Saturday, July 23, 2011

Daily Readings for July 31-August 6, 2011

NEXT WEEKS LESSONS: The Seventh Sunday After Trinity

In the Garden of Eden, our first parents received food freely from the gracious hand of God apart from any burdensome work (Genesis 2:7–17). But after the fall, food would be received only through toil and labor. The curse declared, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” In other words, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:19–23). But into this wilderness world came Jesus the Messiah to restore creation. Having compassion on the weary multitudes, He renewed the bounty of Eden on the third day, freely granting an abundance of bread to the 4000 (Mark 8:1–9). So also our Lord Jesus, having endured the burden of our sin, was raised on the third day to bring us back to Paradise. He now miraculously turns the bread of death into the Bread of Life in the Sacrament, giving you His very body and blood for your forgiveness. For “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Collect: O God, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth, we humbly implore You to put away from us all hurtful things and give to us those things that be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord . Amen.

Old Testament: Genesis 2:7–17
Epistle: Romans 6:19–23
Holy Gospel: Mark 8:1–9

Readings for the Week of Sixth Sunday after Trinity July 17-23, 2011
July 31                  The Righteousness that Exceeds—Matthew 5:17-26
                                                Judges 15:1—16:3; Galatians 3:23–4:11
August 1                                   The Rich Young Ruler—Luke 18:18-34
                                                          Judges 16:4-30; Galatians 4:12-31
August 2                        Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus—Luke 18:35-43
                                                          1 Samuel 1:1-20; Galatians 5:1-26
August 3                 Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’s House—Luke 19:1-10
                                                  1 Samuel 1:21—2:17; Galatians 6:1-18
August 4                               The Parable of the Minas—Luke 19:11-28
                                                           1 Samuel 2:18-36; Acts 15:22-41
August 5         The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers—Luke 20:1-19
                                                               1 Samuel 3:1-21; Acts 16:1-22
August 6                                                                     Sunday’s readings
                                      Genesis 2:7–17; Romans 6:19–23; Mark 8:1–9

Sermon for Trinity 6 July 30-31, 2011

Trinity 6, 2011            Matthew 5:20-26        July 30-31, 2011

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

In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks this sentence of the Law: “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20] The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was impressive. They were highly disciplined and lived in strict accordance with the Laws of Moses and even with other, only man-made laws. It was rare to find a scribe or a Pharisee outwardly breaking the Law—stealing, murdering, neglecting his daily prayers, cursing, and so on. When Jesus says to those gathered to hear Him that the only way they can enter the kingdom of heaven is if their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, it is like saying to the ninety pound weakling, “Your strength and fighting ability must exceed that of the Green Berets.” It is an outrageous requirement and it speaks condemnation upon those who hear. Jesus calls common people, even as He calls you, to become more righteous, to keep the Law more fully, than the elite Pharisees.

Then He goes on to explain how this is to be done—not by mere outward keeping of the Law but by inward keeping of it as well. You are not merely to refrain from murder, but also from hate, and not only from hate, but also from insults. You are not only to behave perfectly, but also be above reproach, even false reproach. You are to seek reconciliation even with false accusers. In this Sermon on the Mount, Christ continues this line of thought, explaining the real meaning of the Law with stricter laws against lust and divorce and so on. That to which He calls you is nothing short of perfection. Unless you are perfect, far more perfect than the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And if you fail in these commands you will be prosecuted and punished to the full degree, not leaving hell's prison until you have paid every last penny.

Hard words, indeed. And under such demands who could enter the kingdom of heaven, except Christ, the One who came from heaven? If you had delusions that you were good, that you were righteous, if the world counted you as good and upright and decent like the world counted the scribes and Pharisees, let this word of Christ be your wake-up call. You have not been good enough. No matter how decent you think yourself deep down to be, you have failed. You have not kept the Law in your heart. Your base desires and the secret yearning of your hearts are no better than that of the vilest criminal in the hardest prison in the world. According to your thoughts and wants you are a murderer, an adulterer, a thief, a braggart, a pompous fool, an idolater, and a blasphemer. You are all of this and more, because the old, fallen nature is still within you, and your heart is black as soot on account of it. Worse yet, like those whom St. Peter addressed in Acts chapter two, you are guilty of nothing less than the unjust murder of the Son of God.

