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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Is Prayerful (Praying for Others))

The Apostle Paul understood the necessity of prayer, especially in bearing witness of one’s faith. Paul reminds us that in any and all outreach, evangelism endeavors, we are to begin with prayer. He says, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Paul reminds us that we are to pray for our family and friends so that the Lord would send the Holy Spirit ahead of any witness he might make, to open their heart and minds to see and hear his life and words of faith.

And Paul continues encouraging us by saying, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4). Here again, Paul reminds us that it is God who opens doors and hearts to see and hear the life of faith one lives and speaks. It is God who creates and gives faith. God is the one at work when and where He pleases.

As we think about the people we know, family and friends, and even those we may chance to meet in the day, we begin with prayer for those people. We begin by asking God to go ahead of us and open their hearts and minds. We also ask that God would help us to be the people, the witnesses, He would have us to be. And as we have the opportunity to bear witness we pray that God would keep His promise and give us the courage and the words to speak. And finally we pray that God would give us the patience to know that He will do the work He does, giving and creating faith, when and where He pleases so that we are not tempted to attempt to argue, convince or force someone into faith.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
18 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Holy, Holy, Holy - May 27, 2018 - Holy Trinity Sunday/1st Sunday after Pentecost - Text: Isaiah 6:1-8

Last Sunday we celebrated the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Today we celebrate the trinity of our God, that is that our God reveals and shows Himself to us as a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, yet three persons. We celebrate that the oneness of the plurality of our God is never divided so that wherever the Father is, there is the Son and the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is the Father and the Son and wherever the Son is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit. This trinity may not be something we completely understand or can completely and comprehensively explain, but this trinity is how God reveals Himself to us and so this is what we believe.
In our text for this Holy Trinity Sunday we see and hear the trinity of our God in the Trinitarian doxology sang by the angels and we see and hear how we might well emulate Isaiah’s response, his confession, God’s absolution and God’s calling to each of us in our vocation. We begin with the song of the seraphim, verse one, “1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (v. 1-3).
The seraphim were one of the ranks of the angels who serve God and humanity. In his vision, Isaiah sees these angels of the Lord serving the Lord on His throne in His temple. He sees how even the angels show their humility before God, as with their wings they have covered their face and their feet.
And we get a bit of heavenly liturgy as we hear their Trinitarian hymn of praise: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Although this is a vision, Isaiah is compelled to confess his sins as he stands in the awesome presence of the Lord. We pick up at verse four, “4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 4-5).
In this vision, Isaiah recognizes that he is in the presence of God. The awesomeness of God is felt in the shaking of the foundation of the temple. It was the voice of God that caused the foundations to shake.
Upon hearing the voice of God and understanding that no one can see God and live, because of man’s sinfulness, Isaiah recognizes his sins and repents, “Woe is me.” And the confession of his sins is a simple confession, “I am a man of unclean lips, . . .” And remember, this is Isaiah the prophet, a great man, called by God to proclaim His Word to the people, certainly someone we might expect would be above the fray so to speak, someone we might not believe to be too bad a person, maybe we might even consider someone who is not so much a sinner, yet Isaiah recognizes his condition before a sinless, holy God, that he is a sinner indeed and has no standing before a perfect God. So, Isaiah confesses.
And God grants Isaiah absolution. We pick up at verse six, “6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 6-7).
On Sunday morning, when we confess our sins, we hear God’s Word of absolution as our pastor, the “called and ordained servant of the Word,” announces the grace of God upon us and forgives us our sins. For Isaiah, the seraphim took the tongs and took a coal and touched his lips. In this act of purification, his sins were forgiven.
And the angel announced, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” This word, “atone” literally means “to cover.” That our sins are atoned for means that they have been covered. And this covering does not mean simply a covering as a hiding, or a putting of something over them so they are not seen. This is not a whitewashing of sins. This atoning, this covering means that the price for sin has been covered, has been paid.
Having called Isaiah to repentance and having confessed his sin, and having been forgiven, we now have God’s call to ministry and Isaiah’s response. Verse eight, “8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (v. 8).
Isaiah has been in the presence of God and has lived. He has confessed his sins and been given forgiveness. He has heard the song of the seraphim. And now he hears the voice of the Lord God Himself who asks, “Whom shall I send?”
