Is This What Salvation Looks Like?

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10, c] July 14, 2019

Luke 10:25-37
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

In the Name of Jesus.

What should a Savior look like?

Our world does have an understanding of saviors. To the man fighting with his wife, a savior may look like Dr. Phil, looming over the man and telling him “If you won’t acknowledge what you’ve done, then how can you change?” To the young lady in depression, or the young man in anxiety, the savior may look like a school counselor. To the one in trouble in the career, a savior may look like a speaker at the motivational seminar.

Our world has an understanding of saviors; she has expectations of what they should look like.

We have expectations of how should look. If a general is to walk into the war-room on D-Day, does anyone expect that general will look like Jimmy Buffett wearing a Hawaiian shirt?

We have an idea what people should look like. They should fill the bill.

So, what should a Savior look like? A victorious warrior? A million-dollar athlete? A Hollywood personality? A Savior should exude strength. A Savior should be able to influence people. To change lives. To help people improve. Even to save cities and make nations strong.

When Jesus, though, gives us a picture of a Savior, he gives us the Samaritan.

Samaritans weren’t even Israelites. Maybe part Israelite, maybe some Israelite blood mixed in there somewhere. But what Samaritans were was unclean. They were the dirty ones you’re supposed to separate yourself from. They lived out away from Jerusalem, in the area where they did not worship the God of Israel. They did not keep the religious laws. They raised pigs and ate pork, which no one listening to the Law given through Moses would ever do. They were known as cheats and liars. Don’t date them, don’t eat with them, don’t make friends with them. Samaritans are unclean.

But when Jesus, who is, indeed, an Israelite, even born of the lineage of David, when he gives a picture of a Savior, he gives us the Samaritan.

First, Jesus doesn’t describe the Savior, though. First, he describes the sinner, so that we will know who it is who is to be saved.

The sinner is the one who works to make himself right by the Law. The sinner is the one clinging to the Law like the Priest and the Levite. But when the sinner, who is like a priest or Levite, hears the Law that you must love your neighbor as yourself, the sinner is then thrown by the Law into the ditch.

Now the sinner is the man in the ditch who cannot help himself, heal himself, or even try to pretend that he can improve himself by the Law. The sinner under the accusation of the Law is just that—a man left to die in the ditch.

In this parable, Jesus starts us out as the priest or the Levite, as those trying to justify ourselves by the Law. But, then, when that Law accuses us, we find ourselves thrown by Jesus into the ditch.

Who will save this sinner in the ditch?

The Law won’t help. So, we see the priest and the Levite walk on by. The Law provides no Savior.

But then, coming down the road, it’s the Samaritan, the unclean one—no one would look for salvation from this one. You might as well expect Jimmy Buffet to be a five-star general on D-Day. But that’s who Jesus leaves us with. Not the priest. Not the Levite. Not salvation by the Law. But the most unexpected Savior of all—a man looked down on, even despised, a Samaritan showing mercy.

The Law shows no compassion.

Jesus is our Samaritan.

Unexpected. Who would expect salvation from sin, death, and the devil to come the child of a humble virgin giving birth in little Bethlehem?

Unexpected. Who would look for salvation from a man who eats with tax-collectors and sinners, who drinks wine with thieves and drunkards, who talks with the unclean woman at the well as if she were more deserving of God’s time than the Queen of England?

Even despised. Who can be more despised than a man standing in front of Caiaphas the priest and being named as one not fit to even enter the Temple? Or more despised than one standing in front of the Roman Governor, and being publicly humiliated as a man betraying his own country. Or, more despised than a convicted man being publicly shamed as he hangs on a cross between two thieves?

Jesus is our Samaritan. Unexpected. We would’ve never designed it this way. We would’ve designed a Savior who was our Savior because he could teach us to save ourselves by following the Law. But that would’ve just been a new Moses; it would’ve been our own version of the priest or the Levite.

Jesus is our Samaritan. Unexpected. Even despised. For no one honors a man hanging on a cross. Yet, he is the Savior for every sinner.

