Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pentecost 17

Today's readings, at yet another church on our whirlwind tour, were Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:13-20; and Mark 9:38-50 (sermon text).

Today's Gospel text is very uncomfortable. Those who reject Christ are here promised eternal judgment. For this reason, the Church must always keep and treasure the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its truth and purity. We stand on this foundation; to neglect it is to reject salvation. The Gospel, exclusive, is the Church's salt - without it, we are no different from the world.

Let no one cause a believer to stumble either. An example: the ELCA's recent actions of condoning the office of the ministry held by practicing homosexuals. This not only attacks the person and work of Jesus Christ, but it also causes some to stumble. Call false doctrine what it is - the hand of the Body of Christ that causes the body to sin - because of the fact, not because we enjoy condemning.

Keep confessing the Truth alone. There is no other name by which we, crucified with Christ, may live. This makes us be separate from the world, not to exalt ourselves, but to keep the saltiness of the Gospel. Keep repenting of sin against the salt. Don't condone false doctrine - but also rejoice wherever the Gospel is proclaimed. "Whoever is not against us is for us." For God works through right doctrine, Christ crucified.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pentecost 16

Today's readings, at yet another off-campus church, were 1 Kings 17:17-24, Ephesians 3:13-21, and Luke 14:1-11 (sermon text).

Today is the Lord's Day - unique, holy, set aside, a day of rest. It is also the weekly anniversary of the Lord's Resurrection. Today we celebrate His sacraments and receive His peace. Let your faith be strengthened today, living in this strengthened faith during the week ahead.

Going to church regularly requires self-sacrifice - but this yields lasting benefits. The Christian life is a striving to be like Christ, our Teacher. Sunday for Christians parallels the Jewish Sabbath, on which no customary work was done. On such a Sabbath, Jesus asked the Pharisees and teachers of the law whether it was lawful to heal or care for one's own on that day. "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" - Jesus Christ demonstrated this command especially on the Cross by having mercy on all of us.

The reading is not only a demonstration of mercy, but also a lesson in humility. Be humble that you may be exalted by the Highest, for prideful individuals will be shamed. Indeed, Jesus Christ humbled Himself to nothing - now He sits at the Father's right hand. Thus we learn about Him, our model.

Church is here for all - the hospital for sinners, with Jesus Christ as the Great Physician. Be humble; admit your sin. Live your life by faith in Christ, the God-Man, your Life. Kneel before Him in adoration, particularly on this holy day.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pentecost 15

I worshiped at another local church this morning; today's readings were Proverbs 4:10-23, Galatians 5:16-24, and Luke 17:11-19 (sermon text).

The surface meaning of the text: one came back to praise God. The deeper meaning: God's grace and love (giving) and our faith (receiving). Real faith presumes to trust God, as the lepers did, for they came to Jesus, God incarnate. We also come to God not with trepidation - for His perfect love drives out fear - but with trust.

The lepers knew that they were entirely unworthy to approach God, or even think of doing so. Leprosy was an unclean disease. Therefore, like them, our faith (before anything else) assures us that, though we are unworthy too, we may ask of God. Faith doesn't try to strike a deal with God, for it knows that whatever merit it has is from Christ alone.

This is a beautiful lesson about faith: it stands on His merits, not on ours. This is also a lesson about love: it gives, expecting no return. Jesus Christ's motivation for healing and doing other good deeds was not Himself, but us. He proclaimed through miracles the gracious kingdom of God. Doing good is not for the doer's benefit if it is motivated by selfless love - although the nine didn't thank God, they still remained healed of their disease.

The term for giving love is agape. To this neighborly love Jesus calls us. As Luther noted, faith + love = a complete description of a Christian. We receive from God (faith) and give to our neighbor (love). The reason: sin is like leprosy - each person is a leper by nature. Unless we are purified by God's grace through God-given faith, we cannot be clean. Therefore thank God, praise Him, because you have been healed by the High Priest. Sin no longer condemns, for Jesus died for sin. Only unbelief now condemns. Therefore believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pentecost 14

Today's readings were Isaiah 35:4-7a (sermon text); James 2:1-10, 14-18; and Mark 7:31-37. A special someone was the lector.

"Strengthen the hands and knees" sounds like part of a physical therapy syllabus - but the text speaks not of physically disabled people. Rather, a helping hand, often rejected, becomes feeble. And knees, when faced with difficult situations, become weak. But it is really a problem of a fearful (literally "hurried") heart. Isaiah speaks to us who have this problem, more crippling than a broken leg. God, through him, tells us to be strong, unbound, not afraid.

Why shouldn't we fear? God's answer: He is coming with vengeance!? Let's look at the context: Israel was besieged; God's wrath was against not Israel but her enemies. He slew 185,000 Assyrians for Israel, to deliver His people! Now look at our besieging armies - more spiritual than physical. The creation is groaning, a dangerous place burdening humanity with fear. Fear gives way to paralysis. But God tells us not to fear!

Jesus, while on earth, signaled the arrival of God's invading kingdom by reversing physical and spiritual paralysis. As a result of His life-sacrifice, you are a new creation by grace through faith, never to be forsaken by your Father! God has come; He will come again. Therefore actively proclaim and participate in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.

Soli Deo gloria.