Monday, July 27, 2009

Willfully persisting in sin... rejoicing in forgiveness?

Pastor Weedon, a well-known Lutheran blogger, has a post worth reading: "Correcting a Misperception":


Some former Lutherans persist in slandering our faith by saying that it is spiritually damaging - pointing especially to the teaching that we are simultaneously just and sinner. Thus, to their way of thinking, Lutherans teach that one may intentionally and willfully persist in sin and rejoice in forgiveness. But this is a complete falsification of our teaching.
Lutherans state unequivocally:

Nor indeed is this faith idle knowledge, nor can it coexist with mortal sin. Ap. IV.115

For through one's entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members, not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy...The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so that it is carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present. SA III, 3, 40, 44.

The person who dares to say "God loves to forgive; I love to sin; what a deal!" is no Lutheran and no Christian.

What simul justus et peccator is rather seeking to confess is that to be a Christian is to be in a life-long struggle against the flesh and its lusts. You will never advance to a point where the struggle is ended. It goes on to the very end. The fact of the struggle doesn't mean one isn't a Christian (the absence of the struggle does!). As St. Paul wrote of himself to the Romans: "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what it right, but not the ability to carry it out." (7:18)

Such is the sad experience of every Christian: we can and do make progress in following our Savior, and yet we find that there is inside of us a wretched fountain of corruption that continues to pollute us. It drives us to the joy of grace. The joy of simul justus et peccator is that we are not condemned before God for this fountain of corruption in our flesh; we fight it with every weapon of the Spirit and resist it to the grave, and we rejoice that it will finally be extinguished and removed from us on the day of our death, when our Baptism into Christ is completed, and we put off this body of death. When we are resurrected, this fountain of corruption will not be resurrected within us. And for that all glory to God!

To confess simul justus et peccator is thus the exact opposite of saying "don't worry; do what you want; you're forgiven." It's rather saying: "Since you are forgiven, you have the Spirit to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end against this sin which inheres in your flesh and to be assured as you battle that you will win the final victory if only you remain under the forgiving blood of the Lamb of God."

Such a teaching is anything but spiritually damaging; it is in fact the only comfort and source of peace you can find when confronted with the ongoing wretched flood of filth from the flesh. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

(read the original post and comments at "Weedon's Blog": )

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 7 - Mark 6:30-44

Sermon – Pentecost 7
July 19th, 2009
Mark 6:30-44

God loves to feed his people. From the very beginning, in the Garden, God made sure to provide food for his people. He fed his people in the wilderness with a daily supply of manna – bread from heaven. He brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey. The Psalmist writes, “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing”.

And Jesus is the same, of course. Like Father, like Son. He loves to feed his people. So after a long day of teaching and preaching, he sees a hungry crowd. And he makes sure that they are fed. Miraculously so – he provides food for 5000 men, not counting women and children. And this wasn't the only time he fed a large crowd, either!

Our Savior teaches here, as he commands he disciples to gather the leftovers – he teaches his children not to waste his gifts. The crowd also teaches us, in that there was more than enough and they didn't hoard it. They gave back to Jesus from the abundance he gave them. And 12 baskets were leftover. How we, living in America today would do well to learn these lessons – don't waste, and don't hoard our physical blessings.

To be sure, passages such as this show us that God does care for our bodily needs. Even in the Lord's Prayer we are taught to pray for daily bread – those things we need to support this body and life. And God gives us way more than we need – just as there were many leftovers at the miraculous feeding of 5,000. As the Psalmist writes, “you prepare a table before me... my cup overflows”. And as we can see in our own lives – even in tough economic times, God provides for us more than we need.

He also provides more than we deserve. Adam and Eve didn't plant the garden or create the trees from which they ate. The Children of Israel didn't do anything but collect the bread God sent from heaven. The 5000 hungry hearers of Jesus simply received the gifts he gave that day. But none of them deserved it. Especially as sinners, we deserve nothing from God but sin, death and hell. We don't deserve a job, a family, a house, a car, nice clothes, shoes or toys. We don't even deserve the food that God graciously provides.

