Monday, October 20, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist: "The Doc is In"

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

October 19th, 2014 (observed)
Isaiah 35:5-8; 2 Tim. 4:5-18; Luke 10:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In many ways, St. Luke picks up his Gospel account where the prophet Isaiah leaves off. Listen to Isaiah’s words again…

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Sounds like a medical transcription report. People can’t see. Can’t walk. Can’t speak. Diagnosis. Prognosis. Treatment. Isaiah depicts the Lord as a divine physician, as the Healer of the Nations.

And so does St. Luke, who we commemorate today. The Good Physician whom Isaiah foretells, Luke records in his Gospel. From Luke’s perspective, the moment Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the sign on the stable door where Jesus is born reads: “The Doc is in”. Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecies. Jesus heals the blind. Jesus opens the deaf ear. Jesus tells the lame to get up and walk.. And Jesus speaks peace, because he is the peace of God in human flesh.

And that’s why he instructs the 72 in Luke 10 to say, “Peace be with this house” as he sends them out as apostles of his peace. Jesus gives his peace won for us on the cross. Reconciliation with God. This peace forgives sin. This is the peace he sent the 12 and then the 72 out to proclaim. This is the peace that Luke writes about in his Gospel. Jesus is a physician of peace.

Now peace may be the last thing on your mind when you go to the doctor’s office. You may not find the medical waiting room a very peaceful place. Oh sure, it might be painted with soothing colors, decorated with toys, magazines, or TVs. But for many, a trip to the doctor causes anxiety, fear, and loathing.

But not so with Jesus, the Good Physician of body and soul. There’s no white coat syndrome with Jesus. No need to fear your Savior. Yes, he knows your history. He knows you are sick. He knows you are a sinner. He knows you are unclean. But none of that stops Jesus. You are precisely why he was born, why he lived, suffered, bled and died.

Yes, your sin causes you fear – and well it should. We can’t say, “But…I’m not quite dead yet”. We’re dead in our trespasses. Cold and lifeless on the operating table. But what is greater, your fear and doubt or Jesus’ cross? Your sin or Jesus’ death that atones for your sin?

Jesus walks in to the waiting room of our fallen world to breathe our poisoned air, and to take our disease of sin and death upon himself, to restore your life forever. The Doctor dies for the patient in order to bring you back from the dead. Jesus becomes the curse of sin for you in order to give you a clean bill of health. All of your sin and death are quarantined in Jesus’ body on the cross. It all dies with Jesus. You are forgiven. You are restored. You are at peace.

And the more we examine our lives, the more we see our sinful condition; and the more we realize we need healing. We need peace.

But in order to get the proper treatment, we need the proper diagnosis. And that’s one of the reasons we give thanks to God for His servant Luke, the evangelist. Luke’s job is to bring Jesus to you through God’s living and active Word.

God’s Word is the scalpel of Jesus, the Good Physician. And he’s an expert Surgeon. With precision his law cuts you and “kills” you, in order to heal you and make you alive.

Each commandment is an accurate incision of the Law.
We have not feared, loved, and trusted God above all things.
We have failed to use God’s name properly and call upon him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
We have despised God’s word and preaching.
We have not honored our father or mother or other authorities God has given us.
We have not helped our neighbor in support of their physical need.
We have not led a sexually pure life in all we say and do.
We have been dishonest and poor stewards of our possessions and income.
We have not spoken well of our neighbor and explained everything in the best and kindest way.
We have coveted more things and people than we can even remember.

The diagnosis isn’t good. In fact it’s terminal. But Jesus does not delight in torture or punishment. Jesus, your Good Physician cuts with the Law in order to heal with the Gospel. He kills you in order to make you alive. The Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3). All of those commandments you have broken, Jesus has kept for you.

Jesus perfectly fears, loves, and trusts the Father for you.
Jesus called upon God’s name for you.
Jesus heard and spoke the Word of God for you.
Jesus honored father and mother and all authorities for you.
Jesus helped his neighbor in ever time of need for you.
Jesus led a sexually pure life, void of lust and desire and sin, for you.
Jesus was a faithful steward of all God’s creation for you.
Jesus explains everything about you in the kindest way he can, through the lens of his suffering and death. Not a commandment broken for you. All your sickness of sin, Jesus has made his own.

