21 February 2019

Sermon on 1 Cor. 10:14ff.

Service of the Word

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

The Lord be with you. R.

Let us pray. O almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 115

Reading: 1 Cor. 10:14-22

1 Corinthians 10:14-22 (ESV) 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?


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

A 14th century english proverb runs: "He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon." That is, be cautious in getting too close; he's dangerous. St. Paul, of course, is not in favor of longer spoons, but the question is how Paul made the move he does from "idols" to "demons" or "devils."

"What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God." 

Whence such an idea? I think Paul had been reading his Septuagint, which in Psalm 96:5 says: "The gods of the nations are [not idols, as in Hebrew, but in Greek] demons; but the Lord made the heavens." So then idolatry is never just a mistake; it's downright evil. Inspired by the demons and whether wittingly or unwittingly, the worship offered to any but the living God simply goes to devils; to evil spirits and intelligences who desire our downfall.

And so St. Paul says when you see idolatry going on, there's really only one sane move and it's not grab a longer spoon. It's to toss the spoon away and high tail it out of there as fast as you can. "Flee idolatry." Run away from it. Don't toy with it. Don't think you can be so spiritual you will be untouched by it just because you happen to know that an idol is really an unding. You don't have a spoon long enough to partake with the demons. At least, not to do so and to remain Christ's. 

It's the same message at the end of 1 John. Speaking of Jesus, "This is the true God and eternal life" and so "little children, keep yourself from idols!"

How often we have lifted out the verses on the Supper in today's reading as independent and read them in isolation! Shame on us! Oh, it's true: the Supper gives you participation in Christ, in His blood and in His body, for the cup of blessing that we bless, the cup itself (or rather, its contents) IS a participation in Christ's blood; the bread we bread and distribute, it IS a participation in Christ's body. 

Yes, it's a fine text to prove the Sacramental union and all that, from Irenaeus even to Pope St. Gelasius, who taught "Certainly the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are a divine thing, through which we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to be." and so, 1 Cor. 10:16 is a nice slam at Romish Transubstantiation. BUT let's not overlook the Apostles' main point. 

To be a participant in Christ's Supper, in His cup of blessing and broken bread, in His blood and body, to be one Body in Him through this participation, means you are HIS. You BELONG to HIM. And He is a jealous God, this heavenly Bridegroom of yours. He has no intention of sharing you with the demons. He makes you His or you reject that and make yourself theirs. 

Israel tried to play the spoon game in the days of the Kings; they'd keep Yahweh, of course, but what was a little offering on the side? A cake baked to the Queen of Heaven? What was wrong with some sex to Baal or even the offering a child or two to Molech? 

They found out what was wrong: You dine with those demons, you can no longer dine with Yahweh. In fact, He tossed the idols and their worshippers out of His house and out of His land. No one was the match for His mighty strength when roused to jealous anger. He left them in the hands of the demons they had chosen and that ended when the demons always want it to end: they ate them. Devoured them in death and misery and flame. 

The devil, the chief of the demons, says Jesus, is not only a murderer from the beginning, but "the father of lies." His worship is always founded on a lie, on believing a lie. "You shall not surely die" and the implied notion that God must be holding out on you, so doing your own thing is the only safe and sane way to go. This in contrast to the Table of the Lord where God reveals, definitively and finally, that He holds absolutely nothing back from you: in fact, He gave His dearly beloved Son for you, poured out His Spirit on you, and at the Table supplies the proof: the blood in the cup that carries every blessing to you, your Lord's blood; the body that unites you to Him. Held out on you? No way. He gives everything He has that you might be His own. There CAN be no blending of this truth that the Eucharist proclaims in such simplicity and clarity with the numerous shades of the demons' lies and worship. 

And, people loved by God, this is why when we see that the devil has gotten a foothold in some Christian community's confession and that it has embraced and upheld and defended some lie of the enemy, we can't just ignore it. It's why every Christian community that takes the Eucharist seriously has always practiced the closed table. It's closed to every falsehood. It's closed to every lie. It's closed to the too clever trick of trying to use the long spoon to dine with the demon while still seeking to enjoy the Lord's favor. And so the sadly divided state of the Church here until the Parousia, but there's no way around it when the demon's lie is put on the same footing as Christ's word. And that's also why we won't even think of worshipping in a mosque or Hindu temple. Run from them! We are not stronger than He and we know the truth of His jealousy.

And on that we must finally close. The demon can only project its own sinful heart onto God. So it imagines He's so narrow in His demands because He is a tyrant and vicious ogre who wants to devour the whole world all Himself. But the truth, the beautiful truth, behind the jealousy of the Lord is that He is terribly jealous for you because He knows that He alone can give you eternal life, the forgiveness that is only in Him, that your welfare and safety and future are only secure with Him. He wants you all for Himself not to devour you like the demons, but to fill you, to be devoured by you, because He is the only One who CAN save you (and he wants you saved!). Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.

