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“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

What do you want for Christmas?  Reminds me of Miss America contests and the question, What do you want for our day and time? “World peace.” A church member asked me once, “Pastor, what do the 4 Advent candles mean?”  I told the fellow member I don’t know and she rather dogmatically stated what they stand for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope, peace, joy and love are the first things we all want.  She really wanted hope, peace, joy and love.  A Roman Catholic priest, looking at the superficial slappy-happy, sentimental time that Advent/Christmas has become, suggested that the candles should stand for Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven!  The last things. The Lord of hope, peace, joy and love went through the last things first, death, judgment, hell  to bring us to Himself and one day to heaven.  Notet hat the First two Sundays point us to the last things:  His triumphal entry to die or the otherGospel reading, His coming again to judge the quick and the dead.

  • When we have been deeply touched by death and the fear of it, or sickness and sorrow,  to start talking about “your best life now” is a slap in the face of a soul in distress. 
  • When we have done wrong, thinking we got away with something bad ‘scot-free’, the Lord’s just judgment is cast aside…but it doesn’t go away. 
  • When someone says, “there’ll be hell to pay”, it means what you did results in the punishments of hell.  This is true, “… we deserve Thy temporal eternal punishment” and equally it is true:   The Lord wills no one to be in hell but to bring us to His mansions.

And yet, we still want the first things first, love, joy, peace, …without pain or struggle, without the Cross, without judgment, without His hard birth. Even His birth has the patina of sentimentality. Joy is not the synonym of sentimentality.  Wanting the first things first, then two things happen:  when we are in the throws of doubt and wrong, then seeing everyone else Facebook happy can cause a deep sorrow and depression:  what’s wrong with me?  Or when we think and feel, “everything’s going my way”, then Hey, I must be pretty good, and I turn my back to the Lord:  I did it!  Both are bad, but the second, self-righteousness is worse because we think my good deeds save.

The sobering quote from   Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr is apropos, 

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

But we are not without sin and that’s the point of His Advent. The Lord must reckon with that and He has.  The last things do come first, then in joyful repentance we accept our death sentence as true and see the true Lord born in a feeding trough (manger) through His death on the Cross. We accept His just judgment of wrong. We cling to His crib, His cross, His righteousness. The Lord is our righteousness.   Only then do we receive the gifts of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. The Lord went through the last things and will in the end of all things. The Lord’s last things make the first things last, otherwise it’s all tinsel, and Santa and sleighs and chimneys. A fantasy Santa comes the chimneys but the real Lord came down from heaven and went up on the Cross.  

The Church celebrates the triple advent (or“coming”) of Christ.

First is the advent into flesh, which is despised and humble before the world, of which Zechariah 9[:9] says, “Behold, Your King comes to you, gentle and poor, sitting upon a donkey, on a colt, the foalof a beast of burden,” [cf.] Matthew 21[:5]. The second is the spiritualadvent, which happens daily into the minds of the righteous, since He is present constantly with the Church, hears her, helps and consoles her,concerning which Christ said, John 14[:18]: “I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you.” Again, [v. 23:] “If anyone loves Me, We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.” The third advent of Christ is His glorious return to judgment, concerning which Isaiah 3[:14] says, “The Lord will come into judgment.” And Matthew 24[:30] says, “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.” It is useful always to consider these three advents of the Son of God—into flesh, the minds of the righteous, and for the last judgment—and to have them set forth in the Church for stirring up faith in minds, invocation, and the fear of God or repentance.St. Augustine says thus on Luke, “This time is called the Advent of the Lord for good reason: so that every believer will prepare himself and mend his ways,so that he may have strength worthily to celebrate the nativity of his God.”

—Lucas Lossius,+1582  (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer,Concordia Publishing House)

Lossius says  His second advent is  in the “mind”.  Initially, I was taken aback by that but not when we consider that the theme of Advent is repentance and repentance in Greek means “change of mind” and so mend our ways.  We spend much time in preparing our houses, our tables, our church building for Christmas, which is fine but not to the point we forget the real preparation:  our hearts, souls and minds, for without the cleansing of  our souls in His grace for sinners then the rest is just show.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Similar to what the angels sang for shepherds to hear and heaven and earth: Glory to God in the highest.

