The Second Sunday in Advent A – December 4, 2022

Jesse was the father of King David and so stands as the founder, the root, of David’s lineage. From David’s lineage would come Jesus Christ, often bearing the title Son of David (Mt. 1:1 et al). The prophet Isaiah spoke to a mere remnant of the nation of Judah. The Babylonians had conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, dispersed her people, and carried many into exile. The lineage of David, and thus, Jesse, was but a remnant… a mere stump of the former root. Yet, Isaiah brings a word from the Lord, a word of promise and hope. The stump is not dead; it will bring forth a shoot that will grow into a branch and that branch will bear fruit. Jesus Christ is that fruitful branch.

Jesus Christ bears fruit because the “Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (vs. 2) and delivers unto him wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, a fear that shall be his delight. In a later chapter, Isaiah announces that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed this appointed one to be a preacher bringing good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, freeing those bound in prison, announcing the year of the Lord’s favor (Is. 61:1-2). Jesus would later claim the fulfillment of these verses for himself during his preaching in Nazareth (Lk. 4:16-20).

Isaiah delivers a depiction of what the fruitfulness of this branch from Jesse will be (vs. 6-9). All these images of carnivores resting among herbivores… of predators laying down amongst their prey… of children safe amid venomous serpents… all of these could be found in the Edenic Paradise where there was no eating of meat (that didn’t take place until after the Flood). In Eden, as in the fruitfulness of the branch of Jesse, animals were of no danger to each other or to humanity. Peace reigns eternal. In that day, the root of Jesse, Jesus Christ, shall stand as a banner… a signal… a rallying point… literally “something lifted up…” for Jesus, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has promised, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself” (Jn. 12:32).

Table Talk: Discuss the similarity between the Edenic Paradise and the New Creation.
Pray: Heavenly Father, hold me in the promise of Isaiah and the promise of Jesus so that I, too, will know that peace. Amen

Isaiah 11:1-10 English Standard Version

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

The First Sunday in Advent A – November 27, 2022

Take note of how verse one depicts Isaiah’s experience: “The word that Isaiah ‘saw’ concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” Isaiah did not have a faith experience with this word. He saw its reality. Isaiah had been taken to that place… an eschatological place… where he did not have to walk by faith but, instead, could walk privileged by sight (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). In this reality of sight, Isaiah was allowed to “see” the equivalent of the apostolic sending Jesus delivered upon his disciples (cf. Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:6-11; John 20:19-23). Jesus sent out those apostles to preach “…repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47).

As is given us in v. 3 (quoted above), Isaiah ‘saw’ the law go forth… Isaiah ‘saw’ the word go forth from Zion and Jerusalem. The Greek words used in the Septuagint to translate “law” and “word” are “nomos” and “logos.” You may already be familiar with the word “logos.” The evangelist John uses it in his gospel in reference to the Word of God, Jesus Christ (cf. Jn. 1:1-18). In those apostolic sendings, Jesus sent witnesses bearing him, the Word of God, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Likewise, the “nomos” went forth from Zion, a synonym for Jerusalem. “Nomos” is commonly used to translate the Hebrew word “Torah” and “Torah” has a very broad range of meaning. It can be taken specifically to refer to the laws of Moses, the first five books of the Hebrew bible, or even the entire content of teaching whether from the Hebrew bible or rabbinical tradition. All these meanings can be handily summed up by the phrase: “the life-giving Word of God.”

You and I have not been granted the gift of sight as Isaiah was in his vision. We must still walk by faith. The Word of God—that life-giving Word of God—has gone forth from Zion and Jerusalem. Preachers bearing witness to Jesus Christ as they preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins have come down to us generation after generation so that we enjoy the peace of God and “walk in the light of the Lord” (vs. 5).

Table Talk: Discuss “walking by faith” vs. “walking by sight.”
Pray: Heavenly Father, as I hear your life-giving Word, Jesus Christ, grant your Holy Spirit to work faith within me. Amen

Isaiah 2:1-5 English Standard Version

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord.

