Monday, June 22, 2009
And having heard these things, a certain one of those reclining together said to Him, "Blessed– everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" And He said to him, "A certain man was giving a great dinner, and he invited many; and he sent his slave in the hour of the dinner to say to those invited, ‘Come, because already it is prepared.' And they began as one, all of them, to make excuses. The first said to Him, ‘A field I've purchased and I myself need to go out to see it. I beg you, have me excused.' And another said, ‘I've purchased 5 yolk of oxen and I go to test them. I beg you, have me excused.' And another said, ‘A wife I've married and on account of this I am not able to come.'
And the slave, coming along, reported these things to his Lord. Then the house-ruler was angered; He said to His slave, ‘You go out into the streets and alleys of the city and the destitute and the crippled and the blind and the lame you bring in here.' And the slave said, ‘Lord, it's happened as you commanded, yet still there is room.' And the Lord said to the slave, ‘You go out onto the highways and bushes and you force to come in, in order that my house may be filled. For I say to you that no one of those invited men will taste of my dinner!'
In summer camp, I learned a song about today's gospel: "I cannot come to the banquet, don't bother me now, I have bought me a wife, I have married a cow, I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum; pray, have me excused, I cannot come." How foolish those folks were, I had thought, to make excuses to avoid their Lord's heavenly banquet. Then, when I went off to college, and Mom wasn't there to wake me each Sunday, I found my own excuses to miss the Lord's Feast.
The third commandment is clear: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Yet we find excuse after excuse to miss church on Sunday morning. 8:30 church is just too early, and church at 11 is at the best part of the day in the summer. We schedule weekends out of town, not bothering to find a church nearby, and when Pastor goes on vacation, he'll never know that we missed church. We justify our decisions thinking that we aren't actually despising God's word, just ignoring it for a week.
After all, it's not like we are missing out on the heavenly banquet feast, we rationalize. The communion service is just a foretaste of the Feast to come, isn't it? Or is it?! It's the same food of heaven, and Jesus, the same Bread of Life is fully present in His Supper each time it's held on earth. But this communion feast must not be too important, we assume, since we only have it every other Sunday. But perhaps we only commune twice a month because we fail to recognize how vital it is!
Suppose someone were to suggest that you only eat two meals per month. You would think such a suggestion to be utter foolishness! If you don't eat food daily, your health will deteriorate in no time. "Give us this day our daily bread" is how Jesus taught us to pray, after all. You care for your physical body enough to feed it daily, but what about your spirit? Is it any wonder how spiritually malnourished we become when we feast on the Lord's Supper so infrequently. Yet it is your spiritual sustenance!
Some think that since we received the sacrament of baptism only once, that the number of times we commune shouldn't matter. Well, you know that there is one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism. Yet you also know that your baptism is a gift that keeps on giving. For it washes away sins committed long after your baptism day, and you remember your baptism through daily contrition and repentance. You are also blessed to confess and be absolved in the very name in which you were baptized.
But the Lord's Supper is different. Jesus said to do it, not just once, but *often*. It is to be for you daily nourishment for your soul, offered to you as often as you desire to receive it! It is designed to bless your spiritual life in the same manner as physical food blesses your body. For Jesus' body given unto death is now your life everlasting, to eat in the bread of the Eucharist. His blood shed for you at the cross is now your life-blood unto eternal life. It is your daily bread for spiritual sustenance.
So don't be like that foolish man dining with Jesus, thinking only of the future feast in heaven. Jesus– God in the flesh--was present at his very supper table! And that same Savior Jesus is really present at the Lord's Table here, with the feast of His body and blood to forgive you each time you commune.
And don't be like those making excuses, thinking that you can wait till the heavenly feast. For Jesus brings a bit of heaven-on-earth to His people each Sunday and holiday when Holy Communion is celebrated. In this sacrament, He meets your needs of forgiveness, life and salvation, again and again!
Hymns from LSB:
#904 Blessed Jesus at Your Word
#622 Lord Jesus Christ, You have Prepared
#510 A Multitude Comes
Sunday, June 14, 2009
And there was a certain rich man and he habitually put on a purple garment and fine linen, celebrating himself splendidly each day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was thrown to his door, covered with sores, and desiring to be filled from the things falling from the table of the rich man; but the dogs also coming kept licking his sores. And the poor man happened to die and he was taken up by the angels into the bosom of Abraham; and the rich man also died & was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, sees Abraham from afar and Lazarus in his bosom. And he, calling out, says, "Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus in order that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in torment in this flame." Abraham said, "Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise the bad things; now here he is being comforted, and you are being tormented. In all these things between us and you a great chasm has been established that those wanting to cross from here to you may not be able, nor may they cross over from there to us." And he said, "I ask you then father that you send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, that he fully testify to them in order that they themselves not come into this place of torment. And Abraham says, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them." And he said, "No, father Abraham, but if ever one from the dead goes to them, they will repent." and he said to him,"If Moses and the prophets they do not hear, not even if one from the dead arose will they be persuaded."
I was young boy who hated to clean my room. I was a chore I detested. There was no way I could be persuaded to do it. But my mother had that look to guilt me into it, especially to avoid the punishments that would await if I didn't. But such is the way of the Law. It's not persuasive. It has no promises to offer. Only guilt, shame, and despair. The Law is a really good motivator, but only as a negative, getting us to do something so that we can avoid the shame, despair or guilt we would encounter if we didn't.
The rich man in our story lived by the Law. He was a doer, and he did quite well. He became wealthy and showed off his blessings daily. He probably thought that God must love him better, since He blessed him with such riches. He also seemed to think that God must love Lazarus much less, since he was so poor and sickly. He no doubt saw Lazarus at his door each day, but never seems to take time to help him. Sadly, he thought he had kept God's Law already, and didn't need to care for Lazarus too.
Lazarus in our story lived by Grace. He was nothing but a beggar, relying on whatever kindness God would provide. When earthly mercy was lacking, Lazarus trusted in heavenly pity, and he was not disappointed. Lazarus relied on God to save him from his sad existence, and when his last hour came, God's angels took him to heaven. But the rich man didn't fare so well. Living by the Law which he failed to keep perfectly was his downfall. This wealthy man no longer had anything to celebrate in Hades.
So is Jesus' point that rich folks won't get to heaven as easy as po' folk? Not exactly, although it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven. When Lazarus goes to heaven, he goes directly to one of the richest men in the bible–Abraham. Abram is a rich man who got to heaven, yet the wealthy man in the story fails. What is the difference?...that the Word of God persuaded Abram to believe God's promises, that living by grace Abraham would live forever in heaven.
You are those blessed with the faith of Abraham, that your believing in God's promises would count as your righteousness before God. And your faith overflows to faithfulness for others. Abraham's faith overflowed to the Lazarus of his day, Eliazar. He was willing to make this poor slave be his heir! And your faith does the same, overflowing in faithfulness to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and help the needy. The faith the Spirit works in your heart flows over in the Spirit's fruit of faithfulness toward others.
But beware that you don't get all caught up in the doing of faithfulness. It's not your work, but God's. You are His workmanship, re-created in His image through Holy Baptism to walk in good works. You are made holy once again by the washing of water and word to be useful to God. You are nourished at His Supper Table with more than crumbs–with Jesus body given for you, and with His holy, precious blood. You are persuaded with the kind words of Christ's gospel to believe God's promise of your salvation.
Yes the Law is a great motivator, and it gets you to do stuff, but it cannot get you to heaven. The Gospel, however is the great persuader, because it tells you what God does for you. The promises of Moses and the Prophets, fulfilled in Christ Jesus, have persuaded you to live by grace, now and forevermore.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#726 Evening and Morning
#768 To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray
#696 Oh God, My Faithful God stanzas
Sunday, June 7, 2009
And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nikodemos, his name, a ruling one of the Jews; This one came to Him at night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that from God you have come–a teacher; for no one is able the things of God to do, which You do, unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen I say to you, unless someone is born anew, that one is not able to see the kingdom of God. Nikodemos said to Him, "How is a man able to be born, being old? He is not able into the womb of His mother a second time to enter and to be born?" Answered Jesus, "Amen, amen I say to you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That born out of the flesh is flesh, and that born out of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I say to you, `It is necessary for you to be born anew.' The wind blows where it wills and the sound of it you hear, but you do not know from where it comes and where it goes; thus is everyone who is born of the Spirit. " Nikodemos answered and said to Him, "How are these things able to be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "You are the teacher of Israel and these things you do not know? Amen, amen I say to you, that what we know, we speak, and what we have seen we bear witness to. And our witness, you do not receive. If things of the earth I speak to you, and you don't believe, how if ever I speak to you of heavenly things, will you believe? And no one ascended int the heavens if not the one who out of the heavens came down, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up; in order that all who are believing in Him have eternal life."
If someone comes up to you and claims to be *born again*, they probably aren't, at least not in the way Jesus describes to Nicodemus. That's because most *born again Christians* today mean something completely different than Jesus. Many Christians today foolishly think that they have *done something* to make themselves born anew. They think they have prayed the Sinner's Prayer, or made a decision for Christ, or sincerely invited Jesus into their hearts, or made Him their Lord.
Nicodemus was just such a *doer*. He was a Pharisee, who had memorized all 613 rules of the Old Testament, and strove to live by them. Other Pharisees looked up to him, and he was placed on the Sanhedrin council which ruled the Jewish people. Nick was an upright man, well thought of by all. He not only talked the talk, but walked the walk pretty well. But Jesus knew Nick's flaws. Nick trusted in what he did to try to get into heaven by his own efforts. So Jesus shows him the better way–being born anew!
Now, like Nick, you probably think that you are a pretty good creation already, as you strive to do, do, do. You may foolishly think that if you try really hard to do God-pleasing things, that the Lord will grade you on a pretty generous curve, and let you into His heaven on your efforts alone. If you believe as Nick did, then Bzzzz. Wrong answer. You will never get to heaven that way.
That's why you need God the Father this Trinity Sunday. He is the Maker of all things in heaven and on earth. And He is your re-creator as well. He makes you new in Baptism, drowning and killing old sinful you in its waters, so that you could rise up from the font to brand new life! You are born again in the sacrament of Baptism, born from above to heavenly, everlasting life in Christ Jesus!
Like Nick, you also probably think that you are a pretty capable sort. You may trust in yourself to get yourself out of most jams, and think that you are able to get yourself out of the predicament of your sins. If you figure you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if need be, like Nick thought, then Bzzz. Wrong answer. You can never pull yourself up high enough to reach heaven.
That's why you need God the Son this Trinity Festival. He is your Redeemer, the only One Who could pull you out of the depths of your despair. For you were snake-bit by the devil himself, tempted to sin and receive its wages of everlasting death. But Jesus was willing to be lifted up in your place at the +, where He became your sin and suffered your punishment, so that you could be lifted up in Him.
Like Nick, once again, you probably think that you are pretty smart. You've been to Sunday School and through confirmation. You've attended Bible classes and come regularly to hear sermons. You know God's plan pretty well. So if you think like Nick, that you've got God all figured out, and see what He does clearly, think again. Bzzz. Wrong answer. You can never know all that God does behind the scenes.
That's why you need God the Holy Spirit this Trinity Day. He is the one Who deals with your faith so that you can rely on the invisible workings of God you can't see or comprehend otherwise. He brings to your mind and heart those truths of Jesus that would be unfathomable without His help. For instance, He causes you to trust that Jesus' body is in the bread, and His blood in the cup at Communion. .
Today we confess together the Athanasian Creed.
Today we sing from LSB:
#507 Holy, Holy, Holy!
#947 All Glory be to God on High
#498 Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
#604 I Bind Unto Myself Today