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Today’s Old Testament reading in the Daily Lectionary is Judges 6: 1-14. The narration of Gideon is Judges 6-8, three chapters.  He obviously towers as a judge and warrior. Gideon was a hero, but as he towered he first cowered.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, the angel declared the Lord’s blessing:  “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (6: 12).  This “mighty man of valor” immediately responded, if the Lord is with us, where has He been of late? Where are all His wonderful deeds?   Here Gideon sounds like 21st century man filled with doubt and cynicism, not exactly the major motion picture portrayal of a “mighty man of valor”! After all, the Midianites had conquered and controlled Israel for seven years and oppressed Israel. What could Gideon do?   “And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (vs. 14).   Just as with Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre, the angel is the LORD.  His comment, “go in this might of yours” may be sarcasm.  Gideon makes abundantly clear in the next verses he has no “might”.  He tells the LORD his tribe is the weakest of the 12 tribes of Israel and of his tribe and his family, “…I am the least in my father’s house” (vs. 15).   Gideon asked, “How can I save Israel?” (vs. 15).  The Lord responds, “ “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (vs. 16)  The LORD reiterates the blessing:  I am with you. 

I am with you:  Those 4 English words sum up the Gospel promises, as our Lord’s final words before His ascension, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the ages of ages” (Matthew 28)  In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus, literally, “God saves” is  Emmanuel, God with us.  When the LORD said to Gideon “I am with you”, Jesus Christ was with Gideon.  The LORD has quite a track record of choosing the least, the last and the lost to bring His Word into this world:  David, a shepherd boy, of the least of the cities of Judah, Bethlehem;  Abraham, a pagan idolater;  Moses, a stammering murderer;  Peter, a fisherman;  Paul, a persecutor of the Church…there are more. You. Me. Gideon asked, How can I save Israel?  Gideon had that right:  he could not save Israel, only God can, but men and women of faith in the LORD are part of His salvation as He saved them first, as He did Gideon: I am with you.

Then Gideon asked for a sign (vs. 17) and he asked the LORD to stay put till he brought Him a gift (vs. 18).  The LORD said, “I will stay till your return”. The LORD is steadfast.

In vss. 19-24, Gideon gives his gift and the LORD consumes it in fire. What can we give to the Lord who has given us all things?  The LORD gave His sign and Gideon dries out, “Alas, O LORD God”  And the LORD said to him,“Peace be with you.  Do not fear; you shall not die.”  The LORD is our peace and here for the third time the LORD gives the promise:  I am with you.  Gideon builds at altar at the spot and calls it “The LORD is peace”.  The LORD gives His peace, not as world gives, He gives Himself (John 14:27).  Now Gideon will wage war and destroy altars of demons.  Not peaceful, you say?  But the horror is idolatry and immorality which are not peace at all. The world calls good evil and evil good.  This vain world thinks if we are peaceful, while committing idolatry and immorality, we have peace, but we do not.   And the sword of God’s Word will cut it out, as did Ehud with Eglon, the war of our flesh, the world and the devil.  As Gideon, as Ehud, as Deborah, we are up against overwhelming odds.  Again,before  Gideon towered, he cowered and it was only in the power of the LORD, could Gideon triumph, but it was finally not the triumph of Gideon!  I too would have said just what Gideon said and I have!  We are called not to save the world, but to serve the Savior and hold on to His promise: I am with you, as He held  up Gideon.

 

 

“But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.” Judges 4: 21

Read today’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament reading is the narrative of Deborah, Barak and Sisera:  Judges 4.

Deborah, a prophetess, and a Gentile woman Jael were decisive in beating a foreign power with “900 chariots of iron”, an overwhelming force.  They helped win the victory for idolatrous and once again, repentant Israel.   The Lord promised the Israelite Barak the victory. It took Deborah to coax him into battle with the promise that a woman would carry out the victory.  Barak was like another general, the union one, George Meade, who after winning the battle of Gettysburg should have pursued the Lee and his army and utterly stopped them, per Lincoln’s desire, but Meade did not.   Barak, whose name means “lightening” was anything but quick and decisive, like Meade.  In fact, Barak wanted Deborah to go with him.  Deborah had faith in the Lord at His Word…Barak’s faith seemed to be weak. A woman’s act of winning the battle meant only one thing in that culture:  shame. God’s Word is the strength and honor of both men and women. The glory of Israel was not the strength of their arms but the arm of their strength was the Word of God. 

