Tag Archives: Christ

O Sacred Head and Heart now wounded Luke 22, 23 First Saint Johns March 20, 2016

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 thank and praise God for the Passion that Jesus suffered for us and our salvation said … AMEN!!

Our sermon series for Lent has been based on the hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”, composed by one of the great Lutheran hymnists Paul Gerhardt, according to Wikipedia is based on a Latin poem written by Arnulf of Leuven sometime around the 12th century. While we know the physical wounds that Jesus experienced, the flogging, the crown of thorns, dragging a rough wooden cross over His beaten back, being nailed into that cross, being lurched up into the air and left to hang from that Cross. But more than that were the wounds that were inflicted on His heart, the emotions, the wounds that cut us deeply, as the series said those wounds that are inflicted by those we trust, or those who aren’t satisfied with just physical wounds but want to cut right into our very being, humiliate and debase us. Jesus suffered physically and surely felt the pain of what His disciples did, or failed to do the night before He was crucified.

We talked about the wound of betrayal. Yes, Jesus knew who would betray Him, it didn’t come as a surprise. Jesus wasn’t sitting at that table in the Upper Room thinking “didn’t see that coming”. He talked about the son of perdition and how that man, one of the twelve, one of His closest followers would betray Him into the hands of the world, of sinners. Quoting that sermon: “He had traveled many miles and shared many meals. Here was a wound that weighed down our Lord’s sacred head and brought Him sorrow and grief that compounded the weight of sin He bore upon His cross.”[1] As you will see in our Living Last Supper presentation, Jesus will tell His disciples that; “One of you will betray Me” and each of the disciples asks the question; “Is it I Lord?” Jesus knew this time was coming, but I can’t imagine that lessened the cutting hurt He endured to have it finally happen and see a man who was so closely associated with Him, quietly slip away from the table and slither out of the door, trying to leave unnoticed by the other disciples. I don’t know how Jesus reacted, but I have to believe He was hurt deeply. I know if it was me my heart would sink in my chest and there would be a huge lump in my throat.

The next sermon was titled “The wound of apathy”. He and His disciples have finished the Passover Dinner. Jesus has left them with one of our greatest gifts, The Lord’s Supper. The next day Jesus will be the perfect sacrifice, for them, for us, for all Christians who know that we receive His true Body and Blood in His Supper. He has just taken the bread, “…and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” Right after He makes this new covenant, this new promise, gives us this new hope that we would have the incredible privilege of taking His true Body and His true Blood, that our bond with Him would be very much spiritual and very much physical, that the nourishment we would receive from His Body and Blood would be the only nourishment that would preserve our body and soul, the only nutrition that keeps us strong in body and soul, immediately after one of the most profound moments in His ministry, in the history of all man, He reveals that “…the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.” We know the passion that He suffered physically, but we don’t really think of the passion in His heart, but that injury inflicted on Him right after He promises that His Body and Blood would strengthen and sustain our souls, His Body given for us His disciples. Then Judas slinks out the door: “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Wow, guys, were you listening? It’s happening NOW! Is it that everyone has gotten a little too comfortable? They’ve ignored all the warnings He’s given them, that this would happen and there they are cluelessly chirping away about who is going to be the greatest? I can imagine how I would feel. “What is wrong with these guys? Have I just been airing my lungs out here? Have none of you been paying attention?” Yet, how many times do we forget what Jesus has told us and frisk merrily on our way, happy in our own little denial?

He knows it’s only a matter of hours, they go back to their sanctuary at Gethsemane. Hey it’s been a long holiday, we’re all bushed, what’s Jesus do? All the other guys are sacked out all around us and Jesus is schlepping Peter, John and James away. “My soul” He says, “is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.” Is that really too much to ask? “Guys this is it, in a few hours I will be experiencing unimaginable agony, stay with Me and pray, support Me while I pray in these final hours.” Just doesn’t sink in, Jesus goes and prays that He doesn’t want to go through the physical, emotional and spiritual agony that He knows is coming. He is so consumed that He is sweating drops of blood. But He trusts His Father’s will and goes back expecting His closest friends to be up waiting for Him in expectation. But they’re not, it’s just like any other night and they don’t even seem to try to stay awake with Him in His time of agony.

Now it is completely obvious what is happening. Jesus has been hauled away by soldiers and Jewish officials, taken to the high priest to be judged. All of His disciples have scattered or hidden. At least Peter did follow, at a distance. He’s trying not to be noticeable, but I can imagine Peter is still trying to figure out what’s going on, what’s going to happen. The same Peter who declared: “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matt 26:35) Peter makes this manly declaration to Jesus, but when it really counts, confronted by a little serving girl, a woman, Peter not only denies the Lord, but curses at the ones suggesting that he knew Jesus at all. Jesus knew Peter denied Him. He was brought outside, escorted right past Peter and looked at Peter, not with scorn, but with disappointment.