 “Let every heart prepare him room”, we will sing this Christ Mass, as we proclaim His death until He returns… the third and final Advent.  Come, Lord Jesus. Feed on His Word in His feeding trough, manger,this week in the Church. The Apostle Paul’s prayerful benediction is for us as well:

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

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“God does not justify ungodliness but the ungodly.”

Concordia and Koinonia

Introduction:  On this date in 2004, at a joint chapter retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity in HickoryNorth Carolina,  a dear mentor and friend, Pastor Louis A. Smith died.   He was born in New Jersey and married to Helen.  They have four daughters.  Lou could preach in German, sight translate Greek and Hebrew and knew other languages. He was a campus minister, parish pastor, writer and spent three years teaching the Confessions in Namibia.  He loved British football.  He was also the funniest person I ever knew.  He knew the Lutheran Confessions as he knew the stats for his beloved N. Y. Yankees…even better! He was a faithful pastor and theologian of the Church. He is a major reason why I stayed in the Lutheran Church, leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and reunited with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The following quotes are…

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Noah Icon

Icon of Noah in the Baptistry, Kramer Chapel, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

Almighty and eternal God,  according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure  in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life,through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20).  Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. (From LCMS website)

Genesis 6:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 

The first mortal sin was murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. This image is of a sculpture at the Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, VA, entitled The First Funeral. The murder was not the result of gun violence but the violence in the heart, that is, the will.  Anger and violence unleashed upon the earth by Adam and Eve wanting to control good and evil, but it is evil that controls.   When the Lord sees the violence upon the earth, the violence is not some statistic for analysis , but the flesh and blood of sin and the mourning that results from violence. The act of violence is preceded by the thought and the word, as when the Lord says to Cain,

“Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Anger precedes the murder and as the Lord Jesus clearly taught anger at one’s brother is murder.  “We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.”  Cain did not seek the Lord to help him rule over his anger and quell it in the Lord’s mercy.  Cain was set on being merciless as he sought to quench his anger but killing it’s supposed cause:  his brother. Murder never solves and stops anger. This only starts the downward spiral of vengeance (see Genesis 4: 22-24).  So when the Lord looked upon His own beloved and good creation, he saw the scene of Cain multiplied by the thousands desiring to kill in anger and then murdering. 

We are living in an angry world that has institutionalize anger as the raison d’etre, the reason of the existence of the subject matter of so much in the media, radio, conversation, internet, especially blogs and Facebook.  Why so much violence that we look upon?  The Old Adam desires it.  The Lord makes in us His righteousness through grace received by faith in His Son. 

 James 1: “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

If anger produced the righteousness of God, then we would be living in the most pious age of mankind, but we are not.  (For a full treatment on the Biblical understanding of anger, a must read: The Myth of “Righteous Anger”: What the Bible Says About Human Anger by Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, Professor of NT at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO)

God’s judgment came upon mankind through the Lord’s Word of Law to the earth: the flood.  The Lord’s grace came to mankind in the One the Lord sent for  the earth:  His Son Jesus who as our brother would be killed by our sin.  He alone produces the righteousness of God in our hearts and souls and quenches the fire of anger in our hearts. We can not control our anger as we ought.  As Noah and his family came through the flood, so we have come through the flood of Holy Baptism to rest in the holy ark of Christ’s Church to go forward in the new covenant, Christ’s testament of His body and blood for sinners.  Cling in faith in the Lord and his promise fulfilled in your baptism: “Baptism, which corresponds to this (Noah and the flood), now saves you”(1 Peter 3: 20-22). Pray and we are encouraged by the Lord to pray.

O God,
because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

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Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing?

  1. What can these anxious cares avail thee,

    These never-ceasing moans and sighs?

    What can it help if thou bewail thee

    O’er each dark moment as it flies?

    Our cross and trials do but press

    The heavier for our bitterness.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Be patient and await His leisure

    In cheerful hope, with heart content

    To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure

    And His discerning love hath sent,

    Nor doubt our inmost wants are known

    To Him who chose us for His own.

 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

  1. God knows full well when times of gladness

    Shall be the needful thing for thee.

    When He has tried thy soul with sadness

    And from all guile has found thee free,

    He comes to thee all unaware

    And makes thee own His loving care.

  2. Nor think amid the fiery trial

    That God hath cast thee off unheard,

    That he whose hopes meet no denial

    Must surely be of God preferred.

    Time passes and much change doth bring

    And sets a bound to everything.

 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

  1. All are alike before the Highest;

    ‘Tis easy to our God, we know,

    To raise thee up, though low thou liest,

    To make the rich man poor and low.

    True wonders still by Him are wrought

    Who setteth up and brings to naught.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,

    Perform thy duties faithfully,

    And trust His Word, though undeserving,

    Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.

    God never yet forsook in need

    The soul that trusted Him indeed.

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Concordia and Koinonia

“The entire Bible tells us that Christians are called to be involved in the world.  But again, we have to understand what is meant by that.  We are there to give testimony about a justification which washes away sin but which never makes it legitimate…”

“If God loved the world, it is because the world was not lovable and good. If God reconciled the world to himself, it is because the world was in a state of rebellion and rejection. It is not yet the Kingdom.  The works of the world remain works of darkness, but darkness into which a light has come, which does not validate or justify the darkness.”

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), The False Presence of the Kingdom (first published in 1963).  Mr. Ellul  was a French sociologist and member of the Reformed Church in France

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“Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”

Concordia and Koinonia

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll…

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Heather’s Grandmother from Texas made this banner for Heather’s Confirmation.  The Sermon Text is also Heather’s Confirmation verse which was hung on the Mission’s free standing cross made from last year’s Christmas tree.

Hebrews 10:  23:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.   κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος:

The Greek word for “confession” is  ὁμολογία.  ὁμο” , homo, means the“same”.  “λογία” or “word”, as in the Word of God.  When we confess our hope we are saying thesame Word.  Heather is about to confessthe faith delivered to the saints once and for all.  This confession is not first our work. It always the very work of the Holy Spirit through preaching and teaching of the Word ofGod.  Heather will confess for her ownthe ancient words of the Apostles’ Creed. She will be saying the same words the Church has been saying for 2,000years, old and yet ever new and renewing. The confession of hope is the confession Jesus is the Lord.  “Jesus is the Lord” is seed of faith whichthe Holy Spirit waters with the Word to the glory of God the Father.  Our hope is in the Lord who made heaven andearth.  The confession of hope is theconfession of faith.

In Luke chapter 5, Jesus encourages Peter and his fellow fishermen to let their nets into the deep, after a night of catching nothing, Peter did so.  They found their nets breaking for the weight of the huge catch. They had to get another boat and yet both boats began to sink. When Peter, overwhelmed by the great miracle, Peter falls to his knees at the presence of Jesus, he addresses Jesus for the first time as “Kyrie”, LORD. This confession is at the same time a confession of his sinfulness: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). In deepest humility only can we acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord. On the other hand, the confession of faith is praise of God. It is prayer.

Please note:  In the Bible, Confession of faith, the confession of sin the confession of the praise of God and these three confessions belong together and, “… a threefold cord is not quickly broken”.

There is an old saying which is true that “Confession is good for the soul”.   A character in a sci fi TV show said,  “They say confession is good for the soul. Good thing none of us have one anymore.”  That is a frightening quote as well it should be.