Strange as it sounds, Jesus your Good Physicians turns the scalpel on himself. He stands under the two-edged sword of God’s Word for you. He bears the Law for you. Keeps the Law for you. Suffers the punishment of the Law for you. All so that he can heal you. Jesus is bruised for your iniquities. And by his wounds you are healed.

Jesus is the Great Physician that Luke, the beloved physician, was called to write about and proclaim.

“Peace be to this house”. The 72 give as they receive. Jesus gives them peace. The same peace of God that comes to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all given to us in Luke’s Gospel.

In Luke 2 the angels sang:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.

Simeon held the 40 day old peace of God in his hands and declares he can depart in peace.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on his way to the cross amidst the cry: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Jesus makes peace between God and man by his death on the cross.

Jesus spoke to his disciples as he appeared before them resurrected from the dead: “Peace be with you”.

But don’t think that Jesus’ peace is absent from us today. He is not. Thanks to Luke and the other evangelists. Thanks to the 72. Thanks to faithful pastors who are also sent. The peace that Jesus won for you on the cross by shedding his blood, by dying your death, by rising again – all of that is given to you here.

Christ’s Peace be to this house. Peace be with your house. Rejoice! This doctor makes house calls!

Christ’s peace is here. We sing it and say it around the Altar: “The peace of the Lord be with you always”. The peace of Christ comes to you here. Take and eat: Christ’s body. Take and drink, Christ’s blood. Here is the medicine of immortality, an antidote for your sin.

The peace Jesus gives is no placebo. It is real. Tangible as bread and wine, water and words. It is not temporary like our vain efforts at peace. Jesus does not appease sin and death. He destroys it. And in Jesus’ death you live. Jesus takes on your sickness you are restored. You are made well.

And so today we give thanks to God for Luke, the Evangelist. For Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and for Jesus’ life in the life of the Church in the Book of Acts. But most of all we give thanks to God for Luke, the beloved physician, who points us to the Great Physician of body and soul, Christ our Lord.

For today, the same promise given by Jesus to the 72 also comes to you.

 ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Peace be with you…and all who dwell here.

A Blessed Feast of St. Luke to you all…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sermon for Pentecost 17: "Old Story, New Ending"

Pentecost 17 – October 5th, 2014
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, proper 22: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4-14; Matthew 21:33-46

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Have you ever listened to a song on the radio and thought to yourself…I’ve heard this before (and not déjà vu). Like Vanilla “Ice Ice Baby” and Queen / David Bowie “Under Pressure”. Musicians call it sampling. Old and familiar stuck with the new.

Or when you read a story or watch a movie where The Prince gives up his life for the Princess. The hero dies to save the world. Good overcomes evil. And then you think to yourself: “I’ve read or watched this story before. This sounds familiar.”

Well, that’s what Jesus is doing. He’s sampling an old song from Isaiah “The Song of the Vineyard”. The first verse goes like this:

Let me sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes.

Fast forward 700 years or so and listen to what Jesus says.

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.  When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit.  And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Finally he sent his Son.

Did you hear it? Jesus picks up right where Isaiah left off. Isaiah records YHWH’s song for his vineyard and Jesus sings the same tune in his parable. Jesus tells an old story, but with a new ending.

Jesus told this Parable of the Wicked Tenants right on the heels of his entry into Jerusalem. In fact it’s part two in a trilogy of parables told in rapid fire succession.

There’s The Parable of the Two Sons (the one says he’ll work and doesn’t; the other says he won’t work and doe). The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (where they beat the Master’s servants one after another and then finally kill his son). And the Parable of the Wedding Feast (the king throws a party and invites everyone).

Al three parables this in common: faith and unfaith. Receiving Jesus’ teaching and authority or rejecting it. Falling on Christ the cornerstone in repentance and faith or being crushed by it.

And so this is a parable of judgment. But judgment of what? Of whom?
It is not…A class judgment: rich or poor. An ethnic one: Jew or Gentile. It’s not a labor dispute: about one’s goodness or badness, what they’ve done or failed to do.

No it is quite simply a judgment of faith alone. Faith in Christ or unfaith. Belief in Jesus or unbelief.

When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth? That’s the question. And that’s the basis upon which Jesus tells this parable.