Perhaps at this point Jesus is so emotionally and physically wounded that the taunts and mockery of the Roman guards don’t really sink in. He hasn’t been with them, but He does know Judas, Peter, John, James, the ones who have failed and abandoned Him. But to know fully well who you are and why you’re there and to have a bunch of louts laughing in your face? The world still treats the Lord that way and if we think about it, there are times we do too.

The final wound is not something we, any of His followers inflicted, but because of the things we did, the sins we committed, the atonement for all of our sins, hanging on the cross, in the dark, with all of the sins of humanity on His shoulders, our completely holy, completely perfect Father has to turn His back on His Son.

God will not let our sin, our black ugly failings soil Himself. The Son has now become the perfect sacrifice, the propitiation of all our sins and His broken Body, which now bears all of that sin so that it may be forever forgiven of those who know Jesus as their Lord, but the Father in His perfect, holy nature will not bear that sin and has to turn away from His perfect Son. Hell is that place of eternal separation from the Father. For those who choose their own way and reject God, God allows them to have their way and eternally separates them from Him. In addition to the physical torments of Hell, is the torment of being eternally cut off from our only Hope and Promise in the Triune God. But Jesus suffers that separation, for the sin of all of humanity.

Yes on this day we remember how Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as the King, because He is the King. King of all creation, Lord of Lord, He who will be at the right hand of God the Father. But five days later, subject to unimaginable physical and emotional torment, brought on by the sins of all of us here, all of mankind. Our eternal life is bought for us by Him, who through Him put us back into relationship with the Father, who when we sin, when we fail to live our life in Christ, the Father only sees His beloved Son, our Savior Jesus the Christ. By His stripes our sins are healed and three days later He will rise to defeat death and to give us the promise of true, eternal life in the New Creation, with Him as our only Lord.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” Lent sermon series Concordia Publishing House

Lucifer Morningstar

ESV Isaiah 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” There are different translations. Lucifer is “Heylel” in Hebrew meaning “light bearer, shining one, morning star, also described the King of Babylon.” (Bible Works) For those who like to claim that the Old Testament doesn’t talk about Hell or Satan, well apparently they haven’t read Job or Isaiah. Matthew Henry notes how the Kings of Babylon were oppressors of Israel, so for the Israelites to think of Satan in these terms would seem natural.

The pericope in Isaiah goes on to say: “ESV Isaiah 14:13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; ESV Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ ESV Isaiah 14:15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. ESV Isaiah 14:16 Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, ESV Isaiah 14:17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ ESV Isaiah 14:18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; ESV Isaiah 14:19 but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.” (BibleWorks)

Seems to be pretty cut and dried, no wiggle room here, Satan chose his own way. Jesus described how Satan was cast out: “ESV Luke 10:18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Revelation makes it very clear what happened before God created man: “ESV Revelation 12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, ESV Revelation 12:8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. ESV Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (BibleWorks)

Clearly the issue has been settled. Lucifer was made to be the most perfect, created, being. To such an extent that he convinced himself that he should be “god”, and tried to establish himself as god. He was defeated by the Archangel Michael and tossed out of heaven. Clearly putting himself outside of any possibility of redemption. But that, obviously, hasn’t stopped Satan. He tried to swing Jesus over to his side and Jesus dismissed him. But the effort continues and apparently his PR people make another attempt, among many, in the Fox television series “Lucifer”. I stumbled on it by accident, I was traveling didn’t have my usual list of recorded programs and just happened to land on the program. I did end up recording it and was able to examine it closer.

The program posits that Satan is actually warming up to man, although his track record has been to try to destroy man. Lest we forget he is the one who enticed Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden that got her and Adam kicked out and condemned to a life of sin and out of communion with God the Father. We know that through Jesus, Satan was defeated and our relationship with the Father reestablished through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Let’s also remember that Satan in Hebrew means “adversary” and “accuser”. We’ve taken that to mean God’s adversary, although to quote a New York Times reporter, writing before the 2004 World Series who described the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry has a hammer hitting a nail. That obviously the hammer is the active punisher and the nail receives which would more accurately describe the “rivalry” between God and Satan,. It may be adversarial, but God is clearly the punisher. The Greek word translates diabolos, meaning slanderer, the one who accuses and tries to misrepresent man.

Satan finds a woman police detective fascinating in her convictions as one trying to pursue her job with conviction and also able to resist the advances of Satan. This despite her somewhat unvirtuous background. Apparently in her rebellious period against her parents she made a movie where she appears nude, for which she confesses to her young daughter for forgiveness. Part of the plot is Satan trying to figure out why he doesn’t seem to have an effect on her. It’s obvious in the program that he rather easily affects everyone else. Another power of his being to draw out the desires of those he confronts. He uses his celebrated charm (Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones), to manipulate people who presume to be so much smarter, superior to everyone else, in a kind of Pharisaical way. Lest we forget Satan is beyond redemption, he made his decision by rebelling against God in heaven. Sure we humans rebell, but we were only kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The Father, through the Son, has made a way for us to be in relationship with Him. Satan chose to shoot for the top and ended up in Sheol.

