Sunday, October 18, 2009

Three Solas of the Reformation - Part 2, Sola Gratia

Sola Scriptura is Scripture Alone

Sola Gratia is Grace Alone

Sola Fide is Faith Alone

Sola Christus is Christ Alone

Romans 3:20-25

For by aworks of the law no human being will be bjustified in his sight, since through the law comes cknowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been dmanifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the erighteousness of God through ffaith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for gall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are hjustified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a ipropitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to jshow God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:20-25, ESV)

Friday, October 09, 2009

He's Baaaak! Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto and The Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life returns.

IRVINE, OCT. 1. The Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life (CLTPL) has resumed business   Thursday, three months after it was closed by the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis for budgetary reasons, according to the Center’s director, Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto. CLTPL is now operating out of Concordia University Irvine, Cal., and is legally a ministry of Faith Capistrano Lutheran Church at Capistrano Beach, Cal.

The Center’s mission is to reflect on secular issues from the confessional Lutheran perspective. A non-profit organization, CLTPL offers lectures, articles, broadcasts, videos, and conferences on topics such as the vocation of voters, journalists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers and parents. CLTPL is planning to establish regional chapters at several locations around the United States and abroad. “With our emphasis on the doctrine of calling we intend to propose a healthier alternative to the contemporary ‘Me’ culture in America,” Siemon-Netto said.

CLTPL’s first major event after moving to Irvine will be a lecture series by its director at the University of Calgary in Canada on the priestly roles of voters and journalists in the secular realm, and on “War, Piracy and the Media” at the University’s “Centre for Military and Strategic Studies” on Oct. 6-7. This will be followed by a presentation on the Global Significance of the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Nov. 2.

In the spring semester of 2010, the Center’s director, a longtime foreign corrrespondent and editor, will teach an advanced journalism course based on the ethics of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation at Concordia University Irvine.

CLTPL is supported by grants, donations and other offerings that are all tax-deductible. All contributions for The Center should be sent to “Faith Lutheran Church of Capistrano Beach” (FLC); ccontributions should be earmarked for “Center for Lutheran Theology and pulic life” in the memo portion of the checks. The mailing address is as follows: CLTPL c/o Faith Lutheran Church, 34381 Calle Portola Capistrano Beach, Cal., 92624.

The Center’s Concordia University address is: The Center for Lutheran Theology & Public Life, Old Admin Building, Room 312A, 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, CA 92612-3203, telephone 949-854-8002, extension 1335.Center

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mark 10:2-16; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; October 4th, 2009

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:2-12, ESV)

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

Well, this topic may be one of the most unpopular topics we could possibly talk about. I seriously thought about preaching on the Epistle. But I just couldn’t get around the fact that the topic is out there and very noticeable in the Gospel reading. And then there’s the fact that this issue of divorce has touched us all. We all know of broken marriages, divorce, and unfaithfulness. How do you speak about how God created a man and women to be in a lifelong marriage relationship without pouring tons of guilt on folks who have divorced? Or have had marriage problems? Part of the problem is that this text doesn’t answer all the questions we have about marriage and divorce. It says just one thing. Jesus divorce is a sin.

I think, if we really want to hear what God has to say we need to just let His Word speak. We need to see what Jesus is doing here in this text. We need to see the purpose for saying what he’s saying.

Notice first how clearly St. Mark tells us what’s up. The first sentence is:

Pharisees came up and in order to test him

These folks, these Pharisees, want to “test” Jesus. You should know that this question about divorce was a big theological debate of the day. Some of the religious leaders argued that God only allows divorce for reasons of “infidelity, and abandonment.” Others said that divorce was available for a host of other reasons. (Sounds a lot like today doesn’t it?) The question they are asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” isn’t really a question about divorce and what’s lawful, it’s designed to put Jesus in the middle of an argument. They want to trap him into choosing sides in the argument. They want him to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. One of my seminary professors at this point would say something like this: “It’s always a bad idea to try to trap Jesus.” Jesus won’t be trapped and instead he turns the tables back on the guys who try to do the trapping. He springs their own trap on them so that they are caught in a hopeless situation. And he almost always does it by first asking a question of the askers. He does it here, “What did Moses command you?” It’s a question they can answer. “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” The case seems cut and dried. But Jesus turns their belief on its head.

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:5-9, ESV)

Jesus actually points to a different part of the bible. “You’re reading in the wrong place. You’ve got to go back to the very beginning. God created a man and a woman to be united together for their whole life, one flesh. God doesn’t allow divorce for any reason! You are not permitted to divorce at all.” Jesus has turned their world on its head. They want to trap him in the debate and he ends the debate by trumping their argument with Creation, with God’s ordering of the universe.

