Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 13)


Luke 10:23-37; Galatians 3:15-22; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” said Jesus to His disciples. But what did they see? Jesus had sent the seventy-two before Him as lambs in the midst of wolves, with no provisions or protection, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was drawing near. What they could see was that the kingdom of God was drawing near in the person of Jesus. They had just returned to Him exclaiming, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus replied to them saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

What did their eyes see? Jesus wasn’t much to look at, an itinerant rabbi, the son of a carpenter from backwater Nazareth. What did their eyes see? They went before Him with no food or water, little clothing, and no weapons, like sheep in the midst of wolves, proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come in this lowly, humble, and relatively unimpressive man. What did they see, what did they hear, that prophets and kings of old desired to see and hear but did? They saw the Word fulfilled. They saw the kingdom of God coming in the person of Jesus. Then Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’.” “Then turning to the disciples he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see’!”

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life’?” This man was an example of the “wise and understanding” from whom the holy things of God had been hidden. His wisdom and understanding had made him blind. Though God’s Word had been revealed and His promises kept in often humble and unexpected ways throughout Israel’s history, this lawyer’s wisdom and understanding concluded that eternal life must be earned by obedience and works under the law. “What must I do” is a question of self-righteousness and self-justification, with the prideful assumption that I can do it and have in fact done it. One who can save himself doesn’t need a savior, and therefore he doesn’t need Jesus. The lawyer wanted to save himself, to justify himself before the law. “What must I do?” he asked. That’s a law question. Therefore, Jesus turned him to the law: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” “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,” the lawyer answered confidently. Yes, indeed! Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.”

What must you do to inherit eternal life? That’s a law question. Love God and love your neighbor, perfectly, always, in thought, word, and deed. That’s the law’s answer. Do this perfectly, always, and you will live. That is, assuming you weren’t corrupted by original sin from the moment you were conceived. Oh, you were, you say? Well, that’s really too bad. But, that’s the law’s job, to convict you in your sin, to expose your sin that you might be turned in resentence and see your Savior Jesus Christ. The law is supposed to make you uncomfortable, just like it made the lawyer uncomfortable. The lawyer was exposed. He was right, the law demanded love – perfect love for both God and neighbor – and he knew that he failed, that he was a sinner, that he didn’t perfectly love his neighbor because he didn’t perfectly love God. He knew it, and he was convicted and uncomfortable, and so he tried to justify himself. “And, who is my neighbor?” he asked Jesus. The lawyer knew that he couldn’t love everyone and that he didn’t love everyone. He thought that, maybe if he could limit the number of people he had to love he would have a shot. He wanted to lower the demands of the law and make it more doable. He couldn’t see that the fulfilling of the law is not obedience, but love, God’s love for us sinners with which we love other sinners, and that one who cannot love his brother whom he has seen cannot possibly love God whom he has not seen. Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan.

A man, a Hebrew man, Jew, was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by the roadside. Two wise and understanding men whom the lawyer could surely relate to passed by and did nothing to help. Then a despised Samaritan arrived on the scene, took pity on the man, and at his own risk and expense helped him. Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer had no choice but to answer, “The one who showed him mercy.” This parable was Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor.” In the end, the lawyer had to answer his own question, “The one who showed mercy.”

The lawyer wanted to justify himself by his obedience and works, and yet he failed to do even the first work the law requires, love. Love is the fulfillment of the law because love is selfless and sacrificial, never looking inward to the self but always looking and acting outward to the neighbor. Mercy is love in action. Mercy is the love of God for us sinners. Mercy is what the Samaritan had for the man who fell amongst robbers. Mercy is what Jesus poured out for the world in His selfless, sacrificial death on the cross. Mercy is what we have received from God in Jesus Christ and mercy is what we are called and sent to show to others in love and thanksgiving to the glory of God.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” What do you see? You see the love and mercy of God in the death of Jesus Christ. You see the kingdom of God in our midst in the person of Jesus who is present in Word and Sacrament. You see Jesus in your neighbor, your brother, your sister, and even in your enemy. God desires mercy, not sacrifice. And Satan falls like lightning from heaven.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 12)



Mark 7:31-37; 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Isaiah 29:17-24


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What must I do to be saved? Now, there’s a question that gets people’s attention. If only we could have that question answered, get a checklist of those things we must do, then we’d get right to work in doing them and we’d feel pretty good about ourselves and about our oh so fair, just, and reasonable God. That’s all we’ve ever really wanted, isn’t it, a plain and simple statement of the minimum that’s required of us so that we can do it and live happily ever after?

