Pentecost 2020

A Liturgy for the Home

The following service order is intended for use in the home at a time when our congregation cannot gather. It may be lead by a family member, or if you live alone, you may use it by yourself, in which case, simply say all parts. Of course this is not intended to be a substitute for the Divine Service of the gathered church, but as a provision for household devotion and prayer. You may also use the service orders of Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, or Compline depending on the time of day. For a simple service order, see Daily Prayer (LSB p. 294ff) .

Leader: O Lord, open my lips.
Response: And my mouth will declare your praise.
L: Make haste, O God, to deliver me.
R: Make haste to help me, O Lord.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

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7 Easter 2020

A Liturgy for the Home

The following service order is intended for use in the home at a time when our congregation cannot gather. It may be lead by a family member, or if you live alone, you may use it by yourself, in which case, simply say all parts. Of course this is not intended to be a substitute for the Divine Service of the gathered church, but as a provision for household devotion and prayer. You may also use the service orders of Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, or Compline depending on the time of day. For a simple service order, see Daily Prayer (LSB p. 294ff) .

Leader: O Lord, open my lips.
Response: And my mouth will declare your praise.
L: Make haste, O God, to deliver me.
R: Make haste to help me, O Lord.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

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6 Easter 2020

A Liturgy for the Home

The following service order is intended for use in the home at a time when our congregation cannot gather. It may be lead by a family member, or if you live alone, you may use it by yourself, in which case, simply say all parts. Of course this is not intended to be a substitute for the Divine Service of the gathered church, but as a provision for household devotion and prayer. You may also use the service orders of Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, or Compline depending on the time of day. For a simple service order, see Daily Prayer (LSB p. 294ff) .

Leader: O Lord, open my lips.
Response: And my mouth will declare your praise.
L: Make haste, O God, to deliver me.
R: Make haste to help me, O Lord.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

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Luke 13:22-30 / 25 August 2013

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?” You wonder sometimes. I sure have. How many will be saved? When you look at the condition of the world around you, when you look at the state of the church today, when you consider the diminishing impact that Christianity seems to have in the world, you begin to wonder. Will only a few be saved in the end? How many are going to make it past those pearly gates? Will you?
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Open Minds, Open Mouths

Luke 24:36049 / Easter 3B / 22 April 2012 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them: “Thus it is written: That the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be preached in His name to all nations.” (Luke 24:47)

So here we are on the third Sunday of Easter and the news still seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? Christ is risen, we say, and yet somewhere in the more rational recesses of our minds there is this little flicker of doubt that goes, “really?” How can you know for sure? Beyond a reasonable doubt, at least, or to some reasonable certainty?
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Turning the Tables on the Temple

John 2:13:25 / Lent 3B / 11 March 2012 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA

In the Gospel of John, everything tends to mean at least two things. John is chock full of double entendres, double meanings all over the place. Today’s Gospel is a prime example: the temple and Jesus’ body.

John pushes this episode from Holy Week right up to the front. That’s how important it is for John. This episode of Jesus’ clearing the temple of the money changers and sacrifice sellers sets the tone for the entire Gospel. It comes immediately after the inaugural sign of Jesus’ changing washing water into wedding wine at a feast at Cana.
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Ashamed of Jesus? Perish the Thought!

Mark 8:27-38 / Lent 2B / 4 March 2012 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA

Jesus and His band of disciples enter the region of Caesaria Philippi, a Roman city sitting on the southwestern base if Mt. Hermon on what today is known as the Golan Heights. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The region was known to the Greeks as “Panion,” named after the Greek god Pan. The city was dedicated to Caesar Augustus and had a large temple dedicated to him where Caesar was acclaimed “Kaiser Kyrios” – Lord Caesar.

And so it’s fitting that Jesus should spring two big questions on His disciples. The first question is the question of popular opinion – Who do men say that I am? What’s the buzz on the street? What are people saying about me? Jesus asks them this not because He wants to know, but because He wants them to see and say the difference between the world’s perspective on Jesus and the disciples’ perspective. It’s the difference between faith and unbelief, between confessing Jesus and denying Him. It is ultimately the difference between life and death.
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Forgive and Forget

God forgives and forgets. He forgives our wickedness, and He remembers our sins no more. That’s that marvel and the mystery. The Judge of all, the One who could condemn us, and who could destroy body and soul in hell, forgives. And the omniscient One who knows all things, chooses in mercy to remember our sins no more. That’s called “grace” – undeserved kindness on the part of God.

