Truth

The only hope for humanity is mercy. This is becoming abundantly clear as fewer and fewer people are willing to simply talk to one another, and more and more people are simply shouting down one another. There is no mercy, and no seeking to understand another’s position. With mercy, the discourse that is experienced, especially on social media would improve. However, no one can hear the cry for mercy over the self-righteous shouts of sinners seeking salvation in doing, or saying, or being the right thing.

Our only hope is mercy. Mercy for our sins. Mercy form Jesus.  Steadfast love is what we have from Jesus. He who was silent before those who tortured and killed Him was bearing our sin in His flesh, and giving to us an example. Jesus blood blots out our failings, and His life, a life born of the Spirit, found in the Word of God brings us mercy. A mercy that restores our humanity, and unites us by faith in Jesus. A mercy that brings to us the truth.

Of the three persons of the most holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit has most names. Jesus, of course has the most titles, but it is the Holy Spirit that is given the most names. Paraclete, the helper, wisdom, the Spirit of truth, among many others. These names give us a glimpse into who the Spirt is, and what he does. Chief among the works of the Holy Spirit is the proclamation of the truth.

Truth is difficult. As silly as that may sound, just go to the U of M, and find an average looking student, and ask them if 2+2=7. Make sure you tell them that you feel that this must be true, therefore it is true. They will have a hard time finding the words to tell say you are wrong, and 2+2 in fact = 4. Truth, we are told is a construct. In other words, truth is not objective, based on observable reality, but subjective, made in your own heart and mind.

This is not the view of the world God creates in us by the Word, by the Spirit of truth. Truth is from God, and reflects His very nature. He creates reality, and sets us in this reality that we may know the love He has for us in Jesus. That by faith in our Lord, we may be set free by the truth.

Advertisements

Hearers and doers

Faith in the saving work of Jesus, His cross and resurrection is a busy and active thing. It is true that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17) and we are set free form sin, the devil, and the condemnation of the Law only by the work of Jesus for us. Because these things are true, our faith in Jesus is active in love. Love toward the God who saves us, and love toward our neighbor who is made in the image and likeness of our Lord. Hearing the Word of liberty leads to acts of loving devotion. The one baptized into Christ, confessing salvation in God alone becomes, by the working of the Spirit a doer of God’s Word.

There is a dangerous mentality found in Christianity that I will call club Christianity. It idea is that since you have been baptized, and you put in the work of catechesis, and have been confirmed, you are in the club. You can go on your merry way, living however you see fit, for in the end, you’re in. You’ve done what it takes to be in the club.

This misses the Gospel. It places all the emphasis on what you have done – in completing instruction in the faith, and going through confirmation rather than on what Jesus continually does for you in His Word and Sacraments. What is more, when we expose this club Christianity mentality to the light of day, it is the bare minimum. The very least you can do to be right with the Lord.

The good news is, this doing of the Word St. James speaks of is not a matter of what you do. Rather, it is born of the trust you have in Jesus. The Lord who died for you, who rose victorious and breathes into you soul His life giving forgiveness calls you into a lifelong relationship with Him. This discipleship is fed by the preaching and the Word of God, nurtured by the body and blood of Jesus given and shed for you, and lived in love toward your neighbor.

As Jesus is a jealous God (Num. 20) Christ will not suffer others to take His glory, to take His place in your life. Jesus rescues from sin, death and the devil, therefore it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

Convicted by the Holy Spirit

When someone believes strongly in something, or someone, it is said that they have a strong conviction about said topic. To be convicted is to be convinced that something is true, and that the action to be taken is the right way to go.

Jesus uses this word conviction to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. While it may seem that the Word and ways of the Holy Spirit are mysterious, the truth is, for we who pay attention to what our Lord Jesus says, it is quite clear. The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict.

