Genesis 18: 1-15 

Psalm 15 

Colossians 1: 21-28 

St. Luke 10: 38-42 

“Busy” 

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

As a child, there was a humorous church song I grew up  loving. The song goes as such, 

[Verse 1] 

A certain man held a feast 

On his fine estate in town. 

He laid a festive table, 

He wore a wedding gown, 

He sent out invitations 

To his neighbors far and wide, 

But when the meal was ready 

Each of them replied: 

[Chorus] 

I cannot come, 

I cannot come to the banquet, Don’t trouble me now, 

I have married a wife, 

I have bought me a cow, 

I have fields and commitments, That cost a pretty sum, 

Pray hold me excused 

I cannot come. 

[Verse 2] 

The master rose up in anger 

Called his servants by name, said Go into town, fetch the blind and the lame 

Fetch the peasant and the pauper For this I have willed: 

My banquet must be crowded, And my table must be filled. 

[Verse 3] 

When all the poor had assembled There was still room to spare, So the master demanded: 

Go search everywhere. 

Search the highways and the byways, And tell them to come in 

My table must be filled 

Before the banquet can begin. 

[Verse 4] 

Now God has written a lesson For the rest of mankind: 

If we’re slow in responding 

He may leave us behind. 

He’s preparing a banquet 

For that great and glorious day, When the Lord and Master calls us Be certain not to say: 

Now this song is in reference to a parable that Jesus gave in  Luke 14, a man held a great banquet and invited many, but those  invited all gave excuses as to why they could not come such as I 

just bought a field and must see to it, or I just bought five yoke of  oxen and must examine them, or I just married. So the man then  invited everyone else to fill his halls to include the poor and  crippled and homeless for they were more worthy than the ones  who gave excuses. 

Now the point of the parable and this humorous song is to  highlight that we do live busy lives, and then asks does our  business get in the way of us acknowledging God? 

Now this is not in reference to those who are being forced  not to go to church nor those who willfully choose not to go to  church for some mundane reason, but merely in reference to  those whose life is so busy and whose minds are so troubled by  various important issues that they fail to see the truly most  important thing in front of them. 

The man who is hosting the banquet is God and the banquet  itself is salvation, heaven, and all the fruits of the Spirit; a fine  feast indeed. God comes to us presenting an invitation to his  feast, desiring his halls to be filled, thus in the end all are invited,  but not all will accept the invitation. And the ones in this parable  found in Luke are not turning down God’s invitation out of malice  but simple because their minds are preoccupied with other issues.  They are too busy. 

I can imagine a wife who is ragged tire between cleaning the  house and taking care of several young kids or a husband  earnestly and furiously filing taxes feeling his head about to burst  with all the calculations. A man with a camera crew rings the 

doorbell to their home, they answer, and the man congratulates  them on winning an exorbitantly huge sum of many and all they  have to do is sign this legal document acknowledging receipt of  such winnings. Only the wife and husband close the door to the  man and crew. They are too busy for this salesman’s nonsense,  

not realizing that that was not a salesman and they just denied  acceptance of a fortune, for they have a house and kids or taxes  to take care of. Hopefully in such a circumstance the spouse rises  up out of their busy estate and realize what just transpired and  runs to the man and his crew, apologize, and willingly receives  this gracious gift that has no strings attached to it. 

It is this very kind of business that grips Martha in our  Gospel, but the business she experiences is out of love toward  her guest Jesus Christ. I can imagine Mary and Martha getting  everything prepared upon hearing Jesus was coming over, but as  soon as Jesus arrives, Martha, being a good steward of  hospitality, maintained the serving element of being a good host.  Mary on the other hand halted whatever she was doing in  preparation for the coming Lord and decided to give Jesus  company and listened to him. Martha was distracted with much  serving, Mary was distracted with the Word of God. 

I can imagine a guest shows up at a couple’s home and the  husband sits down with the guest in the living room and strikes up  a conversation. The wife on the other hand prepares the dinner  table and gets mad at her husband for not lending a hand and  tells the guest to order her husband to help her with cleaning the  dining room. A not too common spoof I see on family comedy  shows, and always a source of laughter when such tropes pop up. 

I can just imagine the guest saying, “Whereas I’m flattered that  you wish the home to be in tiptop shape for my arrival, I’m already  here.” 