It was this realization that caused the prophet Isaiah in the presence of God to cry out: “Woe to me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” [Isaiah 6:5]; and likewise St. Peter to exclaim, as you heard last week, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [Luke 5:8]; and St. Paul also to say: “I am the chief of sinners.” [1Timothy 1:15] In the same way those hearing St. Peter's sermon in Acts chapter two were cut to the heart and responded: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37] Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” [Acts 2:38-39]

This is the answer likewise for you. What shall you do, for like Isaiah, according to your works, you are undone. Hear the inspired words of St. Peter: “Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!” [Act 2:38] Yet you say, “But I've already been baptized. What do I do now?” Don't you know that if you were baptized, you were baptized into Christ's death and raised again to new life in His resurrection? Turn away from your sin, fight against the flesh, and rest in the everlasting grace of Christ Jesus, who gives you full pardon and absolution. Your baptism was not an empty symbol or ritual, but was entrance into the death of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness does exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. His righteousness is bestowed upon you through the gift of the Holy Spirit, given in Holy Baptism; and that gift is faith. The death that Christ died, the death into which you are baptized, He died to sin once for all, and the life that He lives He lives to God for you. Sin then does not have dominion over you ,because you are dead to sin. You are not under the Law, but under grace!

You have been baptized for life. Your baptism is not a past event. Your baptism is a present reality. Your baptism constantly defines who you are before God. You stand, on the one hand, convicted of sin like Isaiah, but on the other hand, also like Isaiah, as one who has been cleansed by the burnt offering of the Paschal Lamb sacrificed on God's own holy altar, the Lamb of God who touches your lips in Holy Communion. Your old name—the name of death—has been taken away. Instead, you have been given God's own Name: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Into this Name you have been baptized. You have been separated from death by being joined to Christ's death, so that you are cut off from the devil, and claimed by God with His own promise, the promise which is for you and your children, the promise of the Law fulfilled and sins forgiven. You are no longer under the Law, but now live under grace.

And in that Triune Name the great exchange has taken place: Christ Jesus, in perfect obedience to all that the Law requires, according to His own holy will took on your sin and became sin, and then allowed the Law to do all that Justice requires of the sinner. He suffered Hell in your place. And at the same time, according to this great exchange in His Name, He gave to you all that is His: His holiness, His obedience, His righteousness which exceeds by far that of the scribes and Pharisees! Here is the gate to the kingdom of heaven, nothing other than Christ Himself. There is no other way to get this righteousness. The Law can only condemn, but this Good News, this Gospel of God's saving love in Christ IS the power of God unto salvation.

Into this Christ you have been baptized, on this Christ you are fed in the Holy Supper, by this Christ you are forgiven, redeemed, blessed, and saved! Thanks be to God, for the righteousness of Jesus Christ is your righteousness and heaven stands wide open to you. You are baptized into Christ. You are dead indeed to sin. You are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trinity 5 Sermon July 23-24, 2011

Trinity 5     July 23-24, 2011           Luke 5:1-11            Fishers of Men

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

It seemed like the fisherman's dream come true: a net full of fish. Isn't that what they had desired all through the night? Didn’t they pray for this very thing? Then the nets were breaking. Their partners came to help. Suddenly both boats were sinking. What had seemed at first to be a blessing became a curse. They wouldn't take the fish to shore and financial reward. These fish would take them to the bottom of the lake.

Then the fisherman's dream shifted. Peter no longer desired a great catch or to be rich. In the face of death by drowning, he simply wanted to stay alive. It was not the fish that were sinking him and his friends. The Lord who stood in his boat was sinking him. He fell down at Our Lord's knees. He begged like the demons, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” The presence of the Lord is dangerous. He kills fishermen and sinners of all sorts, for the wages of sin is death.

But. . . the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus Our Lord. “Do not be afraid.” He says. “You're dead already. You caught the fish you thought you wanted. You will not keep them. You will not sell them. You are coming with Me. Your life, as you knew it, is over. Now you will catch others. You will put them to death and raise them to life, even as you have been caught.”

