29 May 2016

A blessing too great to keep to self...

...this fine, fine homily by Pr. Gleason this morning at Divine Service:

Sermon for Trinity 1, 2016
Luke 16:19-31 • Rev. William Gleason

The joyous glory of Easter is over; the splendor of Pentecost and the majesty of Trinity Sunday are now behind us. So, today, the first Sunday after Trinity, we enter into that part of our liturgical year called the Time of the Church. Our focus on everything our Lord Jesus has done for us, from Advent to Ascension, now shifts slightly from adoring Him to following in His holy way.

And the first Gospel we hear as we follow our Savior is the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus. It serves as a prologue to a half year of lessons that end with its fulfillment at Judgment Day and the separation of the sheep and goats. This is a story of two men whose lives in this world are so very different; and whose lives in the world to come remained so very separate. It’s as though they are an illustration of those closing words of the Athanasian Creed we recited last Sunday: “At [Christ’s] coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds. And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.” Now, says Jesus, this is what that looks like: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.” 

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, whom St. Luke pointed out in verse 14 “were lovers of money.” The description of the Rich Man fit most of them to a tee. Imagine Jesus telling a story to us that started out: “There was a Lutheran who came to church dressed in comfortable clothes and ate very well at potlucks.” Not one of us could exclude ourselves from that description. Neither could the Pharisees; they understood exactly of whom our Lord was referring.

Jesus, however, was not singling out the Pharisees in this story, such as He did in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Rich Man here was both unnamed and, except for his wealthy portrayal, untitled. He could be anyone that owned property, or did business, or enjoyed the comforts of this world. Such as…you and me.

That’s one of the points of this story. The Rich Man was simply a man of the world, and a successful man of the world. That’s why he “was clothed in purple and fine linen and…feasted sumptuously every day.” He understood how the world worked, what made men tick, and how to exploit it to his advantage. But, in spite of all his savvy and success that made him so rich in this world, he died the poor, miserable sinner he was when he was born. And the rewards he enjoyed in this world could not save him from the condemnation that rested on him and every sinner. That is the warning our Lord has for all who may hear this word.

The contrast with the other man could not be starker. He was not rich, but poor, tragically poor. His raiment was sores and ulcers. His food was the garbage that was thrown out and for which he probably had to fight off the same dogs that licked his sores. Yet, in spite of his suffering and deprivations, Jesus calls him by name: Lazarus, which means “He who is Helped by God.” The man who had nothing but sorrow in this world still had a Helper who cared for him and would deliver him. Lazarus may have asked countless times, “From where shall my help come?” And the answer was always, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” This man—this poor and suffering sinner—rather than the other man, was carried up to join all the faithful in heaven. That’s because he relied solely on the mercy and grace of God for his help. And that is the promise our Lord holds out to all who hear this word.

Notice that Jesus did not then say, “Which do you want to be?” He does not give us choice in the matter. But, He does make it undeniably clear that there is a difference between the one man and the other, and between their differing ends. It is a difference that in eternity can never be reconciled, but in this world still may be. It is a reconciliation that comes through Christ.

Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. He atoned for all sins through His death and resurrection, fulfilling everything that Moses and the prophets had written. When He had finished His work and ascended to His Father, He then sent His Apostles to preach that word of grace and forgiveness to the world so that all who hear may believe and be saved. 

Jesus, like Lazarus, was a poor man laid at our gate. He had no place to lay His head. He bore the cankerous infirmities of our sins. On the cross, He was surrounded by the blood-thirsty dogs that desired His wounds and relished in His suffering. His food was only to do His Father’s will, even if it meant suffering and death. And, throughout all of this, He trusted God to help Him. He put His confidence in God, the God who “kills and brings to life; [who] brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD [who] makes poor and makes rich; [who] brings low and he exalts. [Who] raises up the poor from the dust; [who] lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8) 

And that image of our suffering Savior goes forth with the proclamation, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And with that announcement comes the promise:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This is the Gospel that has been proclaimed from the beginning of this world’s history. It is the Gospel that Moses and the prophets preached. It is the Gospel that Abraham heard and believed, and in believing was counted righteous. It is the Gospel that raises up the poor, miserable sinner from the dust of death; and lifts the needy beggars from the ash heap of sin to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor in the Father’s kingdom. It is the Gospel of Him who has risen from the dead to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all men, rich and poor alike, that they may escape the eternal torments of hell. It is the powerful word of God that can save all people who hear and believe this good news. Through His word, God helps us in our infirmities, in our suffering, and in our need, upholding us in our faith to endure to the end.

So now, we, who have been raised up from the dust of death through our baptism into Christ, are called to love in the same way our Savior loved us. Without complaining when suffering comes upon us; with patience and trust in God’s help, knowing and believing the love that God has for us. For, although, as John said, we have not seen God, we have beheld our Savior in His Word and in His Supper. And it is only by His Spirit that we may confess that Jesus, our Lord, is the Son of God; and by that same Spirit we abide in God and God in us. That is our confidence in this world now, and it shall be our confidence in the Day of Judgment. Amen.

27 May 2016

A few pics...

... from recent conference in California

Homily for Floor Committee Weekend

[Text: John 7]

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

For the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, a priest would march down to the pool of Siloam, where the waters of the Gihon spring gathered, and dip in a great golden pitcher, gather up the water and take it in solemn procession back up to the gate of the temple where it would be ceremoniously poured out, the choir singing "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." They were liturgically enacting the prophesy from Ezekiel 47, where the trickle of water that would flow from the altar and turn into an ever growing stream, starting in low and starting to grow, life erupting wherever it went and healing all in its path. And what happened but smack dab in the middle of this solemn rite, up stands the upstart from Nazareth and shouts out, disrupting the liturgy! You can hear the hush, sense the uneasiness. "What's the fellow up to NOW?" mutter the priests.

"Look, anyone who is thirsty needs to come to me; and whoever believes in me can drink it up. For as the Scripture says: from His heart will flow rivers of living water." 

John makes sure we understand exactly what this is all about: Jesus, the evangelist says, spoke about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive, for the Spirit had not yet showed up, since Jesus was not yet glorified.

If anyone is thirsty. You are thirsty. And it's a thirst that water can't quench. You're thirsty for love. Real love. God's kind of love. No fallen human being can quench that thirst, because every human love will let you down, and when it does, it will only drive home the pain of your thirst all the more. So you try to find ways to medicate the pain of the never ending thirst. Alcohol. Porn. Making an idol of your spouse. Your kids. Your church. 

And through it all, you're restless. How well did St. Augustine capture this when he said we're like people trying to sleep in too small a spot, turning this way and that and unable to get comfortable no matter what posture we assume. We need a bigger place, a place where we can stretch out. This is what the thirst for love does to a person: because no human loves can satisfy it. All our love is broken, tainted with self-interest, and it always ends up wounding our hearts further. And even the most blessed of human loves, end up wounding us in death. "It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch." No, we're thirsting for a love, bigger, more spacious, in which we can truly stretch out, rest, never lose and enjoy forever! We thirst for it.

"Thou hast made us for us Thyself and our souls are restless until they rest in Thee." Only from the Spirit that flows from the heart of Jesus can we know and taste a real and true human love that finally and fully and joyously satisfies the thirst of the human heart. For only from the heart of Jesus will you find a love that will hold you tight no matter what comes, a love that is without conditions and limitations, and boundaries. Not a "I'll stay with you so long as I love you," not even a love as strong as death, but far stronger! A love you can't screw up, because this love runs over from the pure fountain of Love Himself. And the Spirit, He comes to bring this love into your wounded heart. He comes to convince you that you have been loved by such a love, the gift of your heavenly Father in the sending of His Son and the Son's sending of the Spirit.

John is at pains in his Gospel to make sure you know that the body of Jesus is the temple of God. In the prolog: "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." Early, already in chapter 2, the words ring out: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." We're told He spoke of the temple of His body. In tonight's passage, He puts His heart as the very temple from which the living water Ezekiel saw would spring up and overflow. His heart. And so in John 19, you have His heart pierced, His side opened. It's John's version of the tearing of the temple veil. Not just so you can look in and see the Father's heart. The Father's heart comes gushing out toward you in a stream of blood and water. 