He is our Samaritan, and we are the ones in the Law’s ditch. But there is no better place to be than in the ditch when Jesus, the Good Samaritan, walks by. He speaks mercy. He binds up the body broken by guilt. He bandages wounds of shame. He brings into the Inn, which is his Church.

He comes to us now. Unexpectedly, even unimpressively to eyes of our world, but he comes to us now. Lowly and humbly in the gentle Word of Gospel. Lowly and humbly in the Sacraments, which look so commonplace to the eyes of flesh, but which are the true power of God to save the sinner.

He is our Samaritan, our Savior, sent by the Father to deliver us out of the domain of darkness and transfer us into the kingdom of light. He is God the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of all our sin. [Col. 1:14]

In the Name of Jesus.

Seeing Satan Fall

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 9, c] July 7, 2019

Luke 10:1-20
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. 16 The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.”

In the Name of Jesus.

“I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven,” says our Lord.

Satan, our old evil foe. He who was created good and holy, created to bear light from Heaven to Adam and Eve, who brought himself, though, into evil so that, instead of bringing to Adam and Eve the good gift of the Lord’s Word, brought that Word twisted and perverted, knotted in deceit, bringing Adam and Eve into his kingdom of the lie and death—Satan, see him fall!

The devil, created to be the bearer of light, stationed at the Throne in Heaven to bring the conversation of Heaven to men and women on Earth, who, in his fall took many other angels with him, so that they, too, became unclean spirits, he who testifies in our consciences, using the Word of God not to cleanse our consciences with God’s gifts, but twisting God’s Word to sting our consciences and pollute them with guilt and shame—Satan, see him fall!

Satan, our old evil foe. He testifies against us in Heaven. He testifies in our consciences to condemn us, to lock us under the Law.

His fall—it’s when Jesus, bearing our sin, standing in our place, goes into the wilderness to withstand Satan’s every temptation on our behalf. His fall is Jesus sending out the disciples to proclaim the Gospel, to forgive sins, and to cast out the unclean angels, giving the sinner a cleansed conscience.

Satan’s fall: it is ultimately and fully when Jesus bears our sins to the cross, when he willingly gives himself over to ransom us from sin, death, and the devil, when he prays to his Father on our behalf, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do”—Satan’s fall is when Jesus releases us from the condemnation and frees us from the devil.

Satan’s fall: we will see it on the Last Day, when Jesus returns again to judge the living and the dead. There, at that courtroom of the Last Day, we will see Jesus in the flesh, we will be brought into eternal life in our own resurrected bodies, and even our voices will turn to Satan and all his demons to judge them, to condemn them to the eternal prison.

We will see with our own eyes the fall of Satan and his demons in its fullness, in its final completion, on the Last Day. But we now see it by faith.

By faith, we see the cross, even though we were not there, knowing that his cross is our Lord ransoming us and making us his own.

By faith, we cling to the promise bestowed in Baptism, knowing that in that pledge from God, we are his children, he our Father.

By faith, we take the wine and the bread Jesus has made holy by his Word, knowing that in, with, and under this bread and wine, Jesus is giving himself to us in his wholeness, the fullness of his Body and Blood given us for the forgiveness of our sin.

By faith, we know that the condemnation of the Law is over. While the Law still accuses, and as long as we are in our sinful flesh, it must accuse, at the same time, in our life of faith, the condemnation of the Law is over.

By faith, we know that the voice of the accuser, of Satan, is overtaken by the voice of Jesus, who in Heaven intercedes for us and justifies us before his Father.

By faith, as we look upon our fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters who belong to Christ, we hear the words of the Apostle:
Brothers, as anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
[Galatians 6:2]

The Apostle gives us to “to restore a fellow Christian in a spirit of gentleness.” The word Paul uses for “restore” is the same word used for mending nets. Mark 1:19:
When he had gone a little farther, [Jesus] saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets.

We are given to look upon our fellow Christians, those afflicted by the devil, those being tempted into sin, those locked in guilt under the Law, we are given to look upon them as those to mend and care for, as a fisherman mending a torn net.