First, He convicts the world, all of us of sin. This is the work of the Law. God’s Law shows us our own sinfulness by pointing out God’s perfect will, and in so doing, showing how in our weakness, and selfishness we have failed to live up to God’s good will. The Spirit takes this conviction a step further. The only way your sin can harm your soul is for you to deny that Jesus death and resurrection are for you. That by grace in Jesus you are forgiven. Unbelief is what separates anyone form Jesus’ love.

Second, the Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness. It is popular to believe that a person is saved, and will go to heaven if they area good person. Recently, the current Pope, Francis made headlines saying that if someone is a good person, regardless of a confession of faith in Christ Jesus, they will be in heaven. If this is true, then Jesus had no reason to suffer the cross, die, be buried and rise again. Your righteousness that stands before Go is not your own doing. Rather, Jesus, out of love for you, gives you His righteousness, that by faith in Him you may have life in His Name.

Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgement. This world is passing away. Not in the way radical environmentalists imagine, but according to God’s Word. God Jesus will come to be our judge. This judgement is by faith. Those who trust that Jesus has forgiven them as His Word says will be saved. Those who reject Christ, who live as though His Word is of no value or meaning will be judged according to their sin.

As we continue the celebration of Easter, let us rejoice in the good news that Jesus is living. Let us sing praises to Christ our redeemer form sin and death and the power of the devil.

Sorrow turning into Joy

Sorrow is a curious thing. When experiencing sorrow, it always seems as though the sun will not bright, and the blues will not go away. Even though we have been sad many times, and the emotion passed, and life returns, and joy came again, when sorrow hits us, it always seems like we cannot be happy again.

For some, this is true. For those how live with depression, it can seem like sorrow will never go away, and life will always be sad. If you cannot remember the last time you were happy, if you find yourself hiding behind a smile that goes no further than your face, then, please seek help. Pastor has the tools and experience to help you, along with the Word of God, that speaks light into the darkest places.

For the disciples, as Jesus revealed to them the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s word brought confusion and sorrow. “A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while and you will see me.”

They knew Jesus was talking about His own death, even as the disciples didn’t understand that the sorrow of His death would be replaced with the wonder and joy of the resurrection. All they really knew was that they wanted to be with Jesus, and with Him forever. To hear that He would not be with them, even for a little while, brought sorrow.

It is the work of the Holy Spirt to bring to faith those who hear and believe the message of the cross. That God Himself died to save us from death, and the resurrection of Jesus is proof of His victory over the enemies of humanity. By this Word the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens us, that by faith we may be forgiven children of God.

The Holy Spirit then, working in the Word of Christ, brings us into the presence of the Lord. Every time we gather to hear the Word, to listen to the sermon, and to receive the Lord’s Supper, we come into the presence of Jesus with thanksgiving. He who loves us to the point of death, even death on the cross is with us here on earth.

By the resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of faith breathed into our hearts by the Word, the sorrow we have over sin is turned to joy. Through all of life, Jesus, the living Lord is with you.

Shepherd – Savior

In the ancient near East kings were often referred to as shepherds. This imagery is carried into art and symbols of authority such as the scepter. A scepter is the rod and staff of a shepherd carried as a tool to guide and protect the flock. The image of the king as a shepherd is not one of a power hungry tyrant, feeding off of the fat and labor of the sheep, but of a father, whose duty is to provide for, protect, and guide the flock to safety and plenty. In truth, this is the image of what it means to be a Christian man – a husband and father.

In many ways and forms manhood is under attack by our culture. The typical alpha male, is maligned as toxic masculinity. The desire to subdue and order for the prospering of all is seen as bad for society. Little boys, whose natural energy is noisy are often held down in their boyishness in in school.

The result has not been a kinder, gentler world, as promised by our cultural betters, but the unraveling of culture as families are more and more dissolving. Both men and women, boys and girls are hurt.

As we reflect on the beautiful, and much loved image of Jesus as our good shepherd it is a good time to also celebrate how God has created us both male and female, and has given men and women for each other.

