Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I mused over a past devotion that my wife and I read this past January 4th from Rev. John Sander's Devotional Readings From Luther's Works, regarding Galatians 3:26, "Ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
And, yes, upon my meditation I thought how well it applied to show Christians how they should honor and esteem faith in Christ alone when speaking of Justification. It is that way, of course, if it is to be simply Lutheran, I thought.

The excerpt that was brought to my mind from this past January 4th devotion was:
    "...whoever has faith and works cheerfully is a child; for he has received the Spirit of God trough Christ. Now, the apostle names Christ, referring to the faith that believes and abides in Jesus Christ. No other faith is effective, no other faith is the right faith, let one believe in God as one will. Some there are, particularly among our modern high schoolmen, who say: Forgiveness of sins and justification depend altogether on the divine imputation of grace; God's imputation is sufficient. He to whom God does not reckon sin, is justified; he to whom God reckons sin is not justified.
    "Were their theory true the entire New Testament would be of no significance. Christ would have labored foolishly and to no purpose in suffering for sin. God would have unnecessarily wrought mere mockery and deception; for he might easily without Christ's suffering have forgiven sins. Then, too, a faith other than faith in Christ might have justified and saved - a faith relying on God's gracious mercy not to impute sin." [Here I thought how Luther would never have become a "Waltherian" who speaks of some Universal Objective Justification declared by God to the entire world regardless of having faith, or prior to any faith, in Christ.] "In contrast to this deplorable theory and abominable error, it is the apostle's practice to speak always of faith in Jesus Christ, and he makes mention of Jesus Christ with a frequency surprising to one unacquainted with the important doctrine of faith in him. Hence our learned university doctors no longer know Christ..."

As I mused on these faithful words of Dr. Luther I recalled all those "modern high schoolmen" and "modern university doctors" who preached to me that I had to believe in an Objective Justification whereby God had already declared the whole world justified (forgiven their sins) and sanctified in Christ Jesus prior to having faith in Christ (this is stated as Objective Justification in the 1932 Brief Statement of Missouri). I was told that unless I believed that the whole world was declared justified, prior to faith in Christ, that I didn't have the true faith and that I didn't have the real Jesus.

(Above is a representation of the "modern high schoolmen" selling Universal Objective Justification, hook, line, and sinker, in the LC-MS and smaller synods, especially the three pastors of the OLCC)

Luther ends his comments on Galatians 3:26 with these words: 
"It is supremely essential to possess him who has accomplished the purchase for us. Nor is it possible to obtain grace otherwise than though him"

Earlier this year (2020), a young Christian wife and mother had essentially told me I wasn't telling the truth about Universal Objective Justification. She told me, "There's something 'out there' that we have faith in" referring to a declared justification for the whole world. This is exactly the same thinking that my former pastor (who said he can no longer even be my personal friend) had when he told me, "Jim, you just have to have faith to believe it" (i.e. UOJ) This is like saying you have to have faith in some doctrinal statement of C.F.W. Walther, that is not contingent upon faith in Christ, in order to have faith and the real Justification!

To conclude my musings, I would like to quote my pastor, the Rev. Dr. Gregory Jackson, in his book "The Path To Understanding Justification" p.69: 
Your Faith Is in Faith-Your Faith is Not in Christ, It Is in Yourself, You Are Not a Christian- You Are a Faithian
"This attack seems to crawl out of the muck of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne. The hyperbole ignores the real meaning of Subjective Justification, which is agreeing to the notion of world absolution without faith. That is not faith in Christ but making a decision in favor of a dogmatic point. If more people read Luther, they would know that Luther called himself a faithian, more precisely a solafideist - a faith-alone-ist." 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

First Sunday after Epiphany - January 12, 2020

“Jesus Attends to His Father’s Business” Luke 2:41-52
Luke 2:41 50 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." 49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. NKJV

Dear Christian friends: In reality this boy Jesus is so aware of His surrounding that it is impossible for Him to be lost. This boy Jesus is the Incarnate God; indeed, the Incarnate Word of God, the creator and ruler of all things. He is very knowledgeable of His whereabouts at all times. However, Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what Jesus told them when they found Him in the temple. Jesus explicitly said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” That brings me to two basic teachings of today’s text, namely, that you are the one found, not Jesus; and, the Father’s business is that of your own salvation.