In the military, we call this lacking situational awareness. Say  the President is coming to your base, for colloquial purposes let  us say that is Camp Perry. You, a member of the military, would  obviously want to make sure that the camp is prepared for the  coming President. I can imagine all the forces present in a busy  rush to make sure every nook and cranny is spotless, every rock  in its proper location, and every lightbulb new. When the  President comes, what do you do? You welcome him, you guide  him, you keep him company, etc. You don’t leave him by himself.  And when he enters a room of Soldiers, what’s the expectation?  Do you continue cleaning the room, completely ignoring the  President? No! You go to attention, salute the President, and  arrange yourself to listen to him. You are in the process of  cleaning the barracks and the President walks in, do you keep on  cleaning or do you stop what you are doing and welcome the  President? Situational Awareness would compel you to stop what  you are doing and place your complete focus and respect on the  Commander in Chief. If Private Snuffy was to ignore the President  then he will receive a right talking to by his sergeant later on. 

So if this is the case with the President, the highest ranking  person in America, what about Jesus Christ Himself, who will  forever far outrank any office? Between Mary and Martha, when it  comes to their guest Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, the one  who acted appropriately was Mary. It is very good that Martha  wanted to make sure the house was prepared for Jesus, and in a 

similar manner we should all constantly prepare ourselves for the  coming Lord, but situational awareness would tell you that the  Lord isn’t coming but is already here. You prepare for the coming  Lord, acting like Martha, but as soon as he arrives, you drop what  you are doing and place your complete focus and Jesus, acting  like Mary. 

Another imagery that comes to my mind, something I grew  up with and most families may have also experienced. You are  getting ready to go to church. Everyone in the house is putting on  their best Sunday clothes, prepping their hair, making sure they  smell good, etc. Then whoever is the timekeeper looks at the time  and says to the household that it is time to leave. If we wish to be  at church on time we will go now. One person stops what they are  doing and hurries to the door; hair still unkempt and smelling like  last night’s campfire. Another, desiring to go to church but wants  to be presentable, does not leave the bathroom but instead says  wait up I’m still getting ready. Which one is too busy and anxious  over things that are not necessary, and which one has chosen the  good portion? The messy one is Mary. The one still preparing is  Martha. 

Now the outward motions isn’t the only thing concerned  here, outward business and appearance that is, but the inner  motions should likewise be considered. How many times are we  so busy that our hearts and mind become anxious and troubled  over the cares of the world? So busy that is with things that are  fleeting, that come and will eventually go? How often do we just  stop and reflect on the one and only thing that is not fleeting nor  brings with it anxiety?

Jesus Christ who already died on the cross to forgive us of  our sins comes to us who believe in Him as a source of peace  and comfort and righteousness. Everything else is fleeting, but  this salvation which comes from Christ is constant. Why be  concerned with things that cause you trouble now and tomorrow  will be forgotten? Why not be concerned with things that bring joy  eternal? Ah, but I already have too much on my plate. I have a  new Job and can’t come to communion. I bought a new house  and can’t come to worship. I have mouths to feed and thus can’t  be concerned with adding one more thing to my busy schedule.  Please hold me excused, I cannot come. 

I understand that we all have busy lives, so I’ll end with this:  What’s truly more important, that which comes and go and only  gives you anxiety, or the Lord and Savior who is indeed present  and his bounteous feast, such as communion, that provides all  things good and can never be taken away? 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, as we prepare ourselves for your  coming Son, desiring Him always in our lives, provide us with the  situational awareness to recognize His presence. In your most  holy name we pray; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Deuteronomy 30: 9-14

Psalm 25: 1-9

Colossians 1: 1-14

St. Luke 10: 25-37

 

“Unexpected Aid”

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel we come upon a most loved parable given to us by Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan. Leading up to this parable a lawyer tried to trick Jesus with what he thought were crafty questions, all in an attempt to cause Jesus, who is literally God and will not fall for human tricks, to stumble. So the lawyer tries to put Jesus to the test and asks an incredibly loaded question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Now the first obvious answer is to perfectly follow the Law, but because no one short of Christ can do that then the second option which is purposely not provided on account of the lawyer’s presence is to have faith in the Son of Man.

 

Now the intent of the question was to trick Jesus into giving particulars, but instead of outright answering the lawyer with a statement, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question, thus redirecting the question back onto the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The thing is the Law gives a good answer to this question, and by saying how do you read it, Jesus is flipping script by making the lawyer the source of the interpretation. By now we all know lawyers, if one is openly antagonistic towards you then no matter what you say they will find some fault in your statement, as no longer is Jesus the one answering the lawyer, but the lawyer himself.

 

Now because the lawyer does not want to incriminate himself he doesn’t answer the “How do you read it?” question but only simple the “What is written in the Law?” question. He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Two things to note here. First, according to Luke it is not Jesus who said this but in all reality the shifty lawyer. So where did the lawyer get these two commandments? That leads us to the second note, that the answer given comes straight from the Old Testament. Love the Lord your God is Deuteronomy 6:5; Love your  neighbor as yourself is Leviticus 19:18. The entirety of all the Laws can be summed up in these two commandments.

