Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Ways we Find Christ in the Old Testament

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me"  John 5:39

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:27
Jesus makes the bold claim that the Old Testament scriptures testify to him.  We should understand this statement in the richest and deepest way possible.  The Old Testament isn't only tangentially about Jesus.  Jesus is the beating heart of the scriptures, their true core and focal point.

But how?

Here's a hopefully helpful list of 5 ways we find Christ in the Old Testament.  This is not meant to be exhaustive, but gives a framework for seeing Christ as we study the OT.

1) Direct (Rectilnear) Prophecy:
These are the prophecies which we understand speak of the Christ in a way of direct prediction.  

Some examples might be Genesis 3, where the Seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. Or Isaiah 7, in which a virgin will conceive and bear a son, or Micah 5, "You, O Bethlehem" predicting the place of His birth.

2) Typology:
People, events, even animals from the stories of the Old Testament often foreshadow New Testament fulfillments.  The flood prefigures Baptism.  Sarah and Hagaar typify the two covenants.  This is not to say the original stories aren't true, of course.  But they also serve as shadows of other things to follow.

Likewise, much of the Old Testament hints at, points to, or even screams about Christ! Take the Passover for one example - in which the people of God are saved by the blood of the lamb.  Or the Day of Atonement, in which the sins of the people are placed upon the scapegoat, which is then sent off to die.  Or the whole ceremonial and sacrificial system, which in many ways, shows forth a testimony of Christ - who is God With Us in the tent of human flesh.

Some of these are spelled out very clearly by the New Testament.  For instance, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the bronze serpent Moses lifted up pointed to him, "the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life." John 3:14-15.  Or take "the sign of Jonah", by which Jesus compares his death and resurrection with Jonah's 3 days in the belly of the great fish.

3) The "Golden Thread"
Another very straightforward way to see Christ in the Old Testament is to simply trace his lineage.  So the stories of Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Judah, David and Bathsheba, Solomon, Ruth, and so many others - show how God was bringing about the fulfillment of His messianic promises.

The genealogies of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels are helpful here, as a sort of a road-map for finding the Golden Thread.

4) Theophany
A theophany is a visible manifestation of God.  The Old Testament contains many of these, and I would argue that when they happen, we do better to assume they are the Second Person of the Trinity than automatically thinking it's God the Father.  So for instance, at the burning bush, it was God the Son who spoke to Moses.  God the Son who walked in the garden of Eden and called, "Adam, where are you?". God the Son who appeared to Abraham along with the two angels.  God the Son who manifested as pillar of cloud and pillar of fire.   God the Son who is seated between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat of the Ark.

The various appearances of the Angel of the Lord also seem to be a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

5) Christ IS the Word
Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, Christ IS the very living Word of God (John 1).  So every word of Scripture not only testifies to him, but in a way we can't fully grasp - the word is God.. the Son.

For further study:  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Newsletter Series - Lex Semper Accusat

A Brief Latin Glossary
for the Lutheran Armchair Theologian:

Lex semper accusat
Lex orandi, lex credendi
Simul justus et peccator
Ex nihilo
Sola scriptura
Sola gratia
Sola fide
Fides qua, fides quae
Ex opere operato
Quia and quatenus
Oratio, meditatio, tentatio
Soli deo gloria

This month I'd like to start a newsletter series highlighting some of the important and interesting Latin phrases we use from time to time in Lutheran theology. Each month we'll explore one of these terms to help you build a handy “vocab list”.

Let's start with “Lex semper accusat”, which means, “The Law always accuses”.

Perhaps you remember the “three uses of the law” paradigm from Confirmation instruction. First, the Law of God functions like a curb, to keep gross outbreaks of sin in check. This is the function of the Law that is expressed in earthly government, which bears the sword for our good (cf. Romans 13).

Also, the Third Use of the law is compared to a “ruler” or “guide”. This is the distinctly Christian use of the Law, that is, once we have been forgiven we might ask of God's law, “how then shall we live?” (2 Peter 3:11) The Law provides guidance and direction for how to live as we ought, how to do what is right as Christian, etc...

