Sermo Dei: The Marriage of Jonathan Scheck and Cari Geyer

Posted on October 24th, 2016

Pastor Esget and Pastor Scheck, ordained June 19 at Immanuel

Pastor Esget and Pastor Scheck, ordained June 19 at Immanuel

October 21, 2016

Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Apostles, Melrose Park, IL

Dear Saints loved by God, bride of the mystical bridegroom, our Lord JESUS Christ,

It was not good for Jonathan to be alone. So the Lord prepared for Jonathan a helper suitable for him.

To you, Jonathan, God gives Cari as bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh. Many gifts we receive and enjoy for ourselves. But in the gift of marriage comes the call to donate yourself, open up to and sacrifice yourself for the needs of your nearest neighbor.

We heard how Adam’s side was opened up, in a sleep like unto death. His rib became the constitutive element of the woman, signifying that the husband guards and protects her in the same way that the ribs shelter our vital organs. The LORD did not make her from the man’s head, lest she seek to rule over him. Neither did He make her from the man’s foot, lest he imagine that she is someone to be trampled upon. No, He made the woman from the man’s side to teach him to keep her always by his side as close companion.

But because of the hardness of your heart, the Lord JESUS says, you will not want to do this. The sinful nature makes us selfish creatures who prefer being served to serving, who prefer being loved to loving, who prefer receiving gifts to sacrificing ourselves.

Cari, you have the greater challenge ahead. Being a pastor’s wife is a challenging calling. It is often more difficult than being a pastor, because the calling of the pastor’s wife is hidden, confusing, and lonely. You go to live in a new place as a new wife without a support structure that most people have. Jonathan has a role to play, work to throw himself into: He is the shepherd of Oswego, the parson of Parsons – and who are you? What do they expect of you? Must you be on the altar guild? Are you expected to make something for a particular function? Will people judge you by what you wear, how your house looks, and a thousand other things, expectations they have of you that you never know about until it’s too late?

Cari, don’t take all the drama so seriously, and don’t worry too much about it. The best thing you can do, the one calling you have, is to be Jonathan’s wife, and as God grants it, the mother of your children. With that, there is enough work to do. If you want to do something in the church, join something, volunteer something, do it freely because you want to. Love your husband and live like a disciple of Jesus. If people see that, they will love you for you.

Jonathan, being a pastor is all-consuming. The work is never, ever done. You should work hard, and be prepared to work at any hour of any day. However, being husband to Cari is a greater calling than being pastor to your congregations. If you don’t take care of her, you won’t be able to take care of your congregations. So when she’s sick, when she’s lonely, when she’s sad, when she’s angry, stop what you’re doing and take care of her. If you learn how to love your wife, you’ll learn also how to be a pastor. You can see that implied in the reading from Ephesians.

And speaking of that, there’s a mistake in the service folder. Well, it’s not in the folder so much as it is in the Bible. Well, not the Bible either, but just our translations of it. We pick up reading in Ephesians 5 at verse 22, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Right above those words in our English Bibles is a heading, usually something like, “Teaching on Marriage.” It’s hard to make a bigger mistake than that. It leaves out the preceding verse, where the idea of submission is introduced: All Christians, St. Paul says, are to live like this: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That’s the setup for wives submitting to husbands, so if we read it together, the way St. Paul wrote it, it goes like this: ‘Dear saints of God, give thanks always, ‘submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives to your husbands, as to the Lord…’” So the wife has a unique calling to submit to her husband flowing from the general calling that all Christians have to be submissive to each other.

The man who says, “The problem here is that she just won’t submit!” misses the larger point that the husband submits also. He submits himself to the needs of his wife by sacrificing for her, giving up for her. We all have different roles, different offices, but the same general command applies to us all: submit to one another.

This ties in with another missing Bible verse, this time from Genesis 2. The rite stops with v24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It stops just before it gets interesting! The last verse of the chapter reads, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

I suppose we skip that because we don’t want to talk about getting naked in church. But it means much more than the physical intimacy between husband and wife, which the marriage rite calls “finding joy and delight in one another.” The nakedness between our first parents before the fall was a complete openness. Nothing hidden, nothing withheld. No deception, no manipulation. We fear that if someone really knows us, really knows who we are, what we think, how we fell, we won’t be loved, we won’t be accepted. We’ll be put to shame. After this, throughout the Scriptures, nakedness and shame run together. The first thing our first parents did after setting aside the Word of God was to try to cover themselves. They hid both from God and each other. Still today, we hide our sins and seek to justify our actions.

The calling in holy marriage is to be naked and without shame, to be completely open, entirely honest, with a heart that forgives and forgets. You will fail in that, every day. Every day start anew, by looking to the heavenly Bridegroom.

For He who hung naked upon the cross was put to shame for you. And behold, like Adam, the side of the Second Adam opened up. The centurion thrust His spear, and the side of Christ was opened, pouring forth blood and water. This is the new genesis, the re-creation of man, and the life of your marriage. This is what a bridegroom does: the husband dies for the very bride who crowns Him with thorns and affixes Him upon a cross. Jonathan and Cari: in this Bridegroom is the life of your marriage. In Him will you live, in Him will you die, and His will you be forever.

Sermo Dei: Trinity 21, 2016

Posted on October 21st, 2016

Why does God treat us this way? Why does He wait and wait? Why does He seem so distant?

For all the tender depictions of Jesus—welcoming a child, or gently cuddling a lamb—the picture we get from the Gospels is a Jesus who is aloof, austere, uncaring, unfeeling. He tells people off and turns over tables. Today’s gospel (John 4:46-54)  takes place in Cana. The last time He was there, His own mother came to Him with a problem, and Jesus replies, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” A woman with a sick daughter begs Jesus to help, and first he doesn’t answer her, then He calls her a dog. When He hears that Lazarus is sick, Jesus is in no hurry at all.

