Advent is the time between memory and anticipation.
Advent is remembering, watching and waiting for the parousia/παρουσία of Jesus Christ. Come Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel of John, a fascinating dialogue takes place between Jesus and Pilate. It is a dialogue that cuts to the heart of our sinful nature, revealing just how blind and puffed up we are. In this dialogue, Jesus takes Pilate to the core issue and fundamental question of mankind: “What is truth?” This is not a question that we ask very often today. It is assumed that we know. Whatever truth has been discovered is already out there, but it does not become true for me until I experience it. More importantly, what is true for me differs from what is true for you and so knowing THE truth is really not knowable. Instead, we pay attention to context. If your truth is not my truth, then all truth is really relative. There is no one truth that binds all things together. We must, therefore, conform to the context in which we are placed as Paul did — be all things to all people — adapt to the culture. Speak truth to people, in their context, that is, speak to the people their particular contextualized truth in their particular context. What may work for you in your church community, may not work in mine — this just may not be the place for you. Find the place where truth feels right to you in your context. And yet if we do so — assume we all know the truth or contextualize — we miss the fundamental question for fallen humanity and fail to see the answer right in front of us, just as Pilate did.
In John 18, Jesus is brought before Pilate. Pilate takes Him aside for questioning in an effort, he thinks, to save His life. Yet Pilate does not know what and who is before him. Pilate wants to know if Jesus is indeed a king, not understanding that the Jews brought Jesus to him because He claimed to be THE King. Jesus’ reply pushes back at Pilate in the probing fashion that we are accustomed to see from Jesus throughout His ministry: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did some others say it to you about me?” This is no rhetorical question, but a question of faith and revelation. Put another way, Jesus asks Pilate, “Do you know who I am? Did flesh and blood reveal this to you or did my Father reveal it to you? Who do you say that I am?” It is the question posed to Jesus’ disciples, a question only Peter answered correctly, in faith. And yet, as we are so wont to do when confronted with the Christ, Pilate avoids the question. He deflects, turning instead to his own power and ability, responding in a fashion that echoes Adam’s reply to God when confronted with the reality of his own sin in the garden of Eden: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and people have handed you over to me? What have you done?” “Look, sir,” says Pilate, “Your people want you dead. I did not bring you here, although they come according to our law. I can help you out. What did you do that was so bad? Confess it to me, and I can make it go away.” Adam’s response to God was, “It is your fault God. You gave me the woman, she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Sounds eerily similar does it not? And yet Jesus is not done. He reminds Pilate that His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom, handing him the rope to which he needs grasp and cling. Yet Pilate can see only the things of this world. He hears that Jesus has a Kingdom, and if a Kingdom He has, Jesus must be a King. If a King then a threat to Rome and Pilate’s rule in Judea. Pilate does not hear Jesus telling Him, “They have brought me to you because of my Word, because My Kingdom does away with all kingdoms of this world. It is My Word, My Message that undermines their authority, and will tear down their laws, their way of life, and their beliefs in order to give them life. This they cannot tolerate, and they, therefore, hate me and reject me.” Jesus, even though He is being led to His death, continues patiently preaching to Pilate the very Gospel of life. “You say that I am a King. For this purpose I was born, for this purpose I have come into this world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate responds to Jesus’ statement with the question of the ages for mankind:
“What is truth?” In the Greek it is ““τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?”” the Latin, “Quid est Veritas?” Continue reading “What is Truth?”
Lessons from the Shepherds on the Beginning of the Life of a Christian
On this Christmas Day we bring back into the present, the incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He was first greeted by the lowly shepherds who heard the Word of God proclaimed to them by angels. They heralded this birth an a majestic display of God’s glory in the deep of night, as the shepherds watched over their flocks on the cold Judean hillsides surrounding Bethlehem. Martin Luther wrote about the beginning of the Christian life that these humble, lowly shepherds exemplified in his Kirchepostils, Church Postils, written during his exile in the Wartburg Castle between 1521 and 1522. From them, we learn how God’s Word works on us, and then in and through us. There is power in the Word of God, as it goes forth and does its mighty work. It is this Word that produces fruit, and works signs and wonders. The text of the following sermon from Dr. Luther , The Early Sermon for Christmas Day on the Gospel of Luke 2:[15-20] is taken from Luther’s Works, Vol. 52: Sermons II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 52:iii-40 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1974).
