Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Wisdom of God - May 30, 2010 - The Holy Trinity - Text: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

This morning we celebrate the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as we describe Him in human terms, a God who is three persons in one Godhead. We are baptized into the Church in the name of God when water and His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are place on us. We begin our divine service by invoking His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We conclude our divine service in His name in the Trinitarian Aaronic Benediction. And, although we may only be able to describe our God in human terms and may not be able to completely understand how He can be how He shows Himself to us, this is what we believe because this is how He has revealed Himself to us.

Our Scripture readings for this morning help us to understand God as He reveals Himself to us. In the Epistle lesson Peter espouses Jesus as truly God in human flesh. Peter testifies that although King David died and is still dead, at least his body is still in the tomb, Jesus, who was crucified on the cross, is alive and showed Himself to be alive and is ascended into heaven, from where He descended.

In the Gospel reading Jesus espouses Himself to be truly God. Jesus tells the Jews that before Abraham was born, He was already in existence. Not only here, but in the other Gospels as well, Jesus continually spoke of Himself and showed Himself, not only to be truly human, but also truly God.

Now, getting to our text. Our text speaks of wisdom and as we hear, read, mark and inwardly digest our text, we will understand and know that the wisdom with which our text speaks is indeed wisdom incarnate in Jesus, who is God. God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and beginning in our text at verse twenty-four, He speaks of His creating water, “24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water” (v. 24). Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the water and its separation from the dry ground.

Continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-five, He speaks of creating the mountains, “25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world” (v. 25-26). Again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the mountains.

Again, continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-seven, He speaks of separating the earth from the sky, “27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above,” (v. 27-28a). Once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the separating of the earth from the sky.

And finally, concluding in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text beginning at the second half of verse twenty-eight, He speaks of setting boundaries for the seas, “when he established the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth” (v. 28b-29). Finally, once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the seas and the setting of their boundaries. And just as an aside, I believe and trust that God continues to keep these boundaries so that the earth will never again be flooded with a global flood, no matter what fallible, human scientist might suggest.

In summary, then, our text instructs in the fact that Jesus is truly God, with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world, and with the fact that true wisdom is founded in God and in particular is personified and incarnate, that is made flesh, in Jesus Himself. This is important as today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate that God is wisdom. Just look at creation and how can you conclude anything less than what a wise creator God we have who created out of nothing the complexities of the orderly world in which we live?

Today we celebrate that Jesus is who He says He is and who He showed Himself to be, that is that Jesus is God. Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at creation. Jesus took on human flesh at His conception and birth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly human during His life as He demonstrated human attributes, that is He was hungry, thirsty, tired, sad, and so forth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly God during His earthly life as He demonstrated divine attributes, that is He healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, walked on water and so forth.

Today we celebrate that Jesus is truly Wisdom incarnate, wisdom in the flesh. If Jesus is God and God is wisdom, then we know that Jesus is wisdom. And thus we understand that apart from Jesus there is and can be no wisdom, not true wisdom.

So, what does this mean? Beginning with our text, we are reminded of creation and the fact that as God created all things out of nothing, He created all things perfect. After each day of creation, God saw what He had created and said it was good. After the sixth day of creation, after creating all things, God looked at what He had created and He said it was very good. So, in the beginning, all things were good and even very good. Unfortunately, when we move to chapter three of Genesis, after God ceases running the show, which He was doing in chapter one and two, when we get to chapter three and man begins running the show, perfection is lost. After creating all things perfect and holy, man sinned and this sin tainted man’s will and wisdom. Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve knew only good. My contention, not to give them an excuse, but I believe since they knew only good, they did not understand that Satan was lying, because they did not understand evil. Anyway, after Adam and Eve sinned, that sin took root in their entire DNA so that no longer were they perfect and holy and knowing only good. Now they knew what was evil as well as what was good. Now their wisdom and understanding were tainted by sin.

Today our world continues to espouse human wisdom, which is tainted and flawed, over God’s wisdom. Today so called scientist attempt to explain our world apart from its Creator God. Today many people attempt to make sense of death and destruction apart from a perfect, holy Creator God and a humanity which has been tainted by sin. Today there is an attempt to throw God out, to keep Him out of our courts, our politics, our schools and even out of our homes. Is it no wonder that the world is in the mess it is in? Is it no wonder that people, even young people are killing each other? If there is no God then we are accountable to no one. If we are simply accidents of nature, or as some have describe us, rearranged pond scum, then we are simply doing what is natural and who are you to say we cannot kill, steal, and so forth?

What is touted as wisdom in this world, that is wisdom apart from and without God, we can see and understand is truly the foolishness of this world because we know that apart from God and Godly wisdom, is only foolishness. It is amazing how those who tout themselves as wise apart from God will believe the impossible, such as the spontaneous generation of DNA information and deny the obvious, creation by design. When looking at photo of a house and a yard, the so called wise man of this world has no problem believing the biologically complex lawn happened by accident, but cannot fathom and would believe you to be crazy if you suggested the much less biologically complex house came together by accident, perhaps through a tornado. This is the wisdom of this world, tainted by sin, which is indeed foolishness.

As Christians, as those redeemed by God, as those having God’s name put on us through the waters of Holy Baptism, we bear witness of truly Godly wisdom and we do this, bear truly Godly wisdom, through our lives of faith. So, although the world may call us foolish, we have God’s witness and we have His authority and promise that as we live lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers, as we live lives of faith, offering our lives as living sacrifices, He is with us to deliver us. In the end, as we gather around our Lord’s throne, then, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord!

This morning, as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Godly wisdom of our triune God who shows Himself to us especially in the person and work of Jesus. It all begins with Jesus. He is the prime mover. He was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world. He took on human flesh and blood in order to be our substitute. He loves us so much and He shines His love into our hearts and lives especially through His means of grace, His word and His Sacraments. He loves us and helps us to love others. He loves us and in our loving others and serving others, we are serving Him and giving glory to His holy name.

