Sunday, January 31, 2010

Epiphany 4

Back at campus chapel. Today's readings were Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, and Luke 4:31-44 (sermon text).

Comfort zones, areas of peace, were invaded by Satan in the reading. "What have You to do with us?" We answer differently because we're filled with a different Spirit. Unlike His hearers, we don't oppose Him. Is this or is this not the Messiah? As we meditate on that question, Satan encroaches and distracts, never missing a Sunday in church. He knows our weaknesses. We can't overpower Him. Hence, Jesus comes.

Jesus had to die in the war against sin - for the Father cannot look the other way. Our sins crop up, painful to give up. Realize the grip sin has on you. But realize also that Jesus suffered all of this for you. This peace is more than just knowing who He is (even demons do!), or being "spiritual." It is knowing Him, believing in Him, trusting that He can remove the bad and replace it with Himself.

"What do You want with us, Jesus?" Be His vessels to fill with the Spirit. Be silent and let Him remove the evil. Be emptied of yourself and filled with Him. His love casts out evil, which can now do you no harm. Receive eternal life! Be His forever.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Epiphany 3

Resuming our whirlwind tour of area churches. Today's readings were Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; and Luke 4:16-30 (sermon text).

Among the misconceptions about Christianity is that we are prideful do-gooders who go to church to earn points with God. The truth: we know our sinfulness, so we go to beg forgiveness and receive Christ's gifts. In the text, the Greek shows that Jesus worshiped weekly, habitually. He fulfilled the Third Commandment thus. Old Testament worship included readings from the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets. Today He read from Isaiah a prophecy about Himself: good news in a world full of bad. Liberty! Forgiveness! The year of the LORD's favor! This got the undivided attention of the crowd. Then the clincher: a Messianic claim!

The crowd was amazed also because He had omitted the second half of the verse. Gentiles were not to be judged, at least not now. No revenge for the Jews. Jesus rubbed it in with Old Testament examples of God ministering selectively to Gentiles. Thus His liberty was for all. Mob fury ensued. Let us not despise the Gospel because we're so familiar with it, as they did. Thankfully, it was not His time. Later, He would not be thrown down a hill, but raised up on it. Then He rose, clinching THE Good News for us: the Truth, Christianity embodied.

Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Amen.

A marvelous story of a rescue of a woman in Haiti.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epiphany 2

We worshiped this week at a church using the TLH! Having grown up on LW, this was still a relatively new experience for me. The readings were Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, and John 2:1-11 (sermon text). My notes are somewhat disjointed, but bear with me.

Christ's first sign was the transformation of water to wine at Cana. We see five gifts here:
  1. God's gift of life: Satan desires death, contrary to the Holy Spirit.
  2. God's gift of wine: Satan desires drunkenness; abuse is not the proper use (enjoy it!).
  3. God's gift of marriage: Satan desires two-ness and immorality. Redefinition is sin. Luther tells us to pray confidently for a pious spouse. However, don't parade your obedience to the Word as Pharisees do; just obey. God will provide strength for you, whatever your situation. He rejoices over you!
  4. God's gift of creative power: He created man to till, grapes to become wine. Christ made instantly what normally takes years. How? He is God Himself. What we perceive is only part of what He does.
  5. God's gift of the Giver: this was Jesus' first miracle! He was fulfilling God's will - not ours. Submit therefore to God's will; don't impose yours on Him. He came to wed His bride, the Church. His Father forsook Him at the Crucifixion, as He cleaved to us at the Cross (Genesis 2:24). Wine became His blood while yet wine. On the third day He was glorified; the tomb was emptied! He has saved THE best for last: heaven to us, rejoiced over and loved by God! Receive this re-creating, purifying Giver.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baptism of Our Lord

Today's readings, back at school, were Isaiah 43:1-7, Romans 6:1-11, and Luke 3:15-22 (verse 18 was the sermon text).

As in a popular Christmas movie of years past, John the Baptist had the chance to give a very influential gift to Herod, the reward of which would either be chalked up to his own smarts (in which case the gift would be regarded as nothing) and the failure of which would be blamed on the gift. Herod asked, "Are you the One?" But John did not say yes. He is seen as a paragon of courage and honesty. For this, and reproof for sin, Herod threw righteous John into prison. No happy ending.

Should we then focus on John's character? No - something more. He puts the gift in front of us; it's all we see. "One greater than I is coming." The very Son of God, coming to be baptized! Because of this infinitely wonderful gift's magnitude, we see no giver. Does this matter? Perhaps. The recipient, not knowing the giver, shows love to all potential givers precisely because of the gift. God the Father, seeing only Jesus Christ, gives all of us the benefits! He sees us now as His children; He is well pleased with us!

This morning, in the Supper, we reap the benefits: God loves us. Hide yourself behind the Gift.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas 2

Today's readings were 1 Kings 3:4-15, Ephesians 1:3-14 (a very thick sermon text), and Luke 2:40-52. Last Sunday at my home church for quite some time.

  • vv. 9-10: We have God's grace, salvation worked at the right time (Paul's equivalent of "Merry Christmas!"). Christ also fills all time. He was sent "in the fullness of time," during the Pax Romana, a time of fairly worldwide peace. Because of the easy commerce and common language, the spread of Christianity was as efficient as possible.
  • v. 3: We have "every spiritual blessing" because of Jesus. In the battle of spiritual powers, these are invaluable. The greatest blessing is faith.
  • v. 4: Predestination! If Jesus is your Savior, then you are one of the elect. Does it violate personal freedom? Sure - but we're better off elect, adopted in love by God through Jesus Christ.
  • v. 6: The goal: glorify God!
  • v. 7: Other gifts include the forgiveness of sins and redemption because of Jesus' blood. A grounded optimism versus one drawn out of thin air.
  • v. 8: Wisdom and insight - connect to other reading (Jesus and Solomon both had marvelous wisdom). The wisdom of God = sin is despicable YET God loves sinners AND Jesus died for sin.
  • v. 11: Because of Christ, we have an awesome inheritance, a heavenly mansion.
  • v. 14: This promise is sealed when the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth) is given to us.
Soli Deo gloria.