Category Archives: Lutheran Christianity

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

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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 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

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

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

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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.

Forgiveness is necessary for us to function Genesis 45 Joseph and his brothers February 24, 2019

[click on the icon above 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 have been forgiven said… AMEN!

Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan… one fan. The guy had a box seat close to the field, he would torment Boggs shouting obscenities and insults, hard to imagine one fan getting under a player’s skin, but this guy had the recipe. One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, ‘Boggs, you stink’ and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, …and said, ‘Hey fella, are you the guy who’s always yelling at me? The man said, ‘Yeah, it’s me. What are you going to do about it?’ Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, went back to the field to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.

Love your enemies. It might change them, and we know it will change you.[1] There’s, not a lot of forgiveness between the Sox and Yankees, there’s a video of the classic brawls of the past. Forgiveness is in short supply in this day and age. More and more it’s all about me; my opinion is the ultimate consideration, nothing else matters, but that I get my way no matter how misinformed I am or chose to be. “Don’t try to confuse me with the facts” is more often the creed of the day. Reality isn’t the issue, it’s all about my opinion and my dignity.

This attitude is so destructive, so negative, the negative ripples tear things apart. Churches are very susceptible. Instead of progress, easier to get bogged down in opinions, or if there is a decision, there’s no forgiveness or support. Daytona just happened last week, also from sermons.com the following illustration showing how destructive the lack of forgiveness can be:

Some years ago, as a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended a 45 race losing streak and picked up stock racing’s biggest purse–$73,500. It happened at the Daytona 500. Petty’s win, was a complete surprise. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders [30 seconds is forever, people have won the Tour de France by about ten seconds, 1100 miles of racing]. All at once the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win.”[2]Those guys went from 1 and 2 prize money to who knows how far down, it cost them big!

I’m sure you’ve seen those kinds of situations where people shoot themselves in the foot because of their grudges. I had a woman show up at the church in York, going on about how people were hurting her, causing her all kinds of damage. The way she was talking made it seem like it was in process. I asked her when that happened and she said 19__, about fifteen years before. You could say mentally ill, but it’s often a “chicken-egg” thing, did the obsessiveness occur because of mental illness or was it the cause?

Tip O’Neil tells a story in his book about how people would talk about a group of just say those who didn’t like Irish-Catholics who burned down a convent in Boston. O’Neill thought it had just happened in the last few years by the way people talked about it. Come to find out, it happened around 1849.

Unforgiveness, distrust, an obsessive need to have things your way, regardless of how it affects you in the long run, how it affects your family, a group you’re a part of is just so destructive. It has such long lasting effects, and never results in anything helpful or uplifting.

Joseph is in the driver’s seat with his brothers. He could have just messed with them, made their lives miserable, caused all sorts of havoc inflicting payback, but 4,000 years later how would that be seen? God would have worked around Joseph. But clearly God was working His plan back that Jacob/Israel was an integral part of, who should have gotten a little payback from his brother Esau. On the other hand, we have received hundreds of generations later, as Christians is that Joseph knew what God was doing, later on he tells his brothers: “ESV Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Factor how many times God forgives us? The grueling torment Jesus underwent in order for us to be forgiven. Entirely in Jesus’ righteousness through His sacrifice we are saved. We are saved to an eternal resurrection of sheer delight beyond anything imaginable. Not because of how deserving we are, because … we aren’t. But in and through Jesus to eternity. Last week Jesus told us how much we would be hated because of Him. This week He’s saying “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Kind of tough to do. Joseph and his brothers became the patriarchs of Israel, heads of the twelve tribes sons of their father Jacob or as God named him, Israel . Joseph was resented because he was Jacob’s favorite, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat… He went to his brothers in the field and they left him in a ditch to die. Then changed their minds, sold him as a slave and then sold as a slave in Egypt. His master, Potiphar, gives him great freedom and trusts him, his wife, let’s say wanted more than just household help, when Joseph refused to betray his master like that, she threw a fit, falsely accused him of trying to seduce her. That ended him in an Egyptian jail, none of this very nice, but he comes to the attention of Pharaoh, becomes prime minister of Egypt, goes from the outhouse to the penthouse, the catbird seat to mix metaphors. Then his brothers show up looking for food, duh, duh, duh! But Joseph didn’t take the opportunity to hit back, or get into a match that wouldn’t have done anyone any good. He gave them the food they needed, then the whole tribe moves to Egypt. This is the way we’re treated in Jesus. We continually offend God, we continually fuss, quarrel, we say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, we expect God to hold up His end, but we really don’t hold up ours. Jesus took that grueling torture, gave Himself to pay the price of sin and unforgiveness that we couldn’t pay. We dishonor Him in our lack of forgiveness in our fussing and lack of cooperation. We know that is not what the Christian church is about, the Body of Christ is not the forum to pursue quarrels, instead of working together to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Joseph forgave a lot in order to save his family and for everyone to move on to become Israel. Jesus forgave a lot and didn’t deserve any of what He endured. When do we forgive and look to the best interests of Jesus’ Church?

