26 February 2017

A beautiful homily

upon Quinquagesima...by Pr. Ball:

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Quinquagesima – February 25/26, 2017 a.d.
St. Luke 18:31-43 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Rev. BT Ball

"See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  After after flogging him, they will kill him and on the third day he will rise.  But they understood none of these things."

"So now faith, hope and love abide, these, three, but the greatest of them is love."

                   God loves you in Jesus Christ.  The Father has shown his love in sending his Son to accomplish everything written by the prophets.  He was delivered over to the Gentiles, mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged and killed on the third day he rose again   This is how God loves you.   In this way.   By nature we do not know love, not this Kind.  You can have all kinds of things, the ability to speak in a glorious way, understanding and knowledge and even faith strong enough to uproot a rocky mountain and move it around and without the love that is from Christ and is Christ, it is nothing.  Faith and hope are both passing away.  What lasts forever is love - God's love in Jesus Christ.  God the Father has always loved his Son and in him He always has been loving you.  Before the world was made, He loved you in His Son.  When the Blessed Trinity thought it right, this world was made, and the Three in One created an object of Divine affection.  From forever in the mind of God that object was this world, and more closely, the object of that affection was the Holy Church, and even still, the object of that love, the place right where it is focused -  is you.  And this is why love is the greatest.  It is before time and place, but in time and in place it is directed, all the way, completely to you in Christ.

Sinful man does not want the love in the way that it is given, sinful man seeks to destroy love and the one who loves.  A sinful heart does not want God loving by the cross.  Sinful hearts simply cannot understand or grasp God's love in Jesus Christ.   God sends his Son, and what does the world do in response, the scriptures show it - deliverance over to enemies, mockery, shameful treatment.  Sinful mankind spits on love.  Tries to destroy love by whipping it.  Sinful man would kill love by nailing him to a cross.   And this is true even for you as a Christian, for what do we do?  We crucify the Son of God again (Hebrews 6:6) in our sin as love is redefined to be about self and feelings, false definitions of love that provide only emptiness and shame.  Look how confused and fallen the love of mankind is.  God's law is a revelation of perfect love.  Love is the fulfilling of the law.  But we turn from that with our own sinful selfish desires.  Turning from both the Law of God and from the Gospel by seeking mercy and good and fulfillment from every place, from everything except the One who loves, the One who is love that never ends.

But yet God loves.  His love shown to you, given to you, in the word of the Gospel.  Jesus is headed up to Jerusalem to accomplish everything for you.  To love you, knowing your sin and taking it and its punishment.  That is the depth of his love.  He wants nothing else than to love you to death.   He fulfills His Father's will, He loves His Father and His Father loves you, so Jesus is willing to fulfill the Scriptures to be mocked, and be treated shamefully.  He does not turn from being spat upon and flogged.  He goes to be killed because in all of this He is loving you.  The Passion of Jesus.  His love.  All for you.  And you can see how the disciples couldn't understand it, how they couldn't grasp it.  How to their minds it was incomprehensible.  The foolishness of it all.  Right, only God could love in this way.  Only God does.  And freely, completely, He loves you and the Gospel is the revelation of such love, and the Spirit uses the words to create in you faith and hope in the love of God revealed. 

With God's love, you call out in hope and in faith, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."  You are the object of divine affection.  This is what the passion of Jesus reveals to you.  That the mercy of Jesus is yours.  That he will give you what you need, because he has given you himself.  God the Father has given you His Son, and with His Son, all love.  All this in the words and promises backed up by actions.  God said he loved his world, his people, you.  He does.  He showed it, He gave His Son that you, a sinner, would receive divine love, be the object of divine affection.  Now he says it and shows it again.  Love is patient, love is kind.  The cross of Jesus reveals the patience God has toward sinners, the kindness of divine mercy, and such loving kindness can be found.   It is at the altar for you today.  Here is great love of God, which was given and shed on the cross, given right to you.  Love for sure.  With no doubt.  And with this love, all sins taken away and faith and hope have their center, their foundation, their certainty.   And with this love all death  is destroyed.  And with this love – you have mercy, healing and peace.  Then in your life becomes and is one of praise, thanksgiving, following your Savior, keeping His law.  Loving God, loving those around you.  God loves you in Christ, the sinner, the weak, the sorrowing, the downcast, and the poor in spirit.  You love too, because  God first loved you in His Son.  He does right now.  He always will.  Amen.

Some Lenten Music?

I worked with Kevin Armbrust again to put together some Lenten music. I think of it as reflections on  a few of the great hymns of Lent and offer it for any who are interested:

Praise the Precious Blood

A big thank you to Steve Blakey for the use of the image. Too often the “precious blood” is thought of as something of the past, long ago, far away. No. As near as the holy chalice. “Take and drink; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”

09 February 2017

Today's Homily

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

Psalm 99

Reading: Exodus 34:29–35
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. "


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

So when he spent time in the presence of Yahweh, Moses was changed. And changed in a way that he himself didn't realize or know at first. But others noticed it about him. And it scared them. Maybe particularly those, like Aaron and Miriam who knew him best. And they were afraid to come near to him.

Fallen man senses that there's something, well, threatening a man who has spent time with Yahweh. It may be glory shining on the face like Moses. It may be a new limp like Jacob sported after the Jabbok wrestling match, up close and intimate, grabbed by Yahweh and grabbing him back. It's the odor of resurrection. It's the sense that Yahweh, good and glorious, is DEATH to things that we are not ready to have destroyed, but also compellingly that He is life and His presence, His grabbing hold of us and changing us, is what we were made for. So this glory that frightens us also at the same time, curiously draws us. It leaves one in that wondrous state called "awe." Frightened, intrigued, curious, but above all frightened. Freaked out.

And it's not just that something is "out of the ordinary," something that shakes up our world and turns upside down our sense of what is normal. It is that. But it is more. It is that haunting sense that we're looking at normal for the very time and realizing in its presence how abnormal, and dark, and dull, and twisted, and well, how hopelessly off base our usual thoughts about normal are, indeed, we ourselves are.

You see, don't you, that Moses here doesn't manifest a miraculous exception. Moses manifests what humanity was created to be, what indeed by God's grace it still may become, when it experiences the gracious presence of God: our bodies were made to be transfigured, we were meant to shine.

Jesus on the mountain top, then, gives the disciples a taste, but even bigger, of what Aaron and the Israelites had. Moses' glory wasn't permanent, as Paul does the midrash on this story in Second Corinthians. Moses' glory would fade. It was always a borrowed reality. A glory that came from being in the presence of Yahweh. Not something he had natively or that he could possess. Only always receive. You know, the way tans fade when you no longer spend time in the sun? So this glory faded. And because it was a borrowed light, kind of like the moon borrows light from the sun, it could be veiled over. Covered up. But in the Transfiguration there is no borrowing. The source of glory has come into human flesh. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among...and we have seen His glory, glory as the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" one of the eye witnesses would later write. And so even His clothes shine, His garments become light-bearing. The light isn't ON Him, but IN Him, from HIM. And in that glory Moses and Elijah appear. And the disciples freak out.

And this time the glory for Moses doesn't fade because He with unveiled face now beholds the glory of the Lord, beholds his Jesus. And this is what you were made for, and what you fell from: "all have fallen short of the glory of God." But this is precisely why Jesus has come to you. Come into your flesh to make YOUR flesh shine. And to do so He is headed to the Tree where instead of being wrapped in garments of glory he will bear the naked shame of the human race. Naked, not clothed in glory as humans were meant to be. Naked because He will own all our alien normality that is really foreign to the creatures He made us to be. He will own it all. All our inexplicable "no's" to divine love, all our fleeing and running away from glory and our embrace of shame and sorrow, cruelty and death. He will own it all. He will get into another wrestling match. This time with sin and death and He will hug them tight. So tight He'll squeeze the life out of them. All to effect the sweet swap, to hug YOU so tight that He can now give you the glory that Moses had but a taste of in his life, the glory that Aaron and the Israelites found so compelling and so terrifying, and the glory that Peter, James, and John saw that night on that mountain.

We wrap the newly baptized up in garments of white and cover coffins in white to hint at and suggest it: you've been embraced by Christ and now you are his and your destiny, son of Adam, daughter of Eve, is to shine with the glory of being a child of God! It's weird, scary, spooky, and all that. Yes. But it's where you're headed.

So grab it. Look at it. This stuff. This skin. Kin now to the Son of God, baptized into Him, fed with His immortal body and blood, it will shine! When He returns and you see Him as He is this will shine.  And sometimes even now, a hint of the light sneaks through and people sense it, they smell the odor of resurrection on you, intuit a glory hidden underneath the very present sin and struggles of your life that both draws and repels them. It's the mark that you've been in the presence of God and sometimes, you know, it just shows.

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

Hymn: "Jesus On The Mountain Peak" #415

RP 1 p. 282

Remember, kind Father, in Your infinite mercy all Your children who call out to You in time of need, especially Allen, Jan, Roger, Paula; Jonathan and his doctors and care givers; Joel and Krista; Randy and all who mourn the passing of his mother; Donna as she mourns the passing of her brother. Grant them a share in Your peace and the hope of Your promises. Remember also Vicar Paul Flo, serving in the Dominican Republic, and bless his time of service and learning in Your name. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

05 February 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

And the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David. I believe that the meaning of this passage is very simple, for in Christ's kingdom the merit of the faithful will no longer be looked at, but only the mercy, grace, and goodness of God, because of which Christ's kingdom is also called the kingdom of grace. In sum, the meaning is: All things work together for good for those who believe, because they are the children of grace. All things are forgiven them. They can't go wrong. Even if they have been foolish and weak at times, divine goodness shuts its eyes to that.—Luther on Zechariah 12, AE 20:137

Patristic Quote of the Day

For, when any one is brought to the font of baptism, not by the sweetness of preaching, but by compulsion, he returns to his former superstition, and dies the worse from having been born again. Let, therefore, your Fraternity stir up such men by frequent preaching, to the end that through the sweetness of their teacher they may desire the more to change their old life.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 47