Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fiddling while Rome burns

All right, maybe Rome isn't burning but Baltimore sure did last night. Once again, sin has reared it's ugly head and destroyed lives. There was rioting in Baltimore last night. Why? It was following the funeral of Freddie Brown who died from injuries sustained in police custody. What happened to Freddie? I don't know. Did the police cause the injuries? I don't know. But I do know one thing, I will let the proper people figure it out. If there was wrong doing, it should be punished. That is the way it is meant to be.

So why riot and burn Baltimore? There is no reason. Just as there was no reason for the riots in Ferguson. To attack police is wrong. To burn other people's property is wrong. Are the people frustrated? Maybe there are some. I would venture to guess that the majority of the rioters really could care less about Freddie Brown just as the majority of the rioters could care less about Michael Brown. They just used this as an opportunity to go crazy, to burn some things, to attack those in authority, to hurt some people and to, well, let their sinful nature control their lives.

That's right. It is all about letting their sinful nature run amok. Our Lord tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us. That is the way of the Christian. We forgive. We uphold. We follow the way of the Lord. There was not a person in the rioting last night that was following the Lord. Were there Christians among the rioters? Probably. And they were sinning. The Lord would tell them to repent of their sins and not return to that sinful action.

This latest round of rioting in our country shows us one major problem - we are leaving behind the Lord. To act in such a way is to turn your back upon Him. You cannot do that and still say, "But I love Jesus." Read 1 John. Study it. Learn from it. We act as the Lord acts. When we fail, we confess our sins. As we confess our sins, we also ask that the Holy Spirit would work in our hearts and change us so that we don't do those things again.

What Baltimore needs is to return to the Lord. What Ferguson needs is to return to the Lord. What St. Louis needs is to return to the Lord. What Troy, IL needs is to return to the Lord. What we all need to do is return to the Lord. Daily we return to (wait for it) the waters of our Baptism. Daily the old sinful man must be drowned in those waters. Daily we need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and lives. Until that happens, we will see riots in Baltimore and Ferguson and other places. Satan is hard at work.

Christians need to get to work, to share the Word, to proclaim Law and Gospel. Let's get busy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Confirmation: What does it mean for you?

This coming weekend, April 25/26, 2015, St. Paul's Lutheran Church will celebrate the confirmation of 7 young men and women. What is confirmation? It is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction. It is a "rite," that which the church has formed for a specific purpose. The purpose of confirmation is that it is a public proclamation of the faith of those who are confirmed, giving them the opportunity to confess Christ before man. It is also a time when the young people are making the vow, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and after the time of instruction, that they will remain faithful to the confession that they are making. They ask the Lord to empower them to continue to remain faithful to Christ in word and deed.

The period of instruction that is spoken of in the definition that we had in the opening paragraph is the class in which we study Luther's Small Catechism, going in depth through the 6 chief parts. Do you remember those 6 chief parts? They are...wait, I will not tell you right at this moment in order to give you the chance to try to recall that which you learned when you went through confirmation.

What does confirmation mean for you, a person who has already been confirmed in the Lutheran Church? It gives you the opportunity to recall what it is you confess in your life as a member of the Lutheran Church. In the time of public questioning, as the seven are asked the variety of questions, you can take the time to remember and say, "Oh yeah, that is what I believe and confess." As they take their vows on Sunday morning, you can recall those very vows that you took.

Then it gives you the opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit to help you to live in those very vows. You vowed to faithfully worship and receive the Lord's Supper regularly. Do you? You vowed to support the work of the church with your time, talents and treasure. Do you? You vowed to be faithful and not leave this confession of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Are you faithful to that confession?

What does confirmation mean for you, a person who has been confirmed in the faith? It means that you are asking the Lord to guide you as you continue to grow in that very faith. It means that if you have failed in living out that faith each day, if you have been avoiding worship, if you have not receive the Supper regularly and frequently, that you confess your sins and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to change your sinful life.

Confirmation is a rite of the church that gives each of us the opportunity to review what we believe, confess our sins in failing to be faithful to the vows we made and be regenerated by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

See you this weekend at worship.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Broiled fish and Easter

In yesterday's Gospel reading, there is a great little line that struck me as I read it. In Luke 24, Jesus had appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus. Then He went to the disciples and others in house back in Jerusalem. He gives them the wonderful greeting of "Peace be with you." Oh how they needed that peace. Their lives were in great turmoil. Death does that to our lives - turmoil. We need peace in the midst of death and it is often impossible to find. It is only when the living Lord comes into our lives that we receive any peace at all. But that isn't the line that struck me.

Jesus shows them His hands and His feet, the place of the nail marks. That is a way of showing that it truly was Him, the One who had been crucified. Those nail marks are a mark of honor, having paid for the sins of each and every person as He died upon the cross. Even when John the Revelator see Jesus enter into heaven, John writes, "I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain." (Rev. 5:6 ESV) The Lamb was slain but is alive. That is who is standing before the disciples that Sunday evening. "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself," He says. (Luke 24: 39 ESV) And still that which caught my attention was to come.

The disciples still struggled with seeing the resurrected Jesus. It was still beyond their comprehension that Jesus was dead and is now alive. Then Jesus says to them, "Have you anything to eat?" And they gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it before them." (Luke 24:40-42 ESV) Broiled fish? He ate it before them? Really? Why?

Have you ever seen the movie Casper? It is a fun little movie which has a redemption and resurrection theme to it. That isn't why I bring up the movie. The scene that runs through my mind is the one where the three ghosts with Casper (Fatso, Stretch and Stinky) eating breakfast. Casper is bringing them food and they are eating like pigs. The camera shows them eating and then swings around beneath the table and all the food they are eating is falling on the floor underneath them. They have no body and no substance and are unable to actually retain any of the food they eat.

That scene popped into my mind as I read the Gospel reading this last weekend. "Do you have anything to eat?" Jesus asks the disciples. Then He eats it before them. And it doesn't fall to the floor. Why? Because He wasn't a ghost, a phantasm, a figment of their over stressed imagination. He was truly alive. This Jesus died and was laid in the tomb. Then He rose again from the dead. He was alive as they were. He could talk, touch and eat. He could take nourishment just as they did. He lives!

That little interchange between Jesus and the disciples is showing that He is alive. As we read that, we can be certain that they were seeing what they were seeing and it wasn't a dream. Jesus lives! The victory's won! Death no longer is our master. Jesus has defeated death as He rose.

That is Easter. That is what we hold onto in our lives. Jesus is alive! And because He lives, all who believe in Him will live forever with Him in heaven. "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live!" That my friends is the message of Easter. Eternal life with Christ. What comfort this sweet sentence gives: "I know my Redeemer lives!" Alleluia!