God is wisdom and Jesus is wisdom in flesh. God is love and Jesus is love in flesh. As Christians, we rejoice as we are counted as worthy enough to stand with Jesus, to be persecuted for our faith, to be called foolish and unwise, because we know the truth, we know wisdom, we know Him who gave His life for ours and we know Him who saves us and gives all things to us. My prayer for you is that as you continue to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, the Lord will continue to strengthen you and keep you in your faith, and strengthen you so that you will be better able, at all times to give a defense and answer for your hope and faith in Jesus. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does a Hymnal Affect (and Effect) Fellowship?

Perhaps before this question is answered, the question of the correlation of doctrine and practice must be answered. Some would suggest that doctrine and practice, that style and substance, that faith and life can be separated, but can they or do they go together hand in hand? Timothy Maschke in his book Gathered Guests suggests that these two things, doctrine and practice, style and substance, faith and life or whatever classification and name you give them, do go together as he writes, “About the middle of the twentieth century, a new interest in liturgy arose throughout Christendom. Liturgical movements flourished among Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, as well as among several nonliturgical denominations. Many of these movements quickly recognized the close ties between worship and doctrine. Believing that worship could move groups together, the ecumenically-minded leaders in some denominations were especially cognizant of the impact that worship forms could have on the church”1 (Emphasis added).

So, if we do believe that doctrine and practice go together, then how does this or does this affect fellowship? Again, the evidence is quite clear. When church bodies worship using the same hymnal, it draws them together, because the hymnal, their worship practice, informs and educates their doctrine, what it is that they believe and if they begin believing the same things, then what is to keep them from joining together?

Evidence of this joining because of using the same hymn book is clear. Again, going back to Maschke and his writing in Gathered Guests, when church bodies used the same hymnal, “As a result of these efforts, the Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America was produced in 1958. As expected, joint worship practices led to corporate mergers among several Lutheran groups. Of the eight Lutheran bodies that had worked on this hymnal project, four formed the ALC and the other four became the LCA.”2 And more evidence is clear as he continues, “In 1977, the LCMS rejected the proposed Lutheran Book of Worship on theological grounds, though church politics were also involved as an underlying cause of the rejection. The ALC and the LCA, along with the new AELC (a group that broke away from the LCMS shortly before this hymnal was rejected), adopted Lutheran Book of Worship. Ten years later, in 1988, these three Lutheran bodies formed the ELCA.”2

So, if using the same hymnal can bring churches together, what can “disowning” a hymnal do to a denomination? Might we ask this question concerning the disunity of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Might we trace this disunity to the giving up our hymnal? The hymnal adopted and in use in the LCMS in 1982 was the hymnal Lutheran Worship, a hymnal which was an edit of the joint hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship and a hymnal which was designed to include much variety in worship. It was during this time that some in the LCMS were buying into the paradigm of the principles of the so called church growth movement, a movement using social principles for growing congregations. This movement strived to separate doctrine and practice and suggested that by following certain social principles a congregation could grow. As congregations “threw out” the hymnal and began adapting and adopting various worship “forms,” it became more and more apparent that these congregations did not look like, sound like, or in some cases even care to emulate what it means to be Lutheran.

Might it be that one of the greatest factors in the doctrinal disunity of the LCMS is the lack of uniformity in our divine service practice which should flow out of our theology so that those that are practicing something other than Lutheran services are indeed not Lutheran, but rather are of the nature of their worship practice?

For years in the LCMS, a person could attend a worship service in any LCMS congregation around the country and know they were in an LCMS church, but not so today. To put it in socio-economic terms, if a person were to walk into a Walmart anywhere in the USA or a Target, or Sears, etc., they would know they were in a Walmart, or a Target or a Sears. The corporate philosophy of each store is demonstrated in its running of the store, its design, layout, etc.

At the 2006 Texas District convention, it was stated, and this is a paraphrase, if everyone in our synod purchased and used the new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, this usage would go along way in bringing our synod back together. Indeed, we practice what we preach and when we all practice something different it is because we believe something different, but when we practice a uniformity of practices, it is because we do believe the same and this similar belief system is what brings us together in fellowship.

1 Gathered Guests, A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, Timothy H. Maschke, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, ©2003, p. 97.

2 Ibid., p. 97-98.

3 Ibid., p. 98.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Making A Name - May 23, 2010 - The Day of Pentecost - Text: Genesis 11:1-9

There are some people, who, when they sit down to read a book, they like to go to the last chapter or the last few pages and read to see how the book ends. They believe if they know how it ends, then they can better enjoy the journey through the book. This morning, as we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, and the ability of the Apostles to speak in the languages of those present in Jerusalem, the end of the story of our text which takes us to the time that the languages were mixed and confused so that the people were scattered to populate the earth. Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the undoing of the Tower of Babel in our Old Testament reading.

Our text begins with the plot, and sin, verse one, “1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’” (v. 1-4)

A quick review of history is in order. In the beginning God created the world. On the sixth day of creation, the same day God created the dinosaurs, God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Some time after creation, Adam and Eve sinned and brought sin, death and evil into the world. Sin and evil got so bad that God washed the world with a world wide flood. After the flood God told Noah and his family to spread out and repopulate the world. However, instead of the people going out and repopulating the world, they stayed in one place and grew to be a large number of people.

Now, getting to our text, our text tells us that the people wanted to “make a name for themselves,” that is they thought more highly of themselves than they should have. They wanted to make themselves known to the generations that followed them. They wanted to leave a legacy. They wanted to be thought of, even as gods. They did not want to “disperse over the face of the whole earth,” instead, they wanted to disobey God and outright sin.

Their plan was to build an everlasting monument to themselves, a monument that would draw people to Babel, to keep them at Babel and to perpetuate their idolatry. For our engineers, notice that their plan was to make bricks in a new and better way. They were not going to simply make mud bricks and let them dry in the sun which is how it was done before, instead they would make bricks from stone and bake them and concrete them together so they could build a taller and stronger structure, a structure that would last longer. Just a side note of interest, did you notice how, from creation, God had given them the wisdom necessary for this architectural ability. This engineering ability was not something that was “discovered” or learned, but was already in their DNA. When God created Adam and Eve He created them with all knowledge, with perfect knowledge and this is important as we will make note a little later.