 

Upon hearing the correct answer Jesus tells the lawyer, as if he was the one who initially asked the question, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” I can imagine the lawyer puffing out his chest with a smug smile on his face, rubbing his finger under his nose, saying, “well I am a lawyer,” feeling a sense of accomplishment at getting the answer correct… but wait that’s not why I’m here! How dare Jesus trick me with his compliment. I did not come here receive answers but only to trick Jesus into providing an answer that I can later abuse and misrepresent.

 

So after realizing he was tricked by Jesus into answering his own question, which defeated the purpose of his trickery, he, feeling he needed to justify the whole point of him being there in the first place, asked a follow up question, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

O boy I got him now! You fooled me once, but you won’t fool me again. Ok, so what is his answer… oh a parable. Ok, typical Jesus. He does love his parables, but at the end of each parable he does elaborate. Let’s listen intensely so we can catch all that he says. Ah, he’s talking about a man who was robbed. A priest walks past the poor man; odd of Jesus to say that. A Levite! And the Levite walks pass the poor man too; what are you getting at Jesus? And now a Samaritan, horrible people, he passes the poor… no, he helps the poor man? Ok, well maybe there may be one out of a thousand Samaritans who would do that. The Samaritan takes care of the Jew, drives him to an inn, selflessly pays for his lodging, and promises further aid if needed. Boy, this Samaritan, I mean this is a parable, but I think Jesus would have done better if he replaced him with a Jew.

 

It is obvious that the lawyer was listening intensely to the point that he forgot his purpose for asking another question, for as soon as Jesus concluded the parable with, again, another question the lawyer immediately answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” No hesitation, the lawyer immediately answered, and correctly, but in the end Jesus once again tricked the lawyer into answering his own question. The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor?” The lawyer answers his own question, and Jesus looks at the lawyer and says, “You go, and do likewise.”

 

The whole point of this sermon is to express one simple statement, everyone is your neighbor and you should act in a neighborly way to all people. And the reason why Jesus didn’t just simple say this is because he wanted the lawyer to produce the answer himself. Another reason why Jesus answered the way he did because a more appropriate question the Lawyer should have asked was, “How can I be a loving neighbor?” To ask Jesus, who is my neighbor, must imply that there are those who are not your neighbor, which is at best improper.

 

Now there is one thing about the Jewish culture that we need to understand to bring more depth to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, and that is the great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. The two hated each other. The two viewed the other as an enemy, a thorn in their side. Whereas the Jews also despise the Romans who ultimate rule over them, their animosity towards the Samaritans runs much deeper. The same is true for the Samaritans towards the Jews. The two just could not stand each other. From the view of a Jew, a Samaritan would never have helped a downed poor man. In fact, of all the people on earth, the Jews would have gladly decategorized the Samaritans as their neighbor. Which is precisely why Jesus used the Samaritan as the example of someone acting neighborly. By why the intense animosity?

 

It goes back to the days when Israel and Judah was sacked by the Babylonians and once again became slaves. While the Jews lived multiple generations in slavery, a northern tribe near Israel not in slavery became after what is known as the Samaritans, or at least that is what they claim. In the end, when the Jews were released from their servitude and rebuilt Jerusalem, the Samaritans antagonistically accused the Jews of not being real followers of God. They falsely claimed that the Jews who were just released at the grace of God of alter Scripture, and that the Jews have no genealogical connection to Abraham. The Samaritans then boldly claimed that they were the only true religion of the ancient Israelites. And from there on the animosity went downhill, and 600 years later, it is these very same Samaritans that Jesus use to describe what it means to be neighborly.

 

No Jew would expect such aid from a Samaritan, for the unexpected aid from a Samaritan is unfathomable, but this is exactly why Jesus paints the picture of, of all people, a Samaritan helping a Jew. Everyone, even your enemies, is your neighbor. This is why Jesus commands us to love thy enemy, because even they are our neighbors.

 

Now today there are only an estimated thousand Samaritans left and that is shrinking fast. But this parable can be aptly used for any two groups of people who have extreme hatred for each other. We can even use fresh examples today such as Right vs Left, or Constitutionalist vs Socialist, or Christians vs Secularists, or Proud Boys vs Antifa. It doesn’t matter who takes the place of the poor man or who takes the place of the Samaritan, the story is still the same.

 

A pro-constitution American is robbed and beaten on the street. An originist judge walks by and ignores the down man. Next a libertarian with a “Don’t tread on me” shirt walks by and ignores the down man. But a Good Socialist walks by and uses only their own money to selfless care for the pro-constitutionalist. Another example; a member of Antifa gets robbed and beaten on the streets. A black clad Molotov cocktail wielding member walks by and ignores the down man. Next a speaker for Antifa does so likewise. But a Good Proud Boy walks by and aids the down man all while defending him from other attackers.

 

It doesn’t matter what example you use, for they would all work in this format. It doesn’t matter who the person is, they could be the person you hate above all else, they are still your neighbor.

 

And as the final example; the chief priest, the elders of the church, the Pharisees and Sadducees, all deemed Jesus to be the enemy and had him hung on the cross. Little did they know that Jesus’ mission was ultimately to die so that through Him all who have faith in Him will be saved. Jesus did not withhold His salvation from anyone, this much is most certainly true. Thus we know, that Jesus died on the cross, He did so as well for those who placed Him there. “Lord, forgive them for they no not what they are doing.” Jesus was to His killers, a Good Neighbor.

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you who sent your Son to save all including those who despised Him from their sins also fill us with a Spirit of kindness mirroring your Son, that we look at our enemies and see for who they really are, a neighbor whose also in need. We pray in your name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 King 19: 14-21 

Psalm 16 

Galatians 5: 1, 13-25 

Luke 9: 51-62 

“Wander Forward” 

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

This last week I went down home to spend time with my  family, and while I was down there I had a conversation with my  sister about the events in Exodus. It started with the questioning  how God could have killed all those first born children. It was an  honest question filled with compassion, but too often have I heard  similar well-meaning questions about the goodness of God, which  is a dangerous road to walk on. If one was to walk on such a path  with the foresight that God is indeed good, in fact the very image  of the most perfect good, then such questioning will not cause any  concern because no amount of good intended questions will falter  your faith in the Triune God’s divine attributes. But if you don’t  have such a strong cornerstone then you will surely be lead down  the path of hating God, for only an evil god would dare violate the  edicts of the true god, Humanity! 

There is a thought project I was recently made aware of that  helped me explain to my sister the killing of the first born.  American Civil War; would you have compromised on slavery to  prevent the civil war from happening? If you have a spine, you  would answer no, for to compromise on slavery is to still allow  slavery. We fought a bloody war and America spilled the blood of  way too many sons and daughters, but it had to be done to  recognize the humanity of all Americans. Now go back in history, 

all the way back to the enslavement of the Jews. What the  Hebrews faces in Egypt was far worse than the Africans in  America. At one point the pharaoh of Egypt was so terrified of the  growing number of Hebrews in his country that he tricked them  into slavery, and after a couple of generations, the Hebrews  became fully pacified by the extreme conditions their slave  holders placed on them. Beating sun, barely any food, work hours  too long for the human body, a growing work load intended to  break the will of the people, constant wiping, and if you were  defective as a working slave then killed. And still the Hebrews  bless by God continued to grow in number, so a new pharaoh, out  of terror of a potential insurgency of the slaves, ordered the  genocide of every child born a son. If you know the child is to be  born a male, murder it. After the midwives disobeyed, he  commanded his people, the Egyptians, to kill themselves every  male child that is born to the Hebrews. Despite this, Moses still  survived. 

This was the atrocious conditions the Hebrews faced, and  out of agony they cried to God to release them from this  oppression. God answered, sending Moses with many at first  harmless plagues, but pharaoh did not release the slaves. Then  God send Moses with some not so harmless plagues, but  pharaoh still did not listen. So God send Moses with the warning  that if the slaves are not released then the first born of all families  who do not place lamb blood over their doors will die. Because  the Hebrews feared God they obeyed the instructions; so when  the angel of death was came, it passed over their households. But  the Egyptians who did not fear God, who did not obey the  instructions that they were well aware of, their first born died. 

Pharaoh lost his first born, and it was not God’s fault, but  Pharaoh’s fault. Out of despair, he relented and let the Hebrews  free. 

Compared to the Civil War, the cost to freeing the Hebrew  slaves was insignificant, for in comparison God saved so many  lives all together. This is what I told my sister, and she liked what  she heard. 

But there is more to the story of Exodus. With all that turmoil  that the Hebrews suffered, you would think that they would  appreciate their freedom. But they didn’t. Freedom is hard. The  Hebrews were on their own and had to find their own food and  shelter. They actually complained to God about their mean estate,  and even when God provided for them they still complained more.  They very quickly started looking back to the days of enslavement  with desire. At least back then we had food and shelter. At least  back then the cage they lived in was comfy. 

This unfortunately is a common reoccurring state of the  fallen human psyche. We know that through the death of Christ,  who shed His blood for the forgiveness of all sin, that we have  been set free from the chains of slavery forced upon us at  conception by Satan himself. But this cage that Satan places us in  is not a fiery pit of hell, but a comfy cage of darkness. Within his  cage you get your needs, you are in a safe place protected from  the nasty attacks from evil, and all the atrocities you yourself  commit doesn’t exist. The dark pit Satan places you in gives you  what you think you need, all while denying you what you truly  need. The supposedly cozy prison appears to protect you from 

evil attacks by making you the instrument of evil, all while painting  what is good and divine as evil and devilish. It is like protecting a  caged sheep from the open fields of luscious green grass. And  this cage you are in, well it’s so dark that it prevents you from  seeing the evils you yourself are committing. A “That which I don’t  see doesn’t exist” mentality is broken into you. The darkness  shields your fragile eyes from realizing that you are a slave to sin.  Satan does not want you to despise his cage, he wants you to  love it. 

Then comes freedom. Christ, who is our freedom, shines a  light on our path forward, but he also shines a light on all that is  sinful. It’s hard to recognize your own dreaded self, but Christ  shines a warm light and tells you if you follow him he will forgive  you of your sins and lead you to a promised land where there is  no sin, our own land of milk and honey. But be aware of this, we  who follow Christ are not like the Egyptians who have comfy  homes, we are like the homeless nomadic Jews who are  wandering through the wildness with the full knowledge that at the  end of the journey is the promised land. 

In this world we live in, Christians are homeless. Yes we live  in the world, but we are not of the world, thus the world will always  deny us and because the world denies us we are de facto  culturally homeless. The world is not your friend, nor should you  desire such. I have seen so many pastors who wanted to be loved  by the extremist culture today which constantly attacks the Bible  that they willingly abandon scripture in order to embrace the  culture of our days. Today’s Psalm reads, “The sorrows of those  who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of 

blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.” Their god  is the world, and their worship is not towards God. The world is  not your friend. 

If you act like them and worship at their demonic temples,  then the world will consider you a friend, but if you act as one who  belongs to Christ and boldly worships Christ alone, then the world  will despise you. 

Christ Himself, in our Gospel says, “Foxes have holes, and  birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay  his head.” If we were to follow Christ, then in this world we too will  be like the Son of Man, no place to call home. 

But there is a tremendous benefit in being nomads for Christ.  The most important is that through faith in Him who is the source  of life, then we who are dead to sin are no longer dead but alive.  One great lie the Devil taught us is that we are alive, wrong. Ever  since Eve first ate of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge  humanity has been dead. We are not conceived alive, but  conceived dead for in sin we are not subjects of the Kingdom of  Heaven. Yet, when the Kingdom was proclaimed to us and at our  baptism, the Holy Spirit entered into us, gave us faith, and  through such faith we are made alive. So to the dead, aka those  not saved, let them live out their death as sinners. You, who are  not dead, but alive, do not part take in their death culture, but  instead bring life to them by proclaiming the Good News. 

And while you bring life to the dead, wandering forward in  the life bringing light of Christ, giving up your unbiblical cultural 

norms, following the vagabond Son of God, will you be like the  Hebrews who after being saved looked back fondly at Egypt. Will  you be the one who puts your hand to plow but looks back at that  comfy dark cage of sin? Will you, so worn down by the onslaught  of evil slander, seek the safety of the cage? Will you curse God  and fling vile vitriol at your brothers and sisters in Christ so you  can be welcomed back into the open arms of the world’s satanic  cult? 

Or will you place your hand on the plow and push forward,  preparing the soil for the seed of faith, doing God’s hard work for  the sake of the Kingdom all while looking forward and having  complete faith in God? 

If so, then know this. If the world is against you, that is  because Christ, who surpasses all the powers of men, is with you. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heaven Father, whereas we may be nomads in this  culture due to our Christian faith we know that so long as we keep  pushing and looking forward we will arrive at the most heavenly of  homes, your Kingdom, our promise land. Keep us strong in our  faith and let not the Devil tempt us into longing for his protection.  In your heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 66: 10-14 

Psalm 66: 1-11, 14-18 

Galatians 6: 1-10, 14-16 

St. Luke 10: 1-12, 16-20 

“Zero Self-Esteem” 

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

As I observe the times we live in there is a concept that I’ve  noticed as permeated throughout our American, and at large even  Western, culture. Whether it be the schools, psychologists, our  doctors, the media, political events, sports, Hollywood, etc.; I see  all the institutions of our nation promoting having high self esteem. In every institution, no matter from whom or where it  appears as if there is a unanimous consensus that humans need  to have high self-esteem in order to be healthy and productive  and overall happy. On the flipside, low self-esteem is diagnosed  as something bad, usually connected to obnoxious behaviors or  depression. In order to combat feelings of worthlessness we as a  people promote various uplifting programs that generate within us  knowledge that we can do things. 