The Pharisees were right when they perceived that Jesus was speaking against them. He was speaking against them. And against the world too. For Jesus stands in judgment against anyone who will not accept his acceptance of the world by faith alone. In other words, judgment is there only for those who would seek to justify themselves, only for those who would look for a righteousness apart from Christ, only for those who put their fear, love in trust in themselves.

That was the problem in Isaiah’s day. That’s why YHWH called Israel a bunch of wild grapes. They had been unfaithful tenants. They abandoned the Lord’s Word and promise for faith in idols of all kind. They were unfruitful tenants as well, neglecting the poor and those in need. They had born fruit of rebellion and unbelief instead of repentance and faith.
This was the Pharisees problem too. They challenged Jesus’ authority at every turn. Disbelieved his miracles and teaching. Abandoned the Word of God for the words of men. Produced the fruit of rejection and rebellion instead of repentance and faith. They wanted Law, not grace. They wanted to be judged by what they did, rather than what Christ was going to do for them on the cross.

How sad. All Jesus wanted was for them to believe, to give up trusting in themselves and trust in him. To abandon all hope of self-justifying and find true hope in Christ who justifies the ungodly.

But no, they wanted to be in control. To tell the Master of the Vineyard to go pound topsoil. Take a hike. Find other tenants.

So he did.

He found you. Jesus took us, wild shoots and non-Israelites that we are, and grafted us into the living branches of his body on the tree of the cross. Just a little water and Word and that’s all it took. Your Baptism plants you firmly into Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism grafts you into the vine who is Christ. I AM the Vine and you are the branches, declares the Lord.

So, what kind of tenant are you? Faithful or unfaithful? Fruitful or unfruitful? Truth be told, we are both. In this life we are saint and sinner. Like the Pharisees and the Israelites of old, we’ve abandoned the Lord’s Word in favor of the words of men. And though they sound comforting and enticing, they bring only death. We have been unfaithful tenants of the Lord’s vineyard: our prayers and study of God’s Word falters. We have not loved others as ourselves. All we like wild grapes have grown sour in our life and conversation with our neighbor. Instead of bearing fruit in love for our neighbors, in caring for their needs or giving them a word of Good News, we’ve born fruit to devour for our own sinful appetite. Sin is a deadly appetite for destruction. In Adam we are all dead, lifeless, unfaithful, unfruitful branches fit only for the fire.

But in Christ you are alive, a living sacrifice for your neighbor, faithful to the Lord, and fruitful in good works that Jesus prepares for you to walk in. In Christ you are faithful tenants who listen to His voice and hear him faithfully. You hunger and thirst for righteousness from Jesus’ Word and Jesus’ table. In Christ you bear the good fruit of love and humility towards your neighbor, not asking what you’ll get in response but simply for the joy of giving. In Christ you are humble and selfless because you are alive in him and he is alive in you through the first fruits of the Spirit given to the Baptized.

And so this parable is both warning and promise for us.

Warning us not to be unfaithful tenants. Warning us to flee the fruit of unbelief and rebellion and rejoice in the fruit Christ provides: repentance and forgiveness.

And also a promise. What more could the Master do for you his vineyard? He sent prophets and apostles. And finally, he sent Jesus, his Son. For you.

Here’s the new twist to the old song, the new ending to the familiar story.

“Let’s kill the son,” they said, “and the vineyard will be ours.” Those wicked tenants were right! The Son of God is killed and his inheritance is yours.  Christ’s rejection for your reconciliation. Christ’s faithfulness to cover your unfaithfulness. Christ’s fruit of salvation from the cross to forgive the fruit of your iniquity.

Jesus takes the punishment of Israel’s sins, of the Pharisees sins, yours and mine – he takes it all on himself as he is thrown outside the vineyard walls of Jerusalem, beaten, and killed. The Son is devoured in death and destruction for his vineyard. The precious Vine withers and dies to give life to dead branches. Jesus is the faithful tenant for you. Jesus bears good fruit for you, and sends the Holy Spirit who works in you to keep on bearing fruit with repentance.

This is what Jesus wants more than anything: to give you his vineyard, fruit, and wine, the joyous harvest, his bountiful goodness and steadfast love.