How else could Isaiah respond? God chose Isaiah. God forgave him his sins. God showed him His angels. God spoke so that he heard God’s voice. Indeed, when God called him how else could he respond except that he responded with the words, “Here am I, Send me.”
What Does This mean? God reveals Himself to us as a Triune God. Did you notice the word of the Lord? God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God speaks of Himself in the singular and in the plural. Of course, this is not our first encounter of such language. In Genesis we have the plurality of God saying, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26). In Deuteronomy we have God, and the word God is in the plural, telling Israel, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God (again, plural), the Lord is one” (Deut. 4:6). In his Gospel, John speaks of the persons of the trinity as a whole with all the persons of the trinity being in existence since before the creation of the world. And the list of these passages goes on and on through Holy Scripture. Our God is a God who is three persons in one God. We may not be able to completely explain it, but this is what God says and so this is what is true.
Just as God revealed Himself to Isaiah, so He reveals Himself to us. And just as God showed Isaiah his sin, so God shows us our sins. God reminds us that we are conceived and born in sin. He reminds us that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. God reminds us that we sin in thought, word and deed. God reminds us that we sins sin of commission, doing what we should not be doing and sins of omission, failing to do what we should be doing. One look at our world, one look at the newspaper, at televison, listening to the radio and so forth, should more than anything convince us of the truth of God’s Word, we are sinners indeed and sinners in need.
Because of our sin and even more, because of God’s promise to send a Savior, which He fulfilled in Christ. Because of Christ’s giving His life to pay the price for our sins, eternal spiritual death, and because of the message of the Gospel, we are moved to confess our sins. Remember, it is not the Law but the Gospel that moves us to repent. The Law moves us either to despair, thinking there is no hope for us, or to works righteousness, thinking we can earn our forgiveness. The Gospel which speaks of Jesus’ perfect life for us, of His perfect suffering, death and resurrection for us which moves us to repent of our sins, sins already paid for and forgiven. And so as we begin our Divine Service, as we come into God’s presence in our sin the first thing we do is confess our sins so that we might enter into God’s presence and we do confess that we sin. We confess that we sin in thought, word and deed; that we sin sins of commission and omission, that we fail to live lives of faith, that we fail to live lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers, in other words we fail to live lives as living sacrifices for the Lord and instead, we live lives for ourselves. And so we confess.
And upon our confession, we are given God’s absolution, earned and paid for by God Himself, by Jesus, God in flesh. Today, the Lord does not send an angel, a seraphim to take a coal with tongs and touch it to our lips, rather, today our Lord comes to us, especially on Sunday morning, when we confess our sins, and we hear the word of the Lord as spoken through our pastor when he says, as we heard this morning, “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And our response is the response of faith, “Amen.”
So, God reveals Himself to us, as He did to Isaiah, as a triune God. God shows us our sins, as He did to Isaiah, calling us to repentance. We repent, because of the Gospel and the promise of forgiveness, as did Isaiah and finally, as God called Isaiah, so God calls us. Today He calls us to our vocation. God calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices for Him. God calls us to live our lives in such a way that they show for the faith that is in our hearts. God calls us and we answer, “Here am I, send him, send her.” Right? Unfortunately that is usually our answer. But, thanks be to God that as we fail and when we fail and no matter how often we fail, He gives us forgiveness, picks us up and gives us another chance and another chance and another chance. So, eventually we might better respond as Isaiah, “Here am I, send me, send me!”
Notice, again, as in every instance as we hear God’s Word, it all begins with Him. God revealed Himself to Isaiah. God reveals Himself to us. God called Isaiah to repentance. God calls us to repentance. God granted Isaiah absolution. God grants us absolution. God called Isaiah to service. God calls us to service through our vocation. God does. God gives. God calls. God moves. God starts. God begins. God initiates. And we are done to, called, moved, started, begun, initiated and given to. My prayer is that our song may be the song of the angels, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (v. 3b).  To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Living One’s Faith)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). If you have not figured it out by now, the heart of Lutheran Vocational Evangelism is this living one’s faith as a light to the world. As Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, He told His apostles and us, His disciples, as we are going about our daily lives, we are to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

Indeed, just as we excitedly share the wonderful “things” of our life, a new house, a new car, a new child, a new this or that, just so as our faith is the most important thing in our life, we are excited to share our faith with others. The first way we share our faith is by living our faith. As we live our faith, as we live our lives as God’s children, other people will notice. Others will notice that we are different as Christians because Christians are different. If we are not different than the rest of the world, we might reassess our faith.