This Jesus wasn’t lost at all but was about His Father’s business then, as a twelve-year-old boy, and even today. This Jesus wants you to find Him only where He wants to be found, that is, in Word and Sacrament. And here it is that Jesus is still about His Father’s business.

Jesus, ever since His conception and birth of the Virgin Mary, was, is, and always will be both true God and true Man. The two natures of the person of Jesus Christ cannot and will not ever be separated. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Jesus as a 12-year old boy should be found in the temple using great wisdom and knowledge. Jesus was never lost physically; neither lost spiritually; nor intellectually. Regarding Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger,” Dr. Martin Luther commented:
“Jesus the 12 years old sits in the temple in the midst of all the teachers, listens to them and asks them questions, so that all who hear Him have to ‘be amazed at His understanding and His answers.’ The Apostles are also children, foolish and unwise before the world. They do not understand the world’s wisdom and are miserable and poor. But they have the divine wisdom by which they far surpass the wisdom of the world...So now the one confronts the other. The world struts and swaggers with its great power, reason, and wisdom. And He (Christ) says, ‘Strut all you please. All your power, reason and wisdom are dung before Me; I will set babes and sucklings upon you. With their mouths and word they will erect a power and kingdom to spite and mock all your power and wisdom.”

Even the Virgin Mary issued a rebuke to her Son not realizing that He knew where He was and who He was. Human wisdom and reason had told Mary that her Son was lost, but this was not so. Just as true is the fact that you cannot find Jesus because Jesus was never lost, but indeed He continually seeks to find the lost in their own understanding.

Human wisdom is only encouraged by asking the question, “Have you found Jesus?” as if Jesus is somehow hiding from people and toying with their eternal souls. But St. Paul put the record straight when he quoted Isaiah, “But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” Romans 10:20 21.

If finding the Lord Jesus were to be a mandate of the Law then we would never find Him and indeed be lost forever. Romans 9:30-32 is an important lesson for all of us: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” And, of course, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom.10:17), not by making a decision for Christ; It is the gift of faith that now recognizes and receives that which was there all along. But now, as Scripture would say, today salvation has come to your house.

St. John is explicit when it comes to who it is that found whom. Here it is that the Biblical concept of being born-again, or born from above, tells that man cannot decide for Christ for he/she cannot have a natural knowledge of whom Jesus really is. Jesus must be received by faith; faith that is given to man through the hearing of the Gospel (Rom.10:17). As John 1:10-13 reads:
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Jesus today is still about His Father’s business of seeking out sinners, of finding the likes of you and me. As the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) The New Covenant is therefore not conditional, like the many covenants that had the two-letter word “If” attached. The New Covenant God made with Himself in the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son on that old rugged cross of Calvary; this New Testament is simply known in the forgiveness of sins for salvation belongs to God alone! For those who are penitent; for those who have been driven to sorrow over their sins, there can be no ifs, ands, or buts in the New Covenant since the preaching of the Gospel brings the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins. “Be, therefore, reconciled to God!” as Saint Paul pleaded with the Corinthians and as God’s ministers exhort their hearers today in order to be justified.

And that brings me to the point that Jesus wishes to be found in His Word. Jesus is known in the forgiveness of sins, and where there is forgiveness of sin there is life and salvation, as Luther once said. This is the New Covenant God made with His people and He signed it in blood, by the many stripes and wounds laid upon Jesus, and by the nail prints in His hands, feet, and the wound in His side. In other words, the forgiveness of sins came through the bloody death of Jesus’ atonement on Calvary’s cross, and through that, we know the Lord. Hearing this message of Christ crucified is the way God the Father ordained for everyone to attain righteousness by faith.