Jesus excels at giving. He died to give you life. And he lives to sustain your life. His holy fruit is your sustenance: Holy Baptism is your divine irrigation, a water tower flowing with forgiveness to cleanse your sin. Holy Absolution opens the kingdom of God to you; you are a forgiven and faithful tenant. Holy Communion is your banquet table: taste and see that the Lord is good as you eat and drink his body and blood.

And the wonderful thing about these gifts - the fruit of Christ’s victory from the cross to you, the Good News that we are found in Christ not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, that we are given the righteousness from God that depends on faith – well, that is the one story that never gets old and never ends.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Funeral Sermon for Betty Moore: "Jesus, Your Savior in All Seasons"

+ In Memoriam – Betty Moore +

Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Revelation 21:1-7; John 14:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh…

Solomon’s words ring true in our years, especially today. There was a time to be born and a time to die for Betty. Just as there is a time to be born and a time to die for all of us.
But this was not always so. In the beginning there was only a time to be born and not a time to die; a time to laugh and never to cry; a time to dance and never to mourn. The Lord God looked upon all that he had made and behold it was very good. The world knew nothing of weeping and mourning and death.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Now it seems that is all we know. All we see on the news, all we read in the papers (if haven’t stopped reading them yet because they’re too depressing), all we hear on the other end of the phone lines from family and friends seems to point us to the grave. It seems that we do not live under heaven but under hell, not life but death.

Yes, Solomon’s words ring true. But they do not tell the whole truth. For that we need Jesus’ words in Revelation:

Behold, I am making all things new.

You see for Betty and for you, sin and death are not the only season. They are but the fall and winter. Cold and cruel to be sure. Harsh but temporary.

Christ was born, lived, suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead in order to begin an eternal Spring and Summer. If there is a time to die, then there is also a time to rise. Christ is greater than our sin and death. Christ’s death overcame death. By his resurrection he thawed the icy grip of the grave upon him and upon all who are called by his name. Yes there is a time to be born and a time to die, even for God. God was born for you, lived for you, suffered, bled, died, and rose for you.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

And so for Betty there was a time – September 22nd, 1922 – to be exact, where she died and was born all in a matter of a few moments and three splashes of water. I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Behold I make all things new. Betty’s Baptism was truly a time to die. Her sin was drowned and washed away. And her Baptism was also a time to be born. A time to receive the new birth from above, to be born anew by water and Spirit, born a new creation by Jesus command and promise: Let there be life. And behold, in God’s eyes, Betty was very good. In fact she was better than good. She was perfect, holy, sinless. All of that because of all that Christ did for her on the cross and poured over her at the Font and fed her with at the Altar.

This faith in Christ is the confession of faith that Betty received at Baptism. This was the faith that gave her strength when there was a time of depression or a time of plenty. She lived Solomon’s words about a time for planting and harvesting, and a time for casting away and gathering stones.

This Christian faith is the firm foundation that Betty – and countless young Lutherans like her – received as they learned and studied and memorized each week in Sunday School and Church, in the home and later in confirmation class. And she simply carried her faith everywhere she went, from her family and friends in Lancaster, OH all the way to her family and friends here in Huntington Beach.

This faith in Christ also led her to a life of service to others. Freely she received Christ’s mercy, freely she gave to those in need. Especially as a nurse, and a teacher of nurses. She knew that there’s a time for tearing and a time for sewing.

But above all, this faith in Christ gave her words of comfort. Words she learned in from the wisdom of Solomon, comforting words resounding John’s Revelation, and the Good News which comes to our ears straight from the lips of Jesus in the Gospels.

Words like we hear in John’s Gospel:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 

Yes, there is a time for death and mourning and weeping. But for you who mourn and weep, Jesus has words of comfort and assurance. For Betty, and all who rest with Christ, Jesus promises:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Yes, there is a time to mourn; but there is also a time to dance. For death has no dominion over Jesus, over Betty, or you.

Yes, there is a time to weep; but there is also a time to laugh and rejoice. We see and hear that now in part in the Scriptures, hymns, and promises of Christ in Baptism and in the Supper. We will see and hear it in full voice before the throne where the Lamb of God makes all things new.

