jesus is not just a spirit, but is fully human.  He inhabits space and time with us, in flesh and blood.  And His real presence disrupts the universe, and does so in a good and wonderful way, beyond our understanding.

So, Jesus “put His fingers into his [the man’s] ears, and after spitting, touched his tongue.”  Jesus uses His physical nature to deliver physical and spiritual blessings.  Jesus is perfect in body and soul.  In His perfection, He has come to perfect us.

And through the same means by which the universe was created: a spoken Word, a command from God – we see reality conform to what Christ, the enfleshed Word of God, has uttered.  For God said, “Be opened,” and it was opened.  “His ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”

Once again, dear friends, this restoration of the man’s hearing and speaking is just a little preview of the world to come: a world without death and disease, because it is a world without sin.  How can this be?  Because Jesus has broken into our broken world in order to forgive sin and heal us from its consequences.  He allows Himself to be broken so that we might be perfected as a consequence.  He does this at the cross.  He declares victory over death.  He does this walking out of His own tomb.  He continues to speak and forgive and give Himself to us.  He does this through the Church, through the ministers of the Church, men whom He calls and sends with this same command on their lips, this same message: Ephphatha: “be opened.”

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah, whose words rang out again among us: the barren desert will become a field, and the field will become a forest – teeming with life.  The deaf shall hear and the blind shall see.  “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord.”  The poor shall exult.  All of those who suffer on account of sin will be restored.  But the prophet also has a warning: “the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease.”  For being ruthless is not a disease to be cured, but rather a sin to be repented of.  And likewise for being a scoffer: for those who mock the Word of God are unbelievers.  Jesus won’t cure unbelief in the way that He gives hearing to the deaf.  For unbelief is rooted in the stubborn will of an unrepentant man.  

Jesus only heals the unbeliever if the unbeliever yields to Jesus.  Jesus will not compel you.  You are free to reject Him.  But you are not free to reject Him without consequence.  So if you are ruthless and unbelieving, you are in need of repentance.  But in this repentance, there is hope, dear friends.  For Isaiah says: “Those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

If you are on the outs of the church’s proclamation, come back in!  If you murmur against Christ, submit to His instruction!  For His instruction is His Word: the same Word that said, “Be opened!”  His Word is still opening hearts and minds today.

And that Word, dear friends, is a double-edged sword!  St. Paul spoke of this two-fold purpose of the Word when instructed the Corinthians: “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life…. For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.”

For the Law that condemns us, and the Gospel that redeems us – are both the Lord’s Word.  They’re both His “ephphatha.”  The Law opens us to the horrific truth that we are “poor, miserable sinners,” that we are in rebellion against the Word of God, that we justly suffer the effects of the fall, and that as sinners, we are destined to die.  But, dear friends, the Gospel opens us to healing: the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the forgiveness of sins that makes us whole, just as the laying on of hands and the Word of Jesus opened the ears and mouth of the deaf and mute man – bringing him to health and wholeness through forgiveness and restoration.

This Word is for you, dear friends!  This Word still forgives, still redeems, still renews, and still heals!  Jesus speaks to you here and now, dear brothers and sisters, opening your body and mind to cleansing and eternal life: “‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’”  Amen.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Magnificence from Russell Kirk!

“We are dwarfs mounted upon the shoulders of giants,” Bernard of Chartres told his scholars in the eleventh century. The great Schoolman meant that we modern folk incline toward the opinion that wisdom was born with our generation. We see so far only because of the tremendous stature of those giants, our ancestors, upon whose shoulders we stand. Gothic architecture in the eleventh century could not have existed without its foundations in the ninth and tenth centuries—or for that matter, in the architecture of ancient Syria. Atomic physics in our sense could not have come into being without the speculative spirit of the seventeenth century—or for that matter, without the intuitions of the pre-Socratic Greeks. Our civilization is an immense continuity and essence. Bernard, Bishop of Chartres, was right: If we ignore or disdain those ancestral giants who uphold us in our modern vainglory, we tumble down into the ditch of unreason.

Read more here (thank you Memoria Press)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sermon: Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary - 2018

15 August 2018

Text: Luke 1:39-55

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In our day and age, it has become trendy to honor women: not so much for their achievements, but out of a sense of “virtue signaling.”  For nearly two thousand years, the Christian Church, by contrast, has honored both great men and great women of the faith.  The saints inspire us: not by virtue of their sex or ethnicity, but rather by their faith, their courage, and most of all, by their virtuous confession of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For centuries, today has been the day in which we honor a unique woman: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God.  Our Lutheran confessions describe her as “sanctissima” – which is Latin for “most holy.”  Indeed, she herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, revealed the truth that “all generations will call [her] blessed.”

There is a temptation to degrade our Lord’s blessed mother, to point out the fact that she was not a great theologian, not a bishop, nor even a foundress of a community of nuns.  She was not a great queen.  She did not stand up to the emperor.  She was not martyred.  And aside from her motherhood of Jesus, she really didn’t do anything great.