In contrast, Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them. So, O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is our help and our shield!...He has been mindful of us, He will bless us...He will bless them that fear the Lord, both great and small...And we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!"

Which might be paraphrased: Drop the spoon and run away from the table of those who want to devour you to the table of Him who wants to be devoured by you, in the awesome greatness of His condescending love.

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

Hymn: 623 Lord Jesus Christ, We Humbly Pray


Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray: Our Father...

Remember, Holy and most merciful Father, all who suffer for Your name, all who are in prison, the hungry and ill-clad, the poor and the lonely, those who travel, and all who cry out to You in their time of need, especially Molly, Melanie, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allen, Jan and all who grieve the passing of Elinor and Kathy and all who grieve for Bob. Take them all under Your tender care and grant them Your peace and a happy issue out of all their afflictions, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Almighty God, send the light of Your truth into all the earth. Raise up faithful servants of Christ to advance the Gospel both at home and in distant lands. Remember especially in Your mercy this day Pr. JP and Aimee Cima, serving in Asia, and all missionaries. By their devoted service cause faith to abound and the Kingdom to increase; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, You have given grace at this time and with one accord to make our common supplications to You and You promise that where two or three are gathered in Your name, You will grant their requests. Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Your servants as may be most expedient for them, grant us in this world knowledge of Your truth and in the world to come, life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all! Amen.

14 February 2019

Homily for February 14, 2019

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Exodus 3:1-14

1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6 And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." 11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" 12 He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." 13 Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"


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

"The bush was burning, yet it was not consumed." That was the odd thing that attracted Moses attention and so he draws near, only to find himself on holy ground (and so off come the shoes; remember, cursed is the ground for your sake as spoken to Adam, but where Yahweh touches the ground again, it is holy, and so need for the shoes that will protect you from the thorns and thistles.) And so there Moses stands barefoot before the fire the burns without consuming and hears the voice and learns the Name and receives a commission of deliverance, of salvation for the people.

For Moses the Mount of Transfiguration was surely a bit of dejavu all over again, only BETTER. Only this time, the Messenger of Yahweh is shining not in a flame of fire in bush that doesn't burn up, but in the very human nature He assumed from holy Mary's womb. But it is the same One speaking and with the same purpose. He's seen His people's misery. He knows their suffering. He's heard their cry. He's come down to rescue them. His people. Not just Israel now, but His people, all the human family. And the human family has bigger issues than some earthly Pharaoh or his modern day descendants making life a misery and burden. The problem of Satan, the problem of sin which is Satan's beachhead in our hearts, our desires. The problem of where it all lands us inevitably: death and decay and separation from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is the Great I Am.

But the awesome wonder was that instead of sending a servant with a message and signs of wonder like a Moses or even an Elijah, he tells the servants that He will do it Himself this time. This Exodus the One who is Son of God and Son of Man will lead. He'll lead the way not through some mighty sea, but through His own bloody suffering and death itself to open wide the way to home that the Promised land was only a type of. Home to the Father. "When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Te Deum

"In this bush the Son of God prefigured His future incarnation and appeared to Moses." Chemnitz, Two Natures, p. 90. Jesus, doing His Jesus thing even then, but His Jesus thing then was but a type and foreshadowing of the full glory He came among us to bring about.

Shoes off, holy ground, wherever you encounter the presence of Him who reveals Himself by name and is an all-consuming fire, and yet who do not consume the Virgin's womb or the nature He assumed there, anymore than he consumed that bush, but He comes among us, shining and radiant with divine love, not to consume us, but to consume that which would devour us, which He does upon His Cross and so open the way home, for our Exodus.

And how sweet that was for Moses. Moses, who would miss out on the earthly promised land that he wanted to go into so badly after those forty years of wandering due to his own sin, but he ended up being given so much more. On the Mount of Transfiguration he IS standing in the holy land, Mt. Tabor most likely. And it was sweet, but even sweeter to live forever in the presence of Jesus in the true land of the living. The light that shines from Him, from a nature that is like Moses' own, like yours or mine, that is Moses' eternal joy now. Beyond Horeb to Calvary, beyond Calvary to Zion. Home. Moses' home. Elijah's home. Your home and mine. Jesus, true God and true Man, and whose divinity did not consume His humanity, but glorified it. As it will yours and mine on the Day of His appearing. But first, the exodus through our own suffering and death, and then home free.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hymn: 616 "Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory"

Chaplain Peter Burfeind
Melanie, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allan and Jan

01 February 2019

Wednesday’s Chapel Homily

Sermon on Romans 1. And it is as I was sitting at the piano and playing the hymn afterwards, that it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had left OUT the most crucial bit of Gospel. Hebrews 2:

Hebrews 2:11-13 (KJV) 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

HE IS NOT ASHAMED OF US. That’s the awesomeness of His love and that’s why finally we will not be ashamed of Him. Sigh. So, when you forget to give full octane gospel in the SERMON, you sneak it into the PRAYER. Which I did. And I hope everyone heard and was blessed by it too. For whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame. Glory to God in the highest!