Category Archives: Christian

Michael Arch Angel Spiritual Warfare

[for the audio click on the above icon]

Spiritual Warfare, Michael, Satan

Angels Watching over me [Amy Grant song]

Trinity Lutheran September 29, 2019

 

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s people said AMEN

St Michael and all Angels day. Michael is an Archangel. There are millions of angels and the counterparts of angel, which are … demons. Lucifer, Son of the Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), decided he should have a better gig, decided to push back against God (for a being created to be the most brilliant of all angels,) being brilliant can be an idol, it can cloud your knowledge and judgment. Lucifer realized that God intended for the angelic to serve humanity and Lucifer was not interested in serving beings he felt were so far beneath him. Lucifer thought he was so brilliant, he was bullet-proof, he learned the hard way. There’s kind of a fourth archangel, named Raphael, who is mentioned in some of the Apocryphal books.

It is said that each angel has their own sphere of influence. Some say down to an individual person, in Matthew 18:10 Jesus says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” The senior angels, are in the immediate presence of the Father. Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation, he came from the Father’s presence. Tradition says; “Michael is in charge of spiritual warfare. Gabriel is in charge of messages and announcements. Lucifer of knowledge.” Gabriel was the Herald of God, Wikipedia defines herald as: more correctly, a herald of arms, an officer of arms… Heralds were originally messengers sent by the nobility to convey messages or proclamations—in this sense being the predecessors of the modern diplomats.”  When you show up to tell people what God is about to do, that’s an important guy. Lucifer was in charge of knowledge, when man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge the mixing of good and evil together. Much could be said that man in innocence would have had a life of peace and joy. Lucifer decided that we should think we are smart, because of that, we’ve decided we are smarter than God, so Lucifer who’s a whole lot smarter than us, should think he’s smarter than God.

We focus on the leader of the angels, after Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Michael, is the archangel of “spiritual warfare”. Michael being the leader of the heavenly host, and that is what host means, the army of heaven. John tells us specifically in Revelation that Michael and his angels are fighting Satan. The angels are certainly God’s, but this is written in the sense that a military commander would refer to his men, those he is directly in charge of and responsible for. Michael is also the patron saint of the military, police and fire fighters. Do not pray to Michael if you are in the military or public safety, we always pray to the Father in the Name of the Son. Michael is a sort of icon of the Father’s protection, one of the ways the Father will send help you or defend you. I used to have a little medallion of St Brendan in my coxswain kit in the Coast Guard. First, he’s Irish, second, he was the patron saint of navigators. Ok, call it a good luck charm, bit of superstition, but I certainly didn’t take out my charm to pray before going on a case. But when I went into my case for something it was a comfort, because it ultimately meant God was with me, watching over me, I had no doubt of that.

Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are called “saints”, that is in the sense of “sanctus”, holy. Since it seems the angel who is highlighted is Michael, we assume, “spiritual warfare” is recognized as a priority. Our epistle lesson and Old Testament lesson, both discuss Michael. In Daniel 10:21the angel tells Daniel that he was held up by a demon and that Michael had to come to help him in order for him to deliver his message to Daniel. In Revelation John tells us how Michael and his angels drove Satan out of heaven. This is the most lopsided “war” imaginable, the problem is that you and I are in the middle of that war. But it’s certainly lopsided since the outcome has been determined. The Book of Revelation tells us of the ultimate fate of Satan and the demons. But for now, the world is in Satan’s grasp. Sin abounds in the world, and it seems humanity likes it that way. And let’s face it, we like it, sin is attractive, if it’s prettied up, “hey what’s the harm, right? “John Warwick Montgomery observes: “…the devil’s main act of hatred is not to destroy people (at least not at first), but to get them by masquerading as angels of light. The devil’s best disguise is piety. From the beginning, he’s cloaked …beneath a robe of theological inquiry – ‘Did God really say?’” Go ahead, take a bite, doesn’t matter of what, so long as it separates you from your Savior Jesus, and it must be OK, because it’s so purty, nice, I like it. And that’s how we make decisions today and Satan helps us move there.

Many people have this odd idea that because sin is so prevalent God can’t or won’t do anything about it, Montgomery goes on to say: “…God has even anticipated the demonic opposition of the adversary and the determined seductiveness of the tempter and has systematically integrated it into his own world order (Rev 2:10; 13:5 ff). The devil is the power in God’s world who always wills evil, yet always effects good. Satan does not escape from God’s ‘ordo’, but remains co-ordinated in it,” It’s not whether God is in control, He certainly is, we see that in the life of Jesus, read about it in the Book of Revelation. What Satan does, God permits. Satan is a completely, evil, depraved, vicious being, no doubt, if Satan were left to his own devices, this world would be an unbearable hell. Paraphrase what Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt, what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good.

Historically we like to think warfare is cut and dry, there’s the enemy, we protect ourselves from him and trust that God will save us. Dr Montgomery observes, it’s not that cut and dry, the devil presents himself as an angel of light, he can because he was an angel of light. He can be as pious as anyone, it’s not really hard to do, at least for what he needs. We have to be vigilant, we have to be discerning, to be faithful in prayer and ready to follow God’s leading. We may think we know what we’re doing, but the whole point of warfare, spiritual or worldly, is to undermine the enemy. To Satan, we as a Christian, baptized, strengthened by the Body and Blood of Jesus, faithful in attendance, hearing the preached Word, we are the enemy. It’s not hard for Satan to create all kinds of dislike, confusion and outright hostility. We have to be constantly on guard as to what the forces of evil do to Christians individually and as a group. We rely on God’s promise; Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you,…” We only do that trusting in Him, in the pastor He has sent to lead and in our fellow Christians. I’m certainly not saying that this is a formula for perfect peace and harmony, the demonic works hard and constantly, they’ve been doing this for thousands of years, it’s not hard to find some weak point. It’s up to us to be vigilant, to test the spirits as we are told, to rely on our Savior. There are demons around us seeking to influence us to mislead us and to deceive us. David Petersen on Issues Etc with Todd Wilkins also suggests: “Pastors in the Lutheran Church will do house blessings, it’s not an elaborate ritual, it will drive demons from the home [reminds me, I should do that here!]  it’s a few prayers and readings from Scripture, we are promised that God’s word is enough to drive off demons. This is also why we should have family devotions, husbands and wives should pray together. We shouldn’t underestimate demons or mess around with these beings. [The Ouija Board was invented in Chestertown? If there’s one in your house I would destroy it and just never mess around with those things. Christ crucified has defeated the demonic, the evil in the world, that does not mean it’s dead, we’ve seen terrorist acts in the world, Satan is more than capable of spiritual terrorist attacks. But the evil in the spiritual world can be confronted and driven away, partly by us not involving ourselves or believing the things of the world that is constantly manipulated and played by the demonic. Through Christ’s life and death we are equipped through baptism, His Body and Blood, the Word, all the armor we need to defeat the enemy. As Paul tells us in Romans in all these things we are more then conquerors through Christ who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin. He has risen! He has risen indeed Alleluja

 

 

More Prayer Much More Prayer 1 Timothy and Luke 16 shrewd steward

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who want to be shrewd for Jesus said … AMEN!

Leveraging, OPM, basic B-School concepts. We Christians have become so caught up trying to appear pious and that is not what we are about. For example “money is the root of all evil”, complete quote is the “love of money is the route of all evil”. Money is a tool, how do we use that money, are we using it for the Kingdom, the proclamation of Christ or does our money go to things that are worldly?

This is not the only place in Scripture that Jesus tells us to be shrewd. Despite what many think, there is nothing in Scripture that says “be stupid”. Seems as a Church we’re supposed to roll over and play dead for every ridiculous concept the world foists on us, meekly schlep along, agreeing with everything the world says about the hottest topics now: “Obviously the Bible is wrong about these things, because our human/earthly institutions insist that these things are right. So maybe the Bible needs to be updated. We find over and over again that the Bible is indeed right, but it seems we all have to crash and burn with the rest of society when we fall all over ourselves to accept what is the newest and coolest. We have a loving Father who waits for us at the crash site to keep us from getting seriously hurt, while many insist on avoiding God’s outstretched hand and hitting the hard ground.

Not only does the Bible not tell us to be stupid, Jesus has told us a few times, be smart. We can play the world’s game in the power of the Holy Spirit beat the world at its own game, we leverage what the Spirit gives us in the world. But we insist the institutions around us are right. Jesus commends shrewdness in Matthew 10: Jesus sends His disciples to the world with these words: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” He tells them a lot of the people they go to meet are going to be judged, they will be condemned and destroyed. He qualifies that in the same passage by saying His disciples are going to get the brunt of things too. They are going to be delivered before governors and judges and will be cruelly punished. Not because what they are saying is wrong, but there’s a cruel world out there that rejects Jesus and His hope and promise and insists on its own silly, worthless words that it always finds out are wrong in the end.

Let’s talk about prayer, something very much on my heart. Before I really realized the importance and need for prayer Marge and I were the coordinators for the National Day of Prayer in our hometown of 100,000 and after three years, the coordinators of the Commonwealth of Mass. We had some really great day long rallies on Beacon Hill and got a lot of attention from elected officials, some of whom served on the state committee and who actively participated. Even bugged a governor because we went over time in front of the “Grand Stairway” in the state house and cut into the governor’s time. But we realized that when we took prayer right to the public forum, leveraging prayer to the best interests of the worldly people around us who saw how we could come together, grow in prayer, especially when those same people were included and helped to understand the importance of what we are doing.

Leveraging, OPM, often used cynically, by practitioners of these trades. The Gordon Geckos who have a very narrow vision of what life is about. We in a shrewd manner, like the steward in the pericope, use the resources of the world, not cynically, but positively, we stand strong in the things we do as Christians, in prayer, faithful to Christ’s teachings, ignoring the nonsense the world continually foists on us. That other “churches” buy into and are never successful in pursuing, even worse trying to leverage what the world tells them to those who are seeking Christ, they are revealed as phonies and cause many to become disillusioned in Christ because of their dysfunctional church, even reject Christ and condemn themselves. I don’t want to be a leader of any of those churches, I don’t want to stand before the Judgment Seat and explain to our Lord why I was the instrument of so many people denying their faith and coming into eternal destruction.

We can be smart about it, we can be shrewd about it. Talk about the ultimate “leverage”, that Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for us”. Technically, it’s more in the sense of propitiation, He paid the penalty for us to be free and saved. But for us what He did really is OPM. That we have been given eternal promise and hope by what Jesus did. If you look at this as leveraging OPM so that we derive the return, that would be a great way to think about it. Not in a cynical way, but in a way that gives us a bright future of eternal bliss, and eternal life, what Jesus says is “life and life more abundant”. Paul is emphasizing prayer to his student, one of the men who he calls his son in Christ. What does he say about prayer? “ESV 1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

When we did the National Day of Prayer we had the mayor of a large city, other city officials. At the state house we had many legislators, some city officials, both parties who were very supportive. None of them got upset that we were praying for all our public officials, they seemed to be quite pleased to be prayed for like this. No cynical attempts, a very shrewd, positive outpouring that we wanted to pray for these men and women. That the more we supported them in prayer, they would lead our state, communities in ways that would be positive, and help us all to grow.

We seem to get a little prissy when we come to passages like this one. We’ve been dealing with passages like this all summer. Jesus isn’t some milquetoast, quaking, pious little fella, who doesn’t want to offend. He’s not concerned with who He offends. If someone takes offense from God the Son, the One who makes the rules, who created all of everything, that’s on them, it becomes their problem. If they are so obsessed with their way, their agenda, and they reject God and His agenda, and then they’re surprised they end in eternal condemnation? Who’s being dumb here? Doesn’t sound like a shrewd move on their part. These people love to tell you how smart they are, genuinely smart people do not try to outsmart people they know are smarter and will shut them down. Smart people are shrewd people, they leverage what they have in order to move in their lives. Jesus wants us to be shrewd and smart, for the Kingdom, for the eternal life and salvation of all those around us. We can go right down the street to the county seat, we can go right across the bridge to the state capital. We can leverage our power of prayer, using OPM, in this case God’s currency and show people what life genuinely is in Christ. Or we can keep being hang-dogs, follow along in the world’s agenda, then wonder why we’ve crashed and burned with the world. We had the shrewedest, smartest, most powerful of all in Jesus and instead of being smart and shrewd, threw Him over for the silly, naïve, greedy, grasping, immaturity of the world. I’m smart enough to know where I should be focused.  Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

Humble Loving Shepherd Ezekiel 34

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son T and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are glad that Jesus found you, one of His lost sheep said … AMEN!

Our preface to today’s readings notes; “True to our broken nature, we all wander away from our Shepherd’s provision, wrongly assuming we can find our own way … We all stand in need of rescue!” There’s tough guys who tell me they don’t need anyone to rescue them, blah, blah. I need rescuing we all do. We can tell ourselves how tough we are, we find our own way back which must be the right way ‘cuz gosh, it’s our way. I’ve had to pull a few out of harms way who thought they were know it all tough guys. There was these two guys, from New Jersey, dropped their anchor right in the middle of the channel going into the tank farm. They thought it would be a swell place to fish for flounder. We told them they needed to move, they shared their uninformed opinion with me that they were good where they are. Shortly into our chat we realized there was an oil tanker coming down the channel. An oil tanker can’t just stop. An oil tanker has to stay in the channel, Boston Harbor gets very shallow and the channel is really goofy. If that tanker goes out of the channel and aground, starts leaking oil, in a busy harbor, where the channel would be closed in order to do cleanup, disrupt the flow of oil coming into Boston. I and the other guys have been trying to get the anchor up and it’s obviously fouled on something and there’s no way I’m getting that up. At which point I now hear a danger signal, five short blasts, from the tanker, one of those things you know exactly what it is when you hear it. At that point I pull out my handy dandy Ginzo knife and over the protests of the boaters who are going to have to pay the boat rental for the line and the anchor, cut the line, get a line on the boat and drag it out of the channel before we are crushed like a bug.

They weren’t happy, sure they could get the anchor up, they didn’t like me, stupid, ugly, blah, blah. The fact was they drifted into something they had no idea about, put themselves in danger, and being the smart guys they were, sure they could take care of themselves. That tanker wasn’t going to stop for them, crushing them was the easier option then creating an oil spill and serious ecological damage. We chose to go our way, wander off as a sheep, because we want to, we should be free to and then we are in a serious problem and when the Good Shepherd, the Uber shepherd, comes and rescues you, sweeps you away from the danger bearing down on you at the last second. Instead of falling for Satan’s tricks, the Holy Spirit moves you out. Walther writes: “The Law calls: “You have distanced yourself from God by your sin and have become His enemy… Do you not see the abyss you are hurrying toward?” Then writes the Gospel says: “Be comforted you straying lamb. You are not lost. See, here is your Shepherd… Your Good Shepherd will bring you to His flock… protect you from all dangers and finally take you through the gates of death into His heavenly fold.”[1] Is that forgiveness? I’ve seen some startlingly ungrateful people in my life. People know they’re going the wrong way, they insist on sitting or moving right into that collision with that tanker that will simply crush them. It is up to the Holy Spirit to swoop in, He uses me as the under-shepherd to move in to save someone. Of course the under-shepherd has to listen to all the well that’s not sin! Why are you so judgmental! I can do what I want I’m forgiven! Just let me do what I want? Judge not! Those will be the same people who months, years, maybe weeks later will come back and why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me? Why did you let me wander off by myself? Too often pastors can’t win. Medical doctors have patients die, so do seel sorgers, soul doctors, healers as Luther called them, people who die spiritually. They wander off, no longer have the security of being in Christ’s church. They become either spiritually starved or malnourished. They become victimized by those who will prey on the defenseless like shysters who take people’s money for various cons.