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Jesus is saying we can lose our soul which is eternal death. The world beckons with it’s allures and we make the devil’s bargain:  sell our soul. A man can give nothing in return for his soul. The Lord gives, and the Lord alone: The wrong has beent aken by Jesus, the lamb of God, upon the Cross. As it is also written in Hebrews: 

 “…He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” 

In the confession of sin, we are saying, homologia, the same word which is about the iniquity of our sin.  Even more we are hearing the homologia, the same Word of Grace in the forgiveness of our wrong and trespassi n the Lord’s Holy Name because of Christ upon the Cross. And so in the Divine Service, immediately follows the Entrance Hymn, a hymn of praise. We praise You, we confess You to be the Lord.

  1. there is the Confession of faith, “Confession is good for the soul”
  2. and there is the confession of sin ,“Confession is good for the soul”
  3. and the confession of the praise of God, and “Confession is good for the soul”.

These days we need the encouragement to “hold fast the confession of hope”.  Why? Three aspects of hope that I came up with:

  1. Hope points us to the Kingdom come, not our rule, our fiefdoms and our anxieties over them. Will Australia and the United States last forever?  We sweat over this question. No, the Lord every week in the Divine Service points us away from ourselves.  Our Father who are in heaven Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. 
  2. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Romans 5: 5 Hope does not fail, because the love of God as He is faithful does not fail, even when we do.
  3. Confession is verbal.  The confession of hope will encourage a fellow Christian, and the proclamation of faith can bring an unbeliever to faith.

Confession of faith is not only entwined with confession of sin and the praise of God, a three-fold cord, Confession is also in this world dangerous. Look at the martyrs and prophets.  All  the first church buildings were built where a saint in Christ made his or her good confession and was martyred. 

The confession of faith to confess Christ is dangerous. It involves a risk of life. Still more dangerous is it to deny Christ. This can happen very easily, as is indicated by the fact that Peter, the first confessor, became the first to deny his Lord, as in which later incurred ex-communication. More dangerous is it because eternal death may follow. For we confess not only before a human judgment seat, but also before the judgment seat of God. Confession and denial follow us into eternity. There the earthly confession will be followed by the heavenly confession, not only by the eternal praise of God in the church triumphant, but also by the confession of Christ: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” As our confession is the answer to the question of our Lord,so His confession will be the answer to every faithful confession made here on earth.

A confirmand is asked a pointed question:  Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? And there is only one answer, one confession of prayer:  I do, by the grace of God.  How can we answer such a question?   Only His grace can foil the tempter’s power.  This grace in which we stand is the only way we can make such a vow.  The three fold cord of the confession of faith, sin and praise is the Holy Spirit’s tether to hold us tight to the dear Lord Jesus Christ.  The before and after of today’s sermon text spells out the Lord’s amazing grace:

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

Not by the sacrificial blood of animals, your blood, not mine, not even the blood of the martyrs:  God’s blood.

 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The way has been paved, opened for us, into the house  of God, the living temple named by the Lord the Church, His body.  The kingdom of heaven is open to all believers.

 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

I’m not a priest.  I’m a pastor as are many who are called. There is one priest, a great priest, the great high Priest, who gives us the Sacrament of His very body and blood which Heather will receive for the first time this day. The great high priest presides over His house, not bishops and pastors, we are but stewards of His grace.

 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,

The phrase from the confession of sin, Let us draw near with a true heart is gloriously plagiarized from Scripture. A true heart confesses his sin, confesses his faith in the One who by His blood washed us clean and praises Him for His amazing grace.

with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 

Heather, your mother and father had you baptized. And evil conscience cleansed, and body  washed with the pure water of His Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lord’s baptizing us is  one way work to you, to us all.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

The Lord’s Word is profoundly simple as to the reason we can confess His Holy Name:  “he who promised is faithful”.  We will have doubts and misgivings and even denials…

 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

            Encourage,related in Greek to comfort, exhort, counsel. Let us do so as this little Mission moves to her new location.  We are all encouraged by this confirmation this day as a fitting way for the last Sunday here. The confession of the Fait hin the Holy Trinity who baptizes us points us ever in hope “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

(The insight of the three fold confession of faith, sin, and praise is from an essay by Rev. Dr. Hermann Sasse which can be read here.)

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