Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
For the last four weeks I have been providing sermons on the Luther Rose, a symbol that Lutherans are not restricted nor required to use but is nevertheless a very helpful symbol with regards to explaining our faith. As scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. For the sake of preserving our faith and serving as a witness to what God has done in our lives for the sake of those who may not know God, we are to always be at the ready with an apology, i.e. a defense. Yet, some of us can get caught off guard easily or in some way may need assistance in the defense we provide. This is where the symbol becomes an adequate tool to help us organize our thoughts and provide proper apologetics.
As a quick summary, what I have said thus far can be wrapped up quite neatly as such. Starting from the center, the absolute core of our entire faith, of our theology, of our very being as Christians saved through the precious blood of Christ, is the Cross. The Cross is the center of all history, the culmination of all things, and the salvation of all things. It is through the Cross alone that we are saved, and thus in all things we always reflect back towards the Cross.
Now this Cross is black because it is taking on the sins that originally rested in our hearts. This Black Cross is properly seated at the center of our hearts which at one point was completely subject to sin but through the Cross, which takes on our sins, are brought back to life and recover a healthy natural red glow. The Cross doesn’t kill, but brings us to life.
Now this living red heart, with the cross as its core, is rested willingly so in a white rose which can be best described as the wonderful gentle arms of God. God wants us to be at peace and filled with joy, and he desires to give this gift to us freely. As sinners we turn away from God’s gift, but as Christians, saved by Christ, in faith we willingly take on these precious gifts knowing that God is with us and no matter what the world flings our way we are at peace and filled with holy joy.
The rose also has five points which represents the five Solas of the Christian faith: Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Glory to God alone. Describing such though is for a different time.
Resting in the background of this symbol, between the rose and the ring, is the blue sky which represents the gift of heaven which has been promised to us though not presently received. We as Christians have a holy inheritance that we can choose to ignore but so long as we have faith will never be withheld from us. We know that this unconditional gift is ours and we have no concerns or doubt over whether or not we sons and daughters of God the Father will receive it; thus this gift is in the background as our faith in this guaranteed gift allows us to focus more so on the noisy parts of the symbol, i.e. the cross, heart, rose, and, finally the last part, the gold ring.
Now this ring has multiple meanings, but two of which I will focus on: its allusion to weddings, and to the perfection of God’s gift of heaven. The first, I alluded to while describing the white rose, for of all plants the most common during a wedding is the white rose. But as for symbols in general, what is the most common symbol for weddings if not the common golden ring? Of all the material things present during a wedding, the one that is at the core of a wedding is the ring. During a wedding there are three things that are traditionally observed and lauded as the highlight of a wedding: the vows, the rings, and the kiss. Of these three only the rings have a material presence that remains present as a constant physical reminder that you are in union with someone else. It also serves as a symbol to others that you are already taken. You heard of the term wedding band; well, that is exactly what the rings represent for through your holy matrimony, under the eyes of God, the two our bound to each other forever not as two fleshes but as one flesh. And what God binds together, no human can separate. You are truly, spiritually bound, and this ring that you wear on your aptly named ring finger is a reminder of this absolute truth.
Now weddings are only between one man and one woman, or one bride and one groom, and as Christians we as a whole and not as individuals are already wedded to someone; for the Church is the bride and Christ the groom. The gold ring of our Luther Rose represents the most holy of heavenly matrimonies for it refers to the most amazing wedding feast held for Christ and his bride the Church. As the husband in this relationship, Christ is the head of this most holy household, of who makes all the rules and of whom we the Church, as the wife in this relationship, lovingly submit to. But also as the husband, Christ gives Himself completely for the sake of protecting and glorifying us. He died to make us holy. He is alive to protect us from the fiery darts of the Devil. Just like how a husband should protect the honor of their wife, Christ protects our honor by taking on our sins, suffering for our sake, and then presenting us as sinless to the Father. And because Christ does all this for our sake, we the Church submit all authority to Him. Christ is all good and there is no fear from us that He would use His authority in an evil way, therefore we the Church are comfortable with glorifying God the Son, denying ourselves, and letting Christ be to us our Heavenly King.
And through Communion, the union with Christ is even more obvious for in Communion we abide in Christ and Christ in us. Communion is also called a foretaste of the feast to come, which is the great and amazing wedding feast in heaven above. Through Communion we are constantly reminded of the holy wedding vow exchanged between Christ and His bride the Church, as well as the holy wedding feast in heaven.
Now what better color to represent this union than gold, the color of perfection? Gold is traditionally the most precious of metals. As for simple weddings, the gold of our rings represents the presence of God is truly the one unifying the flesh of the man and woman, but it also signifies the complete perfection of this union of which no one but God can separate. Weddings are ceremonies that create perfect bindings. Now as to the most holy of weddings, Christ and the Church, this binding is likewise perfect but perfect in every way.
As to the other meaning behind the gold ring, the color takes more precedent than the ring, for the gold ring is also an allusion to a particular attribute of the holy gift of Heaven provided for us. For just as gold is the most precious of metals and a symbol of perfection, the eternal bliss of heaven is perfect and the most precious gift that God can ever give to us. It is made even more precious to us Christians because this gift was given to us freely, unconditionally, on no account of our actions but wholly on account of Christ’s. Whereas peace and joy are precious gifts given to us by God, whereas the other Fruits of the Spirit are precious gifts given to by God, whereas salvation is most definitely a precious gift, none of these are the most precious gift.
For heaven is more precious than love, joy, hope, peace, even salvation. It is eternal bliss with God and all the other saints. It is living, truly living, for all eternity without sin or harm or concern. No illness, no death, no troubling thoughts are present in heaven. Whereas without salvation there is no hope for us to enter into heaven, that doesn’t make salvation more precious than heaven. The thing is heaven was always the end goal. To God, with regards to His most amazing creation, eternal sinlessness was God’s highest desire and end goal. And through the Cross, this gift was finally made readily available.
God wants to give us this gift. He wants us all to be in heaven, but because of sin we could not readily receive it. This most precious gift was unattainable on account of our sinfulness. But Christ died on the Cross to take away the one thing that was holding us back; to free us from the chains of sinfulness. He took away that condition of sinlessness by making us sinless through His selfless death. He took it away, and as such there are no conditions that need to be met on our account for God to graciously provide for us the most precious gift. Christ already died on the Cross for all sins, He just asks that you trust in Him and thus willingly allow Him to take away your sins so that you will unconditionally receive Heaven.
Isn’t it wonderful? Because of our union with Christ who died for our sake, we are guaranteed by faith alone, and on no account of who we are or what we’ve done, to receive the absolute most precious thing that can ever be. All I can say in response is what wondrous love is this!
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, because of the sacrifice of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we have become heirs of the most precious gift that can be provided, to walk eternity in complete and perfect bliss. We glorify you who have made available for us all this most amazing gift, and ask that through the aid of the Holy Spirit that others may know of this gift and receive likewise. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 9/4/2022 "The Blue Sky" by:Pastor Chris Boyd
Jeremiah 23: 23-29
Hebrews 12: 1-13
St. Luke 12: 49-53
“The Blue Sky”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today as we continue to observe the Luther Rose and the many parts that make up this deeply revered symbol of the Lutheran faith, let us quickly review what has already been said thus far.
At the center of this symbol, resting in the center of a red heart is a black cross. To us Christians, this represents how in our hearts rests the cross from which Christ died to save us from our sins. The Cross is the center of our faith and our theology derives and points back to the cross, for through the cross we have been forgiven our sins and graciously received life. This is why the cross is black and the heart not black but rather red. For because we our sinners our hearts most certainly should be black with sin, but because Jesus on the cross took on our sins, it is rather the cross that turns black and through such our hearts turn red.
This red heart which has been brought to life through the life giving cross is nested in a white rose which can best be described as the loving arms of God who is pure and all good and of whom, so long as we have faith, provides for us His children peace and joy. He wants us to be at peace and to be filled with joy, but so long as we doubt Him and turn away from His gracious gifts then we will never receive, but because we do have faith, with the
cross nested in our hearts, we too are nested on God’s warm and safe bosom, accepting the ready gift He so dearly wants to grant us.
Now behind this white rose is a field of blue. There is nothing particularly artistic about this part of the symbol. In fact, it appears to just be a color filling in the gap between the gold ring and the white rose. Of all the parts of the Luther Rose, this one can be understandably forgotten as it appears to be just a mere background. Just like how the chirping of birds in the air become background noise and soundly forgotten as we strike up a conversation with others outside, the blue color in this symbol can likewise become an afterthought to the noisy symbols of the cross, heart, and rose. All the other parts grab our attention, but this part alone is comfortable with being in the background; the same way how the sky is always present yet rarely do we take heed of what the sky has to offer to us. It is always there, never distracting from us nor demanding our attention, but always a constant reminder of the vast horizon and beauty of God’s creation.
Now this blue sky that serves as the background of our Luther Rose is not just some mere reference to the sky above, but of the much higher sky, of heaven and God’s holy kingdom itself. The blue is not the visible heavens with its blue coloration and clouds, but a reference of the more heavenly heavens of which we Christians have all received the promise of receiving.
But that is the thing, the blue sky in our Luther Rose is a promise; a promise already fulfilled and is thus guaranteed for us
who have faith. But so long as we walk this temporal life, this promise serves as an inheritance that is received upon our death. It is nested in the background, but not away from sight. If we but just look we are reminded of this holy promise granted already to us through the cross. And if we pay even closer attention we may recognize the foretastes of this gift that is to come, for example the communion feast which is a foretaste of the amazing banquet feast that awaits us in heaven.
Heaven is in the background the same way our inheritance of certain heirlooms may be in the background. We don’t go about our lives thinking about such inheritance that is not yet ours for we have other things to be concerned about, but we have faith that such will be ours. In similar manner, we should not be concerned with our inheritance of heaven, debating whether or not we will receive it, but rather have an unyielding faith in God and His promise that we will indeed receive it. There is no question in our mind, the inheritance is ours.
Such thinking puts to rest the problem of believing you have to work your way into heaven. This is because you already have the inheritance, the will has already been made, the gift already provided. You don’t have to work your way into heaven because this gift has already been graciously given to you on account of your faith! There is no need to be troubled with such distracting thoughts. If the question of whether or not you are right with God torments you than how will you be able to enjoy the peace and joy that God is trying to gift to you? You are not at peace with yourself. No, you are torturing yourself with thoughts of worthlessness accompanied by meritocracy. Be at peace! You
are saved. For Christ died on the cross for your sake, doing all the work so you won’t have to, going to Hell so you won’t have to, and exchanging to you, His dearly beloved sisters and brothers, the free gift of Salvation and eternal life in heaven.
The battle has already been won. Christ is already the victor. You don’t need to work your way into heaven; it has already been given to you. So don’t beat yourself up on whether or not you are saved. But I did this sin. Do you repent and have faith in Christ? You are saved. But I walked away from the faith. Do you have faith now? You are saved. But my life has been filled with mishaps. Do you deny yourself and place your heart in Jesus’ hands? You are saved. But I don’t feel worthy. Do you trust Christ? You don’t have to be worthy, for Christ is worthy for your sake. You are saved.
Heaven is guaranteed to us who have faith in Jesus Christ. There is no question about that. As for us who hold firm to this Lutheran view, we know we do not deserve heaven, but Christ gave it to us anyways. We know we stumble and mess up and fail God constantly, harming our brothers and sisters, but Christ gave heaven to us anyways. Countless times we have run away from God, but Christ died for us anyways… saying come home.
Too often the Devil tries to remind us of our sins, and by doing so try to convince us that God is withholding his Heaven from us faithful followers on account of our sinfulness. To such
thoughts we must laugh at the Devil and proclaim, “Sin boldly, but even more boldly believe in Jesus Christ.”
Some words from Martin Luther regarding such, “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!’”
The Devil wants us to be so distraught by our guilt and shame that we come to question God’s forgiveness. He wants to remind us of our sins so as to lead us astray towards paths of temptation that involves meriting our own forgiveness or dismantling the Law; neither are possible. The Devil does not want us to have hope in the Resurrection. He wants us to abandon all hope.
So we rebuff the Devil and all his attempts. We boldly proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ and all the gifts that He has already won for us. We trust the Word of God more than anything the Devil flings our way, placing an unshakable hope that the promise of inheritance has already been granted to us. We begin with the firm belief that because we have faith in Christ we will indeed go into Heaven. And with this as our foundation, we can place our focus properly on peace and joy.
The Devil will always try and convince us that we do not deserve to go into heaven. Our response should always be to laugh in the face of the Devil, saying, “I know, but so what! Christ
died for my sake anyways, and where He is I will follow.” If you know you don’t deserve heaven but that Christ died on the cross to save you anyways, then how can the Devil overcome you? He becomes a laughing stock as he repeats pointless ad hominem. Go ahead and attack my character, I know I’m a horrible person, but guess what Satan, my position as a Christian, as a heir to the Kingdom of God, as an adopted child of the Father Almighty, saved by the precious blood of Christ, far overcomes anything the Old Adam within me will ever do. Go ahead and remind who I am as much as you want, but you’re wasting your breath, for I am saved by God and I will go to heaven!
By the grace of God, this is most certainly true!
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, as we go about the spiritual warfare that rages in our hearts, guide us away from temptation and into the stubborn realization that by faith we are all saved; that no doubt ever enters our minds regarding our heavenly inheritance. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 8/21/22 "The Red Heart" By: Pastor Chris Boyd
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:18-26
Psalm 49: 1-11
Colossians 3: 1-11
St. Luke 12: 13-21
“The Red Heart”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Last week I started the first of five sermons reflecting on the Luther Rose of which is the symbol of the Lutheran Church. Once again I profess that this symbol is just a mere symbol that we don’t need to tie ourselves done with, but to those who willingly use the symbol, such as myself, when asked what is this symbol, a good response is to explain what each part means. By explaining each of the five parts of the Luther Rose you will likewise explain your faith, providing a testimony of what you believe. On the flipside, if someone asks you what do you believe and you find it difficult to find your words, reflect on this symbol and use it as a guide to help you provide a testimony of your faith.
Now at the center of this symbol is the cross, which is the absolute center of our entire faith and of which without it our faith is meaningless. Now that cross is black, not merely because the cross in of itself is a killing device used to murder our Savior and King, but because it takes on the sins of the world. It is for this very fact that the Heart is red.
Everyone who is capable of artistic endeavors knows that when you draw a heart, whether the physically accurate or the artistically more appealing version, that you are to draw it red. Red is the natural color that comes to our minds with regards to
the heart, for the heart naturally should always be red. If we were to reflect on a healthy beating heart then we would naturally envision it as red. For if the human heart was of a different color, then we would understandably differ that said heart is diseased, sickly, or dead. But a healthy living beating heart is red.
As Christians, we are to place Christ in our hearts for it is only through faith in Him that we are saved. To be more exact, the faith that we have with regards to our salvation is that Christ died on the cross to take on our sins; going to Hell in our stead. Thus, it is the cross that should be placed on the central throne in our hearts. Therefore, just as how the cross is the center and core of our faith, as individuals, the cross should also be the center and core of our very being, nested in the center of our heart.
And though this cross in our heart is filled with pain, the pain of the cross does not taint nor ruin the heart. In fact the pain of the cross is endalgia (endo + algia) not exalgia (exo + algia); the cross absorbs outward pain inwardly and does not outwardly expel pain from within. The cross does not injure our heart but in all reality takes on the sin which is wounding our heart.
You’ve heard the statement that in sin you are dead. God warned Adam that if he ate of the tree of knowledge then he would die, and the moment he disobeyed God and sunk his teeth in the fruit he died. Because of his sin, Adam is dead, and through this original sin which passes on to all humans we are all born already dead in sin. On top of that we have the actual sins we ourselves commit. All of which prevents our hearts from beating red, vibrant with life.
One common way of viewing sin is to view it as a disease. It is an all-consuming illness that infected every pore of our every being, so much so that every thought and action and word has been infected with sin. Sinfulness is not connected to humanity in that it is a part of it, but rather sin is an invasive species foreign to God’s all-good design. It is sin that corrupts the heart and taints it so that the human heart is no longer naturally red but a diseased black color.
When the cross enters this diseased heart, it absorbs the infection known as sin. Jesus who is on the cross is taking on the sin that is deeply rooted in our dead hearts. And as the cross absorbs the darkness of our hearts, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into our heart. By taking on sin, our hearts are brought back to life and the vibrant red color Adam had upon creation once again becomes the color of our own heart. The cross doesn’t kill; no more to us is it a killing device. Instead, the cross brings life and so long as the cross is nested at the center of our heart it will also keep us alive.
Therefore, sin is not a part of humanity; in fact it lessens our humanity. Before Christ, we are not fully human simply because sin damages our humanity. This is why before eating of the fruit Adam was indeed deemed good, but after eating he was no longer good. The sin he committed caused irreparable harm. But for this very reason we are also capable of proclaiming that Jesus, as oppose to us, is fully human for Jesus as God cannot sin and because He cannot sin nothing is damaging His humanity. Jesus is more human than us because unlike us He is sinless.
So as we keep on sinning, our heart grows darker and more damaged, but through the cross, Jesus takes away from us that which truly harms and lessens our humanity. The disease which attacks our heart and eats away at it is taken on by Jesus. The cross takes on the disease becoming blacker and blacker in sin while our hearts become redder and redder as it once again retains its former liveliness.
And again this is all possible through faith. The only reason why the heart is red is because of the black cross resting in the center. For within each of our hearts is a throne, and who ever sits on that throne is our god. For Christians, the one who is on that throne is Jesus Christ. But competing against Christ are things such as money, fame, family, security, humanity, etc. There are things that compete against the throne, dying to be the thing which sits at your core. This can be any of the fake gods of old, of those made up religions. This can be any of the newer fake gods invented through commercialism or peer pressure. Anything, absolutely anything, can be your god. Anything can sit on that throne, and what does sit on that throne will rule supreme. But compared to Jesus, all other things that can sit on that throne share one thing in common, none of them will ever bring life into your heart.
Whereas the cross keeps your heart a vibrant red, all other things that becomes to you a god are worthless for they are all wholly incapable of doing remotely anything for the heart. To a diseased heart, all false gods and dumb idols are meaningless for they do nothing to help the diseased heart. The only thing that
can help a diseased heart, a heart infected with sin, is Christ Himself. Thus, as Christians, nothing sits on that precious throne except Christ. Nothing receives our adoration and praise and faith more so than Christ. Nothing can enter into us and boldly proclaim to Jesus, who sits on the throne in our heart, get off my seat. For us Christians, this seat belongs to Christ alone, and it is in Him alone that we place our faith.
No philosophical idea, no amount of material treasures, no political system or prince, no angel or demon, no saint or sinner, no height or depth can compete for the love we have in Jesus Christ our Savior and King. We bow to no one but Christ alone. To the cross alone do we bow and give reverence. And when we must choose between Christ and anything else, if something demands us to choose, because Christ sits on the throne in our hearts, because Christ and the cross is the center of our very being, we will not fail to choose Christ always.
And likewise, nothing can separate us from the love that comes from Christ. Though we may become distracted by dumb idols, this does not mean that said dumb idols are withholding the grace of God. Christ is always at the ready to forgive you of your sins, He just asks that you place your faith in Him.
Now the love of Christ is unconditional. It has no criterion. It does not demand anything from you, for if it did then it would be a conditionally gifted love. Thus, because of the unconditional nature of Christ’s love, it is provided not because of who you are, but despite who you are. So as oppose to those who falsely claim that Christ’s love proves that he accepts who you are, it is more
proper to proclaim that Christ loves us despite who we are; aka, unconditional love. In addition, if Christ loved us for who we are then there would be no forgiveness of sins. For to claim that Christ loves us for who we are is no different then also claiming that Christ loves our sinfulness, and if that is true then He is no different from dumb idols which does nothing to our aching hearts.
But because Christ loves us unconditionally despite who we are, dying on the cross because of our sinfulness, he doesn’t accept our sinfulness but takes it on. He loves us so much that he places no conditions on His grace and instead, seeing our sinfulness, proclaims that He is going to die for our sake. He will take our burdens. He will hold the weight of the world on His shoulders. He will take on our illness. He will take on the blackness in our hearts. Thus, it is because of love for us that not only is the cross black, but that also our hearts through the cross is red.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, without you and the sacrifice of your Son we will still be dead to sin, but through the cross you Son took on our sins and the Holy Spirit breathed new life into our now beating hearts. Keep on taking our sins and filling us with your Holy Spirit, keeping us alive in faith. In your most holy name we pray: father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 8/28/22 "The White Rose" By: Pastor Chris Boyd
Genesis 15: 1-6
Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
St. Luke 12: 32-40
“The White Rose”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Of all the common events that the regular American experiences throughout their lives, the one that generally brings the greatest joy and happiness is the day we are wedded with our beloved wife or husband. On this day there is much mirth as vows are given, and holy matrimony is blessed upon the two now united. Cheers are lifted high as friends and family give their support and pray for God to continually bless these two and to be their rock as they, as one flesh, journey forth.
Usually there is singing, much fanfare, a lot of fancy clothing, sometimes communion, and in particular a predominantly popular color scheme: white. Usually the bride is dressed in pure white, and, as for the floral arrangement, there is present white roses. In fact white roses are known to be the most commonly used flower in weddings, and for obvious reasons. For the white rose in weddings represents loyalty, purity, and innocence. All qualities a spouse would desire in themselves and in the other. To be loyal to each other, pure in love toward each other, and innocent of all that might harm the union. This is what’s generally implied when white roses are present at a wedding, but with regards to the holy union between the Church and her bridegroom Jesus Christ, much more is implied.
Two weeks ago I started the first of five sermons reflecting on the Luther Rose of which is the symbol of the Lutheran Church. Once again I profess that this symbol is just a mere symbol that we don’t need to tie ourselves done with, but to those who willingly use the symbol, such as myself, when asked what is this symbol, a good response is to explain what each part means. By explaining each of the five parts of the Luther Rose you will likewise explain your faith, providing a testimony of what you believe.
Now at the center of this symbol is the black cross, which is the absolute center of our entire faith and of which without it our faith is meaningless but through it all of our sins have been taken. This black cross is nested in the center of our hearts and as such it takes on our sinfulness thus bringing new life to our once dead hearts, changing it to a vibrant red. And this red heart changed through the black heart, where does it rest? Why in a five pointed white rose.
Though I will go over this in much more length when I refer to the gold ring, the fifth element of the Luther Rose, I will briefly allude to it via the white rose for we the church and Jesus Christ are already wedded to each other, with Christ as our head and we
the wife. And if any symbol short of wedding rings can represent this union it would be the white rose, though instead of us approaching Christ the bridegroom with white roses in our hands, Christ comes to us like a gentleman, going down on one knee and presenting to us his banquet of white roses; for in this relationship it is Christ who is pure, innocent, and loyal. And it is He who
completely gave himself up for our sake so that through Him and this wedding we would be redressed in sparkling white clothes.
You see this purity, this white shimmer void of any blemish, is not a quality that comes from us, for none of us are pure. This white color is rather associated with God and all his angels. Throughout scripture, whenever the angels who appear before mankind are described, their clothing is always white. On the day of our Lord’s resurrection an angel appeared before the Mary’s to roll the stone away. Matthew 28:3, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” And according to John 20:12, when Mary looked into the tomb, “she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” And as for Jesus, when He was transfigured, Matthew 17:2 describes how his, “clothes became white as light,” in Mark 9:3, “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them,” and in Luke 9:29, “His clothes became dazzling white.”
The color white has always been associated with purity, and from a scriptural point of view the only ones who are pure are God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all the heavenly forces that serve God. They alone are pure.
Now while Christ does continually purify us from sin via the cross, there is much more God does for us, for the heart resting on a white rose is liken to our heart resting in the precious hands of God. His hands are gentle and kind; strong enough to carry all our struggles, and tender enough to bring nothing but peace to hearts of those who already cradle within themselves the saving
cross. To us who are saved, no longer do the hands of God appear to be angry and filled with righteous indignation, but instead appear to be filled with mercy, grace, and love. Rest
assured that in the caress of his arms, no harm will come our way as his warmth alone He provides for us while also shielding us from the cold merciless venom of the Serpent.
Now a short thought I had, usually when someone talks about roses they usually also bring up thorns. Though there are no thorns in this symbol, if we were to factor in thorns, realizing that the white rose is akin to the gentle embrace of God, then the thorns would not be directed at us but instead be a thorn in the side of the Devil.
But there is one thing that Luther mentioned regarding this element of the Lutheran symbol, “Such a heart is to be in the midst of a white rose, to symbolize that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In a word, it places the believer into a white joyful rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy as the world gives.” As humans, we all want to eventually experience peace and joy. Sadly, we so too often look for such in all the wrong places. Maybe we search for such by avoiding conflict or using substances. Likewise many humans, in their search for these two elusive things, peace and joy, have devised shadows of such. Whether philosophy, sociology, psychology, politics, fake religions, we keep on creating for ourselves shadows of peace and joy, but you will never find such in any of these manmade devices. But what if I said peace and joy are actually not as allusive as we think they are? What if they are only allusive
because we chase after fake images of such? What if peace and joy has always been readily available for us?
Jesus in John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.” Thus it is not faith
in of itself that produces peace and joy, but God who produces peace and joy of which we receive through faith in God. As oppose to the shadowy peace and joy which the world gives, the peace and joy we receive from God is pure and without sin. It comes without any thorns or gotcha clauses. It is a free gift of which God the Father wishes to provide for all his children, and of which God the Son wish to present as a wedding gift to the bride he gave his very life to save.
And before anyone claims that faith is a requirement thus negating the free attribute of this gift, if we do not have faith in God would we not push away his freely given gifts to chase after shadows of things produced by the world? Without faith, we push God and his gifts away. Without faith, we will never attend our own wedding but run after jerks who care not for us. It is because of faith that we take the leap necessary to grasp the freely given gifts which the bridegroom, our Savior Jesus Christ is truly trying to provide for us. He wants us to be at peace, and wants us dearly to experience true joy, a joy that is not tied down by sin and the shame attached to sin. He wishes to set us free, by taking on our sins and all its guilt and shame.
And before I conclude, a quick note on the five pointed aspect of the rose, though this in of itself can be a five sermon
series. The five points represents the five Solas of Lutheranism, solas meaning “alone”: Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, and Glory to God Alone. Basically, “Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” A neat, short, and concise statement found on the Concordia University of Texas website.
So in the end what can we glimpse from this element of the Luther Rose, the white rose? That as Christians, we place our faith not in ourselves but in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is pure and is to us the source of true peace and joy.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, as you present to us your gifts of peace and joy, coming to us in all purity, help us to not seek out for alternatives but to willingly receive your gracious gifts. In your holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 8/14/22 "The Black Cross" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Genesis 18: 20-32
Colossians 2: 6-15
St. Luke 11: 1-13
“The Black Cross”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Within the Lutheran Church there is a symbol that is commonly and uniquely shared among us throughout the globe, and that is the Luther Rose. The symbol at its very center has a Black Cross, set inside a Red Heart, which rests on a White Rose, surrounded by a Blue Sky with a Gold Ring as the border. Now there isn’t anything particularly special about this identifier, for we are free to use whatever appropriate symbol we wish to use, thus we are not bound by this Luther Rose or obligated to use it. Yet we still have it, for it is a wonderful teaching opportunity to explain the Christian faith. If someone comes to you asking what this symbol is, use that moment as an opportunity to explain each of the parts and by doing so you will also provide a testimony of your faith.
Now at the absolute center of this rose is the core of our entire faith, the cross. Everything points towards the cross. The Old Testament prophecy to the cross, and the New serves as a witness to it and all the grace that comes from it. Without the cross the entire Bible is meaningless, for the culmination of all human history, the climax of this amazing story known as Earth is and will forever be the cross.
The creation points towards the cross. The fall is the reason for the cross. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled through the cross. The Passover event in Exodus foreshadows the cross. Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness to cure the poisoned Hebrews depicts the cross. King David and his psalms lift up the cross. Isaiah prophesies the cross. The Babylonian Captivity extends to the cross. All that is in the Law and Histories and Prophecies and Stories of the Old Testament is fulfilled through the cross.
And our faith is found in the cross. Our Salvation comes not from the birth of Christ, nor His parables or early miracles. Our Salvation comes chiefly not in the Resurrection or Ascension, though the inheritance and promise of heaven does. Our Salvation begins with the cross. This is why, Lutherans place particularly strong focus on the cross, an almost year-long Lenten like focus where every day to us is Good Friday. In fact our theology is not called Lutheran Theology, but rather the Theology of the Cross. Everything we believe in begins first with the cross, is always looking towards the cross, and concludes with the cross. The cross is our cornerstone, without it our faith crumbles, thus instead of placing our focus on the majesty of Christ, which we do, we place our chief focus on the suffering of Christ.
The cross at the center is black. It is bleak. It is filled with misery. The cross is a killing device intended to torture their victims for hours as the agony of their own weight crushes their body. Christ suffered on that cross, and we should never forget that. He endured so much pain and then died on that horrible tree. God died… but he died for us.
People these days are too squeamish. They want to focus only on the good parts of the Bible. They go to Easter but never Good Friday, for one feels good but the other reminds us of the tragedy that Jesus went through. We want to praise God who is alive and lift up the resurrection, yet ever so briefly acknowledge
the suffering. We want to feel good, and ignore the painful things in life. But to such mentality I say this, how can you appreciate the good things in life without acknowledging the bad things? How can you truly appreciate the Gospel without understanding the Law? How can you lift up your hands in praise and elation without pointing out the reason for the praise and elation? How can you claim you are saved without stating from what you are saved? How can you praise the resurrection without looking first at the cross?
Without the Law, the Gospel is meaningless. Without Good Friday, Easter is meaningless. Without Christ’s death, His resurrection is meaningless. Without stating you are a sinful person incapable of saving yourself, lo incapable of doing one good thing, then the salvation and forgiveness of sin and gifts of righteousness and ability granted to finally do good works which comes only through faith in Him is all meaningless. Without sin, the cross is meaningless.
The reason why Jesus died on the cross is to save us from our sins. John 3: 16-18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but
whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Notwithstanding, though the cross was already black in a sense for it is a killing device, through the suffering of Jesus Christ, the cross truly became the blackest and most bleak of things for through the cross Jesus took on all our sins. The weight of the entire world’s sin was place on that singular cross.
I’m surprised it didn’t snap in two under that most certainly crushing burden. I’m surprised a dark miasma of sulfuric gas didn’t seep out the grains of the sin soaked wood that made the cross. I’m surprised reality didn’t fold in on itself as that spiritual mass of cosmic sin gravitated and compounded in and through the suffering of Jesus on that cross. The color black barely suits the depravity of that singular object. Not even the blackness of a black hole which swallows light can hold a candle to the cross.
But least we forget the reason why the cross is so black, which is because through it Jesus is taking on the sins of the entire world throughout all time and space; it is black because Jesus is taking on your sins, all of it, so long as you allow Him.
Whereas we should never be happy as to why Jesus had to die on the cross in the first place, there is much joy for through the cross, Jesus has indeed forgiven you of your sins and has overcome the Devil so that you will be set free/saved from his prison. Jesus suffered the consequences of sin so that you won’t have to. Jesus took on the weight of sin, so that you won’t have to. Jesus went to Hell with all that sin, so that you won’t have to.
In our second lesson, which is alluded to in the Lord’s Prayer, St Paul says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Forgive us our debt, forgive us our trespasses, forgive us our sins… all of which means the same thing.
At birth we are sinners, and throughout our lives we continuously accumulate sin. Our collective trespasses against each other and against God is debt that can never be forgiven through our own merits. In fact, even if we were to perfectly obey the Law, according to Luke 17:10, Jesus says “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Perfectly obeying the law is a net zero, it is what you ought to have done in the first place. So if you sin and do good works, debt or a net negative plus ought or a net zero, what do you get? -1 plus 0 is still -1!
No amount of works will ever cancel out sin, the debt you have accrued. Thus works or merit will never lead to salvation. So how do we cancel out our debt? We don’t, but Christ takes on your debt and suffered the consequences. Thus if Christ says, I will pay off your debt for you by going into Hell in your stead, then there is no debt for you to pay off; in other words only faith in Christ, and on no account of merit, can you be saved from the debt of sin and the clutches of Hell. For the legal record of debt
that stood against you was nailed to the cross, paid through the precious blood of our God.
In the end, so long as you have faith in Christ and allow him to take on your sin, He will do so, thus cleansing you from the spiritual blights that damage your soul. It is through the cross and the cross alone that you are saved. The sin you had, has been nailed to the cross. The darkness that was in you has been absorbed by the cross. This is why the cross is the center, and why we absolutely need it.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, though the tragedy of the cross is so damning, help us to boldly face the reality of sin so that we willingly with faith cast our sins upon that dreaded tree, and through such graciously receive salvation. In your heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.