Happily, quite often those who drift off or chase the Holy Spirit away, do come to realize they need Jesus. The entire time, Jesus is looking for the opportunity to step in just as He tells us in Luke. He will look for that 1out of 100 sheep. Talk about an act of incredible humility. The all-powerful creator of the entirety of the universe, all creation and what does He compare Himself to? A shepherd. The humblest of vocations in Israel. Shepherds couldn’t even testify in a court, they were not well regarded. For Jesus to compare Himself to a humble, even a little disreputable, is a stunning testament to what Jesus does for us. If He makes a point of comparing Himself to a shepherd to emphasize that He cares for us and wants to protect us, often from ourselves, is a striking comment on how much Jesus wants to do for us.

Having said that, if we are spitting in Jesus’ eye by rejecting Him, and yes we will be forgiven, when we … offer sincere repentance. The Greek word is meta,noia we understand repentance to mean realizing we’ve gone astray, we have offended Jesus, that we have sinned. The Greek word literally means: a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or something he has done.” Think of it as ok, I’m sorry, I was wrong it literally means I went the wrong way, I’m going in a direction that I shouldn’t be going. We can think of it as going away from Jesus and going towards what we know is destructive in the world. What does Jesus do when we reject Him, ignore, walk away from Him? The great Creator of everything who could just as easily be shaming us, demanding we come crawling back to Him on our hands and knees begging for forgiveness. He is actually out looking for us, He knows we’ve gone the “wrong way”, wandered off from what we should be and where we should be in Him, the Greek understanding of “going the wrong way”. He wants us back and will do what is necessary to get us back. But we have to be repentant. Jesus wants to forgive us and is not interested in us groveling, but in order to forgive, he who needs forgiveness needs to be repentant, ask for forgiveness. As early as Ezekiel, God tells us He has every intention of doing whatever He can to save us from ourselves, to make us righteous for Him. But He’s not taking us back with the attitude that it’s all about me and God’s just going to have to get with my plan. We need to recognize that what God wants for us is what is best for us. That He wants us to have “life and life more abundant”, where we have life more destructive. We think we’re all that, and have our way in whatever we want. Usually our way is because we want to get back at someone, we want our idols- what’s really important to us – not Jesus, but money, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, possessions, anything but Jesus because we’re entitled. Yet Jesus waits to give you what we need; hope, promise, true eternal life in Him. In the meantime He promises to provide for us, maybe not as much as we want or as fast as we want, but still what we truly need.

God is telling Ezekiel, 500 years before Jesus: “I will seek the lost and I will bring back the strayed and I will bind up the injured and I will strengthen the weak.” God is saying I will do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes in to make sure My people don’t destroy themselves. But He is also making it clear He is not going to tolerate our sin, selfishness, our attitudes that cause death, destruction, depression, lack of hope, and the things that we see around us. He adds “… and the fat and the strong I will destroy”. That is those people who think that it’s all about them. I have plenty, all I need, I’m nice and comfy or the usual blah, you hear today, I’m strong enough, I don’t have to depend on anyone else, until reality catches up with them and realize they need God or they fall and destroy themselves. Yet our humble, loving, but righteous God will go and look for us, do whatever is needed. But if we are still in our pride and strength, after awhile God lets us have our way, which is death and destruction. God moves in His plan with His people. Those sheep who insist on wandering away from Him? He will stop running after. Jesus says; “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” I have no doubt that when one sinner repents and is carried back to the sheepfold by God that the cheering and applause in heaven is deafening. The thrill of one soul coming home to know true life. The one who resists and rebels and insists on his own way, and we see it all around us has only one result, death, destruction and an eternity of misery. You can let the Great Shepherd take you home and give you true life or you can keep on running your own game and know that at some point it will collapse around you and you have no one to blame but yourself. God was working overtime for you and you thumbed your nose at God, told Him to take a hike. Let’s be real, how do you think that course of action will play out?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] CFW Walther “God Grant It, devotionals” pp 520-521

The World chooses to divide against Christ Luke 12: 48-53 August 18, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md.

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have known strife and division said … AMEN!

I’ve seen lots of pastors have a real problem with this passage, that it doesn’t fit their concept of Jesus. Their perception of Jesus wrong, it’s presumptuous, just not scriptural but that’s what people want. They want gentle Jesus with the little children, heal some people, make some gratuitous remarks and then go away so that we can live real life. We’ve done our duty, we sit and endure a sermon, some readings, Jesus is the little baby Jesus, nice and harmless and really doesn’t require anything of anyone, let’s just make nice, feel we’ve had a little bit of God and now let us move on to the stuff we want to do and keep us from all the judging stuff. After all I’m a good person, I deserve all the good stuff. Like Sally in a Peanut’s Christmas, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” If I were you, I would not be making that demand to God, you may think that it’s what you expect in this world, but expecting what you think is your “fair share” from God? How do you think that is going to work out? I always find it funny when I hear a Christian, I heard this from Roman Catholic clergy a lot in the social justice movement, we expect justice from God!  How do you think that is going to work out? Do you really want justice, or what we do get, grace? I’m very good with grace, please give me grace. God’s justice; Father, Son and Holy Spirit is as we see in this reading. The silly perception of sweet, humble, peace loving is just not realistic. We see His quotes in this passage. We see how He went up against the Jewish leaders. He had no compunction holding people responsible for their sins, certainly forgiving those seeking repentance. We’re not entitled to “forgiveness”, we certainly don’t want what we have coming to us, we wouldn’t like it. So likewise with today’s Gospel. Jesus is serious, He’s not some kind of supernatural Santa Claus dispensing what you want, when you want, good, bad, sinful, that’s not Jesus and you just can’t gloss over this passage. How do we see Jesus in Scripture? Certainly in this passage: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” So Jesus’ is causing all this division? You’ve heard of the golden rule? He who has the gold makes the rules? Jesus makes the rules, the people who defy Him are causing the division. How is Jesus portrayed in the Book of Revelation? “One of the concluding visions of the Apocalypse pictures the victorious “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” He is riding triumphantly on a white horse—a symbol of conquest (19:11-16). He is faithful and true, consistent with his holy character, he will “judge” and “make war.” The judging discriminates between the godly and the ungodly; the war signifies the punishment to be inflicted upon the rebellious. His garment is red with the blood of his enemies (cf. Isaiah 63 from which the imagery is borrowed). Those who have served faithfully under his leadership likewise are on white horses and are clothed in white garments, signifying their purity and/or victory. By his word he smites the rebel nations and breaks them with his rod of iron (cf. Psalm 2:9). His enemies will feel the fierceness of his wrath and find no relief ever after (cf. 14:9-11).”[1]Through the Gospels we see Jesus taking on those He has a problem with; the merchants abusing His house, the Jewish leaders who abuse their positions. Those who sin gratuitously. Jesus is telling us in this passage, I wasn’t sent by the Father to be a simple bumpkin, I was sent to take on a very evil world. It’s not Jesus who is causing the division. First off that’s just oxymoronic. How can the person who through all creation came into existence, cause division? He created everything, He makes the rules. If someone choses to ignore the all-powerful Creator of all and make rules and creation in his own image, contrary to Jesus’ image. The culture scoffs at the idea of worshipping idols, when they’ve made themselves an idol, that they believe all creation is made into their image. Those are the ones causing division. Jesus is coming with a sword in order to restore creation, for people to turn back to Him, the one who makes the rules, the one who saves us to eternal life, the One who is to be worshipped, not ourselves. You create division any time you think, despite what Scripture says, that the “fair” thing is for things to be your way, in your image. If you’re breaking the commandments, violating the law that God established, you are the one causing division, and that is called sin! Jesus confronted and defeated Satan after 40 days in the desert and then proceeded in a number of situations. Jesus is about overcoming evil, the ultimate spiritual warrior. He repeatedly confronted demons in Scripture, yes He loves the little children, but there’s one pericope about children, there’s numerous ones in particular today’s reading and most of the Book of Revelation. This is what Jesus is about and not some wimpy, vacillating milquetoast. People should think about when they decide to put themselves on the altar as their idol to worship. Jesus does not tolerate those who simply dismiss Him and conduct their life in defiance of His will and laws. When you really consider all the evil of the world, when we portray Jesus as this kind of nice fella, wonderful with children, I can see why people don’t take Him very seriously. That’s our fault trying to “sell” Jesus as the gentle, benevolent nice guy. Jesus is the ultimate warrior! Sounds like a good wrassling name, doesn’t it? He is! The evil of the world is kept in bounds because of what Jesus does for us. I’ve heard commentators suggest how insufferably evil the world would be without the Holy Spirit keeping it in bounds and He will be withdrawn as the Book of Revelation tells us. Jesus’ angels are with us, it is Jesus who commands the arch-angel Michael the commander of the heavenly host who drove Satan out of heaven. It is Jesus who will be the ultimate warrior as we see in Revelation who will destroy the world. The upside for us who are in Jesus is that He will then restore the world. Not the world tainted by our sin and evil. The world likes to make it about those who are in Jesus who are the ones causing all the strife: if you would just leave people alone and let them do what they want all will be well !!!! Yea that’s why we’re having these ridiculous scenes police officers in New York being doused with water while making an arrest, being hooted and pelted in Philadelphia by a mob, the scenes we’re seeing played out in Baltimore. Should have just let those people alone. There are innocent people in those neighborhoods who have to live there, don’t want to be subjected to the violence and the threat of attacks on their person. Letting people alone is not the answer, that is what is called division. God will judge those who divide and cause the strife in the world and that is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. It is those who do what is contrary to God’s will who cause division. Wes McAdams is on spot when he writes in Radically Christian: “the sin Jesus and the apostles addressed the most might have been division. In fact, did you know the word “heresy” comes from the Greek word that means “sect”? Literally, a “heretic” (Titus 3:10, KJV) is a person who divides from others and forms a sect around his or her opinions. This kind of sectarianism is expressly condemned and I believe every single one of us need to heed the warnings of Scripture. The book of James sheds a lot of light on what causes divisions. And the simple answer is, a lack of wisdom from above. James says, “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17). When we are not being peaceable, gentle, and open to reason, it is obvious we are lacking the kind of wisdom James is commending here. He goes on to say our conflicts are caused by our passions which are at war within us (James 4:1). We want and we do not have, which causes us to fight, bicker and quarrel with one another. What we really need, James says, is to humble ourselves (James 4:6-10). Wouldn’t a good dose of humility and some spiritual wisdom (that is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, etc.) go a long way in preventing religious division? If Christians – on both sides of division – would stop pushing their own agendas and humbly stick with what Scripture actually says, there would seldom be division. James also says we need to not speak evil against our brethren or judge them (James 4:11-12). So what does that mean?”[2] This is spot on. Our wants, our opinions, our passions, those are the things that cause division, they put us on the altar, we are our idol. It is all about what we want and obviously that divides us from God.

