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, November 27, 2019
God gives and we are given to. God gives first. He is the prime mover. In the beginning God created all things out of nothing. Nothing exists that has not been made by God. Thus, even we who are His creation have been given to by Him. We have been given life at conception, new life through Holy Baptism, even eternal life earned and paid for by Him. As Dr. Martin Luther so well states in each of his explanations of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed that God’s gives. God has created me. “He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.” It is Jesus “who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,” The “Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
As we said, God gives, and we are given to. God has created all things out of nothing so that all that is has been created and given to us by God to use in service to Him in His Kingdom. Certainly we understand that although in the beginning God created all things prefect and holy, because of man’s sin, we now live in a world that is under the curse of that sin so now all things are not perfect, but are imperfect. Yet, all things have their origin in God.
God gives. God gives life at conception. Along with life God gives us all our senses: hearing, taste, touch, sight, smell. God gives us a house and a home as well as clothing and shoes, meat and drink, wife and children and all that we have, all that we need to support our body and life. God even gives us each our vocations, that is those roles in life through which we serve Him by serving others, such as husband or wife, mother or father, carpenter or miner, banker or lawyer, doctor or plumber. All these vocations are given by God as He gives each of us gifts, talents and abilities to perform the various works of service in each vocation.
To understand how God is the prime mover, the beginning, the middle and the end in all giving to us, let us focus in on and trace how God gives using one physical item from God, that of food and in particular the food of oatmeal as our example. From where does oatmeal come, other than off our pantry shelf. Normally we purchase our oatmeal from the grocery store. But, what does it take for the grocery store to have oatmeal on the shelf. In order for a Grocery Store to function properly it must have an owner who must hire workers who stock the shelves as well as sell the items and keep the store clean and running.
In order to stock the store there needs to be trucks which deliver the goods to the store from the warehouse which must also have a staff of employees to make sure the warehouse is properly stocked to fill the orders from the stores.
The warehouse gets its goods from the factory which produces the products it sends to the warehouse to be distributed to the stores to be sold to the consumer. The factory must have a staff of workers as well as the right equipment and packaging to produce and package the product. The equipment must be built and maintained in order for the factory to function properly, and the packaging must be available to appropriately distribute the product. Both the equipment and the packaging call for their own set of subroutines to function properly. And the factory must have workers to run the equipment.
The factory needs raw materials and in the case of oatmeal, the factory must purchase the oats it uses to make oatmeal from the farmer. The farmer must have good seed to plant as well as fertilizer and other farm equipment, workers, water and so forth to grow a good crop of oats. Ultimately the farmer depends on God for good weather and a good growing season in order to produce a good crop of grain.
Indeed the Lord blesses us with oatmeal and all we need through the labor and vocations, the gifts, talents and abilities of many workers, and yet we see it all begins and ends with the Lord.
God gives, and we are given to. God gives us all that we need for the support of our bodily lives, all we need, not necessarily all that we may want, because we can always want more. And yet, God gives even greater gifts. His greatest gifts are His spiritual gifts, those gifts and blessings that are given, freely given and that give eternal life. Very often we speak of the fact that God in Jesus rescues us from sin, death and the power of the devil. We speak of the fact that Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection defeated sin, death and the devil. We speak in terms of Jesus giving us the strength to resist the unholy three of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We speak of the fact that God gives faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world, eternal life, salvation, strengthening of faith and so on. So, the question we might ask ourselves is this, “How does God give us these gifts and blessings?”
The answer to “How does God gives us these gifts and blessings?” is that He gives them through external means, in particular through the Means of Grace: the Holy Word of God, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution. God’s usual way of working with us, of giving to us is through means. God’s unusual way is directly. Now certainly we know that after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, after the day of Pentecost God gave His apostles the ability to perform signs and wonders, to do miracles, and this ability was given as confirmation to attest to the words they were proclaiming. Yet, as the apostles died, so did the ability to do such signs and wonders.
