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Festival of St.Luke, the Evangelist                   Christ Lutheran Church

18 October 2020                                                   Platte Woods, MO

+ Jesu Juva +

Luke 10:1-9 [16]

It’s all about being sent.  The Father sent Jesus.  Remember?  John 20?  “As the Father has sent me.”  And then Jesus speaks His sending:  “As the Father has sent me so now I send you.”  With the Lord’s sending are His words and the exercise of the keys that do and give what they say:  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgive them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”    In Matthew the all-authority-in-heaven-and-on-earth-Jesus sends the eleven to go in His stead and by His command to baptize and teach with His authority.  To be sent with authority, especially the authority of Jesus, is to be sent for sure.  To hear one that Jesus sends with His all-authority-in-heaven-and-on-earth is to hear Jesus Himself:  “He who hears you hears me,” (Luke 10:16).  To reject the one Jesus sends is to reject Jesus and the Father who sent Him.  That’s also Luke 10:16.   

Luke 10 is all about divine sending. Apostolic ministry.  “How are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:15)  Luke 10 is a foundational text regarding the office of the holy ministry.  Now I want to repeat what I just said because this point is so important.  It is the Father who sends Jesus. Jesus doesn’t send Himself.  In the same way the disciples don’t send themselves.  Jesus sends them.  To be His “apostles” or “sent ones.”  To preach Christ’s Word because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17) from those He sends.

In the text He sends 72.  His words are to be their words.  His words are to be heard.  That’s why the pastor whom the Lord sends asks: “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” And when you answer, “yes,” he then proclaims:   “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ …[1] [or] As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority I forgive you all your sins.” Are you forgiven?  Absolutely.  Why?  Because you have the Lord’s Word on it.  His Word is sure.  His Word does and gives what it says.  It is why Jesus sends pastors.  To be the Lord’s mouth to speak His Word.  So that sinners trust Jesus with their sin as FORGIVEN.      

72 of them in Luke 10.  Why 72?  Glad you asked.   After all, numbers in the Bible are quite important.  For example, 1,000 in Revelation 20 is the number 10 cubed.  Ten Commandments:  God’s complete will before Him and others.  Ten plagues: God’s complete judgment against Egypt’s unbelief.  So 10 to the third power in Revelation indicates God’s complete, complete, complete period of time in which Jesus reigns on the earth with His church.  The time between His first and second coming. 

Here’s another example. The number 12. 12 apostles reminds us of the 12 tribes of Israel.  OT church.  Now NT church.   In Genesis 72 is the number of the nations after the catastrophic flood.  Now here in Luke 10 Jesus resolutely is going to Jerusalem to do a Good Friday all atoning death for all sin.  For the world!  For all nations!  For all peoples!  72 here then speaks of the Lord having for Himself a church, that will be found all over the world; a church found all throughout the earth; a church that goes to all the nations until the Last Day.  Remember Matthew 28’s “all nations”?  If you’re smelling what Luke is cooking, the 72 is a Polaroid of the church sent to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing and teaching, preaching repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

And did you notice the urgency of the sending?  The fields are ripe for harvest. There’s no time to waste. Like the October farm fields in Nebraska, Kansas and all throughout middle America.  I was supposed to help one of my farmers at Murdock with his harvest because there are not enough workers for the harvest but surgery took me out.  However, when I helped with harvest last fall the hours were long.  The work was determined and persistent. That’s the focused intensity of Jesus as He heads to Jerusalem to do His Good Friday! So too with the proclamation of His death for the world’s salvation! Don’t worry about packing the luggage. Just get going! No wallets, no backpacks, no extra pair of dress shoes let alone the Nikes. Don’t even get sidetracked by a pandemic! Just go!

And did you also see the danger?  Not a virus! The 72 go out as lambs among wolves. No surprise there.  After all, they are ambassadors of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They represent the One who is going to Jerusalem to do His very good Good Friday sacrifice for all sin on the cross! The wolves will be watching, waiting, prowling, foaming at the mouth, bearing their fangs and going for the jugular!  As the wolves opposed and persecuted Jesus who proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:19), so the preaching of the Good Friday Salvational Kingdom Reign of Jesus FOR SINNERS will be met with harsh opposition, discrimination, oppression, persecution and martyrdom. 

