Category Archives: Christian

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

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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

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Such Great Things God has done for Us Psalm 126

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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

Christ, David’s Son Psalm 9

[for the audio version click on the following 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 uplifted by the Psalms said AMEN!

We are in the season of Lent, we know that we try to “sacrifice” something for Lent. Some Lent news; “It was just announced that chocolate maker Hershey is reportedly expecting to cut its global workforce by about 15 percent. Seth Meyers observes: That’s right, for the first time ever, chocolate is giving up people for Lent.” For the Lent season, I’m “planning”, I would like to, do a sermon series on Psalms. We really don’t hear many sermons on Psalms and that really is a shame. I like to just settle in to the Psalms and take it in. Certainly all of Scripture is about the human experience. That experience is with God, and some of it is to show how things get messed up when we try to cut God out of what is going on.

There is 150 Psalms, most, not all were written by David ben Jesse, also known as  King David, husband of Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, father of Solomon, Absalon, Amnon and Tamar. These were his, let’s say more notorious children. He had 19 sons total, and 1 daughter. I’m not sure what the odds of that happening naturally are, but… I’m sure it made jockeying to be David’s successor a lot more of a story in David’s palace during his lifetime.

The book that Jesus quotes the most is … Psalms. First the Book of Psalms is very long 150 books, second because David wrote most of the Psalms, and that Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and that is because Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be in David’s line, one of David’s descendants would be the Messiah. This is referred to as the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7: 10-13: “…ESV 2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Of course “His” refers to Jesus and His Kingdom. What He established in His first coming and what will be fully realized as it is described in the Book of Revelation.

Father Patrick Reardon, who was the pastor of a church in Butler, Pa where our son Timothy is living, writes this about the Psalms: “From the very beginning of her history, when the Church of God turns to Him in love and devotion, the words of the Psalter form the expressions that spontaneously, as by an impulse of her nature, rise from her heart and take shape in her mouth.”[1] If you look, starting at about page 219 in your hymnal, you will see the “Daily Offices”. Those were the daily worships, roughly, in monasteries going back to sometime on or before the sixth century. Check the references to find that most of what is there are various recitations of Psalms. At least back to the sixth century Saint Benedict of Nursia, … prescribed the weekly reading of the Psalms, all 150, and basically called the monks at that time sissies because they didn’t recite them everyday as earlier generations of monks had done.[2]

This Psalm, Chapter 9, was written by David. It appears that this was for some sort of public declaration of victory. The Lutheran Study Bible notes: “The praise of God in the Psalter is rarely a private matter between the psalmist and the Lord. It is usually a public [that is, at the temple] celebration of God’s holy virtues or of his saving acts or gracious bestowal of blessings.” Where he proclaims God’s glorious attributes, righteous deeds, joyfully celebrate God’s glory. Probably where David is declaring victory over an enemy of Israel and proclaiming the power, might and glory of Yahweh.[3] The note in the Concordia Study Bible goes on to point out that: “This aspect of praise in the Psalms has rightly been called the Old Testament anticipation of New Testament evangelism.”[4] That is that what was written in the Old Testament was also intended for us to praise God now. Praise is the reason why we should more regularly refer to Psalms in worship, which we’re supposed to do in our personal and in daily worship in church. Worship is not just limited to Sunday morning, or once in awhile on Wednesday evenings, but intended to be regularly through the day and that is what Psalms have been. Not just about what David did 3,000 years ago, but what God is still doing today that we should be praising Him for now, daily. I’ve always thought it would be great to have a regular Daily Offices, where people would know they could go all through the week and share in worship and prayer. I think we could take such Psalms of victory, such as Psalm 9 that we’re reading today, and there are a lot of “victory psalms” out of the 150 psalms, and proclaim them as God’s victory against our enemies today, understanding that our enemies now aren’t the Philistines, but the powers of evil that are all around us. Whether that evil is demonic and all its different manifestations, spiritually or what we can actually see in the world. Not only has God defeated them but quoting the Concordia Study Bible, God has redressed the wrongs committed by them against David (and Israel).”[5] Again that is for us today. God has certainly defeated the powers of evil all around us, we who are in Christ, that we are certainly subject to demonic attack and are protected by the Holy Spirit from those attacks. Also that God does restore to us that which might be lost or destroyed, if not in this world, certainly in the world of the eternal of the resurrection. Tremper Longman writes: “It is impossible to date the psalm to a certain period in David’s (Israel’s) history. The characterization of the enemy is purposefully ambiguous so as to permit the individual lament to be used as a community lament.”[6] Again to say that while David probably wrote it for a particular occasion, it has come down to us through Jewish history and since the beginning of the Christian church. It’s interesting how both writers conflate David and Israel. David is very much Israel, Jesus certainly is Israel, and since we are in Christ we are Israel. Praise to God then, is as much praise to Him today, from His children in Jesus.

