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!


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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pentecost, the Season of Growth (Last in the Series)

As it does every year, our Pentecost Season ends at the end of November and a new Church Year will begin. This year our new Church Year actually began on the last Sunday in November. But, let us move on to complete our look at what we have been learning and how we have been growing in our faith as we conclude this year’s Pentecost Season.

On the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday we celebrated All Saints Day, we continued our reading through the Gospel of Luke as we heard the account of the tax collector, Zacchaeus. The Holy Spirit, working through the very Word of Jesus (the Word in flesh) brought Zacchaeus to faith and stirred in him the desire to run to be where Jesus was, to hear more of His Word, to be given more of His gifts and even to respond in returning what he had defrauded and even himself to the Lord. Would that the Word of God would have the same effect on us and our lives so our desire might be to always be where the gifts of God are given and most sure, in Divine Service!

On the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, we were reminded of the fact that God’s Word comes to us through historical accounts. Our confessional documents, that is our Book of Concord, is intended not as a book to replace the Bible as some people would accuse, rather our confessional documents are a systematic approach, sorting through the historical records so that we have a concise understanding about who God is, who Jesus is, what is original sin, and most important what is justification. We were reminded how many in our world and even many of us today are like the Pharisees, the Scribes and the Sadducees in our misunderstanding of the Word of God and how often, rather than attending Bible Class in order to learn a correct understanding of the Word, we stay away attempting to use our ignorance as an excuse. We learned the difference between life in this world and life in heaven and the difference between the gifts God has given for us to use in this world which will be unnecessary in heaven. And we were reminded once again that we get it right when our focus is on Jesus and the gifts He has to give.

On the Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost, the second last Sunday of the Church Year, we were encouraged to be alert, to be awake, and to be watchful because the end of the world is coming soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. We were reminded of the fact that the world has been cursed since the fall into sin, yet God’s promise was to send a Messiah, a Savior and He did. He sent Jesus who reconciled our broken relationship with Himself. Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place, obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly, even fulfilling all His promises concerning the Savior showing Himself to be the Savior. Jesus suffered, died, and rose for us. God’s now sends His Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith which He does through the means of Grace, when and where He pleases. And we were reminded that as the end approaches we may be arrested and imprisoned for our faith, yet we are to rejoice in the opportunity to bear witness as we give a defense of our faith, a defense using the very words our Lord will give us at the time, words He speaks through us that He has given us during our lives through His means of grace.

Finally, on the Last Sunday after Pentecost, on the last Sunday of the church year we were focused on and reminded that all of history has as its center, Jesus, God in human flesh, and His life, suffering, death and resurrection. Those living before Jesus were saved by God’s grace through faith in Him as the coming Messiah or Savior and those of us living now in the end times, which is what Jesus ushered in, are also saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, that He was and is the Messiah and Savior. We were also encouraged to make our New Church Year’s Resolution to desire to be where the gifts of God are given out, His Divine Service. God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you! And so we are encouraged, again to be where He gives His gifts.

And that about catches us up for the third quarter of the Pentecost Season. It is amazing the gifts the Lord delivers to us through His Word each and every Sunday in Divine Service and in Bible Class. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blessings - November 28, 2013 - Thanksgiving Eve - Text: The Apostle’s Creed and Explanations