Again, God’s usual way of coming to us and giving to us today is external, through means. His unusual way is internal, directly. To direct one internally, that is to direct a person to look inside himself to find the answers to life’s questions leads either to despair because all we find inside ourselves is a sinful nature, or it would lead to self and works righteousness because a person might actually believe s/he could live by the demands of the law which, according to our conceived and born in sin nature, is impossible. And so we are directed to look outside ourselves. We are directed to the external means of grace. It is through the very means of Grace, the very means of God’s Word, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Confession and Absolution that God gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Paul encourages us saying, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:3). Notice that Paul does not encourage us to look inside ourselves, rather his words are an encouragement to look outside ourselves to look to God the Holy Spirit. It is God the Holy Spirit who works externally through the means of His Word and Sacraments, in particular Holy Baptism to give us faith and to stir in us to say that Jesus is Lord.
Our doctrine, what we believe, teach and confess, determines our practice, how we live out what we believe. As momma used to say, “Practice what you preach.” So, how does our doctrine look when we say that God gives His gifts through means? First and foremost God gives faith, and the faith He gives He usually gives soon after birth through the waters of Holy Baptism when water and His name are put on us. It is through these simple ordinary means that God does great and extraordinary things, namely giving us faith, forgiveness of sins, and writing our names in the Book of Life.
If we were not baptized and given faith as a child, certainly God works through the means of His Holy Word. The Holy Spirit working when and where He pleases and He works through our reading and hearing of the Word of God to give faith, forgiveness and eternal life.
Jesus purchased and won forgiveness of sins on Calvary. He distributes that forgiveness through His Word as well as through Confession and Absolution. When we confess our sins we hear the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those are the most beautiful words in the world because with sins forgiven we know we have life and salvation. And yet, God also distributes His forgiveness through Holy Baptism and through His Holy Supper.
If we were to be pointed inward, to look inside ourselves, to look internally for the gifts of God, we would live life looking for some inward sign, some manifestation of, perhaps being “slain” in the spirit, being able to do signs, wonders, even miracles. We would be disappointed, even in despair if we were not seeing such inward manifestations thinking that we are doing something wrong. Our worship service would be a time for spiritual manipulation, a time to be worked into a frenzy until we might “feel” something, even anything that would make us “feel” like we have been given something from God. Certainly to have an inward focus would mean pointing to ourselves, and the bottom line is that then we would be our own gods and idols.
Focusing on the means of grace looks like Divine Service, that is it looks like God’s service to us, first and foremost, and second would be our response of faith. Focusing on the means of grace means being reminded of our Baptism usually through an invocation. It means confessing our sins and hearing the words of absolution, wherein and through which the gifts of forgiveness are distributed and given to us. It means hearing God’s Word read and expounded. It means speaking back to God the very words He has given us to say through the words of the liturgy, not some man-made bit of pomp and circumstance, some rhyming poem or ode, but speaking God’s Word. It means being given God’s gifts through His Holy Supper wherein we partake of our Lord, participating in His life, death and resurrection. And it means concluding the service with God having His name put on us again.
Notice how our doctrine informs our practice which teaches our doctrine. Notice how God’s gifts are distributed through our practice which flows out of our doctrine. Notice how these all tie together and are the very means through which our Lord gives to us the gifts and blessings He has to give.
So, how are these gifts and blessing from God shown forth in our lives? Paul speaks of these gifts and blessings showing forth in what he calls the fruits of the spirit which he lists in his letters, especially as we read in Galatians. “16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26).
Notice that Paul first speaks of the opposite of the fruits of the spirit by outlining the desires of the flesh. Certainly we can get a better grasp of the positive when set out against the negative. Notice that Paul shows us how the fruits of the spirit flow from the gifts of the spirit. It is faithfulness that flows out of the faith given by God through the means of His Word and Sacraments. It is love and forgiveness flowing out of God’s love for us and His first forgiving us.
