19 January 2017

Homily on Romans 12:6ff.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Have you ever pondered what drew people to Jesus? I mean, we know some folks tried to treat him as a divine vending machine in human flesh. Shoot, you've probably done that too. I know I have. But why would they want to be stay with him, to hang around with him, to listen to him?

I suspect it was as simple as this: because He really cared. His love was "genuine" (without hypocrisy, which is more at the Greek in Romans 12). He never put on a show. And He didn't just care or love in the sense of having some kind emotion toward others. He really did take their problems, their heartaches, their troubles, as His own. I mean, that IS one aspect of what His cross was all about. "He carried our sorrows...."

So this real investment in others, so selfless, never once asking what was in it for Him, but only seeing your need and mine, and yours, and yours...this is what draws. This is the light that shines in Him. And we discover that this is the light of God Himself shining in this man. "In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness."

And it spills out. It spills out from Him into you. Into His Church. That's what Paul was describing in that lovely reading from Romans. If you're like me, when the imperatives start piling up, you're tempted to start tuning out. Or you pull the old Lutheran "well, that's law and I haven't done it and it's a good thing my sins are forgiven." It IS a good thing your sins are forgiven, but you've got to hear those imperatives for what they really are: they are invitations to you to partake of Christ's life. Because if you are clear that they don't describe you, they sure as shooting describe Him. Bless those who persecute you: how about I let 'em kill Me to blot out their sins and give them the gift of home with me and my Father and to pour upon them my Spirit to believe that my love for them is real and unshakeable. Contributing to the needs of the saints? How about feeding the hungry with His body and the thirsty with His blood and wrapping the naked in His perfect righteousness, and inviting the homeless into His home, and the lonely into a friendship that never ends. Do you see? All Paul did was to describe the life of Jesus and let you see that's no achievement you come up with; that's a gracious gift He's reaching you in the church, in His body. 

It's the beating heart of worship. His love poured out on sinners. Him calling us to come into His embrace and taste a love that abides forever. And that light of love that shines from Him animates His community, His Church, His family. That's the light that calls the nations still to come and hangout with Jesus. Without that love, the world will always yawn at our words. Mission. Evangelism. Call it what you will, but without love, the world calls it bull. But when we're known as the people who bless those who persecute us and live in constant prayer, and freely give to any brother or sister we see in need, then the world will ask about this light shining through us and among us, and it will be our joy to declare that it's not US, but it is Him, and it's for them too. So we invite the nations to join us in our worship of this God who never ceases to bathe us in the unfathomable and joyous light of His divine love in Jesus, His Son.

Hymn: #396 Arise and Shine in Splendor

15 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However, no human wisdom can understand the Creed. It must be taught by the Holy Spirit alone.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism II, Third Article, 67.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But with respect to trine immersion in baptism, no truer answer can be given than what you have yourself felt to be right; namely that, where there is one faith, a diversity of usage does no harm to holy Church.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 43

12 January 2017

Today's Chapel Homily

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us pray. Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 85

A reading from 1Corinthians 1:26–31:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

This is the Word of the Lord. R.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

St. Paul invites the Corinthians and us to reflect on our calling. How almost none of us would be counted as "the movers and shakers" of the world, then or now. Using worldly standards the overwhelming majority of Christians across history are sheer nobodies. And that makes us perfect stuff for our God to work with, because the God of the Sacred Scriptures seems to take a particular delight in making something out of nothing. He does it at creation, He does it with Abraham and Sarah, He does it little David whom nobody thought important enough to call to dinner where he ends up the anointed one, He does it with the way His Son slipped into the world at Bethlehem, and even the way He won our salvation on Calvary's cross. "He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world did not know Him."

Didn't know Him and so doesn't know you. Not for whom you really are. Children of God walking around, having a life that we're never going to lose, heirs of the entire planet, everything yours, all things working together, serving you for our good and blessing, reigning in life with Jesus.

The rich and powerful of the world raise a weary eye and say: "Yeah, you all going on telling yourselves that. See, Marx was right. This is the opiate these idiots inhale to keep 'em happy and hopeful as they stumble along as our slaves. Whatever works to keep 'em working and not thinking." And sometimes you wonder too, and doubt. But fear not!

The weak shame the strong, the low and despised and things that are not bring to nothing the things that are. And all to what end? To wipe out all human boasting in the presence of God. All our "look at me and what I did" with my own smarts, power, money, fame. Look and be glad that you have a servant like me, O God!

All that wiped out. Gone. Instead the Father looks at the man in the Jordan, His servant, His son (delightful how in the Greek of the Septuagint you can't tell which is which). Standing there in the water and the Father says: "This is my beloved Son. In Him I am well pleased." And this is IS your calling, people loved by God. To get in the water with Him, to stand where He stands and to hear the Father say the same of YOU. For it happened. When you got in the water with Jesus. Whether you remember it happening is irrelevant. Just remember that it happened. The Father looked at you and said: "This is my child, my daughter, my son, whom I love, with them I am well pleased."

Consider your calling. In your Baptism everything, absolutely everything, that is His is made over to you. His Father becomes your Father, His mother your mother, His home your home, His life becomes your life, His righteousness your righteousness, and then He becomes your sole boast. Your wisdom from God, your sanctification, righteousness, redemption. All Him. To be in Him, then, is to have absolutely everything; to be outside Him while having the best this world has to offer is to have only dust and ashes and to lose even that in the end.

The handful of water and the words He commanded deliver you into Him. Word and water seem so weak and lowly and despised. And yet, in them the power of God is at work. It is not the opiate the world imagines or that your worst doubts fear, but it is intoxicating! The LXX has Psalm 23 reads: Your cup of inebriation, how pleasant it is! Sweet. Yes, drunk with the Spirit and His sober joy we dance through life forevermore. The world will always think we're great fools, but better to be the Lord's fool than the world's wise or strong man! And so we invite the world to embrace the folly and join with us in the life that is in Jesus and in Him alone. Amen.

Hymn of the Day: #399 The Star Proclaims the King Is Here

Responsive Prayer I, p. 282 Morning Suffrages

11 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For (as explained above) we could never grasp the knowledge of the Father's grace and favor except through the Lord Christ. Jesus is a mirror of the fatherly heart.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, III, 65

Patristic Quote of the Day

For those who dissent from the Christian religion must needs be gathered together to unity of faith by gentleness, kindness, admonition, persuasion, lest those whom the sweetness of preaching and the anticipated terror of future judgment might have invited to believe should be repelled by threats and terrors. It is right, then, that they should come together kindly to hear the word of Godfrom you rather than that they should become afraid of overstrained austerity.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 35

09 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For here in all three articles God has revealed Himself and opened the deepest abyss of His fatherly heart and His pure, inexpressible love. He has created us for this very reason, that He might redeem and sanctify us. In addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has even given to us His Son and the Holy Spirit, who brings us to Himself —Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Article, par. 64

Patristic Quote of the Day

May almighty God make known to your heart with what love and with what charity my heart embraces you, though so far only as not to offend against divine grace. For I so attack your fault as to love your person; I so love your person as not to embrace the viciousness of your fault. —St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 34

08 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For now we are only half pure and holy. So the Holy Spirit always has some reason to continue His work in us through the Word. He must daily administer forgiveness until we reach the life to come. At that time there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people. We will be full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Article, par. 58

Patristic Quote of the Day

In proportion as the judgments of God are unsearchable ought they to be an object of fear to human apprehension; so that mortal reason, being unable to comprehend them, may of necessity bow under them the neck of a humble heart, to the end that it may follow with the mind's obedient steps where the will of the Ruler may lead.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 27

07 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness. Then we will come forth gloriously and arise in a new, eternal life of entire and perfect holines.—Luther, Large Catechism, Creed III:57

Patristic Quote of the Day

God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself.—St. Basil the Great, Letter 366