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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Understanding the Lord’s Supper)

What is the Lord’s Supper and why do we believe what we believe which is that we are eating Christ’s body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine? Because that is what Jesus says we are doing. On the night in which He was betrayed, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated this Passover with His disciples.

So, as Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, at one point in the meal.  He took bread, blessed it and gave it to His disciples. With the bread in His hand He told them to take and eat the bread which was His body (Matthew 26:26). Because Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, it was important that as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, that those who participate in the benefit of His sacrifice also eat of the sacrifice; thus, Jesus declares that the bread being eaten actually is His body. Jesus does not say the bread represents nor is changed into, but is actually His body.

After He distributed His body/bread to His disciples, He then took the third of four cups of the Passover, the cup of Redemption, blessed it and passed it around for His disciples to drink with the words, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27b-28a). Notice here again, Jesus did not say the cup of wine symbolized or changed into, but was His blood. And here again, as they drank His blood/wine, it became a part of them. Thus, as those who eat Jesus’ body and drink Jesus’ blood, the body and blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, they are participating in Jesus so He becomes a part of them. As He is a part of those eating and drinking, His life becomes theirs, His suffering and death become theirs, and His resurrection and eternal life become theirs.

Notice also, that Jesus never explains how this is happening, our eating and drinking His body and blood (as we explain) in, with and under the bread and wine. He simply tells us this is what we are doing; thus, we eat and drink in faith believing the Word of Jesus whose Word does what it says and gives the gifts He says it gives. And we rejoice and say, “Amen,” God is faithful. “Amen,” gift given, our being given to, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory.
22 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Who Are We That God Is Mindful of Us? - June 24, 2018 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Job 38:1-11