As Christians we live lives of faith, offering our lives, doing our work, performing our job and career, not for a boss or a company, but doing so in a way in which we give glory to the Lord. As we have said before, we serve God by serving others. As we live lives of faith, we are serving God, and as we serve God, others will see the difference in us, a difference rooted in our faith and love of Jesus.

This life of faith does not mean we are to live a fake life as if we have no problems or struggles, as the world might perceive the Christian life. No, we will live a life, probably with more problems and struggles as the devil attacks us even more. The difference is in how we handle life as we take it to the Lord in prayer and confidently depend on Him knowing that in all things He will work everything to His glory. Thus, living a life of faith bears witness of our faith and trust in Jesus alone.
17 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I Will Put My Spirit on You and You Will Live - May 20, 2018 - Pentecost Sunday - Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Today is the day we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. As we begin I am compelled to make a couple opening remarks to clarify what we now celebrate as Pentecost. First, this was not the first Pentecost celebration. Originally Pentecost was a Jewish holiday marking fifty days after Passover and was a first fruits celebration. This meant that a lot of Jews would be in Jerusalem celebrating, making this the “perfect” day for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit. This also reminds us of how perfect God’s planning truly is. Second, this is not the first appearance of the Holy Spirit. We read of the Holy Spirit back in Genesis. Remember, as we will celebrate next week on Holy Trinity Sunday, our triune God is always one, thus God is always at the same time, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so where there is one person of the trinity there are all persons of the trinity because God cannot be divide. Now let us move on to our text.
Our text is the Old Testament lesson and the account of the “dry bones.” We begin with Ezekiel recounting the vision and the question, “1The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know’” (v. 1-3).
First, let us make note that this was a vision, not something that was actually happening to Ezekiel. So, in this vision Ezekiel recounts that the Lord had brought him out to a valley full of bones, and as he describes them, very dry bones. We notice the fact that Ezekiel points out that these bones were very dry which is what happens to bones after they have been out in the weather for a long time. In other words, the people in this valley had been dead for long enough for the skin to rot off the bones and for the bones to dry up, quite a long time.
And then Ezekiel is asked a question. “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s answer is one we would do well to emulate, especially if we do not know the answer, which it appears he did not know. Ezekiel answers, “O Lord God, you know.”
I do not believe Ezekiel’s answer was an answer of doubt. Rather I believe his answer was an answer of hope and faith. His answer might also be our answer that is that whenever we might be in doubt we might answer that with God nothing is impossible.
We continue the recounting of the vision with the command of God. “4Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ 7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them” (v. 4-8).
Again, let me remind you that this is a vision. In this vision, after showing him the valley of dry bones, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy. He tells him to tell the bones to live. And so that is what Ezekiel did. He did as he was told. He prophesied to the bones.
And when he prophesied, what he said happened, not because of what he said, but because these were God’s Word given to him to speak. When he spoke God’s Word, God’s Word does what it says, the bones came to life, at least flesh and skin came upon the bones, but really, they were not yet alive as there was not yet any breath in them.
And so we continue with God’s second command. “9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (v. 9-10).
God tells Ezekiel to prophesy and tell the bones to live. And again that is what Ezekiel did. He prophesied and he told the bones to live, just as God told him to do.
    And the bones came to life, real life. Not only did the bones have flesh and blood, but now they had breath, that is they had life. Life came into the bones.
And finally, Ezekiel and we are given the explanation of this vision. “11Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord’” (v. 11-14).
At the time of this vision, the children of Israel were in exile. They had been disbursed to many places and countries around the world. Perhaps for many Israelites they had lost all hope. Now, through the prophet Ezekiel, God is giving a word of hope. Through Ezekiel God says He will restore the house of Israel. Of course, today we understand that this restoration of Israel was not simply a physical, earthly line of descent and restoration, rather this restoration was a spiritual, faith giving, forgiving restoration, so that all who believe in the Messiah will be a part of the true Israel.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises that He will give the world a Savior through the house of Israel. These words of Ezekiel are being spoken some 400 years before the birth of Jesus. The Savior that God is promising is not a social political savior. The Savior God is promising is a Savior who will be Israel, who will live perfectly and obey all God’s laws and commands perfectly, something Israel could not do. This Savior will be one who will fulfill all God’s promises perfectly and who will save them from their sins.
And we will know this prophecy is true because God will do it. Just as Ezekiel answered God’s question concerning whether or not the bones could live by saying that the Lord knows, and I would suggest implied is that with God all things are possible, so we know that just as God promised to send a Savior, that this will happen because with God all things are possible. Of course, we have the luxury, if you will, of hind-sight and we can see that these things did happen and were fulfill in Jesus, the Savior of the world.
What does this mean? As you hear me say, continually, God’s Word does what it says. God gives us His Word, through which He gives us His Holy Spirit, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. This morning we see, and hear the word of the Lord to Ezekiel. Yes, this was a vision, but even in the vision we see and hear God’s word doing what He says. The vision is not necessarily speaking of the resurrection of the dead in general, but the restoration of God’s people. And this restoration came about because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And the small group of believing Jews in Jerusalem, along with the believing non-Jews, or Gentiles are the ones who began the restoration of the spiritual Israel.
This morning, then, we are reminded, again, that it always begins with God. God gives and we are given to. And God gives in particular through means. God gives us His good gifts and blessings, those gifts and blessings earned by the Savior, Christ the Lord, through His means of the cross, and these gifts and blessings are given by God’s grace, through faith, through the means of the Word and the Sacraments. God’s usual way of working with us, coming to us, is not immediately, not directly, but mediately, that is indirectly, or through means. God comes to us through His Word, which does what it say. God comes to us through confession and absolution which give forgiveness of sins. God comes to us through Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to give, strengthen and keep us in faith.
God gives and we are given to. And because God gives through means, our desire is to make regular and diligent use of these means. We just cannot help ourselves. It’s something like being a chocoholic. A person who really likes, even loves chocolate will crave chocolate. I am told this is actually true when it comes to sugar, that when we eat sugar our bodies actually crave sugar, but if we can stop eating it we will stop craving it. So it is with God’s good gifts and blessings. So it is with us as Christians. When we are giving God’s good gifts and blessings, we simply crave them. We simply have to have them. We want, more than anything, our desire, more than anything is to be when and where God’s gifts are given out, to be in Divine Service and Bible class whenever offered. We cannot help but remember our Baptism and the fact that God has put His name on us, so we are His. We desire to confess our sins so we might hear the greatest words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” We desire to come to the Lord’s Table to eat His body and drink His blood and be strengthened in our faith.
This morning as we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate that at our baptism and through our reading and hear of God’s Word, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We celebrate that it is the Holy Spirit, working in and through us, working through the means of grace, that we are God’s children, that we are brother and sisters in Christ, that we are heirs to eternal life, that He gives us the desire to live lives of faith, and that He gives us the ability to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ and finally that He even gives us the words to speak and the courage to speak at just the right time. And now He moves in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Success Is . . . )