In Luke 21 Jesus flat out says:  “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors FOR MY NAME’S SAKE … You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends and some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all FOR MY NAME’S SAKE.” The Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation are exhibits one and two that piggy back off of Luke 21. 

Sounds like 21st century America!  To be a Christian and to confess Christ as Lord is to be demonized as a raving foaming-at-the-mouth enemy of the pretend divinity called the state.  Can you say Judge Amy Coney Barrett?  She is hated and despised.  Not worthy to be a human being in the eyes of many.  Because she is a Christian.  Do you think these civil authorities that pretend to be little deities will treat you Christian lambs any differently?  At the very least you will be Solzhenitsyn-ed or Sakharov-ed.  Imprisoned like St. Paul. Or you may be blessed to die because of Christ’s saving Name!    

Do not despair.  As the church and her ministers proclaim the kingdom of life and salvation come near in Jesus and as it is opposed and attacked by the wolves, Jesus make a wonderful promise.  That takes a back to Luke 21 again.  Jesus says that, “this will be your opportunity to bear witness … for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”    Like the mouth given to Stephen in Acts.  In other words, the gospel will spread all the more as the persecution against the church intensifies to a fevered pitch in this country.  The gospel will be preached.  That’s Christ’s promise!  Not even the gates of hell …  Opposition will spread it all the more!  To the ends of the earth.  Remember the meaning of the number 72?      

And that takes us to what the 72 are given to preach.  What is that?  Again, I’m glad you asked.  They are sent to proclaim “peace.” They will echo the angelic sermon at Christ’s birth!  “And on earth peace!”  The 72 are ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. “Peace be to this house.” “Peace be with you.”  This is a peace that comes from the cross of the Crucified One.  A peace the world cannot give. A peace that surpasses our understanding. That God is at PEACE with you.  He is not at war with you!  The Hebrew word is Shalom. Not just an end to the war, but a restoration of wholeness. With peace comes healing of body and mind. “Heal the sick,” Jesus tells them. Luke the physician would emphasize that. The 72 are His ambassadors. They have His authority over disease and the demons. They bear good news. The kingdom of God has come near.

Take note of that.  You don’t build the kingdom of God. You proclaim it. There’s a big difference. Most church big wigs are confused.  They want you to believe that the kingdom of God is a heavy lifting building project of your doing.  And so you’d better be doing it 24-7-365!  But Luke teaches us differently.  The kingdom of God is built not on your efforts but on God’s efforts. Not on your works, but Christ’s works! Not with your blood, sweat, and tears but with Jesus’ blood, sweat, and tears!  The kingdom has come!  Jesus does the salvific kingdom of God work. You announce that is it here; that “It is finished!”

All right.  Let’s push the text some more.  Or better yet, let the text push us.  Let me put it to you this way.  If someone shows up at your house, rings the doorbell and then tells you that you just won a hundred million dollars, do you let him in? Would you offer him a cup of joe and a bagel? Would his proclamation that you won all that cash mean anything to you? Would his announcement send chills down your spine and send your heart into erythema? Well, if you know that he has the authority to speak those words, and that those words are true, then you would be an absolute moron to slam the door in his face.  Wouldn’t you?  Of course!

Today you hear better news.  The best news ever.  The gospel.  Through pastor’s mouth the absolution: “I forgive you all of your sins.”  And in and from the Lord’s Supper: “This is my Body, my Blood for you; for the remission of sins.” Whose words?  Christ’s!  His words to and FOR YOU. Do you dare trust them?  Spoken by the pastor?  Yes! “He who hears you, hears me.”

The Lutheran Confessions quote Luke 10:16 often to the effect that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us according to His mandate and institution, those words are as valid and certain, in heaven also, as though Christ Himself were dealing with us. They call the voice of absolution “a living voice of the Gospel” and “a voice coming down from heaven”. Even when the owner of the voice is less than honorable (Judas also was sent by Jesus), nevertheless the words are Jesus’ words. The peace is Jesus’ peace. “He who hears you, hears me.”

