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Trinity 16 2021 - Luke 7:11-17

Trinity 16 2021

Luke 7:11-17

September 19, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


The woman’s situation was desperate. She was a widow, and now her son had died. Her future was uncertain.  No husband and now no son. And so, understandably, she wept. We don’t know why or how he died.  We do know that this grieving woman and her only son were surrounded by a crowd as he was being carried out of town to be buried when they came across another crowd. This crowd was gathered around another only son, the only Son of God, who would later die Himself and be carried outside of town to be buried. 

As these two crowds converge, the Lord Jesus sees this grieving mother and has compassion on her. There is no mention of anyone’s faith here. The grieving and widowed mother doesn’t run to Jesus for help. Neither the disciples nor the crowds ask Jesus to do something. The dead boy does not ask for healing, because, well, he’s dead. This is important. Jesus acts not because He is asked, but because of His compassion. And so He tells her to stop weeping.  It’s not that He was rebuking her for shedding her tears for her dead son, but that there was no more need for crying. For death would not hold her only son. He was confessing a greater reality, one beyond what the eyes could see during any funeral procession.

We are given a picture here of how death has come into the world by sin and infects everyone.  The way in which death snatched away this man is the way that death has worked since the beginning up unto today and will continue to do so until the end of the world. Our current culture, which is fleeting, seeks to alleviate suffering with one hand through economics or politics while promoting a culture of death in abortion, euthanasia, suicide with the other. No fountain of youth, no diet, no surgery, no vaccine can protect against the power of death.  The poison of death came to Adam by sin, and through him it has been handed down to all creation, our very bodies have become bodies of death. Every day of your life is a day closer to your death. 

In and of itself, there is nothing good about death. We should not romanticize it nor treat it as if it doesn’t matter. We were not meant to die. If it were not for sin we would not die.  Death is the wages of sin and the enemy of God. But make no mistake, it is a defeated enemy. Through Christ’s victory, death has no more sting. Through Christ’s victory, the cause of weeping is done away with. Through Christ, a great prophet has arisen among us. Through Christ, God has visited His people. 

And so Jesus touches the funeral bier. Normally, this would have made a person ceremonially unclean. Yet instead of being defiled, Jesus cleans and heals. The power of cleanliness and life is in Him. Jesus speaks, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Just as he told the widow to stop her weeping, He told the boy to stop being dead, to get up. The boy had to rise so that Jesus could lie down in his place.

 And isn’t that just the way that Jesus works. Jesus dies so that you may live.  Jesus speaks, and the dead rise. In Luke’s Gospel this is all very important. Raising of the dead is the only prophetic miracle that Jesus had not yet performed. The raising of the dead is the miracle which demonstrates Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic hope and that with Him the kingdom of God has come. Jesus is greater than Elijah who restored the life of a widow’s son in our Old Testament reading.

And the result is faith. Those who witnessed this miracle glorified God through Jesus. The crowds recognize and confess, “A great prophet has arisen among us,” the crowd says.  “Arisen,” which comes from the same word that Jesus used to call the dead man to life. And which is the same word used to describe Jesus’ journey through death to life.  This boy’s resurrection foreshadows two others in the Gospel of Luke: first, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and more importantly, Jesus’ own resurrection. They believe and confess, “God has visited His people.” There He is, God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us, doing what only God can do.

By this miracle, Jesus is teaching them, and us, who He is.  If Jesus is only a teacher and miracle worker, then He has come to lessen human suffering. This is the Jesus that the world wants: the social justice warrior, the anti-establishment revolutionary, the radical rabbi. 

But we who have heard and have believed the Word of God, understand that Jesus must also suffer rejection, and even death. We know what kind of prophet this Jesus truly is: a teacher, a miracle worker, and the One who will suffer on behalf of the world and die upon the cross. We know of Easter, that death cannot keep the only Son of God. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:9, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again: death no longer has dominion over Him.”  He pulled Christ out from the closed and sealed grave in an instant. As Christ spoke to this dead man and commanded Him to rise, so too will we be commanded to rise from our graves. We know that God will do for us Christians what He has done for Christ.

This is the very source of our hope: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” As death has come by one man, the first Adam, so resurrection will come by one man, the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  “I say to you, arise!” Jesus’ voice will call you from death to eternal life on that day of resurrection, with your own body as St. Paul proclaimed to the Philippian Christians, that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, “will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). 

