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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve



Isaiah 7:10-14 & Luke 2:8-16 - Christmas Eve - December 24, 2015
This Shall Be A Sign Unto You
Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”
Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:10-14)
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What is the purpose of a sign?  Why does God give so many signs in the Bible?   It is because God wants you to be sure of what he has promised.  He wants you not to doubt his mercy and grace, and his goodwill and favor toward you in Christ your Savior.  He wants you to be certain of it and to regard him as your loving Father in heaven who does not condemn you, but blesses you and keeps you, since it was to this end that he sent his only begotten Son to be born for you, to live for you, and to die for you.  He wants this confidence for you because he loves you very much.  He wants you to be firm in your faith for at least these two reasons:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Jacob



Genesis 27:41–28:22 - Advent 3 Midweek - December 16, 2015
Jacob – Access to God
Jacob fulfilled his name and supplanted his older brother Esau.  [Jacob fulfilled his name.  We learned about this last week.  His name means supplanter, which is one who gets what belongs to another by taking that person’s place.  Ordinarily, this is a sin.  The ninth commandment teaches us that we should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance, or get it in a way that only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.  Well, Jacob schemed.  And so he got what his older brother thought was his.  But this was no ordinary circumstance.  God had already promised it to Jacob.  Jacob feared and loved God.  He was not scheming to get his brother’s inheritance.  He was scheming to get his own inheritance.  And he didn’t get it in a way that only appeared right.  Actually, it appeared quite wrong.  And yet Jacob was justified in claiming what God had already said was his.  God said it was his.  It was Esau who did not help and be of service to him in keeping it.]

He got the blessing from their father Isaac that Esau had wanted for himself.  Esau was furious.  He consoled himself by planning to kill his brother once their father was dead.  So Jacob fled.  By his determination to gain the blessing that by God’s promise was already his, Jacob became a stranger to the very land that God promised him.  By his eagerness to receive the promise of God, he became a fugitive from his own brother who had become his bitter enemy.  

Claiming God’s blessing by believing the gospel has a way of doing this.  The world, which has at least some sense of fairness and justice, like Esau, knows you don’t deserve the blessing you claim to have and enjoy.  You’re a sinner.  You know it.  They don’t know the half of it.  God knows all of it.  And yet you claim what before the world makes you look like a crook, like your father Jacob.  You claim what you don’t deserve – a blessing you were not born with.  What makes you better than they?  For presuming to have God’s favor despite your many faults, you’ll be called a hypocrite. 

But you don’t claim your own merit or righteousness, do you?  You claim the merit and righteousness of Christ, the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  His righteousness stands against all accusation.  It is your birthright, because when you were baptized, you received a new birth – not a birth holding onto the heal of your elder brother, but a birth that unites you forever to the eternal Son of God made flesh for you.  You have been buried and raised with him.  His inheritance is yours.  His innocence is yours.  You have his permission and command to lay hold of it and claim it and not let anyone take it from you.  Esau hated his brother because he couldn’t understand any of this.  So also you will be hated by those who don’t believe the gospel. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent 3


Matthew 11:2-10 - Advent 3 - December 13, 2015
Decreasing & Increasing
St. John was more than a prophet.  He was sent by God to prepare the way for his Son, Jesus Christ.  He prepared for the Lord in two very basic ways. First he taught repentance.  He exposed the sin of those to whom the Lord was coming, that is, the people of Israel.  He exposed their love of money, their arrogance, their drunkenness and debauchery, their disobedience to parents and others in authority, their disdain for the poor, and their shameful ignorance of God’s holy word, which was their heritage.  He exposed their self-righteousness – especially that of their leaders and teachers who no longer directed God’s people to the promised Christ, but directed them instead to their own good works of obedience.  They pointed people to themselves as examples of righteousness to imitate rather than to the mercy long promised in the coming Savior. 
And this brings us to the other way in which John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord.  After he showed people their sin through the law with its curse, he directed them to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He said, there is your blessing; there is the one who bears your curse.  Repent of your sin and look at what I am pointing to.  He is the very Lamb that Abraham told Isaac God would prepare for a sacrifice in his place.  He is the Lamb that was typified by the spotless lamb whose blood marked their doors when the angel of death passed over in Egypt.  He is the Lamb that all sacrifices that the priests ever offered in the temple always pointed to.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Isaac



