Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (July 28, 2013)

LUKE 11:1-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     One of Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray….” (Luke 11:1)  Jesus did not teach them to speak as so many Old Testament prayers began, “Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe….”  Granted, he IS that.  But Jesus has taught his disciples to use a title which is much less intimidating and much more endearing.  He taught us to say, “Our Father.”  This precious title tells you who God is.  It tells you who you are.  And it tells you how God thinks of you.  He is your dear Father.  You are his dear children.  You are not merely his creation; you are his redeemed!  He put his name on you when you were baptized.  Through baptism, he has made you a member of his family and an heir of his kingdom. 
     So we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  In his explanation in his Small Catechism, Dr. Martin Luther states: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.” (Luther’s Small Catechism; Lord’s Prayer: The Address)  Therefore, when you pray, pray boldly and confidently.  For, he is your Father, and fathers are delighted to hear from their children.
     In teaching us to pray boldly, Jesus told a parable about a man who was surprised by a midnight guest.  He had no food to set before his guest to refresh him.  But he knew that his friend had food.  He did not let the late hour dissuade him.  He roused the man from his bed and asked for three loaves of bread.  In this culture, it would have been unthinkable to refuse such a request, for it would have tarnished the reputation of the entire village as one which was hostile rather than hospitable.  So, the request came at a bad time.  It was inconvenient.  It certainly was bold.  But it was asked with confidence; for the man knew that his friend would hear his plea and answer.
     How much more does your heavenly Father hear and answer your pleas!  All your frustrations come at a bad time.  All your troubles are inconvenient.  Nevertheless, pray boldly and confidently to your Father.  First of all, you have been urged to do so.  God does not give you this encouragement insincerely.  Secondly, it is impossible to bother your Father at a bad time.  He is eternal.  There is no “time” in which you can bother him.  Thirdly, it is impossible to inconvenience your Father.  He is almighty.  He is never overwhelmed by the size of your troubles.  So pray boldly and confidently to your Father.
     The problem is never that God fails to hear or answer our prayers.  The problem is that we do not believe him.  We do not believe that God cares about us or our problems.  We do not believe that God hears our prayers and petitions.  It is because God does not fix every glitch or exalt us before friends and enemies.  He does not give us whatever we want.  When God does not grant us our wishes, we quit our praying.  We turn from God.  And like little children, we call our Father names and rant, “You don’t really love me!”  It would be an amusing image if it were not a sin against the First Commandment.  God is never amused by that.  Repent.
     Your Father is delighted to do what is best for you.  That does not mean giving you whatever you want.  The fact is: You don’t know what is best for you.  You think it is best that everyone likes you and praises you, that you regularly receive large sums of money, that you never need a prescription, or that you never shed a tear.  Why do you want these things?  Because you want this world to be your home.  You would rather be comfortable and happy in this sinful world than saved from it.  Repent. 
     Even though you are sinful, you know that it is not best to give your children whatever they want.  It is not best for your children to live on PlayStation, ice cream, and prizes.  Even though you know they will hate it, you discipline them.  You assign them chores.  You make them do their homework.  You give them salad instead of ice cream.  They think you are being cruel.  You are doing what is best for them.
     Dear children of God, your Father truly knows what is best for you.  And your Father truly does love you.  He demonstrated this by giving his only begotten Son for you.  Jesus offered up prayers throughout his life on your behalf.  He perfectly sought God’s will.  He perfectly sought your good.  And that led him to a cross where he suffered and died for your impatience, ingratitude, and idolatry.  Though you have felt that your Father does not have your best interests at heart, he shows you his heart at Mt. Calvary.  There, Jesus atoned for all of your sin.  There, Jesus delivered you from death and hell.  There, Jesus reconciled you to God.  There, God assured you that his is your dear Father and that you are his dear children. 
     Jesus asks, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:10-11)  If sinners do what is best for their children, how much more does your holy Father do what is best for you!  He has given you his Holy Spirit.  He makes his home within you; you are members of his family.  He has taken away your guilt.  Therefore, you are heirs of the Father’s heavenly kingdom.  If he has loved you enough to claim you for eternity, will he not also care for you in your brief time here?
     Pray boldly and confidently to your heavenly Father.  Jesus said: “Ask, and it will given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)  Like children, you can be bold enough to ask for anything, even for the outrageous.  Children know that they will not always get the ice cream, the chocolate sauce, and the sprinkles.  They ask anyway, because they know they will not get their treats unless they ask.  You are God’s children.  So pray just as boldly to your Father in heaven.  Ask for the ice cream.  Pray for your cross to get lighter.  Intercede for your cancer-stricken friend.  Ask for lakeside cottage.  Plead for relief for the war-torn countries and the malaria-infested lands.  Pray boldly, and be confident that whatever God does is best for you.  Then, pray also for daily bread, for running water, for plentiful crops, for a safe home, and for warm blankets.  These, too, are gifts from your heavenly Father.  He gives them because he loves you.
     Pray boldly and confidently to your heavenly Father.  He does not merely guess what is best; he knows.  When he allows you to suffer pain, shed tears, and endure loss, your Father knows that it is best to remind you that this world is not permanent, much less perfect.  He is teaching you not to long for what is disappointing, decaying, and dying.  When your time in this world is done and daily bread no longer matters, what do you hope for?  And when your children, too, must bid farewell to this world, what is it that you finally want for them?  Isn’t it a place in the kingdom of God?  That, surely, is what your Father wants for you.  If you long for peace, comfort, and perfect blessing, then pray boldly and confidently to your dear Father for such things.  And be confident that, through Jesus, he will grant them—in some measure now, but without measure for your eternity. 
     Pray boldly that your Father increase your faith.  Pray confidently that your Father bring you at last to his heavenly kingdom.  You can be confident that he will always answer “Yes!” to your prayer.  He sent his Son to secure it for you; he gives you his word and sacraments to instill it in you.  This is what is best for you.  He is pleased to give it.  For, you are his dear children, and he is your dear Father.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sermon -- For the Commttal of Ethel Johnston (July 27, 2013)