Jesus once said in Luke 9:25 26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” We all need to be reminded where Mary “found” Jesus, namely in the temple transacting the Father’s business. And it is in the Church where the Father’s business today is transacted, the business of Word and Sacrament. It is there where Jesus wishes to be found; in Word and Sacrament. There, Jesus is preached and confessed; there, we are adopted as God’s children and baptize in Jesus’ name; and, there, Jesus’ body and blood are received physically in and with the common elements of bread and the wine. Jesus sets His own table in the Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins and for the strengthening of your faith.

Jesus is no longer that 12-year old boy, but Jesus still beckons us to come to His Father’s house. Why should we take the time to go to church? Well, for one thing, to encourage each other in the true faith and to keep our eyes open to the fact that Jesus will again return to gather His church to be with Him, as Hebrews 10:25 states: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Also, Hebrews states that Jesus is “The author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2); and, upon that statement, we can see the enormity of the 12-year old Jesus, His incomparable size that could never be lost!

As the Formula of Concord confesses:
“But now since he ascended into heaven, not just like some other saint but, in the words of the apostle (Eph. 4:10), far above all heavens that he might truly fill all things, he is everywhere present to rule, not only as God but also as man, from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth, as the prophets foretell (Ps. 8:6; 93:1; Zech. 9:10) and as the apostles testify that he worked with them everywhere and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it (Mark 16:20).
“Yet, this does not take place in a mundane way, but as Dr. Luther explains, after the manner of the right hand of God…The right hand of God is precisely the almighty power of God which fills heaven and earth, in which Christ has been installed according to his humanity in deed and in truth without any blending or equalization of the two natures in their essence and essential properties… No other human being can do this, since no human being is united in this manner with the divine nature and installed in the exercise of the divine, omnipotent majesty and power through and in the personal union of both natures in Christ, the way Jesus, the son of Mary, is.
“In him the divine and human natures are personally united in such a way that in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col. 2:9), and in this personal union they have such an exalted, intimate, and ineffable communion that even the angels marvel at it and find their delight and joy in looking into it, as St. Peter testifies (1 Pet. 1:12).”

Do you wish to “find” Jesus? Do you wish to do so in the better Christian manner according to the New Testament? Do you know that the Father’s business is your Salvation? Then take the time to grab hold of Jesus where and when He presents Himself to you! Hear His Word preached on a regular basis; take hold of Him physically in the miraculous, sacramental way of Holy Communion. For if you despise the hearing and preaching of God’s Word, and if you have no desire to commune with Him at His table, then Jesus might certainly be lost to you. Whenever your daily devotions become passé; whenever your schools teach that all the major religions of the world are equally true and valid; whenever your government becomes your civil religion; then Jesus can indeed be lost to you.

Church still needs to be seen as a family affair much like Mary, Joseph, and all their relatives traveled together to go to the temple. Christ’s Church foremost consists of the spiritual and mystical family of all of us present with God the Father, and with our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just see how the Word of God treats what I say on this subject, as I appeal once more to the Book of Hebrews (2:11-13):
For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.”
And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is your elder Brother, and all who place their trust in His atoning sacrifice are the children of the heavenly Father. God doesn’t leave us alone to struggle with the faith that gives us access to His grace; to the faith that He Himself has also given us as a gift.

Friends, salvation is of God; and God grants you, His child, the Holy Spirit that sustains your faith. Why is it, then, that you should ever lose Jesus? Amen.

The painting on the left, of the twelve year old Jesus in the temple, is by the 19th century German realist, Adolph Menzel; and, the corresponding portrait on the right is by Heinrich Hofmann, who also painted "Jesus Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane" (arguably the most copied painting in the world).

