Thursday, April 28, 2011

On "Statements of Faith"

I think it is good for Christians to state their faith. As a Lutheran, I state, or confess, my faith freely and publicly. I say what I believe, for my own benefit and for others. And because, frankly, Jesus Christ tells us to confess him before men (Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8).

Some Baptists would say, "I make no statement of faith except the Bible". This paradoxical statement is itself a statement of faith, isn't it? Even so, it's not very handy. Shorter confessions of faith help us to define and differentiate what people teach about what the Bible actually says. Does the Bible teach that God is Triune or not? Is Jesus the Son of God, or not?

Others feel free to write their own statements of faith - and while this isn't forbidden (if those statements accord with God's word) - it may not always be most helpful. Isn't it better to subscribe to those time-tested universal Christian confessions known as the Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasian)?

Still many who confess the three Creeds would differ on important points. So we Lutherans subscribe to the Augsburg Confession, for instance, and the Book of Concord. These longer statements of faith express more clearly what we believe God's Word actually says. But we shorthand this confession as well, even by saying, "I'm a Lutheran" or "I'm a Confessional Lutheran".

I've been thinking a bit about the seemingly ubiquitous statements of faith that emerge from generic Evangelical American Christianity. You can see some examples here and here and here. Then there was the Christian Musician who emailed offering to come to our church for a concert.

Well, you get the idea. Once in a while members of our congregation will see these statements and ask me, "Pastor, don't we believe the same?" Of course, the answer isn't always so simple.

As my wife and I have been looking to homeschool beginning next Fall, we came across a local homeschool organization. They also have a "statement of faith" that we'd be required to sign if we join. Here it is:

Statement of Faith:

1.We believe the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, and it is the supreme and final authority for all matters of faith and life.

2.We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father , Son, and Holy Spirit.

3.We believe in the perfect deity and perfect humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His miracles, His bodily resurrection, His ascension, and His bodily return in power and glory.

4.We believe that man was created in the image of God, but chose to sin and Is therefore lost and only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ alone are saved.

5.We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and is received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ whose substitutionary death on the cross paid the penalty for man's sin, through His shed blood.

6.We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convict men of their sin, indwell, guide, instruct, and empower the believer for godly living and service.

7.We believe in the spiritual unity of believers through our common faith in Jesus Christ.

So some further thoughts:

Like many LCMS Lutherans, I find myself largely, if not entirely in agreement with many of these kinds of statements. We share much with conservative, Bible-believing Christians from many other denominations (or non-denominations).

Here's the rub. Notice what is usually conspicuously absent from these statements? If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran, you'll probably read them and scream in your head, "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SACRAMENTS?"

I don't know why any one such group or person omits Baptism or the Lord's Supper from a statement of faith like these. But I figure it's one of two reasons. A) To be generic enough to avoid offending those who hold differing views on the sacraments, or B) Because the sacraments just aren't that important to their faith system.

I did note that the Campus Crusade for Christ statement mentioned "ordinances", which is a "red-flag" to a very different theology about Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Even the different terminology (ordinance vs. sacrament) shows this.

A trained theologian can also get a whiff of some other distinctions that may lie behind the statements - but often by what is NOT said as much as by what is.

What is fascinating to me, is that many who put forward such statements do so to differentiate themselves from liberal Christianity and from Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Fair enough. But by the same token they want to minimize distinctions, it seems, within the certain bounds of conservative Christianity. It seems a bit inconsistent.

So, my questions for thought:

Can, or how can, a Lutheran, in good conscience subscribe to or agree with such a statement of faith? Surely it depends somewhat on the specifics of the particular statement. But in general, should we be signing on to something that doesn't fully confess what Lutherans do? That leaves out key teachings for the sake of an outward agreement or the appearance of such?

Could a Lutheran sign something like this with a "p.s., I also believe in the sacraments...." (if the group would allow it)?

...Oh, and I believe the Holy Spirit does all of that.... but His main work is to call us to faith in Christ by the Gospel.

...Oh yes, I believe in the "spiritual unity of all Christians" (we call it the "invisible church" or the Una Sancta), but Scripture also teaches that we are called to flee from error and have nothing to do with false teachers. That's why I belong to a particular denomination that confesses the truth rightly and clearly. Doesn't signing a vague statement which can purposely cover many different views run counter to that?