Yes, there is a time to die; but there is also a time to rise; a time to be planted in the earth for a rest from our labors; and a time to be plucked up from our graves by our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then there will be no more time for sin, and sorrow, and tears. No more seasons. No more fall and bitter cold winter of death. For the former things will pass away. These words are trustworthy and true. It is finished, Jesus declares. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He was for Betty. And he is for each of you as well in every season of his life, and in every matter und heaven.

Christ has done all of this for you so that in every season of your life you would know that you have a Savior who has endured everything under heaven and earth for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of St. Matthew: "Follow Me"

+ The Feast of St. Matthew, September 21st, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Ezekiel 2:8-3:11; Ephesians 4:7-16; Matthew 9:9-13

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

Today we celebrate one of Christ’s gifts to His Church, to us His people: St. Matthew.

Matthew, was an apostle – sent by Jesus to preach, teach, and give His gifts - the precious currency of Jesus’ holy precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death – to all men. As St. Paul writes, He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Matthew was also an evangelist. A Good News bearer. A Gospel writer. And an eyewitness to the events he records: Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ journey to the cross, to the grave, and back out again in His resurrection. Matthew even records the stuff that’s embarrassing to him and his fellow disciples. Why? Because they weren’t trying to fabricate a myth, but carefully record and report the facts. And Matthew recorded them alright, penned by inspiration in the Gospel for you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.

According to many scholars and church tradition, Matthew was also a martyr for the faith, hence the color of martyrdom, as we see today, is red. But, as the church father Tertullian once wrote, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Martyrs are witnesses. And before they are witnesses, before Matthew was an apostle and an evangelist and a martyr, he was a disciple.

Thankfully for us, Matthew records Jesus’ calling him to be a disciple. The whole event seems very Genesis-like. God spoke into the darkness and said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Jesus saw Matthew sitting in the tax booth and said, “Follow me.” Let there be a disciple. And he rose and followed him.

Follow me. Two words. Living words. Words heavy with the weight of glory. Words that give what Jesus requires. Follow me. And Matthew did.

And in hearing God’s call to Matthew, we hear our own.

Matthew teaches us the answer to the question, what does it mean to be Jesus’ disciple?

We could spend a lot of time talking about what a disciple isn’t. Better instead to look at what a disciple is rather than all the counterfeits. For if you know the real thing you’ll know a forgery when you hear one.

A disciple hears and listens. Think of the crowds listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. Think of the disciples in the upper room, on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, receiving the Lord’s Supper. Think of Jesus’ closing words in Matthew’s Gospel: “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

A disciple listens, but not just to any new, attractive teaching that comes along. No. Paul says, we are not to be like children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, we listen to Jesus’ words, the ones recorded by Matthew and others.

A disciple is a student, a catechumen of Jesus. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel is like one big catechism. He even gives us the six chief parts. 10 Commandments – they’re in the Sermon on the Mount. Creed – read Matthew 16 as Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Lord’s Prayer – go to Matthew 6. Confession and Absolution – go to Matthew 18. Baptism – Matthew 28. The Lord’s Supper – Matthew 26:26 – how easy is that to remember! It’s all there in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus’ Word for you. Jesus’ baptism for you. Jesus’ pardon of sin for you. Jesus’ body and blood for you.

But here’s the big difference between being a student of the Word and a student at school. There’s no graduation from church. You’re always a student of the Word. The Christian life is one great long catechism class. And that’s a good thing.

Disciples listen, learn, and follow…all because they are called. Jesus called Matthew. Jesus calls you.

He calls you first to repentance, just like He did Matthew. To repent is to turn. To have a change of mind. Really, to get a new mind. That’s what Matthew needed – not the mind of a tax collector who was always taking from people, but the mind of a disciple, one who gives Christ’s gifts to people, points them to Jesus. That’s what we need: a new mind. Ours is deadly sick with sin. A lot like the Pharisees in fact.

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Why are you hanging around those low-lifes, Jesus? Don’t you know they’re not like us? How are we supposed to share the Gospel with them? They look, smell, and speak differently. I thank God that I’m not like that fill-in-the-blank-person-you-love-to-despise. See how the Pharisees reveal their own hypocrisy.