So today. A nobleman comes to Jesus. His little boy has a fever, and it isn’t breaking. He’s going to die. His father has traveled about eighteen miles over rough terrain; it would take more than a day to make this trip. All the while you know he’s sad, anxious, angry, worried. He’s desperate.

I think you know how this father feels. If not this particular situation before, you’ve been desperate. Perhaps today you are desperate about something. Some part of life has overwhelmed you: you are lonely; caring for your children is simply too much to manage; lust fills you, you act on it, followed by disgust and self-loathing; your back or your knees give off a searing pain that makes you just want to quit.

And perhaps, when things get really bad, you finally start to pray. And you can pray and pray for weeks and months and years with no answer. Total silence from a God who seems to mock you, taunt you, maybe hate you.

So does Jesus appear to this anxious, desperate father. But in the nobleman’s trouble, then the rebuke, and then the long uncertain journey home, we find out there is a purpose to the Lord’s austerity. Jesus is not holding out on giving the nobleman what he asks for—He intends to give him something far greater.

The nobleman has come because he wanted his little boy saved. He has a certain amount of faith – at least a hope that Jesus can save his child from death. Although he begs Jesus to come to his home, Jesus refuses. Why? By sending the man home with only a word, a word of promise, the man comes to see and receive something far greater than his child’s life.

The nobleman left Cana with just the word, “Your son lives.” What exactly does that mean? Jesus does not say to him, “Your son will live,” or “Your son will not die.” Just, “Your son lives.” That’s all he has to go on. He believes it, but there is clearly something imperfect about the belief. But when the nobleman meets his servants on the way back, they tell him that the fire, the fever has left his little boy; he lives! Learning the fever broke at the same time that Jesus had given him the Word, now we find a reiteration and intensification of belief. “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” This goes beyond just belief that the boy would be healed. The man and his whole family become disciples of Jesus.

You see, Jesus never wanted just the healing of the boy. He wanted the healing of the family. The purpose and mission of Jesus is to do something more than give some improvement in people’s health or happiness for a time. He has come to overturn the entire order of the world.

What do we see among the world’s rulers? Lies and deception, greed and corruption, sexual depravity, endless war. Jesus called that nobleman, probably a member of King Herod’s court, to a very different kind of life. A life that would turn away from the decadence of Herod to discipleship following Christ.

What needs to change in your life? What decadence and decay needs to be overturned? We can learn much from the nobleman. His new discipleship he immediately passed on to his family. Yesterday Eric and Julie Hutchins’s son Ryan was baptized into Christ, and today we saw Stephen and Sajini Gundry’s daughter Samantha joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s the most important responsibility parents have: to bring their children to Jesus, and train them up in His Word.

And that training involves hardship, for all disciples must undergo discipline. We are disciplined by the Lord, we are chastised and taught patience and not given what we want when we want it because the Lord has something far greater for us than immediate gratification.

The answer to your prayers – a healing, a spouse, a job, a child – is not the ultimate thing, and may be the opposite of what you need. The healed person still dies. What Jesus gives is not a respite from death but its ultimate overturning. He promises not a few more years but resurrection.

The healing that you most need is the healing of your soul from its anger, lust, dissatisfaction, selfishness, and pride. Today’s epistle reminds us that we are in a war, not with the other political party, or with Syria, Iran, or Russia: we are in a war with the devil and our own corrupt flesh.

Today you leave here with the same thing the nobleman got: a Word from Jesus. I have nothing else to offer you. I cannot promise you things will get better. But you have something far better than anything money or power can obtain. The Word Jesus send you home with, the Word Jesus sends you down the uncertain road with contains a better certainty: “In baptism you are joined to My death, and also My resurrection. My body is yours in this Eucharist, and My blood is your life. All other food you consume, but this food consumes you, your soul into righteousness, your body into immortality. Leave with Me your desperation, your anxiety, your uncertainty, and go home with this Word in your pocket: Fear not; I have redeemed you.” +INJ+


Sermo Dei: Trinity 20, 2016

Posted on October 17th, 2016

The sexual revolution was underway. So was the British Invasion, when bands from the UK changed America forever. The Beatles were on their second U.S. tour, visiting the old Met Stadium in Minnesota, where the Dodgers would play the Twins in the World Series that same year. The Vietnam War was escalating. My parents were married that year, 1965. And at this extraordinary time of change, those great poet-philosophers Richards and Jagger articulated the cry of all humanity since the fall of Adam: “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

It wasn’t just about, to use the Rolling Stones’ lexicon, “girl reaction.” The iconic song indicates dissatisfaction with the lies peddled from the radio and television, the false promises of the advertisers. But even more, success itself doesn’t satisfy. The Stones are “ridin’ round the world,” “doin’ this and signing that,” presumably signing autographs and contracts. No matter how successful one becomes, no matter how many lusts seem to be fulfilled, satisfaction remains elusive.

Despite the remarkable changes, in the ’60’s and today, nothing has really changed. Or to use the Scriptural language, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The prophet Isaiah spoke to his day, and says the same to us: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Is 55.2)

Satisfaction at its simplest means having enough food. After you’ve eaten, you are full – but fullness starts to mean more. A man in full, a full life, fulfillment – all circle around the idea of reaching your goals, having your desires, finding meaning in your relationships, then having a legacy, something to pass on to your children.

So, are you satisfied? Are you satisfied with:

  • Your work?
  • Your health?
  • Your house?
  • Your family?
  • Your self?

Why not? Today the Lord says to you, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” You can advance in your career, but it will not be enough. You can exercise more, and eat better, but you will still be consumed by the grave. The next place to live in will not be good enough. Your family will always be in trouble, because that is the nature of a sinful world. You are not going to find satisfaction in any of your pursuits, by themselves. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

The things that tempt you are empty promises. When you indulge your lusts, meditate on your fantasies, give in to your anger, take the next drink you know is too much, take the next bite you know will lead to regret and self-hatred, you are contributing to your own downfall. But this is not just about getting more self-control, even though that is a Scriptural virtue. My friend Garrett Kell, pastor at Del Ray Baptist up the road, put it well: “Temptations always show you the path of pleasure, but never show you the destination of death.” Your search for satisfaction doesn’t just end in disappointment, it ends in judgment, death, hell.