But the Second Use of the Law is sometimes called the “chief” use of the Law, and that's what we are talking about with “Lex semper accusat”. The Law as a mirror. The Law of God which always, always shows us our sin. Whatever comparison we make between our own life of works and the perfect Law of God, we will always find our own works lacking. Even if we haven't committed murder, we've wished harm on our neighbor or failed to help him in his bodily need (Matthew 5:21-22). Even if we've never bowed down to a statue of Zeus, we've placed other created things, or ourselves in the place of God in our lives. The Law says “do” and we can never do enough. We look in the mirror and it accuses us, shows us our sin, and never leaves any escape.

“Lex semper accusat” reminds us that even when the Law is functioning to curb sin in the world, or guide the Christian's life, it is still accusing us of sin! There is no time when we can encounter God's law that it doesn't probe us, reveal our failings, uncover the fig leaves we use to try and hide our sin. There's no law that should ever apply only to the “other guy” that doesn't also prove my own guilt. When we read, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) it's not simply a once-upon-a-time-long-ago we sinned. But it's an every-time-I-look-at-the-Law-I-see-my-sin. It's our constant struggle while still in the flesh. And the Law is always ready to shine the light on the dark parts within us.

“Lex semper accusat” is also a good reminder of this: Because the Law is always going to accuse us, we will always need the Gospel! The Law cannot save us. The Letter (the Law) kills, but the Spirit (working through the Gospel) gives life! (2 Corinthians 3:6). Because sin is ever before us, because we cannot fulfill the law and its demands but constantly struggle with sin and temptations, we are even in need of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Law always accuses, but the Gospel always forgives! The Law always takes and destroys and lays low the proud and self-assured sinner. But the Gospel raises up the humble, gives grace to those in the despair of sin, and brings new life to those dead in trespasses. Thanks be to God that he gives us the Law we need to see our sin, but the Gospel we need even more, to make us righteous and holy in Christ.

Christ has fulfilled the Law for you. Christ has defeated the Law's penalties for you. Christ has even overcome the greatest Accuser, the Serpent, crushing his head, for you. Thanks be to God, in Jesus Christ, that we live not by the Law which always accuses – but by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who always seeks and saves the lost (Luke 19:10).

In Christ, Pastor Chryst

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sermon - Matthew 5:20-26 - Matins

Matthew 5:20-26
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny


Well, does your righteousness exceed the scribes and the Pharisees?

The Pharisees were, in the eyes of some, at least, exceedingly righteous:

Josephus said several times that the Pharisees were "experts in the interpretation of the Law"
The Talmud claims the Torah contains 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws. And the Pharisees, no doubt, sought to keep them all.

The tithing of herbs - mint and dill and cumin,
The wearing of phylacteries and tassels,
The careful observance of ritual purity – no touching dead bodies, no going into the house of a gentile like Pilate,
Frequent fasting,
Distinctions in oaths,
And, of course, rigorous observation of the Sabbath Day.
And not only did they seek to follow all these laws themselves, they taught the law. They were the authorities on the law. If “you have heard it said”, there's a good chance it's because the Pharisees taught it. They were the Law of Moses cheerleaders par excellence.

Unless you can do better than that – unless you can hurdle that high bar of law-following, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless your righteousness exceeds even the most righteous you can think of – you're already lost.

And I suppose very few of us could go toe-to-toe with the righteousness of the Pharisees and come out looking very good. Tithing? Fasting? Ritual purity?

To an outward observer, an unbiased judge, we'd probably lose the righteousness contest every time.
But Jesus is being a bit facetious here. For he knows well that the righteousness of the Pharisees is a sham. They are hypocrites. Their righteousness is thin and flimsy, and it only hides the rot that lies within. Jesus' words of woe for the Pharisees and their so-called righteousness are recorded later in Matthew's Gospel. Here's just a taste of it:

Matthew 23:  
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others....
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

You know we're so used to seeing the Pharisees as the bad guys – the opponents of Jesus – the self-important, smug, know-it-all hypocrites. We love looking on from the sidelines and watching Jesus beat them in verbal sparring matches, and we love to watch them fall flat when they try to trip him up and trap him in his words. Go Jesus! Smack those villains. Child of hell, yeah, get 'em! Woe to them, right on!