So the hymn has it all wrong (sorry, Vieker). You don't need to come to Calvary's holy mountain, sinners ruined by the fall, precisely because there a pure and healing fountain that flows out for you, for me, for all, in a full, perpetual tide, opened when our Savior died. You don't need to go to Calvary, because that pure and healing fountain brings the love of Calvary right to you, bridging all time and distance. The Spirit's great joy and task is to bring the love of Christ, the love with which His Father has loved Him from before the ages began, home to you, to reveal to you that THIS love is yours. That YOU have been loved in the Son. Forever. Eternally. We sing it aright in another hymn: Almighty Father, in Your Son, You loved us when not yet begun was this old earth's foundations. The Spirit does this through Christ's Words, through His Sacraments. The trickle of Calvary becomes after Easter and Pentecost the torrent of Baptism, the ocean of the Eucharist. His love coming at you, filling you, drowning you with overflowing joy.

Pietism lives in the terror that His love isn't really a fountain, but a faucet. That it can be turned off. And so fear. Will he turn it off? Have I angered so much with my sin that's ready to turn the handle and leave me dry and parched? Have we? Only perfect love can cast out that fear, and perfect love is what Christ reaches you. His love for you, not yours for Him. That's what casts out all fear. A perfect love that flows unendingly from the stricken rock with streaming side, from the very Altar of the Temple, the Cross where He bled to cover over your every sin and hush your every fear and pour out on you and into you a love that endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things, that never fails, and it won't fail you for it hangs not in the least upon you and your doings. It's the only love that can finally begin to heal the human heart; it's the love we thirst for. It's the love that cries out in your heart: I am His and He is mine, Abba, dear Father!

And He calls you to come and drink of that Spirit love richly. Drink up, beloved! It's heady stuff. As you begin your work this weekend, I pray you do so as those who know that you are people loved by God. And I further pray that every action you recommend to the Synod be shaped in that love, in the service of that love, and for the sake of sharing that love with the poor souls who do not know yet that the love for which they thirst actually is and is for them.

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

20 May 2016


grandson #3, grandchild #5 has safely arrived. Welcome, Henry David Weedon! Your arrival wore your daddy plumb out. 

17 May 2016

Delightful Conference

What joy to attend the Gottesdiesnt Conference on AC XIV! Three wonderful sermons (Petersen, Ball, Eckardt), three beautiful liturgies (Matins, Divine Service, and Vespers), three papers well prepared and delivered (Braaten, Curtis, Eckardt), a fine address by President Harrison, and some good and lively discussion. 

Random reflections on the worship:

The ringing harmonies of Venite and Te Deum...the joy of chanting Psalm 85...the intense praying that was evident as we sang "To God the Holy Spirit, Let Us Pray"...the reverent reading of the Word...solid preaching (not once or twice but thrice!)...the careful handling of our Lord's body and blood both in consecration and as we knelt to receive it from the hands of the Lord's servants...the unaccompanied singing of Let All Mortal Flesh...the simplicity of Vespers...clouds of incense at Magnificat...collects offered at the Daily Office always odd in number (3 at Matins, 5 at Vespers)...the gift that is Pentecost Tuesday. 

Conclusions: NOTHING beats the old Common Service and the prayer offices. No creation of the 20th or 21st century even comes close.

A good day. A very good day.

13 May 2016


Ah, the utter magic of looking at an inbox with nothing in it! Everything sorted and assigned. I wish someone had told me years ago how fabulous this is.

11 May 2016

Last Lecture

from the Indiana District North Pastoral Conference:

The Wrap Up

Oh ye that have made it to the bitter end, we’ve seen that when our preaching is apostolic preaching, it proclaims a Christ foretold in the prophets, who through the events of His life climaxing in His cross, resurrection, and return to His Father has opened to us forgiveness and eternal life and placed these as gifts for us in specific locations to which we summon and invite His people as together we wait for His return in glory as judge of all. 

We saw that this preaching has a context in which it lives: a liturgical context that is composed of a Church Year because there’s too much joy in our Lord’s life and ministry to fit into a single celebration, and a liturgical context that is shaped by the passages that are read from God’s Word and proclaims the Gospel from those passages not just by reading them aloud and sermonizing on them, but proclaiming them in hymn, liturgy, song, and even prayer. Also  a liturgical context where the big move is from Word to element that becomes Sacrament (Verbum accedat ad elementum et fit sacramentum). By the way, I neglected to point out that this is of course the pattern of the incarnation: the Word that comes to the flesh which is the element to be sacrament, that is, life for the world. Or as John says it: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. So you see the deep connection between incarnation and divine service, which St. Leo rejoiced in when He said that the incarnation continues in the sacraments (plural is the old way of referring to the Eucharist like the mysteries still does in the East).

