Eighth Sunday After Trinity, July 21, 2024

Christians have certainly suffered the presence of wolves within the sheepfold. The sheep of the Lord, given over as they are to loving trust, prove easy prey to the predators who come to live among them. Later in his ministry, Jesus tells his disciples that it is his intent to send them out among the wolves. The threat is doubled: wolves will be amid the sheep and the sheep will be amid of the wolves. Jesus provides them with a strategy: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16).

To provide his sheep with a sorting mechanism, Jesus delivers a means of recognizing wolves even though they are disguised in sheep’s clothing: examine their fruits (Mt. 7:16). The healthy tree—that is, the sheep—bears good fruit. The unhealthy tree—that is, those well-disguised wolves—must bear bad fruit. “Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits” (Mt. 7:20). Well-disguised wolves, though, mimic the good fruit of the good tree. The time may be long, then, for the wolves to dwell among the sheep. Eventually, the wolves’ fruit will be exposed as bad fruit, and their tree will be felled and burned.

Well-disguised wolves prolong their time among the sheep by donning the sheep’s clothing, adorning themselves with works and virtues. The outward expression of works and virtues provides no guarantee for discerning wolves from sheep. An unseen inward affection for those works and virtues must accompany them. Without the new affections of the heart present in the sheep of the Lord, the works and the virtues are false fruit, disguising the wolves beneath the clothing of the sheep. Only God knows their hearts. Only God knows the clean heart. Only God knows the good tree. The sheep must be told first that they are sinners, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Repentance must follow. The clean heart with its new affections produces good fruit. It produces good fruit until it begins to trust itself… to look to itself and its works rather than the Word of God for faith. Then it must be exposed as the ravenous heart of the wolf and in need of repentance once again.

Table Talk: How do repentance and faith discern between sheep and wolves?

Pray: Father, repent me unto faith that I would be revealed as a wolfish sinner and yet as sheep of my Lord’s own fold. Amen

Matthew 7:15–23

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? 23 And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

Seventh Sunday After Trinity, July 14, 2024

Satisfaction… Satisfaction and contentment… satisfaction and contentment mark relief from two conditions:  anxiety and covetousness.  Jesus admonishes that we should not let our hearts be anxious (Jn. 14:1). Likewise, he cautions us against worry (Mt. 6:25) which is just a more emotional form of anxiety.  Both worry and anxiety present as symptoms of being in want… as symptoms of being in lack.  Coveting, as the commandment would have it (Dt. 5:21), is the desire—whether from greed or sexuality—to possess something which you don’t have but another does.  Satisfaction and contentment eliminate desire and fulfill any lack.  They are qualities of the New Creation… qualities of eschatological completion (cf. Is. 55:1-5 or Rev. 21:1-4).  The psalmist portrays them as the good things of this creaturely life provided by the Lord’s opened hand (Ps. 104:27-30).

Satisfaction and contentment result from the work and presence of Jesus Christ.  In our text for the day, Jesus satisfies the people’s hunger directly with a miraculous blessing of abundance in the loaves and fishes.  Jesus himself has his compassion (Mk. 8:2) satisfied for the people are fed.  The Apostle Paul himself, speaking out of his life in Christ and of Christ’s life in him, declares, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phi. 4:11).  Satisfaction and contentment cannot co-exist with coveting and anxiety.  Desire and lack cannot be present when Christ is your life, and your life is Christ.

Of course, we still live in the flesh, that is our reality in this sin-broken and passing away creation.  Our life in Christ and Christ’s life in us is also our reality as we in live in faith… faith that the New Creation is already present to us (2 Cor. 5:17).  While in the flesh, we covet and want.  In faith, however, coveting is stilled (Ps. 46:10) and want is filled.  In faith, we are satisfied and content.  In Christ, we lack nothing nor covet anything.  Thanks be to God!

Table Talk:  Discuss times your anxiety and covetousness have been stilled and filled by faith in Christ.

