A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friend, Move Up Higher: A Homily on Luke 14:1-14

Luke 14:1-14

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

How have you been doing at keeping the Sabbath? Do you rest on the Lord’s Day? Besides coming and hearing His Word and receiving His gifts, is your day full of work and “catching up” with the thousand things that need to get done? Or is it one of resting and thanking God for His mercy and blessings?

You know good and well that you are not resting perfectly. You are rejecting this gift of God, and join all the hypocrites challenging Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” It sounds ridiculous to our ears. We have a doctor, several nurses, first responders and others trained in first aid here. We all trust that if anyone had an urgent medical need, someone would help. But for those asking Jesus, and for those listening, it was a completely serious, completely honest question. The Pharisees were holding to such a slavishly literalistic understanding of the third commandment, that they declared any work on the Sabbath to be breaking the Sabbath. Many would quietly have agreed with Jesus that the right thing to do would be to help on the day of rest and worship. But according to their strict misunderstanding of God’s Law, they felt that Jesus, as He was healing, was breaking the law.

Here Jesus reminds His hearers that their focus was entirely in the wrong place. Remembering the Sabbath is not about what you are doing or not doing. Remembering the Sabbath is simply receiving this rest as a gift from the Lord. God has entered flesh to bring help and wholeness and healing – not merely of the body, but soul as well. And as Lord of the Sabbath, Christ brings true rest and peace even, no especially, on the Sabbath.

As our Savior suffered and died on Good Friday, He endured hell on the cross. Then Jesus rested in His tomb, and during that rest, descended into hell to proclaim His victory. In the Old Testament Scriptures, they would have said that He went to the pit. Far more important to Him than some ox or donkey, the Son of God goes into the pit on the Sabbath to rescue you. And so our Lord Christ reached into that font, going down into hell to raise and rescue you from those depths, bringing you out of that pit – that well – to save your life and give you new life.

By going down to the pit of hell and rescuing you, Jesus has saved you from your old rest-rejecting self. He forgives and renews, drawing you to Himself as He gives His gifts. Today we especially thank Him for His gift of Bible study and Sunday School. Besides the Divine Service, this Bible study is the most important thing you will do for the week.

Ah, but there is that phrase, “you will do.” Sure, you are there, but Bible class is all about God speaking and you listening. Great conversations will happen, but all based on what God is saying to begin with! Once again, you are receiving rest from Him; the Lord is the One working on the “Sabbath” for you!

Having been rescued from the pit, Christ washes us in the font and calls us to dinner. Again, sinful nature looks at the feast as “What’s in it for me?” You want a place of honor. And here He warns not to try to have the best seat – maybe THAT’s why so many Lutherans sit in the back! Jesus also then says not to go inviting only those who can invite you in return. Far better to “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” Is that what you do? I would venture to guess, no. Family came at Christmas. Maybe a few friends in the mix for Thanksgiving or Easter. But often, the guest list includes those who would invite you in return. Those who have shown kindness and friendship to you. There is that self-serving scoreboard again – keeping track of the things others have said or done for you, and you do something to repay them. But that is not what Jesus says. He says NOT to keep track. Don’t do good only to receive in return; do good for all.

Again, you can’t. You fail. Even when you try not to, you are keeping that chart in your mind that says who deserves your good acts of kindness. Well, STOP! Repent! This is a miserable, Pharisaical sin.

But once again, Jesus comes to your rescue. He has not kept track of your score against him. He has forgiven and removed the record of such selfish sin. And now He constantly invites you to the feast where He says, “Friend, go up higher.” He knows you could NEVER repay Him, and yet He welcomes you in boundless love to His ongoing feast.

Thanks be to our loving Savior, who constantly welcomes you to His feast, and will do so until the day you depart this life, and He welcomes you to Paradise saying, “Friend, go up higher!” Amen.

Christ the Narrow Door: A Homily on Luke 13:22-30

Luke 13:22-30

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

“I do not know where you come from.” How often do we use those words. But instead of righteous words of law issuing from the mouth of our Judge, they are words spoken secretly – indirectly – condescendingly. These words of rejection come out of mouths all over the world.

“I do not know where you come from,” we say, regarding our younger brother as he enters high school as a geeky freshman during your senior year.

“I do not know where you come from,” we worry, as we live in a time of illegal aliens,

stolen identities, and credit card fraud.

In a nutshell, you and I have no right to flit about, exclaiming these words of Christ. From our lips, they are nonsensical judgment. Such phrases from our mouths, spoken in such attitudes, are self-righteous sin. We take on an air of superiority that does not belong to us. We usurp the Lord’s office as Judge.

Repent! You have the same narrow door as everyone else through which to enter. You are right with all others, coming from east and west, north and south. When you have moments and thoughts like Pharisees, imagining that you can please God with your words and actions, you join the ranks of the unbelievers who crowd around the door, arguing that their ticket must be at the “will call” desk! Such self-righteousness only leads to weeping and gnashing of teeth. Such thought and behavior is rampant among those who are horrified as they hear the Lord Christ proclaim: “Depart from Me, all you workers of evil!”

