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Archive for February 5th, 2019

Divine Service March for Life 2019

This Sermon was preached by Pastor Christopher Esget in the Divine Service, The Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, before the March for Life at The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Conference for Life. The original posting can be found here.

My dear brothers and sisters who are Lutherans for Life, today, January 18, is the festival of the Confession of St. Peter. That’s more than a coincidence. Peter’s confession tells us why we March for Life.

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess.

To the disciples Jesus put the question: “Who do you say that I am?” That question is more important than any other.That same question Jesus puts to you: “Who do you say that I am?” 

“Doctrine is life – the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.”

The question has a dogmatic answer. But dogma never exists alone. Doctrine does not exist for itself. Doctrine is God’s gift to us. Doctrine is life. Well, not just any doctrine, but the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.

At the head of the Ten Commandments is this beautiful declaration: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). The Lord does not merely state His self-existing reality. He announces Himself in relation to His people. “I am the Lord your God.” Our confession in response does not say, “You are God,” but, “You are our God.” 

“Doctrine is life because it draws us into communion with Jesus, in whom is life.”

This is how the Small Catechism teaches us to confess. We say more than God is the creator. We say, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that He has given me my body and soul,” etc. And then we say more than “Jesus Christ is Lord.” We confess, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me.” And then, “The Holy Spirit has called me.” 

Doctrine is life. Doctrine is life because it draws us into communion with Jesus, in whom is life.

That’s what Peter is confessing when he answers Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ.” Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Peter then added these words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Except Peter, I think, said it more like this: “You are the Christ, the Son of God – the Living One.”

God is not merely alive; He is life. And that life is not static, but dynamic. He is living.

Everything that lives has life from God. St. Paul told the pagan philosophers on Mars Hill, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

That doctrine undergirds our confession at the nation’s high court today. All human beings are created equal – because all human beings are created. The limbs that God has joined together, let no abortion tear asunder. That baby is living, no matter how small. To be pro-life is also then to embrace that life. Thus we also confess, “That baby, no matter his color, no matter what drugs or alcohol have done to his brain, that baby is loved by God and so by the people of God. He is welcome in our churches, and in our homes. And the teenager who is pregnant, and scared: she is welcome in our churches, and in our homes.”

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess. And we leave here ready to live in, with, and under that confession.

What St. Paul said of all human beings—“In Him we live and move and have our being”—that is the general principle of life that pertains to everything living. But you know that into this world has entered a corrupting negation: death. 

Our world has come not only under the power of death but has fallen in love with its captor. To a dying world we not only confess the general goodness of life but the hope of the Living One. We heard from St. Peter himself this morning, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” God’s love for us not only wants us to be alive, but to share in His life. His plan is to make us and all Christians “partakers of the divine nature.”

And here we must confess how much we have failed to love the “things that pertain to life and godliness.” How often have you instead loved the corruption that is in the world? How often have you succumbed to sinful desire?

What corruption is in your mind? Your mouth? Your heart? Like Peter, you have not set your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

We are heirs of the Reformation, protesting indulgences, while indulging the sinful nature in the most horrible abuses of Gospel liberty.

“A March for Life must begin with a confession that we, too, have been steeped in the culture of death.”

A March for Life must begin with a confession that we, too, have been steeped in the culture of death. That death infects our church politics, our family dynamics, and what we allow on our screens and into our souls.

Repent! Repent and rejoice, for we have a Jesus who delights in confession. He hears your confession. He hears your confession of sin, and bids you confess Him as the sin bearer. He hears your confession that you have walked the paths of darkness, and bids you confess Him as the light who scatters the darkness. Jesus hears your confession of Him, and He in turn confesses you before His Father.

Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brother. He exchanges your death for His life. Today again, He summons you to His table and gives you “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

“We are not here to protest. He are here to confess to the world Christ, in whom is life.”

We have been called Protestants, but we are not here today to protest. We are here to confess. We confess our sin. We confess our Savior. 

Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This doctrine is life. This confession is life. This is the Lord who brings His people out of the house of bondage. This is the Christ who tramples down death by His death. This is the Spirit who is pro-life, for He is the Lord and giver of life. This God has made you; this Jesus is your Lord; this Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel. 

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess to the world Christ, in whom is life. +INJ+

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Bio:  Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” was renamed “Israel,” which means “he strives with God” (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (March 31). Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob’s death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah Genesis 49).

Reflection:

“The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was once approached by a woman distressed from her recent reading of Romans 9:13. “I cannot understand,” she said, “why God should say that He hated Esau.” “That is not my problem, madam,” Spurgeon replied, “My difficulty is to understand how God could love Jacob.”–Fr. Reardon, Touchstone.

The Lord’s favor is on those who are repentant. Esau was not repentant. Jacob knew he was a “deceiver”!  As Luther commented that Esau was contrite because of punishment not because of the sin against God.  Esau sold his birthright and was only sorry for losing it, not for the sin of doing so.  God could wrestle with Jacob because Jacob knew his sin…Esau was on the sidelines waiting his due.

The Lord can work with sinners as they know their sin, He changes them by His grace and providence…and with Jacob it took time…with us as well. Sinners are such unlikely saints!

Sin is a tangled web, as we see in Jacob’s family of origin and in his own family with his two wives, Rachel and Leah and his two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah.  Eleven of his 12 sons sold their brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt and then told their Father that Joseph had been killed by a lion.  Families have problems, many times grievous and perplexing beyond therapeutic help, yet God’s promise is for sinners and the Lord works through what we have called in our day, “dysfunctional families”. Maybe most need repentance and forgiveness rather than therapy and acceptance.  

Jacob spent most of his life grieving for the death of his favorite wife Rachel and thinking his son Joseph dead.  Eventually, the 11 brothers repented.  As someone has commented:  it took the Lord only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth but 33 years to redeem us…and when we factor in the scope of Israel’s history, it took a lot longer, but He did so at the right time and He would do so again through Jacob’s son Joseph. And in the Son of Jacob, centuries, later, the Christ, the Son of God. Son of God, son of Joseph and Mary was born in a family for the love and redemption of all families.

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rule our hearts through Your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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