This miracle gives special comfort to all who mourn and weep because of sin. The dead are not beyond the voice of Christ. It doesn’t matter how long death has held a person, nor the age or time of death, for all will hear His voice. He will call His people not just into His presence, but in the presence of one another. He will restore the dead to the living, and the living to the dead. He will wipe away all tears in the final consummation of compassion. Christ’s love, as taught in the Epistle, is far more abundant that all we ask or think, and the power at work within us gives life in the midst of death as we await the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

Trinity 15 2021 - Matthew 6:24-34

Trinity 15 2021

Introit: Psalm 86:(4, 6, 15a, 16; antiphon: 1a, 2b, 3); Matthew 6:24-34

September 12, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


This last Tuesday, Sept 7, was the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the German blitz over London in 1940. In expectation of this, a year earlier in 1939, the English government produced a motivational poster in an attempt to raise morale.  It read “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  Even though about 2.5 million of these were made, they were rarely posted in public and largely forgotten until rediscovered in a bookstore in the year 2000. Reminiscent of its original creation, a year after its rediscovery, the catch phrase took on new meaning as disaster struck again, not by falling bombs but by falling planes.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the incredible disaster and attacks by evil resulting in thousands of deaths. This was a defining moment for a generation, something that has shaped our culture, for good and bad, from that time forward.  Even our church body, the LCMS, was affected by these events, and response afterward. Forty-three Lutheran school children lost a parent in the attack.  Dozens of congregants’ lives were lost.  Ron Bucca, the FDNY Fire Marshal for zip code 10010—the World Trade Center—was memorialized at Concordia College, Bronxville, which sadly had to just close its doors this past spring. A former pastor of our congregation, Pastor Steve Lee, was even at ground zero right after this took place ministering to the first responders. 

When such evil happens in the world, especially when it hits close to home and the way that people live, we are often left with a panic, with uncertainty, with fear.  It is natural to go back and forth between shock, sadness, and anger both over the evil acts of sinful men and concern of what it means for the future. Keep calm and carry on has become a sort of mantra to deal with evil and worry in our post 9/11 world. 

But Christianity has a deeper meaning and greater understanding and a message that actually changes hearts and minds and has eternal consequences.  In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus clearly tells us that we ought not be anxious about our life.  Jesus isn’t just trying to motivate you to will yourself into a worry-free life, or to burry feelings or anxieties.  If you’ve ever had a panic attack or been so overwhelmed with stress, you know you can’t just will yourself to calm down.  This kind of calm isn’t to ignore problems as they arise, nor avoid confrontation.  Sin is always present; the devil is always crouching at the door ready to pounce. CS Lewis once wrote, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” This is the peace and calm of which Jesus speaks comes only from the peace of God that passes all understanding.  A gladdening of the soul in the knowledge and faith that God takes care of his people no matter the circumstance, no matter the evil, no matter the tragedy, no matter the fear. It is a matter of faith, and such a faith comes from and is strengthened by Jesus’ Himself. 

And so the Psalmist declares, in the words from our Introit from Psalm 86, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, turn to me and be gracious to me; give Your strength to Your servant, and save the son of Your maidservant” (Psalm 18:16). This Psalm is a sure and certain prayer God hears the prayers of His people.  That He will answer in mercy and grace, that He will turn toward His people and give strength to them in time of need. For He has given His strength to Jesus, the son of the maidservant.  It is along these lines that we see our Lord’s deliberate identification with the poor and needy.  Sold and purchased for a price (30 pieces of silver), Jesus is unjustly condemned by those who decided that He must die that go to extreme measures to insure this terror. Found guilty by a rigged jury, condemned by an intimidated judge, our Lord makes Himself one with all those who suffer evil, even death, by those willing and powerful enough to inflict it. 

But it is also important to remember that the humility of Christ is more than a mere social or economic condition or the result of a clash of cultures.  In His assumption of human flesh, He did not consider His equality with God a thing to be grasped as He emptied Himself and assumed the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-10). This He did in order to save you, to wage the war on the terror of sin for you and to win!