Thursday, January 9, 2020

We'll I've done it again. I will be in facebook jail for posting an uncomplimentary photo of Mohammed. I cannot comment or post anything on my facebook for three full days. This was for my brief protest against those on facebook who continually defame Jesus and the Christian religion:

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Insanity of Walther's Justification without Faith

 The "UOJ advocate" mimics sitting with the one who mimics psychosis.

In Devotional Readings from Luther's Works, compiled by Rev. John Sander 1915/2019 Augustana Book Concern, we find for the Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 4th, this excerpt of Luther:  "Some there are, particularly among our modern high schoolmen, who say: Forgiveness of sins and justification depend altogether on the divine imputation of grace; God's imputation is sufficient. He to whom God does not reckon sin, is justified; he to whom God reckons sin, is not justified."

Martin Luther calls the above a "deplorable theory" and "abominable error."  This is exactly the way the pastors and scholars who follow the UOJ teaching of CFW Walther speak when they say that the entire world has been pronounced forgiven and righteous in Christ before and without faith. Luther went on to say " is the apostle's practice to speak always of faith in Jesus Christ, and he makes mention of Jesus Christ with a frequency surprising to one unacquainted with the important doctrine of faith in him." In other words, Luther never mentioned an objective justification outside of faith; contrariwise, Luther said that without the important doctrine of faith "...our learned university doctors no longer know Christ." 
Below are two articles of Polycarp Leyser that are apropos to learning Justification:

Please visit the Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry:

Friday, January 3, 2020

New Year's Day

“The Circumcision and Holy Name of Jesus” Sermon Texts – Psalm 8:9; Luke 2:21 “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” “And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” (NKJV)

Dear friends in Christ: In the late nineteenth century a European diplomat serving in Egypt stumbled upon a rare find—a half-dozen ancient books. The style of the manuscripts ancient Greek handwriting suggested they had been written sometime between 100 and 400 A.D. Their great age and excellent condition made these books valuable, but when scholars turned their attention to the content of the writings they realized the find was one of a kind and quite weird.

The books contained paragraph after paragraph of nonsense words made up entirely of vowel sounds, strange sketches and occult diagrams, and most significantly these manuscripts contained page after page of names. These were the names of gods and goddesses, angels and demons, all pagan names but even a few Jewish ones.

The books contained dozens of magical spells. These were the handbooks of ancient Greek magicians, teaching sorcerers how to harness the power of the supernatural for their paying clients. There were spells for good health, fair weather, and success in love or for your favorite greyhound at the race track. There were curses upon personal enemies, business rivals, and former lovers. And the keys to unlock all of this supernatural power, the magicians believed, were in the names of all these gods and demons. In the ancient Mediterranean world of Greece and Rome, magic was everywhere. It was believed that the power, the very essence of a being resided in its name. And knowledge of a supernatural name gave power. Magicians and common people alike assumed that if they could only learn the name of a god or a demon, they had a chance of manipulating the deity to serve their own purposes. Hence, the spells of ancient magicians often included hundreds of these supernatural names. It was the hope that at least one of these names would hit its target and force a supernatural being to bring about the goal of the spell.

The Old Testament lesson gives us the Aaronic benediction, which we use as the final blessing to end our public worship services. And just what is the subject of this blessing? The name “Lord” (or Yahweh) appears three times, recalling God’s identity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The full revelation of the name would have to wait until the New Testament. This is the identity of the Lord as one God in three persons. This is what is present in this benediction. And what about the verbs, you English buffs? Do not they all indicate blessings that God places upon Israel? They verbs say that God shall Bless you, Keep you, Shine upon you, Be gracious, Lift up His countenance, and Give you peace. So where God’s name is spoken, there He is present to bless you. His name is His presence, for where His name is invoked, there He is to bless.

