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Luke 13:22-30, “Strive to Enter”

These words of our Lord ‘to strive’ echo those of St. Paul where He says, Fight (avgwni,zou) the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

Similarly, St. Jude writes, Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly (evpagwni,zesqai) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

The words of the ‘narrow door’ echo Jesus’ Words in St. Matthew’s gospel, Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Lk13.22-30, Pentecost 13, 2010C.pdf

Lk 12:49-53, “Division Because of Christ”

Friends, we are divided house—in the LCMS, and within Christendom. Not all agree what the Christian faith is, the true Christian doctrine, let alone, how to live it. Some of this dividedness is caused by human pride and ego. But more than this, it is caused by God’s very Word, because not all believe it, though it is true. Few accept it, though it brings life. More deny it, though the Scriptures present Christ and peace with God through Him.

Lk12.49-53, Pentecost 12, 2010C.pdf

Luke 12:22-34, “Do Not Be Anxious?”

Worry is not of God. But what is of God is certainty and confidence, for His Word is true.

Lk12.22-34, Pentecost 11, 2010C.pdf

Let each one remain in their calling…

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

1 Corinthians 7:20

Discontentment and dissatisfaction are rampant among us.  We are not happy with the way things are.  Things are not as we want them to be.  We don’t have ‘enough’ money, time, or resources to do what we think we should.  Even our ‘jobs’ sometimes (and for some, more than others) have the taste of mundaneness and even displeasure.

The Christian, too, struggles with such things.  They are not immune to the desires of the flesh.  And at times, they can be overwhelming, so overwhelming, in fact, that just doing anything becomes a challenge.  It is a blessing of God that one be joyful in his work, whether that work be inside or outside the home.  It is also a blessing of God that one delights serving Him according to His Word wherever he is and however God would have him serve within his calling.

Discontentment and dissatisfaction breeds contempt and does not come from God.  Rather does contentment and satisfaction come from Him who gives everything—freely and without a contribution from us (Ecclesiastes 3:12; 5:18-20).

Only the Christian knows such contentment and joy with the things of God.  Life is hard.  Being a Christian does not mean that things will get ‘easier.’  It may be just the opposite.  But the Christian has Christ, his “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  And it is because of Christ that the Christian has a confidence and zeal “for the Lord,” even as things don’t appear as he would like or as he thinks they should be.  It is because of Christ that the Christian has such confidence before God that God will not judge him a sinner because of his sin.  And it is because of Christ, who has done everything already, that the Christian joyfully goes about his work, fulfilling his calling as God has called him, whatever that calling may be, and however thankless that calling might seem.  One who has confidence in the Lord in His calling because of Christ will strive to serve to the best of his ability, and thanks the Lord for such work which pleases God and serves neighbor.

Lord, grant us such confidence.  Amen.

Luther

If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p12)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Giver of all good gifts, forgive us for taking for granted all that you freely give to us, even the very callings to which you have called us as parent, spouse, child, citizen, worker, Your baptized child and member of Your Church.  Forgive us for resenting you for placing us where we are, for being frustrated with our circumstances, and for neglecting the responsibilities of our calling.  Help us to trust in You, and to do better, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Reflections on a Christian Funeral

Just recently, one of the members of the congregation died.  He died.  He didn’t just ‘pass away.’  He died.  He stopped breathing.  His heart ceased.  And during the funeral, the casket being closed, laid the body of a loved one, friend, and saint of God.

Arnie was his name.  He has transferred from the ‘church militant’ to the ‘church triumphant.’  He was an active member, attending regularly unless physically unable.

Just about a week or two prior to his death, he confessed his sins by answering in the affirmative to questions I had asked him while using the ‘commendation of the dying’ section in one of our service books (Pastoral Care  Companion).  He later received the Lord’s Supper.  I reminded him of his baptism.

Arnie had confessed the faith.  He had run the race (Hebrews 12:1).  He had been baptized.  He heard the Word.  He received Christ’s body and blood.

All of the above point to what God had done, what He was doing, what He still does for us who remain living on earth.  All of the above, Word and Sacrament, emphasize God’s work—not man’s—for our salvation.  They point out our sure hope, our certain confidence.  Not by what we do, but by what God does in Christ Jesus, are you called a saint, a holy one of God.

On the day of Arnie’s funeral, there was indeed sorrow.  But there was also that sure confidence of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to His Word does the Lord declare it to be so:

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:16-23)

We gave thanks to the Lord for the life and for the faith God had given to His beloved child.  And we give thanks now for the life and for the faith God has given us, that we believe, and so live.

We were reminded of our own mortality that day in a most sublime way.  Arnie was not getting up.  But this didn’t mean that eternal life was not his, or that He was not with the Lord.

We walk by faith, not by sight, St. Paul the apostle says—by faith in the Lord’s abiding and true Word (2 Corinthians 5:7).  He doesn’t lie.  He says how it is.  He says that there is life, even in death.  And this we know to be true, all because of Jesus, the Living One, who conquered sin and death and the devil, and through whom we have life, eternal life.

Prayer:  Dear Father in Heaven, give us sure confidence in Your Word, that even as we sorrow and grieve, seeing the death of others and reflecting on our own mortality, we not lose hope, but look ever to You and Your Son Jesus Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.  Grant that we too look to our promised inheritance, setting our minds on things above, not on things of the earth; and meditating on what is good and noble and true.  Amen.

Should the mosque be built near ground zero?

The rage between whether or not to build the Islamic mosque near Ground Zero rages on,

but with little resolution in sight

(http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/fight_over_ny_mosque_becomes_a_partisan_wedge_issue/).  The issue is not so much about religious freedom, but rather of recognition of who did what and when.  It is a misuse of freedom to use one’s freedom to the hurt of another.  This truth the Bible teaches.  Abusing freedom is just what those who desire to either build the mosque or to allow it to be built are in the process of doing, to the hurt and consternation of many.

Definitions are important.

Freedom, as Paul writes about it, is not for the purpose of self-gain or self-appeasement at the expense of others.  Rather, true freedom, in Christ, knows nothing about self, only about serving others (Galatians 5:1, 13).  Of course, this kind of freedom, the kind that seeks only the good of others and is found only in Christ—this kind of freedom the disciples of Islam, and most Americans, know nothing about, for they have not faith in Him whom God sent to be the Savior from sin and everlasting condemnation.

Another definition needing clarification is ‘religious freedom.’  In this country, we have it.  In all countries where Islam is the presiding religion, there is none, except to abide by the laws of Islam, which is not freedom, but oppression, and where tyranny prevails.

Religious freedom means allowing for the establishment of any religion to exist, and its teachings and doctrine to be proclaimed, without silence, and apart from any coercion, but not with the government itself establishing it.

Religious freedom also means allowing religious debate (with words, not violence) to continue, in contrast to the attempt to consolidate all religions into one or to say that few differences exist, or to silence them all (i.e. communism).  There is only one way to heaven, and that way is through Christ—and Christ alone.

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