In Jesus’ darkest hour, when it looked as if evil will triumph over goodness, death over the very author of life, He already knows the outcome of this fight, “For this is the reason the Father loves me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

In the realization of evil, of tragedy, of loss, of being scared over what the future might hold, we see Christ, who though He committed no sin and did no evil, evil was done upon Him.  We see Christ crying out to God to hear His prayer as He hung upon the cross.  We see Christ risen defeating the enemy of sin and death and the devil. We see Christ as the answer to our prayers, the one who saves His servants.  We see Christ, who carries on… for us.  For God’s answer to evil is the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Let’s face it, we are burdened with worries and anxieties each and every day that we can’t overcome.  We are worried and wearied by the battles throughout the week, the month, the years.  Which is why we come to here, to place our burdens on Christ, who carries on to the cross us so that we may carry on in faith. When the world says to carry on, it is fully in the realm of the Law.  Keep plowing on, pull yourself up from your bootstraps, suck it up and get past it. But the reality is, we can’t. There’s worry over terrorist attack may have waned over the last 20 years, but now there’s renewed concern over Afghanistan.  There’s worry over the direction that our culture is taking. There’s worry over disease, masks, and vaccines.  There’s worry over personal liberty and public health. 

The Christian church made it through the crucifixion of our Lord.  We made it through persecution and the fall of empires.  We made it through terrorism.  We made it through polio, and we’ll make it through COVID and whatever else the devil and evil men will throw. Carried on by the grace of God, not with panic or fear or suspicious looking sideways at others when they cough, hatred in against your neighbor because they did or didn’t get vaccinated. St. Paul urges, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another… as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 5:26, 6:10) Rather than feeling overwhelmed by those things that confront us, keep your attention focused upon the Lord, for He alone is God.  Because of His steadfast love, He will not neglect those who belong to Him. 

St. Paul states, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Do not grow weary or doing good, carry on by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, for in due season we will reap what God has sown for us in Christ, that is to say, eternal life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and walk by the Spirit. 

There is no sin or evil, no terrorist of the body or soul, who can separate you from God’s love in His servant, Jesus Christ.  While the twin towers fell, the twin pillars of the Word of God remain – Law and Gospel. The Word of the Lord endures forever because Christ is risen. The war on the terror of your conscience before God and the raging sinful world is won in Christ! 

Trinity 14 2021 - Luke 17:11-19

Trinity 14 2021

Luke 17:11-19

September 5, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Did you notice that in our Gospel reading today that everyone is on the move?  Jesus is passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  He is on His way to Jerusalem, but taking the long, windy way around.  We know where He is going – to His death on the cross.  God is on the move.

And then there’s the lepers, standing at a distance. They are stuck.  Sir Isaac Newton described what is called the First Law of Motion that an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an external force.  They can’t move themselves out of their situation unless acted upon by something that has power over them. 

But they had heard about Jesus.  And so they cry out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Notice what this is not and what this is.  Their cry is not for cleansing but for mercy.  The lepers are all slaves of their condition. They have no freedom. Their way is hampered at every turn. In order to be free they must be cleansed. They must be rid of the disease that stands in their way, that blocks their way to God. But that disease is simply a symptom of a greater problem. That disease only highlights the necessity not just of cleansing but of faith. The basis for the cleansing is the atonement.  It is cleanliness that comes only by the washing with the blood of Christ where Jesus shows God’s ultimate mercy by cleanings all creation from the leprosy of sin. 

Jesus then puts them into motion.  Jesus commands them to go and show themselves to the priests.  Once stuck in the muck of sin (the leprous yuck), now they are moved by Jesus’ Words. Jesus’ purpose of sending them to the priests is to fulfill the Old Testament laws, but also something more. Jesus wants the cleansed men to go to the place of sacrifice and offer themselves as a living testimony of the healing that Jesus brings.  They go by faith, having confidence that they will be healed.

The great irony, of course, is that only one of the ten turns back to Jesus.  All ten were cleansed, they were all set free from leprosy. But only one was saved from the effects of sin, only one had faith to return to give glory to God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is, only one worshiped God in Spirit and in truth. This is salvation, which leads to worship, by a Samaritan no less. The Samaritan’s worship is a confession of his faith.  He returns to Jesus, giving glory to God, he fell, giving thanks to Jesus.  In fact, this is the only place where “giving thanks” is directed toward to Jesus.  This giving thanks, this eucharist, is an allusion to the Church’s ongoing Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Altar.  Part of the way that you give thanks to God is by falling on your knees before the altar to receive the healing and cleansing of Jesus’ body and blood. 