When you plant a fruit tree, you take care of it, cultivate it, fertilize and water it. After a while you expect to harvest the fruit of that tree. Likewise, as our Lord has given us all the gifts and blessings He has to give; both physical: clothing and shoes, house and home, meat and drink, family and friends; and spiritual; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation; and as He continually cultivates, takes care of, feeds and waters us with even more gifts, the result is fruits of the spirit. Fruits of the spirit are those ways Christians, given to by God, show forth the faith that is in their hearts.
God called each one of us to life at conception. He calls us to faith through Holy Baptism. He calls us to live lives of faith what we call our vocation, using the gifts, talents and abilities in service to Him by serving others. He calls some men into the Office of Holy Ministry. As the Lord has called us and as He pours out His gifts and blessings on us, our response of faith is to live and serve in our vocations as priests in the priesthood of all believers. The work of a priest is to offer sacrifices, and so our work is to offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord with His help and to His glory.
How does this look in real life? It looks like faith and doctrine, what we believe, teach and confess, in action. Evangelism or better said, Lutheran Evangelism is basically one living one’s vocation always being ready to give an answer for the hope one has in Jesus, and that answer is given by God through one’s making regular and diligent us of the means of grace so that the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to bring others to faith so they too might be a part of His kingdom and live in Godly vocations as well.
In summary, or in other words, God gives life. God gives faith. God gives all we need to support our body and life, physically and spiritual. God gives through means, both physical blessings and spiritual blessings. As we partake of the physical blessings, we grow in our body. As we partake of the spiritual means of grace, making regular, whenever offered, and diligent, taking God’s Word seriously, use of the means of grace, our Lord works through those means to give us the words we will speak when asked of the faith and hope that we have as we live lives as priests in our vocations. God gives, and we are given to. Today, tomorrow, and always we are to give thanks to God for all His good gifts and blessings. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
He Will Turn (Restore) the Hearts - November 17, 2019 - Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - Text: Malachi 4:1-6
As we approach the end of the Church year, next week is the last Sunday in this current church year, so our readings turn our attention, our hearts and our minds to thoughts of the end times, the return of Jesus and the day of judgement. When Jesus first came to earth as a human, as God incarnate, His coming was some 4000 years after the first promise and unfortunately, too many people either missed His coming or simply could not and would not believe in Him. Now, as Jesus Himself tells us, as in the days of Noah, as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, so it is today, people are going about their lives oblivious to the fact that the end is coming and so today, as we have only waited some 2000 years since Jesus’ promise to return, too many people are oblivious to His eminent return, or simply do not believe He will return during their life time, thus they are eating and drinking, marrying and being given into marriage, thinking that this life will go on. When Jesus returns, and I believe that His return will be soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect, we will be unable to say, “Hey, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know.”
The day of the Lord’s return is coming. We begin at verse one of our text, “1For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts” (v. 1-3). The Lord, speaking through the prophet Malachi warns us of the day of judgement. On the day of judgement, the believers will be judged to heaven or as Malachi says it, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” And the unbelievers will be judged to hell or as Malachi states it, “you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet.”
But notice what Malachi does not say. He does not tell us the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return. He does not give us this information, because He wants us to be ready at all times. He does not want us to be wasting our time up until the day or the day before His return, but His desire is that we are ready and that we work to get others ready as well.
Malachi continues encouraging us to remember the Law. Picking up at verse four, “4Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel” (v. 4). We are to remember the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments and we are to obey them. Obedience is important, but not simply for the sake of obedience. Obedience will not save anyone for the simple fact that we cannot be perfectly obedient and that is because we are conceived and born in sin so we are born in imperfection with a sin tainted will and so we cannot be obedient. Yet, Malachi encourages us that with the Lord’s help we are to strive for obedience.
We know that true Godly obedience flows out of a response of faith. It was Jesus who came to earth, God in flesh, who lived for us, being perfect for us, being perfectly obedient for us, in our place and then taking our sins and paying the price for our sins on the cross. Jesus’ work, His life, His living for us, being perfectly obedient for us in our place because we cannot, this work is what stirs in us a response of faith to strive to be obedient, even if it is an imperfect obedience.
Finally, God, through Malachi tells us that He will send Elijah. Picking up at verse five, “5Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (v. 5-6). There are many of the Jewish faith today who continue to look for the coming of Elijah. Yet, Jesus Himself tells us that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, thus, John the Baptist, in the spirit and power of Elijah, did appear “before the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
John’s appearing ushered in Jesus’ appearing. Jesus’ coming ushered in the end times. Jesus birth was the signal that we are now living in the last days. So, God waited some 4000 years before fulfilling His first promise to send a Savior and now He has waited some 2000 years and has not yet sent Jesus the second time. Does this mean He will wait another 2000 years or even 1000 years? We do not know, all we know is that Jesus has ushered in the end times and so we are living in the end times. We are living in the last days of this world. And please understand that to be living in the last days of this world can mean either that the Lord will return, or perhaps even more sure is the fact that we will pass on from this world and we will meet the Lord. Either way, the Lord’s return or our passing will be our last day and the day we will meet the Lord and stand before Him for our own judgement. And as I continually remind you, that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine, thus we are to be ready.
John the Baptist came preparing the way for Jesus. Jesus came as the Messiah. The awesome day of the Lord was that day in which Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for our sins. Jesus died the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place. Jesus died but He did not stay dead, but rose so that He is alive.
Now, today, only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. This exclusive claim is why we Christians are so hated by the rest of the world. But think about it this way, if there are many ways to heaven, then Jesus was a lunatic, because why would He go through what He went through, suffering and dying, if there were many ways to heaven? Or, Jesus is the Messiah. The law of non-contradiction tells us that all the religions of the world cannot be true because they contradict each other. So, we are either saved by Jesus, or we are not.
What does this mean? Our lessons for this morning remind us of what is important in life, that we are to be ready at all times for Jesus’ return. Jesus will return. Just as God kept His first promise to send a Savior, and even though He took 4000 years to keep His promise, He did keep His promise, so He will keep His promise to return and even though we have waited only 2000 years so far, that does not mean He will wait another 2000 years. And should He tarry beyond our own life, the fact of the matter is we will pass on from this world, we will die and when we die we will stand before the Lord. So, again I will remind you, either way, when we die or when He returns, we will meet the Lord and stand before Him to be judged at the end of the world.
As we approach the end of the church year, as every year, we are reminded that the end will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. We are reminded that the most important thing for us in this world in this life is to be ready for that last day, for our standing before the Lord to be judged. So, are we ready? And how do we know if we are ready? And how do we get ourselves ready?
How do we know if we are ready? We know we are ready when our complete faith and trust is in Jesus alone for our salvation. If we are not ready, how do we get ourselves ready, or if we are ready, how do we stay ready? Actually, it is not so much our getting ourselves ready as it is the Lord getting us ready and He gets us ready through the means He has given to get us ready, His means of grace. The means of grace are those means or those ways the Lord has given us to come to us to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give and those means are His Word, the Bible and His sacraments, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism as well as the means of confession and absolution. If you have ever wondered why we have confession and absolution every Sunday, why we have an invocation and benediction, why we hear the Word of the Lord in Holy Scripture and why we have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, it is because it is through these very means that the Lord comes to us to give to us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Thus, the Lord gets us ready by our making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. We make regular use of the means of grace by being in divine service whenever it is offered. We make diligent use of the means of grace by being as the Bereans, by checking what is preached and taught against God’s Word and by making use of His Word on our own.
Also, the Lord gets us ready by our right attitude in divine service, that is by our attitude of being given to. The dictionary defines worship as something we do for our god who desires or demands that we do something for him. God does not need anything from us which is why what we do on Sunday morning is not worship, but is divine service. We come to divine service first and foremost to be given to. Our divine service is permeated with the means of grace because God has chosen to come to us through these means to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Thus, we come to divine service to be given to by God and then to respond as moved by Him to respond. Our response of faith is to offer hymns of prayer, praise and giving thanks, to offer our prayers and to offer our offerings of gifts, tithes and first fruits.