We are reluctant to forgive, and even less inclined to forget. We hold grudges. We keep book on one another. We remember the hurt feeling, the wayward word that jabbed us the wrong way, the injustice done to us. We dwell on it, nurture it, walk it around like the dog. Past offenses turn into present accusations. “You always did this; you never did this.” Our idea of justice is quid pro quo – this for that. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. That makes sense. Strike me on the cheek, and I’ll bop you on the nose. Forget? We may have trouble remembering birthdays and anniversaries, but we have no trouble remembering wrongs done to us in the past.

Forgive? That’s not our way either. To forgive is to let something go, to leave something be, to go on as though it hadn’t happened. Like the farmer in the parable whose enemy sowed weeds among his wheat and he says, “Forgive it. Let it alone. Let it go.” Do nothing. Like the father with two sons who welcomes his prodigal son home with an embrace and a robe and a ring without so much as a syllable of confession much less a deal. Act as though it had never happened. Like the prophet Hosea, who seeks out his adulterous bride and courts her and wants to take her back. Like Yahweh with His Israel, loving the unlovable, embracing the unembraceable, forgiving and forgetting, making a new covenant with a people who broke the old one.

We try to have it both ways: “I’ll forgive, but I can’t forget.” Meaning, “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” Just in case I need call it up later on. Or in case I need to call in a marker or two. Put it up on a shelf, like a fine wine. Let it age for a while. Forgive, but never forget what was forgiven. But forgiveness without forgetting is not forgiveness at all. They run parallel. To forgive is to forget. Not forget as in a case of amnesia, but as in refusing to call to mind. Instead of filing it away, running it through the shredder so the pieces can’t be put back together again, even if we wanted.

Image what our lives would be like if we forgave and forgot. If children would forgive and forget what their parents have done to them. If parents would forgive and forget what their children have done to them. Therapists would be begging for work. Imagine husbands and wives forgiving and forgetting. The divorce courts would be hurting for business. Imagine communities and congregations, where, instead of dwelling on each other’s sins and shortcomings, we forgave them, and instead of obsessing on them at every moment, we set them aside in our own minds and refused to recall them.

But forgiving and forgetting is not our way, is it? We may as well admit it. It comes as naturally to us as breathing water or flapping our arms to fly. It’s not in our sinful nature to forgive and forget. Why? Because we want to be gods damning those who do bad things to us. Because we in our self-centered world won’t tolerate these assaults on our being. We’re not going to put up with anything, are we? We see those who forgive and forget as stupid and weak. The notion of forgive and forget seems to us something so foreign, it may as well be from another planet or something so “divine” it can’t possibly be human. “To err is human, to forgive divine,” we say, thinking we’re off the hook. But remember, Jesus is fully human. He did not err, and He forgave.

We refashion God in our own unforgiving, unforgetting image. This is how a respectable God is supposed to be. God the Judge, sitting high on His throne, with the scales of justice dangling in His hand, balancing sin against good works. We cook up religions that bargain with God, as though God could be bribed by our prayers, our works of charity, our religious disciplines, our fasting or Bible study or pilgrimages, or whatever else we come up with. We imagine God to be the great Accountant in the Sky, a sharp-penciled bookkeeper peering over the record of our lives, running the totals, checking our debits and credits on some heavenly spreadsheet. We even come up with a treasury of merit from the saints that can be credited to those who are lacking righteousness. All for a price.

At the heart of every human religion is the notion that God does not forgive nor does He forget. He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice, and He already knows whose naughty and nice. That’s the kind of religion that appeals to our sense of fairness and reason. We expect God to punish those who do evil, especially when it’s the other guy and not ourselves. We expect God to demand obedience from those who claim His name. We expect God to reward those who do good and walk the walk. But forgive? Why would God want to do that? And forget? Come on, get serious. This is God we’re talking about here – omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, sovereign to the nth degree deity. Any god who “forgets” just isn’t a respectable god in our religious way of thinking.