The name of God is recalled in the first reference to worship in Genesis 4:25-27, “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” And who are the objects of this blessing?... the people of Israel. Just after this blessing, the Lord said that the priests shall put His name upon the people of Israel, and that He will bless them. So when we hear this blessing at the end of our worship services we know that God is here, lifting us out of the depths of our sin and giving us life in His name. O Lord, our Lord how excellent is Your name in all the earth for You have placed it upon your people to bless them, to keep them, and to give them peace.

Now let us turn briefly to the other significance of the day of first of January in conjunction with the Holy Name of Jesus. Luther gives us some initial insight of his times on the day. Dr. Luther preached in a sermon on New Year’s Day, saying, “On this day it is customary to distribute new year’s gifts from the pulpit, as if one did not have enough useful and beneficial matters to preach about, and it were necessary to hand out such useless tales instead of the word of God and to turn this serious office into a game and a joke. The Gospel demands that our sermon be about the circumcision and the name Jesus, and we are going to observe this. “Let us, first, ask that smart woman, Madam Jezebel, natural reason: Is it not foolish, ridiculous, futile that God demands circumcision? Could he find no other part of the body except this one? If Abraham had followed reason in this matter, he would not have believed that it was God who demanded such a thing from him; to our mind it is always a most foolish thing—there could hardly be a more foolish one. In addition, the Israelites suffered a great deal of humiliation and shame because of it. They were despised by all the world because of it and were almost considered to be an abomination. Moreover, there is absolutely no good in it; what purpose is served by injuring the body? It does not make a person any better, since everything depends upon the soul.”

The name of the Lord is fulfilled in Jesus’ circumcision and naming ceremony in today’s Gospel lesson. Following the instructions given in the Old Covenant, Mary and Joseph went to the local synagogue at Bethlehem on the eighth day of Jesus’ life. Why the eighth day? Some have claimed that it was primarily to make sure the boy was strong enough to handle the bloodshed of circumcision. However, consider this: The eighth day indicates a new creation.

Recall the original seven days of creation, recorded in the first two chapters of Genesis, when God made all that exists out of nothing and by the power of His Word. Later, God again made His creation through the flood, where eight souls were saved by water. And then recall how it is was St. Peter who connects the eight faithful in the ark with holy baptism: “Eight persons were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Peter 3:20, 21). So the eighth day is the day that God makes all things new, reclaims His people as His own, and once again brings light out of darkness.

Thus, it was on the eighth day that Jesus was circumcised. In the Old Testament, circumcision was the special mark given to God’s people, His “baptism” by which He claimed His people. On the Law side, the foreskin symbolized rebellion against God. Although Sampson and King David were circumcised, the foreskin was still a reminder that from it evil lusts arose. Sampson failed to recall His circumcision and fell to the seductress Delilah; David forgot His covenant and took another woman to his bed. And even we ourselves may have committed adultery in the heart and desired illicit sex. The foreskin is a reminder that humans and their sexuality have fallen into sin and need to be spiritually circumcised, with a circumcision not made of hands, and to live in the daily circumcision of repentance in the New Covenant. But you still ask, Why was Jesus, as the sinless Son of God, circumcised? It was to keep the law for us. Recall that Jesus was born not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. We have broken God’s law by our fault, by our own fault. If you think you can keep any law, spiritually, well then just try to even remember the mundane New Year’s resolutions you made just last year. If your experience with these resolutions is anything like mine, they only serve to help bring you to repentance and remind you that no one, but Jesus Himself, can keep the Law. And today should remind you that the fulfillment of the law began with His shedding His blood in circumcision.