God gives and we are given to. God gives first. He is the prime mover. In the beginning God created all things out of nothing. Nothing exists that has not been made by God. Thus, even we who are His creation have been given to by Him. We have been given life at conception, new life through Holy Baptism, even eternal life earned and paid for by Him. As Dr. Martin Luther so well states in each of his explanations of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed that God’s gives. God has created me. “He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.” It is Jesus “who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,” The “Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
As we said, God gives, and we are given to. God has created all things out of nothing so that all that is has been created and given to us by God to use in service to Him in His Kingdom. Certainly we understand that although in the beginning God created all things prefect and holy, because of man’s sin, we now live in a world that is under the curse of that sin so now all things are not perfect, but are imperfect. Yet, all things have their origin in God.
God gives. God gives life at conception. Along with life God gives us all our senses: hearing, taste, touch, sight, smell. God gives us a house and a home as well as clothing and shoes, meat and drink, wife and children and all that we have, all that we need to support our body and life. God even gives us each our vocations, that is those roles in life through which we serve Him by serving others, such as husband or wife, mother or father, carpenter or miner, banker or lawyer, doctor or plumber. All these vocations are given by God as He gives each of us gifts, talents and abilities to perform the various works of service in each vocation.
To understand how God is the prime mover, the beginning, the middle and the end in all giving to us, let us focus in on and trace how God gives using one physical item from God, that of food and in particular the food of oatmeal as our example. From where does oatmeal come, other than off our pantry shelf. Normally we purchase our oatmeal form the grocery store. But, what does it take for the grocery store to have oatmeal on the shelf. In order for a Grocery Store to function properly it must have an owner who must hire workers who stock the shelves as well as sell the items and keep the store clean and running.
In order to stock the store there needs to be trucks which deliverer the good to the store from the warehouse which must also have a staff of employees to make sure the warehouse is properly stock to fill the orders from the stores.
The warehouse gets its goods from the factory which produces the products it sends to the warehouse to be distributed to the stores to be sold to the consumer. The factory must have a staff of workers as well as the right equipment and packaging to produce and package the product. The equipment must be built and maintained in order for the factory to function properly, and the packaging must be available to appropriately distribute the product. Both the equipment and the packaging call for their own set of subroutines to function properly. And the factory must have workers to run the equipment.
The factory needs raw materials and in the case of oatmeal, the factory must purchase the oats it uses to make oatmeal from the farmer. The farmer must have good seed to plant as well as fertilizer and other farm equipment, workers, water and so forth to grow a good crop of oats. Ultimately the farmer depends on God for good weather and a good growing season in order to produce a good crop of grain.
Indeed the Lord blesses us with oatmeal and all we need through the labor and vocations, the gifts, talents and abilities of many workers, and yet we see it all begins and ends with the Lord.
God gives, and we are given to. God gives us all that we need for the support of our bodily lives, all we need, not necessarily all that we may want, because we can always want more. And yet, God gives even greater gifts. His greatest gifts are His spiritual gifts, those gifts and blessings that are given, freely given and that give eternal life. Very often we speak of the fact that God in Jesus rescues us from sin, death and the power of the devil. We speak of the fact that Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection defeated sin, death and the devil. We speak in terms of Jesus giving us the strength to resist the unholy three of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We speak of the fact that God gives faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world, eternal life, salvation, strengthening of faith and so on. So, the question we might ask ourselves is this, “How does God give us these gifts and blessings?”
The answer to “How does God gives us these gifts and blessings?” is that He gives them through external means, in particular through the Means of Grace: the Holy Word of God, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution. God’s usual way of working with us, of giving to us is through means. God’s unusual way is directly. Now certainly we know that after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, after the day of Pentecost God gave His apostles the ability to perform signs and wonders, to do miracles, and this ability was given as confirmation to attest to the words they were proclaiming. Yet, as the apostles died, so did the ability to do such signs and wonders.
Again, God’s usual way of coming to us and giving to us is external, through means. His unusual way is internal, directly. To direct one internally, that is to direct a person to look inside himself to find the answers to life’s questions leads either to despair because all we find inside ourselves is a sinful nature, or it would lead to self and works righteousness because a person might actually believe s/he could live by the demands of the law which, according to our conceived and born in sin nature, is impossible. And so we are directed to look outside ourselves. We are directed to the external means of grace. It is through the very means of Grace, the very means of God’s Word, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Confession and Absolution that God gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Paul encourages us saying, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:3). Notice that Paul does not encourage us to look inside ourselves, rather his words are an encouragement to look outside ourselves to look to God the Holy Spirit. It is God the Holy Spirit who works externally through the means of His Word and Sacraments, in particular Holy Baptism to give us faith and to stir in us to say that Jesus is Lord.
Our doctrine, what we believe, teach and confess, determines our practice, how we live out what we believe. As momma used to say, we “Practice what you preach.” So, how does our doctrine look when we say that God gives His gifts through means? First and foremost God gives faith, and the faith He gives He usually gives soon after birth through the waters of Holy Baptism when water and His name are put on us. It is through these simple ordinary means that God does great and extraordinary things, namely giving us faith, forgiveness of sins, and writing our names in the Book of Life.
If we were not baptized and given faith as a child, certainly God works through the means of His Holy Word. The Holy Spirit working when and where He pleases works through our reading and hearing of the Word of God to give faith, forgiveness and eternal life.
Jesus purchased and won forgiveness of sins on Calvary. He distributes that forgiveness through His Word as well as through Confession and Absolution. When we confess our sins we hear the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those are the most beautiful words in the world because with sins forgiven we know we have life and salvation. And yet, God also distributes His forgiveness through Holy Baptism and through His Holy Supper.
If we were to be pointed inward, to look inside ourselves, to look internally for the gifts of God, we would live life looking for some inward sign, some manifestation of, perhaps being “slain” in the spirit, being able to do signs, wonders, even miracles. We would be disappointed, even in despair if we were not seeing such inward manifestations thinking that we are doing something wrong. Our worship service would be a time for spiritual manipulation, a time to be worked into a frenzy until we might “feel” something, even anything that would make us “feel” like we have been given something from God. Certainly to have an inward focus would mean pointing to ourselves, and the bottom line is that then we are indeed our own gods and idols.
Focusing on the means of grace looks like Divine Service, that is it looks like God’s service to us, first and foremost, and second would be our response of faith. Focusing on the means of grace means being reminded of our Baptism usually through an invocation. It means confessing our sins and hearing the words of absolution, wherein and through which the gifts of forgiveness are distributed and given to us. It means hearing God’s Word read and expounded. It means speaking back to God the very words He has given us to say through the words of the liturgy, not some man-made bit of pomp and circumstance, some rhyming poem or ode, but speaking God’s Word. It means being given God’s gifts through His Holy Supper wherein we partake of our Lord, participating in His life, death and resurrection. And it means concluding the service with God having His name put on us again.
Notice how our doctrine informs our practice which teaches our doctrine. Notice how God’s gifts are distributed through our practice which flows out of our doctrine. Notice how these all tie together and are the very means through which our Lord gives to us the gifts and blessings He has to give.
So, how are these gifts and blessing from God shown forth in our lives? Paul speaks of these gifts and blessings showing forth in what he calls the fruits of the spirit which he lists in his letters, especially as we read in Galatians. “16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26).
Notice that Paul first speaks of the opposite of the fruits of the spirit by outlining the desires of the flesh. Certainly we can get a better grasp of the positive when set out against the negative. Notice that Paul shows us how the fruits of the spirit flow from the gifts of the spirit. It is faithfulness that flows out of the faith given by God through the means of His Word and Sacraments. It is love and forgiveness flowing out of God’s love for us and His first forgiving us.
When you plant a fruit tree, you take care of it, cultivate it, fertilize and water it. After a while you expect to harvest the fruit of that tree. Likewise, as our Lord has given us all the gifts and blessings He has to give; both physical: clothing and shoes, house and home, meat and drink, family and friends; and spiritual; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation; and as He continually cultivates, takes care of, feeds and waters us with even more gifts, the result is fruits of the spirit. Fruits of the spirit are those ways Christians, given to by God, show forth the faith that is in their hearts.
God called each one of us to life at conception. He calls us to faith through Holy Baptism. He calls us to live lives of faith what we call our vocation, using the gifts, talents and abilities in service to Him by serving others. He calls some men into the Office of Holy Ministry. As the Lord has called us and as He pours out His gifts and blessings on us, our response of faith is to live and serve in our vocations as priests in the priesthood of all believers. The work of a priest is to offer sacrifices, and so our work is to offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord with His help and to His glory.
How does this look in real life? It looks like faith and doctrine, what we believe, teach and confess, in action. Evangelism or better said, Lutheran Evangelism is basically one living one’s vocation always being ready to give an answer for the hope one has in Jesus, and that answer is given by God through one’s making regular and diligent us of the means of grace so that the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to bring others to faith so they too might be a part of His kingdom and live in Godly vocations as well.
In summary, or in other words, God gives life. God gives faith. God gives all we need to support our body and life, physically and spiritual. God gives through means, both physical blessings and spiritual blessings. As we partake of the physical blessings, we grow in our body. As we partake of the spiritual means of grace, making regular, whenever offered, and diligent, taking God’s Word seriously, use of the means of grace, our Lord works through those means to give us the words we will speak when asked of the faith and hope that we have as we live lives as priests in our vocations. God gives, and we are given to. Today, tomorrow, and always we are to give thanks to God for all His good gifts and blessings. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Forgive Them - November 24, 2013 - Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 29) - Text: Luke 23:27-43