Pray: Heavenly Father, grant me Christ’s stilling and filling so that I do not covet or worry.  Amen

Mark 8:1–9

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away. 4 And his disciples answered him, How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves do you have? They said, Seven. 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

Sixth Sunday After Trinity, July 7, 2024

In delivering what has come to be called The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus delivers the Law as absolute. He has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (vs. 17). In Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law, he formulates it in such a way as to eliminate the mere outward performance of its statutes and drive the keeping of the Law all the way into the human heart. Jesus makes fulfilling the Law a matter of the heart’s affections—that is, you must want… desire… love… to fulfill the Law (vs. 22). Fulfilling the Law for your own sake out of fear for punishment or for the coveting of reward is simply not good enough (cf. Job 1:9-10). An outward keeping of the Law may be sufficient for establishing order in the community, but the Law cannot deliver mercy. As Jesus indicates, “Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (vs. 26), justice demands that the entire requirements of the law be met (Ja. 2:10).

The demands of the commandments must not be relaxed (vs. 19). Systems of justice… institutions of the Law… do not deliver mercy. We sinners are prone to mistake the relaxation of the Law’s demands for mercy. A charge of murder will be reduced to manslaughter… a charge of armed robbery will be reduced to illegal possession of a firearm… a charge, obvious and egregious, will not be brought by a prosecutor… these are simply relaxations and manipulations of the Law accomplished under the guise of mercy. Eventually, such relaxations and manipulations of the Law result in sinners considering the Law disrespectfully… considering the Law as some sort of tool of their own… considering their manipulation of the Law as the deliverance of mercy.

And just so, the Gospel is lost. The Gospel does not manipulate the Law’s demands. It does not let sinners “off the hook.” It does not tolerate sin but instead names the sin and its wages: death (Ro. 6:23). Sinners must pay the last penny which means they will die under the Law’s condemnation. The Gospel, however, delivers the free gift of God which is true mercy. Even though sinners die beneath the judgment of the Law, nonetheless they shall live (Jn. 11:25): the mercy of the Gospel.

Table Talk: Discuss examples or experiences of relaxing the Law.
Pray: Father, grant me to know the Gospel as true mercy. Amen

Matt. 5:(17– 19) 20–26

(17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.)

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Fifth Sunday After Trinity, June 30, 2024

Jesus has acquired quite a following (Lk. 5:1). He has received baptism by John in the Jordan (Lk. 3:21). He has endured the wilderness and the temptations of Satan (Lk. 4:1-2). He has taught in the synagogues of Galilee and has been glorified by his hearers (Lk. 4:14-15). He has preached the Word of God in Nazareth and received the first attempt on his life (Lk. 4:16-30). He has taught in the synagogue in Capernaum (Lk. 4:31), healed the man with an unclean spirit (Lk. 4:34), visited Simon’s house (Lk. 4:38) and healed his mother-in-law (Lk. 4:39). Jesus has acquired quite a reputation as a preacher of the Word of God, a teacher of the Word of God, and a healer of God’s people (Lk. 4:43-44). All this he has done before this occasion at the lakeshore.

There, on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, Jesus calls Simon and the other fishermen. Jesus speaks no “Follow me.” Instead, Jesus provides an acted-out example of the call to follow him. The fishermen have beached their boats and are now tending their equipment after a disappointing night of taking nothing. Jesus speaks to that situation, telling Simon to take the boat to deeper water and let down the nets. Simon protests but acquiesces. Immediately, the nets are filled with fish. This unusual and totally unexpected catch astonished all the fishermen and prompted repentance from Simon (vs. 8). Into the fishermen’s astonishment and Simon’s repentance, Jesus speaks. He speaks the biblical greeting when the divine confronts human beings, “Do not be afraid.” And then, Jesus speaks the words making this incident an acted-out example: “From now on you will be catching men” (vs. 10). And, when the boats had returned to land, “They left everything and followed him” (vs. 11).