A waitress at Satan’s night club, who is a demon, challenges Satan, accusing him of becoming soft, almost in the sense of selling out. The character makes it clear that he is still very much in control, but maybe becoming, at least, a little more respectful of humans. The Biblical truth is that Satan has an implacable hatred of man and he continues by any means to destroy man and undermine God.

Another character in the program is Ariel. This is a very obscure reference and is not biblical. But it is an apocryphal reference. According to Wikipedia he is an Archangel described in the Book of Enoch. “”Ariel” has been called an ancient name for the leontomorphic Gnostic Demiurge (Creator God).”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_(angel)) Gnosticism is a very early “Christian” heresy that kind of creates a non-Biblical paradigm around Jesus. Ariel is Hebrew meaning Lion of God, hearth of God. Interesting note, the angel is played by an African- American man, who is clearly not the contemporary image of a fluffy, beautiful woman. He is clearly a warrior, so I will give the show credit on this score. Angels are very much warriors and men, not at all the feminine, cuddly, nurturing types.

Now Satan does have the power to punish those under his authority, those being people who are not saved in Christ. Ephesians 2:2 grants that: “ESV Ephesians 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-” (BibleWorks) Having said that Lucifer claims in a couple of instances, that he will be passing judgment on humans. Lucifer is sitting across from a papparazzi, Nick, who is a rather unsympathetic figure, trying to convince him to tell him who the real murderer is. Nick is having some guilt re-assessing his life and the lousy things he’s done to “succeed”, “at what cost to my soul”. Lucifer tells him that he will be deciding the cost to his soul; “Well that someone is sitting opposite of you and it’s not looking good.” No, that is above Satan’s pay-grade. Jesus will be making those calls and even a sleezey papparazzi is not beyond redemption. It’s odd though that Nick would think that he could somehow get redemption from Satan, but it seems as if many in the world today think that they can somehow be justified or protected by Satan and ignore Jesus.

Another scene to try to demonstrate Lucifer’s new found virtue is with a street preacher. It becomes obvious that the man is just putting on an act, has found a way to make money doing this. (Why? I have no idea.) Certainly such a man is guilty of simony, described in the Book of Acts. And certainly this man is also on his way to Hell for this sin. Dante describes the level of Hell from simonists, granted it’s not biblical either, but shows that this sin is historically considered a heinous sin. Lucifer frightens the poser into knowing that Satan is very much real. My question is did Lucifer do this as a way to frighten the man into taking Satan seriously, for mocking Satan? Or is he trying to scare the poser street preacher straight. I have to go with Lucifer was more angry that the man was really mocking him.

There’s more, but I’m not really sure how to posit the rest. I was interested in the depiction of Satan going to a psycho-analyst to hash out his issues. Yea, this may be the cynical wise guy talking, but I found it interesting that he seems to be, somehow, confessing to what many think of as a priestess of this worldly religion of psychology. Why not bring a liberal clergy person in? But the science of self-obsession/self-appraisal and of course for Freudians, that everything in our psyche really comes down to sex, that this is almost confession/worship for him.  Each session begins and ends with Lucifer having sex with the attractive woman who is the psycho analyst. Seems to be in the sense of the temple prostitutes of the various cults in the ancient world.

There is a lot more that could be analyzed. Certainly the writers of the program are trying to portray Satan in a sympathetic light. Calling himself Lucifer Morningstar linguistically speaking, is a much more positive, uplifting name meaning morning star (literally his name would read Shiningone Lightbearer Morningstar) Lucifer also means shining one/lighbearer. Maybe I’m reading too much into the imagination of some writers who really don’t know anything about who Satan really is, but, I don’t know, identify with him more than Jesus. A case could be made that most of the world feels that way. Night clubs, sex, drunkeness, fornication, those are a way of life for most people in the world today, all in all it does seem as if the attempt is “Sympathy for the Devil”. In today’s biblically illiterate world, I’m sure there are lots of people who are buying what the Fox program is selling making Satan attractive, charming, relatable. They did show their hand once with the street preacher, Satan is the Beast, he is unredeemable. Unfortunately anyone buying this and rejecting true salvation in Christ, is condemning themselves with a lie. The sad fact is that God is in control and the rest is another attempt by the Prince of the Power of the Air, to delude people into their own damnation.

We take way too lightly both God and Satan, beings that are far superior to us in so many ways. We really are arrogant enough to think that we can somehow control and sway, both/either. Let’s be clear, God is there for your eternal good, your eternal redemption and salvation in Jesus to true life in the resurrection, the New Jerusalem. Satan is there to corrupt and destroy you, he will try to do this in any winsome way he can or try to terrify you into it, either way that works. Your only refuge is in Jesus, no matter how shiny and pretty Satan looks.