God is God and He knows what is happening, He is, after all, omniscient. His answer to their arrogance is seen beginning at verse five, “5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (v. 5- 9)

It is interesting as our text describes God in terms of ‘coming down’ to see the city. God is omnipresent, that is He is everywhere always present, yet for the sake of emphasizing how little these “big headed” people really were, God ‘came down’ to this little earth, that He created, to assess the problem. Now, understanding that it is because the people have one language that they are able to carry out the evil intent and desire of their heart and so God’s plan to stop their behavior is to confuse their language. When God confused their languages, since they now spoke different languages and could not understand each other and could not communicate with one another, they had to abandon their project.

After the Lord confused their languages, the people had to find those who spoke their own language. Sorry for the image, but my first instinct is to think that this might have been something like a group icebreaker where everyone is instructed to go around and find people of similar eye color or hair color, or the like, except that with an icebreaker like this, everyone can speak the same language.

At any rate, after finding people who spoke the same language as they spoke, these people of various language groups dispersed, and as they dispersed they took with them certain genetic traits. This is why we have the various cultures we have in our world today. This is natural selection, not evolution. As the people who spoke the same language dispersed to certain parts of the world they took with them certain dominant DNA traits. Some took with them traits for certain, dominant colors of skin, some traits for certain, dominate shapes of eyes, some traits for certain, dominate heights, and so forth. What the world tells us are the various races of the world, I believe, are better described as the various cultures of the world, I say this because God in His Word speaks of only two races, the believers and the unbelievers. So, our text for this morning explains the beginning of these various culture groups. One last bit of information is the fact that as these culture groups moved apart to the various parts of the world, they also took with them the various bits of information and knowledge encoded in their DNA so that today we find that some culture groups are more adept at certain knowledge and skills than others, for instance, some are better at math, at engineering, some are better at other languages, arts or skills and so forth.

As I mentioned earlier, today is Pentecost Sunday. In our Gospel lesson we hear Jesus promise to His disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit who will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that He has said to them. And so, He is encouraging the disciples to wait for the sending and their receiving of the Holy Spirit.

In the Epistle lesson we read the account of the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit. And just briefly, the celebration of Pentecost was a Jewish harvest celebration when the Jews were instructed to be in Jerusalem to celebrate, which is the reason so many Jews from the various parts of the world, speaking various languages were in Jerusalem. God took this Jewish celebration and gives something greater, the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the most fascinating things about this is the timing, that God’s timing of the life, death and resurrection of His Son happened so that this Jewish celebration of harvest, this Pentecost celebration might coincide with the fiftieth day after Easter and His sending of the Holy Spirit, at just the right time.

And as we made note earlier, this sending of the Holy Spirit on these people who had gathered in Jerusalem at this time and who spoke different languages is the undoing of the Old Testament lesson and the reminder of God’s will to save all people.

So, what does this mean? Again, my contention is that what we read and hear is not coincidence and no surprise. Remember, it was immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden that God promised to take care of their sin. God’s promise to send a Messiah was given in Eden before there was a Jew or a Gentile, when there was only one people group, Adam and Eve. As we walk through the Old Testament, we note that although the promise of through whom, through which family line the Savior would be born was narrowed, the promise to save all people was never changed.

Following the flood, as at the creation of the world, it was God’s desire to populate the earth. At creation God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. After the flood God told the people to disperse and repopulate the world. Because the sin of humanity remained in Noah and his family, people continued to be born in sin and continued to sin. Sin is in our DNA, it is genetic. That fact that we are conceived and born in sin, that sin is in our DNA does not give us a license to sin, but it does explain our natural instinct and behavior. And this morning, we have our answer as to from where the various cultures, or as our world likes to designate them, the various races come, the tower of Babel.

We live in a world that is still infected by sin. We still think more highly of ourselves. We still seek to make a name for ourselves. Yes, we are still conceived and born in sin and we know that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. We still need a Savior and that is why Jesus came, to be our Savior, to be our substitute, to give His life for us and for all.

Jesus came to do what we cannot do, to live perfectly, to obey all God’s laws and commands perfectly and He did, never sinning even once. Because He was born as one of us, a human being and because He never sinned, He was able to be our substitute. He took our sins, our sins of thinking more highly of our selves, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission and He took them on Himself and paid the price for our sin. He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place and He died. But as we know the story, death and the grave had no power over Him because He rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. And today we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who worked in the hearts and minds of the Apostles so that they finally understood all of what Jesus came to do and did. It is the Holy Spirit whose work today continues to point to Jesus. He is the one who works and gives faith through the means of the Bible as well as Holy Baptism. He is the one who stirs in us and gives us the words and boldness to proclaim His Word to all.

Again, and as always, God is the prime mover. And now, we know we are getting it right when we know He is the prime mover. God gives and does and we are given to and done to. God gives life and we are reminded of His giving of life at creation and personally at conception. God gives forgiveness of sins, and we know we have forgiveness as we hear His Word of forgiveness spoken to us. God gives life and salvation and we know we have salvation, again, as we hear His Word.

And again this morning we see God’s great love for us. God created all things out of nothing and His desire is to show His love for all He created. He showed His love in His promise to Adam and Eve to send a Savior. He showed His love in His attempt to cleanse the world with a flood and in His preserving Noah and His family. He showed His love in thwarting the plans of the people at the tower of Babel and the confusion of their languages so that they were scattered throughout the world. He showed His love in the giving of His Son and His Son’s life for us on the cross. Today He continues to show His love through His Word as well as through confession and absolution, Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper. God loves you so much, my prayer is that you continue to be given His love and that you will continue to be lavished with all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give as you make regular and diligent use of His means of grace. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Starting a New Trend

I no longer want to be considered a Caucasian. I am not from Asia nor Caucas. I do not want to be considered a “white” person as actually the melanoma in my skin gives me more a beige color. I know there is a lot of German ancestry in my blood and some other nationalities, but I do not consider these to be what identify me. So, in order to fall into the politically correct and tolerant category, please label me as a “Texan-American.”

