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1144. Morning Chapel from Kramer Chapel, 4/25/17

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)

chapel April 25, 2017

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Sermo Dei: St. Mark’s Day 2017

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Pastor Esget (Esgetology)

Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

2 Timothy 4:5-18

April 25, 2017


“The time of my departure has come.” Springtime at seminary prompts such thoughts. But your ministry will not be what you expect. For St. Paul, departure meant death. So it is for you. Your call is to go and die.

It’s the call of Baptism. “Follow Me.” “Take up your cross.” Come and die.


Paul summarizes his service as having been “the good fight.” More literally, “the beautiful, noble agony.”

What is this good fight? What is the noble agony? The fight is not with the people God gives you to serve.

Sure; we may find evil men fighting us. St. Paul mentions one, Alexander the Coppersmith. He hurt Paul. People will hurt you. But your battle, the good fight, is not with people.

Conflicts will come. But the good fight, the noble agony, is the one where you only care about the Word of God and the well-being of your neighbor. The evil fight, the ugly battle, is the one where Bible and by-laws are mere bludgeons to batter your foes.

It was no noble agony that divided Paul and Barnabas. It centered around Mark, whose feast we celebrate this day. Devolving into bitterness, they separated.

I’ve heard people use the conflict between Paul and Barnabas as a justification for schism in the church. Brothers, it’s there as an example for what we ought not to do. What kind of beautiful agony did Paul and Barnabas and Mark have to go through to forgive? What good fight brought this resolution? “Get Mark. Bring him. He’s useful.”

If Jesus is risen from the dead, why do we act like our conflicts cannot be likewise resolved? Is our struggle one that the Holy Spirit would call “beautiful, noble”?


The deepest locus of conflict is the one inside yourself. There, in your heart, is the arena of the good fight. There, the conflict with your concupiscence, is the noble agony.

In the great battle over the Lord’s Supper, Luther said that the devil began by sending him “coarse, stupid blockheads who can do nothing but lie and slander.” No problem, Luther said; St. Paul had it a lot worse. Demas, his good friend, left him. But, Luther warned, the real battle, the noble agony was still to come for the Reformation.

Moreover, when the really crucial battle with the devil begins, within ourselves, we must expect that some of those who are now the spearheads of our movement will fall, be it Luther or someone else. When we fight with Satan, it is no mere academic disputation. 

The “really crucial battle” is “within ourselves.” That battle Demas fought, and appears to have lost. “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.”

What within you is in love with this present world ? Will you be disappointed with your call? Do you think you’re suited for something greater? Is the town not the right size for you? Are you in love with this present world ?

You are in love with this present world when you look with longing at a woman not your wife.

You are in love with this present world when you look with longing at a congregation to which you have not been called.

You are in love with this present world when you resent what others have.

You are in love with this present world when you grumble against your leaders.

You are in love with this present world when you argue with the wife God gave you.

You are in love with this present world when you are cowardly instead of faithful.

You are in love with this present world when faithfulness is synonymous with rudeness.

You are in love with this present world when you look at impure images.

You are in love with this present world!

You are not alone. St. Mark struggled with the love of this present world. Likely the rich young ruler, Mark went away from Jesus sad. He could not follow the Words of Jesus to him. “Go, sell what you have, and follow Me.” He was not ready for the noble agony. He was losing the good fight.

He was not yet sober-minded, part of Paul’s instruction to the pastor. Mark could have Jesus, but he still preferred his passions. Controlled by disordered desire, he was in love with this present world.

Finally, deserting Jesus on the night He was betrayed, Mark is stripped of everything. Mark loses his garment, and runs away. In the garden, Mark is naked and ashamed. Mark is Adam. Exposed, without excuse, dominated by fear, desires disordered.


But Jesus was not done with Mark. “You have Me,” Jesus says to Mark.

Jesus is not done with you. “You have Me,” Jesus says to you.

We want this present world, but God works on us so that gradually all of it is taken away. All our excuses, all our self-justifications, stripped away. Only the garment of Christ’s righteousness can cover our naked shame.

“See Me!” Jesus is saying to us. Crucified, naked, deserted, Jesus atones for Adam, Mark, you.


So when he was deserted, Paul could say he was alone, yet not alone. “The Lord stood by me, and strengthened me.” In the noble agony, we lose on our own strength. The Lord alone stands, the Lord alone strengthens.

In the agony, Paul’s life was being conformed to Christ. In the agony Mark’s life was being conformed to Christ. We do not conform ourselves but are conformed. The fight, the agony, comes upon us as God’s gift. We can receive it to our benefit, or rage against it to our destruction.


