Florence

While we remember the attacks on our country from 17 years ago, we turn our attention towards the east coast. May our God have mercy upon the people of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia.

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An Ordination Sermon

One of my friends was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry a few weeks ago.  Here is the sermon, preached by Pastor David Petersen.  It was a High Delight to hear an old friend preach at one of the Holy Spirit’s festive days.  Congratulations, James and God’s blessings in Christ as you lead the church to her Holy Groom.

Rev. James Ambrose Lee Ordination

Trinity Lutheran Church Worden, Illinois

John 20:19-23

September 26, 2012 A+D

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

Aquinas thinks that the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body is a necessary antidote to the forbidden fruit. Our first parents brought terrible misery upon us by eating. Fruit, meant for knowledge, was abused and taken by force, bringing guilt, need, and death down upon us. Our Lord responds not merely by taking these things into Himself, substituting His law-keeping for our law-breaking and His innocence for our guilt, but also by providing His very Body as Food to replace that which we stole and to undo its effects. His Body removes guilt, satisfies our hunger, and bestows life.

In some ways, His Body gives what was falsely promised to Eve: it makes men like God. There is irony here to be sure. Men lusted to be like God. So God, to fix the thing we broke, took up what we despised.

All the Greek myths, by the way, can be understood in this way. Man goes awry when he seeks immortality. Icarus wasn’t meant to fly. That was reserved for the gods. Pandora wasn’t meant to open the box but chafed against being merely human. And wasn’t Eve’s lust also partially for knowledge that only God should have?

Perhaps the Greeks better perceived the natural law than we thought, or, as descendants of Noah, they retained a confused version of the truth.

We lusted for God. We wanted to be immortal and above the Law. So He took up that which we despised: mortality, weakness, hunger. He became a Man, a creature, born under the Law, that we might be elevated and be like Him. Do we not now know, in Christ, both good and evil?

So Eve gets what she thought she wanted, the object of her temptation. It is bit like David keeping Bathsheba. It certainly seems wrong. Uriah is dead at David’s hand. David’s son is dead for David’s guilt. But he gets his cake and eats it too. He keeps Bathsheba. He gets, in a sense, what he wanted. That is more than kindness. That is high injustice: that, however, is grace.

The Body of Jesus given in the Sacrament gives precisely what we tried to steal from the tree of knowledge. We are like God because God is more than like us: He is one of us. He has a Body and He has Blood and in it He unites us to Himself.  We reap not only where we did not sow, living in houses we did not build, but we get the inheritance by killing the Son. That which we sought to steal is declared a gift. We are welcomed into the family of the Holy Trinity.

It is no wonder the Romans thought we were hedonist cannibals and atheists. We wanted to become gods so god became a Man and declared us His sons and His Bride for killing Him.

Put your feet up, baby, it is Christmastime. Welcome to the happy insanity that is Christianity. I was listening to Johnny Cash sing the little drummer boy on the way here. The song is high on schmaltz, to be sure. But consider for a minute how unusual a piety Christians have that they can write such songs. A dirty little boy can approach God almighty and give Him a worthless gift without fear and even with the correct expectation that God will accept it. The Muslims don’t write any such songs about Allah. This is a distinctly Christian ability and it is because our God has made Himself a Man precisely that we might approach Him. He is not angry with us despite our sins. He forgives us. David gets to keep Bathsheba. This is the happy insanity of Christianity, of grace.

In any case, I think Aquinas is on to something with the connection between the Sacrament and the Fall. And I wonder if the character of the Fall isn’t also seen in the institution of the Office of the Holy Ministry. Death sent an ambassador into the garden, an angel in the form of a snake, who beguiled Eve with clever lies and false promises to tempt and seduce her. The living God responds by sending ambassadors, called angels in St. John’s revelation, into the wilderness of our exile to speak the Truth and proclaim God’s promises, not only to expose the lies of the devil, but also to break the bonds of temptation, to reconcile rebels to their God, to declare them righteous and welcome them to the feast in the garden. Men were seduced by words to eat. Men now are called by words to eat and live.

All pastors sent by God as anti-devils, undoing with words what the devil did through words. Perhaps that is why the primordial and creative breathing is repeated in the Upper Room. Ash Wednesday’s curse is not quite true. We returned to dust in the Fall but God rebreathes live into us again through the Apostolic Ministry. What is breathed into them but the new Adam which they breathe out again in preaching? Dust we were and to dust we returned, but the Holy Spirit comes and revives us again through preaching and absolution. The preachers undo the lie, undo death, by telling the truth. They remove the curse by proclaiming the promise, and their words are carried on the breath of the Holy Spirit. That is why preaching leads to the Sacrament . The devil lied and pushed Eve into the thorns through eating. The pastors tell the Truth and take Eve by the hand, gently leading Her to the Life of God in His Blood.

So that is your charge, James: tell the truth. Lead the Bride to the Supper, to the Bridegroom. Undo the curse. Breathe the Holy Spirit out upon dusty men in need of Good News and Life with God. And God will be with you even as in you He will be with them.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev. David H. Petersen, Pastor – Redeemer Lutheran Church Fort Wayne, Indiana

Blessed are the Dead Who Die in the Lord

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55–57

The Concordia University Chicago community today shared the passing of Dr. Lila Kurth, Professor of English, who died in the Lord on Tuesday, October 2.  Dr. Kurth taught me linguistics and enlivened my love for literature while I was a student at Concordia.

Dr. Kurth joined the Concordia faculty in 1977 and served as department chair for many years.  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

 

Joy

This past weekend I got my hands on a new book by Rev. Matthew Harrison.  The book is called, “A Little Book on Joy.”  It is published by Lutheran Legacy.  “‘So many churches, so many pastors and Christians have so little joy today,’ my friend observed. ‘These are difficult times.'”  I’ve only read the first chapter so far… but it is a great read.  You can pick up the book at http://www.logia.org.  It doesn’t cost that much and it will be a pleasure for you.  Are these difficult times?  Is the joy gone?  Yesterday’s gospel reading, Luke 11:14-28, showed how good the devil is at making the joy evaporate.  The finger of God had just cast out a demon.  The finger of God forgave the sins of 40+ people at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in north Houston yesterday morning.  It was a miracle.  They were all freed.  Yet someone said of Jesus that he was casting out demons by the ruler of the demons.  The joy evaporated from that scene when Beelzebul’s name was mentioned.  And yet, Jesus made sure that it wasn’t really gone.  It was the same yesterday at my church.  There was great joy because Satan was defeated and he was cast out.  The Lord of life came and visited his people.  He touched them, he fed them, and he blessed them.  They are living today, basking in the glow of the joy they received in the Cross.  Go get the book.  Read it and tell me what you think.

Running Running Running

I had every intension of running in the neighborhood tonight. It was really nice weather. All the errands and other running I did prevented me from getting home before dark. I’m gonna try again tomorrow. It is really cool to have warm weather again in Houston. The cold spell we had was getting a little too annoying. Texas is supposed to be hot, right? …well, at least warm.

BUT most enjoyable for me is warm Sundays. To see members of the church standing in the sunshine while they greet each other after service is just plain cool. (Of course, I’m thrilled with all the warm Christian love that occurs on rainy days, too… I guess it’s the warm part I love.)

Yesterday was just one of those warmed filled, wonderful days. The children were playing on the grass and the grownups were talking and catching up. Some friends and my wife and I went to Central Market for lunch and ate out side while a band played. It was nice to eat with the wind blowing and the sun shining down on us. Here’s to more warm filled Sundays in Houston and in your neck of the woods.