The television show? Really cute, but dangerous as hell.

We are called to constant Reformation John 8 Community Reformation Service First Saint Johns Nov 1, 2015

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.

My sermon subject last week was, do we need a new Reformation? We are in Jesus. We do not live static, boring, stagnant, uninspired lives. We are children of the King, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, all creation. We shouldn’t be waiting for a new Reformation, Reformation for us should be a continuous, exciting, challenging life full of new experiences, new opportunities, yes new adventures. Do you really believe we should be sitting around waiting for a new Reformation? Do we really see our Lord Jesus waiting? Not the Jesus of the Bible. He was always pushing, always entreating, exhorting and rebuking. Change is a constant in the Christian life. We were not given new life in Christ to go and hide from the world. If anyone honestly thinks that, they have no concept of one of Jesus’ great commandments. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Does anything in that statement imply sitting around and waiting? Do we need a new Reformation? OK, but starting right now, and until the time that we are called to be in the presence of the Lord, that Reformation should be continuous, joyful, exciting, provocative, a new daily experience.

I will grant you that yea, it sounds challenging, maybe even exhausting. Is that a reason to quit, not even try? I’m not going to try to sell you some idea that faithfully living the Great Commission means you charge right back out into that world and expect everything to fall right into place, exactly as you expect it to in Jesus. Did it for Jesus? No! Look at the rich, young ruler. Jesus gets right up in his grill, right where Jesus knew it would hurt that man the most and said “that’s great, you’re going to be one of my followers. Now you just run along, sell everything you have, turn it over to those who are truly in need and then you trot right back here and follow me. How’d that work out? Jesus said “you have to eat my Body and Blood…” what happened with the thousands who were listening? A large percentage of them picked up and left. “Hey we like this free food and all these nice platitudes, but come on, that’s just weird, eat His Body and Blood? See ya, I’m outta here.” Jesus didn’t chase after any of these people, begging them to come back to Him. The church does that today. Oh heavens, have someone walk out of church. Hey pastor you better run after that person and get them back, we have to keep up attendance numbers.

I would never say ignore anyone who rejects Jesus. Certainly they do need pastoral attention and care. But on the other hand, there will be those who have been in church for the wrong reasons. We can appeal to them and help them to understand. But in the final analysis, it’s always about what the Holy Spirit does. We faithfully follow and do what the Spirit leads us to, to those who don’t know Christ or who have rejected Him. But on the flip side, Reformation doesn’t mean conform to the ways of the world in order to somehow keep our numbers up. It does mean to continually look for the leading of the Holy Spirit and certainly Dr Luther did just that. He appealed to the world. When he posted his 95 Theses on that door in Wittenberg on the front door of the Castle Church. He wasn’t looking for a confrontation, he wasn’t trying to pick a fight. As a highly educated monk, a college professor, Luther had been looking at Scripture and comparing it to the actual practice of the Christian church at the time. He struggled mightily with this. He was a faithful part of the church, he was a highly regarded clergyman in his community. He had no reason to pick a fight. But more importantly than all that, he faithfully followed Christ. The Holy Spirit guided Luther in his study of Scripture and Luther knew that God’s word was right. How could it not be? Should he trust the church of the time to truly live according to Scripture? Obviously he didn’t and he was led by the Holy Spirit to point out where the church was wrong. He only wanted to bring it to the attention of the church. He trusted that the church had strayed into wrong doctrine and practice by accident. He wasn’t pointing the finger and accusing. He was sincerely lifting up questions and asking for an honest dialogue and to be genuinely led by the Holy Spirit to identify and correct the bad practices of the church. We can certainly say that Luther was probably naïve in the ways of the world, but as Christians, in some ways, we should only trust in Christ and not get caught up in the ways of the world. Does that make us look naïve? So be it. Jesus tells us:  ESV Luke 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” He is telling us to be shrewd and smart, but by the same token Jesus tells us: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Should we trust the church? Yes, but as always there’s a limit. There are “Christian” churches out there who have gone way off the rails. The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, has stayed faithful, however that doesn’t mean blind trust there either. As I said, we are called to stand up, to challenge, to push, to continually live in Reformation. So can we always trust the church? No! There are churches who call themselves Christian who have lurched way off on the other side of wrong. Just recently there was an article about two women pastors, United Methodist and Episcopalian, who led a prayer rally to bless an abortion clinic.[1] Can the church be wrong? Oh yeah! Do we sit passively by and let the errors go? No, way! Luther certainly didn’t. But we better know what we’re talking about and we better accept, that just like Dr Luther, we are going to be subject to a lot of fire and flak. Too many times people see attacks on themselves as somehow meaning that they are wrong. Luther was attacked constantly through the rest of his life after 1517. Did that mean that he was wrong? No, obviously he was right. But when we challenge the church to Reformation, whether it be “Christian” churches who tell us that we need to have faith and if we do we will be pretty, smart, wealthy, happy, successful, or Christian churches that tell us that abortion and homosexuality are just A, skippy OK, we better know what we’re talking about. We are called to be those disciples that Jesus told us we need to be in the Great Commission Matthew 28. Was he sending them out into the world where everything would just fall into place and be nice and easy: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Obviously not. Did he send Luther to make a nice easy, clean overhaul of the church? No! He became a marked man, there were people who would have happily burned him at the stake as they did with John Huss a hundred years earlier. Was Huss wrong, was Luther wrong? No! Obviously not, so when I say that Reformation should be a constant part of our church life, I am not saying that it is going to be clean and easy. What I am saying is that you better know what you’re talking about. Did Dr Luther know what he was talking about? Absolutely and he struggled with it mightily. When he says he was attacked by Satan I don’t doubt it for a minute. If you stand for the truth in Christ you put a target on your back and don’t think for a minute that Satan won’t take shots at that target. And believe me those shots will hurt, as well as the shots that you will receive from a world that thinks it’s ok to bless abortion clinics and call itself the church of Christ. You will! Is that a reason for you to stop standing up for the true church of Christ? No, but again you better know what you are talking about and what you are doing.