The Ten commandments as religion make a lot of sense. That’s why all sorts of religious people can rally around them. Morality is a no-brainer; forgiveness is the dividing line. We expect God to want an exclusive relationship with us, no other gods in His face. We expect that God would want us to worship Him, honor His name and His word. We expect that God is pleased when we honor and obey parents and other authorities, when we don’t kill or harm one another, when we keep our zippers and our lips zipped, and don’t steal stuff and are content with the stuff we have. That all makes great sense. That’s why the ten commandments are so popular.

But if you learn anything from Hebrew half of the Bible, learn this: Commandments don’t work because we can’t keep the commandments. God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt through the blood and the water. God made Israel into a nation and established them under Moses with a covenant. And what did they do? They messed it all up. They broke the covenant. A covenant based on commandment keeping simply won’t work with a bunch of natural born sinners.

It’s takes a new covenant. One in which the Word of God is implanted in the heart – not just on stone. And not just rules to live by, but Gospel good news that God forgives your wickedness and forgets your sins. A new way of knowing the Lord, not simply God on the mountain but God in the flesh. God incarnate. The Word made Flesh dwelling among us.

Covenants call fior blood. The old covenant called for the blood of bulls, goats, and sheep, which, on its own, accomplished nothing. But the new covenant is sealed by the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, a blood poured out for you on the cross, and poured into a chalice for you to drink. “This is the new covenant in my blood.” Do this “for my remembrance,” says Jesus. Eat His Body, drink His blood, so that we will remember Him and He will remember us, and remember our sin no more. Forgive and forget.

Today is Reformation Sunday. Reformation Day, properly speaking, is October 31st, the All Hallow’s Eve, the evening before All Saints Day. Martin Luther wasn’t out trick or treating that day when he nailed 95 points of debate to the church door in Wittenberg. He was nailing an indictment against religion that had made the new covenant of the blood of Jesus into a transactional system of works and deal cutting with God, leaving people uncertain of their forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Reformation is not about how the Lutherans are right and the Catholics are wrong. It’s about how easy it is for any of us to slip into this way of bargaining and deal cutting, the way of religion. Even the brightest bulbs on the theological marquee can slip, forgetting that God is the God who forgives and forgets for Jesus’ sake.

Reformation Day is not a day for comfortable complacency or “denomination dissing.” We may no more say, “We have Luther as our father,” than the Jews at the time of Jesus could say, “We have Abraham as our father” or Roman Catholics can say, “We have the pope as our father.” It all means nothing apart from faith in the promise. Jesus is clear, “When you abide in my Word, you will know the truth, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will free you.”

Forgiveness is freedom from the past. Without forgiveness, we have no hope for the future, no freedom in the present. We are bound by chains to a past that hangs like a giant millstone around our necks that will drag us down to our death. The mercy, the undeserved kindness, the grace of God in Jesus is this: Jesus is our righteousness. His blood answers for our sin as an atoning sacrifice. His Word applies that Blood to each of us, baptizing us, forgiving us, feeding us, telling us in so many ways this one needful thing: You are justified, not by what you do, but by faith in the blood of Jesus and what He has done, and on His account you are free.

To abide in Baptism, to abide in the Word of forgiveness, to abide in the Body and the Blood is to be a disciple of Jesus, one who learns from Him the way of death and life, and who follows Him through death to life. Because of His perfect life and His cross, God forgives your wickedness and He remembers your sin no more. You are freed from your past to serve in the present with a sure hope of a bright future in Christ Jesus that is already yours by grace alone, through faith alone, for Jesus’ sake alone, and this from the Scriptures alone.

God forgives and He forgets, all for Jesus’ sake. And because of that, you are free and remembered by God.

In the Name of Jesus,
Amen

Salty Words

Salt is irritating and a good thing. Saltwater in the eyes stings. Salt in a wound irritates. Salt on meat preserves, and it tingles the taste buds. A dish without salt lacks flavor, zest. Jesus speaks of our being salted with fire and having salt in ourselves. James has some coarse, kosher salt for us, words that are irritatingly good.

Right out of the starting block, James hits us with ten salty imperatives. Some would be inclined to see ten “commandments,” but not every imperative is necessarily a commandment. LIke “come and get it,” when dinner is on and you’re hungry. Or “Do this in remembrance of me.” Or “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Though I suppose these would be harsh commandments for those who don’t want to “come and get it.” Such is the way of salt.