Today is the last Sunday of our present church year calendar. Last week our lessons focused our attention on the last days, the end of the world, the day of judgment and you might remember that I said that our texts for this week would focus our attention on the last days as well. Now, after hearing our lessons, you might be asking yourself, what does Pastor mean, our Gospel reading is the reading of Jesus dying on the cross. Now, I want you to remember just a little harder. Do you remember what I also told you? That Jesus birth ushered in the last days and the fact is that we are living in the last days of this world. Our text focuses our attention on what is most important in these last days, our own immortality. As I said last week, and many times before and I will say many times again, our lives on this earth are short and painful. We will meet our Lord, either at our own passing, or at His return and both those days will be sooner than we know or sooner than we might imagine. It is as we approach the end of this church year that we are reminded of our endings and the importance of being ready, being spiritually ready to meet our Lord.
Getting into our text, we are following along as Jesus is on the way to Golgatha to be crucified. As He is being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem as a warning to others to not commit the same crimes as He has committed, we are told that a great multitude of people and women were mourning and lamenting over Him. We are not told if these were disciples or followers of Jesus or if they were simply people who had heard about Jesus and were upset with what was truly an injustice, crucifying an innocent man. We are simply told that they were following and were in mourning.
At one point Jesus stops and He instructs them with words of warning. Jesus words are a warning and prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 28b-31). Ordinarily it was considered a curse from God to be barren, yet Jesus suggests this shame would be better than the coming suffering. The suffering would be so bad that one would cry out for a quick death, that the mountains would fall on them. And Jesus final warning is that if the Romans are so quick to pronounce an innocent man as guilty what will they do with a whole city of rebellious people? In other words, the whole Jewish nation. As we think about the world in which we live, as Christians are being persecuted more and more for recognizing and calling sin what it is, we know that we are indeed living in the last days and we too should keep watch and pray.
Luke continues, moving from this scene to Golgatha where Jesus is crucified with two criminals. One criminal is crucified on Jesus’ left and the other on Jesus’ right. These two criminals were justly convicted and are being justly punished for their crimes. Interestingly enough Luke tells us that Jesus’ next words are words which reflect the very reason He was born into this world. Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (v. 34). Jesus is asking for forgiveness for these soldiers who are nailing Him to the cross. Jesus is asking for the forgiveness He is earning to be given to them.
Next Luke explains that the soldiers were casting lots for Jesus’ clothes, an indication of what we cannot bear to see, that is that Jesus was hung on the cross in all His naked shame. All that He had, the clothes on His back was being divided by those who nailed Him to the cross. As all this is going on Luke says that the people and rulers scoffed at Him and mocked Him. The irony of their words is that if Jesus had come down and saved Himself they would have believed in Him, but He would no longer be their Savior in stead He would have simply saved Himself. Whereas because He did not come down, but died on the cross, He is Savior of all people, but for those who rejected Him, they also reject His salvation.
Luke continues telling of the events while Jesus hung on the cross. One of the criminals also mocked Jesus with the crowd. His words show that he might have been a little hopeful as he says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Notice his words of “save us!” even though he really did not believe. Yet, even in his words there is no confession of faith and no belief that Jesus is the Christ.
The other criminal however did recognize Jesus and His innocence and he repented. He knew that he was being justly punished, but not Jesus. He expressed his faith in Jesus in his repentance and cry to be forgiven. And Jesus gives forgiveness and the assurance of paradise.
So, now we ask, “What does this mean?” and especially as we are at the last Sunday of this present church year, what does this mean? All of history points to the one event of Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection. God created a perfect world. Adam and Eve’s sin brought the curse into this world and now we live in a cursed world. God would not allow His creation to remain separate from Himself and so He set in motion to reconcile His creation to Himself. Thus, God promised to send a Redeemer, a Reconciler, a Savior. Indeed, God promised to intervene in human history by taking on the nature of His creation in order to accomplish what His creation could not. All the prophecies and promises, even all the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament pointed to this one event of human history, the event of our text, the event of Jesus ushering in the end times.
Jesus was born, truly God taking on human flesh, truly human for this one purpose, to live, to suffer and to die, to pay the price for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, even before Adam and Eve sinned the price was set. The day they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil God said that dying they would die. They died a spiritual death and eventually they died a physical death. Jesus came to pay the price for their spiritual death so that they might have spiritual life.
Jesus came and fulfilled all God’s laws and prophecies completely and perfectly. All the prophecies, all the ceremonial laws and sacrifices pointed to Jesus and His once for all sacrifice of Himself on the cross. God’s command, even in Eden was to be perfect, to perfectly obey God. Because Adam and Eve could not be perfect, because they sinned, because their sin is born in us, because we cannot be perfect, Jesus was born to be perfect for us, in our place and He was. He never sinned.
After living a perfect life. After obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly. After fulfilling all the ceremonial laws perfectly, Jesus took all our sins and all the sins of all people upon Himself. There is no sin that has been or ever will be committed for which Jesus did not suffer and pay the price. Forgiveness for all sins has been paid for by Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Indeed forgiveness was won on the cross of Calvary, but that is not where forgiveness is distributed. Jesus won forgiveness on Calvary but it is distributed, it is given out through the means of grace, where the Gospel is preached in all its fulness, where the sacraments are distributed in accord with His Word, where there is confession and absolution. Forgiveness was won on Calvary and is given out especially in Divine Service and in His Holy Supper.
Jesus paid the complete price for sin, death, His own physical death and eternal spiritual death as He suffered the pangs of hell on the cross. Jesus suffered and died, but as we know the rest of the story, He did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead, thus defeating death as well as sin and the devil. Jesus earned, paid for, and won forgiveness and now He freely gives the forgiveness He earned.
Indeed, as we said, all of human history points to this one event, Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection for us. All history pointed to Jesus and those who lived before Jesus’ birth were saved by God’s grace through faith in the coming Messiah. And now, those of us who live after Jesus resurrection, those of us living in these last days, we are also saved by God’s grace, through faith in this Jesus who is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. As we said, Jesus’ suffering and death earned forgiveness for us. Forgiveness is there and ready to be distributed. Truly, all we can do is refuse and reject the gifts Jesus has to give and we do that, we refuse and reject when we absent ourselves from the very place that His gifts are given out, Divine Service and the means of grace. Jesus gives us all things, faith, forgiveness and life. His desire is that we desire to be given the gifts He has to give and to desire to be where those gifts are given.
Many people have a habit or custom of making New Year’s resolutions as pertains to the end of the calendar year. Perhaps we might also be inclined to make a New Year’s resolution as we end this current church year and as next Sunday is the first Sunday in the New Church Year Calendar. Perhaps we might resolve that with the help of the Holy Spirit we might be moved to desire to be where the gifts of God are distributed and desire to be given those gifts every Sunday! God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you. He has given you your life at you conception. He has given you faith through His Word and Holy Baptism. Every week He desires to give you forgiveness of sins through your confession and His words of absolution as well as through His body and His blood which He gives to us in His Holy Supper. His are the best and greatest gifts! And they are for you! As we end this present church year we look forward to our Lord’s return, which gets closer each and every day, and we say as John says in his revelation, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Watch - November 17, 2013 - Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - Text: Luke 21:5-28 (29-36)

Today is the second last Sunday in our present church year. You may have noticed and you will notice again next week, our lessons focus our attention on the last days of this world and the fact that this world is a temporary place. As I have said before and as you will hear me say again and again, our lives on this earth are short, especially compared to eternity which is forever. At the moment of conception we are destined to die a physical death. We will meet our Lord, either at our passing or at His return, which ever comes first and believe me when I tell you, that day will be sooner than you know and sooner than you might imagine. So, as Jesus says in our text, so I too exhort you, “Stay awake at all times.” Quit focusing so much of your time and attention to this world and the temporary business of this world and focus you attention on making sure you are ready and those of your loved ones are ready for that final day, because after that day, it will be too late.
Getting to our text for today, we make note that Jesus is hanging around the temple and there are those there who are admiring the temple and especially the outward beauty of the temple. Jesus uses this event and this admiration of the temple as an opportunity to teach. To those who were admiring the physical temple and its beauty and especially to His disciples, Jesus spoke about the destruction of the temple. Now, one of our first thoughts might be that of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, but unlike in John’s gospel, Jesus is not speaking of  the destruction of the temple compared to destroying His body, that is He is not pointing to His death at this time, He is simply describing the destruction of the physical temple in Jerusalem as a sign of the coming of the end of the world.
Jesus explains some of the signs of the end of the world. Please understand that we recognize that Jesus’ birth ushered in the end times. Indeed, we are living in the end times. What are the signs of the end times? “8And [Jesus] said, ‘See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am he!” and, “The time is at hand!” Do not go after them. 9And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven’” (v. 8-11).
Just look at the world in which we live today. Of course, throughout history there have been similar signs of the end times and as has been said, each generation believes the world they live in is worse than the time before them, thus each generation believes they are living in the end times and even so today. Today we constantly hear of wars and rumors of war. We hear of terrorist attacks and bloodshed. We hear of uprisings and violence around the world and even in our own country and neighborhoods.
But there is even more, as we look at our world we are constantly being bombarded with news of man made global warming, as if we human beings really had enough control and power over God’s creation. We hear of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons. We hear of flooding and drought. We hear of famine and plague. We hear of one “natural” disaster after another as if there is no end to what sounds like bad news and even more bad news.
As we look at our world we can see that it is running down. It is getting worse. Of course as Christians this running down should not surprise us. Ever since the fall into sin, ever since Adam and Eve’s sin the world has been cursed and so the world will continue to run its cursed course until the last day. The whole world is groaning in eager expectation of the last day Paul tells us.
As Christians, how do we approach the events of the last days? We approach the events of the last days by being about the Lord’s business, by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, those means the Lord has given and through which He comes to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and through which He gets us ready and keeps us ready. We approach the events of the last days by being mindful of God’s plans and purpose in our lives.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that the events which we are experiencing are a direct result of the fall into sin and God’s curse in the Garden of Eden. At the same time we are reminded of God’s promise to Adam and Eve to send a Savior for all people, of all places, of all times, in other words God’s promise to send a Savior was not simply a promise to a certain group or ethnicity of people, but God’s promise was made before there were any people culture groups as we have in our world today. God’s promise was to all people, and especially to you and to me.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that God’s promise to send a Savior was reiterated throughout history and that when God called Abraham to be the one through whom He would fulfill His promise to send a Savior, His promise continued to be a promise of a Savior for all people, not just the children of Abraham. As a matter of fact, as we get into the New Testament, as the physical children of Abraham, indeed the children of Israel rejected Jesus as God’s promised Messiah, so Jesus reminds us that by faith in Him we who believe are now the true children of Abraham, children of the promise.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that Jesus is true God born in human flesh. Jesus entered into human history for a purpose, to reconcile and make right our relationship with Himself because we cannot. And Jesus’ birth ushered in the end of the world, so that we are now living in the end times.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that Jesus lived perfectly for all people. Jesus was born as a human, one with us, one like us, except without sin, in order to live for us, that is to perfectly obey God’s command to be perfect. Jesus lived perfectly for us, in our place because we cannot. The fullness of the Gospel is not simply that Jesus died for us, but the fact that Jesus lived for us.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that after living perfectly and after obeying all of God’s laws perfectly, after fulfilling all God’s promises and all the ceremonial laws that pointed to Himself, perfectly, Jesus took all our sins as well as all the sins of all people on Himself. The price for sin was set in Eden, death, physical death and apart from faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. Jesus died a physical death, but even more, He died the eternal spiritual death which would have and should have been ours.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. As we were reminded last week as Jesus confronted the Sadducees, His was not only a spiritual resurrection, but also a bodily resurrection. He rose in the body and showed Himself alive in His own body many times. Death and the grave had no hold over Him. He defeated sin, death and the devil.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, He earned forgiveness of sins for us. And the forgiveness He earned is distributed to us through the means of grace, through our Baptism and our remembering our Baptism, through our confession and our hearing the words of absolution, “your sins are forgiven,” through our reading and hearing God’s Word, and through our partaking of His true body and blood in His Holy Supper. Again, Jesus lived for us, took our sins and died for us paying the price for our sins for us, and rose for us giving us His victory so that now we have forgiveness of sins and death and the grave have no power over us.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded to point to Jesus. We are reminded that faith is not something we get on our own, not something we can claim, not something we dedicate ourselves to, rather faith is a gift from God. God gives faith by the power of the Holy Spirit working through His means of grace when and where He pleases. Indeed God gives faith, forgiveness and eternal life and we are passively being given to.
We approach the events of the last day by being reminded that Jesus makes us ready for His return. How does Jesus make us ready? How does He get us ready? And how do we live readied lives? Again, Jesus explains in our text, “12But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your lives” (v. 12-19).
God does not and never has promised us an easy life. As a matter of fact, as Christians we should expect to be treated as our Savior was treated and in many instance in this world Christians are treated with such disrespect. Christians are tormented, tortured and martyred around the world and somewhat even here in our own country. I believe a day will come in the not so distant future when we Christians here in America will be thrown in jail because we cannot abide by certain laws of this land. When we speak against the sins of this world we will be imprisoned and punished for our faith. Jesus’ words encourage us to rejoice in such times of conflict because those will be times when we will have an opportunity to give an answer for our faith and hope. And He tells us that we are not to be concerned about our witness and answer because He will give us the words to speak, words which will give Him glory.
And finally we have Jesus’ own words of encouragement and exhortation, “36But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (v. 36). We are living in the end times. I say that not to be an alarmist, but to remind you that the most important thing in this life is not to be about the business of this world, but to be about the Lord’s business, that is to make every effort and take every opportunity to be in Divine Service and Bible Class, to have personal reading of God’s Word as well as personal and family devotions, to remember your baptism, to come to confession and hear His words of absolution, to partake of our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Today is the second last Sunday in our present church year. Next week is our last Sunday in this present church year and again we will be reminded of the temporariness of this world. But even more we will be continually reminded of God’s love for us, His looking out for us, His reconciling us with Himself, His giving us and pouring out on us all the gifts and blessings He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have. And He also shows His greatness in stirring in us to say, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