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

[1] Phil Thrailkill, Loving Like God Loves   sermons.com

[2] Source unknown  sermons.com

What love is and what it’s not 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3 February 3, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md

[For the Audio of this sermon click on the following link]

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 the true love of Christ said  AMEN!

There was a really cheesey sitcom back in the early 1970s I remember as a kid. Called “Love American Style”. All the “groovy loving stuff” but everyone was made up all nice in the style of the day, if you remember Bert Convy, kind of smaltz. Sorry if I offended. Of course since we are all smiley and sweet and we just want to LOVE, well everything is just groovy. That show was on for five seasons? The Cornithian church was sort of the same thing, permissive, good ole Roman boys, just wanna have fun. This is not a shot at the stereotype southern “good ole boys”. This is the way it is. Seems every culture has that element. We’re going to be all responsible and appear all dignified, but when we get with the other guys, well hey, who’s going to know. The kind of mindset that is biting people in entertainment, government, education, business, sports, military, because they felt they were special and “boys will be boys” why are you spoiling our fun? That is both men and women.I ’ve seen it in all kinds of settings. The Roman good ole boys were, for the most part, retired Roman soldiers, Roman bureaucrats, those of the day who were retired to Corinth and given a pretty good pension. The types who took their past careers seriously but…. anything else, well not so seriously. I get the distinct feeling that they were the types who might even mess with Paul. Come on Paul, it’s just in fun. I think Paul had a sense of humor, I don’t think he was the “good ole boy” type, and well, kind of probably didn’t appreciate the lifestyle etc., that would be up to and including one of the members co-habitating with his father’s wife, let’s just say yada-yada…

So “Love Corinthian style”. The lead-up to today’s reading is in terms of being “one body”, the church is composed of every person in the church, the Body of Christ. When one part of that Body is hurting, or somehow dysfunctional it hurts the rest of the body, the rest of the Body feels pain e.g. if I stub my toe, the rest of the Body also suffers in terms of pain; if part of the Body decides to be defective, or functioning in some way counter to the body, such as one member of the body sleeping with his step-mother well the rest of the body just pooh-poohs, oh that’s not so bad, be a good boy, come back to the church. Love Corinthian style! Of all the churches mentioned in the New Testament, they all still exist today, except … You guessed it the Corinthian church, kinda have to wonder why. Maybe the Cornithian church was God’s object lesson to the whole church? When it served its purpose and probably became even more degenerate it simply collapsed from the weight of “Christian” pretense and just run of the mill sin.

