Humbled Like a Child?

Biblical Text: Matthew 18:1-20

I thought hard about preaching on the Epistle Lesson this week – Romans 13. The core of that work ended up as the Meditation in the Bulletin (post below). But I decided two things: 1) Paul’s plain words were clear enough in this time. And give the response of the congregation just to the reading of it, I was right here. 2) Those who need to hear that one are largely not in my pews. So I went ahead with the gospel lesson.

The fundamental structure is between the values of the Kingdom and those of Satan, The World and our Sinful nature. And one of the places this constantly is made real is in the GOAT (Greatest of all time) discussions. We all want our recognition. We want others to recognize us. The call of the Kingdom, the way of the cross, is to humble ourselves to serve God and our neighbor. This sermon works on how that plays out both in time and in eternity for the Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom.

Built on the Rock

Biblical Text: Matthew 16:13-20 (21-23)
Full Sermon Draft

This text in my reading is really about one thing, Jesus’ definition of the office of Christ and its work. To understand Christ and his work requires for things.
1) Christ works in and through His church
2) That Church will not fail
3) It will not fail because to it has been given the key of heaven, the forgiveness of sins
4) That forgiveness was won on the cross

This sermon is an exploration of those points and how those point all rest on the rock of confessing Christ and the cross.

Worship Note: We lost a memory card, so this is a recording after the fact. Which means we lost the great music we had in church today. Great Day: LSB 609, 949, 645, 575. Moral? Come to church!

The Vine-y Life


Biblical Text: John 15:1-8, 1 John 4:1-11
Full Sermon Draft

There are seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John. Last week we looked at “I am the good shepherd”. This week Jesus says “I am the true vine”. The two statements share a lot in terms of interpretation and application, but there are some important shifts. The shepherd takes care largely of unaware sheep. When the sheep become aware, they really are no longer sheep. They have a choice, be a shepherd or the hired man. In that way the Good Shepherd is a metaphor for the early Christian life. The vine is a metaphor for those in the midst of it. The vine supports the branch and the branch bears fruit. Over time in vine-y things what is branch and what is vine become difficult to sort out. The repeated word is “remain”. Remain in the vine. The Christian life is one of remaining connected to Christ. The tools for sustaining and cultivating this connection according to this text are the Word and prayer. The text is full of promise and warning. The promise of eternal fruitful life for those who remain, but the warning of the dead branches being burned for those who cut themselves off. The sermon reminds us of how Christ is our life, and encourages us toward living a fruitful by know what is fruit and avoiding what is sure to disconnect the branch from the vine.

I’ve left in two hymns. Part of hymn selection is simply matching metaphors in the text and hymn. The first hymn is an older staple – “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” (LSB 611) which reminds us at the end of the first line even though I might be such a sinner, “as the branch is to the vine, I am His and He is mine”. This is exactly why Jesus came, to graft in sinners to eternal life and set them “on the way that Enoch trod”. The hymn at the end is a newer text with a beautiful tune that is new to LCMS hymnbooks, Christ, The Word of God Incarnate (LSB 540). As a hymn it is a meditation on the various biblical metaphors most that Jesus uses for himself. Each verse takes one of the I am statements from John and expands. Three and four capture the last two weeks, and I love Holy Manna as a hymn tune that gets stuck in a good way in your head.

Christ, the shoot that springs triumphant/from the stump of Jesse’s tree/Christ, true vine, you nurture branches/to bear fruit abundantly/Graft us into you, O Savior/Prune our hearts so we remain/Fruitful branches in your vineyard/Till eternal life we gain.

Chirst, our good and faithful shepherd/Watching all your lambs and sheep/Christ, the gate that guards the sheepfold/Never failing vigil keep/When we stray Good Shepherd seek us/Find us, lift us, bear us home/Lamb of God, our shepherd, keep us/Let us hear Your voice alone.

Preaching the Good News to the Poor


Biblical Text: Luke 4:16-30
Full Draft of Sermon

Following the season of Epiphany texts we’ve been looking at the ways that God reveals himself. We’ve structured it around what I’ve asserted is the question of the age: How do we see/meet God? Our culture and even many of our churches have attempted to claim or put forward an unmediated experience of God. And if we don’t have that direct access, then we turn away or search in another spot. The biggest problem with that is that God has promised to work, to be present, through means. The grace of God comes to us through the means of grace. The last couple of weeks were baptism and the Lord’s supper. This week was first confession and absolution. Those are the proclaimed word reduced down to their essence. Today, in your hearing, is the year of the Lord’s favor. The eternal Jubilee has been proclaimed by Jesus and the church has been proclaiming that release ever since.

The second slowly dawning epiphany that this should point toward is the false spirit nature of any movement or group that says you don’t need a church or a congregation. Because the church is the focus of those means. Where ever two or three are gathered, or as the text for this sermon says, it was Jesus’ custom to go to church on the sabbath. That is an anachronistic claim, the real word is synagogue, but it stands as the text shows the basic structure of that OT service. The synagogue was brought together around the word – written and proclaimed. The OT sacramental word was found in the temple. We are the inheritors of Word and Sacrament. God has always primarily worked through Word and Sacrament. It has always been grace, through means. Those means following Christ are found in what we call a church.