“Mend them,” says Paul, “in a spirit of gentleness.” This word “gentleness”—it is a favorite word of Paul’s. It is to act toward someone not from a position of power or compulsion, it is not a word of coercion, but it is to act toward them from lowliness and humility. Not to exert control, but to bestow gifts.

Paul’s word of gentleness, it is the same Greek word used of Jesus when he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Matthew 21:5:
“Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Our fellow Christians afflicted by the devil, tempted, loaded down under the heavy burden of the Law? We are given to come to them gentle and lowly, as our Lord humbly riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s back.

“Bear one another’s burdens,” says Paul. [Galatians 6:2]

We are given to look at one another, then, as those loaded down with burdens. The burden of temptation, the burden of falling to sin, the burden of the fear of death, the burden of the accusation of the Law, these are burdens of our sinful flesh, from which we cannot free ourselves.

We bear one another’s burdens as we see each other as sinners, but as sinners ransomed by the blood of Christ. As we see ourselves as those whose boasting is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world. [Galatians 6:14]

We bear one another’s burdens as we build one another up in the Gospel of all sins forgiven in Christ Jesus, as we comfort one another with our Lord’s Word of the justification of the sinner, and we encourage one another with the knowledge that though we are now afflicted and tempted by the devil, our Lord Jesus has seen him fall like lightening from Heaven, and though we do not see this now with our eyes of flesh, we do see it with our eyes of faith.

And on the Last Day, when the eyes of our resurrected bodies are looking upon our Lord Jesus, we, too, with our own voices, will judge Satan, and we, along with our Lord Jesus, will see the fall of Satan from Heaven.

In the Name of Jesus.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter [c] June 2, 2019
John 17:20-26
20 “[Jesus said,] “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Jesus is ascended to Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. That’s where we are in the Church year.
We’ve had Holy Week where our Lord institutes the Lord Supper for his Church and then goes to the cross; on the third day after the crucifixion we’ve had Jesus being raised up from the dead; and three days ago, the Church celebrated the Ascension of our Lord to Heaven.
In Heaven, he is in conversation with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
A conversation between the Three Persons of the Trinity—it has been this way from the beginning. Even the creation of the world and of Adam and Eve didn’t happen arbitrarily. Rather, God created out of the conversation between the three persons of the Godhead. Genesis 1:26 and 27:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” … 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The “us” in the “let us make man … male and female he created them,” is the three voices, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
They are three unique persons, yet they are a unity—one God. No division, no break between the three—oneness, unity. From their conversation with one another, they create.
Then, when creation falls into sin, when the Man and the Woman bring themselves into death, the conversation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit becomes one of redemption, of grace and salvation.
In this conversation, the Son intercedes to his Father with his own blood. The Father declares the sinner forgiven and innocent by virtue of his Son’s blood.
As a result of this conversation between the Father and the Son, the sinner on Earth is justified. The Father and the Son send forth the Holy Spirit, so that in Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit delivers the conversation of justification from the Throne room in Heaven to sinners, to us, here on Earth.
From their conversation, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, justify you and me. We are cleansed. We belong to life.
On Earth, the Holy Spirit works through the means of Word and Sacrament to call and gather sinners—that’s you and me—to the holy Name. There, at the holy Name and there, at the location of the preaching of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is forgiving our sin, cleansing our consciences, and binding us together in oneness with our Lord, Christ Jesus. Binding us in oneness with Jesus, he is also binding us together in oneness with each other.
So before he ascends to Heaven, Jesus prays to his Father for us.
By this prayer he speaks on Earth, we are given to know what is his continuing to pray to his Father as he is enthroned in Heaven where he continues conversing with his Father and the Holy Spirit. In this conversation, he faithfully continues to intercede for us, until he comes again to judge the living and the dead. John 17:20:
[Jesus said, “Father,] I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.
What is this “oneness,” this “unity” Jesus wants for us?