 Jael lured the fleeing General Sisera into her tent and then drove a stake through his head into the ground:

“God had His way by incorporating the Gentiles into His plan.  The stake of the cross was firmly planted by Christ into the head of our enemy. Boldness in the faith is now the legacy left to us Gentiles.” (Pr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, 9 July meditation) 

The battle lines are becoming clearer every day as our nation and world dissolves into secularism and sectarianism and idolatry.  The Church must stand firm in the faith and firm in the love of our neighbor.  Deborah mostly sat under the palms with God’s Word from which she rendered the wisdom of God’s Word.   A moving cup can not be filled.  We need to be still, and so stilled,   in prayer and meditation to be filled with the Word through the Holy Spirit, as Deborah.  May these narratives from Judges, also God’s Word, fortify us in the Incarnate Word,  Jesus Christ.   

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word, curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the Kingdom from Your Son and bring to nought all he has done. (Hymn by Martin Luther)

“And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.” (Judges 3: 21)

Currently the Daily Lectionary Old Testament readings are from The Book of Judges, the seventh book in the Bible.  

After the conquest of the land in Joshua is the period of the Judges of Israel.  Judges is a cyclic history of idolatry, punishment for it at the hands of a foreign power which conquers the land for a number of years, then Israel’s  prayer for deliverance and the LORD raising up a judge, endowed with the Holy Spirit (see Judges 3:10 ,  Judges 6:34Judges 9:23, etc) to fight and drive off the occupying power.  Then there is peace in the land of promise until the Israelites again worshiped false gods.  The repeating verse in Judges is:

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. (verse 11)

This statement occurs seven times to introduce a new episode in the history of the Judges.

We need to rid our imaginations of the notion of a “judge”, as in a court of law complete with black robes and a gavel, when thinking about the Judges of Israel.  They were wise, in terms of using their quick wits to save the people, such as the two most famous of the Judges, Gideon and Samson.  The Judges were Spirit endowed warriors whose strength was the LORD and His Word.  

Today’s reading from The Book of Judges is Chapter 3:  7-31, the Narration regarding Ehud.  Ehud was the judge and the foreign king was Eglon.  Ehud had a plan to kill the king:

15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber.And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.

 I have enjoyed, yes, enjoyed, teaching this lesson to confirmation classes in my overview of Bible, especially when it’s most boys.  Why?  It’s so gross! Moses is clear in telling us that Ehud’s sword was two-edged.  In the New Testament a two edged sword is featured prominently:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4: 12)

Out of Eglon came “dung”. It is not pretty what comes out of us when we sin.  It’s a load of dung, dead stuff and it stinks.  The two edged sword was an important military weapon because the attacker could up up and down with it  in a person’s abdomen in order to separate joints and marrow, thus making sure the person was killed.  

The LORD’s will in His Word is to slay and kill the Old Adam. The Old Adam is fat with his own lusts and self worship. The Old Adam is spiritually obese.   Iniquity and evil and sin are not nice.  It’s gross. We like to think too nicely of God’s Word.  It is not a pillow but a sword.  His Word is sharp, as in His Word of the Law.   The LORD cuts and kills in order to heal and make alive in His Son Jesus Christ, the Physician who has come for the sick.  After Ehud and his army’s conquest, by first killing Eglon, the Moabite king, and then the Moabites, “…the land had rest for eighty years” (3: 30b).  The LORD drowns us in Baptism to pull us out as His sons and daughters, but the Old Adam is a mighty good swimmer.  We do have rest in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28) but, well, we do some crappy things.   He will kill to draw out the venom as He has done for us all upon the Cross. Here is a prayer petition that the Judge of Israel would know:

 Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” St. Matthew 11: 28

Text:  The Holy Gospel, St. Matthew 11:25–30

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, pastor and bishop, who lived in the 2nd century, whose most noted writing was Against Heresies, wrote: 

“For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised;  while truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.”