But notice how that last sentence reflects the worldview of our day?  Other than being a mother, what did she do?  Dear friends, we live in a day and age in which being a mother and a wife are denigrated, and considered “not doing anything.”  In our current culture, being “just” a wife, “just” a mother, and “just” a keeper of a home are things to be ashamed of.  How wonderful that the Church stands defiantly countercultural over and against this hateful and evil belittling of the holy vocation of bearing and nurturing new life!  How great and far we have advanced technologically, but how shrunken and disfigured our culture has become morally!

Blessed Mary willingly became pregnant with God.  Knowing the scorn, the scandal, the ways in which her life was to change forever from that moment in which she conceived after being told of God’s plan by the archangel, she nevertheless agreed.  She became the Lord’s handmaiden, and her soul indeed magnified the Lord.  She heard of how she, a poor unmarried (but betrothed) teenager, was to carry the Holy One, and even heard the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart.

For behold, from then on, her life was not her own.  Her life was to be of service to her Son, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  Her life and breath and blood and tears were offered for the sake of her God and Savior.  Far from seeing this service as a burden, Blessed Mary speaks of Him “who is mighty” who “has done great things” to her, declaring, “holy is His name.”  And far from boasting in herself, she boasts in the Lord who showed her mercy and did great things to her, pointing out that His name, the name of Jesus, is holy.

Holy Mary is holy because Holy Jesus is Holy.  Jesus is Mary’s God and Savior.  He sanctified her womb and her entire life by His presence, and by His death upon the cross.  His blood saves her.  His blood is offered for the sins of the whole world.

We honor the Blessed Virgin Mary not only for what she did – in assenting to carrying her God and her Savior in her womb – but also in who she is: the sacred vessel that held the body and blood of Christ.

We do not find it odd that the sacred vessels used for the body and blood of Christ at our altar are treated with reverence, called holy, and honored for their role in giving to us the benefit of what Jesus did for us at the cross, and so we should not find it odd that we Christians love and honor our Lord’s humble and obedient mother – whose holy calling is much like the communion vessels that bring our Lord to us.

For what did the Blessed Virgin Mary do?  She became the mother of God, the bearer of our Lord Jesus Christ, the protector and nurturer of our Incarnate God and Savior!  She raised Him and loved Him.  She told people to listen to her Son, and to “do whatever He tells you.”  She also watched in submissive agony as her beloved Child was mocked and tortured and put to death before her very eyes.  Indeed, the sword pierced her heart in a kind of martyrdom, a suffering for the kingdom in a way that no other person who has ever lived has experienced.

From the cross, our Lord Jesus gave His mother to the church, commending her to the apostle John.  He did not tell John to worship her or pray to her, but John was given to love her and protect her, to honor her, and to remember her, to call her to mind by name in the Holy Scriptures that he would both write and read.

We do not honor Mary because she is a woman, but we honor the woman Mary because she is great. She is not great because of greatness as the world sees it, but rather because of her obedience in her “humble estate” as a servant.  And we honor Mary by doing what Mary bids us to do: listen to Jesus, and do what He says. 

Listen to Jesus, dear friends!  Listen to His Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation, the good news of our redemption by His blood on the cross, through His incarnation in the womb of His sanctissima mater, his holy mother.  Listen to Jesus declare you pardoned and forgiven through Holy Absolution, through the new life given you at your Holy Baptism!

And do what He says, dear friends!  Repent of your sins and believe the Gospel!  Take His body and drink His blood!  Be His disciple as one who is baptized, and listen to the teaching and preaching of those whom He called into the Holy Office!

The Holy Spirit not only filled the Blessed Virgin Mary and caused her to speak the words of our Gospel, but He also fills you with the same rejoicing to have Christ in you: your God and your Savior, whom you confess and trust and worship and listen to and obey!  Fill your own speech with His words!

As St. Elizabeth says, also filled with the Holy Spirit: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” and as our Lord says, “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God, and keep it.”  With all generations, we say, “Blessed is Mary.”  And we also confess that blessed are we, dear friends, blessed by our God and Savior, not to signal our politically-correct virtue, but to acknowledge the true, manly virtue of Christ: Son of God and Son of Mary, whose name we bless, and by whom we are blessed, forever and ever.  Amen.

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

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 10 - 2018

5 August 2018

Text: Luke 19:41-48 (Jer 8:4-12, Rom 9:30-10:4)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

“But you have,” those three little words can be applied to each and every sin. 

God created a perfect world, “but you have” turned it into a place of death and decay.  

God has revealed Himself to you and invited you to be His dear child, “but you have” turned to false gods.  God gave you the privilege of calling upon His name, “but you have” turned it into an empty interjection, or even a curse.  God gave you the gift of a Sabbath Day to rest in Him, “but you have” turned it into a day for other things.  