Our world talks a lot about unity. Or at least about how it’s bad to have division and conflict. How many times do we hear that the problem in our country is that there is too much division? The political parties are working against each other. Everyone is on a different page, working for opposite goals. Nothing’s moving forward.
But when our world wants unity, we find her often trying to have it by coercion. She tries to have unity by enforcing conformity.
But unity and conformity are not the same thing. Conformity has to do with the form of things. It has to do with the outward shape of things, with how they look.
So you get conformity by coercing things into the accepted forms.
This can be done by having everyone dress in acceptable ways, or having everyone listen to the accepted music, or speak and hear only the approved words and phrases. If someone steps out of the approved forms, they are out of conformity, they will be ruled as not being acceptable, as being outside the unity.
We can think of examples of how we see people trying to achieve unity here on Earth. Even a criminal gang has an accepted dress code and gang signs, accepted language and phrases. Step outside of this, and you won’t be in the gang.
Even the hippie movement (back when some of us were youths), everyone who wanted to be considered part of the movement was expected to be in conformity. You had to have long hair, wear dirty Levi jeans, say words like “cool” and “groovy,” and if you’re caught listening to Andy Williams or Doris Day instead of James Taylor or Joan Baez, you’re not part of the movement.
Is this what Jesus prays to his Father for when he prays for the unity of the Church? Is this unity an outward conformity? Can it be established or maintained by coercion, like requiring everyone on the team to wear the right jersey? Or by intimidation, like a hippie looking over his shoulder wondering if he will be excluded for listening to Doris Day?
What does Jesus pray to his Father for when he prays for the unity of the Church?
He is not praying for conformity. He is, obviously, not praying that the Church all dresses the same or has the same haircuts or listens to the same music on Spotify. The Church is the body of Christ. Into his Church,
he gathers tax-collectors and thieves and drunks. He gathers carpenters and fishermen, military officers and farmers and sellers of purple. Into his Church he calls Jews and Greeks, those who speak Latin, those who speak Greek, those who speak Hebrew, or any language in between.
Into his Church he calls sinners. And sinners do not all look alike. It’s not about outward sameness.
But the sinners in his Church are one. They are in unity, even as he is in unity with his Father.
Unity does not mean conformity. It does not even mean sameness. A man and a woman are not the same. You’re either a man or a woman, it’s a matter of creation.
The man and the woman do not have sameness. Yet they can have oneness. As our Lord says, the two become one flesh. This oneness, this unity of the two is, of course, marriage. Neither the man nor the woman loses what they are or who they are, the man doesn’t become less man nor the woman less woman, yet the two are in unity with each other.
So with oneness there is no loss of who you are, no diminishment of your specific gifts and particularities. Jesus places us in oneness with him and with each other, even as he is in oneness with the Father, yet remains fully who he is as the Son.
What is this oneness, then, if not an outward sameness, not a coerced conformity?
He binds us in oneness in his Word. It’s a unity of Word and doctrine. He is in oneness with his Father as he converses with his Father. In that conversation his Father is giving him gifts and they are both bringing forth creation.
As Jesus is in oneness with his Father, he speaks those words with us. It is the speaking of the Gospel. In that conversation of his Gospel, he is forgiving our sins, cleansing our consciences, joining us in oneness with him and his Father.
When he joins us in oneness with him and his Father, he is joining us in oneness with each other. In our oneness with each other, then, he gives us his words to speak, to encourage and comfort one another, in oneness.
In the Name of Jesus.

Finding God’s Will for Your Life

Third Sunday after Pentecost [c] June 30, 2019

1 Kings 19:9b-21
9 … And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

In the Name of Jesus.

How should a Christian find God’s will for his or her life? So many decisions, so many different paths to follow, so many problems and dangers from which one would hope to have God’s protection, so many different opportunities, how to know which is God’s will, which isn’t?

If it is God’s will that you do one thing, but you don’t, but you instead do the other, then, by definition, in doing the opposite of God’s will, you must be doing the will of Satan.

If a man has an offer to work for Smith Electrical company and an offer to work for Jones Plumbing company, shouldn’t he want to know if it’s God’s will to work for Smith Electrical, so that he won’t sin by going against God’s will and working for Jones Plumbing?

For anything in life that a Christian is deciding on, how to find God’s will?