How do you do that? You need to be strong in prayer. Faithful to the true church. Take the true Body and Blood of Jesus faithfully and see that the sacraments, the preached word and the true church are faithfully living in Christ. Hold your pastors and your fellow Christians accountable. ESV 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We are called to be faithful, to continually be in Reformation, to continually remember that it is about Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. That we preach, disciple and live Jesus’ words, in our Gospel reading: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”(John 8: 31-36) To truly be His disciples requires us to be faithful to His word.

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

[1] http://www.lifenews.com/2015/10/12/united-methodist-and-episcopalian-church-clergy-lead-prayer-rally-to-bless-abortion-clinic/

Suffering as a Christian, supported by the Body of Christ, the Church

Despite what others say and might think it’s supposed to be, quite often becoming a Christian does mean that you are going to experience, at least, challenges, if not more. Now before you go running back to your little hiding place, where you’ve been hoping the rest of the world will just pass you by, I ask you, do you have a better idea? I don’t care if you’re a big tough guy, or a little woman, you all have your hiding places, thinking no one will see you and just pass you by. If you just let things alone, pass from life into death, you might just get through life without much difficulty. It is a lousy way to live the life that God has given you, but I guess you managed to get through without having your prissy little sensibilities hurt.  Good for you, you had a sad little life, you’ve sinned against God by piddling away your life and ignoring Him and since you did it all your way, and ignored God, well God has ignored you and let you condemn yourself to eternal separation from Him and eternal condemnation in Hell. You sent yourself there, God did permit it, goody for you, you had your free will.

For those who are in Christ you will experience challenges, there will be difficult times. It stands to reason, if you put yourself out there and are serving others you are going to take hits, you just are. In fact if you consider yourself a Christian and have just been cruising through, you might want to take a serious look at your relationship with Jesus, been a little too much about you and not really much about Him? I would question if you are still in relationship with Jesus and have slipped into the nice, cozy little world of condemnation.

My theme, lately, has been about the Body of Christ and how we all seem to feel like free agents, it’s all about me and Jesus and forgetting that it’s really about Jesus and His Body, His Bride, the church. All those fellow believers who are all experiencing challenges. Doesn’t it make more sense to turn to and rely on Christian brothers and sisters in times of trouble? Who else would know better the attacks of Satan and the world then someone else who has undergone those attacks? A brother or sister, someone who is in the Body, who also hurts when another part of the Body, you, me, brothers and sisters, has been hurt, we should be there to support others and know they support us.

We certainly have the Holy Spirit who is watching over us, we are protected, although we will stay take shots and hits in the world. But doesn’t it help more to have a flesh and blood brother watching over you and you watching over him? To build each other up and support each other? that other person may not be in the same church. I may not totally agree with him, but if he is genuinely in Jesus, we need to have each other’s “six”.

Whether you are new or been a long time in the Body of Jesus, you will experience adversity in the world. If the world rejected Jesus, it will challenge and reject you. That’s why you have the church and brothers and sisters. For those guys who think they’re so tough and can do it on your own, don’t be surprised when you are chewed up and spit out and leave yourself condemned to hell also, it will happen, I see men and women like that all the time. Tough guy, know it alls who end up flat on their back looking up at the sky and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces because they were smart guys. If not for yourself, be there, at church, daily lives of Christians, for others to help them. I will bet an enormous amount you will be blessed and start wondering how you ever survived without brothers and sisters in Jesus.

Original sin

Part of my responsibility in preaching is to preach about Law and Gospel. A good Lutheran sermon always contains discussion that we are condemned under the Law, we all break the Law, we all offend God, when I say all, I mean ALL. That therefore means all those who are human and are alive and have ever been alive (except of course Jesus). No one is exempt and so the pushback I always get is that there must be some, yup like babies, that aren’t sinful. Some Christians will even assert that there is an “age of accountability” and for those who fall below that age they are not sinful. I mean how could cute, sweet infants be sinful? I have to wonder if the person that brings this point has ever had to deal with a baby. Does a baby mean to be selfish, angry, demanding? Of course not they will respond, that’s just their nature. Uhm yea, and that’s the point. We are all naturally sinners, King David writes: “ESV Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is Scriptural, there is no reference in Scripture about an “age of accountability”. This is just a way for man to overcome an uncomfortable truth, from birth to death we are immersed in sin and death in this life, that is our condition. You don’t slowly develop into being a sinner, you are one right out of the gate.

And of course you always have the “…well I’m a good person…” Really? In general I’m sure you love your momma and don’t kill people, I’m really not trying to offend, but for every person who thinks they’re a “good” person, I bet I could ultimately turn up five people who would not think they’re so good, would have some problem with them. That’s the human condition, not so much that any of us are “bad”, we are and we do sin, we do things that offend a pure, holy, just God. We sin because we are born of two sinners, into a sinful world, a world of death and defect. None of us can be anything else. So you oh so sensitive souls who take offense at every little slight, first off, get over your sensitive little self. Second, deal with it, you are in this world, with us people and you are as sinful as anyone else. This state of sin cannot but separate us from God whose nature is completely opposite to ours, completely holy.

Having said this, there is a qualification. While we all remain sinners until the day someone’s throwing dirt on our face, some of us have been brought back into relationship with God. There is only one way we can be brought into relationship with God, and that is through the righteousness of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are still sinners, but because Jesus paid for our sins through His sacrifice on the Cross and in His perfect righteousness we are saved and restored into right relationship with God.

Martin Chemnitz was the next generation of Lutheran theologians after Martin Luther. Chemnitz picked up Luther’s mantle and wrote and taught extensively on Lutheran belief, or as he and Luther would have taught what was original, genuine Christian teaching. In the following Chemnitz writes about what “original sin” is, that which we are all under and is only healed through baptism in Jesus. Also why sin separates us from God and why that separation needs to be closed in order for us to be in God’s will and not condemned to the sin, death and lostness of the world. We can reject God, but that leaves us in the human condition of sin and death, and that only results in condemnation. If we reject God, there is only one option, we are all condemned by sin and if we stay in that condition and reject Christ we are condemned to Hell. By our rejection of God, because Hell is the final end for all who want their way and not God’s.

To rewind, this is from Chemnitz, in “The Doctrine of Man” (p 196), giving a description of our spiritual condition from birth to death unless it is remedied by baptism, the faith that God gives us and maintained through confession, absolution, taking the true Body and Blood of Jesus and hearing the preached Word of Law and Gospel.

Chemnitz writes about the condition of those who are not in Jesus: ” Original sin is darkness of the mind, aversion to the will of God and stubbornness of the heart against the Law of God. These evils are not called actions, but out of them arise the actual sins, both inner and outer. In the mind come persistent doubts and blasphemies. In the will arise false security, neglect and mistrust of God, admiration of self and the placing of our life and wishes before the command of God. Then come great confusions and a flood of vile affections. Let us not imagine that original sin is an inactive thing. For though indeed a few men are held in check by honest discipline, nevertheless there are great doubts in the minds of men and many inner drives pulling them away from God and running contrary to His Law. It is as Jeremiah says: The heart of man is wicked, brazen and inscrutable (Jer 17:9)”

“Thus with the original depravity there are always actual sins, which in the unregenerate are all mortal. And the total person is damned with his fruits, as John says: ‘He that believeth not the Son … the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John 3:36)…”

Of course we have those who will just reject God’s say. “Who’s to say what is good or bad? I didn’t vote for God!” They will ask up to the point when someone does something to them, then of course it requires a federal investigation. If it happens to you, eh, too bad for you. get over it. If it happens to me? Well of course that’s wrong, I demand justice! This is of course the immature, selfish, sinful nature of the world. The dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, if I can take from you to bad for you and good for me. That’s why there is God, He is a God of justice, completely holy and wrathful against those who sin and offend. He is there to assure that ultimately those who offend, who reject Him, who make themselves their idol, their ultimate end, that they will not be allowed to offend again. That His people will be saved to eternal life. They will no longer be subjected to the evil, sinful lusts of those in the world who truly believe that it is all about them. In Christ we have the promise of eternal life the way it was meant to be, the new world of the resurrection. Yes there is a God, who does love us, who did give His Son to save us. Who also is not going to tolerate anyone else presuming to be God, to set the rules, to determine what is “fair” and “unfair”. It always amuses me to hear someone say something to the effect that they don’t need God, they can operate their own life, it’s not fair, I didn’t vote for this. There really are presumptuous, arrogant people like that. But if we’re all honest, we’re like that to some degree. The world and all who are in it are sinful by nature and man is just fine with that, we want it our way. We are all condemned by original sin which is our nature, God will not tolerate that. He did give us a way to be in relationship with Him even in this lost world and that is through Jesus. So you can live in your fantasy world that denies the sinful world around us and that you don’t need to be saved. Or you can really decide to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading you and to start living true life in Jesus. You are a sinner and you need to be saved in Jesus.

