Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1

At my home church, as was Thanksgiving. Today's readings were Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Psalm 25:1-10 (sermon text), and Luke 21:25-36.

Jesus Christ tells us to stay awake and pray. Thus we meditate on the
Psalms today, praying especially 25:1-10. How to do it? (1) Morning/evening:
read a Psalm. (2) Stop after a verse or a few. (3) Pray to God, based on these
verses. Psalm 25 in particular, expressing David's feeling of utter confusion,
is appropriate for us in these times. He had been anointed Israel's next king -
Saul became furious and chased David as an enemy.

Section 1 (vv. 1-3): plea for God to prevent shame from coming; reminder
that those who wait for Him are never put to shame. Waiting on the LORD is
difficult, but its reward is an eternal seat with Christ.

Section 2 (vv. 4-5): suggests the Torah (whole counsel of God) to meditate

Section 3 (vv. 6-7): humility, counting on God's mercy and forgiveness that
we need because we can't live up to God's standards. (Recall that "steadfast
love" is chesed in Hebrew: חסד). It means that "if we are
faithless, He will remain faithful." We abound in transgressions, haunting sins
from the past. But because of Jesus, God forgets them!

Section 4 (vv. 8-10): return to God's law - since He has removed the
pressure, we are now able to obey Him! He teaches sinners instead of casting
them from His presence. One can't teach a proud person - but can teach a humble person. His paths for those who keep His
covenant (unique - we believe in Him) "are steadfast love and faithfulness." He
completes our salvation, and we in return thank Him for His mercy.

Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

This morning's readings were Deuteronomy 8:1-10, Philippians 4:4-13, and Luke 17:11-19 (sermon text).

God has given us both little and big things to thank Him for; the lepers
received their lives, a most precious gift. So have we. Details: Jesus is not
just wandering; His goal is Jerusalem, and there to die on the cross to give
everyone life. As leprosy is terminal and separates the afflicted from the
clean, making sufferers effectively dead, so also sin afflicts us, all sinners,
all in the same boat.

Dying makes us desperate. The lepers sought Jesus, who healed them - as
they went to fulfill the Law - by a word. One didn't finish the journey. He
returned to praise his Healer. A Samaritan, who should have been His enemy! We
follow the leper's example, returning on the Lord's Day to praise the Lord. This
Lord gave His life up to give us life. What unites diverse Christians is the
Christ inside. We have Life!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King Sunday

Today's readings were Isaiah 51:4-6, Jude 20-25 (sermon text), and Mark 13:24-37.

We're able to make foolish choices. But God's angels are there to intervene on our behalf. We are grateful and thankful to Him for sparing us in such close calls - of life, health, and faith. Close calls about faith are the most important; Jude devotes his epistle to them. He points to God as the only Savior from such events; while he had wanted to encourage his flock, circumstances demanded that he alert them to the close call they didn't know they were experiencing. Are we the same?

Many Christians today don't know what the Good News actually is: Christ became man, lived, died, and rose for us. They think that it's all about a change in our behavior, but it's really all about God's behavior. The results of the Gospel should not be confused with the Gospel itself.

Jude closes his epistle with an exhortation to build ourselves up in the faith by meditating on the Word, remembering our Baptism, receiving the Supper, and depending fully on God. God the Son is able to hold us up and to present us perfect before God the Father - how wonderful! In spite of all our faults, He still forgives and takes joy in doing so. Through Him we are blameless and innocent, though by nature we are sinful and guilty. We need a Justifier, and we have one in Jesus Christ alone. Rejoice!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pentecost 24

Today's readings: Daniel 7:9-14, 2 Peter 3:3-14, and Matthew 25:31-46 (sermon text).

In the parable today, we see that there are two people groups that count for anything at Judgment Day: those who believe in Jesus Christ, and those who don't. Regardless of belief, all will see that He is both Son of Man and Son of God. His blood has set us free; this is intended for all nations (Matthew 28:19). But all hear only when the Word is sent forth to all people and nations.

We are the sheep, who eat only what the Lord in His pasture feeds us. The goats will eat anything - false teachings, auto-salvation, teachings denying Christ's work. This text is often misinterpreted to call for social action. "Come--unto Me," says Christ to the blessed. These are those who eat of His body, something CHRIST does. "Inherit--the kingdom prepared for you." Not all sheep will come, for some become goats. He waits to give the kingdom because He says "Come" in patience, for He desires all to be able to enter.

Those who love the Lord honor His word, and the pastors who preach it. "He who hears you hears Me." Therefore pastors should distribute only Christ's words. Not our deeds, though His love spills over into service to each of our neighbors. To do so, we must first be hearers of the Word. This Word in Baptism immunizes us from hell's fires. God's word is not silent - so feed upon it! Later, with all the saints, we will worship Him forever.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pentecost 23

Today's readings: 1 Kings 17: 8-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44 (sermon text). Although I do have a few minor issues with this sermon, it was good on the whole.

Practically, the widow's mite wasn't worth counting; it could do no useful work. To the eyes of Jesus, however, it was THE most significant. God measures what remains after the gift is given. Her gift was 100% - was it foolish investment? Impractical? A sign of dementia? But her gift mattered to the Master. The legacies of philanthropists fade, but since Christ's words will never pass away, this widow's legacy echoes forever.

Now let's preach Law: you should give 100% too! (Oops...bad theology!) Rather, try the Gospel angle: are we giving from excess (what we can spare, so it doesn't hurt us at all), or from poverty ("giving till it tickles," as Steve Green would say)? Can we spare it? Is it impractical, faith-based/ Is it based on others' expectations? Is it discreet? There's a warning here too, about the ostentatious law-teachers who sought only praise for giving.

We're all like this, for the Old Adam is a first-rate exhibitionist. Yet we have Christ as well, so our motives are for God - we seek no praise from others or from ourselves. Jesus sees faith in action, for which love is the motivation. With her pennies for heaven, the widow's mite points us to Christ, who gave 100% of Himself FOR YOU. His blood was offered to God for your redemption. Through this blood, we have an eternal inheritance! Therefore, we do all out of love.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints' Day 2009

At my home church! Today's readings were Revelation 7:9-17 (sermon text), 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, and Matthew 5:1-12.

Saint John, in the reading, beheld the company of heaven--quite literally, our grandfathers' church. How do they worship there? They gather to stand around God's throne, clothed in white, holding palm branches, and singing hymns that speak God's Word back to Him. No other religion has the salvation promised by God--even Islam, the most similar to Christianity, has a paradise limited to men's sensual pleasure, a legalistic "salvation."

Let us return now to John's first vision: the kingly Lamb standing before candles that are the Church invisible. Sound familiar? It's not a "culturally relevant" way of worship (for pastors are the ordained hands and mouthpieces of Christ). It's your grandfathers' church.

Now to the Book of Life. All the universe didn't have anyone with the qualification, perfection, to open it. Even if we die for the faith, we cannot open it. But the Lamb has come to open the Book. May God grant that He will find your name therein. Those whose names are in it will get the privilege of adoring the one God, of falling on our faces in worship, the chief end of man, what heaven is all about. Christ has placed white robes on those, saints, He calls His children. He will be their light, peace, and comfort.

Soli Deo gloria.