Woe to them! And woe to you, too, who aren't even as righteous as they are. If your righteousness needs to exceed theirs, and that's what he says about THEM. Then where does that leave you?

Our text shows one example of how horribly impossible it is for us to keep the law. The 5th Commandment, you shall not murder. Pretty straightforward. What percentage of people do you think suppose they've kept this? Most of us have never taken a human life. But don't imagine that makes you righteous. For Jesus shows the true law behind the law. The inward law, if you will, that covers not just the deed but also the word and thought. Harsh words. Insults. Ridicule of your brother. Even anger in your heart – all of these are grounds for judgment. All of these mean you are not righteous. All of this means you are, and ever will be, outside of the kingdom. All of this means you, too, are liable to judgment.

St. Paul, who knew a thing or two about the righteousness of Pharisees, has this to say (Romans 6):
What then? Are we Jews any better off?No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;

But there is one whose righteousness exceeds the Pharisees. There is only one, in fact, who was ever righteous on his own merits. There is one who never inherited sin from his Father. There is one kept every dot and dash of the law. And that one, of course, is Jesus, the Christ.

He was like us in every way, yet without sin. He was humble and gentle. He returned no man evil for evil. He turned the other cheek. He kept no wealth for himself, but had no place to lay his head. He always put others before himself. He had compassion on so many. He always spoke the truth, and spoke it with love. He was not hot-tempered, or rude, or impatient or unkind. He fulfilled the law. He fulfilled all righteousness. He did all things well.

He did get angry, but justly, unlike so much of our anger. Zeal for the Father's house consumed him. His righteous anger that drove the moneychangers from the temple was but a hint of the righteous anger of the eternal judge who will one day cast all the wicked far away from his eternal presence. But that's a far different kind of anger from you and I, who are indignantly offended when some other sinner wrongs us or disregards us with some minor slight, real or imagined.

But Jesus' righteousness is a perfect righteousness. He submitted to his Father in all things – actively fulfilling the law on our behalf. And passively becoming obedient, even unto death, even death on a cross.

For us. For you. So that his righteousness is yours. So that his law-fulfilling benefits you. So that when God sees you, he sees you through Christ – and says, well done, good and faithful servant. His righteous anger at you and your sin is turned aside – for it was already poured out on Christ.

He is arrested and imprisoned. He stands before the judge in your stead. He answers the accuser for you. And he pays the sentence, covers the debt. His blood pays every last penny you owe for your sin.

So, does your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? No. And theirs was nothing to crow about anyway. But your righteousness isn't what counts. You have Christ's righteousness, and that makes all the difference. In Christ, you are righteous. In Christ, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Believe it for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sermon - Pentecost 6 - Mark 6:1-13

“Whether they hear or not...”
Pentecost 6
July 5th, 2015
Mark 6:1-13

Home field advantage – its something sought after by sports teams. One author's research suggested that over ten years, the homefield advantage in the MLB was 53.9%, in the NHL 55.7%, in the NBA 60.5%, and in the NFL 57.3%.

But in today's Gospel reading, our Lord Jesus Christ doesn't fare as well. His home-field, or home-town of Nazareth proves to be a dis-advantageous venue for the preaching of the good news. Their unbelief was so notable that it even amazed him (the only things that ever amazed Jesus were faith and unbelief).

You would think that if anyone would hear him, listen to him, believe in him, it would be the people of his home town. But even for them, it wasn't the case. Even Jesus Christ himself was rejected even in his home town of Nazareth. The took offense at him, Other accounts from the Gospels tell us they tried to push him off a cliff. That's not just disagreement. That's not just finding his sermons boring. This is outright rebellion.

Ezekiel knew something about that too. He was a prophet, called to a rebellious people. And God commanded him to speak to those people whether they would hear him or refuse to hear. And as the history of the prophets shows clearly, many, most – would refuse to hear.

