Sunday, September 27, 2009

Psalm.51; Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 27, 2009;

1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,

and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

build up the walls of Jerusalem;

19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

At our house we don’t really watch television. However, we belong to Netflix and once in a while we get a disk of older TV shows. So many people were talking about that medicial show “House” I thought it was time to check it out. So we got a couple of them to watch in the mail. I find these shows very interesting. And I often wonder what the effect of Dr shows on television has been. You know I worked in a hospital for ten years, it was not really like this show or any other I’ve ever seen. I know they have to make the shows interesting but the problems are always the most grave, the most severe, life and death issues. You never see this scene. Phil is nervously sitting in his doctor’s office. The doc is looking over his charts.

“Well, Phil I’ve got really bad news for you. Your case of athletes foot is going to require you to use this ointment for three whole weeks.”

No the TV scenes go like this…

“Phil, there is nothing we can do… you’re heart is just too far gone. Your only option is a heart transplant, and there are no donors available that fit you blood type.”

That’s life on television.

Well, how about you. How serious is your condition. Do you need a heart transplant? Does your heart suffer from a disease that is slowly killing you? Well that’s how the writer of this Psalm talked. That’s how he saw his heart, even though he was a man of great wealth and power. even though he was a man after God’s own heart. David, the King of Israel, tells us about the corruption of sin in his own heart. And the title even tells us when he wrote the psalm. “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” When Nathan accused him of murder, David looked at himself, and what he saw caused him to cry out for God’s mercy. He knew that he deserved only death from God. He had indeed done great evil in God’s eyes. Uriah the Hittite was dead as surely as if David had plunged the sword in his heart himself. David had killed him to cover up his affair with Uriah’s wife. When the accusing finger pointed to him, when the Law was spoken in its needed severity, what David saw in himself was more than just the sin of one act. He saw a heart that was totally corrupt, from top to bottom, from its beginning, from its very conception. David saw his sick heart and knew that it had nothing in it that would ever be able to make it clean on its own. The King looked into his own heart and saw the blackness and evil.

At first after Uriah was dead, after Bathsheba had moved into the palace, David actually thought he had gotten away with the sin, the adultery and murder. But, God was biding his time. He waited a whole year or more before he sent the prophet Nathan to accuse David. When he did, David was cut to the core. Death pointed a bony finger right at David’s black heart and said, "You are the man! You are guilty of adultery and murder and conspiracy. You are caught in your sin, you must die!” David was past all hope. There was nothing he could do.

But, there was a chance for salvation; David knew that his only hope was to appeal to God’s undeserved love and mercy. He could do nothing to help himself. When David was confronted with his sin, he saw his black corrupted heart. He saw that what he needed was a new heart; a clean heart; a pure heart. "Rip out this old corruption." He said and "Create in me a clean heart! Oh, God! A heart that has no sin, a heart that loves you fully, a heart that only does what is your will! A heart that will lead me to you and not to death." This Psalm that we repeat here in worship so often was David's cry for mercy to the Lord; the God whom David knew to be full of "unfailing love."

Well, we can always cluck our tongues at David. After all just look at what he DID! But, we must remember God’s law points the bony finger of accusation at our hearts too. We have sick and sinful hearts, corrupted from top to bottom. If we honestly look at our own lives we can see very clearly that all too often we are ruled by the same blackness, the same corruption that ruled David’s life. Most of us aren't guilty of the gross sins of David we haven't had an illicit affair, or directly caused someone's death. Maybe we don't even shoplift, cheat on our taxes, or tell those little white lies that we hope make us look better or smarter to other people. But, Jesus made it very clear,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28, ESV)

He could have said it like this too ladies, “any woman who looks lustfully at a man has done the same thing.” Here Jesus is the one who condemns us all. “It doesn't take the action to be guilty.” he says, “the guilt lies with in your corrupted, blackened, sinful hearts.”

