Thursday, July 22, 2010

Daily Readings August 30-September 5, 2010

Daily Lectionary

August 30 1 Kings 12:20—13:5, 33–34; 2 Corinthians 8:1–24
August 31 1 Kings 16:29—17:24; 2 Corinthians 9:1–15
September 1 1 Kings 18:1–19; Ephesians 1:1–23
September 2 1 Kings 18:20–40; Ephesians 2:1–22
September 3 1 Kings 19:1–21; Ephesians 3:1–21
September 4 2 Kings 2:1–18; Ephesians 4:1–24
September 5 2 Kings 2:19–25; 4:1–7; Ephesians 4:25—5:14


The Law cannot help us or give us life. Rather, it confines everyone under sin as wounded and naked before God (Galatians 3:15–22). So it is that two figures of the Law, the priest and the Levite, passed by the injured man on the side of the road (Luke 10:23–37). Only the promised Seed of Abraham can rescue us and make us righteous before God. Only the Samaritan, our Lord Jesus, had compassion. He came down to us in our lost and dying condition, pouring on the oil and wine of the sacraments. He placed us on His own animal, bearing our sin and brokenness in His body on the cross to restore us. Jesus brought us to the Inn, that is, the Church, and gave the innkeeper two denarii, that His double forgiveness might continue to be ministered to us. In this way the Lord, by whose Law we are torn and stricken, heals us and revives us by His Gospel and raises us up with Himself on the third day, that we may live in His sight (Hosea 6:1–6).

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and as we do obtain that which You promise, make us to love that which You command; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen

Old Testament; Hosea 6:1–6
Epistle: Galatians 3:15–22
Holy Gospel: Luke 10:23–37

Daily readings for August 23-29, 2010

Daily Lectionary

August 23 1 Kings 3:1–15; 2 Corinthians 1:1–22
August 24 (St Bartholomew) 1 Kings 5:1–18; 2 Corinthians 1:23—2:17
August 25 1 Kings 7:51—8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:1–18
August 26 1 Kings 8:22–30, 46–63; 2 Corinthians 4:1–18
August 27 1 Kings 9:1–9; 10:1–13; 2 Corinthians 5:1–21
August 28 1 Kings 11:1–26; 2 Corinthians 6:1–18
August 29 1 Kings 11:42—12:19; 2 Corinthians 7:1–16


A man was brought to Jesus who was deaf and therefore also had an impediment in his speech (Mark 7:31–37). In the same way, all are by nature deaf toward God and therefore also unable to confess the faith rightly. For “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:9–17). Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears, and He spat and touched His tongue. Even so in Holy Baptism water sanctified by the words of Jesus’ mouth is applied to us; and the finger of God, that is, the life–giving Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:4–11) is put into our ears in the hearing of the baptismal Gospel. Jesus’ sighing “Ephphatha” opened the man’s ears, and his tongue was loosed to speak plainly as Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book” (Isaiah 29:18–24) So also, He who sighed and breathed His last on the cross for us has given us to hear and believe in Him and has opened our lips that our mouths may declare His praise.

Collect: Almighty and merciful God, whose gift it is that Your faithful possess all things pertaining to faith and life, we implore You that we may so faithfully cling to Your promises in this life that we fail not finally to attain to Your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 29:18–24
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4–11
Holy Gospel: Mark 7:31–37

August 16-22, 2010 Daily Readings

Daily Lectionary

August 16 2 Samuel 6:1–19; 1 Corinthians 9:1–23
August 17 2 Samuel 7:1–17; 1 Corinthians 9:24—10:22
August 18 2 Samuel 7:18–29; 1 Corinthians 10:23—11:16
August 19 2 Samuel 11:1–27; 1 Corinthians 11:17–34
August 20 2 Samuel 12:1–25; 1 Corinthians 12:1–13
August 21 1 Kings 1:1–4, 15–35; 1 Corinthians 12:14–31
August 22 1 Kings 2:1–27; 1 Corinthians 13:1–13

Next Weeks Lessons: The Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

“The Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:1–15). For unlike Abel, Cain’s offering did not proceed from a heart that revered and trusted in the Lord. Thus, the lowly tax collector who prayed, “God be merciful to me, sinner!” was the one who went down to his house justified before God, not the respectable, outwardly righteous Pharisee who trusted in himself and his own good living (Luke 18:9–14). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:1–10). The one who penitently despairs of his own righteousness and relies completely on the atoning mercy of God in Christ is the one who is declared righteous. For Christ died for our sins and rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1–10). Therefore, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, who are always more ready to hear than we to pray and give more than we either desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things that we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Christ, our Lord; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament: Genesis 4:1–15
Epistle: Ephesians 2:1–10
Holy Gospel: Luke 18:9–14

Daily Bible Readings August 9-15, 2010

Daily Lectionary

August 9 1 Samuel 25:1–22; 1 Corinthians 3:1–23
August 10 (St. Lawrence) 1 Samuel 25:23–44; 1 Corinthians 4:1–21
August 11 1 Samuel 26:1–25; 1 Corinthians 5:1–13
August 12 1 Samuel 28:3–25; 1 Corinthians 6:1–20
August 13 1 Samuel 31:1–13; 1 Corinthians 7:1–24
August 14 2 Samuel 1:1–27; 1 Corinthians 7:25–40
August 15 (St Mary, Mother of Our Lord) 2 Samuel 5:1–25; 1 Corinthians 8:1–13

NEXT WEEKS LESSONS: The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Our Lord wept over Jerusalem for the destruction that would soon come upon her. For she did not recognize the time of God’s visitation in Christ, who had come to bring her peace (Luke 19:41–48). Through His prophets God had consistently called His people to turn from their deceit and false worship. “But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:1–11; 8:4–12). They sought to establish their own righteousness rather than receive Christ’s righteousness through faith (Romans 9:30–10:4). So it was that God was in His temple to cleanse it, a precursor to the once–for–all cleansing from sin which He would accomplish in the temple of His own body on the cross. God grant us to know the things that make for our peace—His visitation in the Word and Sacraments—that by the Holy Spirit we may penitently confess “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:1–11).

Collect: O God, as You declare Your almighty power above all in showing mercy and pity, mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Your grace that we may obtain Your gracious promises and be made partakers of Your heavenly treasures; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord .Amen.
Old Testament Jeremiah 8:4–12
Epistle 1 Corinthians 12:1–11
Holy Gospel: Luke 19:41–48

Daily readings for August 2-8, 2010

Daily Lectionary
August 2 1 Samuel 17:20–47; Acts 26:24—27:8
August 3 1 Samuel 17:48—18:9; Acts 27:9–26
August 4 1 Samuel 18:10–30; Acts 27:27–44
August 5 1 Samuel 19:1–24; Acts 28:1–15
August 6 1 Samuel 20:1–23; Acts 28:16–31
August 7 1 Samuel 20:24–42; 1 Corinthians 1:1–25
August 8 1 Samuel 24:1–22; 1 Corinthians 1:26—2:16

NEXT WEEKS LESSONS: The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
“The master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly” (Luke 16:1–9). The steward’s shrewdness is praiseworthy for two reasons. First, he knew the master would be merciful. He trusted that the master would honor the debts he forgave in the master’s name. In the same way, though we have squandered our heavenly Father’s possessions in selfishness and sin, Jesus is the Steward who has canceled our debt, knowing that His forgiveness will be honored by the Father because of the holy cross. Secondly, the steward was shrewd in using oil and wheat to provide for his earthly welfare. So also do these earthly elements aid us when pressed into heavenly use in the anointing of baptism and the wheat of the Lord’s Supper. Those who have the Sacraments will have an eternal home when the earthly fails. These are our escape in temptation (1 Corinthians 10:6–13). For the Lord is our strength and a shield to all who trust in Him (2 Samuel 22:26–34).

Collect: Let Your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of Your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord . Amen.
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 22:26–34
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:6–13
Holy Gospel: Luke 16:1–13

Trinity 13 August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010
Trinity 13
Luke 10:23-37
“The Law which Kills”
Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church
Girard, IL

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

The Lawyer wants to know how to keep the Law in order to inherit eternal life. But that is impossible. The Law doesn´t save. It kills. There is no nice way to preach it. You don´t take the edge off of: “You are going to Hell” by saying it nicely or by smiling. You only give the impression that either you don´t care or it is a joke. There is another option. Don´t preach the Law. Don´t say, “You are going to Hell.” Instead hold out the Law like a promise. Pretend that the Law is obtainable. Men love that. It still won´t save, but it will gain you friends. It allows men their delusions for a time, until the wolf sheds his false, sheep´s coat and devours them. Despite the fact that it seems right to men and sells a lot of books, the Law cannot save. If there had been a law given which have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin!

Besides this the lawyer cannot do anything to inherit eternal life. It does not matter how hard he tries, how good he is, or how much he wants it. Inheritance is not earned. Even if the lawyer did keep the law perfectly, so what? God wouldn´t owe him anything. They´d just be even. It is not like you go to the police station to get a reward for obeying the speed limit and not stealing from your neighbors. That is what you are supposed to do. What must you do to inherit anything? What must you do, for instance, to inherit the crown to England? That sounds good. I´d like to be the Prince of the Wales. Too bad. You can´t be. You must be born of the right father and mother. There is no other way. You cannot earn it. You cannot buy it. You cannot steal it. Inheritance is a birthright, an accident of genetics. It has nothing to do with your skills, abilities, personality, charm, or desire. You can make all the decisions you want about who you want to be but none of them will make you the Queen of England. Heaven is inherited in the same way. To inherit eternal life you must be born from above by water and Spirit. You must call God Father and Brother. You must be emptied of yourself and filled with Him, adopted by Grace that you did not earn but which He bestows from His mercy. Righteousness comes through the promise by faith in Jesus Christ. It is given to those who believe.

Which brings us to the parable. The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” And the answer, of course, is: “Everyone.” That is what the Law expects. That is what the world wants. All the world loves this parable. For they think Jesus is telling us to be nice to one another. This parable is just like Aesop´s fables. It is a call to good works, a religion of effort, morality, and motivation. But if that is what Jesus means with this parable, if He is simply cutting the Lawyer off from his loophole, saying everyone is his neighbor and he must love them everyone perfectly, then He leaves the Lawyer damned! For the Law does not save. The Lawyer is looking for a loophole because of his frustration with the Law, because he knows that he has not kept it. If the world´s interpretation of this parable is right it is the equivalent of Jesus telling the Lawyer to go to Hell. For no matter how good the Lawyer is, no matter how many people he helps, he will never be good enough. He cannot justify himself.