I’ve been sent by the Lord Jesus to proclaim His “peace” to and FOR YOU.  Jesus Good Friday-ly died FOR YOU.  He rose bodily from the grave FOR YOU.  All your sin is answered for.  Forgiven you are.  He doesn’t’ hold any of your sin against you.  He is at peace with you.  And His peace given to you now in the words that I just spoke to you and uniquely bestowed with His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper will pay off big time: the resurrection of your body and life everlasting!  The grandest and greatest healing.  You have the Lord’s most certain and sure Word on that too.  But that’s another sermon for another day.  I’ll let sent ones Arnold and Froiland handle that.

Now let’s segue to the Prayer of the Church and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers – more preachers.  To proclaim PEACE because the kingdom of Jesus is upon us.

The peace of the Lord be with you always! 

In the Name of Jesus. 

     [1] Individual Confession and Absolution, Lutheran Service Book, 293.

Lutheranism 101 Living In and From Holy Baptism Part 2

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Lutheranism 101 Living In and From Holy Baptism

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Come To The Feast!

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Proper 23 / Pentecost 19                               Trinity Lutheran Church

11 October 2020                                             Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Matthew 22:1-14  

 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Fascinating! Heaven’s kingdom or God’s reign in heaven is like a wedding feast.  Totally unlike earthly wedding feasts in which Mom is in charge and all the attention is on her daughter.  However, with this blow out wedding bash the King, God the Father, is in charge and the wedding feast celebrates, praises, and extols His Good Friday Son who shed His divine blood on the cross to atone for the sin of the world!

Get it? God the Father was delighted in His Son at His Baptism in the Jordan and on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Why?  Well,  because His Son was unabashedly going to do pull off a Good Friday salvation for the world!  His beloved Son would bear the sin of the world.  He would offer His perfect and holy Body as the sacrifice to atone for all sin.  He would shed His own divine Blood to purify us from all sin!  And the delight continues as His Son has a bride, the church.  The eternal joy of His one and only Son and His very good, Good Friday sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world in order to united to His bride the church.   

The kingdom’s A-listers receive their invitations.  As the RSVP post cards come in it becomes agonizingly apparent that the ones called to attend have other plans. So, the king sends his preachers out with instructions to go door to door and say, “The prime rib is in the smoker. The New York strips and bacon wrapped asparagus are on the grill. The 2015 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Napa Valley is uncorked.  White Elm’s Crème Brûlee Russian Imperial Stout and The Boiler Room’s Grand Sultan Coffee Stout are on tap.  My Son’s Good Friday Wedding Feast is ready! Come to the feast!  Enjoy the salvation He won FOR YOU!”  Now, you would think that the king’s invitation and the personal visits from the king’s preachers, not to mention tons of complimentary and on the house cuisine and adult beverages would cause the A-listers to drop whatever they were doing, hop in the SUV and sprint to the Good Friday Kingdom of Heaven Feast. But you would be wrong!

Tragically, they could care less.  Totally apathetic. Uninterested.  They ignore the king’s invitation as well as the preachers personal door to door pleas. Their temporal, worldly and earthly concerns are far more important.  (Remember last Sunday’s sermon?) One has farm work to do.  Another A-lister has to be in the office. Incredibly, some of them actually abduct the king’s preachers.  Beat them to a bloody pulp. Scandalously they even murder them in cold blood. And these are the crème de la crème invitees!

The King had reserved a place for them at the Good Friday Kingdom of Heaven Wedding Feast for His Son.  They were all invited. The King eagerly expected them to attend and enjoy what He had so graciously and mercifully prepared for them. But they end up in outer darkness and grinding their teeth.  Why?  Because they would not come to the feast.  I repeat.  It is because they flat out refused.  No faith.  Would not be given to.  The King wants them there.  He invited them.  They will not go.

As a pastor I sort of know how the King feels. Every Sunday is a foretaste of the wedding feast to come.  Like Isaiah in the OT reading as God’s ambassador I invite, invite, invite and invite.  I exhort, exhort, exhort and exhort.  I call, call, call and call.  Every Sunday’s divine service is a party prepared by the King to rejoice and receive all the magnificent treasures of His Son’s DEATH ON THE CROSS. The Good Friday feast of forgiveness is ready! The Lamb – the Lord Jesus – provides the best of food and drink – bread and wine – His Body and His Blood.  “Come to the feast!” I proclaim.

And sadly, too many of the invited guests could care less.  The temporal cares trump the eternal gifts.  They have, what they believe, more important things to do: sports’ tournaments, brunch, practices, ball games, change the light bulbs, trim the toenails as well as nose and ear hair, mow the lawn, wash the car, cut a side of beef – whatever puny earthly care or concern.  I’ve heard all the excuses. And all of this free salvational food and drink, free forgiveness, life, salvation gets ignored matter of factly. You’d think I was asking people to have a swab shoved up their nostrils, to have their teeth pulled, to have their rotator cuff repaired or forced to have a colonoscopy.

So, I need to warn you.  Don’t get on the bad side of the King. He is nice and generous when it comes to His Son’s Good Friday wedding feast, but not so kind when you blow Him off, are indifferent to what His Son did for you on the cross, beat up his servants or kill them. The king sends out his storm troopers and destroys these A-listers and their city. See what happens when the Father runs the wedding? It turns into something resembling the Mel Gibson movies Braveheart or The Patriot. And, anyway, who’s fault is that?  Not the King’s!

Please notice a pattern in Jesus’ parables that we’ve heard over the past few months. The unforgiving servant is condemned even though he is forgiven at first. The invited guests become enemies even though they have a place at the table. And it’s all their own fault. They refused the king’s goodness and so they get the king’s wrath. Turn away from the Good-Friday-forgiveness-in-Christ-gospel, and all that’s left is the outside of Christ life under the law with its resultant eternal hellacious outer darkness and forever hellish gnashing of teeth.

Now, so that there are no misunderstandings here today I have to make it clear that faith in Jesus is what saves you because faith clings to Jesus and uses Him properly for the forgiveness of sins.   You don’t earn your salvation by perfect church attendance.  However, when you attend the divine service you rehearse and practice your faith of being in and with Christ forever in heaven as you hear His Word of forgiveness and receive the foretaste of the feast to come in His Supper.

In addition, you don’t get condemned simply because of your absenteeism from the divine service.  Jesus says in Mark 16 that “whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  However, by your absence you are rehearsing or practicing for the day of eternal damnation, when Jesus will say to unfaith-ers:  “I never knew you” (Mt. 7:23).  To our eternal shame Missouri Synod Lutherans have this kind of nonchalant, blasé, laidback truant rehearsing down pat.  LCMS-ers train, prepare and practice to hear the “I never knew you”  damnation judgment from Jesus not just for a week or two, but for months and years at a time – even entire lifetimes especially after their confirmation.  They practice so hard at it that they have perfected it.  They teach their children and grandchildren how to practice for eternal damnation apart from Jesus like nothing else.  And these practice makes perfect absentees expect the pastor to give his approval and blessing.  I won’t.  And neither should you.    

Hebrews 2:3 asks, “how shall we escape [damnation] if we neglect such a great salvation?” Hebrews 6:4-6 warns us:  “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who  have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” So, as your pastor, I warn you to be very careful about saying “no” when the Lord’s gifts in His Son’s wedding feast are offered to you.  Be extremely cautious about blowing off the King’s divine call through His preachers to attend the wedding feast of His Son as if there can never be any eternal hellacious consequences.  

Those No’s to God’s grace (whether it takes the form of weeks, months, years or a lifetime) are little anticipatory or ahead of time rejections that can culminate in the big hellacious rejection on the Day of Judgment. Or let me put it as simply as possible. For what are you rehearsing or practicing: eternal salvation with Christ or eternal damnation apart from Christ? 

As Jesus tells the parable, the A-listers, of course, are Israel and her religious leaders that bullishly rejected Jesus and by doing so they forfeited their seat at the feast. “He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone and cornerstone.” Jesus, the rejected Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world. In His rejection is our acceptance.

Even though the A-listers refused the King’s call to come, the Good Friday wedding feast for the crucified Savior Son is still ready! The only thing missing are the guests. So, the King sends out his preachers again.  More calling!  This time out onto the roads and the alleyways. The King has them invite anyone and everyone, the good, the bad, the ugly, the respectable and the disrespectable. The least, the lost, the lowly, the good as dead. Two-bit hookers, tax collectors, zealots, you name it. The feast is ready! Come to the feast. That is the call!  And the wedding hall is full of guests. Of course, this crowd represents the church, the Israel of the end times, a gathering of all sorts of the good, the bad, the ugly, sinners of every stripe.

