Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Midweek 3 Sermon

Sermon, Advent Midweek 3
December 15, 2010
Jesus, Born in Weakness for Us

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Now there is a pivotal question. Why does the heavenly Father send Jesus to such a humiliating home? He suffers this degrading existence for our sakes: He is Jesus, born in weakness for us.

The Gospel narrative imposes an embarrassing historical specificity on the story of the incarnation. Our King is born while another king reigned in Jerusalem. Our King flees the troops sent slaughtering by Herod. Our King is sheltered from death by Joseph. Our King must retreat across the Red Sea, returning to the land of slavery. Our King is called back to Israel, only to find Herod’s son firmly in control. Our King abandons Israel for a base of operations in Galilee. And finally, our King settles in Nazareth. This is hardly an auspicious beginning to a glorious reign, is it? All of this is bad enough, but the culminating humiliation is settlement in Nazareth.

Christ’s humiliation is a spiral of descent in which He must suffer dislocation, retreat, and finally settlement in a risible rural backwater. His heavenly Father places Him in a specific historical context where He must flee wicked kings. When coming to live with His people, He must migrate to second-rate Galilee and finally live in greatly disrespected Nazareth. He receives His humiliation with purpose, looking forward to the ultimate humbling of death, even the death of the cross. Down He goes: to Israel, a Roman protectorate. But now, on to “contemptible Galilee of the nations” (Isaiah 9:1), and most specifically, Nazareth, the center of nothing. O Nazareth, what good can come from you? It is bad enough that God places His Son in time in Roman Palestine, but worse yet that He chooses to give Him a home in humble obscurity, in a town known only for its lack of notoriety and infamous only for its lack of fame. The twentieth century’s Madonna would never have considered living where God sent the Madonna of the first century. The material girl would disdain the spiritual girl. The world’s Madonna was very different from God’s Madonna.

That happens when the King is preached in such places, when the Josephs who carry the Christ Child deliver Him in Word and Sacraments to the slums in Saint Louis, vodka-poisoned villages of Chicago, the snow driven towns of Northern Illinois, and homes of despair in Springfield.

Perhaps Nazareth is closer than we would like to admit. Nothing good might come from it, but when Joseph bears the Christ into it, all good comes to it. Our pastors are Joseph among us. They are nothing but appendages to the incarnation of the Word. They are married to the Word’s vessel. But they are not the Word. They only carry to others what they themselves can never be. They share the life of Nazareth with others from whom nothing good can come. Our pastors are not the possessors of the Word made flesh, but they are the guardians of the Word. Just as Joseph was.

In Thessaloniki, Greece, there is a thirteenth-century church called St. Nicolas the Orphan, in which the life of our Lord is painted. There in the birth scene is an aged and reluctant Joseph seeing to the Messiah’s needs. He even appears a bit envious that he is not in the center of the action. Like Nazareth, nothing good comes from Joseph. All good comes to Joseph in this Child. Nothing good comes from us, but all good comes to us in the birth of the Messiah.

Our pastors become the Josephs we need that bear the Christ to us. When a Joseph grants Holy Absolution, there is now a heart created clean by God. When the Josephs preach that the Son of God was made man for us men and for our salvation, then the weakness of God exalts the souls of the faithful. When the Josephs set in the mouths of the hungry the tokens of divine life in the body and blood of Christ, then life with God is given, a life unseen and despised by the world. When the Josephs bring Christ to Nazareth, Nazareth becomes the throne room of God and a royal capital, in which God is pleased to dwell. Nazareth may be nothing, but God’s presence changes all that.

All of us know that feeling of isolation when we wonder who knows of us. We don’t want to be famous, we just want to be known. Our homes become lovely prisons of isolation; especially at this time when there ought to be the most intimate fellowship among family and friends.

There, the Christ Child is brought by a child who learns the Christmas story and recites it in childish cadences before a tawdry audience of those who are too surfeited to hunger and thirst for the righteousness the child brings. A humble child offers us the humble Child.

Christ will not leave us alone to suffer. He comes into the Nazareth of our unknown despair and speaks. He says that He knows us. That is the only knowing that matters, as Isaiah says, “By His knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). His knowing of you is what matters. His accounting you righteous is what matters. His bearing of your iniquities is what matters.

The Christ Child reaches out His tender child’s hand and with it embraces the weakness of Nazareth and its humiliation in the world. He becomes a shoot out of dry ground. He becomes the barren and uncharted deserts of our own Nazareth. There He puts down roots in the wrong place, at least wrong in the eyes of the world. His tender shoot struggles quietly to crack the parched land and, instead of drawing water for His life from this desert, He Himself waters the land, giving back to it its much-needed nourishment.

From the life that is within Him wherever He is planted, there is life. He is the only shoot out of dry ground that makes the ground fertile. His life gives life, it does not take it. He makes Nazareth the new Eden. He Himself is the lily that springs up; the rose of Sharon that unmakes our weedy lives and makes us a well-watered garden. King Solomon, His forerunner, speaks in His voice: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles” (Song of Solomon 2:1–2). Only the brambles will never overtake His tender shoot. Weak though He is and tender as a child, His God will protect Him.

His remaking of Eden in Nazareth changes everything in little, dishonored, infamous, and notorious places. Isaiah the mighty seer saw this: “In the former time He brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (9:1). In these latter times, His presence makes the Nazareth of your hearts, your homes, your church, your altar, and your font glorious places.

What good can come from Nazareth? None. It is the good that comes to Nazareth that makes the difference; all the difference in the world. He is Jesus, born in weakness for us.

Daily Readings for December 12 - 18, 2010

Readings for the Week of the Third Sunday in Advent

Sunday “Go and Tell John What You See and Hear”—Matt. 11:2-15; Isaiah 32:1-20
Monday The Nativity of St. John the Baptist—Luke 1:57-80; Isaiah 33:1-24
Tuesday The Nativity of Our Lord—Luke 2:1-7; Is. 34:1-2, 8-35:10
Wednesday Waiting in Patience—James 5:7-11; Isaiah 40:1-17
Thursday The Birth of Christ Is Announced to Shepherds- Luke 2:8-14; Isaiah 40:18-41:10
Friday The Shepherds Visit Bethlehem—Luke 2:15-20; Isaiah 42:1-25
Saturday Look ahead to Sunday’s readings Isaiah 7:10-17; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Isaiah 7:10-17: Ahaz, the King of Judah, was not a very pious king. Though the Lord told him to ask for a sign that the Lord might show His faithfulness to the house of Judah, Ahaz refused. In the face of his stubbornness, the Lord Himself gave Ahaz and the people of Judah a sign: “Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Apart from any help or contribution from a sinful human being, this “sign” was fulfilled in the virgin conception and birth of Jesus. By this “sign” we know that God is not only with us, but that salvation is a free gift of His faithfulness and mercy in Jesus.

Romans 1:1-7: The Apostle Paul begins his great epistle to the Romans by highlighting the great truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of salvation that was “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” This Gospel, recorded on all the pages of the Old Testament is truly about God’s “Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Through Christ, we have “grace and peace” from God our Father. This Gospel is the heart of the Apostolic Word which Paul and his fellow apostles preach for the creation and preservation of the Church of Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25: Joseph, the Guardian of Jesus as he is often called, had a difficult vocation. He was called to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father. This calling meant a life of suffering and self-denial. This is always what true faith calls us to: a life of sacrificial love in which we deny ourselves. This is the shape of our lives as Christians because our life is lived by faith in the God and Savior who lived in selfless love for us. The Child conceived in Mary’s womb was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was not an adulteress. His name would be called “Jesus” because He is the Lord who would save His people from their sins by becoming one with them in their flesh and blood. All this was done to fulfill the Scriptures, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means that God is with us in the poverty and humiliation of our human condition to redeem us by the sacrifice of Himself. Joseph had no strength to fulfill His vocation within himself, but He was strengthened by the Holy Scriptures and the message of God’s selfless love for him and for all his people. This is our strength too in our vocation. The Gospel not only saves us from our sins, but it also strengthens and keeps us in the love of Christ in the earthly vocations to which our Lord has called us.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent 3 December 11-12, 2010 Sermon

Advent 3
Matthew 11:2-11
December 11-12, 2010

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

John had stood in the wilderness with his unbending ethic and boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. He had pointed at Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The only way lambs take away sins is by being sacrificed. He did not point and say, “Look, it is Santa Claus and he doesn’t care if we’ve been naughty or nice. He never gives coal. He is magic and wants fat, little children to have lots of toys.” Instead John says, “Look: the Lamb of God! He will be roasted on a spit, consumed in His Father’s wrath, the key of Hell’s evil desires, for sins He did not commit, for you sins. In this way He will take away your sins and open heaven to all believers.”

Then John infected Our Lord with our sins. He poured the filthy baptismal water into his ears, nose, and eyes. He made Him swallow it. John anointed Jesus for death. He marked Him with our filth. For this Lamb, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended in visible form and with whom the Father proclaimed Himself well-pleased, is also the scapegoat who will be exiled and forsaken. He is the incense. The aroma of His burning blood will please the Father. He is the priest who performs these duties for the people and for the Gentiles. He is the mercy-seat who shields us from the Law. He is the Redeemer. He sells Himself into slavery as a ransom. He is the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world.

Then John finds himself in Herod’s dungeon. He has stepped on the wrong toes. His fierce law preaching needed an exception for powerful people, but there was none. The Law always accuses, always kills, is always hostile to sinners. John could have lied. He could have spun it. He could have pretended there was a royal loophole, but he didn’t. He told the truth. John then becomes a lamb, about to feel the consequences of wounding Herod’s pride. He is more than a prophet, and straddles two worlds, but he will not live to see that which the prophets longed to see, which he himself foretold: the Lamb of God lifted up from the earth, the redemption of the world.

Does this fill him with fear and doubt? Some are quick to say that it could not be. John is not a reed swayed by the wind. He is the greatest of those born of women. But we can only say such things of John if we are speaking of his new Adam apart from his old Adam. The new man, the one who arose clean and justified from the waters of Holy Baptism, does not sin or doubt. But John had not yet been transferred to glory. He was both old and new Adam, struggling against his fallen flesh, even as he preached for all people to struggle. For that is what it means to repent and John is the epitome of a repentance preacher.

Faith is not the absence of doubt. Such absence belongs only to the dead, in either kingdom. Here on earth, whether we are old man and new man, redeemed by Christ, or unbelievers with only the old man in us, doubt is always part of us. Faith is not the absence of doubt but the mastery of doubt. The new Adam in the baptized says, “I believe” even as the old Adam whispers, “maybe not.” Faith then speaks: “I believe, help my unbelief.” Faith subdues doubt. Faith acts and confesses despite it. In this, faith is not much different than its kin-virtue courage which acts despite the presence of fear.

It is not doubt, in any case, that sends John’s question to Our Lord. It is faith. Faith desires to hear the Word of the Lord. Faith seeks comfort in the only place comfort exists: in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. To think that this comfort was only for John’s disciples thinks too little of John’s faith and of the comfort Our Lord provides to those who suffer on His behalf.

Like a child asking his mother if she loves him, John asks, “Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?” He knows the answer but wants reassurance, wants comfort.

So Our Lord says, “The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. But all flesh is grass cousin. It withers and fades. It dies. I am the Coming One. But I am not coming to you. You are more than a prophet and I am leaving you in prison. Your illnesses will not be healed. You will not behold miracles. I am the Coming One, the Messiah, the long-expected Hope and Consolation of Israel, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, for you. But I am not coming there, to the dungeon, to rescue you from your martyr’s fate. For you are a stiff reed, John. You will not bend and your faith has consequences. The winds of Edomite impenitence and greed will snap you in two. But your faith will see you through. Your iniquity is already pardoned. You are more than a prophet. By violence, your warfare will end. You will come to your reward. I will gather you to Myself. You will find soft, radiant clothing in a King’s house called by your own name. You will sit at the banquet table with your fathers. Washed in My Blood, Herod cannot kill you. Do not be afraid. The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. The poor have the Gospel preached to them. And the miracle you get is the most significant of all: the dead are raised. The old Adam will be left in the grave. The final victory bestowed upon you and all who believe in Me.”

In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent midweek 2 sermon

Advent Midweek 2
Jesus, Born to Be God’s True Son, Israel, for Us
Matthew 2:7–18

Jesus is fleeing. He flees not for Himself, but for us. Christ fled the slaughter of Herod to keep His holy life until the fullness of time, when He would take the punishment for our sins. Christ fled to bring forgiveness to the land of Egypt, which once enslaved Israel. He fled that He might give us faith who often flee. He flees not through weakness but that weakness might become strength.

Yet this weakness must have brought sorrow to Mary and Joseph. The visit of the Magi of Persia gave them joy, a joy reflected by the richness of the gifts of the Magi to the child. But their joy dissolved into fear when they learned that the Magi had attracted the attention of murderous Herod. The angel says, “Flee! Flee this very night. Take the child and His mother out into the dark and make for Egypt. Save the child from Herod. Don’t turn back to gather your cloak. Go now!”

Joseph could have questioned the angelic messenger, “What do you mean, ‘flee’? I thought you said that this child was to save His people. Why should we be afraid of Herod then? Why should we flee from his wrath? If this child cannot save His mother and me, why should we think that He could fulfill the promise that He would save His people? If He cannot save Himself, how can He save others?” Yet Joseph said none of this. He, accepting the Word of the Lord, left that night, without being certain when he might be able to return to Judea with his little family. What sorrow this must have brought the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is not unlike our own. Our lives, too, are punctuated by joy and sorrow. No life is always joyful and happy. No life is always sorrowful and bad. The Christian is seeking to make sense of both the joy and the sorrow. Often the sorrow sent by God in bearing the cross leads to greater joy through growth in faith and confidence in His mercy (Psalm 126:5).

So it was for the Holy Family. Yes, Mary and Joseph sorrowed over an “unplanned” pregnancy. Yet, when the Lord told them what this meant, Mary with faithful acceptance whispered, “Let it be to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38). When directed to take his family to Egypt that very night, Joseph did it. What they didn’t see was the bigger picture. They had only a slight idea of why God was doing all this. They had the messianic hope of course, but, like all of us, Mary and Joseph only made sense of their sufferings in retrospect; Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

The bigger picture is what matters. If the Holy Family had not fled, Jesus would not have gone into Egypt to reclaim the nation that expelled holy Israel at the time of the exodus. The land of the pharaohs, the land of slavery, would have been left to languish in the shadow of death. Instead, the Messiah returns where God was rejected and comes to a people that shut its heart to His servant Moses. The land where the water ran blood red was now to be cleansed by the Son of God, who would shed His blood for that cleansing. The land was purified when the foot of the Son of God walked its fertile valley and its burning desert sands. The horror of the night flight from Herod’s slaughter dawns into a glorious day of salvation for a land mired in darkness and the shadow of death. The Wisdom of God, who became incarnate of Mary, trumped the wisdom of Egypt. The Christ Child had visited the land of the Gentiles. Often, our sorrows lead to the dawning of the light of Christ among us.

In sorrow, Jacob had long ago gone into Egypt for salvation from famine (Genesis 46). He would settle there for “only the Lord knows how long.” He was no more certain of the time of his return than Joseph. Yet, he was certain that God would fulfill His promise to him that he would inherit the land promised to Abraham and to his seed forever. So certain was he of his inheritance from the Lord that he gave instructions that his earthly remains were to be laid to rest with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac. He would go up out of Egypt even if in a funeral procession. Jacob, like Joseph, walked by faith.

