Christ is My Lord

Easter 3 2017, Glen Carbon, I Peter 1:17-25

Do you realize how blessed we were this morning as we walked from our cars into church?  You returned once more to hear the good news of God’s eternal word revealed in Jesus Christ.   That wasn’t the case with two of Jesus’ Disciples of whom we read in the Gospel lesson, who needed to go for a walk that first Easter afternoon.  A stranger caught up to them and they began discussing the events of the past few days.  They asked the stranger, “Haven’t you heard, how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”     We are blessed to know that once again this morning we will meet Jesus as he speaks to us through scripture and take our Lord into our hands and mouth and body in Holy Communion.

In our first lesson from fifty days after that first Easter, Peter addresses the crowd on Pentecost, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  “What shall we do?” the crowd cried.  Peter answered that they should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  We have already been baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  And when life presses upon us we know “That (the Lord) will incline his ear to us and therefore we can call on him as long as we live.  I shall walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116)

It’s no surprise then that when Martin Luther wanted to explain in simple terms who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, he seems to have turned to our text for today, I Peter 1:17-25.  Just as Peter begins with the blessings we have received from God the Father through His Son, Jesus; Luther does likewise, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.”  Last week we heard the disciple Thomas say he would not believe unless he placed his hands in Jesus scars and then when Jesus shows him his wounds he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”  We too are able to exclaim with Thomas and Martin Luther, I believe “Jesus Christ is my Lord.”

However, there was a time we did not have a Lord. Oh, we had a lord, but our master was the sin and death we inherited from Adam and Eve through our parents.  But we cannot get away with blaming past generations for our plight.  We ourselves fell into failing to live as God intended for our life, that’s what sin is. We became trapped and living under its tyranny.  One thing which the scriptures do not do is whitewash what is true.  Scripture tells us the truth about ourselves.  A Psalmist describes it thus, “The snares of death bound me, Sheol held me in its grip.  Anguish and torment held me fast.”   The prophet Jonah describes what happened to him when he ran away from his Lord, “The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head.”  Or we might use the image of bullying. One that sticks with me took place in a Middle School boys restroom stall.  A boy was kneeling beside the toilet and someone was jumping on his back and it was all being videoed. Trapped and living under tyranny. These are “futile, useless, ways of living inherited from our ancestors,” writes Peter. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher begins his sermon, “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”  Did not Martin Luther teach us in his catechism, that all this describes “me, a lost and condemned creature.”

But scripture also tells us the truth about what God has done for us.  As the song says, “Our God is an awesome, “ and Peter calls upon us to live in awe of God.  God in his grace has given us reason to rejoice with joy beyond words.  Here’s why, before the foundation of the world God had a plan to redeem us.  Through the ages prophets and even angels searched and inquired about the details of his plan. Though they preached of God’s coming grace in Christ’s suffering and glory But they did not live to see it.  It’s only in these last times that it was revealed through the revelation of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, born of the Virgin Mary. That is my Lord.

He is “My Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature.” Notice how Luther writes, “redeemed me.” He did it for me.  He did it for you.  “Purchased and won (that is delivered) me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”  In the Roman world a slave could be redeemed by paying money to a god or goddess at a temple and thus would be freed from slavery to a human master and would be now owned by the god or goddess, a god represented by a marble statue.  That’s not how our redemption was gained.  Peter finds the pattern for our redemption in Israel’s delivery from slavery to the Egyptians in the time of Moses.  The evening before they were delivered, the Israelites were directed to kill a healthy lamb, smear it’s blood above the door, so that the angel of death would Passover those houses.  And when Israel left their houses the next day, they passed through the blood which had saved them

That is how we were delivered from the trap of futility of life and the bullying of sin, guilt and death.  We pass under the blood of Jesus Christ.  “That I might be (wholly) his own and live under him in His kingdom…even as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”  Christ brings us to the Father by overcoming sin, death, and the devil, which would keep us from coming to the Father.  Martin Luther once described Jesus’ work as putting me back on the Father’s lap. Yaroslav Vajda picks up on that idea in his baptism hymn, “See this wonder in the making: God himself this child is taking As a lamb safe in his keeping, his to be, awake or sleeping.  Far more tender than a mother, Far more caring than a father, God, into Your arms we place him, With in your love and peace embrace him.” God in Christ does this,  “That I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom.”  Delivered from the tyranny of sin, guilt and death.  Redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Having been born again as new creatures, son or daughter of God, having our faith and hope in God, both Peter and Luther urge us to take the next step.  That is to live as the children of God that we are.  Peter writes, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”  Luther taught us to “serve God in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

There may be times in our life when we  are as bewildered as those two disciples on way to Emmaus.  We too may ask, “What shall I do?” We may not recognize the one who walks through life with us.  But through His Spirit, Jesus opens the scriptures to us as he did for them and in the breaking of the bread they recognized him and saw who he truly was, so it is for us also; there in the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine is my Lord.  As Peter concluded, “This word is the good news that was preached to you.” Luther asserts, “This is most certainly true.”

 

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The Apostle Peter and Martin Luther

 

When I read I Peter 1:18-25, it seemed to me that Martin Luther may have had his Bible open to Peter’s first letter as he wrote the meaning to the Second Article of the Creed for his Catechism

I.

Peter: Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ like a lamb without blemish or spot.

Luther: Jesus is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death

II.

Peter: He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him you are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Luther: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Lord, is my Lord…That I may be his own and live under him in His Kingdom.

III.

Peter: Having Purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable through living and abiding word of God.

Luther: and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reign to all eternity.

IV.

Peter: All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.  And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Luther: This is most certainly true.

Healing Shadows

 

Acts 5:12,15 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hand of the apostles…they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mates, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

During the heat of summer, I often take our dog for a walk, around noon. The shadows of the trees along the road provides cooling shade.  When it is colder I avoid the shadows, and seek the warmth of the sunshine.

How was it that Peter’s shadow could heal people as he passed by? After all, Peter’s shadow was simply caused by the light of the sun.  However, there was another light shining on Peter.  It was the light of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  God, through the Holy Spirit was imbuing not only his word of Jesus’ resurrection with power but his person.  His very presence reached out to those in need.

What sort of shadow do we cast?  When our shadow precedes us into a room, does it cast a pall over the room or does it signify that comfort and joy will follow in our person?  When we leave a room, our shadow follows behind us, what do we leave behind as we depart?

We all cast a very human shadow in the form of our body.  But in Christ, we also cast a shadow of healing.  We likely are unable to heal physically, but we but we do bring with us caring for those whose spirits may be afflicted.  That sense of caring stays behind like a shadow of our presence.  Caring goes a long way toward physical healing.

(I must give credit to Fr. Chris Wojcik of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Clayton, Wis. for planting the seedling of “Healing Shadows.”)

Holy Communion in Third Century Rome

 

Hippolytus, the leading theologian of the third century, wrote at least 10 volumes of work during his lifetime. He lived in Rome and gives us some of the most detailed information about the church in that early era.  The material below was taken from his writing on baptism which was followed by the reception of the Eucharist.

I thought his inclusion of milk and honey and water was interesting.  There are allusions to the promised land flowing of milk and honey, which is fulfilled in Jesus.  Also, Peter wrote, “Like newborn infants, long for the spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  The drinking of the water recalled the outward washing of baptism.

Then the deacons shall immediately bring the oblation (elements used in the sacrament). The bishop shall bless the bread, which is the symbol of the Body of Christ; and the bowl of mixed wine, which is the  symbol of the Blood which has been shed for all who believe in him; and the milk and honey mixed together, in fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers, in which he said, “a land flowing with milk and honey,” which Christ indeed gave, his Flesh, through which those who believe are nourished like little children, by the sweetness of his Word, softening the bitter heart;  and water also for an oblation, as a sign of the baptism, so that the inner person, which is spiritual, may also receive the same as the body.

The bishop shall explain all these things to those who are receiving.

God’s Mega Mercy

Easter 2, 2017, Glen Carbon, I Peter 1:3-5

Walter Braem was pastor of our Pipe Lake church in Northwestern Wisconsin until I was 14. Nearly every Sunday we closed the service singing, No. 644 in the Lutheran Hymnal.  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Ending with, “praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” I never thought much about back then, but it is fitting to close the service in which we received the Word by returning praise to our triune God.  As will happen again this morning, we were also sent on our way home with the promise of the Lord’s safe keeping and life lived with the face of the Lord shining upon us in the week ahead.

In our epistle lesson for this Sunday, Peter begins his letter praising God for all the blessings his readers have received in Christ.  “Blessed, (or Praise) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”  Peter is writing to the Christians living in territory bordering the Black Sea in the northeastern part of what is now Turkey.  People from that area Pontus, Cappadocia and Asia were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost.  But now having become Christians, they were like foreigners and immigrants in their land.  He calls them exiles, temporary residents, scattered throughout the area.  To become a Christian in first 300 hundred years of the church meant having to make a huge change in lifestyle. Leaving behind old gods and worship of idols and the pagan practices that went with them.  At this point in time, there wasn’t much active persecution, but more of an alienation from society, perhaps something like we feel at times living in a culture that seems to be increasingly at odds with what we believe to be right and true and godly.  So this morning we join in exploring what we have received through God’s great mercy which has caused us to be reborn into a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Our God is a God of mega mercy.  Once we have sung the Alleluia, Christ is Risen on Easter; once we have declared I know that my Redeemer Lives; once the organ and sound of the trumpet have faded from our ears; once we go back home and hear and read all the goings on in our world; once we went back to our ordinary life last Monday, God’s mega mercy was still with us.

