The Authority of True Love

We have the right to remain silent, but it will not help us, anything we have said, done, or thought can be used against us in the court of LAW. We have no right to an attorney present now or during any future questioning, but of course we cannot afford an attorney, anyway. O, what a burden the LAW is. Our so called rights we hold dear, that we claim are inalienable, mean nothing here… mean nothing now. Our God is staring us down, standing before us. “Let the hills hear what you have to say!” The LORD has lodged a charge against his people, he has a case against his Israel… his Church… his you.

JESUS of Nazareth, what have you to do with us??!

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Many of you were infants… some of you were teenagers, young adults, or full grown responsible types. “Not many of us were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” But how would that have helped us anyway? Who were we? We were poor in spirit (or rather lacked any spirit at all)! Day and night we mourned with all of creation from the pain of sin and the suffering that is all around us. And we were liars. We told the world that we could do it all ourselves and that we would do it all by love. But we had no love. We were like a clanging cymbal. We told our family and our friends that we were strong and that they could depend on us and our possessions… but we did not mention our God, not once did we give any credit to anyone else, let alone God! Our money, our influence, and our rights have made us thing we are powerful…authoritative… and then we lied even to ourselves.

We tell ourselves that we are powerful. We are influential and wise on our own. We boasted in ourselves and falsely built stability where there was none. God was not good enough for us. Oh what a burden he has become. Droughts here, flooding there, sickness here, disease there… he has stripped us of our rights. We deserve to be honored and loved, all the while forgetting to love and even what it means to love. We have the right to be given rain (when it’s needed), good crops, good health, and we should be showered with intelligence and with gifted children. After all we have claimed him as our God. What good is a God that cannot help us and defend our inalienable rights we have as men. We have the right to come before him when we want to… we have the right to receive his gifts when we feel we need them… and when we are happy and it is time to celebrate we might invite him when we remember to.

Repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is here. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God is not interested in burnt offerings, or sacrifices of a thousand rams. He is interested in you, his holy people. Humans have one right… it is the right to die. You have done enough on your own to deserve that one right… in your sin, you deserve death—for the wages of sin is death.

God has no current suit against the angels or the trees. The dogs and cats of the world have nothing to worry about. It’s his people, human beings, you — that he confronts concerning sin. But before you can answer, one man stands up. Even though you can afford no attorney, one stands in your place. One man stands before the mountains and before the face of the Heavenly Father and says unto the Lord, “O Father, you have picked your people up out of their and have placed them on dry ground. You have fed them and nourished them and guided them. In the darkness you have sent light—a bright Morning Star to guide their way and to teach them your path. I will pay for their rebellion. Upon the cross, I — the God Man Jesus — shed my blood and receive the death man deserves, I die for their transgressions.”

Before another can stand, before any other —even you— can speak, the voice from heaven declares, “Guilty! Guilty as charged!” And there before you all, that man Jesus, your attorney, your stand in, your sacrifice, your Savior makes you his brother and sister, as the nails dug into his hands and feet and the spear into his side. The blood and water ran down and filled the font—Jesus, claiming you as his brother… his sister… showing you what love really is. Showing the world how true authority is exercised. And so in that font he claimed you as his own and washed you there — stripping you of all your sins. He dried you off and gave you robes of noble birth. Christ calls you to his house (here), to nourish you and to feed you. He bids you come to his table to receive his life giving body and blood—the medicine of immortality.

You have the right to remain silent, but which of you can?? God drives you forward with his Word. He has given you his life, his Son, his everything. He lights your way and teaches you his path. He gives a perfect picture of a Love that bears all things, that does not boast, a love that is not arrogant or rude, a love that never ends. Rejoice and be glad, for Christ Jesus is your great reward and he calls you. He is faithful and he will do it.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev. Steven Thomas Cholak

Ephphatha

The Deaf man lived in a different world, the sounds of the world, the speaking of praise and prayer…the speaking of buying and selling, living, and playing: all shut off, shut down, left out. But he may have not even thought himself disabled and unfortunate. He may have been comfortable with his life and his deafness. He could have adapted to his life, learned sign language, hung out with others like himself or he could have been miserable, and alone, and shunned OR both. Whatever his life, in his Deafness, It didn’t matter…his friends had heard about a miracle worker and they brought him to Jesus.

His ears stopped… Jesus opened them. His tongue stuck… Jesus loosed it.

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

Jesus healing the Deaf Man by Richard Caemmerer

But there is something more here. The Deaf man’s ears had been stopped from hearing the Word of God…and here and now, the first thing he hears is the Incarnate One speaking to him: directly to him, Ephphatha! That is “BE OPEN!” Like every last one of us, our ears, our hearts, stopped up from the Word of God. We downplay, ignore it, move it to the back burner, pay attention to it when it is convenient, but treat it like we feel it to be: an inconvenient necessity. What has your sin done to your ears and your hearts?

And where has this put our priorities? What has happened to our speech? Do we hang out with others like ourselves, have we made up a [sign] language to communicate what’s convenient rather than what is real and important? We’re privileged with the presidential campaigns in full swing but we don’t need help bringing to light the absurdity of our talk, our lifestyle, our concerns and worries: we’d rather talk about walls and fences between Canada and the USA, global warming and climate change, which movie is better, which sports team is going to win, than how to save the babies and how to uphold marriage.

The Lord knows our present reality. He knows that we are broken, sinful, stopped up. He knows that we’ve all made a mess out of things and the church is not immune. We make doctrine “convenient” talk while life is relegated to the “inconvenient” category and then fill the void of our deaf ears with life while ignoring doctrine.

We talk about gay marriage while our families fall to ruin and slowly our marriages fail.

We talk about abortion while our children are neglected.

We talk about whether a clerk should go to jail for her beliefs while ignoring our neighbor’s needs, the neighbors and coworkers we see everyday.

We would rather tolerate our neighbors, as though that is a virtue, instead of loving them.

Repent. The Kingdom of God has come to open you.

Not sent to heal, but Jesus was sent to preach. It is remarkable that everything that God does in his means of Grace – preaching, baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution, the Divine Service – engages your whole self. He gives you your body and all your senses and not only does he take care of them, but he uses them to assure your of your belonging. When you were first called the Holy Spirit washed you with water. Water combined with his Word and with his command, washed over you… in a similar way that Jesus took the Deaf man, he took you. Taken aside, out of the loud and boisterous crowd, the Deaf man has his one on one, face to face meeting with Jesus. And whereas he wasn’t sent to heal, he has COMPASSION. He compassion that moves him to get dirty…to get down in the trenches with the sinner, to lift us up out of our sin and carry us to safety.

And so it was that Jesus really did stick his fingers in the Deaf man’s ears. He groaned and he spat on the ground, he touched his tongue. But then he preached. Ephphatha! That is, “Be Open!” Be Open! Let your ears hear and let your lips be opened and your mouth declare the praises of God. Ephphatha!!

His Holy Spirit calls each of you to this place. Maybe a friend brought you, maybe it was your mom. You might have been comfortable in your sin. You might love your sin very much. You might hang out with people like you and you might have your own language of sin and death. You might be thinking of that right now and how inconvenient it is that you have to be here. And you might be miserable, alone, suffering, and shunned. And you might be both.

Whatever your life, Jesus has found you and brought you here that you might have your ears unstopped and your mouth loosed. He has brought your into his holy ark of the church to be a member of his holy bride. And like the Deaf man, he really does place his resurrected body into your mouth and his blood he pours down your throat. He has COMPASSION on you. Compassion for Jesus is his death and there is no greater love that a man can have for you.

Here is COMPASSION: Jesus dies on the cross of Calvary to win you back, to destroy death and the devil, and to unravel the sting of sin. He was raised for your justification, your reconciliation, for your life. You moved Jesus to action. Your sin and your mess and your deafness, and blindness, brought him to lay down his life and to pick it up again so that you would have life.

So this is where doctrine and life meet. This new testament is even more glorious than the Law’s work of condemnation. The ministry of reconciliation is this: Jesus has reconciled the Father to you, by the shedding of his blood. The New Testament is in the Blood. It undoes the old ministry because Life is in the Blood and He bestows that Life through it. This gives permanent glory. It makes a holy temples in your heart. The Israelites could not look at Moses’ face, but God has taken flesh that we might look Him in the eye, that He might abide with us, and that we would not be afraid to hear Him.

Be opened, O Christian, and be not afraid. He opens you not to destroy you, but to fill you with himself. Now you live in a different world! The sounds of God’s love, the speaking of his forgiveness and life in Jesus, and the living, playing, and joy of God’s kingdom are yours. Rejoice! Jesus spoke you open! He does all things well.

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Ephesians 5

Every marriage is about a name.  Whether you choose to hyphenate it, or keep your old one, or take up his or hers.  When no suitable helpmate was found for Adam, God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and when he was asleep took a rib from his side, having closed up the place with flesh – God took the rib and made it into a woman and gave her to the man.  At LAST, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. (That’s what all you guys said at your wedding, right?)

And yet it is the sin of Adam that everyone has inherited…coursing through the whole human race. The problem is we aren’t comfortable with the word LOVE… and therefore can’t begin to be comfortable with obey or submit.  You have to be accountable to someone else and that isn’t the way we want it.  We have to be connected to someone else??!  Our god is our belly and our life is narrated by our passions.  And the problem with that is that our passions, our bellies, always leave us alone and worse yet, dead in our sin.

What’s love to the world?  What’s love to you?  Forget about submitting and obeying and listening…  What is love?  Tina Turner thought it was a second hand emotion.  The world talks about falling into and out of love, but it misses the whole point. Don’t confuse love with the wicked passions of your belly.  Don’t be tempted by the world to think that love is a passing feeling that resides in some warm fuzzy you feel in your heart.  No!  We have other names for those feelings.  Those feelings are real – ALBEIT fleeting, but real and they are not LOVE.  Love has to do with neighbor and with God.  Love has to do with looking away from your navel and looking up at the world around you – and the persons around you.

And yet… and yet… we will not do it.  There is need all around us and even us who work at the church headquarters are belly watchers.  And with all this belly watching going on, how will we learn to LOVE?  How can we love the Lord our God with all our heart when it is lent out as a second hand emotion or even a first hand one?  How can we learn to submit or even take the time to figure out what that is if we can’t stop thinking about our own passions and lusts?

Repent.

God loves a wedding feast!  “Go bright jewel of my crown!  It is time to have compassion, he says.  Bring to all salvation, from sin and sorrow set them free!!  Slay bitter death for them that they may live with you forever!”  OH, this is a mystery, Paul says… This is a profound mystery about Christ and his church.  Want to know what LOVE is?  Look to Jesus Christ alone.  For the Son of God became incarnate and was born of the Virgin Mary to shed his blood for your forgiveness and peace.  Therefore the MAN, Jesus Christ, left his Father in heaven and came for you and me.  Dying upon the CROSS of Calvary he holds fast to the church, his bride, for there they have become one flesh.

What is LOVE?  To die for your beloved.  To lay down your passions and your heart and all the fuzzy feelings to give the other your everything.  What’s love look like?  The Cross alone.  That Cross of Jesus is our life… for it is there that Christ loves us.  “At last, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… she shall be called CHURCH and they shall be called Christians for they were taken out Christ.

In Jesus+ Name.  Amen.

Rev. Steven Cholak

LCMS International Center (January 23, AD 2014)

Love

We always seem to get this one wrong. For some reason the world wants love to be a feeling or something that we do in bed. If that is the case, then we can fall into love or out of love. Of course that isn’t what the Bible says about love. It isn’t how God is. He doesn’t fall in love with us and he can never fall out of love with us. He is love and loves us by giving us his only Son.

Jesus said, “No greater love hath a man than that he lay down his life for his friends.” That is the very essence of God’s love for you. God has done just that. First, when the time was perfect, when you and I were condemned under the law, God took on human flesh. The Son of God became our brother… with a beating heart and eyelids and hands. He skin tented with us, choosing to humble himself even then to the point of death on a cross. And upon the cross of Calvary he shed his blood and died to have you forever. It was his death that undid death and killed Satan’s nasty plans. He’s judged and the deed is done.

You are alive and forgiven and free. For God has loved you, and the Son has made you free. Thus Jesus knows what love is. He gives his love again to you and showers you with himself…changing you. In his death he makes you cruciform like him. He makes you a little Christ… a little lover. We can’t love without him. But with him we lay down our lives for our neighbor. He loves even you. If there were only one… he would have still done it, taken on death and loved you just the same. He’s yours forever.