See how they reveal ours as well. We’ve bought into the great lie that our sin isn’t as bad as someone else’s. That we’re better than other sinners. That we deserve mercy for ourselves but our fellow sinner deserves punishment. You see, the Pharisees were all about comparison too, their works and stature with that of their neighbors’. Problem is, the proper comparison isn’t between you and other sinners, but between you and God’s Law.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that there is no room for pride before God’s Law. Repent. You are not well. You are sick. Sin has filled us all with the stench of death. Hear the Great Physician’s diagnosis and treatment for you. 

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew was sick too. But where we run away from our fellow sinners and condemn them, Jesus runs towards sinners. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jesus comes only for sinners.

Jesus’ call to repentance isn’t a call to a higher morality, or a call to try harder to obey the Law. No, the call to repentance is to give up on self, and follow Jesus who is a friend to sinners. In Jesus we not list of demands but a righteousness that is given to them from above, as a gift.

My yoke is easy and my burden is light, Jesus declares. For he has born the yoke of your sin upon his own shoulders. He has carried the burden of your guilt and death on himself. For you, the Great Physician infected himself with your disease of sin and death in order to pour out for you a life-giving antidote, his own body and blood, the medicine of immortality.

For you, as for Matthew, Jesus desires mercy. Mercy by his sacrifice for you on the cross. Jesus crucified is God’s mercy. There’s no clearer picture of it anywhere in the world, but there on the cross, for Matthew, for tax collectors, for Pharisees, and for us sinners.

This, then, is the greatest miracle that Matthew records, that in Jesus, in His crucified and risen flesh, our heavenly Father declares us unholy sinners to be righteous in His sight through faith. It was for this message that St. Matthew lived and died.

And it’s this message that we, who are disciples of Jesus, also share with others. That’s simply what disciples do; point others to Jesus. That’s what Matthew did, and still does. That’s what we do. We show the abundance of God’s mercy towards us in an abundance of mercy toward the neighbor. Mercy for our preschoolers and their families. Mercy for our homeless community. Mercy for our members who are sick, grieving, dying, or in need. Mercy in our Hispanic outreach efforts.

Mercy as we follow where Jesus leads us, not in our own ways and wants, but in the life, death, and resurrection of He who leads us. We follow where Jesus leads, to the living word of God and the living waters of Holy Baptism where He gives you a new mind, to the forgiveness of sins in absolution and the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, where He gives you new life.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Matthew’s day than to be here in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day at the Lord’s table. For here Jesus continues to dwell and dine with sinners.

Follow me.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pentecost 12 Sermon: "The Way of the Cross is the Way of Life"

+ Pentecost 12 – August 31st, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 17: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What does the Christian life look like? If you had to draw a picture of your life in Christ in order to describe it to a friend or someone who couldn’t read, what would you draw?

Some might draw a ladder. The Christian life is a climb, a hike, rung after rung; onward and upward. Or better yet, for all the rock n’ roll fans out there, maybe the Christian life is like a stairway to heaven and once you’ve lived the right way, said the right things, and done right by others, well, you too could be knockin’ on heaven’s door. But then again, how would you ever really know if you had climbed the ladder high enough or marched up the stairs to the right floor?

Get behind me, Satan…For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

Maybe instead you could draw a scale, like in the pictures of lady justice: you put your good works on one side and your sins on the other and cross your fingers and hope the scales tip in your favor. But think about that for a moment. Do you really want your sin and good works measured to see which one wins out?

Get behind me, Satan…For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

Ok, fine, away with the ladders and scales. Time to get serious and bring out the exercise equipment. Maybe the Christian life is like a gym or a set of weights. Bulk up your prayers, do some spiritual weight lifting, and get ready to plant a round-house kick in Satan’s face. Don’t want any flabby, weak Christians here. But really, whose strength in the Christian life matters most, yours or Jesus’?

Get behind me, Satan…For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

As we heard last week, Jesus isn’t your BFF, your Bestie, or your Homeboy. He’s not your Sherpa, guiding you up the stairway to heaven. He’s not your cosmic grocery clerk, measuring out what you owe according to what you’ve done. And he’s not your divine personal trainer, coaching you into a perfect spiritual specimen.

Jesus is your Savior. He suffers for you. Bleeds for you. Jesus climbs up the ladder of the cross for you. Jesus tips the scales in your favor by pouring out his holy, precious blood for you. His death outweighs all your sin. Jesus carries the weight of your guilt, sin, and death until it crushes him, all for you.

