Sunday, April 29, 2012


"A little while and ye shall not see me, and again a little while and ye shall see me," repeated several times, gives the impression that this is an important phrase, meant to be repeated.  So do we hear the Gospel proclaimed Sunday after Sunday.  Jesus, who was taken away and crucified after a little while, was then raised from the dead after another little while.  This also gives confidence for Christian life, with its little whiles of sorrow.  All trouble and darkness shall be followed, in a little while, with abiding joy.  This knowledge provides courage for life.  The sermon.

St. Mark

This evangelist is the most self-deprecating of all, both showing the twelve and himself in a bad light.  Jesus is seen as continually scolding them for their slowness to understand, and when he is arrested they all flee.  But Mark is no better, for his "signature" is his appearance as the young man with the linen cloth about his body, who fled away naked when they grabbed the cloth.  The Gospel is for such as these.  The sermon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Dead Shall Hear

St. John 5:22-30 contains Jesus' declaration "the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."  This looks ahead to the raising of Lazarus, which, like this discourse, is reported only in St. John's Gospel.  The raising of Lazarus is a clear demonstration that resurrection and life, which come at the Last Day, are also here in the present-day, in Christ.  Indeed Christ himself is risen, the Firstfruits of them that sleep.  It is this knowledge that gives the faithful, as the collect for Misericordias Domini puts it, "perpetual gladness."   The sermon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Good Shepherd

A good doctor cares about his patients, a good teacher cares about her students; a good shepherd cares about his sheep.  He does not care about the money; he’s not in it for himself; he’s not a hireling.  This is a description of the heart of God: misericordias domini. 

This is who God is: he is giving; and this is why he made the world in the first place, to have something, someone, to care for.  And the world he made was very good, just like him.

The serpent took all that away from the heart of man when he beguiled him to take for himself.

This is why your heart is now the way it is, and is so unlike the heart of God.  Why it is always necessary to confess your sins.

But God overcame the serpent’s selfishness with love, and overcame evil with good: he gave his life into death.  The Lord, my shepherd, became the ultimate Good Shepherd, to rescue me from myself and from my sins.  To provide divine mercy for me.

Shepherding is a dirty vocation.  This is why the Egyptians despised the Israelites: they were shepherds.  In applying this image to himself, Jesus is at once saying that he is the Lord God Almighty in the work that fulfills the 23rd Psalm, and showing how it was a very filthy thing to do: he was sullied with the sins of the world, and laid down his life.  He became the good shepherd.

But his shepherding did not cease at that point, for he rose from the dead.  What use is a dead shepherd?  He must rise, in order to continue to shepherd his sheep, to care for them.  So on the third day he rose from the dead.

Other sheep have I which are not of this fold: the Gentiles, to whom he sent his apostles.  But he said, them I must bring; so it is that through their ministry he is active in continuing his shepherding of his sheep.

Here, then, is what the church and her ministry are all about: the church is the sheepfold, and the ministry is the shepherding tools of Jesus.  It is also why every good pastor must understand that he is an under-shepherd, that is, a tool of Jesus, and nothing more.  Does the plow get credit for a straight row?  Does the knife get high marks for successful surgery?  So the sheep must know this first of all about their pastors: if the pastor is faithful, and if he ministers well in word and sacrament, it is to the praise and glory of Jesus, for it is in this way, and in no other way that Jesus takes care of his sheep.  Whom they visit, he visits; whom they wash, he washes; whom they feed, he feeds, and what they are, he is; the Good Shepherd, caring for his sheep.

The Gospel and sermon, with the hymn of the day including a special choral section.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jesus Appears on the Shore

In St. John 21 is Jesus' third appearance to his disciples, and the only one in Galilee.  Here he brings Peter's denials to mind when he asks three times if he loves him, but also forgives him and tells him to feed his sheep.  This shepherding theme happens to provide a helpful prelude to the coming Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday.  The sermon.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quasimodogeniti: place your doubts in Thomas's heart

Where was Thomas?  We don't know, but it is reasonable to suppose that he should have been with the others, if for no other reason than to commiserate with them.  We need one another in difficult times; we always need one another for encouragement.  This is one reason we attend worship: not only to receive the gifts of God (though that is the chief reason), but also to encourage one another, just by being there.  But Thomas was not.

