Isaiah 12: 1-6

Psalm 32

1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

 

“Foolish Pride”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Several years ago I had a shirt that a quote from Oscar Wilde on it, a famous author, and the quote read as such, “I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”

 

In our second reading, from 1st Corinthians, Paul is writing particularly to the church located in Corinth about their problem with knowledge. They had many issues, but the primary, the core, issue that Paul found fault in was their haughty sense of intelligence. For in the end the root cause of all the issues that the Church of Corinth had was their need for more knowledge which they foolishly paraded over others who were less knowledgeable.

 

This is why Paul shuts down the whole speaking in tongues argument as nonsensical gargle utterances for the Corinthians simply spoke in tongues to lift themselves as higher and more spiritually gifted then their brothers and sisters who may not speak in tongues.

 

This is why Paul speaks out against those who try to decipher things of the divine through the study of earthly things. This would be like using science to understand God, or how the world began, or how it will end, or the afterlife.

This is why Paul destroys the concept that men can replace divine instructions with more palpable worldly instructions with regards to say marriage, or relationships, the law, etc.

 

Corinth had turned knowledge into an Idol as they gluttonously devoured as much information they could get their grubby hands on, most of which was fake information with questionable origins. Their lack of faith became obvious as they became so dissatisfied with not knowing the answers, for there are somethings God does not intentionally tell us sinful creatures, that they looked in obscure places to fill in the intellectual voids of their theology. They would rather have incorrect information than no information. The statement, “I don’t know,” was a horrifying utterance that they stripped away the mystery of God by replacing him with a more tangible and understandable God. In the end, their search for knowledge lead them down a dangerous road where more nonsense stacked upon nonsense, and lies upon lies, that they reversed their standing with God as his creation for a lie that is God becoming a creation of their own.

 

Foolishness was not acceptable. Not having the answers was not acceptable. Having faith in the unknown was not acceptable. Thus the Corinthians traded their faith in God for foolish wisdom.

 

Some people are just too smart for their own good. Their intelligence is not tempered with humility so they become prideful and in their pride they adopt illogical and idiotic stances. They mess up and instead of correcting themselves their pride forces them to adjust their views to support their own knew stance. Their faith in their own wisdom, in their own prowess, becomes their own downfall as they start to become that which they represent and an attack on their misguided thesis is an attack upon them. Sadly, by trying to act high and mighty, they prove themselves to be childish.

 

This reminds me of a story when I was in first grade. Valentine’s Day has come and every one in my class brings their cards and snacks to be gifted to each other. It was almost like Halloween but with a lot more pink and hearts. There was only one problem, I hated chocolate. I know, weird… a person who actually hated chocolate? But yes, I didn’t like it, and everyone in my family already knew that, which is why growing up one of my aunts always made sure there was a slice of white cake for me since both her kids only wanted chocolate cake. But I digress; the point is here is all this chocolate that all the kids were eating and here is me not eating a single piece of chocolate. I kind of felt left out and that saddened me. My teacher, bless her heart, knew something wasn’t right and asked me why I wasn’t eating the chocolate. And that is when I messed up.

 

In my emotional state I proceeded to lie by stating that I was allergic to chocolate. And whereas I don’t quite remember the rest, what I can say is that I went into a tear induce tantrum that lead to me sitting in the office waiting for my mom to come address the issue of my fake allergy.

 

The point is that I messed up, and after I messed up, I ran with it, and I didn’t let off on the lie, becoming more childish by the minute. With those who suffer with too much intelligence that’s not tempered by humility, all it takes is one mistake, one false statement, one mathematical error, and it is downhill from there as their hubris would not allow them to correct course.

 

We have seen this played out throughout all of church history, where in an effort to address an unanswerable question they make something up that doesn’t quite align with scripture, and instead of adjusting their own questionable stance they instead adjust scripture to themselves. They became God over Scripture, unable to deny themselves, unable to humble themselves, unable to say there are no answers, etc. They become their own worst enemy as they just keep on digging their hole deeper and deeper.

 

The problem is that they want to be wise and intelligent, but according to their own earthly standards. So when Christ came into the world and flipped that standard on its head, thwarting the wise and destroying the wisdom of the world by making the foolish wise and the wise foolish. What God proclaimed was foolishness to the world and a stumbling block. And what the world claimed was wise was actually foolish to God. In fact God intentionally choose the foolish to shame the wise. I sat down with sinners to shames the haughty Pharisees. He lifted the poor to shame the nobility. He even chose those that the world despised. He did this to shame those who boast in themselves.