Notice, however, that food wasn't all Jesus gave that day. It wasn't even the most important gift. He had spent the day putting first things first – he fed the people with his Word. And here we see the spiritual sustenance that comes from the Good News of Jesus Christ is the real thing. Jesus says it himself, “Let's go over there so I can preach.... for that is why I came”. He didn't come just to fill people's stomachs. He didn't come only to heal and cast out demons, raise the dead, and give people what they felt they needed. He came to give us what we all need the most – whether we know it or not.
And that, is himself. He gives himself to us, and for us. He gives his very life – a body broken and precious blood shed for our greatest need... forgiveness. A renewed and restored relationship with God. And all the blessings that go with it.

You may feel your needs are different. How would you finish the sentence, “If I could ask God for just one thing right now, it would be.... _____”? But our greatest need is always Christ, and God has already said yes to that prayer. All other needs and wants and desires pale in comparison to the nourishment of our souls, the living bread from heaven, Jesus Christ.

Now, some of our hungers are ungodly. Some of our desires are for things sinful. These, God is not interested in granting. Instead these cravings are forbidden fruits. For these sinful desires we need, instead, to repent. Greed and lust, pride, and indulgence of our own creaturely comforts.... Even the need to be liked and loved, especially at the cost of our integrity. We have many sinful “hungers” and we must weigh carefully whether what we want lines up with what God's word requires of us.

And Satan would love to fill our bellies with all sorts of garbage. Whether you call it “spiritual junk food” or see it as the dangerous poison it is.... he would deceive us into swallowing his lies and falling for his temptations. But these false foods bring death, not life. They leave us malnourished and sickly, or bloated with a false sense of fullness.

But there is a spiritual hunger that is good and godly. It is what happens when the sinner falls on his knees before Holy God and admits what we truly deserve, and what we truly need! Like when Peter preached his first sermon, and the people were “cut to the heart” and asked, “what shall we do?”

Believe and be baptized, he told them. And thousands of years later sinners who hunger and thirst for righteousness are doing the same. When the law cuts us to the heart, we are ready – we hunger to hear that sweet message of good news in Jesus Christ. We are ready to be fed. And God still provides.

And what good Lutheran can think of God feeding us without considering the Lord's Supper? The same Jesus who fed the crowd of 5000 with bread after feeding them with his word, is the same Jesus who by his powerful word feeds us and then feeds us again with his word attached to bread and wine. He feeds you bread and wine that is his own true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. He feeds you often and freely. He feeds you with what you need the most – himself. He feeds you and this food gives life, and works salvation. He feeds you with a food just as miraculous as the fish and loaves. A food shared by all Christians, a table of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. In this Holy Communion, he feeds well more than 5000 – indeed, he offers his heavenly bread to all.

One more gift Christ gives in connection to this meal. Just as he told the disciples to distribute the food to the crowd, so does he call pastors today, to minister, to serve, to distribute his gifts. “You give them something to eat”. The pastor feeds (and is fed) with the word. The pastor feeds the flock with the food he has received. It is a food only Christ can offer, but he offers it through simple, humble men, just as he gives it in simple words, and water, and bread and wine. It takes faith to see and believe that all this can and does happen. But such faith is also a gift from the provider of all good things.

So come to the table today. But don't come because it's just something to do. Don't come because everyone else is doing it. Don't even come because you should. Come because you feel the hunger. Come because you believe the promise – that this little wafer, and this bit of wine are what Jesus says they are. Come because he is present for you, here with forgiveness. Come because here, in this place, we find the one thing we need most. O taste and see that the Lord is good, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Let's End No-Fault Divorce"

Thanks to Bob Waters for pointing out this interesting article, by Leah Ward Sears, who stepped down this week as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.