I’m Going Fishing

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen. The Word of God that will serve as the basis of our meditation this morning has been caused by the Holy Spirit to be written by the Apostle Saint John, our Gospel Text, I reread these words, “Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” Thus far our text.

This is our season, our season of victory and joy, yet Peter hadn’t quite grasped it yet. The One that Peter spent three years with, the One he saw the Romans crucify, the One that came through locked doors to grant peace, remember, Peter so long ago…Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Now is the time to cast nets to catch men with the Gospel. Now is the season of the extraordinary, the season of resurrection, of victory over death. Now the grave has lost its sting and Satan lay in ruins. This is our season, people loved by God! This is it! The victory has been sealed. We are a kingdom and priests to our God because of Jesus’ blood on the cross that has been showered upon us in our baptism. This is our season, The Resurrected Jesus’ season, Peter’s season, John’s season, the season of victory and joy and we sing our loud, alleluias! This is the fullness of time and the end of sin’s reign. This is the Reign of Jesus the Christ, who was dead, but now lives forevermore. Yet Peter hasn’t quite understood. “I’m going fishing!” he tells his companions. They miss it too, or they are polite to help him, either way, they go with him. 

God has created the extraordinary for his People. What we thought was normal is gone. Everything is turned upside down. Sinners are forgiven, the dead live, the lowly are exalted. Jesus has taken the weak and even the violent and made them his spokesmen and stewards. He has taken sinful men and placed them in pulpits to declare the Kingdom of God in your presence. To declare the day of salvation to you. To stand on the shore and call to you in the middle of the dark and murky waters of your life…of your struggles…of your sin… To stand next to you and in the midst of you and preach the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments and say into your ears, “It is the Lord!” 

It couldn’t have been angels (or anything else in all of creation) that Jesus sent to be these heralds, it had to be men, because Jesus is a man. He wanted Men to stand in his stead: To have his authority and to declare with the power of heaven that sins are forgiven. To declare to the Church—his holy Bride—that he has come for her. We preach the forgiveness of sins that the man Jesus won, we declare the life and salvation of the only Son of God. The Holy Spirit uses our mouths to call Christians with the Gospel, our hands to enlighten the people loved by God with the gifts of the cross, the victory over sin and death and the devil. To declare the season of resurrection, and victory, and joy…to wash his holy people in the renewal of the Holy Spirit and feed them with His very body and blood.

That is because, dear Christian, you’re in a war of reason against faith. Human reason (or better called “the sinful nature”) thinks it all boring and unimportant. Certainly worthy of being skipped and ignored (from time to time, or all together). Indeed, the Gentiles think the Gospel and all the trappings of this God to be foolishness. And we struggle with that very thought ourselves. So did the Israelites and Peter and John and the other disciples. Like the father who came to Jesus to heal his daughter, “Jesus, we believe, help our unbelief.” For to those who are perishing and to your sinful nature, it is just the same words over and over again, nothing flashy here, not that entertaining, not even a full meal, not even always the most skilled orators and yet to the Christian…to your faith, to those made kings and priest to our God, the Kingdom of Heaven comes here and the Lord of Life bids you come into his presence for a foretaste of heaven itself. For you—kings and priests of the Living God—it is the power of God unto salvation.

So now nothing can be ordinary for you again. And that is a hard saying. The world is in an alliance with the devil. And the world and the devil are in an alliance with your sinful nature. They will use everything they can, everything they have to trip you up, to introduce doubt and unbelief, to convince you that they have more to offer than Jesus. They will entertain and they will tell you things to make you feel good. They will appeal to your desires and your emotions and your feelings. They will break the Law of God in subtle and seemingly innocuous ways so that it becomes normal and ordinary to you. TV shows and movies take the Lord’s name in vain, story lines attack marriage and sexuality, things tempt you to take the place of church and church activities on your calendar… your friends gossip about your neighbors and they gossip about your fellow believers… You are tempted at every turn to believe that sin isn’t really that bad, that the devil doesn’t exist, that there is no such place as hell, and that God isn’t really concerned about his Law or his Word. Everything is fair game for the devil. He has lost and he is mad. He wants you and he wants nothing more than to destroy Christ’s Church on earth. Nothing is ordinary for you anymore. It hasn’t been ordinary since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. It still isn’t ordinary now. Even the things we count as vocation, as things we are good at, that we were given to do by God…like Peter going fishing, are under attack by the devil. And the greatest temptation is to go at alone: without Jesus. Peter and the disciples worked all the night and caught nothing. It had happened before. They were skilled fishermen. They knew the water. They knew the boat. They knew the fish. When Jesus first called them to be his disciples, they had toiled like this to no avail.

