Monthly Archives: August 2013

Trinity 14 – Galatians 5:16-24

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

            In this discussion of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians chapter five, Saint Paul teaches that those reconciled by the blood of Christ cannot accomplish what the spirit wishes. For the spirit would want to be completely pure, but the flesh that is attached to it will not permit this. Yet they are saved; this happens through the forgiveness of sins, which is in Christ. Because they walk by the Spirit and are led by Him, they are not under the Law. That is, the Law cannot accuse and terrify them; and even if it tries to do so, it cannot bring them to the point of despair.

It’s a paradox, and one that is crucial to the Christian faith. If you lose the fact that you are simul justus et peccator, simultaneously a saint and a sinner, 100 percent sinful yet 100 percent righteous, then you lose everything that makes a Lutheran a Lutheran, no, what makes a Christian a Christian.

Martin Luther wrestled with this notion of the simul. So did Saint Paul. So have countless Christians. So do you. So do I. The mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The old man in all of us who thinks he loves God, but actually hates God, believes that there must be something that comes before the blood and righteousness of Jesus. Does not Saint Paul say in Romans chapter thirteen that love is the fulfilling of the law? If love is the fulfilling of the law, then love is righteousness. Therefore, if we love, we are righteous.

You can’t argue from commandments and draw conclusions about works. Try it this week and see how that works out for you. Go ahead. Love everything and see if you can make yourself righteous before God and before your neighbor. It’s not going to happen. Your attempt at perfect love will drive you into despair because either you’re not doing it right, or into self-righteousness that believes your love is better than even God’s love. But you’ll still be doing it wrong.

This doesn’t mean that we should give up on the law and recklessly live. You heard the lawyer confess the summary of God’s Law in last week’s Holy Gospel: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It does not follow that the Law commands love and therefore we love. There is no one on earth who loves God and his neighbor as the Law requires. Yes, in the life of the world to come, you will love perfectly and will be righteous through perfect love because you will be completely cleansed of all faults and sins and will be as pure as the sun. But not now. That is why you have a Propitiator; One Who makes the perfect offering that cleanses you from all sin, Jesus Christ. He is the Mercy Seat whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Saint Paul continues in today’s Epistle: the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Sound familiar? It should, for this is your life as a Christian. You are of the flesh, sold under sin. You see in [your] members another law waging war against the law of [your] mind and making [you] captive to the law of sin that dwells in [your] members. Wretched [men] that [you are]! Who will deliver [you] from this body of death?

So you think you’re the only one who struggles with sins of the flesh? Get in line behind Saint Paul. Get in line with all Christians of every time and place. You struggle with them, for every Christian saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ still struggles with the flesh. If there is nothing on which we can depend, still faith, hope, and love abide, these three. Always believe and love; always take hold of Christ as the Head and Source of your righteousness. Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.

Yet take great pains to be righteous outwardly as well. Do not yield to the flesh that always suggests something evil. Resist the flesh through the Spirit. Don’t be surprised when you feel this conflict of the flesh against the Spirit in your body. Consider again the words of today’s Epistle: the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit… these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. It is impossible for you to follow the Spirit as your guide through everything without some awareness of hindrance by the flesh. Your flesh will be an obstacle that prevents you from doing what you would. Follow the Spirit rather than the flesh. Do not gratify its desires.

You are a sinner and are aware of your sin; for you have not yet put off your flesh. Sin still clings to your flesh. Nevertheless, hearken to the Spirit rather than the flesh. In other words, take hold of Christ by faith and hope in His Gifts. Fortify yourself with His Word. Rejoice in your baptism. Eat and drink the true Body and true Blood of Christ frequently in Holy Communion. Fortified in His Gifts you will refuse to gratify the desires of the flesh.

But where’s the magic bullet? Where are those good feelings of bliss that I’m supposed to have as a Christian? I thought everything would be easy now. You will never be completely without sin, because you still have the flesh. You will always be aware of its conflict. Remember these words: the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit. Do not despair, but fight back. Do not gratify the desires of the flesh. Then you will not be under the Law.

When you fight back and fail, and you will fail this side of heaven, flee to Christ, Who died for your sin and gives you new life in His resurrection. Jesus quenched the desire of the flesh by giving His flesh as a sacrifice for sin. Believing in Him as your Savior, you have His holiness, innocence, and righteousness.

