Sunday, December 30, 2007

Matthew 2

audio link

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why no sermon?

Look here for the answer. :)Link

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christ the King Sunday - Luke 23

audio link

powerpoint link

Monday, November 19, 2007


Sorry for the wav file this week, and no outline. Having some cpu tech diffs. I'll try to get it converted to mp3...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Luke 20

End of Days 2

Friday, October 19, 2007

Luke 17....a little behind :)

MP3 link

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two for Your Listening Pleasure

This week's Luke 16,

And two week's ago, Psalm 26.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hebrews 13


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Luke 13


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hebrews 11-12

mp3 link

(for Hebrews outline, see below)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hebrews 11

mp3 podcast


1:1-14 Supremacy of the Son as King
2:1-4 Warning against neglecting salvation
2:5-18 The Founder of Salvation
3:1-6 Greater than Moses
3:7-4:13 Warning: Possible to not enter rest
4:8-16-transition Rest and the Priestly sacrifices
5:1-11 The Melchizedeken Priest
5:12-6:12 Warning: Not enter rest by falling away
6:13-20 Center Excurses: The Certainty of Promise
7:1-9:23 transition A better covenant – a better priesthood
9:24-10:18 The Blood Sacrifice
10:19-25 (since, therefore now to not yet)
10:26-39 Warning: Fall away by not living in faith
11:1-39 transition faith people vs. otherwise
12:1-2 The Founder and Perfector of Faith
12:3-21 Warning against weariness
12:22-29 The Unshakable Kingdom (12)
13:1-25 The Christian life (13)
13:20, 25 Benediction

Green – The Main Point – Christ’s eternal and certain reign
Blue – The Bookends of Christlogy – Who is Jesus? (broad)
Red – The Offices of Christology – Who is Jesus? (narrow)
Purple – Warnings
Black – transitions and rhetorical devices/examples
Olive – a really cool section

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Colossians 3

MP3 link

Friday, August 03, 2007

Colossians 2

MP3 download.

The Installation of Gary G!

Mp3 download.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pentecost 9 - Colossians 1

Easy access if you got quicktime, or right click and choose "save link as" to download the mp3 to your CPU.

Rock on.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Trinity 3 - Last One


RevFisk will continue to post sermons as he is asked to fill pulpits in the New Jersey area while seeking a call. Continue to tune in - for, come what may, Babylon is still falling.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trinity 2

Interesting times here in Jersey!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Trinity 2 - Luke 16


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Holy Trinity Sunday - Matthew 28

(mp3 download link)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The sermon will be up this week

But first! Directions to the Wednesday Evening Bible study:

From the 78 take exit 12. Head south passed the Perryville Inn and Union Township School. Veer left at the fork (to stay on Perryville Road.) You'll pass Our Savior Lutheran Church on the left before the road bends in a sharp right. Stay with it, over the railroad tracks and into Jutland. The second left passed the tracks is Finn Rd. Turn onto Finn and follow it about two miles to 19 Finn Rd. (It's a gravel driveway.)

Study will start around 7 pm. We're starting into 1 Timothy. Bibles are provided. :) See you there!

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Download. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Let me just say...


It's been a fast flying furious fantastic couple of weeks here. I suppose I should start by introducting my new baby girl, Anastasia Aviella Fisk, born 5-11-07, at 6 lb 12 oz and 20". Good kid.

Then, we moved. Check that. We're still moving. It's only fifteen minutes away. (But with a 2 year old and a new infant - oh...and two new (used) cars which both need inspections, registrations, etc.)

All this being said, I'm amazed I preached at all. If I might say so, they were even "good." But, sad to say, I have recorded nothing for the last two weeks. My apologies. I'll add this to my long list of failurisms and feel guilty at least twice a day for a while for the sadness I've caused you. Please forgive, and pray for me, that I come through this chaos soon.

PS Ben...I never wrote back. Yes. 200 Proof Truth is all you. Well done.

Pax Christi sempre!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Easter 6

Sorry not to have a post last week. I forgot to bring my digital recorder with me into the pulpit. This week's text is John 15:18 ff.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good Shepherd Sunday - John 10

(wma audio link here)

I encourage you to have your Bible open. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Technical Difficluties

Savefile is having trouble, so I am currently unable to post a link. I will try to do so asap.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A brief note of apology

For all of you who have been wondering if I fell off the earth, my apologies. I've been quite busy, which, truly is no excuse for not getting the podcasts out. So, here is my *real* excuses:

Easter was great. I used the new style again with great success, I believe. None of this: aww...look at all the sweet visitors, Jesus loves you blah. 1 Corinthinas 15: some of you do not know God, and I say this to your shame! If Christ is not raised...

Only problem...I it.

So, Easter 2 I recorded. Only problem...I .... stunk.

In an effort to show how John in his Gospel makes a continual move through the entire text culminating in the Thomas encounter, I took the congregation on a page turning fiasco that led to a rather poor proclamation, I must say. My wife disagreed. She received law and Gospel, she confesses, and I do trust her barometer. Even so, my desire or preach the fulness (or my pride) is so great that I am not going to post the rather bleak attempt.

It is, after all, an experiment in progress. But I'm not giving up yet. There is too much at stake here. The people under my care are read to grow, ready to thrive in the Gospel. For myself, as well, I am convinced that with a little practice, (and learning from mistakes!), this new approach is a bit of a key to unlocking my particular gifts in the pulpit. If you liked my preaching before, I am convinced you will like where I am trying to go. Believe you me, the 200 proof Law/Gospel reality of my previous sermons is not Rev. Fisk's Law/Gospel, but the Law/Gospel of Scripture, and I have no intention of abandoning it, nor the cross. After all, this is

Cross Proclamation

Pax - and see you Sunday :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Palm Sunday - John 12

Well, I tried something new this week. In an attempt to better serve my current parish, I unbound myself from a manuscript and attempted a more "expository" approach to the sermon. The upside of this is that it gets every single person in the pews into the Bible, literally, as well as frees me up to dialogue with them a little from the pulpit, asking questions, leading, etc. The downside? No manuscript for those of you who have been reading my sermons here.

I did record it again, so there is an mp3 download available here.

I'm curious. What do you think? Am I faithful to Law and Gospel preaching? Does the text convict you? Are you set free by Christ?

I do consider those few of you who make use of this blog to be important. You also have, in emails, displayed a good understanding of theology. So, I ask you, please be honest. Let me know what you think. My email is available in the side profile.

It is my current plan to "test" this approach for about a month, then reassess based on all feedback, as well as the effects it has on the parish Divine Service "experience."

Finally, having listend to it, I have to admit that it's not the best "radio" preaching. If you've enjoyed the "rhetorical rollercoaster" I've been giving you, this may be a bit more difficult to sink your teeth into on an ipod. To help that, I'd suggest having your Bible open while you listen.

The big plus from this week? Whereas normally I preach about 11-14 minutes and have some troulbe keeping the room engaged, this sermon was 26 minutes long and even my teenagers were still listening.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lent 5 John 8

(wma audio download link)

Do you claim to worship God? Do you claim to believe in him? Honestly. Think about it, and then, while you’re at it, answer this question too: what is Church about? Is it about “god”? Which “god”? How do you know? Who is he? Is he a he, or a she? Why? Is this god you claim to worship the same god jews and muslims talk about? Is this god what buddhists talk about when they speak of the faceless Tao? Can this god, whoever it is, save you? Most importantly, does believing that there is a god, whoever it is, automatically make you his/her/its friend?

Or have you never heard that, according to Scripture, the demons believe in God too? And they believe in the real God, the true God, the one and only God, but, so far as they’re concerned, this isn’t a good thing. It’s terrifying, because their relationship with him, well, it’s not good.

But believing in “God” and yet not having it be a good thing isn’t limited to demons. In all truth, according to Scripture, the real God could actually care less if you believe in some amorphous higher power that just kind of exists out there, even if you are trying to “get to him.” He could care less if you try to worship him/her/it or anyone else, even if you call “him” “God” – it’s all the same to the Father in heaven. It’s all false worship.