But notice that Jesus turns the lawyer´s question around. The Lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” That is, “Who must I love?” Jesus asks, “Who was a neighbor to the man in need?” That is, “Who loved?” Jesus places the lawyer in the ditch. It is not a call to do good. It is a call to receive mercy. The Lawyer is in the ditch of the Law. He is dead on the side of the road, whether he knows it or not. The Law goes marching by. The helpless priest and Levite skitter past not because they do not care, but because they cannot help. They can only kill. The Lawyer must find a Neighbor who can lift him out of death, a Neighbor who is merciful, who will bind up his wounds, pour on wine and oil, walk beside him as a servant while he rides, take him to an inn of recovery, pay for everything, and promise to come back. That Neighbor is an outsider, an ethnic enemy, despised, scorned, betrayed, and killed. He has no obligation to help. He is moved by compassion. That Neighbor can make the Lawyer a son with the inheritance of heaven.

The answer then to “who is my neighbor?” is it not “everyone.” It is Jesus. Jesus is my Neighbor - not for me to serve, for me to love, for me to do good things to, but for me to be served by, to be loved, to receive good. Jesus, the Merciful One, is my Neighbor. He loves me as Himself. He keeps the Law for me. Here is eternal life: not in a call to do good works, to be the Samaritan, but rather in receiving the ministrations of the Samaritan, our just defender. Jesus finds us broken by the Law, helpless in the ditch, dying. We wound up there because we hated Him. But still He loves us. He intervenes. He provides. Oil for Baptism? Wine for Holy Communion? The Inn for the Church? Of course. This is, after all, a parable.

Now, I don´t why you came here this morning. We all have bad reasons. Mine are the worst of all: I´m paid to be here! We like to try and justify ourselves. Maybe you come to Church because you feel guilty and hope your attendance will please God. Or maybe you are just lonely and don´t have anything else to do. You come out of habit or because you have friends here and want to see them. I don´t know, and I don´t care. Here is the significant thing: You are here and Jesus is here. He is not here to judge you. He is here to heal you, to restore and refresh you, to love and forgive you, to be your Neighbor and your Brother. It is not that your sins are not significant or that He is enabling you, winking at your sins or looking the other way. Your sins are destructive and shameful, but He forgives them from His mercy. God is love. He loves to love you.

In that mercy you have the power to resist and overcome. You do not have to live in drunkenness and lust, in lewdness, anger, and covetousness. You do not have to keep making the same mistakes. He has provided a better a way, a good way, the only way. It is the way of the cross, the mortification of the flesh in daily drowning and dying, in emptying and brokeness, in dependence upon Him and His mercy. In His death and resurrection all things are new, all things are clean and pure. But most significantly, in His death and resurrection, you are His and you are perfect. Submit to that. Give up. Die to self. Live to Christ. Rest in grace. Wait in hope.

Whatever reason you may have thought you had for coming this morning, or even if you came without any reason at all, the real reason in the end is that God led you here. Your presence is of cosmic significance. The angels see you and they rejoice. God has not forgotten the promise He made to you when you were Baptized. He claimed you. He put His Name on you. No one steals from Him. This is where He wants you because this is where He is present according to His mercy and grace. He has a surprise for you, for the lawyer in you. You do not have to keep the Law. You do not have to be good. You do not even have to understand. He gives Himself to you. He will lead you. This place is but an inn of rest and recovery. It is temporary, a shadow of the real thing to come. Jesus has paid for everything and He is coming back. He will take you home.

In the meantime, in this crumbling shack of grace, eat what He gives: His Body. Drink what He sheds: His Blood. In It there is strength to wait and there is strength to believe. In It there is a promise and a foretaste. Soon, dear believer, soon, your Lord will return. In + Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Trinity 12 August 22, 2010

August 22, 2010
Trinity 12
Mark 7:31-37
“You are Clean”

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

The deaf-mute’s friends brought him to Jesus. They didn’t just change the categorization and pretend that took care of it. “You’re not deaf, you’re hearing-challenged.” They didn’t tell him God wanted him that way and that he should get used to it, it was what made him special.

They did not ignore his deafness or exclude him. They didn’t say it was his fault, that it was punishment for something he had done, or for something he had done in a past life, or that he had brought it upon himself. They were his friends.

They were his friends. So they brought him to where he could get help. They brought Him to Jesus. May God grant to us all such friends. And by His mercy may He make such friends to others. At their prayers, they begged Jesus to lay His hands on him, He took the man at aside.

It was just the two of them, Jesus and the deaf-mute. Then He put His fingers into the deaf man’s ears. He spat and touched the deaf man’s tongue. There was something borderline inappropriate in His actions. We don’t want people sticking their fingers in our ears. And we certainly don’t want people spitting and touching our tongues! Jesus invaded this man’s space. He touched his pain. It was intimacy that could not be denied.

The Lord can heal with just a Word. Why then fingers in the ears? Spit and hands upon the tongue? It was intimate. It was invasive. It was dominating.

Whether Our Lord heals with just a word or He does it by sticking His fingers in the ears, spitting, and touching the tongue, the only way that ears are opened and tongues are loosed is by intimate, invasive, domination by God.

Scrubbing is always near violence. That is why dogs and small children don’t like baths.

Here is the problem: Your feet stink. Your tongue is out of control, it reveals an evil heart. It lies. It gossips. It betrays friends. Your hands are dirty. They have touched unclean things, been party to vile actions. Your eyes leak puss and blood. You have pointed them to evil and not turned away. You are contagious. You are dying and your actions, your deceit, your selfishness, are a threat to your family and nation, to your children and your friends. Repent.

Jesus steps in. He takes you apart, to Himself. He touches you. He prods your hurting parts. He pours on water, oil and wine. He speaks His Name. He does not speak your name. Your name is no good, broken, corrupt, infected. He speaks His Name. His Name is good. He opens ears and tongue and eyes with His Word. Then -- most shocking, most unexpected - He exchanges His bodily fluids, His spittle and His blood, for yours. He takes your sickness, your corruption. He gives you health. It is a transfusion of grace, a washing of rebirth and renewal, a resurrection from the dead.