But it’s a delusion, a lie, to believe that we can justify ourselves before God by our works. This truth Martin Luther himself confessed in his final written words before his death saying, “We are beggars, this is true.” We are beggars who have nothing of our own to offer to God, for we are conceived into this life already corrupted by Original Sin and our wills are enslaved in bondage to sin and can do no good before God in and of themselves. It does no good to protest “That’s not fair! Sin that I was born with, even conceived in? That’s not my sin. That’s my parent’s sin! That’s Adam’s Sin!” It does no good to protest, for we are Adam, every one of us, one huge sinful man. And not only have we nothing within us to offer to God, but we cannot even move towards Him of our own wills. We are spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb; from conception we are corrupted by sin and from birth our ears are stopped from hearing God’s Word, our eyes are blind to seeing the light of His Truth, and our lips are closed to praising His Name. We are in bondage, in chains and shackles, to sin and death, and we are so desperately in need of a Savior, someone to have mercy upon us and shower us with His grace and favor lest we perish.

So, as we could not come to Him, God came to us in the person of His Son. The Son of God stepped into our spiritual ditch and there He took up our flesh, wounded and bleeding from the assaults of the devil, left for dead, and He made with us a glorious exchange, binding up our wounds and pouring on oil and wine while taking our stripes as His own and dying our death. For, Jesus is God moved in love and compassion to reach out and to help those who cannot help themselves, those who will not reject His help or claim self-sufficiency. He has come to save sinners, and only sinners can be saved. He has come to poor sinners such as us to pardon, to restore, and to grace with His lavish gifts of goodness and love beyond our imaginings.

Jesus came to us who could not come to Him; He has set us free from our bondage to sin and death and He has empowered us by His Holy Spirit to bring others to Him who are in bondage to sin and death. That is why the crowds in the Gospel lesson brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and unable to speak. The man could not speak because he could not hear; he could not hear because he was in bondage to sin. It’s not that being deaf is sinful, but deafness is a result of sin, just as baldness and arthritis are a result of sin. Nor is the deafness the result of that one man’s sin or anyone’s sin in particular, but deafness is the result of sin in general: For, the wages of sin is always death.

The man could not hear the Word of God and his mouth could not confess Jesus as Lord; he was utterly incapable of changing his condition or situation. Such is our condition according to nature, fallen, corrupted, in bondage to sin. But those who could hear and speak brought the poor man to Jesus and they begged the Lord to lay His hand upon Him. The very same thing happened right here in your presence a couple weeks ago as Christian parents brought their infant son, who could not come on his own, who could not understand the Word of God, or confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, in faith they brought him to Jesus that He may lay His hand upon him, forgive his sin, and receive him into Himself through the means of Holy Baptism.