 

Consider this, which of these two are wiser, the wisest man who has ever touched the earth according to human standards but knows not God, or the most foolish person who has ever touched the earth according to human standards but does indeed know God. The wiser is the fool.

 

When faced with the amazing Grace of God which surpasses all understanding as it unconditionally saves all who places their faith not in human reason but in the cross alone, boasting not in human abilities but in God alone, when we see the truth of the cross and the eternal salvation that comes through it, then and only then will we be truly wise. For as it states in Job 28:28, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” But we also acknowledge that without the grace of God the Father through the Holy Ghost which provides for us faith in God the Son, then we would not fear the Lord nor turn away from evil. Thus wisdom and knowledge, true wisdom and knowledge, comes only from God the author of life and not from sinful humans. So as sinful humans get all puffed up using their knowledge as a bludgeoning tool to bully those not as smart, it is Christ Crucified who exposes their foolishness.

 

He who died on the cross to forgive us of our sins becomes our wisdom for though we are foolish, true wisdom is found in Christ. He who died on the cross to forgive us of our sins becomes our righteousness because we who are foolish do not nor could ever without the grace of God fathom what righteousness looks like. He who died on the cross to forgive us of our sins becomes our salvation because we who are foolish search in all the wrong places trying to find for ourselves our own version of heaven.

 

If I had to choose between being too wise for God and being a fool for Christ, then go ahead and call me a fool. I don’t care what you call me, for in the end having God on my side is more important than my own ego. I rather be an idiot whose place in heaven is guaranteed, than be an intellectual who claims to be too smart to believe in some spaghetti monster in the sky. I rather live a carefree life knowing that because I am baptized and I have faith that Christ keeps his promise then everything will be alright for eventually I will be in heaven, than to run around like a chicken with its head cut off always worrying about life after death.

 

I can go on, but in the end, if my intelligence or search for intelligence ever becomes a hindrance towards faith in God whose foolishness is still wiser than the wisest, then count me with the fools who have placed their blind faith in God. For this I know, Christ died to set me and all of you free, and that’s all I need to know.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, in our intellect we may cast our sinful eyes away from you, proving our wisdom to be folly. Direct our eyes back to you and become for us our own wisdom, our own righteousness, and our own salvation. In your name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Exodus 3:1-14a

Psalm 126

1 Corinthians 10: 1-13

Luke 13: 1-9

 

“Galilee & Siloam”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Last week I provided a sermon focusing on the book of Jeremiah and the problem of pride which prevents us from turning from our evil ways by ultimately averting our eyes from realizing that our actions are evil and then getting angry at those who points out our faults. In the Old Testament, and Jeremiah is no exception, we come to realize that God does indeed punish evildoers, even going so far as blessing the Babylonians who sacked and enslaved Judah. Judah would not turn from her sinfulness, desiring to murder the prophet Jeremiah for daring to tell them that God was going to destroy them if they don’t turn, and so God severely punished them.

 

By reading the Old Testament no one can claim that God is not a wrathful god. He has led his people in battle. He has led battle against his people. He has done many things that cause fragile minds to question the goodness of God. How can a good God allow such suffering? But just as much as we can tell in the Bible that God does indeed have a righteous temper, we need to remind ourselves that he is also all good. He is wrathful at times and punishes at times because he is good. He is the definition of good, thus it is inappropriate to question if he is good using a human understanding of good, but to rather use God as the perfect example to evaluate the goodness of everything else.

 

Now when I talked about Judah and all others who can’t see their sins, the focus of my sermon was only on those who have indeed sinned, today I will flip to the other side of the coin and focus on those who have not sinned yet still suffer.

 

When Jesus went to Jerusalem there was a nasty belief that was rampant in all of Israel. It was the belief that if you were suffering then that is proof that God was punishing you and if you were prospering then that was proof that God was blessing you. Such a belief was so widespread that many started believing that the most blessed in Jerusalem were obviously the rich and powerful. The more things you had the more God loved you. If you were lacking and in severe need then that’s proof you aren’t praying hard enough. A full belly and health is proof that God has indeed blessed you as oppose the dirty plebeians with sunken cheeks.