For the past 200 years, the American Church has been obsessed with the idea that Christians are made the way customers are made. The preacher, or Christian, makes a sales pitch. He can appeal to tradition or emotions. He can apply peer pressure or set up an impending event, like judgment day. Christ’s goal is get the hearers to buy it. He might use a soft sell or a hard sell. He might talk about the extended benefits and reducing risks. Whatever he does he turns conversion to some sort of a decision to buy or sign on. This was the explicit purpose of tent revivals and itinerant tent preachers. It is that which plays such a large role in our national opinion and thinking about Christianity. It is also the purpose of almost all Christian TV programming.

What may not be so obvious is that this is also what stands behind many LCMS evangelism programs, past and present. We train people how to make a sale for Jesus, how to convince people that it is to their benefit to believe in Jesus. Sometimes there is even talk about what kind of bait to use to catch the unchurched, such as nursery schools, coffee shops, a good youth program, or a sermon series about giving. The idea is that we can attract people with something they think they need, like day care or marriage counseling; the way fishermen throw bloody meat into the water to attract sharks. But fisherman do that in order to spear, snag, or hook the sharks for their own use.

Our Lord didn't fish with bait. This is key. Our Lord fished with nets. There was no soft sell, no hard sell, no luring, or befriending, nor were there any clever speeches or marketing devices. The fish were scooped up alive out of the water. They caught good and bad fish, clean and unclean. Everything in the path of the nets came up. Notice then that Our Lord did not stand in the Zebedee boat and explain to Peter how He could be a better husband, how he could raise his children to be honorable men and women, how he could find peace and comfort and certainty in this broken world. He just started sinking the boats. It wasn't so much an impending event as it was the removal of Satan's veneer. Death is the reality of all fallen men. Jesus pulled back the corner of the curtain and exposed the pretend wizard. That is why Peter wants Jesus to leave. Jesus is killing Him. Peter wants to go back to his fantasy, to his ignorance.

That is how disciples are made. They are killed and made alive. They are exposed. They are caught in unexpected places. If the Lord had done a demographics study he would have learned that the only way to catch fish in deep water at that time of day is if there was a miracle. It is hard to plan on a miracle, unless, of course, you are the Lord. Zebedee was a fishing expert and a successful businessman. His crews had brought their best efforts and experience to bear already, but were skunked and it was over. Casting nets out into deep water in the morning was like shooting an arrow in the sky and expecting it to fall randomly into the heart of a deer. That is no way to bring home meat or design an evangelism program (unless, of course, you are the Lord). Remember, this the Lord who advocates the business practice of paying laborers who do no or very little work as though they worked all day and of giving away the farm to tenants who kill your son as their reward. There has never been an Evangelism program based on the parables or the miracles of Jesus. No one can build an Evangelism program that looks anything like Our Lord's Ministry because it is too crazy, unless, of course, He is the Lord. I know. The PR for every program claims they are based in Biblical principles and such, and I suppose they are, in that they are based upon the Law. However, they're not based upon Our Lord's own evangelistic efforts or His teaching. Imagine the Evangelism expert who took a whip into Wal-Mart, started knocking down shelves and threatening violence against the cashiers, or who went into the marina, starting sinking boats, wasting the catch of the day, and threatening the lives of the sailor, or walking into the IRS and dragging the employees out by the ear.

Here is another thing. Remember how Our Lord refused to reason with Herod or Pilate? Did He miss an evangelism opportunity there? Was it not the very definition of a once-in-a-lifetime event in the public square? So why didn't He preach like Stephen did at his martyrdom? Because Our Lord was not on the pavement in Jerusalem to talk people into His religion. He was there to put death to death. He was there to face the last enemy, to draw out all the forces of Hell that they would fully engage Him. He does not storm their gates. His Father hands Him over to their desires. He submits to the will of the devils and they have their way with Him. They do their worst to Him. They empty their arsenal upon Him and they kill Him. They have their day.

The irony is that they are utterly spent in the action. They gave their all and were consumed with their hatred. They are destroyed by their own lust, seduced by their own temptations. They used every last bit of energy or strength on Him because they hated Him. Then there is nothing left. There is nothing that they can throw at us. They used it all on Him, and it killed Him. He was dead. His lifeless body was laid to rest in the ground in the common lot of men. They used everything up and there was nothing left, nothing left for them to us on us! There is no one left to accuse you. There is nothing left for Hell to say to you. It is finished. The Lord of Life was pulled under by the weight of the fish He caught. He was pulled under by the weight of Peter, James, John, you and me. We all go free and are unharmed, rescued from those dark waters, not to return there ever again, but to stay safely in the boat. He goes down to pay the ransom for their and our liberty.