You were created to be satisfied in God alone. Only then can you receive the created things as gifts to be enjoyed from the one who satisfies you. Repent of seeking satisfaction from created things rather than the Creator. Repent of making satisfaction your god. Repent of making your own satisfaction the center of your world. You were created to be satisfied in God alone, and all of your dissatisfaction has been driving you to this wonderful place of emptiness before God who alone can help you. Precisely where you confess your hunger and thirst, your emptiness and dissatisfaction – at that place you can be filled and satisfied by what God has to give you.

Come, everyone who thirsts, 

come to the waters; 

and he who has no money, 

come, buy and eat! 

Come, buy wine and milk 

without money and without price.

The price has been paid by your Lord Jesus. He made Himself the friend of the dissatisfied, the poor, those who had wasted their lives pursuing pleasure in all the wrong places. For you Jesus made Himself empty. For you Jesus made Himself hungry and thirsty, cold and homeless, abandoned by friends, even forsaken by His Father. He paid the price by His innocent suffering and death. The Law has been satisfied, your guilt for sin has been satisfied, God’s wrath has been satisfied. The Lord is no longer angry with you. You have no shame, for it has been taken away. You have nothing more written against you, for it has been wiped clean. There are no recordings that will come out to disgrace you, for you are declared righteous by Jesus. In Him alone can you be satisfied.


Come, everyone who thirsts, 

come to the waters; 

and he who has no money, 

come, buy and eat! 

Come, buy wine and milk 

without money and without price.

These words are expounded upon by your Lord Jesus who said:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink, he who believes in Me. As the Scripture has said, Out of His heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37f)

Spear Thrust Crucifixion Fra Angelico

This was fulfilled when the spear was thrust into the side of Christ. His heart was opened, and blood and water flowed forth. As the first man’s side was opened up to give life to our mother Eve, so Christ the second Adam’s side was opened to give life to His bride the Church. Your life, your salvation, your satisfaction is found in the water that flows into the font, the blood that flows into the Sacrament of the Altar.

You cannot buy the Sacramental gifts; these gifts flow freely from the Host of the banquet.

Perhaps you say, “I have sinned too greatly, too frequently. I am utterly corrupt within. Although I hide it from others, I know it is not hidden from God.” Mark well this Word from God:

My thoughts are not your thoughts, 

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 

so are my ways higher than your ways 

and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is 55.8f)

This doesn’t mean God’s ways are generally mysterious. It is dealing with how we find life and not death, righteousness and not judgment. Our ways are how the world values things: who has earned the most, who is famous, who is beautiful, who is perfect. Also in religion we are looking for who is righteous, or who has the best personal story, and the pastor who is most eloquent, or funny, or inspiring, or handsome.

God’s ways are entirely different. He calls the poor, the lame, the outcast, the despised to His table. To you who despair of your salvation, to you who say, “I am too sinful, too weak, I have not done enough, given enough, prayed enough” – the Lord replies, “My way is free. Come to Me. Behold My outstretched arms, behold My bleeding side, behold the crown of thorns I wear for you. Your curse is on My head, your curse is why I became dead, but My life, My righteousness, My wine and milk I give to you without price.”

So run, dear child of God, to this table the Lord has prepared for you. His arms are outstretched still, and freely He gives to you the only thing that can satisfy. +INJ+


Sermo Dei: Trinity 17, 2016

Posted on September 19th, 2016

Duccio, Healing of the Blind Man

Duccio, Healing of the Blind Man

Luke 14:1-11

September 18, 2016

Baptism of Adam James Winterstein

Adam James. What a wonderful name for a boy. The middle name was an especially brilliant choice. But Adam connects us right with the father of the human race, the first formed.

He fell. And like the donkey fallen in the pit in today’s Gospel, God’s interest is in raising Adam up, rescuing humanity from the pit, the grave, the darkness.

That’s why we bring Adam, and all our little ones, right away to the font. In the New Testament, the first Christians on the day of Pentecost were told that Baptism’s gifts—forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit—were not for them alone, but for their children, and ultimately for the world. Thus when a man was baptized in the book of Acts, his whole household was baptized.

Did you know that infant baptism was never questioned for the first fifteen centuries of Christianity? Baptism is a beautiful sacrament showing how God takes the helpless one and helps; He takes the lowest and exalts him; He rescues the one fallen in the pit.

This is the meaning of the Sabbath. The first Sabbath, God rested because His creation was complete, beautiful, good. Every Sabbath thereafter exists because man is corrupted by death, filled with fear, dominated by disordered desires.

There’s a theological term for those disordered desires – concupiscence. It’s worth exploring for a bit, because concupiscence is what’s wrong with you – and me. Some books define concupiscence merely as lust, but that concept has become very narrow in our decadent society. Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church explains it: “The inordinate desire for temporal ends which has its seat in the senses” (p396). Let’s expand that out: Our desires are inordinate, meaning our desires are excessive, disproportionate, and they are for temporal things—right now—that gratify the senses: tasting, touching, seeing, hearing, smelling. Turned in on ourselves, we pursue what we want, not what is good for others and pleasing to God. We measure everything by how it serves us.

So eating is good, but we eat too much of the wrong things. Drinking is good, but you may take too much, which clouds the mind and destroys the body. You know how easy it is to fall prey to other physical desires. We’ve seen a tremendous rise in disordered desires related to physical attraction, orientation, and so-called gender dysphoria.

Confronting this as Christians, we must first of all recognize the disordered desires within us. Pornography, wandering eyes, inappropriate activity before and outside of marriage—all break the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Do you remember the Catechism explanation? Open up your hymnbook to p321; it’s important to have the Catechism memorized. Let’s say it together: What is the Sixth Commandment? You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other. (Keep it open, we’re coming back.)

Disordered desires are not to be embraced and celebrated, but confessed and crucified.