Now the healed Samaritan is moved into motion.  When Jesus tells the Samaritan leper to rise and go his way, He isn’t merely telling him he should get on his way and catch up with the other nine, nor is He telling him that since he’s now better, he can arise and go do whatever his little heart desires.  It’s such a poor English translation to say, “Rise and go your way.” But we like it. We like it because deep-down we like to believe that Jesus is perfectly fine with us going our own way and doing our own thing.  This is NOT what Jesus is saying here!  “Rise and paroumai.  Rise and journey.” By using this very specific word, Jesus is calling this man to rise and take a pilgrimage, not just going anywhere, but with Him on His purposeful journey to His cross.  He’s calling him to bear witness to Him as Jesus the heavenly High Priest presents Himself to His God and Father as the all-atoning sacrifice for all sin for all time.  Jesus is calling this man to journey in saving faith in all his comings and goings throughout the remainder of his life. 

“Rise and journey, your faith has made you well.”  True enough, but better yet, “your faith has saved you.” You see, this healing comes not because of the Samaritan’s faith in and of itself, but who he has faith in, the One to whom he had given thanks.  “Faith is that which freely obtains God’s mercy because of God’s Word” (Ap V 31-32).  And this healing is more than physical, but it is salvation, it is deliverance from the leprosy of sin and death that will even move the dead out of their graves on the day of the resurrection, the day of final and complete healing. “Rise and journey!”

Until that time, Jesus is still on the move, still healing, still moving us out of our sinful stupor onto the pilgrimage road toward enteral life.  Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in your baptism. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares each time you eat His body and drink His blood. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in His holy absolution as He heals you from the leprosy of your sin.

But take note: Jesus never promises the Samaritan a cross-less, pain-free, worry-free journey.  He promises him salvation.  This is so important for us to remember.  The Christian journey in this fallen and sinful world is a journey full of danger, despair, fear, suffering and sorrow.  It’s a journey that involves bearing crosses.  No one should be surprised or shocked by this.  No one should be caught off-guard.  It is the valley of the shadow of death through which you walk.  But He promises to be your shield.  He promises to guide you, lead you, protect you, and feed you all along the way. 

God is on the move in Jesus.  He comes to you today leading you back to Himself and out into the world.  Get up and get going, to the Eucharist at the altar, out into the world, and back again to Jesus.  Rise and journey, your faith in Jesus makes you well and saves you.

The Matyrdom of St. John the Baptist 2021

The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist 2021

Mark 6:14-29

August 29, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Today we commemorate the death of the greatest man born of woman.  Standing with one foot in the Old and one in the New, John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament and first of the New Testament martyrs.  From his mother’s womb to his camel’s hair clothing and diet of locusts and honey to the time he baptized Jesus and heard the Father’s voice and saw the Spirit descend, John proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He knew that he must decrease and Jesus must increase (John 3:30), since he was the one who was to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Now, John had only been preaching publicly for about a year and half before he was jailed for speaking against the King.  It was while he was in prison that Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  Sitting in prison, John knew it wouldn’t end well for him, and in needing the reassurance of faith, Jesus sent him the comfort, “God and tell John… the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). In other words, the Kingdom of God had arrived in Jesus.

It was this good news of repentance and faith, the resurrection, and the casting out of demons and the healing of many by the apostles sent out and commissioned by Jesus that Herod had heard.  He had heard more and more about this Jesus, it brought to mind how he had executed John.  Maybe his fear and guilt over John’s death caused his suspicion that the Baptizer had returned from the dead.  Regardless, when Herod hears more about Jesus, we get this sort of flashback as he remembers what he did to John.

John had spoken up against the sin of Herod, over his adultery and lust. The plane fact of the matter is that John is martyred because he says that adultery is wrong, that Herod should stop fooling around with his brother’s wife. Herod divorced his first wife to marry Herodias, even though this was unlawful according to the Levitical law, and Herodias had divorced her husband, Phillip.  To make it even more scandalous, Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great.  This Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, and the half-brother of Phillip.  In other words, both of Herodias’ husbands were also her uncles. And if that wasn’t enough, the daughter of Herodias “pleases” Herod and others with her dancing. There are certainly some sexual undertones here.  This is all gross, inappropriate to say the least, and there isn’t a decent person in the room.

