Thursday, June 23, 2016

PARODY: LCMS the Beautiful

With the 2016 LCMS Synod Convention coming up next month, I needed to relieve some tension I feel over being a delegate. With all the reading if overtures and resolutions, biographies, and mail from lobbyists, it's really a lot to handle. And complaining about those things takes even more energy. Snark takes effort! Anyway, I vent in rhyme and verse, and I'm pretty sure this one is a doozy destined to go down in infamy! Here's the result: a parody to the tune of "America the Beautiful." Enjoy! Walther did. See that smile! *wink*

LCMS the Beautiful

O beautiful bureaucracy
O'er endless by-laws made 
For district presidents to be
The popes of lesser grade. 
The by-laws reign supreme!
Let's vote to chunk 
That Bible junk
And live the sinner's dream!

O beautiful for heresy
That long goes unaddressed;
For pastors who are cursed to be
Inactives long oppressed. 
Our DP's hands are clean. 
Let's vote to flush 
That doctrine mush
And drop AC 14. 

O beautiful, we tossed the cross
For syncretistic prayer
We prayed when facing tragic loss
To show the world we care. 
Let's show our charity!
Let's go and scrap
That Concord crap
To Satan's lasting glee. 

O beautiful! O God, please send
The Spirit. Make us wise
To keep your Word unto the end
Before our voting eyes. 
Have mercy, Lord, we pray,
And keep us straight 
As we debate
These six exhausting days. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sermon for 6/19/16: Fourth Sunday After Trinity

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Trained in Mercy

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The world is topsy-turvy. All that our Lord calls good and right in His Word, the world considers evil and judgmental. Everything our Lord calls evil and perverted, the world considers good and right. Abortion is legal. Homosexuality is celebrated. Living together outside of marriage is the norm. It almost seems as if the blind are really in the lead, doesn’t it? It is to the people living in these circumstances that our Lord delivers His message. “Be merciful.” “Judge not.” “Forgive.”

But wait. Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned with the truth of the Word of God? Yes, of course you are. But your problem is that you think that others are the bad people and you are basically good. Sure, you might sin, but you cannot believe you might be evil. Evil people do evil things; you just mess up from time to time. After all, you are only human! If anyone is evil, it has to be that other person, not you. That sort of thinking is the very thing which is condemned in this text. You aren't better than the next poor sinner. The things you judge and look down on others for doing are the very things you do. How can you point out our neighbor's little splinter sins when you have a giant plank of your own?

Seeing the truth brings the hearts of sinners to anguish. Jesus says, “[The disciple] who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Yet clearly you are not like your Teacher. Who here today does not sin? Who here has found and removed the plank from his own eye? Who here today is not “as His Master”? Examine your life in the lens of Holy Scripture, where you see how our Lord lives and interacts with the people around Him. Ask yourself, “Have I loved the Lord my God with all my heart? Have I loved my neighbor as myself?” And when you recognize that you have not done so, all that’s left for the sinner is judgment. The plank is lodged in your eye, and you cannot remove it.

But our Lord offers comfort even for those who cannot dislodge their own plank. At the Word of Christ, those who know they are not like their Teacher are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ. The same Word that spoke all things into existence also speaks your holiness and righteousness. You are made to be like your Teacher. You who know you don’t love your enemies; you who know it’s against your nature to forgive; you who know you have no desire to show mercy—you are loved by the God who your old Adam made into an enemy. You are forgiven by the God who paid the price with His own blood to wash away your sin. You are shown mercy by the God whose very nature is mercy.

Christ is speaking to you this morning, He is inviting, beckoning, calling, urging, desiring, drawing, requesting, nudging, to this very altar. He speaks His life-giving Word to you to forgive all your sins. He feeds you with His body and blood, fulfilling in you all righteousness, again bestowing every baptismal grace and goodness so that you may stand against the fleshly onslaught that says you are not our Lord’s child and disciple.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are good. Don’t come here and pretend as if you have some sort of special claim on God through your own merit. After all, God owes you nothing. But don’t be afraid to come. After all, everything God has for you is a free gift in His Son. Approach His altar with confidence, trusting that Christ is merciful even as His Father is merciful. He shows His mercy and grace to the ungrateful and evil—yes even to you and to me—so that, by His washing with water with the Word, by His Word of forgiveness, by His body and blood, you may be fully trained to be merciful, even as your Lord and Master is merciful. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sermon for 6/15/16: The Funeral of Rosalie McCaw

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our text is taken from Philippians Chapter 4. We consider these words:

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Thus far our text.

When death comes to the relief of one whose life was marked by sorrow and suffering, both the godless and the believers can be heard to say, “Her death was a great blessing.” For the godless, this conveys the idea that it was better for her to be dead than to be alive. But even if death were man's utter extinction, as the godless claim to believe, it would be a mockery to welcome something which has taken a loved one from a family. When a Christian says, “Her death was a great blessing,” it means something much different. In your grief, your hearts, which ache at the great loss you have sustained, yearn for a word comfort and contentment. So let me tell you this truth: Truly, Rosalie’s death was a great blessing to her; she is better off now than she was.