Notice again and again and again, it all points to Jesus who does all and gives all. We know we are ready and we know we are getting it right when it all points to Jesus. Listen to your speech, how you say things, how you speak about the Lord and your relationship with Him, your faith and so forth. Do you speak about yourself and what you are doing or think you are doing for the Lord, or do you speak about the Lord and what He has done, is doing and will continue to do for you? When our lives, our speech, our actions point to Jesus running the show, then we are ready and our lives bear witness of the faith that the Lord has given us and put in our hearts.
Most of us do not like to think too much about the end of the world or our own death, but these things are important because we need to be ready. To not be ready could mean eternal death, which is hell, but to be ready means eternal life in heaven. Now more than ever is the time to be ready, to make sure we are ready, to get ready and to help others to be ready. My prayer is that you are ready. My prayer is that you will continue to make use of the means of grace to continue to stay ready. My prayer is that your life will serve to help others to be ready. So that ultimately, when we stand before the Lord, and we will stand before the Lord, He will look at us and our lives will boldly say, to You be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, November 10, 2019
God’s Call - November 10, 2019 - Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) - Text: Exodus 3:1-15
After today there are only two Sundays left in our current Church Year Calendar. In previous years this Sunday was known as the Third-last Sunday of the Church Year. As we move toward the end of one Church Year and the beginning of another our readings direct our attention, once again and as always, to the fact that our life in this world is short, especially compared to our eternal life in heaven. Thus, what is important is making sure we are ready for our real life in heaven. In the Epistle reading we have Paul’s encouragement to stand firm in our faith. In the Gospel reading we have Jesus being questioned concerning heaven and His response giving proof of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.
Our text is God’s call to Moses to lead the Children of Israel out of their bondage of slavery in Egypt. We begin at verse one, “1Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (v. 1-6). You might remember that this Moses is the same Moses that was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, that he had killed an Egyptian and that he fled to Midian. Moses had spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt being raised as an Egyptian. He knew what it was like in Egypt, the customs and the like. Certainly if there was a man for the job of delivering the Israelites from Egypt it was Moses.
At this time, Moses had now been in Midian for 40 years. He was a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro’s sheep. So, not only did he know the ways of the Egyptians, he also knew the ways of the desert, of raising sheep. Again, these life experiences made him well qualified for the job God was about to call him to accomplish.
As Moses was out keeping watch over the flock, the Lord appeared to Him in a burning bush. We are told that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. I would think it would be kind of like a fireplace with fake logs, except that this was a real bush with a real fire. This fire might be perceived as a sign of God’s judgement, fire being a symbol of purification and the justice of God.
As Moses drew near to investigate the sight he saw, God spoke to him telling him that God is in this place and the He has made this place holy ground. Certainly God is holy and where God is He makes that place holy. Moses response, his reaction is the same as how we might react to such a situation, that is that he hid his face. Moses knew that to look on God could mean death.
As Moses drew near to investigate the sight he saw, God spoke to him telling him that God is in this place and the He has made this place holy ground. Certainly God is holy and where God is He makes that place holy. Moses response, his reaction is the same as how we might react to such a situation, that is that he hid his face. Moses knew that to look on God could mean death.
After God gets Moses’ attention He moves on to the specifics of His calling, “7Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Periz-zites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (v. 7-13). God has seen the affliction of His people Israel. And this does not in anyway mean that God did not know what was going on with His people, the Israelites. Certainly God is omniscient, He is all knowing and He always knows what is happening. Here we are simply reminded that He is about ready to do something for His people. God tells Moses that He will rescue His people and He will do this with Moses as their leader.
God lays out His plan to Moses. God will send and use Moses to bring the Children of Israel into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses will bring them into a land that is inhabited by others, but those presently living in the land will be rooted out making room for God’s people.