We also saw that these readings and this liturgical context take place in an ecclesial context: a body of believers that reaches through the ages and that has long thought about these texts and provides us with invaluable insight and a great starting place for hearing the riches that are in them. We’re part of a body and not isolated individuals as we receive the stories whose being preached and heard has quite literally created this pilgrim throng.

And in that we noted that we are part of a Reformation heritage among those pilgrims that particularly rejoiced in the gift of preaching as comfort, comfort to terrified consciences (which arise from the unity of the First Commandment’s explanation: if you trust God you believe His word of law and so FEAR His wrath and if you trust God, you believe His Word of Gospel and so love Him for His unspeakable grace… fear, love, and trust.). 

I’d like to spend the last bit of our time together with reflections on some practical issues in preaching. I mentioned already the problem of what some call biblical literacy, and particularly OUR biblical literacy. I’d like to suggest a two fold approach here, well, the Scriptures actually suggest it. First, that you live in the Word and second, that the Word lives in you. 

Now, you live in the Word when you treat the Scriptures like a delightful old house, huge and rambling, that’s your home. And you wander through it and explore the secrets of the stuff in its attics and basements as you often did as a child on a rainy day. It’s your home and only by these big wanderings will you pick up the questions such as: “Why did the Holy Spirit think it important for us to know that Beniah killed a lion in a cistern on a day that the snow fell?” It’s the only way you come across the hidden gems (not just the huge Hope diamonds like hidden away in Nehemiah 8 and worth the whole book: “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” but the ones that you can parlay up into something like a book called The Prayer of Jabez. It IS an interesting prayer smack dab in the middle of the most boring list, but you’ll never find it unless you go exploring). My suggestion for the exploring is simply to get it on your phone and dedicate a season like Lent or Advent, to listening to the whole thing from start to finish, say whenever you get in the car to drive to a call or run an errand. You might want to throw the Apocrypha in there too. Set your speed to 2X normal voice and let the words just wash over you. Don’t try to remember, you’re exploring and there will be stuff that sticks and much that just washes over. It’s okay. It’s your home. You’ll visit it again and again. Just let it wash.

But there’s the need to live in the home daily, and for that I don’t think the audible option is the best. For this you have Treasury or something like that. Treasury (or PrayNow) tops the other resources in my opinion because it lets the readings live in the liturgical and ecclesiastical contexts we referred to before, and because it’s so blasted easy and simple to use and we have many lay folk joining you in that daily way of living in the Word.

That’s you living in the Word, but the specific Word you are to preach on a given week needs to have lived in you. Sometime Sunday afternoon or evening, pick up the next Sundays texts and read them. Read them aloud to yourself. Don’t worry about the original yet, just let the way they’ll be read in the Assembly start living in you. Read them over slowly. And let them start to perk. Do it every single day of the week, but then add your study of the original, the look at commentaries and how the church has preached them across the ages, check the index of your Book of Concord, or Chemnitz’ Loci Theologici. Or pick up that wonderful commentary on the Gospels that Carver translated and CPH published from the Reformation fathers. 

Pick up different versions and read them too. Preferably aloud. There’s always insights there. The JB’s rendering of “that Christ may be all and in all” as “there is only Christ and He is everything and in everything.” Or the famous Philipp’s rendition of Romans 12: “don’t let the world squeeze into its mold.” Or AAT’s wonderfully simple rendering of Titus 3: “He saved us by the washing in which He gave us a new birth and a new life.” Let the translations help you. And if you can do German, check out Luther and you get some aha’s along the way. The exhortation to Timothy we heard in the Divine Service on Monday takes new light. “Do the work of an evangelist” it reads in English, but Luther renders it “Do the work of a Gospel preacher.” Ah!

The new tools make working with the Greek or Hebrew a snap compared to what it used to be. Do you remember lexicons that weren’t readily available by tapping on a word? Or what about when you want to trace a word through a writer or the whole of the Bible: concordances? Think of the agony that went into preparing those tools that now are so obsolete. Use the new goodies to the full!

So, you in the Word and the Word in you. But as you examine the Word, don’t forget to think in terms of Franzmann’s hermeneutical circles. When you’re dealing with a specific term and you’re pondering it, note first how it’s being used in that specific context (which means don’t take pericope as permission to ignore what’s in front and what’s after). Then pay attention to how that author in other books (if you’re blessed to have them) uses a word. Then move to how it is used in the Scriptures as a whole. This unravels lots of theological conundrums. God chose to give us His revelation in story and language through words and words work in the Bible the way words work in normal usage: a given person doesn’t always use the same vocable to mean the same thing, and a given vocable between many people may mean something slightly different depending on how its speaker is using it in context. Which is a long way of saying that Voelz and the modern school aren’t all wrong. 

But even more recognize that words call to each other, shade into each other, have a life of their own. And that their history (etymology, if you will) is curious but actually not terribly informative, because how I use a word NOW is usually not cognizant of how it was used in ages past. The exception is when the word lives in living stories such as we have in the Bible. I don’t think that it is an accident that in LXX we have monogenes in the offering of Isaac. That NT use in John 3 and other places is pulling on that earlier use (and frankly, for the NT, you have more joy of the LXX uses than you do of Hebrew precedents).

As the words for this week make their home in you and perk, as you study and ponder them, as you pray them and hear God speak in them (for He does speak in them!), you begin to answer the question we began with: “What shall I cry?” Through these words, there is always a wonder. There is always something that begins to press itself upon you in awe and astonishment and sometimes in puzzlement. They lead you to wonder.

With the wonder comes the key, I believe, to preaching. The doxological key. There is that in the words which will move you to awe and praise. O Lord, open my lips, you have prayed, and my mouth will declare your praise! “Declaring the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!” What leads to the awe, to the praise, to the adoration? What is in this text that God reveals of Himself that moves you to lift the entire worlds concerns and the concerns of those you personally know and love and drop them in His lap, and then run to His sacramental embrace? What moves to praise? Preach THAT. Do you remember Justin’s words I quoted yesterday: the President of the Assembly invites us into the pattern of these beautiful things. Dr. Stuckwisch point out that ends up at the Table, but the joy in the beauty of these things is what moves the feet to the table, the mouths to petition. 

Dr. Nagel taught us to get at this by asking: What is the Jesus proprium? What is the Jesus that these readings give you that you don’t get it elsewhere? What’ the unique gift that they offer? The unique insight? The joyful aha that coheres with all the other ahas but brings a joy unique to the day in the church’s year and life?

Can you put it into a single sentence? Worry at it and think about it until you can. Because then your sermon writing is almost done. If you can put it into the sentence (what some homiletcs folks call the dominant thought), then you can almost always tap that gem at just the right spot and it breaks open the texts to the joy of God’s people who then join you at marveling as you hold it up to them and it beams with the light of God in the darkness of this world beckoning and calling them home in joy. Isaiah 60, the Epiphany OT reading. The light that shines and people living in the darkness marvel at what they see, drawn to it, and begin the journey home, no longer filled with discouragement and terror at the shadow of death, but in that light standing and walking toward its source, singing with joy the praises of the One calling them into His marvelous light. Because once they were not a people, but now they are the people God. Once, they had not obtained mercy, but now they have obtained mercy. 

And the very final consideration: should you write it out. Depends entirely on you. The church historically has tended to have it written out. The advantage is that it can then be shared and have a life beyond the hearers right there. Sometimes others did the writing out (the case often with Luther), but for us today, it’s rather easy to write it out and then share it so that those even beyond that Eucharistic assembly might also have the joy of learning to praise God for this or that insight that the Holy Spirit gave you from the texts. 

And that’s about the sum of what I had to share with you all. I hope that in the jumble somethings may have struck a chord here or there and been of use. Now, any questions, comments, or insights you all would like to share?

05 May 2016

Homily upon Ascension

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

Today, we meditate upon a single verse in our Gospel.  These words:  “So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”  

When you hear, “sat down” what do you think of?  Do you picture Jesus sitting up in heaven, twiddling his thumbs, and waiting patiently for His Father to give Him the signal that the time has come to return again in glory?  What is He up to as He sits at the right hand of the Father?

First thing we need to clear up is this right hand business.  The sacred writer is not giving you hints about heavenly geography, so that when you get to heaven you’ll know on which side of the Father to look to see the Lord Jesus.  Right hand is bigger than that!  

Recall the words of the Psalmist:  “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.  The right hand of the Lord is exalted.  The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”  Ps. 118:16

The right hand of the Lord in scripture is not a place, but a power!  It is almighty power.  And so to say that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God is to say that He has all power, that He rules and governs all things!  Listen to how Paul said it in Ephesians:  “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Eph 1:20-23

So, when we confess in the Creed that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father we confess that the human nature which He assumed from the womb of the Blessed Virgin, and in which He offered to God the sufficient ransom to release all people from the debt of sin and the power of death, that this human nature has now been exalted and raised above every height imaginable, given the exercise of all power in heaven and on earth.  The One who bears in His hands the scars of the nails now rules over all!

So when I complain about the way things go in my life, when I gripe about the troubles of the world or of the Church, I am actually complaining about the way the Crucified and Risen One sees fit to govern, aren’t I?  Puts a different perspective on life, doesn’t it?  Me pitting my puny wisdom and ideas against the omnipotence and wisdom of Christ.

In the early days of the Church, this was not forgotten.  Even as the persecutions raged and people died for the faith, they never forgot the One in charge.  There’s a writing called the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp that comes down to us from those earliest days of the Church.  It’s a fascinating little document, but where it really soars is at the end.  Listen:  “It was the second day of the first fortnight of Xanthicus, seven days before the calends of March, when our blessed Polycarp died his martyr’s death two hours after midday on the Greater Sabbath.  The official responsible for his arrest was Herod; the High Priest was Philip of Tralles; and the proconsul was Statius Quadratus – BUT THE RULING MONARCH WAS JESUS CHRIST, WHO REIGNS FOREVER AND EVER.  TO HIM BE ASCRIBED ALL GLORY, HONOR, MAJESTY, AND AN ETERNAL THRONE FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION.”  (Martyrdom of Polycarp, par. 21)

What confidence and peace those early Christians had as they remembered and confessed who sits upon the throne of this universe!  It can give the same confidence and peace to us.

But there’s even more to being seated at the right hand of God.  Our Lord Jesus not only rules all things for the well-being of His holy Church!  He also constantly intercedes for us before the Father.  The writer to Hebrews put it this way:  “Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them!”  (Hebrews 7:25)  For you, He prays.  When you sin, He says to His Father, “Father, forgive.  Look not upon the sin, but upon these scars that testify that I have answered for all their sin.”  Thus He is our Mediator, the one who stands in the breach between us and God.  His being Mediator did not cease when the work of the cross was done.  He continues to be our Mediator by His unceasing intercession for us by which He saves us to the uttermost.

And yet there’s even more.  Since the “right hand of God” is not to be thought of as a place, but as a power, the Ascension of our Lord does not remove Him from us, but brings Him closer to us.  Oh, His visible presence is removed.  But He is not removed.  His promise stands forever:  “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matt 28  St. Leo the Great got the hang of it.  He preached to his parish in Rome:  “The visible presence of Christ has passed into His sacraments.”  When you come to the altar today, you not only receive the Body and Blood that were offered in your place on Calvary’s tree for the forgiveness of your sin!  You receive the Body and Blood of Him who sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all things.  Thus Paul could rejoice that “He has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2)  The Sacrament lifts you that high!

How great then are the treasures contained in:  “And sat down at the right hand of God.”  Ruling every circumstance, and so peace displaces our complaining.  Interceding constantly for us, and joy drives out our anxieties.  Constantly with us in His sacraments, and so we are never alone, but always with Him who sits at the right hand of God.  Jesus, your Mediator.  Jesus, your King.  Jesus, your Risen, Ascended, and Glorified Lord.  To whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all glory and honor now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.   

03 May 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But because His mercy cannot be separated from His essence, it is greater in God than we can even imagine. Hence Hosea says in 11:8 "My mercy is kindled within me."—Chemnitz, Loci Theologici I:61.

Patristic Quote of the Day

My weight is my love; by it am I borne wherever I am borne. By Your Gift we are inflamed, and are borne upwards; we wax hot inwardly, and go forwards. We ascend Your ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with Your fire, with Your good fire, and we go, because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem; for glad was I when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. There has Your good pleasure placed us, that we may desire no other thing than to dwell there for ever.—St. Augustine, Confessions, XIII:9