Confess today, with Demas, your love of this present world. Confess with Mark your love of money. Confess with Paul and Barnabas your strife and contention. Confess, and hear this:

Jesus forgives you. Jesus makes you useful. Jesus covers your shame. Jesus guides you in the good fight. Jesus comforts you in the noble agony. Jesus stands by you. Jesus strengthens you. Jesus died your death, and makes Alleluia your song, so that we go out and preach everywhere, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

✠INJ✠

 

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This post introduces a commentary on the Old Testament book of Judges; I will put it up in weekly installments here at Steadfast Lutherans.

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked –
you became fat, you became thick, you became engorged –
and he gave up God who made him,
and he considered the Rock of his salvation foolish.
They provoked him to jealousy with strangers;
with abominations they provoked him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons that are not God,
to gods they had not known,
new ones who had come recently,
with whom your fathers were not acquainted.

    (Deuteronomy 32:15-17)

Approaching the Land of Promise

The Lord had redeemed his people with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. He brought them out of Egypt with acts of judgment and with signs, great and ruinous. Pharaoh’s chariotry lies buried beneath the waves; the corpses of the Egyptians have sunk, and bloated, and suffered the ravages of God’s water. Their bones and weapons are subsumed into the ocean floor while the Israelites prepare to enter the land of the promise.

The Israelites have long been sojourners on the face of the earth. By faith Abraham heeded when he was called to go out into a place that he would later receive for an inheritance (Heb. 11:8). In the land that was promised to him he dwelt as a foreigner and lived in tents. Other peoples knew of masonry and brickwork and planting and farming. But Abraham and his seed were transients. Abraham knew walls of hair and skin, and the only stonework he practiced was the building of altars. Abraham was a herdsman – the animals could migrate with him. Yet with farming he was only a passing acquaintance, and he was never still long enough to tend a seed from its sowing to its harvest.

And this way of life was all Israel knew. When Joseph brought his father, Jacob, and all his family to Egypt they continued as shepherds and herdsmen. As far as we know the Israelites did not take up farming. In fact Pharaoh told Joseph that if he knew of any able men among the Israelites to put them in charge of the royal livestock.

For four hundred thirty years Israel sojourned in Egypt (Ex. 23:9). And we don’t have any indication that they lived in houses during this time, at least no indication that I can find. In the land of Goshen the Israelites “gained possessions,” they “were fruitful and multiplied greatly” (Gen. 47:27), but nothing of houses. When the Israelites left Egypt they brought tents with them, and no mention is made that this was a change for them. When the Israelites grumbled about going back to Egypt it was because they missed the food (Ex. 16:3, Num. 11:5, 21:5), not the homes.

The Israelites continued their sojourning in the wilderness for forty years, a year for each day that the twelve spies spied out the land. A whole generation died because they did not believe that the Lord would keep his Word. They thought the Lord was bringing them into Canaan to make them fall by the sword. The devil taught man a fine way of understanding God’s Word back in Genesis 3, and man has been employing it ever since: regard the promises of God with suspicion, as if by them he meant to kill you, and disregard the commandments of God entirely. So they did, and so they died.

But not Joshua and Caleb. They were two of the twelve spies, and while they acknowledged the mighty appearance of the people and fortresses of the land, they also considered God to be faithful and not a liar. The Lord could easily give them the land! And only those who believed his Word above all else lived to see the land of promise.

The name Joshua means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus shared his own name with a man over a thousand years before he would take it up himself. The first we hear of Joshua is in Exodus 17 when Israel warred with Amalek. Joshua attacked and, as long as Moses held up his hands, Joshua prevailed. The outstretched arm of Moses and the victorious Yahweh-saves would later meet in the same person, a crucified person. The first Joshua, like the second and greater Joshua, would always be remembered as the saving warrior.

The faithless died. Their flesh was parched instead of bloated, their bones dry instead of wet, but it would have been just as well if they had drowned in the Red Sea. Because they didn’t cross the river. They were baptized into Moses but they did not pass through the Jordan to inherit the promise. They rejected the promise and longed to return to the land of Egypt, the iron furnace, the house of slaves. In the end the souls of the apostate were reunited with the souls of the Egyptians: not gathered around the meat pots sating themselves with flesh, but boiling in the meat pots of Sheol, awaiting the day when Hell will receive their flesh and never be sated. This isn’t the last time I’ll say this: Apostasy damns, so take heed to yourself.

Joshua, Caleb, and the faithful children of the faithless crossed the Jordan River, which the Lord had miraculously stopped up. Then began the military conquests. Joshua led the Israelites in battle. They devoted whole peoples to destruction according to the Word of the Lord. Jericho fell, as did Ai. Various kings allied against Israel. Joshua put them all to flight, and the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them. There was a campaign against southern Canaan, a campaign against northern Canaan. You can read about all this in Joshua 1-12.