And Herodias takes advantage of this to ask for John the Baptist’s head.  During the feast she wants to gorge her sinfulness, with the head of John served up to them on a platter. Now Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.  He kept John safe, imprisoned more like an interesting pet, but his conscience caved to his sinful pride. He worried more about keeping his word to Herodias’ daughter that doing the righteous and holy thing and he had John beheaded.

When news reached John’s disciples, they came and took the body away and buried it, not treating it as a piece of trash to burned and scattered around, but in faithful hope of the coming resurrection of the dead.  Then they went to Jesus.  Which is exactly what John taught them to do: Go to Jesus.

That’s what his death teaches us today. All martyrs testify and direct us to Jesus.  We may tell stories of great heroes and tragic ends to inspire us to certain virtues and a way of life, but that isn’t the ultimate point.  This isn’t about John’s courage or character.  This is about John’s faith, or rather, who John had faith in.  John’s own expectation and belief that Jesus is the Messiah gave him the courage of his convictions because he had the Holy Spirit, and he knew Jesus, and he held on the certainty of the resurrection and being delivered through death and into life.  

Would it be for us as well.  That’s what we prayed for today.  Look at the Collect of the Day for today.  It begins, “Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death.”  It’s an adoration of God for sending John to point us to Jesus.  Then it continues, “Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins.”  It’s very Sacramental, isn’t it, and connects with the Epistle from Romans 6.  A recognition that in your Baptism you are already united to Jesus’ death and resurrection which then leads you to repentance over sin and faith in Jesus.

Then, “patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death.”  How appropriate for so much of our current situations.  How can we not think of the Church in Afghanistan experiencing this very thing.  is saying, “we will gather and likely die” and give witness to the hope we have in Jesus, many in the church in America say, we will gather, “unless there’s a football game on, or a birthday, or it’s a nice day, or my friends are doing something else, or church might go too long.” While we argue over mask and vaccine mandates, they are faced with probable death. 

If this hits a little too close to home, give it some thought. Rather than defensively blowing it off, think about the reasons you give or justifications you make for skipping church. We've all missed church before. Sometimes with good reasons. Sometimes with less than good reasons. Examine your heart and then, rather than attempting to justify yourself, repent! Repent and receive the forgiveness Jesus won for you on the cross. Receive the forgiveness proclaimed to you in the words of absolution and that Christ gives to you in His very Body and Blood.  As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). 

Join your voices and hope with those whose faith soon turns to sight and look to Jesus.  With the Christians in Afghanistan and scattered throughout the world, even with the heavenly saints, who we heard crying out in our First Reading today, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Given a white robe, which is the righteousness of Christ washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and told to rest a while until the time of Christ has come. By the grace of Christ, you join the ranks of those heavenly saints, awaiting the final and complete deliverance out of the great tribulation. You who are “in Christ” live the life of Christ—a life of suffering, but also of victory.  St. Peter writes in his first letter, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen. 

Trinity 12 2021 - Mark 7:31-37

Trinity 12 2021

Mark 7:31-37

August 22, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


“O Lord, open my lips.  And my mouth shall declare your praise.”  These words from Psalm 51 are frequently sung in the daily prayer offices of Matins and Vespers as a profound part of the Christian’s sacrifice of prayer and praise.  It highlights the reality that in order to praise God our lips must be opened by God Himself, that is it God who enables faith and a faithful response to His grace. 

Our Gospel reading this morning text tells us of the miracle wherein Jesus heals a man who is deaf and mute and illustr ates the spiritual reality by means of the physical healing. After this man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed by the Son of God, the man spoke plainly. More precisely Mark tells us that the man spoke “rightly.” Orthos is the Greek word here. It means to act in conformity with a norm or standard, rightly, correctly. Our words Orthopedic (right feet), Orthodontics (right teeth), and orthodoxy (right praise, correct teaching) come from this word. The text tells us that he had a speech impediment, which makes sense if he is deaf and cannot hear his own words.  But after Jesus’ encounter with him, the deaf and mute man spoke orthos, that is, he spoke rightly. 

But it is more than he could now speak clearly or plainly.  That the healed man now spoke rightly necessarily means that before he spoke wrongly, out of conformity with the norm or standard. Yes, through muddled words, but again, it is more than that.  In other words, there is a standard and the Lord can tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong because He does all things well. 