Better push the pause button for a moment. First, is there anyone who is NOT invited? Is there anyone who is left out? No. For all intents and purposes, the whole kingdom is invited. Jesus died for all.  Second, do these guests “deserve” to be there? Not at all! In fact, the A-listers, who are now quite dead, would probably have been mortified to be at the same party with this bunch of losers. The guests are there only because of the King’s underserved grace.  It’s all gift. Pure 100 proof gospel! Unearned, unmerited. The worthy are found unworthy; the unworthy are declared worthy. Never forget this!

All right, let’s hit the play button again. Check it out.  The King has a look of the guests.  It’s quite a crowd! Dining. Drinking. Having a wonderful time. But that is when the King notices a man that has the audacity to not be donning the provided wedding suit! Don’t forget, these folks were just rounded up off the streets with no time to change. So we have to assume that the king is handing out His own salvific Good Friday Armani suits at the door. He’s crazy good and gracious. But for some reason, this man isn’t wearing the wedding suit. He must have refused it. The king confronts him. “Hey, buddy. (That’s what “friend” actually means.) How did you get in here without the Good Friday salvational suit that I gave everyone at the door?”

The man is silent. Speechless! He is stunned that he got caught! “Silent” also suggests that he refuses to even acknowledge the king’s presence much less talk to him. As in most of these parables, what should the man have said? What do you think?  That’s right, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” That always works in this King’s kingdom. Instead, he refuses to speak to the king and insists on being at the feast on his own terms. Not a good idea.  In fact, it’s hellacious.

He winds up bound and unceremoniously tossed into outer darkness where he can spend an eternity weeping and gnashing his teeth. And to this, Jesus adds the summary clincher: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The called many are all who have heard the great good news: Christ has died, Christ has risen. The feast is ready. Come to the feast. The chosen few are those who in faith are gathered at the marriage Supper of the Lamb in His kingdom, who are clothed with the wedding garment of His righteousness in Holy Baptism.

To be included is by God’s grace, His gift to you. To be excluded is entirely your doing.  Your refusal. Your turning away. He will compel you. He will lavish His gifts upon you, put the wedding suit on you, seat you at His table and feed you. But he won’t force you to stay. The guests at this Good Friday wedding feast of the Lamb’s table are free. They are not imprisoned.  It is not a penitentiary.

Dr. Martin Luther once remarked that the doors of the church swing in both directions so that those who wish to come to feast may come, and those who wish to leave can leave. But be careful. The alternative to the Lamb’s wedding feast is outer darkness, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth. And it’s so entirely unnecessary.

You are invited. You are clothed. The feast is ready. Come.  Rehearse and practice your faith in Jesus. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Riffing off of 1 Timothy 4:6-16

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Lutheranism 101 Ephesians 5 and Holy Baptism

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Lutheranism 101 Mark 16:16

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The Resurrection of the Body Is the End Game of Your Christian Life

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Proper 22 / Pentecost 18                           Trinity Lutheran Church

4 October 2020                                           Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Philippians 3:11 “That by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Christianity is so foreign.  So weird.  So strange.  Even to Christians.  Why is that?  I would submit that we have become so decadently focused on earthly and temporal issues that we are woefully ignorant and cavalier of the eternal matters – the salvific stuff taught in the BIBLE.    So it is time to pay careful attention to what Paul says in the text. I beseech you to take it to heart. That you have ears to hear what the Spirit says to you today in His Word.  Why?  So that you are repented, faith-ed and guided in holy living by the Holy Spirit.   So that you don’t lose eternal life by idolatrous worship of the temporal and earthly life.  

Here goes.  Are you listening?  According to the text and all of the BIBLE the goal, the finish line, or the aim of Christianity and your Christian life IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY!  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY!  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY!  The everything or the end game of Christianity is not declaring:  “I did everything possible to avoid contracting COVID and dying from it!” 