So when it was morning, after their failure had set in, Jesus stands on the shore. He manifests himself to his disciples yet again. It is, if you will, another Epiphany. God made man made manifest for his people: the proof of his resurrection, the declaration of life and the defeat of death. (You see, Jesus shows himself alive many times and in many different places to many different people…indeed to over 500!) He comes here to set the disciples straight. Their success was absolutely sure if they would obey his command and rely only upon his Word. “Let down your nets on the right side.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because of the quantity. John declares, “It is the Lord!” The good gifts in our life, the bounty we enjoy, the family and friends, our wives and husbands, the houses we live in, the church we gather in, all that we have is a gift from our God…but one gift goes higher. One gift tops them all. Your Lord Jesus comes to you, alive and declaring his Word of Salvation and victory, your Lord stands on your shore and loves you with his good gifts and Spirit. 

God has cast the net of his Gospel. He has created the extraordinary for you. It is hidden from human reason and sinful flesh, but it is manifest to you. So he prepares you for the battles in your life. He clothes you in righteousness and he sends you out with his Word. Nourished by the forgiveness of sins and by his holy gifts, he guards and protects you from every evil and defends you against all danger. It is his word that you need as the devil and the world attack you. He has made this extraordinary—the filling you up and clothing you in his Word. The whole armor of God is yours and his Word has been delivered to you. For he has come to you to feed you, to tend you, and keep you in his loving arms. So come to the extraordinary, to the Divine Service, to Bible study, come and eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood. Fill yourselves on the good and gracious Lord of Life. And encourage one another to come and be filled by Jesus. And when the world, and the devil, and your sinful flesh ware you down, return to the Lord and feast again. Fill yourself and know that this is your Season of Victory. Now is your season of the extraordinary. This is the season of Resurrection and Life. This is our season, it is Jesus reign. You have been made a kingdom and priests to your God by the blood of the Lamb and dear Christians, your Lord Jesus has come for you. He is Risen. Alleluia!

He won’t leave you

We are quick to walk away from things. Thomas isn’t so wacky when he says, “Unless I see the nail holes and put my finger into the holes and my hand into his side, I will never believe.” After all, there is a popular saying, “Seeing is believing.” Our nature dismisses the resurrection. Our sin keeps us from grasping the plain work of God in our midst, right in front of us. Like the father who seeks help from the Lord Jesus (Mark 9:24), we believe, but we need help with our unbelief. So through the walls we build around us and the locked doors for fear of being seen and known for the fraud that we are, through it all, Jesus comes with his Word and Spirit. He sends the Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel. The preaching of the Cross grips us and pulls us to Jesus. The gifts of God enlighten us (Sing: The people that in darkness sat, a glorious light have seen) and we are made holy. As quick as we are to walk away from things, our God is all the more determined to have you as his own. He is persistent and he is patient. Far more patient than we would ever be. He is merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love: Love for you, love that is dying on a cross to take away your sins. Let us believe with Thomas and declare in Easter joy: “My Lord and My God!” Jesus won’t leave you. He paid for you with his blood. He loves you. He has made you a new creation.

Sanctifying Blood (Hebrews 13)

The world and its henchmen have honed their craft. You know these enemies of the Church of God: The Devil, the World, and our own sinful Flesh… there is no where to hide, no where to go. The Devil goes to and fro upon the Earth and back and forth upon it. He prowls like a hungry beast ready to devour his meal. The world has location. It’s everywhere. Hedging you in on every side, it entices you with its pleasures and feelings. It panders to your emotions…always trying to out do the pleasures and enticements that came before. And if that were not enough, your own flesh betrays you. These enemies of God and of God’s people do not want us to hallow God’s name or let his Kingdom come. They despise the gifts of God, hate his mercy and grace, and twist the Word of God into lies. Oh, it sounds like the Word of God, but they have twisted it and turned it into deception and thievery. They would convince you that there is no need for anyone to die for sins. No need for spilled blood. And yet they would demand your blood as payment for the sins you have committed. Their goal is to pull you away from Jesus, convince you that you don’t need him, that you should abandon your faith for better things.