It is a great object lesson in terms of what they-then and the American culture today refers to as “love”. This reading starts with Paul saying “And I will show you a more excellent way.” (1Cor 12:31b) Since we only read “B” part of verse 31, we miss the “A” part that says “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Preach it Paul! The higher, greater, satisfying, honorable, genuine love and trust! Praise God! Paul does what comes to us as one of the most compelling, instructive, passages of Scripture, what love is and does and what “love” is not and does not! What is often referred to as the “Love Chapter” of Scripture. Love is a hot topic today, what it is and what it’s not. Too often we have a culture that sees “love” as enabling, debauched, indulgent, permissive, not really love, but plain simple sin called love in order to make it nice. A culture that likes to pat the church on the head and say “you go take care of poor people, and the elderly and we will decide what “love” really is. It’s been the same through history, when the culture decides what “love” is, it always comes out as decadence. The Corinthian culture was all about decadence, calling it love. This seems to have spread through the Roman culture. The Roman culture was once strong, sensible, responsible, serious enough to conquer the world. Much of our law today is based on Roman law. Rome had a very capable government, a legal system that was amazing for its time. A culture, economy, strength and integrity, that wasn’t Christian, but was still admirable. All that came crashing down after hundreds of years under the weight of the decadence that we see a microcosm of in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Frankly, very much of what we see in today’s culture. I’m not opening a debate on abortion, but right now we have people look you in the face and say it’s loving to abort a child at birth! The Roman’s had their own abortion debate, they’d leave babies exposed in the forest or hills to die. Christians would rescue those children.

The Greek word used by St Paul is avga,ph there are four words in Koine Greek that are translated into the English word for love. The word love in English is often understood to be anything for lust, covetousness, familiarity to altruism. The Greek word means altruism. Dr J Vernon McGee’s definition: “…the highest word for love in the New Testament and means ‘divine love’. It is more than love in the emotion; it is love in the will. It is love that chooses its object. It is a definition of God, for God is love.”[1]

What is the opposite of love? … no it’s not hate. When you think about it, hate requires some genuine passion, you have feelings for the object of your hate. They may not be edifying feelings, but it takes work to hate. I’ve always said I really don’t hate anyone, as much as the current culture would like to live in its delusion and paint someone like me as the hater. I’ve seen hate from secular-humanists and wow! It would just take too much energy and I have genuine, important things to do. Being just ugly, nasty, really evil? I can’t rise to that.

The opposite of love is “indifference”. and that is really what today’s society is about. “I really don’t care what you do, so therefore I love you????” You want to be about love, use the discernment that God gives us. Take the time to genuinely figure it out, what is really going on and what is really necessary, not just “whatever!  Do whatever you like”. That’s not love, that’s indifference and that is so much more negative and destructive in the long run! Hate destroys right now. Indifference is corrosive, negative, ugly. Don’t care it’s your problem, you deal with it. Make yourself into whatever you want, and when you find how destructive it is, hey, don’t come running to me. This is what we try to protect against in the culture, immature minds telling us what they want. I saw this on the FaceBook page of a person, what is the creed of the culture: “Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand, and accept me for who I am.” That is a rhetorically null, translates into “leave me alone unless I want something from you” that’s what today’s society is about. When do we run out of the people who will be there to pick up the pieces, who will just stop caring?

The culture reads this part of the Bible and claims: “Paul said love is the greatest of all, and this is how I define love, so therefore, it’s all about me and how I love.” No! First, you don’t understand the definition of the word Paul is actually using. Second, you don’t understand the context. Hey why go to all that trouble, the world would say, just do it my way, why do you care anyway? Ya, I do, because what you’re selling is so destructive.

Faith and hope are imperfect. Why? In the eternal resurrection, will faith and hope be necessary? No. When we are in the perfected world God has restored, there is no need to look toward anything in faith and hope, it is right there for us. What is the one thing that will remain, that is eternal? Love! We will be in the presence of love. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melanchthon writes: “Faith and hope have to do only with God. But love has infinite offices outwardly toward humanity.”[2] I’d say God’s pretty important, so faith and hope are important. But love is eternal, in that respect it is the greatest. But for us today, we have to not only communicate love, but the hope and promise that we have in Christ in order to realize that eternal love with Him in the eternal resurrection, that is only for those who are in Jesus.

