A myHT Fortress

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fear Not; I AM: A Homily on Mark 6:45-56

9th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12
29 July 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

The sea.  It is not always the image of peace and tranquility.  You prefer to think of happy times in a sail boat, a fun water taxi on the Chicago River, or a peaceful fishing boat on a small lake.  Maybe even smaller waters, such as the British pool in which Ryan Lochte has earned his gold medal.  But it can be dark, and deep, and deadly.  And so it is that you try to forget about the Edmund Fitzgerald, the Titanic, or the all-but-forgotten Amalia, which carried dozens of Lutherans on their way to America in 1838.

The wind.  Not the Hebrew "ruach" or Greek "pneuma" -- words that are associated with the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is a different word for wind.  One that can be associated with the prince of this world and the so-called "kingdom of the air" -- Satan and all his demonic forces.  "The wind was against them."  Indeed, the devil and all his evil minions could not stand that these men had just witnessed and received from the Lord in this amazing miracle.  All hell was breaking loose to terrify these disciples, so they might consider abandoning Jesus, or maybe, if the demons were lucky, the men would drown and that would harm Jesus' mission.

The wind works against you here and now.  It lashes out against Olympic gymnasts in discouragement, when they fall from the high bar, or Olympic swimmers when they get fourth in the 400 meter. It blows against you as needed repairs to church facilities pop up.  It hurls it's forces against you in budget shortfalls. It gusts against you as  illness or lack of strength.

And all too often you let it win.  You get discouraged from hardships and throw your hands in the air, saying, "Why is life so unfair?!" You feel beaten down.  You accept the deceit as truth and let the devil make you feel defeated.

The disciples are in this boat, while Jesus goes upon the mountain to pray, just like He was planning before He fed the thousands.  They are out there, and the sea gets rougher, the wind gets stronger, and they are full of fear.  They are giving in to the thoughts of the evil overcoming them.  Scared to death, they are fearing all kinds of evil when they see the form walking toward them.
It looks like a man walking upon the water. "It is a ghost!" they cry.  And not some cute, harmless ghost like a cartoon.  This is not Caspar the friendly ghost, or some "grim, grinning ghost, come out to socialize" at Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion.  They fear it is an evil, demonic spirit who would harm them. 

You are full of fear too.  You fear crime.  You fear psychotic grad students, breaking into movie theaters and unleashing evil.  You fear financial troubles or job loss.  You fear trouble in your family or having no friends.  You fear for your health.  Whatever it is that you fear, it comes from a lack of trust that the Lord will provide and protect you.  It becomes a lack of faith.

But then they see Him.  The disciples in the boat, with the wind driving against them, see a figure coming toward them on the sea.  It is Jesus!  Jesus, walking upon the sea!

Doing this, Jesus is clearly demonstrating that He is far more powerful than any so-called "god" of the sea.  He was crushing such evil spirits underfoot as He tread the waves.

Our Lord treads the waves of the devil's discouragements, distractions, and deceit.  He is triumphant, and when He speaks "Fear not!" it is not a wish or prayer, it makes it happen!  As Jesus says these words, He speaks courage into the disciples.  He causes the devil to tremble.

"Fear not.  It is I." Only He doesn't say, "It is I." He actually says, "I AM!" there it is again.  The holy and personal name of the Lord God.  I AM.  There He is, I AM, stomping down the false god of the sea and treading through the devilish wind.  The Lord Himself is defeating these enemies.

It is interesting that from the earliest days of the Church, it has been understood that St. Mark records Peter's preaching.  Peter omits this embarrassing detail of the episode, when Jesus calls him to join the Savior on the waves.

Peter says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Not simply, "If it really is you, Jesus," but "if it really is You, the Lord God, I AM, Creator and God of Israel." Jesus is not simply showing He has power and can do great miracles; this event gives witness that He is indeed God!

The Lord God tramples upon Satan for you, too.  He has trampled upon him with absolute completion at the cross.  There on that cross, Christ walked straight into hell and accomplished your salvation.  He marched in, rescued you, who were rightfully His, and delivered you from those enemies of sin, death, and hell.

As He burst from His now-empty tomb, Christ crushed the head of the serpent He was stepping on, and kicked death out of your lives.  As He leads you through the valley of the shadow of death, He keeps walking, with the sea of death underfoot, and He pulls you out to life everlasting.

Thanks be to God, our dear Lord Jesus is the Lord "I AM" in the flesh.  He has rescued you as He walked upon this earth to His cross and tomb.  And now He delivers that rescue to you, as He walks upon the waters of baptism, the words of His preaching, and the bread and wine that feed His Body and Blood to you.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Give Them Something to Eat: A Homily on Mark 6:30-44

8th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11
St. John's, Chicago, IL

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

It's intimidating.  Imagine if there were no concessions of sale, and half of the fans at Wrigley Field were famished, all at the same time.  And all you have are five small loves of bread, and two small fish.  You might be looking for a way to sneak out, rather than feed them.

"Hold on," you say.  "Wrigley holds a lot more than 5,000."  Yes, it does.  But our Lord tells us there were 5,000 men in today's text.  Women and children were there in addition, and biblical scholars conservatively estimate the multitude to have been around 20,000 -- about half of Wrigley's 41,210 capacity.

So it's intimidating.  The disciples are getting nervous about what to do, and Jesus says, "You give them something to eat."  "Lord!  What are you saying?!"  The apostles are struck with fear, overwhelmed.  Jesus has just commanded them to feed the people, and they can do nothing to make that happen.