The Lord built Jacob into a great nation in Egypt, and that nation took his God-given name. His sons became Israel. Moses led the sons of Israel out of Egypt by passing through the Red Sea on dry ground. And four hundred years after going down into Egypt, the nation of slaves went up out of Egypt to take possession of their inheritance from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The people left behind ruthless enemies and hardened opponents of the Lord, whose bodies washed up on the shore of the Red Sea, drowned by the Lord. They were left to their frog-faced gods of wood for salvation.

But God’s heart still yearned for fellowship with those who hated Him and sought to thwart His ways and destroy His people. He still loved those who served the frog-faced gods of the Nile Valley. The Lord was not done with these depraved worshipers of other gods. He would not abandon them to death and darkness. The Lord was going to do all He could to bring new life into the valley of the shadow of death and light to the land of darkness. He sent His own Son to Egypt.

Jacob went into Egypt a free man and Jesus returned as the servant of all. Jacob went because he had no choice. Jesus went though He could have chosen not to go. He had come to do the Fathers will. Israel, who was subject to none, became subject to Pharaoh. Jesus, who was master of all, fled before Herod. He who would save all people refused to save Himself. He trusted Himself to His heavenly Father, who used the humble means of His earthly family to rescue His Son. He became the new Israel, the perfect case of “déjà vu all over again.” He has done all things well.

Just as Jacob went down into Egypt to become Israel, the Son of God went down into Egypt for the same reason. But when Israel was called out of Egypt, Israel was reluctant, a skeptical, a rebellious subject. It failed to be what it was called by God to be, but wandered in the wilderness following its own blinded dictates. God had rescued it. Now it was going to find its own way. The people rebelled against Moses and, having been rescued from the tyranny of the frog-faced gods of Egypt, created their own tyranny in a calf-faced god. The Egyptians were certainly not going to have anything over the Israelites! They salivated for the flesh-pots of Egypt and choked on manna sent by God.

Jesus, who went down into Egypt, was called out of Egypt as the true Son of God. He returned as the truly faithful Son where Israel once rebelled, wandered, worshiped false gods, and starved. He had come to do the will of God. He had come to walk in the ways of the Law. He had come to be the very bread from heaven. He Himself was manna made flesh. He was the thirst-quenching water from the rock, so that whoever drinks of Him will never thirst.

He takes Israel’s desecrated mantle and becomes the Son whom God loved. In this way, He becomes the remaking of Israel in His own person. He is the substitute for all Israel. He incorporates into Him all who believe in Him. We who believe have become beloved sons of God, the true Israel. We, who pass through the Red Sea on dry ground by Baptism, become incorporated into Him who is the true Israel and, sharing in His exodus, enter the Promised Land with Him. We cross the Red Sea of death in His path from Egypt, where once the hard-hearted pharaoh and all his soldiers were drowned. Now, however, He leads all of Egypt in triumphal procession through the water, leading them on from death to life. He is leading captivity captive, that we Gentiles who died with Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen might be led through dry ground unto life in Him. Egypt, who once expelled Israel, now follows the new Israel through the water that makes all, both Jews and Gentiles, Israel in the beloved Son whom God called out of Egypt.

Jesus flees into Egypt that He might lead many sons out of Egypt through the Red Sea on dry ground. He flees that we might not. Jesus is born to be God’s true Son, Israel, for us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent 2 Sermon December 4-5, 2010

December 4-5, 2010
Advent 2
Luke 21:25-36

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

The sun, the moon, and the stars were placed into the heavens on the fourth day of creation. God gave them to men. He gave them to be lights upon the earth for all living creatures, but for men they were appointed also for signs and for seasons, for days and years. They mark time. They found their grandest fulfillment, their greatest sign and time marking, in drawing the magi from Babylon to Bethlehem to worship the Virgin's Son.

The Virgin's Son is Lord of the stars. He again invokes them as markers measuring the time of His delay. Every sunset is a reminder of our impending death. But every sunrise is a promise of the resurrection to come. The rotation of the heavens, the waxing and waning of the earth's most significant satellite, are predictable. So also is the return of the King to the place of His anointing. Not that we know the exact day and time of His return. But what we can predict with absolute certainty is that as sure as there are stars in the sky Jesus is coming back. Every moment He is postponed the tension grows greater.

Look and see if the sun still shines. Look and see if nations are distressed with perplexity, the sea and the waves are still roaring, men's hearts failing them from fear. Know then that Day draws ever near. Time is not without an end. It will not continue forever. The Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and great glory. Watch therefore, and pray.

We pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord.” But that is a dangerous prayer. For hearts are stirred up not with comfort foods and soft music. We do not pray: “Lord give us a warm, fuzzy feeling in our bellies, make our lives comfortable and leisurely, make us popular with the boys and girls.” We pray that God would stir up our hearts, that He would disturb us, prod us into action. Hearts are stirred up by an earnest call again to repentance, with a hearty dose of reality. “Stir up our hearts” is a plea for God to end our complacency, defeat our laziness, and stop our melancholy depression. We ask Him to intervene for us against our wiliest foe, ourselves, and on the most dangerous battlefield of all, our hearts.

For while the Bridegroom delays our danger increases. We must continue to endure temptation. Salvation is closer now then when we first believed. But do we have the same zeal we had then? It is easy to grow weary and to be seduced by the devil's promise of rest. “Why fight it? Why work so hard? Why care about what God says when it seems as though He doesn't care for you?” The devils advises: “Take care of yourself. Don't offend anyone but lay up for yourself treasures where you can see and enjoy them.”

But that is most certainly the way of death. Stir up, O Lord, our hearts against our flesh! Man does not live by statistics and financial reports. He does not find favor in the eyes of God by finding favor in the eyes of men. The Baptized live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And there, O Baptized and alive in Christ, is your safe harbor. All other things will wash away. Nothing else will endure. But the Word of God will. It never lies, never changes, never stops, never fails.

And thus we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son.” On the great and dreadful day of the Lord the Son of Man will indeed come in a cloud with power and great glory. The Mohammedans, the Buddhists, those trapped in the cults of the Jehovah's witnesses and Mormonism, and all those who thought they could come to God apart from the Son, will no longer be able to deny His power and authority. Kiss the Son lest He be angry. Satan's many masks and false names will finally be stripped away. Then the pagans and heathen will know whom they've been worshiping all these years, and they shall be burned up. But to you who fear the Name of the Lord, who trust in the mercy of the God of Abraham born of Mary, He, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. Look up. Lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near. Your suffering, your trials, your troubles end.

The decisive battle for your soul was fought outside Jerusalem. The Father has pardoned you for the death of His innocent Son. The Spirit of the resurrection abides in you. The war rages on. Casualties pile up. It is dangerous, deadly. But the end is certain. Fear not. The Christ has not died in vain. The devil is a liar, already defeated. Jesus died and rose again for us men and for our salvation. He reconciled all mankind to His Father and the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. Blessed are all those who trust in Him, who rest in Him, who confess Him. They shall not be disappointed.

Stir up our hearts, O Lord! Prepare us by Your grace. Receive us now and when we die through forgiveness and mercy. Secure us in this free salvation unto the end. Feed us with your Body and Blood. Make us your own!

In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent midweek 1 2010

Advent 1 2010:
Jesus, Born to Be the True King for Us
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Matthew 2:1–6.

What does it mean to have a God who is “for us”? Usually we think God is “over against us.” He is a threatening presence. His majestic holiness is set against our inborn wickedness. What else could the psalmist mean: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1)? The majestic God over against us exposes our filthy sinful state.