G.K. Chesterton, a prominent English writer, philosopher, and lay theologian from 100 years ago argued that this is our great problem. We have all been asking with increasing frequency “what is wrong with the world?” What is wrong with the world is that we do not ask what is right.  We do not recognize that there is a standard. We can all see that things have gone wrong, but how can it be set right if we do not know what right is? There’s an old Star Trek episode where a woman had crash landed on a planet and she was badly hurt. Some aliens found here and healed her, but didn’t know what a human was supposed to look like, so she ends up being all mangled and misaligned. 

This is part of the part of the problem. If we try to fix it for ourselves, we’re going to mess it up.  But we don’t always recognize what is right. Because we do not believe that it is the Lord who sets that standard. We believe that we get to set it, that we get to define who we are and what reality should be like. Because we don’t actually trust like we should that the Lord does all things well and causes all things for good and for the good of our faith. (based upon G.K. Chesterton’s, What Is Wrong with the World?”).

The history of sin is the history of thinking we know better than God and His Word.  Eve couldn’t understand, she was ignorant of the reason for God’s command to not eat the fruit. She could not see for herself why God would command this since it was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and capable of making her wise. Why then not do what she knew to be good since God’s Word and command didn’t make any sense. She thought God was wrong about what was good or that God didn’t really understand. So she took matters in her own hands. And her husband who was with her let her do it. 

That is what you do every time you sin. You refuse God’s Word for your own wisdom. God’s Law is always good. His Word is always trustworthy. Sometimes to your fallen reason, it seems contrary to what is good. That is because you’re ignorant. You are like the friends of the healed man, thinking, “What could be wrong with telling people about Jesus healing this deaf man?”  Jesus had opened the man’s ears and loosened his tongue. So now he spoke rightly. It was a miracle. They wanted to tell others about it. They did not understand why Jesus told them to be quiet about it. And since they couldn’t understand, they ignored Him. They were ignorant of the reason, they chose their own path. What harm could come, they thought, from telling others about the compassionate power of God in Jesus? Such a thing seemed not only victimless but good and even necessary despite the Lord’s command.

And here was the problem. They were telling people that He was a miracle worker, which was true enough, but they weren’t telling people that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It wasn’t heresy, but it was misleading and incomplete.   This confusion about who Jesus is, what His mission and purpose are, makes His mission and Ministry more difficult. When He is brought in front of Herod at His trial, that is what Herod wants. He had heard of Jesus performing miracles. He wanted to see a trick.

The real miracle Jesus came to perform is to make all things right, bodies and souls and all creation. He came to reconcile all of humanity back to His Father through His death and resurrection. He came to give His life as a sacrifice and ransom and to rescue us out of Hell. But Herod doesn’t get that. And that might well be the fault of these people who blabbed about the healing of the deaf man when Jesus told them not to. In that regard, the people who brought the deaf mute to be healed didn’t speak rightly.

These things are a warning to us. God’s Word is never arbitrary. Never let ignorance be the reason for doing something. When God’s Law seems contrary to what is good, it’s best simply to repent and submit to God’s Word. When you don’t, when you insist upon your way, you hurt yourself and hurt others. There are no victimless sins.  When He says don’t tell people, He means it and He means it for our good because He does all things well.  When He commands do this, or don’t this, He means it, and He means it for your good because He does all things well.  Whether you completely understand is beside the point. He opens your lips to declare His praise, not your understanding. 

Through it all the Lord has compassion. The sorrow and pain of the deaf man moves Him to act out of His great compassion even though it will result in making His ministry and mission harder. The fact that they don’t receive His Word, that they take the miracle and run, that they don’t fully understand who He is, does not stop Him or lessen His compassion.  He still comes knowing that you will hurt Him, that you will complicate matters, that you will betray Him in your sinfulness. He knows you will open your mouth when you shouldn’t and speak wrongly.  He groans in sorrow and frustration over your confusion and self-righteousness. He sighs in grief over your sins and self-inflicted pain.  He takes your sorrow, your sin, your blame into Himself in order to heal and save. He is the friend of sinners. 

That is more astonishing than any other miracle. He is faithful to you even unto death and risen from the dead to bring you to Himself alive and healed, body and soul, on the last day. For He does do all things well. And proclaiming this, we speak rightly.