But Jesus can.  And He does.  Your loving Lord multiplies those loaves and fishes, and gives them to His apostles to give to the people.  He had the crowds sit in groups of 50 or 100, just like synagogs, and receive His nourishment that He gave through His ministers.

The Word of the Lord, "You give them something to eat," struck fear in the hearts of the disciples.  They doubted anything could be done.  They lacked trust that God would provide.  They were so overwhelmed by the gigantic size of the crowd when He gave His command, that they did not recognize His promise to provide the gifts needed.

You too.  The Word of the Lord can simply strike fear in you.  You often doubt God.  You look at the budget needs at home and here at church, and lack trust that He will provide.  You become overwhelmed by the gigantic size of debts, and salaries, and governmental mandates that drive up insurance costs, that you do not recognize His promise to provide the gifts needed.  Your trust in Jesus as your provider falters.  You hear the news of disturbed gunmen, and become fearful of something as simple as going to the movies.

Yet the One who is the Bread of Life nourishes you with forgiveness, life, and salvation, in spite of your lack of trust.  He feeds you Himself, even when you doubt Him and find the things and people of this world intimidating.  He fills you with His flesh and blood, that you may be freed from fear.

Really?  How can you be free from fear when some deranged mad man can walk into a theater and unleash violent chaos and dole out death?  How can you not be intimidated by lunatics who prey upon unsuspecting civilians?  Because God is Sovereign and in control?  No.  He is, but that is not what can calm and give you peace.  Jesus Christ has become Man for you, and suffered and died to take away your sin.  That is why you have peace with God, and no matter what befalls you, you know you are forgiven and saved.  You have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection that conquers any tragedy that the devil and the world may throw at you.

This morning, you witnessed Christ Jesus delivering the calm and peace that He alone gives.  Through the saving waters of Holy Baptism, these children were just rescued from the devil, and all the harm he attempts to inflict in this life.  Jesus snatched them from the clutches of Satan, and has assured them of eternal salvation.  Each of them, like you, have become God's own child.

And you, baptized children of God, are fed and nourished with Bread from heaven, the Body of Christ.  He gives you His very body and blood, filling you with Himself, that you may have life, and have it abundantly.  He sits you in green pastures, in His congregation, and tells His pastors all over the world, "You give them something to eat."  And He places His Word into their mouths and His Blessed Sacrament in their hands, that they may deliver the Bread of Life to His people. He feeds you.  He preserves you.  He "keeps your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore."  Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jesus Rises in Your Marriage: The Wedding Homily for Matt and Tiffany Pahnke

Holy Marriage of Matthew and Tiffany Carroll Pahnke
23 June 2012

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

So here we are, what seemed like endless months, even years, and we are finally here...26 days until the release of Dark Knight Rises.  Ok, maybe that isn't what you have been waiting for so intensely -- at least not the highest priority.

But there has been waiting.  Anticipation.  A looking forward to all that God will do as He brings you together as husband and wife. You already have become such a part of each other's life, that it is difficult for each to think about what it was like without the other.

Perhaps you imagined it for a brief instant when the deputy county clerk told you that the wedding license department was closed until August.  Good thing he was joking.

"It is not good that the man should be alone."  Nor the woman.  The Lord God has made you, and redeemed you, yet you have been incomplete.  There was something missing, or rather, someone.  In terms of faith and salvation, all has been made good in Christ.  But you lacked someone to share that with -- a husband or wife to be united with, in the Lord.

And so, as the Perfect Bridegroom Jesus is joined to His Bride, the Church, so He brings Matt the Bridegroom and joins him to his bride, Tiffany.  Christ was first united with His bride at His cross, and continues to unite with her at His altar.  At this same altar, He joins you.  Matthew is leaving his father and mother to be joined to his wife, before the holy altar of the Lord, where the Word of the Lord is proclaimed, His Body and Blood are fed to His Bride, and you return week after week to receive Him.

And week after week, you are comforted with the message of the Gospel you just heard.  Just as the wedding at Cana was blessed with Jesus' presence, and did not run out of wine, so your wedding and marriage is bless by Jesus' presence, and will never run out of Jesus!

Will you always be the perfect husband or perfect wife?  Will you constantly see your spouse as the greatest gift from God, aside from salvation through Christ?   Sadly, no.  You will find times when you would rather sit and watch Frasier reruns, rather than do what your husband would like to do.  Or when you would like to spend some extra cash on a collectible piece of movie memorabilia, while your wife feels a need to spend on some clothes or household items, or even to save. 

But don't worry.  Fear not.  Your loving Lord does not leave you stuck in your selfishness or doomed in disunity.  Our Savior has brought you together, and united you in faith, and now is uniting you in heart, body, and mind.  He pours out His mercy, forgiveness, and love, and leads you to do the same.  And a Christian marriage will always thrive as the husband and wife, children of God, receive and give that mercy, forgiveness, and love.

You already know the strength of your marriage before it has officially begun.  Your relationship is not just about each of you as individuals.  Believe it or not, your marriage is not even about you as a couple.  It is about husband, wife, and Jesus Christ. 

The Lord Jesus is the third (and most important) One in this relationship.  He is the true and perfect Hero who is risen.  He has rescued you from the devil, the world, and your sinful self, and keeps bringing you back to this altar to receive that mercy, forgiveness, and love from Him through His Gospel and Sacraments.  He brings you to this very altar rail, where you will never run out of Jesus, and where He feeds you forgiveness, life, and salvation, at His wedding feast of love.  And that is the foundation of your ideal marriage in the Lord.  Amen.