This is what Christ’s life looked like:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

That’s the shape of Jesus’ life for you. The way of the cross is the way of life for you.

But Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.

Peter and the disciples seem to have every expectation of what the Messiah should do except the right one. “Are you out of your mind, Jesus? Suffer, die, rise. Are you kidding? That’s the last thing in the world that the Messiah should do. You need to start flexing your divine muscle. You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God. Messiah’s don’t suffer; they end suffering. No one’s going to buy that. We’ve left everything to follow you. Everything! The family business, our homes, our friends. People are going to think we’re crazy. So no more talk like that, Jesus! Not another word about suffering, dying, and rising.”

Peter had one thing right. It would be easier if Jesus avoided the cross. It would’ve been easier to skip the betrayal and escape from the soldiers as they marched into Gethsemane. It would’ve been easier to wash his hands of everything as Pilate had done and get down off his cross and walk away. But Jesus loves you too much to take the easy way out. He loves you enough to stay on the cross.

But we think a lot like Peter. Lord, give us the easy way out too. It would be easier to preach a Christianity without Christ. It’s easy to tell your neighbor. Easy to live as a disciple without the whole: “deny yourself; take up your cross and follow me” bit.

We avoid Jesus’ cross because we avoid sin. We’re all in denial like Peter. We deny our sin. “I could be worse,” we tell ourselves. We deny that our sin has consequences – for ourselves and others. “It’s not that bad” we say. But it is. There’s no victimless sin. There’s no small sin. We’re deniers. We deny Jesus with our heartless words to others. We deny him when we fail to point others to the cross. We deny him in thought, word, and deed. There’s no easy way out of guilt, sin, and death. The only way out is Jesus’ way: the cross. Death and resurrection. There is no life apart from the cross.

The Way of the Cross is the Way of Life.

Jesus wasn’t just talking about himself in this little exchange. He’s talking about you too.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What does your life in Christ look like? Jesus’ cross. The shape of your life in Christ is the cross. This is what it means to be a disciple.

A disciple is a follower. One who follows another. Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t so much about attending Jesus school. It’s about suffering, dying and rising. It’s about denying one’s self and confessing Christ. It’s about losing in order to win, dying in order to live. It’s about holding everything in this life with the open, dead hand of faith, to be dead to Sin but alive to God in Christ.

This is what happens to each of us in Baptism. In Holy Baptism you were given the cross, upon your forehead, over your heart. Jesus’ death and resurrection was poured over your head. You were washed in his redemption. You are marked by his cross – and that’s a good thing.

To follow Jesus is to be baptized into His death and life, to be joined to Him by Baptism in His suffering, death and resurrection. Your suffering and death can’t save you. They are the just wages of Sin. They are what Sin pays out in you. There’s no life there. But Jesus’ suffering and death give you resurrection and life.

The Way of the cross is the way of life…for you.

In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ suffering. His wounds are now your wounds for your healing. In Baptism you were joined to Jesus’ death. His death atones for your sins. Jesus was denied by the Father for all our denials of him. Jesus took up your cross so that you could follow him through death into life. In Baptism you were given a new mind, the mind of Christ, set on the things of God not on the things of man. In Baptism you are made a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

This is what your life in Christ look like as one who is baptized and crucified with Christ. It looks like the cross.

Jesus cross upon you in Baptism. Jesus’ cross coming to you in words of forgiveness. Jesus’ cross coming to you with his flesh and blood to sustain your flesh and blood. Jesus’ cross upon your lips as you confess Christ to your neighbor. Jesus’ cross as you daily deny yourself and follow where Jesus leads, to the friend next door you invite to church and bible class; to the co-worker grieving the death of a loved one who needs the word of comfort you received this Sunday; to the family member, friend, or fellow Christian who is aching for reconciliation; to those in need of food or clothing; to single man or woman, to the widow or widower you invite over for dinner; to whomever our Lord places in your life.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

This is how we love our neighbor for this is how God in Christ loves us.

We follow where Jesus leads us: to the cross and to new life in his resurrection.