Just as Jesus, through the hands and mouth of a Pastor, released that infant child from the bondage of sin and death, opening his ears to hear the Word of the Lord and to receive faith, releasing his tongue to confess Jesus as Lord and to sing His praise, so too Jesus took the man aside, put his fingers into the man’s ears, spat and touched the man’s tongue, looked up to heaven to give God the glory, and then He spoke the Word “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. It was not Jesus’ fingers alone that opened the man’s ears anymore than the pastor’s touch in Holy Baptism, nor was it His spit and touch alone that released the man’s tongue anymore than the water of Holy Baptism, but it was the Word that Jesus spoke, the Word of God, along with these physical elements, that released the man from bondage to sin and death: The Word of God the Father, the touch of God the Son, and the finger of God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, come down to earth, to speak forgiveness and release from the bondage of sin and death to we who were spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind. Whether we were brought to Jesus as helpless infants that He might touch us with water and Word or if we were brought to Him later in life by those who love us and would have us know the love of God in Jesus they enjoy,  it is the Word, only and always the Word, that opens our sin-closed ears and releases our sin-tied tongues that we might confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Jesus, Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled: In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. For, on the cross our Savior Jesus sighed and breathed His last for us and has given us to hear and to believe in Him; He has opened our lips that our mouths may declare His praise.

We could not come to Him, so He came to us; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Even still, in bondage to sin and death, we could not hear the Word of the Lord or speak His praise. So, again, Jesus comes to us and brings us to Himself through the hands, feet, and mouths of His pastors, believing parents, friends, and even strangers that we might receive His healing touch and life-giving Word and be opened to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and to believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead and be saved – to the glory of God the Father, in Christ His beloved Son, through the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Feast of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord


Luke 1:39-55; Galatians 4:4-7; Isaiah 61:7-11


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Mary was humble and of low estate, and so we can relate to her. Mary confessed that her Lord had done great things for her, and so we can confess with her. Mary believed the Word of the Lord and trusted in His goodness, faithfulness, and mercy saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” and so we honor her, we venerate her, and we seek to imitate her in Christian faith and holy living, recognizing and confessing the amazing divine grace of God she and we alike are the undeserved recipients of.

Though the Holy Scriptures are silent, Christian tradition holds that Mary grew up in Nazareth, the daughter of Anna and Joachim. Mary and her parents were among the promised faithful remnant of Israel waiting and watching in hopeful expectation for the consolation of Israel in the promised coming of the Messiah, the Christ. It has been said that faithful young Hebrew women held to the hope that they might be the woman promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden who would bear the promised Seed who would crush the ancient serpent’s head, promised again to Abram through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This could explain Mary’s receptive reaction to the marvelous news the angel Gabriel brought to her saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary’s response was simply, “let it be to me according to your word,” though she did ask how this gift of God’s grace would come upon her since she was a virgin. The question was asked in faith, not in unbelief, and the answer was given to faithful Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Then Mary was given a sign to confirm the promise, “behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is believed that Mary was a young woman, perhaps around the age of fourteen. An unmarried maiden, she was the epitome of lowliness. An unmarried virgin maiden, her conception would be scandalous, to say the least. Nevertheless, the Lord favored her, which means that the Lord willed to have favor towards Mary. Despite the lowliness of her estate, the Lord chose Mary to be the Mother of our Lord Jesus, the Mother of God. So it is that Mary is not so different than Abram whom the Lord chose by his gracious will alone. There was nothing meritorious or deserving about Abram. Abram was a pagan, a worshipper of his father’s household gods. Nonetheless, the Lord called Abram and promised him a nation and a son through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Like Mary, Abram believed the Lord, and their faith was counted as righteousness by the Lord. To each was a given a similar sign as a confirmation and seal of the Lord’s promise. The sign to Abram was that his aged wife Sarai, who was barren, would conceive and bear him a son. The sign to Mary was that her aged cousin Elizabeth, who was barren, had already conceived and was carrying a son, John the Baptist. The Lord has chosen the weak and foolish things of this world to shame the wise and the strong. Or, as Mary put it, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

The Ecumenical Council in Ephesus (AD 431) officially declared Mary to be Theotokos, Mother of God. For, if the Son of God, Jesus, is truly God, as the Scriptures and the Creeds confess, then Mary is truly the Mother and the Bearer of God. For this gracious honor, which she received in humble faith, we give thanks to God for Mary and for His grace and mercy shown to her, and through her to us all. We do not worship or pray to Mary. This Mary herself would protest and warn against. Indeed, Mary confessed her own need for a savior saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” What we venerate Mary for is her example of faith and trust in God and His Word, which is itself the gift of God’s magnificent grace. But, most of all, we venerate Mary for the magnification of God’s grace, mercy, and love she has been made to be for all the world, to quote Luther, as “the exceeding riches of God joined in her with her utter poverty, the divine honor with her low estate, the divine glory with her shame, the divine greatness with her smallness, the divine goodness with her lack of merit, the divine grace with her unworthiness.” This day, then, is not a Feast of Mary, but it is a Feast of the Lord who graced, blessed, and chose Mary that her soul should magnify the glory of the Lord who pours out His divine grace and mercy upon the meek and the humble, the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for justice and mercy, and the weak and despised of this world who trust in Him and His word.

Our Lord Jesus’ dying words to His mother were, “Woman, behold your son,” and then to John, His beloved friend and apostle, “Behold your mother.” Christian tradition holds that John did indeed take Mary into his home and ultimately to Ephesus where he had established a vibrant church. There are two traditions concerning Mary’s death: The oldest claims that Mary died in Jerusalem, but another in Ephesus. Neither tradition is supported by Scripture, but early Christian writers including the Fathers have favored the former and have recorded the tradition. On this very day, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of Mary which includes the belief that Mary was taken body and soul up to heaven so that no earthly relics remained. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Dormition (or, “falling asleep”) of Mary on this day. In the Lutheran Church, we simply believe, teach, and confess what Scripture has given us, nothing more and nothing less.  Scripture does not account for the death of Mary nor does it offer any particulars concerning the matter. However, what Scripture has provided us is Mary’s own words concerning how she viewed her role in salvation history – she was a humble servant, the beneficiary of God’s undeserved and unmerited grace and mercy, for which she praises, glorifies, and magnifies God her savior.

This means that Mary is just like you and that you should be thankful for and strive to be just like Mary who simply believed and trusted in the word of the Lord saying, “let it be to me according to your word.” Mary needed a savior, just like you. Mary needed Jesus, just like you. And now Mary is with her Son and Lord, Her God, in the glorious presence of His Majesty with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven awaiting the return of Jesus in glory, the resurrection of the faithful, and the blessed gathering of the Church in Zion. Until then, we gather with Mary, Peter, James, and John, Paul, David, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, and with Adam and Eve, and with all the saints who have died in the Lord and with the host of heaven at this altar where heaven comes down to earth and we join our voices with them in singing the thrice-holy hymn. And, “We sing with joy of Mary, whose heart with awe was stirred when, youthful and astonished, she heard the angel’s word. Yet her voice upraises to magnify God’s name, as once for our salvation Your mother she became.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Holy Matrimony of Spencer Richard Warehime & Nicole Rae Geisemann


Matthew 19:4-6; Colossians 3:12-17; Genesis 2:7


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Every marriage has a beginning: A first glance; a first smile; a first date; a first kiss; etc. For Spencer and Nicole, it all began at the Registrar’s Office at Wartburg when a rather forward young man passed an Add/Drop card to the smiling young lady behind the desk saying, “DROP: All other plans” and “ADD: A date with me at Duo’s.” He’d caught her eye before. She thought he was cute, and that mustache! Obviously, he’d noticed her as well. “Her hair was like a flock of goats,” he thought, recalling the words of the Song of Solomon. She scribbled something on a sticky-note, placed it on the card and handed it back to him. It was her phone number. “YES!” Well, that first date finally came, but it wasn’t at Duo’s, but at Hy-Vee over mediocre Chinese food. However, the location and the food didn’t really matter as they sat and talked for over an hour and the first buds of a relationship began to develop and grow, the fruit of which we are celebrating this very day. Every marriage has a beginning, often very humble, mundane, and ordinary. The LORD works in unexpected ways, but He brings together His children and He blesses them, and He makes them to be a blessing.