THE GOSPEL FOR THE EARLY CHRISTMAS SERVICE, LUKE 2[:15–20]
This Gospel can be understood quite easily from the interpretation of the preceding one; for it contains an example and carrying out of the teaching which is contained in the previous lesson in that the shepherds did and found what the angels had told them. So the content of the present lesson deals with the consequences and fruits of the word of God and the signs by which we recognize whether the word of God is in us and has been effective.
The first and chief item is faith. If these shepherds had not believed the angel, they would not have gone to Bethlehem nor would they have done any of the things which are related of them in the shepherds. Continue Reading
Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. From LCMS Commemoration Biographies, Noah.
It is fitting that Noah is remembered in the first week of Advent. John the Baptizer prepared the way for our Lord and was the voice crying in the wilderness. It was Noah, however, and the eight (8) people in his boat that foreshadowed our baptism, and the baptism of Christ. It is tied to the covenant with Abraham marked by circumcision. All male children were circumcised on the eighth (8th) day of they are lives. Christ, the firstborn to Mary and Joseph was presented at the Temple on the eighth (8th) day of His earthly life. Baptism now circumcises our hearts and marks us as ones redeemed by the precious body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Baptismal fonts in the early church, and in many churches today have eight (8) sides to them, tying this sacrament all the way back to Noah and the flood.
This past Sunday we remembered the Reformation, triggered by Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. At certain times in history, God has intervened in tremendous ways to accomplish His purposes on earth. In no way is this more clearly demonstrated to us than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For in Him, God became man. He lived with us, walked with us, talked with us. In some ways God became our friend in and through Christ. But from what we have seen He was much more than a friend. Christ is the LEADER — there was none other like Him before, and none have been like Him since. He is COMPASSIONATE. Always taking time to speak with those around Him; healing the sick, the lame, and the blind. He is SELFLESS SERVANT. Always concerned with the well-being of His flock, our Lord takes the time to prepare a meal. He feeds His children with the bread of life. None go away hungry. All are satisfied. And the baskets that are collected are overflowing with the abundant blessings He bestows on His people. Christ is the TEACHER of TRUTH. Never missing a moment to teach, Jesus enters the synagogues to read and expound upon Scripture. Each moment with His disciples is a moment in which He is constantly molding and shaping their faith. Time and time again, people walk away from Jesus, marveling at His teaching. No matter how hard they tried, His enemies could not argue with His doctrine. He taught what was unpopular, and challenged his people’s notions of love, mercy, compassion, and ethics. No one was spared, not even His family or His closest disciples. Jesus is COURAGE. In the face of fierce opposition from the ruling priests, the scribes, the pharisees, and the supporters of Herod, Christ took His Gospel, the Gospel of God, directly to all people — to Jews, pharisees, tax collectors, Samaritans, and to Gentiles. He took the Gospel into the heart of Israel, the Temple, to cleanse us and to make us holy. We sought ways to kill Him, to put out the fire of the Gospel. Jesus did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. The devil sought to tempt him. He sent demons to confront Christ. Yet our Savior did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus continued to do that which He had been sent to do by the Father. He forgave sins. He became angry and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He ate in the homes of tax collectors. He spoke with women. In public. He touched lepers, and was touched by unclean women. All of these things Jesus did until the very end. Until He was arrested. Betrayed. Beaten. Tried and convicted. Beaten again. And then nailed to a tree, to die the death of a common criminal. And while all these things happened, Jesus continued to serve us. Taking the time to arrange for a room to meet with His disciples one last time. A meal was prepared and He fed His disciples in a way that would change our lives forever. For it was their that Christ gifted to us forgiveness and life which He sealed with His death.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.). This statement speaks of COURAGE. And yet, as Dr. Luther points out, we flinch, we blink, we fold, and like the disciples we turn tail and run. Yet, at the appointed time, Christ remained obedient to the Will of the Father which meant His own death. I imagine that Lucifer stood in the courts of Heaven at the time of Christ’s trial, and conviction, accusing Him of not being worthy to sit at the right hand of God. See Jesus was just like us — those sinful creatures. Despicable. So much so that he was betrayed for the price of a slave. The Son of God convicted as a common criminal. Unable to make His own defense. He shows His weakness, does the Savior, by speaking the truth to the end. He cannot even convince the chosen people of God that He is the Son of God! Seeking all the while, Lucifer does, to unseat Christ, and usurp the throne of God. In the face of such audacity, Jesus did not flinch. He did not blink. He did not back down. His weakness, is our strength. His death, our life. His faith He gives to us. And in His death, are we made right before God. Satan is cast down from Heaven and bound in chains. This is a cosmic story, of which we get a glimpse as Chapter 14 of Mark unfolds for us.
It is the Courage of Christ that we need now in this world.