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.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Who Is the Son of Man? - August 23, 2020 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Matthew 16:13-20

Last Sunday we were confronted with the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus to request healing for her demon possessed daughter. At the same time we were reminded that this event took place between the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. The feeding of the five thousand with the twelve baskets of leftovers has as its underlining message that Jesus came to “feed,” or to provide for the twelve tribes of Israel. The feeding of the four thousand with the seven baskets of leftovers has as its underlining message that Jesus came to “feed,” or to provide for the nations of the Gentiles. Our “What does this mean?” last week was that Jesus is our Savior. Jesus came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike. By faith in Him, He is your Savior and mine. Our text for this morning follows the request of the Pharisees and the Sadducees that Jesus give them “a sign from heaven” to show that He was the promised Messiah. Ironically they missed all the signs and wonders Jesus was already performing and so Jesus declines their request. In our text for this morning Jesus finally has a little time for Himself and His disciples and He uses this time to find out how His mission is progressing and to strengthen the faith of His disciples.
There are two parts to our text this morning. The first part of our text is the question of Jesus’ identity and the second part is the giving of the Keys to the kingdom of heaven. As for the first part, Jesus gathered His disciples together and He asked them this question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” His disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
If you will remember, John the Baptist had been beheaded. It was Herod’s fear that Jesus might be John brought back to life. So some thought Jesus might be John. Others thought Jesus might be Elijah. Again, you may remember that before the Messiah was to come, Elijah was expected to prepare His way. Every year when the Passover was celebrated an empty chair was always made available just in case Elijah might return. Of course, we are looking back and can clearly see that Elijah did return in the spirit of John the Baptist (as Jesus Himself tells us) and he was preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah. Still others thought that Jesus was either Jeremiah or one of the prophets, namely Moses having come back to life. I guess if you want to pull some bit of good out of these possibilities, at least all the people thought highly of Jesus, enough to think that He was one of the great people in their history.
If the question of “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” was poised today, I would offer that some people would say He was a good man. Some people would say He was a good teacher. And still others would say He was a good example. But just as almost no one recognized Him as the Messiah when He first came to earth, so, not everyone recognizes Jesus as the Messiah still today. As a matter of fact, just as His presence caused division when He came to earth, so His name still causes division today.
Anyway, having obtained these wrong answers of who He is, Jesus moves past any comments and asks His disciples directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Immediately, Peter speaks for himself and for the disciples and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” As usual, Peter speaks without thinking and in this instance this is not a bad thing, for Peter was not speaking from within himself, but he was speaking as he was moved by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus’ Father in heaven. As Jesus tells him, “. . . For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” The disciples’ time with Jesus was not wasted time. They knew who Jesus was and is and they confessed the same.
But what about us, today? What is our confession of Jesus? Do we say the same thing as Peter? Do we confess with our lips, with our hearts, with our lives, with our thoughts, words and actions that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? And if we do confess as such, do we realize that our confession is not our own, but is given to us by the Father in heaven as well.
In the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him; but 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.” If we confess faith in Jesus it is not because “I chose Jesus as my personal Savior,” rather it is because He has called us and given us faith and a confession of that faith. And He calls us to faith, in particular through the means of Grace, the Word of God. He enlightens us and strengthens us with His gifts, confession and absolution as well as Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He keeps us in the true faith. Notice that this is not from within, this does not come from inside of us, but this comes from outside of us, from the Holy Spirit working in us.
Of course, we understand that in our text Jesus is speaking to His disciples who we see already have faith. The third article is speaking to us to remind us of how we are brought to, given and kept in faith. Our text presumes we understand our nature and our need for a Savior. Our text presumes that we understand that we are conceived and born in sin, that we daily sin much and add to our sinfulness, that we are destined, on our own, to eternal death and hell, that we understand that the cost, the price, the wage of sin is eternal death, that is that blood must be shed so there might be forgiveness. And our text presumes that we understand that as we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God that we realize that this confession recognizes that we have complete faith and trust in Jesus as our substitute, that He is the one who paid the price, who shed His blood for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins.
Which brings us to the second part of our text, the giving of the Church and the Keys of the Church. Unfortunately there has been some misunderstanding in this text and the question of on who or on what is the church built. After Peter’s confession, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, . . .” One understanding of this text, or I should say, one misunderstanding of this text, is that the church is built on Peter. However, a closer look at the words of this text will reveal that the church is built, not on Peter, but on Peter’s confession.