The shocking part of that quote is that the truth has “…has been entrusted to children”!  Not to the adults, not to the learned, not to theologians.  This is keeping with our Lord Jesus Christ who prayed to His Father,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.    St.Matthew 11

When it comes to right or wrong, adults like to think in terms of “moral grays”, make things complicated. but a child does not:  it is either right or wrong.  It is that way with the Gospel:   a child gets it. I have done wrong, God is great, He loved us upon the cross.    Creation is good.  I have done wrong.   We are forgiven. This is truth without disguise.  The Father reveals His love to children not the “learned and the wise”. Jesus Himself entrusts it to children:  even if the child is a 100! It is in keeping with Irenaeus and his love of Scripture is the lyrics of the old Sunday School song:

Jesus loves me! This I know,  For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Yet, the undisguised truth of God’s Word has so much that even the most able minds cannot understand it all.  But them some then try to fit God’s Word to their self-conceived good words and works. Self-conceived in one’s own works and words is finally self-centered.  In Irenaeus’ day there were the Gnostics who said creation is evil, spirituality is good. Plausible…except it is not the Scripture:  see Genesis 1 and the refrain, It is good, seven times culminating in the God’s declaration of His Word: And it was very good! See Jesus Christ:  God became FLESH, His own creation!  It is the heretics, who have had enough of God’s own truth, to disguise and then complicate the truth of God’s own Word, now looking to themselves and a ‘superior’ spirituality.  It looks good but it is a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15).  Beware,  said faithful pastors like Irenaeus.  Irenaeus also famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  How?  Answer:  Jesus loves me.  Upon Him, the solid rock, we can grow and be edified, built-up by the Holy Spirit.  A child can get it and it is entrusted to His children of all ages and for all the ages until He comes again.

At that time, Jesus prayed the first part of today’s Gospel.  At that time, when things were going against Him and folks were just not getting His invitation by His grace alone to the eternal life He offers in God’s own forgiveness.  The deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised and blessed is he who takes no offense at that, Jesus said to John’s disciples earlier in chapter 11.  Children, infants are not in control.  They are dependent.  Those wise and understanding in their own eyes are not dependent and think they are in control over their salvation.  Not a baby, actually, not any man.    

Filled with one’s own wisdom, fame, power, and wealth, the learned and understanding, cannot be filled with the Lord.  It  is in our time we have the expression, He or she is filled with himself.  But not only individuals but nations and religions.  Jerusalem, which should have filled with the Lord as no other city on earth, was very filled, obese with their own spirituality and their King came riding in lowly and riding a donkey, emptied of fame, fortune and riches.  He was emptied, it says in the Bible, even death on a cross.Many suffer from spiritual obesity going from one leaking cistern to another.  Spiritual obesity is starving to death People go to and fro seeking spiritual experiences but the one spiritual experience all avoid like the plague is what the Lord says to us in His Law.  God’s Law will empty any one of us.  His Law is good, love is good, as the command is good, but I do the very thing I hate and this the Law shows me.  The great apostle Paul understood that in spades.  As a Pharisee he was probably well acquainted with the phrase: to put on the yoke of the Law, God’s Law. He knew this conflict in his soul, actually Paul called that spade a spade, he called in it a “war”, which is in everyone’s soul in Christ Jesus.  Jesus prayed, Come to me all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Jesus answered Paul’s prayer.  The dictionary definition of rest is: 

a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities

a :  freedom from activity or labor

b :  a state of motionlessness or inactivity

c :  the repose of death

The conflict in Paul did not mean to try harder to be saved or get good with God, another self-help book, another TV guru.  The conflict means only one thing, the third dictionary definition of rest: the repose of death.  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Not me, not you, Come to Me all who are burden and heavy laden. Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. His Law exposes the inner wretch in us that we can sing, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. This is, as Jesus says, the Father’s gracious will to so reveal to us His Son. He chooses to reveal this to those who know their burden, Come to Me. The Word of God has two parts:  contrition and sorrow over sin, the weak and weary soul and the second part, the Gospel forgiveness and so the Lord gives us the Sacraments with those two parts,

“Here there are two parts. The “labor” and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and death. To “come to” Christ is to believe that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. When we believe, our hearts are brought to life by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Word. Here, therefore, are these two chief parts: contrition and faith.” (The Book of Concord:  Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII, Repentance)

From the learned Book of Concord and a child can understand it.