Along with His circumcision, the Christ Child was officially given the name Jesus, Savior. This was according to the instruction given to Joseph through the angel that Mary will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. The name of Jesus is the very Gospel. It is the New Covenant form of the Old Testament name “Joshua,” meaning the Lord saves. This was the name of the man chosen to lead the conquest of the Promised Land. And so Jesus, as the new and last Joshua, would lead His people out of the wilderness of sin, through the Jordan of Holy Baptism, and into the Promised Land of Heaven. Left to ourselves, we only rebel against God. On our own, we have gone our own way, been our own gods, and worshiped the various golden calves, and called upon various names to help us. By nature we deserve every punishment the impenitent Israelites received in the wilderness, but the Holy Name of Jesus proclaims that, through this eight day old child, there is indeed salvation. By His perfect obedience (including the passive obedience of His circumcision); His baptism in the Jordan; His temptation in the wilderness; by His suffering, crucifixion and burial; by His glorious resurrection and bodily ascension, there exists no other name whereby there is salvation.

That same Holy Name is given to you in your Baptism. Today’s Epistle reminds us that “As many of you as were baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ.” Baptism is your “Eighth Day.” That was the day that God saved you in the Ark of Christendom, which is many baptismal fonts are made in the shape of an octagon, having eight sides. Baptism is the perfect replacement of circumcision, that special means by which you are born from above (or born again) by water and the Spirit. God has claimed you as His very own since you possess the Holy Name of Jesus by virtue of your baptism into His name. And of special interest you should know that baptism is the bestowal of God’s full name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And where His name is spoken, there He is to bless and keep us as His own children.

It’s just like the Aaronic blessing and the circumcision of Jesus. The eternal Son of God is the subject; He is the One who comes to you because you cannot come to Him. You are the objects, the recipients, the ones who become sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. So, the Holy Names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is inscribed upon your hearts in holy baptism.

And you are here again today to hear the Word of forgiveness in Jesus’ name. And yet there is always some tension in celebrating New Year’s Day of 2020. Some may call it a New Year’s Day worship service and others may call it The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. However, I’ve come to see that these two occasions go hand in glove. As the church, we rejoice that the Holy Name is preached for the salvation of souls throughout the earth; as citizens of heaven, we rejoice that “Our God our help in ages past” will be “our Guard while troubles last and our eternal home” (TLH 123 v.8). And the common theme is this: God’s Divine name permeates the entire Christian life, from baptism to eternal life. As the Blessed Virgin Mary herself said, “His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.”

Unlike the empty and powerless names invoked by those pagan magicians so long ago on the banks of the Nile, the Holy Name of Jesus is truly a name of divine power. The demons of Hell quake at the mention of the name of Jesus. The darkness can hide nowhere from the Light that entered the world at Bethlehem. When confronted by the power of the Incarnation, God’s saving power was made known was given a name, the Name above all names! And the day is coming, my Christian friends, when our Lord will make Death our final enemy, His footstool, and all creatures will join every other being in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, bending knee in submission to the One whose name is above all names – the Holy name Jesus.