Jesus is making a pun. The name Peter is a masculine name and basically means a pebble. Jesus tells Peter that his flesh and blood confession is important and would be a confession proclaimed in a church building built by flesh and blood people. But, Jesus goes on to say, on this rock, which is petra, the feminine form of the word petros, or the feminine form of the word Peter, which means a solid rock or a foundation stone, on this solid foundation, which is Peter’s confession, He will build His Church, the Holy Christian Church, the invisible Church. In other words, our church building is built by human hands but our Church body (capital “C”) of believers is built on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, that is on the Word of God, not on a human person.
We know about keys. Keys are those things which we need to give us access to the buildings and to the various rooms in the buildings. Keys are those things which are used to open doors and to lock doors. It does not surprise us, then, when Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The keys of the kingdom are for opening and locking the kingdom of heaven. They are for the preaching of the Gospel, the administering of the Sacraments, and the forgiving and retaining of the forgiveness of sins.
Of course, we understand that with keys comes duty, responsibility and privilege. We have the duty, the responsibility and the privilege to proclaim the Word of God in all its truth and purity, to rightly administer the Sacraments, the privilege of forgiving sins and the toughest responsibility of retaining sins when there is no confession or change in behavior to reflect repentance.
We can forgive sins. We can say, “Your sins are forgiven.” This privilege, above all others, is ours because Jesus came to give His life for ours. He earned forgiveness for us on the cross. He gives us the privilege of sharing this forgiveness with others, but only as we confess with Peter, with the disciples and with all the saints, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that He is true God and true man, that He is the Savior of the world.
The world today is still confused concerning the identity of Jesus. Some say He was a good man, a good teacher, a good example and yes, He was all those things and more. Others say He was a fictional character. Others say that He is a crutch for weak people to lean on. Still others outright refuse and reject Him and want nothing to do with Him. But what about us? Who do we say He is? We say He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and we say this, not of our own ability. We say this because this has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel, working through the Words of Holy Scripture, working through our Baptism, working through the Lord’s Supper. We say this as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. And because this is our confession, the Holy Spirit, also, continues to stir in our hearts the joy to confess our faith to others through our thoughts, words and actions so that still others might have a part in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So what does this mean? In his letter to the Romans, that is, in our Epistle lesson for today, Paul reminds us of just how “big” God is, that is that He is so much bigger than we might think or imagine. He is so big that He is unsearchable and inscrutable. All things come from Him and through Him. It is important that we know who Jesus is, because it is by faith in Him alone which brings eternal salvation and it is only as we confess His name that we have a part in His kingdom. And as a part of His Kingdom He gives us the right, the duty, the privilege and the responsibility to rightly use the Keys of the Kingdom, which we do only with His help. And He does help. As we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, remembering our Baptism, reading the Bible, having personal and family devotions, spending time in prayer, being in divine service and Bible class, as often as possible, confessing our sins and hearing His word of forgiveness, and coming to the Lord’s Table to partake of His body and blood. Through these very means our Lord shows Himself to us so that we might be strengthened in our faith and so that we may boldly and rightly confess who Jesus is and not be confused in our confession. May the Lord stir in our hearts to be diligent in making use of His means of grace so that we might be strengthened in our own faith and confession and so that we might be better prepared to give a witness to the hope that is in you so that still others might join with us in proclaiming, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

You Have Great Faith - August 16, 2020 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Matthew 15:21-28

Last week Jesus showed Himself to us again as truly human and truly divine, that is that He is true man and true God, or another way of saying this fact is that He is God in flesh. Last week we were again reminded of the importance of Jesus being God in flesh, that is, that Jesus is truly human so that He might be our substitute and that He is truly God so that He might be born sinless, perfect and holy and so that He might be able to overcome sin, death and the power of the devil. Our text for this week moves us past Jesus’ explanation to His disciples that what makes a person unclean is what is in a person’s heart, not what a person eats. Our text for this morning focuses our attention on the reason Jesus came to earth.
We have all been raised to believe that God answers prayer with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” We have been told that when we pray we are to believe what we pray. And we have been taught by Jesus Himself to be persistent in our prayers. In our Bible reading for this morning it would appear that our learning is still missing one element, that element of, “What do we do when Jesus ignores our prayers and when He even suggests that we are not worthy to be listened to?” Well, that is how this lesson seems to play out.