Faith was important to them from the beginning, and it wasn’t long before Spencer and Nicole were worshiping together on Sunday morning here at St. John, along with a good number of other Wartburg students and a surprisingly strong representation from the Cross-Country team. After Bible study they could usually be found at Dell’s Diner where they talked about what they had heard at church and other things. In this way, as their relationship began to grow, so did they grow together in their faith. Spencer and Nicole, I remember several conversations with the two of you in my office when you had questions about God’s Word, particularly as it pertained to your relationship. I want you to know how much I respect you and am grateful to God for you for seeking counsel in His Word. And I know that you have continued to seek that counsel as you have prepared for this day, learning from God’s Word about forgiveness and sacrifice, how you can serve each other and submit to each other and encourage each other, and about the importance of having a prayer life and a devotional life in marriage. This is a solid foundation on which you will build and grow even as you are built and grown by the Lord. Marriage isn’t always easy, but it is good, and with Christ at its center it will endure, and it will grow and bear much fruit.

Spencer, you told me that Ephesians chapter five was important to you as well as the Table of Duties from the Small Catechism. Indeed, in such passages the Lord describes and prescribes the godly vocations of husband and wife, father and mother, parents and children, and more. These vocations, indeed, all vocations, begin with humility and love, selflessness and sacrifice, and fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The Epistle lesson you together selected from Colossians chapter three is loaded with St. Paul’s exhortations to godly living that are both descriptive and prescriptive of Christian faith and life and of Christian marriage: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, harmony, peace, thankfulness, and more. It’s not an exhaustive list. You have surely noticed that these qualities are all selfless, not selfish, in that they flow outward from the self towards others and not inwards towards the self. These qualities are by their very nature selfless and sacrificial. They are qualities that flow from love because they are the qualities of God, who is love, Himself, and of Jesus Christ who is the love of God incarnate.

These selfless, sacrificial, and loving qualities were endowed in the very first marriage in Paradise when God brought together the man and the woman He had created and joined them in the one-flesh union of Holy Marriage. God blessed them and He blessed their union that they should be fruitful with His selfless, sacrificial love. Truly, God blessed us all with marriage so that we could know more fully and truly the kind of love and the kind of relationship He wills to have with us. God doesn’t merely will for His creatures to worship Him as our Creator, but He wills to selflessly and sacrificially love us, and for us to selflessly and sacrificially love Him in return; He wills to marry us; and He wills to make us fruitful, together with Him, with the fruits of His love. Now, the first marriage was instituted before our first parents introduced sin into the world, which has made a royal mess of everything and which continues to produce endless suffering and misery. Nevertheless, marriage after the Fall is still a divine, holy, and sacred union and proving ground in which we can learn selflessness and sacrifice, where we can learn to love like God and as God, as we sacrifice ourselves, our selfish wills, and our self-serving desires for our beloved, and as we bear with and endure in patience those times our love is not reciprocated by forgiving and gratefulness for the loving forgiveness of God we ourselves have received but not deserved. Truly, it is in this way, and in this way alone, that the equation 1 + 1 = 1 is valid and true. Each of you, Spencer and Nicole, in selfless and sacrificial love for God and for each other, this day are no longer two, but you are one. Your marriage is to be a reflection, even if tarnished and dimmed by sin, of the perfect, true, and holy marriage of Christ and His Bride the Church.

