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, December 4, 2019
This year our theme for Advent is Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. This week we will look at Jesus as our Prophet, next week Jesus as our King, the following week Jesus as our Priest. For Christmas Eve we will take up the them of Christ as God and then finally on Christmas morning we will talk about Jesus as man. In order to help us with this theme we go to our catechism and under the question, “For what threefold office was Christ anointed?” we have the answer, “Christ was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.” This evening we want to look in particular at the first response, that of Christ as our Prophet and again the catechism tells us, “A. As Prophet, Christ: 1. preached personally during His life on earth, validating His word with miracles, especially His own resurrection; Deut. 18:15; Matt. 17:5; Mark 1:38; John 1:17-18; John 6:68; 2. through the preached Gospel today still proclaims Himself to be the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. Mark 16:15; Luke 10:16; 2 Cor. 5:20.”
The promise of a Messiah was first given in Genesis. Let me set the stage. In the beginning God created all things, out of nothing. Then, on the sixth day, after creating all the animals God set out to create the crown of His creation, human beings. Human beings were created different from the rest of all creation in that man was formed out of the dust of the ground and then God breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living being, with a body and a soul. Soon afterward God created the woman from the rib of the man in order to be a helper suitable for him. And up until this time everything was good and even very good, meaning everything was perfect. Again, please notice that after God had completed all His creation everything was good and even very good, again meaning everything was perfect. When we move from God’s hand of creation, from God running the verbs, as we say, to the account of the humans doing the doing, then we move to the fall into sin and the ruin of creation. However, even though God’s creatures, humanity, brought sin, death and destruction into the world, God continued to show His love, care and concern. Immediately after man fell into sin, God intervened and promised to take care of what man broke, to send a Savior, a Messiah. We read this promise in Gen. 3:15, “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.”
Later God reiterated His promise and expanded it when Moses announced to the people, “15The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—16just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him’” (Deut. 18:15-19). God would send a Savior who would also be a prophet.
Although God waited some 4500 years from the time He first made His promise to fulfill His promise, yet He did fulfill His promise. In Bethlehem of Judea God fulfilled His promise. To a young woman, a virgin and to her betrothed husband, God sent His Son to be born. This Child was like all other children in that He was truly a human child, but He was different in that He was also the Son of God, that is He is truly God as well.
Up until He was about thirty years old and began His earthly ministry, we hear only about Jesus’ birth and about His trip to Jerusalem and to the temple at the age of 12.
After reaching the age of thirty Jesus began His public ministry. It was in what was perceived to be His hometown of Nazareth that we hear of Him as not only the Messiah, but also as a prophet. As Luke tells us, “16And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:16-30). Of course, a prophet is not simply one who foretells of future events. A prophet is also one who proclaims the Word of God.
And finally, at about the age of thirty-three, after three short years of work, in Jerusalem Jesus does what He came to earth to do. There, just outside the city gates, Jesus is nailed to a cross in order to die and in so dying He paid the price for all sins of all people of all places of all times, including your sins and mine, once and for all.
Today Jesus continues to be our Savior and Prophet, yet He no longer comes to us immediately, rather, today He comes to us through means, mediately, through the read Word, in other words, as the Word of God is read to us every Sunday morning, and Wednesday evenings, Jesus speaks to us through this Word, as He speaks to us individually as we read His Word.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through His Word, that is as He comes to us through the preached Word. Here we understand that a Pastor cannot improve on the Word of God, and so his proclamation of the Word of God is the Word of God only and in so far as what He proclaims is the Word of God. Which reminds us as Pastors to preach the Word and then to sit down and be quiet.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through Holy Baptism. Through water and the Word of God, namely His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus comes into our hearts, gives us faith, gives us forgiveness, writes our names in the book of Life, and gives us eternal life.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through the Lord’s Supper. Through bread and wine and the Word of God, Jesus comes to us to give Himself for us to eat and drink. Very much like the Old Testament sacrifice, as the spotless lamb was present to be slaughtered, burnt on the altar and then eaten by the family, so Jesus presented Himself as our spotless lamb who went to the cross to be crucified and now comes to us as we eat His body and drink His blood through this most Holy Meal of the Lord’s Supper. And through this meal as through all His means of grace, our Lord gives to us faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through confession and absolution. As we confess our sins and hear those most beautiful, most precious words, “I forgive you all your sins,” then we know we have just what those words say we have, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness comes life and salvation.