Once the campaigns came to an end, Joshua allotted the land to the various tribes. Those who had formerly inhabited the land had been sufficiently weakened and the Israelite army could now disband, at least for the time being. Certain cities and peoples had not received the attention of the entire Israelite host, but they could be dealt with on the local level by the tribes and clans of Israel. You can read about the allotment of the land in Joshua 13-21.

The Idols of Canaan

And now we come to the scene that immediately precedes the book of Judges: Joshua chapters 23 and 24. Joshua knew he was about to die, and the Israelites had dwelled in the land for a time. This land had temptations not completely unlike the temptations Israel had faced before in Egypt or in the wilderness. Yet the temptations that stewed in Canaan were variations on sinful themes, they were apparently unlike anything that Israel had faced before, and thus there was danger of succumbing to temptation without realizing it.

These temptations all come down to idolatry. For instance, the sinful heart of man is always tempted to worship Mammon, that is, money and possessions that exceed the necessities of daily bread. The Israelites had known Mammon. Israel had prospered greatly when he and his family moved to Goshen. The Israelites had walked out of Egypt carrying great fortunes bestowed on them by the fearful and oddly-sympathetic Egyptians.

But the land of Canaan was Mammon as Israel had never known it before. Here there are actual houses . Yes, permanent structures built of brick and stone. And they’re ours! There are fields and vineyards, groves and orchards, wells in the ground. We can live high off the land instead of using it as one endless road!

Moses had seen the temptation coming from afar. In his great sermon to Israel (the book of Deuteronomy) Moses said,

And when it happens that Yahweh your God brings you to the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give it to you: cities great and good that you did not build, and houses full of every good thing that you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out that you did not hew, vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied – Take heed to yourself lest you forget Yahweh, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. Yahweh your God you shall fear, and him you shall serve, and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods from the gods of the peoples around you – for Yahweh your God who is in your midst is a jealous God – lest the anger of Yahweh your God be kindled against you, and he exterminate you from upon the face of the ground.

    (Deuteronomy 6:10-15)

So Mammon rose up to tempt like the bright molten calf, like the glittering statue of Nebuchadnezzar. Except Mammon presented itself in houses, and pottery, and ovens, and picket fences, and luxuries. Mammon seemed so ordinary, so common. And it became all the more dangerous.

Then, of course, there were the remaining peoples who had previously dwelled in the land of Canaan. They had their religion: the worship of Baal. The Canaanite religion was an agricultural religion. The god Baal is married to his sister, the goddess Anath. Each year Baal descends to the underworld, the realm of Mot (Death). Baal becomes trapped there, and winter ensues. Then Anath comes and slays Mot and chops him to bits and plants them, then Baal returns to life. The earth becomes fertile again. Somehow Mot returns to life as well, and the whole thing repeats. Hence the seasons.

You can picture the conversations the Canaanites had with the Israelites, “So you worship Yahweh, eh? He made heaven and earth? Ok. And you’re… a bunch of shepherds. Got it. Look, buddy, you need a lesson in how things work in these parts. We’re farmers. Yahweh may have made the earth, but Baal controls the land, and if you’re going to live off the land, you’d better make nice with Baal. So go to your tabernacle or whatever and worship your Yahweh. We’re tolerant. Kind of. Then when you leave the tabernacle, worship Baal. Boom, best of both worlds. Plus we have cult prostitutes, so, uh… yeah. See you at the high places.”

And then marriage. Why is it always marriage? Such a good gift, and so I suppose we shouldn’t wonder that the devil is always trying to twist it to his purposes. Do not marry the Canaanites! Thus saith the Lord. This is inescapably clear, right? “But there are kind and beautiful people, and they’re my neighbors (never mind that I was supposed to drive them out), and I’m in love, and she’s right in my eyes, and we’re soul mates, and maybe Yahweh and Baal aren’t all that different after all.”

Such were the temptations that lurked in the land of Canaan.

Joshua’s First Sermon: The Lord Your God

At last we come to Joshua’s first sermon to the people of Israel. “And it came to pass after many days – after Yahweh had given rest to Israel from all their enemies around them, and Joshua was old, coming into days – that Joshua called for all Israel, for its elders and for its heads and for its judges and for its officers, and he said to them,

‘I have grown old, I have come into days. And you have seen all that Yahweh your God did to all these nations before you. For Yahweh your God, he is the one who has warred for you. See, I have allotted to you these nations that are left in the inheritance, to your tribes: from the Jordan, through all the nations that I have cut off, and unto the Great Sea where the sun sets. And Yahweh your God, he himself will drive them out before you and dispossess them from before you. And you shall possess their land, just as Yahweh your God has said to you.

‘Therefore be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the Torah of Moses, not to turn aside from it to the right or to the left, not to come in to these nations, these that are left with you. By the name of their gods you shall neither make remembrance nor swear, and you shall neither serve them nor bow down to them. But to Yahweh your God you shall cleave, just as you have done unto this day. Yahweh has dispossessed before you nations great and mighty. And you, no man has withstood your face unto this day. One man from you pursued a thousand; for Yahweh your God, he is the one who has warred for you, just as he said to you.

‘Now take great heed unto your souls, to love Yahweh your God. For if you turn back and you cleave to the remnant of these nations, these that are left with you, and you intermarry with them and you come in to them and they in to you, then know for certain that Yahweh your God will no longer dispossess these nations from before you, and they will be for you a trap and a snare, and a scourge in your sides and thorns in your eyes until you perish from this good land that Yahweh your God has given to you.

‘Now behold, I am going today the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and with all your soul that not one word has fallen from among all the good words that Yahweh your God has spoken unto you. They have all come to you; not one from them has fallen. But it shall be that just as every good word has come unto you that Yahweh your God has spoken to you, so also Yahweh will bring on you every harmful word until he exterminates you from this good land that Yahweh your God has given to you, when you transgress the covenant of Yahweh your God that he has commanded you and you go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of Yahweh will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given to you.’

    (Joshua 23:1-16)

“Thou shalt have no other gods.” And why would we need them? What could they possibly do for us that the Lord our God has not already done, and done immeasurably better? The Lord has redeemed us, the Lord has given us rest from our enemies round about us, the Lord continues to fight for us.

Martin Luther wasn’t the first to see the great gift that the Lord gave us in the First Commandment, but he has put it very well. “Thou shalt have no other gods.” “What this means is: ‘See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another.’ In other words: ‘Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else” (Large Catechism, I.4, K-W).

Joshua’s Second Sermon: Dethroning Idols

And this leads quite well into Joshua’s second sermon to the people. Once again Joshua calls all Israel to himself, and this time we learn that the place is Shechem. Shechem is the first Canaanite city mentioned in Genesis 12 when we hear of Abram’s journeys through the land. It was at Shechem that that Lord had first appeared to Abram and promised him, “To your seed I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7). It was also at Shechem that Abram built his first altar to the Lord. Now Joshua stands at this place: the place where the former-pagan Abraham built his first solid structure in the land that he was to inherit, the place in the midst of Baal country where Abraham had confessed the one true God with solid stone and with sacrifice.

And Joshua said,

Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: ‘On other other side of the River your fathers dwelt from of old, Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. And I took your father, Abraham, from across the River, and I led in him all the land of Canaan, and I multiplied his seed, and I gave him Isaac. And I gave to Isaac Jacob and Esau. And I gave to Esau Mount Seir to possess, but Jacob and his sons came down to Egypt.

‘And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt as I acted in its midst, and afterwards I brought you out. And I brought your fathers out from Egypt and you came toward the sea. And the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariotry and with horsemen to the Red Sea. And they cried out to Yahweh, and he set darkness between you and Egypt, and he brought the sea upon him and covered him. And your eyes saw what I did against Egypt.

‘And you dwelt in the wilderness for many days. And I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan, and they warred with you. But I gave them into your hand and you possessed their land, and I exterminated them from before you. Then arose Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, and he warred with Israel. And he sent and called for Balaam son of Beor to curse you. But I was not willing to listen to Balaam, and he blessed you greatly, and I delivered you from his hand.

‘And you crossed over the Jordan and you came to Jericho, and the baals of Jericho warred with you, the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Girgashites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you and it drove them out before you – the two kings of the Amorites – not with your sword and not with your bow.

‘And I gave you a land on which you did not toil, and cities that you did not build, and you dwelt in them. Of vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant, you eat.’

And now: Fear Yahweh and serve him in totality and in faithfulness. And take away the gods that your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt, and serve Yahweh. But if it is evil in your eyes to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods that your fathers served that are from the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But I and my house, we will serve Yahweh.

    (Joshua 24:2-15)

Where are the gods that came from the other side of the River? Where are the gods of Egypt? Where are the gods of Canaan? They have all unwillingly bowed the knee to the Lord, the one true God. So choose, Joshua says. And he’s not some Arminian encouraging Israel toward decision theology. He’s addressing those who already believe. He makes them understand, “You have a choice before you. You might not even realize that you have such an important choice, so let me tell you about it. This is a choice between gods. The land in which you dwell is filled with temptations, many of which you have only begun to suspect. The devil is calling to you, trying to lure you away from the Lord. But ignore the devil, and realize how utterly obvious this is: You can serve the gods who have been defeated, or you can serve the God who has defeated them. For me the choice is quite simple. My house will serve the Lord.”