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

[1] Dr J Vernon McGee  “Thru the Bible Commentary series The Epistles First Corinthians” p 152

[2] Philip Melanchthon “Apology of the Augsburg Confession” (Ap V 105)

The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus, we don’t “chose” Jesus, He choses us

American Christianity has introduced seriously incorrect concepts into Christianity. One of the most pretentious is how “I accepted Jesus into my heart”. This idea that in the super-mart of beliefs, I was a really great guy and decided to throw one to Jesus. I often wonder if people really understand how prideful and pretentious that sounds and is.

The Holy Spirit chose me, He gave me the understanding of who/what Jesus is and how He saved me. There was nothing left for me to mess up, other than of course I could just reject Jesus, but surely the Holy Spirit would make me realize how stupid that would be.

CFW Walther took orthodox Lutheranism from Europe and brought it to the United States, established the church apart from American Christianity and enabled it to be established in the US so that it could continue to teach and preach true Christianity. In a sermon, Walther asserts the understanding of how we are chosen and don’t chose. I do appreciate his point that while there are many who are “interested” in Jesus/God, they’re not interested to the extent that it runs their life, they’re still in charge and that’s that. If Jesus is not the Lord of your life and you’re not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you are not a Christian. It’s all about God and what He does and nothing about what we do.

“By nature, no person is capable of receiving the Word in his heart. He must be brought to it by the Holy Ghost. As often as an unconverted person hears, reads or examines the Word of God, the Holy Ghost seeks to convince him that he is a great sinner, that he does not stand in grace with God, and that God’s wrath rests upon him. If, through this divine working, the person does not resist the Holy Ghost, his heart is filled with a deep sadness and his awakened conscience provokes anxiety and even terror in him. Then, through the Gospel, a heartfelt longing for grace, help and mercy arises in the person. Oh, blessed is he who experiences this, for this longing for grace is the beginning of the true, saving faith. It begins as soon as the sinner reaches out with longing to Christ, the propitiation of all sins. If such a person remains under the cultivation of the Holy Ghost through the Word of the Gospel, he finally, in faith and confidence, embraces Christ so he can cry out with divine certainty: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul! For I, a sinner, have found grace. I, a miserable person have found mercy.’ The person who has had such an experience has received the Gospel and come to true faith.”

Essentially, that we as evil, sinful people have no capacity to even know how to truly come to Jesus. Those who pridefully announce it, are sinning in their presumption. Do we “accept” Jesus in our pride and power? No, of course not, we are making it into a sinful effort on our part.

“…whoever has never groaned from the depths of his distressed heart for Christ’s grace and whoever still fails to recognize that a person cannot believe in Christ by his own powers but alone by the working of the Holy Ghost is certainly still without faith. The birth of faith in the soul of a sinner cannot leave him unmoved. Indeed, it is a work that transforms the whole person – from darkness to light, from spiritual death to spiritual life – and brings him out of powerlessness into divine strength.” [I think it is better that in our humility and weakness we are endowed with the power God gives us to truly know him and live our lives in our new birth, in our baptism, in Him. How could we be anything but humble and weak in order to be endowed with God’s strength?] “Luther gloriously speaks about this in the preface to his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans: ‘This is the reason that, when they hear the Gospel, they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts, which says, ‘I believe.’ This they hold for true faith. But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it and no betterment follows it. Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God’ (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost … Pray God to work faith in you; else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do’ (xvi, xvii).” (translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer God Grant it Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther pp 662-663)

Knowing that it is all about what God does in us gives us the assurance of knowing that we are truly in Christ, that it’s been done effectively, correctly and for eternity. Can we decide we just don’t want this? Sure, reject God and decide to do it our way. How do you think that’s going to end up? I always find it interesting when people in such indignation complain “how could a good God send people to hell?” As you can see here, it’s about what people are doing by rejecting God. That than begs the question, who’s sending who where? Obviously people are rejecting God and choosing eternal separation and outside of God that means torment. When it’s all about their “choice”, it’s always bad, when it’s about God choosing, obviously, it’s always good and that’s what we want to go with, God’s choice, not mine.