In post-modernist style, we say that God is welcome to His opinion, but we don’t look at it that way. We imagine that if we are better than our neighbor (and in our own minds we always are!) we are okay with God. We have “all done the best we can.”

We will sing with gusto of our sin, just as long as we can compare ourselves favorably to our neighbor: “Chief of sinners though I be, I’m just glad you’re worse than me.” However, sin is not measured by nearer and farther, more holy and less holy, better and worse.

The problem here is that the Law is not a relative standard. When we look into the mirror of the Law, we see that we do not meet the perfect standard that was established by God and of which He is the perfect case. We stand condemned, because we cannot gaze into the face of Moses, which reflects only a glimpse of God’s radiant glory. Holy Law sets guilt very firmly over against us. His holiness over against us is shown by the glory of the Law.

But the Christian God is not merely “over against us.” The god who is only over against us would be the god of the Koran. He is that nebulous accusing presence. He is not like the God of the Bible. He would not be the God who is Jesus, born to be the true King for us. The God who is born for us is born to rescue—not condemn; to be merciful—not causing hurt nor harm; to be gracious—not guilt giving.

The Magi are searching for the newborn king. But what king? They seek Him in the palace of Herod, whom Matthew decisively calls “the king.” Where would you look for a king? Of course, in the palace of the king. The Magi knew kings, or at least they thought they did. They were advisors and seers in the royal courts of the east.

Perhaps they expected to get in with with the new king as well as the old one. However, they ought to have known better. They were poor seers and incompetent advisors, because they had not foreseen the reception they would get from old Herod, the king. For Herod, there could be no other king. His grasp on royal power was so iron-fisted that he slaughtered his own flesh and blood whenever he suspected his children of coveting his royal throne. Herod literally had no succession plan.

The Magi were hardly the “wise men” of myth, because they failed to understand the political situation into which they were waltzing. It’s not very wise to speak of another king to one who does not accept any other royal authority, not even in his own family. Foolishly, these Magi were even going to return to Herod as requested. This mistake would’ve cost them their lives. By preceding Herod, they were attracting death to Bethlehem like a corpse attracts flies. They were going to be Herod’s men. They were for the king in Jerusalem. But the true King in Bethlehem was ever for them, as He is for us.

These Magi were hardly “wise men.” They sound more like the old joke about the Supreme Court forbidding nativity scenes in the District of Columbia, because they could find neither a virgin nor three wise men in Washington. The biblical Magi were anything but wise. They were more like the Three Stooges.

So why does the Lord send them this star that leads them to the place where the child was? Magi were representatives of pagan religion as far as the Bible is concerned. They were opponents of the Most High God. These Magi were ignorant of the Messianic promises of the Old Testament. The pet priests of King Herod had to inform them that the new king was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. And despite all our mythology about the three gifts as confessions of divinity, the Magi most likely did not understand that the One to whom they bowed was something more than a potential, and now very much endangered, successor to King Herod.

If they were so incompetent, why does God lead them to be the first Gentiles to look upon the Savior of the world? It is hardly an endorsement for the messianic majesty that such foolish advisers should come to prostrate themselves eastern-style before the newborn King. No earthly king would covet such an honor, not even bloody Herod!

What kind of royal court does this newborn King accept around Him? Poor indeed. He accepts the incompetent, stumbling, pagan Magi. And why? What good could they bring to the situation? What assets could they offer to His royal authority?

The answer is very simple and is tied directly to the kind of King this baby claims to be. He is the God for us. Not we for Him. Like the Magi, we bring nothing to the table. We have no negotiating chips. We offer Him nothing of value.

This is why His name is majestic in all the earth. He humbles Himself to reveal Himself to those who come bringing nothing but their failure. He opens His royal court to those who bring to Him the burden of death. He embraces those who cannot take care of themselves without divine intervention. He seeks and saves those who are lost. A star shall come out of Jacob for those who cannot find their way without the light that He sends. He saves those who were destroyed by the demonic powers by freeing them from their bondage. He saves Gentile Magi like us. He saves us because He is for us.

Our sins are more than just spiritual pitfalls. We are, at heart, Magi, seeking the King in our own way, looking for the King in all the wrong places. Looking in palaces rather than humble shelters. Looking for life where there is only death, and bringing death where there is only the Life. Touting our competence and tooting our own horns.

We are too ignorant even to be embarrassed. We desire to go back and do the bidding of the bloody world, even after the true King has brought us into His majestic presence. Only the warning of the angel will keep us from this: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4). There is no “getting in good” with the murderous monarchy of the world and having the life that the true King brings. This King, whose name is majestic in all the earth, does not accept any rivals.

He wishes to win us all and all of us. Nothing keeps us from the embrace of His love and compassion. Nothing can separate us from Him. Not Herod. Not all demons. Not all the principalities and powers in heaven and earth. He is King of kings, as no one else ever could be. He gives up the exercise of His royal majesty that He might gather around Himself a court of followers like us. We are no credit to Him. He is all credit to us. He is the God who is for us, not over against us. He is Jesus, born to be King for us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Readings for the First Sunday in Advent November 28-December 4, 2010

On the first Sunday in Advent, the prophet Isaiah foretells the life of the  Church in the latter days. Many people from every tribe and nation will hear the call of the Gospel and will flow into the Lord’s house to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The strife and warfare of sin will be done away with and transformed by Christ’s mercy as His people walk in the light of His forgiveness. Today’s epistle teaches us that the Word of God wakes us up from the slumber of unbelief and preoccupation with the cares of this world. That’s why we preach the Word, study the Word, memorize the Word, and meditate upon the Word. Without God's Word in our ears, on our lips, and in our hearts we will slumber away our hope for salvation and we will not be prepared for our Lord's coming. Therefore “let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” which comes through God's Word, and let us “make no provision for the flesh.” He who receives God's Word receives Christ and is clothed in Him. He is our comfort and strength in the new
life of faith. The Church Year begins today with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” is the theme of our Advent prayers. “Hosanna” means, “Lord, save us now!” It is the cry of a
helpless people who long for deliverance from this valley of sorrow. Christians can’t wait for their Lord's return. We look forward to deliverance from the struggle with our own sin. We want to be freed from the Curse of the Fall which has a tight grip on the creation and which brings with it all kinds of suffering. But most of all, we can’t wait to be in the eternal presence of our King, the Son of David, and the Lord over our sin, death, and the devil’s power. Freedom and deliverance come from the Lord Jesus. He is the object of our worship and the source of our Advent Joy. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Readings for the First Sunday in Advent
Day Bible Stories for the Family and Daily Prayer ReadingsSunday: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem—Matthew 21:1-11; Is. 8:9-9:7; 1 Peter 4:1-19

Monday: Laban Pursues Jacob—Genesis 31:22-42; Is. 9:8-10:11; 1 Peter 5:1-14

Tuesday: Laban’s Covenant with Jacob—Genesis 31:43-55; Is. 10:12-27a, 33-34; 2 Peter 1:1-21

Wednesday: High Time to Awake Out of Sleep—Romans 13:8-14; Is. 11:1-12:6; 2 Peter 2:1-22

Thursday: Esau Comes to Meet Jacob—Genesis 32:1-21; Is. 14:1-23; 2 Peter 3:1-18

Friday: Jacob Wrestles with God—Genesis 32:22-32; Is. 24:1-13; 1 John 1:1-2:14

Saturday: Look ahead to Sunday’s readings (Populus Zion) Malachi 4:1–6; Romans 15:4–13; Luke 21:25–36

The Lord Comes on the Last Day
The day on which our Lord returns will be a “great and awesome day” (Malachi 4:5). For He will come in a cloud with great power and glory. To the wicked and the proud, it will be a Day of judgment that will “set them ablaze” (Malachi 4:1). The signs preceding this Day will bring them fear and fainting. But to those who believe, who fear the name of the Lord, this Day is one to look forward to and rejoice in: “. . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Christ our Redeemer is coming; the Sun of Righteousness will bring healing in His wings. Let us, then, give attention to the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Let us “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures” (Romans 15:4) be strengthened in our hope by the Holy Spirit and watch diligently for Jesus’ coming. Then, by God’s grace, we shall escape all these things that will come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.