Last Thursday, whether you noticed it or not, perhaps you heard it said in the media, but it was the first day of Summer. Certainly as we all talk and complain about the heat, in the Summer and the cold in the Winter, the fact that it was the first day of Summer means that the Sun has reached its highest point in the northern hemisphere and now will be heading south again. Indeed, as God created the heavens and the earth, as God put the stars in the skies to mark for times and seasons, yes, as God is in control and has set boundaries, as He tells Job in our text, we know God is faithful and just to keep His promises. Indeed, God is in control, no matter what we might hear said in our world today.
Moving on to our text, let me start by asking the question you have no doubt heard before. Why do bad things happen to good people? That is a question that is often asked, especially by someone who thinks they are good and has had something they think is bad happen to them. The problem is, the question is wrong. We are not good people, as we think we are, rather we are bad people. We are sinful human beings. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. The question we should ask is, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” The answer is, because we have a gracious God who loves us so much that He always works out the best for us in any and all, and especially in all bad, situations. We may not understand why, but we are thankful to our Lord for all His goodness to us.
Our text for today is the beginning of the conclusion of the book of Job. The book of Job was written to help us understand and answer the profound question of God and suffering. In the beginning of the book of Job we are told that the angels have come to present themselves before that Lord and devil is with them. We are also told that it is the Lord who initiates the dialogue that leads to the testing of Job. God has confidence in His servant Job, that his faith is not because of his wealth but because of his special relationship with the Lord.
The testing of Job begins. Satan afflicts Job so that he loses his sons and daughters. He loses his livestock, his buildings. He loses everything, and yet, Job does not sin by charging God with any wrongdoing. This leads to the second test. The angels present themselves again to the Lord and again the devil is with them. The devil suggest that Job is only true to God because he still has his health. “Take his health, take his faith,” is the devil’s challenge. Thus, God allows the devil to strike Job, but not to take his life.
The rest of the book of Job contains a series of speeches between Job and his “friends” and I would put quotes around the word “friends” because when you listen to them they do not sound too much like friends, anyway, the rest of the book of Job contains a series of speeches between Job and his “friends,” as they try to figure why all these bad things are happening to Job and as they try to figure God out.
Our text begins at chapter thirty-eight with God taking His turn to speak. We begin at verse one, “1Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone” (v. 1-6).
God answers Job out of the storm. Job and his friends have been debating about God, who He is, what He is like and so on. Job has challenged the Lord to answer him. Here we see the Lord coming in the form of a storm, maybe a storm of anger, but a storm nonetheless and a storm that shows these men some of the power of the Lord.
The Lord, in a way, answers Job’s challenge to come and answer him, but instead of answering, God asks questions. God’s questions bite hard with sarcasm because He knows that Job cannot answer them. God’s asks, “where were you when I created the world?” “If you are so smart about all these things, then tell me how the world was created.”
God asks, “who planned and measured the building of the earth? Who laid its cornerstone?” We live in a world in which we think that if we can explain something, then we have power over it. Some people actually believe we can control the weather. We think that we know a lot about this world in which we live. Scientist try to explain the beginning of the world with theories that leave God out. Certainly God asks them the same question He asked Job, “Were you there at the creation of the world?” “If your were not there then you need to quit making up false theories of the creation of the world.” The Lord was there, He created the world and He tells us how He did it in His Holy Word. I am amazed at how many people will believe the theories of fallible humans, theories that are constantly being changed, over believing the Word of God.
For some reason, we human beings equate knowledge with power.  It happened in the Garden of Eden. It happened with Job and his friends. It happens still today. The devil continues to deceive us with his lies and cunning. To Adam and Eve he suggested that they could be like God if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Job and his friends thought they could be like God if they could understand and explain Him. We would like to think that if we could fully understand and completely explain God then we would be like Him as well. God confronted Adam and Eve. He confronted Job. He confronts us. All we can do is admit our ignorance and inability to redeem ourselves. We are left to entrust ourselves to the Lord, even when His purposes are unclear to us.
Continuing in our text, the Lord’s questions show His all preserving hand. We continue at verse seven, “7when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (v. 7-11).
Our Lord shows His great love for us in many ways. He shows His love for us in the fact that He set boundaries. He set boundaries for the sea and the dry ground. The sea has its place, the dry ground has its place. And here we might find encouragement to understand that no matter how the climate might change, God is in charge and He has promised that the sea, the oceans, will never be able to get out of their boundaries, because God set their boundaries. God also set boundaries for the heavens. He set boundaries for all the earth. He set boundaries for all of creation which are obeyed.
He has also sets boundaries for us. This setting of boundaries is something that we do not seem to realize, and/or do not want to recognize. We are a people, a society, a culture, that often sees boundaries as bad things, or as obstacles to overcome. God gives us boundaries because of His love for us. God gives us boundaries so that we might have law and order, peace and harmony. Children are a good example of the good purpose that boundaries serve. Children want and need boundaries. They feel safe knowing what are the boundaries. Of course, they do test the boundaries, but they do that so that they know they are safe within the boundaries. If we tell our children that hitting will not be tolerated, of course they will test that boundary and hit, but if it is allowed, then they do not feel safe because they know the boundaries really are not there.
We are God’s children. We want and need boundaries. Fortunately for us, God gives us boundaries and He enforces His boundaries. The Ten Commandments were not given because God is a mean God, but because He is a God of love. The Ten Commandments set boundaries to keep us safe. People feel less and less safe in our world today because the Ten Commandments mean less and less and in some places they have been thrown out all together. The more we throw out the Commandments the less safe we will feel. The more we cross over the boundaries the more we suffer, maybe not individually, but as a society as a whole. We may not always suffer the consequences for crossing the boundaries in this life, but we certainly will be held accountable in the life to come.
Our text from Job offers us some wonderful insights into our own lives. First, we are reminded that God is God. God is incomprehensible. This side of heaven, there will always be more that we do not know about God than we do know. God is beyond our imagination and we are glad that He is bigger than our little brains. The most incomprehensibleness about God is the giving of His Son and His Son’s life for us on the cross. Who can understand how our Heavenly Father can love us, His sinful creatures, so much that He would give the life of His one and only Son on the cross, to suffer the most cruelest of deaths for us in our place.
Because our God is so beyond us we might ask ourselves, who are we to question God? Yet, He delights in our coming to Him. Our Lord wants us to come to Him. He wants us to know that He is in charge and that we can come to Him and speak with Him as children speak with their earthly fathers.
We have a wonderful God. We have a God who gives and gives and gives. God gives and we are given to. Our Lord has given us this world in which we live. He has given us life, physical life at our conception. He gives us new life at our baptism. He gives us faith. He gives us forgiveness of sins. He gives us eternal life. He gives, He gives, He gives and we are given to.
Why do good things happen to sinful people? Because we have a great God who loves us so much that He is always looking out for us in order to bring the best out in all situations, even and especially difficult situations. We may not always see this during our times of suffering, but we can know this is true because this is God’s promise to us. And to that we say, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Understanding One’s Confession)

As we confess in the Divine Service, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness we would remain in our sin and we would be doomed to eternal perdition. Forgiveness has already been won and paid for by Jesus on the cross. Our only option truly is to refuse and reject Jesus’ forgiveness and we do this, refuse and reject when we refuse to admit and confess our sins. Indeed, if we believe we do not have any sin and therefore do not confess, then the sin we have remains on us and in us. As we are conceived and born in sin, as every intention of our heart is evil continually, our greatest need is forgiveness.
    Jesus tells us that He is truth, thus to believe we have no sin means the truth, Jesus is not in us. If Jesus is not in us, then our sin remains and we do make Him out to be a liar because He tells us we are sinners. This deception has it roots in the Devil who is the father of lies and would convince us that we are without sin.

The good news is that as we confess and admit our sins, so our Lord forgives us our sins, all our sins. He casts our sins away as David tells us about the love of God the Father, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).

Confession is admitting and confessing our sins, those we know and feel in our hearts as well as those we fail to realize we have committed. And our confidence is this, that as we confess God is faithful and just and forgives us all our sin. And our response is to give Him thanks and praise and as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive those who sin against us. And with forgiveness we know is life, eternal life in heaven, and salvation.
21 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I the Lord Have Spoken, and I Will Do It - June 17, 2018 - Father’s Day/Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 06) - Text: Ezekiel 17:22-24

Today we celebrate another of our social or secular holidays. Today is Father’s Day and we are glad for all our father’s that have begun this day by bringing their family to be fed with the Word of the Lord. Indeed, God’s calling to fatherhood is His highest calling and with that calling He gives great responsibility. I might remind you as we heard last week, according the order of creation, after Eve and Adam sinned, God came calling Adam to give an account because God had given him the role as the one accountable in his family. God still gives that ultimate role to fathers even today. So, again, we are glad you are here exercising your role as spiritual leader of your family.
Moving on, we began our current church year six and a half months ago with the season of Advent. Advent prepared us to celebrate Christmas. Christmas moved us into Epiphany and the celebration of the visit of the Magi. Transfiguration Sunday concluded Epiphany and the following Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent. Lent prepared us for Maundy Thursday and the giving of the Lord’s Supper and especially and more importantly Lent prepared us for Good Friday, the celebration of Jesus paying the price for our sins, not that we celebrated our Lord’s death, but we celebrated His paying the price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins. On that following Sunday we celebrated the defeat of death in Jesus’ resurrection and for forty days we celebrated Easter, actually we celebrated Easter for fifty days. Forty days after Easter we celebrated Jesus’ ascension and then fifty days after Easter we celebrated the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Three Sundays ago we celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday, that is we celebrated that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as a God who is three persons in one Godhead. And now, today we are three Sundays into what is called the non-festival portion of the church year. Which means that for the next twenty-four Sundays, for the next five and a half months, except for Reformation and All Saints day, we will be seeing green. This is good. Green is the color of growth and so for the next twenty-four Sundays, Lord willing, we will grow in our faith and faith life.
With that said, let us get to the text. First, we want to define the imagery that Ezekiel is using in our text. In verse twenty-two he says, “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out” (v. 22), the sprig is the line of David. Next, continuing on in verse twenty-two he says, “I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain” (v. 22), the tender one, the tender twig, is Jesus. In verse twenty-three he says, “in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest” (v. 23), the birds of every kind are all people, both Jew and Gentile alike. And in verse twenty-four he says, “all the trees of the field” (v. 24), the all the trees are other kings. In his book, Christology of the Old Testament, (p. 697-700) W. W. Hengstenberg writes, “The tribe of David is a lofty cedar upon Lebanon. Nebuchadnezzar breaks off its top, and brings it to Babylon,—the carrying away of Jehoiachin, and the rest of the royal family. He plants in Jerusalem an inferior growth.” A little later he adds that this inferior growth is Zedakiah, which before he is settled, is again up rooted. And finally, the Lord takes a twig and plants it, from which a glorious kingdom emerges. In other words, this is a passage of what we call Messianic Prophecy. This is a passage that is prophesying the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Now, to put this text into perspective we need to make a quick review of Israel’s history. Simply put, God chose Abraham and promised to make him a great nation. God’s promise was passed on to Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel. After being lead out of slavery in Egypt, and after several judges, God allowed the Israelites to have their own way and to be ruled by a king in a similar way as the other nations around them. Israel’s first king was Saul, next came David, and then Solomon. After this the kingdom was divided and we have two kingdoms and two sets of kings, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. As you read through the Old Testament you can see how Israel’s history was a history of ups and downs, but after Solomon’s death the kingdom and nation of Israel really did go down hill. The people strayed, even into idolatry and other malicious sins. As a consequence of their sins God allowed other nations to capture and enslave the Israelites. Our text was written during this period of Israel’s exile.
Now you are asking the question, “what does this text have to do with me?” Good question! We come into the text because we are included in the “birds of every kind.” We are included in God’s plan and in His kingdom way back here in the Old Testament. We have a part in the Messianic Prophecy, because the Messiah, Jesus Christ is to be the Messiah of all people. He is our Savior too. Of course, this fact should not surprise us as we said last week when Adam and Eve sinned God’s first Gospel promise was a promise of a Savior, a Christ for all people. As we know, Adam and Eve were neither Jewish nor Gentile, but contained in them was every tribe, nation and culture. Perhaps after God chose Abraham and promised that through his family line the Savior would be born He knew that some people might misinterpret that and think the Savior was only for Israel and so we have a reiteration that the Savior was for all people, all birds of every kind.