Jesus had been discussing with His disciples what makes a person clean or unclean, that is, spiritually clean or spiritually unclean. It is not what you eat that makes you clean or unclean, because what you eat simply passes through your body. What makes you clean or unclean, in God’s eyes, is what comes out of your heart, either faith or unbelief. Moving on in our text, leaving from that place and that discussion, our text says that Jesus withdrew privately to go to a place near the region of Tyre and Sidon. Here, again, we see Jesus as a human in need of some time alone for rest and relaxation, for reflection and time for strengthening through prayer with His Father in heaven. As He comes near to this place, this Gentile town, He is met by a Canaanite woman. Matthew makes sure that we understand that this is not a Jewish woman, but a Gentile woman, a foreigner, because that fact is an important fact to know, because we know how Jews, good Jews, good practicing Jews, are not allowed to associate or even speak with foreigners. Anyway, this foreigner, and a woman at that, comes crying out, yelling and hollering to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon” (v. 22). Hers is not a cry for self pity or for self help. Hers is a painful cry of a loving mother for her daughter.
We know what it is like when one of our children is sick and we pray and expect God to hear our prayers and to answer them. We do not come to Him expecting Him to turn away or even to turn a deaf ear. What kind of a God would we be worshiping if we believed He would turn away? Yes, Jesus is Jewish and the woman in our lesson is a Gentile or we might imagine even worse, a Samaritan, but we would certainly think that Jesus, who is God, who is love, who came to save the world, would make an exception and have mercy on her. Certainly, if anyone would listen to her and help her it would be Jesus, at least that is what we think and I believe what she thinks. But . . .  “[Jesus] did not answer a word” (v. 23a). Can you believe it? Jesus, loving God, loving Savior, cold heartedly does not answer her, not even a word. It just does not make sense, not to us and not to this Canaanite woman. And it was not just Jesus alone who turned away from her, it was His disciples as well, but we might expect that from His disciples. Remember these are the same disciples who turned children away from Jesus as well. However, this woman would not take “no” for an answer and instead continued to hound Jesus and His disciples. “[So] his disciples came and begged him saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us’” (v. 23b). It is really rather embarrassing.
I do not know about you, but I never really looked at this text in this way. It does not look so good for Jesus. We are raised to see Him as kind and loving. We are told that He is our best friend. We are told that He always answers our prayers. We are told that He came to save all people, but here we have it, right here in the pages of the Bible, right here in black and white. Jesus is refusing service, even refusing to speak to this foreigner. Certainly we must be mistaken. Certainly He has to listen and answer her.
And yet, we seem to be confirmed in our suspicions, that Jesus is cold hearted when “He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (v. 24).
Well what does that mean? I thought Jesus was sent to save all people of all places of all times. What does He mean, “only”? What does He mean, “lost sheep”? What does He mean, “Israel”? Can things get any worse? Today we would approach Jesus and we might cry out, “But I am an American. I am a Texan. I am entitled to Your hearing me.” Or even, “But I am a Lutheran.” “You have to listen to me.”
It is obvious that the woman either did not believe Jesus, that He was cold hearted and uncaring, or she did not believe the words He spoke, or maybe she had a different understanding than we seem to be getting from the reading. We are told that she came and knelt before him. Actually she fell prostrate, that is she fell with her face to the ground, in the dirt, before Him, a true act of submission and she said, “Lord, help me!” She recognized her unworthiness, that she was not worthy to have Him listen to her or answer her prayer, yet, she comes to Him anyway. And this time she finally gets a reaction. This time Jesus turns and speaks to her, but He still seems to be pretty cold hearted. He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26).
Let me say that it is true, Jesus did come only for the lost sheep of Israel. That was His primary purpose, His first reason for coming to earth, to save the lost sheep of Israel. But now it seems worse. Jesus stoops to calling her a dog. She is one who falls into the spiritually unclean group. It is as if everything is against her. Well, maybe we can pull some shred of decency out of this text because the type of dog of which Jesus was speaking was at least a house pet. So the woman has now moved from being ignored to being a house pet.
And just as you and I would not give up when praying for our sick child, so she does not give up. She searches for and finds some bit of hope in Jesus’ words. She clings to that hope and turns His words back to Him. “She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly” (v. 27, 28a).
This word of Scripture falls between Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and His feeding of the four thousand. The feeding of the five thousand with the twelve baskets left over is considered God’s providing for the children of Israel, the twelve tribes. The feeding of the four thousand and the seven baskets of leftovers is considered God’s providing for the Gentiles. And in between these two miraculous feedings we have this account with this Gentile woman. This Canaanite woman is not a part of the lost sheep of Israel. She is merely a Gentile who happened to be at the right place at the right time, the place where Jesus is, the place where he brings faith and where faith brings life.
Faith is possible among others, even those we might not see or think. We cannot look into the hearts of others, only God can. Faith is not dependent on birth, on ethnic origin, on culture or even on us, but faith is possible only with Christ. Jesus is drawing the faith, which He has given to her, out in this woman. He alone draws faith, which He gives to us, out of us.
Jesus was sent only to save the lost sheep of Israel, that was His main goal and objective. The woman had no right to come begging for help. In a very real way, we are very much like the Gentile woman. We are sinful human beings, conceived and born in sin, daily sinning much, and we have no right coming to Jesus to ask for anything. Martin Luther goes so far as to say that we are sinful worms. And his dying words were, “We are beggars, it is true.” Thanks be to God that not only is He a just God who condemns sins, but He is also a merciful God, a God of love who sent His Son to save the world.
What does all this mean? Our Old Testament Lesson for today reminds us of the Lord’s promise to us foreigners, us Gentiles, that by faith in Jesus, we too will have a part in His kingdom. It is not something to which we are entitled, it is a gift from God. Isaiah reminds us that it is “the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel” (v. 8a) and He “declares, ‘I will gather yet others [to him] besides those already gathered” (v. 8b). In other words, Jesus did come to save all people, you and I included. What this means is that Jesus did come to save you and me.
In our Epistle lesson for today Paul shows us the ultimate conclusion of Jesus coming to earth, that is that Jesus, who came only for Israel, was rejected by Israel. Their rejection opened up the kingdom of heaven for all believers. Thus, by faith, the Gentile woman is a part of the lost sheep of Israel. Thus, by faith, we, you and I, are a part of the lost sheep of Israel. So it is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, faith given to us through the means of grace, either at our Baptism as a baby or through the means of the Word of God as an adult, it is by this faith that we have a part in God’s kingdom. Jesus is not the bad guy He seems to be portrayed as in this reading. He did come to seek and to save the lost. He did come to give His life to save all people of all places of all times. He did come to give His life, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell, the cost, the wage, the price for our sin, for us. He came to give us faith to believe in Him and to share in His glory in heaven. The Good News of our text is that we have great faith because Jesus gives us that great faith which clings to Him, who forgives us, who gives us life, even eternal life and He stirs in our hearts the joy to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Take Courage! Don’t Be Afraid - August 9, 2020 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Text: Matthew 14:22-33

We are now about half way through the Pentecost Season in series A of our lectionary readings. You may remember we began series A last Advent and the dominant Gospel is the Gospel of Matthew. The reason I am reminding you is that I hope you have noticed that over the past few weeks we have been following along with the life of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew and that our text for this morning comes immediately after our text from last Sunday in which we watched as Jesus blessed five loaves and two fish and feed over five thousand people, and as I said, probably closer to fifteen thousand including men, women and children. Also, I would remind you that our liturgical color is green, the color of growth reminding us that it is during this Pentecost season that we are to grow in our Christian faith and life and we are doing that as we are learning more and more about Jesus, who He is and what He came to do. So, again, last week Jesus feed the five thousand and after this happened, after Jesus fed the crowd our text says, “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds” (v. 22).
Last week we talked about the fact the Jesus shows Himself to be truly human and that He  shows Himself to be truly divine, that is, truly God. In our text for today, Jesus continues to show Himself to us as both human and divine. We pick up from last week at verse twenty-three of our text, “23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (v. 23). Here again as we began our text from last week so we begin again this week. We see Jesus as truly human, truly a man. Jesus had been teaching and preaching all day long. He had been healing the people who needed healing. He had blessed the food and fed over five thousand and now He was tired. He needed some time to be alone. He was tired and He needed time to rest. And He needed time to be with His Father in prayer. Here again, like last week, what a wonderful example we have in Jesus. Jesus shows Himself to us as a human and He shows us that He has needs, needs of rest and reflection, needs of prayer, of comfort, consolation and strengthening. If Jesus has such needs, how much more do we have these same needs as well. We, too, are frail human beings, even more so than Jesus. How much more do we need rest, comfort, consolation, strengthening, as well as forgiveness of sins. We need to come to the Lord in prayer and to listen as He comes to us as we take the opportunity, as often as available, to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, reading our Bibles, having personal and family devotions, coming to Divine Service and Bible class to hear and study the Word of the Lord, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing those most beautiful words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven, and coming to the Lord’s Supper to be given forgiveness and to be strengthened in our faith.
But, again, like last week, so this week, Jesus also shows Himself to be true God. We pick up at the middle of verse twenty-four of our text, “When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (v. 23b-27). In his account of this event, the Gospel writer Mark tells us that “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” (Mark 6:47-48a). I find it fascinating that Jesus could see the disciples some three to four miles away, so, even here we have another indication of the fact that Jesus is truly God.
And there is more. Not only does Jesus see the disciples way out in the middle of the lake, He also went out walking on water to where they were. Who else could walk on water, who else has such power over creation, except God Himself. Of course, when the disciples saw Jesus, they show their fear in their superstition that they thought it was a ghost and were even more frightened. And Jesus calms their fears.
Finally, Jesus shows Himself to be God in that He has power over all creation, over all nature. We skip to verse thirty-two, “32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (v. 32). Once again, who else has complete control over all of nature? Only God. I would suppose that any good weatherman would tell you that the weather is unpredictable and more so, uncontrollable, but not to God. Jesus is truly God in flesh.
But let us get back to Peter’s part in this whole lesson. Peter, exemplifies us in this text. We go back to verse twenty-eight, “28And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (v. 28-31). Now we know Peter, he is the disciples who often speaks, or asks without thinking. So it is with us in our own lives. How often do we find ourselves wishing for something, even asking for something from God, especially as we ask for things, without thinking of the end results. We ask for various things thinking we know what we need and even thinking we know what is best for us in our own lives. And as you may have heard the old saying, “Be careful what you pray for, because you might just get it.”
For Peter, he asked to be able to walk on the water and he got his wish, at least for a while. Jesus told Peter he could come out on the water and Peter got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. For a moment things were going well, then Peter realized that he was walking on water and people cannot walk on water and when he took his focus off of Jesus and instead began to focus on the wind and the waves, he began to sink. Here we have a beautiful example of how things go in our own lives. As long as we are focused on Christ we can make it though life, through the difficulties and storms of life. Unfortunately, too often, we focus on our problems, on our worries, cares and concerns, thinking that we can do something about it and then, when our focus is no longer on Christ, that is when trouble comes.
Now, there are those who hear this Bible account and suggest that the lesson we should learn is that while our life may bring times of storms and trouble, this account reminds us to put our focus on Jesus who will help us make it through. Although that may be a good lesson to learn from this account, I believe the most obvious lesson we learn is very much like the lesson from last week, that is that this account shows us that Jesus, along with being truly human is truly God. But even more, our lesson for today is really no different than what we had been hearing Jesus say in the parables of the past couple of weeks. This lesson is no different than the seed of the Word of God which is planted on the path, among the rocks, among the thorns, or when the weeds are planted along with the seeds. This lesson is no different than when the troubles of this world cause us to doubt, even to loss our faith, and to sink into the sea of unbelief. Our text for this morning reminds us once again that the root of our problems in life are always spiritual. If there is one thing we need the most, it is we need spiritual healing. We need forgiveness of sins. We need to be saved by Jesus, because, just like Peter, we cannot save ourselves.
So, just like Peter, as he began to sink he cried out to Jesus, so we too, as we begin to sink in the muck and misery of this life, we run to Jesus, who, unfortunately, is too often simply our spare tire God, the God we bring out only when we have begun to sink and have lost our way. Yet, we have a God who loves us so much that He is always ready to help us. As a matter of fact His desire is that we do come to Him, that we do cast our cares on Him, that we do “call upon [Him] in trouble, pray, praise and give thanks” as we learned in the explanation to the second commandment. Indeed, we keep God’s name holy by calling on Him in trouble.
Fortunately, all that happens is not for nothing. We read verse thirty-three, “33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Because of these events, the walking on the water and the calming of the storm, the disciples believed in Jesus, that is they believe that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the one sent from God, true God and true man, the Savior of the world. And we too believe in Jesus. Not only did the disciples believe, they also worshiped Jesus and likewise, we come every Sunday to Divine Service to worship Jesus.
So, once again, Jesus shows Himself to be truly human and truly God and so, once again we ask the question, “So what?” And the so what is this, it is important, for us, that Jesus is truly human. Jesus had to be human in order to be our substitute, that is, so that He could give His life for ours. Remember, God’s demand has always been and still is that we are to be perfect. Because we are conceived and born in sin, because we daily sin much, we cannot be perfect as God demands. So, Jesus was born as a human being in order to be perfect for us. Jesus obeyed all the laws of God perfectly for us because we cannot. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament for us. By faith in Jesus, when God looks at us He does not see us as sinful human beings, but as perfect sons and daughters. Jesus lived a perfect life, never sinning even once and then He took our sins, all our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission. He took all our sins on Himself, exchanging our sins for His perfection. He took our sins and then He suffered the eternal death penalty of hell for us, in our place. We are sinful human beings. We are, each one of us, born, even conceived, in sin and we daily sin much adding to our sin. Left to ourselves, we would be destined to eternal death in hell. We needed someone who could be our substitute, and the someone we needed was someone who was like us, someone who was human, except without sin and that is who Jesus is and that is why it is important that He is truly human.
And Jesus is truly God. It is important, for us, that Jesus is truly God, because it is only as true God that He could be born perfect and holy, that is sinless. It is important that Jesus is true God, because only God has power over sin, death and the devil.
Earlier in his letter to the Romans Paul’s wish is that he could be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers, but that will not and cannot happen. Paul cannot be our substitute, because he is a sinner just like you and me. No one else, only Jesus qualifies for that position, to be our substitute and our Savior, because only Jesus is perfect, holy and sinless. So, as Jesus told His disciples as they were fearful of their own lives while in the boat in the middle of the lake in a storm thinking they had seen a ghost, so as we are fearful of our own lives as we are in the middle of the storms of sin filled lives thinking the worst could happen to us, if we stay this way, in our sin. Jesus tells us, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” We need have no fear because Jesus has already rescued us. He has rescued us from all sin, from death, that is, eternal 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. Therefore we can stand with the disciples, putting our faith in Jesus and worshiping Him saying, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Satisfaction, Guaranteed - August 2, 2020 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus, the man, the myth, the legend. Who is He? For the last few weeks we have been listening to Jesus tell stories and parables and then also tell us what those parables mean. But He was more than just a story teller. As those words come out of my mouth, I want to reiterate what I said last week in the children’s message. It seems unfortunate that in our world today the word “story” often has a negative connotation, such as one telling a fib or a lie, which is why I never talk about Bible Stories, but rather I talk about Bible history. And we can add to this discussion that Martin Luther always spoke well of fables, such as Aesop’s fables, but he reminded us the stories and parables of Jesus were not fables in that they were not told in order for us to understand the moral of the story which is always law talk. Jesus’ stories and parables were law and gospel talk giving us insights into what a great and loving God we have. Thus, in our text for this morning we see even more of Jesus and who He is, as we take a look at some of the events that happened during this one day in the life of Jesus.
We begin with verse thirteen of our text, “13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (v. 13). What Jesus had heard was that His cousin and friend, His way preparer, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by Herod. Jesus, a man, a truly human man, a man of love and compassion, felt the pain of the loss of John, so He withdrew to be by Himself in order to have time to be in prayer and communion with His Father in heaven, in order to be consoled, comforted and strengthened. Here we see what a wonderful example Jesus sets for us. Here we see Jesus, who we know is truly God, reveal Himself to us as also being truly human, showing us His need to spend time in prayer. Jesus, true man, needs to spend time in prayer so that He might be comforted and strengthened in His own earthly life. If Jesus needs time for prayer, how much more do we, sinful human beings, also need time for prayer?
Yet, His time for prayer did not last very long. We pick up at verse fourteen of our text, “14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14). Here we see that Jesus always had time, took time, and made time, for those in need. Even as He had a need to be in communion with His Father in heaven, even as He had a need to be spiritually strengthened, and even though He had His own needs, the needs of the people were always before Him and He was always ready, willing and able to meet their needs. Who is Jesus? He is a compassionate human person.
But Jesus is more than just a compassionate human person. Our text picks up at verse fifteen, “15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves’” (v. 15). When the crowds had found Jesus and began to flock around Him, He responded by preaching and teaching and by healing those who had need. And He did this all day long. As the day drew to a close, Jesus again had compassion on the people. These people had been with Him all day with nothing to eat. Jesus knew their need for physical nourishment, if nothing else, so they would be able to make the walk home. His disciples understood this as well, yet their suggestion is to send the people away so they can fend for themselves.
Jesus has a different answer. We pick up at verse sixteen, “16But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” (v. 16). Jesus tells His disciples that they are to give the people something to eat. The disciple are to feed these people, these over five thousand men, along with the women and children, as we find out a little later. One commentator suggested the crowd may have been as large as 15,000 people.
Picking up at verse seventeen, “17They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (v. 17-19). After a quick survey of the crowd, and the physical resources or food that was available, five loaves and two fish are found and brought to Jesus. Jesus offers prayers for the meal and then the food is distributed to the crowd.
Picking up at verse twenty, “20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (v. 20-21). Not only does Jesus feed the crowd, He feeds them with as much as they want until they are satisfied. His is the best buffet, the best smorgasbord, the best all you can eat dinner. And then, after the meal was complete, after everyone had enough to eat, He also provides twelve baskets full of leftovers, perhaps a sign to each one of His skeptical disciples, one basket full for each. There are several things we learn from this miracle, one of which is, what I think is the obvious but most missed point and that is that not only is Jesus human, He is also divine, that is He is God. We see that He is God because who else could bless a meal of five loaves and two fish and multiply it to feed over five thousand, perhaps even 15,000 people? Here we see Jesus as God Himself and the crowd sees Jesus as a miracle worker. We also see the fact that Jesus came to provide for His people, namely for the children of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, perhaps as noted with the twelve baskets of left overs. Who is this Jesus? Previously we have said that He is a compassionate human being. Now we would say that He is also a compassionate and loving God who provides for the needs of His people. Might I remind you that the very reason God created us is to love us?
So, who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly human. He is tired and He needs rest, that is why He went off to be by Himself. He is hungry and He understands the hunger and the needs of the crowd. He is in need of spiritual, emotional, and physical rest, comfort and consolation. He is a man of compassion, that is a deep seated affection for others. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely human.
Who is this Jesus? Jesus shows Himself to be truly God. He is able to preach and teach for extended periods of time without need for human nourishment, although He does let us know that He, too, gets hungry. He is always ready, willing and able to provide  healing for those who are sick or in any need. He has power over the things of this world, power over the food in order to make it multiply to feed the crowds. Other times He has shown His power over nature in His ability to calm a storm, raise from the dead, change water into wine and the like. We see His powers over the spiritual world as we see Him cast out demons and give faith to unbelievers. Certainly He shows Himself to be completely divine, that is that He is truly God.
So what? So what if Jesus is truly human and truly divine? What does that have to do with me? That almost sounds like a line from that one song on the radio that keeps asking the question, “What about me?” But, that is how we are as sinful human beings, is it not? Do we not tend to always ask the questions, “What about me?” “What is in it for me?” Our concern is for ourselves. So, what about us? We may not want to admit it, because we might think that it makes us less of a person, less worthy or whatever, but are we not, at times, tired, lonely, hungry, and the like? Do we not have doubts? Do we not sin? And here I will not just say, “Do we,” but how often do we find ourselves in need. We have the need to be in prayer. We have the need to be in communication with our heavenly Father.
Also, very often we need healing. Sometimes we need physical healing. We need healing from bumps, scrapes, bruises and the like, and worse. Other times we need emotional healing. We need healing from emotional hurts and heart aches, from spats with family and friends. We need healing from the pain of the loss of a loved one. We sometimes need physical and emotional healing, but we always need spiritual healing. We need healing from the fact that we are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much adding to our weight and burden of sin and the guilt associated with that sin. Forgiveness is our greatest need, because without forgiveness we would be left to pay the price for our sins ourselves and let me remind you that the price for sin is death, eternal death, hell in other words. Unfortunately, we do not always readily give up our sin and even when we ask for forgiveness, there are many times when we reject complete forgiveness as we cling to our guilt which tells us that we have not rid ourselves of our sin and have rejected God’s forgiveness. Yes, we are always in need of spiritual healing which only comes from the forgiveness of sins.
Thanks be to God that we have Jesus. Jesus provides for all our needs, guaranteed. He provides for all our physical needs. He provides us with food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home and all that we need for the support of our bodily needs. Not only that, Jesus also provides for all our emotional and spiritual needs. Through His means of grace, that is, through the Word and the sacraments, through our making regular and diligent use of His means of grace, reading our Bible, coming to divine service to hear the Word of God, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, remembering our Baptism, and coming to the Lord’s Supper, our Lord provides for us gifts of faith, and strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, that is, life in this world and life in the world to come, even eternal salvation.