 

Such a nasty belief; a belief that almost mirrors the lessons of Joel Osteen, Copeland, and other such false prophet conmen who preach the Prosperity Gospel, telling good Christians that if they pray hard enough then God will provide and if their life isn’t well put together then you aren’t praying hard enough. Such satanic teachings have led good God-fearing Christians into despair as they wonder why God has not relinquished them from their earthly miseries. Some even suggest that the suffering of others may be proof that such people are conducting atrocious evils and are unwilling to repent of their sins. This reminds me of the story of Job.

 

Many by now may have realized that one of my favorite books in the Bible is Job. The Lord God described him in Job 1:8 as, “my servant Job… there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” A man who, even though blameless, would according to verse 5, would rise in the morning to burn sacrifices for his entire household just in case anyone unknowingly sinned as little as cursing God in their hearts. This was a man right with God, the most upright of men, and still Job suffered tremendously. His friends, though good, were of the belief that if you suffer then that must mean that God is punishing you and if you are living the life then that is proof that God is blessing you. So when Job lost practically everything short of life itself, His friends wrongly assumed that Job had committed a grave sin and was too prideful to acknowledge his fault.

 

Job has done nothing wrong and yet he suffered, and that is the whole point of the story of Job. To point out that bad things do just happen; to expose the fact that there is a Devil; to humble our misguided and rash judgments when we assume that someone one is suffering because they committed a grave sin; and to follow the example of Job who never ran away from God and humbled himself before God once God presented himself.

 

Another example is Christ himself. Did he not suffer the worst kind of torment anyone could suffer from? That is to knowingly carry the sins of the world into Hell. Did Christ deserve such agony? No. He was and still is sinless. There was no punishment from God the Father that he could ever deserve. He experienced the highest form of suffering, yet he was the least qualified human in all of history to receive any form of suffering, let alone punishment.

 

Last week I preached that God does punish, this week I provide a counter in that we shouldn’t be too quick to believe that God is punishing. Sometimes bad things just happen and there are no explanations. Sometimes it is Satan who is causing the suffering. And sometimes it is just fallen humans causing tragedies.

 

When Jesus came to his people, one of the things he preached against was this very notion that suffering is proof that God was punishing. He said in our Gospel, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

 

Both incidents are events not noted elsewhere in the Bible anywhere, yet recent enough that those who heard knew what Jesus was talking about. The Galileans in question was a group killed under Pilate’s watch for offering sacrifices to God. These Galileans are martyrs for they were killed because of their faith. The suffering they faced was because they conducted that which God instructed in Scripture, but went against Roman law. If one was to believe that suffer equates divine punishment then one must assume that it is a sin for these Jews to offer sacrifices in accordance with Scripture; such a bizarre notion that no Jew would ever support. As for the tower of Siloam, a structure in Jerusalem, it just fell for no foreseeable reason found in scripture and led to the death of eighteen victims. Based on the context of Jesus’ speech, one can assume that the eighteen victims did nothing to deserve their death and were just caught up in the tragedy. It would be silly to victim blame those who died because of the falling tower, claiming that the reason why they died was because their sins were worse than the survivors.

 

Yes, it is true that God punishes and it is true that God cause death on some who sins unrepentantly, but it would be a logical fallacy to then state that all suffering and perishing is a result of some punishment from God. In the end, whether we are civil or evil, rich or poor, die calmly or tragically, unless we have faith we will all meet the same fate and likewise perish. On account of our merits and only merit, the reward that all will receive is equal, which is to be cast out into the outer darkness and perish. Whether we meet our end on the battlefield, quietly on our bed without pain, in an accident, through capital punishment, or anything else that would cause us to cease living, it does not matter, for we will all equally perish.

 

If we think we can win ourselves into heaven by doing good things then we live a lie. If we believe that by amassing great wealth we could buy our way into heaven then we live a lie. If we believe that fame could allow us to influence our way into heaven then we live a lie. In the end, all will perish and be cast out into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 

That is unless they have faith. The way you die does not determine what happens after death. The number of sins you committed also does not determine what happens after death, well that is unless the number is zero, but let’s get real only God can accomplish that. What determines what happens after death is whether or not you have placed your trust in the one who died on the cross to take on your sins, went to hell so you won’t have to, and then rose from the grave to lift you up with him for all eternity in true life.

