The Very Stones…

563007_380173768681380_299594056739352_1195707_1022789384_n  I’ve been a musician almost my entire life. From singing in the children’s choirs at church and school and Sunday School, to attempting to learn and play guitar and banjo, to my time singing in the collegiate touring chamber group, I’ve enjoyed making and listening to excellent music. In that time also, I’ve spent much of it writing and reading, another of my favorite pastimes. So it should come as no surprise that I like to sing hymns from the hymnal. It’s a collection of wonderful, descriptive texts set to fulfilling music. I sing them to my children. I belt them out from the pew in church. I like to sit quietly and contemplate the words and the Scriptures behind the music.

One of the hymns that grabbed my attention earlier this year was “No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet,” LSB 444. It’s a particular passage in the second verse that I found myself especially proud to sing. “Or else the very stones would cry/‘Behold, behold your King!’”

This is, of course, a Holy Week hymn, set to be used during Palm Sunday, as we hear of our Lord’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. The hymn’s text is from Luke 19:36-40, where Jesus’, as He rides on a colt into the city, is admonished by the Pharisees to have the people stop praising Him. The crowds had, as Jesus passed by, thrown down their cloaks, waved palm branches, and shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” These were the same praises sung at the other bookend of His earthly life, as the heavenly hosts told the shepherds of His birth. Jesus knew, as we do now, that these crowds could not, would not, be silent. They had seen the Savior, the one spoken of by Simeon in the temple, when Jesus first traveled to Jerusalem as an infant. Here He is again, on His way to back Jerusalem, to the temple even, but this time, instead of a sacrifice by His parents for cleansing at His birth, He would be the sacrifice for the cleansing of all through our own rebirths by water and the Spirit.

It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And His words were proven true less than a week later. For you see, after that entry in triumph to the earthly city of Jerusalem, it was Christ’s eternal triumph over death and sin that caused those stones to cry out, to declare the majesty of the Son of God. Matthew 27:47b, “And the earth shook, and the rocks split.” The earth could not keep silent at the victory of Jesus and the crushing of the head of the serpent. And still, there was to be one final demonstrative act by the earth, as the stone was rolled away, and the great maw of the earth, the tomb entrance, was laid open as a mouth shouting out the resurrection of our Lord and the Last Words of Christ,

“It is finished!”

Amen.

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Good Stuff Found Online

Sometimes I come across things on the web that require reposting.  This is one of those things.  Enjoy.

The humble, profound thing called preaching

 Speaking is the most human thing we can do. Lowly and normal and profound all at the same time. We can email or string video images together on You Tube but speech makes us human. Despite the circus claims of scientists and charlatans, animals such as chimps or dolphins cannot talk. Only humans, made in the image of the Triune God, the God who speaks, do that.

Which means there is hope for the sermon. If the Word became flesh, if God created with His voice, if humans are at their most human when talking, the sermon can never fully wither away. For we crave such face to face talk. The more we retreat to lonely computer stations and darkened dens, the more empty we feel. Our ears are hungry.
The human voice, aligned to the truth of ancient, Biblical, credal patterns of speech, is not an outdated mode of some sort of generic “communication,” it is itself a Christian message. To talk Christ, to proclaim, to “evangelize” in the original sense of the word, is itself a radical Christian message.When a pastor steps into the pulpit and addresses people with his voice, he is not simply imparting information that might be imparted in multiple other ways, he is showing people how to be human and how to be Christian.

The church, in holding onto the sermon, is not engaging in blind preservation and refusing to change in response to the new realities of the digital age. She is holding onto a bit of what it means to be made in the image of God, to truly be a person. We were made to speak and to listen. The Gospel is not bare information, it is a living proclamation that, in its declaration and reception, restores us to our true humanity.

From here.

Forgive the infant as Christ forgives you…

This evening my wife and I brought our new, infant son to church for Divine Service. We sat through the worship service, hearing God’s Word and receiving His gifts. When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, I carried my son to the Table and knelt at the rail with my wife and older boy. The pastor came down the line, passing out the bread and blessing the children. At my older son he said, “May God keep you in your baptismal grace.” At my newborn he stopped, looked down and forgave my 11-day-old of his sins by saying, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Interestingly enough, he thought it appropriate and necessary to forgive a newborn of his sins. And he was right. In Romans the need for salvation is apparent.

“As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no , not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We cannot save ourselves. We are not righteous, not a single one of us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. How then can even the child who is new to life outside the womb be saved? Through Christ Himself! The next verse in Romans 3 tells the sweet Gospel: “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor granted to my child forgiveness by his Office, the Office instituted by Christ and given the power of forgiveness of sins. John 20:23, “If you forgive the sin of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My wife and I made the decision to bring our child to the Table to be forgiven. He has not yet been received into Christ’s Church through baptism, so we know that the pastor, in his Office, can and did grant our son the forgiveness of Christ. And for that I am truly grateful. Thank you, Pastor.

Gospel of the Week – January 6th

Matthew 2:1-12 – The Visit of the Wise Men

And now we’ve reached the “A-HA!” moment of the season of Christmas. It’s the moment that Christ is revealed, not just to the Jews, but to all the nations! This is Epiphany! It is the “Second Christmas” of our Lord. For the Gentiles have now come to see the Christ and to worship Him.

The Magi, wise men from the east, have come across from distant lands following “His star” (v. 2). They meet up with Herod the king and ask where the child is. Herod, as one would expect, is upset that there is a child out there who would be considered a king, and could come to take his throne. For Herod, a wicked ruler, was ruthless and was determined to kill off any who would seek to take his power from him. So he attempted to trick the wise men into thinking he wanted to worship the child, and sent them off with instructions to find the baby and tell him where the child was. God, however, had other ideas, and after leading the wise men to Jesus, warned them to go home a different way.