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” Amen.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Old and New summarizes the little gallery below. Pic #1 shows an elderly Simeon and Anna receiving what they were promised in the New Covenant; Pic #2 is the mundane tradition of saying goodbye to the Old as Father Time welcomes the New Year; Pic #3 reminds us of the Old Testament passes away when the New Testament was established in the forgiveness of sins; and, Pic #4 shows Moses and Jesus with the Bible text of John 5:46, with the reminder of what St. Paul also wrote: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" Romans 10:4. This brings me to my address for this morning, the first Sunday after Christmas Day:
“Saying Goodbye to the Old and Bringing in the New”
Luke 2:25-32 “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. So, he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.’” NKJV
Dear Christian friends: It used to be in years past that each New Year we saw in the media the image of a bearded, old man with his staff drudging along to the end of his course and a chubby, diapered, smiling baby in a top hat taking the old man’s place. For those of the newer generation who might not know what I’m talking about, this was the media’s method of saying that the past year is now gone and the New Year starts fresh; it is the end of the old and the beginning of the new. And as the New Year quickly approaches, I want you to reflect upon the old man in the temple named Simeon who for a long time lived under the Old Covenant or Testament that was now passing away to make room for the New Covenant now being revealed to his eyes.
Here, in today’s text, Simeon holds in his hands the Incarnate Word of the New Covenant, Jesus, the Christ child. Here is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, in the fullness of time, being experienced as Simeon is blessed by the New before he passes away. It is as St. Paul wrote to the Galatians in today’s Epistle to the Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Hebrews 8:7-13 explains why Moses (representative of the Old Covenant) cannot stand alongside Jesus: “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
The text according to Luke brings us to the fact that Jesus was now only 40 days old, as determined in the rites after childbirth in Leviticus 12. Joseph had brought Mary to the temple in Jerusalem to perform the rites of purification and to sacrifice that which was appropriate for a new-born son. The temple was a very busy place with many visitors and yet it was this one family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that Simeon took notice.
Unlike the imagery of the bearded, old man, known as Father Time, turning away and walking into oblivion, this old man, Simeon, in the temple turns to the New baby Jesus and embraces him in his frail arms. This surprises Mary and Joseph as the old man breaks unto a joyful song of worship and adoration: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” The old tired eyes of Simeon were permitted to look upon the Christ child, his own Savior, in the flesh. Simeon, who had been kept under the Old Covenant, now holds in his arms the long-awaited consolation of Israel that now releases him to die in peace. The New (Covenant) is here; the Old (Covenant) must now pass away.
The Bible also says that there was another elderly Israelite present nearby who happened to hear Simeon prophesy and sing his song of praise. She was a widow by the name of Anna who was 84 years old. Like most widows of her day, she was dependent upon the alms and gifts that were given her out of the love of those that came to the temple. Why did such a baby cause so much a stir in a couple of old people? It was that both Simeon and Anna had the hope of meeting this special child for a long time. And now the Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until he has seen the Messiah, the very Christ of God.
Simeon was indeed a dying breed in Israel; he was one who read the Scriptures of the Old Testament with wisdom as they foretold the birth of the Messiah. The great majority of the Jews had twisted the prophecies of the Old Testament to read what they wanted them to read. The Jews were much like the liberal Christians of today who believe and teach that people can’t be free in Christ unless they are first freed from a racist and unjust society. (This is known as liberation theology and, more recently, social justice theology.) The Jews of Simeon’s day were much like the Jesuits of the Roman Catholic Church that imported rebellion in third world countries to overthrow earthly governments instead of seeing that Christianity is the New Covenant made known in the forgiveness of sins.
Most of the Jews were also expecting a military-type hero in their day who would overthrow the Roman government and bring the Jews back into power under, what they thought would be, a Theocratic ruling government on earth, much like today’s Islamists believe as well as Dominionism in the Evangelical movement. But Simeon believed God, that he would see his spiritual hero that was his personal Salvation. Yes, Simeon and Anna were among “all they who looked for the redemption in Jerusalem.” So, this arriving of the holy family in the temple brought to both of them exceeding joy before their passing from this life into their new heavenly homes.
But what about you this Sunday after Christmas as you wait for the New Year? In what lies your hope? It is a fact that many people, even Christians, suffer depression after Christmas Day. This is the reality in which many people understand the Christmas holiday. Many treat Christmas as a birthday party (even if it is Jesus’ birthday); and like all birthday parties, it comes only once a year, with a brief time of happiness only to be followed by the longer time of realizing that you are just another day older and closer to death’s door.