Upon hearing such great and wonderful news Moses response is a question, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (V. 11). Moses throws up his first excuse as to why God picked the wrong man for the job. As are all our excuses, before God we have no excuse. God tells Moses that He, God Himself with be with Moses. Moses is simply to be God’s instrument.
But Moses is not done with his excuses and God is not done giving him His credentials including His name, “13Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (v. 13-15). What Moses is asking for is a way to distinguish the Lord God, Yahweh, from the gods of Egypt. In other words, Moses is asking God, or telling God, if I go to the people and say that God has sent me, they will want to know what god. And so God gives Moses His name, “I AM”
God’s name is I AM. He is not I was. He is not I will be. He is I AM. God’s name is an indication of who He is, that He is a God who is outside of time. He is in the present and as a matter of fact He is in the eternal present. For God there is no yesterday nor tomorrow. For God that He is in the eternal present indicates His eternal being. God is from creation. He was there at the creation of the world where He spoke all things into being.
God’s name is I AM meaning He is from everlasting. Even before the world was created God is. We might think He was, but since His name is I AM, since He is in the eternal present, indeed He is before the world began. With God there is no beginning and no end. No one created God, because if someone created Him, then that One who created Him would be God. God was not created but He is the Creator of all. God is God because He is, was and always will be. He is the prime mover.
And God’s name, I AM means that He is the unchangeable, eternal God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, speaking in human chronological ordering terms. Indeed, we find comfort in God’s name, I AM as we can rest assured that He is the One True God from everlasting to everlasting.
In speaking to Moses and in giving him His name, God testifies that He is the God of Israel. God is the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These three father’s of Israel, patriarchs of the nation all Israelites knew. That God is the Father of them all means that He is the One True God. As the One True God, as the One who chose them, placed His Name on them, covenanted with them, He is the One who can and will deliver them.
So, what does this mean? As we come to our text we might be wondering, what was Moses relationship with God. Certainly, having been raised in Pharaoh’s home he was educated about the gods of Egypt, yet, having his mother as his nurse mother for some years and knowing his Hebrew background, certainly he knew of the God of Israel. Perhaps Jethro, his father-in-law may have educated him as well. Yet, as we get to our text we see that the first thing that happens is that God calls Moses. This calling may be God’s calling him to faith. God is the prime mover. Moses did not approach God nor call Him. God called Moses. In somewhat the same way, but not with a burning bush, God calls us to faith. For many of us God called us to faith through the means of Holy Baptism. As water and God’s name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, were spoken on us, God called us to and gave us faith. For others God called us to faith through His Holy Word. As we hear God’s Word the Holy Spirit works through that Word to give faith. And God continually strengthens us and keeps us in faith through His means of grace as well, remembering our Baptism, hearing His Word, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of forgiveness, partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper.
God calls Moses to faith and God gives Moses His authority to lead His people. We might surely understand, especially in our world that there are those who grasp and grab for power, but God is the One who gives authority. God gives Moses His authority and we see that authority as God is with Moses as He leads the Children of Israel. In much the same way God gives us authority. At His ascension, as Jesus was ready to depart this world He gave His authority to go out and share the good news with all nations. When someone asks us by what right we have to speak God’s word, we can tell them by God’s authority.
And God gives Moses a promise, to be with Him. God does not call Moses, give him His authority and send him out by himself. No, God’s promise is that He will be with Moses every step of the way. Even through Moses’ excuses and balking, God continues to dismantle his excuses and assures him of His presence with him. Again, in like manner, God gives us a promise, to be with us, always, even to the end of the world. God does not send us out to make disciples by ourselves. Certainly we know that we cannot make someone believe. God’s promise is that He is with us, and that He will send the Holy Spirit to work through the Word He gives us to speak to make disciples of all nation.
This morning we are reminded of what a privilege it is to share the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection with others. God calls us to faith. God strengthens and keep us in faith. God gives us His authority. God gives us His Word. God gives us the very words to speak. God stirs in others to ask us about our faith as we live lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers. God gives us the courage to speak and He gives faith to those who hear. Thanks be to God.