Journal about what are the idols that you are obeying, worshipping that are dividing you from God. What divisions are you causing because of your opinion, in what you do to deliberately misunderstand Scripture to twist it to your desires? This is what causes divisions. We want God to be the great benevolent enabler because our sins are OK, and they’re not. They separate us from God. Jesus causes division when He comes with the sword, from those who battle against God. It’s going to be His way, no matter how far in denial we are. So we can continue to live in this idea that it’s everyone else’s fault and I should just have my own way. Then we’re shocked when people in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore attack for no reason, just for a hoot and we know the only way it will get better is when we start getting serious about God and are bringing Him into the world.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

 

[1] https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1484-jesus-christ-in-the-book-of-revelation

[2] https://radicallychristian.com/the-sin-of-division

Faith Hall of Fame Hebrews 11 August 11, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church Chestertown, Md

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son + and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are blessed with faith in Christ said … AMEN!

Today’s readings are certainly interwove. The Gospel reading, follows on last week’s reading of the man who had plenty. He had neither fear nor faith, he didn’t have to, he’s rich. He was an American because we know wealth solves our problems, that is if you ignore the recent spate of celebrities and millionaires who have committed suicide. I’m sure they would say something different, now that they have to explain themselves to their Creator, the one who made them and gave them life. How would I explain to God how, while He has given me so much and there may not be millionaires here, but we are all blessed with so much. I wouldn’t want to explain to God my lack of faith, after all He’s blessed me greatly.

Going through serious personal trauma for the last few weeks, I am getting a powerful lesson in dealing with anxiety. I wish I could say that I’ve been doing just smurfy. That would not be true, maintaining faith under difficult circumstances has been very difficult. It is instructive when I was in Marge’s room at the Neuro Critical Care facility at the U M Medical Center in Baltimore, I did know one thing. No matter what, the Holy Spirit was closer to me than anything I could imagine. He knew more about me than I did through this time of trial. With Margie mostly unconscious, being in a city I had only been in three other times, I certainly felt alone, isolated, fearful. When concepts like Sola Fide are drilled in your head, in the depths of fear and uncertainty, God reaches through the Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed, the sermons, the discussions, the teaching, through these God spoke to me in that dark room, where the uncertainty of Marge’s situation hung over my head. Dr Luther writes: “Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth and mercy cannot be within us. Where there’s no faith, God has no majesty and divinity… When we honor God, his divinity remains complete and intact – he has everything that a believing heart can give him. When we honor God in this way, we are showing the greatest wisdom, the highest justice, and the best worship, while offering the most pleasing sacrifice.”[1]

After Jesus relates the parable of the Rich Fool, ESV Luke 12:22 “And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.” There is nothing wrong doing your best and earning money. If you are successful good for you! Too often those who put their faith in what they earned, that it’s all about what they store in the barn and silo, and “…who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) There is a lot of people who have plenty and found it did not satisfy. We regular folks, have anxiety, stress, worry, about those things, Jesus tells us there’s not much point. In fact, the guy who thought he had it all found at the end of the day, he would be in the presence of the Lord. His full barns, silos and smug attitude won’t help when you’re in the presence of the Lord.

The contrast then in our readings is between the self-righteousness arrogance of the farmer, to the “Faith Hall of Fame” described in the Book of Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews is interesting in itself. Dr Luther describes it as “… a marvelously fine epistle… who wrote it is not known and probably not be known for a while [500 years ago Luther wrote this, it’s been “awhile”] it makes no difference… he discloses a firm grasp of the reading of the Scriptures and the proper way of dealing with them…” It is telling in the fact that that writer knew the Old Testament, even things we really don’t accept as canon/Scripture. It’s not to say we don’t consider these books as acceptable history or relating of some truths at the times they were written. They are just not considered to be inspired by God. There are a number of “apocryphal” books that were considered for the New Testament, one in fact was Hebrews. Big problem on Hebrews is, as I quoted Luther, we don’t know who wrote this book. There is some interesting suggestions. Tertullian quoted from an epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas.”[2] I favor that, Barnabas was a really great disciple, it would be very appropriate if we had writing from his hand. “Tertullian goes on to write: “The author, furthermore, calls his document ‘my word of exhortation’ (13:22) and Barnabas means “son of encouragement/exhortation (Acts 4:36)…”[3] Luther nominated Apollos mentioned in Acts 18:24, Paul and others have been nominated, maybe in 500 more years the name of the author will be discovered.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews starts: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (vv 1,2). From there the author describes those in the Old Testament, notable for their faith. Abel, Enoch appears in Genesis, he’s only described in Genesis as who was his father and who he was the father of, that he walked with God, meaning he was faithful and that he was taken. The author of Hebrews interprets that to mean: “ESV Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.” In particular he describes Abraham. Rev Dr Carl Fickencher on Issue’s Etc said: God created this faith in Abraham to believe God’s Word and according to Paul the Lord counted this to Abram as righteousness, believing that God honor’s His promises, that God cares for us, is the way we receive the righteousness of God Himself. This opened the way to the Reformation when Martin Luther understood God accounted His righteousness to us, when we believe it was given to us in Christ, that opened the door for Luther to change the world, it opened his heart to see that heaven was opened before him, rather than for him to trust in his own works, his own laboring, his own hope which we know will always be fruitless.”[4] If we picked the leading example of faith in the Old Testament it would be Abraham. Most of us know what it’s like to pick up and move from a familiar place to the unfamiliar, I’m still learning my around this area. Abraham picks up from a place he had grown old in, to a place completely foreign to him in Canaan, the promised land of the Old Testament. Abraham is called to wait into extreme old age for the son God had been promising him. When that child came, when he was about twenty years old, God called him to sacrifice that son. The Hebrews author writes: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead.” (v 19) C.F.W. Walther writes: “Before the world, faith appears to be so humble, but before God, it is the most precious thing one can offer. Through faith, man begins to fulfill the first and highest commandment to make God his God and to trust in Him above all things. … ‘Without faith it is impossible to please him.’”[5] Whether in that hospital room an unfamiliar place, not as unfamiliar as Abraham in Canaan, but still imposing, praying to God that He heal and restore Marge praying over her all night. It is in faith that we trust what Christ did for us. God gives us the faith we need in order to not just function through the trials of our life. He gives us the faith we need that 2,000 years ago a man hung on a rude, rough cross in that same Canaan Abraham had been led to 3,000 years earlier. That Jesus died in order, by faith, to save us to eternal life in the resurrection. God gives us that faith. He does not expect us to have the faith necessary to move through life on our own. He knows we depend on Him for everything as Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson. Certainly clothes, food and also the faith to trust, the same way Abraham, Abel, Noah, Enoch, all those who lived in faith in God and all pointing to Jesus. Dr Luther writes: “…faith is a power that comes from God. When God gives faith, the individual is born again and becomes a new creature.” Take some time to really think about those times that you simply had to turn over to God the trials we experience. How did God lead you, how did you cope waiting on Him? There is one Hall of Fame we can qualify for, the Faith Hall of Fame through Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] Martin Luther quoted in “Martin Luther Through Faith Alone” September 26

[2] Concordia Self-Study Bible p 1873

[3] Ibid

 

[4] Dr Carl Fickencher on Issue’s Etc with Todd Wilkins Aug 9, 2019

[5] Translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer “God Grant It” Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Waltheh

Ascends as Lord of all creation Acts 1 Trinity Lutheran Church,

[click on the above icon for the audio version of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know Jesus’ sits at the right hand of all power and all glory said… AMEN !

We use the “Common Lectionary”, when people come up to do the readings, they traditionally read out of the service book, that has the daily readings assuring that we observe the important, formative, enlightening events of the Bible. It usually guides our worship. Sometimes the pastor has a good reason to deviate from Scripture, but usually we want to stick to the lectionary. This keeps the pastor focused. Too often in non-liturgical worship, preaching and teaching is more about the preacher’s hobby-horse versus, trying to teach the entire Bible. The entire Bible is important, we need, at the very least to be familiar with the various parts and be able to describe different parts of the Bible and what is going on in those parts. The entire Bible points to Jesus being active before His incarnation, the events Jesus lived through in the incarnation. When we understand that, we have an even deeper appreciation of the entire Bible. People will often tell me how “boring” the Book of Such and Such is. Yet that Book, all of Scripture describes Jesus, God the Son who has lived eternally, John writes in his Gospel: “ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As much as the Father was through all eternity, so is the Son and the Holy Spirit. They may not have been revealed until the New Testament, but they very much existed, all eternal God. I’ve had people who claim to be Christian “pastors” say, I don’t preach on the Old Testament, it’s the Gospels and the epistles that really matter. Nothing could be more wrong, and someone who claims to be a pastor, and believes that, is not a qualified Christian pastor. All this is to say that the lectionary keeps us all honest, on track, having a thorough understanding of Jesus, and all of Scripture as possible. While Ascension Day may seem anticlimactic, OK, He rises up into the air and disappears, time to move on… Daniel Marrs writes: “I wonder if our tendency to let Ascension Day slip past uncelebrated has more to do with the simple fact that it feels anticlimactic? The Christmas story tells us that God purposed to be with us, joining himself to human nature and walking among us as a man. And we know how Jesus’ life culminated with the world-shaking significance of the cross and the resurrection. But then he just…leaves. Why? And what does it mean for us?[1]

Jesus is not unique in being bodily taken to heaven, Elijah was lifted up into heaven in front of his student Elisha. ESV 2 Kings 2:11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” It does seem that God’s intention for Elijah that he would be the one who would announce the Messiah’s return. We know he was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Moses was also, some people believe Moses was also bodily ascended into heaven. Elijah and Moses are thought to be the two witnesses in Revelation 11: 3-12, because they were bodily raised to heaven for these purposes. While Dr Luther stipulated that the Bible did not say anything about the bodily assumption of Mary, he didn’t deny the possibility either. Lutherans have rejected that view, I’m not trying to convince you of it, but just that Mary is included in the list. Isaiah may be also, he was brought into the presence of Yahweh, but the intention was not to keep him there, same for St Paul.

While it might make an interesting discussion, how many angels dancing on the head of a pin, kind of discussion, we know this for sure. Elijah and Enoch may have been raised up to somewhere by God in heaven, and Paul says that he was raised to what he called the 3rd heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus became the entirety of the universe. Elijah, Enoch, Paul, Mary(?) if God did raise them bodily into some level or part of heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. Being at the right hand of any ruler was always understood as the person being at the right hand had the power and authority of the ruler. Peter Mikhalev offers this pointed quote: “St. John Chrysostom: “Elijah ascended as if into Heaven, because he was a slave, but Christ ascended into Heaven itself, because He was the Lord.”[4][2] This is generally to be understood as the man who carries out the will of the ruler. Enoch, Elijah, Mary (?) may have bodily ascended to heaven, but to be sure no where near the right hand where as we profess in the Apostle’s Creed: “seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” By virtue of this position of power Jesus is He whose rule is in complete glory: John Calvin writes: “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” [3](Institutes 2.16.15). Mikhalev quotes St Gregory: “…by His own Divine power the Creator ascended into Heaven, because He was returning to there from whence He descended. He entered there where He had habitation from the ages: for, although He ascended as man, as God He possessed both Heaven and Earth.”[14][4]

R C Sproul writes “God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6Isa. 48:13).  This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.”[5]

That Jesus raised Himself to heaven, to the ultimate glory of His ruling over all of Creation eternally, also is another demonstration of His Lordship overall creation. Arator writes: “…let us commend the manner of his rule though the powers that are subject to him: born of a virgin mother, rising again by treading upon death, seeking the scepter of heaven He announces such deeds by these angelic servants. Nor do the elements cease to serve their thunderer. In his honor as he is coming, a star does service as a soldier going before the magi. A cloud waits upon him in obedience as he goes.”[6] As He is about to be lifted up, unbeknownst to the disicples, He gives them the great commission, we quote Matthew 28 more often, but Acts starts this way, reminding us we are His disciples, His witnesses to the end of the earth, everywhere. As He says that He is lifted up, the disciples stand there [wide eyed] The angel sitting there had to be amused what you guys doing? He’s told you what to do and He will return in the same way. In the meantime it’s time to turn to for Jesus.” They certainly did in the power of the Holy Spirit whose intentional introduction will be made at Pentecost that we will observe next Sunday.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom. Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/05/its-ascension-day-heres-what-it-means-for-you/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59440308&spUserID=MjgzMzMxOTk1NTAS1&spJobID=1644181925&spReportId=MTY0NDE4MTkyNQS2

[2] Did Enoch and Elijah ascend into heaven? Deacon Peter Mikhalev

[3] R C Sproul quoting John Calvin https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

[4] Op Cit

[5] Seated at God’s Right Hand   RC Sproul

[6] Arator quoted in Ancient Commentary on Scripture NT 4 p 10

The Lamb of God in the brilliance of the New Jerusalem Revelation 21 May 26, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon above]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know true life is the eternal resurrection said … AMEN!

The Book of Revelation is discussed at this time of year, because it is part of the “new” church. The Acts church was certainly brand new for those people who were chosen by the Holy Spirit, to start the NT. The Book of Revelation is about the end times. As much interest in the end times, there’s not much that can be done about it. Be curious, look for God’s intent in the end times, but when prophecies start to come to pass about the end times, there won’t be any doubt about what is happening. Further for those who are in Christ still in the world, will be provided for. There is no doubt that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is always in control. What is biblical the Judgement, Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “ For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18) We know the lead up to that in Revelation. It will be horrible, we should pray that we are in the Lord’s presence and not here on earth during the events described in Revelation. I will stipulate that for the guys, it sounds weird to be talking about a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, weirds guys out to think about. There’s not a sexual connotation to that phrase, it’s much more about the most intimate relationship there is. We’ve had a physical relationship with Jesus since we were confirmed. We eat His Body and Blood. He has given His Body and Blood to us in His sacrifice. Through that we derive the spiritual sustenance, strength, in order to live a strong and healthy life for Jesus. When we don’t eat His Body and Blood then our spiritual health declines, our faith in Christ becomes weaker and we are less able to withstand the attacks of the world and Satan. As much as we need food to be strong do what we need to do in our life, we need the Body and Blood in order to be strong enough to do Christ’s will in the world. Likewise, as the church is the Body of Christ in the world, that we have become one flesh with Jesus by eating His Body and Blood, we become that one flesh in the New Jerusalem. From the very beginning God told Adam and Eve: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This is from the very beginning God established marriage, between a man and a woman the only way to become one flesh. We are one in the church in the Body of Christ, we become one with Jesus in the new world, in the new eternal life. If this is a problem for someone, nothing you can do about it. Mormons think otherwise, Mormons are fatally, tragically wrong. Like pretty much everything, people try to create a designer heaven, a designer new world, because they know what’s right, everything should be their way. It’s bizarre to listen to such people talk. God tells us “your ways are not my ways”. That He has a much greater plan that we can’t conceive of, an entirely new paradigm. Randy Alcorn, answered this question. Alcorn is quoting C S Lewis: “But I do think C. S. Lewis’s insight was great, where he talked about the boy who had heard about people having sex and said, “Well, do they eat chocolate while they are having it?” — because he was told is this is a wonderful experience. To him it was like nothing could be better, you know, than eating chocolate. And then Lewis makes the argument that perhaps our sense of loss about the idea of not being able to have sexual relationships is like that boy thinking that chocolate is the greatest joy and that there are greater joys that await us.”[1] The point is that it’s been God’s plan so far, if we’ve trusted and benefited from that plan for however many decades, is it difficult to understand that in so many ways He has something so much more glorious, wonderful, fulfilling, strengthening in what He has planned for us? I don’t think there can be any doubt that the resurrection, the New Jerusalem is going to be magnificent beyond our wildest imagination. So when we talk about the church being the Bride of Christ, it will be for all of us as the Body of Christ, His Church, and that it will be glorious, triumphant and exultant in a way that we can’t begin to imagine. In the resurrection we will be restored to so much more as we are today. Men will be strong, brilliant, creative, the true pinnacle of manhood and strength. Women will also be strong, brilliant, creative, the true pinnacle of womanhood and compassion. We will be restored to the total, complete apex of what it is to truly be a man or a woman. Jesus told us: ESV Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” this is how God made us, this was His eternal expectation for us, that we should be the near perfection of what a man or a woman is. We’ve achieved the ability to tinker with that, to try and frustrate God’s will for that person. His will is in how He made us, not how we’ve allowed ourselves to be corrupted and undermined by the world and Satan. It is up to us to follow and cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s word. Not to try to stymie His will but to trust Him to the completion of His much greater, all-knowing, His great love for us that His end will be superior to anything we can imagine. His promise for us may entail some tragedy, some hardship, some misery along the way, but when the ultimate result is to be His man, His woman in the ultimate/eternal resurrection where we will have life and life more abundant. The “brilliance” of the New Jerusalem will be powerfully stunning and focused, right in the midst of that, the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice. Jesus will be that temple, the center of all that is in the New Jerusalem “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel.” To our post-modern, technological eye that doesn’t seem compelling, but considering the time, that was as radiant as a first century person could imagine. To us it will be stunning almost overwhelming, truly beautiful and magnificent in form, brilliance and strength. “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27) Only those who are perfect, that is those in Jesus. Those who are detestable are not in Christ, those who’ve rejected Jesus and chose a debauched life-style of the world, who live one of the lies of the world will not be able to enter, they will be condemned. For an age that loves to think of itself as so genuine, it is so phoney and debased.

As much as the Book of Acts describes the birth of the church, a church that completely changes the concept of what church is in the first century world, so does the Book of Revelation describe the next birth. We’ve had the new birth in Christ in our baptism, we have that new life in Him. In the Book of Revelation we will be restored to a new and eternal life, where God the Son will be our eternal husband and all that means as a provider, protector, enhancer, builder, changer. Whether we are man or woman, that new “church”, that new paradigm, new world, will be so abundant, so lush and promising, so challenging and fulfilling, anything and everything we could begin to imagine that we can have in the very presence of Him, Jesus, who loves us beyond anything we can comprehend and wants us to grow to eternity, to be that man and woman that we couldn’t begin to imagine but that He not only imagines, but has a specific plan for each of us, in this existence we are in now, and of the existence that we who are in Jesus will live to eternity. A promise and reward that is inexhaustible and eternally fulfilling.

We remember today, those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I particularly like to remember Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, who was in Iraq, part of a boat crew and boarding officer that intercepted a dhow headed at an oil terminal. When he attempted to board, the attacker realizing he had been discovered detonated the explosives he had intended to destroy the terminal with, perhaps causing additional loss of life and also alerted other forces who discovered two other vessels trying to detonate explosions to cause harm at the same time. Only Petty Officer Bruckenthal was killed. As a fellow Coast Guardsman I identify with Nathan, I’m sure most here today have someone who lost their life or seriously injured in defense of their country and fellow man. There is so much tragedy and misery in this world, we should glory in what we remember on Memorial Day. We as Christians have the promise of Christ, that we will have an eternal, physical life that is magnificent, what we are and have now, will fade into obscurity, only remembered as what we lived through in order to be delivered by God into true life.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom. Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

 

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/sex-in-heaven

We are a kingdom and priests Revelation 1:6 Trinity Lutheran Church April 28, 2019

[click on the icon for the audio of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that they are priests in the Royal Priesthood of believers said … AMEN!

I am not about the mystical issues surrounding the Book of Revelation, I had the opportunity to hear lectures from one of the foremost authorities on the Book of Revelation, Dr Brighton who was brilliant, fascinating to listen to, also tell stories about living in sub-zero temperatures in Saskatchewan where he grew up. Dr Brighton starts his commentary where Jesus started His revelation with the Greek word Apoka,luyij which means a revelation, a disclosure. What English word comes to mind? Apocalypse… Which has come to us to mean end times, what will happen in the end times. This is what Jesus is revealing to John in his vision of what John discloses to us of end times, what we call the apocalypse. Dr Brighton writes: “…the revelation comes from Jesus and it is a revelation about Jesus Christ. Through everything that Jesus Christ reveals, he reveals (that is, unveils) his exalted glory and dominion … the unveiling of Jesus Christ in his glory at the End…” God had always intended His people to be a chosen people, a Kingdom of priests. ESV Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Israel has always been? …Jesus! The Church is the Body of Christ, that means that those in the Church, the Body of Christ are Israel and Jesus is making it clear in the reading His revelation is for His people, His priests and we are responsible for proclaiming Christ and His revelation.  In October, I preached on Jesus being the “Great High Priest”, Hebrews 4:15. If Jesus is our “Great High Priest” He must have junior “priests”. All in Jesus are “priests”, you and I equally priests before the Father. Jesus is our great High Priest, intercedes for His people, equally before God. We have people in authority over us in the church. We trust those people to “minister” to us according to church doctrine, and Christ’s Word in Scripture. In their vocation they are trained and ordained in order to properly serve Jesus’ church. We want people like that, we need people who are properly and sufficiently trained in Scripture and in the church to properly serve Christ’s people in His Church. There is a lot of nonsense out there by people who either don’t have a clue, really don’t care, have made it up to what they think makes people happy and hang a shingle saying they’re preachers. In York, I had a lot of people who were never around unless something serious happens, then there they are expecting I’m supposed to turn and burn for them. They knew I was well trained, that what I said was true Gospel, and when they needed authenticity they came to me. Otherwise, they preferred the church that told them what they wanted to hear, made them “happy” and convinced them everything was hunk-dory with Jesus. They had no intention at all to serve, certainly not as a priest, it was what they wanted, when they wanted it. One of the highest accolades I received was in my time in the York Police Dept as a chaplain. There were usually 9 serving as chaplains and we rotated duty, on 24 hour call. Both the police lieutenant and chief of chaplains said they had such confidence in me and my training and experience they would sometimes call me, even though I wasn’t on call, to come and minister. They knew I had the best training. I was called for a homicide on Good Friday, number of suicides, one involving a police officer in a town outside York, a number of overdose deaths. As a “minister”, qualified and responsible for teaching, preaching, administering the sacraments to serve you to the best in order for you, as priests, to grow in Christ and serve those around you as priests in Jesus.

The difference between a priest and minister a Roman priest, Greek Orthodox priest. You come to a priest, in confession, you tell the priest your issues. He takes those “issues”, raises them up to God on your behalf, asks God to forgive you in Jesus, God forgives you. He also tells you what “penance” you are to perform in to show true contrition, pay for your sin in some sense. This was one of Dr Luther’s major beefs with the Roman Church. Do I need someone to mediate for me before Jesus? No. We are all priests, we should all go before the Father for forgiveness. We are told, Matthew 5:24, before we go to the communion rail we should leave our gift, reconcile our issues, come back and offer your gift. We understand that to mean that you come before a minister, in confession and work out some of your sin issues. It is helpful to sit with someone be accountable to in Jesus. Either way, you’re the one, as a priest, who has to reconcile your issues before God the Father. I help you do that, as a doctor would help you deal with a physical issue, but in both cases, you have to do the consultation, “confession and absolution” in this case, and have to perform the treatments. All to your spiritual health as a “priest of Christ”, as being a part of the priesthood of believers. Dr Luther writes: “All this …proves that those who serve people with Word and the Sacraments may and must not be called priests. That they were called priest stems either from the custom of the heathen or was drawn from vestiges of the Jewish people and adopted to the great harm of the church. According to the evangelical writings, they should more correctly be called ministers, deacons, bishops and stewards…” I am an ordained minister and by virtue of that bishop of this church. We don’t normally refer to a pastor as “bishop”, we do have people in higher authority usually referred to as bishop. We are all priests, my priesthood consists of serving the congregation in a way that is to build you up, support you in Jesus. In your vocation you are called to be a “priest” to those around you. They won’t know you are, but the Holy Spirit will. Often you are the only Jesus people will ever see. How are you representing Jesus in your vocation, being His priest? Many people think that the pastor is supposed to be the “church evangelist”. American culture with its bizarre idea that people in the parish are there to take in, be entertained, maybe leave with one good thought of the day and bang, out into the real world. Based on my experience, ministry, done properly is as real as it gets. Second, my primary job, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, 4: 11-12 is to “equip the saints”, that would be you fellow saint and priest. Give you grounding and support to reach those around you, most I will never meet or know. Isn’t the Holy Spirit using you, in your vocation where you work, as Jesus’ priest to reach that person who might otherwise be lost?

We are a Royal Priesthood. In our life in Jesus, He serves us, saves us, mediates before the Father for us, constantly in prayer for us. Jesus is the One who will pull you across to complete the race, to be with Him in the eternal Resurrection, where we will live our life and life more abundant. In our life on earth, we are His junior priests and responsible for serving Him and others as His priests. Take some time this week, pull out a notebook, start a journal of your life in Jesus. How are you serving Him, His church and each other as His “priests” as a member of the Royal Priesthood of believers in Jesus?  ESV 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

Cheering to Jeering to Cheering Psalm 118

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s people who give thanks to the Lord for He is good said … AMEN!

Christianity is a contrast, there is no doubt about the One and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in complete love, sacrificial, selfless agape love and desire to save, reaches down to humanity, provides everything we need in order to not just live in this world, but for us to also serve in the eternal world of the resurrection.

Here He is now!  Just as it is written in prophecy: “Rejoice greatly; O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” These words written by Zechariah a prophet between 522 and 486 BC, Matthew and Luke both see what is happening as they accompany Jesus, riding into Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit nudges them both, “this is what Zechariah wrote would happen 500 years ago.” Matthew and Luke write it down as part of their Gospels. There is rejoicing, Jesus’ inner circle of disciples is parading proudly next to their Lord, the Lord of all who are there. There’s no doubt in their mind, with all this cheering that this is it! It’s going down now! They didn’t know how, but they’d seen Jesus do so much; calmed the storm, fed thousands, healed the ill, raised the dead. Driving out the Romans, putting the priests, the lawyers, the Pharisees in their place, replacing them in power, pish-posh child’s play for Jesus. He’s here to bring the Kingdom.

500 years before Zachariah, the unknown author of Psalm 118 writes: “Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord … The Lord is God and he has given us light …Bind the festal procession with branches.” Here He is, Jesus is He who is riding on the donkey. It’s seen as a gesture of humility. But understood at that time to be a sign of kingship. Versus the warhorse, the donkey was seen as Jesus proclaiming His Kingship, coming to claim His throne. There was not universal jubilation at Jesus’ entrance. Jesus’ disciples were proclaiming; “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord” according to Dr Luke 19: 39. While Matthew heard; “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” Matthew 21:9. In Luke’s account Pharisees scold Jesus; “Teacher rebuke your disciples.” Meaning, these people are saying you’re a king, that you are David’s son, to make you David’s heir as king. You have rode straight into Jerusalem on a donkey and we are all aware of what you are claiming. The only thing missing? There’s no army. The rag-tag group hailing Jesus and his posse beside Him are no army. They were all full of themselves, sure that by some supernatural means, the enemies of Jerusalem would be swept out. They would walk in, pick up the pieces, assume their rightful places under Jesus and let the new world begin that they would rule under their Lord Jesus. Before we start worship I like to say: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…” Psalm 118: 24, this is where in the Bible. The day the unknown psalmist writes about is a joyous day, he proclaims; “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Are the Pharisees, priests, lawyers, Romans, going to just stand back and let Jesus take over? Noooo! Hey Jesus the Pharisee reprimands, knock it off, tell your followers to back off, coming into town on a donkey may be nice symbolism, but we’re the sheriff, not you. That’s not going to change. We talk a good game about God, and we’re obviously the blessed ones. There’s a Joel Osteen sense with the Pharisees that since they’re the pretty ones, with the money, power and influence, they’re not going anywhere, nothing’s going to change. Have things changed? Oh yes. On a more powerful level than any of these grasping hypocrites can begin to understand. Forces have been building, the old order is being moved out. It may not be realized, but God’s Kingdom is now on earth. The stone the builders have rejected, has become the cornerstone. God the Son our Lord Jesus ends this same week, being mercilessly beaten and brutalized, then nailed to a cross to die. But it is only a prelude. What is necessary in order for Jesus to return in victory, to overcome the tomb, defeat death and the Kingdom to be realized. We live in a world that has been overcome for us. We have won the victory because we are in Jesus, entirely His and through that relationship, victors.

Friday is going to be brutal and merciless. Any palm branches people have will use them to taunt Jesus with. They will spit on Him, mock Him, jeer Him, “crucify Him”, they will demand of their pagan ruler. Jesus is abused in His Body and His Spirit. He hangs on that cross enduring all of the punishment around Him, yet still prays to God the Father “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

This coming week is a series of wrenching, exhausting, at times demoralizing results. But when they are sure that their friend, their Lord, the One who they saw and served, will overcome all of the crushing events and produce the most monumental event in history. He will defeat death for us, overcome the grave. But doing so assures us of our resurrection and eternal life in the eternal, blessed, world of unlimited possibilities and excitement in Christ. Cheers, jeers, ultimately monumental cheers. We are the ones who win through Him who suffered.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[For the audio of this sermon click on the icon following]

Such Great Things God has done for Us Psalm 126

[Click on icon for the audio of this sermon]

We begin in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s children said AMEN!

Psalm 126 is another Psalm that is not by King David, probably another psalm that was written by the post-exilic, that is those who returned to Israel from Babylon after the Israelites were removed from Israel and brought to Babylon by King Nebuachadnezzar in 597 BC. They returned when King Cyrus of Persia authorized the return of the Jews to Israel in 538 BC, about 60 years that Israel was in exile. When they returned to Israel that is when the stories of Nehemiah who rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem and some of the infrastructure, Ezra re-established, the temple. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. Many think the Babylonians took the ark of the covenant from the temple at that time and brought it to Babylon. The rebuilt temple was a poor successor to Solomon’s. It was rebuilt to a more impressive building under Herod the Great about 30 years before Jesus’ birth.

The people who were returning to Jerusalem had little or no idea what Jerusalem had looked like or looked like at their time. There was no Google maps, or Fox News reporting live from Jerusalem on the return of the Jewish people. When they returned to Jerusalem they dealt with trials, under foreign/alien captors. The Persians were tolerant and seemed to have no problem including the Jewish people. Many of whom were placed in high positions in the government. We know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Esther, her uncle/guardian Mordecai, Nehemiah. These are the ones mentioned in the Bible, surely there were others. Under Queen Esther the Jewish people were given some protections and self-government, but not permitted to go back to Israel. After 60 years most had no idea, about Israel, had established lives in Babylon, and no reason to return. They would have to leave livelihoods in Babylon, make a very long journey back to Israel, either take their possessions with them, sell them in Babylon and get new stuff in Israel, or what probably most did, do without. In addition to finding a way to make a living, get what they needed in order to ply their trade: bakers need ovens, pans; blacksmiths need furnaces, hammers, anvils; farmers need ploughs, livestock, other implements. It would not be easy to return and set up a whole new life. But it was an opportunity to return to the land God promised them. To reestablish the temple, their form of government and self-determination, the customs unique to Judaism. It was an opportunity to return to the life that God had assured them they would have if they were faithful. They would not be subject to alien/pagan customs they had been surrounded by. They knew these customs were not what God wanted for them. Israel’s God was much more familiar, favorable, supportive than the pagan “gods” of the time. Many like to criticize the vengeful/  wrathful God the Bible. Compared to pagan “gods” Yahweh, was warm, supportive, strengthening comforting, none of which these pagan gods were. I was talking to a woman who is Hindu, talking about the “goddess” Kahli. She told me all about her, then she said, “you just better not make her angry”. The pagan “gods” are vengeful and punishing. God, the actual/only God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he can be angered, but He’s not vindictive, fickle, easy to anger. If God is angry it is out of pure love and righteousness. God is looking out for His own, He wants what is best for His children. That’s how you tell the real God apart from pagan Gods who are easily disturbed, solely out for themselves, not interested at all in you. Yet people believe in these fictional/hateful/selfish/ uncaring beings. They do exist, they are forms demons take on to subjugate those who are easily impressed, they are selfish, and always trying to intimidate. The true God, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, the Father of God the Son Jesus, might intimidate, but only does so to get you to follow what is genuinely good for you. Not trying to grab anything He can, intimidate or frighten you. God the Father is not at all about frightening or intimidating. How many times is someone told “fear not” in the Bible? About 130 times. God the Father is not interested in trying to frighten or intimidate us, whereas there seems to be a lot of beings out there who are trying to frighten and intimidate and a lot of people believe that they are “gods”. They’re not! Not Allah, not Vishnu, Zoroaster, Karma, etc. None of those are interested in the growth, security, strength, and overall love we receive from Abba, Jesus tells us to be familiar with Him and call Him Daddy! Don’t try that with Allah! Other “gods” are mean, vengeful, easily defeated and not “gods”.

This was what the Jewish people were subjected to in Babylon, yet they knew the truth. Can you imagine being separated from Jesus? People like to make Jesus all warm and squishy, our enabling “god”. He’s not. He’s more than ready to set someone in their place. But He loves and protects us through the Holy Spirit.

From what the psalmist wrote we see Yahweh is like that: “Those who sow in tears…” Yet the psalmist quickly adds shall reap with shouts of joy. “Tertullian defends Christianity, demanding legal toleration and that Christians be treated as all other sects of the Roman Empire. It is in this treatise that one finds the phrase: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50). [1] It is tough to be a martyr, but God has promised those who are martyr’s a crown, reward in heaven greatly exceeding the ordinary believers. A reward that is eternal and imperishable. We might think martyrdom is harsh, somehow punitive, but as we see in history up to today, the church all over the world has grown because of the blood of the martyrs dating back to St Stephen sometime around 60 AD. The church has grown exponentially and saved billions of people. In contrast to those beliefs, such as Israel was under in Babylon they always destroy themselves with their erroneous beliefs in what they believe to be a deity.

Our God sacrificed Himself for us, no other belief system promises eternal life to their believers because of the sacrifice of God. It’s only in Jesus, only what Yahweh did for the Jewish people to banish them to Babylon then restore them to Israel. Chastened, yet joyful. They knew God was teaching them to trust Him for their own good. The psalmist writes: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad…” There is not a sense of being forced to say that. You can tell the heartfelt thankfulness, sincerity of Israel to be home in the land promised to Abraham for his people. Israel has been delivered: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” They have been freed, like their freedom from Egypt. They now return to the true God, the hope and promises of God. Not evil oppression, but the expectation of the Messiah who will come to give them, us, true life, life more abundant. Dr Luther writes: “At the end the psalmist concludes that it happens – and always happens – to the saints they first suffer before they can rejoice… the saints sow with tears to reap afterward with joy… But God loves His saints so much that He regards even their death (which is truly the most abominable, accursed seed of the world) as more precious than all of the world’s treasures and goods”[2] Israel is delivered from Babylon and celebrates and is joyful. When we are delivered from the evil and oppression of the world, the sin, decadence and persecution of the world. When we are in the presence of the Lord at our death and then resurrected to the New World, the world of perfection and endless possibilities, what will our joy be like? How hard will we laugh and praise we “shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Who in your life needs to hear those promises and given the hope that they too will one day leave the Babylon of this world and go into the true hope, joy, and celebration in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who promises us “life and life more abundant…”

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus

 

[2] translated by Bruce Cameron “Reading the Psalms with Luther” CPH p 309