When the time comes for you to depart this miserable life, you will not be able to stand before God with your good works and promises. Instead, you will sing with King David: Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you; and If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? Join King David, and Saint Paul, and Martin Luther, and gaze at Christ, Who gave His life for your sins. If there is any remnant of sin in their flesh and your flesh, believe with them that it is not imputed to them but pardoned by forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

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

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Trinity 13 – Luke 10:23-37

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

            Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The next thing the disciples see and hear is a lawyer wanting to justify himself by asking Jesus a smart-aleck question. So it goes through the mists of history. God makes a promise to send a Savior through the Seed of the woman. His chosen people believe the promise against the world calling them foolish. Even those outside the chosen people believe the promise, for they believe that the promise is also for them. Nevertheless, as time goes by, those inside and outside the faith still want to justify themselves. They want to believe they control God.

Take the lawyer in Luke chapter ten. He asks the right question: Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life. He even quotes the proper Scripture passages after Jesus turns the question around on him. Nowhere in the passages the lawyer quotes do you hear anything about self-justification. All you hear is “love”. 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…. Do this and you shall live.

That’s where the trouble begins. When you try to do the do that our Lord asks you to do, you end up in deep doo-doo, so to speak. The problem with sin-stained love is that it has specific targets. Love for God and neighbor, and they always go together by the way, is specific and sporadic. It is easy to say, “I love God.” But you must be careful not to lay it on too thick. If Jesus was here in person, you would see precisely who loves Him and venture to do something for Him. Now He is not here in person. So you see and serve Him in your neighbors who are all around you.

Every human being is your neighbor. You cannot pick and choose them. If you are selective about who is your neighbor, then you neither love your neighbor nor God. You end up in the same predicament as the lawyer, who thought he was being clever when he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

When the lawyer was shown who was his neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he could not bring himself to answer Jesus’ question the right way. Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers? The correct answer is THE SAMARITAN. The lawyer could not form the syllables to say it. So hated were the Samaritans that even this lawyer cannot bear to say it. And who does Jesus think He is to mention those half-breed dogs from north of Jerusalem?

The ultimate insult to the lawyer is to tell him You go, and do likewise. The lawyer has tried to do the Law of God all his life. The problem is he has been selective about not only the Law, but also to whom he is to love. That’s not love, at least not the love that justifies. So the smart-aleck question shows the lawyer to be just like you and me: a phony, a sinner, one condemned by the holy Law of God as unholy and unworthy of being a child of God.

The parable teaches the lawyer to give up on self-justification and instead to see and hear what the disciples, what you and me, see and hear. They, and we, see and hear Jesus Christ as He Who comes from the Father in heaven perfectly to love God and perfectly to love His neighbor.

Some interpreters of this parable try to find Jesus everywhere except where He is found. It’s so obvious that Jesus is the Samaritan that they avoid the obvious and try a new twist. There is no new twist to be found. Jesus alone is able to come to you as you are: half-dead. The Law beats you senseless with its relentless do, do, do, do, do. You can’t do as God demands. You’re dead in sins and trespasses. The priest and Levite have nothing to say, for they also proclaim you need to try harder, to do something, and to work out your own salvation.

It is presumptuous for you to say, “Hey, God, I’ve done what You’ve asked me to do. Now it’s Your turn. Be gracious to me!” How is that going to work out for you on your death bed? See then how much your self-made holiness will help you! Not even Abraham could rely on his obedience, and yet his obedience is very highly praised in Scripture. The goal is way too high for you to obtain.

So you crawl to the cross of Jesus Christ, confess your sins, are baptized, and hide yourself under the wings of Jesus Christ. There you take comfort in His favor toward you. It follows from there that you will do as much as you are able for God and for neighbor. You will fail in what you do. You will fall short of God’s command. But Christ does not fall short. Christ has kept the Law for you. Christ loves His Father with all His heart, soul, strength, and mind. Christ loves His neighbor, all mankind, as Himself.

Jesus’ love for mankind compels Him to become Man, to suffer and die for your sin, and to rise triumphant over death and hell. Jesus carries you with Him by faith into the Inn of the Church, where He cares for you by giving you His Gifts that bestow forgiveness, life, and salvation. To go and do likewise for you now means to die daily to sin in order that Christ may raise you up from death to life everlasting.