But Jesus wants to rescue you! He reaches out to bring you through that narrow door and place you in the midst of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all His prophets – indeed, with the whole communion of saints. He desires your salvation, that you may recline at table with Him, body

and soul, in His kingdom that has no end.

In Holy Baptism he washed you and prepared you for that journey. He sustains you as you go, even now, as you are nourished and strengthened with His Holy Gospel and His Holy Eucharist. And He gathers you in through the threshold of earthly death, drawing you into His eternal kingdom.

Yes, the door is narrow. No room for a portly Buddha, or a deceptive Mohammed. No side entrances for a pseudo-Christian cult’s false god or idolater. Not even an open window for the good, moral agnostic or kindly New Ager who has rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God-in-the-flesh!

These and all others outside of authentic Christianity will try to find loop holes. They will work and strive, as Jesus said, to enter through the door. But the doors they are trying are all false. Like the cartoon door, many stories up in the air, that opens for the bad guy to fall thousands of feet down. These are doors that lead no where, completely opposite of Christ, the true Door to the Sheep Pen!

And, dear friends, you must beware that you do not slip and follow their lead. Theirs is a path that is easy and wide. It is not the way of Christ with the narrow door.

Yet, do not despair! Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary for you, He IS the narrow Door. Our Savior draws you to Himself, and brings His Holy Spirit to lead you to repentance. He ushers you through His door at Holy Baptism, down the path of this earthly pilgrimage. He carries you through this life, and nestles you in His arms, safely bearing you through the valley of the shadow of death. He raises you at the last, that your very body, risen and glorified, may bask in the presence of God at His Holy Table.

This morning we celebrate that our Lord Christ has placed this school among us, and has called these individuals to be doorkeepers in the House of the Lord. They are teaching Christ to many, and thus aiding parents in walking their children through the narrow door. We rejoice with Matt and Jeremy as they recline at table with Jesus, and direct children through His door.

While you get to do this briefly already, so do many others, some under false pretenses. “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets,” they tell our Lord. Yet, while He teaches, many ears are closed. And many who eat and drink do so believing they share merely a symbol or only some spiritual presence of Jesus in the Holy Supper.

Dear friends in Christ, the Lord of the Feast is here in His Body every bit as much as He was for Peter, James, and John, and all the rest of His apostles. When He promises, “This is My Body, given for you,” “This is My Blood, shed for you,” that bread and wine cannot refuse Him. Those elements MUST become His very Body and Blood! His Word does what it says!

Thanks be to God that He causes such faith in you! He does what He says, and stirs up in you the faith and trust that He gives His true Body and Blood for you, so that when you say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets,” it is not out of self-righteousness or false security. Absolutely not! When you say those words, they are spoken in faith, loving the Savior-God who teaches you and feeds you as He reclines at table with you.

As you ponder Jesus’ words this morning, dear Christian friends, do not worry. Remember the words from the Holy Gospel two Sundays ago. Stop being afraid!

If you are humbly concerned about being shut out of Jesus’ kingdom, the irony is that you are not in such danger! You have the gift of faith, given by Jesus Christ. He will preserve you as you pass through Him, the True and Narrow Door. He cares for you as his forgiven, redeemed, and rescued people, whom He Teaches and nourishes at His Table.

Stop being afraid, dear Christians! You will not even have the need of saying, “Lord, open to us,” because He stands ready to welcome you with those precious words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter into the pleasure of My Father.” Amen.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Epic Light Saber Battles

Check out what's been going on at Disney Hollywood Studios!


Monday, August 9, 2010

No Worries: A Homily on Luke 12:22-34

Luke 12:22-34

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

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase.  
Hakuna Matata! Ain't no passing craze.  
It means no worries for the rest of your days. 
It's our problem-free philosophy:

Hakuna Matata!

Sixteen years ago, most of the world learned these little Swahili words as Disney’s Timon and Pumbaa taught young Simba to get by in life. You just have to choose to sit back and relax, and decide not to let things bother you. Take it easy. Don’t fret.

But notice how the pressure is laid on you to relax and be free from worry. Like the phrase, “Let go and let God.” It has a nice sentiment. And those who say it mean well. But it assumes that we even have the ability to let go to begin with. Actually, we do not. Our fallen nature has tendencies to worry and feel overwhelmed, consumed, and burdened. Sin has you backed into a corner, and helpless, unable to let go.

Yet Christ comes as your Champion. He frees you from the burdens that weigh down on you. He lifts you out of the tight spots and sets you free from the corners the devil has backed you into. You don’t even have to “let go” to begin with! He takes care of it all, freeing you from all the baggage you were holding on to. No pressure of “letting” about it. Out of His boundless love, He rescues you from it all and places you into a new position of “no worries.”

So now that you are a baptized Christian, does that mean you will never worry again? Or that somehow your faith is inferior if you do? Hmm…will Liam never worry? I think not. There is worry for almost every Lutheran school, that there will be enough funding to provide for salaries, utilities, and supplies for the children to be educated and their faith nurtured. There is worry about unemployment benefits running out. There is worry for the cousin or spouse or friend serving in the military. There is worry for the parents of a baby born 12 weeks early. There is worry over the crumbling of a friend’s marriage. There is worry that you cannot provide for a larger family, and so you artificially limit the number of children in your household. There is worry for the 90-some year old spouse in the nursing facility. There is worry for the grandmother whose Alzheimer’s is progressing.