It is God who has brought you together, just as He first brought Adam and Eve together. People talk about “soul mates” as if your soul mate is someone that you have to go out there in the world and find. I think that is inadequate at best, and plainly false at worst. You did not go out there and find each other any more than Adam had to go out and find Eve. You were brought together, by God, through the myriad, maze-like, life paths you followed, your vocations, informed by God’s word and by prayer, that have brought you to where you are. No, your soul mate is not the one you go out and find, but your soul mate is the one that God brings you to and, in Holy Marriage, you pledge yourself to guard and keep, not only their body and life, but their holy soul purchased and cleansed in the blood of Jesus, unto death parts you. Yes! You are not merely pledging your love and faithfulness to a person this day, but you are pledging your love and faithfulness to a person created by God in His image and redeemed in the blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ. You are pledging your love and faithfulness not merely to a body, but to an immortal soul as well. What I mean is this: Spencer, this day you pledge to be the guardian and protector of Nicole, of both her body and her soul. Likewise, Nicole, this day you pledge to be the guardian and protector of Spencer, of both his body and his soul. You have the authority and the sacred responsibility of guarding and protecting each other through life, unto death, into life that cannot die. As the Lord has given you each to the other as a helpmate and has blessed you to be bone of bone and flesh of flesh in a one flesh union, so will you in faithfulness serve each other in life and deliver each other back to the Lord when He calls. “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Spencer and Nicole, when I asked you what you were looking forward to in marriage, you answered, “to see each other more,” “to be together,” and “to set goals together.” On the one hand, marriage will certainly deliver each of these to you, whether you desire them or not. On the other hand, these are mature, healthy, and sensible desires and goals. Moreover, I have witnessed you practicing these things already as you charted the course through college, made job choices while considering Spencer attending seminary, deciding to take a year off to get things in order, right down to the plans you made for this very day. These things you did together, through give and take, patience and understanding, charity and grace, and with not a small amount of forgiveness I am certain. The Lord bless you and guide you by His word and Spirit as you go forward as husband and wife.

In closing, I leave you to reflect upon these words from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians which you have selected to be read today: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. […] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Spencer and Nicole, always remember that your Holy Marriage, instituted and blessed by our Holy Triune God, is an icon, and image, of God’s own Divine Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As you sacrifice yourselves one for the other, two becoming one flesh, and as, if God should so bless you, you are fruitful and bear children – remember always the third partner in your marriage – your Lord Jesus Christ. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together because He desired for them to know the love and fulfillment of His own Divine Family. He is the love that binds you and makes you one flesh; and He has promised to be with you always. Call upon Him daily for your needs. Thank Him daily for your blessings. Make Him the Lord of your hearts and of your Holy Marriage – and He will bless you and your Holy Marriage. You will be fruitful. And your one flesh union will be “very good.”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 10)



Luke 16:41-48; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Jeremiah 8:4-12


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The peace movement of the 1960s was fueled by the realization that war is a huge money-making business. Truly, nothing will bring a nation out of a recession or a depression like a great war. Wars create jobs, increase gross national production, and focus people upon the enemy “over there” instead of the problems right here at home. And so, youth growing up in the 60s rebelled against war, and they advocated for peace. They adopted the famous “peace sign” as the symbol of their movement, a symbol designed in the 1950s as the logo for a British campaign for nuclear disarmament. They held rallies and sit-ins protesting the Vietnam War, and they practiced the ideals of what they believed would make for a peaceful society and world: Free love and free drugs, freedom from clothing (and from deodorant and shaving too!), freedom from work, from money, and from laws, etc. John Lennon exhorted his generation to simply imagine a world without heaven or hell, countries, religion, and possessions, as if imagining could change reality. But, it couldn’t. Still, there were greed and hunger, poverty and suffering, racism, and hatred. For, you can imagine all you like, still there is no peace. Imagine as you may, the things that make for peace cannot be found in worldly mammon or by your own works and merit. For, before there can be peace with your fellow man, there must first be peace with God, and peace with God is not something that you can buy, or merit, or even imagine into being, but peace is something that God has worked, that God has declared, and that God has realized in His Son Jesus Christ upon the cross for the life of the world.