Why all the fuss? We live in a world that makes a lot of this thing we label as “race.” The fact of the matter is that all humans in the world can be traced back to one woman, so even the evolutionists say. Which is interesting because some of the greatest damage done to our world concerning races was by the evolutionists who believed that the different races (suggested by skin color) were people groups who evolved at different rates. Since all humans are of like ancestry perhaps we would do well to change our language to speak in terms of cultures instead of races. And instead of speaking in terms of skin color we can remind ourselves that skin color only amounts to various amounts of melanoma in ones skin.

And we might also add to this discussion the problem with the “dash” in the hyphenating of words we consider one’s race. To add something to one being an American, such as an African-American, or a German-American, or a Texan-American, does more to divide than to unite. Notice that the little “dash” is either a minus sign or a division sign, of sorts. I suggest it is a division sign because the cry for unity in diversity is a misnomer. To unify anything is the exact opposite of dividing anything and the word diversity has the word divide right at the start. When we celebrate diversity we are celebrating division. Remember the cliche, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Remember the adage that America is a melting pot. Now certainly that does not mean that we do not or cannot celebrate the various cultures of our ancestors, but it does mean that these rituals are less important than what unifies us. And what unifies us is our Creator God and the similar DNA He created in each of us. Just my two cents!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Numbered with the Saints - May 16, 2010 - 7th Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 1:12-26

Last Thursday a relatively minor celebration went unnoticed, or at least I would imagine that not too many of us celebrated. Last Thursday marked the fortieth day following Jesus’ resurrection which was Ascension Day. I have always contended that the reason Ascension Day gets short shrift is because it is not a sellable holiday. What can you sell to celebrate Ascension Day? Presents, eggs, rabbits, and candy have all been used up, so what is left? A rising Jesus doll? So, Ascension Day goes rather unnoticed.

Ascension Day marks Jesus ascending to the place from which He descended in order to be our substitute, to pay the price for our sins so that we have forgiveness, life and salvation. In another ten days since last Thursday, which will be next Sunday, we will celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised before He ascended, and that will be the day we mark as Pentecost. So, today we are left with that Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Although today is an “in between” Sunday, our text for this morning is no less important. Our text begins by listing of the disciples, verse twelve, “12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (v. 12-14).

Notice that our list of the Apostles is made up of only eleven men. Jesus chose twelve Apostles and in the Revelation to Saint John we understand the importance of the twelve Apostles, so another apostle is needed to take the place of Judas and make the number twelve.

Luke also makes note of the importance of the women and the other disciples. And here we distinguished the other disciples, those who were simply followers of Jesus, because we are included as disciples today. These women and other disciples are distinguished from the twelve apostles who were chosen, set apart and given an extra measure of gifts, which is what the word apostle means, set apart for a purpose. Luke helps us to understand that in Jesus’ eyes there are no second class citizens, but we are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all equally condemned sinners and by His grace, all equally forgiven saints.

Jesus has ascended and now the disciples and Apostle’s wait for Jesus’ promise of sending the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled, in ten days, which we will celebrate next Sunday, Pentecost Sunday. Our text continues with Peter’s Sermon as they wait, picking up at verse fifteen, “15In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’ 18(Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20‘For it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘“May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’”; and ‘“Let another take his office’” (v. 15-20).

Peter interprets these Old Testament passages as speaking of the events which they have witnessed, namely that of Judas betraying Jesus and the use of the betrayal money to purchase a field for the burial of those without a place to be buried. It is fascinating that Peter and the Apostles were rather oblivious to understanding the fulfillment of the Scriptures while Jesus was alive and with them, but following Jesus resurrection, and as we will see next week following the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Lord opens their minds and hearts to complete understanding.

Peter understands the need for completeness, for having the complete number of Apostles, that is the importance of having twelve Apostles and we see this as we heard in our reading from Revelation this morning. Certainly the twelve Apostles relates to the twelve tribes of Israel and the importance of the complete number of all the believers of the Old and New Testament, thus it was important to replace Judas. (It was the total number of believers of the Old Testament, represented by the twelve tribes of Israel, times the total number of believers in the New Testament, represented by the twelve Apostles, times the number of completion, [1000] or 12 x 12 x 1000 or 144,000 which is the total number of believers in heaven, or as John also describes in Revelation, a vast number of people that no one can count (Rev. 7:9).)

Concerning Judas, Peter helps us understand that Judas was called an apostle. Perhaps in the life of Judas we have a warning for our own lives. Just as Judas was called by Jesus Himself to be an Apostle, yet, he strayed, he denied, he refused and rejected Jesus and His gifts and blessings, forgiveness, faith, life and salvation, so too in our own lives, as our Lord calls us to and gives us faith through His Word as well as through the waters of Holy Baptism, perhaps we might be careful in our own lives to not stray, to not deny, refuse and reject Jesus and His gifts and blessings, faith, forgiveness and life.

Notice that in speaking about Judas, Peter does not judge Judas, but simply states the facts, the obvious. Judas was an Apostle, counted with the other eleven Apostles, but he turned aside to go to his own place.

Our text continues with the Selection of a replacement for Judas, picking up at verse twenty-one, “‘21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ 23And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ 26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (v. 21-26).

The criteria for the replacement of Judas was simple, with only two important points to be met; first, he must have “accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.” Certainly we can see the importance of an Apostle having been with, listened to and known Jesus.

The second point of criteria was that he must have been an eye witness of Jesus’ resurrection. Again, certainly we can understand that one of the original apostles must be a person who was an eye witness of the resurrection to which he is to attest.

With these two criteria, only two names were presented as to having fulfilled and met these criteria; Joseph called Barsabbas, also called Justus and Matthias. We are not told a lot about these two men, except that they fulfilled the condition for being elected. And interestingly enough, after Mathias is chosen, by the casting of the lot, we do not hear any more about him in Scripture either.