JOHN 12:23-26
            Jesus said to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

In the name + of Jesus.

     We are made most acutely aware of our sinfulness at the time of death.  For, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); and, therefore, everyone dies.  But just because everyone dies, that does not make it easy when a loved one dies.  It is not the same as saying, “Everyone has a birthday.”  We rejoice at time when life is given.  But we grieve at the time when death comes.  Life is a gift.  Death is a curse.  This is what all sinners deserve and, therefore, it is what we all receive.
     But the glory of God is that he saves sinners.  Jesus told his disciples that the hour had come for his glory.  He went on to explain, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)    
     Back in the Garden of Eden, as soon as sin entered the world, God promised that the Seed of the Woman would come and deliver mankind from death.  Jesus is the seed which would die and be planted in the earth.  He was put to death for the sins of the world.  All of the punishment, all of the curse, all of the torments of hell, and all the wrath of God were poured out on Jesus.  He suffered, died, and was buried.  He was buried in a garden, in a borrowed tomb—for, he would not need it for long.
     On the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead.  Sin and death had begun in a garden, and now the resurrection and the life also begin in a garden.  The Seed of the Woman, which had been planted in the tomb, sprung to life.  Jesus is risen.  Sins have been taken away.  Death has been conquered.  The grave is but a temporary need.  Heaven has been opened.
     Now, let us return to Jesus’ words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  Jesus did not die and rise just for himself.  He does not remain a single Seed.  He died and rose to bear much fruit.  Jesus died and rose for Ethel Johnston.  She is among the many who have been given life through Jesus.  Yes, we commit her body to the ground.  And it may seem that the cemetery remains her new abode.  But she will not need the grave forever.  Like Jesus, she will have life again.  This cemetery is but another garden from which Ethel’s body will spring forth to live again. 
     A long time ago, Ethel Johnston was baptized into the name of Jesus.  On that day, all that Jesus had done for her became hers personally.  On that day, God put to death a sinner and raised her up a saint.  On that day, God marked her as his own for her time here on earth and for eternity.  God’s love is hers, and not even her death can nullify that.  
     But now, even though her soul is in Paradise with her Savior, her body must await the resurrection.  But fear not!  Not even death can nullify God’s promises.  If Ethel Johnston was united to Jesus throughout her life, if Ethel Johnston remained united with Jesus in her death, then Ethel Johnston will be raised up as Jesus was.  That which is planted in the earth will spring to life again. 
     St. Paul speaks of our Christian hope: What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel….  So it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:36-37,42-43)  Our Lord Jesus Christ will transform the lowly body of Ethel Johnston to be like his glorious, risen body.  She will be given a body that will never grow weary or sick.  She will have a mind that will never get dull.  She will enjoy a life that will never be bad or sad.  At the Last Day, Jesus Christ, who redeemed Ethel Johnston in time, will raise her up for eternal life.
     The Son of Man has been glorified.  Jesus revealed his glory to Ethel Johnston, and he has been faithful to her.  Therefore, she will follow our Lord—into death and then raised again to eternal life.  This is the honor that the Father has given Ethel—that she is redeemed.  This is God’s glory—that he redeems sinners.  And this is your joy—that God keeps his promises to her and to you.  Not even death can take them away, for Jesus is the one who takes away death.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Reading Snippets: We are a catholic church

The original draft of the Apostles' Creed confesses: "I believe in ... the holy, catholic Church."  Over time, it changed into "the holy, Christian Church."  Both confess that there is one church, just as there is one kingdom of God, not competing kingdoms of God.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has always confessed and claimed that it is the church catholic.  In other words, we are not a sect which has branched off of Christendom.  We have retained the confessions that the Christian Church has always taught.  The Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession take great pains to say so.

The Lutheran Reformation was not a rebellion or a revolution.  It was a conservative Reformation, which means to say that it strove to retain what the Christian Church practiced in regard to rites and ceremonies, as much as Scripture allowed it to.  That is why some come to Divine Services in the Lutheran Church and comment, "That looks just like a Catholic service!"

In my corner of Lutheranism (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), and perhaps in others, this comment is often met with a visceral reaction in which people try to distance our church as far as possible from Rome.  While Evangelical Lutherans have maintained our protest against Rome (cf the above confessions, as well as the Smalcald Articles for the reasons for such protests and division), there is still much which we practice which continues the tradition of the western church .  The fact is, we are a catholic church, though not Roman, and our worship ought to confess that.  That means we follow the western rite (the Common Service is our version of that), the Church Year, the use of vestments, et al.  There is no need to apologize for it, much less to distance ourselves from it.  Our continued use of these ceremonies and rites testifies that we are the church catholic. 

With that in mind, consider this Summer Reading Snippet from The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by Charles Porterfield Krauth:
          "We are not so much alarmed therefore, as some men pretend to be with mere coincidence with elements existing in the Romish Church.  If anything in our Protestant doctrines or usages be, indeed, a perpetuation of what is unscriptural in the Romish system, it should be weeded out; but it does not follow, that because a thing is in Rome, it is of Rome." (p 342, emphasis original)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 21, 2013)

LUKE 10:38-42

In the name + of Jesus.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ chooses his words carefully.  That is why it is so valuable to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures.  They will guide you in all truth, and they will keep you from being led astray.  It is always good to know what our Lord does say and what he does not say.
     So, pay heed to what our Lord says: Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41-42)  Now, Jesus does not say that only one thing is useful or helpful or good.  Indeed, there are many things in our world that are useful and helpful and good.  It is good and useful for you to serve your neighbor in whatever capacity God has given you to do it.  Dentists clean and fix teeth.  Car mechanics keep cars running.  The mayor oversees the order of the city.  Parents nurture, discipline, and care for their children.  The husband devotes himself to the well-being of his wife, and the wife submits to the care and protection of her husband.  These are all useful and helpful and good.  Through the diligent and faithful service of people in their various vocations, God blesses people in our world.
     People are blessed by the work that you do.  You are also blessed by the work that other people do.  There is no denying these things.  But as good as these things are, they are not necessary, which is to say, these things do not bring you God’s salvation.  You are not saved by having the dentist clean your teeth, and you are not saved because you put in an honest day’s work.  Many things are helpful, useful, and good; and most people do them.  But only one thing is necessary.
     Now consider Martha.  Jesus had come to her home.  Likely, he had come for a festival at Jerusalem.  Rather than staying in Jerusalem, he stayed with Martha and Mary and Lazarus in nearby Bethany.  These siblings all knew who Jesus was.  They confessed him as Lord and Christ.  He was the most honored guest their house would know.
     Now, if you had Jesus coming to stay at your home, wouldn’t you also go overboard to make sure he was treated well?  You would make your home immaculate.  You would prepare the best meal you knew how.  You would be a flurry of activity.  Martha was.  She wanted to be sure that her guest—her Lord!—was going to receive royal treatment in her home.  And so she was busy, exceedingly busy.  There was so much to do, and it was all important.
     That is probably how you feel about your life, too.  You have many obligations, many responsibilities.  Your life is filled with stress because of schedules, meetings, deadlines, and bills.  You might even feel like leisure time is something you have to cram in.  If you look at all of the things that fill your weekly schedule, chances are none of them is wicked.  Your job, your house work, your exercise, scheduling appointments, running your children to these appointments, checking e-mail, or checking what’s on TV—none of these is wicked.  Much of it is important, because it benefits you and your family.  It is useful, helpful, and good.  But it can also turn into distractions and excuses.  It did for Martha.
     Martha was a busy woman.  Mary, however, was getting on her nerves.  It wasn’t that Mary was getting in the way.  It was that Mary was doing nothing!  Martha was busting her tail, and Mary was sitting on hers.  She implored Jesus to tell Mary to do something helpful, useful, and good.  Jesus surprised Martha.  Jesus told Martha that Mary was doing what was good!  He replied, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) 
     Only one thing is necessary.  Only one thing is crucial and essential.  Only one thing has everlasting value.  So, finally, only one thing is good—Jesus Christ.  I suppose it looked like Mary was doing nothing as she sat on the floor, but St. Luke tells us that Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. (Luke 10:39)  Mary craved the one thing that was necessary.  She yearned to hear her Savior’s voice.  For, she knew that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.  He alone is the source of forgiveness and salvation.  He alone is the way to the Father, the light for those living in darkness, the resurrection and the life.  Only one thing is necessary, and it is Jesus.
     Jesus Christ has come to serve us because we have done neither good nor the necessary works of God.  Often our works and our words are harmful instead of helpful, devoted to our own glory and gain rather than to the benefit of our neighbor.  But all Jesus has done, he did for your good, your gain, and your glory.  He did the good you need, and he died for the evil you have done and for the good you have failed to do.  He has taken your sin and suffered the harm you had coming.  Jesus has paid the price. 
      His greatest work, his necessary work, was completed at the cross.  But the benefits are not given there.  Jesus gives his benefits where his word is preached and his sacraments are administered.  So, to receive the only thing that is necessary, the Church, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet.  You crave to hear the words of comfort and peace from your Lord.  You renew your baptism by confessing your sins and receiving the Lord’s absolution.  You kneel at the communion railing to be given the body and blood of the Lord where the Lord strengthens and keeps you in the one true faith.  Jesus’ gospel comes in many ways, but it is the only thing necessary.  For, the Gospel is the only thing that saves you.
     Mary’s posture demonstrates how God’s salvation is entirely his doing and his gift.  As we noted earlier, Mary sat and did nothing.  The Lord gave, and she received.  The Lord served, and she rested.  And so it is for the Church.  Here is your Sabbath rest.  Here the Lord serves you.  You rest; the Lord works.  The Lord gives; you receive. 
     Only one thing is necessary—the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the where the Lord is at work for you.  This is how Jesus delivers you from death and the devil, makes you a member of God’s family, comforts your grieving heart, soothes your anxious soul, calms your fearful mind, and guarantees your eternal life.  This world will always give you problems and pressures which will make you anxious and troubled.  If you long for peace from a hectic pace, if you long for comfort in a painful world, if you crave relief from an accusing conscience, if you desire assurance of God’s mercy, if you are looking for a life without stress, without misery, without sickness, and without death—then flee to Jesus.  Take time to sit at his feet and do nothing.  Let him serve you.  It is not only useful, helpful, and good, it is the only thing necessary.
     Go forth from here and carry out your tasks and responsibilities.  Do not despise these things.  Jesus did not call Martha a wicked woman for her diligent service.  Likewise, God gives you your tasks and responsibilities so that you can serve others, glorify him, and demonstrate your faith.  Such service is good and helpful and useful.  But remember: Only one thing is necessary. 
     Therefore, the Church, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet.  This is your greatest service to the Lord.  By doing this, you honor him as your gracious Redeemer.  It is your clearest confession of faith.  By doing this, you acknowledge your total dependence upon Jesus for your salvation.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet is your most important work all week, and it is necessary.  This is where the Lord gives his blessings and his gifts.  This is how Jesus bestows forgiveness and salvation.  This is the good portion, and it will not be taken away from you.

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Indulgences via Papal tweets?!

Almost 500 years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, nothing seems to have changed.  The Pope is still offering relief from time in Purgatory.  Indulgences are still being offered to all who follow the papal appointed steps.  See the articles below.
There are many comments that one could make about this (for example, the existence of Purgatory having no Scriptural foundation; the fact that the teaching of Purgatory denies the benefits of Jesus' atoning sacrifice for sins -- If they are paid for, why are your sufferings still necessary?; etc...)
It was about 500 years ago that a pesky monk in Saxony wanted to debate the following points:
     This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.
     To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial." (Theses 81 and 82 of Martin Luther's 95 Theses)

Even though the Pope is not making use of salesmen-preachers to gather in money for indulgence sales, the basic question about pardon for punishments still stands:  If the Pope truly has authority to pardon people from punishments for their sins, why doesn't love and compassion for tortured souls compel him to grant full and immediate pardons?
One hell of a deal: Pope Francis offers reduced time in Purgatory for Catholics that follow him on Twitter
Court in charge of forgiveness of sins says those that follow upcoming event via social media will be granted indulgences
Salvation – or at least a shorter stay in Purgatory – might now be only a tweet away with news that Pope Francis is to offer “indulgences” – remissions for temporary punishment – to the faithful who follow him on the social media site.

Around 1.5 million are expected to flock to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day with the Argentine pontiff later this month. But for those who can’t make it to Brazil,  forgiveness may be available to contrite sinners who follow Francis’s progress via their TV screen or social networks.

The Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican court that rules on the forgiveness of sins, has said that indulgences may be given to those who follow the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.
The Penitentiary said that Pope Francis' Twitter account, which has already gathered seven million followers, would be one such medium.

Vatican officials, noted however, that to obtain indulgences over the internet or otherwise, believers would first have to confess their sins, offer prayers and attend Mass.

“You can't obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Similar comments from the UK Guardian:
Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks – such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate's house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican's sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the "rites and pious exercises" of the event on television, radio and through social media.

"That includes following Twitter," said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis' Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. "But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet."

In its decree, the penitentiary said that getting an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having previously confessed and being "truly penitent and contrite".
Hat Tip:  Rev. Geoff Kieta

Architects, REPENT!!!

The link below take you to RealClearReligion's compilation of the 35 ugliest churches in the world (though there are non-Christian entries in the bunch).  For the slideshow go to RealClearReligion – The Ugliest Churches in the World – The Ugliest Churches in the World.
It is hard to say who is more to blame--the architects who designed these or the churches which suggested and/or approved these designs.  To be fair, I don't think all of these deserve the title "ugly."
A few teasers. 
     1)  There are some Lutherans in Scandinavia who need to repent.
     2)  The "chicken church" in Florida really isn't that bad looking of a building.  But once you see the chicken, you will not see anything else.
     3)  Michigan is represented THREE TIMES (Detroit, Muskegon, and Portage)!
     4)  The queen mother of all ugly churches is the last one, a Roman Catholic Church in India.  If someone could explain what they are trying to say with their design, I would appreciate it.  I will entertain just about all suggestions.
One of the lessons which we from this: Architecture matters.  Churches are to be sacred spaces dedicated to the glory of God and for the specific use of the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.  As such, they are to be the best we can give.  They are to demonstrate to any who walk in that we regard these places as holy and reverent.  (Granted, sometimes the best a group of Christians can give is rather humble, but they can still be reverent.)  Architecture should reflect theology.  That is what drives everything the church does, including how its buildings are designed.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sermon -- 8th Sunday after Pentecost (July 14, 2013)

LUKE 10:25-37

In the name + of Jesus.

     There are basically two different ways to understand the parable before us in the Gospel.  It boils down to how you answer this question: Who is the Good Samaritan?
     Behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)  This is the question that began the dialogue between the expert in the Law and the Giver of that Law.  The man not only had the credentials of being an expert in the details of the Law, he also thought he had the credentials of one who had kept it.  But he also recognized that he had to tweak God’s Law in order to credit himself with perfect obedience.  He had no problem with loving his neighbor as long as he could qualify who his neighbor was.  Therefore, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
     Now, let’s pretend that you are the Good Samaritan.  Let’s say that you are supposed to do all that the Good Samaritan did.  He was certainly noble, wasn’t he?  He not only loved his fellow man, he also loved his enemy—for Samaritans and Jews were enemies.  Nevertheless, the Good Samaritan was more noble than the religious men.  A priest and a Levite turned the other way when they saw the beaten man.  Getting involved was too messy, too inconvenient, too expensive, and too time-consuming. 
     But the Samaritan saw the beaten man.  The Samaritan was not motivated by his prejudices against him.  He saw a man who would die if he were not treated.  Therefore, the Good Samaritan not only had compassion, he acted.  He not only tended his wounds, he also took him to an inn for extra care.  He not only paid the price for his enemy, he pledged to cover any additional costs.  We are hard-pressed to be this generous for friends, let alone enemies!
     Now, let’s return to the original question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)  “Sir, you are the expert in the law.  You publicly read the Scriptures in the synagogues.  What does it say?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:27-28)  Will you be a Good Samaritan?  Then, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)  Do this.  Do it always.  Do it without fail.  Do it for friends, strangers, and enemies.  Do it cheerfully.  If you are a Good Samaritan like this, you will have a place in heaven.  If you can’t, then you won’t.
     The problem is not that you don’t know what a Good Samaritan is supposed to do.  Perhaps you have even been called a Good Samaritan.  It’s because you changed someone’s flat tire.  It’s because you gave money to a family in need.  It’s because you pulled children and a dog away from a downed power line.  But, Jesus’ command, “Do this!” is a present imperative.  In Greek, that means, “Keep on doing this!”  “Always do this!”  The Law demands constant and perfect performance.  You cannot justify yourself by limiting who is your neighbor, by what works you will do, or by how often you will do them.  The Law has no limits and no quotas.  You do not need to be an expert in the Law to see that you stand condemned.  You do not have such compassion for your fellowman.  You do not bless and pray for your enemies.  You do not love God or keep his commands with all your heart.  Therefore, you cannot obtain eternal life.
     The lawyer wanted to justify himself.  It cannot be done.  If you want to justify yourself, you must keep the Law perfectly, not find ways to get around it.  But there is one who does justify you—Jesus of Nazareth.  He was raised in a city from the northern tribes of Israel, in other words, Samaria.  His enemies tried to smear him with the title, “Samaritan,” which Jesus did not repudiate.  Just as he is the Good Shepherd and the Good Teacher, so also he is the Good Samaritan.  And the Good Samaritan is the only one who saves the dying.
     Now, consider this parable with Jesus as the Good Samaritan.  You will not find yourself driven to despair because of the works you know you can’t do.  Instead, you find that you have a Savior who does them all for you!  For, you are the one who has been left for dead.  You have been attacked by enemies—sin, death, and the devil.  They have robbed you of the Image of God, the glory God had first given to mankind.  You are marked for dead, and in fact you are dying.  You cannot save yourself, no matter how hard you try.
     Neither the priest nor the Levite can save the dying man.  Obedience to the Law would save if you could do it.  But the Law only highlights your sinfulness.  Sacrifices won’t save you, either.  No matter what you vow to give up, it does not take away your sins.  But then came the Good Samaritan.  He had good reason to avoid you, for you have been his enemy.  The sinful mind is hostile to God.  That is why you despise God when he confronts or condemns you or puts a cross on you. 
     And yet, the Good Samaritan did not pass you by.  He knew that stepping in to save you would be messy and time-consuming and costly to him.  But God became man to pick you up and to bear your burden.  The Good Samaritan has tended to your wounds and has cleansed them.  He has paid the cost.  And he has delivered you to the inn, that is, the Church, for your well-being until he returns. 
     The Good Samaritan is the only one who saves the dying.  Jesus said, “Do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)  Your comfort is this: Jesus has done it!  His compassion does not come with quotas.  His mercy has no limits.  Jesus, your Good Samaritan, has loved even his enemies as himself.  He has been merciful to you in your great need.  He has anointed you in Holy Baptism to cleanse you of all of your sin.  And because you continue to be sinners, he pours out wine by which he gives his divine blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. 
     The Good Samaritan has entrusted you to his Church to care for you, to comfort and console you, and to strengthen and keep you until his return.  For here is where he still pours out the oil of joy and the cup of salvation.  Here, he continues to cover the cost for your sins.  Here, he continues to supply your life; for, the Good Samaritan is the only one who saves the dying.
     Your Good Samaritan has had mercy upon you.  He does not crush you with guilt or drive you to despair by telling you how much you must do to satisfy him.  He has satisfied all of God’s demands, and he has placated all of God’s wrath.  You do not have to invent ways to justify yourself.  Jesus Christ has justified you.  He applies his salvation to you through Holy Baptism, through Holy Communion, and through Holy Absolution.  In this way, he gives life to the dying.  The Good Samaritan is the only one who saves the dying.
     One final thought regarding the lawyer’s question from our Gospel.  He had asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)  As a lawyer, he should have known better.  For, there is only one way to obtain an inheritance, and that is the one who gives good things must die.  And so he has.  Jesus has died to pay for all your sins and win your eternal life.  He has risen to conquer the grave and to guarantee your resurrection from it.  The Good Samaritan is the only one who saves the dying.  For, he IS good, and his mercy endures forever.