We are in the midst of summer and vacations.  Is rest and vacation the same thing?  And the congregation responds:  Good question, Pastor!  Maybe you, or family and friends, have said after a vacation:  “I need a vacation”, because many get tired by the effort and planning to “get away from it all”.   “Vacation” is from the verb “to vacate” which means a person’s active will and works to leave and go some place else, with the hopes that a change will be relaxing, but it may not be necessarily restful.  We “vacation plan”.   “Rest”, on the other hand, is utterly passive.  Rest, Sabbath is God’s plan.

“You shall observe the worship day,

That peace may fill your home and pray,

and put aside the work you do,

so that God may work in you.

Have mercy, Lord.” (#581,Lutheran  Service Book, “These are the Holy 10 Commands, by Martin Luther)

 Rest means to entrust one’s self in it’s entirety to something or someone greater than myself, as in the hymn lyric, “I rest on His unchanging grace”.  Rest means in a word, doing nothing. Rest means being, not doing, and we will so serve actively in His grace. Rest means ceasing to create the world and receive the Lord’s creation as His gifts to us all.  And as Lutherans are want to say Biblically, doing nothing to save oneself. Our works, however good, cannot save us, only His good work in Jesus Christ has.  The word translated as “little child” can also be rendered infant. Helpless as a baby, is an old expression.  It’s not God helps those who help themselves, it is God helps those who can’t help themselves.  Natalie and were married 27 years ago on July 4th and as the pastor said, Interdependence Day. Our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Rest means the one who is “gentle and lowly in heart”.  His yoke is not the Law but Grace, means “learn from Me”, not new rules and regs, new powers and principles, but learning Christ Jesus for life, the reign of the Lord,  eternal life day by day and yes, by prayer, Sacrament, Scripture, and  “you will find rest for your souls”.  In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy  Spirit. Amen.

JS1000416

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

At the end of the Declaration is this rousing paragraph and note that twice God is invoked:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

President Lincoln in his Getttysburg Address quoted the Declaration of Indepence. We accept, without batting an eye, learning his speech in secular schools with the Declaration’s statement that we are “created”.  President Lincoln’ s speech, as does the Declaration,  flies in the face of evolutionism and secularism and relativism. We can not edit out the Lord from the Declaration as many do so in our public life.

Since we are created, it means we are limited as this points to the Creator. Government is to limit wrong but not freedom.  We are  created  equal in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which government of the people is to defend but  not to inhibit and deny.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are marks of us, the created. These “self-evident” (like the nose on my face!) and “unalienable rights” are from God the Creator, not the government and that declaration is what is new in the history of governance in the world.

Freedom is to be our natural state.  This came about, though, not by force of reason but by the Creator who sent His Son into the world.  Just think, that at the time of the Roman Empire, the radical quality of these words:  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again toa yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5: 1). Freed by Christ from sin, death and power of the devil, then political freedom is a secondary, and welcome outcome.  Freedom comes from the Lord, not the Old Adam.  It is not only freedom from tyranny, but also freedom for others, to serve and love our neighbors.  Once we think government gives us those rights then the State becomes god, an idol and it’s just as evil as government denying those God-given rights by slavery of any sort, including servitude to the state.

In a world where the tyrannies of a godless secularism that worships only our unappeasable appetites abounds in our nation and in a world in which we see the march of a new virulent political tyranny of the sharia law centered religious state, we must fight for freedom and the words which the Declaration embodies, as first heard and still is in, with  and under, the Word of God.  Let us still be dedicated to the cause for which those men who pledged their lives, fortune and sacred honor this day in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many who died to defend the  proposition that  all people are created equal!

Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  Yet, the question,as asked by our Lord, did bring out the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo.

Jesus himself puts the decisive question, for which the disciples had been waiting: “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” Answer: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Opinions, nothing but opinions; one could extend this list of opinions as much as one wanted. . . some say you are a great man, some say you are an idealist, some say you are a religious genius, some say you are a great champion and hero, who will lead us to victory and greatness. Opinions, more or less serious opinions– but Jesus does not want to build his church on opinions. And so he addresses himself directly to his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” In this inevitable confrontation with Christ there can be no “perhaps” or “some say,” no opinions but only silence or the answer which Peter gives now: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

From Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 1933 Sermon on today’s Gospel, preached in the Trinity  Church, Berlin, when Nazism was in the ascendancy and everyone thought this was a consummate good.