Among Christians, these words are flowing with comfort. We have not lost those who died, and those who died have gained great things. They are delivered from all sorrow and suffering. And that perhaps is the least gain. The most precious gain is this: by reason of the faith she was given in Holy Baptism, Rosalie now rests in the arms of her Savior. That is our comfort and our hope this day.

It is a characteristic of people to seek contentment, to desire to be satisfied with their lives. We spend a great deal of time and money and energy seeking contentment. Occasionally and for brief periods of time, we might even achieve a bit of contentment. A couple works hard to raise their children, give them an education, and send them out into the world, all the while saving enough money to retire and travel. But very quickly we realize that contentment gained through money, security, travel and the good life do not prevent sickness or tragedy from entering into our lives. What had been contentment turns quickly into confusion and restlessness. So we ask, “Where can I find contentment? Is there such a thing as being content which applies to this life and beyond?”

Paul wrote to his beloved Christian friends: I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content Here was a man who had been imprisoned for his faith, felt the thirty-nine lashes of the whip on his back on five occasions, was beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, threatened by Jews and Gentiles, endangered by rivers and robbers, and was adrift at sea for a night and a day. In addition to that, he lived with the fact that he was personally responsible for the imprisonment and probably the death of the many Christians he had persecuted before his conversion. How in the world could he be content?

Rosalie experienced some tremendous disappointments and tragedies—none more painful than the death of her son. She expended a great amount of energy caring for her husband at the end of his life. And especially in the last month or so, Rosalie experienced great physical pain of her own. Even so, she was content. Where in the world can one find such contentment? Certainly, and especially at times like this, you recognize it is not in money, pleasure, material possessions, family, people, or any other thing in this world. For these all soon vanish. It is not to be found in oneself, for inside ourselves we find a guilty conscience that will not let us rest, a mind that is not always wise, a body that is getting sick and old. Even within this room today, each of us is inching closer to our own death. Who will be next? How long will it be before your mortal remains occupy a container like this? Such thoughts do not make us very content!

Where can we find contentment? It can be found only where both the Apostle Paul and Rosalie found it: in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In perfect grace, God looked upon mankind's hopelessness and eternal destruction, and He intervened. The sinless Son of God was born to suffer like a sinner, and He lived to die on the cross. He died so that we would live, so that all of God's wrath for sinners would be paid with His own blood, so that we would be totally and completely acceptable to the Almighty. If God allowed that to happen to His own Beloved Son on the cross, do you think that He doesn't want to forgive you and call you his own? The Resurrection of Christ gives us the guarantee that death is not the end. Death is where real life begins: life with God forever, where there will be no more pain or suffering, no more mourning, and especially no more death! This what Saint Paul believed, and he is eternally content. This is what Rosalie believed, and she is eternally content. And this Good News can make you content too. It doesn't matter what is in your past. It doesn't matter that you don't know what tomorrow will bring. It doesn't matter whether you are in sick or healthy, rich or poor, old or young, man or woman. Christ died and rose for you so that you would be an heir of heaven.

Rosalie is now fully content. Where she is, there is no more sorrow nor pain nor suffering nor even death, for she is forever with her Lord. And on top of that, she is reunited with Bill and Don and all those she loved who had gone before her in the faith. Knowing that, you and I can say by faith that her death was a great blessing. Knowing that, you and I as believers are able to look forward to a heavenly reunion with Rosalie, with Don, with Bill, and with all those who have departed this life as children of God. And knowing that, you and I, like Rosalie, can be content, both now and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sermon for 6/12/16: Third Sunday After Trinity