Part of the problem with Christianity today is that it’s lost much of it’s salt. We’re on a “low salt” diet, so to speak. That means we soft-peddle the law and mush up the Gospel. We fear offending anyone, lest they won’t want to come and fill our pews, so we serve up a blended service of mush. No salt. No sting, no bite, no zest. Not so James.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God.” You should note that the “yourselves” is not actually in the Greek text. It would have been better translated “be ordered under God.” Under God is where you belong, where you are blessed, put on the receiving end of all He has to give you. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” the proverb says. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” Jesus said.

To submit to another, to be ordered under another, is a position of trust. You must trust the one who is over you. Wives ordered under their husbands; children ordered under their parents; citizens ordered under their governors. And when the One who is over you is the One who is ordered under the will of His Father and who died for you on a cross, being ordered under Him means life and freedom. This Christ’s gift to you.

“Resist the devil, he will flee from you.” The devil’s a roaring lion, foaming at the mouth, roaming about for someone to devour. Resist him, Paul said, standing firm in the faith. The devil is resistible. He’s defeated. “One little word can fell him.” That one little word, by the way, is the word “liar.” He is a liar and the father of all lies, who would draw you far from your Baptism, keep you clear of the Lord’s Supper, make you an aloof critic of God’s Word instead of a humbled hearer and doer. Resist him, he has no power over you thanks be to Christ. Jesus resisted him with the Word on His lips. He did it for you. He conquered the devil with HIs dying, crushed his head with his cross-bruised heel. He is resistible, and he will flee from you, dear baptized child of God. That is Christ’s gift to you.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” That’s a promise. He as already drawn near to you. Taken up your humanity, your flesh and blood, your sin and death. He has embraced you in His own death on a cross. He is as near as your Baptism, as near as the Word preached to you; as near as the Supper of His Body and Blood. This is Christ’s gift to you.

“Wash your hands, O sinners; purify your hearts.” Water alone can’t do it; but water and Word can. Be baptized and wash away the filth of Adam. Return to your Baptism daily, drowning that old self and all of its sin and lusts so that a new you may arise, the you that is already yours in Christ. That’s Christ’s gift to you, that your hands and hearts might be washed and purified. Just as the old testament priests washed their hands before offering their sacrifices. You, the priestly people of God, called and anointed to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, are washed and purified in that flood of blood and water that flowed from your Savior’s side. You are cleansed, pure and holy. This is Christ’s gift to you.

“Grieve, mourn, wail. Turn your laughter to mourning, your joy to gloom.” Oh, you wanted uplift this morning? I’m sorry. James just rained our your parade. So did Jesus with all His talk about cutting off offending hands and gouging out enchanted eyes. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh,” Jesus said. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” Jesus wept. You never hear of Him laughing. He wept over the unbelief of His friends, over Jerusalem, over the ravages of death. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering. Our suffering. The fullest depths of our sin and depravity and all that has gone wrong with that was a very good creation. He drank the bitter cup for us down to the dregs. If we were to know even a small fraction of how bad it is within us, we would grieve and mourn and wail too.

This rubs against our grain. We are sunshine people, accustomed to 360 days of bright, cloudless sunshine. That’s why people come here. (It sure isn’t for the wide open spaces or the clean air.) When it’s overcast for more than 36 hours, we go into depression. When it rains more than a mist, we go on “storm watch.” We expect every day to be a bright, sun shiny day. And we expect our lives to be bright, sun shiny lives filled with happiness. We expect Christianity to be a giddy joyride in a religious Disneyland, and if not, well then there must be something wrong with the God channel, and we better change it.

“You will laugh,” Jesus promises. But not now. Now we are engaged in a struggle, and it’s not funny. Now our old nature wars against our new, Adam vs. Christ, and it’s anything but amusing. Only at the end, when Jesus raises our bodies sown in dishonor and tears and grief and gives us His glory and honor, only when He gets the final last laugh over sin and death will there be laughter. And then that laughter won’t be the fleeting giggles of the comedy club, but the eternal joy of life with Jesus.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” And once again, the translators are up their mischief. There’s no “yourselves” in there, so get yourselves out of there. “Be humbled before the Lord.” Humbling something done to you, and when that humbling Word has it’s killing way with you, you will be lifted up, raised up by the One who drew all to Himself when He was lifted up from the humility of death on a cross. Humbling and exaltation is the way of Jesus, the way of death and resurrection, and the way of all who follow Jesus. We will be humbled, and we will be lifted up.