The world today is obsessed with being successful perhaps more so in the business world which is often confusing when brought into the church as a model for the church. Of course, the definition of success varies depending on the situation. In a church this idea of success usually means having a lot of people in church on Sunday morning. A church is said to be successful if it has a lot of members and not successful if it has just a few members.

It is interesting that the word success is found only eleven times in the Bible, and all are in the Old Testament. The word success is used to mean “prosper” or “have an advantage.” Still, a definition of this “prosper” or “have an advantage” varies, but it is unrelated to any outreach effort (unless you count wiping out your enemies as outreach). On the other hand, the word faithful is found seventy-eight times in the Old and New Testament and means to be trustworthy, that is, to do what is expected. As Lutheran doctrine teaches, although people spread the Good News of Jesus Christ by word and action, God is still the one who grants success and faithfulness, without which the coming to faith does not occur. “Witnesses” or “evangelists,” therefore, cannot claim success for “bringing one to faith.”

The problem with defining success in the church by looking at the outside, the numbers, is that the numbers do not look into the heart to see if one is faithfully growing in faith. And, as we just said, God never asks us to be successful; He asks us to be faithful. Being faithful shows itself in one’s desire to be in Divine Service, in Bible Class to be given the gifts of God, and to be an active, contributing member of a congregation.

While we may rejoice in the numbers in attendance, we might rather count our success in the number of those who are regular attendees, meaning every Sunday and every opportunity, as well as those who are active and respond in service using their time, talents and treasure as a reflection of the faith God has given and in their faithfulness.
16 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Witness of His Resurrection - May 13, 2018 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 1:12-26

We begin this morning by recognizing that today is the secular holiday of Mother’s Day. As a Christian Church we rejoice in God’s gift of the Holy Estate of Motherhood. Indeed as we might understand God speaking through Paul in his first letter to Timothy reminding us that the Savior of the world was born through a woman, as Paul expresses it in kind of a strange way, “Yet she (women) will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:15). So we rejoice in Motherhood. We rejoice in God giving us a Savior through the woman. And we say, “Happy Mother’s Day to our mothers.” We are so glad you are here today.
As we begin this morning we also make note that last Thursday was a holiday. Unfortunately, it probably went unnoticed by most people. Last Thursday we celebrated the holy day of Ascension. We celebrated that after Jesus showed Himself to be alive for forty days after Easter, that He gathered His apostles, disciples and followers and ascended before their eyes to heaven, from where He had descended.
Our text for today is the account that follows, beginning at 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).
Our text comes during the ten days between the ascension of Jesus and the day of the sending of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday. Our text is the choosing of a replacement for Judas. In our text Peter explains what happened. We continue 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.)” (v. 15-19).
Peter reminds the group that had gathered that Judas was one of them, a follower, a disciple of Jesus. Actually, Judas was an apostle. Peter reminds the Apostles that Judas was one of them, yet he strayed. Peter’s words show us his attitude in keeping the eighth commandment. Peter reminds us today of the truth of the old saying, “but by the grace of God, there go I.” Peter was not judgmental in speaking about Judas, he simply spoke the facts.
Peter says that Judas earned what he deserved. Again, notice that Peter does not say what Judas earned, only that he got what he deserved. What Judas earned was a field. The money Judas got for betraying Jesus, which he threw into the temple before he committed suicide, was used to buy a field to bury people with no other place to be buried.
And Peter says that Judas went to where he deserved. Again, he does not say where that was, just that it was where he deserved to go.
Our text continues with Peter explaining what needs to happen. We continue at verse twenty, “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.” 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’” (v. 20-22).
Peter quotes from Scripture showing the need for a replacement for Judas. Notice how the Bible is the rule for making decisions. We do not make decisions according to our own feelings or intuition. We do not make decisions according to what we believe to be best simply for ourselves. We make decisions according to the guidance and direction of the Lord, especially as He guides and directs us through the means of His Word.
According to Scripture, Peter is convinced that Judas needs to be replaced. So, Peter notes the criteria for the one that is to be the replacement for Judas. First, he must have been with the group from the time of Jesus’ baptism until His ascension. This was important because the replacement was to be able to bear witness to others from first hand experience what happened, from the time of Jesus’ baptism until His ascension.
The second and probably the most important criteria was that the replacement must have been a witness of the resurrection. How can a person be a witness of the resurrection if they did not see it?