 

All will likewise perish because all have sinned. Jesus who died for your sake asks that you have faith in him, to repent of your sins, and allow him to take on your sins on the cross. If you allow him to take your sins, then you will not likewise perish but live eternal life in heaven above.

 

So in the end, bad things do happen, but that is not proof that God is punishing you. In fact, because all have sinned all will receive equal punishment in Hell, but through Christ, so long that we have faith in him, he who suffered your punishment on behalf of you for your sake, you will not perish.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, no matter what comes our way help us to keep our heads held up high knowing that through faith in you we are indeed saved. In your holy name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26: 5-10

Psalm 91

Roman 10: 8b-13

Luke 4: 1-13

 

“Creedal Confession”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Last week, on Ash Wednesday, the first hymn we sang was “Out of the Depths I Cry to You.” This morning, the hymn we sang was “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word.” And after the sermon, we will sing “A Mighty Fortress.” All three of these songs were written by Martin Luther, in fact there are many songs written by Martin Luther, many of which can be found in our Green Hymnals, a total of twenty. Now were as Luther wrote songs for a myriad of themes and various holidays, there was one theme or season that was dear to his heart. The season in question is Lent.

 

Even in his other songs that do not focus on this season you may find elements of Lent within them, and thereafter, those who followed after Luther and followed in his musical footsteps also did likewise, connecting Lent to various Christian music. It has gotten to the point that in, I would dare say most, legitimate Christian music there is an undertone of the Lenten season. Though some composers are a little more brazen with their Lenten emphasis, for example, again, Martin Luther.

 

So why the brazen zeal for Lent? Why Did Martin Luther put so many blatant Lenten themes in his songs and even wrote many intentionally Lenten pieces of music? Is it because Lent was Luther’s favorite church season? No because Luther’s favorite season of the church was most likely Christmas, just look at all the traditions that Luther started which includes the Christmas/Advent Wreath, garland, the Christmas Tree, presents on Christmas morning, St Nicholas as Santa Claus, etc. So why the zeal?

 

It is because the Lutheran faith is Cross centric confessional faith. Our theology is known as the Theology of the Cross. In other words, the absolute core of our faith as Lutherans is the cross.

 

All things come from the cross and are connected to the cross; all things that are biblical and theological points towards the cross; all things are subject to the cross. Every element of our faith rests at the feet of the cross, for it is through the cross alone that we are saved. Our Salvation comes not from the ascending Lord, nor the Christmas birth, nor the resurrection, but from the cross that our Lord and Savior suffered, bleed, and died on so that way he may put to death sin. On the cross he became the sacrifice for all sin and took on the sins of all who repent. It is through the cross that Jesus fulfilled his ultimate mission, to come to the world not to condemn the world, for it was already condemned, but to save it.

 

The Cross is the absolute centerpiece of our faith, and as such of all the seasons the most Lutheran is Lent. For it is during the season of Lent that our eyes are turned primarily towards the cross. Lent is like a parade march with Golgotha as the destination. It is a season when we reflect on our own wickedness, acknowledge our own sins, confess that we are sinners in desperate need of the saving grace that comes from the cross alone and pray with contrite hearts filled with despair in our own decrepit state but with also hope for God saves us despite such. We are taking the long painful depressing march to Golgotha throughout this entire season, and when we reach the climax on that hill what do we see, but three crosses.

 

The height of Lent is Good Friday, the event when Jesus did die to save all of mankind. Good Friday is the core of the church calendar, at least from a Lutheran perspective. It is the most important holiday. For our theology is not The Theology of Glory, that’s the Roman Catholic Church’s theology which has Easter as its centerpiece. Nor is our theology The Theology of Jesus’ Coming; that is a theology that has Revelation as its centerpiece. Our theology is not The Theology of Pentecost, that’s the Pentecostal and such theology that has the touching of the Holy Spirit as its centerpiece. Our theology is, I repeat is, The Theology of the Cross, which has Jesus suffering on the cross, Good Friday, as our centerpiece.

 

So even if it isn’t Lent, because the core of the Lutheran faith is Lenten in nature, elements of Lent may be present, not just in music but also in sermons and service. Elements of Lent include confession and forgiveness, when we confess that we are wholly incapable of saving ourselves. It also includes any mention of the cross, the Lord Supper, and the Lord’s Prayer. When communion is given we say, “The Body of Christ, given for you,” and, “The Blood of Christ, shed for you.” Given… shed… both are references to the cross where the Sacrificial Lamb bleed and died for the sins of all.

 

There are many Lenten themes that us Lutherans interject into all aspects of our faith, to include above all else Faith alone. For if we are saved through the cross alone then that means by no part are we included in our own salvation, thus there is no merit but simply faith alone. Salvation is in the hands of Christ 100%, and all we can do is believe in his promise of salvation through the cross. But it’s one thing to just merely have faith in one’s heart. Because our theology and thus everything worship related places the cross firmly in the center, we don’t just merely believe in our hearts that Jesus saves us, but we boldly confess with our lips that Jesus Christ did come into the world, did die on that terrible cross, and was raised from the dead to save us.

 

It feels almost as if people these days are terrified of the cross. To some the cross has become the Law thinking that it punishes rather than saves. Such people only want to feel bliss and pleasure, not understanding were true happiness is found. Such people want to hide their sins, believing that if they don’t see darkness then there must not be any darkness, not understanding that the whole point of darkness is to prevent you from seeing. Salvation becomes a curse because salvation is only for sinners and some are too weak and terrified to acknowledge their own sins. So when their eyes look upon the cross, they run away. People don’t want to feel bad; they only want to feel good. And people’s fear of the bad and gluttonous overindulgence of things that feel good, have led the majority of Christians down a dangerous path of self-gratification and the protection of sinful actions.

 

A personification of this becomes present when people avoid Good Friday because it’s too depressing and dreary and dark, all while rushing to go to Easter because it is happy and grandioso and fun and amazing and feels filled with uplifting joy. To avoid Good Friday but go to Easter is a cultural phenomenon that encourages vain glory, envy, greed, and above all else gluttony, not for food but gluttony for pleasure.

 

As we look towards the cross this year, let us not fall victim to the snares of the Devil which is pumping gluttonous pleasure-seeking into the clogged veins of America, but instead confess our faith found in the words of the Nicene Creed. Confess aloud, as the second lesson suggests, that Jesus is Lord and that the Father did raise him from the dead. Confess that Christ did indeed, “For our sake… was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.” Confess our sins in accordance with scripture. Confess that we are indeed sinners who do not deserve heaven. Confess that we are in desperate need of a savior. Confess that we cannot do any of this by ourselves. Confess that Jesus died on the Cross to save us repenters.

 

We are Confessional Christians, that is what it means to be a Lutheran. We know what we are. We are Sinners. We are wretched rags. We are worms. We are servants who merely do what we ought to do but failing at each task. We confess that we are weak, but that He is Strong. We may be sinners, but our savior is sinless. We may be wretched rags, but our savior is pure. We may be worms, but our Savior is the King of Kings. We are sinners, but our Savior Jesus Christ died for us anyways and through him who knew no sin we are indeed saved.

 

There is no salvation without sinners. There is no Easter without Good Friday. There is no resurrection without death. There is no grace without sin and Hell. So if we wish to reap the rewards of the resurrection we must first look towards the cross. If we wish to seek heaven, we must first acknowledge our sinfulness. So we have Lent.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, let the lips of our mouths confess your name and all your works which you have done for us lowly servants, believing in all of your promises fulfilled through the cross. In your name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jeremiah 26: 8-15

Psalm 52: 1-8

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Luke 13: 31-35

 

“Church of Hypocrites”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

One of the most dangerous things that destroys any body of people is when the collective are unable to recognize, or at least are unwilling to recognize, their own sinful actions. Sure the collective are unified in their sinfulness, but from the outside they are disenfranchised and become an anathema, eventually dying out as the numbers dwindle. Such masses become so insignificant that it is almost as if they are already dead. In the end it is their pride that did them in, pride that dug for them their early grave.

 

Such pride has even led to such groups to fragment as one group unabashedly believe in once horrendous belief and instead of realizing how wrong they are they ignore all that trouble their conscience, separating from those who cause them mental pain or kicking out those who points out such faults, creating fractures in a once unified group.

 

Now I’m not talking about differences in opinions or perspectives, but differences caused by pride that leads people to get so swelled up that they are incapable of not only repenting but also seeing the sin; for if you did not sin then what need is there to repent?

 

This has been a troublesome reality that I’ve seen in many churches, to include Lutheran Churches, for though we claim to be sinners many are still incapable of truly acknowledging when they mess up. Some go so far as to claim that the action they committed was void of sin or even claim that that which the Bible clearly classifies as a sin is actually not a sin, thus allowing them to hold firmly on to their fragile over inflated egos. Some may claim that they are wretched rags who do not deserve grace and are ever thankful that the Lord God died on the cross to forgive them of their sins. I am grateful that such people exist, and would deeply encourage them to remember this with every fiber of their being. But then I am horrified when such people immediately get defensive and downright abusive when you point out their sinful actions. Who me? How dare you claim I did such! I’m a good Christian, I do not do that! 

 

The thing is we all can get a little defensive for no one likes it when their sins are exposed. We are sinners, so we do sin, but it is because we are sinners that we also do not want to see our sins for sin is darkness and darkness loves to remain in the dark, never getting exposed by the light. Sin loves hiding its ugliness, masking itself in the open so that it can parade around as acceptable. As Sinners we love our sins, so much so that we can’t help our selves when we sin, and then we do everything in our power to make it so that we don’t feel guilty. We either sweep the sins under a rug, or we put a pretty mask on it so that the world accepts and appreciate our sinful actions. One of the most painful things a Christian can do is rip that mask off.

 

Once the mask comes off the benefits are boundless for even though we may feel pain by exposing our ugliness, as Christians we know that we have a savior who washes us of our sins so long as we are repentant. If we leave the mask on then the guilt and shame and filthiness mixes with the pleasure and hatred of the Law and... It just becomes a huge mess as emotions and denial of emotions swirl together in an ugly mishmash that makes hypocrites of all that participate in the mask up culture. But if the mask that hides sin comes off then you can’t help but see it for what it is and knowledge of Christ’s amazing grace and eternal promise would compel you to bow down at the feet of the cross asking for forgiveness. And Christ will forgive you.

 

To look sin in its face, the actual sins that we ourselves commit, is an incredibly painful process. No wonder why we prefer as fallen humans to claim we did not sin. But ignoring sin does not get rid of it. We may not feel the pain, but that does not mean the pain is not there. The thing is, though we hate pain, because it hurts and we naturally do not want to suffer nor cause suffering, pain is a good thing for the purpose of pain is to point us to something bad. Sin is bad and it is sin that causes us true turmoil. The shame and guilt we have when we sin, though painful, is good for it points us to the sin.

 

A carpenter was once working with wood and he felt a sharp pain in his hand. He looked down and saw a splinter in his finger. He removed the splinter and his finger healed without any pain the rest of the day. His coworker the next day felt a similar pain, but out of fear of removing splinters he decided to put on gloves and take some pain medication, only to develop a nasty infection.

A hard worker once felt a pain in his knees, got it checked up and was told by the doctor that with a simple procedure the pain issue will be resolved. A different worker was also feeling pain in his knees but saw that the prior was out of commission for several days and out of hubris decided to ignore the pain. With each day the pain got worst and still the worker ignored the pain, until finally he had to give up his job indefinitely.

 

Acknowledging sin is painful, because no one wants to acknowledge that they have sinned and suffer the guilt and shame associated with such knowledge. Yet Jesus came into the world for us sinners, us hypocrites, to cleanse us of our sins. Through him, so long we are repentant of our sins, we are purified and sanctified. He wipes away our guilt and shame and tells us we don’t need to feel guilty because he has eradicated the cause of such, the sin of which we are repentant of. Thus the pain is no more because the sin which caused the pain is no more. But the first step to repentance is to acknowledge the sin we are to be repentant of.

 

This is the trouble that Jeremiah faced in Judah, and all prophets, as noted by Jesus, who go to Jerusalem. God sends his prophets for many reasons, and one such reason is to redirect sinners back towards God while promising punishment if they do not. This is what happened to Jonah, who preached fire and brimstone to Nineveh only for God to relent because all of Nineveh repented. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Jeremiah. He preached fire and brimstone on Judah, and Judah balked at him, and wished him death.

 

Jeremiah was a messenger, completely innocent, sent by God to warn Jerusalem of her evil ways and lead her straight. Jeremiah was to warn her that if she kept on with her wickedness then she will fall. Jerusalem did not like hearing that, and such accusation was too much for them as their rage blazed hot. How dare you accuse our actions as evil! Their pride was too much. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t handle the stress of seeing fault in their actions. How dare God disagree with us! Jerusalem had become a den of thieves, a lair of evil, a church of hypocrites. They claim one thing, but get so easily offended when the Word of God troubles their conscience, exposing the filth they truly had become. And it’s not like God didn’t give them a way out. He always leaves room for repentance, for Jeremiah said in our first reading on verse 13, “therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.”