Blessed indeed are your eyes and ears, for they see and hear salvation drawing near in this house to set you free to love and serve your neighbor. Jesus has defended His cause. He has remembered His holy covenant. He alone is love. Believe it for His sake.

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

Sasse: Not A School of Thought, But the Catholic Faith

The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Athanasius and Ireneaus once belonged. The orthodox evangelical church is the legitimate continuation of the medieval Catholic Church, not the church of the Council of Trent and the [First] Vatican Council which renounced evangelical truth when it rejected the Reformation.

For the orthodox evangelical church is really identical with the orthodox Catholic Church of all times. And just as the very nature of the Reformed Church emphasizes its strong opposition to the medieval church, so the very nature of the Lutheran Church requires it to go to the farthest possible limit in its insistence on its solidarity and identity with the Catholic Church.

It was no mere ecclesiastico-political diplomacy which dictated the emphatic assertion in the Augsburg Confession that the teachings of the Evangelicals were identical with those of the orthodox Catholic Church of all ages, and no more was it romanticism or false conservatism which made our church anxious to retain as much of the old canonical law as possible, and to cling tenaciously to the old forms of worship.”

Hermann Sasse, Here We Stand, Augsburg Publishing House, 1938, pp. 110-11

 

Sasse

Capon: The Church As “Local Franchise”

[T]he temptation to make the local franchise bigger and better becomes almost insuperable. The mega-church with four thousand members, a staff of seventy-five, and thirty-six programs turns into the ideal – into the ecclesiastical counterpart of Wal-Mart. For yet another, this “supermarket” vision is realizable only in certain circumstances. Depending on which church judicatory you’re talking about, anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of its local units have already become marginal in terms of the corporate ideal. Predictably, the home offices of those “problem churches” can think of only one thing to do with them: set them a “growth goal” (read an “ultimatum of,” say, two-hundred-fifty members in five years or less) and revoke the franchise if they don’t come up to corporate snuff. For still another thing, all the clergy, mega or mini, who try to turn back the tide of marginality begin to burn out at an alarming rate. And for a last (though the list could go on and on), the burnout doesn’t usually happen soon enough to prevent such clergy from committing actionable peccadilloes that scare the wits out of ecclesiastical bureaucrats and their ever-watchful insurance companies. The church becomes prey to product-liability suits over such things as “sexual harassment” and “exploitation”; the offending clergy are run out of their franchises; and the church (which is supposed to open its catholic arms to everyone, sinners included) ends up looking like a condemnatory piece of work that never heard of grace or Gospel. And all for the bottom-line reason of keeping a corporation from losing its angelic shirt in a lawsuit. My, my. As I said, there may well be some good intentions behind our current alarms and excursions over sexuality. But we’re certainly smashing a lot of Gospel china in the process.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart, pages 82-83

Luther: Look Around Yourself

Let us, therefore, mark well that whoever possesses God’s Word must also love God, that is, he must heed what God commands, follow him and say, “O Lord Jesus Christ, you have opened my eyes so that I understand that by your death you have redeemed me from sin and by your resurrection have made me an heir of the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. Now, dear Lord, I want to thank you for your great, unspeakable grace; for my part I shall gladly do whatever conforms to your will. You have commanded me to honor father and mother; I will resolutely and gladly endeavor to do it and be obedient. You have commanded me faithfully to serve my master and mistress, work diligently, and be obedient; I shall gladly do this also. You have set me to be the father or the mother of my family; dear God, I want to be upright; with desire and love I want to do what I ought to be doing and would rather die than not follow you by failing to care for my children and servants, or provoking them. This is the good fruit which should follow from the Word; it indicates that you truly love God.” That God should now in return not love such upright, obedient Christians, who honor and love him and his Word, and not grant them good fortune and well-being, is impossible.

So then, let each person examine his own heart and see how much he loves God. For loving God does not occur by merely thinking about it, as those stupid monks believe. To love God, as the Lord says in another passage, means to love the neighbor. God puts it this way, “If you want to love me, then love your father and mother, your child, your husband, your wife, your master, your mistress; that is want I want from you.” Accordingly, I say, Look around yourself to see if you are doing these things, and you may then know whether you love or hate God.