At the hand of Jesus Christ the deaf man heard the Word of God and praised God’s Name. Jesus broke the chains of death. He stopped the cycle. He stood in the gap, made up the difference, restored His good creation to its intended goodness. He accepted the infection, corruption, dirt, shame. So, He answer the prayers of the friends and fulfill the will of His Father. That is who Jesus is. It is what He does, why He came.

Peace is bestowed by the forgiveness won on the cross. It is peace with the Father in the bond of the Spirit through the intercession of the Son. It passes all understanding. It is given to sinners. But given to us, it is not ours to manipulate or manufacture. It is ours to enjoy, to benefit from, not as the King so that we hold it by Divine Right, but as the members of the King’s family, who abide by His command and grace, at His pleasure. So also unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it can only be created by God. It is given where His Word reigns and men submit to it together.

 It will only be fully realized when we are taken from this valley of confusion. It will only be fully realized when our holiness is fully realized. But until then we dare not make a mockery of it now by pretending nothing matters, that we can create unity where God seems to have failed, that we can sin because we are forgiven, that if we change the classification or deny the reality and danger then everything will be okay.

Faith is the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the conviction that the Holy Trinity is good, has worked out our salvation for us for free, and will at the end bring us to everlasting consolation and bliss. This gift is given by God to those who are baptized, to those who hear His Word and believe it, to those who eat His Body and drink His Blood, proclaiming His death until He comes again. He invades them, coming into them by ear and tongue, to save them. That invasion is indistinguishable from faith. To say faith saves is to say: Jesus saves. To have faith is to have forgiveness and unity in Jesus Christ.

Now when Jesus invades your personal space, when He sticks His finger into your ear, it comes away dirty. Who knows what gross thing is on the end of it for all the world to see. It is embarrassing, uncomfortable, a little weird. But when that gunk has been removed and He is revealed according to His mercy, when His loving purpose is known, you won’t care. So what if the devil laughed at you? The world thought you strange? So what if you suffered fiery trials for a while? You hear the Shepherd’s Voice. He says: “Do not be afraid. I died for you. I love you. I forgive you. Rise from the dead. Be my Bride.”

And that is worth it. Every time. Shame is removed along with sin. You are free to hear His Word, to sing His praise, to be one with Him in intimate communion, His beloved, emancipated from the lies of the devil, freed of what blocked your ears and ruined your tongue and threatened your peace. Cleansed of your diseases and weakness.

And you have friends here on earth in Jesus Christ, who, by His grace, pray for you. And you have even more friends in heaven, in Jesus Christ, who, by His grace, pray for you.

Open your ears and hear the Word of Christ. Stick out your tongue. Have Christ placed upon it. Be opened. In Jesus’+ Name. Amen.

Trinity 11 August 15, 2010

August 15, 2010
Trinity 11
Luke 18:9-14
“You Pharisee”

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

The Pharisee is an offensive character. He doesn’t fit in very well with the values of middle America. He is a conceited bigot and easy to hate. The irony is that it is easy to look down on him even as he looked down on the tax-collector and to get caught in a sick spiral where you think you are better than he is because you don’t think you’re better than other people like he does. Expect you do. You think you’re better than him. So to avoid that trap let us try to drudge up some sympathy for the Pharisee.

In the first place his prayer was not so bad as it sounds. We should thank God that we are not like other men, that His mercy has not only kept all of us here out of the hospital this day, but has also kept us from acting out our most evil thoughts. God has spared us. He has kept us from performing our worst desires. Or He has kept us from getting too hurt by them. We’ve climbed behind the wheel drunk but made it home safely, gotten away with it. We’ve downloaded pornography but deleted it off the hard-drive and no one knew it was there. We’ve told lies that were believed. We’ve looked the other way for expediency and not been called on it. We could be addicts, divorced, imprisoned, friendless, and homeless. There is no sin that is harmless or without victims. Any of them could get carried away and destroy our lives. We could lose everything because we had one too many beers or thought no one would ever know. Can you imagine the shame you would endure if someone could read your mind? What if the world knew the perverted turns of your day dreams? Do not think you are better than other men, but thank God that you have been spared so much of their sorrow. Look at the worst of society with sympathy. It is a thin line that separates you from them.

The tax collector was a traitor to his people. The modern equivalent is not an IRS employee, but something like a drug pusher who hangs around elementary school playgrounds and lures children into addiction and sexual abuse. We’re talking the worst sort of men. Now imagine what would run through your mind if you were standing in the line at the grocery store with a unkempt and dangerous-looking man in his late 40’s, cigarette dangling from his hand, with a 17 year old girl looking like Miley Cyrus at a concert. What would think? Would you pray: “Thank you Lord that I am not like him?” Would you pray: “He deserves to go to Hell?”

That really was the problem with the Pharisee. It wasn’t what he said but what he meant, what was in his heart, for he trusted in himself and despised others. He points the tax collector out to God because he wants to be compared. He thinks it will make him look good. But it doesn’t. It only shows his sins. Repent.

You have not committed the worst crimes this world has known. You are not guilty of abusing children. But don’t let that lead you to believe that compared to a drug pusher or child molester you are righteous. To some degree you are, but the difference between your righteousness and theirs is the difference between calling Pluto a planet or an asteroid. It doesn’t really matter. The point of comparison is to the Law. How much you’ve sinned isn’t the issue. You’ve sinned. Don’t dare feel morally superior and despise those who only know hatred and fear. Instead be thankful that God has spared you that path, that He has given you mentors, some level of intelligence and self-control, that you have a community that supports you, and the like. But don’t dare to think that you are superior to any other sinner on this planet. All sinners deserve Hell, tax-collectors and Pharisees alike.

