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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The Resurrection of Our Lord 2019

If we dare ask ourselves this question—“Why do I live this brief and fragile life?”—then the next thought is to accuse God, blame God for the problem – even insist we do not believe in Him, like a teenage son shouting at his father, “I hate you!”

So, into this world He made, the world which now hates Him – God comes. He has heard the cries, the accusations, and the laments. God walks to the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He listens to the accusations of Lazarus’ sisters. “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? If you had been here, this would not have happened!” The words sting like slaps to His face.

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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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On Christian Unity

If Christians do not cultivate unity in doctrine and in life among themselves, they are misled by their flesh and blood, standing by peacefully as divisions arise and discord grows day by day. God did not give His gifts to only one Christian or to one Christian congregation. Instead, He distributes them in such a way that all must work together to succeed. When divisions surface, success is hindered—errors increase, quarrels become more passionate, confusion grows, false judgments and a spirit of condemnation ensue, and sects become more numerous. When this happens, how many lose the foundation upon which their faith is built! When the poor world sees how disunited Christians are among themselves, it finds little reason to embrace the faith and is even comforted in rejecting it. Many are offended who might have been won to Christianity.

Christian unity always produces a blessing. If the Church is one in doctrine and life, in faith and love, it shares its gifts and knowledge. It then grows in the wealth of knowledge, the power of faith, the fervor of love, the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and the liveliness of hope. It grounds itself ever more deeply and builds itself ever more gloriously, adorned with all sorts of gifts of the Spirit. It then extends its hands to raise up shepherds and soldiers who pursue the work of converting those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and who struggle against the enemies of the truth.

Satan knows all too well what kind of power the Church exercises when it is united. It then not only greens and bears fruit, but it also stands invincible against all of its enemies, conquering them and extending its borders. Therefore, Satan’s most important and dangerous strategy, which he employs to damage the Church is destroying its unity and sowing discord among its members. And how easily he succeeds! how quickly is the holy bond that binds Christians together torn apart! how quickly an ember of discord among the ashes is fanned into a bright flame that seizes and lays waste entire congregations! How necessary it is, then, that the Church carefully cultivate unity, pursuing it as a precious jewel!

– C.F.W. Walther