Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr

July 30 is the day that LSB sets aside to remember Robert Barnes.  But who is Robert Barnes? He was born in England in 1495, graduated from Cambridge and was named Prior of the Augustinian monastery at the college.  By 1525 he had been converted to Lutheran teachings.  He preached what is thought to be the first sermon of the English Reformation.  He was imprisoned for heresy, but escaped to Antwerp, Belgium.  Eventually, he and Martin Luther became friends.  He wrote a Latin summary of the Augsburg Confession.  When he returned to England, he shared his views with King Henry VIII.  In 1529, Barnes was appointed royal chaplain.  Though he at first received a positive reception, he eventually became caught up in the changing political and church climate of England.  In 1540 he was one of six “heretics” executed.  He was burned at the stake.  Barnes is perhaps the first Lutheran martyr.

Luther published Barnes’ final confession of faith.  He wrote, “our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest.  Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians…are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints.”

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Standing Before God

 

Before we moved very far into our worship service this morning, the liturgist informed us why we had gathered in that place. 1. To hear God’s Word. 2. Call upon God in prayer and praise. 3, Receive the body and blood of Christ.

But now the worship leader holds up a stop sign.   Let’s stop a minute and “consider our unworthiness” Do we really want to do this considering that we have little understanding of the “breadth, length, height and depth” of God who fills the whole universe and beyond with His perfect presence?  The liturgist suggests that we own up to the fact, “that we have sinned (missed the bulls eye of the target).”  We have done so in what we have thought this past week. Who of us can keep track of our thoughts?  What about our words?  Any we wish we could take back?  And finally, in what we have done.  The problem is “We cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”  For which we have no cure and its fatal.

So, what are we going to do?  The liturgist invites us to “take refuge in the infinite mercy of God…seek His grace because of Jesus Christ.”  Well, ok. Let’s do just that.  Having done that the liturgist risks everything in standing in God’s place saying, “as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority” forgives us all our sins.

Having escaped God’s judgment and with mercy in our pocket, no wonder we burst into the angel’s song, “to God on high be glory and peace to all the earth…”

 

Rescued from All Adversity

 

Is that really the case?

The Prayer of the Day for Sunday begins with acknowledging God as Almighty.  The Almighty Omnipotent One. Potentate above all potentates. Splendorous in majesty.  Greatness unsearchable.  But the prayer goes on to say, “most merciful God.” Abundant in goodness.  Whose steadfast love endures forever. “Protector of all who trust in You.”  It is as Jesus said to the disciples during the storm, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Nevertheless, we pray, “strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love (steadfast enduring love) You will rescue us from all adversities” Though we trust that God will use his might and mercy to protect us, still we wonder if that is always the case.  Thus, it is well that we pray for the faith and courage to believe that out of love, not because we are brave, God will rescue us when adversity strikes.

We pray that this is true “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,” whose love is beyond our knowledge, and “who lives and reigns with You (Almighty and merciful God) and the Holy Spirit, being one God, now and forever. Amen.”  Yes, it really is the case.

 

Jacob meets the Easterners

 

I was studying for my Friday morning bible class when I came to Genesis 29. Jacob has just experienced meeting God at the stairway between heaven and earth.  Chapter 29, “And Jacob lifted his feet and went on to the land of the Easterners.”  Literally: “sons of the East.”  Soon Rachel, his uncle Laban’s daughter shows up with her flock of sheep.

In Genesis the east is often a place of with negative connotations.  When Adam and Eve leave the garden of Eden, the cherubim with flaming whirling sword stand east of Eden.  Cain became a wanderer and lived in Nod, a place of wandering, east of Eden.  After the flood, the descendants of Noah’s son Shem lived in the east.  The tower of Babel is built by people from the east.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew, chooses land toward the east. After Sarah’s death, Abraham marries two women and has several children whom he sends to the east away from his son Isaac.  Some 1,500 years later, the inhabitants of Judah/Jerusalem are exiled in Babylon to the east.

But in Matthew 2, after Jesus birth, “Wisemen (astrologers) from the east came to Jerusalem, ‘Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east…’”

The Wisemen are representatives of Gentiles or all non-Jews.  Could it be they are also a sign that the East, the direction of exile, wandering, grasping for greatness of one’s own, the location of Sodom and Gomorrah etc., will also be part of Jesus people with whom God will be present as Immanuel, their savior from sin?

What do you think?

Building a Living House

Pentecost 9 2018, New Melle, Mo. Ephesians 2:11-22

2:22, In Christ you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Psalm 127, Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vain.