Advent 1 Sermon November 27-28, 2010

Advent 1
November 27 – 28, 2010
Matthew 21:1-9, John 8

In the name of Jesus,

If we are to se into the profound mystery that occupies the mind of the church during the Advent season, we find that this mystery of the advent of our Lord is at once simple and threefold. It is simple because it is the same Son of God who is coming; it is threefold because He comes at three different times and three different ways.

In his first coming, he comes in the flesh and in seeming weakness—humble and hidden. In the second, he comes in spirit and in grace—mysterious and full. In the third, he comes in glory and in majesty. His second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third. For, in his first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly. In His second coming, He rendered the unjust just by His grace. In His third coming, He will judge all things justly. So it is that Jesus rode into Jerusalem lowly and on a donkey. He rode not for himself, but for the joy set before him. He rode not for praise, but out of duty. He rode not for an earthly kingdom but for the kingdom of heaven. He rode as the victor king coming home from the battle won.

In ancient times, victorious warriors would ride into their cities with great fanfare and praise. They would be highly exalted on thrones in a great parade in honor of their victory. Attending them were their most trusted soldiers whose job it was to whisper in the victors’ ear: “Pride goes before a fall.”

Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, therefore, reminds us of the great war between heaven and hell, between God and Satan. This battle has its origin from the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning, God’s command was clear. Adam and Eve were created in his own image and likeness. Adam and Eve were to be king and queen of the universe. They were to have dominion over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and over all creation. Indeed, Adam and Eve were to have dominion even over the angels of heaven. It was God’s will to give flesh-and-blood man the right to rule over his eternal kingdom. Out of pride, Satan refused; Satan would not bow down to mere man; Satan and his angels would not prostrate themselves before flesh and blood; Satan would not humble himself before the image of God found in infantile men. Pride goes before a fall; and Satan’s arrogance grew cancerous; his conceit became malicious and vindictive.

It is pride that gave birth to Satan’s nature as a liar and the father of lies. Conceit is the mother of falsehood; lying is begotten from arrogance, just as truth from humility. One cannot control the truth; he can only surrender to it. To speak truth, one cannot say what he wants; he speaks in agreement with God, he confesses. Thus, at the very heart of truth is humility. Yet, at the very heart of a liar is arrogance and selfish pride. Satan lies in order to gain power and control; a liar speaks on his own authority; his words proceed from the lust of his own heart; he speaks, not to confess God, not to worship him, but only to manipulate things for his own advantage. Satan’s pride makes him liar; and his lies make man his slave and servant.

All around you, the lies of the devil grow in prominence. Rather than live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, you find it easier to live on every lie that proceeds from the mouth of the devil. You find it more pleasant to live with illusions than with reality. Like little children who cover their eyes rather than confront the fearfulness of the world, you content yourselves with the vanity of this world rather than confront the reality of sin and death. You cover up the reality of sin with a show of goodness, uprightness, success, and achievement. You cover up the reality of the grave with the illusion of sleep. You forsake the reality of the kingdom of heaven with the illusion of building your own kingdoms. And so you have not confessed God but have lied to yourselves confessing with Satan. You have learned to ignore the reality of death and sin with the illusion of worldly life and righteousness. For it is easier to confess the lies of Satan than to confess the truth with the reality that you are poor miserable sinners. As Christians, however, the scales of Satan’s lies have fallen from your eyes. You are no longer satisfied with his lies and deceptions. You know well the truth of sin that dwells in you; you know the reality of death that lies in your future. And it is for this very reason that today you have cause for rejoicing. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Pride goes before a fall; and Satan’s fall before Jesus—God in human flesh and blood—is profound.

Satan, who would not bow before flesh-and-blood man, is conquered by the flesh and blood of Jesus. Satan’s pride is overcome by the humility of Jesus’ death. Pride goes before a fall; but He, Jesus, who humbles himself will be exalted. The Son of God takes on flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary so that men may be reconciled to their creator, so that the ancient conflict between men and angels may be resolved. It is the humility of Jesus’ victory on the cross that forsakes every illusion, every lie, and every deception of Satan. Jesus rode into Jerusalem; it is finished. For a flesh-and-blood man now sits on the throne of heaven, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus flesh-and-blood is Lord.

Pride goes before a fall; but he who humbled himself is exalted. For the blood of Jesus is your shield, and the words “given and shed for you” are your double-edged sword. For the same flesh and blood of Christ that sits on the throne of heaven, the same flesh and blood before which every knee shall bow and tongue confess, this same flesh and blood is given to you today to eat and drink; and with it, you receive authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Sin cannot hurt you because here it is forgiven; death cannot hurt you because here is given eternal life; no devil, no angel of hell can hurt you because there they are forever conquered.

Pride goes before a fall; but the humble are exalted. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He rode in humility to suffer judgment by men unjustly whereby he renders you just by his grace. Come, therefore, to confess in all humility and truth the death of Jesus until he comes again. Forsake the devil and all his lies. Give up the illusion of life and the vanity of this world. And with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, laud and magnify God’s most glorious name. For now he gives you himself, and with it, all things—not just today, but all days. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He came, he saw, he conquered. It is finished. Amen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Sermon

Thanksgiving 2010
Deuteronomy 8:6-18

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

We should be thankful for indoor plumbing, hot water, and microwave ovens. But we're not. Not really. Not normally. We don't really notice them until something goes wrong. We should be thankful for the spice aisle and a wide variety of fresh produce all through the winter. We should be thankful for penicillin and band-aids. Are you? How about asphalt, co-axial cables, and synthetic rubber? What about soap, toilet paper, and teflon?

That is the problem with lists of things we're thankful for. If we made an honest list, it'd be empty. To fill it up we have to rename it to things we should be thankful for but mostly aren't. And even then we'd only hit a few highlights. We'd say: family, friends, food, America, and good health. But would we remember plastic wrap and freon gas?

Man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Yet how many hours have your spent daydreaming about what you'd do with an windfall of a million dollars? Money does not buy happiness. But it can buy a lot of opportunities, security, beauty, and peace of mind. That is why the love of it is the root of all evil. The love of money is love of self and the desire to make one's own way in this world. It is the opposite of thankfulness.

In the Christian heart thankfulness is not expressed in saying “thank you” so much as in saying “I, a poor, miserable sinner.” For any thought of all the good things in our lives immediately brings to mind our daily ingratitude and our unworthiness. As many and as innumerable are our sins, so also are the good things in our lives, the things like synthetic rubber that we take for granted. We cannot possibly list them all. We have not noticed them all.

So the Lord warns Israel: Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God. It is God the Lord who gives you power to get wealth. He laid the copper in the hills and the iron on the ground. He caused the wheat and barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates to grow and the sweet water to flow down the valleys. He brought His people out of slavery and made them free men in a land of prosperity when bread was not scarce, where they lacking nothing. But this prosperity brought danger. Do not forget. Do not grow complacent. Look out for the serpent.

Woe unto us. We have forgotten! Why else would we not list toilet paper and asphalt on our lists? How could we forget to thank God for Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, and Walter C. Camp? Did we think, like teen-agers, that if we throw our dirty clothes on the floor fairies come and clean them and put them in our dressers? Did we think the refrigerator fills itself? Silly, to be sure. But serious as well. For our view of creation has been no less self-centered and vain. Repent.