 

Regardless, Jerusalem could not repent. Their hypocrisy got the better of them as they increased their evil actions and hide behind vain glory. Eventually Jerusalem and all of Judah fell. All they had to do was repent, but because they couldn’t face their sins, they received their just reward.

 

This is something that has played out throughout history, especially in churches. Many of our early church fathers were exiled for pointing out sins such as St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom. Martin Luther was kicked out of the church for pointing out that some practices do not align with the Bible. And to this day there are pastors and parishioners out there whose lives get ruined by a congregation or denomination because they dare point out the wicked practices conducted by such.

 

All such are hypocrites, who believe in the saving grace of Christ, but get angry when their sins get exposed. But then again, all of us are hypocrites, because all of us have sinned and out of shame have decided to sweep some of our sins under a rug.  Know this, Christ died for even hypocrites, always extending a helping hand full of grace and mercy to those who need a gentle nudge, and sometimes a not so gentle nudge, to face our sins. As for those who are able to boldly proclaim that they are a sinner, blessed are they, for Christ came to save them.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, when we stumble help us to not get angry when others try to help us up but to act in humility as we repent of our sins, knowing that through repentance we are indeed forgiven. In your name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Deuteronomy 34: 1-12

Psalm 99: 1-5

2 Corinthians 4: 3-6

Luke 9: 28-36

 

“Beauty Beyond All Measures”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

Today marks the end of Epiphany. We started with the light of the Advent Star of which the wise men followed, and we end with the light that is Jesus Christ. In fact, we will be concluding this final service of Epiphany with “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” So, yes we will be concluding literally with the light of Christ shining forth. But what do we mean when we claim that Jesus is the light? Many may claim that it is metaphorical, but that is such a lack luster way of thinking that tears away the significance of today’s Gospel. For into today’s Gospel, Jesus is literally a brilliant light that is dazzling. Thus Jesus isn’t just a metaphorical light but is the Light in the same way that he is the Truth, Life, the Way, and the Door. None are metaphorical references but actual revelations of reality.

 

Actual revelations of reality… there is something to that statement. When you hear the word Transfiguration what are some of the concepts that goes through your mind? Change is what comes to my mind, and with regards to what is happening on the mountain, there is certainly change happening, but what is this change?

 

Some might read this chapter in Luke and assume that Jesus was physically changing into something different, only to revert back to his original form. Their line of thinking goes an odd direction because they then start claiming that Jesus was something different and that his substance was changed at that very moment, though temporarily. It’s almost as if they are claiming there are two different Jesus’ or that he has a more perfect form thus implying that his current form is not perfect. Confusing, I understand, but basically, the end conclusion is that Jesus is very human, but on the mountain his body transforms temporarily to a more divine form.

 

When you separate the two then you lessen the original form. If the mountain form is more divine then that would imply that the supposed lesser form, the form Jesus usually takes, is less divine. Does that not sound wrong? Do we not say that Jesus is wholly human and wholly god? If that is indeed the truth then at no point is Jesus more or less divine but is always wholly divine. From birth to mountain to death to resurrection, Jesus was always wholly human and wholly divine; never lacking in one.

 

Such line of thinking, that Jesus was at one point more and thus also less divine, aligns quite well with the atrocious belief that Jesus was actually just a mere human who upon baptism was adopted by God the Father and became some divine superhuman. That was an actual belief during the early church and quickly stamped out as utter heresy. Sadly the belief wasn’t completely ostracized, for it rebranded itself and became widely popular in the form of Mormonism (Latter Day Saints) and Muhammadanism, a Christian heresy that worshipped Muhammad and is now known as Islam.

 

So if Jesus was wholly divine at all times of his life on Earth, never lacking in divinity, then what happened on the Mountain when Jesus was transfigured? We know he didn’t transform into a more perfect being. Were the disciples mistaken or drowsy? This is an even worse theory and deserves no further discussion as such is a product that stems from faithlessness. So what does that leave us? What is truly happening at the transfiguration?