St. Mary, Mother of our Lord 2021

St. Mary, Mother of our Lord 2021

Luke 1:39-55

August 15, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Over the last few years here at Zion, with some exception, whenever a special feast or festival day falls on a Sunday, we have observed it in the Divine Service with the appropriate Scripture readings, prayers, and colors.  Part of the reasoning is because your average Lutheran congregation doesn’t really observe these things too often since it isn’t part of our American Lutheran culture to attend church throughout the week when these days typically are observed.  But we’ve been doing this to increase the knowledge and understanding of these events and people to highlight the example of their faith, but most importantly of God’s grace given to His Church throughout time and location.  These days are according to the historic western church calendar, which can be found in the Lutheran Service Book on pages x-xiii. 

Normally an event is observed on its anniversary, and a person is observed on the day of his or her death, their heavenly birthday, as it were.  And so it is today in the case of St. Mary, the Mother of God. There is probably no other saint that causes Lutherans, and most Protestants in general, to perk up or have a knee jerk reaction than that of St. Mary, the Mother of our Lord, particularly because the abuses by the Roman Catholic Church. 

Luther carefully outlines how we should and should not honor this “Most Blessed Virgin Mother” in some of his devotional writings on Mary’s song, the Magnificat. As Lutherans, we follow suit and want to give her no false attributes or idolatrous devotion. We want to give her no undue honor. But neither should we fall into the trap of many in Protestantism that neglects her faithful example and position, nor depreciate “her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal” as the Mother of God, or in the Greek, the Theotokos (Luther, On the Magnificat, AE 21). 

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of the very Son of God, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents of her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was with the twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her into the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. 

So Mary is present at most of the important events in her Son's life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God, as we heard about today where she responds to the Word of God and His promise, “Let it be to me according to your Word" [Luke 1:38]; for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him when He changed water into wine ("Do whatever He tells you" [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that God bestowed on her, without any merit or worthiness of her own, of being the mother of our Lord, as the church has always joined in with the angel’s words, "Blessed are you among women" [Luke 1:42]).

So it can be appropriate to call Mary, “the blessed virgin”, and even the “mother of God” both of which are references not as much to her as they are about Jesus.  And that’s the real benefit of today.  Whatever we say about Mary is meant to draw attention, not so much to her, but to Christ. Our feast for today is similarly Christological in focus. 

She died, brought to heaven to await the resurrection of the dead with all the heavenly saints.  We reject the Roman Catholic unscriptural dogma of the immaculate conception – that Mary was conceived sinless – or that she somehow acts as a mediator between you and Jesus, or even as some have called her, a co-redemptrix along with Jesus.  When we use the Scriptural language and call her “blessed” our attention is not on Mary, but the One who blessed her.  Mary herself confesses in the Magnificat her lowliness and how God’s grace given her is undeserved.  We make the same confession when we sing her song – that we have a special place in the family of God purely by grace and given direct access to God Himself.  Yes, the saints have direct access to God, they have the ear of Jesus.  And so do you!  You too have been declared a saint, holy and righteous in the sight of God purely for the sake of Jesus, as St. Paul writes to Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). The special favor that Mary has by being Jesus’ mother is given to you by Jesus becoming your brother in the flesh, by becoming man. 

Likewise, then, the confession that Mary is the mother of God is a way of affirming the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ – that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.  Our Lutheran Confessions put it this way, in the Formula of Concord in 1578, "He showed His divine majesty even in His mother's womb, because He was born of a virgin, without violating her virginity. Therefore, she is truly the mother of God and yet has remained a virgin." [FC VIII:24]This is what we confess in the Nicene Creed, “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man…” (Nicene Creed).  And again the Athanasian Creed, “He is God begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age; perfect God and perfect man… not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God…” (Athanasian Creed). 

But it’s not just God’s blessings and the incarnation that we remember today, it is also the death and resurrection of Mary’s son.  Mary, who saw her son die on the cross and was given into the care of the disciple whom Jesus loved, the apostle and evangelist John, also bore witness to His resurrection. And so on a day when remember Mary in light of their death, and how the Lord preserved her unto a blessed death, we cannot the reality of Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead. Jesus is the firstfruits of those who shall rise.  Just as with His mother, He gives you into the care of His church, where He feeds and cares for all His people to preserve them in the body and soul to life everlasting. Upon His return, all who believe in Him in this earthly life will be raised bodily.