The devil, world, and the flesh work together, accomplices, with diverse and strange teachings…and yet they attack you with one accord with that which is another gospel. They call it good news… Good news for world, bad news for you. Bad news for you because it leaves you in the law. It sure sounds good…at least on the surface.

Their teachings are diverse because they appeal to our bored imagination by their colorful novelty, showy variety, and superficial glitter, and they are strange because they are alien to the tradition of the Church and unauthorized by Christ and those he has sent to preach and teach his Word. Their teachings are full of all sorts of odd and yet a teaching that gives comfort to the passions of man. The only Gospel that is truly good news is the news that Jesus shed his blood for the sins of the world. So there is one religion of the Devil, the World, and the Flesh, and another of Jesus. They are diametrically opposed.

The religion of the devil captivates on the law because the law requires everything of you and provides no way to accomplish it. Your enemies can trip you up and leave you for dead in the law. It appeals to human reason and wisdom, but crushes, accuses, and kills. In Latin we say, lex semper accusat, which means, “The Law always accuses.” And the Devil loves to accuse you and heap heavy burdens upon you. The devil lays a heavy burden upon you and the flesh wants to convince you to climb to God, impress God, and win his grace by your works and your life. The Law will always crush, shatter, accuse, and kill. Your enemies are happy to leave you in despair with a heavy burden. Where will you turn?

The second is the religion of your God, the religion of Jesus. In this religion, God rescues you from your sin and gives you life eternal by the blood of Jesus Christ. He takes your condemnation and guilt and puts it on Jesus. He who knew no sin becomes sin and is condemned and punished instead of you. The Law has its place here. It still crushes. It still accuses, it still kills. But the Gospel, the blood of Jesus, always rescues the dead, visits the heavy laden, relieves the sick, and redeems sinners. The Blood of Jesus sanctifies and makes whole. The Gospel provides everything, indeed, even the very treasure of heaven, but its burden is light. For Christ keeps the Law for you and dies for you. He dies to make death a portal into life. He lives victorious over death and the devil.

So something outside of you must come to you to rescue you. Left to yourself, you are left to despair and death. You are attacked by the enemies of God. But the Law, which is written upon your heart can only lay heavy burdens on you. “Look, you are a sinner!” the Devil accuses! You deserve to die an eternity of deaths. You are poor, and miserable, and God should be angry with you, his wrath kindled against you. Because of your sin, your blood should be shed. You should die. Thus far the devil as he turns and twists lie after lie into your ears.

Yes, there must be blood. There is no other remedy. There can be no other route to salvation. There can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. But your God will not leave you to that demise. He becomes part of the creation. He takes on human flesh and blood so that he can shed his blood and win you back. He weeps, He sorrows…He sheds blood so that you can live. Jesus isn’t going to shed the blood of goats, or cows, or sheep. He is going to offer a different sacrifice. His sacrifice must be for all time. His sacrifice must be for all the people. His sacrifice must be holy in order to make you holy by it.

So here is the pure Gospel for you. God becomes man. He takes on the flesh of Mary and is born. He keeps the Law for you perfectly. A high priest that does not serve according to the order of Aaron and his sons. Instead, Jesus serves as the High Priest according to a different order…he serves according to an eternal order. And don’t forget, a priest serves by sacrifice, but it couldn’t be the blood of beasts. Not all the blood of beasts upon Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. Instead, Jesus must offer the sacrifice that is his own body. He shed his own blood. Thus he sanctifies….he makes holy the people outside the gate. He sanctifies you. Thus when you God looks at you, he sees his holy precious children. The wrath that our sin caused has been stilled.