What does this mean? First, God the Father promised it. And we know that whatever God promises, He brings to completion.
Second, Jesus fulfills it. Jesus is one with the Father and so He fulfills the promises He makes that is He came not only to live for us, to do all that things we are supposed to do but are unable to do, but also to pay the price for our sins, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place.
And third, the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is to motivate us, to stir in us and to work in and through us to live lives of faith, doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. And they are good works because they are done to His glory.
Thus we see, Jesus is our Messiah and our prophet, not only as He came during His life, but also as He continues to come to us and for us today. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Did you read the headlines? It’s coming. The news is all over. There are even billboards that talk about. It’s coming. I do not know about you, but I want to be ready, because I do not want to miss it. I suggested this to someone the other day and their response was, “Miss it? Are you kidding? No one will miss it. This is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ things that no one would dare miss.” Well, I thought that is true, but I still want to be ready.
I was talking with Mrs. Jenkins the other day. I was explaining to her the fact that it was coming and I did not want to miss it. I was doing everything I could to get ready. Her response set be aback somewhat and got me to thinking. She said she was not sure if they would be ready. Then she went on to tell me about what all was going on in the life of their family. Their oldest son, Tommy, he is the one who is a senior this year, he is doing a lot of extra work, writing letters and applying to the various colleges he hopes to attend. That fact, along with his school work and all the other activities involved in his senior year keep him pretty busy and her, too, for that matter. She then brought up her second child, Allison, she is the one who is a freshman this year, she has a lot of adjusting to do, moving out of Jr. High, just getting into high school and following in her older brother’s footsteps. It is not so bad for her, though, being a girl it is not as hard as if she were the second brother, that was what she was saying. She said that Allison wants to get involved with sports as well as drama and to add to it, she will be wanting to get started on driver’s education. That really is not until next year, but she wants to get going as soon as possible.
I stopped her at this point and said, “My it does seem like you are pretty busy,” but then she started up again. “And you know there is our youngest, little Harvey, Jr.” She explained that even though he was just going into fifth grade, he demands a lot of time as well. He is involved in soccer as well as tennis and swimming. “Quite an athlete,” she called him. “He thinks he has to keep up with his older brother and sister,” she said. “And,” she then went on to explain about all her husband was involved with as well, such as too many hours at work, meetings at church, travel for business and the like. Finally, she even told me about her busy schedule, the parent teacher meetings, the clubs of which she was a member and all that went into keeping her “girlish” figure. Finally she said, “I do not know how we will make it. I wonder if it is really worth all that it is made out to be.”
After we parted company I began to think, she really has a lot on her plate. I wonder if it is all necessary. I know the Jenkins family is a Christian family, at least they are members of our church. Maybe she just does not realize how important this is. All I could think of was that this poor family is so busy they are all going to kill themselves.
Later I met up with Mary Ann as I was on my way to church. Mary Ann was all excited. You see, she had just gotten engaged. She told me how much planning and preparation went into a wedding, “at least into a wedding which was to be done right,” those where her words. I never realized. She was telling me how you have to book the church and the hall, at least a year in advance. There were the invitations to select and order, the guest list to make out, the menu to choose for the reception, and the honeymoon, so many places to choose from, but again, the reservations had to be made well in advance. I asked her if she was getting ready, because it was coming. She told me she had seen the headlines and had noticed the billboards, but she had not given it much thought, just too much other stuff to do. The way she talked, it was almost as if she did not believe it was coming. Here again, all I could think of was that this poor young lady is so busy she is going to kill herself.
Well, I do not have to tell you, but by this time I was getting a bit discouraged. Was I the only one who was excited about it? Did I miss something? How could so many other things be as exciting or as important as this? But my enthusiasm continued. I met Grandma Perkins after church. She was excited. She told me that she was getting ready. Nothing was going to stand in her way for this. She told me that she had been looking forward to it for many years. “You know,” she said to me, “I cannot believe that there would be anyone who would not be excited.” I did not want to put a damper on her enthusiasm, so I did not mention anyone I had been speaking with before.
Finally, I went home, somewhat discouraged. For my devotion that evening I opened my Bible and I read these words, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:37-44). Slowly it began to dawn on me. Slowly it all began to make sense to me. Jesus is talking about us, today.