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I am concerned with your temporal wellbeing.  On the one hand the virus can be quite dangerous and even fatal and should be taken seriously with the proper precautions. Everyone gets that. And pastoral care respects that. This is why we offer two divine services with social distancing and stream the 10:30 service live.  It’s why we offer a page on Trinity’s website to help people worship at home that includes a link to the sermon each week.  As pastor I would personally visit you in your home if called upon.   

But on the other hand there is another side to high pastoral care and concern.  Not just the temporal but the eternal.   I learned this from the Lord.  He says: “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:39) And: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mk 8:36). One more for good measure.  It will be spoken when I as your pastor bury you in the earth. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” (Jn. 12:25).  Jesus’ concern is that when a person loves himself and his temporal earthly life more than Him or when a person clings with all his heart on temporal life the danger is that he may lose or forfeit eternal life.  Piggybacking on the Lord this is my high pastoral concern for you too.

I’m quite concerned because I get the impression from listening to people talk that escaping the temporal consequences of a virus is the ONLY thing life is about now.   As if it is the ESSENCE of one’s existence.  As if it DEFINES and GOVERNS every millisecond of one’s life. Every fiber of one’s being. Every word spoken. And sadly, shunning and avoiding receiving the gifts of Word and Sacrament whereby Christ Himself bestows His Good Friday salvific forgiveness that leads to, gives and bears the fruit called the resurrection of the body and eternal life.      

To the Philippians and to us today Paul speaks differently.  As a very mature Christian.  “That by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. Might that include taking certain earthly risks?  Like going to church?  Even socially distanced services?  Sure it could.

In the Creed every Sunday the church confesses her belief in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!  Wonderfully, the Creed gets it biblically right as it confesses the work of the Holy Spirit.  Because with the Spirit’s bestowal of the forgiveness from Christ’s Good Friday death in the gospel comes the long term benefits:  the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. 

That is why coming to the divine service to hear the absolution, to hear the gospel and to be given the Lord’s crucified, raised and ascended Body and Blood by the Lord’s own nail-scarred hands is so important for the life of the Christian and the church not just for now but for the long haul.  His divine promise:  “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins” leads to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  Get it?     

We do not believe in an eternal life without some sort of body. Anything in-between is just that, in-between. Asleep in the Lord is one way to talk about it.  Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in “paradise.”  That brings to mind Eden’s garden and God’s presence with Adam and Eve. In Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable in which Lazarus, the poor man, dies as a believer and the angels carry him to Abraham’s side.  Paul, in Philippians 1 says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ for that is far better.”

But Paul isn’t into speculations about disembodied souls. He understands, as we need to understand, that Christ has led the way for humanity to come through death and make it out alive – BODILY! He suffered, He died, He rose, and then He triumphantly ascended.  He sat down at the right hand of the Father in order to be physically but hiddenly present in the divine service to serve you heaping portions of His Good Friday forgiveness every week.  Why? So that on the Last Day when He returns in glory to judge the living and the dead you will be raised bodily and live forever in a resurrected body.

This is why the END GAME of your Christian life is the resurrection of the body and eternal life as a new creation. This is what Paul says he has not yet attained. Oh, yes, he has the full forgiveness of his sins. He has the promise of eternal life in Christ. He stands, as we stand, justified before God through faith in Christ. What he doesn’t have, and what he strains toward like a marathon runner straining across the finish line, is the resurrection of his body that Jesus Himself will give to you on the Last Day.

Paul knew what it meant to live with the aches and pains of life, with deadly viruses and pandemic plagues that killed people by the millions, but also suffering for Christ’s Name — the beatings and imprisonments he endured. Some say he also suffered from bad eyesight or perhaps debilitating headaches. Life on the road was hard in the first century. Those three missionary journeys plus a near death shipwreck on the way to Rome would have taken their toll on Paul. He risked losing his temporal life daily as an apostle. 

Yet he says to us here, “Never mind all that temporal stuff. That’s all in the rear view mirror. The concerns of this life and this world are behind me! Christian marathon runners, do not look behind you.  Don’t peek backwards or you will trip over your own two feet. I look forward, I strain with every fiber of my being toward the prize, that eternal crown of life Jesus holds in His hands that He won for me and will give me as my own on the day of the resurrection of my body.”

