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.