Yet, the question is still pointed, and points to us:  Who do you say that I am?   There is a correct answer, the confessional answer, which points us ever in faith to Jesus Christ:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Peter was declared blessed, not simply right in answering but the confessing answer.  The confession of Faith was not revealed by flesh and blood but “by My Father in Heaven” through every Word Jesus taught and preached and every Word which healed and created faith.  Flesh and blood love to reveal stuff and love to hear about ‘new revelations about the IRS, the NSA, the true confessions of celebrities, the stuff of gossip columns, tabloids  like the National Enquirer, the ‘skinny’ on someone in the news.  All of those revelations are the consequences of breaking God’s Law and appeal to man’s fallen pride, as simply, as “Oh, I’m not that bad.”    The daily news is the revelation of death.  The good news of Jesus Christ is the revelation of life in the midst of death. The revelation of the Lord’s forgiveness in an unforgiven world.  No one confesses Jesus is the Lord except Life lived on God’s terms, which means in His Son, Jesus Christ, by His grace and leave, by His Blood shed for them and for us all. 

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter, 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.”  “Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is, he who had thought too highly of  himself. Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them.

Does the Lord build His Church on the rock called Peter or on the rock of the confession of faith,  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?  This is a false choice. It is built upon Peter confessing Christ as the whole Church is called.  Once we veer away from the Lord’s certain call of the Cross to confess Him as Lord, then we are lost in men’s opinions. Yet,

…it does indeed seem very uncertain ground to build on, doesn’t it? And yet it is bedrock, for this Peter, this trembling reed, is called by God, caught by God, held by God.  “You are Peter,” we all are Peter; not the Pope, as the Roman Catholics would have it; not this person or that, but all of us, who simply live from our confession of faith in Christ, as the timid, faithless, fainthearted, and yet who live as people sustained by God. (Bonhoeffer, same sermon quotes throughout the sermon)

Yes, when a bishop is elected pope, they say to him:  You are Peter. No, y’all are Peter.  Not the rock from Peter, but Peter from the Rock and the Rock is Christ.  “…Paul from Saul, the lamb from the wolf”.  You are from Christ.   You are from the Rock. 

Simon and Garfunkle song from the 60s lyric:

I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries

Simon and Garfunkle’s song is about man alone, like a rock, like an island, avoiding all pain and sorrow.  We live in a “my music, my pictures, my documents” kind of world in which there is no morality, only what I want.  Christ is the rock who bore all pain and sorrow, the Rock from which blood flowed, tears flowed and water flowed.  “My God, My God Why have you forsaken Me?”  Jesus Christ became the utterly alone island bearing our sin, all immorality, which separates us from God and all, the rock, the cornerstone cast out by the builders.  He alone can give the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the whole Church.  The Keys of His reign is forgiveness.“God has always done His greatest deeds in the world through hopeless minorities as seen from human eyes.” Last line of Sasse’s last Letter to Lutheran Pastors.  Like Peter and Paul by whom His grace and peace shone forth into a dark world through the Word of the Lord.  Maybe we are beginning to understand some more of Bonhoeffer’s Sermon of 1933, preached in Berlin’s Trinity Church means:

In the midst of the creakings and groanings of a crumbling and tottering church structure, which has been shaken to its very foundations, we hear in this text the promise of the eternal church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail; of the church founded on a rock, Christ has built and which he continues to build throughout all time.

The gates of hell have prevailed against denominations built on human ideas about Christ, how to implement the truth, as if it were a human tool. The sign of the Church is not the dollar sign, but the Sign of the CrossThe Lord builds His Church through Peter and Paul and all the saints, not through their flesh and blood but by the Confession of Christ, His Word, the Word made flesh and this is the very work of the Holy Spirit.  I will let Pr. Bonhoeffer have the last word of this sermon.

But it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.

Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

Meme of the Day

Meme Bonhoeffer

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