Still it is not done. His Gospel is a Gospel of conquest. He does not win disciples by convincing them or winning friends. He takes them, like fish in a net. He proves Himself to be the Giver of Life. Death cannot hold Him. His Word is true. The Father is well-pleased with His sacrifice. Death has no more to demand. It has been paid in full. Jesus lives. He rises from the dead; the Victor over Hell, Death, and the Devil, order arises out of chaos. But Hell, death, and the rest do not rise. They stay dead. They have nothing left. But He rises. He rises that He might be with those He loves, with those He rescued, with fish turned into sheep turned into children turned immaculate and beautiful, the beloved of the Lord.

James, John, and Peter left everything to follow Jesus. But what about Zebedee, the father of James and John? What did he do? Perhaps the other fishermen there weren't Christians. But Zebedee was. He stayed fishing. Was he less a believer than, or not as good of a Christian as, his sons? No. The call to leave everything is not a call to faith, but a call to the Ministry. We have often misapplied that and thus caused great confusion. We often make a similar mild error with Our Lord's commission to the eleven on the Mount of Ascension. Similar to the call to Peter, James and John contrasted with the call to Zebedee is the call to Matthew contrasted with the Zacchaues. Matthew left tax-collecting because he was called to the Ministry. Zacchaues was called to the faith and he was generous because of it. He wasn't called to the ministry. He kept working. Now here is the thing: not everyone is a minister. The ethical standards are different. So are the sacrifices. The work of Zacchaues and Zebedee is essential to the Mission of the Church. They pay the bills. They serve the Lord and neighbor in the first place, not by joining evangelism teams and telling people about Jesus, but by carrying out their duties at home and supporting the Ministry. That is important work and shouldn't be pooh-poohed, otherwise we wind up back in the Medieval error that the Lord prefers priests to laymen. The work of the laymen is essential to the Church and is pleasing to the Father. You do not have to be a minster to be loved by or valuable to God.

So do not be afraid. There is no one here to eat you here. There are no sharks and no camouflage or tricks. The Lord has provided. You are His, and you are His hands in this world. Your good works beat back the darkness; restore order and beauty to creation. Your good works support, encourage, and enable the Office of the Holy Ministry, the preaching of the Gospel, the giving of the Lord's Body and Blood to His Children, the pronouncement of the Holy Absolution upon the penitent and the like.

Thanks be to God. The Lord has provided for us through the Ministry of St. Peter and those who follow in that Office, and so are we saved. In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

Daily Readings for July 24-30, 2011


“Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–26). God demands nothing less than perfection and holiness from you in regard to His commandments (Exodus 20:1–17). Your only hope, then, is not in your own goodness but in the goodness of Christ, who did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them for you. In Christ your righteousness does indeed exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. For you have been baptized into Christ’s death and your sinful nature crucified. Therefore, he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:1–11). You are now raised with Christ to walk in newness of life and to share in His resurrection on the Last Day. Christ has brought you through the baptismal sea “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Therefore, “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Collect: Lord of all power and might, the Author and Giver of all good things, graft into our hearts the love of Your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Your great mercy keep us in the same; 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: Exodus 20:1–17
Epistle: Romans 6:(1–2) 3–11
Holy Gospel: Matthew 5:(17–19) 20–26

Readings for the Week of Fourth Sunday after Trinity July 17-23, 2011

July 24 Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem—Luke 19:41-48; 1 Samuel 28:3-25; 1 Corinthians 6:1-20
July 25 Paul’s Third Missionary Journey—Acts 18:23—19:10; 1 Samuel 31:1-13; 1 Corinthians 7:1-24
July 26 The Miracles Worked by Paul—Acts 19:11-20; 2 Samuel 1:1-27; 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
July 27 The Riot at Ephesus—Acts 19:21-41; 2 Samuel 5:1-25; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
July 28 Eutychus Falls from a Window at Troas—Acts 20:1-16; 2 Samuel 6:1-19; 1 Corinthians 9:1-23
July 29 Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders—Acts 20:17-38; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Corinthians 9:24–10:22
July 30 Sunday’s readings Exodus 20:1–17; Romans 6:1–11; Matthew 5:17–26