The people likewise said that they would serve the Lord. They said this while they still had foreign gods with them, gods they had carried along just in case, or out of habit, or out of the perverse love that drives all of us to desire our idols. Would the people remain true to their word? Would they serve the Lord in totality and faithfulness and cleave to him alone? Or would they go after other gods?

Why Judges?

Our Joshua has conquered our enemies on every side. By his death and resurrection he felled the devil’s Jericho and slew Death. Jesus is the victor, he is the God who has already won. We have passed through the waters, we have been baptized into his name, and therefore his victory is our victory.

And yet…

The sinful flesh loves Mammon. This is as true of us as it was of the Israelites. And we have houses and garages stuffed with Mammon. The Lord has given us Mammon as a trust; in truth it is our neighbor’s daily bread. Yet Mammon calls, “Believe in me, accumulate me, and I will secure your future.”

The sinful flesh loves the world. The world says, “I don’t know what you do in church, but out here we had better see you acting like this. But, by the way, you can engage in all the sexual promiscuity that you want – the more deviant, the better – and we won’t bat an eye. Just leave your whole ‘one true God’ business within the walls of your sanctuary.”

The sinful flesh loves the passions. God’s Word doesn’t make the flesh feel good, but that heretic or schismatic does? Well then! Let’s set the wedding date! This happens spiritually when we give in to the allure of false teaching. This also happens physically: we don’t have Canaanites, but Christians are still marrying outside the faithful confession of Christ. The worst part is, many don’t suspect that there’s anything wrong with it. “He’s atheist, she’s Buddhist, I’m Christian.  What’s the problem?” Or, “He’s Baptist, she’s Roman Catholic, I’m Lutheran. What’s the problem?” The problem is we love our passions more than we love the Word of God.

Our sinful flesh is no different than the sinful flesh of the Israelites. And like them, we stand in need of a Savior. The book of Judges chronicles the utter failure of God’s people to serve him as they should. As a result, time and time again the enemy casts a dark shadow and breathes down their necks, until the Israelites turn from their foreign gods and implore the Lord’s mercy. In the book of Judges we see the Lord’s faithfulness and long-suffering. We see how he disciplines his children: not as an exterminator, but as a Father. We also see in each judge a shadow of Christ. The Savior who casts the shadow becomes more and more clearly defined as the book progresses, even as the sinful shadows themselves become ever more grievously sinful.

Today we find ourselves in a scenario eerily similar to that in the book of Judges. And so we take to heart the history of our fathers, we learn to recognize the temptations that beset us, and like them we repent of our sins, pray, and receive the aid of the Savior.

For Yahweh will minister judgment for his people,
and on his servants he will have compassion,
for he will see that their strength is gone,
that there is no one kept back or remaining.
And he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
who ate the fat of their sacrifices,
who drank the wine of their libations?
Let them arise and let them help you;
let them be a shelter over you.
See now that I, I am he,
and there is no god besides me,
I myself kill and enliven, I smash and I myself heal,
and there is none to deliver from my hand.’

    (Deuteronomy 32:36-39)
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Have you decided to attend yet???

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
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Seeing is not believing -- hearing is!