One flesh

My sermon for the past Sunday was on “One Flesh”, it refers to the Genesis 2:24 and Mark 8 passages. Clearly these passages speak to the physical marriage of man and woman, but we seem to not remember that as Christians we are the part of the Body of Christ, that His Church is the Body of Christ, which we, who are saved in Jesus, are part of. As discussed in Revelation 21, 22, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Now I’m not trying to get cute or all weird, but it does seem to follow that because of that, because we take the true Body and Blood of Jesus, that we all become one flesh. Yes, the Bible passages are to be understood as a man and a woman becoming one flesh. They should both readily understand that and that Jesus’ command that “…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) An aside, I have to tell you for those who are involved in facilitating divorce; judges, clerks, lawyers, I truly feel at least a concern. I do not know how people can participate in something that Jesus clearly condemns.

I was also reading Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional (Experiencing God Day by Day p 277) which starts “Christians do not live in isolation”. No we certainly don’t, and yet too many who call themselves “Christian” will simply not understand the idea of the Body of Jesus, Bride of Jesus, one flesh etc. We are too much about what are we getting out of this and not at all about what is the Body of Jesus about. I get it, most of us have difficult lives, pressing concerns and different demands that we do need to confront immediately. Certainly the media is beating us into submission, compassion fatigue and when things happen, over and over, in the Body of Christ, we just have to withdraw or be overwhelmed. Yea, I get it. However, we are, nonetheless, part of the Body of Christ. One flesh? Not now, but ultimately, in the resurrection, in the same sense of a married man and woman? Yes. But just because we are not in the same sense as Genesis and Mark describe, does that make it any less genuine? And now, in the shadow of the murders at Umpqua Community College, Charleston SC, Columbine, Lancaster, Pa, just for the United States and the horrific murders in Iraq, Syria, China, Africa on and on shouldn’t that be a signal pain in the Body of Christ, and if we are part of that Body shouldn’t we at least wince?

Maybe there is a fatigue going on, but if the persecutions of Christians throughout history that resulted in resolve and strength to the Body, shouldn’t that be apparent now? If so, how does that look? If your reaction is “wow that’s too bad” or “see that’s why we need gun control” or “every Christian should carry a gun” as the Lt Governor of Tennessee suggested, shouldn’t that suggest to the individual that maybe they’re not in communion with the Body of Christ as they should be?

The Blackabys write: “We depend on one another, and this influences everything we do. Jesus said that even when we pray, we are to begin by saying ‘our Father’ (Matt 6:9). We must do everything with our fellow Christians in mind. (1 Cor 14:12)” Yes, He is our Father. OK, that means children? Yes, it does. Is this another mystery of being in Christ along with the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection? Yea, apparently. Does it mean that just because the concept seems obscure, it’s not valid? No, I don’t think so. The Blackabys suggest: “Ask God to place a burden on your heart for fellow believers.” I do think it’s necessary. Can you ignore such profound pain in your body and not feel it, dismiss it? I’m not sure what the “cure” is. Certainly we are always called to pray. We should remember Tertullian’s words, a Roman, in the middle of the persecutions of the early Christian. He said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Certainly those who are martyred receive great reward, but for us still in our earthly life, to simply dismiss the suffering and murder of Christian brothers and sisters is not acceptable. As with everything in our Christian life we are always in prayer. We also are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, where is He moving us to confront or to help those in persecution? What are the opportunities He is presenting us and our local church with in order to witness to Jesus to a world that is lost and filled with death. A world that hates God and His people and believes that it is somehow serving a greater God by killing Christians. “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Jesus’ words, we certainly trust His Words and this is face to face reality for many. The answers aren’t easy we are to trust in God. Paul certainly appealed to civil law for protection against the mob and unfair judgment. I’m not saying to roll over and play dead, but certainly we remember those Christian Martyrs  who gave up everything they had and witnesses to Christ and sacrificed their life. That is a witness to the world that the Holy Spirit uses to change lives and bring them to salvation in Jesus. Stay in prayer, pray for those who hate and abuse you, and know what the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart and act accordingly.

If you can! Really? Bring it! Mark 9 First Saint Johns September 13, 2015

[To hear the audio version of this sermon click on the above 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 that Jesus can said … AMEN!