So when the devil accuses and spits and sputters at you. When the Law presses down hard upon you and Satan points his finger in your direction… you can say: What of it, devil? Christ Jesus has made me holy by his own blood on the cross and now I am a child of God. When the world hedges you in on every side, return to Lord your God. When the flesh rears its ugly head to pursue all matter of desires, push him back under the water and promise of your God. Christ, the eternal high priest, the heavenly Lamb, has made you a new creation. Christ your Lord unites with you against the devil, the world, and your own flesh and takes all your sins away.

Luke 18:31-43

Just a few short verses before our Gospel reading, in the same chapter of Luke’s Gospel, people were bringing their babies to Jesus that he might touch them. The disciples couldn’t understand. He had better things to do, stop interrupting the teacher! Take your babies and your children and get gone. But this greatly upsets Jesus, because he comes for the children. He comes for the sinner. He comes for those broken and hurt by sin and death. He comes for Ellie and for you. He comes for the blind man and for the disciples and for the crowd. He comes. 

Your God is acutely aware of you and your needs…your situation and your suffering. He has seen your affliction, he hears your cries for mercy, he knows your suffering, and he has come down to rescue you. This is what your name is all about: Immanuel, which means God with us. It’s about a God that comes, becomes part of his own creation, and then redeems that which is lost, broken, Deaf, and blind. Everyone one of us, affected by sin, suffering because of our sin, suffering with our sin, under our sin. Every one of us carrying a cross and at the same time living under the weight of that cross, living a life where the devil goes to and fro and back and forth upon the Earth looking for someone to devour. 

The man was sitting by the side of the road. His sight had been taken from him. Now he had to beg. Saint Luke doesn’t even tell us his name. He was a second rate man, a nuisance, an interruption, and someone to be ignored. His eyes could not see, but his heart believed. What was hidden from the disciples was revealed to him. What was inconceivable to the crowd, was attainable to him. The disciples did not understand that this Jesus needed to die to conquer death. What did they go out to see? Whatever it was they didn’t see it and this saying was hidden from them. He needed to be killed and on the third day rise again: to give life to the dying and to destroy the power of the devil. What was such a stumbling block to the disciples, to the crowd, to the priests, was the Rock of Refuge for the blind man. 

Jesus comes for the children! He wants the blind man and he wants Ellie and he wants you… and he wins you for himself to have forever. He knows that the only way out of eternal death is the CROSS. Thy will be done, Father in Heaven. The will of the Father was the cross. The will of the Father was that every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh would be broken and hindered. Jesus tells his disciples, he tells us, that this is what has to happen. We’ll go up to Jerusalem and everything that was written about the Son of Man by the prophets will come true. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon…and after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. The saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what he said. Moses and all the prophets testified about this one, they had heard him teach and preach about this very thing before. Yet his own disciples did not understand. 

And what of the crowds that lined the streets? They stood by the sides of the road to greet him, to see him, to get a glimpse. What did they expect to see? And this blind man’s eyes kept him from knowing what all the commotion was about. What is happening? Why the noice? Why all the people? Thus it starts: The blind man’s annoying interruptions. The people that day had their reasons for going out to see Jesus… but none of them, including the disciples went out to see a crucified and blood spilling, betrayed Savior (A savior that doesn’t restore the kingdom to Israel, instead gives the kingdom to Gentiles and foreigners, to blind people, and deaf people, too. They went out and we go out to have our ears tickled… to see signs and wonders, to hear fancy things). 

But when the blind man finds out that it is Jesus of Nazareth, he begins to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” His eyes didn’t work, but his heart believed. Be quiet, the crowd beckons him. Stop interrupting, you’re making it hard to hear, you’re making it difficult for others, too. But all the more, the blind man called out. He called him “Son of David.” In other words, he called him the Messiah! But the crowd would have none of it. Take your interruptions and get gone. Jesus has better things to do than talk to you and we would do better without your endless wailing. But this upsets Jesus because he comes not for the righteous, but for the sinner. He comes for the blind and for the nameless and for the outcast. Jesus stops and commands that the blind man be brought.