Right before that Jesus talks about being angry.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22, ESV)

Our guilt isn’t here (in our hands) our guilt is here (in our hearts) and here (in our heads) It is in our thoughts and desires. Adultery is more than action, theft is more than physical, murder is more than blood stained hands. We stand with David, "You are the man." Sin was a part of his life and it is a part of ours. Our guilt is certain. Death, our just punishment, according to God himself, points its bony finger at us and threatens us. Our first reaction is to justify ourselves. I have my reasons for hating that person. I’m just too week to resist the temptation to lust after women. I can’t help it I’m genetically predisposed to be a drunk.

Actually you can usually tell when people are coming up to the full realization of the law that condemns them. That’s just unrealistic. That’s just old fashioned. It doesn’t technically include what I do.

We will do anything to avoid the realization that we deserve only one thing from God, punishment.

Our only hope is to turn to God in the hope of His unfailing love and mercy. With David, this Psalm is our cry for mercy too. “Rip out this old corruption! Create in us all clean hearts! Oh God!”

And God answers our prayers. God answers our cries by drowning us. “Wash away my iniquity and cleans my sins.” David wrote. And that’s exactly what God does. He uses a cleansing, renewing water that is poured on us, dripping down onto our corrupted lives and washing away that blackness that is there, and drowning that old dark heart… and there in its place He places there a new heart, a clean heart, a pure heart, a perfect heart… in fact He places there the heart of Jesus. And Jesus heart is not like ours. His heart is spotless and pure, and full of the God’s love for us. We see that great love in all that Jesus Christ did for us. When God demanded death for corrupted hearts Jesus stood in our place. He loved so perfectly that He suffered and died for corrupted hearts. His clean a pure heart took on our sin and with its very last heartbeat drove away sin’s punishment forever. It was an exchange. Jesus Christ took our blackened heart’s punishment on his pure, clean heart that we might take his clean heart for our own.

We need new hearts… we are given the heart of Jesus. His clean, pure and perfect heart is ours by grace… that is because of God’s great, undeserved love for us. It is ours through faith when we hold on to what God tells us is true and believe it. That faith looks to Him for cleansing when we are weighed down by guilt… that faith looks to Him to wash away the blackness that we see in us whenever we look at ourselves carefully… that faith trusts Him to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That faith is what brings us here to this house of worship to receive what God has to give us again. Here we remember that great Heart Transplant whenever we hear the Name of God. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The very words used at our Baptism, when God drowned out our heart and gave us his own. That faith… is very evident in the words of David. “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." David saw his own sinful heart, but he knew that God, and only God, could cleanse it. He believed in God’s promise to do just that, through the Messiah to come. We too, gather together to call on God to wash us and make us “whiter than snow.”

Life is a struggle, every day we are confronted by our own imperfection. Every day we struggle to not be self-centered. Every day we fight the sinful urges that come up from our blackened hearts. When we read David’s Psalm we see that he struggled just as we do. We may be tempted to think that his sins were greater than ours. But, the truth is that we are all cut from the same mold. We are all capable of exactly what David did… and even more, our thoughts make us just as guilty of them as he was. God’s law crushed David. The finger of death and punishment pointed at him, he turned in faith and repentance to God looking for mercy, and that’s just what he found.

Our sins crush us, too. God’s law tells us that we deserve death and punishment. “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.” We shout to God in faith, knowing what he has done for us; knowing his promise that he will cleans us “whiter than snow;” knowing that our old heart is drowned and Christ pure heart beats in its place.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, organ

I just love the way this video brings out the music.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

John 12:20-33; Holy Cross Day; September 20, 2009;

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:20-33, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

You know, the whole world is looking for something spiritual. I have heard that the fastest growing religion in the world right now is Islam. It’s growing in Africa, South American, Canada, and yes even in the United States. It is a part of the human psyche to want spiritual things to be a part of life.

People especially look for God, as a higher power, in times of trouble. Just remember our national outcry after the attacks of 9/11. Everywhere you looked there were people crying out to God for help and understanding. People want God to be a part of their lives. They want God around when stuff isn’t going well. But the question could well be asked “What god?”