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Sermon preached for Easter IIA on Sunday, April 23, 2017, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    Of the five senses that God’s given us, the one we trust the most is our sight.  Sure, we use all our senses to gather information, but there’s just something about seeing with our own two eyes that gives us a sense of truly knowing.  When we hear about something that seems just a bit too outrageous, we respond with a sarcastic “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  When we witness something amazing we say, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.”  Having a photo or seeing a video gives us trust beyond doubt.  For us, seeing is believing.  But is this true when it comes to our faith?  When it comes to trusting in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior, IS SEEING BELIEVING?
    For the disciples, especially Thomas, seeing was believing.  They trusted in what they saw, and what they saw was an empty tomb.  When the women told the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection, they didn’t believe their words, they seemed like a tall tale.  But Peter and John ran to the tomb wanting to see for themselves, and they saw it empty, but they didn’t understand. 
    The tomb was empty and the women told the disciples why: Jesus rose from the dead.  This should’ve been joyous news.  Their teacher, their leader, their friend was alive, but the disciples were afraid.  They feared the Jews and locked themselves in a room.  Why?  Why were they afraid?  Because they saw an empty tomb.  They feared the Jewish authorities would come and arrest them for supporting Jesus.  They feared they’d be brought before the Romans and falsely accused of stealing Jesus’ body.  They feared for their lives.  But that fear went away when Jesus appeared.
    Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered the room and physically stood in the midst of the disciples and said “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).  He showed them His hands and His side, the holes of the nails and the gash of the spear.  Seeing Jesus, their fear disappeared and they were glad, and they went and told Thomas, the one disciple who wasn’t there to witness the resurrected Lord. 
    Thomas heard the news, but he didn’t share the gladness of the others, he didn’t believe.  Like us he said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  He needed physical evidence he could see, he needed physical evidence he could touch. 
    Like Thomas, we want to see evidence before we believe.  We want the assurance of our eyes.  Our whole legal system is based on this, and this is a good thing.  Someone charged with murder isn’t sentenced to life in prison or executed based on the word of one or two witnesses.  There has to be physical evidence.  Likewise the field of science requires evidence.  We need to study measureable data.  And this too is a good thing.  Great leaps have been made in technology and medicine because we’ve search for physical proof.  God’s given us our sight to help us navigate and find truth in this earthly life.  It’s a gift.  But our sight can become a problem when we rely on it for faith. 
    Thomas needed to see and feel Jesus before he’d believe He was risen from the dead, and so do we.  We want to see Jesus.  We want Him to appear in our midst and show us His hands and side.  We want to feel Christ’s presence in our heart.  We want to feel His love.  We want Him to perform miracles in our lives that we can see.  We want a photo and video of it.  But this isn’t how faith works, this isn’t how trust in Christ works, and that’s a good thing.
    If we can only trust in Christ and His salvation if we see Him then we’d never have faith.  If we can only trust in Christ when we see great miracles, what happens when we see bad things happening?  If we only have faith when we feel the love of God in our heart, what happens when we don’t feel good?  Does this mean that Christ didn’t die on the cross for your forgiveness and rise from the tomb for your life?  Absolutely not!  Our sight doesn’t produce faith.  Seeing isn’t believing...hearing is.  Hearing the Good News of Christ dying and rising for you produces faith.
    The author of Hebrews writes, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).  The things hoped for and the things not seen are God’s gifts of forgiveness and everlasting life, given to you for the sake of Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  You can’t see God’s forgiveness, you don’t see everlasting life.  But these things are there and true, and we know they are there and true because God has said so.  He’s promised them in His unchanging Word. 
    At the end of the Gospel reading, John tells us why he wrote what he wrote.  He said, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:30-31).  Scripture is written so that you can hear the Gospel of Christ and believe.  The Spirit produces faith in you through God’s Word: His Word read, His Word preached, His Word of Absolution, and his Word in the Sacraments. 
    Faith comes from hearing God’s Word and He’s given us men, pastors in the Office of the Ministry to speak that Word.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples He said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (Jn 20:21-23).  Here is the institution of the Office of the Ministry.  Christ sent out His disciples to speak His Word of Absolution and to proclaim His life and death, and God continues to send out men to do this, so that you might receive the gift of faith, faith that trusts in Christ your Savior. 
    God’s pastors speak to you His Word.  They read the Scriptures and preach the Good News of Christ, and the Holy Spirit works through this.  As you hear Christ crucified and risen for you, the Spirit gives you faith, faith that trusts in Christ, faith that receives God’s promised gifts of forgiveness and everlasting life.  These gifts that are unseen God gives to you in the Sacraments: in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Here the Lord has tied His promises and gifts to the visible: water, bread, and wine.  These are God’s Word made visible, administered by His pastors, delivering to you His gifts, gifts received in faith. 
    One week after Jesus appeared to His disciples in the locked room, all the disciples gathered again, and this time Thomas was with them.  And again Christ miraculously appeared in their midst.  Jesus greeted them all with peace and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  Thomas saw the risen Lord, and he heard His Word and said, “My Lord and my God.”  Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believed” (Jn 20:26-29).
    Like Thomas and the other disciples, we live in an unbelieving age.  We require physical proof, a photo or a video.  The attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it,” is alive and in control.  This is well good when it comes to this world, to science and the legal system, but when it comes to faith, seeing isn’t believing, hearing is.  Trust in Christ, trust in His saving death and resurrection, comes from hearing God’s Word; that’s why He had His prophets and apostles write it down, that’s why He’s given you pastors; that’s why He’s given you the Sacraments, so that you would hear and believe.  Blessed are you who haven’t seen and yet believe, for you’ve been given everlasting life.
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Where is the weekly live show?

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

Here’s what’s going on the next two months with WEtv. Updates on the studio, Grappling, new website, and more! And don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to get these updates right away in your inbox. The link is in the newsletter. # WEtvLevelUp

Click here to read it: Newsletter

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Enter the Word: 1 Peter 1:17-23

  Posted:Apr 25, 2017 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

Watch the whole live show on facebook.com/worldiveweverlasting 7pm on Tuesday nights, for Enter the Word, ADP, updates on the studio status and more.