But do not be afraid. For if earthly mothers keep doing laundry and keep grocery shopping, even buying the junk food that some teens think is the only substance that qualifies as “real food,” then God is more faithful, more loving, more devoted to your well-being. He does not love you because you say “thank you.” He loves you because that is who He is. It is what He does. He is love. While you were still a sinner, while you hated Him, He sent His Son. He sent His Son because He loved you. And this is the way He loved you: He sent His Son. This is Love. Shouldn't we be thankful for it? Of course. But our thanks does not add to it. God does not need our thanks or praise. He does not need someone to love, but He loves to love, He loves to give, He loves to forgive. And since it is not mother's day I'll even dare to tell you a secret: He loves you more and better than your mother does.

We pray then that God would fill us with thanks and praise, that we would bless His Name, that we would be served by Him. We pray that He make us thankful not only for the ordinary things of this world, co-axial cables and fresh fruit all winter; but that we would look in awe at the Bible; that God Himself would cause us to realize that we hold His holy and infallible Word! Thank God for doctrine, for the revelation of the Son, for Martin Luther. God Himself would speak with us, comfort and encourage us, guide and protect us. May we remember at the Altar that we are surrounded not only there but at all times with armies of holy angels who protect us from the demons and join their worship to ours. May we tremble with joy at the thought that God would enter into our flesh and join Himself to us through simple bread and wine.

Of the things for which we should be thankful there is almost no end, least of which is certainly not the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Thank God for them. But what God has done for us our hearts cannot contain, our thanks and praise cannot express. Our cups runneth over. God is good. His mercy endureth forever. He loves us and forgives us. Soon He shall bring us home. We will live in the promised land free of serpents with no forbidden fruits.

In +Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daily Lectionary For November 21–27, 2010

We are so attached to the things of this world, that the promise of the prophet Isaiah that the former things of this world shall not be remembered may not at first offer comfort. Yet, for the Christian whose hope is in Christ, we long to be rid of the corruption of sin and the devil's temptations that so often entangle us. These are the “former things” that shall not be remembered. In addition, the prophet paints the picture that the new heavens and the new earth will be a life that is lived entirely from the love of God in Christ. Today’s Epistle teaches us that “Waking” and “sleeping” are synonyms for “faith” and “mistrust.” To be “awake” and “watchful” for the Lord's coming, is to live in eager anticipation of the consummation of our salvation through the hearing of His Word, the receiving of the Sacrament, contrition and repentance, and the life of prayer. To be asleep is to turn away from these things to find one’s comfort and happiness in what is passing away. Faith in Christ alone makes one wise to salvation. Foolish is the one who casts aside the Gospel of Christ. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is a parable about faith and unbelief. To believe in Christ is to love Him and long for His coming again in glory, like a faithful bride and her bridesmaids who await the coming of the Bridegroom. Those who do not believe in Christ have no particular yearning or anticipation for the Bridegroom’s coming. We, the faithful, go to the Sacrament each week, confessing our sins that we might “learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins…so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.” (Small Catechism) To “watch, [that is] pray” is to cry out to our Bridegroom, as His faithful bride, according to the loving promises of His Gospel and the gracious Words of His testament: “take eat, this is My body…drink of it all of you, this is My blood.”

Daily Lectionary For November 21–27, 2010
November 21 Daniel 2:1-23; Revelation 18:1-24
November 22 Daniel 2:24-49; Revelation 19:1-21
November 23 Daniel 3:1-30; Revelation 20:1-15
November 24 Daniel 4:1-37; Revelation 21:1-8
November 25 Daniel 5:1-30; Revelation 21:9-27; Daniel 7:1-8:27
November 26 Daniel 6:1-28; Revelation 22:1-21; Daniel 9:1-27
November 27 Isaiah 1:1-28; 1 Peter 1:1-12


The new church year begins by focusing on the humble coming of our Lord. “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey.” Even as He was born in a lowly manger, so Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a beast of burden. For He bears the sin of the world. He is the Son of David riding to His enthronement on the cross, where He shows Himself to be “The Lord, our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5–8). Our Lord still comes in great humility to deliver His righteousness to us in the Word and Sacraments. Before receiving Christ’s body and blood, we also sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:1–9) And as we receive the Sacrament, we set our hearts on His return in glory, for “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11–14).

Collect for Beginning of the Church Year: Eternal Lord God, our Father, who by Your grace have this day permitted us to enter a new church year, we implore You to pour upon Your church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word, as becomes it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and upbuilding of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and in the confession of Your name abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:5–8 [The Lord Our Righteousness]
Epistle: Romans 13:(8–10) 11–14 [Our salvation is nearer now]
Holy Gospel: Matthew 21:1–9 [Behold, your King is coming to you]

Sermon for November 20-21, 2010

Last Sunday of the Church Year
Matthew 25:1-13
November 20–21, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ten virgins pure watching in the dark; ten virgins pure waiting in the flickering light; ten virgins pure surrounded by temptations, dangers in the night. Outwardly they were all clean and undefiled. Nonetheless, these handmaidens of the Lord were overcome. Their flesh was weak. They were seduced by sleep, enticed to slumber. Their eyes grew heavy and they gave up, gave in. They quit fighting. They let the night have its way with them. The oil´s light burned in vain while they satisfied their carnal wants.

And then the midnight cry! It caught them unaware, found them tucked in bed with lovers not their husbands, their virginity and their duties all forgotten. The oil was gone, wasted, frivolously spent in vain pursuits, for pleasure´s sake. For when they gave up hope of the bridegroom´s appearing they were too lazy to extinguish their lamps. What did it matter? They thought that He would not return. Then the cry and then the panic and then the begging: give us some of yours. But there was none to spare. No one can believe for another. So out went the five fools into the night seeking to buy what can only be given. They returned empty-handed, too late. The door was shut. Therefore, watch! Beware! Repent!

It is hard to stay awake these sleepy days, James and John and Peter know. We abide at the end of time. Temptation grows stronger deeper in the night. It seems so futile to keep watch. We´ve waited already all our lives and still He has not come. There are pleasures beckoning to us all around. And no one seems to care if we slip in a few winks or go off for a while, if we go and do those things that young men and middle-aged men and old men think to be their right and their necessary rites of passage. If we behave like the ancient men of Rome or of Carthage or the modern men of Chicago or San Francisco, who can blame us? We are but men. Must we really be so vigilant and suffer so all through this night of days and months and years? Can´t we just have our fun and then repent at the end?

No. We cannot. That way leads to death. Now is the hour of salvation. Even if Our Lord should continue to delay, no man knows when his last hour will come. Repent before it is too late. Repent and watch.

And for the sake of hope and confidence notice this: all ten virgins fell asleep. All ten. All ten were outwardly pure, yet all ten failed in their vigil. What made five wise and five foolish? The wise still had oil. By the grace of God, despite their weakness and self-pity, despite their arrogance and indulgence, even while in the midst of their infidelity and defilement, they never completely gave up hope. They never stopped believing that He would come. They trimmed their lamps, and whatever little oil was left, was enough. It was multiplied like the widow´s oil in Zarephath or the Maccabean warriors´ oil in the cave. Their oil was given by God. For if He desires to be greeted and ushered into the chamber by virgins pure, He must create them. By grace, by what God supplied, the five wise virgins were spared the coming wrath and saved.

So there is hope even for us. You have not defiled yourself so gravely that you cannot be cleansed. Your God has not forgotten you. He brought you here this day for a purpose: to forgive you anew, to restore your chastity and purity, to recreate you immaculate, strong in faith, undefiled, righteous and holy, and mostly wise. The world scoffs at this true wisdom but it comes from God: He is coming back.