Trinity 10 2021 - 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Trinity 10 2021

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

August 8, 2021

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Apparently there was some confusion in Corinth, which comes as no surprise as one reads through St. Paul’s letters to the Christians there.  Our Epistle lesson today deals with one of those topics in the church which seems to continually cause confusion, corruption, coveting – spiritual gifts.  The Epistle for today begins, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want to you to be uninformed.”  Actually, the text doesn’t even use the word “gifts,” although it does appear in our translations.  It starts with the word that means “spiritual things”, or “spiritual stuff”.  Paul is setting about to clarify for the Corinthians, and for us, spiritual matters dealing with things that are spiritual. 

This particular text offers a number of emphases and teaching points for us to consider.  It speaks of the unity of the church.  It talks about faith as the work of the Holy Spirit, and it addresses the importance of every individual within the congregation.

First, and most importantly, St. Paul wants us to understand that saving faith in Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit alone.  No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.  You can pronounce the words, of course, but you cannot confess the faith with integrity unless the Holy Spirit has created faith within you.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth. 

Likewise, no one who has the Spirit of God can say, “Jesus is accursed.”  Of course, denying Christ means far more than simply saying those words.  But without the Holy Spirit, one can only make an “evil” confession, they cannot believe in Jesus, they are hostile toward God, and their sins are still counted against them.  This is how St. Paul describes the Corinthians before their conversation – as pagans being led astray to mute idols. This is how each of us was before the Holy Spirit created and worked faith within us. 

For those to whom the Lord has called to faith and given His Spirit, to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  The manifestation of the Spirit is a fancy way of saying, the gift which the Spirit brings.  Notice that every single Christian is given the manifestation of the Spirit.  You have a place of significance in the Church.  You have something to offer that the church needs.  No one is unimportant or insignificant. Because your worth is found in Jesus. 

If you doubt, or wonder, or question, look to the cross. This too the work of the Spirit – He points you to Jesus, to rest not on your own understanding or work, but on the holy and perfect Son of God. Jesus died for you, and was raised for your justification. That’s the main thing throughout St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that he wants you to be informed about, certain about – Christ is for you. This is your salvation: planned by God, earned by Jesus, given by the Spirit, all by grace alone.  

God’s just giving it all out; not indiscriminately, but with a purpose, with a plan. The purpose of these spiritual things, of these gifts, is that they are used according to the reason that the Giver has gifted – for the common good.  Wisdom, knowledge, faith, and all the other manifestations of the Spirit mentioned are worked by God where and when it pleases Him.  And it pleases Him to use you, to work in and through you, despite your imperfections and your sinfulness, to build up the body of Christ for the common good.

St. Paul goes on to explain how each spiritual thing is worked by God.  We have varieties of gifts, different capabilities. We have varieties of service, different tasks.  We have varieties of activities, different ways of working.  Some of these spiritual things are of the head, some of the hands, and some of the heart.  You might say that the unbelieving world has these things too, and to an extent that is correct.  God gives gifts to the good and evil alike.  In the midst of all these differences among us there is one Spirit who is the source of grace, one Lord whom we serve, one God who empowers. 

So Paul distinguishes the three persons of the Trinity – one God, Lord, and Spirit – and gives to each His own work through which He is revealed. Just as God is triune but not divided, so the ministry and work of the Church is various but not divided.  Whatever good things happen in the church happens by the power and under the direction of the Triune God.  

You aren’t responsible for figuring out how or why the Spirit works the way He does. You have what you need, and the congregation needs every one of you.  You’re responsible for rating the value of any gift, differences don’t mean greater or lesser, but different. When I preach and you listen, it is not the same gift of office, but you are serving Christ with listening as much as I am with preaching.  When I baptize, administer the Sacrament, absolve you of your sins, and you receive it by the Spirit worked faith we are both in the service of the one Lord and carrying out His command. It’s the same Christ who uses you to share this comfort and hope and peace of Christ to others.  We are merely called on to use what the Lord gives us and where He has placed us for the glory of God and the good of His people.  

God has it all planned out for you, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” He has given out His gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, according to His good pleasure.  May He who began a good work in you bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. [Philippians 1:6].