Ah, and here we are too. We hear Jesus and cringe just like the Pharisees did. They wanted exceptions to God’s rules. We want exceptions to God’s rules. “What about an unfaithful spouse? What about when a marriage is really bad? What about when a wife’s life is in danger? What about… when I just don’t love her anymore?” Jesus bypasses all these questions. He’s not talking about all the rotten, sinful, broken, selfish things human beings bring into they’re relationships. He’s not talking about how sin destroys what God has joined together. He’s talking about how God designed the permanent union of marriage. He’s talking about what God wants for married people. What we have in common with the Pharisees is that we want to talk about exceptions. We want to know when we can divorce. We want to know how to do it properly. Jesus answers from the perfect creation of the world. God’s answer is “Don’t do it, ever.” In other words divorce is never God’s will for marriage. That is not to say that divorce will never happen. That’s not Jesus’ point here. There’s no way to get into a discussion of “exceptions” without having to talk about choosing between evils. Sometimes we have to have divorce as the lesser of two evils. Sometimes in this sinful world there will be divorce. But divorce is always sinful. The problem is that everyone then thinks their situation must fall into the exceptions, and instead of using divorce as the lesser evil, the lesser sin becomes the greater one. Jesus skips the whole discussion. “Don’t!” he says. We still want to find out. We want to justify ourselves, our relatives, sometimes even our children. Well, the disciples had the same questions. Later when they get Jesus alone, they ask the question again. And Jesus gives another very clear answer.

And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12, ESV)

Jesus won’t let it go. He says it even more plainly. He says it even more forcefully, more politically incorrect. He calls this behavior sin.

Maybe Jesus is turning your whole world upside down. “Well, what about this situation or that situation?” Jesus only tells us what God expects. It’s hard for us to hear because we stand condemned. That’s God’s law staring us right in the face. We turn God’s the gift of marriage into something other than how God gives it. We might even be angry at God about it. “Well, if that’s the way God is, He’s not a God I want to worship.” And now you and I have gone right back to Genesis, too.

It is the essence of sin to say we know better than God. It is the very heart of sin to say that we want to decide for ourselves what is best for us. It is wanting to be god for ourselves. That’s the sin that lives in our hearts speaking. Of course, that sin isn’t just related to marriage. We want to be in control every aspect of our lives. We want to be able to dislike a brother or sister in Christ because they think differently about things than we do. We want to be able to agree with our neighbors about moral issues even when they disagree with scripture. We want to be able to cheat just a little bit on our business deals to make them more profitable. We want to be able to talk about how other members of the church don’t give their fair share in the offering, without giving sacrificially ourselves. It’s not the sins we do, it’s the sin that’s in our hearts. It is wanting to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, to be our own god. That is the sin would separate us from the true God forever; if it weren’t for our Savior, Jesus.

One of the ways that can help us to understand exactly what Jesus has done for us to end our separation is to look at marriage the way God wants it to be for us. That’s just what St. Paul does in his letter to the Ephesians.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:22-27, ESV)

When we do marriage as God would have it done, it’s a picture of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus. Forgiveness in Jesus Christ is the foundation of a good and successful marriage. It is all about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands loving their wives… “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Forgiveness is the foundation of our relationship with God. Just as Paul says, it’s all about what Christ did for us, He is the bridegroom we are his bride. He sanctifies us, by cleansing us with water and the word. To be baptized is to be a member of the church, the bride of Christ. To be baptized is to be washed clean of sin, even the sin of not wanting to submit to the Bridegroom and God’s Word about marriage or anything else. St. Paul says that Christ gave himself up for the Church, for His bride. That is talking about the cross. A husband is to give his life for his bride, to provide for her, to protect her, to hold her welfare above his own, to sacrifice all for her. That’s what Jesus did. Our sin, our rejection of God’s control over our lives deserves a permanent divorce from God. But Jesus brings us to God as his perfect bride because he takes our place in punishment. He holds our welfare above his own. He sacrifices his life for ours. He suffers the permanent separation from God on the cross, we see that when he shouts “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, ESV) And so when God look to us in judgment he only sees that we have been washed clean, that we are without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” that we are “holy and without blemish.”

There’s lots of talk about marriage these days but none as important is the picture that God gives us as a way of understanding His relationship to us in Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we don’t want to have marriage any other way then the way that God defines it. Because of what Jesus has done for us we want to submit to God’s will for our lives and our marriages. Because of what Jesus has done we have a forever relationship with God, through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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