Our Gospel reading for this morning is connected to this text as an interpretation, only slightly different. Mark 4:30-32 reads, “30And [Jesus] said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’” The connection is that as Ezekiel talks about a tender twig becoming a great tree, in Mark, Jesus says a mustard seed becomes the resting place for the birds of the air. We know that the Messiah came from the impoverished family of David to be the King of His church. Jesus came to gather all people from every nation and culture into His kingdom.
To put this into perspective we can say that Ezekiel’s account aims at consoling the Israelites on their loss of glory and their need of humiliation before the coming Messiah and their exaltation. In Mark, Jesus’ parable aims at God’s coming in flesh, what seems to be a small beginning but truly has a glorious completion. We see that it is God who gives the promise in Ezekiel and God who also fulfills the promise in His Son, Jesus. Thus we see God’s Word fulfilled as He says in verse twenty-four of our text, “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it” (v. 24).
You have no doubt heard the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This saying means that people of similar cultures, backgrounds, jobs, ethnicities, creeds, and so on, tend to gather together, often as a way of receiving mutual support. There is ample evidence that this saying is true. Just look at the many various and diversified support groups that have come about over the past number of years. We are people who have a tendency to associate with others of similar likes and dislikes, because we feel the most comfortable with, shall we say, our own kind.
But this saying is not as true as you might think. Even in groups that flock together because of similarities there are differences and difficulties. This happens because we live in a sin filled world. We are all sinners and being sinners we separate ourselves from each other. Not only do we have a tendency to put down other groups in order to raise up our own, we also put down those in our own group in order to raise up ourselves. Not only do we have nation against nation we also have brother against brother.
This brings us back to Ezekiel and our tree talk. Because of their sin, the Israelites were humbled. Because of our sin we are dried up. Because of His great love for us, God sent His Son to die on a cross made of a tree, to overcome sin and to gather us together again. Jesus was the “insignificant” twig broken from the top of Israel who died on a tree and rose again, becoming victorious over sin, death, and the devil. Jesus now holds out His splendor to us, that is to every kind of bird, all people, so that by faith in Him we have the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven.
Notice, again, how it all begins and ends with the Lord. God gives and we are given to and yet, how much, according to our sinful nature, do we insist on putting ourselves into the mix. God calls us to faith, and He does this through His means of grace. For some, God has called us to faith through His Word. For most of us, God called us to faith as infants through the waters of Holy Baptism. And yet, how often do we hear others and sometimes ourselves wanting to put ourselves into the mix suggesting, “Well, we did not reject faith in Jesus,” as if this is something on which we can hang our salvation, wanting a little credit.
God calls us to faith and He calls us to our vocation, that is He calls us to live lives of faith. And we only live lives of faith as He lives in and through us. Here again, this is not something that comes natural to us, as we are conceived and born in sin, as every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, as we sin in thought, word and deed, and as we sin sins of commission and omission. Indeed, we are at the same time sinners and saints and mostly our sinner nature wins out. Yet, God calls us to faith and God calls us to be strengthened in our faith and He strengthens us through our regular and diligent use of His means of grace, being in divine service and Bible Class, and yet, here too we refuse and reject, yet, all the while looking for some place to take some credit for our faith and faith life. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we constantly show our weak faith and our lack of faith as we constantly strive to depend on ourselves.
But, thanks be to God that He is so loving, caring, generous and gift giving. He is always looking for ways to come to us, to give to us, to strengthen us, to do for us. He gives us each day as a gift to live to His glory. He stirs in us to live lives of faith. He motivates us and works good works in and through us. And He constantly forgives us when we fail. How great it is that when we sin, and no matter how often in a day we might sin, (not that our sinning is great, but it is great that) we can think about our baptism and be reminded that God has washed away our sins, even before we sin, our sins have been forgiven, no matter what or how big we might think our sin is. It does not depend on us, but it is what God has done for us, especially what He has done in Christ.
What a great text to hear on this Father’s Day, because as father’s we too make mistakes and actually we sin and even when we sin we can know that God has already forgiven us. Again, what a great text we hear, a text that reminds us of God’s great love for us. A text which reminds us that nothing depends on us, but it all depends on God who continually reminds us that He is with us, that He is watching over us, that He will continue to take care of us. Our text reminds us that God’s love has been around since He created the world and that ever since the fall into sin His plan of salvation included our being saved by the atoning work of His Son, the tender twig. And our text reminds us that with God, all things are possible. So we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Understanding One’s Baptism)

Peter connects Holy Baptism to God’s work of washing the world through the waters of the flood as we read in 1 Peter 3:18-22. Just as God saved Noah and his family in the Ark, keeping them from drowning in the waters of the flood, which cleansed the world, so God saves us through the waters of Holy Baptism, which drowns the Old Adam so that the New Man rises, so Peter pointedly says, “Baptism . . . now saves you.”

Holy Baptism is not something we do, just as in the Old Testament circumcision was not something an eight day old child would do to himself. And certainly if circumcision was done on the eighth day, marking one as a part of God’s family, we would understand that Holy Baptism would be done as early as possible marking one as a part of God’s family. Indeed, Jesus says to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and just as one is a part of a nation at birth, so God would have us become a part of His family at birth or as early as possible.

To point to self when speaking of Holy Baptism is to be deceived by human reason and gives the impression that one can save oneself. Indeed, just as a drowning person cannot save themself, or they would not be drowning, and just as a child cannot choose to be conceived, neither can we choose God or choose to be baptized or choose to save ourselves.   

Holy Baptism rightly understood is a gift from God, a Sacrament, which is a sacred act wherein God comes to us, and through the hands of the called and ordained servant of the Lord, the Pastor, He puts water and His name on us, marking us as one of His dear children and a part of His heavenly kingdom. This baptizing need only be done once, because, after all God gets it right the first time. And yet, as we live our daily lives, we are often reminded of our baptism (which is why we make the sign of the cross as a reminder) so that we are reminded that we belong to God and He has so many gifts and blessings He desires to pour out on us daily, forgiveness, life and salvation.
20 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Promise of Life in the midst of Death - June 10, 2018 - Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 05) - Text: Genesis 3:9-15

Our text for today is what has become known as the first Gospel promise in the Bible. I guess we might say that there is good news and bad news to the fact that this first Gospel promise comes so early in the Bible. It is bad news from the stand point that we are only three chapters into the beginning of the world and humans have already sinned which is why there is a need for the Gospel. The good news is that our Lord did not wait to give His creatures, Adam and Eve, the promise of a Savior and of sins forgiven. Thus, according to God’s omniscience, He announced their forgiveness earned, and notice this promise is spoken in the past tense, as if it has already happened, by Jesus death on the cross for their sins which is what He was promising and which would not happen until some four thousand years latter. And so, this promise begins the Holy Christian Church as all who will believe in this Savior, this Messiah, this Christ, will be saved.
Our text begins at the point where we have just witnessed Adam and Eve fall for the temptation of the devil. The devil began his tempting by questioning God and His Word. He then moved to tempt them suggesting that they could become like gods, knowing good and evil. They responded to his temptations by questioning God as well and fell for his temptation to become like gods and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Our text begins with their confrontation by God. God knew the sin of Adam and Eve and came looking for them. We read verse nine, “But the LORD God called to the man to him, ‘Where are you?’”(v. 9). It is not that our omniscient, all knowing God, did not know where Adam was, rather it was more of a rhetorical question, simply His way of summoning him.
Adam’s answer is one which reveals his fallen nature. His answer sounds a lot like our answer when we know we have sinned and have been caught. When we sin and are caught we try to hide and we try to hide that we have sinned. Adam answers, verse ten, “And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’”(v. 10). Notice that Adam does not say that he is afraid because he sinned. He says he is afraid because he was naked. He was afraid because he felt the guilt from his sin. Like many of us today, he was afraid because he got caught.
God answers Adam by showing him the evidence of his sin, verse eleven, “He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (v. 11). God knew what had happened and here He presents the evidence to Adam to show him that He knew that he had sinned. Up until this point Adam only knew good. Adam was living in innocence. After he ate, not from the apple tree, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, emphasis on evil, then he knew his nakedness and was guilty and ashamed.
Just like us, Adam did not immediately confess to his sin but rather tried to hide his sin and then instead offered excuses. I guess I should not say just like us, instead I should say that we act just like Adam in that instead of confessing our sins we try to hide our sins and make excuses and justify ourselves. God first comes to Adam and confronts him. Notice that from the beginning, from creation, God has already set roles for men and women. These roles are what we call the order of creation. God has given men certain roles and order and he has given women certain roles and order. Because of these set roles God now comes to Adam as the one accountable for what happened, even though Eve was the first to give in to the devil’s temptation. And notice how Adam immediately tries to pass the buck to shift the blame to the woman, but not just the women, he even goes so far as to try and blame God for his sin, notice how he says “the woman you gave me,” emphasis on You, God. Verse twelve, “The man said, ‘The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’”(v. 12). Adam has yet to repent. It was the woman’s fault. It was God’s fault for giving him the woman. She gave me some of the fruit and what could I do except eat it. She ate it, I had to eat it.
Next, God calls Eve to account. Just like Adam, Eve does not repent but instead she tries to pass the buck to shift the blame to someone else. She blames the serpent, verse thirteen, “Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (v. 13). Eve does not confess. Eve makes excuses. I am not to blame, I was enticed, I was deceived, and I especially like the King James translation, I was beguiled, by the serpent, it was not my fault.
Finally, God meets out justice. We read verses fourteen and fifteen, “So the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’”(v. 14-15). The first sentence goes to the serpent who was used by the devil. The serpent is cursed. He is to be different from all the other livestock and all the beasts of the field, the wild animals. He is sentenced to crawling on his belly and eating the dust of the ground.
The second sentence goes to the woman. The woman will have enmity, that is, hatred, placed between she and the serpent. Many people would suggest that this is why people are afraid of snakes today, because of the sentence in the garden. The enmity is not just between humans and snakes, but between humans and the devil. There is a constant battle going on in our world, even today, between humans and the devil. There is a constant temptation, even today, to question God and His Word and to be like, or to be gods. It is blatant in some religions, it is subtle in others. Even in the Christian church the devil is still using the old lines of questioning the Bible and of becoming like god or becoming god. We become our own god when we attempt to justify ourselves as not needing a Savior, or at least not as much as the next guy. We become our own god when we interpret the Bible to mean what we want it to mean, despite what God says. We become our own god when we choose and decide what is best for us rather than what God knows is best for us. We become our own god when we make God’s Word something other than God’s Word. And the list goes on as to how we become our own god.
Thanks be to God that even in the middle of these cruses there is for us sinners the promise of a Savior. There is the promise of offspring in general and the promise of an Offspring, a Savior, in specific. About this Offspring, this Savior the promise is that He will bruise or crush the offspring of the serpent, the devil, but in the process the serpent, the devil will bruise or strike His heel. When we go to the Hebrew text we see that the same word is used in both instances, for bruise or crush and for bruise or strike. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, we are looking back and we know and understand this text as having taken place at Calvary. The Offspring, that is the Savior, born to the woman has bruised and crushed the head of the serpent, the devil. He has delivered a decisive, defeating blow to the devil. At the same time we saw the devil deliver a bruise, a strike, a bite, yes, a deadly bite, to the Savior. Jesus died on the cross. But the devil’s bite was not a forever fatal bite. Our Savior did not remain dead, but rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and the devil. Of course, we will not see the complete death blow to the devil until we get to Revelation chapter twenty, but we know it is coming and so does the devil.
Our text for today is one that brings us to confront our own sins as well as comforts us with the good news of sins forgiven. Just like Adam and Eve we try to justify ourselves when we sin. We try to make excuses as to why it is okay that we sin. After all, we are living in the twenty-first century and there is so much sin going on already, what is one more sin, what is our little sin compared to the big sins of others. The commandments have become obsolete. In the category of what is okay in our world today we now have a list that includes, having other gods, cursing and swearing, skipping church, disobedience to parents, teachers and all others who are in authority, killing the unborn and the aged, promiscuity, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, trans-gender, gender fluidity, age fluidity, divorce and living together, stealing as long as you do not get caught, and stealing by misrepresentation and vandalism, gossiping, and coveting. Well, that about covers the ten commandments, so it looks like we have thrown them all out, or at least our society as a whole has, and in many instances they have literally been thrown out, thrown out of our schools and court rooms. The truth of the matter is, we sin. We sin and we cannot hide our sin from God and we would not want to.
We sin and we cannot blame anyone for our sin. The devil cannot make us do it. Very often we sin and rather than repent of our sin, we repent that we got caught. We sin and we try to justify our sin so that it is not as bad as the next person’s sin.
Just like our first parents, Adam and Eve, we sin and God gives us the promise of a Savior. You see, when we try to justify ourselves and show that we have not sinned to much, what we are doing is we are trying to take a little credit for our salvation. We are trying to show God that Jesus only had to die a little for me. In reality we cannot justify ourselves. We sin (period). We sin and cannot save ourselves. We sin and need a Savior. The more we recognize our own sinfulness, the more we recognize how sinful we are, the more beautiful is the message of the Gospel. Think about it, if I am not a big sinner then I do not need much Gospel. Because I am the biggest sinner, I need the most Gospel and that is why it sounds so good to me.
The good news is that all our sins have already been paid for, by Jesus some two thousand years ago on the cross. Truly, all we can do is refuse and reject the forgiveness God has to give and we refuse that forgiveness by not acknowledging and confessing our sins. As we confess, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins God is faithful and just and forgives us all our sins. That is why we come here every Sunday, to confess our sins and hear the most beautiful words we can ever hear, that our sins are forgiven and with forgiveness we know is life and salvation.
Just as God knew that Adam and Eve sinned and came to confront them with their sin and to give them the words of the Gospel, so too, God knows our sins and He comes looking for us to confront us with our sins and to give us the words of the Gospel, that Jesus died for ours sins, that our sins are forgiven and that He gives us eternal life. And to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Being Given the Gifts, Through Means)

God gives, and we are given to. We are born into this world, and we take nothing with us when we leave, or when the Lord should return to gather us, whichever comes first (and both will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine). Everything we have is a gift given to us. In our daily lives we can trace all that we have, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, etc., back to God as the gift giver.