Genesis 27:1-40 - Advent 2 Midweek - December 9, 2015
Isaac – Instrument of God
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Abraham had taken two wives altogether: Sarah and then also Keturah after Sarah died.  That’s fine, of course.  One is free to remarry after a spouse dies.  But then he also took Hagar, Sarah’s servant, who gave birth to Ishmael while Sarah still lived; and then also several concubines besides.  That’s not fine.  His grandson Jacob did the same.  He took two wives as well; except for him it was at the same time.  Plus he pretty much took his wives’ servants as wives too.  So he kind of had four wives altogether.  It was all pretty messed up.  It was the culture in which they lived, and they were products of it.  But that doesn’t make it right. 

They had learned these practices from the heathen nations out of which God had once called Abraham and which surrounded them where they lived in the land of Canaan.  God told Abraham to forsake all idols, and he did.  But apparently God was patient when it came to some of their unsavory customs.  God never openly rebuked them for their multiple marriages.  But he never approved of it either.  We see no blessing come from it  – only strife every time.  The blessing with which God blessed Abraham and his seed was always despite these foolish traditions they inherited.  God graciously overlooked them for the sake of the promise to send his Son. 

People will often mock the Bible because of this blatant polygamy among the patriarchs.  But remember God neither commanded it nor approved of it.  As Jesus himself said,

“From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9) 

Jesus points us to the beginning of creation. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent Abraham



Genesis 22:1-18 - Advent 1 Midweek - December 2, 2015
Abraham – Father of Faith
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In Catechism class we’ve been studying Bible history.  The next three lessons that we’re on schedule to study just so happen to form a very fitting three-part series for our midweek Advent services.  We’ll be considering the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This evening we focus on Abraham

Abraham was a Christian.  His faith was Christian faith, because the promise God gave him to believe was the promise to send Jesus.  Jesus would be a blessing to all nations because he would be the Savior of all nations.  Abraham’s faith was great.  It was strong.  But what made his faith so great was not its strength.  It was its object – that is, it was what he believed in.  He believed the word of God.  He believed in the same Lord Jesus that we believe in.  Of course, Jesus wasn’t born yet.  But this didn’t keep him from believing in him.  Jesus tells us that it didn’t even keep him from seeing him. 

The Jews in Jesus’ day claimed Abraham as their father.  But they did not trust in what Abraham trusted in.  They trusted in themselves – and in their bloodline connection to him.  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39).  This made them angry, because they were quite proud of their works.  Then Jesus said that Abraham still lived because he believed in him.  So they accused Jesus of blasphemy.  Jesus responded to their charge by saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). 

Let us consider two things this evening:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Trinity 23



Matthew 22:15-22 - Trinity Twenty-Three - November 8, 2015
The Things That Are God’s

A logical fallacy is a kind of argument that doesn’t follow the basic rules of logic, and so doesn’t make any sense.   One of the most common logical fallacies that people use, and which people often fall for, is the fallacy of a false dichotomy.  It is also known as the either/or fallacy or false dilemma fallacy.  It’s when two options are presented as though they are the only two options to choose from.  It’s like if someone were to ask you whether you had breakfast or lunch yesterday.  Well, can’t you have had both?  It’s not necessarily either/or.  Or here’s a better one: it’s like if somebody asked you whether you are saved by faith or by your Baptism.  Well, again, can’t it be both?  It is both.  Faith relies on the word of God.  Baptism is the word of God attached to water.  Faith finds God’s promise where God makes his promisenot out of thin air.  To say that Baptism saves us is to affirm that we are saved by faith alone since faith trusts the promise given to us in Baptism.  Baptism saves you because faith saves you.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Trinity 24



Matthew 9:18-26 - Trinity Twenty-four - November 15, 2015
This Child Is Only Sleeping
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“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). 
Let us pray:
Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious on Thy Judgment Day. Amen. 
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Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave
And at death no longer tremble. 
What a great thing to say!  It’s what we just sang.  But how can we laugh at the grave when it always wins?  How can we scorn death when we know it always wins?  As we sing in another great hymn,