Jesus, our Shepherd is our king. He faced down the enemies of our souls and with power and authority He defeated the forces of darkness. In the midst of those who would hurt us, and enslave our souls to darkness, Jesus has set a table of His supper, His very body and blood given and shed for those who trust in His Word.

While human kings and rulers, and even the best dads among us fall short of the ideal of shepherd, Jesus is perfect. By His Word our Lord calls, gathers, and feeds us. By the Word of our Savior Christ guides us sheep that we may dwell with Him in eternity.

As Christ is our Good Shepherd, so He has given us, in great generosity all that we need. And by His word of grace, we, His people are empowered to live as redeemed men and women, holy and righteous in His sight.

Real doubts

The apostle Thomas is an apt example for us in this day and age. The testimony of his close friends was not enough for him to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. He demanded facts.

“These things did Thomas count as real: the warmth of blood, the chill of steel, the grain of wood, the heft of stone, the last frail twitch of flesh and bone. The vision of his skeptic mind was keen enough to make him blind to any unexpected act too large for his small world of fact.” LSB 472

Constantly the refrain of science verses religion is sounded throughout our culture. For far too many, physical reality is all there is. This materialism eventually proves to be a cold world view, bereft of meaning, and joy. Reality, however is more than what is seen, and touched, and heard. You cannot see or touch your great great grandfather, yet, you know he existed, he had a life, and he passed on to you many family traits.

“His reasoned certainties denied that one could live when one had died, until his fingers read like brail the markings of the spear and nail. May we, O God, by grace believe and thus the risen Christ receive, whose raw imprinted palms reaches out and beckoned Thomas form his doubt.”

Thomas was called to be an apostle, one who is sent to bear witnesses to Jesus and His resurrection, therefore Thomas needed to see and touch the living Lord.

You, however and more highly blessed than Thomas, for you have been giving the Word, and by the Word, not seeing, you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you have life in His Name.

Truth is more than what science can see, for science cannot see beyond material reality. For those whose only source of truth is science, then there is no morality, or propose, or even love.

However, for those who are joined by faith to Jesus, who in the Word have received the Spirit, truth is both flesh and spirit. Jesus, who died, is living, and all who trust in Him by faith will live in Him and His word now, and into eternity.

Strange and Dreadful

“It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended. The victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended. Holy Scripture plainly saith that death is swallowed up by death. Its sting is lost forever. Alleluia!” Martin Luther, “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”

Easter is a celebration of freedom. Sin, death and the terrible power of the devil set themselves against God, and against His anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart.” Let us take form God what He has made, and use it to our own, evil purpose.

For everything that is used against the will and purpose God had given in making it is indeed evil. Our own sinful flesh is most certainly complicit in this war against the Lord of life. So wretched were we, that even though we knew it would spell certain death and eternal punishment, we kicked against the goad. Completely lost was our condition, so much so, that nothing we could so – no good work would earn for us the favor of God, would restore us to life. Sin had left us all as the walking dead.

Even so, God the mighty maker is the author of life. So, Jesus strode into battle, bearing our frail flesh. Meeting the final enemy, death, head on, Jesus ascended the wood of the cross, and bleed out His life. Giving Himself up for you. Dying because of His love for you.

The strangeness of this strife is how the Lord of life defeats His enemy. Jesus destroys all that threatens to sink us into the eternal grave by His own death. Strange and dreadful was the battle to those who looked on. Life seemed to be swallowed up by death.

Rather, as Scripture plainly tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 – it is death that is swallowed up in the death of Jesus.

The Battle won by the giving of the Son of God to God to satisfy the demands of justice, Jesus rose.

Christ is living, never to die again. On this our hope is renewed and set. We who are baptized and believe, know that Jesus died for our sins, and was raised in triumph over all our enemies. This is why we celebrate. We, who were lost are saved by the all-encompassing mercy and love of our resurrected king. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!