What would you have me do for you? —Jesus says. The Greek word for recover sight is “ἀναβλέψω.” It literally means to look up. The blind man asks Jesus for the ability to look up. That I may recover my sight. That I may look up. No one there was looking up. It was an endless game of looking down and in. Luther used a Latin phrase. He said that after the fall we all became “Incurvatus in se” or curved in on ourselves… belly button watchers or naval gazers. When we are incurvatus in se, we are caring about ourselves and not our neighbor and our focus is not on our God.

Look at this blind man’s faith! The Son of David comes to rescue and save. The Son of Mary comes to uncurve his people (to straighten them out) that they may recover their sight and look up and see their God and serve their neighbor. The blind man could not have grabbed ahold of Jesus if it were not for his faith. He could not believe, he couldn’t understand, we can’t get it without the Holy Spirit calling us with the Gospel, enlightening us with his gifts, and sanctifying us in this true and holy faith. You, too and the disciples, the crowds, cannot believe in this Jesus without God coming and finding you and planting faith by his Word preached and by water included in the Word and Command of God. This God comes down so that you can look up to him: ἀναβλέψω

Jesus knows the blind man’s whole situation. He knows your crosses and your sufferings, too. He declares to the blind man, “Your faith has saved you.” For this Word of God goes deeper than the eyes…it goes all the way to the heart. Yes, the word here can mean, “made you well,” but it more importantly is the word for, saves you. Your faith has saved you.

This is why Jesus has come. He comes to save you. How does he do it? The CROSS. Thy will be done, Father in Heaven. Every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh is broken and hindered on the cross. The Son of David was delivered over to the Gentiles and was mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon…and after flogging him, they killed him, and on the third day he rose. This is your God. He comes down to give life to the full, to destroy the devil, and restore sight. He comes for the children. He comes for you and no one was able to stop him. Look at your faith. This same God comes to you here. The Son of David has mercy on his people with humble means…and mere wood and colored glass, the things of creation become the landing place for all of heaven. God comes down even now, even today that he might fix your eyes on his cross that you would live. Amen.

The Feast of Saint Matthew

We would require sacrifice. Our heart’s desire is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We are very good at seeking out vengeance. And we’re willing to be a Matthew, a tax collector, a cheat, a liar, or a thief as long as we get a fat wallet or can stick it to the man. It’s the heart of each of us that is the problem.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

And we are the ones that complain about a God that includes the less fortunate, the poor, the ones that dress differently than us, the ones that talk differently than us, the ones that we don’t like. And yet it is everyone of us that have fallen short of God’s desire. His image shattered and his likeness lost on a people that thrive on boasting, pride, covetousness, and all those things. We are a sick people.

Repent.

It won’t get any better for you on your own. You need a doctor. Rejoice with me, God has sent one to you and to me. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, if there were such a one. He did not come to yuck it up with the experts on prayer and keeping the law. Rather, he came to the sick… to you and to me. He comes to rip from your chest the heart that causes all your evil desires. He comes to give you a new heart, a right spirit. And with that clean heart, then he eats with you, rejoices with you, prepares you for the battle to come, and goes out into it with you.

He comes to the most unlikely—to the ones that don’t deserve it and makes us worthy, he comes to the sick to call us righteous. That he did at your baptism as he clothed you in the blood that he shed on the cross. That he does today as he gives you that body and blood again for your forgiveness and life. You see, the cross is his death, but your life. When he dies, he brings and end to the reign of boasting, of death, of graves, and sin. As a sacrifice, he shows his mercy… his long suffering love. For it is showered down on you today. Love calling your righteous, holy, and forgiven.

The Fourth Watch of the Night

Mark 6… In the very midst of life… do you know the life you have, governed by science and math. What is gravity to you or how much weight can the surface of the sea hold?? The snares of death surround you. Don’t they? This upward climb of life, all that you endure, do you feel the ground slipping under you? What happens when the world you think you know becomes a world of unknowns and looking out on the sea of life (like you have your whole adult career, you see what MUST be a ghost?) The air getting thin from time to time? How about the sorrows of loss and pain and sickness… and death. Are you lonely, depressed, or hurt? Are you mad or angry? The snares of death surround you. Not only that, the snares of the world, the snares of your flesh, and the snares of Satan’s wily tongue, they would press in on you from every side and finally in the midst of death’s dark vale the powers of hell overtake you.