We will discover then that there are many more who hate than love God; yes, that the only ones who love God are christian believers, who have God’s Word and love Christ, although not as perfectly as they indeed should. They say, “Because Christ has loved me, I wish in turn to love my neighbor and with all my heart gladly do what I am supposed to be doing. But if I should occasionally act in anger, impatience, or exhibit other failings, I sincerely regret it and would like to become better.” This is how Christians act; those who are not Christians do not proceed like that.

– First House Postil for Trinity 13 (Luke 10:23-37)

Luther: The Minister As The Good Samaritan

The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of mercy and grace, in which there is nothing but a continual carrying of the lost. Christ carries our infirmities and sicknesses, he takes our sins upon himself and has patience when we fail. We still always lay about his neck, and yet he does not become weary of carrying us, which should be the greatest comfort for us when we are in conflict with sin.

Ministers in this kingdom are to comfort the consciences, deal gently with them and feed them with the Gospel, carry the weak, heal the sick, and know how to divide the Word rightly, and administer the same to every one according to his needs. This is the office of a true bishop and minister, and not to proceed with violence as our bishops do, who come threatening with stocks and the block, crying: “Ho! up there, up there, who will not, must!” This should not be, but a bishop or minister ought to resemble one who waits upon the sick, who treats them very gently, gives kind words, speaks very friendly to them and exercises all diligence in their behalf. Thus a bishop or minister should also do, and remember that his bishopric or parish is nothing but a hospital and an infirmary, where he has very many and various kinds of sick people for treatment. When Christ is thus preached faith and life meet together and fulfill the commandment of love.

– First Church Postil for Trinity 13 (Luke 10:23-37)

Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

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

            The prophet Isaiah writes: the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. This Scripture passage, with many others, indicates that the promised Messiah is the almighty Helper sent by God. Jesus is our Helper Who has done all things well.

Jesus helps the sick. Among those who came to our Lord in Mark chapter seven was a deaf-mute man. Living life unable to hear or speak is deplorable. How shall that person hear the Word of God? How shall he speak the Word when he cannot hear the Word? It was often thought that a person who was blind, deaf, mute, or had any other illness, was being punished by God for something that happened in that person’s life or his family’s life. The disciples once asked our Lord concerning a blind man, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Although illness and death is generally a result of the fall into sin, God often has special reasons why He also imposes various misfortunes and afflictions on His faithful. Consider Job. God tells Satan: there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil. Satan throws everything but the kitchen sink at Job, yet he remains faithful to his Lord.

Consider also Saint Paul. He writes in Second Corinthians chapter twelve: So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations ,a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It has pleased God to make this man deaf and dumb in order that Jesus might have the opportunity to reveal to him His ability to heal and thereby to give the assurance that He is the Messiah, the Christ, and the true Helper in every need. This is why the Lord sent to the deaf-mute dear friends who looked after him and brought him to Jesus.

Sometimes Jesus helps in other ways. When He cast out demons from a man in Matthew chapter eight, the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” In this case, Jesus takes the deaf-mute man aside, put His fingers into His ears, touched his tongue with spit, looked up to heaven and sighed. Jesus touches his tongue with spit to show that everything is wholesome in Him and strong to help. Even His spit is holy, bringing help in time of need. Jesus sighed in order to awaken prayer in the sick man and to kindle faith in his heart. Once this was done, perfect help came. The Lord let sound His might Ephphatha before the closed ears of the deaf man. His ears heard. His mouth spoke. A man who had never heard words in his life spoke as if he had known how to speak all his life.

The first words out of the deaf-mute man were praise to God for Jesus the Helper and Savior. Not only the formerly deaf-mute man, but also all those who saw and heard this sign. Even though Jesus forbade them not to tell anyone, the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. The gentle Savior Who bears the weak with patience overlooked their impulsiveness. They were astonished beyond measure. They were beside themselves with amazement. They did not know what they were doing.

Even though the crowds were told to be quiet, they could not help but say He has done all things well. We say the same thing today. The Lord has done all things well and always makes all things well. He chastens and wounds, yet He heals and binds up the broken. He helps the strong and meek, the healthy and sick. He makes no distinction among people, families, or individuals. What Satan make ill through sin, Jesus made well again, not merely healing from illnesses and disease, but also healing from sin and death in His innocent suffering and death.

Here’s how Saint Paul puts it in Romans chapter eight. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Jesus does all things well in His help for sinners. His help is making them righteous before our Father in heaven. Theologians call our Lord’s righteousness “alien”. This doesn’t mean that Jesus is a being from outer space. It means that His righteousness is foreign to us. Our righteousness doesn’t mean a thing before the Father. Only Jesus’ righteousness is holy, innocent, pure, and all availing before the Almighty Father. Everything works together, even spit and Christ’s human touch on the deaf-mute man, for the good of those who are called to be children of God.

The prophet Isaiah also writes: the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” The reward and recompense that Isaiah proclaims is yours now because of Jesus Christ. You have eternal life. You have forgiveness of sins. You are His beloved child through faith in Jesus as your Savior from sin and hell. This reward will be yours in full on Judgment Day, when Jesus calls His children Home to Him. While we live in expectation for that day, Jesus still does all things well. He provides preachers to proclaim the day of salvation in Word, water, and bread and wine. He provides the means of grace to forgive sins and strengthen you to wait a little while for His glorious return trip to judge the living and the dead.

In eternity will countless tongues boast and praise that Jesus Christ has done everything, and He has done it well. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

Trinity 11 – Luke 18:9-14

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

Cain and Abel. Isaac and Ishmael. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. All three are Biblical witnesses to the fact that there are two religions in the world. One religion is the Law. Do these things and you will be saved. The other religion, the only true religion, is the Gospel. You can do nothing to save yourself. You receive by faith the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the nations.

Cain gave an offering to God because he had to, not because he wanted to. He did not give the best of his flock as brother Abel did. When God was not pleased and warned Cain about sin lurking in his heart, Cain took the matter into his own hands and murdered his brother. Cain tried to silence the Gospel way in favor of the Law way.

Abraham took matters into his own hands concerning the promise of a son. He thought God wouldn’t follow through on His promise. So Abraham slept with Sarah’s maid and along comes Ishmael. Not long after comes Isaac through Sarah, just as God promised. The two children and their mothers contended. In the end only one could stay. Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. Ishmael and his mother had to go.

We look at the Pharisee and see a champion of God’s Word. He should be an example in both life and doctrine. He goes to the temple to pray. He prays with the proper posture. Yet what comes out of his mouth tells a much different story.

God, I thank You that I am not like other men. The Pharisee’s first words are all too familiar to us. We’ve prayed or thought the same thing too many times. We look at our neighbor or a family member and think, “Thank God I’m not him or her.” When the intent is to show off before God and men that we are not as bad as we think we are, we fit comfortably into the shoes of Cain, Ishmael, and the Pharisee. We’re careful to mention what they are just as the Pharisee does: extortioners, unjust. We even add a heaping dollop of whipped cream on the matter when, like the Pharisee, we add a title that may or may not be true, like adulterer. We are not given to pry into the secret things of our neighbor, but we can’t help it when it makes us look good and our neighbor look bad. One should never let the truth get in the way of a self-righteous prayer.

How about some sprinkles on top of that whipped cream? I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess. It’s not enough to be pious. The Pharisee need only fast once weekly and give tithes of certain items. But he’s a super faster and tither.

Like the Pharisee we think we can make things right with God by what we say and do. Jesus is only for those who cannot help themselves. Sure, we say and do all the right things before God and others. But the intent of the heart does not match the words we speak. That’s Cain’s problem. That’s the Pharisee’s problem, especially when compared to that filthy, rotten tax collector.

Filthy and rotten are mild epithets compared to extortioner, unjust, and adulterer. How about traitor? A tax collector is most often a Jew who collects taxes for the Roman Empire, taxing more than what is owed and pocketing the extra as an unsolicited tip. Tax collectors are right up there with sinners at the bottom of the food chain in Bible times. They deserve nothing but scorn. They really don’t deserve to be in the temple praying. That’s what the Pharisee was driving at when he said the things he said in his prayer. The cheat should be outside with all the unworthy schmucks in the temple courtyard.

We could add our hearty “amen” to the Pharisee’s words. But take another look at the sleazy tax collector. He stands far off. He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Chances are the tax collector will walk out of the temple and sin again. The same can be said about you and me. Chances are he will walk into the temple the next day and pray the same prayer. We also will do the same next week as we do this week.