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Trinity 18



Matthew 22:34-46 - Trinity Eighteen - October 4, 2015
The Spirit of the Law & the Spirit of the Gospel
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When people reject the doctrine of the Church which is taught to us in Scripture, it soon follows that decent morality is rejected as well.  When Christian teaching goes, so does Christian living.  
The solution to fixing the growing godlessness in our culture seems to be simple enough.  More law!  Obviously this is true, and, of course, it would work to a certain extent.  It is, after all, the duty of the governing authorities, whom God has ordained, to enforce the law.  The law is good.  It is written by nature on the hearts of all men.  It keeps wickedness in bounds by coercing people to behave better for fear of punishment.  We call this the first use of the law when it acts as a curb.  Certainly our culture could benefit from a healthy dose of the law. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trinity 17



Luke 14:1-11 - Trinity Seventeen - September 27, 2015
God Exalts the Lowly
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If you’re Norwegian, you might know a few Norwegian jokes.  Some of them are kind of funny since they poke fun of Norwegians and Norwegians don’t mind laughing at themselves.  Likewise, if you’re Irish, you might know some Irish jokes.  If you’re Swedish you might know some Swedish jokes.  If you’re German, you might know some Polish jokes.  What’s funny about all these harmless jokes is that they’re all really the same.  They apply to no one and everyone at the same time.  Everyone just recycles them and changes the names.  They’re not as distinct as people pretend. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Trinity 16



Luke 7:11-17 - Trinity Sixteen - September 20, 2015
Death & Resurrection
on the Occasion of the Baptism of Mark Rolf Preus
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Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also like a shadow, and continueth not.  In the midst of life we are in death.  Of whom may we seek comfort but of Thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law.  But thanks be to Thee, O God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.
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One of my favorite Aesop’s fables is the story of the North Wind and the Sun.  They got into an argument about who was stronger.  To settle their dispute the North Wind pointed to a man walking down the road who was wearing a cloak.  He said, “Whoever is able to get that cloak off that man’s shoulders is the stronger one between us.”  So the Sun agreed and allowed his opponent to go first.  The North Wind blew and blew.  But when he felt the cold wind, the man held on to his collar and wrapped himself all the more snuggly.  So the Wind blew even harder and colder.  But the more he blew, even as the poor man was curled over to stay warm, all the more he would not let go of his cloak for dear life.  He clenched onto it more firmly than his feet stuck to the ground. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Trinity 14



Luke 17:11-19 - Trinity Fourteen - September 6, 2015
The Ten Lepers
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Jesus was heading to Jerusalem for the last time.  On his way, ten lepers saw him outside a certain village and cried out to him for mercy.  Jesus had mercy by speaking his almighty word and healing all ten of them.  Only one, however, returned to thank him.  He was a Samaritan.  Jesus told him that his faith had made him well.  But weren’t all ten lepers made well?  So then, was it something other than faith by which the other nine were healed?  If not, what kind of faith did they have?  And what kind of faith did this Samaritan have that Jesus commended?  In order to relate the events of our Gospel lesson to ourselves, and examine the kind of faith that we ought to have, I’d like to consider these questions. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Trinity 10



Luke 19:41-48 - Trinity Ten - August 9, 2015
 A Meditation on Divine Wrath
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The book of Lamentations, which is the 25th book of the Bible, was written by the prophet Jeremiah who also wrote our Old Testament lesson this morning.  Jeremiah was a faithful prophet, who, like every faithful prophet or preacher, had the very unfortunate task of preaching about the impending wrath of God upon the impenitent.  It’s no fun to preach wrath and the threat of hell.  What pastor wants to preach about how God is angry with sin?  To sinners?  Especially when he himself is a sinner?  It’s a burden of the calling, I suppose.  But sin does make God mad.  So it must be preached.  God does send those who don’t repent to eternal hell.  So it must be preached.  God really does threaten to punish, to the third and fourth generation, those who hate him.  So Jeremiah preached it.  And unlike most preachers, Jeremiah lived to see the day when God’s threats were realized – when everyone was forced to acknowledge that he was right the whole time.  This brought no joy or sense of I-told-you-so to the prophet, only sorrow.  Jerusalem was sacked with him in it; and God permitted his people to be carried away by heathen enemies into captivity.  Reflecting on what he witnessed, Jeremiah writes,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trinity 3



