What the world deems cursed, Jesus calls blessed. In the Greek, it’s makarios. Happy doesn’t quite catch the sense. Fortunate. Lucky. Oh lucky you – poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting and persecuted. You have it all even as you have nothing at all. The kingdom of heaven is yours and all that goes along with it. How fortunate you are! And how blessed.Continue reading
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Those words are radical words, game-changing, church-reformoing words. Though they sound like Martin Luther, and they were certainly near and dear to the Reformer’s heart, they are much older and more inspired. They’re the words of the apostle Paul, writing over 1400 years before Luther. They represent Paul’s decisive break with pharasaic Judaism, the religious system he grew up with and into which he was schooled as a rabbi. They are the end to all bargaining, all transaction, all attempts to deal with God on the basis of commandment-keeping and good behavior and our attempts at spiritual improvement. This little sentence rocked the religious world of Paul’s day, and it set Martin Luther before pope and emperor to lay down the Gospel gauntlet before the church and the world to say: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.”Continue reading
Todayis St. Michael and All Angels day. This has nothing to do with Los Angeles or the Angels of Anaheim. You probably won’t see anything about this on Facebook or Instagram. Hallmark doesn’t have cards for it, at least none that I could find. Angels are reserved for Christmas. Lowes and Home Depot are occupied with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one commercial package – Hallowthanksmas. But not a trace of St. Michael let alone all the angels to be found in the home decorating aisle.Continue reading
I’m going to depart from the usual custom of preaching on the assigned readings for the Sunday. Instead, I would roll the calendar back three days to Thursday, forty days after our Lord’s resurrection, when the church rejoiced in Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father. I’m doing this because the ascension is the forgotten leg of our Lord’s trifecta of salvation, the triple crown of His death, His resurrection, and His reign. And because Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday, forty days after Easter Sunday, we all too often miss not only the celebration but the teaching of this important fact: Our Lord who was crucified and raised on the third day now reigns over all things as King of kings and Lord of lords ascended in majesty at the right hand of the Father. And we reign in Him.
It is forty days after Christmas and we’ve come to February 2nd and the Presentation of our Lord. The little high priest pays a visit to the temple. And being only forty days old, he can’t quite make it on his own so he has to be brought there by Mary and Joseph. What happens to Jesus is prescribed by the Law of the Lord – “Every male who first opens the womb shall be holy to the Lord.” If it is an animal you sacrifice it. If it is a baby boy, you offer an animal in his place, or in this case, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Mary and Joseph were poor, we surmise. So it is: life for life. The Redeemer of the world is redeemed by the blood of a couple of pigeons. Go figure.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
We long to understand the universe and our existence. We want to understand where everything came from and how it was made. We want to know what lay behind the “Big Bang,” what came “before” the beginning. We want to understand not only how things exist but why they exist. Science, our reason, our senses can tell us only so much, but they cannot take us back to the beginning. Our reason and our senses can tell us that there is “something” there, but they can’t help us put our finger on it much less shake its hand.
Reformation Sunday. Five days before Reformation Day proper, but Concordia Publishing House put it on the bulletin insert, so why not? Besides, you probably wouldn’t have shown up for a Thursday night service anyway, being busy with that great holiday known as Halloween.
Reformation Day, October 31, the Eve of All Hallows (that is, All Saints) is the day when in 1517 an Augustinian friar and professor of theology at Wittenberg University named Dr. Martin Luther posted 95 theses in Latin concerning the practice of indulgence selling on the church door. Luther wanted to discuss what he saw were abuses in the church and a misunderstanding of the Gospel.
Good Friday 2013
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
THE LAMB IS BETRAYED. He is sold at market for 30 silver pieces, the price of a slave. He is betrayed by the kiss of a friend, one of His inner circle, the Twelve, those whom He chose not only to be disciples but apostles. One of His own “sent ones” turns Him in to the authorities.
This is Israel’s big night. The night Israel walked out of slavery into freedom through the blood of the lamb painted on the doorposts. This is the night when our Lord sat at table with His chosen disciples, soon to be apostles, and put Himself into the Passover. This is the night when Jesus left His disciples, soon to be apostles, both a remembrance and an example of His sacrifice. This is the night on which our Lord was betrayed to death by one of His own, one who had a share in His table, one who had received the morsel of bread from Jesus’ own hand. This is the first night of the three holy days of our Lord’s death and resurrection. And you are part of it.
This is a Reformation sermon by Rev. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, preached at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on October 28, 2012. The text is Romans 3:19-28.