Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Making Distinctions–“Gay Christian”

ynTheology is the art of making distinctions. Here's one that needs to be made. The church IS accepting of those who are beset by the sin of same sex attraction. There is nothing "special" about this sin over and above others. Lying, murder, and cheating are all the same as homosexual attraction.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (ESV)

Paul's point here is not to single out certain sins as damning, but to accuse us all of these very sins! We all stand condemned in our sin, but the Apostle continues,

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV)

Christians are declared righteous in the name of Jesus. That is forgiven by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death in the place of the sinner. His life given as the replacement punishment for the sinner. Forgiveness is the free gift of God given to those who trust that Jesus is their Savior. That is what it means to be a Christian. Looking to Jesus on the cross as Jesus on the cross for you! Christians live forgiven, not to continue living in sin, but to live in Christ. Christians hate sin, especially their own.

Now for the distinction. It is one of the characteristics of our culture to play fast and loose with definitions. It takes great pleasure in the application of those definitions to those who do not agree with prevailing sentiment. Terms such as "Gay Christian"; "Homosexual Christian" are such terms. In the culture they mean "Christian and Gay and proud of it." or "Christian and Homosexual and accepting of the lifestyle and all that it means." These terms are not defined as "Gay / Homosexual and hating the sin of same sex attraction that plagues them." One is the attitude of a Christian. The other is not. Our church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, has repeatedly affirmed the biblical position that homosexual activity is intrinsically sinful. ( Just like taking for yourself the things that belong to your neighbor. Just like lying to make yourself look better in someone eyes. Just like hating your neighbor. Intrinsically sinful means sins worthy of eternal separation from God, worthy of God's righteous anger. A Christian cannot live in the position that homosexual activity is anything but sinful. A homosexual (one who is plagued by the sin of same-sex attraction) can be a Christian in the same sense that a liar is can be a Christian, a thief can be a Christian. That is hating the sin and loving the one who has saved him from the just punishment deserved for rebelling against God and his commandments.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Psalm 41:1; Eight Sunday after Pentecost; July 14, 2013;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;” (Psalm 41:1, ESV)

From a Sermon by Rev. John Nunes.

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

Repeat after me: Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Glory to the name of Jesus! The Lord our God is King!

For some of us that’s uncomfortable isn’t it. We’ll don’t feel bad it’s that way for most Christians in NA… even awkward and embarrassing. But for more than 200 million Christians throughout the world saying something like that would be downright dangerous. The US State Dept says that there are nearly 70 countries where Christians are persecuted. Where it’s legal to imprison, torture, enslave, rape, assault, and even murder by crucifixion those who profess words just like those. In some of those places this assembly that we so much take for granted could be a death sentence to all of us. This time of year, a few days after independence day is a good time to reflect on that fact, and ponder, and praise God for the blessings that we often over look.

For some Christians, worship is a matter of life and death. But for all of us, being in Christ means even more. You see, all eternity hangs in the balance. It’s not just a mater of life and death; it’s a matter of everlasting life and everlasting death. In Word and Sacrament, God sets Jesus into our lives as the way, the truth and the life. He gives us so much more than worldly freedom. Through Word and water, bread and wine he enters our lives and we are changed, we are set free from sin and death. That’s a story that needs to be told!

It all really came about on a dark Friday outside of Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus won this life changing freedom for you and me, and all people who believe in him. When Jesus was crucified and died he changed all of human history. But even more importantly than that he changed your history and mine. His death gives us freedom that is greater than any human won freedom. His death frees us from the very grip of death itself. The proclamation of what Jesus did is our “Emancipation Proclamation” from the bondage of sin and death. Martin Luther said it like this: Human freedom might change laws without changing people, but Christian freedom changes people without changing the Law.

Jesus snatches us from the claws of the law. He gives us real freedom:

  • From living in a dead end valley of the shadow of death to living an abundant life.
  • From slavery to sin to having all the rights and privileges of the Children of God.
  • From having broken spirits to leaping with joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • From thirsting for righteousness to drinking from the cup of salvation that runs over.

Philis Weatly was an African born American slave in the 1700’s. She was set free through faith in Jesus Christ at a very early age. But she is better known for being a poet. She was the first African-American poet, and the first Woman poet to be published on this continent. It was her poetry that eventually led to her freedom. Still, she died young and penniless. She wrote this:

In every human breast,

God has implanted a

Principle with we call

Love of

Freedom; it is impatient of

Oppression, and pants for


The problem with our panting for freedom is that we go after the wrong kind of freedom. The sin that permeates us leads us to seek freedom not where it can ultimately be found. No earthly utopia will ever supply true freedom, only frustration and futility. No earthly government can promise real freedom to its citizens, only partial freedom that is fleeting.

If you doubt me just look at how throughout history the most purely motivated activists ended up surpassing the oppression of those they replaced. Look how therapeutic techniques that are suppose to make relationships right often fail to distinguish right from wrong and indulge the sinful nature instead of helping. Why do liberation movements often end up oppressing those they intended to help?

That’s what the Psalmist was complaining about when he wrote these words:

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;” (Psalm 41:1, ESV)

He was oppressed by marauders who streamed across the land limiting everyone’s ability to live peacefully. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to pen those words, a liturgical prayer of liberation, true liberation. He was speaking about looking for freedom that is found only in the Holy God. The freedom that he gives is freedom worth panting over and seeking out.

We worship God here today. That’s why we gather together and are blessed to be able to do so freely. In deer like fashion we come here to drink in the saving words of God. We stand and sit side by side in unity and love. It all flows from our connection with each other in Jesus Christ. There are many ways we serve one another and even others who do not know about the freedom we find here. Just because we are unified in faith doesn’t mean there’s only one way to serve. Some do so quietly through faithful prayer, some serve outwardly by washing motorcycles, (serving in a carnival) and still others by visiting friends in the hospital. Just because we are one in the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that there is only one way to serve. God has given us all many and varied gifts, he gives us the freedom to use those gifts. St. Paul talked about all of us being “one body” arms, ears, eyes, etc. Each serves in a different way but none less valuable than any other.

Also being a member of this body doesn’t mean there is only one way to vote. If any one tells you that Christians have to agree on social issues like taxes or which candidates to vote for they’re wrong. There is room for constructive debate among us when it comes to the ways we do certain things. A good source of information on this topic is found in the CTCR document Render Unto Ceaser… and Unto God. It’s available in the church library or you can check it out of my office. It read, “also in the church, and not only in the public square, civil but principled debate on social ethics must be encouraged.” (p. 63). There is a time and place for creativity… a time to challenge long established assumptions… a time to question the way we’ve always done things… and propose changes. There is room for diversity of opinion among the people of God when it comes to structure and church government and how we bring the Gospel to the community around us. Of course there isn’t any room for change in the content of that Gospel. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation; He has purchased and won us from sin and death by his life, death and resurrection. We are brought to faith and strengthened in faith by the work of God in Word and Sacrament. How we tell those truths is a matter of freedom.

The freedom we are looking for, well the freedom that everyone is looking for is found only in Jesus Christ. He is with us here and we are free! We gather here to eat and drink his very body and blood that is our freedom. We deeply drink in the Word of God spoken to us, which brings us the deliverance that comes from knowing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are totally delivered from the slavery of sin. We are delivered and free, now! Not sometime in our future after our death, but right now. We struggle with sin every day, but Jesus death has freed us from it. It doesn’t control us because we have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Whenever sin tries to bind us again we know that Jesus was bound to death instead of us. We can set sin aside and move on to a better future, a future of freedom in Jesus Christ.

Think of what it means for your life now that you are free from the slavery of sin. You don’t have to worry about punishment for your failures. When you fail you can move on, you can forgive and forget when someone hurts you. All of that pain and suffering was placed on Jesus; you can give it to him and live free from it. You don’t have to worry about your eternal destiny. That’s sealed also by the death of Jesus. What happens to you after death is assured in Christ. Doesn’t that make your life different than it would be otherwise? You are free to do all kinds of things in service to other people. All different kinds of things to help them to see Jesus and his work for them. All different kinds of things to serve your friends and neighbors too. All the while pointing toward the one who has set you free to do those things.

That’s really what life is about. Being free in Jesus lets you see and know it. We have a small taste of that because of the freedoms we enjoy here in the US. We can be very thankful for that. But most of all we can be thankful that Jesus Christ has really set us free. Amen.

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

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Isaiah 66:10-14; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 7, 2013;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.” (Isaiah 66:10–14, ESV)

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

It began as barley a whisper… a faint sound at the very edge of perception… no one in the house even stirred… except mother. From the very first, before any sound at all had filled the ears of anyone else… she awoke crawled out of bed and began the trek to her infant’s room. So by the time he was in full cry, with a voice much more than someone his size should be able to shout, mother was already crib side. Quickly she raised the infant to her arms, “Hey Billy, what’s the matter?” She said quietly, as she gathered him to herself. At first he was inconsolable, and his screams echoed through the whole house. They filled the ears of his brothers and sisters, who muffled the sound with arms, blankets or pillows in an attempt to return to their dreams. But, soon quiet was again restored as the rocking chair and the sweet sound of mother voice brought infant comfort. He was safe and warm, there in his mother’s arms, satisfied and at peace.

Oh, to be at peace… like a little child in its mother’s arms, satisfied at rest, warm and content…. at peace. But as much as peace is desired it, peace is seldom found. Maybe that’s why this image of peace is so powerful for us, because we seldom know this kind of peace when we are no longer able to lie in our mother’s arms… when we have grown too large to be cuddled there. There are other moments of peace in our lives, standing on a quiet beach listening to the waves rush the shore; Being alone in the field with wind slipping through the corn that is so tall it almost blocks out the sun; Sitting beside the bed of a sleeping child listening contentedly to the shallow echoes of breath. But, moments of peace are few, because the world, this world that we live in, is a world of conflict.

A world of conflict… every day in the newspaper you can read about war somewhere around the globe. War is the same everywhere. There are two groups of people in conflict. They have determined that their conflict is so great that the only means of resolution is the violent death of the other party. They have determined that the only resolution is to disrupt the peace… to arm themselves with the tools of death. Many people would say that the exact opposite of peace is war. When the images of war explode onto the news, the comfort of our mother’s arms is very inviting.

But, conflict isn’t just found between nations at war. We find it even in the smallest communities. In fact any gathering of people is often marked by disagreement that often disrupts the peace. Do we build a swimming pool or not. Should there be a prison, or group home in our neighborhood. Should taxes be raised or cut… but it isn’t just government. There is conflict where we work… a co-worker we don’t like… a manager that won’t allow time off, or demands overtime… Conflict also lives in our homes… family decisions are marred by arguments and unhappy resolutions. What household has children that don’t fight, and parents who are always forgiving? What man and wife have never fought about family finances? Conflict is laced in every aspect of our lives… our families, friendships, and even our Church. Disharmony is everywhere it affects every relationship we have. But, not all the conflict is external. Many people have an internal struggle that far outweighs the discord between people. Internal struggle can fracture the human psyche. The wounds it can cause are even more devastating than disagreements between people. We all experience some of that disunity. We all struggle to do what we know is right, and avoid what we know is wrong. Saint Paul described the struggle so well

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:14–19, ESV)

When we think of these conflicts it is no wonder we long for the comfort of our mother’s arms. That place where we can be comforted, safe from conflict, safe from trouble, and at peace.

All of the disunity, between nations, people, families, individuals, and even the internal struggles of people are really a sign, a window to an even greater more devastating division. Conflict, internal and external, is an image of the most serious human problem. All human beings have cut themselves off from God by their own sin. We are fractured people who are determined to be in conflict with the very one who made us, the one who designed us for a relationship with him. We have conflict with others, we can’t get along with other people; we are in conflict with ourselves; because we can’t get along with God. That is the real source of conflict in our lives.

This is where this image, given to us in our text, comes in. God says he will comfort us, brings us peace, like a mother does with her child. “I will extend peace like a river… as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” He extends his arms around us, pulls us to his breast where we are warm, safe and secure. There we find peace. There we find comfort. He ended the conflict with us, because we didn’t want to end it with him.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

It is amazing and somewhat ironic that the one who God sent to restore peace to the world, the prince of peace, restored our fractured relationship, our conflict, by means of a violent death. He endured internal and external conflict on the cross as he was rejected by the Father in our place. The separation that our sinful nature desired; the conflict we wished; for was focused on Jesus Christ. He endured it all instead of us. And because of that he brought about peace between us and our Heavenly Father. But this peace is more than just a peaceful, tranquil feeling. It’s more than a feeling of contentment that even un-believers can feel. Jesus brings a peace the is a peace that exists even when we are in conflict. It’s a peace that exists even when we don’t feel peaceful.

The peace that Christ brings is like the peace between two warring parties. He declares the hostilities cease. But, when peace is declared sometimes the sides don’t want to end the fighting. Because we still have the effects of sin in our lives we don’t always want God’s peace. We struggle against it. But, the war is over, Jesus Christ has won it and he has declared the peace. It is a peace that passes all our understanding. When we feel it, when we experience that peaceful feeling like we are wrapped in the Father arms we rejoice; but it is just as true when we don’t feel it. We are still even then, because of Christ, at peace with God.

God doesn’t promise that Christians won’t have conflict in their lives. Christians just like all people will have internal and external struggles. But God, through Jesus Christ, has done something about the most serious conflict. Because of Jesus suffering and death on the cross we are no longer in conflict with God. Because suffered the separation of that conflict we can enjoy the comfort the peace. That peace, whether we feel it or not, effects our whole lives. Our relationships to our families… our relationships to our friends… our relationships at work... Our relationships to our community. That peace earned for us through the death of Christ, has given us peace with God and has opened the way for us to be at peace with others.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, ESV)

Billy slept quietly in his mothers arms. He was at peace, comforted by his mother. The noise of discord was all but forgotten. She had come and brought him comfort. He was safe and warm, he was at peace.

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