Elijah is out in the desert looking for God’s will. He’s a prophet, and he’s just had the most glorious day of victory in his life. Elijah was atop of Mt. Carmel standing opposite 450 prophets of the false god Baal. Baal was the god of power, of thunder and lightning, of fire out of the sky. Elijah took a sturdy stand against these 450 false prophets and made fun of their god Baal.

“Build an altar here on top of Mt. Carmel,” Elijah told them. “Build an altar to Baal, and I will build an altar to the true God, the God of Israel, Yahweh.”
“Then, put a bull on your altar, and call down fire from Heaven to come onto your altar and your sacrifice.”

Fire from Heaven shouldn’t be too hard for the prophets of Baal, since Baal was supposed to be the god of lightening and fire.

We know the story. No fire from Heaven for the altar of Baal when the 450 false prophets cried out and danced and even cut themselves, but then Elijah, the prophet standing alone, called on the true God, and God consumed his sacrifice in fire. The God of Israel, rains down fire. It seems we can know God’s will for Elijah: it is to be a man of power and strength, of glory and victory, a man proving with his own life who is the real God.

So why is Elijah out in the desert alone and hiding? 1 Kings 19:10:
[Elijah said,] “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The power and strength, the glory and the victorious life, where is it? And how will Elijah know God’s will for his life now?

The word of the Lord came to Elijah and said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” As Elijah stood, waiting to find God’s will for his life, a great and strong wind tore apart the rocks of the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind.

Then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

How will Elijah know God’s will for his life? Not by signs in this world, not by God sending coded signals through wind or fire or anything other things of creation. 1 Kings 19:12:
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Lord makes his will known in a voice, a spoken Word. Not in secretive signals in our world that we must decode, but in a gently spoken Word.

Elijah was a prophet. The Lord came to him directly, in conversation and argument. We are not prophets. The Lord does not come to us directly. The last and final prophet is Jesus. Elijah testifies to this when Jesus has him standing beside him on the Mt. of Transfiguration along with Moses, and the voice from Heaven says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Hear not Elijah, nor Moses, they have done their job. Now the prophet—the last, full, final prophet is Jesus, hear him.

We are not prophets. Jesus is our prophet. We will know God’s will for our lives by hearing the voice of Jesus.

Where does Jesus speak for us? In his Word. In his Gospel. In his Church, where he gathers sinners to speak forgiveness to them, where he stands us before his Father justified. In his Sacraments he speaks, as he binds his word to the element of water, and to the elements of bread and wine, and comes to us in his Word to declare us holy and make us his own.

What is God’s will for your life? We don’t look for it in some secret signal sent through the wind or the storm, or some billboard we pass on the road, or some song we hear on the radio, or some secret sign we think is plopped down before us.

God’s promise is not to come to us or to make his will known to us in that kind of nonsense. God’s will for your life? Galatians 5:13:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery …13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

God’s will is that we love our neighbor. That we do it in freedom. It is not that we search out some secret, coded plan God has for our life, like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail. God never promised anything like a hidden map for our lives that we are supposed to figure out.

His will? “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is enough for us. The man wondering if to work for Smith Electrical or for Jones Plumbing? He needs not look for a coded message from God. He only needs to ask, How can I best serve my family? Best serve my neighbor?

Then, whichever he does, whether work for Smith Electrical or for Jones Plumbing, he does it in freedom, standing firm in that freedom, not submitting to some yoke of slavery as if he has to figure out a will of God’s which God never promised to give.

God’s will for our lives? God’s will for Elijah was no deep, hidden thing. It was just to do the job a prophet is given to do—go, anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha as prophet in your place. Elijah, simply do what you are given to do.

God’s will for our lives? We’re not prophets. That’s Jesus. Simply do what you are given to do. This is love of neighbor, to do what we are given to do, and not to make up some big task the Lord has secretly squirreled away for us to figure out.

God gives us to be neighbor.

Some he gives to be father, some mother, some son or daughter.

Some he gives to be single. Some to serve neighbor by providing housing and things of the home, others to provide food, others health care, others safety from violent enemies, others he gives to be homebound, but this is a great gift, for as Paul tells the widows, they are given a vocation of spending their time at home praying for the Church and interceding for their brothers and sisters in the faith.

God gives us callings, vocations, by which we serve our neighbor. This is his good and gracious will for our lives.

And his good and gracious will is that we hear the voice of his Son. We hear the Gospel of Jesus, for by this Gospel the Holy Spirit is calling and gathering us into the Church. To be gathered into the Church, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives.

To see Jesus clothe a little child in his own righteousness by the Water and Word of Baptism, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives. To hear Jesus gather us his Name and speak his Word, Take and eat, Take and drink, your sin is forgiven, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives.

To hear the voice of Jesus forgiving sinners, cleansing consciences, reconciling with the Father in Heaven, this is the path of life God makes known, this is God’s good and gracious will for us, and this is to be released from the Law’s yoke of slavery in order to live in the freedom of the Gospel.

In the Name of Jesus.

I Will Not Be Afraid

2nd Sunday after Pentecost [c] June 23, 2019

Psalm 3
1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people!

In the name of Jesus.

David writes, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many rise up against me.” [Psalm 3] Then David appeals to the Lord to be delivered from his foes.

When did David write this Psalm, when was he surrounded by so many foes that he even asked the Lord to break their teeth?

David wrote this Psalm when Absalom, his own son, was chasing him down to kill him.

We remember the account. We learned it in Sunday School. We remember the gruesome end. David is king over Israel. Absalom is one of his sons. Absalom wants the throne. So Absalom conspires, turns the people against his father, David, constructs his own army, and chases his own father across the countryside in order to kill him make the throne his own.

How does the story end? We can probably all remember the grisly scene on the front of those Sunday School lessons, that painting of young Absalom with his long hair caught in the branches of a tree, with his mule continuing on without him, leaving Absalom helplessly dangling from the tree limbs, until one of David’s soldiers speared him through his heart.

But before Absalom got his hair tangled in the tree and died, while David was still running scared from Absalom and his army, David wrote Psalm 3.
7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!
[Psalm 3:6]

David wrote the Psalm in the context of him being surrounded by Absalom’s forces. But the Psalm is much more. For this is not some private writing of David’s, hidden under his bed in a diary. This is Holy Scripture. It is the words given by the Holy Spirit because Holy Spirit wants them spoken by the whole congregation when he gathers his people to his service. Which is why you and I these words today—the Lord had these words included in Holy Scripture so that we can hear and speak them, as we did today in the Introit.

So when the Lord gives you and me and our families to pray:
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
what deliverance is he actually giving us to pray for? It’s not for deliverance from Absalom. That problem belonged to David, not us.

But we may think a moment about Absalom, this son chasing down his own father to overthrow him. What was David’s actual enemy? It’s more than Absalom. David’s enemy was also David. For Absalom was a deadly enemy because of what David had done. David had committed adultery and had had sons with more than one wife, so that these sons were now set against each other to see who could sit on the throne. Because of that adultery, David had killed Uriah, one of his best generals, an officer who could’ve now helped protect him from Absalom.

So David’s first enemy is not his son Absalom, it is his own sinful flesh. And that is our first enemy, too. When the Lord gives us to say, Arise, save me from my enemies, break their teeth, we are praying to the Lord that he put to death our sinful flesh in daily repentance.

And David’s enemies included not just his own flesh, but also the devil and his demons. They tempted him with arrogance, with lust, with greed for power, with being concerned about himself, not his neighbor. And they, these demons are our enemies, too. When the Lord gives us to say, Arise, save me from my enemies, break their teeth, we are praying to the Lord that he delivers us from the temptations and accusations of the evil ones.

And we may remember that about the demons. They not only tempt us. They certainly do that. But they tempt us in order to make us guilty under the holy Law. They tempt us in order to bring us into shame. They tempt us so that when we see ourselves in the mirror of God’s holy Law, we will tremble in fear. They tempt us so that as we stand before God, we will try to justify ourselves by our own righteousness, claiming that we are improving.

They tempt us, in other words, in order to rob us of the sureness and certainty of faith in the righteousness in which the Lord has clothed us in our Baptism.

When the demons have struck our consciences with the accusation of God’s Law, when they have driven us to despair, when they have us rushing around trying to act like we are cleaning up our lives and progressing every day, they have won their victory.

For the ultimate victory of the demons is to rob us of faith in the forgiveness of sins given by Jesus, and, instead, to enslave us under the Law. So the Lord gives us to sing and to pray:
Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
[Psalm 3:7]

It is a song and prayer for the daily defeat of our sinful flesh, of the devil and his unclean angels, and of the sin and death of our world.

The Large Catechism speaks of the evil of the devil:
Since the devil is not only a liar,
says the Large Catechism,
but also a murderer, he constantly seeks our life. He wreaks his vengeance whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm. There, it happens that he often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and moves many to commit suicide and to many other terrible disasters. So there is nothing for us to do upon Earth but to pray against this archenemy without stopping. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from this enemy even for an hour.

When Jesus was casting the demons out of the man in the country of the Gerasenes, he was not just showing some great miracle of power. He cast the demons out as the Savior who loved the man and wanted him freed from all fear. He cast the demons out as the Redeemer on his way to the cross to strike Satan’s head.

The cross is the defeat of the devil and the demons because on the cross Jesus bore our sin in order to put it all to death in his own flesh, in order to forgive you and me and justify us before the heavenly throne.

When Jesus forgives our sins, the devil has no more accusation of the Law to speak against us at the heavenly throne or to hold against us in our conscience. If the accusation of the Law is removed from our consciences, then you and I have nothing to fear, as we stand before God clean and pure.

And when we stand before God clean and pure according to the Word of Jesus, when we stand justified at the heavenly throne, then the words of the Psalm have come into their fulness:
Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people!
[Psalm 3:8]

We are no longer under the lie and the terror of the devil. The devil wants us to hear only the accusation of the Law in our consciences, wants us enslaved to the Law. Jesus has redeemed us from all that. He speaks a different Word for us to hear in our consciences, an opposite Word, the Gospel.

The devil will always be there to whisper in our consciences, Just a little more Law would be good for you. Use it to improve yourself, to justify yourself.

But Jesus frees us from slavery to the Law. He gives us a different Word, an opposite Word, a word not showing us how to improve from our sin, but actually forgiving our sin. A word to cleanse the conscience. A Word making us children of the Father living in freedom and life. Galatians 4:7:
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

In the Name of Jesus.

For the Church, Oneness

The Day of Pentecost [c] June 9, 2019

Acts 2:1-21
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

In the Name of Jesus.

Wouldn’t we like to know God’s will for our lives? If only a sign, and indication, telling us which way to go.

The student considering college, should she take mathematics at New Mexico State, or marketing at UNM? Which is God’s will, how will she know?

The husband and wife considering buying a home, should they buy now, or save up for two more years to get a better down payment? How will they know God’s will for that?

A man considering a job in Chicago with a big pay increase, or the job in Dallas which seems to have more room for advancement? Chicago or Dallas? Will God give some indication of his will?

Me, as I sit down to watch the news, should I watch CNN while drinking a Shiner Bock, or Fox News while drinking an I.P.A.? How will I know God’s will for that?

Peter seems to give an answer.

Much bad theology, though, springs from trying to determine God’s will for our lives where God has not promised to give his will.

Are you sincerely open to God’s urgings so that you can feel when he’s spiritually prodding you to do something? Is your will in tune with God’s will—in tune enough that you are sensitive to his nudges?

Much bad theology, and much unnecessary guilt, is created by trying to determine God’s will for your life.

But Peter seems to give an answer. Acts 2:17:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
[Acts 2:17]

Peter gives the promise of prophecy—to you and me, to our sons and daughters, to everyone in the Church, they shall all prophesy.

To prophesy is to speak the will of God. It is to know God’s will in Heaven, and to proclaim it here on Earth. To be a prophet is to be appointed by the Lord to hear his Word at the heavenly throne, and to bring it to sinners on Earth. To prophesy falsely, to speak God’s Word when it is not really his word but only yours, is to be a false prophet. The penalty for that is condemnation.