When it comes to our faith and especially when it comes to giving an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus as our Savior, these words of witness are also a gift from God. However, in order for God to give us the words to speak, He must give us those words and faith through His Word and Sacraments.

The importance of Divine Service worship attendance is to be given the gifts of God, to be filled with His Word and faith so that He has His Word to speak through us, at just the right time.

Thus, we make regular (every time it is offered) and diligent (as often as we can) use of the means of grace. Indeed, the desire of one having faith is to be when and where the gifts of God are given out and they are given out most assuredly in the Divine Service. At the same time we also take advantage of personal and family devotions as well as personal reading of God’s Word, Bible Class, Sunday School and the like. It is through these opportunities that God uses the means He has given to deliver His gifts to us, the means of His Word, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Just as we daily eat our meals in order to nourish and sustain our bodies, so too we daily eat our spiritual food in order to nourish and sustain our bodies. Just as we would starve if we failed to eat, so we would starve spiritually if we fail to eat our spiritual food.

And it is this spiritual nourishment that God gives that.  He also uses to strengthen and keep us in faith and to give us an answer to speak, as well as the courage, when  He gives us the opportunity. God gives and we are given to.
19 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Observe the Sabbath Day - June 3, 2018 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 04) - Text: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Our text for this morning is the second giving of the Ten Commandments, the original giving of the Ten Commandments was on Mt. Sinai in Exodus nineteen. We might say that Moses is reviewing the Ten Commandments with the children of Israel before he departs from them. Last week we rejoiced in the trinity of our God, that is that we worship a God who is three persons in one Godhead, as we describe Him. This week hear the commandment concerning our worship of our triune God that is the commandment that is emphasized in our text, the third commandment. I think it is fitting that we have this as our text, because the third commandment, and I would add the second commandment as well, is a fitting reminder, as we begin the Pentecost Season, as well as the Summer Vacation Season, that we are to remember the Lord’s Day. As the Lord does not take vacations from us, neither do we take vacations away from Him.
Our text begins with the command. We read verse twelve, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you” (v. 12). This first verse has three important words, observe, Sabbath, and holy. The first word, “observe” is also translated as keep. The literal word is best translated as guard or watch. We are to guard and watch so that we do not forget the Sabbath day nor neglect to rest on this day.
The second word, “Sabbath” simply means rest. The Sabbath was given to us by God as a day of rest. Originally God set up the Sabbath day of rest as the last day of the week, the day we would translate as Saturday. The Sabbath is a day set aside by God to remind us of His work of creation and redemption as well as a day of rest. Indeed, God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh day giving us the seventh day to be a Sabbath, a day of rest. And Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week which has now become our Sabbath, our day of rest.
The third word, “holy” means set apart, pure, perfect. In reference to God, to be holy means to be righteous, perfect and without sin, something we obviously cannot do, at least not in and of ourselves. Putting these three words together we are given God’s Word which tells us we are to set apart, guard and watch our lives so that we keep as holy, a day to remind us of the Lord’s works of creation and redemption.
Why are we to do this? We get the explanation in verses thirteen and fourteen. We read, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do” (v. 13-14).
The Lord gives us six days to work. During those six days we are to get our work done. But on the seventh day there is to be no work. We are not to work, our sons and daughters are not to work. Anyone who is owned or employed by us is not to work. Our animals are not to work. This is to be a day of rest for us, for our family, and for our workers. This command is for everyone.
Yet, we still have the question of why? We find our answer in verse fifteen, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (v. 15).
Why did the children of Israel need to be reminded to remember the Sabbath day? Why do we need to be reminded to remember the Sabbath day? The children of Israel and we need to be reminded because we have a strong tendency to forget. We all know how it is, when we have difficulties in life we tend to remember our Lord a lot and pray a lot, but when life seems to be going well we tend to forget that our Lord is the One to whom we need to be thankful and we tend to pray less and less. Indeed, we need to be reminded to remember the Sabbath day so that we might show that the Lord is God. We remember the Sabbath day as a day to worship and adore an Almighty God who is outside of us, who loves and cares for us, who is over us and watches and rules over us.
We remember the Sabbath day to show love to the Lord. At the same time we need to remember that God does not need anything from us, as if we have something that we could give to Him. We love the Lord only as He first loves us. We remember the Sabbath day because of our need. We have a need to respond to what our Lord does for us and to what He gives to us. We have a need to acknowledge that the Lord is God. We have a need to show our love for the Lord and the Lord helps us fulfill that need by giving us the Sabbath day to keep and observe.
We remember the Sabbath to keep the first commandment, to have no other gods before the one true God and to keep the second commandment, to call upon Him in trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. Indeed, as we live our priorities so we live our Sabbath day. Because the Lord our God is our God and because we have no other gods before Him, nothing gets in our way of being in His Divine Service on the Sabbath day, on our Sabbath day, on Sunday. Our desire, as Christians is to be when and where the gifts of God are given out, to be in Divine Service. When we fail to be in Divine Service, some other god is placed before the One True God.
We remember the Sabbath day to be given God’s gifts. God comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. We gather together as believers in Christ in order to be reminded of our Baptism. As we hear the words of invocation, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” we are reminded of God’s name placed on us at our baptism. We gather together as believers in Christ in order to confess our sins and hear the greatest words we can ever hear, words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven. We gather together as believers in Christ to hear the Word of the Lord through the scripture readings for the day as well as through the sermon. And we gather together as believers in Christ to be given His body and blood in His Holy Meal. We come to be given to and God comes to give.
In good Lutheran fashion we ask, what does this mean? This means that God gives us a day of rest. According to the old covenant and the first giving of the Law, that day of rest was the last day of the week, the Sabbath Day, the day God rested from all His work of creation. In our text for today we are told that it is the redemptive work of God illustrated by the freeing from bondage of slavery in Egypt that is the reason for worshiping on the Sabbath. Thus, taken together, it is God’s total work of creation and redemption that is the motivation behind the Sabbath Commandment. Today we keep the Sabbath by setting aside the first day of the week, Sunday, because Jesus rose on that day. On Good Friday Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. On Saturday, on the Sabbath day, Jesus remained dead, resting in the tomb. But on Sunday He rose up from the dead. Again, we see the redemptive work of our Lord arising as the reason for our keeping the Sabbath.
God gives us the Sabbath, a day of rest and He instructs us in keeping the Sabbath, a day of rest. We keep the Sabbath by being in Divine Service in order to be given His gifts. Certainly, a person can read their Bible at home, or watch a church service at home, but that person is missing an essential part in keeping the Sabbath, the part of fellowshipping together with other Christians. Might I remind you of the charcoal illustration. When you attempt to begin a fire in your grill, you begin by pilling all the charcoal briquets together. As the flame dyes down to a white and red glow you know you have a good fire. If you take one of those pieces of charcoal and set it off by itself, it tends to go out because it does not have the fellowship with the rest of the charcoal. Likewise, as Christians, we need that fellowship, that building up of each other in the body of Christ.
As we worship here together as the body of Christ, so too our brothers and sister in Christ are worshiping together throughout this country and the world. When we all shared the same hymnal, many years ago it was as if we, as the body of Christ were worshiping all together as the whole body of Christ. And it will continue this way until we reach heaven where we will all worship together as the whole company of saints.
Keeping the Sabbath is something that takes discipline. Maybe that is why it is called religion. To be religious means to do something regularly. Some people religiously have a cup of coffee every morning. For us Christians, being religious means worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on a regular basis, each and every Sunday. We add to that the fact that Sunday worship is something that becomes a habit, a good habit, but a habit nonetheless. To skip one Sunday leads to skipping another Sunday, leads to getting out of the habit and leads not only to missing out on all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give, but eventually leads to refusing those good gifts and blessings. And eventually could lead to one losing their faith.
We attend Divine Service in order to be filled with the gifts and blessings God has to give. It is like a cup being filled from a pitcher. God is an endless pitcher of gifts that He pours out on us through His means of grace; Holy Baptism, confession and absolution, His Holy Word and His Holy Supper. Every Sunday we remember the day of rest, the Sabbath and attend Divine Service He fills us and fills us, and indeed He fills us until we overflow and share our faith other others. The opposite is also true, when we absent ourselves from Divine Service and His means of grace He has no way of filling us. And just as a cup full of water with no more added, all the water inside may eventually evaporate, so when we refuse and reject the gifts of God Sunday after Sunday and fail to be filled with His gifts and blessings, our faith may eventually evaporate so that we have no faith.
Moses exhorts us today to remember the Sabbath day, maybe not so much as a command, but an encouragement for the good of our faith life. We are to remember the day of worship because it is the day our Lord has set apart especially to come to us to give us His good gifts and blessings through His Word and His Sacraments. We remember the Sabbath as a day to come and be given the Lord’s Word and Sacraments (the means of grace) through which our Lord gives us all His many good gifts and blessings, including the most precious gift of forgiveness. As we begin this Summer vacationing season, if you will, I would encourage you as Moses, do not forget to meet together wherever you are so that you might be given the gifts of God. God does not take a vacation from being your God and watching over and protecting you. He loves you so much and has so many gifts and blessings ready to give to you, be sure to be in Divine Service and be given His gifts. Most assuredly, be given His greatest gift, Your sins are forgiven, go in peace. And to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.