The crowd had come to hear the word of God. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, had come to the lakeshore. At that lakeshore, God’s Word confronted the fishermen with such impact that they abandoned fish, boats, nets… everything. Their old life as fishers after a scaly catch had ended. Their new lives as fishers of men just begun.

Table Talk: Discuss the impact of this reading on your discipleship.
Pray: Father, grant me to leave the old behind as the new begins. Amen

Luke 5:1–11

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Fourth Sunday After Trinity, June 23, 2024

Jesus addresses mercy, justice, and hypocrisy. With words that mimic the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Jesus admonishes the people to be merciful (vs. 36).  To our ears, this mercy contrasts with the justice promised in verses 37-38.  In contrast to mercy which gives you what you don’t deserve, justice gives you what you do deserve.  Justice is all about getting what you deserve and deserving what you get.  Not judging earns no judgment for you.  Not condemning earns you no condemnation.  Forgiving deserves being forgiven.  Generosity in giving deserves receiving generously.  Then, in the parable (vs. 38-42), Jesus takes up hypocrisy.  For Jesus, hypocrisy is calling your brother a sinner when you yourself are an even bigger sinner.  Hypocrisy is as futile as the blind leading the blind.

Mercy… justice… hypocrisy… Being merciful stands over these verses, a rubric for our understanding.  To be merciful like the Father hears the admonition to justice with ears that are not of this world.  Rather, they are ears that belong to the New Creation… ears that are of the Kingdom of God.  Such ears know that justice in this old, sin-broken creation is never about deserving.  Instead, justice is what those in power over you mete out to you and what you mete out to those over whom you have power.  Ears that heed the rubric of mercy hear Jesus’ admonition to justice as the delivery of mercy.  In the Kingdom of God, justice is not about deserving.  Those who deserve judgment are not judged.  Those who deserve condemnation receive no condemnation.  The unforgiveable are forgiven while the miserly receive generously.

Jesus’words regarding hypocrisy ensure that this means you!  You are the one wanting to visit justice, a sinful justice, upon your brother… upon your neighbor.  You are the sinner distorting what the brother or neighbor deserve so as to excuse yourself.  You are the one needing ears to hear… ears to hear that rubric of mercy, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful!”  Judgment, condemnation, the lack of forgiveness, and miserliness do not belong to the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

Table Talk:  Discuss the interplay of mercy, justice, and hypocrisy.
Pray:  Heavenly Father deliver me into your kingdom of mercy.  Amen

Luke 15:1–10

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.

3 So he told them this parable: 4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost. 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Third Sunday After Trinity, June 16, 2024

Jesus uses these parables to deliver us into a profound truth:  to be found is a passive event. The seeker is the active subject of the sentence; the lost is the passive object of the sentence. The seeker finds while the lost is found. Popular psychology aside, no one “finds” themselves, even if that “found” self is some sort of authentic self.” The condition of being found is always imposed upon the lost by an outside actor… the one who accomplishes the finding. This is the truth revealed by repentance: no one finds themselves… the lost do not become the found on their own… a finder is necessary.

When the finding is accomplished, just look at the result: the finder rejoices… heaven rejoices… the whole neighborhood rejoices… even the angels celebrate. When Jesus calls out the ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (vs. 7), he calls out a fiction. In this old, passing away creation (the one in which Jesus was standing and you and I are now standing), there are no righteous people except in their own imaginations. Everyone needs repentance. Jesus preached it (Mk. 1:15), Paul preached it (Ro. 2:4). Peter preached it (2 Pe. 3:9). John preached it (Rev. 2:16). Your preacher preaches it, not merely repentance once but repentance time and time again. Repentance recognizes that you are a lost and condemned sinner who cannot find yourself but have now been found by the Good Shepherd, the one shepherd who matters.

We have often sung together: “… I once was lost but now am found…” The being found is always an act of God’s grace which reveals the sinner as being lost… dead in the grip of their sin ((Ro. 6:11), but in being found are now alive in the life of Christ (Ro. 6:11). God’s Word is actively seeking you out today. As it is poured in your ears, the Holy Spirit goes to work repenting you and possessing you with a faith that will not leave you in your lost condition. You are found. Heaven rejoices.  The angels celebrate. Your neighbors are full of joy. You are the sinner repented.