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Local Tourist -- Edsel & Eleanor Ford Estate

Today's Local Tourist took us to St. Clair Shores, or the shores of Lake St. Clair.  Here is the estate of the son of Henry Ford, Edsel, and Edsel's wife, Eleanor.  They raised four children there.  I guess if you have to grow up somewhere, this place wouldn't be so bad.

Some photos.

The first Lincoln Continental, Edsel Ford's design.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Reading Snippets

This summer, I promised myself that I would read The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1883).  This volume intends to demonstrate that Luther and the Evangelical Lutheran Church were not revolutionaries who sought the overthrow of the Roman Catholic Church.  Instead, the were reformers.  And they were not radical reformers who sought to jettison everything that looked, sounded, and smelled Roman Catholic.  They sought to conserve what the church catholic had always taught and practiced, unless it violated the teachings of Scripture (and sadly, plenty did).

So, here is a snippet from Krauth regarding the Church and her struggles.

          "The life of a Church may be largely read in its controversies.  As the glory or shame of a nation is read upon its battle-fields which tells for what it periled the lives of its sons, so may the glory or shame of a Church be determined when we know what it fought for and what it fought against; how much it valued what it believed to be truth; what was the truth it valued; how much it did, and how much it suffered to maintain that truth, and what was the issue of its struggles and sacrifices.  
          "A Church which contends for nothing, either has lost the truth, or has ceased to love it." (p 147)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sermon -- 7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 7, 2013)