The term god that is used in the public square is very generic and it is meant to be that way. Sometimes you might even hear it said like this; “Let us each pray to god, using whatever name we know him by.” The truth is there is no generic god. There is only one true God. He is the one we should seek. He is the one we should pray to. He is the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel today finds some “Greeks” looking for Jesus. These guys were, presumably, people who believed in the God of the Jews. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover, they saw that Jesus was there and wanted to know more about him. “We want to see Jesus.” They asked Philip. Of course they didn’t just want to look his direction, they didn’t just want to stand beside the road and watch him walk by. They wanted to look him over, and see what made him so different. They wanted to talk to him. They wanted to get a chance to get to know him. They wanted to see what everyone else saw when they saw Jesus. Here was a man who brought a crowed with him as he marched into the city in a parade of palms looking to everyone like the next King of the Jews. Here was a man who had the guts to go into the temple and clear out the moneychangers and their overpriced sacrifices. He was a man who had raised a three-day-dead-man to life again. He was a man who drew crowds with him everywhere he went. He was a focus of public attention and they wanted to know what every one else saw when they looked at him. They wanted to see what they would see when they looked at Jesus. These curious men came to Andrew and Philip to take them to see Jesus.

Philip and Andrew were not new to bringing people to Jesus. Andrew brought his brother Peter. And Philip brought Nathaniel. “Come and see, we have found the Christ!” they said to their brothers. “Come and look at what we have found. Come see him for yourself.” And now they brought these Greeks to Jesus, “These Greeks, these gentiles, want to see you Jesus. Is it ok?” They asked.

What do you think those Greeks saw when they looked at Jesus? It would probably be easy to describe Jesus, that is what he looked like. How many pictures have you seen? How many pictures do we have all around here? Unkempt hair, smiling face, beard… Halo around his head? Eyes that burn into your soul? Smiling, crying, frowning, and laughing? When these men came to Jesus did they see what they though they’d see? Was Jesus what they expected?

Maybe I should ask the question of you, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask Christian people: What do you see when you look at Jesus?

Think about Palm Sunday. The Jews that followed Jesus to Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna!” saw a powerful king. They must have been overjoyed when he flushed the corruption out of the temple. It was a very powerful and king like thing to do. That’s exactly what they wanted; someone who would get them out from under the thumb of the Romans; someone powerful to take their biggest problems to and let him take care of them. When they looked at Jesus they saw someone who was going to make everything better.

Do you see Jesus that way? Is that the first thing you think of when you see Jesus? My God is an awesome God! I think we all do at times. “If I just have faith in Jesus everything will be alright.”

Susan stood beside here father’s bed. He had been wracked with pain for 3 months. “It’ll be ok dad. We just have to have faith and Jesus will heal you.” She is all smiles and confidant. When Susan sees Jesus she sees healing for her father. That’s the awesomeness of God in her life. Her faith is about Jesus making her father right again.

Ray was successful. Business was great and in spite of the failing economy he was still doing well. He was often asked about the secret to his success. It wasn’t a secret as far as he was concerned. He just followed the principals found in the Bible. As long as he did that Jesus would make sure he was successful.

“Lord,” cried Amy. “Give us the victory over these evil people who only want to cause us pain and suffering. Show your glory in their defeat! You promise that we will be victorious over sin. Make it so now.” As she prayed the crowd around her murmured their approval. They were sure Jesus would show his power and defeat their enemies.

I wonder if that’s what the Greeks who came to Jesus saw? Jesus powerful. King Jesus. Jesus making a glorious stand against everything that was wrong in the world. I think Jesus wants them to see something different. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus isn’t talking about throwing out the Roman Legions. He’s not talking about healing every disease, he’s not talking about establishing a glorious earthly kingdom based in Jerusalem. He talking about death and suffering. He’s talking about having a troubled heart. He says following him isn’t about being healed and successful. It’s about hating one’s life and being a servant. None of that sounds very glorious to me. It’s not what I want to see in Jesus. I don’t think its what the Greeks expected to hear or see.