My great – grandfather and my grandfather built some 80 houses, barns and other buildings in Northwest Wisconsin at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  They built the church where our family worships still and the house and barn on the farm where my brothers and I grew up and they still live.  Some one commented, “That building was solidly built.  It was meant to stand.” This morning I want to take you on a tour of God’s building project, where the construction company Father, Son and Holy Spirit is erecting a building to serve as his headquarters on earth.

God’s building is meant to stand.  But it’s a building not made with human hands, design or craftsmanship, but as part of God’s new creation.  One of the features of the building is that it be alive, a living building.  A second feature is that you and I are part of the building. Paul writes, “And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place where God’s own Spirit lives.”  God chose us to be part of his building before the foundation of the world.  Paul writes, “Before the world was created, God had Christ choose us to live with him and to be his holy and innocent and loving people.” This spiritual building of which we are part, is the church, which is filled with Christ and through us completes His work here on earth.

A building begins with a plan.  Like our choosing, God drew up the plans for this living building before the creation. It needs to be flexible enough, to expand in order to house everything in heaven and on earth, including every spiritual blessing available in Christ plus a growing number of those who believe in Christ.  It’s all part God’s greater plan to renew and unite this splintered, fractured and divided universe. When the time was right God, the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ acted to destroy the walls of hostility and create unity in the universe.

So, construction began with the laying of the foundation.  The foundation was not made of concrete but the apostles and prophets.  The apostles such a Paul and Peter, among others, had been sent out by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  They carried the word out into the world that God had sent his beloved Son Jesus Christ into the world to free everyone from their bondage to sin. The New Testament prophets were those who brought new insights into the scripture, leading believers to see how the Old Testament speaks of God’s promises which are fulfilled in Christ.

Then God made Jesus the cornerstone by which the rest of the building was measured.  That may not be surprising to us.  Who else would God use to be sure his building, the church, was always in correct alignment and built to stand?  But that wasn’t the case in Jesus day.  Psalm 118:22 informs us, “The stone that the builders tossed aside has now become the most important stone.”  Peter describes Jesus as “The living stone whom God has chosen and highly honored.”  He is the one who holds the whole building together.

Now we are ready to build the skeleton of the building, the frame work.  Studs, beams, joists, and rafters.  But the framing of God’s building does not use wood lumber, nor steel I beams.  God uses what came to us in Christ.  God’s compassion, for instance.  We see that compassion at work in the gospel lesson, when Jesus steps out of the boat he is confronted by a large crowd.  He sees that they are like lost sheep with no one to guide or look after them.  His heart goes out to them.  “And he began to teach them many things.”  He taught them that the kingdom of God is coming right in among them. Despite being caught under Roman rule and the political and religious battles between the various group, Pharisees, Sadducees, the ever- paranoid Herod and those who would violently overthrow everything. He gave them hope that despite what things looked like in their daily lives, God was with them, God was watching over them with his loving kindness.  Our opening and closing hymns are based on psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd.  He leads me beside still waters.  He refreshes my life. He leads me along the right paths.  Even when I walk through valleys as dark as death the Lord is with me protecting and guiding me.  And then when Jesus was done teaching the crowd, his compassion extended to feeding them with five little loaves of bread and two fish pulled from the Sea of Galilee.  He did it by looking up to heaven, blessing the food and dividing it among those gathered before him.  It was just as the psalmist wrote, “You treat me to a feast…you honor me as your guest.”  All of it an example of God’s continuing kindness and love which is always with me each day of my life.

That and so much more is in the framework of the church, rich mercy, abundant grace, peace which passes all understanding, the blood of Christ buying us back from sin and death, Jesus’ resurrection leading to our resurrection.  All to be found in the framework of God’s spiritual building, the church.

Now Christ is ready to include us in his building.  But there is a problem.  When God came to use us, he found that we had been dead a long time because of sin and we didn’t want to be part of his building project.  We had our own way of building our lives on what we accomplish in life, in being successful, in being long time faithful members of the church.  Today people don’t want anything to do with the church because they see us as narrow, judgmental, setting up rules and doctrines which exclude people.  Whatever point in history God seeks to include us humans in his work, we let our hostility to one another get in the way, our prejudice, our preference to do things the way I want, thank you very much and don’t poke your nose into my business.  It’s like trying to build a house with rotten and warped boards and 2X4’s.  And yet God was determined as far back as before creation to use us in his spiritual building.

No wonder Paul writes, it’s not anything you did on your own.  We have nothing to boast about.  We are the result of God’s craftsman.  That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.

Our sins hid God’s face from us, so he sent Christ to be his face and sacrifice himself and restore us to our original created condition of being innocent and blameless.  He changed our rottenness into goodness and straightened out our warpness. Waiting for us on the altar is the means with which he straightened us out, his body and blood given and shed on the cross.  He destroyed the walls of division which separated us from God and from one another.  He made us all one that we could live in his church in peace and unity.  And now because of Christ, all of us are fit to come before the Father and be part of his building project.  And this church is not just for us.   The blessing given to Abraham more than 2,000 years before Christ still is in effect 4,000 years later, that everyone on earth be blessed because of Christ and us.  So being a blessing as you go about your week. That should keep us busy for the next seven days or 70 X 7 years.