Our most basic need, the thing we need the most is the forgiveness of sins and our Lord provides that for us first and foremost. As we hear the message of Jesus having compassion on the people; as we hear the message of Jesus preaching to and teaching the people; as we watch Jesus cast out demons and heal people of every kind of illness; as we watch Jesus provide food for the nourishment of the people, that is, as we watch Jesus provide for all the needs of the people in our text, we can know for certain that He daily and richly provides for all our needs as well. Who is Jesus? He is God in flesh who came to give His all, especially, first and foremost, to give His life, to suffer and die, to pay the price, the cost for our sins, which is the shedding of blood, which is eternal death and hell and He did this, gladly and willingly for each one of us, for you and for me, because of His great love for us.
With that said, I want to conclude with Paul’s words of reassurance from our Epistle lesson from last Sunday. Paul tells us, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Yes, Jesus demonstrates who He is and what He does for us so that we might give Him thanks and praise saying, “To Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Tribute to Caleb Theodore Bogs

In honor of his college graduation from Sam Houston State University

Caleb Theodore Bogs, courageous lover of God. Caleb, our firstborn son and the first grandson in the Bogs family. Caleb, whose pawpaw called him, Little Man. Caleb, the thoughtful child who at the age of one was given, what I thought was a rather “interesting” (read, hideous) gift and made the giver feel great when he offered what a wonderful gift it was. Caleb, who at the age of four was looking forward to a new sister who miscarried at the age of 22 weeks. At first we showed him pictures, kind of blurry pictures and then later decided to let him see his sister. His response to seeing her lifeless body was, “What a beautiful girl.” His is the one who named her Sophie after a character in a book we were reading at the time.
Caleb, who at the age of five was looking forward to his brother’s birth witnessed to the sales lady at the maternity store, “Do you know why we are naming him Joshua?” “Because of the spies in Israel, Caleb and Joshua.” Caleb who loved his new brother until he started getting into his stuff, then started the brother’s struggles. Of course, now they are good friends. Caleb, who was rather put off when it was announced he would be a big brother again and when he found out he would have a third sibling said, “I give up.”
Caleb, who has the gift of music and sang at his father’s installation at St. Matthew Lutheran Church at the age of five. Caleb whose gift of music is from God and flows from his Papaw and his mother, definitely not his father.
Caleb, who at the age of four was very much like his pawpaw in that he did not know a stranger, even inviting complete and total strangers to his house. Caleb, who, after meeting Ken Ham and learning about creation, and who after dispelling the notion of millions of years of evolution at a BSA summer camp wanted to be a Christian Scientist when he grew up.
Caleb, who struggled with one particular scout leader, who shall remain nameless, completed his Eagle Scout project and was an inspiration to his three siblings one of which has earned the Freedom Award and another who is on the verge of earning her Stars and Stripes award. Caleb, who continues to befriend his siblings, encouraging and supporting them.
Caleb who taught himself how to play guitar and piano. Caleb who earned his AA degree while completing his degree with no debt. Caleb whose first job was as a lifeguard before being hired by Little Caesars and was recognized as one of the few workers the boss could count on. Caleb who later joined the HEB PLA staff, getting buff pushing carts and now works for Pappasitos, yet still looking for an opening in the music industry where he can compose music.
Caleb who has now earned his Bachelors Degree in music with a minor in Business Management, yet, this time learning the price of such a degree. Anyone wanting to donate to his fund me (not go fund me) to help him pay off his debt he welcomes.
Today we celebrate Caleb’s accomplishment and praying God’s continued blessings on him. Indeed, what a joy to recognize all the gifts God has poured out on our oldest son.
Not too long ago my children asked, as a parent what is my greatest fear. I said, that anyone of them would not be in heaven. As I continually remind my children, this world is just a snap of the fingers compared to eternity which is forever. Caleb has lived about a fourth of his life. I pray that he will continue to grow in his faith, in his education and mature in his life so that as God has promised, as we have raised him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that as he grows older he will not part from that faith. Indeed, I could never imagine the sadness of anyone who had knowledge that the one’s they love would not be in heaven with them but would be suffering eternal torment in hell. Sorry of the downer.
Let me conclude by saying, Caleb this is your day of celebrating one more of perhaps many more social, secular accomplishments in your life. Certainly your mother and I would love to see our children’s children, but above all our desire that the Lord would continue to bless you and that you recognize and acknowledge those blessings. We are so proud of you and pray that you may indeed live up to your name, Caleb, courageous, Theodore, lover of God. To Caleb Theodore Bogs.