The truth is faith in Jesus isn’t about being successful in life. It’s not about being healed from every disease. It isn’t about triumphing over our enemies. Faith in Jesus is about seeing Jesus lifted up on a cross, bleeding and dying, suffering and crying out in pain. Faith in Jesus is about that Seed dying and being buried. That’s what today, the Festival of the Holy Cross, is all about. It is a day to thing about the cross of Jesus, and what it means. Our faith is in Jesus Christ who was crucified, lifted up. It’s what he did there on the cross that is so important to everyone. It is there that he “draws all people to himself.” It is there that he gets our attention as he dies.

Jesus is in his full glory on the cross. He is the one who hates his life for the sake of us all. What we mean is that he loved us more than himself. He willingly hung on the cross out of love for you and me. It’s been said that nails didn’t hold Jesus on the cross, love did. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, to be lifted up on the cross and suffer, and die, for the sins of the whole world. Our God is an awesome God. We see just exactly what that means when we stand at the foot of the cross.

What do we see when we look at Jesus? We see Jesus crucified, dead and buried. We see Jesus dying for us, and our sins. We see Jesus paying the penalty for all that we do wrong every day; the things that hurt our friends and family; the things that cause us pain and suffering. We see Jesus suffering for all that we don’t do that we should. Ignoring the suffering of others, and passing up opportunities to share the love of Jesus with other. We see Jesus taking all our punishment to the grave, and packing it all in there to stay, freeing us from it all.

And there’s something else. This seed dies, but it springs up again and bears many seeds. Jesus rises from death and the grave. The punishment of sin is taken care of; the guilt of sin is washed away. Good Friday sorrow leads to Easter joy. But there is no Easter, no resurrection with out death and burial. There are no “many seeds” with out the death of the One.

Do you want to know who God is? The world is looking for Him. They want to see him as a god who will make their nation successful in war. They want to see him as a god who will give them a happy and healthy life, and a booming economy. But God isn’t necessarily found in those kinds of things. But he is found in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. That’s where he shows his love for the world. That’s where he shows his love for you and me. That’s what we see when we look at Jesus. Amen.

The Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Most Accessible Concord Ever?!

image Well, I was wrong. I could be heard only a short month ago or so, that CPH's sale on the Book of Concord made it the most accessible it has ever been.  After all the pocket edition was a mere $14!  Well, the House has done it again.  Now is the time to purchase Concordia, the Lutheran Confessions if you do not have a copy.  In recognition of the 140th year of CPH, the hardback edition of this volume is now $14.  Check out the link here.

The sale ends Sept 14, 2009... so hurry!

Is this now... the most accessible the Confessions of the Lutheran Church has ever been?

(well Paul... what's next?)


