Shine Like the Sun in the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Date: Pentecost VII (Proper 11) + July 23, 2017

What an appropriate Gospel reading for us on this first Sunday meeting here in the Troy Historic Village. [Thanks to everyone who helped the move yesterday.] It is appropriate because Jesus is here speaking to two different audiences; first to the great crowds that had gathered about him, so great that Jesus got into a boat to make a sort of amphitheater of the shore of the sea, then secondly to his disciples only in the house. With our change in location many have thought this may be an opportunity for outreach into our new community. We encourage visitors to check us out, but more to check out Jesus whom we proclaim.

When people consider coming to church or becoming a Christian, many may have different expectations. “Will joining in on the Christian faith help straighten out my life?” They may have even heard the TV preachers promise health and healing or financial gain. When these things don’t happen, many may easily fall away, like the story of the seed that was planted but then choked out because life seems to be just as troubled as before or like the weeds of the deceit of wealth. We heard about that in Jesus’ first parable (last week) of the Sower. These parables answer the question why so many people do not respond in faith and discipleship to the Gospel.

Today’s parable of the weeds seeks to answer our questions of whether the kingdom and reign of God is really succeeding in the world. First notice that in these parables Jesus begins by saying, “The reign of heaven is like this.” Here He means to talk about the experience of the Church now, today, even while still in this world. In other parables Jesus will say, “The reign of heaven will be like this,” meaning to tell of the final outcome of God’s work in our world. That’s what the last words of today’s Gospel point to when He says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Notice we are not commanded to try to “shine like the sun” now because we can’t yet as we are surrounded and weighed down by the effects of sin which has not yet been completely removed from us. But there is coming a day when we will be completely set free from sin, death and the devil and will shine reflecting the very glory of God in heaven, paradise, the new heavens and earth.

I like Professor Jeff Gibbs’ summary of these parables saying that the parable of the weeds means to say, God’s rule “will be different, but for now, this is what you get!” In His explanation of these parables it is as if Jesus is assuring His disciples that things will be put right on that day, the last day, but not yet.

The seed of God’s Word is powerful and will not return to God empty handed. It is God Himself, the Holy Spirit, reaching out and speaking through the preached Word of the Scriptures. Through the hearing of the Word people are brought to repentance and given the gift of saving faith. This happens not because of anything the hearer does, but almost surprisingly when he or she is moved to say, “I believe.”

So, God’s rule does mean to make a difference in your life, but that difference is hidden to the eyes of faith. This is what you get at the same time, the enemy, the devil comes and sows his seeds producing the weeds of doubt and disbelief. And so, it is that God calls you to faith, hope, and love even while yet struggling with the weeds of unbelief, doubt and hatred all around us and even yet in us. This seems to be happening to an even greater degree in our time. And these weeds are not only “out there” in the world. Jesus says, “the field is the world.” But the Church is planted in the midst of this same world and the same lack of faith, doubt, and denial can spring up even in the Church. That’s why the Christian faith in this world and in this Church is always a matter of daily repentance, repeated confession and absolution and the need of Church discipline.

I was hoping, in the little detail of the Lord not allowing his servants to gather up the weeds, that I might find an excuse to not be so concerned for my lawn or garden. But that’s not the issue. Because the crop in the parable is wheat. The roots of the weeds intertwine with the roots of the wheat, so it is impossible to pull up the weeds without also rooting up some of the wheat along with them. So, what are we to do about the sins of others even of those I call my friends and brothers? The answer: it’s not your job to try to fix anything. It is God’s work through His Word of Law and Gospel to bring people to contrition and sorrow over their sin, to repentance and to receive forgiveness and the gift of faith. No one can do that for anyone else. At the last day, the harvest, the close of the age, God will finally bring ultimate justice.

I’ve always said that when the Bible talks about being justified it is more than being right. It is most helpful for us to remember that to be justified is to be killed. We speak of enemies or criminals being justified by the sword, justified by hanging, or justified by the firing squad. When the Bible speaks of being justified by faith it means to be killed in such a way that you will live forever. God’s declaration of you to be forgiven of all your sin takes punishment and death away.

Until the last day we will continue to experience, as St. Paul said today, “the sufferings of this present time.” But it is suffering in the sure and certain hope of our final deliverance that we can continue to live now by faith, the hope as the prophet Daniel saw it. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:1b-3). It is in that hope that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Hear the Word of the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Date: Pentecost VI (Proper 10) and The Disposition of a Church Building + 7/16/17

(This is the last Sunday we meet at the facilities of Lutheran High School Northwest, 1000 Bagley, Rochester Hills.)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Is. 40:8). Today we are aware that we are the grass and flower, we are the ones along with the whole world around us who wither and fade. Time goes by faster and faster. Our lives seem increasingly insignificant and our life so small. The one thing, says Isaiah, that stands forever is the word of our God. And that word is our life. Continue reading Hear the Word of the Kingdom

The Kingly Invitation

Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Date: Pentecost V (Proper 9) + 7/9/17

The Word of God before us today describes the struggle of the life and faith of the disciple of Jesus Christ in this world. The Introit from Psalm 91 speaks of how we need God’s shelter and shadow, bringing to mind, for instance, a hard day’s work under the summer sun. Without shade (or in my case a hat) the sun can burn us. We prayed in the Collect about “the wearisome changes of this world.” We get tired, exhausted, bushed after a long day of work or the struggle of living amidst the confusions, contradictions and problems of the world. This is nothing new. How did The Preacher, Qoheleth put it: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl 1:1, 8, 14). Continue reading The Kingly Invitation

A Kingly Crown to Gain

Text: Mathew 10:34-42
Date: Pentecost IV (Proper 8a) + 7/2/17

Peace be to you, and grace from Him who freed us from our sins (Rev 1:4-5).

You’ve heard the term “spin” meaning a person’s treatment of the facts, twisting and turning them to appear to support their own desired outcome. Such was the case in Jeremiah’s time when Hananiah, a false prophet, came on the scene seemingly contradicting what the true prophet was sent to speak. Hananiah spoke of the deliverance of God’s people and the restoration of the temple. Though he knew this was “spin,” Jeremiah began sort of in a mocking tone, saying, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true.” But he warned, “the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.” Well, it didn’t come to pass. As Jeremiah said earlier, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer 6:14). Continue reading A Kingly Crown to Gain

Christ, the Savior King is Come!

Text: Matthew 10:32-33
Date: Pentecost III (Proper 7a) + 6/25/17 + Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Today we have the delightful happenstance that the commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession of 1530 today is the perfect illustration of the conclusion of our Lord’s Missionary Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel, namely, that we are to confess Jesus boldly. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32). That’s what the Augsburg Confession is all about, it’s aim, “one simple truth and Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church” (AC Preface 4). It is fundamental to our Biblical confession of Christ before the world of eternal truths, deeply anchored in the Word of God, enunciated in a simple, extremely deep and eminently practical way. Continue reading Christ, the Savior King is Come!

How Beautiful the Feet

Text: Matthew 9:35—10:8
Date: Pentecost II (Proper 6a) + 6/18/17

On this day we begin the long green season of the time of the Church, the Sundays after Pentecost. Here we begin to retrace the words and acts of our Lord Jesus but not as an historical narrative as in the Lord’s or Festival Half of the Church Year, but now to discover the pure doctrine and teaching of the Christian faith. We continue to rejoice in the Good News of the salvation of the world, our salvation, through the merits of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Now it is our prayer as St. Paul put it to the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ Jesus when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Then he concludes, saying, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:17-22). So today we are saying that a person comes to this saving faith through the church. Continue reading How Beautiful the Feet

King of Glory Now

Text: Matthew 28:16-20
Date: The Holy Trinity + 6/11/17

Who is God? We do not begin with the question of only whether there is a God since we have two reliable sources of evidence or information about God available to all. And the first is what is called the natural knowledge of God. Romans 1:20 says, “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” I usually put it this way: everyone has it built in, or we say written on our hearts or in our DNA, first the awareness that there is a God. “Where did everything come from?” “Where did I come from?’ But there is a limit to our natural knowledge of God for we cannot discover His essence or attitudes other than coming to the conclusion that “He is mighty and He must be mad at us.” Hence every religion’s system of sacrifices to appease this angry God. For that the second necessary and reliable source of information about God is God’s own Word, the revelation of Himself in the inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Continue reading King of Glory Now

Thy Kingdom Come: Now Cause the Word of Life to Shine

Text: Acts 2:1-21
Date: The Day of Pentecost + 6/4/17

On this day every year, and unlike all other festivals where the Holy Gospel leads the way, on this day every year the main reading is the account of the Day of Pentecost recorded by the Holy Evangelist Saint Luke in the book of Acts. Almost like the birth process everything has been leading up to this day—everything. The Holy Spirit made His first appearance already in creation in the second verse of Genesis one. Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit was “limited” so to speak in leading and guiding and causing faith in the hearts of God’s chosen people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David who prayed “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me” (Ps 25:3-4). We heard how the Spirit came down, not upon all, but upon only the seventy men of the elders of the people of Israel as they were on their way in the Exodus, but only to them. Nevertheless Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wished, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” And how we see and hear the Spirit in the coming of Jesus into our flesh: the inspired songs of Simeon and Mary. Jesus Himself foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit any number of times, but not yet, as St. John told us today, “because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: Now Cause the Word of Life to Shine

Thy Kingdom Come: The Throne He Had Ne’er Departed

Text: John 17:1-11
Date: Easter VII + 5/28/17

This is an odd Sunday. ‘Always has been. It is still Easter, our continued celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It’s been 43 days. On the 40th day this past Thursday we remembered our Lord’s Ascension, “Up through endless ranks of angels… To His heavenly throne ascending” (LSB 491). And now we wait for this glorious season to deliver us to the more glorious, great 50th day of Pentecost. But what are we to do right now, this Sunday, while we wait? In the first chapter of Acts we join the apostles waiting and wondering what’s next. The Old Testament festival of Pentecost awaits, but they have no idea it will be any different than any past celebration. Meanwhile, they take care of the detail of replacing Judas Iscariot with Matthias so that they now number twelve again. Great. And so? Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: The Throne He Had Ne’er Departed

Thy Kingdom Come: Bright Jewel of My Crown

Text: John 14:15-21
Date: Easter VI + 5/21/17

In the annual celebration of Easter Christians are to learn that faith is not only a nice set of religious principles to be followed but is rather a living, active thing that changes us and gives life. St. Paul drew otherwise knowledgeable people in Athens from their blind religion of mere human philosophies to faith in the one and only true God, unknown to them until Paul spoke the word of God, telling of the Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all pointing to the man Jesus who died but was raised from the dead. That is, this thing called faith is actually how God Himself dwells in us, renews and strengthens us. It is not something we somehow conjure up in ourselves on our own, but is the result of God the Holy Spirit commandeering our spirit, mind and soul, enlightening us through the truth of God’s word as we prayed in today’s Introit, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). It is Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ that opens our hearts and minds to be able to hear, to understand and believe the Gospel. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: Bright Jewel of My Crown