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Search and Rescue

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The scribes and Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would eat with sinners. And these weren’t just regular sinners; they were notorious sinners, sinners who had betrayed their own people. Imagine drug dealers. Imagine serial killers. Imagine traitors who sold state secrets to ISIS. And there’s Jesus, a respected rabbi, hanging out with them and eating with them. What an outrage! 
Jesus could very well have given them reasons they could accept. He could have said that He was calling them to repentance, showing them a better way to live. But He didn't. Instead He told them a parable in which He placed those notorious sinners on equal footing with the Pharisees. They are all His lambs. They are all His coins, all His sons. Even while they're lost, while they're off squandering the inheritance, while they hate Him, mock and ridicule Him, while they scourge and murder Him, they are His lambs, His coins, His sons. He loves them and He wants them back. All of them are precious and valuable to Him. All of them have been reconciled to the Father in His Sacrifice. He died for every single one of them. He loves them all. And now Hell has nothing more to demand, for there is not a single sin that has not already been covered.
This can be hard to accept. We would like some justice and maybe even some vengeance. We'd like the other sinners to pay for what they've done. We'd like the world to know their shame and sorrow, how bad and stupid and selfish they really are. We'd like them to feel some of the pain that they've caused. But like King David, who was outraged by Nathan’s parable but ignored his own sin in causing Uriah’s death, we too are guilty of the sins we despise. Let David's repentance be your guide. Let the Psalms teach you the faith and teach you to sing: “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed. You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” The truth is, if you are no better than David, neither are you any less forgiven. Your hope is no less assured. God doesn’t love you any less.
The Lord of Life seeks out for sinners. He loves them. He wants to be with them, to eat and laugh with them, to love them. He did not come to berate them, scold, or educate them. He wants to serve them, encourage and support them. That is what makes the Pharisees and scribes mad. No one would be upset if He came to teach these bad people a lesson. But to simply forgive and love them? That seems too naive and foolish. Our Lord doesn't care what shame it brings: He loves sinners. He searches for them, receives them, and eats with them. He lets them off the hook without cost or effort, without promise or condition. And if you are His friend, you will rejoice with Him over every sinner that He finds, restores, blesses, and prospers. You will rejoice to call them your brother or sister in Christ. 
This is the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus receives and eats with sinners. It seems almost too good to be true. But it is not cheap grace. It cost our Father the Life of His Son. But still, despite your sin, Jesus seeks you. He searches for you. He wants you because He loves you. God be praised! Jesus receives and eats with sinners. And if that is the heart and soul of our faith, then surely the most significant place of His eating with sinners is where He gives them His Body and His Blood; where He enters into them and makes them His new Temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; where He forgives sins and unites them to Himself in the foretaste of the banquet to come. What is offered this day is none other than the Lord’s Supper, and He gives it to you. You are found, and all the angels rejoice. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Sermon for 6/5/16: Second Sunday After Trinity

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

When Jesus speaks in parables, He’s explaining how the Kingdom of God comes. And the Kingdom of God comes in Jesus Christ Himself. In Christ, the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is present, here right now, in the One the Father sent to be slaughtered in your place, cut to pieces on a cross and prepared for your salvation. It is clear that the Lord wants everybody in His Kingdom. He wants everyone at the Feast of His Son.

It is also clear that most won’t come. Sinners don’t feel the need for such a Feast. In fact, they find the Feast so worthless that they make excuses not to attend. Those who do come must be compelled, even dragged in the door. People will be saved in spite of themselves, simply because of the desire of the One who prepares the Meal. And what a Meal! As your own favorite meal is prepared by a chef with fancy knives, a state-of-the-art oven, and an open flame—or however it’s prepared—so the Father let His Son be offered up in love, and now He is served to you in Word and Sacraments for your forgiveness. All things are now ready. Nothing is lacking.

But the excuses are as plentiful as they are creative. “I’ve bought some land, and I have to go see it.” “I’ve bought oxen and I have to test them.” “I just got married.” The proud and arrogant think that they can prey upon the generosity and patience of God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that keeps you from the Feast? What prevents you from crying out for the Supper? What sins entangle you too often and keep you from the Lord’s Table? Now, you might think that this sermon is being preached to the choir. But who hasn't wanted the best of both worlds: the pleasures of the flesh, honor among men, luxuries, freedom, and constant amusement on the one hand, and the joys and peace of heaven on the other? Who here cries out for the Supper as often as possible? Who here is ready to lose job, family, reputation, and wealth for the Kingdom of God? We all promised that in our Confirmation vows. Did we really mean it? Do not think that you can enjoy forbidden fruit now and grasp heaven for cheap when it is more convenient.

Repent. Hear the warning. God says, “None of those who were invited shall taste of my Supper.” He will not be mocked. Now is the hour of salvation. Tomorrow may never come. No one buys a piece of land without seeing it first. No one buys a tractor without first testing it. God is not fooled by lip-service, by going through the motions. He is not appeased by excuses. Stop playing games with your soul, planning to sin now and repent later. Stop thinking that your sins are reasonable and bring no guilt. Stop thinking that you have some special relationship to God where He indulges your sins. Repent. Repent now. There is only one case of death-bed repentance in all of the Scriptures. While no man should despair and think it is too late, neither should any one presume. The invitation is not for tomorrow. It is for today. It is for right now. And it is for you.

All things are ready. Nothing is lacking. It is finished. God has made peace with man. He has given His Son to us. Jesus has given us life by His resurrection. And still He gives. He gives His body and blood for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. He desires that you call upon Him and rest in Him. He wants you here. Whatever you've done, whatever evil things you've dreamed and thought, whatever lies you've told, whatever has held you back from the altar: bring all of it. Confess it. God has paid for all of it in His Son. Receive His holy Absolution and live. The land can wait. The oxen—your new tractor—will be there when you get home. Bring your new spouse with you. Come. All things are ready, and He is waiting for you. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.