Monday, September 07, 2009

Mark.7.31-37; Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 6, 2009

image 31Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37 (ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, this is a familiar story to us. At least we’ve heard it in Sunday School as a child and it seems to come up occasionally in church, at least a couple times a year. It’s a good story about Jesus and the compassion he has for those who are sick. It’s comfort for us to know it, but even more important is a comfort to us to hear it again.
Remember, too, that Mark is a very fast paced book. His favorite word is “immediately.” Some have said that Mark is a Gospel written for our modern attention span. He moves from one account to the next sparing the details as he moves the Gospel along quickly covering mostly just the high points. But here, in this account, Mark breaks with his regular practice and gives a few more details than we expect. And because he does that he makes some important points I’d like us to look at as we read through the text again.
31Then he [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
Tyre and Sidon are in the north part of that area. But what’s really important about these places isn’t where they are located but who lives there. They aren’t areas that are full of Jews but they are the areas that are full of gentiles. The best equivalent I can think of today would be to say “I was traveling in “Little Havanna” the other day.” When you heard that you would know that the people I was among were Cubans. Or if I said I preached at a church in Chinatown, you’d probably expect that the people I was with were from the Far East. That’s what Tyre and Sidon meant to the Jews. Jesus is coming back from that area and moving along the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, to a place called the Decapolis. That means “ten cities” there were ten cities clustered together there. Think again about the “Twin Cities” we know it’s Minnapolis and St. Paul. They knew what the 10 cities were, too. And again the primary thing to remember is that the Decapolis was an area filled with non-Jews. Jesus is traveling and teaching, and doing miracles among gentiles.
32And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
Now this is interesting, not because it happened, because people were always bringing their friends and relatives to Jesus to be healed. The interesting thing here is that the “they” are never completely identified. It seems to be purposely ambiguous. We could ask a lot of questions about it but in the end we really don’t know “who” these folks are, or even why they have brought this man. Most likely they have brought this man to Jesus to be healed because they want to see him do something miraculous. They want to find out if Jesus is really who he seems to be. They’ve heard about Jesus and want to see him “do his thing.”
We should also remind ourselves how people of those days viewed deafness, and speaking disorders. If you were deaf or couldn’t speak they believed that it was because of some un-forgiven sin. It could be yours or your parents, but the main idea was that God was punishing you for something you or even your parents did wrong. In a way they believed that if you were deaf, or blind or unable to speak you deserved it. So bringing this person to Jesus had some other significance, if Jesus could heal him, it said something about who Jesus was. So the beg Jesus to do it.
33And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
Jesus takes the man aside. He puts his fingers in the man’s ears. He spits and touches the man’s tongue. Mark doesn’t say why, but I think it easy to understand what Jesus is doing. “Look at me and pay attention.” Jesus says by taking the man aside. He pokes his fingers in the man’s ears, and touches his tongue. “I understand your problem; you’ve got ears that don’t work, and a tongue that doesn’t work. I’m going to do something about it.” And Jesus spits. “I’m going to get rid of the evil in your ears and tongue.”
34And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
Jesus sighed. It seems like and insignificant detail, just some filler in the middle of the sentence. But I think it’s key to understanding what’s really going on here. Jesus sighed. Look at what sin has done! Look at the pain and separation it causes. Of course this man wasn’t deaf as a direct punishment for sin as those standing there might have thought. But sin in general is the cause. Sin in and among the human race brings sickness, disease, blindness, deafness, cancer, aids, and finally, ultimately, it brings death. When Jesus lets out a sigh we sigh right along with him. We sigh as we see the effects of sin all around us. We sigh with friends and neighbors dealing with their own problems, illness, suffering. And we try to be understanding but in reality we are afraid because we know that we are more than just bystanders. We sigh with Jesus because we know that illness will come, weakness will come, and death will come. And it won’t just come to our neighbors and friends. Death will come to us. That’s where we are just like the “they” in this text; the folks who brought this deaf man to be healed. Remember I said we really don’t know who “they” are. Well, here is why it really doesn’t matter. They sighed with Jesus. We sigh with Jesus. They brought him to be healed for the same reason we hold up our friends and family in prayer and ask for them to be healed. We want it all to end. We want cancer to stop ravaging us. We want the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, we don’t want to be sick anymore. We want our families whole again. We want the picture painted for us by Isaiah.
5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. Isaiah 35:5-6a (ESV)
Jesus sighed. He wants that for us, too. In fact that’s exactly what he’s doing with that deaf man, there in that crowd. He’s bringing and end to it all. “Be opened!” he says. “Ephphatha!”
35And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Jesus canceled the effects of sin on that man’s ears and tongue. He ended the separation of that man from his family. He ended the pain and suffering caused by deafness. “Be opened!” and the man was healed. Just like the sign language Jesus used to communicate with the deaf man, Jesus communicates with us in language that we can understand. “This is why I have come,” he tells us, “to end the control of sin in your lives.”
Jesus cried out “Ephphatha!” and opened the man’s tongue and ears. He cried out again “in a loud voice” on the cross when he gave up his life. You see, the two events are connected. Jesus came to end sickness and disease and death. He came to end them by his death on the cross. He shows us that by all that he did among the people that swarmed around him. He healed the deaf and the blind. He cleansed lepers and even brought the dead back to life. He came to end the effects of sin in the world. Jesus tells us that when he says to the man “Ephphatha!”
36And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
It’s odd to our hearing. Why not tell everyone what he did? Why not let the whole world know that Jesus is healing deaf people and making people who can’t talk, talk plainly? Who better to tell the story than those who have been personally touched? Isn’t that the message that Jesus wants everyone to know? That he came to heal our sickness and remove the effects of sin? We can see it again in the “them.” We can again relate directly to “them.” They wanted to tell everyone and Jesus’ words didn’t stop them.
Well, remember when I said Jesus calling out Ephphatha was like his crying out on the cross. That’s the part that’s missing. The people there saw the healing but they didn’t have the whole story. Jesus came to make us whole in body and soul, but he came to do it through the cross. In fact, without the cross what Jesus does doesn’t really mean anything at all. The deaf man went back to his regular live, connected again with his family, but he still faced sin there. He still faced illness and danger. And death still waited for him. All that happened for him was temporary restraint of the effects of sin. And Jesus didn’t come to bring temporary relief. He came to make it permanent. In order for pain and suffering, illness and death, to come to a permanent end, sin would have to come to an end. The whole story is really seen when Jesus hangs on the cross and dies. That’s were sin is done away with. That’s were sin has its final word. And Jesus pays the final and complete price for the sins of the world.
21For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
And he nailed that sin to the cross to die. To be done away with forever.
37And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
I think that they are saying more here than they really know. Jesus does do all things well. He heals a deaf man, but that’s only part of the picture. What he really does well is seen in his willingness to go to the cross to die for our sins. “This is my beloved son.” The father says of Jesus. And to prove it he raises Jesus from the dead. That’s right. Jesus does all things well. He dies for sins of the world and God raises him again to life. It proves it. The resurrection makes it plain that Jesus did just what he came to do. He came to do away with the affects of sin in the world, and his resurrection show us just how it has been accomplished.
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 (ESV)
The resurrection like his is ours, through baptism. A resurrection that promises no more sin, no more suffering, no more deafness, no more cancer, no more anything but joy! You see, Jesus has done all things well.
And while we may still have to deal with sin, and sickness and yes even death. The days of living with these things are numbered. They will all come to an end when Jesus shows up again on our doorstep. That too he promises and is verified by his resurrection. You see; we have the whole story. The healing that Jesus gave to that deaf man is a healing that is promised to us, too. That promise is sealed in Jesus death on the cross, and his resurrection, is given to us in baptism.
So Jesus doesn’t say to us “don’t tell this to anyone.” In fact he tells us to tell everyone “all nations.” He says. It really is good news to tell. And it goes like this: “Hey everyone! I know we are suffering now with death and pain and sickness. But just look at what Jesus has done. He healed a deaf man, and he’ll heal you, too. Believe in him and what he has done for you in his life death and resurrection. Look to Jesus, he has done all things well.” Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Good and Growing Resource on the National Health Care Debate from LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Once again LCMS World Relief and Human Care is on top of the issues.  Check out this page that give some great resources for the Health care debate.


HT: CyberBrethren

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 30, 2009

“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Now listen Sam,” said his father, “you can borrow the car, but I want you to go straight to the game and then come home again.”

“Yea, that’s just what I’ll do… go straight to the game, and then come home again.” Sam had already worked it out in his mind. He thought it over again to himself. “Straight to the game” meant exactly that. He would do that. But there was some latitude in the phrase “and then come home again.” He didn’t have time to stop anywhere before the game anyway. But the way home was full of options. There were lots of routes that he could take. He could be plenty creative in that respect. After all one of his friends was bound to need a ride somewhere, they might even leave before the game was over.

Dad reluctantly dropped the keys in Sam’s hand, while he looked over his son’s face and expression. “You heard what I said.”

“Yea, I heard, straight to the game. And then I’ll come home afterward.”

“Ok, as long as we understand each other.” But Dad was skeptical, as Sam turned on his heel out the door.

Sam’s Dad was skeptical for good reason. He’s like any father, remembers what it was like when he was in his son’s shoes. He remembers how he took advantage and tried to create a loophole in the rules. In fact, it’s perfectly natural to look over the rules and try to find a loophole. We do it all the time. After baseball, looking for the loophole is the national pastime. Actually it’s been the pastime of all people for all time. Including the people of God who received the law of God from Moses.

“2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it.” Said Moses (speaking for God) to the people. It’s a little like Dad making sure that Sam understood what he meant. Moses wanted the people to be sure to know that the law was to be followed perfectly. There were no exceptions. There are never exceptions to God’s law. Don’t add to them, and don’t take anything away. Do them as they are that you may live. Because by breaking them you will surely die. That’s really the crux of the issue.

First of all we should understand that the law itself is very good. It comes from God, and He is perfect in His will and action. The law He gives us is perfect as well. St. Paul talked about it in his letter to the Romans. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:12 (ESV) It is necessarily so because it comes from God. God gives His perfect law “that we may live.”

But there is a problem here. And the problem isn’t with God’s law. The problem is with you and me. Instead of looking at God’s law the way God would have us look at it, we see a problem. We see it as if God is trying to control us and take away our freedom. Just like Sam trying to get around the intention of what his father said to him. We always want exceptions to the law. We want to modify it.

We do it every day. 60 mph isn’t really speeding, is it? After all if I drive slower than everyone else I’m in danger of being in an accident. It isn’t a crime unless you get caught. What God really wants is for me to be happy. And I’m happy just the way I’m living. I don’t need to change anything. I can keep on lying… I can live with my boyfriend… cheating on my taxes… drinking too much… using pornography… looking for a divorce as the final solution to the pain in my marriage. You can insert your favorite sin your favorite exception right here. We try to live our lives as exceptions to God’s law. We’ve added to, or taken away from the clear words. Don’t think to your self, “Well, I know I’m not perfect. But I’m better than some other people I know. Why don’t you concentrate on the guy who really needs it instead of me.” You’ve said it, I’ve said it… we are carving out yet another exception for ourselves.

You see, it’s all the same adding to or taking away from God’s perfect law. The real problem is that we don’t like that finger of accusation pointing to us, and for very good reason. When the law points out that we have sinned, it’s not asking us to change, it’s not giving us hints for better living, it’s not making suggestions to get along with our neighbors… When the law of God points out our sins it condemns us to death. “Ouch!” That’s hardly fair is it? Can God really be that upset at my little faults that He wants me dead? Surely there are exceptions to the law; surely I fall into the exceptions! But, I’m afraid not. “The soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel clearly tells us for God. “The wages of sin is death.” It gives no exception. Keep God’s perfect law perfectly and live. Break any part of God’s law and you will die.

That’s a heavy burden to bear… it’s easier to overlook it and modify that law so that it doesn’t apply to me. It’s easier to re-interpret the law so that what we do isn’t wrong. Like Sam not coming straight home. But it doesn’t change our guilt. It doesn’t change the fact that we deserve punishment for breaking the law.