LUKE 10:1-12,16-20

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)  Immediately after he encouraged his disciples to pray for workers, Jesus sent out seventy-two men into the harvest. 
     The harvest is, indeed, plentiful.  Current census numbers estimate that the harvest field is well over seven billion people right now, and continuing to grow.  And they are all loved by the Lord.  “God so loved the world,” (John 3:16) right?  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)  There is no one who is without sin so that he does not need forgiveness.  There is no one so wicked that Jesus refused to make atonement for him.  Jesus Christ has come for all so that all might be saved.  Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  But they cannot call on the one of whom they have never heard or known.  Therefore, workers must go into the harvest.  You, too, pray that the Lord will send them.
     We might think of going to the far reaches of the world for this harvest.  After all, China and India have more than 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion people.  But Jesus did not send the seventy-two to the far corners of the world.  At this point, Jesus did not command, “Go into all the world.” (Mark 16:15)  He sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1)  Jesus sent them to their surrounding communities.  These people needed a Savior, just like the people you see and know around you.
     Now, some young men here may one day be among the ministers whom the Lord calls to go into his harvest field.  The Church will never run out of its need for pastors, because the world will never run out of sinners.  Sinners, even Christians, will never outgrow their need for a Savior.  Therefore, the Lord still calls men and ordains servants to go and to speak in his stead and by his command. The Lord Jesus Christ still pours out his mercy through his servants, because the world still needs it.
     In the same way, the seventy-two were sent to preach.  You can understand if they were afraid when they went.  They did not know how they would be received, or if they would be received.  I can relate.  You might find it interesting to see people’s reactions when I wear a clerical collar around.  Some quickly turn away.  They avoid me at all costs.  They don’t know me, but the collar shows whom I represent.  And even if people have no interest in repenting, they know they should.  Because of guilt or anger, they turn away.  Others are drawn to the one wearing a collar.  They yearn for a pastor to pray for them.  Some might come right up to me and say, “Father, I have a question…”  Again, they know by sight what to expect from me, whether they are eager to hear it or eager to challenge it.  But please understand: This is not about me.  It is about the office of the ministry.  And for all who are called or ordained, the call is the same: Preach the word.  Proclaim the kingdom.  Point them to Jesus.
     But not all Christians are called and ordained ministers.  In fact most aren’t.  Perhaps you are (or will be) an engineer, a doctor, a mechanic, or a janitor.  You may not be ordained to speak in the stead of Christ, but you still bear the name of Christ.  You still get to confess your faith.  You are still the salt of the earth, preservatives of greater wickedness in the world, and lights to the world, reflecting the light of Jesus Christ in a sin-darkened world. 
     Some will cherish your confession.  Others will despise it.  Even though some may despise you or lash out at you, these people are not your enemies.  They are lost souls whom Jesus loves and for whom Jesus died.  They are captives of the real enemy.  Your enemy is the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Your enemy is sin which desires to claim you and condemn you.  Your enemy is death, which longs to hold you for eternity.  But fear not!  Jesus has conquered the enemy and gives you the victory.  And Jesus has given you authority over the enemy.  The very word you believe and confess assures that your place in the kingdom of God is firmly established.  That word renounces the enemy’s claim on you.  You are forgiven of your sins.  You are free from death and the devil.  Jesus has secured it.  Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.
     Whatever fears the seventy-two had when they were sent out, that apprehension was gone when they returned.  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17)  You can appreciate their excitement.  They were overjoyed at how well everything went.  The crowds had, apparently, received them well.  And even the demons trembled before them.  This was exciting stuff!
     Jesus corrected them.  They had reason to be overjoyed, but not because their ministry had gone so well.  It would not always go so well.  Others had preached before them, and almost no one submitted to their message in the Lord’s name.  Jeremiah was imprisoned.  Amos was threatened.  Tradition says Isaiah was sawn in half.  What was their joy supposed to be when they were so harshly rejected and cruelly treated?  What is your joy when you are mocked or attacked because of your confession? 
     Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)  Your joy does not rest on how well people listen to you or treat you.  Your joy is this: Jesus has given you authority over the enemy.  His sufferings mean that you will not suffer for your sins.  His death means that the grave has had its fill.  It must forfeit its prey.  It must give you back.  Jesus’ resurrection means that you will rise from the dead with a body that is whole and holy, good and glorious, incorruptible and imperishable.  Satan has been struck down.  One little word can fell him, and that word is Jesus.  Your enemies—sin, death, and the devil—cannot harm you.  You are the Lord’s.  Your name is written in heaven; and therefore, you are safe.
     Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.  Your enemies cannot harm you.  Oh, it is true that you may endure hardship, loss, pain, or even death (though that seems unlikely in our nation) for your confession and faith.  Others have.  That does not mean you are supposed to be eager to suffer.  But no matter what you endure, as painful and frustrating as it may be, your enemy cannot do any real harm to you.  The Lord sees and knows.  He will not believe anyone’s lies about you, not even Satan’s.  No matter what is taken from you, God does not withdraw his promises and mercy.  Even if they should kill you, they cannot nullify the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  You bear the name of Jesus Christ.  And so, you have authority over the enemy.  Your name is written in heaven, and no one can erase that.  You confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, and nothing can change who he is—your Redeemer and your righteousness.  So, no one can change who you are—a child of God.
     Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.  Satan has been trampled.  Your sins are forgiven.  Death is null and void.  It is your joy to confess this and to witness to others.  It is also your joy to pray that the Lord would send forth more and more ministers to proclaim good news to a depraved, desperate, and dying world.  The harvest is, indeed, plentiful.  The world’s need is, indeed, great.  But God’s mercy is greater.  He who is your Savior longs for the world to know him as their Savior, too.  It begins with your town and extends to the world.  Therefore, pray for God’s kingdom to advance.  Confess the faith.  Support the workers who go on your behalf.  And rejoice that your name is known by God and is written in heaven.

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Local Tourist -- Detroit RenCen and Riverwalk

We've only lived here for 17 years and we just now got around to touring the Renaissance Center on the riverfront in Detroit.  The view of Detroit and Canada from the 72nd floor was very cool!  After touring the RenCen, we walked along the Detroit River on part of the riverfront.  They are doing more work on it, and it will be really sweet when it is done.  Fabulous so far, too!  And other than parking for a mere $5, it was all free!

Well, here are some pics from your Local Tourist.  Hopefully the Local Tourist will get to Detroit for more tourism this summer.

The Wintergarden in the RenCen.
Looking northeastward at the Detroit River. 
Belle Island is in the middle of the river.
Looking southwestward at the Detroit River.
Hart Plaza is in the foreground.  Joe Louis Arena is just past that.
The Ambassador Bridge spans the river at the top of the photo.

The GM show room at the RenCen.

The RenCen from the Detroit Riverwalk, taken from the Rivald Plaza.

Feet in the Motor City.  Eyes on the Detroit River.  Windsor, Ontario, Canada in the background.