Who will help you when they assail you? Where shall we for refuge go? In the midst of utter woe, when your sins oppress you, from where does your help come?

Have your sorrows and pain assaulted you for many years? Have you turned every which way and have never found comfort? Have you been pulling on the blanket only to never have it cover you in the cold long years of your life? Or rather, has your sin and sorrow come in the middle of the night, like a thief and in the innocence of your – minding your own business – assaulted you and left you for afraid and fearing a ghost walking on your water?

When faced with that question, we would exhaust our resources. It’s there that your flesh takes over again. Your reason, your own strength, right? How often in this world, in your fight, do you think your are doing the sailing? That you have all the answers or that the world has a teacher that you can find, to be your help. And that is exactly what you have done. You come here, and sail your boat past your God and around waters you think you’ve charted, but you ignore who he really is. And when you think you’ve lost, “Why trouble the teacher any further?”

Do you remember so long ago, the words… “The LORD keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore”? It was spoken at your baptism. It is sung in Psalm 121…to remind you, and not just that, it’s the Spirit telling you that Jesus won’t let you think you’ve troubled the Teacher or to think that you have been abandoned to sin’s oppression. He won’t let you sink into the snares of Satan and his dark stormy waters. It’s there that Jesus bids you into his arms again – to carry you up a different mountain. For your help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Repent – for the Kingdom of God has come to you. He overhears you, he perceives your thoughts, he speaks to you in your sorrow and pain and in the guilt of sin and despair. You have sailed around and about him. You have called him your Lord, but you have not called upon his name in every trouble, you have not prayed, nor given thanks. You’ve used him for your devices and when the going seemed convenient, you’ve used him, but what about when everything is over and sin and death crouch at the door?

It’s just then that Jesus reminds you, like he reminded the disciples, “It is I, do NOT be afraid.” They had sailed that sea so many times before, but the Lord had walked right through their dark night of sorrow and pain, right through the storms of their sins, and getting into the boat he bids them peace.

Do not fear, only believe! Do not fear, your sins are forgiven! I am the Help that comes from the Lord – I made heaven and earth and my Word performs. It performed when I called you out of darkness in the waters of your baptism and it performs today. I’m not a ghost like you presume, IT IS I, your Lord and teacher! I make all things well.

But why would Jesus do such a thing to his poor disciples? Why didn’t he meet them on the other side, or tell them to wait as he dismissed the crowds? Jesus came to those disciples, walking on the water…he came to strip them of their confidence in themselves. He came in the midst of earthly turmoil to point them to the calm of the kingdom of heaven. They heard their master’s voice…they heard what was sure and comfortable in the midst of the persecution of this fallen world, but distracted by the waves, distracted by their own confidence, when we revert back to our sinful ways, we sink. And that is what you fear. To sink…to drown…to die. Your conscience will confirm that the knife of the Law is above you and the stormy water of the Sea of Galilee is below you.

And that is why Jesus walks on the water. The Lord does not stay high above you and watch as you squirm in the waves of life, he comes all the way to the water and the waves. He knows that you will sink and drown, so he comes all the way to the place where you are and holds out his hand and calms you. There in the water he drowns holding you up. It is Jesus that dies when your sin should have killed you. It is Jesus that drowns in that water, hangs upon the tree of the cross – endures what you fear, suffers your death and walks out to you in the storms of your life.

His Spirit gives you faith to call him Lord. His Holy Spirit gives you his death and his life in your baptism. His Holy Spirit opens your ears to hear your Lord say to you, “Come!” “Come!” He says to each one of you, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest! For my yoke is easy and my burden is light and you will find rest for your souls!” Come! But that simple whisper still isn’t enough for your Lord… Christ reaches out his hand and he touches you! He catches you…His body – he puts upon your lips – and his blood he pours into your mouth. And there from his cross he strengthens your faith. And with Jesus, just like Peter and all the saints, you climb into the safety of his boat – which is the church! He is the Son of God, he encamps around you – walks on stormy water to find you, comforts you with his gentle whisper, and with his hands, his feet, and his side, his death delivers you from all your fears. And YOU are FORGIVEN!

Preaching Christ Crucified

I expect to be soaking in the blood of Jesus when the preacher says, “Amen.” That bright red river of life from the cross of Calvary makes the robes of God’s people white like snow. The professors at the seminary would say that a sermon should be a good exposition of Law and Gospel in a liturgical context. There should be Law that cuts you down and Gospel that picks you up. BUT the Gospel should always predominate. In other words, when the preacher opens his mouth – Jesus picks you up. The preacher must give you Jesus. He shouldn’t just tell you about Jesus. He shouldn’t just mention the cross. Preachers should never tell you about telling the story. Preachers are called to preach the Christ. They are called out of darkness to proclaim light and life into this dark and dead world. Preachers do that by preaching Jesus to your person. Pastors bring the forgiveness of sins from the cross and wrap you with it, like a warm blanket on a cold, winter’s night. They take his blood and wash you with it. Like a mother after you’ve played in the mud, a pastor scrubs you clean (even behind the ears) with Christ’s blood. They do it because only that blood can take away your sins. They are faithful to this call because God resurrects the sinner from his watery grave and gives him new life. How does God do it? He does it by opening the mouths of preachers, and then soaking you in his Son’s blood. He does it by opening your mouth and pouring that blood down your throat. He does it through weak and sinful men. He does it through your pastor. Expect to be soaking in Christ’s blood when the pastor says, “Amen.” Expect to be alive because Christ has wrapped you with his love and breathed new life into your ears. Not only should you expect it, you should demand it. It is your heritage. It is God’s good gift. AND…it’s yours.

An Old Post on Preaching

I expect to be soaking in the blood of Jesus when the preacher says, “Amen.” That bright red river of life from the cross of Calvary makes the robes of God’s people white like snow. The professors at Concordia Theological Seminary would say that a sermon should be a good exposition of Law and Gospel in a liturgical context. There should be Law that cuts you down and Gospel that picks you up. BUT the Gospel should always predominate. In other words, when the preacher opens his mouth – Jesus picks you up. The preacher must give you Jesus. He shouldn’t just tell you about Jesus. He shouldn’t just mention the cross. Preachers should never tell you about telling the story. Preachers are called to preach the Christ. They are called out of darkness to proclaim light and life into this dark and dead world. Preachers do that by preaching Jesus to your person. Pastors bring the forgiveness of sins from the cross and wrap you with it, like a warm blanket on a cold, winter’s night. They take his blood and wash you with it. Like a mother after you’ve played in the mud, a pastor scrubs you clean (even behind the ears) with Christ’s blood. They do it because only that blood can take away your sins. They are faithful to this call because God resurrects the sinner from his watery grave and gives him new life. How does God do it? He does it by opening the mouths of preachers, and then soaking you in his Son’s blood. He does it by opening your mouth and pouring that blood down your throat. He does it through weak and sinful men. He does it through your pastor. Expect to be soaking in Christ’s blood when the pastor says, “Amen.” Expect to be alive because Christ has wrapped you with his love and breathed new life into your ears. Not only should you expect it, you should demand it. It is your heritage. It is God’s good gift. AND…it’s yours.

– from Concordia TheoBLOGical Seminary, Rev. Steven T. Cholak, 2009

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

War Broke Out IN Heaven

And Jesus saw Satan fall like lightening.  Where did he go?  Here.  The Church is at war.  Our enemy prowls around like a lion ready to devour any prey that will make it into his toothless mouth.  He’s looking for Christians.  He wants to destroy shepherds and scatter sheep.  Make no mistake, even in peaceful America, you and I are at war with the powers of darkness.  Where should we flee and from whence cometh our help?  We look to the mountain(s)… to Calvary.  For God has given us the victory.  He has made us the living heirs to his kingdom.  Satan cannot harm you, but he will scowl fierce as he will and hurl all kinds of insults and lies at you.  No fear: Christ has judged him, return to the Lord your God.  Read his holy Word, pray for his Holy Spirit, and return again to his Word and Divine Service.  Be fed, be alive in Jesus… for he has marked you as his own.  The angels see the mark.  Satan sees the mark.  The angels rejoice and sing for joy over you.  Happy St. Michael’s Day… Who is like God??  You are, for Jesus has washed you in the blood of the Lamb.