The God of the Bible doesn’t need you to believe in his existence. That means nothing to him. His existence is so obvious that only the most hardened and foolish people even dare to claim otherwise. Believing in God is as worthless and useless to you as believing in doctors while you sit at home sick and dying. What good does that do you? If you don’t have the right relationship, it doesn’t matter one wit whether you believe in God, or read his prophetic writings, or are descended from people who were once part of his Church.

Jesus spoke clear words to the Pharisees, “I am glorified by my father, of whom you say, “He is our God,” but, whoever is of God hears the Words of God, hears my Words, and that man will not taste death. If you do not hear my words, then you are not of God.” That means that if you do not hear the Words of Jesus, if you do not learn of God through Jesus, then no matter what you might claim, you are not of God and you don’t know him. No matter how safe you may feel, you are no better off than the demons, who, believe as they might that God is real, the more they believe, the more they find only fear and loathing for the one who will soon destroy them all. Most humans aren’t even that faithful. In your own lesser moments, you erect false gods in your head, images of “God” created after your own tastes, in order to deceive yourself into thinking “God” loves you, sitting at home, or on a mountain top, or anywhere other than the doctor’s office of this altar, where the Words of Jesus say is the one place you can be sure to find him.

Now, the Pharisees whom Jesus spoke to had been doing this “make believing in God” for a long time, worshiping according to God’s law, and teaching from the Scripture, but missing the point that God doesn’t care if you believe he exists. What God cares about is that you trust his promises. And his promises, every one of them, are centered in the person of his Messiah – the one promised from before the ages to defeat death.

But the Pharisees missed all that. The pharisee in each of us still misses it. So when along comes a thirty year old man claiming that “make believe” relationships with God are worthless, it seems pretty bold. When he says that there is only one Word from God, and that he has it, it seems pretty audacious. When he insists that there are only limited places where safe relationship with God can happen, it looks like self-glorifying blaspheme. He was almost killed for those claims that day. He was killed for it not too long thereafter.

But, just like “make-believing in God” in order to find real safety, killing the one who truly has the Word of God never works out so well either. The Messiah himself didn’t stay dead. And ever since, throughout the history of the Church, there has been no more powerful and realistic Church growth than that which occurs in the ages of martyrdom. The more death and destruction overcome the visible Church, the more the Word’s power for resurrection shines, asserting itself boldly in the faith that proclaims that Jesus Christ tasted death only in order to swallow it, and to consume it in himself, making it no more.

There has come a man greater than all the prophets of the world, true and false alike. You claim to follow Abraham and Moses to God? One greater than them both is here. You claim that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet? Mohammed is dead and buried. Will the Buddha take you to enlightenment? No. He died saying “save yourself.” Where is Vishnu? Where is Gaia? Where are all the idols and dreams of man’s heart-felt religion? They are wood and stone that promise and do nothing but leave a man rotting in the grave. But here stands a man who not only claimed prophecy, but claimed Godhood itself, and proved it by doing what no mere mortal has ever done, nor can do by human powers. He made his body live forever.

And that victory, the resurrection, he has claimed that he gives freely, as a gift to you or to any and all, without restriction, without restraint, without cost. He is humanity restored to its fullness, and his victory, so soon to be remembered with special festivities and song, is relationship with God, not unknown, but known, not empty, but filled, not questionable, but clear, real, tangible, eternal, and good.

The Father of the universe glorified his Son by killing him for our sakes, for your sakes, so that the Word of his resurrection carried along by the Spirit of heaven would be living and active, pointing us to the him who died and rose, and through him, to the very face of the Father, so that we catholic Christians do not claim the mere liar’s title of “god-worshippers” as the many pagans and deists do, as the jews and muslims, magicians and wickens, Oprahites, pragmatists, and endless enthusiasts.

I do not say this so that you should hate them, but so that you should love them all the more, for you have been forgiven, yet they are enslaved. Hearing the Word, keep it, but do not keep it to yourself. Speak it, freely. Speak it that you might hear it again. Speak it that your families might cherish deeply. Speak it so that the pagans and deists, jews and muslims, magicians and wickens, and all the rest might also be elected of God, fleeing their futile ways, and coming to rejoice with us over the humanity that did not stay dead and can never die again, and gives of himself for one and all to live forever.

In one week we begin the highest time of the entire year of the Church: Holy week, the week in which we walk step by step the road to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I highly encourage you to make your plans now to attend all that you can of the marvelous services offered. Next Sunday, we will sing Hosanna with the masses who both received and yet rejected the Lord of glory on Palm Sunday. Maundy Thursday at 7pm, we will sit in intimacy with our Lord’s chosen band as he gives his last will and testimony, the new testament in his blood, the everlasting Supper of eaten words. Good Friday, at 7, we face Golgatha – and I can say no more than that if you’ve never been in the darkness of Tenebrae then you’ve never really known praise. Holy Saturday we will not meet for public worship, but I will be here, seated in this chair, from 10-1130 and again from 4-530, under the sworn seal of the confessional, to hear the confession of your sins, in order that you might free your conscience from all that burdens you have, especially from those things which our general confession cannot alleviate. I highly encourage you to experience this great gift of the Keys of forgiveness, freely wielded on your behalf. There is nothing like the peace which comes from speaking aloud your deepest regrets, and having a Father speak pure acceptance over you nonetheless. Then Easter morning, at our regular time, weather permitting, we will gather outside the Church in the Vigil of the Resurrection, following the light of Christ into the Holy place in candlelight procession, to celebrate the High Feast of the Risen Lamb in his Kingdom.

It will be a busy week, and indeed, life out there –where the devil is prince - will try to no end to keep you from these services, which are given to build you up in Christ. Do not let your enemy have so much power over you. Come to the rock that is higher than yourself. Whoever is of God hears the words of God. You are of God. Therefore, come and hear, be given to believe forever once again.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, March 16, 2007

(wma audio download link)

Nobody wants Jesus unless he’ll give them a miracle.

That’s just the sad state of the way it is. That’s the problem of having a heart of stone, a mind dense wood and a flesh that acts like a ravenous beast. “Oh, sure God, I’ll believe in you…if…” you fill in the blank. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve done it before, and you’ll probably do it again.

What’s probably more sad than anything else is that no one, not one of us, in our deepest heart of hearts, really wants the right kind of miracle. Sure, we’ll take more bread on our table, more clothes on our backs, a little less time tilling the soil, less pain in childbearing, “peace, love and tenderness.” Why not? Who’s gonna look that gift horse in the mouth? We could fill this congregation to overflowing in a matter of months if I started promising with conviction that belonging here would give you your best possible life right now. If week after week I called down the spirit, and got you up here to testify that God had changed you and given you victory over the hardships of life, the crowds would come hand over fist, handing in dollar after dollar, just to get a piece of that action.

Idols are actually really cool to worship, when they’re on. They make HUGE promises, and for at least 5% of the people, the promises tend to pan out. For the rest, who come and go with the wind, it doesn’t matter so much. The important thing is that, one way or another, you get your fleshly desires encouraged and your itching ears tickled with a bit “teaching” about the kind of miracles you would rather believe in. Miracles that are about this life, about the present, about “you.”

But what would not happen if I regularly preached those kinds of lies would be for authentic faith to grow in you. You would receive no pure God-given trust. And thus, you would never learn to long for, not the miracles you most want, but for the miracles you most need. That’s because your human nature is never going to come to that kind of praying and longing on it’s own. It can’t. Because you’re evil.

Tell me. Does the average, run of the mill teenager know what’s best for her? No. Now tell me, does she think she does? Of course. And what’s the last thing in the world she wants?... for you to tell her what’s best for her and set her on the path. It just doesn’t work that way. Why?

So, suppose with me for a minute that you actually are evil, (or, one better, believe it, because, if the Scriptures are True, then you are.) And, then, believing that you are evil, think about it: can something evil really want to stop being evil, let alone actually become good? That wouldn’t be very evil of it, would it? It’d be kind of like a rock “wanting” to be a fish. It’s completely against the nature of a rock to try to be a fish.

Being evil and staying evil is the way that an evil heart works. No matter how much it may tell you that it wants to be good, that it means well, and so on, it’s just lying to you. What it really wants is more of the “good life,” more miracles that make for fun and easier times, more self-indulgent pleasure, more gluttonous, happy, pain-free “me.” That is why you come to Church, right? To find the good life, or to somehow ensure it for your kids, just like a crowd that’s ready to make anybody into a King if he’ll give them some food. Miracle or not, it’s simple human nature to worship anything and anyone that promises a satisfied belly.

So, given that, why did Jesus feed the faithless crowds all that bread, especially since, according to John, he already knew “what was in a man”? … What does the text say?

Jesus lifted up his eyes and saw the crowds. And then he did what the Messiah does. He had compassion on people who didn’t deserve it, anyway. More so, even though it would do many of them little good, he was going to give them the miracle anyway. And he gave a sign greater than Moses and better than Elijah ever did – for both of those men prayed to God and God gave bread to the people. But Jesus … Jesus gave bread to the people. That’s what God does. He cares for his creation, anyway, deserve it or not, period.

But did this belly-filling miracle create authentic faith in the crowds? No. Sure, they were going to make him King. But was that what they needed? No. Jesus slipped away to hide. And if you read the rest of chapter six, you’ll find that he doesn’t hide for very long because the same crowds find him again, (and, go figure, they’re asking for more bread.) One sign, one miracle, any miracle, is never enough. A “signs faith” always demands more. A stomach-pleasing “belief” is no belief at all – it is greed. And a seeker chasing a bread-basket god will quickly find that he doesn’t want Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ doesn’t give people what they want. He gives people what they need. He actually cares for you. So he knows that what all people need, even more than bread, is Himself. What you need, far more than bread, is the Word of God.

“I am the bread of life,” he says. “Eat me,” he says. “Your fathers ate the bread of miracles, and they died. You need bread that takes away death.” You want miracles and poppycock, but Jesus came to give you Truth and reality, pure, everlasting, good Truth and reality. You want things that perish and spoil and fade with time, but Jesus is an inheritance beyond the touch of even death.

Many left Jesus that day he said those things. They couldn’t handle that kind of teaching. They wanted miracles from Jesus, but they didn’t want Jesus, not if he wasn’t going to fill their bellies and tickle their ears for them. Just like you. You too, by nature, prefer a God who would give you signs and proofs and show. But there is a difference, now, between you and those crowds, and this moment is what makes it all the more real, for you are given, even now, to know, to believe, and to see, that God in Jesus was really about a sign and a proof and a show, only it wasn’t the sign and proof and show that your flesh wants, but the sign and the proof and the revelation that you most desperately need.

Jesus turned the crowds away that day because he was on his way to give a sign that will ever be above all signs. He was on his way to be crowned a King with a crown beyond all crowns. He was on his way to provide a bread for the life of the world. And these things are beyond all desires of man’s heart and greater than all expectations of man’s mind. The True sign given to the world for proof that Jesus is Lord is the sign of Jonah – for Christ lay three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. There, the body which had handed out meal after meal from a couple of fish was rock dead and stone cold and sprawled on a slab without even the anointing of burial spices. And the crown of this King left scars and wounds in his bloodied mane. But, beyond all of man’s desire and comprehension, this same dead, cold, lifeless body, broken and poured out, was, is and ever shall be the life of the world, even today: the bread from heaven, not dead, but resurrected, and in resurrection giving the power of raise forever and ever and ever.

It’s not about heaven. It’s not about paradise. It’s not about bread. It’s not about you. It’s about the love God had for creation because creation was made to be good and God will see it done. How great a thing that you have been given to see this, given to be a part of this, made into this new, coming, resurrecting world that has started with the body of Jesus Christ.

Now…I can’t close without tickling this little nugget. It is a great sadness that there are some today who would deny that what we eat and drink here is the flesh and blood of Jesus. The strictest Calvinist (who is the closest Protestantism will dare come to a Biblical understanding of the Sacrament,) when pressed on why he considers this meal merely a “spiritual” feast, will confess that the greatest dilemma is that Jesus human body A. is stuck in heaven and so can’t be here too, and B. would eventually run out if he started feeding it to people.

And I just can’t pass this wonderful Gospel text by without reveling in the lame logic of the human heart, which leans on it’s understand rather than the Word of God. The man fed 5000 men plus all their woman and children from 5 loaves of bread and had 12 basket-fulls left over… - if you really want crazy with the logical approach, then that means that after 2000 years of feeding his people, Jesus is probably several stories tall. 

The Word does what He says, and Jesus did what he said he would do all along. He went to the cross, to kill death, for you. How much more so will he not do in the present future all else that he has promised. Here, right now, is the sign of Jonah, given for you, so that you can believe not merely in miracles which fill your belly with pleasure, but far more importantly, in the power of the Word of God which creates your life, forever.

In the Name…

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lent 3

Sorry it's late...and no text this week. (WMA audio download here.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lent 2 - Matthew 15

(But I say it's Luke in the delivery! That's what happens when you do two weeks at once! My apologies. Beware the many typos as well!)

(wma audio download link)

You probably don’t really believe in demons. Maybe, just maybe, you believe in the devil. Maybe…barely. But demons? Fallen angels that are active in your world and your life, causing distress, causing pain, causing suffering, and by all means possible deceiving any you, your spouse and your children– deceiving, lying, and teaching you by any means possible that you should not believe in two things: you should not believe in demons, and…you should not believe that the only thing in this life that matters is Jesus Christ.

But you know the arguments. How can you believe in something you’ve never seen? Aren’t demons just a figment of past superstitions? Weren’t all these stories from the Bible just things like epilepsy and other modern diseases? You really expect me to believe that there are diabolical supernatural beings who hate me at work in this world, and that I have no power to defend myself against them, who have as their ultimate goal to make me join them in their fiery doom?

Yes. No. No. And yes.

Why should you believe in demons? Easy. Because Jesus believed in demons. Jesus spoke to demons. Jesus made demons listen to him. And Jesus cast out demons, with a word, with a thought, the way your brush lint off your shoulder.

They hated it. They screamed. They cast people into convulsive fits. They ran entire herds of livestock into the sea to drown. They asked him, “What are you doing here, Son of God?” They claimed, “It’s not the appointed time for this!” And they begged, “Why have you come before the Day of Judgment?”

Do you believe it? Do you believe the Scriptures? Or do you believe your experience – the experience controlled and manipulated by a world of evil, where you’re always given just enough “good stuff” to keep you running on the rat wheel, but never enough to breath, to have peace, or even to have real, solid hope? Isn’t itironic – the demons hide, and they let you think you’re safe. They let you think you can handle your world. They keep that carrot right out in front of your nose so that you don’t question those blinders on the side of your eyes, nor bother to look at the ground before you as you run straight for the edge of the cliff where a great and bottomless pit of fire waits for you to cast yourself into it’s eternal furor.

Is it possible? That’s simple: Is the Scriptural witness true? Did Luke, the beloved physician, the 1st century scientist and historian who studied the phenomenon of his day, tell the truth when he wrote the account we heard today? Or was he just a 1st century idiot, who you, with your all-knowing, television-dumped education, are obviously more intelligent than?

After all, you’ve never seen a demon – or, you think you’ve never seen one. … And you’ve never been possessed by a demon – or you think you can’t be. … Yes, Pastor is just making stuff up. He’s just superstitious. We’re safe. We come to Church at least every two weeks. And we don’t steal or murder.

But what are the lyrics being sung on your kids’ ipod? Why did Brittney Spears shave her head? How come the media is reporting the found Jesus’ body? Why have we aborted more babies than Hitler ever killed Jews?

Just because you think demons aren’t real, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat to you. In fact, that’s just the point. It’s when you think that demons aren’t real that they’ve got you right where they want you, right where you don’t need to be afraid, right where you don’t need protection, right where Church and the power of Christ to save is an option.

There was a time when demons didn’t mind being seen for what they were. Before the Christ came, what could be done? If a demon inhabited the heart and body of a man and caused him to cut himself, mutilate his flesh and speak in wild, flaming tongues, there was nothing to do for it. There was no answer to it. He was possessed. He was trapped. He was enslaved.

But, you see, this is part of what made Jesus so popular. So fantastic was the news about Jesus and how he healed not only diseases and life-long illnesses, but also cast out demons, that even when Jesus left the land of the Jews to rest a bit in other nations, the people there had heard of him, and they came begging him on the road, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

And for all we can learn from this text from the dialogue between Jesus, his disciples and this woman, two amazing facts are constantly taken for granted by all three parties involved: First, demon’s exist. And second, Jesus has the power to make them do whatever he says. Jesus has power over demons.

Are you tracking with me? Have you been following the narrative all these weeks since Christmas? (If not, then next year pay attention.) But I’ll recap: The man was born of a Virgin. He was hailed by the nations as the King of Kings. He caused heaven to open by repenting of sins he didn’t commit. He demonstrated power over nature, power over disease, power to teach. He shone with self-emanated light. He scoffed at the devil’s attempts to tempt him, and today he treats the devil’s servants as his own, saying, “Away with you,” and they go. Who is this man? And why does he keep insisting that all this stuff he’s been doing is not what he was really sent to do? Where is he going with such conviction? What does he believe it means to be the Messiah?

You know the answer to this by now, or at least you ought to. Jesus is going to the cross. Jesus is going to die. Jesus is going to cast the devil out of the world once and for all, to bind him, to end his reign.

But the devil is no fool, and now, bound though he is by the proclamation of the cross of Christ, he now knows that his best strategy for deceiving the nations from this time forth is not open attack, but guerilla warfare. He attacks from his hiding, pretending he doesn’t exist, telling you and the world that all spirits are “good” spirits, and all spiritualities are “good” spiritualities. As long as it’s about “god,” it can’t do any harm, right? All religions are basically the same, aren’t they?

If you truly believe that, you’re gravely wrong, and stand quite in jeopardy of eternal damnation.

Demons are real. And at the heart of every religion which denies the fact that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh into history in order to redeem the whole of creation is nothing other than a demon who would be god. And dressed as an angel of light, he’ll make you bow down and worship him. Call him Allah. Call him Moroni. Call him Buddha. Call him Science. It doesn’t matter. It’s not Jesus Christ, only begotten of the Father. It’s false. It’s a lie.

It’s the same lie, over and over again. And it possesses many. So much so that we don’t even notice our children cutting themselves, nor our culture is mutilating itself, nor how we ourselves practice the magic of “positive thinking” and listen readily to teachers who paint pretty lies and myths for us, telling us the Church is a business with a product to sell. (laugh.) Jesus is a product to sell?

And you don’t believe in demons? Are you watching? Civilization is dying, the Church is apostate, and humanity itself is threatened to either drown in the turmoil of its own insanity, or, perhaps one better, be obliterated under the antichristian threat of militant Islamic jihad. Whether you’ve seen or faced this reality or not doesn’t really mater. In all frankness, you are powerless over against it. No praise band, no program, no business plan, not even our Project Resurrection will solve the demonic possession of our world. There is no evangelism event, no missional movement, no ecumenical dialogue, no nothing that you or I can come up with, institute or do to cast the devil down from his throne.

Your lips themselves are impure and your hands are stained with greed and faithless deeds. What could you possibility do? But look! There stands Jesus, walking on the road. And see how the faithful flee to him, begging him to turn and have mercy on you, though you do not deserve it, though you are a dog – it does not matter. He is the Son of David, who laughs in derision at his enemies, who casts out devils with a word, and he was not sent to condemn, but to save!

Do you hear what I am saying? He was sent to save you. He was sent to bind the devil. And he has, on the cross, with the sky darkened and crashing, with earthquakes and tremors, with atheists saying “Surely, this is the Son of God!” He was saving you: from disease, from death, from demons, from the devil. And it is here, right here, that he has sent his Apostles to give you the crumbs that have fallen from his table, so that you may eat and drink the forgiveness of Israel, not as a dog, but as his own child.

Oh, Kyrie eleison is our cry! “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” And look, it is already done as you have desired. The salvation is purchased. Here, even demons cannot touch you, for here the Lord casts out all evil and death with a Word: “Take, and eat, and live.” Here, you follow along the road, walking with him to that cross, weeping at its feet, and yet, rejoicing on that third morning, for you are his and he is yours, and he laughs at the demons, at this world, at the apostasy, at it all. He laughs, for you. For he is the one who bears the Name of…

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lent 1 - Matt 4

(wma audio download)

Jesus was led up by the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil.

This text is not about how you can beat temptation. This story is not about how Jesus sets the model for defeating the devil in your life with all the right Bible verses and a little bit of fasting. This text, simply put, is not about you at all.

What? It’s not about me? How then can it be relevant to my life?

Simple. This text is about Jesus.

Check it out. When it comes to temptation, you are a failure. Admit it. It’s not that hard to swallow your pride. You’re a Christian after all. And so you can be honest with yourself at least on the inside. No one else here can hear your thoughts. It’s just you and God. So admit it. You straight up are horrible at facing temptation.

I mean, tell me, if you hadn’t eaten for forty days, and you had the power in your little finger to turn stones into bread, you wouldn’t even need the devil to come and put the idea in your head. You’d have made bread the first day, with a nice house salad and a night cap to boot! You wouldn’t last one evening on a fast in the desert, even if the Spirit of God demanded it of you.

But the Spirit hasn’t asked you to do such profound things. All he has asked of you is that you live moderately in faith, refraining from seeking pleasure in this world and it’s possessions, and instead spending your money, not on yourself or your kids, but on the poor, the widows and the orphans. The Spirit puts plenty of food on your table. All he asks is that you don’t keep it to yourself.

But let me ask you: when was the last time you gave money to the poor and didn’t skimp out on your 10% tithe to the Church? When was the last time you didn’t skimp out on your tithe to the Church? When was the last time you gave money to the poor – and by that I mean more than $20?

When was the last time you didn’t spend that extra five dollars on desert, not because of your waistline, but because of your neighbor’s need? When was the last time you didn’t give your children every thing they “needed,” not because it’s a bad idea to spoil them, but because there are plenty of kids in America that don’t even get a good breakfast, and you could feed them? Symbolically then was the last time you said “no” to the temptation of making your own bread, rather than trusting that God will give you bread in your time of need?

My hunch is, you can’t even remember the last time you didn’t fail that temptation. Right along with this pathetic country you’ve completely given yourself over to the satisfaction of your flesh – pleasure is all that really matters to you. You only care to satiate your belly. Anything that gets in the way of that – ha!

It’s not enough to receive eternal life, forgiveness and the promise of paradise in a little bread and wine, you want to like it too! And if you don’t like it, what good is it to you? If it doesn’t give you power or pleasure, what good is it to you? If your narcissistic vanity isn’t petted and patted and swooned and cheered on, what good is it to you? If your pastor stands in the pulpit and calls you, you, a selfish glutton who ought to be thrown out of this Church, what good is it to you? Wouldn’t you just as soon get up and leave as listen to that kind of preaching? There are plenty of churches that would love to have you as a member, and why shouldn’t go there? They’ve got more to offer – more pleasure, more friendliness, a pastor that doesn’t expect you to believe or learn anything.

If you really are a Christian, why not go somewhere with few fewer stones and a bit more bread?

You want to, don’t you? You’d love to give right into that temptation. To find the perfect, flesh-fulfilling spiritual experience. What do you need with Words which come from the mouth of the Living God right here, when you when you’ve got whatever you want whenever you want it right out there? So what if out there is killing you? So what if it’s got you so mad-hopping-crazy that you can’t even breath? So what if your kids are more tired than you are from it all? So what if by ditching out on the Word of God in order to eat a bit finer bread, you are segregating yourself from the only thing that really matters? You aren’t going to fight against all these temptations, because you already know you can’t win.

What you’re going to do instead, is pretend you can win, but lose as fast and as often as you possibly can. And let me tell you, I don’t care if you do get the kids in Church every single Sunday, if you don’t care to fight the temptations of this narcissistic, self-center, pleasure-and-entertainment-worshipping satanic culture, you can bet every last penny you’ve spent on their nice clothes and toys and pastimes that when the devil comes knockin’ on their door, they won’t know the difference between his lies and the cry of their own hearts.

So it’s a darn good thing that this Gospel text of Holy Scripture isn’t about you and how you can beat temptation. Because, if it was, the game would already be over. It’s a darned good thing this text of Scripture never even mentions you, because if it did, it would be as irrelevant to salvation as the next self-help book on Oprah’s list. It’s a darned good thing this text is about Jesus, because without him, we’re all doomed.

Jesus was led up by the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil, and he won! After fasting to the point of starvation, he looked the devil’s temptation to abuse his Godly power straight in the eye and said, “Forget that.” After being taken to the edge of life and limb, he looked the devil’s temptation to test God by experience straight in the eye and said, “um, no.” And after being shown all the power of the dark side, placed in his hands as a crown of glory, he looked the devil’s temptation to be anything other than the perfect Son of God straight in the eye and said, “Get out of my face, Enemy. For I am good, and you are evil. And that means, I get to win.”

And that he did. For in enduring this temptation, Jesus Christ proved himself the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets of God, the perfect heir of creation, who loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind, and who loved his neighbor more than himself, even enough to take this flesh and with it endure temptation in order to go beyond temptation straight into the hellish punishment of all the wrath of God against all the failures to beat temptation throughout the whole human history on this world thrown into several horrible hours on one late day in the week where nails through his wrists and thorns on his head still weren’t enough for the devil to convince the Christ to stop having utter faith in the steadfast love of God the Father.

It’s a good thing that today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus’ work to beat the temptation’s and deceptions of the devil in your place, for you. It’s a good thing that Jesus perfect enough to die on the cross as the Lamb without spot or blemish, because with this victory Lent would be nothing but bitter. But Lent is not bitter. It’s bitter-sweet. The cross of Jesus Christ is bitter-sweet.

Allelu-…Wait. Don’t smile. It’s only just begun.

In the Name…

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Transfiguration - Matthew 17

(wma download link)

Can you imagine not casting a shadow? You probably don’t pay much attention to your shadow. I don’t pay all that much attention to mine. But at the same time, I know for a fact that you have never once lived a moment when you didn’t cast a shadow. Even when you’re not paying attention, even when you’re not trying, your shadow is always there.

Go ahead. Hold up your hand. Now…without turning it over, look at the underside. Crazy. A shadow. Now imagine for a moment what it would be like to not have that shadow there. No, wait. Go one better: Imagine being able to not just not cast a shadow. Imagine being able to cast more light.

Of course you can’t do that. You can probably barely imagine doing that. But one day two thousand years ago, on a mountain in northern Palestine, a man named Jesus did that. For a time, he not only stopped casting a shadow but he started casting light instead. He not only stopped blocking the light. He started creating it. And so great and wonderful was that light, which made his face shine like the sun, that even the other things he touched, like his clothes, became changed as well, not casting shadows themselves, but casting more light, not cloaking him with darkness, but glowing from him with glorious illumination.

This moment in time, witnessed by the Apostles Peter, James and John, must have been amazing. Here in a way more unique than even angels in the sky proclaiming the birth of a king, or storms being calmed at a word, the eternal glory of the Son of God in human flesh was revealed. From his Epiphany and his Baptism in the Jordan, through his miracles and profound teachings, the man named Jesus had been showing again and again who he was – God in flesh – and what that meant – he had the power to save – but here on a private mountain he gave his closest friends even more: a glimmering foretaste of the world to come.

For, get this, St. John writes his Apocalypse that the final perfect world known as Zion will be a whole lot more of that day in northern Palestine. The city we will live in will have no need of sun or moon to shine, for the Christ will be the source of light. Now a city with only one source of light doesn’t make all that much sense until you remember that Jesus’ light isn’t stopped by shadow, but even turns things that cast shadow into light casters. So there not merely clothes but walls and trees and rivers and you and me and all things will shine, transfigured, brought into the glory of Son of God.

With that kind of heavenly experience in mind, you really can’t blame Peter for not wanting it to end. You may not know this, but Peter had a bit of a knack for preferring heavenly experiences to regular ones. He was very much like you in that regard. In general, he preferred glory to suffering. In fact, it was less than 10 verses before today’s lesson that Peter not merely confesses Jesus is the Christ, but then also proceeds to explain to Jesus how Jesus has no idea what it means to be the Christ, and thus needs to change his plans – because Jesus was insisting that being the Christ meant death on a cross, and Peter wanted more glory than that. He wanted Jesus to dream bigger, to set higher goals, to vision-cast with a little more optimism.

On the other hand, Jesus knew that true glory is about a whole lot more than a light show. Pleasure-seeking as an end in itself is the highest end of complete childishness, and, self-gratification is a religion of hate – because it’s first and foremost all about you. It is Satan who is the lord of all “spiritualities” that have as their chief aim feeling good, being happy and finding success.

Yet, the reality is that you, like Peter, don’t want the religion Jesus has to offer; you want the religion Satan has to offer. You want a religion that lets you define what life ought to be like. You want a religion that sees your own good-feelings and pleasure as the chief end of all things. You want the religion that the lying god offers when he says, “If you will only bow down to me, then I will give you moment after moment of dynamic ecstasy, good food in abundance, and the power to do whatever you please.” You want to seek a “Kingdom of God” where you call the shots, where you aren’t shown a Transifgured Christ on the way to the cross, but a Transfigured you on the way to a paradise where you shine as the source of joy and light, and where everything that you touch prospers and turns to gold, and where you are the hero worshiped by men and angels alike.

But it’s just here, where you, like Peter, say to Jesus, “Jesus, you are so great… now, let me take over…” – it is just here where you are seeking first your own Kingdom, that God says to you, like Peter, “Shut up, and listen to Jesus.” And what does Jesus say? Jesus says, “Get your mind off the things of man. Look! I carry a cross. Follow me, and lose your life. That is what is means to save it.”

What does that mean? That means that it’s not about your experience now. It’s not about your best life now. It’s not about your purposes now. It’s not about your mission now. Because it’s not about you at all.

It’s about Jesus. And just like Peter, after the Father’s wrath put him down, you too must learn to look up in quietness, obedient to the command, and see nothing, no one and not a bit more than Jesus – human, untransfigured Jesus, saying, “I must suffer many things.” Saying, “I must be killed.” Saying, “Follow me to my glory – the cross. There, I give you my peace. There you have my promise.” Not flashy sights. Not dynamic sounds. Not constant, happy ecstasy. Jesus only.

The disciples looked up that day and they saw Jesus only because Jesus only is what Christianity is all about. Jesus only is what Christianity has. Coming to Jesus only will give you perfection, but not out there. You are given perfection in Jesus only. Coming to Jesus only will give you transfiguration, but not out there. You are transfigured in Jesus only. Yes, you have perfection and you have transfiguration – look there! They are there, in Jesus on the cross, dying for your sins.

And there, in Jesus, these gifts from God don’t just sit like some coins buried in the ground. Even as the light flowing from him could not help but transform his clothes, so as that light brings you face to face with the constant glory of the cross, as you lose your life, as you have less confidence in yourself, as you cease to trust the world, as you are forced to come back again and again to Jesus only, you will find, even as Peter finally did, that Jesus only is more than enough.

For his is the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Epiphany 5 - Matthew 13

(wma audio download)

The Reign of God, the way God rules, the Kingdom which is over all Kingdoms, the function of the activity of the LORD God in this world, is like a man who plants a good crop in his field. But when he is asleep an enemy comes and scatters the seed of weeds and brambles all amidst the crop so that when the good seed came up, they did not come up alone. Amongst the beautiful, fruitful heads of grain were thistles and thorns and all manner of useless crop, worthy of nothing but waste and casting into the fire.

So begins the parable. But gosh. Is it even worth going on? I mean, we’ve all heard the parables before, and we all know what they mean, right. Jesus even takes the time in the text to explain this one. And parables pretty much like primitive sermon illustrations, right? They’re self-sufficient. No need to explain, just tell the story. People relate to things like seed and weeds and such, and so there you have it: wam! Bang! Boom! Faith is made. We’ve got the Gospel. We already know all the right things. Why go over it again? Let’s pass the offering plate and focus on something a bit more relevant.

Or, wait. Maybe not. I mean, I guess that kind of thinking, which is no less than thinking that the teaching of Jesus in parables are a bunch of child’s play, is a pretty easy route to go if one is a self-righteous, cocky, arrogant fool. Since more or less of the time I certainly fall under that category, (and something tells me I’m not alone,) maybe we should exercise a little more caution regarding the Words of our Lord, the Word regarding which the Apostle tells us is the stuff that faith and peace and life are made of. Maybe Jesus’ words don’t ever get old. Maybe we get old. Maybe we get lazy. Maybe we have let sin have it’s way with us.

But if anything is clear, it’s that thinking that these parables are child’s play and common knowledge and even easy to understand is as foolish as planting a field of weeds. For the fact is clear that as many times and as often as Jesus told parables, not only the mass crowds, but even the disciples whom he taught day by day, consistently and without fail had no idea what on earth Jesus was talking about. “Explain to us,” they say, and, “why do you speak in parables” they say, and he answers them. “I speak this way so that the unbelievers, who have already chosen not to enter the saving Reign of God, those who are the cursed seed of the evil one – I speak in parables so that they will hear my words, and not believe, so they will see my miracles and my truth, and they will not understand it. They are to be kept dull with sin and faithlessness. Their eyes are to stay closed. And if I were to speak plainly, then they might open their eyes, repent, and I would heal them. And that shall not be.”

Huh? What’s that Jesus? Not exactly Church growth strategies. A bit unmissional. Rather mean…unfair, even, wouldn’t you say? That’s so the opposite of seeker-friendly that it is downright unloving and uncaring. But wait, this is Jesus. Isn’t Jesus the one who sends the mission? Isn’t Jesus the one who saves the unbeliever? Then, maybe, if what Jesus is saying sounds unmissional and unfair, then maybe it is we who have the wrong mission and the wrong understanding of justice. Maybe we disciples do not understand the parables so much as we like to think. Hear then, the parable of the weeds in the field explained by our Lord:

Jesus Christ sows good seed. He sows salvation. He sends out his Word and by his Word he chooses, he pinpoints, he elects men, women and children to be his own, to live under him in his Kingdom, justified by faith and purchased by the shedding of blood. Many are called, but few are chosen.

The field in which this sowing and reaping of new relationships with the living God goes on is this fallen world, with all its many perils and pitfalls and problems. You – you are the good seed. You are those to whom eyes have been given to see, those to whom ears have been given to hear: for listen, the Christ is raised, and you believe it. So, know this, then, as those baptized into that grace, you are the good seed.

Yet, in this mission field of a world, and therefore, also in this Church which lies in, with and under it, there is an enemy who has come; the evil one, the deceiver, Satan, as real and vile as the sins of Soddom and Ghamorra, an enemy as deadly as any you or I have ever had or known. And here, in the field from which we grow, he has sewn his own sons, the sons of the reign of perdition, who already stand condemned by the fall of Adam, who reject being the good seed, who have destined themselves to return to dust and perish in ashes. These are the hypocrites, the liars, the gluttons, the adulterers, the idolaters, who love greed and mammon and the work of their hands. And yet, see how they claim for themselves a place in God’s Reign, in this field, in this world, and, yes, even in this mission, the Church.

It is they who teach us to see the very Words of our Lord as unmissional. It is they who think the justice of God unfair. And as we grow up with them, they spare no expense to choke us out, to weigh us down with cares and worldly thoughts. For the more the weeds can destroy the good seed, the more the weeds can believe that they belong in the field, so much so that the very angels of God have asked, “May we go and destroy them! May we rip them up?”

Yet, in his missional Wisdom God has held back the hand of his servants the angels from segregating us completely. And why? Lest now even you, the good seed, be lost in the shuffle, and carried away with your enemies. For your own roots are so dangerously entangled with the unbelievers, so forced to sift between lies and deceptions, that you walk in peril all the way. Yes, so great are the weeds and so shallow and full of stones the ground that truly, were it left to you to stand against this wicked tide there is no doubt but that you would fall seventy seven times over and then fall again. And yet, hear the good news of these parables.

You are the good seed, for the purest and more righteous seed of all is Christ, and by hearing of him you have put your hope in his name, the one seed of the woman, born of a virgin, planted in the ground as one man, and yet, like the mustard plant, having come up again and blossomed to become the greatest of all shrubs of the field. And, in him, scattered in the dispersion like yeast mixed with flour, you are working your way through all of civilization, journeying not only through your own life, but through the lives of others, and leavening all you touch. For, in Christ, you are the good seed, branches bound to the vine. Yes, apart from him you can do nothing, you will bear no fruit and be cast into the fire. But you are not apart from him. He has planted himself in you, promising that you are his own by the word of his baptism, and reminding you that he is your own by the word of his meal.

And as the weeds grow around you, you are not them. You have been called out in order that you might shine like the sun, righteous in name, righteous in fact, breaking free from the mold and the weeds to produce the crop time and time over.

This is the meaning of the parable, and not all have been given to understand it. The veil of Moses which is the curve-in-on-itself heart of unbelief covers the faces of many, and they cannot penetrate this miracle of Christ uttered from the foundation of the world as the glory and power of God to save. And yet, amidst that field and its many weeds, there are more to be called the good seed. There are those in bondage to the evil one and his lies, already choked to the point of death. They too need what you have heard this day. They too must hear the life that is in these words. They are there. And the mission, dear friends, is that we join minds in one faith and one baptism under the one Lord who rules this harvest by his mighty Reign, and we go get them.

In the Name…

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Epiphany 4 - Matthew 8

(wma audio download here)

(and this is typo city!)

Well, I’m not going to talk about the Superbowl today, because something bigger happened last week. Last week, you, the congregation of Our Savior Lutheran Church, did a very brave thing. In one, bold move, you committed yourselves and all your resources to Jesus Christ, unequivocally. You took a blind step of faith, which may or may not bode well for the future success of this congregation. But that’s precisely why it was a step of faith. It was a decision based not on the reasons of the world, but on the simple mandate of the Word of God: Go. Teach. Baptize. And, yes, remember the poor.

It’s pretty stinkin’ cool. You said, “to heck with all this ‘trying to survive’ stuff, and all this ‘stockpiling our money in barns’ fearfulness. You said, ‘what good is it to be Church if, in order to keep ourselves going, we’ve got to stop being Church?’ And so you voted, unanimously I might add, on the first vote, to do two incredible things.

You voted to walk away from the building which you’ve called home for well over a decade in order to seek out not only a more manageable space (as if it were only about money) – but to seek out a space more conducive to the present time and context. You gave up being the militia cult hiding in the hills of south Dakota in order to be the prophet in the streets. You indeed are risking yourself, your very lives, rather than defending them.

And in doing this, you also voted to purposefully lose your money, maybe all of it. Who knows? But this is no gambling on horse races or even building a bigger barn for your own pleasure. You voted to do something almost unthinkable to most struggling congregations. You voted to start giving money away…to the poor.

And all of this, together, is, from the world’s perspective, a tremendous risk. To the eyes of any logical, humanly-minded person, what you have voted to do is idiotic. It makes no sense. You’re going to spend the money this congregation scraped and worked for in order to build itself a building on a store dedicate to aiding the poor? And you’re going to worship in the back? Why, that’s almost like they were doing in the first century? Isn’t that stepping backwards? The likelihood of this endeavor actually making money is not merely small, it’s practically impossible. Especially for the first 2-5 years, every single year, you are going to be simply giving money away, one way or another using this very land as principle for the balance.

Wait…I should amend all that just a little bit. You are not spending the money the saints of this congregation passed scraped together for a building. You are taking the money this congregation gave to God, and, rather than use it on a building that only a handful of people can use, you are going to help poor farmers and craftsmen in 3rd world countries feed their children and families by the work of their hands, and, what is more, you will with the same stone be opening a door for the unsaved people of this county to walk in the front doors of the Church. And frankly, if you spend every last penny that has been scrimped and saved, then and only then can you say that you have succeeded. Then, as worthless servants, you will have done your duty. Then, as sinners, you will be at the mercy of God (as you should be) rightly praying “give us this day our daily bread.” Then, you will know what it means to live by faith.

In this way, dear friends of Our Savior Lutheran Church, this means that no matter what comes, you can know that this congregation, at the behest of God’s harsh law, which I have no doubt wielded like a blungeoning tool among you this past half year – this congregation refused to content like a miser over his gold, counting it again and again until his cold heart stopped beating. No. You, the holy, catholic Church, have been blessed by God’s Word of forgiveness in Christ, and thus freed from that horrible, pitiful end. Like old man Scrooge on Christmas morning, you suddenly opened your eyes, and, while you are not yet dancing in the streets, you have, as I said, voted, unanimously to being sacrificing time, talents and treasures which before this time lay locked up in that kitchen, or somewhere darker still.

For any congregation to make such a decision as this, to truly put everything on the line and say, “Well, God. It’s up to you,” – this is an act of faith. And I, as your Pastor, am very proud of you.

Of course, I’m nervous too. Like I said, we’re basically about to start giving money away – and much of it we probably won’t get back. And if we do, it will be our job and duty to just give it away again! Maybe that will mean owning another building in order to do so. Maybe it won’t. But in any case, there is every possibility and, in fact, probability, by worldly standards, that the money will one day run out and we will be left destitute. Against this end we must pray, and trust in the Lord’s mercy to sustain us. But we must also remember firmly that there is an equal probability that tomorrow won’t even come, for our Lord Jesus could descend from heaven to end the world this very night – even before we act on our plans.

And this is precisely why you have pledged to do the right thing. And this bold, right thing, with prayer and in faith, right thing will be a benchmark for our community for years to come. Even as we are calling our new actions Project Resurrection, our very hearts and minds have been resurrected with our Lord Jesus Christ, to see the world in a new light, a free light, a light which says to the fears of the world, “Leave off. You have no power here, for here, faith in Christ and in his Word rules!”

And all of this has very much to do with our Gospel lesson for today. It is a famous one. Jesus calms the storm.
And I have no doubt that as often as most of us have heard it, we have also heard it explained something like this: Jesus has the power to calm the storms in your life. The storms are something like doubts and fears or problems in life, and, so the interpretation goes, if you will just trust in Jesus, then he will overcome those things for you.

That would all be really great, if only it were true. But it’s not. There is no promise in Scripture that Jesus will calm all the storms in your life. Jesus doesn’t always make hard times. Even doubts or sins don’t go away, at least, not in the present evil age. The disciples had very little faith when they sat frightened in that boat, much as we likely sit frightened in the face of our journey to come. And the point is not that we should learn to wake up Jesus so that he makes it all work out. The point is far more amazing than all that selfish in-gazing.

The reality of this text demonstrates that Jesus doesn’t just have the power to calm the storms in your life. Jesus has the power to calm storms. Jesus can make waves and wind lie down at his very command! Who is this man who walks the road with us, who teaches the Truth to us, who died on the cross for us? This is the Creator of heaven and earth, who crafted clouds and hills and trees and stars with his voice. And look, he is here, in our midst, by his Word, in the flesh by his body and blood, in our hearts, by his Spirit.

This, truly, has both no bearing and absolute bearing upon our “little faith” pending move into Clinton. Investing our talents and monies in mercy to the poor is no guarantee that our storm of congregational survival will suddenly be healed – though that certainly is our “little faith” prayer! But the point is so much bigger than us! The Lord of the heavens and earth is a God who has not stopped every little storm on every little sea and in every little heart because he has taken his great power and done something far greater! He has stopped the breaking of the universe. Lifting up his hand into the crack which had breached existence itself, submitting that hand yos piercing and bleeding, as an atoning sacrifice for all unfaith and little faith, He has held the breach at bay and brought the good of creation back together in himself. That is what his resurrection means. He conquered death! Where the whirling creation was spinning out of control, he said “Peace, be still,” and, see it or not, believe that it is, for it will be seen as just that forevermore on the Great Day when He comes again.

We, his disciples, can do little but sit and marvel, as we struggle with our measly little trials, worried more about bank accounts than about those who have not heard this great news! Has he been with us so long and we yet do not know him? Look, he is Jesus. There, on that cross, dying for your sin, is the man you voted to put your trust in last Sunday.

As one, you have laid your monies and your mortgages at his feet. Was it because you, like the disciples, were afraid of the storms you saw coming? Was it because you know that evangelism and serving the poor are simply the right things to do? It doesn’t matter. With your little faith, given by the Law and Gospel of God, it has happened. Repentance has made our community reliant upon Christ once again. And you are forgiven for the rest.

The truth is that the One who controls the wind and the waves has taken control of you, and of this congregation. Now, all things are possible: Death. Life. Both. And then some. You are in the boat with Christ. Though we succeed or fail, though we shrink or grow, though we live or die, no storm, even death, will ever sink him. In that word, even you of little faith, have nothing more to fear.

In the Name…

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The one advertisement

Check it out.

Well, sort of.

It won't be the old Cross Theology which you knew and loved, without which you couldn't fall asleep at night. But, well, hopefully it will be something.

In fact, it will be something! It has been growing on my conscience that this something should be! And here it is:

Cross Theology is back in business. Check in daily or weekly for an assortment of pertinent and important quotes and readings from my personal studies into the Church and her context in modern north America and the world.

Wait. Don't fall over! I know. It sounds far too good to be true. But hey, no need to thank me. It's my pleasure.

But, seriously, I hope I find some niche in your world once again, to benefit your growth in faith and life, as you seek to follow the Apostles teachings and apply that Gospel to your present tribulation.

Your servant,

Father Jonathan Fisk

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Epiphany 3 - 2 Kings 5

(wma podcast download link)

So…you’ve just won the superbowl. You led the team the entire season. You called the plays on the final drive. You caught the pass with no time on the clock to gain the one point lead. And now, you’ve resigned for more money than anyone’s made in the history of football. Not to mention, your wife is beautiful. Your kids got your skills. You’re main house is huge and your summer home is gigantic. You are the envy of the entire world…or, well, you would be, if you didn’t have terminal cancer.

That’s about what it felt like to be Naaman. Naaman was almost a King in almost the most powerful nation on earth. His whims and dreams and cares were nothing. The world was his oyster. Except…he was a leper.

Now, you may not know much about leprosy, but to call it cancer is a pretty good equivalent. Contrary to popular belief, leprosy was not contagious. The only reason lepers were ostracized in Jewish culture was because of ritual purification laws, not because of any contagion. So a leper in the ancient world could live just fine, that is, until his face rotted off and he died of consumption at a very young age. Think cancer, only on the outside, and you’ve about got it. So Naaman had it all, except the he was a dead man walking.

So imagine – imagine the hope which filled his superstitious, pagan heart when he heard from a little slave girl about a prophet in Israel who could heal even leprosy because of a God who was truly alive and active. Now maybe he was a skeptic at first, but all the text says is that he sought after this man as quickly as if his life depended on it…because, well, it did.

Yet the most marvelous thing about this history from the Old Testament is not that a pagan would journey to the Israel in search of healing, nor that his King would endorse this trip with gold and silver and passports, nor that the King of Israel would consider it all an act of blatant subterfuge and aggression. The most amazing thing is that, after the prophet Elisha steps into the mix, and after Naaman comes riding into backlands Samaria with all his horses and chariots and pomp and show, and after Elisha then gives Naaman the very thing he’d been seeking – that is, the promise and Word of God assuring him of true, real, tangible healing – the amazing thing is that the first thing superstitious, pagan Naaman does is – go figure – not believe it. Ha!

He wanted smoke and mirrors. He wanted a big half-time show with guest appearances and some fireworks. And all he got was a simple Word telling him that the answer was found in plain, old, dirty river water.

How can water do such things?

“How can water do such things?” he asked in anger! “Is not the water of Syria far cleaner than this filthy Hebrew puddle?”

And that is exactly how far unbelief masquerading as faith will get you. You can seek the answers. You can look for truth. You can be dying to find that thing that deep down you know you really need. But, without faith, when what you really need – a Word from the Living God – comes to you and stares you in the face, and gives you the ultimate answers, without faith, the human being, you, can’t and won’t believe it.

And this is the incredible thing about this text, for it is easy for us to sit and scoff at Naaman, but the reality is that this story isn’t about Naaman at all. It’s about you. You don’t really want God’s answers either. Sure, you say you do, but you’re not fooling anyone, except, maybe yourself. You don’t want God’s answers. You want God to give you your answers. You don’t want eternal salvation as simple as a little water splashed on your face with a promise from the mouth of God about your being connected to his crucified Son. No. You want smoke and mirrors too. You want perfected feelings and adrenalized emotions and ardent, fervor-filled zest for life. You don’t want the Church. You want a good show. You don’t want to have to believe God’s promises. Like the prodigal son, you want see your inheritance right now, so you can spend it on your passions in this life. None of this, “believe it will be done and wait patiently,” stuff for your heart. You want to see it done now, and then, maybe, you’ll believe.

And that’s just it right there. A sinner (which is what you are) can’t believe the Word of God. It’s just not possible. Even with miracles and signs, the crowds still rejected Jesus. They demanded more. To them he replied, “You have the prophets and the Scriptures. If you will not believe them, then even a man rising from the dead will not convince you of who I am.”

And that is the predicament of the entire human race. Naaman wasn’t weird for thinking that washing in a dirty river seven times wouldn’t take away his leprosy. Naaman was normal for thinking that. And you’re not weird for doubting the power of God for regeneration in the plain water of your baptism. You’re normal for thinking that. But normal is the problem. And there we’re stuck. If it’s up to us to believe in Jesus in order to earn our salvation, we’re all done for. So it’s a darned good thing that Jesus didn’t come to demand that we believe in him. It’s a wonderfully good thing that Jesus came to give us belief.

For the greatest miracle of all is not even that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. The greatest miracle of all is that, because of the working of the Holy Spirit, you believe it. By your own reason or strength, the saving power of a dead man on a cross is foolishness. But because the Spirit of God has come to you in that testimony that Christ has not only died, but risen and will come again, because of the persistent confession of this truth other saints past and present, all saying to you, “Is this not a great Word that God has spoken,” because God has by this same Word flushed your heart and mind with the cleansing waters that hold the power of his eternal Name, - because of all of this work He has done for you - you believe, in spite of your reason and strength.

Reason and strength, once dead in unbelief are now made alive in Christ, renewed and invigorated to apprehend the Word of God. The Lord, because he is merciful, has pursued you, just as he pursued Namaan, so that, even now, he is chasing you, pulling at you, speaking to you words through his servants, guiding you in loving persistence, and gradually, promise by promise, abnormalizing you away from the narrow minded focus of the world and into a cross-eyed addiction to faith. And not just faith in anything, but faith that there truly is a God in Israel, in the catholic Church, in his Church, and that this true God not only exists, but exists in an eternal desire to love you, to want to do good to you, to rejoice in forgiving you of your sins, and to go to any length to save you from death and the power of the devil.

Unbelief is leprosy, and we’ve all got that disease. It’s worse than cancer. It eats away at you. It tears you apart. It ruins you. It turns you into a rotting mass of boredom and complacency, always looking for the better smoke and the shinier mirrors. But faith is the working of the Word of God in you as he purges you of your disease. He says it, and then he does it. And this is what he has said to you. “I wash you, with my name. You are clean.” Is this is not a great word that he has spoken? It’s way better than even winning the Superbowl.

In the Name…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Epiphany 2 - John 2 (sorry it's late!)

(wma download link here)

You know that kind of day – the kind of day when you just can’t catch a break. It’s not just the boss or the teacher or the traffic or the lines at the store. It’s not any one thing. It’s all of them. They add up, piling on top of each other like a tower of emotional frustration.

It’s usually after one of those days - when you’re just barely getting dinner started, and the kids are hungry, and the spouse is cranky, and your feet are hurting - it’s usually one of those days that it happens. You need it, but there’s no more milk in the fridge. Then it all adds up. The tower of frustration falls over. Life just doesn’t seem to be worth living because the milk has run out.

Maybe that’s never happened to you. But things like that have happened to you. Life has a way of running out just when you feel like you need it most. You need cash, but there’s none in your wallet. You need credit, but it’s maxed. You need socks, but they’re dirty and full of holes. And if you think that’s bad, try living in Darfur where thousands are dying of starvation, disease and murder right now, because of their race and their religion. Or move to south America and see what it’s like to have drug cartels run your country. Or head east in our dear Jersey and get out of your car where the homeless families and prostitutes roam. Life has run out early for them. And you live on, getting upset when you go a day without milk.

What’s going to happen when things really start running out? Oil? Clean air? Drinkable water? If we’re to believe Al Gore’s recent movie about the polar ice-caps, such times may not be so far away. If we pay attention to the rising toll of bird flu deaths in Asia, the pandemic they say is coming might give us cause for pause and prayer. And if we continue to ignore the gradual implementation of Islamic shria law in western civilization, the jihad that will follow will no doubt finally teach us how good this world is at taking away the things you need for security just when you’ve put all of your trust in them. And this is to say nothing of the fact that time itself is running out, running out on you, and on your death bed you will be left wishing you had done more, knowing you haven’t done enough. There, all your selfish pining for a chance to make it up won’t do you a bit of good.

This running out of things, of course, is no mystery to anyone. The rich and completely self-centered people, people like us, do manage to ignore our world’s shortage problem most of the time. Yet, even we are forced to suffer the pain of it. Nothing is sacred to the curse. Nothing is safe from mold, rust and moths. That gas tank revolves around empty like a never ending harpy screaming for you wake up and realize that something is going wrong. Things are running out.

The gas tank, just like the empty bag of sugar in your pantry and the worn out soles on your shoes are there as messengers from God. In an attempt to jerk you out of your sinful enslavement to the materials of this world as your idols and your sources of hope and trust, God withholds from you good things in abundance. God has cursed these good things with rot and decay and non-renewableness because he wants you to see that a sinful life in a broken world is not about fun or entertainment or even good family memories. It’s not about seeing what you can, or getting what you can, or even surviving as long as you can. Those life-goals can be met by just filling up the gas tank again, putting more food on your plate and buying more love in your life. But even with all of that you still are enslaved to your problem, to being in curvatis, to being completely “curved in on yourself.” Things run out from your life because you have run out of faith in God. And as a wakeup call to this problem of your heart, God has withheld all good things in abundance from you, to show you what needs to be filled up first.

But it was to prove that he was the man sent to fill up the first things that Jesus Christ, one day at a wedding in Cana, started bringing about the abundance of paradise just a little bit early. For Isaiah the prophet had foretold that in the world to come God the Lord would “make for all peoples a feast … [including] well aged wine.” And this feast would come with the appearing of the King who would shepherd the peoples back to their God. And in his work of filling the world up with grace again, from the moment he was born in grace as the form of a man, to the moment when he repented in grace of the sins he had not committed and was baptized for their forgiveness, to the many times when he gave that grace in miracles which stopped the running out of wine and bread and health and life, even so that something as simple as a wedding could go on – all of it of was part of his bring to completion that grace in a march with a hardened face towards a cross where the substitution of God for man did more than just give wine in abundance – it kill death and running out forever. More than simply taking away the running out which is the fruit of our sin, it destroyed the faithlessness which is the root of our sin, and by the Word of his resurrection, gave us something to believe in which is the forgiveness of our sin.

When the master of the feast at Cana tasted the wine that Jesus had made, he found that Christ had brought him a wine far better than that which he had tasted before. The wine of this world had not only run out, but paled in comparison to the water combined with the Word of God. And even to this day, in water combined with the Word of God and in wine combined with the Word of God, the best which is yet to come – the best which is saved for last – still comes early in the epiphanies of our Lord, where he manifests and reveals himself to us as the God with the power to stop all running out once and for all, beginning not with the milk or the socks, but starting with your heart, where he has and will continue to give you the faith which brings hope in life everlasting. And believe you me, that is going to be one not-hell of a party.

In the Name…

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