The devil, the world, and your sinful self are piling the worry on you. If you, in some twisted way, enjoy the worry and find satisfaction in uncertainty, you set yourself against the Lord. If you say, “I can handle this, I don’t need anyone else, even God,” you are settling into that worry. If you take the worry further into disbelief, you defy God. Repent of opposing the Lord in your worry.

Yet, just like Liam, as His baptized children you are loved and cared for. Our Father reaches out to you in love through His Son, and places the burden of your yoke on Him. So don’t be afraid that as you get bogged down with that worry, God is condemning you.

No! He is not condemning you. He is reaching out to you, His dear child baptized into Christ! He is pouring out His comfort, giving you godly assurance of His love and forgiveness and strength. He is supporting and sustaining you in the face of these stressors.

As much as the devil tries to pile fears and stresses on you and torment and annoy you, he cannot win. “O little flock, fear not the foe who madly seeks your overthrow; Dread not his rage and power. And though your courage sometimes faints, His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints Lasts but a little hour.” Yes, the devil tries his worst, but he cannot overcome Christ.

Jesus says: “No worries!” as He fends off the devil for you. And when He says, “No worries,” He is not telling you that you have to do something or decide something. He is giving you the ultimate in reassuring comfort. He is soothing you with His healing words, blessing you with His presence, His care, and His Word. He is giving you a calming peace, encouraging you and assuring you that He is taking care of everything.

“No worries!” You are baptized into Christ, and are His child. Washed from worry and cleansed from concerns, you are forgiven, rescued, and saved!

“No worries!” You are being forgiven even now, as you have His sweet Gospel placed into your ears through Holy Absolution and His preaching. He fills you with His amazing life-giving Word.

“No worries!” He is about to fill the worry in your belly with His Bread of Life and cup of salvation. Jesus spreads His feast before you and pours into your cup that overflows, and you are given the peace of the Lord.

No matter what you are facing or enduring, today our dear Lord Jesus embraces you with His Gospel and declares: “No worries.” Amen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: A Homily on Luke 12:13-21

Luke 12:13-21

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

It’s just never enough. That is the bottom line with greed. Nothing is ever enough.

The harvest was plentiful, and instead of giving thanks to the Giver of the gift, the Rich Fool simply wants to reward himself, and build more to hoard more.

Now, Jesus does not say that this man is immoral or wicked. It sounds like he has been a good and wise farmer, working hard. He would have plowed and watered and weeded. He managed and planned. Yet nothing that he said or thought or did deserved that bumper crop.

Look at the pronouns in his statements. And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' Not a thought about who gave him the crop in the first place. Or the land for that matter. Or the sun or rain. The health and the brains to work and manage the farm. Everything is about himself. Everything is about this self-reward for his greed.

Now, Jesus is not condemning planning for your future. He is not judging the man for storing up for the future. Your pension, your 401k, your savings are all fine with God. He is not telling you to avoid saving for the years to come. But He is condemning the refusal to acknowledge Him as the One who gives you all things. He is decrying the unbelief that underlies such selfishness. He is saying how foolish it is to deny God and pretend that you are the source of all your wealth and goods, no matter how small or great they are.

Of course, you don’t even have to be on the wealthy end of things to participate in this sin. You can be in or near poverty, but be consumed by the idea of what others have, coveting and obsessing on what you do not have. This is the other side of the coin of this same sin. You are then denying God and His goodness as you spend time pondering how you can dig yourself out of poverty, or being angry at God that He does not give you what your neighbor has.

Are you greedy with something as simple as food, not wanting your brother or sister to get all the dessert before you do? Or do you try to tweak your taxes, so you can keep more of your hard-earned money?

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9.) Yes, our Lord, though rich as He is God, gave everything up, becoming poor, for you. He became impoverished so that you can receive the riches of salvation! His work on the cross was one that plunged Himself into the depths of sin’s poverty, so that His perfect, holy, sinless innocence could be made ours!

Our Father in heaven gives you all that you have. He produces the food and the people and work in our lives that bring us food, clothing, and shelter. He gives us leisure and entertainment too!

Christ our Lord has brought you salvation, too! He has purchased and won your redemption, and now delivers it to you through His precious means of grace. This Sunday, yet again we witness the miracle of two children being washed into His kingdom of grace. He rescues, forgives, and gives life to these babies, just as He did you. He saves them from a life of godless greed, gifting them with Himself.

Forget the bigger barns. Forget the working hard and then taking a break. That’s not what this text is about. The point of today’s Gospel is that this man forgot all about the Lord and was worshiping himself. THAT was his sin.

Jesus has rescued and redeemed you from such greedy sin and self-worship. He makes you His own and you live as His reborn and renewed children. You can eat, drink, and be merry! Not because you have worked hard and are rewarding yourself. But because the Lord has done the work of saving you. And now you eat and drink at His Altar, rejoicing and being merry in the forgiveness, joy, and mercy that He lavishes on you! Amen.