God gives us the law so that we can live. In fact, if we could keep it perfectly we would live. It’s not an idle promise it’s a real one. Keep it perfectly and live. God promises. Of course no human being since Adam sunk his teeth in the apple is able to do it. Sin is alive and well in us, and more often then not we are controlled by it. And unfortunately the curse of the law is just as real. Again in St. Paul’s words “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” Romans 7:10 (ESV)

But there is a solution. It’s hinted at in the second half of the words Moses speaks to the people. “7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” Here Moses is saying that because the laws are so right and good people from surrounding nations will marvel at God’s presence among them. “Wretched man that I am,” St. Paul calls out to God, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer is: Jesus Christ, who saves us from the condemnation of the law. God gives the law for life, but it condemns us because we can’t keep it. God gives the Gospel for life, and that is exactly what it brings. That is where God draws near to us. He comes to us in Jesus Christ. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, He is God himself born as a living and breathing human being. He draws near to us to bring us life. 17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 (ESV) You see, when the law doesn’t suit us we seek to have it changed. But that’s not possible with God’s perfect law. It must be kept. Jesus didn’t come to change the law. He came to do it right. He came to keep it perfectly and fully, to the very letter of it, without exception or loophole.

And that’s exactly what He did. He did every “do.” He didn’t do any “don’t.” It’s impossible for us to really come to grips with that. I mean we can’t imagine life without sin. It’s so much a part of us that it seems perfectly normal instead of perfectly horrible. But it has no part in Jesus. God’s law starts and ends really with the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust God above all things.” That describes Jesus perfectly. Nothing stood between Him and God the Father. There was perfect fear, love and trust. He knew that since God is perfect, human beings who break God’s law must be punished. He knew that sin requires death. And He loved God perfectly and He trusted God perfectly. So much so, in fact that His love for God spilled over to us and in perfect trust, He allowed Himself to be crucified and punished for the sins of the whole world. Even though He was perfect and sinless, He died the death sinful human beings deserve. And His perfect life, and perfect sacrifice is confirmed by God in Jesus resurrection from the dead.

And here’s the point I really want you to pay attention to today. I want you to know that it’s not just that Jesus came to keep the law perfectly. The important thing to remember is that He came to keep the law perfectly for you. He did what you can’t do every letter of it without exception or loophole. Not just for Himself, but for you. And even more importantly when He had fulfilled the law, instead of flying away back to where He came from, He paid the penalty for the broken law. He paid the penalty for you breaking the law. He paid the price you deserve for adding to and subtracting from God’s perfect law. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (ESV) It is Christ Jesus our Lord who paid what you earned… who died the death you earned, for the broken laws of God. He draws near to you to save you. You have a God that is indeed that near to you and loves you so much that He died on the cross to take your punishment away from you.

But don’t think that His nearness to you ended with His death on the cross. He promises to be with you always, to be near you always. His love for you didn’t end when He breathed out His last time on the cross. He didn’t stay dead, but rose again a living and breathing person. God and Man together in Jesus Christ, dead and buried, and raised again to life. And that’s the risen Lord Jesus that makes promises to you. It’s one thing to trust the promises of someone who has died. It’s quite another thing to trust the One who has risen from death to life. It’s the risen Lord that you can trust. Just think, not only did He die to pay the penalty of sin; but He rose again from the dead. If He can do that He can keep all His promises to you. And He does.

He is near to you. Look at what He promises you, turn to p.199 in your hymnal. “Our Lord commanded Baptism… Baptism now saves you.” There it is. Water and Word. Promise and fulfillment. Not in a generic way to a faceless name in a crowd but specifically to you. God reaching out and touching you saying, “I am with you ____” “I am with you ____” “I am with you ____”

And there’s more. That Word that was spoken over you there with water is spoke over you every Sunday right here. And the Risen Lord promises to be in it, to you also. “24Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24 (ESV) It’s a promise that the Risen Lord will keep for you. Even as you sit right there in the pew listening. Opening your mind and heart to Him.

And what stronger way is there to remember Jesus presence, that is Jesus being near to you, than to celebrate His Supper. You approach the very presence of the Risen Lord right here at this altar. You take into your mouth the very body and blood that hung on the cross, the very body and blood that rose again from the tomb. And when you do, He comes near to you to make His promise true for you again.

“Surely this is a great place.” To paraphrase Moses. “For what other place is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him!” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.