Undoubtedly David knew Who Jesus is, I have to believe that God the Father revealed to David who his descendant was and what He is. That David knew that while it was His throne that was promised to his Descendant, his “Son” by the power of His deity, would make that “Throne” the universal Throne of all power in creation. That the Name of Christ on the Throne, from all of creation to the end of all of creation was and is the power of Jesus. Reardon writes, kind of a long quote: “… particular attention should be paid to that of the “name”: “’I shall sing to Your Name, O most High,’  and ‘Let all those who know Your Name hope on You.’ This is that name of which St Peter said that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This, truly, is ‘the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9, 10). The praying of the Psalter, in fact, pertains to our sharing in that universal genuflection ‘of those in heaven, and of those on earth…’ As the only name by which we have access to God, the name of Jesus is the proper exegetical key to praying the Book of Psalms.”[7]

So you might wonder why we’re conflating Jesus and the Psalms at this time of the year on the calendar, but certainly Jesus is being proclaimed, praised and given thanks for our salvation in Him from the time of His “father” David to the present. He is known from everlasting to everlasting and we praise Him and bless His Holy Name for His sacrifice, His suffering, His separation in order to bring us to the Father, to give us the hope and promise of everlasting, life and life more abundant in Him in His crucifixion, His resurrection and the marriage feast of the Lamb that is that eternal life in Him.

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

 

 

[1] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p xv

[2] Ibid

[3] Concordia Study Bible footnote 9:1 p 794

[4] Ibid

[5] Concordia Study Bible 9:3-6 p 794

[6] Longman, Tremper “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary” p 143

[7] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p18

The Veil is lifted Luke 9 Transfiguration Sunday March 3, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church Chestertown, Md

[click on the icon above 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 T and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been allowed a glimpse of Jesus as God as His children in baptism said … AMEN

We’re in an interesting period, between the secular observances of Saints; Nicholas, Valentine and Patrick, Jesus’ lifting of His Human veil, plus the time of Lent, where we dedicate time to special reverence. I did come across some detail on the St Valentine story: “A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine, as the former Bishop of TerniNarnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus … was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household were baptized.[20] Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius.

   Of much more importance, like more than infinitely more important, we remember the Transfiguration of Jesus today. Festivals of different saints are a great thing, especially when it’s one who like St Nicholas, Valentine, Patrick who are readily recognized by the secular world, and we don’t emphasize enough the importance of these saints, not for holidays, but because of how they lived and died for Jesus. But we also remember, that in Jesus we are all saints, Nicholas, Patrick, Valentine, great men, who should be remembered as examples of faithful living and maybe we should be more pro-active about observing their feasts and festivals. We look to those men for their example, we pray for God’s strength to emulate their lives, but we too are saints and we all are priests and we are all expected to come into the presence of the Father on the basis of our salvation in Jesus.

Jesus has shown Himself during the incarnation as a man, the Bible says a rather unremarkable looking man, you wouldn’t think much about Him at all if you walked by Him on the street. Those privileged disciples, by extension, now, us, see Jesus as He truly is. He is God, He is appearing to His disciples, in, no doubt, a much more muted form. We could not endure His splendor as God the Son, but in the Transfiguration there is no doubt that He is far above anything we are and the Father comes along and confirms, this is My Son! The veil has been lifted. There are a few times in the Bible where people have been left with a view that’s been hazed over, if not outright obstructed. Moses was in the actual presence of God and had to wear a veil among the people because they weren’t able to bear even a sort of reflected view of God’s Shekinah glory. Mary Magdalene had a veil over her eyes at the tomb. The two disciples didn’t see Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Gregory of Nazianzus writes “The great theophany of Jesus’ transfiguration gives us a glimpse of the mystery of the future resurrected life in Christ.”[1] This is not just the veil of the deity of Jesus, but also the revelation, which Jesus gives us a further revelation of in His resurrection. Which will be us, as Jesus is in our reading, but we will also be so much glorious in the resurrection.