You might ask, if Herod was such an evil man, why the Magi would go to him first? Surely, they had to know who he was. Someone would have let them in on what Herod was like. It is the gifts of the Magi that tell us so much. They brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are the gifts worthy of a king, and one would expect to go to Herod the King to give the gifts.

But, Jesus wasn’t with the king. He wasn’t even in a palace. This was the same Jesus who was born in a dirty manger, in a cave, behind a hotel, in the middle of a nowhere town like Bethlehem. This was the king they came to see. You would imagine they would be surprised to find a poor carpenter, his wife, and child. After all, it’s just Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, a little family in a backwater town in Judea.

And yet they worshipped Him. They “fell down,” as verse 11 says, and presented Him and His mother with the finest of gifts. They came in faith to be in the presence of Jesus. It was faith that led them to follow the star, faith in the Word of God from verse 6 (taken from Micah 5:2), faith in the dream given them by the Lord to protect the Son. The Holy Spirit worked faith even in strangers from distant lands, who traveled to be with Jesus. Faith to find the King in a poor man’s house, and to worship Him.

The Spirit works faith in us, too. Faith that brings us to church on Sunday; faith that walks with us to the font and the rail; faith that puts us in presence of Christ in our Baptism and in the Holy Supper; faith in Christ, given by the Spirit through the Word. Galatians 3:26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Come and worship the Christ. Live in faith like the Magi, and the words of the Venite in Matins:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:1-7

Gospel of the Week – December 30

Luke 2:22-40 – Jesus Presented at the Temple

Jesus’ parents, being good Jews, proceeded to the temple after the appointed time of cleansing (Leviticus 12) to make a sacrifice. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are Jews, and, as such, are required to fulfill the Law of Moses, and have come to the temple to sacrifice two turtledoves.

It’s good to note here that the public life of Jesus begins with a sacrifice for His mother as required by Jewish law, to atone for sins and provide satisfaction. And His life ends with a sacrifice to remove the requirements of Jewish law and atone for all sins, including those of His mother.

Here at the temple, they meet Simeon, a fellow Jew and a righteous man, who has been awaiting the Messiah. When Jesus arrives, Simeon is filled with the Holy Spirit, takes Jesus into his arms and praised the Lord for what He had done for Simeon. For Simeon had met the “salvation” (v.30) for all people, both Jew and Gentile, to deliver all mankind. And then another Jew, this time Anna, a prophetess of the Lord, began praising the Lord as well, for God had brought to them “the redemption of Jerusalem” (v.38).

God uses many people to give thanks and praise for Jesus. He sends His Holy Spirit to those who are called to tell of Him who will redeem all men, and bring salvation. He even calls us to praise Him as well when we hold Jesus in our hands and our very mouths when we partake of the Holy Supper. That is why we sing the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “Now dimiss”), after the distribution and dismissal at the communion rail.

O Lord, now let Your servant
Depart in heav’nly peace,
For I have seen the glory
Of Your redeeming grace;
A light to lead the Gentiles
Unto Your holy hill,
The glory of Your people,
Your chosen Israel.

All glory to the Father,
All glory to the Son,
All glory to the Spirit,
Forever Three in One;
For as in the beginning,
Is now, shall ever be,
God’s triune name resounding
Through all eternity.

LSB p.211

We sing with Simeon, two-thousand years later, because we share with him the presence of our Savior. We give thanks to God with Anna, because the redemption of Jerusalem has arrived and is with us. Advent is over, our preparations have ended, and the time of Christ is here!

Praise the Lord!

The Story that Never Gets Old

You’ve heard it said a hundred times before, I’m sure.  But I think that sometime in the next 24 hours, between the presents, the food, the family  and friends, the traveling and the frustrations, the anxiety and agitation of the planning and parties, the meeting of new family members and spending time with the old ones, we should all take a moment to stop and tell one story that never gets old.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the firstregistration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

To God be the Glory!  Amen!

I’m Pretty Sure the Mayans are Laughing at Us Now…

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

There’s certainly been a lot of talk as of late about the End of the World. When I will happen, what it will be like, and who’s going to get it first. The Mayans are getting more discussion as of late than during a seventh grade history lesson. The world is going to end on THIS day (December 21st), or THAT day (the 22nd), or at 11:11 (but which time zone?), or at 5:15 (AM or PM?). Every one is very worried that they’ll have to go to work on Friday morning, but that no one will get Christmas presents three days later. Or, my favorite, that the gravitational pull of the Earth will be reversed, in some cosmic, hilarious, twisting of every tested Law of Physics known to man about the attraction of objects, and all of the stuff not tied down will be blasted into space…I think I’ll just chuckle about that one and move on.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Mark 13:32

It seems silly to attempt to predict the end of the world. It is stated very plainly throughout Scripture that we won’t get to know when it’s coming. We can guess all we want, but it’s just a guess. The LORD will not reveal it to us. It makes us anxious because we, as sinful people, want to be in control. We try to know it all. We want to be in charge. We want to be like God. It’s First Commandment stuff here, people.

The words of Christ comfort us as we begin to fret about the end and our lack of control. In Luke 12:25-26 Christ says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” The end is not for our concern. We do not live by our anxiousness. “The righteous shall live by faith.” -Romans 1:17

We live in the knowledge that Christ died for us. He suffered on the cross, bore our sins, and is our Savior. He gives us life and salvation through His Word, and the faith that comes by His Sacraments, which are the means of grace through the elements and His Word. Because, in the end, it always comes back to Jesus and His Word.

The verse in Mark above is important about the day and hour of the end, but the verse immediately preceding holds all the truth we need about the end of days.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away.”

Come, Lord Jesus. Amen!