Remember the close of the Ten Commandments in Luther’s Catechism about God punishing sin for the next 120 to 160 years?  It took me some years to understand that God wasn’t extending his punishment for three or four generations, but was placing a limitation on his judgment against sin.  His punishment does not go on forever.  What does continue forever, is his love and mercy, carrying forward for a thousand generations (40,000 years) for those who love him and live accordingly.  Scripture tells us that God is compassionate and gracious slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.  King David needed to learn this.   After the tragedy of his adultery and scheming to murder Bathsheba’s husband, David’s family life became something of a soap opera. His son Absalom murdered his half – brother Amnon for raping his sister Tamar.   David banished Absalom.  But after a couple of years, Joab, David’s chief of staff, sent a wise woman to David to convince him to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.  At one point she says, “We are all going to die, we are all like water that is poured on the ground and can’t be gathered up.  But doesn’t God forgive a person?  He devises a way so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

We Christians exist as Christians because of God’s mercy.   God devised a plan to bring us, outcast sons and daughters back home again.  “He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  We have been given a brand – new life.  One night during Jesus’ ministry a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to him. During their conversation, Nicodemus became a bit confused, because Jesus told him he couldn’t see the kingdom of God unless he were born again.  What?  He needed to get back in his mother’s womb and be born again?  “No, no,” Jesus said, “You need to be born of water and the Spirit.”  Be baptized, and then the eyes of your faith will be opened and you will see the kingdom of God standing right in front of you.”  That is the new birth every one of us experienced at the baptism font.   God’s mercy giving us a new life.

We are given a new birth into two things.  A living hope and a salvation which will be revealed fully when Christ returns.  What of this living hope?  Like God’s mega mercy it also persists forever.  Now the disciples in our gospel lesson had living hope, but they didn’t realize it.  They were still behind locked doors, filled with fear that they might be the next ones to be hung up on crosses.  Peter and John had raced to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty just as the women had told them.  But they didn’t understand that all the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ resurrection.  Suddenly Jesus’ appeared saying, “Peace be with you.” Then after showing them his hands and his side, he said he was sending them, fearful though they were, out into world, under the power of the Holy Spirit with the power to forgive sins.  They were to carry God’s news of a living hope that would lead to salvation.  Because they obeyed Jesus, we are included in his’ thousand generations of those who love him and live accordingly.

We also hear of Thomas who wasn’t present that first Easter evening and he had grave doubts about this rumor of resurrection.  So now it came to the week after Easter, this week, the disciples are still playing it safe behind locked doors.  Jesus appears and he accommodates Thomas’ need to stick his finger into Jesus wounds.  In a painting by the Dutch artist Rembrandt, Jesus and Thomas are standing in the center of the painting.  The other disciples are gathered off to the side in semi-darkness.  Jesus’ showed Thomas his scars.  Suddenly, he who had been in darkness of doubt, is standing in the light. He is taken aback in surprise, exclaim, “My Lord and my God.”  He grasps that he is born again to a living hope through Jesus death and resurrection.  With the new life, he has an inheritance which will never decay, never be stained by evil and with will remain free from ravages of time.  A treasure stored in heaven for him.

We have the same living hope.  An inheritance of perfect salvation, to be revealed when Christ returns.  Think of what that means in the context of our world.  Last week a man walked up to two workers for Laclede gas and shot them and killed himself afterward.  Think of the utter hopelessness in which so many live today.  This happens repeatedly.  Or consider a person who was invited to join a Christian online site.  She responded, “Thank you for the invitation, but I’m a militant atheist and proud.”  That is her hope, but it’s all based in herself.  Ultimately that hope will take her nowhere but the grave.  But we have a hope that is kept in heaven for us, guarded, not by what I can convince myself is true, but guarded by God’s power.  Therefore, we are able, not just to be happy, but to rejoice with joy beyond words because we are obtaining salvation based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ who gave his life that we might live.  Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for such a mega mercy.

 

 

Solomon on Science Day

1 Kings 4:29-34

29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment; the breadth of his understanding was as infinite as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon was wiser than all the men of the east and all the sages of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than any man…  He was famous in all the neighboring nations. 32 He composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. 33 He produced manuals on botany, describing every kind of plant, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls. He also produced manuals on biology, describing animals, birds, insects, and fish. 34 People from all nations came to hear Solomon’s display of wisdom; they came from all the kings of the earth who heard about his wisdom.

Joab Rebukes David

After Absalom’s rebellion was quashed and Absalom was killed, David went into deep mourning for his rebellious son, but neglected his duties as king to reunite his nation.  He didn’t immediately return to Jerusalem.  Things were coming unglued as he continued to be absorbed in his grief.  Therefore Joab, David’s chief of staff and military commander, stepped in to rouse his king to get back to being the nation’s leader.

A leader must prayer for strength when events tempt one to self pity and despair.

2 Samuel 19:1-7

19 Joab was told that the king was crying and mourning Absalom. So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops because they heard that day that the king was grieving for his son. So that day the troops crept back into the city like soldiers creep back ashamed after they’ve fled from battle. The king covered his face and cried out in a loud voice, “Oh, my son Absalom! Oh, Absalom, my son! My son!”

Joab came to the king inside and said, “Today you have humiliated all your servants who have saved your life today, not to mention the lives of your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your secondary wives, by loving those who hate you and hating those who love you! Today you have announced that the commanders and their soldiers are nothing to you, because I know that if Absalom were alive today and the rest of us dead, that would be perfectly fine with you! Now get up! Go out and encourage your followers! I swear to the Lord that if you don’t go out there, not one man will stick with you tonight—and that will be more trouble for you than all the trouble that you’ve faced from your youth until now.”

Easter Wednesday

 

Psalm 96:12, “Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

This is truly the time of year when the trees are full of music.  The newly birthed mustard green oak leaves rustle in the breeze.  Music flows from robins and cardinals resting in the branches.  The great horned owls add their base line antiphonally calling, “hoo, hoo hroot.’  Soon the percussive woodpeckers will join in ratta tatting.  Silently, maple helicopters spin confetti out of the sky.

It wasn’t long ago that we gazed on the barren tree which held our Lord, set among a forest of three.  Did the buzzard circle waiting for the dirge of death?  Did the crow alight on that tree and caw?

Now the trees of that forest stand empty.  Now the trees of the garden are alive with singing.  Now our lord is risen and walks in the forest to meet Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  Now his voice is added to the chorus, “Tell of his salvation from day to day.” Join with all the earth in singing to the greatness of the Lord, to his spender and majesty.  Sing heavens and earth.  Let the sea add its roar. The Lord has come, was dead and is now alive.  He comes to judge the nations in uprightness and faithfulness to his promises.

 

Easter Monday

 

Psalm 100 is appointed for Easter Monday, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing.”  We certainly did that yesterday and the psalm calls upon us to continue the celebration.

Exodus 15, the OT lesson for the day, takes us back to Israel’s response to crossing the Red Sea describing the scene, “At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap…” and then when the Egyptians saw their chance and followed into the gap, “You blew with your wind; the sea covered; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.”  What joy.

But then we come to the Gospel, where we join two downcast and bewildered disciples taking a walk to Emmaus, trying to figure out how things could possibly have gone so wrong in one week.  From the heights of the welcome to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to being driven out of the city to the hill of crucifixion on Friday.  Then there was that rumor of the women who went to Jesus tomb that morning, but they didn’t find the body.  They returned to the group talking about an angel appearing, telling them that Jesus was alive.

For many, perhaps for ourselves, entering into the presence of the Lord yesterday with singing seems a long ago memory.    The key to continuing joy is in the stranger who joined them on their walk.  He was walking and talking with them.  He was present when they ate.  He opened the scriptures to them.  For us, today Jesus is still alive, walking with us, talking to us through scripture, present with us when eat and when we sleep.

Christ is Risen!  He is risen, indeed! That is as valid today as it was yesterday.

The Sunday that Shook the World

 

The Easter gospel for this year is from Matthew 28.  The text brings to my mind the old 50’s Rock and Roll songs of “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis’ song “Whole Lot a Shaking Going On.”  Now neither of the songs have anything to do with Jesus resurrection, but they do describe the events of that weekend as recorded in Matthew.

The shaking started on Friday afternoon when Jesus cried out with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.  Matthew reports that the 4 inch thick curtain that curtained off the Holy of Holies was ripped in two from top to bottom.  “And the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

Tombs were cave like, dug into the rock.  The seismic action split the rock tombs. However, the Friday quake was a pre-shock to the major quake on Sunday morning.

The Sunday morning shaking is described as a mega – quake that accompanied the descent of the angel of the Lord who rolled back the stone and sat on it.  “Take that you chief priests and Pharisees, for trying to secure the tomb against God’s intervention in the deadly affairs of humanity.”

But it was more than the earth which was all shook up.  There was a whole lot of shaking going on, as the guards quaked in their sandals and fell like dead men.  To the women who came, the angel said, “He is not here, for he has risen.”  And when Jesus himself met them, he said, “Go and tell.”