We often read Scripture in sort of bland/vanilla terms. In today’s Gospel reading we have a father whose son has been tormented, tortured, used, abused, just completely beaten down. No doubt the father is absolutely beside himself with fear and, complete hopelessness. My mother has had issues with epilepsy. The symptoms have been under control for many years, but I remember as a child that she had severe seizures. You can imagine as a child these episodes were very distressing for me and certainly very upsetting experience for my mother. There was only so much I could do as a child. But in this pericope I’m sure the father felt severe dejection. Dads are supposed to take control, fix things and you can imagine how helpless and hopeless the father felt. My mother’s symptoms were serious, but the description that we see of the son’s symptoms were even more serious. Some were classical symptoms of seizures, but there were far more serious issues with the son. He was being literally picked up and thrown down, I played football in my youth, tight end, basketball, basic military training and a little martial arts, I know full well how it feels for someone to put me to the ground. But we were usually fairly equal and I often had padding and was conditioned for it, it hurt, but it wasn’t continuous, or someone trying to seriously injure or kill me. I don’t think they were. The Greek word used to describe the son is paidi,on which means not just a child, but a young child. We’d probably guess no more than ten/eleven years old. So this probably physically small child is literally getting bounced off the walls and the demon even tries to throw him into the fire to burn him or into the water to drown him. In addition to being mute. This little boy was being treated hellaciously and dad was constantly a witness to this, no doubt trying to wrestle his son away from this supernatural power, do doubt failing most of the time and probably being hurt himself in the process. We can imagine the pain the child is going through, quite possibly to the extent of broken bones, stitches, maybe even more serious and the parents trying to protect and restore to health.

We should certainly empathize with the father, he was in a very difficult situation, which he says had been going on since the boy was a child, the Greek isn’t specific here, but perhaps since he was a toddler. Either way we would have to suppose that it had been going on for probably years. So we can certainly understand that the father is at his wits end. Jesus has just come down from the Transfiguration, this momentous event that we celebrate every year. It is coming down to the end of Jesus’ incarnational ministry, He is focused on the Cross, so perhaps in a way He is a little distracted, but also affirmed and glorified by God the Father. The boy’s father seems to know who Jesus is, He tells Jesus straight out that he has brought his son to Him for healing. So certainly the father is aware of what Jesus has done. According to Mark, Jesus has taught new teachings, that only God could introduce. Jesus and God the Father have made it clear who Jesus is. Mark has recounted how Jesus has freed others from Satan and his demons. Jesus has calmed the storm, He has raised the dead, healed many, fed over 5,000, walked on the water, healed the lepers, given faith to many, forgiven the sins of many, healed blind and deaf men, Peter has confessed who Jesus is and now this father brings his son and says: “But if you can do anything and have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus must have been a little put out and his response seems to indicate a little irritation: “If you can!” Jesus’ isn’t asking a question, He’s making what seems to be an incredulous declaration. In the Driskell translation I’m seeing Jesus saying: “Really? If I can! I know that you are weary and desperate and have gone through a terrible situation, but obviously you’ve heard all the other things. You couldn’t come to me and say; ‘I know you can heal my son who has gone through so much affliction, You have given me the faith I need to bring my son to You and I am trusting that according to Your will do what is necessary relating to my son.” And certainly the father does respond, that he does have faith, he did bring his son, “but please help me to have and keep faith in You and in Your will.” But let’s face it, too often we do put limits on what God can do in our lives. We need to remember that it is always according to His will.

Does faith mean that God is always going to act according to our will, that He is always going to heal, or that He is going to provide for us according to our agenda? Faith is trusting in His will, faith is looking for what His plan is according to what is happening. A Wisconsin fishing guide points out: “The only thing that casts doubt on the miracles of Jesus is that they were all witnessed by fishermen.”[1] That’s not true. We have God’s inspired Word in the Gospel, He inspired men to write about the miracles that Jesus did and we know through our faith that Jesus continues to heal, not always the body, but for those He leads He heals the soul and gives us the faith we need to trust and be led by Him, to have the hope and promise that only He gives us. Sure our human weakness gets in the way. When that happens let’s look back at the beleaguered father’s example and pray: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” St Augustine observes: “If one can pray so that one may cast out another demon, how much more should one pray that one’s own demons be cast out.”[2] Jesus told His disciples they needed to pray to cast out the demon afflicting this boy, certainly He is telling us, His disciples, to pray, in faith, that He will cast out the demons that afflict ourselves and always to pray for healing for others. Jesus can! He died to save us to everlasting salvation, He died to save us who are sinners and sin in our own will and who are led to sin by evil beings. He can and does save us and heal us, through His grace, His people who He does give faith to believe and to trust in His will.

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

[1] Rowell and Steffen   “Humor for Preaching and Teaching” p 57

[2] Simonetti, Manlio  quoting St Augustine “Ancient Christian Commentary NT 1b” p 59