The Stingray
Festival of the Reformation (transferred)
John 8:31-36
Festival of the Reformation 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”

“Slave” and “slavery” are words that carry a lot of weight. When Jesus tossed out that word in talking to the Jews who had believed in Him, it did more than just catch their attention. It would have thrown up all kinds of warning bells and whistles and put them on the defensive, as you heard in the text. I suppose it’s akin to throwing around the word “racist” these days as a way of insulting those who don’t share one’s opinion. In a way, the words “slave” and “slavery” do that still today.

Luke 10:17-20; Revelation 12:7-12
Michaelmas 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As I was growing up, I would often wonder what it would be like to be an angel. The stories of the angelic visits and visions from the Old Testament would fill my head. Coming from the throne of God to man to relay a message. To fight on behalf of God’s justice against the corruption on the earth. The visions that Ezekiel and Daniel had of the angels would often come to mind—frightening images of four-head creatures with wings and eyes in the wings, and the warriors that would contend against the princes of the Persians. To have been the angel which touched the lips of Isaiah with a coal from the incense as others are flying around the smoke-filled throne room singing God’s praises was an awe-filled dream.

I often got the picture that angels had it made. They were, in my estimation, the next best thing to being God. At least, the ones who remained in the service of God had it made and were the next best thing. I’m sure I’m not alone in that assessment, as I would estimate that there are some here who have imagined or dreamed or also wondered what it would be like to be an angel.

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
Luke 10:23-37
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What if the parable of the Samaritan and the traveler isn’t as complicated as it is made out to be?

It’s a simple story, really. It tells a moral tale. A certain man was traveling to Jericho. Along the road, some thieves stripped him of his clothing, beat him senseless, and left him for dead, naked, alone, and broke. Two of Jerusalem’s religious elite pass by him. Neither of them helped him, but did their best to avoid the man by walking around him on the other side of the road. It wasn’t until a Samaritan came along—a half-breed lowlife, according to the Jews—that the man finally received some help.

This certain Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, salving him with wine and oil. Then, placing him on his own animal, he takes the man to an inn, pays for his room and board, and sees to it that the innkeeper takes care of him, promising to repay him any extra expenses upon his return. It was certainly a good thing that the Samaritan had done, but you’ll notice that nowhere in the parable does Jesus call him good, as has become part of common parlance—the Good Samaritan.

But that is the moral of the story—what the Samaritan did. If you want to be good—and be saved—then, “Go and do likewise,” as Jesus said.

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
Luke 18:9-14
Name Year Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When Jesus began talking in St. Luke’s 18th chapter, he told a parable “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” You probably know the story. A widow had an adversary against whom she sought justice from a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. That’s probably the absurd part of the parable, but for the sake of the Jesus is illustrating, it works. So, the widow goes to this judge time and again seeking justice. For his own sake, the judge eventually relents and grants the widow her case. Jesus’ point is that God is much more just than this judge; He will give justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night, and that speedily!

But then Jesus asked, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (cf. Luke 18:1-8)

That’s when He moved into the parable you heard today. You see, the widow in the parable knew she couldn’t rely on herself to get the justice that she needed. But there were others who were listening to Him speak who did trust in themselves, who thought themselves righteous, who despised others as beneath them. With the widow in mind, Jesus told them the parable.

Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Luke 16:1-13
Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To better understand this text, it might be helpful to understand it’s place in the grander scheme of St. Luke’s Gospel. This is the beginning of chapter 16, which naturally follows chapter 15. Chapter 15 is known, of course, for the three parables it contains: Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the so-called Prodigal Son. Jesus told these parables to the Pharisees to demonstrate the love of God and all of heaven for the lost, because the Pharisees scoffed at Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners and tax collectors.

The parable of the Prodigal Son presented Jesus with an opportunity to shift His focus. In that parable, as you know, Jesus told of a young man who essentially told his father to drop dead—he demanded his share of the inheritance, then ran off to a distant country and squandered it in wild living. The older son, faithful to the father, remained home and tended to what was left, and all of that was going to be his upon his father’s death. Conditions had grown bad where the younger son was, and he was left with nothing. Hopeless, he devised a scheme tor return home to be a servant in his father’s house; when he got home, however, he was never able to follow through with the scheme. His father ran out to him on the road, called out for a robe, sandals, and the family ring to be placed on his son, and called for a fattened calf to be prepared for a feast—his lost son had returned to him, and he was going to have a party, for “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Something was missing, though. The older son refused to join the party. Like the first time, the father ran out to him and urged him to join the festivities—his brother has returned! And that’s how the parables ended. Jesus didn’t say whether or not the older brother joined, probably because he wanted the Pharisees—the older brothers—to realize that they, too, could rejoice over repentant sinners and join them in the party to come.

Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Mark 8:1-9
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Three days. Seven loaves. Seven baskets of leftovers. 4000 people.

Much has been made of these numbers, and much can be made of them. The people of God love to pour over them and decipher them, and it can be fun to do so. Three and seven are numbers representing holiness, divinity, unity, and completeness—as in the Trinity and the fullness of the week or the fulfillment of the week in the Sabbath. 4000 is broken down into its parts: 4 times 10 cubed—four corresponding to the whole creation, as in the four corners of the earth, and ten representing the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, the law and governance.

Many sermons have been prepared around these numbers and their significance. Often, when covering Biblical numerology, these sermons overlook the more important part of today’s text.

Second Sunday after Trinity
Luke 14:15-24
Trinity II 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you wanted to get Jesus to talk to you, you’d say something that sounded religious.

It’s an age-old habit. If you want to impress someone in a given field, you say what little you know about their field. If you want to make a good impression on a native speaker of a foreign language, you say what you can in their language—or at the least, learn to greet them in their language. Your God recognizes this, which is part of the reason why St. Paul was inspired to write, “Knowledge puffs up.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1)

So it should come as no surprise as Jesus was eating with a group of Pharisees, that one of them would speak up and say something religious. Now, Luke did write that they were watching Him carefully, and you know that means that they were waiting for an opportunity to catch Him in an “A-ha moment.” There’s little better way to do that to someone you acknowledge to be a good teacher (cf. Luke 10:25; 18:18) than to shoot off at the mouth something that sounds like good teaching.

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (transferred)
John 15:1-11
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (transferred) 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Articles IV, V, and VI form the crux of Lutheran doctrine and practice—you can read them on the back of your bulletins this morning. Everything else that is taught and believed in the Lutheran church is informed by what is espoused in these three articles. Why aren’t they the first three articles? Basically because the first three—on God, Sin, and the Son of God—get you to these three. So, you can’t have these three without those three, and on those three, most of Christianity agrees. Once you get to Articles IV, V, and VI, though, confessions and denominations diverge.

  • Article IV states that man is justified freely before God on account of the Son of God and for His sake, and this through faith, apart from any works, strength, or the merits of his own. This faith is trust in God and a belief that one’s sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake by the all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
  • Article V states that this faith is obtained by way of the Word of God being proclaimed to you, and that the Office of the Holy Ministry was especially instituted by God in order that you would have the Word proclaimed to you, hear of your sins forgiven, and that the means of grace would be given to you. Of chief importance, though, is that faith is obtained by way of the Word, as you heard in today’s Epistle:
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
  • Article VI states that good works that a Christian does are bound follow this gift of faith. These works are necessary—yes, they are required of you—but not insofar as they inform your justification or salvation, as was aforementioned.

Anything other than this is a perversion of Biblical doctrine and should be rejected as either heterodox—which can simply be understood as a different teaching held by anyone—or heretical—which would be an established, false teaching. Even the Augsburg Confession does this.

Ascension of Our Lord
Mark 16:19-20; Ephesians 4:4-16
Ascension of Our Lord 2019 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What does it mean, “He...ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things?”

Well, for starters, what you heard in Mark 16:20 begins to answer the question. “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” As you heard, this was stated following the Lord’s ascent from the disciples eyes. Out of view, Jesus is now bodily present everywhere. Don’t ask me how this works; this is simply the truth that is confessed according to the Scriptures and espoused in the Lutheran Confessions. In His bodily omnipresence, Jesus fills all things. I suppose that were He still manifested on earth, it would be more difficult to grasp His omnipresence—you could point to a person and say, “Jesus is there,” and the eyes of fallen flesh would or could override what your eyes of flesh “see.” Out of sight, you can believe, though not fully understand, that Jesus is everywhere, filling all things.

Busy, Busy, Busy
What's going on?

Here I am, nearly a year after the last entry, only to say that I have been very busy. I have a second job—have had it for over a year, now—and that has constricted my office time a little. Tack on taking kids to school, and that means that I can't get into the office earlier to "relieve" some of that constriction on the front end. Of course, the second job means I'm also spending more time out of the house now.

Consequently, the time I have to update my blog in any meaningful sense has severely decreased. I want to include more sermons; I have plenty to share. I also have other things that I would have liked to have written about, some of which I'm sure I have forgotten.

So, here's a short entry just to keep things "going" here; a quick update on what I've been doing and not doing.