In fact, Lutherans have gone through this whole debate before. Phillip Melancthon and the Altered Augsburg Confession come to mind. He wanted to make our distinctive confession of the Sacrament more palatable to Calvinist Christians. But the Gnesio (genuine) Lutherans rejected this approach. That's why so many of our congregations bear the "UAC" moniker today - the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. Isn't this the same issue all over again?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lenten Series - Seven Deadly Sins - All the Links

Pride - Ash Wednesday

Envy - (I was out of town, Pastor Poppe preached this one, sorry I don't have the text)

Lust - Midweek 3

Anger - Midweek 4

Gluttony - Midweek 5

Greed - Midweek 6

Sloth - Maundy Thursday

Remember Your Baptism!

Remember your Baptism!

“It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth. His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he considers that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (II Tim.2:13): 'If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” - Martin Luther.

With Dr. Luther I encourage you to remember your baptism!

I write this note on a rainy April morning. But while April showers bring May flowers, they also remind me of Holy Baptism – like rain, a gift from Heaven. Like rain, a gift we neither control nor may grasp for, but it gratefully received from God. Like rain, it cleanses and gives life. But unlike the passing rain-shower, our Baptism is a constant blessing which remains as sure as God's word of promise.

So many Christians regard their baptism as an event in the past – a right of passage with little value. It's a special time to welcome a baby, or a ceremony that reminds us of God's love, or even a “fire insurance policy” that loses meaning or power once we are adults. But Holy Baptism is so much more.

It is God's promise to you – and that never fails. That promise never becomes irrelevant. You never grow out of it. You may reject it, of course. You may turn away and go astray – but God will never turn his back on you. He will remain faithful despite our unfaithfulness. We are the sinners, but he is the forgiver of sins. We are wayward children, but our patient and loving Father always calls us back to his “fortress of salvation”, and comforts us with those baptismal promises.

Thank God for his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whose death and resurrection win for us such blessings! Thank God for the gift of Holy Baptism, a great and daily comfort for forgiven sinners like you and me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sermon - Matthew 28:1-10 - Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10
April 24th, 2011
“Here's What Victory Looks Like”

October 23rd, 2001. Monday Night Football. The New York Jets hosted their divisional rivals, the Miami Dolphins. The nation was watching, and your football obsessed pastor was watching. But it was looking bad for the Jets, as the Dolphins had taken an early lead. Still, some had hope. At Halftime, Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance in the announcers' booth and predicted a Jets victory. “The I think as usual the Jets are going to come from behind, you will see... I think the Dolphins have to be terminated.”

Going into the 4th Quarter, the Jets were behind by 30-7, and it seemed so hopeless that fans started to leave the stadium in droves, and even your football obsessed pastor turned off the TV and went to bed. The game finally ended at 1:30 in the morning, in overtime, when the Jets made an amazing comeback. They won with a final score of 40-37. It would go down in history as the “Monday Night Miracle”. And yet so many of us missed it, because we had given up hope.

Today is Easter. Today we celebrate a far greater victory. Today we mark the Sunday Morning Miracle that is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has conquered the enemy. He has terminated death itself. And now that he is risen, our victory is assured! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed, Alelluia!)

It looked bad. It looked like game over. The Enemy had won. Jesus was defeated. They finally arrested him. But he didn't run away. The questioned him, but he didn't answer their charges. They crucified him, but he didn't deserve it. They mocked him, “Come down from the cross!” but he stayed up there. Why? Because he was doing battle. He was fighting – for you. Yes, by suffering and dying he was conquering death by death. He was destroying sin by becoming sin. He was taking away punishment by taking the punishment we deserved.

And then he died. This wasn't how they thought it would end. They were looking forward to glory, thrones, trumpets, revelry – victory! But in the darkness of a Friday afternoon they took his body down, wrapped it up, hastily buried him in a tomb, sealed it up and went away in despair. What a letdown! What a defeat.

Still under that cloud of sorrow, some women came to finish their job – to give him a proper burial, spices and all. But despair deepened when they saw his body had been stolen - or so they thought. Does it get any worse, any lower, any more insult to injury?

But it's always darkest before the dawn. These women, and those disciples, and now we too – are about to see what victory looks like!

An angel appears – and then another. “Don't be afraid. Jesus isn't here. Yes, I know he was crucified – but he is risen from the dead, just like he said! He's not here because he is alive. He's back. See the place where he lay.”

Yes, look and see – what does victory look like? It looks like an empty tomb. Grave clothes neatly folded up. No stench of death. No sound of mourning. No corpse to see. Jesus leaves death behind, and in that empty tomb we see our victory.

“Go to Galilee, and you will see him” the angel told them. And would they ever! Jesus would spend 40 more days alive on this earth, appearing to his disciples here and there, and in Galilee. He would show them, prove to them, that he was and is alive! This was no delusion of a few crazy women. This was proof positive of his triumph and our life.

And as they went, joyfully, they even met Jesus. They saw him. They worshiped him. And he greeted them with kindness, and told them not to be afraid. And he told them to go and tell others, so that they too would see. And so the women did. Many others saw, and believed.

And while we haven't seen, we still know the victory. We see it with the eyes of faith. Jesus Christ is alive.

Sometimes we may give up hope. Sometimes it seems all is lost. Daily life can be discouraging. Fears and pains are common. Grief is no stranger to us. We know the darkness. And we know our sins. Struggle as we might, we can't escape them. They keep haunting us and plaguing us. We can't get it right, no matter how hard we try. And death is always before us. The clock is ticking. Time is running out. The fans are starting to leave the stadium.

But don't give up hope. For Jesus pulled it off! He has won the victory. Not just for himself, but for you! This is what YOUR victory looks like – an empty tomb. A risen Savior!

When life's troubles threaten us, Jesus lives to protect us! When Satan's lies tempt us, Jesus lives to strengthen us! When death's shadow hovers over us, Jesus lives to shine a light of hope! When our own sins defeat us, Jesus lives and says, “Father forgive them!” When it seems we are finished, Jesus lives and says, “IT IS FINISHED!” Death is finished. Pain, suffering, despair, all the darkness and misery that sin brings.... all of it is finished in Christ our living Lord!

He greets you with kindness in his forgiving Word, today. He feeds you with his risen body and blood, making you a partaker of his life, even today. He takes all your loss and drowns it in baptismal water, raising the new victorious man to live for him each day. And he promises you a resurrection like his – a final victory celebration that will never end.

When defeat stares you in the face, remember the victory we celebrate this day. Jesus lives! This is what victory looks like. The Sunday Morning Miracle. Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed, Alelluia!) Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sermon - John 13:1-18; 31b-35 - Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17; 31b-35
Maundy Thursday
April 21st , 2011

Pride, Coveting, Lust, Anger, Gluttony and Greed. So now we come to the final deadly sin on our list – Sloth. As we said at the beginning of this series – these 7 sins aren't the only deadly sins. Indeed, each and every sin is deadly to the sinner – apart from Christ. But in Christ, our loving Savior – no deadly sin can keep us away from God. No dark misdeed cannot be forgiven. No sin of thought, word, or deed places us under judgment – for Christ has paid the price by his blood, his suffering, his death.

Sins of thought, word, or deed. That's one way of categorizing sin. But not the only way. We also confess things we have done and have not done. The sins of commission and sins of omission. And here falls our final sin of Sloth. The things we don't do, that we should be doing.

It's more than just laziness, although it includes that. But we sinners are guilty of more sins that we can imagine – partly because we also break God's law by our inaction.

Take the command Jesus gives on Maundy Thursday (by the way, that's what Maundy means, “command”). He says, “Love one another just as I have loved you.” And here we find our failure.

He's not talking about washing each other's feet. But he is talking about loving our neighbor. He's not talking about warm fuzzy feelings of love. He's talking about what you do for your neighbor. Love. It is action. It is humble self-sacrificing service of another. Washing feet. Changing diapers. Giving a ride to the doctor's office. Extending a welcoming hand. Speaking a word of forgiveness.

And so what happens when we don't? What happens when our lazy, sinful nature lets those opportunities pass us by? What about the fact that we could be seeking out opportunities to love our neighbor – but we don't?

This is a hard sin, my friends. It's one thing to see and confess a sin that you actually do. A goof or gaffe that other people might also notice. You hurt someone with your words. You dishonor an authority. You take something that isn't yours. You can point to the sin, confess it, be done with it. God forgave me for that sin and that sin and that sin.

But how do you confess the good deeds you failed to do? How do you enumerate the actions you never got around to doing – and perhaps didn't even know you should have or could have?

Yes, sloth, laziness – it's more than just sitting around. It's missing out on our God-given privilege and duty to love one another. Oh the excuses run freely on this one, don't they. Chief among them, “I'm too busy!”. Maybe it's too hard, or you are too tired, or you just don't want to. Or else we say, “someone else will do it”. Maybe you even know you should, but you'd just rather have a root canal – and so you avoid. And so passes the opportunity to love your neighbor and serve him.

There's that parable Jesus tells about the talents – a king is going away for a long time, and entrusts three servants with different sums of money. The first two get busy – they invest the money and when the king returns present him with even more than he gave them. But the third servant, (perhaps out of laziness?) doesn't use the gifts he is given. He buries the money and sits on it. The king is enraged, and takes away even what that servant already had! A stinging rebuke of the servant's inaction.

Where does this sin leave us? God doesn't just chide us for sins, he threatens punishment – condemnation – even death. Yes, even for those sins of sloth – the things we have left undone. But God doesn't only threaten and judge. Through Christ, he offers life!

Christ was no lazy-bones. He was active and working, working, always for our good. His earthly life of service was far more than foot-washing. He taught his people the truth of God, but was far more than an example. His perfect obedience fulfilled the law. He did what no human had ever done – he didn't sin, and he always did everything he should. Even down to the last details of prophecy, “in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, 'I thirst”. Every T crossed and every I dotted. Surely he has done all things well.

We call this Christ's Active Obedience – and he does it all for you. And then there's his Passive Obedience, also for you.

His Passive Obedience is his humble submission to the Father's will. He gives himself, his life, as a ransom for many. He suffers, he dies. What he doesn't do is save himself. What he doesn't do is find a better way, with less pain and suffering. What he doesn't do is forsake his task, forsake his sheep. Instead he is forsaken by God for us. Jesus doesn't avoid the hard work of the cross.

For us who leave so much undone – Christ does all things – both in his life and death – and does them perfectly. For us who don't even know all the ways we fall short – Christ knows our weakness, and gives us his strength, and his victory over death.

We fail to love. But Jesus never misses an opportunity. And the best opportunity was his cross. Where God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. That Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life up for his friends.

Deadly sin, we see, is not deadly when we are in Christ. For he faced death and destroyed it. He took sin and conquered it. He does what we do not, and cannot do. He goes where we cannot go. But he returns to take us with him, even to life forever.

This Holy Week, ponder the deadliness of sin – whatever sins you commit, struggle with, and feel the guilt thereof. And see sin meet its death on Calvary, in our Lord's loving sacrifice. And keep an eye on Sunday, for life is coming, and victory is on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sermon - Luke 16:19-31 - Lent Midweek 6

Luke 16:19-31
Lent Midweek 6
April 13th, 2011

Pride, Coveting, Lust, Anger and Gluttony. We're almost to the end of our excursion into 7 deadly sins. Today we come to greed.

While there's certainly some overlap between Covetousness or Envy and Greed.... here's the difference, perhaps. Coveting or Envy has to do with wanting what someone else has. Jealousy. A sort of spiteful sneer that says, “why do they deserve that nice thing?”. But Greed isn't even concerned with the neighbor at all. Greed just wants things – and lots of them. We can dress it up and call it “materialism”, but really it's just a straightforward idolatry – making created things into God.

In our world, that usually means money. Because it's money that gets us everything else we want – or so we are told. Fast cars, fine dining, a big house, nice clothes. The more money you have, the better you live. So get more money. And often, the more money you have, the more money you want. So get more money. And, what, wait... there's someone else in the world besides me?

Greed is good... so goes a famous movie line. But we Christians would disagree. We see it for the sin that it is. Greed not only takes our eyes of our true God – it also takes them off of our neighbor. When all we are concerned with is accumulating things for ourselves, it's impossible to love God with all our heart, strength, or soul. And we give no thought to loving our neighbor as ourselves.

And we're not talking about some faceless corporation that is often blamed for greediness, though that may often be the case. We're talking about individuals with a greed problem. People like you and me. People who have to answer for their sins before a righteous and holy God – unless some other way can be found...

Take the rich man and Lazarus. The world would look at the two of them and say the rich man was far better off. He had it all! ...

But Lazarus was just the opposite. He lay at the gate, covered in sores. The dirty dogs were his only friends. Bereft of friends and health and wealth. But we do learn something Lazarus has that the rich man doesn't. We learn it when they both die. Lazarus had faith.