As we meet others with disordered desires, we first acknowledge our own, and our need for repentance. The answer we give to others is the same as ourselves: disordered desires are not to be embraced and celebrated, but confessed and then crucified. The Word of God says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). And again, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24). And finally, St. Paul says “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:27). We all have disordered desires, which is why we all confess our sins, each one of us, when we gather together as the disciples of Jesus.

And this is why He commands us to come, this is the meaning of the Sabbath. St. Ambrose said about the Lord’s Supper, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.” The men watching Jesus carefully in today’s Gospel are waiting to see if Jesus will do work on the Sabbath, with healing being considered work. He highlights their hypocrisy, because they would help an animal if it was hurt. Is it wrong, then, to help a man?

This is why the Lord Jesus became man: to help Adam, and all his fallen sons and daughters. Jesus heals the man, for the Sabbath was for man to stop his work and receive the work of God.

Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath perfectly by resting in the tomb.

There is no more law regarding the Sabbath for Christians. It’s part of the entire ceremonial law done away with. Just as there are no more sacrifices of animals, or dietary restrictions, or keeping of Jewish festivals, so there is no more Sabbath. The earliest Christians, themselves Jews, established a new pattern, which has continued unbroken among Christians to the present day: We worship on the first day of the week, which they called the Lord’s Day, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.

Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath perfectly by resting in the tomb after His crucifixion. Risen from the dead, we gather each week on that day to celebrate His resurrection and ask for His healing among us.

We all still struggle with disordered desires. When we are baptized, the guilt of sin is taken away, but the effects remain. Those effects, the selfish and distorted impulses in us, and the death creeping in our nature, we call the old Adam. So Adam James is freed today of the guilt of the Old Adam, but still has the effects of the Old Adam, for which we pray God gives Jonathan and Katie strength to train and discipline him.

Look then at the Small Catechism on the Third Commandment (again, p321). What is the Third Commandment? Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. You see nothing about a day there, but the entire focus is on the Word of God.

“Take away my disordered desires, and give me a new heart.”

That Word does two chief things: It condemns all your disordered desires, and the ways you’ve acted on them. It calls you to repentance, to turn in sorrow from your selfish life and lusts. And then, we hear another Word, the Word of Jesus who heals on the Sabbath, who rescues a fallen donkey, a fallen man. Not everything is healed yet, although that is our prayer and our deepest desire. The Christian says, “Take away my concupiscence, take away my lust, my pride, my anger. Give me a new heart.”

Your Lord is working this in you, and He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. +INJ+


Sermo Dei: IC Chapel Service

Posted on September 19th, 2016


Matthew 6:24-34

LCMS International Center Chapel

Matins, September 9, 2016

In the beginning, “What shall we eat?” was a question answered by God: “All these trees are food for you.” “What shall we wear?” was a question unconsidered. For the man and his wife were naked and without shame. They had nothing to hide, from each other or God; no impure thought or desire entered their minds. Clothes protect us from cold and frost, sun and wind, the teeth and venom of insects and animals. But our first parents had no need for such protection. They played as children, without care, without anxiety.

Then they set aside the Word of God, and the questions, “What shall we eat?” and “What shall we drink?” and “What shall we wear?” became all-consuming. Anxieties about the most basic things in life undergird all our other worries, from the great waves buffeting the church to the troubles our children face. Uncertain that God cares or hears, we are held in bondage by our fears.

Bo Giertz said: “No man can avoid anxieties. It is a matter of knowing how to manage them.” That sounds like a peaceful life is just a matter of the right technique.

You can find some relief in what you do: meditation or medication, exercise and proper rest. But the fundamental human anxieties revealed by those questions, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” still remain. They deal with death – keeping yourself alive through food and money. And they deal with shame – covering yourself in the hour of accusation. And underlying death and shame is the sin that drives it all, not just this or that sin, but the cosmic sin of a world curved in on itself and rejecting her creator.

Our age believes itself dwelling in an ungoverned cosmos, without meaning or morals. That’s the deeper anxiety which the philosophy masquerading as science has unleashed upon the modern world.

Today the Lord Jesus calls you back to this truth: You prodigals have a Father, who longs for your return home. The crippling anxiety of the prodigal becomes a gift driving him back home, to the Father who loves him still.

That’s what Giertz was getting at when he said, “No man can avoid anxieties. It is a matter of knowing how to manage them.” He continues:

If we try to have God alongside of all else, then we become captive to our anxieties. We cannot have God simply as some extra aid that sometimes will break in and put things in order as for instance when our health fails or our affairs are tangled up.

Managing our anxieties means handing them over to the Manager, the One who invites us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.

Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord demands absolute obedience: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He exposes our hypocrisy. Have you gazed lustfully at a woman? You are the adulterer. God sees. He knows. Have you said in your heart, “He is a fool” – perhaps already this morning in your first meeting? You are the hypocrite, judged by your own words. Your righteousness is not enough. “You must be perfect,” concludes the Lord.

But then Jesus couples “Be not anxious,” with this extraordinary word: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” This seeking means abandoning trust in yourself, in your righteousness. His righteousness is a gift, the gift of Jesus Himself. His righteousness is your justification, His passion is your perfection.

Now the Lord JESUS says to you, “All those things that cause you anxiety, stemming from your sin? Behold, I have taken away your sin. All that makes you worry, the things of death? Behold, I have died your death. Those dark deeds you worry will be exposed? Behold, I clothe you with My righteousness.”

“Therefore do not worry about what you will eat,” says your Lord; “for I feed you with the finest of wheat. Do not worry about what you will drink,” says your Lord, “for I give you wine and milk without money and without price. And do not worry about what you will wear, for I have worn your flesh and taken it into death. You will wear My flesh in the resurrection. You shall not die but live, and rejoice in what I have made.”

Therefore do not worry! +INJ+


Sermo Dei: Trinity 15, 2016

Posted on September 6th, 2016

Jesus icon mosaic

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

September 4, 2016

Matthew 6.24-34

Worship doesn’t only happen in church. Everything is worship, service, attachment. Go to a football stadium, and you will see throngs of worshippers. As a Christian wears a cross, so the worshippers at the stadium are clad in expensive garments bearing the symbols of their gods. There is a liturgy, with a hymn for the local gods and an anthem of allegiance to the civil religion.

I don’t mean to pick on football. Worship, service, attachment are everywhere. Actors, musicians, politicians all have their names chanted, and receive offerings.

Our phones have become objects of worship. We must always be touching them, always staring at them. Forget it at home, and there is a crisis. And within that cult, there are competing denominations, Apple and Google.

All of the other things we worship—a person’s devotion to the increase of his investment portfolio, or the achievement of her dream; devotion to sex or celebrity, a political win or indulging in sin—it all gets wrapped up in the Scriptural term mammon. It’s not only money, as it’s often translated, but anything we become attached to.

“You cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus says. Those are the only two options: God, or worldly attachments.

The problem with attachments is we worry about them, worry we will become detached, that we will lose the object of our desire. That’s at the heart of anxiety.

An old book of Hebrew wisdom says, “Jealousy and anger shorten days, and anxiety brings old age before the proper time.” (Sirach 30:24, LES) Anxiety ages you; you can see it in the hair, the face, the gut.

In the Bible, the opposite of anxiety is the Greek term hēdonē, hedonism, or pleasures. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus puts these opposites side by side, showing how they both can destroy you. “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” (Luke 8:14, NKJV) If you devote your life to pleasures (hedonism), it will choke you, and you won’t come to maturity. The exact same thing happens by worry. Anxiety also chokes you, and you don’t come to maturity.

People have always worried. One of the first places it shows up in ancient literature is with children. You are charged with the care of a child, and you are kept awake by those cares.

A book from the third century BC, Sirach, describes all the worry a Jewish father has about his daughter.

“A daughter is hidden sleeplessness to a father, and anxiety over her drives away sleep; in her youth, lest she become past her prime; or married, lest she be hated; in maidenhood, lest she be defiled, and she become pregnant in her father’s house; when with a husband, lest she transgress; and married, lest she be barren.” (Sirach 42:9–10, LES)

Note again the connection between anxiety and insomnia. And what’s he worried about? When she’s little, he worries she won’t get married; when she’s married, he worries she’ll have a cruel husband. He worries she’ll get pregnant before she’s married, or that she won’t get pregnant once she is. In other words, every single situation causes him to worry. He’s always worried! And that’s how we can become about everything.

There’s only one real antidote: commend all of it, all the worry, all the anxiety, into God’s hands.

“[Cast] all your care upon Him,” St. Peter says, “for He cares for you” (1 Pt. 5.7)  The Lord calls us to pray because He wants to take our burdens from us. He will stay awake with them, and give to you, His beloved, sleep.

The words of St. Paul cannot be repeated often enough:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NKJV)

Much of what you worry about is legitimate: Whether it’s your child’s first day of school or first week away at college, your thoughts are naturally with him. How you’ll pay your bills, your lack of a spouse or your lack of harmony with the one you have, your sciatic pain or your feeling of shame – these are things that concern everyone who faces them.

But knowing you have a Father who does indeed care for you, knowing you have a Redeemer who is risen from the dead, knowing you have the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Advocate – this creates an entirely different view to the situation.

God doesn’t say, “Don’t worry, everything will turn out fine.” It might not. The doctor’s diagnosis might be deadly accurate. Your problems might get worse, not better. Putting your problems before God doesn’t guarantee a better earthly outcome.

But putting your problems, your worries and fears before God will liberate you from the crippling anxiety because you are coming to know that He gives us what we need, and He knows what we need better than we do.

The child screams and demands satisfaction immediately; the Father says, “Be patient, little one, I’m preparing something better just for you.”

Our worries mean we’ve forgotten what our Father said; we’ve stopped remembering for awhile that God cares for us and will take care of us.

We can be worried about the future of our congregation, or the financing of our building project, or what the new school year will look like, or what the future holds for your company, or what will happen in the election, whether you will find a spouse, or improve the relationship with the one you have. All these are worries that we as Christians must commend into God’s hands. He will care for us.

What is given to us to do is to work the things within our domain: change the diaper, cook the meal, follow the teacher’s guidance, support what is good, turn away from what is evil, or worthless. Ora et labora – “pray and work.”

Yet this does not mean that, in matters of life and death, in matters of salvation, that we pray for God to do His part, and work to do our part. No, a key concept here is that everything ultimately rests on work already done outside of ourselves.

Today’s Gospel reading comes from the Sermon on the Mount. Near the beginning, Jesus says that unless our righteousness is greater than the Scribes and Pharisees – that is, unless our moral and spiritual life is better than the very best people – we will by no means enter the kingdom of God.

Then in today’s Gospel Jesus says, after telling us not to worry, that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Our righteousness is never enough. The righteousness of God is what is all-sufficient for us. That righteousness is in the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus. If you have that, you have everything. You can lose nothing.

Which means, if you have the forgiveness of sins, the promise of the resurrection of the body, the life of the world to come, than what are you worrying about? Seriously. What are you worrying about? All our worries are like being anxious for the prick of the needle that is about to put an inoculation into us, or the antidote to some deadly poison.

Many things are painful in this life, horribly so. The holy Christian faith is not about saying those things aren’t real, that they don’t hurt. Of course they do. But the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead. When we worry, it’s because we’ve forgotten that. Death has lost its power over us. When we have anxiety, it’s because we’ve forgotten that. The evil one has been defeated, and his time is short. When we despair, it’s because we’ve forgotten that.

But now Christ is risen, and you need not worry.

The gates of hell shall not prevail, and you need have no anxiety.

You and your children are baptized. Believe what God says about that, and do not despair.

Do your work, care for your children, love your neighbor, confess your sins, and at the end of the day put all of your troubles into God’s hands. And when you awake, even awake from the sleep of death, you will say with the Lord Jesus the words of Psalm 139:18, “I awake, and I am still with You.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will never abandon you. Therefore, do not worry! +INJ+

Sermo Dei: Trinity 13, 2016

Posted on August 21st, 2016

Good Samaritan window

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles talks about the dedication necessary to compete at the highest level. “I could choose to hit snooze…. I’m at the gym 300 days a year. I could take a day off. But I don’t. I choose to rise to the challenge.” That’s what’s before you, if you want gold: You can choose to hit snooze, or you can choose to be awesome.

When you watch Simone Biles compete, or Katie Ledecky, or Michael Phelps, you’re seeing the result of extraordinary dedication. Some people inherit money, or good looks – but you cannot inherit being a great athlete, or musician, or surgeon, or pilot, or Navy SEAL. You have to spend enormous amounts of focused time in the pool, in the practice room, studying, suffering, repeating repeating repeating until it’s perfect, until it’s automatic. Perfection requires absolute, comprehensive effort.

The lawyer knows that when he asks Jesus about the Law in today’s gospel (Luke 10:23-37). How do you get eternal life? It requires a total perfection that makes the greatest musician, athlete, or special forces operative look like a slacker. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, all your mind. And, you must love your neighbor as yourself. Not 300 days a year, but 365. Every moment of every day. Every word, every thought, every action.

The lawyer knows he doesn’t measure up. Did you see the 800 meter women’s freestyle? At one point Katie Ledecky was so far ahead, none of the other swimmers were even visible on the screen. Nobody was close. The only thing chasing her was the world record line, and that lost too.

That’s us, every one of us, compared to the law. Not even close.

Not even close was what the priest and Levite wanted to be, in the story Jesus tells the lawyer. It’s understandable – the man in the ditch is nearly dead, and the men who did this to him are probably lurking nearby, awaiting their next victim. The safe thing to do is get away from the danger, keep moving and take cover.

This parable is usually called the Good Samaritan, but I call it the parable of the man in the ditch. That man is helped by someone who comes from the outside, a stranger who makes an extraordinary, sacrificial effort to rescue the man.

Now the situation is this: Samaritans and Jews hated each other. This man was on a dangerous road, and he’s a lost cause – dying. Yet the Samaritan gives everything he has: oil and wine for cleansing and treating his wounds, his beast for transportation, his hotel room, money for more medical care, with a promise to pay whatever future costs there might be. This is heroism, this is extraordinary effort that goes beyond winning a swimming race or gymnastic competition.

Now there are several ways of reading the parable. One of them takes the whole meaning from the last words: “Go and do likewise.” You have to do this, you have to be just like the Good Samaritan, you have to give up everything, sacrifice everything, be perfect even to people who hate you, if you want a shot at the kingdom of God. And that is, indeed, what the Law says: “You must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And James, the brother of the Lord, says, “Whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles in just one point, he is guilty of all.”

“Go and do likewise” damns us.

“Go and do likewise” damns us. We can marvel at Michael Phelps in the pool, but if the gold medal ceremony ends with “Go and do likewise,” almost everyone would say, “I cannot. It is too much; I am too old, too weak, too inclined to hit the snooze button.”

If we would say this of an athletic contest, what would we say in a moral contest? Go and do likewise: never say a word in anger; never look, even for a moment, lustfully at a woman; give all your money away; be absolutely dutiful to your parents; always say the total truth; never squabble with your spouse; be content with your money and don’t wish you had more; pray without ceasing.

Do these things describe you, to the uttermost? “Go and do likewise” is impossible as a standard of justification for us, that is, of being declared righteous by God, of having a good standing before God. By this measure all of us are weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Our first father is the man who fell among thieves. Robbed of his dignity, he was stripped naked and put to shame.

Where it leaves us is where all humanity is and has been, since long ago a man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho, i.e., since man left the City of God in the service of desire, lust, pride, and self-glory. He journeyed toward Jericho, the city of rebellion, prostitution, self-indulgence. On his way that man, our first father, fell among thieves. Robbed of his dignity, he was stripped naked and put to shame. He was still alive, but there was no life in him. He was half-dead: no longer human, yet not as the beasts. He had a mind but could not concentrate, he had legs but could not walk, he had a voice but growled and uttered curses. His eyes could not stop staring at screens. He saw evil but could not look away. Originally righteous, he was filled by the evil, becoming as the demons who had robbed him.

And is this not you, you who keep on looking at things of which you should be ashamed? You have wandered far. You are not awesome but have hit snooze repeatedly, not praying, not meditating on God’s Word, not listening, talking but saying nothing, always focused on your own lusts, lusts which only harm you and those around you.

Christian man crucified in Syria

Christian man crucified in Syria

Christians are dying in Syria whose names you know not, but you know the name of a dead gorilla in Ohio, or a dead lion in Africa. We can argue passionately about the merits or lack thereof of presidential candidates, but are we tuned into the needs of our neighbor, or the doctrines found in Holy Scripture?

You are not the Good Samaritan – but the Lord Jesus is.

You are the man in the ditch, you are the man stripped naked and put to shame. You are not the Good Samaritan at all – but the Lord Jesus is. He comes from the outside, and He runs to the ditch where we lay, a place where no other man would or could go. He pours in the oil, a token of bathing in the ancient world. The first Christians anointed with oil those who had been baptized; this is called the Chrismation, and later Confirmation. Thus did Anna Leigh receive this morning the oil, the bath, the cleansing that no amount of baby wipes or Johnson & Johnsons baby bath soap can give. The Lord Jesus cleanses the traumatized, cleanses the human race by means of the Baptism He gives.

To this He adds the wine, alcohol to disinfect, but wine that makes glad the heart of man. Our Lord Jesus gives His blood for wine, the blood that marked our ancient fathers’ doors at the Passover, blood we now receive at the Holy Eucharist. This is the sober intoxication, the holy inebriation by which our hearts are made glad not through drunkenness but through the joy of being received by the God who loves us, even us who have wandered so far and lived so selfishly.

He who rode on the beast of burden into Jerusalem for His execution, gives us His own beast going to a different destination, His inn, His Church where He keeps on caring for us. And He leaves tokens, money, denarii to keep on caring for us, with promise of great reward upon His return.

Now it would be very easy to say, “Rejoice and be glad, Amen!” at this point. But is there really no point at all to the concluding words of Jesus, “Go and do likewise”? True, we cannot justify ourselves, rescue ourselves, save ourselves. We have no perfection in ourselves.

But what we have received, we share. “Forgive us our trespasses,” the Lord teaches us to pray, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” What we receive from Jesus, we share. Going into the world, we will find all of our fellow siblings, all the sons and daughters of Adam who are traumatized by this life, who need what we have received.

Brought into the inn, as we are healed we begin serving the other patients, and hauling in as many as we can from the ditch, sometimes kicking and screaming in the agony of their wounds and their brokenness.

This short life is not for hitting snooze. We may not be awesome in a gold-medal winning sense – but awesome consists not in silver or gold, but in the gifts of Jesus which heal us, join us to God and neighbor, and propel us toward the resurrection. These are the awesome things that give us our joy. +INJ+

Sermo Dei: Trinity 9, 2016

Posted on July 24th, 2016

God made man to give him gifts. God made the world out of nothing, and He made it for man. Man is the crown of God’s creation. God gave man everything in the creation. He gave it for Adam’s enjoyment and nourishment. He also gave man a vocation, a calling: He called Adam to be steward of the earth. As God’s steward, or chief manager, the man would exercise dominion, Godly rule in the earth.

Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over every living creature. One thing alone was held back from the man: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why? Because God wished the man to know good alone, and not evil. As you parents wish to shield your children from the horrors of the world and the wicked designs of men, until they can bear them, so God wished for His steward to know nothing of evil.


But the man was beguiled by this thought: the Lord is not a good Lord. His Word is harmful to me, a lie intended to oppress me.

Thus not content with his stewardship, the man sought by his action to overthrow his Lord. His sin was not eating fruit. His sin was a rebellious plot by which he would become as God.

So did our first father the steward squander his inheritance. Adam was the first unjust steward. He misused what God had given him. He squandered his inheritance and so was removed from the stewardship.

Well, not removed entirely. For although he was called to give an account of his stewardship, and the Lord pronounced death upon our first parents at that reckoning, still the Lord forgave.

He covered their naked bodies, now filled with shame, with the skin of a sacrificial victim. Blood was shed to cover their shame. And He promised an offspring, a seed, a male child of the woman who would be the Steward Adam had failed to be. This Steward would be a just steward, a righteous steward, an honest steward who perfectly carries out His Lord’s will.

To be a steward is to have a lord. Today we heard a story about a steward who lost his lord. Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 16:1-13) is a parable, which is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It’s often called the Parable of the Unjust Steward, or the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. He has squandered his master’s goods, and has been caught. About to lose his job and be humiliated, he devises a plan to make friends with money in hopes they will help him. He’s even commended for being shrewd, for exercising cunning in preparing for his future. Smart people, even corrupt ones, plan for the future. So why don’t you? That’s the first point of this parable: You are a Christian, you know the truth, so why are you not wise and careful about how you plan and prepare for eternity? And the second point is this: You have been an unjust steward, you are unwise because your attention is on all the wrong things. Thus Jesus concludes with the simple declaration, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Which are you serving? Which is most important to you? What do you care about?

The unjust steward cares nothing for his lord. Nor does he care about those under his care. He cares only about himself.

And so he loses his lord.

Does that sound liberating to you, to be without a lord? It certainly sounds American.

Our country was born from the idea of throwing off oppressive rule. Many look at Christianity as coming back under oppression, a system of superstition designed to prey on the weak, subjugate the meek, take your money, and destroy your joy.

But genuine Christianity is not tyranny. To have God as your Lord is not to come under His oppression but His protection. Not to be enslaved but redeemed. For this Lord rescues lost sheep, welcomes home prodigal sons, forgives the woman caught in adultery, welcomes Lazarus the starving beggar to His banquet.

To be a steward is to have a lord. To be God’s steward is to have Christ Jesus for your Lord. Our Small Catechism puts all of this beautifully when it says, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”

To be a steward is to have a lord. To be God’s steward is to have Christ Jesus for your Lord, to be rescued from death. You are not brought into bondage but into blessedness.

The Bible speaks about pastors as stewards in God’s household, with a solemn charge to administer the gifts of Word and Sacrament as the Lord has instructed.

Stewardship, however, encompasses everything we have and do, even the seemingly smallest decisions, like should I step on this ant, or spend time watching that video. What has God given me my foot, my eyes, my time and money for?

When Blake and Katie received a daughter, a gift from God, they also received a stewardship. Children are not ours, trophies of genetic accomplishment, or garbage to be discarded. Each human being from the womb is a gift from God, and parents are stewards charged with their nurture and protection. The first act of stewardship is to bring the little child back to the Lord. Born into this corrupt world full of death, we bring our children to the Lord of life saying, “Receive this child who is Yours to begin with; love, care, forgive, do what we cannot. And when her last hour comes, receive her to Yourself. Be her Father, give her the birth from above, and let her be Yours unto the ages of ages.”

Parents have a calling to teach their children. They, not the government, are stewards of their children’s education. Because this is difficult work, and because the government would often mislead our children about the truth of the world, the law, the meaning of the human person, even now which bathroom is the right one to use – because of all this, the church helps in this stewardship by providing schools for children to be taught the truth, taught by Christians who glorify the Creator in all they do.

Everything you have is given to you to exercise your stewardship of the world. How will you account for the way you spent, or gave, or hoarded, your money? How will you account for the way you used your words? How will you account for the way you used, or abused, your body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit?

I don’t like ticking clocks, they distract me. But I was struck by what the Baptist author and seminary president Al Mohler said about ticking watches and clocks: as each second audibly clicks by, he is reminded of the shortness of his life and the responsibility to use his time according to God’s will. How are you stewarding your time? How will you give an account of it before God?

Even your vote is an exercise of stewardship. Use this gift as an exercise of the conscience, rather than a quest for power.

You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon, God and money.

Repent. Repent, and rejoice that you have a Lord who rescues lost sheep, who finds lost coins, who welcomes home prodigal sons. You have a Lord who welcomes Lazaruses to His Supper, who takes unjust stewards and makes them just, forgiven, righteous, even to the point of raising their dead bodies when they fail, and receiving them into everlasting habitations. To be a steward is to have a lord. So confess with the Catechism, Jesus Christ … is my Lord, who has redeemed me. Jesus the just steward exercised His stewardship like this: He gave everything away, even His own life, on the cross for you.

In the Name of + Jesus

Little apples for simpletons

Posted on July 19th, 2016


Browsing some commentary on the recently completed LCMS Convention, I came across a thread on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau forum. An ELCA pastor, Brian Stoffregan (whom I do not know), makes an interesting statement there about Holy Scripture: “The academy is necessary to help us understand the meaning of the texts, which can be different from what they say.” Granted that he’s talking about the importance of understanding Scripture in context, I find this notion deeply troubling, and perhaps the single greatest difference between our church bodies. One of my axioms is if you have to add words to Scripture to explain why it doesn’t mean what it clearly sounds like, you’ve got the wrong interpretation.

Today’s reading in the Luther Brevier takes a different approach: the Scriptures are not for the academics, but for the simple person who trusts what God says:

[The Bible] is the book that makes all wise and clever people into fools and can only be understood by fools and simpletons. That is why you should let go of your arrogance and other false attitudes and hold this book in high regard: as the highest and noblest sacred object, as if it were the riches treasure trove that can never be emptied or exhausted. Many years ago I read the whole Bible twice and if it were to be compared to a tall sturdy tree and if all the words were branches and twigs, I have in effect shaken all these branches, curious to know what was hanging on them and what they had to offer and each time I was able to knock down a few more little apples or pears. [p217]

There is a place for the Christian academy, with the study of language, history, literature and archeology leading us to a deeper understanding of Scripture. With no unkindness meant to Pr Stoffregan, however, I cannot accept the idea that I need an academic to tell me why the Scriptures mean something “different from what they say.”

LCMS Convention Sermon: “Saints and Faithful Brothers”

Posted on July 11th, 2016

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the disciples. And the disciples argued.

How quickly we can go from the Lord’s Table to the devil’s business! St. Luke tells us that they received Christ’s blood, then immediately quarreled   about “which of them should be considered the greatest” (Lk 22.24).


These men were brothers twice. Sons of our first father Adam, they were now by His Supper blood-brothers with Jesus. Yet they fought.

The history of the world is the history of feuding brothers: Cain and Abel; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and the eleven. “But not so among you,” says the Lord Jesus. His Father is our Father; He is our brother, making us all brothers and sisters of each other, not by blood alone, but by forgiveness. How then is it that you murmur and grumble about those whom Jesus has joined to Himself?

This morning’s remarkable reading (Colossians 1:1-14) has words easy to gloss over, a standard sermon opening we’ve heard a thousand times. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Boring! Yet that greeting is the good news!

To whom are these words spoken? To saints. And not saints alone, but “saints and faithful brothers.”

That is who you are: holy ones, brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus, and so brothers and sisters with each other.

How then can we argue with and grumble about each other? St. Paul says in Romans, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We, together, belong to Jesus. So, the Apostle asks, “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14). Whom Christ has joined as brothers, dare we put asunder?

Sometimes brothers can be united in the wrong way. James and John, the sons of thunder, were eager to call down fire on those who did not receive Jesus. Jesus told them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” Will the Lord Jesus say this of us at our convention?

There must be divisions, the Scripture says, to show who is approved. But arguing in the church is like arguing in marriage: If you’re trying to win, you’ll lose even when you win.

Beware of loving the fight.

A wise pastor said to a young seminary student eager to bring change to the church, “Beware of loving the fight.” Conventions and debates are necessary, but the moment we love winning more than we love each other as saints and faithful brothers, we’ve lost even if we win.


This is what St. Paul wants for us: “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Compare that with the man who said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12.13) The inheritance is shared; it is not mine or yours, something we can divide up or hoard for ourselves. It is the inheritance of the saints, and that only by virtue of being in Christ, the true Saint, the true Holy One. Jesus said to Peter in the Upper Room, Unless I wash you, you have no share—no part, no portion of the inheritance—with Me. Jesus does this, Jesus acts, Jesus performs, Jesus gives us the share of His inheritance.

Which is to say, our congregations, our districts, our Synod, our families, our own calling as disciples of Jesus – none of it is our own doing. The Father has qualified us, delivered us, transferred us to the Son’s kingdom, for He has redeemed us.

St. Paul continues this theme in the next chapter of Colossians, where everything is grounded in our new identity in Jesus:

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Col. 2:11-13)

In Him, with Him, with Him, with Him: Circumcised in Him, buried with Him, raised with Him, made alive with Him – all things are with Him and in Him and through Him.

The Father has delivered us from wars, strife, and contention. He has transferred us to Christ’s kingdom where forgiven brothers and sisters forgive each other.

We have one Brother from whom we derive our brotherhood.

This is why St. Paul can call us saints, holy ones, because Jesus takes sinners and calls them saints. We are faithful brothers, loyal to each other, for we have one Brother from whom we derive our brotherhood.

“We know that we have passed out of death into life,” St. John says, “because we love the brothers” (1 Jn 3.13). Over this week, we may disagree on some things. May it not be as sons of thunder, calling down fire or jockeying for positions of greatness. We are saints, made holy by the blood of the Lamb. We are faithful brothers, because we have a Brother who was faithful unto death. In Him will we live, in Him will we die, and His will we be forever.+INJ+