For the Way of the Cross is the Way of Life.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review of Stitched Crosses: Crusade

This is a long overdue post here on E-nklings. But I wanted to get it up and out for anyone who is interested in good reading, good books, and good story-telling. The author's name is Joshua Rothe, the book's title is Stitched Crosses: Crusade, and here's a short little review I wrote about it.

And if you want to check out the review and other goodies on the website for Grail Quest Books (which I highly suggest you do), here are some links:

My review

Grail Quest Books

I certainly hope this is the first of more to come....First of all, my knowledge of this era in history is woefully inadequate. It revealed a lack of awareness on my part about the events portrayed. However, I suppose that is what a book worth reading ought to do, to reveal, educate, and delight. Thankfully this is where the prose helped me in learning along with enjoying the story. It also made me want to read more about this time in history as well as stories of similar genre.

Secondly, I greatly appreciated the attention to detail both in the action as well as in the explanation of particular Christian practices. Whether one has knowledge of these or not, it helped the reader.

Third, the doctrine of vocation, I thought, rang throughout the book as well.

Fourth, I loved the last part where you explained the history and meaning of the word 'crusade'. That shed a light on the rest of the book and I was glad I read it first since it out my mind in the right frame for all the aspects and facets of 'crusade' which were present in the book and in Markus especially.

And lastly, this story has a way, in fact many ways, of giving the reader a glimpse of the one, great true story: the Gospel. The reader is drawn into a world of historical narrative, with knights, honor, adventure, and redemption, in order to shed light on the great redemption and restoration to life in Christ.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Heaven in Nebraska: Reflections on the LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music

“How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.”

Genesis 28:17

This July, several of Redeemer’s music staff and I attended the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music. Now, spending five days in Seward, Nebraska in late July may not sound like heaven on earth, especially for someone so acclimated to California weather, but it was. Why, you might ask?
Well, it wasn’t because the weather was incredibly perfect – no humidity, clean country air, and a refreshing breeze – though that was a welcomed surprise.

It wasn’t due to the fresh corn (Nebraska is called the Cornhusker state for good reason!) and home-style hospitality, though we were all satisfied.
It wasn’t on account of the excellent trip planning by Wayne Pereboom, though his organization was greatly appreciated.

It wasn’t even because of the beautiful sights and sounds of Lincoln, NE – home of the state capitol, though the magnificent structure is topped by a 19 ½ foot statue of Jesus the Sower (and it’s the third largest building in all of Nebraska).
How then did we find heaven in Nebraska?
Because Christ’s people were gathered to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word through liturgy, preaching, and church music.

Because the choirs, voices, and instruments resounded with the song of heaven here on earth.

Because we sang with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Because we were fed day in and day out the wholesome word of Christ by the Gospel’s handmaiden, music.

Because comfort was given to our consciences in the preaching and liturgy of the church; God was busy enacting consolation directly to our hearts and mind.
Because Jesus was there in his holy presence, to bring us the comfort we so desperately need. Comfort in sins forgiven. Comfort in a good conscience, absolved and prepared for the Lord’s Supper. Comfort in our Holy Baptism. Comfort in Jesus’ body and blood. Comfort in every bar, note, and word of the Divine Service. Comfort because Jesus was present for us.

And wherever Jesus is, there’s heaven. Heaven in Nebraska? Absolutely. Wherever Jesus is he brings all of heaven with him. Think about that the next time you come to Divine Service. You don’t have to go looking for Jesus in the far off fields of Nebraska. You simply have to go where Jesus promises to be present for you. Jesus brings heaven comes on earth in specific locations. So heaven comes to earth in your Baptism as the water is poured, the Word is spoken, and the Spirit descends. Heaven comes to earth, indeed is wide opened to you in Holy Absolution. Heaven comes to earth as Jesus feeds us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins at His table, whether that’s located in Seward, NE or Huntington Beach, CA, or wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments administered.
If you’re looking for consolation for a troubled conscience; if you’re looking for a safe haven in a wicked world; if you’re looking for rest and peace that knows no end; if you’re looking for heaven on earth – then come to the one place you can guarantee that Christ is present to give you comfort, forgiveness, shelter, and reconciliation in body and soul. Come to Redeemer, where heaven comes to earth and where Christ freely gives you comfort in his death and resurrection.

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2
And now for something completely different...