Jesus tells this parable not to show that the rich will go to hell and the poor will go to heaven. But there is a warning not-so-thinly veiled here about the danger of greed. Like much of Jesus preaching, where he repeatedly condemns greedy sins – whether committed by tax collectors or pharisees or the rich young man.

Greed is a sin, but it's also a symptom. It is caused by a lack of trust in God's provision. Like another rich man Jesus talks about who wants to build extra barns to keep all his wealth – but then he suddenly dies, and oops, you can't take it with you! But where is the trust that God will give us our daily bread – clothe us, feed us? Don't we believe what Jesus says about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field? No, we don't like we should. We think it's up to us to make it happen. It's up to us to watch out for ourselves – and so we'll do it to a sinful degree if we have to.

Is there a fine line between good stewardship of the gifts he does give us – and a greedy misuse of the same? Of course. God doesn't condemn wealth itself. In fact, he makes it clear to Abraham and David and others – that he MADE them wealthy. He gives all good gifts. But what do we do with what we have? Do we manage it well? Or does it tempt us to want always and only more?

Do we blur and cross and break that line like crazy? Yes. We're sinners, after all, it's what we do with good things. We corrupt them. And we fail in the virtues that are opposite these sins – like the opposite of greed – charity.
Giving freely to someone with less. We hardly do it. When we do it, there's always some impurity of motivation. God still uses our imperfect charity, but it's not like we can claim any righteousness by it.

So once again we are left with no solution to deadly sin that we can find in ourselves. We can't just decide not to be greedy and do a better job with our generosity. There's no point in berating ourselves into cheerful giving and grateful contentedness with what God gives. There's only one answer to deadly sin – the life that comes in Christ.

And by now you can probably guess where we are going. Once more see how Jesus takes this twistedness of ours and straightens everything out. First by his perfect life. He had no greed for gain. He had no earthly wealth, no place to lay his head. Certainly no grand palace or fine clothing, no grand trappings of a king – though he was a king. Though he deserved all the gold, frankincense and myrrh, his cradle was with farm animals. Though he was far above the mighty men – Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod – he slummed it up with fishermen and tax collectors and prostitutes. And Jesus was always the giver – providing fish and loves, wine from water, healing and wholeness and even... life.

But more than just an example of perfect charity and lack of greed – Jesus did all this for us! His life, his work, his righteousness – God counts it as ours. You wonder how, even as a Christian, you can ever do everything God requires – and you realize you can't. But Christ did, for you! In your place. And that's what God sees and reckons as your righteousness.

And best of all, God the Father, in his generosity, gave his only Son. And Jesus, in his generosity, gave his very life. And God the Holy Spirit, gives gifts like crazy – abundant gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Jesus paid for them, after all – on the cross. Not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. You were bought with a price. Your salvation, and all the spiritual blessings of his kingdom are yours.

Wealthy or not, the repentant and believing child of God has a place in Abraham's bosom – next to once-poor Lazarus, and all the other recipients of God's grace in Christ. No need for greed where this is concerned – it's all ours by God's grace. And with such treasures in heaven, why clamor for anything less, anything below, any earthly thing that moth and rust will destroy? No, greed is not good. But God is, in Jesus Christ our Lord, for you, always. Amen.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sermon - Philippians 3:17-21 - Lent Midweek 5

Philippians 3:17-21
Lent Midweek 5
April 6th, 2011

Pride, Coveting, Lust and Anger. We've been examining these deadly sins in our season of repentance. God's word calls us out, points the finger right at us – dead to rights. But then the Gospel does its work – Jesus, our loving savior, takes away sin, defeats death, and by his Spirit creates a new heart in us. He is the only antidote to deadly sin.

Today another sin – Gluttony. All of these deadly sins we've looked at so far can be done largely in the darkness of the heart. They may or may not produce effects to be seen. You can't usually tell if someone is lusting or coveting. Maybe you can see their anger. But gluttony tends to be a different story. We tend to wear this sin on our sleeves – or rather, on our bellies, hips, and thighs.

Some of us, even pastors, are more familiar with this sin than others. Some of us are a walking object lesson in such sins. But counter to some of the mixed messages we get from our culture, let's call this sin a sin, and confront it head on.

Gluttony, like all sins, takes something good – in this case food – and twists it into something it wasn't meant to be. God gives us food to nourish our bodies, and also for enjoyment. Daily bread is a gift. But gluttony falls under, “too much of a good thing”.

It's not just eating too much, either. Drinking too much – now there's a whole different sermon. Or what about misusing our food in other ways? St. Thomas Acquinas categorized 5 ways of being a glutton – including eating food that is too expensive or pretentious or eating at the wrong time, or even eating too eagerly. And this isn't even to mention the other side of the coin – do we neglect to help those who truly are hungry and in need? Does all this “more for me” mean “less for you?” No, misusing food isn't just about eating too much.

Isn't it interesting that the original sin of Adam and Eve had to do with food – a misuse of a food God had given. Oh you can eat from any tree in the garden – just not that one. But they crossed the line God had set. They took, and ate, and they died.

Gluttony is deadly, like all sins, and has spiritual as well as physical dangers. The physical dangers of obesity – well, we hear about them all the time. Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, the list goes on... But spiritually, the real danger is mentioned in Philippians 3 - that gluttony turns us away from God and makes our own belly our god.

“Their god is their belly, and their destiny is destruction”. Here Paul is talking about those who live as enemies of Christ! And what are they concerned with? What do they value most? What do they worship? Their own full bellies. Unfortunately, that sounds a little too much like many of us. Are we then, destined for destruction? Are we, in fact, enemies of Christ?

According to our old nature, yes! Our old Adam, with his pride and envy and lust and anger and gluttony – must be destroyed. That's what the Christian faith is about. That's what Jesus does. By repentance and faith, destroying enemies and making them into friends. Re-creating us in baptism, raising us from a walking death to an eternal life with him.

Jesus – who fasted 40 days in the wilderness and still had more than enough strength to defeat our enemy the devil. Jesus – who calls himself the bread of life, and give us to eat and drink of his body and blood. Jesus – who on the cross thirsted, but his greatest thirst was for our salvation. He was a glutton for punishment – the punishment for all sins, on the cross. And now death has been swallowed up in his victory over death.

He re-orders our lives by his love. He forgives even our daily sins. And he promises us a future.

Maybe part of what drives gluttony is some kind of fear that we won't have enough – so we better get as much now as we can. But trusting in the one who richly provides for us – we need not worry for tomorrow. Perhaps gluttony is a singular concern for my own pleasure, irrespective of the needs of others. Ah, but the Savior that loves us calls us to love our neighbor, even to feed the hungry. Even as he feeds us with his own self.

The opposite of gluttony, the counterpart virtue, is temperance – that is, restraint or self-control. We could never do such a thing on our own. But we pray the Spirit's guidance, the Spirit's work in our life, to complete the good work he has begun in us – the good work he will bring to completion on that day.

One of the ways Holy Scripture speaks of that kingdom to come is as a marriage feast. The same Jesus who turned water into the finest wine when the host of the banquet ran out. He will, in that day, prepare for us an eternal feast of joy. There will we eat in holiness and righteousness, with all the saints of God forever. There, at the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which has no end.

Until then, we have a foretaste of the feast to come. A meal unlike other meals – a gathering with all the company of heaven. A food that doesn't tempt us to sin, but absolves our sins. A feast that brings eternal life. A provision that only God can prepare and provide. Here, at the altar. Here at the rail. Here with your fellow sheep, the shepherd feeds you. He prepares a table before you in the presence of the enemy. And in Christ, our cup of blessing overflows.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

on Genesis 44

Today's OT reading from the Treasury of Daily know the passage where Joseph frames his brothers as they are leaving Egypt for home? I couldn't help thinking about how this points to Christ.

Joseph makes his innocent brothers into thieves, to accomplish his purpose.
Jesus makes thieves, like the one on the other cross, into brothers as his divine purpose.

Joseph brings them to Egypt, where they are eventually enslaved.
Jesus frees us from slavery to sin and brings us to the Promised Land of Heaven.

Joseph uses his own silver cup, made of precious metal, to do it.
Jesus uses his own sacramental cup, filled with his precious blood, to do it.

Joseph wants to be reunited with his father.
Jesus wants us to be reunited with His father.

Judah takes the place of his "guilty" brother.
Jesus, descendant of Judah, takes the place of all the guilty.

"Why have you repaid evil for good?" Joseph asks his brothers.
We could ask Jesus, "Why have you repaid good for our evil?"