 

 

Baptism and Holiness

 

Read this from Martin Luther this morning:

I will not call myself holy for what I have done nor be called holy by anyone else or praised for my sanctity.  I am holy because I can say with firm faith and pure conscience: Although I am a poor sinner, yet Christ is holy in His Baptism, Word, Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit.  That is the one true holiness given us by God.

But how do I attain it? Or what have I to do with the Holy Spirit?  Answer: The Holy Spirit has baptized me and preached the Gospel of Christ to me and enlivened my heart to believe.  Baptism does not spring from me, nor did faith and the Gospel, but He gave them to me.  For the fingers which baptized me were not the fingers of man but of the Holy Spirit.  And the preacher’s mouth and words which I heard were not the preacher’s own, but the words and preaching of the Holy Spirit, who gives inward faith, through such outward means, leading to sanctification.

Therefore, we should as little deny or doubt that we are holy than we are baptized and are Christians.

Meekness

 

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

This weekend the pastor from Holy Trinity Orthodox church in Clayton, Wi. preached on meekness.  He shared the following story which shows that meekness is not weakness but strength.

His family vacations on the shores of Lake Superior.  It’s not rocky, but the shoreline is simply rock formed by long time ago Lava flows.  They named various shapes in the area.  One they called a mailbox. It was shaped like a house sized rural mailbox.  But one year when they arrived, the “mailbox” was missing.  It had broken off and fallen into the lake.  As one might expect it was water which caused the break.  But not the water of the booming waves crashing against it for 10,000 years.  It was rather the droplets of water which seeped into the tiny cracks and crevasses.  Over the years and seasons those drops caused the cracks to swell and retreat as the water froze and melted.  After centuries those droplets forced the enormous change in the terrain.

So, it is with meekness.  Meekness is not loud brash in your face challenges.  The early Christians were strong enough to face persecution and even death.  But slowly over a period of 300 years changed the whole Mediterranean world and the Roman Empire.  That’s the meekness of which Christ speaks and that will inherit the earth. It still true today.

What We See

 

Tuesday last, there was a reopening of the arch grounds in St. Louis.  What I saw in the video of the event was the elderly daughter of Arch architect Eero Saarinen, standing amid a long line of dignitaries struggling to cut an oversized ribbon with an oversized scissors.  However, others saw there was not a single person of color among them.  Two days later another ribbon cutting was held featuring mostly people of color redoing the ceremony.  This has engendered much debate in the public media.

What we see or don’t see is important.  In Mark 6:1-6, Jesus comes home to Nazareth.  He has just come off a series of events in which he stilled a storm, cleansed a man of a demon infestation, was touched by a woman with a twelve-year discharge of blood.  And raised a twelve -year-old girl back to life.  Who could doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?

What did the folks at Nazareth see?  Not the Messiah.  Not the Son of God.  They saw one of Joe and Mary’s five boys plus his sisters.  How could their kid have done these works?  Where did he get such wisdom?

Jesus, the hometown boy, marveled how they were offended and refused to believe. It’s in that context, that Jesus sends out his disciples with the news of the Gospel.  Some will see them as bringers of God’s kingdom and others will see them as spouting nonsense.  So, it is still today.

Turning Toward God

 

Repentance is turning around toward God. I’ve often heard people say, “But you have to repent.” OK.   However, that can border on making repentance something I have to do to receive forgiveness.  Thus, turning toward God becomes my work, my effort, that then earns forgiveness, wiping out the need for forgiveness.

I’ve gotten in deeper than I first intended.  Back to my original thought.

What leads to repentance?  The Prayer of the Day for this Sunday is helpful.

It begins “O God, your almighty power.”  Weak, puny me is in big trouble.”

However, the prayer continues, “Your almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy.”  Good news.  Such gospel leads to a request.  “Grant us the fullness of Your grace that we may be called to repentance.”  In the light of God’s almighty power chiefly used for mercy, we ask for his gift of turning us toward God.  In Jesus Christ God has already turned toward us so that as we come to God, in confidence of bucketsful of mercy and grace poured on us.

The goal is that we might “be partakers of Your heavenly treasures.”  With those heavenly treasures waiting for us, who would be foolish enough to turn away from God?  Yes, and all that mercy, grace and heavenly treasures comes, “through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever.”

In Christ we can partake in the heavenly treasure of life now and forever.  The cemetery is not the last stop.