He Is the God of the Living - November 10, 2013 - Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) - Text: Luke 20:27-40

You may have noticed, or not, but our liturgical color is back to green this morning as two weeks ago we celebrated the reformation of the church and the work of Dr. Martin Luther and our liturgical color was the celebration color of red, and last week we celebrated all the faithful saints who have passed on before us and the liturgical color of white and purity were on the altar. This week we move back to continue our Pentecost season of growth with the color of green. Counting today, we have three more Sundays in this present church year and on Sunday, December 1 we will begin a new church year with the season of Advent, but more on that when we get to that Sunday.
I am fascinated by people of some denominations who make such interesting statements as, “We are a Bible church and we don’t have any creeds.” Usually this is a misunderstanding of our denomination and the fact that we do have our confessional statements of faith in what we call the Book of Concord which is what we are studying in Bible Class and I would invite everyone to come and study with us. Perhaps you will learn how to be better able to give an answer to such interesting statements. Personally, I would like to respond in a snide way and say, “Oh, we threw the Bible out.” And I would like to point out that their statement is a creed of sorts, a bad creed, but a creed, or a statement of faith nonetheless. But that would not be answering in a gentle way. Anyway, the reason we have our confessional books and statements is that, as we hear in our Gospel reading for this morning, God does not gives us a systematic description of Himself as we have laid out in our confession, rather God gives us a historical narrative of Himself and through that historical narrative we learn a little about Him at a time. Thus, as we hear in our text for this morning and as we have been hearing in our text throughout this Pentecost season, not only did the Pharisees and teachers of the law get it wrong about Jesus and the Bible, so did the Sadducees.
As we get into our text, as we have been touring along with Jesus, He has been teaching and preaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles as proof of His divinity and humanity, of His Messiahship and all along the way the Pharisees and Scribes had been questioning and testing Jesus. Of course, as we have been hearing, they have failed every step of the way as well, yet they remained unconvinced and unconverted.
So, now in our text it is the Sadducees time to have their turn. About the Sadducees we should make note that although they do believe in the Mosaic law and the Pentateuch they do not believe in the resurrection to eternal life. As one comedian punningly stated it, “the Sadducees are sad you see, because they do not believe in the resurrection.” As we will see, they do not believe in the resurrection because of their own misunderstanding of God’s Word, which reminds us, again as we have discussed in Bible Class, there is only one interpretation of God’s Word and a whole lot of misinterpretations because of the sinful nature of those who misinterpret God’s Word. So, how do we know we get it right? We know we get it right by going back to the Word which points to Jesus. We get it right when we point to Jesus and Jesus is running the show.
It is the Sadducees turn and so they ask a question in order to trap Jesus. The Sadducees poise a rather ludicrous scenario according to Mosaic law as proof of their denial of a resurrection. They asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30And the second 31and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32Afterward the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife” (v. 28b-32).
A man marries a woman and dies, his brother marries her then dies. All seven brothers were married to the woman. All seven died without leaving an heir. Then the question is asked, “Whose wife will she be in heaven?” The Sadducees think they have come up with the perfect scenario to prove their denial of a resurrection. You can imagine the smug look on their face after they asked this question as they wait for Jesus to squirm and be unable to answer. But their self-satisfaction is short lived.
Jesus responses, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (v. 34b-38).
As we said earlier, there is only one interpretation of the Word of God. There are many misinterpretations and here we see that the Sadducees have indeed misinterpreted the Word of God and Jesus, who is the author of all Scripture explains to them where they have failed in their understanding. First Jesus explains that the Sadducees do not understand the distinction between life in this world and life in the world to come, especially and including marriage. Marriage is God’s gift and blessing for this world. His blessing of companionship, chastity, and children. In heaven there will be no marriage because in heaven there will be no need to populate the earth, nor will there be a need for companionship and chastity as we will all be perfect and in perfect companionship with one another.
Not only does Jesus address the issue of the resurrection, but He also addresses another issue of misinterpretation of these Sadducees, that is of their lack of believing in angels. You may have missed it, but Jesus says that in heaven we will be equal with angels suggesting that in heaven there will be no marriage because we will be like the angels (v. 36), whom we know are perfect, sinless and sexless, in other words procreation will not be an issue in heaven.
The Sadducees do not understand marriage on earth or in heaven, they deny God’s creation of His messengers, that is His angles, and they also do not understand the resurrection. Jesus is attempting to teach the Sadducees, as if they have come to be taught. They are actually like many people in our congregations today, those who have a misunderstanding of what God says in His Word, but rather than attend Bible Class and learn appropriately they would rather stay away and remain in their ignorance so they think they have an excuse in being wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have taught classes on church doctrine, such as why we have closed communion only to have those who disagree not attend so they might not hear the correct understanding and instead remain in their ignorance and complain about why it is not the way they want it. Anyway, Jesus reminds the Sadducees of Moses calling God the God of the living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and this is after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been physically deceased for over 2000 years.
And so, Jesus reminds the Sadducees that God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living. Those who have passed on from this world, those who have physically died, are not dead, but their souls are in heaven with the Lord. There is a resurrection of the dead. There will be a day of judgement and the ignorance and denial of the Sadducees will not negate the truth and validity of the Word of God. Quite a warning to these Sadducees and to us even today.
Interestingly enough, although Jesus may not have convinced these Sadducees, He did gain some respect from the Scribes, who no longer dared to question Him. Again, a reminder to us, as we have been following along through this Pentecost Season, this season of growing in our faith and as an invitation to our regular Sunday Bible Class, it is through our study and hearing God’s Word that the Holy Spirit uses what we have heard and learned so that as we have the opportunity and as we are asked we too can, with God’s authority and promise to be with us, give an answer for the faith we have in Jesus as our Savior.
So, what does this mean? Jesus gives us instruction concerning the difference between this world and heaven, especially the explanation that marriage is a blessing for this world only, in heaven we will be members of the bride of Christ. This world is a place of imperfection and sin. We are conceived and born in sin in this world. Every intention of our heart continues to be evil all the time. Our nature is to sin and then to run and hide from God. Our nature is to not want to get up on Sunday mornings and be in Divine Service, rather our nature and our natural inclination is to stay away. Of course the devil continues to encourage our nature, because he does not want us anywhere near where the gifts of God are given out. Yes, we live in this world, but we are to remember that we are not of this world. This world is only a temporary weigh station for our permanent dwelling in heaven. Certainly while we live in this world we are to take advantage and enjoy the life our Lord has given us, but not to the detriment of our eternal well being. Thus, God has given us our day of rest. He has given for us to have an opportunity to be refreshed in our faith, to be strengthened in our lives so that we might bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. And His desire is that we desire to be where He gives the gifts He has to give.
God’s Word is so important to us and we see how important His Word is especially as we hear in our text for today. Apart from God’s Word we might end up like the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. We might end up with a complete misunderstanding of the Word of God. We might end up denying angels, and even worse, end up denying the resurrection even our own resurrection. Our text is important as we hear Jesus give proof of the resurrection in the lives of the previously earthly departed saints, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And notice how Jesus Himself uses His own Word as its own interpretation always pointing to Himself.
God’s Word is so important and that is why our making use of His Word is so important. God has given us His Word as a means through which He comes to us, as we have been learning over the past few weeks. It is through God’s Word that He comes to seek and to save the lost. It is God’s Word which tells us the correct and true account of human history including the creation of the world. It is God’s Word which speaks to us of the reason the world is in the mess it is in, because of Adam and Eve’s sin and the curse of the world. It is also God’s Word which tells us of God’s promise to make all things right, that is His promise to restore our relationship with Himself. It is God’s Word which tells us that it is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, faith given to us through that Word, by the Holy Spirit that we too have eternal life in heaven. It is not we who save ourselves, as we are conceived and born in sin. It is Jesus who is the one promised of old. Jesus who is the one who is the sinless Son of God, truly God and truly man. It is Jesus who fulfilled all the promises of the coming Messiah and who fulfilled all the ceremonial laws which pointed to Himself and the once for all sacrifice on the cross. It is Jesus who took our sins and paid the price, the eternal spiritual death penalty for us in our place. It is Jesus who suffered, died and rose and who has sent the Holy Spirit to come to us, to give us, to strengthen and keep us in faith and indeed to stir in us a response of faith. As we said last week, our faith shows itself in our desire to be given the gifts God has to give and to respond in giving ourselves, our first fruits, our tithes even offering our time and talents in service to our Lord, serving Him as we serve others.
As we hear Jesus Words this morning we rejoice in our loving, gift giving God who pours out on us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and who stirs in us to respond saying, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is Darwinian Evolution Science? Or is the Creation Explanation Really Science?