This parable serves as a warning. It is not simply “don’t judge a book by its cover” or “appearances can be deceiving” or even “don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.” It is: “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ enters the kingdom of heaven.” Good works, fasting twice a week and tithing of all that you have, are not enough. You cannot earn your way into God’s favor. The Pharisee did not go down to his house justified. He was condemned. No one who trusts in himself enters into the kingdom of heaven. Repent.

But there is a promise in the parable as well. The tax-collector did go home justified. He threw himself upon God’s mercy in desperation. He had no righteousness of his own. He was ashamed of the things he had done, of the lies he had told, of the evil he had committed against his people and against those who loved him. He wanted to do better. He wanted to start over. To do that he needed mercy, an escape, a Savior and a re-creation in Jesus Christ. He got it. The Lord is merciful. His mercy endures forever. No one who hopes for mercy in Jesus Christ is denied. The tax collector was justified.

Our remaining days on earth are running out. We are closer to death than ever before. It might be August, but the leaves have already begun to fall. Winter is coming. The smell of the apocalypse is in the air. Mercy in Jesus Christ is our only hope.

But that is a hope that cannot fail. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Father, the bearer and sender of the Holy Spirit. He is mercy in the Flesh, sent to call sinners to repentance, to heal the souls of men disfigured and sick, bent inward on themselves, to rescue those held captive by the devil, tormented by demons, and afraid of the judgment to come. He came to seek and to save the conceited and arrogant, the cheaters and cowards. He came to eat with extortionist, adulterers, tax-collectors, Pharisees, liars, thieves, prostitutes, gang-bangers, and drug pushers. It is not too late. He will even accept and love life-long Lutherans. No one who hopes for mercy in Jesus Christ is denied.

Christ died for your sins. He was buried and rose again. His love is without measure. His grace is sufficient. He has come in mercy for mercy’s sake and His mercy endures forever. He has drained the cup of wrath for you. He spares His people. He covers them with His Blood and His Blood cries for them to heaven. It does not accuse, it forgives. And it serves as proof of your innocence and perfection in Jesus Christ. The angel of death passes over. You are safe. You belong to Jesus. You wear His Name. You eat His Body. You abide in His mercy. You go down to your house justified this day.

In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Trinity 10 August 8, 2010

August 8, 2010
Trinity 10
Luke 19:41-48
“Weeping over Sin”
Fort McCoy, WI

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

Why does our Savior weep? He does not weep for pride or scorn. He does not weep in frustration or despair. He does not weep to think of the torture He will endure.

As He enters into Jerusalem to lay down His life on the cross, He weeps in mourning. Many of those whom He loves will endure needless suffering and death. He weeps for the people of Jerusalem. He goes to die for them, to pay for their sins, to reconcile them to His Father. But they choose their own way, their own gods. They reject the Lord in their flesh. His visitation and peace are wasted on them for they choose war. And they will suffer terribly in the siege to come. But what the Romans do to them - as bad as it is, and it is bad as anything mankind has ever known - cannot compare to what Hell has in store.

Repent. Jerusalem is a warning. Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. It sounds most unChristian to say it, but not everyone who is baptized will be saved. Hitler was baptized. So was Stalin. So was Judas. Caiaphas and all the Sadducees were circumcised. It is possible to deny the faith, to turn away, either in a conscience decision for power and evil, or by a slow seduction to sin and a lackadaisical approach to faith.

Just because you were confirmed, or your dad read the Bible everyday, or you had a great pastor once, does not mean you are in the club. You have vowed to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith. We vainly think, “I would die for God, for orthodoxy. I would never deny the Lord and burn incense to Caesar. But don't ask me to make a financial sacrifice. Don't ask me to give up the benefits of my dead husband's pension and marry the man I am living with, because that would mean giving up income, and surely the Lord would understand sin for the sake of money, wouldn't he? Isn't the Lord big on making as much money as possible and knows that if it is for money then sins don't really count? He wouldn't ask us to be inconvenienced, would He? All that rot at confirmation was simply rhetoric, the inflated language of pretend patriots. You can't expect us to actually suffer something. Isn't Christianity about being nice to one another, keeping up appearances, and promoting our culture?”

Such thinking betrays who and what is really our god. You cannot serve two gods. You cannot serve God and mammon. Repent. Consider Jerusalem at the hand of the Romans. Be warned and on guard.

And yet, Jerusalem's failures and rejection did not stop our Lord. Our Lord weeps not from wrath but from love. And even though it seems futile, almost wasteful, for Our Lord to go to the cross for those who hate Him, who will not have Him, He goes. Because He loves them. He is like the mother of a rebellious teenage daughter. The daughter slams her door, yells, “I hate you,” and insults the mother. But the mother still makes her daughter's favorite dinner.

He goes to cleanse the Temple, to drive out the money changers, to make room for the Gentiles, to restore the Temple as a place where God meets His people in grace rather than a place where men vainly try to buy God's favor. He is like the mother flushing the pot down the toilet even though He knows the daughter can get more.

Unlike our earthly, long-suffering mothers, His patience is perfect and without end. He does not grow weary or angry. His love never slackens. He keeps on because He loves us and because He loves His Father and desires to fulfill His Father's will.