Christmas is coming. We are in the season of Advent. The liturgical color is blue, the color of hope. The Advent wreath has been put out. We have decorated the church and the Christmas tree. I do not know about you, but Christmas has always been an exciting time of the year for me. Unfortunately, I believe that we too often run off barreling ahead of ourselves and we forget about Advent. Advent is the time we take to get ourselves ready, it is the time of preparation. How can we be ready if we do not get ourselves ready? Mary Ann was telling me how much time she needed to get ready for her wedding. If I understand my history right, it took God some 4500 years to get everything ready for the first Christmas, for Jesus’ birth and entrance into the world. And here we take just three or three and a half weeks to get ready for this monumental celebration. How can that be enough time to get ready? Now do not get me wrong, I am not talking in terms of getting ready for our Christmas celebration in terms of getting presents purchased and wrapped, getting the house decorated and the like. What I am talking about is getting our hearts and minds in the proper frame of mind. But it is coming, whether we are ready or not, our celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas morning is coming.
Yes, Christmas is coming and we need to be ready, but do you know what? Something even more important is coming as well, or rather I should say, someone more important is coming. Jesus is coming. We talked about that at the end of the church year and here at the beginning of the church year we talk about it some more. Jesus is coming. The old “Hide and Seek” game cry comes to mind. You remember the call, “Ready or not, here He comes.” And that is a fact. Whether we are ready for His second coming or not, when it is time, He will be here. He has been planning this for about 2000 years now. Again, Mary Ann and her wedding come to mind. So much planning involved in getting ready for a wedding. God has done so much planning in getting ready to come for His Bride, the Church, that is, us.
I do not know about you, but I know I want to be ready and so I know that I need to spend time in getting ready. No, I am not going to quit my job or anything like that, but I am going to make a better effort at doing what I need to do to make sure I am ready. Perhaps Paul’s words to us are words we should take seriously, that is that we should put off those things which entangle us in this life. Perhaps we need to take a look at our own priorities and see if these things with which we are busying ourselves are worth the price. Or if they are busying us to death. Sometimes I like to put things into an eternal perspective. Sometimes that is the only way I can make sense of this world. Of course, the eternal perspective is the fact that compared to eternity, millions of billions of years, our life on this earth is but a snap of the fingers. So, what is important is our life is the world to come and that is something we would not want to miss.
Well, I am glad for the fact that even if I am not completely ready, at least Jesus was ready. It took God 4500 years to get things ready, but when the time came, Jesus was ready. He was ready to be born and placed in a manger. He was ready to be born of humble parents. He was ready to be born in literal obscurity, even if He was visited by some shepherds and later by some Kings. I do not know if His life was any easier or less busy than ours, but I do know that He came for one reason and one reason only. He came for you and for me. We may not know a lot about His early life, other than His birth, His visit by the Magi, His trip to Jerusalem at the age of twelve and then we pick up His life at His baptism, at the age of thirty. He was a busy man. He walked over one hundred miles from one end of His mission territory to the other and possibly some thirty to sixty miles east and west. In other words, He covered from three to six thousand square miles of territory by foot, and He did it all in three years.
Jesus came with one purpose in mind and He never lost His focus from that purpose. Neither was He too busy for the people. He always had time to teach and to preach, to heal and to cast out demons and He always made time to pray. On the day of worship His usual routine was to be in His Father’s house. Like I said, He came for one purpose and that purpose was to do for us what we are unable to do, He came to live for us. And He did. He lived perfectly, for us, in our place. And then, wonder of wonders, He took all our sins upon Himself, our sins of busying ourselves with the things of this world instead of the things of His Kingdom. Our sins of putting other things ahead of divine service, reading His Word and prayer. He took all ours sins upon Himself and He suffered and died for them. He paid the price, the cost, the wage of what our sins earned, for us. He suffered the eternal death penalty for us in our place.
After His death and burial, He rose. Death and the grave had no hold over Him. He rose from the dead and before He ascended into heaven He promised that He would return. He is going to return. Mark my words. Just like He kept His first promise to come to this earth to save us, so He will keep this promise to return. And when He returns, it will be to gather us, those He has made ready, those who have faith in Him, and He will take us to be with Himself in heaven. He will come to take us, His Bride, the members of His Holy Christian Church, of which we are members by His grace through faith which He gives to us and strengthens us and into which He keeps us through His Word and Sacraments, to be with Himself in heaven. He is coming and through His means of Grace He gets us ready for His coming. He gets us ready and He keeps us ready. So that when He comes and He is coming, He will come to take us, you and me, to be with Himself in heaven, forever, and ever. It’s coming. He is coming. And by God’s grace, we are ready. Amen.