Year after year people treat Christmas like a once a year party that they build up to the season of Advent, which should be treated as a time for repentance according to John the Baptist, and finally climaxes in the Big Day that is celebrated with extravagances of materialism and mounds of goodies to eat and lots to drink. It is then, on that “glorious” day, that Santa comes to all the little pagan girls and boys (who have, of course, been nice the whole year and not naughty) and then…poof! The magic is over for another year. And now all that the world has to look forward to is popping the cork on champagne bottles, kissing the nearest person and singing about Auld Lang Syne. Yet even today, there remain a few people like Simeon and Anna that understand Scriptures and realize what the prophecies of old present as the truth of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem.
Friends, Christmas isn’t just some innocuous story of a sweet Jewish baby who teaches us how to love everyone; Christmas is rather a matter of a blessing and a saying goodbye to the Old while bringing in the New. It is the Birth of births, a new beginning manifest within the world. It is doing away with those conditional covenants of the past and showing an unconditional testament, a New Covenant known only in the forgiveness of sins. Christmas is seeing your Savior, who alone was born to die so that you might be born-again, that you might have a second birth from above!
The liturgical Church traditionally celebrates 12 days of Christmas culminating in the day of Epiphany when Christ is made manifest to the Gentiles. This is when the Magi, who sought the significance of the holy birth prophesied in Isaiah 60:1-6, came and worshiped the Christ Child and offered Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
As it was prophesied in Isaiah 60:1-6, in the KJV: Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas with elaborate traditional ways; BUT, if this is all Christmas means to you then you sadly have missed the joy of celebrating the Mass of Christmas. You may have well just stayed with the Old and have nothing to do with the New for you have no real hope beyond what you can see and have in this present life…and for many people, that thought is depressing; but Simeon teaches us how important it is to have Jesus as our sure Foundation so that we can continue to build our life upon Christ the Rock of our salvation and, at the end, die in this faith.
In Christ we have everlasting light and life so that at the close of our own earthly journeys we can also say with confidence, “Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word.”
And what have we learned from Anna? Well, we also learned to live a life of dedication to our Lord, worshiping on a regular basis the Consolation of Israel, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For it is here, in God’s House that you can hear His precious word of life and often partake of His precious body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It is in the Word of God that you view the real tree of Christ-Mass. For it is as Paul says (1 Cor 1:22-24) “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Listen to this quote from Luther in his Table Talk (no. 5562. Spring of 1543) explaining: To Believe and to Comprehend Are Not the Same: When Dr. Jonas said that the mind of man cannot comprehend articles of faith and that it is enough that we begin only to assent, the doctor [Martin Luther] said, “Yes, dear Dr. Jonas, if one could believe them the way they’re written, our hearts would leap for joy. That’s certain. Accordingly, we won’t arrive at the place where we comprehend them. In Torgau a wretched little woman once came to me and said, ‘Ah, dear Doctor, I have the idea that I’m lost and can’t be saved because I can’t believe.’ Then I replied, ‘Do you believe, dear lady, that what you pray in the Creed is true?’ She answered with clasped hands, ‘Oh yes, I believe it; it’s most certainly true!’ I replied, ‘Then go in God’s name, dear lady. You believe more and better than I do.’ “It’s the devil who puts such ideas into people’s heads and says, ‘Ah, you must believe better. You must believe more. Your faith is not very strong and is insufficient.’ In this way he drives them to despair. We are so constructed by nature that we desire to have a conscious faith. We’d like to grasp it with our hands and shove it into our bosom, but this doesn’t happen in this life. We can’t comprehend it, but we ought to apprehend it. We should hold to the Word and let ourselves drag along in this way.”
Although you may not be able to comprehend the doctrine of the Incarnation in this life, you can still apprehend it as Simeon and Anna did when they beheld the Lord’s Salvation in human form; and as you apprehend it, according to God’s written Word, Christmas will continue to be with you throughout the remainder of this year, into the New Year of 2020… and always! Amen.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Luther, in his commentary on Galatians 5:13-15 may help with grieving and love. Luther says: “But if one must concede absolutely that love of oneself is ranked first here, I at least shall ascend to a higher level and say that love of this kind is always wrong so long as it is in itself, and that it is not good unless it is outside itself in God; that is, that with my affection for myself and my love of myself completely dead, I look for nothing but that God's completely undefiled will be done in me.” Love, in other words, always has a place to go, namely, what is taught; love of God and love of neighbor never within self.  Love, dear Christians, always has a place to go.