He does all this for and to you through His Word. By the Word He creates and restores. He called you by Name through His Name in Holy Baptism. You were born in those waters from above and made alive. He speaks these saving, cleansing words in the Scriptures, in the absolution, in the preaching, in His Church. He feeds these Words made flesh to you in the Holy Supper. This that He would be met on the last day with faith and praise and rejoicing and His work outside the city gate would not be in vain. For He has not fallen asleep. He does not forget His promise. He still and always loves you and makes you again virgin pure. It is ever a new day in Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Concerning then the time and the seasons, you have no need that St. Paul should tell you. He doesn’t know them anyway, nor does even the Son of Man Himself. All you need to know, the best and surest wisdom in all of creation, is that the day is surely coming. It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. God in His great love will steal you away from the darkness, death, and chaos of this fallen world. He will pull you from your traitorous bed and trim your lamp. You will again be pure and undefiled. You are not of the darkness or of the night no matter how sleepy and lazy you might feel. You are of the day. You are of Jesus Christ.

God did not appoint you for wrath. He appointed His Son for that in your stead. For one eternal afternoon He hung in Hell for you, was forsaken of the Father, was defiled by death, and the demons danced on His grave. But they were soundly dispersed and disappointed when the tomb was opened by the angel and the guards struck dumb. The night forever ended when the Dayspring from on high rose and gave Light to men. In this way, by His death and resurrection, He appointed you to Himself. He died for you that you would live with Him.

Watch and wait. Do not be afraid. Surely the day is drawing near. Thank God for it.

In + Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daily Readings November 14 - 20, 2010

Daily Readings November 14 - 20, 2010
November 14 Jer 29:1–19; Matt 26:36–56; Rev 14:1–20
November 15 Jer 30:1–24; Matt 26:57–75; Rev 15:1–8
November 16 Jer 31:1–17, 23–34; Matt 27:1–10; Rev 16:1–21
November 17 Jer 33:1–22; Matt 27:11–32; Jer 34:1—36:32; 45:1—51:64
November 18 Jer 37:1–21; Matt 27:33–56; Rev 17:1–18
November 19 Jer 38:1–28; Matt 27:57–66; Jer 39:1—44:30
November 20 Dan 1:1–21; Matt 28:1–20

Looking Forward to Next Sunday THE DAY OF FULFILLMENT

“The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:1–11). The arrival of the bridegroom will be sudden and unexpected. Therefore you are to be watchful and ready like the five wise virgins. “For you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt 25:1–13). The lamps are the Word of Christ. The oil in the lamps is the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word to create and sustain the flame of faith in Christ. The foolish are those who do not give proper attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in baptism, preaching, and the supper, and so their faith does not endure. The wise, however, are those who diligently attend to these gifts of the Spirit, and who therefore have an abundance of oil. The flame of faith endures to the end. By God’s grace they are received into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth created by the Lord for the joy of His people (Is 65:17–25).

Collect: Absolve, we implore You, O Lord, Your people from their offenses, that from the bonds of our sins which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon us we may be delivered by Your bountiful goodness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 65:17–25

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11
Holy Gospel: Matthew 25:1–13

Second Last Sunday in the Church Year

Second Last Sunday in the Church Year
Matthew 9:18-26
November 13–14, 2010

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

What would you do if your young girl needed a heart transplant and the doctor said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you give up your left hand.” You wouldn't hesitate for a instant, any sacrifice, any price, any hardship would be worth it. But what if he said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you and the Mrs. work things out and fall back in love.” Would you try it? Would you commit with your whole being, sacrifice yourself, your ego and ambitions, your income and honor for the sake of the marriage to save your little girl's heart? More than one little girl has been killed because Daddy walked away in vanity and pride.

I am forever astounded at how bold we are in promising big things, our left hand in the case above. But we hedge on the little things. In the Confirmation vows we never flinch as we promise to suffer all, even death, rather than cease to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church. We are ready to suffer death. It is inconvenience that we are worried about. We imagine ourselves ready to be burned at the stake, but that doesn't mean we are ready to give sacrificially of our income. After all, we need satellite TV and DVDs. In the same way we are ready to confess without compromise before kings and rulers, just not in front of our friends. We are a pathetic people, bent on ourselves, weak with greed, lust, and ambition. Our priorities are right on paper, just not in our hearts. Repent. Stop the lies. Hear the Word of God.

Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was heartbroken. His 12 year old daughter lay at the point of death. He said to Jesus: “Lay your hand on her and she will live.” And so He did and she lived. But what about us? What of our dying children, our broken families, our failing friendships and crumbling neighborhoods? What of our hurting souls? He has gone up with a shout. Can He yet lay His Hand upon us? Or are we left with nothing more than the shadow of the Word Incarnate? Has the Word made Flesh become a ghost? Is the Jesus who walked the earth and felt the nails bite into His hands now nothing more substantial than a silent thought in our brains, the fluff of the butterflies wings and the sting of a snowflake on our noses? No. He is flesh still. He is Man forever, for there are not two Christ’s, but one. He has forever united Himself to us in the skin and bones, cartilage and tendons, and blood. And all that, for us.

The Hand that laid upon Jairus's daughter and called her again to life is encased in the bread by the power of His Word. He lays His Hand upon your tongue to bring you over from death to life, to rouse your sleepy faith, to forgive your sins, and make you well. He touches you, His Body to yours. He places Himself, the Body that bore your sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, into your heart that your hungry soul would be satisfied, that you would be healed and whole.

In similar fashion, the woman who had suffered many things at the hands of the doctors while searching for relief from the 12 year old flow of blood, thought to herself: “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” She came behind Him and touched His clothes and was healed. And so it is that we too approach God from behind. In our sins we cannot bear His holiness. We touch the garment of bread that clothes the Son of God and Son of Man. He is our salvation. In that touching, that eating and drinking, that Holy Communion, the flow of blood, the years of dying, the uncleanness are removed. We now belong. For this flow of power from Him to us, this flow of His Blood that stops our bleeding, our dying, has not gone unnoticed. In fact, it was His intention all along. His Blood and His death have been substituted on our behalf.

He bled and died in our place. Now, we don't have to. For death is not natural. He did not create us to die. By Grace, we won't - ever. For no one who believes in Him, who trusts in the merits of His suffering, death, and resurrection, who rests in the mercy of the Almighty, who confesses Jesus as Lord, will ever die. Believers don't die. They fall asleep. Their souls go to heaven while their bodies wait in the grave for the resurrection and reunion to come.

Here is power for life. We live by and in Grace, forgiven and forgiving. We lay all things upon the hem of His garment. We hear His address of affection, He calls us “son, daughter. And He calls us by name, by His own Name.” So that we have the strength to carry on. His bleeding, His dying, His rising, His praying these are the things that make us Christians and declare us alive. In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All Saints Sermon November 6-7, 2010

All Saints
Matthew 5:1-12, Revelation 7:9-17
November 6–7, 2010

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

We must know that happiness is not in brick and mortar, steel and leather, food and wine, skin and silk. We have been hurt by those things. We have seen the destructive obsession, addiction, and demise of friends and family in those things. But we have not learned. Our daydreams give us away. We are near-slaves to our stomachs and lusts. Imagine the shame we would endure if men could read our thoughts even for a moment. What if your co-workers knew what your doodles meant or heard the daydreams you had during meetings? Repent.

The sad reality is we spend our waking hours obsessed with ourselves, and when we sleep, we dream of nothing else. We waste our lives adding up the cost of all the things we want: a new car, a new house, a quick way out of debt, a dream vacation, a life of leisure, a slimmer waist, a more attentive husband, honor and prestige from our friends and countrymen, a college fund for our children, a fat retirement for ourselves! Surely we must know that happiness is not in these things. But why then do we dream of them so often, so thoroughly? Why do we add up the cost and think of what we do if we became suddenly rich? We know that happiness is not in these things. But we do not believe it. We have not learned. Is it any wonder then that our prayers are so feeble, so sickly weak? They are offered up in haste, mostly without hope or in panic, by thoughtless rote, for superstition´s, or even for reputation's sake. We daydream and surf the internet, watch TV and drink, more than we pray.

St. John the Divine, son of thunder, seer of visions, and beloved of Our Lord, was no better. He even tried to worship an angel once. He fell asleep in the garden of betrayal. He followed Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration and wanted to stay there rather than have men saved by the Messiah´s exodus through death and the grave. But the Lord would not leave John alone in his depression and pain. Even in his unusual cross of exile on Patmos, the Lord came to him to comfort and forgive. He showed St. John the future to come: the saints, even he and the ten, and Matthias and Paul, and the Patriarchs and prophets, and the martyrs, the confessors, the virgins, the catechumens, the faithful, the good and the bad, the greatest and the least, a great company without number, thousands upon thousands from every continent and time, from every nation and tongue, with every color of skin and hair and eyes ever bestowed upon men, short and fat, tall and thin, learned and simple, girls and boys, children and adults, all arrayed in white, free at last, with branches of palm and songs of praise - the life to come. In exile and alone on earth, John was never alone. The Lord was with him always, and so were the saints, the cloud of witnesses who upheld him with perfected prayers and beseeched the Lamb once slain but alive with the constant request, “How long, O Lord? How long?”

These saints already delivered, who died in the faith and were born into heaven, seen by John, do what we try to do but are as yet unable. They pray in perfection and without sin. They know no fear, no sorrow, no selfish desires. They have been granted relief of the things we now endure: poverty, meekness, hunger and thirst, and persecution. They are blessed. The kingdom of heaven is theirs. They are comforted. They have obtained mercy. They see God. They are the sons of God. Free of all burdens they now pray without fail or guile and always for us. They are free of the pain, but not the memory. For while they do not suffer in any way or miss us, nonetheless, they feel the kinship to us on earth more strongly than we do to them. They are more aware of our unity than we. For they are selfless and pure in heart. They have come out of the great tribulation and bleached their souls in Jesus´ Blood and they waiting for you to join them.

That is what comforted St. John . There on Patmos´ lonely shores he saw the days to come. He saw his brothers and his sisters triumphant and in glory. He knew their faces and their names. They were his friends and his loved ones, his teachers and his children. He was glad for them, that they were free and at rest. But He was also glad to have them on his side, to see the love of God in men made righteous by grace and alive from the dead, and to have the promise of his own impending resurrection and reward.

Now your sanctification is not yet complete. The good work begun in you is not yet done. Your faith has not yet come full course. That is why your prayers are yet hindered by your daydreams, by your lusts. But your justification, the forgiveness and righteous that God has declared for you, the reconciliation to the Father, your unity in the bond of the Spirit, is complete and full. There is no more. Christ Your Lord has bestowed His Grace. He has washed you clean. He has claimed you as His own. There is no more to do, no more to pay, you are perfect in the sight of God and belong to Him.

So now you wait. You wait for the day when your sanctification will be a perfect match with your justification, when you will be free of temptation and your prayers will not falter, when you will be as the saints in white as seen by John. In the meantime, their prayers avail much. They show us the way. We honor them. We are encouraged by them. We imitate them. And we benefit immeasurably from their intercessions and their prayers. For however weak and sinful we might be, however inwardly turned, conceited, and arrogant we are, the love of God cannot be stopped. Death is dead. Life lives. Jesus loves to forgive. His death and resurrection makes all things new. He washes the souls of the saints. He places the palms into their hands. This great throng of saints did not come about by the doing of the saints, but of God. That is why they sing: “Salvation belongs to God.” Salvation belongs to God. He changes the hearts of men. These saints now so glorious were once like us: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, afraid, uncertain, hurting, lonely, persecuted, afflicted with daydreams, and reviled. Now they are like Christ: immaculate, radiant, confident, whole, alive, full of joy and peace. Now they are what we will be.

For the same Holy Spirit that abides in them also abides in you. There is one Church on heaven and on earth. O weak man! Do You think that you are not good enough? That You are not like them? The Father and the Son think differently. They love you with the same love, the same commitment, the same zeal. They placed their Holy Name upon you on purpose. And if the prayers of saints triumphant do much good, and they do, then how much more good is done by the prayers that words cannot express, offered from within you by the Holy Spirit? God Himself prays for you. You are already now a saint of God, no different than your brothers in heaven, except that your fight is not yet done. For at times you are hidden from the world. At times you are even hidden from yourself, but God will reveal you to all creation as His son or daughter at the last day. Your sanctification is not yet full. Your sins still hurt. You wound those you love. You still suffer in this chaos of death, the last gasps of the dying enemy, but you are blessed. By grace you believe, you hope, you trust, you wait. Better days are coming. St. John the Divine has now been relieved. So, too, have some of your loved ones. And while no man can number the multitude of saints around the throne of grace, the God who counts the hairs on your head can. He counts you among that multitude. That is why the water and the Word were poured upon you, why He called you out of darkness to life, and why He feeds you with His Body and His Blood. His Word does not return void. He keeps His promises. He does not forgot. He will replace your daydreams with the reality.

In + Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary For November 7–13, 2010

Daily Lectionary For November 7–13, 2010

November 7 Jeremiah 11:1-23; Matthew 24:1-28; Jeremiah 12:1-19:15
November 8 Jeremiah 20:1-18; Matthew 24:29-51
November 9 Jeremiah 22:1-23; Matthew 25:1-13
November 10 Jeremiah 23:1-20; Matthew 25:14-30
November 11 Jeremiah 23:21-40; Matthew 25:31-46
November 12 Jeremiah 25:1-18; Matthew 26:1-19
November 13 Jeremiah 26:1-19; Matthew 26:20-35; Revelation 13:1-18


“We Are Delivered from Darkness by the Blood of Christ."
In the healing of the woman with the flow of blood, Jesus teaches us the power of the earthly sacramental elements. For our deliverance from all the afflictions caused by sin, God communicates Christ’s grace and mercy to us through earthly elements. In raising the daughter of Jairus’ from the dead, Jesus teaches us that faith in Him relies upon the Word He speaks even though it may run contrary to what we see or experience.

Collect: O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by your Holy Spirit that, being ever mindful of the end of all things and your just judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of living here and dwell with you forever hereafter; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Isaiah 51:9-16: The Lord encourages the downtrodden to put their trust in Him alone for their comfort and deliverance. He is the Lord of salvation who has saved His people down through the ages of Biblical history. As He has relieved their suffering in the past, so He will do so now. What do God’s people need to fear if their life is lived in repentance and faith in God’s promises? “I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’“

Colossians 1:9-14: In Christ we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s love. The redemption of sinners and the restoration of the fallen creation is in the blood of Christ. Blood carries life and the shedding of blood propitiates the wrath of God and brings forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 9:18-26: In the healing of the woman with the flow of blood, Jesus teaches us the power of the earthly sacramental elements. For our deliverance from all the afflictions caused by sin, God communicates Christ’s grace and mercy to us through earthly elements. In raising the daughter of Jairus’ from the dead, Jesus teaches us that faith in Him relies upon the Word He speaks even though it may run contrary to what we see or experience.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Luther's 95 Thesis 1517

95 Theses nailed on the church door at Wittenburg.
by Dr. Martin Luther (October 31, 1517)

OCTOBER 31, 1517

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept ( Matthew 13:25 ).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last ( Matthew 20:16 ).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ).

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and 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 reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"

84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"

85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"

86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"

87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"

88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"

89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! ( Jeremiah 6:14 )

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace ( Acts 14:22 ).