This self-esteem boosting mentality that has spread  throughout every part of our American life naturally is uplifting and  ego boosting. We are taught to love our selves, to be comfortable  in our skins, and learn to accept who we are. Likewise we also  generate a culture of acceptance where as a society to compel  each other to accept the other so as to continually foster a sense  of heightened worth. We observe our glories and focus on our  achievements, while also attempting to make all feel glorious. In  an attempt to equally boost self-esteem participation awards are 

provided to all. Winning became offensive for that would imply a  loser. To prevent self-loathing, we are encouraged to project our  sins on to others; it’s not my fault but their fault. Self-improvement  also ceases to be acceptable for that implies that there is  something that needs to be improved. And then sin in of itself is  abolished for in an effort to protect the fragile minds of the  uplifting culture no one can do wrong. 

Where did we go wrong? All we intended to do was to  prevent people from feeling sad about themselves; to encourage  them. Yet in the end all we truly did was create a culture of pride;  

Pride, the deadliest of all the sins. You’ve heard of the seven  deadly sins, well according to such the worst is pride, for the root  of all sin comes from pride. In fact all sin stems from the first sin  committed which was committed out of pride. And today, call it  what you want – pride, vane-glory, forced acceptance, self-love,  ego boosting, high self-esteem – all of it has become a huge thorn  in the side of the Church. 

To elaborate on what I mean, just look up “low self-esteem.”  Everything that pops up, short of an explanation, will be means of  identifying and then combating against having low self-esteem.  The general culture views have low self-esteem as a bad thing.  What if they are all wrong? 

Is it at any point acceptable to have low self-esteem, to say  hate yourself? The answer is obviously yes. So now the question  is when? What if I said always?

There is a very much loved concept that is shared by the  pastors of the NALC. It goes as such: I do not have self-esteem, I  don’t just have low self-esteem but zero self-esteem; instead I  have complete esteem in God. Basically, I acknowledge that I am  a poor-wretched fallen human who deserves to go to Hell for woe  is me, but blessings upon blessings to God who saved me from  myself and generates within me good fruit. If any good things  come out of you they came first and only from God, and without  God all that come out of you is evil. That is why the most biblically  correct desirable state of mind is to have zero self-esteem in our  own fallen human abilities but place our faith completely in God. 

So by now you may have noticed that I’m not a big fan of this  culture of vanity we live in. In fact if you’ve been paying attention  to my sermons and lessons for the past two years you may have  realized I intentionally use self-degrading terms to define my own  mean estate as a fallen human being as well as all of humanity.  Words I intentionally use to describe us include rags, worthless  worms, wicked, evil, etc. This is to highlight the fact that we are  sinners and if it wasn’t for the unconditional sacrifice of our Lord  and Savior on that dreaded tree then our just reward, each and  every one of us, would have been Hell. The only reason why we  are going to Heaven is because of Christ, and on no account of  anything we have done. There is nothing in ourselves we should  be proud in, but everything in Christ. 

As to our culture of vanity, something interesting, if you were  to read Solomon’s book in the Old Testament called,  “Ecclesiastes,” you would realize that the entirety of Solomon’s  book is about proclaiming that all is vanity. And he is very 

emphatic about his proclamation, so emphatic that the totality of  the book is to explain why he, the wisest of humans, knows all  that we fallen humans do is done in vain. So considering the  times Solomon lived in compared to today and our culture’s  outright insistence on demolishing low self-esteem, I would dare  say that Solomon would consider our generation as the most vain  of all vain generations. So if you get the chance, read  Ecclesiastes, it’s a surprisingly humorous read, for Solomon  doesn’t mince words, and nothing escapes his ire.  

I understand if this whole countercultural biblically centric  concept of zero self-esteem might sound strange at best or  horrifying at worst. But I tell you it is truly the best approach, for in  the end it exposes the truth of our sinfulness while also proving  hope in he who is the source of all that is good. The intent is to  avoid self-worship, and then shift our focus away from trying to  make ourselves feel better through our own powers, which is like  trying to clean with a dirty bacteria infested rag, but to place our  eyes first on the Kingdom of God. 

Our second reading really hits home this approach when it  says, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing,  he deceives himself.” We are nothing. According to our own  human powers, we are all nothing. Therefore the appropriate  amount of self-esteem for us who are nothing is zero, and if you  were to think you are something then you are deceiving yourself.  But then it says, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of  our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do not boast in yourself, but instead boast  in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do not place esteem in 

yourself, but instead place esteem in the cross of our Lord Jesus  Christ. 

Other context we can use includes say our prayer of the day  which reads, “peace comes from you alone.” In other words  peace never comes from us humans ; we can never accomplish  peace, but Christ alone can. Other context, our Gospel which  reads, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are  subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  In other words, do rejoice in yourself but God. 

And still more context to support why we should have zero  self-esteem in ourselves, to those who falsely claim that the Bible  doesn’t command us to hate ourselves here are a few: 

John 12:25, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his  life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” 

Luke 14: 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own  father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters,  yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” 

Luke 9: 25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and  take up his cross daily and follow me.” 

Here is the thing; nothing in the Bible is ego boosting ever  suggested. In fact whenever self-love is mentioned in the Bible it  is mentioned as a something that comes from the fallen human  condition, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes  and cherishes it” Ephesians 5:29. Self-love is the default state for  sinners, and not a good default state, according to 2 Timothy 3:1-

2, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times  of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money,  proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,  unholy.” Self-love and unholy are listed in the same category. So  what do we do? 

Instead of being selfish and encouraging such, instead of  loving the self, we should turn outwardly, be selfless, and lovers  of God first. 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those  who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for  their sake died and was raised.” That is what we do, turn away  from ourselves and instead turn toward God loving Him with all  our heart, soul, mind, and body. We are to love Him with every  fiber of our being and then and only then through such divine love  we in humility count others more significant than ourselves,  Philippians 2:3. 

Basically, in the end don’t boast about yourself or become  charmed by the vanity inducing culture of self-love, but instead in  all that is good boast God above who is the source alone. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, fill each of us with a spirit of humility,  to understand the extent of our fallen condition, and in a manner  that is never satisfied, turn towards you who washes us of our  wickedness, fills us with all that is good, and satisfies our aching  hearts. In your holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Zechariah 12: 7-10

Psalm 63: 1-8

Galatians 3: 23-29

Luke 9: 18-24

 

“Who Do You Say I Am?”

 

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

 

Who is Jesus? No honestly, who is Jesus? When I say this the answer for us may appear simple:

 

Well he is God, one of the three persons. But what does that mean to you. What is Jesus to you?

 

Well he is God made flesh who walked with us. Yes, but what does that mean, why is that so important for you?

 

He is Christ, the Messiah who came and saved. Do you know what you mean? Please elaborate, what does that mean?

 

When Jesus came he asked us a simple question, “Who am I to you?” Many knew of his great works, others his great teachings. Most were confused as to who he was for all they knew was from word of mouth. The gossip of this man from Nazareth was extraordinaire as word spread fast of this man, though most said gossip became entangled with other news and malformed and branched into odd directions. And to those who caught a glimmer of Jesus, who witnessed him, or those who were well learned in the Torah enough to weight the news with scriptural prophecies, even they didn’t have a grasp on who Jesus really was; though their guesses and estimations were not far from the mark.

 

When asked, the disciples reported back to Jesus the opinions of the crowds. One guess was that Jesus must actually be John the Baptist. Many heard of the teachings of John, though if they actually listened to John they would have known that John’s sole purpose was to prepare Israel for the coming of the Lord. Like Jesus, John was bold, willing to call out the evils of the age, and give directions to how to live in preparation; so there is a similarity. But if they were aware of the interaction between Jesus and John then they would have concluded that the two are not the same. It’s interesting that some mistook Jesus to be John, an understandable case of mistaken identity, but it is even more interesting that some in the crowds suggested that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets of old risen.

 

The people who claimed that Jesus must be one of the prophets of old, though wrong, are much closer to the mark. They haven’t equated Jesus with the long awaited Messiah, Christ-figure, but they went with the next best human example and that is one of the great prophets who are no longer with us. God must have summoned one of his greatest servants and placed him back on the earth to preach the Word of God, to lead his people, and to conduct miracles in the name of God. All of which the prophets of old and Jesus alike did. Elijah of all prophets is even closer to the mark because Elijah did not go to Sheol, or to death, but was carried to heaven.

 

The guesses provided by the crowds are all good guesses, but they are just that, guesses. There is neither assurance nor conviction in their proclamation, just attempts to rationalize the events orchestrated by Jesus.

 

When I ask those today about Jesus, I get similar results, that is attempts to rationalize Jesus without any real conviction to their beliefs. Some say he is a great man, even the greatest. Others say he is a teacher who pointed to us how to live our lives. Still others claim he is a revolutionary who turned the world over on its head. These are all true answers, but lack severe luster for they completely avoid the core aspect of who Jesus truly is. And this is something we face in the world we live in, where at a growing rate people are leaving the faith or are being swallowed up by the narcissistic secular culture.

 

To those who say Jesus is a myth, they are just fuming gas out their mouth as nonsense, which they know is not true, gurgles out of their hardened hearts. But most who know not the reality of Jesus, are at least aware of Jesus. There is no way a rational person can claim there wasn’t a man of Nazareth named Jesus who was the son of a carpenter, caused trouble in Israel and at the hand of Pilate was crucified. This much can be found in the preserved Roman records. So obviously Jesus existed. On top of that, most are aware of the Bible and several teachings found in the Bible. So it’s not like there are large groups of people out there who are isolated from the writings of the Gospel.

 

The problem is this, most the people we interact with who can’t respond like Peter, know of Jesus and some of his teachings; they just have not made the leap yet. So as Disciples of Jesus who can proclaim Jesus is Christ, for the sake of these littles ones who need a push, how will you respond when asked, “Who is Jesus?”

 

To me, he is my Savior, my redeemer, my God who loved me so much he was willing to die for my sake. Jesus Christ cared for my life so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own. He loved me so much that despite my poor wretched self, despite the filthy rages I am which deserve to go to Hell, he who is innocent took on my sins and went to Hell in my place, becoming a scapegoat for me. I do not deserve Heaven, but He opened the gates to eternal life for me anyways, asking that I need is to trust him. He did this for me, and he did this also for you.

 

Who is Jesus? He is my Lord and King who made himself lower than me, a worthless worm; a prince who became a servant for all so that all through him will be raised as brothers and sisters of the Son most High.

 

Who is Jesus? He is the one whom humanity hated, who was rejected by his own country, leaders, friends. He suffered and bled at the hands of his own countrymen and religious elders. He was persecuted, ridiculed, spat on, mocked, beaten, falsely accused, murdered. He is the innocent sacrificial Lamb, who pitied most of all his adversaries, becoming the atoning sacrifice for the very people who rejected him. Jesus is my God, so selfless that he meekly took on all our animosity as he willingly walked to his own death all for the sake of saving humanity from itself.

I do not deserve his mercy nor his grace. Nothing I have done in my life has made me deserving of his many blessings. In fact I was conceived a sinner, who at the point of conception was already a slave to Satan, lost, and confused. Jesus freed me from my decrepit state. His blood washed me not only of my sins, but also dismantled the chains that leashed me to hell’s fury. Satan owned me at birth, but Jesus claimed me in baptism as his brother. In Satan I was dead, nothing but a sinner, a prisoner. In Christ I am truly alive, sanctified not by my own works but through Christ alone, and a freeman. Jesus saved me from my tyrannical jailer, and on no part of my own did he do this, but simply out of love for me despite who I am. In this, Jesus is not only my savior, my salvation, but is also my life, my wisdom, my might, my protection, my shelter, my fortress.

 

Whereas the walls of Satan served as jail walls, meant to keep us in, preventing us hostages from escaping his tyranny – the walls of Jesus Christ serve as our mighty fortress, keeping all the hellish attacks of the Devil at bay, protecting us freemen who have the liberty to abandon the shelter of the Lord. If not for the protection of the Lord, if ever we were to rise up against the Devil we would surely be decimated. But God is not our mere fortress, he is also the champion, Christ Jesus mighty Lord, who alone stands in fronts of us and fights on our behalf.

 

There is so much packed in the potential answers we can provide to the question of who Jesus is. And if given the opportunity we should use such to express our love and praise to he who saved us. Being able to elaborate on who you know Jesus is serves not only as a means of apologetics, defending your faith, but also as a means of evangelism. When you speak about the truth of who Jesus is, and with much liberty, then the Holy Spirit may use this as an opportunity to bring faith into the hearts of your listeners. It does not matter if they come to you with ill intent or genuine curiosity, if given the floor you must always be at the ready to be able to explain your faith, and to do so with the knowledge and trust that the Holy Spirit is indeed speaking through you. Do not hinder the Spirit, but allow it to use you as a vessel so that the love of God and his Word supreme flows out of you like a gushing geyser. Let your love and hope and faith in God shine true, so that others who come to you with questions may see the joy that is in you and be overtaken by the Holy Spirit.

 

So I ask again, “Who do you say is Jesus?”

 

Let us pray,

 

Dear Heavenly Father, you sent us your Son for the forgiveness of all our sins and to bring us to life eternal. You also sent us your Holy Spirit so that through him we may have faith in Christ. As we go about our lives grant us the wisdom and boldness to preach all that your Son and Spirit has done for us. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible Verse of the Day

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