Science might be described as setting a hypothesis and then setting out to disprove the hypothesis as a way of attempting to prove it is true, by not being able to disprove it.

A cult is a group that banned together under certain beliefs so that no one is able to deny those beliefs and if anyone should attempt to disprove those beliefs they are ostracized from the community.

With those two definitions, think about the difference between Darwinian Evolutionist (scientist) and the Creation Camp (religion). Those of the Creation Camp hypothesis that God created the world in six literal days and continually seek to disprove this theory, to no avail. Darwinian Evolutionist on the other hand have dictated that everyone believe molecules to man evolution and if you try to disprove it or speak against it you are ostracized. So, truly, who are the real scientists and who are the real cultist?

To this day there is no real evidence of Darwinian Evolution. Sure we can see changes in finches, but they always change into other finches, never into any other species. Yes, we can see changes in viruses as they mutate, but the simply mutate into other viruses, never into anything else. This mutation and/or natural selection is proof, not of Darwinian Evolution, but in Creation the fact that nothing changes from one species to another. But, by saying this I am a Darwinian Evolutionist heretic!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Salvation Has Come - November 3, 2013 - Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26) - Luke 19:1-10

Last week we celebrated Reformation day and instead of using the Reformation texts I used the text for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost. This week, likewise, even though today we celebrate All Saints day, that is we celebrate the lives and examples of all those who have passed on in the faith before us, I am going to continue using the text for the Pentecost Season, today that is the Gospel reading for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost. I have chosen to use this text because it continues with the theme of the Pentecost Season, that is a continuing reading of the Gospel of Luke for our growing in faith. Our text is Luke 19:1-10. (Read the text.) This is our text.
We have been following along with Jesus during these past twenty-three weeks and we have been listening to Him as He has been preaching and teaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles. Jesus was born into this world; the world He created prefect and holy; the world which became tainted by sin and cursed because of Adam and Eve’s sin; the world and the people of the world for whom God promised to send Him as their Savior. Jesus has been preaching and teaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles as proof of His true humanity and true divinity, indeed as proof of His being the one promised to save the world, true God in human flesh.
In our text for today Jesus continues His tour of teaching and preaching and today we read that He is passing through Jericho with no intention of stopping, perhaps because it was a major trade route and He did not want to get caught up in the trade of the city. Jericho was that city that was first destroyed by the children of Israel after marching around it once for six days and seven times on the seventh day, when the children of Israel first entered the promised land. Jericho has been rebuilt at the loss of the first and youngest sons of Hiel, the Bethelite as pronounced by the curse from Joshua at its destruction.
Our text tells us that Jesus entered Jericho and was simply passing through when we are introduced to a man named Zacchaeus. Of course, most of us remember Zacchaeus, because we remember that song we learned way back in Sunday School. Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. But he was more than simply a wee little man. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and sinner. And tax collectors and sinners were despised especially by their own people. We can better understand this hatred when we understand the tax system. Those brave men, or thieving men who took up a career as a tax collector, enlisted with the government for the job. They were given a list of peoples names and the taxes they owned. The average person on the street did not know how much tax they owed, only what the tax collector told them. The way the tax collector made a living was that whatever money he collected over and above what was listed was his to keep, thus he made money by over charging those who owed. The kicker was that this tax collector was Jewish and he was collecting from his own Jewish people and the money he collected was for those who were Gentiles and not a part of the covenant. Thus they were seen as traitors and hated by their own people.
So, Zacchaeus was a wee little man and evidently not only had he heard about Jesus, perhaps the fact that Jesus did hang out with sinners, he actually had heard Jesus and the word He proclaimed. Just as our Lord does today, so even while on this earth, He works through means and in particular the means of His Word. As Jesus preached the Word, as Jesus taught the crowds, the Holy Spirit worked through that Word, when and where He pleased to give, strengthen and keep His people in faith.
Zacchaeus heard Jesus, was given faith and we see the faith he was given as his desire was to see Jesus. His desire was not some innate desire, not some seeker desire, not some inner spark, rather his desire was prompted by the Holy Spirit working through the Word he heard. Kind of like last week when I offered the free gift for the children and they all rushed forward, so is Zacchaeus’ desire and so is our desire to be in Divine Service every Sunday where the Word is preached, the sacraments are distributed and the gifts of God are given out. Indeed faith shows itself in the desire to be where the gifts are given and to be given those gifts.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man who knew he would not be able to stand behind the crowds to see Jesus so he ran ahead along the path where Jesus was walking and he climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. Zacchaeus was no longer concerned about what others thought, nor about his tax collecting business. His only concern was to see Jesus, to hear Jesus, even to be given more of the gifts He had to give. Would that we would all be like Zacchaeus.