Luke 15:1-10 - Trinity Three - June 21, 2015
Rejoicing in Heaven
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Impenitence is man’s work.  Repentance is God’s work.  This is important to know.  When we sin, it is our fault.  When we turn back to God, it is God’s gracious work.  Jesus tells two parables to illustrate this point.  The first parable of the lost sheep shows us the problem we have as poor miserable sinners.  We got ourselves into the trouble we need to be rescued from.  All we like sheep have gone astray.  The second parable of the lost coin shows us the power we have as poor sinful beings.  We have no power to get ourselves out of the fix we are in.  A coin does nothing to get itself found.  In both parables Christ presents himself as the one who searches out the object of his love.  He is the main character in both. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost



John14:23-31 - Pentecost Confirmation - May 24, 2015
The Spirit of truth

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“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). 
Keidyne, this is your confirmation verse.  I chose it for you because I have taught you the truth from God’s word; because you have learned the truth as it is laid out in Luther’s Small Catechism; and because this morning you will confess that you believe this truth to be the only thing that saves you and gives you eternal salvation.  It is a beautiful passage of Scripture.  And the word truth itself is also a beautiful word that should ring sweet in our ears.  In Greek, the word even has a beautiful sound to it: λήθεια.  In your confirmation verse, Jesus uses this word λήθεια three times.  You wouldn’t notice it right away because of how it’s translated into English.  But we could also say it like this: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Easter 5



John 16:5-15 - Cantate Sunday - May 3, 2015
The Threefold Work of the Holy Spirit

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Oh that I had a thousand voices
To praise my God with thousand tongues!
My heart, which in the Lord rejoices,
Would then proclaim in grateful songs
To all, wherever I might be,
What great things God hath done for me. Amen. 

Today is called Cantate Sunday.  Cantate (which is where we get the word chant) is the Latin word for sing.  It’s in the imperative mood, which means it’s a command to sing, as in, “Sing to the Lord a new song.”  What is a new song?  And why should we sing it?  Far from being a call to always be singing the latest and most up-to-date expressions of faith, this command to sing a new song tells us first to consider what is old and what is new.  This is a spiritual distinction, not a chronological one, and so it’s good that we learn it here. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Easter 2 Quasimodo Geniti



John 20:19-31Quasimodo Geniti – April 12, 2015
Jesus Comes through Closed Doors
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension into heaven are really essentially the same event.  When Jesus had conquered sin, death, and the depths of hell, there were no longer any enemies to undo.  Nothing kept him from standing at the right hand of his Father in resplendent glory.  Entrance to heaven was open — for him – and to all of us who by faith place our confidence in him.  So here we do see one more enemy, don’t we?  We see one more obstacle that bars sinful flesh and blood from entering the presence of the holy God in his heavenly courts.  We see unbelief.  Or rather, because we don’t see, we struggle with unbelief.   
The devil still roams – not to stop Christ from accomplishing our salvation – that is too late – his head is crushed, his doom is certain.  But between now and the final judgment, he continues to do what he can to keep us from enjoying the salvation that Jesus won.  He seeks to block and destroy faith that receives and embraces this salvation.  The devil deceives with false doctrine and false promises of pleasure.  And the world is under his persuasion.  Now, God loves the world.  The devil hates the world because he hates God.  So it pleases the devil to torture the world with his lies and then use the very world for whom Christ died to tempt and persecute those who love God.  He is wicked.  There is nothing more wicked that the spiritual forces that compel poor sinners to reject the salvation that God has won for them.  And yet we see in ourselves exactly what this wickedness is handcrafted to appeal to.  It is designed by Satan to appeal to you. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday



Hebrews4:14–5:7 - Good Friday - April 3, 2015
Our High Priest
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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
What is a priest?  As my members may know, I often like to stress the importance of knowing Old Testament history, because if we don’t know it, we miss out on the context of much of the New Testament.  The fact that it is called the New Testament alone should itself compel us to become at least a little acquainted with the Old.  Now this is not to say that we need to become Jews in order to be true Christians.  God forbid!  The Law of Moses has been fulfilled and all the ceremonies that God commanded him to teach the people have been abrogated.  But why? 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday



John13:1-15 - Maundy Thursday - April 2, 2015
Who Receives Christ Worthily?
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Let us pray:
Lamb of God, pure and holy, who on the cross didst suffer,
Ever patient and lowly, Thyself to scorn didst offer.
All sins Thou borest for us, else had despair reigned o’er us:
Have mercy on us, O Jesus!  Amen. 
These words were written by Nikolaus Decius in 1531 at the height of the Lutheran Reformation.  It was a hymnic version of the Agnus Dei, which for generations had been sung exclusively in Latin.  Agnus Dei simply means Lamb of God, as in, O Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  Decius wrote this hymn in order to bring this prayer into the language of the people.  But even as much as the people needed these words in their own language, they needed to understand what these words really meant – what the words actually teach us.  And this hymn kind of spells it out for us.  That’s the purpose of a hymn – to preach a sermon of sorts:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday




Matthew 21:1-9 - Palm Sunday - March 29, 2015
Come Thou in Mercy as the King of Kings
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“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the
Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
The grateful children of Israel sang the praises of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Hosanna, they cried.  Hosanna means “Oh save us now.”  Jesus came to them in the name of the Lord.  He came to do what only God could do for them – save them.  He was the long awaited Son of David who would rescue them not from political enemies like Babylon or Rome, but from sin, death, and the power of the evil one.  These worshippers sang praises to their King because he came to them in mercy.  Where did they get the words they sang?  Well, they didn’t just make them up.  They inherited them. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lent Midweek




Numbers 21:4-9 - Midweek Lenten Round Robin
 February 25, March 4, 11, 18, 25; 2015       
Jesus Bears the Wrath of God
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O sinner, come thy sin to mourn,
So vast and vile that it has borne
Christ to this vale of anguish;
Son of a Virgin, sweet and mild
In poverty the Holy Child,
Thy Substitute, did languish;
Behold, with faith, God’s only Son!
Come nigh and see what Love has done
To save thee from damnation;
The Father cast on Him thy guilt,
For thee His precious blood was spilt,
To bless thee with salvation.
{A couple weeks ago}, I was reading an Arch Book to my kids (one of those paperback children’s books published by CPH that summarizes Bible stories). 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lent 5



John 8:46-59 - Judica Sunday - March 22, 2015
Vindicate Me, O God
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Today is called Judica Sunday.  The name comes from the first line in the introit, where we sing, “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.”  Judica means vindicate.  It’s where we get such words as judge or adjudicate.  To adjudicate is to settle a dispute.  This is what God does.  He settles disputes.  He decides who’s right and who’s wrong.  He vindicates the one who is right.  And condemns the one who is wrong.  He pleads the cause of those who confess his word against those who deny his word. 
But who likes to dispute?  Isn’t it kind of rude to argue?  Would we not rather have peace – especially with people with whom we have to spend time and whose company we otherwise enjoy?  But Jesus tells us that he did not come to bring such peace.  No.  He warns against it.  He says:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lent 4



John 6:25-35 - Laetare Sunday - March 15, 2015
Jesus is the Bread of Life
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Our introit this morning is where we get the name for this Sunday in the church year: Laetare.  Laetare means rejoice, as in that portion of the introit that is taken from Isaiah 66:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom” (Isaiah 66:10-11). 
As I preached last Sunday, and as we heard in this morning’s Epistle lesson, Jerusalem is the Holy Christian Church.  She is our mother.  She gives us birth through Holy Baptism.  But like any mother who cannot give birth without there being a father, so also the Church cannot give birth to us apart from our Father in heaven.  The mother bears.  The Father begets.  St. Peter writes concerning the new birth of Baptism when he says that we have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).  The power of Baptism is the word of God.  What our mother gives us she first receives from our Father.  So likewise, we feed at our mother’s bosom by hearing and keeping the word of Christ, which he gives to his Church.   His word sets us free from our sin and ignorance.  St. Peter writes about this in the next chapter of the same letter:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lent 3



Luke 11:14-28 - Oculi Sunday - March 8, 2015
Keeping the Word of God
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” 
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If God is our Father, the Church is our Mother.  St. Paul in Galatians 4 calls the Jerusalem above the mother of us all.  The Jerusalem above is the Church in heaven.  But it exists here on earth.  There is one Church – just as there is one Lord and one Faith and one Baptism.  We have communion with Christ.  We therefore have communion with everyone who has communion with Christ.  This means that those who have died and gone to heaven continue to have communion with us below because they continue to have communion with Christ who serves us here. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lent 2