It is true that sinful men, like Adolf Hitler or Judas, can reject their baptisms. But it is also true that proud, sinful men like Peter, David, or Nebuchadnezzar can be brought back to grace. In the case of evil men who choose their own way, the fault is not baptism but in the willful decisions of men. In the case of Peter and company the power is with Baptism. What Peter forgot, the Lord remembered. Baptism is not a license to sin. Having been baptized or confirmed warrants no favor with God apart from faith. What Baptism gives is forgiveness of sins and faith. We do not stand in the devil's living room, as his invited guest, wink and say, “No problem, friends. The devil can't hurt me. I am baptized. I can commit adultery, steal, lie, smoke dope, get drunk, and fight with immunity.” That is a lie.

But we do stand in our own living rooms or in our work places or in city hall and say, “The devil can't hurt me. I've sinned. I've done terrible things. And to some degree, I've invited the devil here with my sins. I've opened the door. I've played with fire. But God is merciful. Jesus died for me. I am baptized and I belong to God. The devil can roar all he wants, he can't really hurt me. Because Jesus has overcome him and risen from the dead. The resurrected Lord brought Peter back. He forgave his sins. He comforted and encouraged him in the breaking of the bread. He does the same for me. I am baptized and safe. He feeds me and I am safe. He forgives me and gives me the strength to carry on.”

Why does our Savior weep? He weeps for those He loves. He weeps for the lost and also for the sorrows of the faithful. That sorrow does not stop Him. It does render Him impotent. He endures. He presses on. He goes to the cross. Because many in Jerusalem were lost, they would not have Him. But not all were lost. Peter was there. Mary. Nicodemus. Zachariah. Saul. And you, your parents, your children, your brothers and sisters around you today. He goes for them, to save them, to open heaven for free to all believers, to give power and authority to baptism, to give substance and life to the Holy Communion.

The Temple is now clean. The Lord is risen and weeps no more. He has what He came for: you. You are forgiven, faithful by Divine decree and promise. Now He welcomes you again to His table that you would have forgiveness for yesterday, strength for today, and hope for tomorrow, and your presences fills the Savior with joy.

In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

Trinity 9 August 1, 2010

August 1, 2010
Trinity 9
Luke 16:1-13
“What Do you Own? Or What Owns You?”
Fort McCoy, WI

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

When someone places his possessions under a caretaker, or steward, it is because of necessity or convenience. It is because the person cannot take care of everything by himself or doesn't want to be bothered. But in the case of Our Lord it is quite different. The Lord God appoints men as caretakers of His stuff not because of necessity or bother, but because of pure grace and mercy.

Nothing in this world is really ours. It is simply entrusted to us for the time being. We have been entrusted with the Lord's stuff that we would use it in thanksgiving according to our needs, or distribute it to our fellow servants according to their needs. It is not lawful to misuse the stuff of the earth or to hoard it. It is not lawful to vandalize or waste, nor is it lawful to claim the right to extravagant expense and display. Gluttony is a sin as sure as sloth. We must render an account of our stewardship when Lord comes. Who then will stand upon his discretion, his moderation, his careful and just use? Who has never eaten when he was full? Who has never withheld his surplus from his neighbor? Repent.

We are not placed in this life as lords of our own houses. A man's house is not his castle. It is the Lord's house. The man is a guest. We are stewards. Not only does all the earth belong to the Lord, we ourselves also belong to the Lord. We have been given the right of brief and passing use of the earth. Cast out the pride of dominion. This is not our stuff. We did not earn it. We do not deserve it.

Stop your envy and jealousy. Stop your greed and lust. Stop judging the stewardship of others. Our values are different. An I-Phone is not worth its price to me. It seems wasteful. But I might well spend more on a bottle of wine than you would, and it would seem wasteful to you. How we spend God's money is our stewardship. Each family is different, deriving a different amount of pleasure or use out of different things. If you've decided television and processed corn syrup are bad for your children, good for you. But don't make rules for everyone else where the Scriptures have left us free. Let each exercise his stewardship according to his own situation and wisdom. Put on the modesty and humility of a steward who knows his place, which is to say, who knows the choices made in his freedom are not binding for others, and who knows he has failed again and again to be a good steward. Repent.

But then comes the surprise. The Lord does not condone thievery. The unjust steward in the parable was a bad steward. He wasted the master's stuff. That is a form of theft. Employees who do not work a full hour steal from their employers who pay by the hour. Workers who waste the material are guilty of stealing. These are condemned in the Scriptures. But Our Lord condones and even praises the injustice of stewardship in the parable when the once-wasteful steward now gives away the goods, where he cancels debts owed to his master. If Our Lord does not condone thievery, what is He condoning? He is condoning grace.

The King of Heaven is not like the Kings of earth. He does not give us stewardship because He is too busy to take care of it or because He finds it a bother, but because of His grace and mercy. He gives us a part in His kingdom. He gives it for our joy. And His Kingdom does not run on the economies of men, but the economy of grace. He loves to give away His Kingdom. He is like a vineyard owner who pays those who did not work as though they worked all day. He is like a shepherd who has found a lost sheep and throws a banquet that costs more than the sheep to show His joy. He is like a landowner who sends His Son for the workers to kill that He might hand over to them the inheritance of His murdered Son.

This is grace. He gives us what we do not deserve and could never earn for free. He gives us His Kingdom, His inheritance, His Name, His love. He says to beggars, to sinners, to poor stewards, “Friend come up higher.” He says to those who did poorly, who blew it, who squandered their lives, money, and opportunities, to those who wasted or polluted the earth, who did not do well, who are not good and are not faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Here is the lesson of all the parables, of all Our Lord's sermons, of all the prophets: you are a sinner. You deserve death. But God is merciful and has paid your debt in the death of His Son. The life, works, and death of Jesus Christ count for you, are bestowed upon you in grace. He welcomes you back as His beloved son. He is not angry. He loves and delights in you.