So if you are picking up what Paul is throwing down, Christians are a resurrection-of-the-body-people! Christians are oriented toward eternal life in the raised from the grave body! We are drawn to it. We strain for it. We long for it. We eagerly expect it, especially those of us who are getting closer to the cemetery with every breath we take. But also getting closer to the resurrection of the body on Judgment Day.

You, dear brothers and sisters, are baptized into the death and resurrection life of Jesus. That’s Romans 6.  You have an eternal bodily destiny set before you.  I know.  I know that the marathon race of this life is hard.  I know that you grow tired along the way.  However, keep your eyes on the prize – the prize past the finish line. Not your death. But your bodily resurrection from the grave!

Paul goes on to say, with immense sadness and many tears, that some have dropped out of the race. Some have stumbled and fallen from the Christian faith. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

Many came to faith in Jesus through Paul’s ministry.  But then they turned away. They no longer worshipped Jesus.  They would not be divinely served by Him in Word and Sacrament. They no longer hungered and thirsted for His gifts of salvation. Therefore, they lived as enemies of the cross – the very good Good Friday Cross upon which their sins were bloodily atoned. They set their minds on things temporal and lost the things eternal. They traded the divine salvational service of Jesus for their belly, their endless appetites, and their pursuits of pleasure. The end of that isn’t good. It’s hellacious destruction. 

The church of today is no different. Yes today’s COVID crisis is a temporal and earthly crisis. And at the same time it is a deep spiritual turning point and subtle calamity that may lead to hellish eternal consequences. I fear that people that I have cared for over two decades appear to be living the same way.  With the utmost of grief, endless sleepless nights, and tons of lament, I am concerned that the old Adam, who never lets a crisis go to waste, has tagged teamed with the devil and the world in order to drive out the Holy Spirit and quench faith. I know that the old Adam, who is extremely clever, crafty and cunning can hoodwink too many into falsely believing that a virus gives them total justification, without any divine and end time consequences, for living as enemies of the cross of Christ – never coming to the divine service – perhaps intending to never come back because it is just too temporally dangerous – and yet doing almost everything else in life that feeds the belly, fattens the retirement accounts and endlessly fuels all the activities that give earthly pleasures, fleeting fun, and gratification for only this temporal life. 

So I remind you.  Christians are people of the bodily resurrection and eternal life in the New Jerusalem.  You are to have your minds and hearts set in contentment as citizens of God’s city. Oh yes, we live in the earthly city. We have our homes.  Careers.  Cars.  SUVs.  We pay taxes.  We plan on voting. We worry endlessly over the earthly city’s fickle economy and crumbling society. We get our vaccinations and go to the doctor. Yes, we live in the earthly city but that’s not the place of our citizenship.

The Philippians, to whom Paul writes, were proud of their Roman citizenship. Philippi was a Roman free city. Residents there were proud to be “Philippians”! Yet Paul tells them, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” That’s home for us too. Where Christ is! Do you remember the name of the earthly city in the Bible.  It’s Babylon! Babylon, the drunken whore described most aptly in the Book of Revelation. That’s man’s city. God’s city is Zion, the Bride of Christ, the Church. That’s your citizenship, and when we lose sight of that, when we take the eyes of faith off of Jesus and His gifts that give the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, our feet will wander the streets of Babylon to our hellish eternal ruin.

There is nothing in man’s city that can raise you from the dead.  Washing hands, wearing masks, not touching your face, and social distancing, have only certain temporal benefits.  These activities, although temporally good, will not ensure the resurrection of your body or eternal life.   Only God’s city can do that. Only Christ gives that in His Word and Sacrament.  Therefore: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

We are a heavenly minded, resurrection of the body oriented people. That’s why the Reformation hymn A Mighty Fortress could declare, “Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won. The kingdom ours remaineth.” That’s what heavenly-minded, resurrection of the body-oriented faith-talk sounds like. “I count it all as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” and reaching the resurrection of the body and eternal life.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

1 Timothy 4:5 Consecrated By the Word of God and Prayer

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Lutheranism 101 Baptism in the Way of 1 Peter 3 / Baptism Saves You!

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