Sunday, May 31, 2015
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Today, the Church rejoices in celebrating Trinity Sunday. Yes, God has revealed Himself as one God in three persons--the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Most congregations that use some form of the historic liturgy will confess the Athanasian Creed today. Some may call it, as I've heard folks in years past, "that old, long creed." Yet, it's absolutely glorious, not really that long and it's full of pure truth. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are coequal and coeternal. They share the same essence and divine will for our daily forgiveness, eternal life and free salvation. That's why the Father sent His sole-begotten Son into the flesh--to die for us. Risen, our Lord Jesus--who is and remains of two natures--divine and human--abides with His Church, revealing the love of the Father through the Holy Spirit. Check it out here. http://bocl.org?creeds
Mission work is popular in the Church. We laud the efforts of those men and women who risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Many of us have prayed for Pastor Sayyeed whom Iran has held in captivity for his refusal to convert to Islam. Announcements of urban renewal in the name of a Christian congregation rallies thousands together in food drives and other expressions of human care. And, of course, who doesn’t laud someone for doing anything possible to share the good news of the Gospel—Christ Jesus saving us freely by His favor through faith in Him. The Church body to which my home congregation belongs commissions several missionaries a year after several months of training them for work in a foreign country. Intentional church plants and communities welcome people from all walks of life to learn and grow in the Christian faith even in the urban, hard to reach areas of our country. IT BEGAN WITH GOD’S QUESTION God Himself was the first missionary. Though He created Adam and Eve “very good” in His sight and in His likeness, they—our first parents—fell into sin when the serpent tempted them. They ate of the tree from which our Lord did not give them to eat. Then, “their eyes were open” and…they beheld their nakedness. The ran and hid from God—who walked with them in the cool of the evening. When THE LORD came walking that evening, He called Adam and Eve out of hiding. “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) God knew exactly where they were at. He called them to confess their disobedience so that He might bestow His forgiveness and the promise of coming, eternal salvation. The mission of God continued as prophets foretold the coming of God coming into human flesh. Moses promised the Israelites a prophet like Him would rise from His own people. (Deut. 18:15-20) Nathan told King David that he’d always have a descendant on the throne of Israel—culminating in the Messiah. (2 Sam. 7:1-16) Isaiah foretold Emmanuel’s coming—the Child to be born of the Virgin. (Is. 7:14, 9:2-7) Then, when the fullness of time came, Jesus, God the Son, was born from eternity into time via the blessed womb of Mary. (Gal. 4:4-5, Matt. 1:21-25) Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:1-10, Matt. 9:9-13), to suffer, die and rise again on His mission’s road. (Matt. 20:17-28, John 15:12-13) THE THREAD THROUGHOUT Because the mission field is so diverse—full of people from every tribe, race, nation and social status—we try finding any way possible to make connections with the good news of Jesus Christ crucified for us. In our zeal for showing love-at-all-costs open arms, many of us Christians face the lure of watering down our doctrinal distinctions. Forget the necessity of Baptism; people have free will anyway to “make Jesus their choice.” Forget teaching Jesus’ words concerning the Lord’s Supper; they might turn our oversensitized ears off to the real truth of God’s love. Forget calling out the detrimental rise of homosexuality or premarital cohabitation. The mission of God accepts all and doesn’t belong in people’s bedrooms anyway! Such least-common-denominator thinking diminishes and dilutes our profession of faith and the mission of God. After all, Jesus calls His Church to teach and observe everything He has commanded. (Matt. 28:19) He is with us to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:20) He has sent the Holy Spirit through His written and unerring Word to guide us into all truth and to be our Helper. (John 15:26-16:3) Human care serves as a vehicle by which God’s love extends through us to our neighbors in emotional, financial, physical need. Yes, we each can speak the Gospel in everyday conversations at work. Helping with building houses in the inner-city, giving a homeless man some food or directions to a local shelter might lead to opportunities to tell of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Horrible disasters such as in Nepal or even in the storm-drenched areas of Texas open doors for people to lend a hand in caring for thousands displaced from their homes. Yet, the misattributed phrase of Francis of Assisi puts a false face on such charity. “Speak the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.” How can mission work carry on under that banner? Words form the clear way in which the faith once delivered to the saints passes from person to person. From “Where are you?” to “It is finished,” Jesus trumpets out His love for fallen, lost and sinful humanity. The apostle Paul agrees. “Faith comes by hearing….” (Rom. 10:17) Our Lord Jesus always works through the means of His favor toward us. He gathers each person who trusts Him into His Church, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies us by His truth just as He calls, gathers and enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth. Therein, He declares the forgiveness of sins—publicly through rightly called and ordained pastors, privately in everyday Christian conversations. He brings/missions infants and adults alike to the font of Holy Baptism wherein His called and ordained pastor applies water conjoined with His Word on them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gathers His Church together for receiving His body and blood in, with and under bread and wine for faith’s assurance, ongoing forgiveness of our sins and the celebrating the certainty of everlasting life. As the Lutheran Hour’s traditional motto proclaims, “bringing Christ to the nations and the nations to the Church…” so our Lord sends us trusting in His mercy into His ripened mission field telling His Gospel.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Where does fruitful dialogue begin in matters of faith, politics, culture and daily ethics? How do we gain a common understanding with someone who calls our Christian confidence into question? Sometimes, our conversations on and offline seem adrift. You and I feel as if we grasp at straws when sorting out a friend, co-worker or family member's perspective. We feel foolish later when reality sinks in: Our words fell like led bricks away from their understanding. How does the ardent student of Holy Scripture, who takes its commands and promises seriously, avoid playing fast and loose with provable facts? No matter what the issue, we wish to speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) Our hope is to convey an answer for the hope we have amidst a growing wasteland of ad hominim, soundbite-style banter, not just win a debate. When every conspiracy theorist populates the blogosphere with clickbait, even the well-rehearsed facts swim in a quagmire of hearsay, hoopla and gossip. How do we slow down the rapid-fire spray of 50-kalliber bullets known as cherry-picked citations from mismatched sources and form a coherent, rational response? How do we sort the wheat from the chaff and remain faithful to an orthodox confession of Jesus Christ as Lord? Not all these questions have clear answers. They do provide avenues or entries by which we can come to terms with people who converse with or criticize us and our Christian ethics on a daily basis.