And now the risen Jesus Christ, alive out of death, in perfect stewardship, pours out His lifeblood once more for you. He gives you His Body and Blood to eat and drink in order to cancel all your debts, regrets, shame, and guilt. He is not wasteful, yet the cup overflows. He gives more than you need, more than you can contain. He is not wasteful, He is extravagant in His generosity. He gives you free reign over the earth. You don't just eat to live, you feast, you banquet, you revel in the gifts the Lord bestows. For by grace you are His friend.

In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

Trinity 8 July 25, 2010

Trinity 8
St. Matthew 7:15-23
July 24 – 25, 2010

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

On the last day many will say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And He will say to them: ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Here is the irony: they seem to be obsessed with the Law. They explicitly point to their own works. They say, “Lord, did we not do this and that good thing? Didn’t WE prophesy? Didn’t WE cast out demons? Didn’t WE do mighty works?” And yet He calls them workers of lawlessness.

Scratch a legalist, one who depends upon his works, and you’ll find one who denies the Law and its power. This is because anyone who relies upon his works makes light of the law. He must make it small and easy to keep.

There are many people in our society who believe that God will reward those who live decent lives, that God is more impressed with those who do good works than those who don’t. But what good works are they doing? Dropping a plastic bottle into a recycling bin? Giving a dollar to the children’s hospital? Bragging about their African-American friends? Can our God have such low standards that he will be impressed by such little effort? Does God really think you should be rewarded because you mowed your lawn or put away the laundry? Are these good works good enough? To call our small, half-hearted efforts “good works” is a form of lawlessness. It has not respect or fear of the Law.

The Pharisees thought they could prevent themselves from ever misusing Our Lord’s Name by not using it all. They thought they could keep the 6th commandment if they refrained from having actual, physical love affairs. They were deluded. They destroyed and denied the Law. They were self-righteous and therefore lawless. But in the midst of it all they thought they were keeping the Law.

It would be a shallow observer who could not see the hypocrisy and arrogance in almost every modern call for tolerance. No one asks for tolerance of those things he actually respects or thinks are good.

Strangely, it is hard to tell legalists from antinomians even though the names make it seem as though they are opposites. In fact, they are both workers of lawlessness. Because they rely on works of some sort and destroy or deny the Law. Doing good works, even casting out demons, will not get you to heaven. Because your good works are never, never good enough. Even our best works are tainted by sin, and those things we hold up as “good works” are almost always shallow and fleeting. Who can eat sumptuously every day, spend hundreds of dollars each month on groceries, and then brag about dropping a $20 in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time? Only the most arrogant and pathetic of people, which is to say, us. Repent.

What can you do to enter heaven? Nothing. You can do nothing. And that is a good thing. Consider Our Lord’s words to the His disciples after the feeding of the five thousand: They said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus doing a play on words here. To do the work of God is to do nothing. It is only to believe, that is to receive the One whom He has sent to be a sacrifice for sin. It is not to cast out demons and do good works, to feed the poor, to tolerate minorities, to be sad about the whales. But it is to have demons cast out of you, to have good things done to and for you by grace. It is not to create good fruit but to get credit for fruit you did not produce. Remember also the sheep on the last day who protest Our Lord’s praise and say, “Lord when did we ever see you hungry or in prison, etc?” They get credit from God for works they did not do. They get credit for the works of Jesus. To do the works of God is to be loved by God, to be forgiven, to be fed, to receive His gifts. On the last day you will not say, “Lord, Lord, look at what I have done.” You will say, “Lord, Lord, thank you for all you have done for and to me, God be praised.”

John’s Gospel continues: (The disciples) said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

But what about this business of fruit and false prophets? Isn’t that a call to judge the pastors by their works? Indeed. But the first work of the prophet is prophecy. The first thing to be judged is his preaching, which is to say, the first task of the Christian is to be a theologian. There is danger here also. Because all the followers of legalists and antinomians are theologians, they just aren’t very good at it. So how can we be spared their fate, especially when most of them are smarter than us?

We take three books in hand: the Bible, the Catechism, and the hymnal. You are not expected to be an expert in all things Biblical. But you should have some familiarity with it and you should study it. It is not too much to say that you should read the Bible every day. You are not an expert, you are student. The Lord speak through His Word. Your ears will be tuned to the Divine pitch and when false prophets come you will recognize that something is off. Even more importantly, you need to study the Catechism. It is the surest guide. It not only springs forth from the Bible but it leads you back to the Bible. Stick to the Catechism. Judge your Pastor by this standard and you will never go wrong. And finally, the hymnal, or more specifically, the liturgy. The Church’s worship also guides you and hands over its wisdom to you. All of these books require ongoing attention, but if you are paying attention, you will never be misled.

And what do the Liturgy, the Catechism, and the Bible show us? They show and deliver to us Christ the Giver, the Redeemer who reconciles sinners to His Father by His death and resurrection, the Victor over sin, death, and Hell who loves us and welcomes us back as His own dear children and bride. They proclaim grace, the Gospel, the Good News of our righteousness in Christ.

The Tree of the Cross has borne the best fruit. It has fulfilled the will of the Father and restored creation. That fruit – the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus is put into you, grafted onto you. So if you have the Body and Blood of Jesus, the fruit of the cross, grafted onto you, in your heart by way of your mouth, you have the best fruit and you are pleasing to the Father in every way, and that fruit, the work of Jesus Christ, follows you into eternity and gives the angels cause to sing. Thus you bear good fruit and have been found in God by grace.