God’s peace incarnate approached Jerusalem and wept over it saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” For, when He entered the temple, God’s house of prayer, He beheld that men had made it to be a den of robbers. The people were trying to purchase or merit peace with God by their sacrifices, by their tithes, by their prayers, and by their works. But, such things cannot make for peace with God. In truth, they rob from God, for all things belong to Him, yet men feign to buy His favor and peace by offering Him His own gifts as the sacrifice of their own hands and hearts. Jesus wept because He foresaw the judgment that would soon fall upon them: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” For, the wrath of God against human sin is very real, His holiness and His righteousness literally cannot tolerate a speck of it, and God’s Peace incarnate, the only peace possible, Jesus, was approaching Jerusalem in the prophetic knowledge that He would be rejected. When God’s Peace makes His visitation, there can be only two possible outcomes: Receive Him in faith to your great blessing, or reject Him in unbelief to your judgment and condemnation.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the city of God’s Peace, because He knew that He would be rejected. He taught daily in the temple, and many were drawn to Him and to His teaching, but “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him.” They, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, took a “lying pen” to the Law of God and bent it and distorted it, making it into a lie. They lowered the bar of the Law’s expectations in order to make it appear more do-able and keep-able, and they preached that men could justify themselves by keeping it, so that men sought peace, not in the LORD of hosts, but in their works and in their merits. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people healed the wound of God’s people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” where there was no peace.

The Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, had come to visit His people. The only question was, would He be received in faith or rejected in unbelief? In the same way, the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, visits His people today. Here, in this holy fellowship, the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, visits you, His people, in Holy Word and in Blessed Sacrament. How will you receive Him – in faith, to your great blessing, or in unbelief to your judgment and condemnation? The Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, is the two-edged Word-Sword of God, cutting both ways, for the healing of the faithful and for the judgment of unbelievers. “Once He came in blessing, all our sins redressing; came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; bore the cross to save us; hope and freedom gave us.” But, “Soon will come that hour when with mighty power Christ will come in splendor and will judgment render, with the faithful sharing joy beyond comparing.”

What will God’s Peace incarnate find when He makes His visitation? Will He find that the Lord’s “house of prayer” has been made a “den of robbers,” or will He find His people waiting for Him in faithful patience, watching for Him in hopeful expectation, fearing His holiness and righteousness with reverence, loving and trusting in Him for His goodness and faithfulness to all generations and for forgiveness and life and salvation? As the early Church confessed in the Didache, “There are two ways, the way of life, and the way of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways,” so there is no fence-straddling when it comes to your peace with God – it is in and through faith and trust in the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, or there is no peace with God, period. There is no agnostic middle way in which you can avoid making a commitment, for “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” There is no yin-yang blending of black and white, darkness and light, good and evil, faith and unbelief that results in ambiguous greyness, for the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, is the Light of the World that scatters the darkness. In Him there is no darkness at all.

Therefore, do not look to find peace with God in your works and in your merits, in your tithes, or even in your faith, but receive the Peace of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, as He comes to you to forgive your sins, to strengthen your faith, to commune with you in body and blood, and bestow upon you life, salvation, and sonship with His Father. Indeed, you have but two things to do in this life – and, really they are one and the same, and they are not even things that you do, but they are things that you are: Fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and love and serve your neighbor as you love and serve the LORD.

Now, you have tremendous, incredible, and amazing freedom in this, for there is no Law against love. However, “your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Now, Jesus was referring to the destruction that would befall Jerusalem in less than a generation when the Romans would lay siege to Jerusalem for four years and finally completely destroy the city and all who remained in it in 70 AD.

However, you, too, have enemies who barricade you and surround you and hem you in. They are the wise men and false prophets who continually say to you  “Peace, peace when there is no peace,” telling you that all is well for you, even as you disregard the LORD’s Word and Commandments and follow your own way and the ways of the world. Do not regard them or give heed to them! For God’s Peace incarnate, Jesus Christ, comes to you today in blessing through Word and Sacrament to forgive and to heal and to strengthen and to save, but He will come another day, on a day that you will not know, to judge the wicked and to save the faithful. His blessed visitation now is meant to prepare and to keep you for that day that you need not be afraid.

Come now, and be clothed anew in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. His gracious visitation now is your peace with God today and tomorrow, and for as many tomorrows as he may grant you. This is the gate of heaven, and it is open to you through God’s Peace incarnate, Jesus Christ, that you may be partakers of His heavenly treasures.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.