Yes, we tend to be like Moses. We tend to have excuses for not sharing the good news with others. Thanks be to God that He forgives us for such excuses and that He works through us in spite of our excuses. Thanks be to God that He loves us enough to use us in spite of ourselves. And above all thanks be to God for all His good gifts and blessings. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
Today we celebrate All Saint’s Day. Now I know that All Saint’s Day is not that big a deal, not that big of a celebration for us in the Lutheran Church, but perhaps we should rethink this matter and make a bigger deal of this day, after all, our hope and future are not a hope and future for this world, but for the world to come. Our hope and confidence is that one day we will be saints in heaven and that one day may be sooner than we know and even sooner than we might expect.
And let me briefly remind you, in case you have forgotten, that by faith in Jesus, especially by faith given through His means of grace, either through His Word or at our own baptism, we are saints. Yes, while we are on this earth we will continue to be sinners as well, but we are saints and we will speak more on this again a little later.
In our first lesson appointed for reading on All Saint’s Day, we have John’s vision of our salvation. John describes what we call the number of completion, that is, all believers. John speaks of the 144,000 which is 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. His lists of 12,000 from each tribe differs from the lists of the number in each tribe in the Old Testament because John’s listing is a symbolic listing of the tribes of the true Israel as described by Paul in Romans nine. The true Israel is the Israel of faith not DNA. Thus the total number of believers that will be in heaven is given in the number of 144,000, not a specific number, but a number of completion, all believers in Jesus, as he says in verse nine, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . . ”
John also tells us about the joy of all believers around the throne of the Lamb forever. There will be no more hunger or thirst, no more scorching heat. Instead, there will be springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Quite a comforting picture John paints for believers in Jesus.
In the Gospel lesson appointed for this day of celebration we have Jesus’ words of blessing and His Words of Gospel. We are described as blessed who recognize and acknowledge that we are poor in spirit so that we do hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God, in other words, we are blessed who hunger and thirst after making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, every Sunday and every day. We are blessed because it is through these means that our Lord feeds us, comforts us, purifies us and gives us the gifts He has to give, faith, forgiveness, strengthening of faith and life. And this continues to be my concern for this congregation as well as our nation, that is that so many refuse these gifts on a weekly basis. God has so many gifts He wants to give and yet, every Sunday many people refuse those gifts by not being in Divine Service here and around the world. So, let me continue to encourage you, let me continue to exhort you, ladies and gentlemen, come and be given the gifts and encourage and exhort your brothers and sisters who refuse the gifts to come and be given the gifts.
As Jesus says, again in our Gospel lesson, especially blessed are those who believe and are persecuted, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Although we may not suffer the persecution some of our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer in other parts of the world, I might suggest that we do suffer more subtle forms of persecution. The question is, do we stand up and confess our faith, or do we simply allow others to think as they will, even that we do not have faith?
In our text for this morning, John’s first letter, John helps us to understand what love is, what true love is, that is that true love begins with the Father’s Love, with God the Father’s love. True love is that God loves us first and He shows His love in the gift of His Son. We begin at verse one, “1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 1-3).
Notice first and foremost that God is the prime mover. He first loved us, making us His children. And how does He make us His children? Every year on Good Friday we remember and we even celebrate the giving of Jesus’ life for ours on the cross. We give thanks for His suffering the punishment for our sins. And then, every year on the following Sunday, on Easter Sunday we celebrate His resurrection, the complete defeat of sin, death and the devil. This is how He purchased us, by paying the price for our sins. He makes us His children through means, namely through His means of grace. He makes us His children through His Word, which does what it says, in other words, when the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God, says we have faith, that is exactly what we have, faith, given to us by God through the means of His Word. Another means the Lord uses to make us His children is Holy Baptism. As water and God’s name are put on us at Baptism, the Lord gives us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. These things come to us from outside of us and are given to us from outside of us. These are the Lord’s doing and the Lord’s giving. He makes us His children.
When Jesus came into the world, as we are reminded in the Gospel accounts, the world rejected Him. Jesus was not the Savior the people were looking for, at least not the Savior for which some were looking. Jesus was not a social/political savior. Jesus did not come to over throw the oppressors of the Children of Israel, at least not the oppressors they wanted overthrown. Jesus simply did not fit their definition of who the Savior was or what He should do.
The world rejected Jesus and as He makes us His children, we should expect nothing more or less from the world, in other words, we should expect that the world will reject us. As children of the Lord we do not speak the same language as the world, we do not have the same priorities as the world, we do not have the same outlook as the world. The world speaks of power, fame and fortune. The world speaks of the things of this world, that this is all there is. We speak of sin and forgiveness. We speak of absolutes, absolute truth and love. We speak of the transient nature of this world, that our lives in this world are fast and fleeting. And so, our hope is not in this world, but in the world to come.
John says we are not yet what we will be. John is speaking of our goal of sanctification, that is that, after being given faith by the Holy Spirit, through the outward means of grace, the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through us to make us more and more Christ-like. Of course, we understand that we will never be completely Christ-like, at least not on this side of heaven. But when we reach our eternal home of heaven, we will be made perfect again. So, we are no longer what we were before being given faith, that is we are no longer complete sinners, lost and condemned persons, but we are not yet all that we will be in heaven, complete and perfect saints.
What does this mean? First we are reminded that God is the prime mover. As John says elsewhere, we love because He first loved us. Here I like the image of the Sun and the moon. When we see the moon shining in the sky, we know we are seeing the reflection of the Sun, because the moon has no light of its own. Thus, when we love others and when we are loved by others, we know that we and they are merely reflecting the love of God to each other, because in and of ourselves, apart from God, we have no love of our own.
God first loves us and then God gives us faith, forgiveness and life. These are gifts from God. These are not gifts we take or get on our own, they are gifts from God. And these gifts He gives through means, namely through outward, external means of Grace, the Bible, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and confession and absolution. Just as we did not choose to be born into this world, but we were conceived by our parents and born into this world, so we do not choose to save ourselves, to get forgiveness for ourselves, these gifts are given from outside of us, namely our Lord has chosen us and gives us the gifts He has to give, forgiveness, faith and life and He delivers these gifts through the means of grace.
God first loves us, God gives us faith, forgiveness and life and then God works in us our sanctification. Sanctification is our becoming more and more Christlike, but here again, this is not something we do in and of ourselves, this is God’s doing as well. God the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to always point to Christ, and that is why we do not hear or see much of Him, He is the one, working through the means of grace who works in us to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do and we do them because He is working them in and through us.
And finally, God brings us into His kingdom. Notice how in all these instances it is God who is doing the doing. God does and we are done to. God gives and we are given to. God has His way with us and we are thankful. We know we get it right and we can have confidence only in this, that God always does it right, and gets it right. I may err, but God never errs. Thanks be to God.
As we celebrate All Saint’s day, then we celebrate the fact that we are saints. And we are reminded as Dr. Luther so well reminded us and as John reminds us, even though we are saints, we are and while we remain on this earth we will also continue to be at the same times sinners. So we are saint/sinners. Our life on this earth is a life of sanctification in that our Lord continues to work on us through His means of grace to be strengthened in our faith in Jesus alone for our salvation. Certainly, while we are here on this earth, we will have times when we will fail. We will fall for temptation and we will sin, yet we are not to be discouraged because we are given forgiveness and the Holy Spirit continues working on us to be the people God would have us to be.
Our ultimate hope and certainty is indeed described in the Revelation of John that upon our passing from this earth, either through our own death or through the Lord’s return, we will be united with all the saints, all those who have gone on before us and all those who will go on after us so that we will all gather at the Lord’s throne to be feed and comforted, to give glory to the Lord, to live with Him forever in heaven. To Him alone be all glory. And we might well end by saying as John does, “Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly.” Amen.