In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Trinity 6 July 11, 2010

July 10-11, 2010
Trinity 6
Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-26

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

We shouldn't really need the Ten Commandments. We have the golden rule. It is written in our hearts. We are all experts in ourselves, we know what we like and dislike, what we want done to us and what we don't. So it is not at all difficult for us to figure what is right and what is wrong. If we did not want to be killed in our mother's wombs, then abortion is wrong. If we do not want our spouse loving someone else, if that fills us with jealousy and pain, then adultery is wrong. If we do not like people talking about us, telling our secrets, or saying unkind things about us, then gossip is wrong.

It is not hard at all. Except that we are such good liars we even fool ourselves and our fallen hearts are so corrupt, so confused and hardened by abuse, that we don't know what we want. Abducted by death, we fall prey to the having positive feelings towards the irrational in light of the danger or risk endured as a victim, this is called Stockholm syndrome. Think of those who cut themselves or starve themselves or hide in their homes and cut themselves off from their family and friends. Why do so many of us turn self-destructive? Isn't our fallen nature, above all, selfish and self-centered?

Yes. But that sinful nature is not fully in control. There are forces of darkness in this world that prey upon the weak. We have the devil and his unholy angels to deal with. And they confuse us, trick, and manipulate us. So that some poor girls think that if a man hurts them he is showing them love, he is attentive to them. They live in the buzz of terror and excitement, desperate to be loved. Others think they are fat even when their bones are sticking through their skin and that they only way they can be attractive, be desirable, is to starve themselves. This same confusions exist in us all, so that we cannot apply the golden rule as we ought.

On top of that, we are experts at justifying ourselves, making excuses, and using a double standard. We think it is wrong if someone listens to hearsay that tells them of our gossip. We think it is wrong if someone whose wife or daughter stimulates evil thoughts in us looks at our daughter that way. We think we've earned what we have, have worked for it, but everyone else was given what they have, walked into it, or got lucky. At our worst, we even make theological excuses. We blame God for making women beautiful or chocolate delicious. We pretend as though our forgiven sins shouldn't hurt or have consequences.

Repent. Rejoice in the Ten Commandments. They show us God's will, how we were created, who we are. If they feel like a burden, that is because you are a victim. When the Law says “You shall not bear false witness” it is not taking away your fun. It is telling you to leave your abusive boyfriend, to stop lying, even the little so called “white lies,” and stop fearing what you look like. The Law is good for it is the will of the good and holy Lord. But we are fallen creatures, and if the Law forbids that which we love, even if our love is confused and destructive, the Law shows that we are evil, broken, not merely victims but also criminals. We need to recognize the co of co-dependence. Our troubles, our pride and arrogance, our dismissal of others and selfishness, sends ripples of pain across the world. We are victims, to be sure, but it is also our fault. We have loved sin. Repent.

The only way out is rescue. The Lord begins His great issue of the Law with a promise and a historical reality: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The Ten Commandments establish a sort of constitutional monarchy. Our God is not a tyrant. He could be. It is not wrong to speak of Him as sovereign. But He is not tyrant, He is the Lord and He is our God. He ties Himself to the Law. He is not above it. In the first place, He will be our God. He will not quit or stop, no matter what. Even if we commit treason, even if we run after other gods and husbands, even if we rebel and kill His Son, He will not stop. The first Law of the Lord is that He is the Lord our God. He brought us out of slavery, rescued us from death and Pharaoh. He will not stop. This is who He is and who He will always be.

Thus there is a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. The righteousness of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ keeps the Law. He does everything it demands. He does nothing it forbids. He endures temptation in every way that we do but He does not fail. He does not sin. He does not grow angry with His brother without cause. He does look upon a woman with lust. He does not long for that which is not given Him, even bread in the desert when He was hungry. He accepts what the Father gives and waits, never doubting that He is good and will provide. He endures in that faith and hope to the very end, even when He is forsaken by the Father, made a curse and becomes sin for us. That is not merely outward righteousness worthy of honor and respect, that is perfect faith, the correct and good relationship of the creation to the Creator, and since the Fall not even the animals, the rocks, or the plants can do it. So the Lord God creator joined His creation, became a Man, to fulfill the Law and satisfy the demands of justice. He did not destroy the Law or the Prophets. He kept the Law in obedience and then He kept the Law in suffering and sorrow. For He allowed the Law to do to Him everything it should have done to us. He took on its full force. He endured an eternity of Hell for all of humanity. And then it was finished. The Law was fulfilled. There was no more.

And that righteousness He gives away for free to those who believe in Him. He pours it out in the waters of Holy Baptism, in His Word and preaching, in the Holy Absolution, in the Holy Supper, through prayer and in Holy Marriage, and so forth. The Lord speaks, His children are righteous. He says it and it is. Once He said “let there be light,” and there was. Now He says, “You are forgiven. You are mine. You are free. You are righteous.” and you are. Hearing this, you believe, you are thankful and full of praise. Jesus has paid the last penny. There is nothing left to pay, or to do.

Thus have you died to sin and now live to Jesus Christ, until such time as you finally die to the flesh to await the resurrection on the Last Day. Sometimes the only way a woman, even after divorce, is free from an abusive husband is when that husband dies. We have been divorced from sin and embraced by Christ, re-married to a Man who actually loves and serves us. Soon death and sin and Hell will die and we will rise, free from our confusion and bondage, free to bask in the grace of Jesus Christ who loves us to the very end.

In + Jesus' Name. Amen.