The medium is the message

That was of course Marshall McLuhan bemoaning the vast wasteland of TV. The more serious point is that particular mediums (TV, books, radio, talking, letters) are not just tubes to deliver something, but they mold or form the message itself. Books are solitary, serious and heavy. TV is fast and visual. i.e. you can’t capture Moby Dick on TV.

In regard to the Christian life the medium has meaning when THE WORD is a core concept, when by the foolishness of preaching THE WORD is given. Can you find THE WORD in this new medium of blogging, and if so, how does it effect it?

Ben Myers has an interesting post and journal article on the Blog as a place for theology. He is perhaps uniquely qualified to discuss this because of his blog which was one of the first to practice Theology in this new medium.

Two quotes – “One no longer publishes and defends an authoritative statement; instead, one participates in a continuing conversation in a collective enterprise…a process that foregrounds dialogue, accountability and self-correction.”

To me that is hopeful. It means that the blog foregrounds the need for ongoing repentance. It also means learning to live in a community defined by repentance and absolution. Things that are remarkably similar to what the local congregation is supposed to be, a gathering of sinners seeking God’s Word of absolution and attempting to live it out.

Second Quote – “The fact that one’s writing is not understood as a fixed artifact means one is free to write about many things…in this respect, theological discourse begins to inch closer toward the work of pastors and clergy, who are constantly challenged to utilize their theological resources in order to address new, unanticipated problems and solutions.”

Also somewhat hopeful. We all have a theology whether we know it or not. Theology shouldn’t be strictly formal things. I’m thinking of the biblical instruction to talk about these things when you walk and when you sit, when you lie down and when you rise (Duet 6:7). Anything that encourages that and not a stultifying seriousness is a good freedom. Do we get things wrong? Yep. Is that a big problem? Not if we remember the first point – repentance.

There are several other good observations in the paper, but I’ll leave it there.

Sermon – “Daughter…” – Mark 5:21-43

Full Text

Sermon Text: Mark 5:21-43

In this sermon I did something that probably would have received low marks from seminary profs. I probably strayed too far into allegorizing the text for the application. That is part of the reason why the opening includes the remarks that the reading might be idiosyncratic. It probably comes from studying Hebrews in Bible Class which contains an extended allegory on Melchizedek, an obscure OT figure. A full allegory has four levels of meaning: Literal, Christological, Moral and Mystical. It is not that an allegory can’t be true, but that modern textual methodology calls it a foul ball. What one person sees in an allegory might not be universally applicable. An allegory can be too cute for its own good. The other side of the balance sheet is that the church for 1200+ years primarily read the scriptures as allegory. Only with the advent of the pre-modern university did a heavily literal approach start to take priority. It can be said that the reformation was really and argument over which level of allegory was the most important. The Reformers argued for the Literal and the Christological while the late medieval Catholics emphasized the mystical and then the moral. (And that paragraph is one that could be picked apart to death as to those who really study this stuff that is really superficial to the point of being wrong. Forgive me the brevity.)

When reading a text, and in preaching on a text, those levels of meaning are still important. You can talk about a moral meaning from a text without necessarily allegorizing. The literal events of this text were the faith of a woman in the power of Jesus to heal, and a demonstration of that power even over death. To transfer that text to modern day you would emphasize the power of Christ in the the people who live by faith. I still did that, but in a way that makes the literal meaning of the text receed into the background.

A contrast is established between Jairus who approaches Jesus from the front and the unnamed woman who approaches from behind. I tried to set us or most moderns up as Jairus – the respectable churchman who approaches Jesus desperate but asking for a favor. The flip is that Jesus calls the low status unnamed woman daughter. While we might associate with Jairus, salvation, peace and health are in approaching Jesus like this woman – in fear and telling the whole truth. [Think confession and absolution.] Jairus and the disciples are amazed at the power of Jesus, but it is the woman who is called daughter. In fact it takes a miracle of Jesus – a raising of the dead – to convert us from thinking of ourselves a Jairus (fundametally respectable and ok asking for a favor) to thinking of ourselves as the woman (bloody and unclean with sin). And when Jesus does raise us from the dead, we must be fed with the Word of God. See what I did, certain elements of the story like how a person approached, physical attributes or physical needs are read as symbolic. If you agree with my symbolic readings it makes sense, but you might just as easily think I’ve gone off the deep end.

All that said, I think the sermon conveys truth. I would defend its textuality on the basis of the words and events narrated and how the church has matrixed those words and events through time. Being called a child/daughter by God is the result of accepting the Gospel which follows repentance. True repentance is the work of God in us – a raising of the dead. It is the poor that are blessed with the Kingdom of Heaven. The church has consistenly talked about sin as a disease. This was not an academic’s sermon, but I think it might be closer to the way actual people think.