Our text continues with the “call” process. We pick up at verse twenty-three, “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. 23-26).
The call process consisted of choosing someone who fit the criteria previously laid out, that is, that it was someone “who ha(d) accompanied [them] during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among [them], 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from [them].” Only two men fit the criteria, “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.”
Next Peter prayed a prayer. Peter’s prayer is an example to us today of how to pray. Peter’s prayer was not a lengthy, drawn out preachy prayer, rather it was a short, simple, to the point prayer. God does not answer our prayers because of their length or because of their eloquence. He answers our prayers because He is our good, gracious, and kind God who loves us. He answers our prayers according to what He knows we need according to what He knows is best for us.
So, prayers were said and the lots were cast. The lots that were cast were probably two small stones that were different colors. One stone was for Justus, the other for Matthias. They were put into a gourd and shaken until one stone was shaken out. That was the stone of the man that was chosen. The stone that came out, the lot that was cast, was in the favor of Matthias. And interestingly enough, we do not hear either of Justus or Matthias any more in the Bible.
So, what does this text have to do with us today? Or, what does this mean? We could use our text to describe our call process and perhaps to some degree it does. Yet, I think that there is more to our text than just describing the call process. I think this text describes our lives. We are constantly making decisions in our lives. We could make decisions with a fatalistic attitude. We could say whatever is going to happen will happen and there is nothing I can do about it, so I make no decision. Or we could remember that God gives us a brain so that we can use our brain to help us in making decisions.
As we make decisions we begin by realizing that we are sinners and as sinners in and of ourselves we will tend to make decisions that are contrary to God’s will and Word. Thus we struggle with decisions.
The way of the world is that we make decisions that are based on our feelings and on what will gain us power and authority. The way of the world is to tell us that we are nothing unless we are something in the eyes of the world. The way of the world is the way of power and authority. Notice how this flies in the face of God. God’s way is the way of service and self-sacrifice. God’s way is the way of living our lives according to His good and gracious will. God’s way is shown to us in the giving of His Only Son. Jesus is true God. As true God He was in heaven enjoying all power, authority and glory that were His. Yet, He gave up the glory of heaven, He gave up complete authority and took on human flesh and blood. He came as a servant, to give His life for ours so that we might have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
How foolish God’s ways are to our world. The world would have us believe that it is foolish for a person to give up their own personal “power and authority” for the sake of another. Jesus tell us that a person can have no greater love for another, than the love of giving their life for another. As you have heard me time and again talking about our vocations and our calling as priests in the priesthood of all believers, we understand that as priests, our calling is to live our lives as living sacrifices for the Lord and this is how we are to live out our callings. The purpose of our vocation is to love and serve our neighbor and this love flows out of God’s first love for us. We are to live, not for ourselves, but for others. Using the examples of the vocation of a husband and a wife, Jesus tells us that husbands are to love their wives in the same way that He loves us, so much that they would lay down their lives for their wife. You do not see that happening too much in our world today. Maybe we need to work on that. Today we celebrate how Jesus’ love is also shown in the lives of mothers, who give up their power, authority and glory to serve in the tremendous task of being mothers.
The way of the world is that we make decisions that are based on power and authority. The way of the Lord is that we pray for His guidance in making decisions. We pray to the Lord and we let Him guide us. And He does guide us. His usual way of guiding us is through means, and in particular through His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He guides us as He works through these means to give us faith, to strengthen our faith, to gives us forgiveness, life and salvation.
We are not apostles. We are not Matthiases. We are God’s children. We are brothers and sister and heirs with Christ. We are disciples, followers and learners of Jesus. By God’s grace, through faith, given through the means of grace we are eye witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. And so we are priests. And as priests, God has given us the privileged to live lives of faith. We are privileged, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to lives our lives in such a way that others see the faith that is in our hearts. We are privileged that, as others ask, we are able, again, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to give an answer, an apology, that is a defense of the faith which God has given to us. We are able to give an answer as God gives us the words to say. And He gives us the words to say as we use every opportunity to read and hear God’s Word through which our Lord gives us all His good gifts and blessings. And we rejoice and give thanks even share those gifts and blessings, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation, with others. And to that we say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(How Does the Church Grow?)