Thanksgiving Day – November 24, 2022

Jesus tells the truth to these seekers. In truth, they only want what they can get from Jesus. They seek him only for their own profit and not for his own sake. Seekers… sinners… you and I, we all come to Jesus with one question, “What have you done for me lately?” None of us come to the Lord for his own sake but only for the benefits received from him. The charge against us is that we are self-seeking profiteers looking to “get something” from God.

Satan leveled this charge against Job when Satan had returned to the heavenly court: “Does Job fear God for no reason?” Satan challenged God to remove his gifts and Job would then curse him (Job 1:9-12 & Job 2:4-6). As the book of Job progresses, Job gets close to refuting Satan’s charge as he relinquishes all God’s benefits and cries out, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15a). Job can’t quite make it. He has to insert a conditional clause at the end of his cry, “Yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15b). Job cannot surrender the one final thing he wants God to give him—that is, his Lord’s legitimation of Job’s self-righteousness. He covets that legitimation. It is his sin and ours.

Jesus exposes the ones who had sought him… exposing them in this same sort of covetousness of the things God provides. First, he reveals their coveting of temporal gifts, like bread to sustain life in this world (vs. 26-27). Then, he reveals their coveting of the bread come down from heaven to sustain an eternal life (vs 33-34), leaving no doubt that self-benefit has been a marketing strategy of religion since antiquity.

Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is the end of religion and the beginning of the life of faith. Religion is all about doing the works of God, as these ones attested (vs. 28). Jesus turns them away from their own doing… from their own works, even if done in God’s name… from their own practice of religious piety. Jesus sets before them God’s work which is simply belief… faith… trust… in the one whom God has sent, Jesus Christ.  He is the end of religion… the end of coveting… the end of hunger… the end of thirst. Thanks be to God!

Table Talk: Discuss loving God for himself without coveting his benefits.
Pray: Heavenly Father, forgive me my coveting of your benefits. Establish me in the faith of Jesus. Bring an end to my coveting. Amen

John 6:25-35 English Standard Version

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Christ the King Sunday – November 20, 2022

Jesus, even in his tortured state, confronts these “Daughters of Jerusalem,” the women responsible for bearing the future of the city, and its children.  Even though Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it (Lk. 13:34), would be the death of him, Jesus prophesies to these women.  Jesus’ sorrow and pain at the death inflicted upon him cannot prevent the pain, sorrow, and death awaiting these women and their children which would be a magnitude greater.  He speaks of an event so tragic that barrenness would be blest, and fruitfulness cursed… so tragic that the ancient prayer would be invoked, “Mountains, fall on us; hills, cover us” (Hos. 10:8).

That ancient prayer to mountains and hills covered two circumstances, both involving idolatry.  The one circumstance represented the catching out of the people as they broke the covenant which the Lord had established with them as they entered the promised land.  The people are promised that, if they become “corrupt, make idols, or do evil things” (Dt. 4:25), then Moses would invoke the witness of both heaven and earth against the people (Dt. 4:26).  Their judgment would be swift and certain… they would be scattered.

The other circumstance arises when the prophet Hosea brings the Lord’s judgment upon Israel because it has erected altars to foreign gods upon the high places of Israel for their worship.  Those “high places” will be destroyed, chaos shall overtake them, and the people will “cry out to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’” (Hos. 10:8).

These Daughters of Jerusalem have yet to recognize their complicity in the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Creation.  They may or may not have been among the crowds shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” but they—like you, me, and all humanity—put Jesus on the cross, giving him his only throne in this sin-broken world.

Table Talk:  Discuss Jesus the King enthroned on a cross.
Pray:  Father, make this crucified king, you Son Jesus, be my Lord.  Amen

Luke 23:27-43 English Standard Version

27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost – November 13, 2022

Stones… Stones frequently provide illustrations or metaphors for biblical characters.  In that ancient culture and location, stones were readily visible and available.  Stone was the desired building material for structures intended to last and endure, like the temple observed here (vs. 5).  The landscape was mostly barren and stones, both small and large, stood exposed.   Here, Jesus speaks of stones which were once organized but, in those days, will be all tumbled about.  John the Baptist speaks of God raising up the children of Abraham from stones as he confronts the hard-hearted Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt. 3:9 & LK. 3:8).  Jesus uses stones in another context, his entry into Jerusalem.  Some of the Pharisees had insisted that he rebuke those shouting his praise, but he answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk. 19:40).

Three different uses of “stones” arise from both Jesus and John the Baptist.  Let’s take up the triumphal entry first.  In the cacophony of the crowd shouting its praises and blessings upon the “one who came in the name of the Lord,” God’s created humanity voices its natural and expected praise of its Lord and creator.  Humanity’s voice also speaks for the rest of creation.  But, if humanity loses its voice, then even voice-less stones will speak up in praise of their creator.

John the Baptist speaks of God’s ability to raise up the children of Abraham “from these stones.”  But the referent to “these stones” is never provided.  We are left to wonder whether these are the stones of the river and its banks… whether these are the stones of the temple, palace, and other enduring structures… whether these are the stony hard hearts of those gathered before John.

Jesus speaks of the temple stones, once piled high and glorious, being tumbled about without one left atop another.  He speaks, perhaps, of a time when the institution of religion has collapsed.  He speaks, perhaps, of a time when all humanity’s great works are thrown down and only one work remains:  the work of the Lord.

Table Talk:  Discuss the usefulness of “stones” as an illustration and metaphor.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, break my stony hard heart so that my works tumble about me, leaving only your work standing.  Amen

Luke 21:5-28 (29-36) English Standard Version

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

All Saints Sunday – November 6, 2022

Jesus speaks to his disciples; the ones he would send out as apostles.  He speaks to them regarding their expectations.  They will be blessed (that is, fruitful) and glad because they will be treated like prophets—persecuted, stoned, and even killed.  Jesus delivers a strange sort of beatitude upon these future apostles.

This text, the common lectionary choice for All Saints Sunday, is received from Matthew and is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Throughout this liturgical year, the lectionary has used the gospel of Luke for most of its gospel texts.  The gospel of Luke provides us with a similar account to the Sermon on the Mount, only in Luke, it’s known as the Sermon on the Plain.   In that Sermon, these apostles-in-waiting receive a beatitude as spoken above (Lk. 6:22); and they receive a “woe” to caution them against receiving praise from the people for that’s what the people provided to the false prophets (Lk. 6:26).

In the Old Testament, there is a distinction between two kinds of prophets.  The distinction is easily encompassed by the designations “a tame prophet” or “a wild prophet.”  Tame prophets were those prophets recruited for service to the king.  In practice, they spoke what the king wanted to hear whether it was the word of the Lord or not.  Wild prophets, on the other hand, were chosen by the Lord for his service.  In practice, they spoke the Word of the Lord whether it was what the king wanted to hear or not.  1 Kings 22 recounts an instance of the King of Israel assembling his 400 prophets who agree with him but there is one prophet, Micaiah, who refuses to prophesy prosperity for the king.

Micaiah joins other wild prophets like Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus who came out of the wilderness.  They came out speaking a Word from the Lord, a Word that held both the palace and temple accountable.  Wild prophets were generally reviled, persecuted, and went to their death in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:33).   On the other hand, tame prophets generally received praise and admiration for they spoke supportively of both the palace and temple (Lk. 6:26).

Table Talk:  Discuss why both temple and palace must have tame prophets.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, give me a wild prophet of preacher that I may hear your truth whether l like it or not.  Amen

Matthew 5:1-12 English Standard Version

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Reformation Sunday – October 30, 2022

Freedom!  It’s not just an American value.  Sure, we have a national holiday dedicated to celebrating freedom.  Independence Day festivities were once ubiquitous across the land.  A famous quote from those days of struggle to free America from the colonial tyranny of England may still ring in citizens’ ears, “Give me liberty or give me death!”  Patrick Henry’s stirring refrain.   Our scriptures, though, were pretty high on freedom and liberty almost two millennia prior to Henry’s dramatic declaration.  The 16th century reformers learned from them.

Jesus Christ, the Son, is the agent of freedom.  He, in his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, vanquishes the trio of bondage that holds the entire human race as its slaves.  The trio of bondage is named by Luther in his Small Catechism as “sin, death, and the power of the devil.”  Sin enslaves us (vs. 34).  The power of this enslaving sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56).  Jesus is the “end of the law for righteousness for all who believe” (Ro. 10:4).  As Jesus ends the law, the power of sin is broken, its enslavement canceled, and freedom granted.  The devil enslaves us through his lies.  The arch-deceiver holds us in bondage to a reality he defines by the illusions and deceptions he and his minions promulgate.  Against those lies and deceits, Jesus sets forth his truth, establishing its veracity by dying on the cross.  In complete vindication of his assertion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (Jn. 14:6), he is raised from the dead.  As we live from the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the devil’s lies and deceptions are exposed for what they are.  We are freed from them.  The third member of the trio, death, goes down to defeat, first in the forgiveness of sin and second in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56).  When sin is forgiven death loses its punishing capacity and no longer binds us.  Likewise, as Jesus goes into the tomb and then arises from it, he defeats death, and his resurrection is the guarantee for our personal resurrection as well.  Regardless of your political situation, caught somewhere between tyranny and liberty, Jesus is your liberator from that trio of bondage—sin, death, and the power of the devil.  He sets you free… free, indeed!

Table Talk:  What do you desire freedom from… or freedom for?
Pray:  Grant me freedom, Father… freedom in Jesus Christ, your word.  Amen

John 8:31-36 English Standard Version

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost C – October 23, 2022

As has often been the case while we have read through the gospel according to St. Luke, this parable treats self-justification.  The parable juxtaposes two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee is the first to pray, standing by himself in the presence of God.  As he prays, he delivers a list of his religious accomplishments.  In that recital of his good works, you can hear that he is very familiar with them.  Almost… almost he sounds like this list is something he recites with frequency… telling himself how good he is, how exalted he is before God, and how much better he is than other men.  Thank God for that?

The tax collector, however, stands far off, careful not to sully the presence of God with his sinful person… careful to keep his eyes averted in shame over his sin (Enoch 13:5) … careful to beat his breast in remorse over his sinfulness.  The tax collector resorts to the only means left to sinners:  to throw oneself on a merciful God.  The tax collector is saying of himself, “I am the sinner.  If there ever was a sinner, I am that one” (cf. Lk. 18:13).  In this Jesus provides an anticipation of the Apostle Paul who declares of himself, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).  Most likely you have sung a hymn and claimed for yourself the title, Chief of Sinners.  The tax collector has no trust in himself… no trust in his own faith… no trust worthy of being rewarded with mercy from his God.  What he does have is his hearing of the Word.  Time and time again, the Old Testament,  read aloud in the synagogue, announces the name of God as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).  The tax collector trusts this Word… he has faith in this Word… his trust and his faith exist entirely outside of himself.  He knows, for the Word of God has told him so, that he cannot trust his heart.  So, he places all his trust… all his faith… in the Word of God which has been preached to him, entered his ears, and (by the work of the Holy Spirit) brought him to faith.  This man… this tax collector went down to his house justified by God, not because he was worthy but because he was nothing in the sight of the Lord and he knew it.

Table Talk:  Discuss how humility itself can become an act of self-justification.
Pray:  Keep me humble, Father.  Hold both my sin and your mercy ever before me.  Amen

Luke 18:9-17 English Standard Version

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost C – October 16, 2022

With this verse concluding the parable, Jesus puts a completely different and unexpected spin on the entire account.  The story itself is quite simple.  The judge, an anonymous figure, represents the totally unrighteous.  He neither “fears God” nor “respects man.”  Plus, his only consideration in providing the widow with justice is that she will finally quit bothering him:  self-interest at its worst.  Jesus then juxtaposes this unrighteous judge with the holy and righteous God who is both his Father and the heavenly father to whom the people pray.  If the unrighteous will provide justice for the persistent supplicant out of self-interest, much more surely (and speedily) will the righteous Father provide justice to those whom he has chosen?

Then, with that concluding question about “finding faith,” Jesus puts a twist on this straightforward parable of reassurance.   Rather than emphasizing the reassurance, Jesus’ question stabs the people right through their hearts.  “Will he find faith on earth” (vs. 8), pierces to the affects and attitudes of those who would be the elect… those who are hearing this parable… those who are his disciples following after him on his way to Jerusalem.   The question brings an accusation against his hearers.  It causes them to rethink whether they can answer this question in the affirmative, especially as it regards themselves.  During the wait for the Son of Man to come in glory, will the elect have faith when that grand and glorious day arrives?

The answer for them, and for us who are the elect of this day and age, cannot be had by self-examination.  Sifting through the affects and attitudes of your heart to find your faithfulness is a losing proposition.  All you will ever find are those virtues and qualities that have yourself as their subject.  Your “I” is inextricably bound to them.  In your search of your heart, you will never get past this “I” to find the Jesus that dwells there.  That faith in Jesus only comes from outside of you.  You can only receive it from the Word and never find it through self-examination.  Listen to your preacher deliver Jesus Christ to you… deliver your election to you.  Jesus Christ comes to you in every sermon.  He comes, creating the very faith for which he seeks.  Receive your faith from the Word of God and not from your heart.

Table Talk:  Discuss why faith comes from an external event.
Pray:  Keep me persistent, Father, in both hearing and praying.  Amen

Luke 18:1-8
English Standard Version

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost C – October 9, 2022

This text, often associated with the readings for the Day of Thanksgiving, puts before its hearers an occasion for pride or an occasion for despair.  Jesus’ question, “Where are the nine?” confronts us with the reality of empty pews.  Sanctuaries should be filled to overflowing with people grateful… eternally grateful… for the salvation Jesus has gifted them.  

Sin is a more desperate disease than leprosy.  Leprosy was one of those dreaded skin diseases that slowly destroyed a person’s life.  Isolation and quarantine were thought to curtail its spread.  Victims, like the ten lepers of our reading, had to separate themselves from family, friends, and livelihood.  As they went around the countryside, they had to announce their presence with shouts of, “Unclean, unclean!”  Sin, even though it is a more deadly disease, does not have to be announced.  It operates very well in secret.  But disclosed or not, it remains one hundred percent fatal.  Everyone dies in their sin.

The sanctuaries of our church buildings, each one having a pulpit for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the only rescue from the death sin works upon us, should stand full.  But they’re not!  Where are the nine?

The question also delivers us into an occasion for pride.  After all, those of us who are in the sanctuary… those of us who hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ… those of us who are rescued from the death sin works upon us… we are the ten percent.  We in the sanctuary, having returned to give thanks, easily take pride in our status as “one in ten.”  Pride elevates us above the ungrateful multitude of that ninety percent remaining out in the world.  From that lofty position, it’s quite natural to speak as did the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” who are such “ungrateful louts” (Lk. 18:11).

Which is more dangerous to our faith?  Is it despair over empty pews and the failure of the institution of church… a doubt that the Word of God retains its authority?  Is it our pride that we are the chosen… the faithful… “the well” as opposed to all those “sin-sick losers” out there?  The fact is both pride and despair are deadly to our faith.  Confess them now and receive the absolution!

Table Talk:  Discuss the great and shameful sins of pride and despair.
Pray:  Guide me, Heavenly Father, as you forgive my pride and despair.  Amen

Luke 17:11-19 English Standard Version

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”