Sunday, January 29, 2017

Epiphany 4

Matthew 8:23-27 – Epiphany 4 – January 29, 2017
The Wind and the Waves Obey Him
He whom the world cannot enclose
In Mary’s bosom doth repose;
To be a little Child He deigns
Who all things by Himself sustains. Alleluia! (ELH 136:3)
What a marvelous thing to ponder.  This beautiful hymn stanza was written by Martin Luther for Christmas Day.  With it we consider the marvel of the incarnation and the humility with which the Son of God chose to become true man.  Nothing was made without him.  He sustains all things he made.  He cannot be contained or limited by anything in all creation.  And yet to save us he submits to extreme limitation.  He joins his creation in the truest, most literal sense by becoming a real human being.  Taking both human body and human soul he is made true man.  He contains himself in the womb of his mother.  He who is himself the source of life relies for a time on Mary for the life he needs.  He sweetly rests in her lap.  Thus he deigns to visit man and rescue us and serve us in our greatest need.  Hidden in his weakness is the greatest power in heaven and on earth.  In a helpless display of infant slumber, he is at the same time preserving the entire universe.   

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Baptism of our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17 - Baptism of Jesus - January 8, 2017
God’s Love Revealed
Dearly beloved of God, grace, mercy, and peace be to you through God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen. 
One of the most dangerous false gospels of our day is the lie that we must love ourselves before we are able to love others.  Hardly can any claim be more contrary and diametrically opposed to the Christian religion than this.  And yet it is everywhere.  The world makes many assorted claims that are contrary to the truth of God’s word.  And we must resist them.  We must stand up against lie after lie because our faith and salvation depend on it and because it honors our God to do so.  They argue.  We must argue back.  They make their case.  And we take our stand on the word of God.  But the claim that we must love ourselves before we can love others isn’t even argued anymore.  It’s just asserted as though no one in his right mind could possibly take issue with this self-evident truth.  But we must take issue with it.  Because it isn’t true.  And it’s very harmful. 
Now obviously, if one is going to exert energy to live a productive or happy life, he or she must have some sense of his or her own value.  The question then becomes: where do we find our value?  Is the value of our life found in how generally good we are and how worthy of love we are?  Well then, if that’s the case, by all means learn to love what you are, embrace it, and make it your goal to get others to embrace it too.  Exude unearned confidence.  Show no shame.  Isn’t that how the celebrities gain the adoration of the world? 
But if you actually believe that you are a wayward creature of God whose deepest problem is your own sin and selfishness, then you recognize that your eternal value in the eyes of your Maker has nothing to do with what you have made of yourself or of your potential or of your hopes and dreams or of how you have learned to express yourself. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day

Luke 2:21 - Christmas Octave - January 1, 2017
Under the Law – Above Every Name
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shep-herds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.   Luke 2:16-21
The incarnation of the Son of God is truly a wonderful mystery.  Like with those whom the shepherds told, it causes us to marvel.  It contradicts all human reason – that the infinite and limitless would be contained by the finite and limited.  Therefore since the question of how is clearly off the table for our consideration, we are all the more compelled to get to the bottom of the question of why.  Why did God become man?  And so asking, we delve into the pious and beneficial exercise of pondering in our hearts with the mother of God all those things that were spoken of her Child.  For surely we cannot begin to ponder the purpose of such a mystery unless we keep in mind what God says about it.  There’s nothing to investigate unless we set our mind on those things revealed in Scripture.  The Bible plainly teaches that the infinite God by whom all things were made became a helpless infant who depended on those very things that were made through him – including his own mother.  He who is eternally begotten of the Father with whom, in his very essence, he shares all things, including his substance and nature as God of God and Light of Light – this One now becomes a man like you and me who like us must lift his eyes above himself for those good gifts that come down from the Father of lights.  Why?  Why did God become man?