Misericordias Domini: The Third Sunday after Easter 2019

“The hireling,” Jesus says, “does not own the sheep.” But the Good Shepherd—the true and perfect shepherd—sees the sheep as belonging to Him. “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

The sheep, Jesus says, are His – His own. Here Jesus expresses more than mere ownership. This hymnbook is mine; it has my name on it. But more is happening here than just possession. I suppose that’s at the heart of what we call sin – seeing possessions, positions, and even other people as ours, such that we are masters, and everyone else is there to serve us.

But not so with Jesus. When He calls the sheep His own, two realities are coalescing in that one little phrase “My own”: The first is creation, and the second is incarnation.

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Vigil of Easter 2019

When a child is adopted, he gets a new family and also a new story, the family’s story, with its history, and hardships, and heroes. 

You who are baptized learn the story, your story. It’s the story of all mankind. But the unbaptized, and those who have wandered away from their baptism, have forgotten the story, the family history. Some have even developed competing stories, a falsified account. It is as though they came upon a beautiful mosaic, depicting with glittering tiles the image of a king. With malice they rearrange those tiles into the image of a fox.

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Judica 2019

“The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death.” Thus wrote Hermann Sasse in 1933. Sasse was among the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and vigorously opposed the Nazis, a dangerous position for a German pastor to take. But Sasse saw the lies of the National Socialists as part of a larger lie – a single great demonic lie that holds the world captive.

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Catechetical Sermon on the Second Article of the Creed

In the hour of darkness—when your career is collapsing; when your marriage is on the ropes; when you come face to face with the ugliness of your sin; when the stench of death cannot be sanitized by the wretched sterility of hospital antiseptic—when in the hour of darkness you despair, you don’t need a concept or a philosophy. A platitude won’t help. An ethic is worst of all, for the accuser gleefully reminds us that we have failed.

The supposed comfort of a nebulous better place I find revolting. Who are you to say there is a better place, and that my loved one is in it, or that I will go there? How do you know?

Leave me alone, incompetent comforter! I need a Lord, a real redeemer who is actually mine, who is coming for me!

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Oculi 2019

Renowned theologian Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitous.” In the battle against modern philosophy, Christianity is seen as—and sometimes is—in a battle with the modern world itself. Modernity sees Christianity as mired in antiquated superstition. So the preacher has a problem on his hands with all this talk of the devil in today’s gospel, and the last two weeks. You can talk about a man “battling his demons” if he is, say, an alcoholic. And we understand those demons to be metaphorical. An occasional mention of the devil you can get away with, because many people are like Michael Scott: not superstitious, but still a little stitious.

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Do you believe in monsters?

Do you believe in monsters?

Our word monster comes from the Latin monere, which means “to show” or “warn.” I’ve never seen for sure, but I suspect that monster stories arose to warn people about dangers in general. The monster put a scary, if imaginary, face on the general danger that is outside the safety of home and village.

So our history is filled with monster stories: Leviathan, the sea monster; Cyclops; Beowulf’s Grendel; up to more modern monsters like Tolkien’s Smaug.

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Annunciation 2019

What happened in Mary’s womb was not a miracle to grab the world’s attention, like some juggler or illusionist. The world-altering event takes place in secret. It happens through God’s Word to one woman, without an audience.

But it is world-altering in the same category as when God first said, “Let there be light.” To God’s fallen creation God Himself enters.

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Invocabit (Lent I) 2019

What we see in the account of Jesus’ temptation is the One Man who does not succumb to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. He is the One Man who does the will of the Father. And He does it under the harshest conditions. Jesus redoes, relives, recapitulates the whole history of Israel, and passes every test they failed.

And this means that He has endured every suffering that you know, and has resisted and overcome every temptation you experience. How does He overcome temptation? By means of the Word. Jesus is confident that the Father will be faithful to Him, that He will not go back on His Word, that He will not break His promise.

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Ash Wednesday 2019

The day will come when you will experience the wrath of God; this is shown us in death, and in other disasters that visit us. The holy prophet Habakkuk teaches us to pray to God like this: “In wrath remember mercy” [3:2]. This is our prayer in the day of trouble. But from the New Testament we have something even better; in the hour of trouble we can pray the prayer of the dying thief: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The Lord’s remembrance brought him, and will bring you, even to paradise.

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Quinquagesima 2019

Have you measured everything by what pleases you? Too easily you are provoked. Has your mind been filled with anger, revenge, and thoughts of how you’ve been wronged? Is it love that fills your thoughts and fantasies – or is it lust? Have you rejoiced in iniquity, taken pleasure and delight in things you know are displeasing to God? Then you have not love.

Love bears all things, endures all things, but you have said, “Enough! I will bear no more! Love has a limit.” We want our sins forgiven, but keep a record of how we’ve been sinned against.

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