God has given us neighbors to love, but we have turned them into objects for us to get what we want.

God blesses you with parents and other authorities, “but you have” despised and angered them.  God gave you the gift of life, “but you have” made death and violence a matter of entertainment and convenience.  God gave you the gift of marriage, “but you have” cheapened it with infidelity and with the mockery of chastity.  God gave you the gift of private property, “but you have” figured out ways to cheat and steal and use social institutions to take things from others that aren’t yours.  God gave you the gift of truth and words to express it, “but you have” lied about your neighbor, and in some cases, denied that there is absolute truth at all.  God gave you people and things in this life by which He takes care of you, “but you have” coveted people and things that are not given to be part of your life and calling, and you have become discontent, and even angry with God and jealous of your neighbor.

Indeed, God created a world of peace and harmony, but we have sinned by misusing His gifts, by distorting His purposes, by rebelling against His will, and by exchanging peace for a conflicted existence in which there is no peace.

Jesus weeps over His people, over Jerusalem, over Salem.  “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace.”

When Jesus speaks of peace, He doesn’t mean a lack of war.  “Peace” calls to mind the original creation, when it was “very good,” when every electron and every galaxy were right where God intended them to be.  “Peace” refers to the original harmony between people and between all of God’s creatures – even concerning weather patterns and natural phenomena.  It is a peace that passes understanding.  

We had that perfection and that peace, dear friends, in Eden.  It was God’s gift, but we have decided that we know better than God.  And so, through the prophet Jeremiah, God asks: “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ – only to go on doing all these abominations?”

For turning the Lord’s house into a den of robbers or a house of merchandise is more than simply the buying and selling and money-changing that went on in first century Jerusalem.  What about twenty-first century Salem?  Do you break God’s law with no intention to repent?  Do you think coming here is a form of a marketplace where you buy God’s favor with your good works, instead of, as St. Paul says, pursuing righteousness “by faith”?

If so, dear friends, you are like the people Jeremiah called to repentance for saying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”  As Jeremiah points out, every one of us “turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.”

How does this battle end?  How do we have peace once more?  How can we restore Eden and put the electrons and galaxies back into their proper places, with people and animals living together without conflict?  We cannot do it, dear friends, but Jesus not only can, but does!

The reason that our Lord was drawing near to Jerusalem was to die, to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  He was coming to Jerusalem to fulfill the reason that He took flesh to begin with: to atone for our sins, to pay for our turning the Lord’s peaceful creation into a violent den of robbers.  Jesus has come to restore peace in such a way that we could not and cannot.  

Our Lord came to call us to repent, and to forgive us by means of His body and blood – given and shed for you.  And just as He created the perfect, peaceful world out of the chaos of the waters by means of His Word, He comes to each one of you in water and the Word to make you a new creation, a creature at peace with God and with your neighbor.  The peace represented by the dove comes down at baptism, for as St. Paul speaks of our Lord, “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Dear friends, the first words out of the mouth of our risen Lord when He first appeared to the disciples after His glorious resurrection was, “Peace be with you.”  And this was not just a flowery way of saying “hello.”  Nor was this a pious wish.  This is a promise that Jesus delivers by means of the cross and the empty tomb.  Jesus has come to restore us to peace in body and soul, to bring to an end the warfare between good and evil by vanquishing evil; to deliver to us a new heaven and new earth in a new body raised from death on the last day.  And this peace is that peace that passes all understanding, a peace that we cannot even begin to imagine, but a true peace that we can know is coming to us according to the will and timing of God.  Indeed, this peace has come to us at the cross, it was delivered to you at the font, it is given to you again and again in absolution, and the peace of Jesus comes to you physically in the body and blood of Christ Himself at the altar – it is the peace that will come to fruition on the Last Day!

You are hearing this good news yet again, dear friends, from this pulpit, by means of the preaching of the Word, and by the proclamation once more that Jesus has declared and mandated peace – in spite of all of those “but you haves.”

For we have an answer to the Lord’s “but you have” in the Law that we have not kept.  We have the “but You haves” that we say back to our Lord Jesus Christ in sorrow for our sins and in repentance, calling to mind the Gospel.  We reply to our Lord: “But You have died so that I might live.  But You have forgiven my sins.  But You have baptized me into your death and resurrection.  But You have proclaimed good news to us poor miserable sinners.  But You have given us your true body and blood as a ‘sure pledge and token’ of the peace that You have won for us by that same body and blood given and shed for us on the cross ‘for the forgiveness of sins.’”

This is the peace that Christ has won for us, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that is proclaimed in this House of Prayer, the peace offered and proclaimed by the risen Christ to the disciples and to the whole world!

This is the peace, the Shalom, the Salem, for which this House of Prayer was named.  This peace is yours, dear brothers and sisters, this peace is yours in Christ Jesus!


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