Jesus' own disciples met with the same chilly reception at some of the towns where they were sent to preach, and were told to shake the dust of their feet off as a testimony against them. Jesus knew that his messengers, and his message wouldn't always be well received. Nonetheless he sent them out preaching a message of repentance.

And today it is no different. Some hear. Some reject. Some believe, by the power of the Spirit. Some choose not to believe, through no one's fault but their own. Some hear the word of God – are cut to the heart by the law and rejoice in the sweet Gospel of Christ. Some would rather watch paint dry or have a root canal.

We see it in our nation. We see it in our families and workplaces. We even see it in our churches. Some receive, and some reject. Some hear, and some refuse to hear. But the message never changes, and the word is still preached, taught, proclaimed.

And by now many of us are thinking something like this: “Yes, pastor, you're right. Those people who reject your word should repent. They should turn from their wicked ways. They should stop their naughty deeds – both generally and specifically. Especially those people who have or who continue to sin against me. They should repent and hear the word of God. I hope they're listening, pastor, because they really need to hear this today. I wish they were here, so maybe you could knock some sense into them. Those people. Over there. Them. Not me.”

But not so fast. Because as much as other people refuse to hear, so do you and I in our own sin, deafen our ears to the word. We hear what we want to hear, and do what we want to do.

It's easy to hear the word of the law applied to other people's sins. But what about your own? It makes us feel secure to point to the really bad sinners over there, but to ignore the sins of the sinner we know the best, the one we see in the mirror. We may want to beat the drum of the certain commandments, the ones we think we keep or keep better. But the law of God leaves us without any hiding place. It is a light that shines the spotlight on each of us, and leaves no one justified by works.

Hear the word of the commandments: You shall have no other gods. Not your belly nor your wallet nor your own inflated ego. You shall not misuse God's name or forget his Sabbath Day. You shall love your neighbor – and not fail help him, or lust after her, or gossip about them, or scheme to get their stuff. You shall love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will live. Have you done this? Do you do this? My answer is no. I'm guessing yours is too.

So hear the word of the Lord – the call to repent – this sermon is not for some other sinner, but for you.

Some of you will perhaps reject this call to repentance. For sinners love to self-justify and foist blame. But if you think the law of God has nothing to say to you this day, you are in a dangerous place indeed. The testimony against such rejection is harsh – Jesus tells his disciples to even shake off the dust from their feet. He wants nothing to do with such unbelief.

Some, on the other hand, will hear it. Some of you will confess with your lips acknowledge in your heart the sin that is ever before you. And if you are cut to the heart and stand face to face with your sin, if your spirit cries out for hope, if you wonder at your own weakness there is another word you need to hear.

My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness”

Hear today this other word of the Lord: The word of the Gospel. Jesus Christ has come for you. He came from his Father, from heaven's high throne, to be born for you in Bethlehem, to be raised in Nazareth, and to die just outside of Jerusalem. He lived a real life, in the real world, and grew up in a real town - and his perfect life fulfilled the law that all of us have broken.

Though he preached the Wisdom of God, and was accredited by mighty works, though he did all of this even without sin, he was rejected by his own. His own family and friends were offended by him, turned away from him. And in the end even his closest disciples fled. He was stripped of his dignity, his clothes, and gave up his life. He was rejected by all – and all this in accord with God's plan and purpose.

He was rejected so that you are received. So that you, sinner, would be forgiven. So that you, forgiven child of God, would never be rejected. So that God will always hear your prayers, and receive them as he receives you: through Christ. That even if your hometown, or your own mother and father, husband or wife, children and friends reject you. You belong to the Father, through the Son.

A prophet, even Jesus, may not be accepted in his hometown. But you, a stranger and enemy to God in your sin – you are accepted through Christ.

Hear the good news of Jesus Christ – who forgives you this day and every day you live by his grace. Hear the word of hope by which we live. Receive not only his word but his body and blood for your forgiveness, life and salvation. Do not reject, but receive, and live.