We talked about how the visible church grows, that is that the visible church grows through numbers, but are all those we count in the visible church actually in the invisible Church? Unfortunately too often the invisible Church is forfeited for the visible church, mainly because that is what one sees and that is how “success” is counted in our world.
How does the Church, capital “C” grow? The Church grows through the means the Lord has given to grow His Church, the means of grace: the Word, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The difficulty with this “means of grace” kind of growth is that it is not something we can see nor count, it is only what the Lord can see and only what the Lord can count.
When we look at the outside of any given church, we might be impressed or even depressed with what we see, big numbers in attendance or small numbers. Yet, this outside looking is not what God sees. God sees what is in the heart. God sees those He has given faith and those who come to be strengthened and kept in faith.
So, as we look at the Church and as we dwell on the questions, “Is this church growing?”, we really cannot answer by simply looking at the outside, at the numbers. If we really want to know if a church is growing, we might look at such things as Bible Class and Bible Study attendance as well as works of service. Are people pitching in, being a part, or are people simply showing up for the service on Sunday morning and that is all that is going on in their spiritual life? Are people having personal and family devotions in their homes? Are people actually reading their Bible on their own? The spiritual growth of the church brings the leader of the church, the faithful attendees, the faithful givers. Those in the Word are the true leaders of the church because they know what, where, and how God wants His Church to function.
The desire of one having faith is to be given even more of the gifts of God. The desire of one having faith is to be when and where the gifts are given out and then to respond, to live as a priest, to offer one’s life as a living sacrifice. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. As we see those absent themselves, not being in the Word, not doing works of service, we might surmise they are not a part of the Church. Of course, only God can see in the heart and so only God knows what is truly His Church.
15 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2017)