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fickenscher copy Dr. Carl Fickenscher of
Concordia Theological
Seminary-Ft. Wayne, IN


Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne

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wolfy Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran-Aurora, CO

Has American Christianity Failed?
Devotional Challenge Book

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1143. Polygamy – Pr. David Kind, 4/24/17

  Posted:Apr 24, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)

Pr. David Kind of University Lutheran Chapel-Minneapolis, MN

LCMSU
Ethics of Sex

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1140. Morning Chapel from Kramer Chapel, 4/24/17

  Posted:Apr 24, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)

chapel April 24, 2017

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Whigs and Tories. . .

  Posted:Apr 24, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
I love the old terms Whig and Tory.  Whig and Tory came about in 18th century England.  Opposing views on the succession of the monarchy gave birth to two opposing political parties in England .  But before they were politically correct terms to describe parties, they were terms of abuse and derision introduced in 1679 amid the heated struggle over a move to exclude James, duke of York (afterward James II ), from succession to the throne. Whig—it was an originally a Scottish Gaelic term—seemed to have meant a horse thief.  Never without a religious application, it later applied to Scottish Presbyterians, non-conformists who claimed the power to exclude the heir from the throne. Tory came from Ireland where it meant something of a papist outlaw and it applied to those who supported the hereditary right of James -- in spite of his Roman Catholic faith.  Ahhh, England!

Whig and Tory do not quite mean what they did.  The agreement upon a constitutional monarchy seemed to salve over the wound of succession.  For a while the Whigs were aristocracy and the Tories were Anglicans.  Then there were the new Tory and Whig parties in the late 1700s.  Now the Whigs seem to be but a memory and the Conservative Party has often used the moniker Tory (though without much precision as to why and what it means).  But it was good while it lasted.   Even Americans used those terms (at least around the time of the Revolution).

Our terms today are less descriptive and much more pedestrian.  Liberal and conservative dominate the political discussion.  Traditional and modernist seem to describe our cultural divide.  Confessional and moderate are used for Lutheran distinctions within my own church body.  What ever happened to good words like Whig and Tory?  Why can't we invent better terms to describe ourselves and our opponents (never mind the venue) than relative terms?  Liberal and conservative are almost meaningless (hence our flirtation with populist, progressive, and libertarian).  Traditional and modernist may hint at the great differences here but they do not help to identify them clearly.  In the Missouri Synod moderates insist they are confessional and confessionals are, to some degree, at war with each other as much as the, well, moderates.

So my challenge for a while is to invent better terms, short concise but descriptive terms to be used in our political debate, in our culture conflicts, and especially within my own Missouri domain.  If you can help me, send me your best alternatives.
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Show #406: Will The Pirate Conquer The Iron Preacher?

  Posted:Apr 24, 2017 By Table Talk Radio (Table Talk Radio)

On this episode we skip right past Buzzwords and emails so Pastor Chris Rosebrough, The Captain of Pirate Christian Radio, can join us for a lively game of Iron Preacher against Pastor Wolfmueller. The preaching is based on Luke 22:47-53 and judging this game is Pastor Carl Fickenscher! AVAST (Be Steadfast) YE MATEYS!!

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Lutheran Worship: another view. . .

  Posted:Apr 23, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
The March 2017 Forum Letter (why don't you subscribe?) features 8 pages from an old voice complaining about the more liturgical face of Lutheranism.  In it, David S. Luecke provides a predictable review of his previously published critiques of liturgical renewal along with some interesting tidbits sure to evoke the ire of many in the LCMS and encourage others.

His first point is that the liturgical movement was a fringe movement that became dominant in Missouri (something he finds incredulous).  Although he claims to have done extensive research to bolster his position, Luecke apparently has not delved back much into Lutheran history and worship or he would recognize that what he calls liturgical renewal is in reality a restoration of what was normal and normative Lutheran worship practice from the earliest days until the end of the 18th century.  His complaint that liturgical renewal substituted for the needed spiritual renewal seems to distance the Spirit and God's work from the Word and Sacraments from which spiritual renewal proceeds (perhaps he should read Bo Giertz on the topic of Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening ).

His personal view is, of course, that Lutherans took a wrong term.  He blames the precipitous decline of Lutheranism in America on liturgical renewal and claims it violates the Pauline dictum of all things to all people.  He quotes Epitome, Formula of Concord X to claim that every church in every locality has the authority to change ceremonies (but fails to note that this does not, in context, mean individual congregation but refers instead to church in the larger sense of jurisdiction).  No one has ever claimed otherwise.  Yet he fails to note the manifold other places in which those same Confessions insist that worship is not a thing indifferent and ceremonies teach and confess in themselves.
We on our part also retain many ceremonies and traditions (such as the liturgy of the Mass and various canticles, festivals, and the like) which serve to preserve order in the church. (Augsburg Confession XXVI:40 [German])

We are unjustly accused of having abolished the Mass. Without boasting, it is manifest that the Mass is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness than among our opponents. (Augsburg Confession XXIV:9 [German])

We are perfectly willing for the Mass to be understood as a daily sacrifice, provided this means the whole Mass, the ceremony and also the proclamation of the Gospel, faith, prayer, and thanksgiving. Taken together, these are the daily sacrifice of the New Testament; the ceremony was instituted because of them and ought not be separated from them. Therefore Paul says (I Cor. 11:26), “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death.” (Apology XXIV:35)
From this description of the state of our churches it is evident that we diligently maintain church discipline, pious ceremonies, and the good customs of the church. (Apology XV:4)

We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion that they justify. Our enemies falsely accuse us of abolishing good ordinances and church discipline. We can truthfully claim that in our churches the public liturgy is more decent than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons than our opponents are. (Apology XV:38-39)

On holy days, and at other times when communicants are present, Mass is held and those who desire it are communicated. Thus the Mass is preserved among us in its proper use, the use which was formerly observed in the church and which can be proved by St. Paul’s statement in I Cor. 11:20 ff. and by many statements of the Fathers. (Augsburg Confession XXIV:34-35 [German]) Since, therefore, the Mass among us is supported by the example of the church as seen from the Scriptures and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since the customary public ceremonies are for the most part retained. (Augsburg Confession XXIV:40 [Latin])
He also has a big thing against the word "liturgy" and says that the Lutheran term is "mass" (which he defines as something other than "liturgy" and certainly not Introit, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Dismissal -- which begs me to ask if that is not "mass" what is)?  He presumes to know the mind of Luther and insist that Luther preferred a simple preaching service but was reined in by the ignorance of the peasant folk and, well, had bigger fish to fry anyway.  Curious, indeed!  Even more curious since the kind of service Luecke prefers has a praise band, a host of sound engineers and lighting specialists, performers to entertain, and everything from parking lot attendants to coffee baristas to serve up the sacred brew!

His claim that in Saxony there were 75 different church orders presumes that any difference, however slight, constitutes a "different order" when the reality is that they, while different in nuance, were remarkably consistent -- not only in Saxony but throughout Lutheranism.

Of course, it did not take long for vestments to enter his discussion.  He longs for the Geneva gown (black in winter and white in summer, fall and spring depend upon the weather, I guess).  Never mind that art shows us Luther in eucharistic vestments and the early Lutherans retaining such vestments.  The truth is that eucharistic vestments never disappeared from Lutheranism even though they may have disappeared from specific places.

Luecke does not care much for the early church, specifically the time of the church following the legalization of Christianity.  Strangely, his description of words used for worship in the New Testament involves posture -- bowing and kneeling -- something he thought Article X of the Epitome declared unimportant.

But the last part of his article is the most interesting.  Bowing down is for Luecke a euphemism for contemporary worship and music -- singing the Word in "rhythms and tunes heard on the radio, often now in Country and Western style... [and] singing a love relationship with God" with a "spirit" bowed down before His majesty.  This is meaningful to him but not so much the rites and rituals of the mass.  The pathways that should define worship, he suggests, are best described by Gary Thomas in Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God .  He believes these God-given temperaments to be equally valid and that the job of the Lutheran service is to appeal to those temperaments.  Hmmmm.  That is something out of left field for a church that insists God comes to us not where and how we desire but where He has promised (Word and Sacrament).   According to Luecke, we need to open ourselves up to the Spirit (closer to what the first Christians did) and live more in the spirit world between God in heaven.

It is a good thing to read Luecke's words because so often it is easy to think that the worship wars were and are merely arguments over taste and preference.  Clearly they are about much more.  What is at stake in these disputes is not merely what appeals to whom but how God works, the mark of faithfulness through the ages, and the worship consistent with and flowing form our confession of faith.  I have heard David Luecke speak and read his books.  It is hard to reconcile his perspective to the Lutheran Confessions or to history of how Lutherans have worshiped in the Divine Service from Luther's day to the present moment.  If anything, Luecke's point of view represents the fringe of Lutheran identity and practice.  I only wish it were a smaller fringe.  Lutheran angst and insecurity have left us vulnerable to the next wind blowing through the Christian landscape and too many Lutherans have found the breeze hard to resist.  If Lutherans are all over the page on Sunday morning, it is not a good thing.  In fact, it is one of the things that we will someday soon have to resolve if being Lutheran is to mean more than theory.
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