We naturally hate this; we fight against it. We will not be humbled, not if we can help it. We’ll even boast in our humility just to ensure it. Humility doesn’t come naturally to old Adam. It took a second Adam, clothed in our humanity, emptied of all His divine honor and glory, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to His own Law, even to death on a cross. And it was from the depths of that humility that Jesus was highly exalted, and raised up to the heights of heaven, and glorified and the right hand of God, and you too are exalted and glorified in Him.

First tears, then laughter. First death, then resurrection. First humbling, then glory.

James analyzes the arrogance of Adam, the pride of our sinful nature that imagines we are in charge, we are in control, we are gods. He speaks of our will to power, to lord over each other, to sit in judgment over the brother and the neighbor. James knows his congregation well, and across the chasm of time, he seems to know a thing or two about us too.

He reminds us of our tongue, that untamed beast between our teeth, how we slander and gossip and judge one another. Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned.” And what do we do? We judge and we condemn, often without even so much as fair trial and evidence. That doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to judge sin. Of course we are. But we aren’t given to judge the sinner. We’re not given to say, “He’ll burn in hell for that; or she’ll get what she deserves.” There is only One who is Lawgiver and Judge, and He’s the One who was judged under His own Law to be our Savior.

James calls to our attention the arrogance of our stewardship of time, how we act as though the universe revolved around our personnel day planners. Today I will do this, tomorrow I’ll go there, without so much as a nod to the Lord. “If the Lord be willing….” We’re in the passenger seat, not the driver’s seat. “If it’s the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.” “Thy will be done,” as Jesus taught us to pray, and prayed Himself in the garden.

James focuses on our stewardship of wealth. In his day, as in ours, wealth was considered a sign of blessing. But James says, “Weep and wail, you rich. Your wealth is rotting, your clothes are moth food, your silver and gold are tarnished.” Jesus said, “Woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort.” The idolatry of wealth is so enticing, promising life in abundance, yet in the end consuming everything we are. Think of the rich man who wound up in Hades for not hearing Moses and the prophets. Or the rich man who dropped dead at his kitchen table while drawing plans for bigger barns to store his wealth, never enjoying a bit of it in his lifetime.

James would have us remember that the worker is worthy of his wages and to consider the underpaid, the field workers, the sweat shop laborers. Luxury sits atop the sweat and blood and calluses of hard labor, and woe to those who fail to pay the working man and woman his or her fair wages. The Lord hears the cries of the poor from the harvest fields and the factories.

None of us sitting here has any reason for pride – whether in the way we speak of each other, the way we handle our time, how we deal with our wealth. We’ve poked and prodded at the specks in the eyes of others, and neglected the two by four of sin sticking out of our own eye. We’ve acted as if we were the Lord of time without any time for the Lord. We’ve hoarded our own wealth, gladly paying bargain prices without regard for the worker who supplies the things we own and the food we eat.

Be submissive to God. He is here to forgive you and save you. Resist the devil, the world, your own sinful flesh, the glamour of evil. You no longer live, but Christ now lives in you. Draw near to God, sinner that you are. And here’s the wondrous, grace-full truth: He will draw near to you. Don’t be afraid to come near to God, to hear His Word, to kneel at His table. Christ has opened the way for you. Be washed in Baptism, cleanse your hearts and hands and minds with the watery Word that drowns your sin in the sea of forgiveness. Grieve and mourn your condition; there’s nothing funny about our sin not matter what the Comedy Channel would have us think. Be humbled, for we have nothing to be proud of before God, and nothing to lose.

And the salty good news is that Jesus Christ will lift you up out of your sin, out of the misery that your sin has caused you and those around you, out of your own death and the grave. He will lift you up, just as surely as He was lifted up on the cross to bear your sin, lifted up from the grave, lifted up to the right hand of God. He will lift you up to be where He is.

Have salt in yourselves, the salt of Jesus’ death and life for you, and be at peace with each other.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen