Sermon for Trinity 16

As I prepared for this week’s sermon, I read through Luther’s House Postil for the day. There must have been some sort of problem in Wittenberg that week, because his first sermon is about the comfort of the Gospel, and how even parents disciplining their children with a switch is a comfort, and so we should receive such discipline with thanksgiving. Reading through the Gospel reading, I didn’t read much about switches and rods, so I left that part out, and went with the outline for his second sermon: The comfort of the Gospel when facing death. Below the jump:  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hermeneutical Principles

The less clear sections of scripture must be explained by the more clear sections, not the other way around. No one claims that the parable of the unjust steward is the Sedes Doctrinae for the doctrine of justification. For that, we turn to the parables one chapter prior. Absurd example, of course. And yet, the Lutheran Church has long had to contend with those who claim that “This is my body” must be interpreted according to a less clear word of the Lord. The correct method is to interpret Paul (or, if one is inclined toward a sacramental interpretation of John 6) or the word of Christ, “I am the bread of Life”, in light of that clear and unambiguous word of our Lord.

The example of the unjust steward shows the folly of such an approach. And yet I have seen a disturbing trend toward using examples of scriptural conduct (less clear) to interpret Divine Command (more clear) regarding matters in the church. This is nonsense.  No one would say that the commandment “Thou Shalt not Kill” does not apply to Christians because God said Joshua must kill the Canaanites. No one would claim that wives should take side jobs as ladies of the evening, because God commanded Hosea to take as a wife a woman who worked in that profession. And no one would claim that sacrificing children was only forbidden in the Old Testament (Molech) not the New, based on the example of God himself, who sacrificed his own Son for us.

Yet there are those who claim that the clear command “husband of one wife” must be interpreted in light of the less clear example of King David. Those unfit for ministry especially like to make this application. Similarly, there are those who claim that the more clear command “those who work of the Gospel should live of the Gospel” should be interpreted in light of the less clear example of Saint Paul, who worked as a tent-maker. The church is commanded to behave a certain way in both of these matters. If it fails to do so, it is in violation of God’s command. Those responsible will reap the reward for their fleshly pursuit.

Yes, God is able to grant exceptions to any or all of his commandments according to his good and perfect will. But those exceptions are sui generis. They do not become examples for us of godly conduct, unless God says they are to be used that way. This is especially true when there is a clear command of God concerning these matters. In those cases, we had better stick to the clear command of God.

Anything less, as the Apostles says, would be a deception. After all, God is not mocked. And I’m pretty sure those words mean what they say.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sermon for Trinity 15

Stewardship sermon? If you want to call it that. It’s still the word of God.

***

You can not serve God and money, says Jesus. It’s true. To serve God, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. You must also love your neighbor as yourself. That leaves little room for love of money.

No one sets out to serve money. Money exists as a convenient way to exchange goods and services – it was developed to help make it easier to acquire daily bread. Which is to say, money exists to serve and support you. But it’s easy to become enthralled – always after that next little bit of wealth. Until your stuff isn’t supporting this body and life, this body and life are spending their time supporting all the stuff. Idolatry to wealth is an easy entanglement to fall into, especially in a country as wealthy as ours. And it is difficult to stop idolatry to wealth once it starts.

That’s why scripture warns us so often against it. Jesus today points out how foolish it is to worry after money and other things. Look at the flowers – God provides for them, and they literally never move. Or the birds – they work to get their food for the day. But they don’t have a storage pantry. They just trust each day that food will be provided by God. And you know what? It is provided for them.

And what good does worrying after those things do? Does it improve your stuff? Does it lengthen your life? The Gentiles – Jesus means those outside of the church – chase after stuff. Why would you want to model your life on that? Last week we heard Paul talk about how, when we were of the world, we went after worldly pleasures. But now, directed by the Spirit, we look after the things of the spirit. As Jesus says today, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What things will be added? The things we need to support this body and life. Don’t spend your life grasping at those things. Instead, trust that God will provide them, and spend your time seeking the things of God.

Luther instructs the children in his small catechism, telling them that God provides for all our needs of body and soul. When it comes to daily bread, he says, God provides it even without our prayer, even to all wicked people. And so we pray in this petition that we would receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. Giving thanks is something else we heard last week – the Samaritan leper that returned to give thanks to Jesus when he was cleansed. When we chase after wealth for wealth’s sake, it’s impossible to be grateful for what God has given. We are sure we will be thankful once we achieve more. But there is never quite enough for that thanks. We always need to be go after just a little more. And so, worry fills the heart of the greedy, instead of thanks. And it’s that worry that Jesus warns against. Because when we worry about the cares of life, it means we aren’t trusting in God to provide. And the first commandment requires that we trust in him above all things. It is trust that makes something a god. If our trust is in wealth, then that becomes our God, not Jesus and his work for us on the cross.

As one pastor put it, Jesus is risen from the grave, has ascended into heaven, and now reigns at the right hand of the Father. There is no such thing as an emergency in the life of the Christian. We hear that word of the Lord at Ascension Day. We’ve spent the last 17 weeks learning that lesson in its fullness. It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry. We’ve got the resurrection.” It’s harder to remember it when the cares of this world pile up on us. When health turns to sickness, when sickness turns to death. When we lose someone close to us. When our life’s work is consumed in a week of wildfires. When a job disappears. When friends abandon. When family is broken apart by sin. That’s why we must continually hear of the death and resurrection of our Lord. We preach Christ Crucified. Because this world rejects that truth utterly. The world wants nothing to do with the forgiveness life and salvation Jesus offers. And we live in this world of sin and death. We are weak and we stumble. We must be constantly reminded of the solid foundation we have in Jesus Christ. Of the wonderful salvation from sin he gives to all  who believe on his name. We come here each week to receive that gift of forgiveness, to be reconciled through God to Christ.

And it’s why as we gather throughout the summer to hear the Word of God, we hear instruction for how to live according to God’s word of promise. And this Gospel lesson – which seems so simple – comes after we’ve covered a lot of other ground. Today’s Gospel reading isn’t easy – don’t worry about the cares of this world, focus on the things of God. It’s easy in theory. But to hear and learn it rightly is difficult. Because it is easy to start thinking that the point of Jesus work is to make us better people. As if somehow the goal of the Gospel is our obedience to the law. That’s not it. We no longer live according to the Law because we have been redeemed by Jesus from the Law. But that doesn’t mean that we now give in to the works of the flesh. Jesus work saves us. We now have the opportunity for joyful response to that loving work.

In the Old Testament lesson we heard about Elijah – when he went to live with the widow of Zerapheth and her son. The three survived on just enough flour and oil for one loaf of bread. Each day it was renewed so there was enough just for the day. A great miracle – but doled out in small daily sized portions. God takes care of them. He doesn’t give them so much that their pantry is overflowing. Just enough to have bread for today – just enough that they don’t die. They have enough to sustain them each day. That’s the prayer we pray in the Lord’s prayer – give us this day our daily bread – although the truth is that we have much more than just daily bread. We have all that we need to support this body and life for today, and tomorrow, and many days beyond. And yet, the more we get, the harder it is to be grateful. If you’re hungry, and you get a surprise meal, then you are thankful for the food you didn’t know you’d be eating. But if you’re pulling food out of the pantry, it’s just this thing you do. Thankfulness can get lost in the ordinariness of the moment.

In the Epistle reading Saint Paul instructs us regarding our life in the Spirit. What is that supposed to look like? We are to take care of each other. Bear one another’s burdens, he says. Then, in a verse that Luther quotes in the Table of Duties, he says, “One who is taught must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.” Pastors are to be charity cases – living off of the offerings of the people of God. Why? So that they can follow the example of the Apostles and attend to the Word of God and prayer, and not be weighed down with the cares of this world. We are to set our minds on things above, not worldly things. We are told to sow in the spirit, and reap eternal rewards. And to do good to others – especially, he says, for those of the household of faith. That means other members of the church. Each Christian has a responsibility to make sure that our fellow members do not lack their daily bread.

This is a practical working out of the prayer we pray after receiving the Sacrament of the Altar – that we would grow in faith toward God, and in fervent love toward one another. That two—pronged approach is how we are to model our lives.

A few weeks ago we heard of the Pharisee, who didn’t believe that Jesus forgave his sins – mostly because he didn’t believe he had any sins to forgive. Even this non-believer was able to give generously from the bounty of the Lord. The tithe – 10% – was the standard in Jesus day. Jesus complains that they counted even down to ten percent of mint leaves, but did it without love in their hearts, and thereby violated the law of God.

What does that mean for us? Can we, in love do as well as the heathen and non-believer do out of obligation? Can we receive the gift of God with thanksgiving, while also supporting the work of the church and showing love to our neighbor? Is that too much to ask of those redeemed and given eternal salvation?

If you think, “By this act I am fulfilling my duty and therefore making sure God will have to love me”, you do it from obligation, not from a heart that is responding in love. Be careful – this is a hard one. Preachers struggle to get the right balance between Law and Gospel. It’s easy to make it seem as if we earn something, instead of receiving the grace and mercy of God freely for Christ’s sake. It’s easy to make it seem as if the grace and mercy of God are an end in themselves, and now that the law is fulfilled, we can continue to live according to the flesh. Both errors are to be rejected. We don’t earn our salvation. But, having been saved, we walk according to the spirit. As we confess in the Augsburg Confession, “For this is Christian perfection: that we fear God honestly with our whole hearts, and yet have sincere confidence, faith, and trust that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious, merciful God; that we may and should ask and pray God for those things of which we have need, and confidently expect help from him in every affiliation connected with our particular calling and station in life; and that meanwhile we do good works for others and diligently attend to our calling.”

And we must leave it at this, as we do each week in the liturgy – that we pray God would lead us to greater faith in him, and in greater love toward our neighbor. That he would grant this to us, not for our merits, but solely in mercy and love, for Jesus sake. Amen.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sermon for Trinity 14

The Gospel for Trinity 14 is the same as the Gospel for Thanksgiving, which is coming up in just a few weeks. How to distinguish between the two? Once again, the Lectionary helps us. The Epistle admonishes us to abstain from sin, and to strive after the fruits of the Spirit. The Collect reminds us that without the help and strength given to us by God through the Spirit, we only fall. Any good we do is because of the Spirit’s work through us, not our own strength. This is how that looked in sermon form this past Sunday in Wheatland (After the jump):

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Country Parson Visits the City

This is a very exciting week for the Country Parson. I’ll be heading down to Denver this Thursday to speak at the Denver Society of Creation. If you live in (near) Denver, and you’d like to join in the fun, here’s the info:

September 6, 7:00-8:30 PM
Ascension Lutheran Church
1701 West Caley Avenue
Littleton, Colorado 80120

“Evolution:  Religion for the Atheist”
Many people have wondered why evolutionists will not even discuss the weaknesses of evolution.  The answer is simple.  Evolution is not science.  It is a religious system for atheists.  And it is a demanding one.  There can be no compromise, no allowance for anything except a rigid secular materialism.  We will examine the religious foundations of evolution, and consider its major theological doctrines.  We will also look at the Christian foundations of true scientific inquiry.  Finally, we’ll examine some trends today that seek to solve the problem of evolution with Holy Scripture, but may only add to the confusion.