Matthew 15:21-28 - Reminiscere Sunday - March 1, 2015
Faith Desires What God Desires
The doctrine of justification is the chief article of the Christian religion.  This means that it is both the most important thing for you to know, and, in fact, the center of everything that God reveals in Holy Scripture.  The Bible teaches that God forgives the sinner, not because of any merit or worthiness in the sinner, but freely – by grace alone through faith alone. 
·       By grace alone means to say that the sinner is accounted righteous before God, not because of what he has done or left undone, but by sheer, undeserved grace.  God loves us.  Grace excludes all works of man. 
·       By faith alone means that the sinner receives this gracious reckoning of God when he believes that God accepts him into his eternal favor solely on account of what Christ his Son has done on the cross to make full satisfaction for all the world’s sins.  This is what it means to be justified by faith alone.  And so we see that faith also excludes all works of man – because faith relies on grace. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lent 1



Matthew 4:1-11 - Lent One – Invocavit - February 22, 2015         
Lead Us Not into Temptation
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Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  And yet, where in the world is he supposed to lead us?  Literally, where in the world?  The world is full of temptation.  There is nowhere he can lead us either this way or that where there is not some coaxing attraction right in front of us or some nagging desire within us.  We walk in danger all the way.  And yet to pray as Jesus tells us, to lead us not into temptation, we are not asking to be taken out of the world.  We are asking to be kept from the evil one.  We are asking for the word that cleanses us, and sanctifies us, and that defends us from the sin both outside and inside of us.  Only this word can guide us through temptation because only this word joins us to him who overcame every temptation for us. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday




Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 - Ash Wednesday - February 18, 2015         
Where Our Treasure Is
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  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 
There’s something about wise sayings that if you say them enough times and really think about them they stop sounding all that wise and begin to sound painfully obvious.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  A treasure is what you love.  You love with your heart.  So: Where what you love is, there is where you will love it.  It really is that obvious: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  But this is what makes it so wise.  Because it isn’t readily obvious.  It needs to be told to us again and again before it sinks in.  Such a simple truth to which any child can say no kidding needs to be drilled into our heads because of how hardheaded we are.  The enigma of what Jesus says is not in the words themselves — Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also — No, the enigma is in the fact that sinners are so foolish as to think that they can treasure something without that something claiming their love and stealing their heart. 
Sinners think they can serve two masters.  But they can’t. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Quinquagesima



Luke 18:31-46 - Quinquagesima - February 15, 2015         
Hide & Seek

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“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  These words of St. Paul, which we heard in our Epistle lesson, have a very simple meaning.  He’s saying that just as one grows up from being a child who knows very little about the world to becoming an adult who knows much more, so also our understanding of God’s love in Christ in this earthly life is but a shadow of what we will know when we are glorified in heaven.  In other words, just as grownups know more than children, so also, Christians in heaven who live by sight know more than Christians on earth who live by faith and hope.  Paul’s analogy is a simple one.  When adulthood comes, childhood passes away.  So also, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”  Now our knowledge of God’s love is partial.  In heaven it will be perfect.  Faith and hope will cease and give way to sight.  But love, which we know even now, will endure forever. 
Consider what we sing in the hymn:
Now I may know
Both joy and woe,
Someday I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Epiphany 2



John 2:1-11 - Epiphany II - January 18, 2015         
Jesus Honors Marriage
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This morning I’d like to talk about marriage since our Gospel lesson certainly lends itself to such a discussion.  In fact, the entire Epiphany season lends itself to the discussion of marriage.  Consider what we’ve been celebrating during Epiphany and how it speaks to marriage:
God became man and wed himself, so to speak, to our flesh forever – not just to Jewish flesh, but to all human flesh.  The divine Christ will never divorce himself from his humanity.  He remains God and Man forever.  He did not borrow his human nature the way a man borrows the company of a woman to meet some fleeting desire.  No, he assumed a human nature the way a man is permanently joined to his wife and becomes one flesh with her in marriage.  In this way he fulfills his enduring desire to save us.  Through this union of God and Man, this divine marriage of two Natures, Jesus creates new life.  As a faithful Head and honorable father, he cares for the life that his Church gives birth to through Baptism even as he remains with his Bride until the end of the ages.  Since he lives forever, the two shall never be parted, and he will never cease to care for his spiritual children. 
Jesus honored marriage.