Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Something from Luther

The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church is coming up quickly.  2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of that event.  It is highly likely that we will hear and read a lot about Martin Luther during 2017, and as that year approaches.

The comments about Luther will be both positive and negative.  He will be portrayed as a hero of the Christian faith and Christian Church, and he will be vilified as a schismatic, a destroyer of the Christian Church, and a tool of Satan himself.

In conjunction with that last phrase, you can lay down good money right now that one of the quotes of Luther which will be trotted out is something he said about the Jews which was quite vicious and condemnatory.  (I don't have the reference before me, but a quick web search will produce numerous web site which will quote it--almost as if this were the only thing Luther ever wrote.)  It was written late in his life--perhaps when he was in a particularly foul mood, as he often was about the Gospel not being believed and cherished by one group or another.  (He even raged about his fellow Wittenbergers from time to time.)

One of the results of having so many of your thoughts and words written and recorded is that people get to see your most brilliant thoughts and your most regrettable ones.  Luther's cruel remarks about the Jews late in his life are among his more regrettable moments.  As modern day Lutherans, we can't deny that he said them.  Nor are we obligated to defend them.  Luther was not perfect or divinely inspired.  He said some things which were wrong.  He wrote other things which modern ears find highly offensive, though they were not as offensive in his own day--his enemies were equally as vicious against him.

Nonetheless, we will have Luther's quote against the Jews trotted out again and again as 2017 approaches.  Rather than try to defend or explain it, perhaps the best retort is to refer people to other Luther quotes about the Jews.  Below is a part of a 20 page treatise entitled, "That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew," written in 1523.  Far from being anti-Semitic, it highlights Luther's mercy toward the Jews, especially that they would hear the Gospel, believe in Jesus as their Christ, and be saved.

            “Therefore I will cite from Scripture the reasons that move me to believe that Christ was a Jew born of a virgin, that I might perhaps also win some Jews to the Christian faith.  Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks—the crude asses’ heads—have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew.  If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.

            “They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property.  When they baptize them they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but only subject them to popishness and monkery.  When the Jews then see that Judaism has such strong support in Scripture, and that Christianity has become a mere babble without reliance on Scripture, how can they possibly compose themselves and become right good Christians?  I have myself heard from pious baptized Jews that if they had not in our day heard the gospel they would have remained Jews under the cloak of Christianity for the rest of their days.  For they acknowledge that they have never yet heard anything about Christ from those who baptized and taught them.

            “I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.  They will only be frightened further away from it if their Judaism is so utterly rejected that nothing is allowed to remain, and they are treated only with arrogance and scorn.  If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been any Christians among the Gentiles.  Since they dealt with us Gentiles in such brotherly fashion, we in our turn ought to treat the Jews in a brotherly manner in order that we might convert some of them.  For even we ourselves are not yet all very far along, not to speak of having arrived.”
That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, May(?), 1523

Luther's Works, American Edition, Vol. 45, pp 200-201

Monday, September 29, 2014

MLS Football vs. St. Louis

Last week, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS) Cardinals took on St. Louis.  The JV traveled to St. Louis, which is one of my favorite venues in the conference.  The outcome for the JV, however was not as nice.  MLS took it on the chin, 22-6.  We did not get there until the 2nd quarter, and we were told that we had missed nothing.  Apparently, MLS had only 3 offensive plays the entire 1st quarter because St. Louis kept on recovering their own onside kickoffs.

I think Caleb (#42) continues to get a bit more comfortable at safety, but experience can be a cruel teacher.  He did his best covering some receivers down field.  He had one really nice knock down of a deep pass, but saw the receivers pull in some others.  He will learn and he will get better.

Some photos from the JV game:

Caleb ended up making this tackle at the sideline.

Caleb is right behind the down marker, saving the TD.  
At least he ins't behind the orange first-down marker.  
That would have been a great photo for a family in the witness protection program.

The varsity hosted St. Louis for the MLS homecoming.  They took care of business, beating the Sharks 40-0.  Andrew continues his streak of games of being about 6 inches taller than the corner covering him.  He jumped up for a really nice catch but landed just out of bounds (not the first photo).  He finally did haul in a TD, but he was certainly looking for at least one more.  In all, he had 4 catches for about 80 yards.  Some photos:

Caleb, dressed as usual for MLS varsity football games, in his morph suit. 


Gain of about 40 yards on this one.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sermon -- 15th Sunday after Trinity (September 28, 2014)

MATTHEW 6:24-34

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus would have you consider the birds and the flowers.  It is a good time of year to do that.  The birds are starting to make their way south for the winter.  They do not pack suitcases or even a purse.  They do not have a GPS.  They do not make reservations.  But year after year, they migrate thousands of miles to the same places where they find food and shelter.  And after winter, they will come back.  The birds do not fret over these things.  They live, flittering about from one place to the next, confident that the Lord who has always taken care of them will continue to do so.
     Regarding the flowers and plants, we see that they are starting to fade and wilt.  A good hard frost will probably put a number of flowers away for the year.  The flowers sprout and grow each year.  Each year, they add beauty to God’s world and to our lives.  But they never last.  The flowers bloom in vibrant colors, and then whither and die.  They bring beauty, but only momentary beauty.  Now, if God has this much concern for sparrows and marigolds, don’t you think that he has a greater concern for you?  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned for you.
     But our concerns are always turned in on ourselves.  The first verse in the gospel lesson lays the ground work for everything that follows.  Jesus said, No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  The Greek word translated here as “money,” is “Mammon,” meaning any kind of material wealth.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  One has to rank higher than the other.  Only one can be lord.
     The First Commandment tells us to fear and love and trust in God above all things.  Yet, we trust in mammon more than God.  We fear the loss of our money, possessions, and property more than the loss of God.  We never have enough mammon, but we warn ourselves about having too much religion.  Even people who call themselves good Christians are content to go months without coming to God’s house to receive his blessings in the Divine Service.  Anyone willing to miss even one paycheck this year?  “You cannot serve God and [mammon].” (Matthew 6:24)  So, which one do you love?  Which one are you devoted to?  Which one do you serve?
     We are all guilty of loving and trusting in mammon or fearing the loss of it.  We are no different than the pagans who believe that joy is found in buying the next thing.  But like the very things we buy, the joy does not last.  Technology advances and soon we are generations behind in our e-things and i-gadgets.  Cars need constant repairs.  Houses need new carpeting and new roofs.  Even things we need to survive do not last.  Children outgrow their clothing.  Dress shirts get stained or ripped.  A great meal will only sustain you for a number of hours.  And the leftovers grow moldy because they are forgotten in the back of the refrigerator.  Nevertheless, we fret and carry tremendous concerns about goods which were never intended to last that long.  Like the pagans, we run after such things, and we are never satisfied by them.  Mammon is a deceptive and cruel master.  It will not satisfy, and it cannot save.
     Therefore, do not pay attention to the pagans or the smooth talkers from Madison Avenue.  “Look at the birds of the air... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow….” (Matthew 6:26,28)  The birds do not fret.  The lilies of the field are incapable of worry.  And they have no need to.  The Father in heaven who created them also cares for them and provides their needs.  You are much more valuable than birds.  God has far more concern for you than for wildflowers.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you.   
     Jesus declares “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:32), that is, all you need.  He is your heavenly Father.  He has created you and knows what you need to live.  As a loving Father, he will always give you enough.  He will expect you to recognize when you have to scale back on your extras, but he will always supply your needs.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you.
     But he is your Father for a much more endearing and comforting reason.  Your Father does not merely bring you daily bread.  Your Father brings you into a kingdom that is eternal in which the gifts and goods never wear out, get moldy, or become outdated.  To secure your place in that kingdom, the Father sent his only begotten Son.  To secure your place in that kingdom, God the Son did not become a bird or a flower, but a human being.  God’s concern for you is demonstrated in God’s becoming man.  He has united himself with mankind in order to save mankind. 
     As a flesh and blood man, Jesus submitted himself to the same fear, love, and trust that are expected of all flesh and blood people.  In Gethsemane, Jesus feared the Lord and called on him to aid him in carrying out his will.  On the way to Calvary, Jesus loved his Father and pressed on to serve him and us.  Even as he was hanging from the cross under the darkness and forsaken by his Father, Jesus trusted that his Father would receive his spirit and raise him from the grave.  Jesus’ perfect submission to his Father has won his Father’s good pleasure.  In turn, Jesus pours that favor out upon you.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 
     Therefore, Jesus urges you, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  Jesus implores you to make your greatest concern the things which are eternal and unshakable.  The day will come when you will no longer need food, drink, or clothing because you will be dead.  But your place in God’s kingdom is not disrupted even by death.  Jesus went into death for you and overcame death by his resurrection.  This flesh and blood Savior assures you, who are flesh and blood, that your life will not fade out with death.  Rather, you are children of the resurrection.  You, who already bear Jesus’ righteousness, will be raised from the dead and will shine in splendor and be visibly righteous forever.  And Jesus will bring you into a kingdom of righteousness in which the flowers will not perish, the gifts will not need warranties because they will never be broken, the bodies will not become sick or weary because they will be incorruptible, and the feast will not end because the joy will never cease.
     Now, if the Lord has that much concern that you receive a place with him in his kingdom forever, will he not also care for your momentary needs now?  Jesus promises you he will: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 
     And so, God’s blessings are already for you.  The birds are here to entertain you.  The flowers are here to make your world more beautiful.  God supplies you with food to satisfy both your taste buds and to sustain your body.  God gives you clothing to keep you warm and to cover yourself in modesty.  You will always have these things, so you need not concern yourself over them.
     But even more, your Father has covered you in Jesus’ righteousness so that you are beautiful in his sight.  He supplies food from this altar for your forgiveness and as a sacred feast even before you have entered heaven.  These have everlasting value, and so you seek them first.  So do not worry about your blessings, whether temporal or eternal.  Your heaven Father supplies both without fail.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Football photos

Now that I have figured out a few things with my computer and the photos that I have uploaded, I can finally post some overdue photos of football from this season.  Here is a small sample from Martin Luther College's football game vs. Maranatha Baptist (Watertown, WI) and from Michigan Lutheran Seminary vs. Merrill, Ithaca, and Valley Lutheran (Saginaw).  Enjoy!

 This was a post-interception celebration vs. Merrill.

 Family photo after MLC defeated Maranatha handily.  Faith had stayed in New Ulm.

Nathanael, as a freshman, will not see the field too often this year.  Here, with MLC holding an insurmountable lead, Nathanael got to play quite a bit of the 2nd half.  He would rather play wide receiver, but with a strong preference for running, Nathanael has to play wingback if he is going to see playing time.  I think he had 2 carries and 1 catch this game.

Caleb (#42) makes the tackle vs. Ithaca. 

 Guess who was one of the ball boys at the JV game vs. Valley Lutheran!

Andrew played QB for the first quarter against Valley Lutheran.  He had a long run on which he scored this TD.  He admitted that he did not have to dive for this TD.  Since he was going for a glory moment, I thought I would post this photo for the world to see it.  Despite the showmanship, the TD still only counted for 6 points.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon -- Festival of St. Matthew, Apostle (September 21, 2014)

MATTHEW 9:9-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     There are four accounts of the life of Jesus in our Bible, and one of them is written by St. Matthew.  We know he was an apostle and an eye witness of Jesus’ resurrection.  We know that he was commissioned to go and preach the gospel wherever he went.  Beyond that, we don’t know much about him.  Even traditions about St. Matthew are not very helpful.
     Prior to becoming one of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew was a tax collector.  Tax collectors had a reputation of being thieving cheats.  They regularly took more money from the citizens than they were supposed to which they pocketed for themselves.  This was not a secret, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.  Rome got their taxes, so they did not care.  The Jews got robbed, and they could not stop it.  As a result, tax collectors were generally rich, but also generally despised.
     After Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew hosted a banquet.  He was quick to invite his associates and friends to this feast with Jesus.  Most of Matthew’s dinner guests had the reputation of sinners.  They were branded as sinners rightly; for, their words and actions had proven it. 
     The Pharisees saw Jesus and his disciples among Matthew’s guests, and they were appalled.  Jesus’ attendance there was no act of charity, either.  Jesus was not merely giving up a few hours to spend with the down-trodden after which he would get back to his real concerns.  These sinners were his real concern.  Jesus actually liked being with them, talking with them, and feasting with them.  Jesus actually liked them!  The Pharisees were embarrassed and incensed by it. 
     The Pharisees also seemed to think that Jesus’ disciples should be embarrassed by their master’s actions, too.  Perhaps that is why the Pharisees challenged the disciples instead of speaking to Jesus directly.  The Pharisees said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)  Perhaps they thought such a question would drive these disciples away from Jesus—that they would be too embarrassed to associate with him if he is going to act like this.  Is this what we are to expect from a Messiah?  Shouldn’t he be shaking these kinds of people off of himself?  Doesn’t he have standards?  Shouldn’t people start living up to those standards before he would sit down with them?  Is this who he is going to associate himself with?  Is this what the kingdom of God is going to look like?
     Jesus did not wait for his disciples to speak for him.  When he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)  Among those sinners was Matthew, the tax collector.  Matthew would not only share a table with Jesus, Matthew would be appointed an apostle by Jesus.  Jesus calls sinners into his kingdom.
     But let us consider the questions which went through the minds of the Pharisees, and which still goes through the minds of Christians today.  “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)  Is this what we are to expect from a Messiah?  Is this what the kingdom of God is going to look like?  And the answer is an unshakable YES!  This Messiah came for sinners, whether their lives have given abundant evidence that they are sinners or not.  Jesus calls sinners into his kingdom.
     The Pharisees took pride in their well-behaved, religious ways.  They wanted a reward for being good men.  They saw Matthew and his friends, and they thought Jesus should be there to unload judgment on them and go away.  Instead, Jesus reclined at their table and spoke kindly to them.  Jesus did not come to rub their faces in their sins, but to deliver them from them.  For it is not judgment that delivers sinners, but mercy.  Jesus called these sinners into his kingdom. 
     Pride is still the problem today.  It can happen one of two ways.  The first way is the pride of the Pharisees.  It is when we hold the attitude that we are better than others, and that is why we have a place in God’s kingdom.  It is a pride that is embarrassed by Jesus’ mercy and suggests to people, “You don’t belong here; not in this kingdom.”  But there is also a perverse pride that is becoming much more common in churches today.  It is usually disguised as being open-minded and tolerant.  It is when we tell people that we will not call anything wicked or sinful because God accepts all people.  This pride encourages the tax collector to remain at his booth and blesses the prostitute at her street corner.  With this pride, we apologize for God’s commandments and celebrate the sinner.  Ironically, with either kind of pride, people are convinced that they are more God’s people than anyone else.  With either kind of pride, people presume to speak and to judge for God.  And with either kind of pride, people end up like the Pharisees, without a seat at the feast and outside the kingdom of God
     Jesus calls sinners into his kingdom.  There is no room for any kind of pride for a sinner.  You cannot be proud of despising or belittling other people.  You cannot be proud of judging other people as not worth God’s attention.  You cannot be proud of dismissing God’s commandments because they are unpopular.  You cannot be proud of thinking that God shares your assessment of other people or that you are equal to God in judging them.  These things are not worthy of pride, but of punishment. 
     Nevertheless, Jesus does not cast you off.  He calls you into his kingdom.  That kingdom is ruled above all by divine mercy.  The Savior who told the Pharisees, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:12), supplied both for you.  First, Jesus offered the sacrifice of a perfectly obedient life.  Jesus did not despise people no matter how wretched they were.  Though he never could or did condone man’s wickedness, he did not isolate himself from the wicked.  How could he if he were to dwell on earth at all?  Rather, Jesus found Matthew at his tax collector’s booth.  He did not despise him, but summoned him: “Follow me.” 
     Jesus does not despise you because of a troubled marriage, because of your bitter jealousies, your malicious gossip, or your self-important pride.  Instead, he summons, “Follow me.”  In following Jesus, you find a Savior who answers for your sins with his perfect obedience.  You have not done what God has commanded, but Jesus has.  Jesus found you in your sinful condition and cleansed you at the baptismal font.  He continues to be merciful, granting you pardon for all your sins and preparing a feast for you.  For, Jesus still eats with sinners. 
     Jesus calls sinners into his kingdom.  He says: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:12)  Jesus supplies both.  He is the sacrifice which atones for all your pride and all your shame.  Jesus delivers you from all your iniquity.  The title “sinner” no longer sticks.  Jesus says that you are a citizen of the heavenly kingdom and a partaker of the heavenly feast. 
     No longer do we call Matthew the tax collector.  We call him “Apostle,” “Evangelist,” and “Saint.”  That is what Jesus made him because he called this sinner into his kingdom.  You have been granted a new name as well.  God calls sinners into his kingdom, but he no longer calls them sinners.  Now God calls you “saint,” “beloved child,” and “heir of heaven.”  And just as God called Matthew to go out and proclaim this mercy to other sinners, so you are called to go and do likewise.  Do not be afraid of the sinners, but go and be merciful to them as Jesus has been merciful to you.  This is how Jesus delivered you, and it is how he continues to call sinners into his kingdom. 

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MLS Football -- It pays to be the game of the week!

I have not been keeping up on the football news, partly because my camera's memory card and my laptop have not been on friendly terms.  So, while I have a number of photos, and some of them even decent, I have nothing to upload here.  For that reason, I have a number of links to M-Live articles about Michigan Lutheran Seminary.

MLS played Valley Lutheran (Saginaw) this past week.  The JV logged their first win, 28-14.  It was nice to see those boys come off the field with smiles once.  Most of the Freshmen had not played organized football until they showed up for camp this past August, so there is a learning curve for them.  I hope that some things are starting to stick and they can keep up the pace.  Caleb has been playing safety, and his play has improved, too.  I think he is getting used to the position.

Varsity won an unexpectedly lop-sided victory on Friday night, 56-0.  It was 49-0 at halftime, and the 2nd half had a running clock.  MLS threw one pass the whole game.  It was a game every just about everything went right for MLS, and I am sure that it was a long night to forget for Valley Lutheran.  I remember being on that side of the score in high school.  After years of therapy, I have almost purged my senior year season from my memory.

Andrew had high words of praise for the Valley players and their conduct throughout the game.  I am sure it was a test of patience and endurance for them, but Andrew said they were not bitter or nasty about it.  They also vowed a much harder contest come basketball season.  We expect so.  Those have always been tight games.

Anyway, here are a bunch of links from M-Live.  I am guessing we got all of these articles from being the Game of the Week.  MLS usually does not get this much press.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 56, Saginaw Valley Lutheran 0: Seminary defense allows 30 yards of offense in first shutout of season

Friday, September 19, 2014

Octoberfest is coming!!!

Sunday, October 5

          5:00 PM     Vespers

          5:30 PM     Bratwurst Dinner

          6:30 PM     Luther Lecture

This year’s Luther Lecture will be:

The Reformation Produces Fruits … and Nuts.  (1522-1524)

            “But we dare not proceed against them by force or by law, for Christians—as you know—should not fight except with the power of the sword of the Spirit.  This is how I restrain people every day.”
— Martin Luther, An Order of Mass and Communion,
December, 1523

             We hope that all guests of our Octoberfest celebration will gain a greater appreciation for the confessors and the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
            There is no cost for Octoberfest, but we will have a free-will offering to offset the cost of the food being served.  In order to be sure that we will have enough food for all who attend, please sign up at the church and include how many will be in your party. 
            We also appreciate any who are willing to provide food for Octoberfest.  Food items are suggested at Sign-Up Genius. 

            To sign up, go to: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/8050A4FA8AA2EA64-octoberfest 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sermon -- 13th Sunday after Trinity (September 14, 2014)


In the name + of Jesus.

     As the Lord gave his commandments to his people, he continued to repeat the phrase: “I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:10,12,14,16,18)  The Lord put his name on his Law because the Law is good and right and holy.  It is good, right, and holy because God is good, right, and holy.  This particular portion of God’s Law is summed up in the final verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) 
     You recognize that God’s Law is good when you consider how other people treat you.  You recognize that it is good that no one defames your reputation or tells lies about you.  It is good when no one tries to con you, defraud you, or deceive you.  It is good when no one is working behind your back to get some kind of revenge on you.  And it is good when your fellow man grants you the same patience, understanding, and kindness that you wish people would have for you. 
     Now, if the commandments are right and good when others treat you this way, they are also right and good in defining how you treat others.  It is good that you do not hurt or harm your neighbor in his body.  It is right that you see your neighbor’s good in his marriage, in his possessions, in his name, in his honor, or in his business.  And it is good that you be merciful, kind, and patient with him as you would want him to be with you.  God’s will is that you seek mercy for your neighbor.
     God punctuates all of these commandments with this reminder: “I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:10,12,14,16,18)  The Lord God is holy.  His word and his will are holy.  And since you bear his name, he expects you, too, to be holy.  You bear a holy status before him for the sake of Jesus who has redeemed you.  And that holy status is to be seen in your words and actions toward your neighbor.  God’s will is to seek mercy for your neighbor.
     Now, all of this sounds good, but you know how this all works in practice.  Each commandment is a stab to the heart, as it highlights that you have not done the good that God seeks from you.  You have borne the grudge against your neighbor.  You have lied to him to take advantage of him.  You have shown partiality to others—either because you thought siding with the rich would produce a favor, or because you thought that opposing the rich made you a more noble person. 
     “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)  The Lord is not vague in this command.  But we are like the lawyer from the gospel.  We want to know—who does God really mean here?  Who is my neighbor?  You and I are pretty good about serving our loved ones.  Even pagans are good at that.  But you and I show very limited mercy to the stranger.  We have none to show to someone who is a jerk or a schmuck.  God does not limit it in any way.  God does not limit the audience whom you are to love.  Nor does God put a quota on how much good you are to do.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)  That means the people you like, the people you don’t know, and even the jerk and the schmuck.  And it means that you always seek their good.
     God’s will is to seek mercy for your neighbor.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)  You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)  You bear the name of Jesus, but you do not reflect the love of Jesus.  You have not gone and done likewise.  You have not regarded your fellow man as someone whom God has given you to serve, but as a pest who should be shooed away as fast as possible.  You have withheld your love from your neighbor.  Repent!
     God’s Law is good and right and holy.  But it also shows us that we are not.  God’s Law is good and right and holy because God is.  God’s will is to seek the mercy of our neighbor because God does.  Jesus declared, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)  Yes, your heavenly Father is merciful.  He sent Jesus not merely to tell you about what it means to be merciful, but to be merciful to you.  Jesus did not limit the audience he would be merciful to.  He had mercy on all—on his loved ones, on the stranger, the jerk, the schmuck, and even on the ones who demanded his death.  Jesus did not put a quota on how much good he would do.  He came to be merciful and to save.
     Jesus had mercy upon you by fulfilling all that God’s commandments require.  Jesus did not profane the name of the Lord his God.  Rather, in the name of his God and Father, Jesus served his neighbor with healing, mercy, and compassion.  Jesus did not show favoritism among the people he preached to; for, there was no difference—from the most learned scribe to the most simple peasant.  All were sinners.  All were called to repent.  All needed salvation.  And so Jesus came for all and supplied righteousness and forgiveness to all.  There is no favoritism, for Jesus does not deliver different salvations to anyone.  He has had mercy on all people.  Jesus does not even steal us away from death, the devil, and damnation.  Rather, Jesus paid to get us from them.  Jesus offered up his own holy life and poured out his own innocent blood as the cost to redeem us and set us free.  This is God’s will—that Jesus seek mercy for his fellow man.
     Jesus did not take revenge on people—though he had every right to.  All are sinners, and that means that all have sinned against him.  The problem is not limited to those who shouted, “Crucify him!” or who smacked him and mockingly demanded, “Prophesy!  Who hit you?”  The problem is with you and me.  With our sins, we have slapped God in the face.  And yet, God does not seek revenge or even harbor a grudge against us.  Mercy upon mercies!—he has sought our salvation!  Jesus endured the wrath of God for us.  God emptied his vengeance upon his own Son, Jesus, so that you are forgiven of all your sins.  Jesus was shown no mercy so that God would have mercy upon you.  He did not limit his target audience.  He died for all.  He did not put a quota on his mercy.  He takes away all your sins.  This is God’s will—that sinners be saved, that sins be forgiven, and that mercy is shown to mankind.  God our heavenly Father has had mercy upon us, and has sent his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for us.  You are forgiven.  You have been shown mercy.
     As he gave his Law, the Lord punctuated all of these commandments with this reminder: “I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:10,12,14,16,18)  That Lord has redeemed you and has put his name on you.  Now, you are holy before him.  And not only before him, but you are to be holy before the world.  You have been set apart from all that is cursed, and you have been called blessed.  Just as you are children of the heavenly Father, you shall be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.  Seek mercy for your neighbor, whether your neighbor is your spouse, child, co-worker, boss, a stranger, or even a schmuck.  This is how you love and serve your neighbor as yourself.  You do it because your neighbor needs this mercy, kindness, and compassion.  It doesn’t matter if he does not deserve it; you don’t either.  But God’s will is to seek mercy for one’s neighbor.  God sought yours and, in this way, brought you forgiveness and salvation.  Your neighbor needs your mercy, and by your words and actions, your neighbor may also learn of the Lord’s love, forgiveness and salvation, too.  This is God’s will.  It is good and right and holy, just as God is and just as God has declares you to be.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sermon -- HVL Chapel (September 9, 2014)

A chapel devotion delivered at Huron Valley Lutheran High School (HVL).
ROMANS 11:13-15,28-32

             What makes you so special?
            Rarely is that question asked by someone who actually wants an answer.  It is usually an accusation, suggesting that there is nothing special about you.  So, what makes you so special?  If you are honest, nothing.  You are not unique.  You are sinners, and you need God’s mercy.  There is no difference.
            St. Paul wrote his epistle to  the Romans, a congregation made up of Jews and Gentiles. Each might have assumed that they were special, but they were not.  But Paul’s words to the Romans can be confusing.  It might seem that our Lord desired the Jews to reject him, or that he desired to reject them.  But we must reject this outright, because God our Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3,4)  So, if there are some who are perishing, it is neither God’s desire nor God’s fault.  After all, God so loved the world (John 3:16), and Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  God is not stingy with his love, his mercy, or his salvation.
            Nevertheless, St. Paul notes that the Jews were rejected.  This is because they had rejected their Messiah.  Yes, the people of Israel were chosen by God for a special purpose.  They were set apart from the rest of the world by God’s commandments in order to be the people through whom the Savior would come into the world.  They were a chosen possession for just that purpose.  Jesus’ heritage is Israelite.  But when Jesus came preaching and teaching and healing their diseases, they despised and rejected him.  They even demanded his death.  The Jews were disappointed with the kind of Messiah that Jesus was.  He did not raise Israel to world prominence.  He did not pour out endless glory and riches on them.  He did not reward the Jews for simply being Jewish.  They had hoped for something greater, and so they rejected Jesus.
            When Jesus commissioned his apostles to go into the world, he told them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)     Even then, the apostles were to begin their preaching among the Jews.  God had not rejected them, but these Jews rejected and persecuted Christ’s apostles.  Therefore, they went into the world to preach to the Gentiles.  Remember: God so loved the world (John 3:16), and Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  God is not stingy with his love, his mercy, or his salvation.  So, the good news was preached to anyone and everyone; for that is who God loves.
            So, what makes you so special?  You are God’s chosen people.  You have been called to be God’s people through the Gospel.  The blood of Jesus has marked you through your baptism.  You bear Jesus’ name and have received his salvation.  God so loves you.  The Lamb of God has taken away your sins.  Most of you have lived your whole life like this, so you might think that you have become worthy of this and that this is your divine right.  If so, you have lost sight of grace and mercy; for, as we confess each week, we are sinners who deserve God’s punishment both now and in eternity.  If you don’t believe that, you will not care about Jesus either.
            You are no different than the Jews who rejected Jesus.  You are not better behaved, nor do you have a better heart.  You are sinners.  You still reject God’s word with every sin you commit.  You also are victim of the temptation of thinking that your upbringing has made you bulletproof in God’s kingdom.  It is very easy to despise God’s word because you are so familiar with it.  You can recite verses.  You know the stories backwards and forwards.  It does not take much for you to think that you have mastered all of these things and that you do not need to devote yourself to them any longer.
            Beware.  The Israelites fell into a similar temptation.  They no longer feared their sins because they could recite Commandments.  They felt no need for mercy because they knew their Bible history.  They had no use for church because they were convinced they were special and that was enough.  And while daily chapel is a blessing for you, it can lead you to despise the Divine service on Sunday mornings.  Once you get yourself into the pattern of skipping Sunday mornings, that pattern will continue in college.  You will tell yourself that you are too busy to read your Bible, to pray, to hear the word of the Lord, and to receive your sacrament.  You will be tempted to think, “Well, I had so much religion at HVL.  I still remember the stories, and I know more than my fellow college students, so I’m fine.”  This is how faith is neglected and finally dies.
            The Lord Jesus Christ has given you a tremendous gift and a firm foundation.  You are not saved through your own reflections of God.  Your comfort is found in Jesus Christ, and he delivers his gifts when the word is preached and the sacraments are administered.  Through these means of grace, Jesus Christ pours out his mercy upon you—not because you are better, but because you are sinners.  You need his mercy, and God is pleased to give it.
            What makes you so special?  Jesus does, and he serves you with his word and sacraments.  Flee to Jesus Christ for your comfort and hope.  Flee to Jesus to be assured that your sins are covered, that your faith is being fed, and that God remains your merciful Savior.  When you hear the words of absolution, God continues to mark you as his chosen and beloved children.  At the Lord’s Supper you find assurance of your place in God’s kingdom, because there Jesus Christ himself gives you the body and blood that were offered up for your forgiveness and salvation.  In the sermon, you hear God continue to declare his love and compassion upon you. 
            Jesus Christ comforts you and assures you that, for his sake, you are special.  You have been called by his gospel, enlightened with his gifts, and sanctified and kept in the true faith by him.  That call continues to go throughout the whole world to bring others into God’s kingdom.  And you get to be the mouths who confess God’s love and mercy so that others can hear God’s call and be brought into his kingdom.  God does not care where they come from, for, Jesus came for them all.  Remember: God so loved the world. (John 3:16)  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  God is not stingy with his love, his mercy, or his salvation.  He has been merciful to you.  He keeps you in the true faith and consoles you with his mercies.  That is what makes you special in God’s eyes.

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Trinity (September 7, 2014)

MARK 7:31-37

In the name + of Jesus.

     The world is a mess, and you cannot fix it.  People are dying, and you cannot stop it.  You’d rather hear better news, because it is both terrifying and exhausting to hear about so many problems.  Ice bucket challenges flood social media in hopes to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Ebola has become an epidemic in western Africa.  Americans get nervous then they hear that missionaries from Africa are coming back to America to be treated for the Ebola virus.  It seems we would rather have people dead than treated so that we do not run the risk of being infected.  Hospitals keep adding on.  Researchers keep crafting new drugs.  The list of bugs, viruses, diseases, and illnesses goes on and on. 
     The world is a mess, and you cannot fix it.  Nevertheless, we certainly try.  It has been said that 15% of our economy is the health industry.  We look to pharmaceuticals for the answer.  Presidential and congressional campaigns spend a great deal of time talking about health care.  People are either outraged because they like the health insurance they have and they don’t want the government to mess it up, or they think that health insurance is a mess and they want the government to clean it up.  Many say they are too sickly to come to church, but they will never miss a doctor’s appointment.  We are a nation obsessed with health.  We spend a tremendous amount of money to prolong life and its quality.  And still, people are dying and you can’t stop it.
     This is not the world God created or intended.  But once sin entered the world, a curse fell upon it.  And so genes mutate.  Viruses invade the body.  And people are born both blind and deaf.  While the story of Helen KellerNormal
     Decapolis a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. (Mark 7:32)  This man and his friends sought healing so that he could once again speak and hear.  They were not disappointed.  Taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:34-35)  Jesus had mercy on the man who was deaf and mute.  By the way he tended to his man, Jesus demonstrated that he understood his particular need.  He touched the man’s tongue, as if to say: “This is your problem, isn’t it?”  Jesus heaved a heavy sigh, so that the man who could not hear his prayer could see it.  Then, the Word made flesh gave the word: “Be opened!” Jesus provided the healing for the deaf and mute man. 
     They were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:37)St.
     Although Jesus demonstrated such mercy, he did not do it for showmanship.  Jesus charged them to tell no one.  But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. (Mark 7:36)  It is not hard to figure out why the people kept talking about it.  Who wouldn’t want an instant cure-all for every bump, bruise, or broken body?  If our church boasted of miraculous healings, people would come flooding into our doors instead of going to Providence Park.  And they probably would not come for any other reason.  Though many could be happy, they would still remain sinners.  And though many could be healed, they would still die—and worse! they would die in their sins.  If this is the result, then even Satan would be pleased to heal your diseases!
     Therefore, Jesus urged the people to keep silent about his healings.  Jesus had a greater healing in mind.  Jesus provides everlasting healing.  This was accomplished by removing from you the corruption of sin which brings guilt, decay, destruction, and death.  For, if sin is removed, then the curse of sin is taken away too.  And if the curse of sin is taken away, you will never again have to deal with aches and pains, sickness and weakness, or even death.
     So Jesus provides the perfect healing you need by his holy and precious blood.  It is the life of Jesus that was given as the remedy for all sin and evil, for all death and damnation.  “He took our illness and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)  He bore our guilt and its curse.  He died our death and suffered our damnation.  Jesus Christ has taken away from us everything that is corrupt, warped, and messed up.  By his blood, Jesus cleanses us of all sin and heals us of every disease.  Jesus provides everlasting healing.
     All of these things are true, though it does not look like it.  After all, you may still be carrying your disease or disability.  You may be weak and frail.  You are getting older.  Your immunity is fading.  Your bones are getting more brittle.  At the same time, you also have not stopped sinning.  But recognize what Jesus does.  He has not stripped you of your sinful flesh or abducted you from a broken world.  You still live here as a sinner in a sinful place.  What Jesus does do is serve as your refuge in your sins and as your hope in this sinful place.  He declares that you are forgiven, that you are blameless, and that you are one has victory over death.  Jesus makes you children of the resurrection.  And it is then that you will have everything you have ever prayed for or hoped for.
     At the resurrection of all flesh, you will finally see and experience the perfect healing you wish you could have now.  It will not be the temporary fix you are familiar with.  You will not get eternal refills of ibuprofen or medications.  You will be raised with a body that will never be broken or bruised.  You will be delivered to a world of righteousness that will never know corruption or destruction.  You will have a life that will never be messed up again.  That is the everlasting healing that Jesus provides to you.  By his sufferings and death, Jesus delivers you from every curse of sin.  By his resurrection, Jesus delivers you from every mark of sin and every memory of evil.
     In the meantime, the Lord has graciously provided you with doctors, hospitals, and the best medicines known in the world’s history.  Through these, the Lord provides temporary relief and healing.  But these are all temporary, and sometimes they fail.  But Jesus will not fail you.  Jesus forgives all your sins.  He is the remedy for your death and your grave.  Jesus provides everlasting healing.  He grants you resurrection from the grave.  And he brings you to a life of everlasting health, wholeness, and holiness.

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