They also asked me to write a short bio of myself. Here’s what I came up with:

Pastor Winter is not a scientist, but he played one on the stage once.  He has a degree in Communication and Theatre, and an advanced degree in Theology.  His theatre background makes him constantly ask, “What is the underlying motivation?”  His theology training made him realize that every story is either the story of the fall into sin, or of the redemption.  And every philosophy – including evolution – seeks an answer to the great questions of existence.  By the grace of God, Pastor Winter was given those answers at an early age through the mystery of Holy Baptism, and by loving parents who brought him up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.  He has been given the privilege of preaching the Gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins for the last 20 years:  first in Chicago, and now in Wyoming.  He is married and has four children, the oldest of which just started college, even though Pastor Winter is far too young for such things.  In his free time, he enjoys biking, hiking and talking about Luther’s Small Catechism.  He is the author of the book, Evolution:  A Defense Against and blogs as “The Country Parson.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear about why evolution is terrible from this guy? See you there!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not the Best Example

A debate is currently underway in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod regarding fitness for ministry. (Gottesdienst has the background) Essentially, it boils down to “is there such a thing as…” Historically, the church has made a distinction between forgiveness – which is available to all who are repentant – and fitness for ministry – which disqualifies most people. It does not mean they can not be forgiven for their sins. But if a pastor is caught embezzling money, repeatedly getting drunk, persistently teaching false doctrine, or committing adultery, etc. then he can no longer serve as a pastor.

Similarly, a man who is not apt to teach can not serve as a pastor. This is true whether he is unable to teach and so can not become a pastor, or suffers a debilitating stroke while serving and can no longer speak, and so must step down. Of course, the faithful pastor recognizes when that moment comes because of infirmity. The unfaithful pastor who is caught in great sin is often times unable to recognize that moment. And so, they either continue speaking without a call (what Luther called an “infiltrating and clandestine preacher”), or attempt to illicitly re-enter the Holy Ministry via bylaw and procedure. In either case, they claim, “God has forgiven me. I am therefore able to re-enter the Holy Ministry.” This is demonstrably false. It does not stop them from attempting to fool the unwary.

One of the scriptural examples they use is King David. “After all, King David committed adultery AND murder! He was not removed from office. Therefore, my adultery does not disqualify me,” they will say.

They may want to pick a better example than King David. I’m not even sure you can say he wasn’t removed from office. You certainly can not say there were extreme temporal consequences. Let’s look at the punishment laid out by Nathan:

(1)Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house…
(2)Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.
(3)And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.

David Responds:

“I have sinned against the LORD.”
And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

David won’t die. That’s the promise. The son conceived in such sin will die. An innocent will suffer the penalty for David’s sin. But Nathan never said, “You will die.” Nor did Nathan say, “Your kingdom will be given to another.” He said that someone from David’s own house would rebel.

And what happened next? Well, David’s worthless son Amnon noticed how David got away with taking a woman to bed, and so raped his sister Tamar. David’s other son Absolom – David’s favorite son – was close to Tamar, and hated Amnom. And then killed Amnon. And then was exiled. And then returned and began a revolt. David was driven from the palace. Absolom slept with his father’s concubines on the rooftop, in view of all Jerusalem. And then Absolom (David’s favorite son) was killed.

So, yeah. Everything Nathan said would happen, happened. The only thing David managed to gain for his faithfulness was his own life, in exchange for the lives of three sons.

Maybe unfaithful preachers should actually read the bible before they start expounding it. But then, maybe if they read, marked, learned and inwardly digested it in the first place…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Musing

I’ve been assured by my much smarter friends that it is important to study modern (or rather post-modern) biblical exegetes, so we can understand the state of scholarship today, and properly interpret scripture. I’ve always sort of struggled with this, because most biblical scholars today seem to know less about the bible than the local cattle population here. (At least the cows know how to keep their appointed times. They also know which end the grass goes in.) I’ve struggled to put into words why I object to their line of reasoning. But I think I’ve finally found a way to express myself that might clarify things.

Medieval Architecture:

 

Post Modern Architecture:

Renaissance Art:

Post-Modern Art:

I think that may clear up why I question the utility of studying the new guys, and prefer the older variety. Because I look at this sort of theology as an unmade bed, with various bits of trash lying about: the best thing to do is throw it out, make the bed, and start over.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment