Isaiah 66: 18-23

Psalm 117

Hebrews 12: 18-24

St. Luke 13: 22-30

 

“The Gold Ring”

 

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.

Jeremiah 23: 23-29 

Psalm 82 

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.

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.

Genesis 15: 1-6 

Psalm 33 

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.

Genesis 18: 20-32 

Psalm 138 

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.

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