Luke 15:1–10

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.

3 So he told them this parable: 4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost. 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Second Sunday After Trinity, June 9, 2024

The man… the master of the house… the man with means enough to throw a banquet with the expectation that many would attend… the man sent out his servant to announce, “It’s ready! Come now, eat and feast!” (Is. 55:1). Rather than the expected rejoicing and celebration that the banquet was at hand, the servant heard only excuses. Those invited had good reasons for not accepting the invitation: each had a duty to do (cf. Lk 10:29-37). One had to steward the land; one had an investment to secure; another had marital duties. Their excuses justified their rejection of the banquet.

Excuses. We’ve all used them. Excuses provide good and acceptable reasons for certain behaviors or attitudes on our part… reasons that justify us before the court of public (or private) opinion… reasons that maintain our righteousness in the given situation. Excuses. We’ve all used them. Excuses explain and give context to our sins. The adulterer says, “We didn’t mean for it to happen. We just fell in love.” The murderer says, “I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t mean to kill him; it was an accident.” The one guilty of coveting asks, “Why should my neighbor have such beauty and not me?”

If you listen closely, you can hear people make excuses for their sin rather than make confession of their sin. Perhaps you’ve even done it yourself. An excuse, however, is not a confession; it is, rather, a justification. These justifications deny your justification by faith. To be justified by faith means the end of excuses… the end of justifying yourself… the end of using your so-called duty (even religious duty—cf. Lk 10:31-32) to excuse your absenting yourself from the master’s banquet.

The master depicted in this parable is a thinly veiled stand in for the Lord himself. The banquet being thrown is the Lamb’s High Feast. You have no excuse to refuse the invitation. The Lord has already justified you. Trust him! Believe him! He does not lie! The Lord… the Master of All… will have a full house… every seat at the Table will be filled (Lk 14:23). What’s your excuse for not attending?

Table Talk: Discuss those times you’ve excused your sin rather than confessed your sin.

Pray: Heavenly Father, lead me to confess my sin instead of making excuses for it. Amen

Luke 14:15–24

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! 16 But he said to him, A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, Come, for everything is now ready. 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame. 22 And the servant said, Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. 23 And the master said to the servant, Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.

First Sunday After Trinity, June 2, 2024

Here Jesus tells a story bringing to life the reality of his mother Mary’s proclamation in what has become known as The Magnificat (Lk. 1:46-55). In her song, Mary declares the greatness of the Lord. That greatness is exemplified by the reversals which the Lord brings about: the mighty are cast down, the lowly are uplifted; the hungry are filled, the but the rich are sent away empty (Lk. 1:52-53). The telling of the story with its careful choice of details reflects more on Jesus’ agenda rather than an accurate depiction of the afterlife.

The narrative is carefully constructed to emphasize the reversals taking place between the two characters, Lazarus and the Rich Man. The Rich Man, who dined so sumptuously at his table without giving a thought to the crumbs that fell from it, contrasts with Lazarus, who received comfort from the dogs and who desired like a dog to eat the crumbs that fell from the Rich Man’s table (Mt. 15:37). But after death the Rich Man received torment in Hades while Lazarus received comfort at Abraham’s side. In this life, the Rich Man had a mansion on an estate while Lazarus possessed only a space at the estate’s gate, but in the afterlife, Lazarus had blessed rest in the company of his father Abraham while the Rich Man suffered without rest or blessedness. While in the world, the Rich Man had no awareness of Lazarus or his condition but after this world, the Rich Man was acutely aware of Lazarus and his circumstances.

Abraham is harsh in his refusal of the Rich Man’s plea (vs. 25) … even harsher in his rebuttal of the request to send a messenger (vs. 29) … and even harsher still in his rejection of those who do not hear Moses and Prophets (vs. 31). But God has one more reversal in mind. The rest of this story is completed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Jesus and his Gospel… this Jesus and the Holy Spirit that he sends… this Jesus who even welcomes tax collectors and sinners and eats with them… this Jesus turns the Lazarus and the Rich Man tale into an account of God’s mercy as well as his judgment.

Table Talk: Discuss the Gospel’s freedom vs. strict accountability under the Law.

Pray: Father, give me Jesus’ word not Abraham’s. Amen

Luke 16:19-31

19 There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. 27 And he said, Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 He said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2024

In his polemics, Luther delighted in ridiculing the church as it was represented by the papal party.  Those folks practiced the way of the pilgrim—the “via”—along which the pilgrim traveled as “viator.”  The viator progressed along the way through spiritual exercises, pious practices, and works of charity.  All accomplished toward the end of obtaining the “beatific vision”—that is, a glimpse of God majestically ensconced in heaven.  In his ridicule, Luther depicted this church of the papal party as a well-dressed woman hanging in the sky with her head stuck in heaven while her legs and nether regions flopped and flailed around beneath her skirts—not a very attractive depiction.  The papal party’s church tried, by their own reason and strength to walk the way of the pilgrim… to travel the via as a viator… to obtain the beatific vision as a result of its work.  Jesus’ words to Nicodemus deny this possibility to the church: “No one has ascended into heaven…” (vs. 13).  Only the Son of Man who came down from heaven to be our Savior… our salvation… and our Lord… only Jesus Christ ascends into heaven.  The church, the body of Christ, remains fully in this creation, feet planted firmly on the ground, not flopping and flailing like the woman of Luther’s ridicule.

To be sure, we do indeed have a heavenly presence… a life beyond the eschaton… and we have that life now by faith.  The Apostle Paul assures us, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears in glory then your life too will appear in glory” (Col. 3:3-4).  That life of yours hidden away in God on the other side of the eschaton is established at your baptism.  You have no way to walk… no pious practices to accomplish… no works of charity to perform… nothing of your own reason or strength will get you there.  Only being born anew in baptism… only being born of water and the Word through which the Holy Spirit works… only by such birth is your eternal life on the other side of the eschaton realized and your mortal life in this creation established.

Table Talk:  Discuss the import of having an eternal life already realized versus the future possibility of having one. 

Pray:  Heavenly Father, establish both my eternal life and my life in this world.  Amen

John 3:1-15 (16-17)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him. 3 Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus said to him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered him, Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

(16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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.)

The Day of Pentecost, May 19, 2024

What can we say about heaven?  Is it a physical location far and away above us according to the words, “and they looked up to the heavens?”  Is it a place of thought or of hope?  Or, perhaps, we can say that heaven is where God dwells… that place where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit abide.  If such be the case, then, by your loving God, heaven is yours.  Jesus has promised it: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (vs. 25).  Wherever God dwells, there is heaven.  In the love of Jesus, you have heaven.

This word “dwells” or “abides” or “makes his home with” is popular with John.  The Greek word “meno” and its various forms occur sixty-eight times in the writings of John; forty times in his gospel itself.  This compares to only 118 uses of the word in the entire New Testament, with twelve of those uses being in the three synoptic gospels.  As the evangelist John uses this word, it brings with it a sense of permanence and longevity.  “To abide” is to stand fast despite all life’s changing circumstances.  So, as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit come to abide with you in the love of Jesus, their presence (the very presence of the Triune God) holds constant; it is steadfast.  Their presence is not only the presence of heaven (God dwelling with you) but it is also the immovable and unchangeable rock—the Rock of your Salvation (Ps. 89:26 & others).

If you have ever sung the hymn “Abide with Me,” the lyrics are full of references to the impermanence of human life and circumstances while the presence of the Lord stands permanent and steadfast.  Lyrics such as, “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.” Or, perhaps, “Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me.”  In the love of Jesus, you have heaven and your abiding Lord.

John 14:23-31

23 Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.