It’s not so much the tax collector’s humility we should admire. It’s what he says and the intent of his heart. The guy beats his breast. In the Middle East to this day men rarely beat their breast as a sign of contrition unless it’s a very serious matter. Men beat their breasts at Jesus’ crucifixion; that’s about the only other time in Scripture we see it.

What’s more remarkable is what the tax collector says: God, be merciful to me, a sinner! He gets it! He gets what temple worship, and Christian worship, is all about. When he cries for mercy, he literally means for our Father in heaven to apply His Promise of atonement to us. The tax collector, you, and me, begs for Jesus’ blood and righteousness to cover us. That’s what temple worship pointed toward: the pardon of sins through the death of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. He begs Christ to put the world to rights.

You can almost hear those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others gasp with shock. Jesus says the tax collector went to his house justified rather than the Pharisee. That’s not right! That’s precisely the point. The attempt to keep the Law of God perfectly doesn’t earn the Father’s favor. No other religion alongside or in place of the religion of the Gospel won’t give the Father’s mercy either. Jesus alone delivers the Father’s mercy. Jesus alone suffers the punishment the Law demands for us. Jesus suffers that punishment willingly. Jesus sits on the mercy seat of God when he lies on the cross. Instead of hoarding the benefits of His death, the Father bestows His Son’s blood and righteousness to us. That’s what it means to have mercy.

Our Father’s mercy does not deal with us according to our sins. Our Father’s mercy deals with us according to His righteousness given to us through His Son Jesus. Forgiveness is not ours for the taking. Forgiveness is Jesus’ to give us though we neither earn nor deserve it. He gives forgiveness to us as a gift. That’s the Gospel way. That’s the tax collector’s way. That should be the Pharisee’s way but he can’t see the forest for the trees. Moses gets in the way, though Moses steps out of the way to receive the Promise of mercy too.

We pray for mercy every week in the Divine Service when we sing: Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. That’s exactly what He does. He gives mercy when through His called servant He declares sins forgiven and forgotten because of Jesus. He gives mercy when through His called servant He puts His Son’s True Body and True Blood in our mouths. He gives mercy when through His called servant He proclaims repeatedly the favorable season of the Lord. Thanks be to God there is no other way to heaven than the way the tax collector walks; the way of Jesus, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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

Luther on The External Word

The Lord employs such vivid action [in Mark chapter seven] for the sake of the spiritual miracle. He wants to demonstrate how great an effort is required to cause a deaf man to hear and a mute man to speak. Lazarus he waked up with a word. To the palsied man he said, “Stand up and walk!” and he was healed. But with the deaf and dumb man he doesn’t proceed in such a clipped and simple way, but takes unusual steps by placing his fingers in the ears, sighing, and then saying, “Be opened!” He thereby shows us that if we are to be loosed from the devil’s bonds, and possess ready tongues and good ears, this can happen only through the external Word and preaching, through external means. We must, first of all, hear the Word, not neglecting baptism or the Sacrament either, and the Holy Spirit will then be present to free the ears and tongues.

Therefore, we must be on guard against the fantastic spirits who despise the external Word and Sacrament, waiting till God speaks to them in the heart. No, says Christ, here is my finger, the external Word, which must sound in the ears; my spittle, which must moisten and bestir the tongue; in this way my work proceeds rightly and readily from place to place. We see this wherever the external Word has free course; there true Christians will be found. Wherever it does not have free course, there none will be found, for as goes the shepherd, so the sheep.

Everyone should take care, therefore, to be found on this path and gladly hear God’s Word. Without the Word, God does not reveal himself in your heart. To see and know him can happen only through the external Word and Sacraments. The Holy Spirit works in no other way. This is what God taught at the time he spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” Likewise, Christ commands his disciples, “Go into all the world, teaching and baptizing all nations.” Again, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” Thus our dear Lord Jesus Christ commanded that we should open our mouths, preaching the gospel to people and baptizing them. This is the only way to salvation; otherwise all is lost and for nothing. “Whoever hears you,” he says, “hears me.”

– House Postil for Trinity 12 (Mark 7:31-37)

The Installation of Rev. Jacob W. Ehrhard – Jeremiah 15:19-21

Rev. Jacob W. Ehrhard will be installed Sunday, August 11, 2013 as Pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, New Haven, MO. It is my privilege to preach the sermon at his installation.

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

            Therefore thus says the LORD: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:19-21 ESV).

Brother Jacob, you are God’s gift to the Church. You could smugly take this statement concerning your talents and abilities and flaunt it before your flock. You could also take it in the way of Holy Scripture as a humbling statement.

Six years ago, you were ordained and consecrated into the Holy Preaching Office of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Though Lutherans do not confess a special conferring of grace upon one being ordained, we do confess that an ordained and consecrated shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock uses the gifts and talents God gives him in order to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution.

You are God’s gift to the Church because the Lord has made you to this people a fortified wall of bronze.

Not all pastors are alike, thanks be to God. Pastors are sinners too. Pastors have different personalities and characteristics. Pastor Ehrhard is different from Pastor Otten or any other pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven, Missouri. That’s a blessing. However, one thing remains the same. There will be conflict between pastor and people. That’s the way it is when one sinful human being deals with other sinful human beings. There will be times Pastor Ehrhard will sin against you. It will hurt you and sting him as well.

There will be times when you will think Pastor Ehrhard really is a fortified wall of bronze. He will call a thing what it is because he is a theologian of the cross. When you sin, he will preach sharp, stern Law. He will call you to repentance. When you repent, he will be instant and lavish with the Gospel. Nevertheless, there will be times when you will not want to hear him preach the Law. You will wish he would get on with preaching, “Jesus loves you” and pretend there is no Law.

Brother Jacob, know that these people whom God has given you to tend do not want to fight. They want to throw you a life preserver of prayer, lest you drown amid the struggles of day-to-day ministry. They want you to preach 200-proof, straight up, no ice, no tonic water, hard-core Law and Gospel. These dear sheep want you to do what’s given you to do. These dear sheep for whom Christ died want you to preach, teach, absolve, commune, baptize, catechize, visit, marry, bury, and be a Seelsorger, a care of souls for them until you die or a call to another field of service parts you.

Dearly beloved, the office given to Jacob Ehrhard by our heavenly Father is the office of the Holy Spirit. Listen to Saint Paul’s words in Second Corinthians chapter three: Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.

The office of the spirit is not your pastor’s personal opinion about The Lutheran Hymnal, what vestments he wears, whether or not he wears a clerical collar, or even his favorite sports teams. The office of the Holy Spirit is the office of Jesus Christ in your midst. Pastor Ehrhard preaches Jesus Christ crucified. Everything he says and does points to Christ and the forgiveness of sins He purchased for you. This is what God has asked him to do. This is what you promise before God and His holy angels that you will support him to do among you.

Your pastor stands in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ. He is under orders from Almighty God to take you from Calvary’s cross through the empty tomb to the font, pulpit, and altar, where forgiveness, life, and salvation are found. He is under orders to exclude impenitent sinners from the means of grace as well as reinstate penitent sinners to eternal life. He cannot do otherwise.

You know this, but it’s worth a reminder: Pastor Jacob Ehrhard is not Pastor Herman Otten. Neither is Pastor Ehrhard our Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Ehrhard is a sinner for whom Christ died. He is duly called and ordained to distribute the Holy Gifts among the Holy Ones. In just a few minutes, you will publicly welcome him into your midst as a gift of God in your midst. Pastor Ehrhard stands in an unbroken line of pastors who have served here and elsewhere, both inside and outside of our beloved Synod. This unbroken line, this fortified wall of bronze, proclaims the wages of sin is death. Jesus Christ is the perfect atoning sacrifice for your sin. Christ’s righteousness avails before the face of the heavenly Father. Christ’s blood cleanses you from all sin. His perfect life is now your life. His resurrection brings your resurrection. Christ’s ascension is the sure and certain hope of your ascension.

It’s been over 50 years since this congregation has seen the installation of a pastor. Many of you only know one pastor at this congregation. That’s amazing. Long pastorates are rare. Only God knows how long Pastor Ehrhard will be among you. So that’s why we’re here. We’re here to pray God’s help and blessing upon a new beginning in Jacob’s life, in Gretal’s life, and the life of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, New Haven, Missouri.

Pastor Jacob Ehrhard is your fortified wall of bronze. You are protected sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock. God will bless your lives together under the cross of Jesus, for God promises I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. God grant both pastor and people many happy years together as partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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