Indeed, Zacchaeus chose the right tree and as Jesus came along He stopped and He looked up in the tree and He said, “Zacchaeus you come down, for I’m going to your house today.” Yes, the children’s song captures the moment quite well. Jesus sees Zacchaeus. Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus. Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.
The results of Jesus eating at Zacchaeus house are much like the results of Jesus eating at Matthew’s house a few weeks ago, the crowds grumbled that Jesus eats with sinners. When Jesus was at Matthew’s house and the Pharisees grumbled complaining “Why do you eat and drink with tax collector’s and sinners?” “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31,32). Here at Zacchaeus’ house we see the same calling of Jesus, to sinners to repentance and this time it is Zacchaeus who is being called.
Jesus calls to faith and the Holy Spirit working through the very Word of Jesus gives faith. In the case of Zacchaeus, his response of faith was heard in his confession and desire to make amends. Zacchaeus pledged, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (v.8).
And our text concludes with Jesus rejoicing in salvation for the house of Zacchaeus. And Jesus reaffirming that He came to seek and to save the lost.
So, what does this mean? Again we are reminded that although we may live in this world, we are not of this world. We live in a world tainted by the curse, by temptation and sin. We live in a world where this is constant temptation from the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. We living in a world which is becoming less and less accepting of the Christian faith, indeed we live in a world that grumbles more and more about the Christian faith.
Why does the world grumble about the Christian faith? Why does the world even hate Christians? Simply stated, the world does not understand God’s grace. The world does not accept the exclusive claims of the Gospel. The world does not understand God’s intolerance to sin, nor the fact that the price for sin is death, physical death and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. Most especially the world does not understand the loving call to repentance. How often do we hear the world speak such statements as: “It’s my life to live as I want.” “It’s my body to do with as I want.” “You can’t judge me, you don’t even know me.” “You can’t tell me what to do.” “What I do in private is none of your business.” “Who are you to tell me that what I am doing is wrong?” “My god is not like that.” “I don’t like calling it sin, I would rather call it something that doesn’t make it sound wrong.” Indeed, we live in a sin sick society and that society is continually pressing against the Church of God as we live in this world.
Yet, the fact remains that as Jesus came to seek and to save the lost as He says in our text, so that seeking and saving continues even today. Jesus continues to seek and to save the lost, you and I included. Last week we talked about the fact that we are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Every intention of our heart is evil all the time and the wages, the cost and price for sin is death, physical death and apart from Jesus eternal spiritual death. We were also reminded that until we realize how sinful we are, that is that the less sinful we think we are and the less of Jesus we think we need, indeed, to say it badly, the less forgiven we are. It is only as we understand the depth of our sin, the complete depravity of our nature, how we are complete beggars before Jesus that we can begin to comprehend the awesomeness of the good news of the Gospel of sins forgiven. If we believe ourselves to be good people and we only need a little forgiveness, then Jesus means little to us. Only as we understand our complete fallen nature can we understand the complete love and grace of Jesus. As Jesus Himself says, he who has been forgiven little loves little, but he who has been forgiven much loves much.
And yet again as we continue learning from Jesus we are reminded once again that the word of God is efficacious, especially in giving the gifts God has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Through the very means of the Word of God the Holy Spirit works, gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Through the very means of the Word of God the Holy Spirit works to stir in us a desire to come running to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. Notice in our text, we see Jesus giving faith and we see the response of faith, Zacchaeus giving himself to the Lord, giving to the poor and returning what he had defrauded.
As always, we get it right when we get our focus right. When we point to ourselves we get it wrong, When we point to Jesus we know we get it right. As we focus on Jesus we see that it is Jesus who calls us to life and to faith. Jesus calls us through the very means He has given to call us, His Word and Sacraments. He calls us to follow Him. He calls us to desire to be given the gifts He has to give. He calls us to respond in faith, giving ourselves to Him.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree and He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.” The account of Zacchaeus and the song we learned so long ago are so instructive to us in understanding the love our Lord has for us. Jesus came, as one of us, one with us, one like us except without sin. Jesus came and lived for us, fully obeying all God’s commands and fulfilling all those ceremonial sacrificial laws which pointed to Himself and His once for all sacrifice on the cross. Jesus took our sins, suffered and died and paid the price for our sins. Jesus died and rose for us, in our place. And Jesus continues to come seeking and looking for us. Today He seeks us through His Word as it is preached and taught and especially as it is proclaimed in Divine Service were His Word is most sure. Jesus seeks us and He sends His Holy Spirit to work through the Word through which He seeks us to gives us faith, to stir in us a heart of repentance, and to give us all the good gifts He has to give, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And He stirs in us our response of faith, that is to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.