 

What did I say earlier… actual revelations of reality. Though Jesus’ appearance changed does that mean his actuality, his being, changed? No, but in reality what happened is that his appearance changed to conform to reality. The Transfiguration was a revelation of who Jesus was, is, and will always be. He is the light, and the Transfiguration proves that. He didn’t become the light, but he was always the light. The Transfiguration just merely revealed to all who were present the truth of who Jesus really was in a visual format. And just in case those present still didn’t understand, God the Father provided an auditory revelation by stating that Jesus “Is my Son, my Chosen One.”

 

From our fallen human perspective, without the faith in God that comes from the Holy Spirit, our eyes, veiled by sin, cannot perceive the divinity of God, let alone realize that Jesus is God. Our own wickedness moves us about like an underwater current guiding us away from the intended destination. It is this sin, which we are all born with, that prevents us from seeing reality and perceiving for ourselves a fake reality. It is this veil of sin, which shields our eyes from the blazing light of Jesus, to see only a human being.

 

It is for this reason we state in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” We are incapable of seeing Jesus Christ. We may see a human, in fact some even claim that Jesus of Nazareth was a myth, but because of our own sinfulness unless God aids us we cannot see the glory of Jesus Christ’s divinity.

 

Each and every time in the Bible whenever someone sees the truth of Christ’s Divine Kingship or proclaimed such it has always been at the behest of God: Angels speaking to Mary and Joseph; a dove descending with a voice during the Baptism of Jesus; Peter claiming that Jesus is Christ; and today during the Transfiguration. At all these occasions, God revealed the truth about his Son Jesus Christ to us. And after all this, with Jesus on the Cross who just breathed his last breathe, the sky turning dark, an earthquake shaking, the tapestry torn in two, and the saints rising from the grave as if they never died, you have that one Soldier in Mark who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

 

We need God to reveal the divine beauty of Christ to us, for without his aid, all we see is a mere human. Now lucky us, because of the power of the Holy Spirit which provides us with the faith in the saving grace of Christ who did indeed die on the Cross to wash us of our sins, we are indeed blessed for we know that Christ has saved us. We know of Christ’s divinity. But that is simply because God revealed that to us and on no account of our own power.

 

Eventually Peter, John, and James, as well as the other disciples and all of mankind, would benefit of this gift if accepted, but for now they would have to wait until the appointed hour. So while they waited, God gave them a most glorious opportunity to see the fullness of Christ’s glory, a beauty that goes beyond all measures. On the mountain, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the three disciples witnessed not a mere human, their teacher, but saw his fullness. Yes Jesus’ appearance changed, but such a change was to only emphasize the hidden qualities that us fallen humans cannot perceive, that is his divinity.

 

A momentary glimpse for the three disciples, but definitely a momentous and unforgettable event as proven since it is written in the Gospel. How could they have forgotten of this shocking event? The Light of Christ’s divineness was seared into their memory, burning an imprint that they will hold on to as dearly precious. It must have pained them to keep this event secret, for they remained silent about what happened on this mountain until much later. But what they witnessed was truly a gift.

 

And know this; this gift of Christ’s revelation is not uniquely given for these three individuals. Each and every one of you who believe in the saving grace of Christ will also benefit from this same gift. Some of you may have already, within a dream, seen the glory of God. If it happened to Paul it can happen to others after Christ. But all of you will indeed see the full glory of Christ, for with due time, all who believe will face Christ in his heavenly kingdom. There you too will see the fullness of Christ’s divineness which is abounding in steadfast love, warmth, and grace. The eternal life that awaits us is a life void of sin and because of such there is no veil of sin that blinds our eyes, thus allowing us to see the brilliance of Jesus and all his glory and might. And if we haven’t yet, there in heaven all will share in the gift that was so graciously given to Peter, John, and James in today’s Gospel.

 

So as a reminder, Jesus did not become more perfect; he is and has always been perfect. Jesus did not become more divine; he is and has always been wholly divine. Jesus did not become something different; He is and will always be the same. And, through the gift of God, we who cannot by our own power see Jesus as Christ and all his glory are gifted with opportunities to witness the depths of who Christ truly is.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, throughout all of history you have opened the eyes of your servants, serving as a light to cast away the darkness that hides the Truth. Continue to open our eyes every waking hour of our lives so that we who are weary never falter in seeing your amazing grace. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible Verse of the Day

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