Anyway, the selection of the candidate was done by the casting of the lot, which may have been simply a role of a dice or a drawing of a bead of one color over another. The importance of the casting of the lot was that God would guide the selection which would determine which candidate would be chosen. We might well compare this casting of a die and depending on God’s guidance to what happens in a voter’s meeting when a congregation is calling a pastor; prayers are said and God guides the voting of the man for the office. And as we said, the lot fell to Matthias.

So, what does this mean? How do we apply this message to our lives today? First and foremost we understand that it is who God provides us with a church and a part of that provision is that He provides us with a pastor. Now, certainly, we understand that our pastor is a human being, a sinner like we all are, not perfect, but he is the man God has called through the congregation and he is the man who has been given the authority and the task to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and forgive and retain sins. Because he has been called by God, through the congregation, this calling means that, unless our pastor is not preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, forgiving and retaining sins, and preaching heresy, for us to profane and speak out against our pastor is tantamount to speaking out against and profaning God.

Concerning the call into the office of Holy Minister; we rightly understand, as we see lived out in our text, that men do not call themselves into the Office of Holy Ministry. Matthias did not call himself to be an Apostle. It is God who calls men into the office of Holy Ministry and He calls through the congregation. This call into the office of the Holy Ministry, by God, through the congregation reminds us that this is not our church, but this is God’s church. As members of this congregation we realize that God has called us to faith and given us the privilege to be His people in this place, to bear witness of His grace and love and to serve Him through our serving others in this place.

Notice, how, as always, it goes back to the fact that God is the prime mover. God gives. He gives life, at conception. He gives faith, through the means of His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives vocation, that is that we are priests in the priesthood of all believers and so we are to serve others as priests, offering our lives as living sacrifices so that others might see the faith that is in our heart and give glory to God and in our serving others, we are serving God. And God has called some men into the Office of Holy Ministry.

God’s purpose for our vocation is that we might serve Him by serving others. God’s purpose for our vocation is that our lives might be blessed as we are a blessing to others. God’s purpose for the Office of Holy Ministry is to provide the means of grace, the means through which He gives faith, forgiveness and life so that we are numbered with the saints.

As I have been telling you for the last number of weeks, God loves you so much. We see God’s love in His Word especially as He shows us how He cares for His people and in the same way He cares for us. God has so much that He has given to you and so much more that He wants to give to you. And so, I continue to pray for you and encourage you, receive the gifts. Be where the gifts are distributed and be given the gifts, faith, forgiveness and life so that the Lord may have His way with you, and so that ultimately your life may say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tolerance and Getting Along

I want to begin by asking you to be tolerant of my good behavior this morning. I would like to ask that you be tolerant of what I pray will be good theology, good law and good gospel. Now, doesn’t that sound rather absurd? We do not need to ask for people to be tolerant of our good behavior. When someone is asking us to be tolerant of their behavior it is because they are going to do something that is not good, meet, right and salutary. So, usually we are asked something like this, “will you be tolerant of my homosexual behavior/lifestyle?” “Will you please be tolerant of my drug abuse, spouse abuse . . . etc.?” “Will you be tolerant of my misuse of law and gospel and lousy theology?” And you get the idea. Let that float around in your mind for a minute.

In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul is writing because there is a problem. Perhaps the problem is that they are not being tolerant enough of one another? I wonder what their problem might have sounded like in one of our district or synodical conventions today? We are following church growth principles. We are following the principles of Rick Warren. We are following the principles of Bill Hybels. We follow the principles of Joel Osteen, he will bring out the champion in us. We are following the principles of the Fuller Institute. We are following the principles of Kent Hunter. We are following the synod guidelines. We are following Luther. And you know it will happen, someone will get up and say, “Why can’t we just get along?”

“Why can’t we just get along?” That is code for, “Why can’t everyone agree with me?” Of course my response is, “If you will agree with me then we can get along.”

The problem is, we cannot all get along. We are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. And, of course Satan knows this and uses this to his greatest advantage pushing and pulling us against one another, tempting us with this or that false teaching, heresy and easy way to “success.”

As a pastor I know that, unfortunately, not all the laity actually realize what the pastor is called to do. Perhaps some people confuse what we do as members of the congregation; anything that needs to be done at times, taking out the trash, fixing the copy machine and so on, we confuse this with our calling to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments and forgive and retain sins. God calls us to be faithful and to faithfully carry out our calling. No where in Scripture does God indicate that He expects anything from Pastors or from Christians except faithfulness. And actually, the only place Scripture speaks about success has to do with a military campaign and the success is not a human success but is God’s success.

God calls us to be faithful and He knows that even that simple expectation is difficult for us because of our nature. Paul says he was glad he did not baptize anyone (and then he begins remembering the ones he did baptize), but his point is this that he was called by God to preach the Gospel, to preach Christ, to preach Christ crucified, what folly.

Everyone knows that the winner is the one who defeats and comes out on top in the end. The Super Bowl is coming on Sunday and we believe the winner will be the greatest team (when we know the Cowboys are the best, did I say that out loud, sorry). Perhaps the winner will be the best team, at least for a few months until it starts over next season, but his point is, this idea is a human idea.

Paul, and for that matter I, pray all good pastors preach Christ crucified. I believe what some people fail to understand is that we will understand how great is God’s grace and forgiveness only as we understand what miserably, awful sinners we really are. If we follow the tolerant schemes of the world, then we think we are not so bad and perhaps Jesus only had to die a little for me. Not much grace there. Perhaps we can believe in ourselves and the champion in us will come out so that really, we won’t need Jesus at all. No grace there.

One little sin condemns to eternal death. Let alone the fact that we are great sinners indeed. Have you ever thought about it. Suppose we only sinned 3 times a day, when the actual figure is more like 30. So, 3 or 30 times 365 days in a year equals 1000, or 10,000 sins in a year, times how old we are. No, we are not pretty good people. We are rotten, miserable sinners. And God is not tolerant of sin, thus, God is not tolerant of us. The price for sin was set, eternal spiritual death and that price had to be paid. We cannot get along with God because our sin has separated us from Him. There is only one way and that way is not the easy way, that way is the hard way, the death way, the cross way, the Jesus way. There was no quick fix. There was no tolerance. There was no getting along. There was no success, except that Jesus was successful, after all, He did defeat Satan, sin and death, completely. No matter how you look at it, there is only one way and that way is Jesus. And it’s not me and Jesus, it’s just Jesus. Me and Jesus takes way from Jesus. Me and Jesus puts me in the drivers seat. It’s just Jesus. Jesus lived perfectly, obeying all God’s laws perfectly for me, because I cannot. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly for me. Jesus saved me because I cannot save myself. It’s just Jesus and even then, Jesus pours out everything on us. He graciously gives us His good gifts and blessings. He graciously pours out His bounty on us giving us gifts upon gifts, the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. With Jesus, we have no need for anything more! Amen.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Lord Opens Hearts - May 9, 2010 - 6th Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 16:9-15

Although Mother’s Day is a secular holiday, certainly as Christians, it is mete, right and salutary that we would desire to recognize God’s gift of motherhood and so this morning let me begin by wishing all of our mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. I pray the Lord may bless your being in divine service this morning and indeed your whole day.

In our text for this morning we continue to see God working through Paul, but even more, we continue to see the Church, that is the Holy Christian Church grow through the means of the preaching of the Word of God as well as through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Again, this morning we are reminded that God’s usual way of coming to us, of giving to us, of doing for us, of working in and through us, is through means and in particular the means of His Holy Word and His Holy Sacraments.

Our text begins with Paul’s vision, verse nine, “9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (v. 9-10). Up until this time Paul was told “no,” you are not to go to Macedonia. Paul had a desire to go to Macedonia, but the Lord had prevented him from going by putting other obstacles in his way, but no longer.

With Paul, we continue to see God working outside His usual means of dealing with His people, that is, with Paul, God again comes to him a bit more directly, this time in a vision. God shows Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him and urging him to go to Macedonia. And so Paul plans to go.

Our text continues with the rest of the story, picking up at verse eleven, “11So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” (v. 11-15).

As we follow along here in Acts, Luke lays out the travel plans for Paul. The trip took the group from Troas, to Samothrace, to Neapolis, and finally to Philippi in Macedonia. Interestingly enough we are told that this is a Roman colony, which means, for Paul, being a Roman citizen, he has certain privileges that other non-Roman citizen do not have.

Anyway, we are told that on the Sabbath, that is on the day of rest, which for the Jews was the last day of the week or Saturday, Paul was looking for a place to worship. Here we are reminded that Paul’s usual custom is being in divine service and keeping the third commandment. “13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together” (v. 13). Paul was new to the city and did not know what to expect, so he went to where he thought was a place of prayer and then sat down with those who had already gathered.

Because there were no men present to lead the service, the missionaries, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke lead the service and Paul had the opportunity to preach the Word of God. We are not given Paul’s sermon, but from our reading of Paul’s letters, certainly we would believe that Paul preached a sermon of law, convicting those gathered of their sins, and a word of Gospel, presenting and proving that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, God Himself who gave His life for the forgiveness of those gathered and for all people.

And now we have our reminder, again, this morning, as we have had over the past few weeks, how the Lord works through the very means of His Word to give the gifts and blessings He has to give. We are told that those gathered paid attention to the words that were spoken, to what was said, and what was said was the Word of God and as God’s Word does what it says, we are told that it worked conversion. Through the very means of the Word of God which Paul spoke, Lydia was given faith, forgiveness and life.

But even more, we are reminded that faith’s response is the desire for baptism and so, Lydia and her household were baptized, giving faith to the rest of the household. Now, a couple important things to remember; when faith is given through the Word of God, faith’s desire is baptism. For a person to say they believe yet to not have a desire for Holy Baptism is to deny one’s faith. Also, as Peter reminds us in his Epistle, baptism is also a means of grace so that through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism one is given faith and we see this in our text as we are told that Lydia’s household was baptized and we understand that to mean that they too were given faith. Notice we are not told the ages of those in her family, because the age is not important. We are accountable to God from the moment of conception, and because we are conceived and born in sin, our need for forgiveness and baptism is evident. Notice also, that we are not told of the mode of baptism, whether by emersion or sprinkling, because the mode is not what makes for a valid baptism.
Finally, we are told that her response of faith was to offer hospitality, to have the missionaries come and stay at her house while they were in Macedonia so that she might tend to their physical needs. And Luke says, “she prevailed upon us,” in other words, they could not say “no.”

So, what does this mean and what does this mean for us today? This morning we are reminded once again, as we have been reminded over the past number of weeks, that God’s usual way of coming to us and giving to us, is not directly, but indirectly, not immediately, but mediately, that is through a mediator or a means. Remember the reason the Apostle’s had the ability to do miracles, to heal, raise from the dead and the like, was to attest to the validity of their work and their Words which were the Words of the Lord. As the Apostles died off so did this ability to perform miracles, signs and wonders, because they were no longer needed. So, as I have said before, what we often see today, especially on television, what is touted as a miracle, is either a “slight” of hand, a trick, simply a show or con, a work of Satan himself, or in very rare and I mean very rare instances, truly a miracle. Personally, when it comes to believing in miracles, I give more credence to what I would call the quiet, unassuming miracles, those miracles which give glory to God and to God alone and are not accredited to any human person.

What we see in our text for this morning is what happens in our world today, that is that God, is working through His usual means, the means of grace to call to and give faith, forgiveness and life, through these usual ordinary means. God’s call to faith is through the means of His Word, the Bible as well as through the means of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these very means, these ordinary things, these common, earthly things, that God does great things and He does great things through these ordinary means because He is a great God. The Bible is a book unlike all other books. The Bible is a book with power, to do and give what it says. When God says we have forgiveness, we have forgiveness. When God says we have faith, we have faith. Holy Baptism is another powerful gift from God. As Peter reminds us in his Epistle, “Baptism now saves you.” We do not save ourselves, but Baptism, the very means of baptism, saves us. God, using the ordinary, earthly means of water, connected to His very Word, and in particular, His name, does and gives what it says. And the same is true for the Lord’s Supper. Though the very means of the ordinary food of bread and wine, connected to God’s very Word, He gives us His body and His blood so that we participate in His death and resurrection until He comes again. Yes, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus life becomes our life, His death become our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection, that is what “Do this in remembrance of Me,” means, we participate!

God gives faith, forgiveness and life through these ordinary, every day, earthly means. And we can add to these means, the means of confession and absolution. Every Sunday we come and we begin our service by confessing our sins and then when we hear the word of absolution, the words that our sins are forgiven, although we hear them from the mouth of the one God has called to speak them in this place, from our pastor, we know that they are God’s Word of forgiveness and as God’s Word of forgiveness, so it is so, His Word does what it says, His Word gives us forgiveness so that we can be certain that our sins are forgiven, by God for Christ’s sake.

And finally, God stirs in us a response of faith. Our response of faith is what shows that God has given us faith. Our response of faith is to not refuse and reject the gifts that God gives, “I don’t need any more gifts this week Lord, I have enough, maybe next week I will need some more.” Rather, our response is the desire to be where the gifts are given, when the gifts are given. Our response is not, “Do I have to go to church?” but “When do we get to go again?” Our response is that we simply cannot get enough of God’s grace, forgiveness, strengthening of faith, life and salvation.

God loves you so much. He has shown His love in the gift of His Son and His own life for you on the cross, because of His great love for you. God has so much that He wants to give to you. He has given you life, faith, forgiveness and eternal salvation and He has so much more He wants to give to you. My prayer is that He will continue to work through these very means that He has given to continue to move you to be given the gifts He has to give and to continue to live a life of faith, to live your life as a living sacrifice as a priest in the priesthood of all believers. So that your life bears witness of the faith He has given to you and so that your life says, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More on Don’t Be Offended

It seems to me that the world, or at least here in the United States, we have come to make a lot of taking offense. Sure, we like to give offense at times, but more often than not we like to take offense. And I am sure by simply writing this someone will be offended.

In our tolerant world it seems so easy to take offense, but is that the best or right thing to do? Are there times that maybe we should resist such offense?

Perhaps if we took a look at some different world views maybe we could understand this offensiveness and maybe even overcome some of our being offended.

There is the world view of tolerance and there is the world view of intolerance. In the world view of tolerance, what is espoused is that one in this world view is tolerant of all people, of all “races,” creeds, colors, religions and so on. Then there is the world view of intolerance. This world view is espoused by those who believe that there are certain people, beliefs, and views that should not be tolerated, for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, although we may espouse either of these world views, it seems that we do not always stay in our own world view. Sometimes we get out of our world view and, for convenience sake, we step into the world view of our opponent. We do this when we get offended because our world view is being questioned.

An example if this is the whole idea of tolerance. In one world view intolerance is acceptable, at least at certain times. For those who hold the world view of intolerance there are absolutes and there is an ultimate authority, in other words truth is truth and everyone is responsible for their own thoughts, words and actions. The world view of intolerance believes there are things, actions, words, and deeds that are right and some that are wrong and it is okay, even meet, right and salutary to correct those who do wrong.

And then there are those who live in the world view of tolerance, or at least espouse to live in this world view. However, an observation might be substantiated that suggests that when someone from the world view of tolerance is corrected by someone from the world view of intolerance, then that person may step out of their world view and become intolerant of the other person. Which is a nice way of saying that they are not living up to their world view. If one camps in the world view of tolerance and is correct that one should accept such correction with the same amount of tolerance. They may not like the correction or abide by the correction, but certainly according to their world view they should be accepting of such correction.

Again, perhaps an example might help. One living in the world of tolerance stepping out of their world view into the world view of intolerance might say something like, “I hate people who are prejudice.” Thus, becoming prejudice themselves. Or they might say something like, “There are absolutely no absolutes.” Thus, negating what they actually believe. It is amazing how often this happens in our world today.

Try in not being offended.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Giving and Taking Offense

“I am offended by that, what you said.” How often do we hear about people being offended in our world today, especially in our secular and political world, along with our religious world. And, very often following such offense is legal action, law suit or the like. It is almost as if some people are looking for some reason to take offense, even when no offense is intended.

“I did not mean to offend you, sorry.” Personally, I do not try to offend other people, most of the time. Sure, I have to admit, perhaps there are some times I try to be offensive, but more often than not, I try not giving offense. And I cannot help it when someone else takes offense even when none is given.

I think what makes people who attempt to offend more angry than anything is when someone does not take offense. I know that people have tried to offend me, but because I refuse to take offense, they get offended and even more angry. Again, while I try not to give offense, I also try not taking offense.

So, if you are offended, before going and taking the speck out of your brother’s eye, try taking the log out of you own eye. And, if you have not intended to give offense, remember that you are in good company as with Jesus, many people took offense at Him, though He never gave any.

Finally, always remember, with the Lord, there is forgiveness. And we forgive as we have been forgiven. We love as He first loved us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Repentance that Leads to Life - May 2, 2010 - 5th Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 11:1-18

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). A contemporary song tells us,“They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Last week we saw the example of Paul’s life of service, loving others as God in Christ first loved him. This week we are given another example of love in action as we see the example of Peter’s life as God instructs him concerning his own prejudices. This morning, as we see how our Lord deals with Peter and his prejudices, might we use this example in our own lives as we think about our own prejudices and the fact that, as we were reminded last week, how our own lives bear witness, not always that we love one another, but that truly we cannot love except that God first loved us. And certainly we will be reminded from our text of God’s great love for us, that He first loved us and that He stirs in us to love one another, but let us get to our text.

Our text begins with Peter being questioned, verse one, “1Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them’” (v. 1-3). Peter is questioned by his own people we might say, the circumcised party, that is, the Jews. The Jews were quite prejudice against all other people, believing themselves to be God’s chosen people, meaning that they did not believe that God cared about any other people except their own. But let us be fair, these were God’s chosen people, yet it was not so that they and they alone were chosen to be saved. God chose Israel as the nation through which the Savior of the world, of all people, would be born. So, truly, more than their being an “elite” group of people is that they were responsible for being good witnesses of the truth of salvation by grace through faith in the Messiah alone, a responsibility at which they failed miserably, not that we can do any better.

Anyway, Peter was accused of eating with the uncircumcized party, that is the Gentiles. Remember, God gave Israel the rite of circumcision to mark them and set them apart from all the other nations, cultures and people. Circumcision was for the Jew very much like Baptism is for us, except that we know that Baptism is a means of grace and a way in which and through which God gives faith, forgiveness and life.

Continuing on in our text we have Peter’s defense, picking up at verse four, “4But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5'I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven” (v. 4-10).

Peter’s defense is that God told him to kill and eat, literally. Peter tells of his vision, the sheet of unclean animals and God’s command to “Kill and Eat.” Peter explained that he was indeed a Jew of Jews and would never do anything against the laws of the Jews, but God told him to kill and eat and so what else could he do except obey God?

Peter then explains his vision, that is that as God explained to him, that God is the Creator of all things, out of nothing and that God is the one who, in the first place, declared certain foods to be clean or unclean for His people, and now God has made all things clean. Again, what could he do except obey God.

But Peter is not done with his story. He continues, verse eleven, “11And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” (v. 11-17).

Peter’s defense continues with the explanation that he was moved by God to go to Caesarea. For Peter these events were no mere coincidence. And we all know what a coincidence is right? There is no such thing as a coincidence. A coincidence is simply God’s unseen hand working in our lives. And so Peter, moved by God, goes to Caesarea.

After Peter arrives and is told the story of those who sent for him, Peter does what he was sent to do and what he came to do, he preaches the Gospel. And Peter attests that as he is preaching the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through the means of the Gospel to give the gifts He has to give, faith, forgiveness and life. Now, please notice, just as an aside, we are not told that these people are speaking in tongues, nor are they professing to do anything. There is no altar call, no decision for Jesus, simply that the Holy Spirit is giving them faith through the means of the Word of God.

And as the Holy Spirit gives faith through the very Word of God, the individual response is the desire for Holy Baptism. And so, Peter’s conclusion is that “17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

Our text concludes with the response of the committee called to investigate these matters, verse eighteen, “18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (v. 18). The first response of the committee is silence. Perhaps even for us today, when God speaks our first response should be silence. Then, we are told, they glorified God. They glorified God because indeed Gentiles are being saved. Certainly the fact that Gentiles are recognized as being saved is a great accomplishment for the Jews of Peter’s day, because if you remember, they believed that only the Jews were God’s people and only they had a part, a share in His kingdom.

So, what does this mean? Unfortunately there are those in our world today who believe that God has made two covenants with His people, one to the Jews and one to the rest of the nations and peoples of the world, those known as Gentiles. And unfortunately, we still live in a world full of prejudice, cultural prejudice, religious prejudice, social and economic prejudice. Of course, that is our nature, sin. Personally, I believe the best way to rid ourselves of such prejudices is to go back to the beginning and be reminded of what God says, what God does and what God gives.

Remember, God’s first promise to send a Savior was made in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned and years before there was a Jew or Gentile. God made one covenant, that is that He would send a Savior, one Savior, to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and the sins of all people. After God cleansed the world with a flood, after God scattered the nations and cultures of the world following the tower of Babel, then, God chose Abram and promised that through his family the Savior of the world would be born. And to Abram, it was only the fulfillment of God’s promise that was narrowed, not the promise itself and it was not a new promise, nor a new covenant that God made with Abram and his family.

Through history, especially through the history of the Children of Israel, God continually reminded and narrowed the fulfillment of His promise, but never was His promise changed, amended, or revised. Indeed, what happened was that many of those from the nation through whom the Savior would be born, gave up, refused and rejected God’s gift of a Messiah. And so they no longer had a part in the covenant. It was not God who did not keep His part of the covenant, but the people. And let me keep reminding you, the covenant God first made was not a covenant of the flesh, not a covenant of works, but was a covenant of grace, of God doing and our being done to and for. As Jesus reminded His own people, who rejected Him, God can raise up children from stones. One is a child of God, not by flesh, not by birth, but by grace.

For us, especially for those of us who are Gentiles, non-Jews, we rejoice in the fact that the promise is to us. We are indeed children of Adam and Eve. We are indeed, God’s children by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It is faith in Jesus which makes us members of the body of Christ. It is faith in Jesus, given to us through the means of grace which make us a part of His kingdom. And the same is true for all people, no mater what culture, ethnicity, or national background. God is no respecter of persons, Jesus died for all people, of all places, of all times. If God loves all people so much that He sent Jesus to die for them, who are we to love anyone any less?

It is God who gives. God gives faith, forgiveness and life and He gives through the very means He has given us to give the good gifts and blessings He has to give, His means of grace, Holy Baptism, confession and absolution, His Word, and His Holy Supper. Because we know that God gives through His means of grace and because we know His means of grace are in full use in His divine service, why would we want to be anywhere else on Sunday morning, except in divine service where His means of grace are in full force and where He is pouring out and lavishing us with all the good gifts and blessings He has to give.

But even more, for us Christians, for those of us who are the true people of God, the true Israel, the true chosen nation, God also calls us to vocation and gives us a response of faith. God calls us and stirs in us to live lives of faith giving glory to His holy name. Thus, with Peter we understand that God has granted salvation to all who believe and so with the help of Jesus we do indeed show that we are His disciples by loving one another.

You have heard me say it before, the greatest gift God gives is forgiveness of sins, because without forgiveness we would be left with our sins and we would be eternally lost, but with forgiveness, we know, is life and salvation. As we come to the Lord’s house, as we are reminded of our baptism and forgiveness especially through our invocation and later through the benediction, as we confess our sins and hear our Lord’s words of Absolution, “your sins are forgiven,” as we hear the Lord speak to us through His Word and as we taste and participate in the Lord’s death and resurrection through our partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we rejoice in our forgiveness and our salvation and with Peter and the council at Jerusalem we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.