In the Old Testament, the Lord appointed men such as Abraham and Moses, and Elijah and Isaiah, and the rest. But now Peter speaks of prophesy as coming not from ordained prophets, but from every Christian—your old men and your young men, your sons and your daughters, everyone in the Church will by prophesying, no barriers.

Should the young woman take mathematics in college, or marketing? Prophesy and tell her which is God’s will.

Should the mom and dad buy a house now or save for two more years? They need to know God’s will. Get your will aligned with God’s will and prophesy to them.

Should I watch CNN this evening or Fox news, what is God’s will for me? Prophesy and tell me.

Much bad theology springs from the desire to state God’s will for our lives. And much guilt. Think of the guilt of a husband and wife who buy a house totally convinced that it was God’s will, then when the house has foundation problems, they must wonder why God let that happen. The young woman who signs up for a math degree, only to figure out 3 years later that she doesn’t particularly enjoy it, and now she thinks that when she didn’t sign up for the marketing degree, she must’ve sinned against God.

When we pretend to know God’s will when God has not promised to make his will known, we will end up in guilt.

So what does Peter mean when he says everyone in the Church will prophesy?

The prophetic office, that office filled by such men as Abraham and Moses, Elijah and Isaiah, has done its job. It has proclaimed the Savior throughout the generations. Now, the Savior has come. Jesus has accomplished all that the prophets spoke, he has finished the job, he has redeemed all sinners.

Jesus is the last prophet. The one full, complete prophet of Israel, who not only proclaimed the Word, but is the Word—after he accomplishes on the cross all things for the redemption of the sinner, the office of prophet is filled to the brim and completed.
God, who at many times and in various ways spoke to our fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
[Hebrews 1:2]

So standing in front of the people, many of whom had helped crucify Jesus, Peter says,
“Therefore, [this Jesus,] being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:`The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
[Acts 2:33]

When they heard what Peter said, the people were cut to the heart. But Peter did not want them left in fear. So he gave them the gift of the Gospel. Acts 2:38:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Peter comforts the people with the word that the promise of Baptism is to you and your children, to all who are far off, everyone whom our Lord calls.

Who is to be baptized? No one is to be left out of the promise. Neither neighbor nor foreigner, neither man nor woman, neither old man nor infant, no one is to be left out of the promise of Baptism.

Who is given to prophesy? Your sons and your daughters, your old men and your children, no one is left out of prophesying.

For, to prophesy means to speak the cross. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke the cross which was to come, speaking it as the Lord gave them glimpses of the coming Savior.

Now the cross is an accomplished fact in history. Those after the cross, we and our children speak the cross in its fulness. We speak to one another, encouraging each other with the Gospel.

And when we do speak of Jesus crucified for all sinners, and of the promise of Baptism which is to all, old man and infant, and we speak of the Holy Spirit bringing the Body and Blood of the cross for us to eat and drink now for the forgiveness of sin, when we do speak this Gospel, that is prophesy.

Not to tell the young student whether it is God’s will for her to sign up for the math program or for the marketing degree, for we have no promise or word from God on which classes she should take and we don’t want to put her under a false guilt of doing or not doing God’s will. Jesus didn’t die in order to sign us up for the right college courses. He died to forgive our sin. That’s prophesy.

He didn’t die to tell the young couple who wants to know when to buy a house what God’s will is for their money. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to give investment advice. He died to cleanse our consciences. That’s prophesy.

God’s will—what is God’s will? God’s will is that we love God with all our heart and all our soul and we love our neighbor as ourselves.

And God’s will is that when his Law shows us our sin, so that we say, as those people said to Peter, “What, then shall we do,” we then hear his word of prophesy, that the promise of Baptism is to us and to our children, and this Baptism is for the forgiveness of our sin. [Acts 2:38]

God’s will is always that we hear his Gospel that all sin is atoned for by the blood of Jesus, and that he, Jesus, stands us before God the Father clothed in his own righteous.

In the Name of Jesus.