Dr David Lewis observes: “Paul discusses the cause of unbelief with the image of “the veil” an image where faith is likened to seeing and so unbelief is blindness.” We certainly know those who just will not see Jesus as Lord. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit has presented Jesus, has tried to move some people and they will just not be budged, they like the blindness.

I certainly resonate with what Dr Lewis says in terms of Paul’s ministry and ministry today. Christian ministry, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus is not for shrinking violets and the church has been guilty of that for decades and is becoming even less of a witness today. We are more concerned about offending others, quoting Billy Graham, while we’re offending God.

Dr Lewis notes: “Because of this [inability to see under the veil] Paul stresses the importance of conducting his ministry with openness/boldness. What is openly proclaimed is that Jesus is Lord.” Why proclaim Him? “The hope [Greek elpida, elpus] in the enduring/remaining glory…the new covenant … This hope motivates Paul to behave boldly/frankly/openly (marresia) in his ministry …”[2] As we should.

Jesus has unambiguously revealed Himself on that mountain and the Father has confirmed who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son.” The Father envelopes everyone in a cloud, which causes John, James and Peter to be afraid. God the Father proclaims, “This is my Son, my Chosen: listen to him!” The Father never says this about anyone else through the span of 5,000 years recorded in Scripture, or any time in history. He says this just about Jesus. There is no doubt who the Father is, there is no doubt who the Son is. Ambrose writes: “The cloud that overshadows them does not sprinkle them with moisture but with faith to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”[3] We are God’s children when we are born again in baptism, we are His and we are strengthened through His Word in preaching and in Scripture and we are saved through the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are saved through His sacrifice, the payment of His perfect life as compensation, the just payment for our sins. This is our hope, this is the only hope of mankind, the Lord Jesus! And that is why we must boldly proclaim the hope and promise of Him, as Paul did. Jerome writes: “They [Moses, Elijah, the disciples, us], too, indeed are dear to Me, but He is My beloved; hear Him, therefore. They proclaim and teach Him, but you, hear Him; He is the Lord and Master, they are companions in servitude. Moses and Elias speak of Christ; they are your fellow servants; He is the Lord; hear Him. Do not render the same honor to fellow servants as to the Lord and Master. Hear only the Son of God.” You might wonder why Moses, who was given the Law, Elijah considered the Prince of the Prophets figure into this scene. I don’t know where I read this, Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, that they were discussing His “departure”, which we understand is from His earthly life, to His resurrected life, His glory at God’s right hand. But it’s also to initiate the age of grace, we are saved by Jesus’ acts which are rapidly approaching after the Transfiguration. His entry into Jerusalem, His brutal beatings, torture and crucifixion, His glorious resurrection on Easter. But it is also to close out the age. We are no longer under the Law given to Moses, we are saved only by grace. Further, the age of prophecy which Elijah represents, which consists of so many holy and righteous men is also at an end. We have Jesus’ promises, there is no further revelation, all we need to know to the end times is revealed in Jesus.

Now that Jesus begins the last leg of His journey to the Cross, everything is set for His glorious resurrection and the promise of our glorious eternal resurrection in Jesus.

Since we are entering in to the time of Lent, the time for sacrifice, for reflection, for service, please take more intentional time in devotions. For this week spend some time in prayer asking for guidance to help you lift the veil from those you know. How can the Holy Spirit work through you? Who does He want you to help to lift the veil from their eyes to see the only hope and promise in the world? Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. The Holy Spirit has lifted the veil from we who are baptized and born again in Jesus. He works through us to lift the veil from others in order that they see Jesus.

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

[1] Gregory of Nazianzus quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT III Luke Edited by Arthur Just p 158

[2] Dr David Lewis  “Concordia Journal/Winter 2015) pp 60-61

[3] Op. Cit.