Moreover, he didn't believe when  the others told him of the resurrection, though he should have.  For Jesus himself had said this on more than one occasion.

So Thomas did not deserve to see Jesus for himself the following Sunday; Jesus' appearance also to him is pure grace.  He wants Thomas to believe.

He also wants you to believe, and today you can see that your unworthiness does not impede his coming to you; and today you may also take all your doubts and deposit them into Thomas' heart, where they can be dispersed, even as his own skepticism was done away: "My Lord and my God," he cries.

The sermon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Emmaus Road

Here Jesus brings light to darkness and hope to despair.  The sermon.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday

Today we celebrate the discovery of the risen Christ by the women who came to the tomb at the rising of the sun.  The night is passed, the day is come.  Now is fulfilled the saying that is written, Let there be light: Darkness is ended, and light engulfs the earth.  The sun has risen, but that heavenly body, as great as it is, is but a token of him who is the Sun of Righteousness.  He has risen from the dead.

First the women hear the news, from the angel in the tomb in a long white garment.  Why does he wear this long white garment?  Behold the purity and power of his message: he is risen.  The message, the word of God endureth forever, and it cannot be broken.  For he had said that he would be crucified and on the third day rise from the dead.  He had promised this, and his word cannot be broken.  Even of old, it was written that the Christ shall reign forever.   But how can he reign if he is dead?   How can he keep his promise, if he be not raised?  By the power of his own word he is raised from the dead, for his word cannot lie.  This is why their ears were made: to hear his word, that they might believe.  This is also why your ears were made.

Now, upon hearing the news, the women see him.  They discover the resurrected Lord.  Note this, beloved: the resurrection of our Lord is not about some ethereal flight his soul supposedly made from his dead body into heaven, much as the uninformed idly think about all who die.  This is a bodily resurrection.  He stands before them, they see him, they behold him with their eyes.  This in fact is why their eyes were made: to see him.  This is why your eyes were made, as it is written, “When thou saidst, seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, thy face, Lord, will I seek,” and again, “whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another.”

So let us celebrate the feast today: Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us:  this is why our hearts were made, above all, that we might thrill in the resurrection of our Lord;  that we might rejoice in him.  So join the women at the tomb, and rejoice with them in their discovery of the risen Christ.

The sermon.

The Vigil of Easter

Job said, he shall take his stand upon the earth: The living redeemer is the Lord of Hosts, whom the women met at the tomb.  There he stands, the Victor: Goliath is vanquished!  All of David’s enemies are defeated.  Satan is conquered; death is under his feet.  He lives.

Zephaniah said, the Lord GOD in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.  So the women who saw him held him by the feet, and worshiped him.  See, they worshiped him because he is their God.  And he is himself here rejoicing over them with joy: for he loves them!  He loves these women; and he loves his disciples; and he loves you, too: so he rejoices over you with joy on the day of his resurrection.

The Lord who is risen from the dead is the Lord GOD  Almighty, no one less: and this is his chief work among men.  He restores his creation by his own resurrection from the dead.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Good Friday

The sixth day of creation was Friday; and the day of our redemption was also Friday.  Both Fridays were good Fridays, as it is written: God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

On the sixth day, God made the beasts, and he also made man in his own image.

On the sixth day, Satan, that old serpent of old, envious of man and indignant for having to endure the status of a beast, entered into Judas, to betray Jesus, and entered into the rulers, to have him taken and crucified, to reduce him to the status of a worm, a reproach of men and despised of the people.

On the sixth day, God gave man dominion over all the creatures of the earth.

On the sixth day, the Lord in the flesh regained the lost dominion of man for him.  He gained dominion especially over the devil and over the devil’s domain of death; he destroyed death by dying.  By dying he became lord – dominus – of all the earth.

On the sixth day, God created man in his image, male and female created he  them.

On the sixth day, Jesus gave his beloved disciple to his mother, to care for her; and he gave his mother to his disciple.  In doing this he also showed forth the giving of his bride, the church, into the care and keeping of his ministers, his brethren.

On the sixth day, God gave to man every herb bearing seed, for food.

On the sixth day, man gave to God sour fruit of the vine—vinegar—upon hyssop, in his thirst.  And by this partaking in the sour fruits of a fallen world, our Lord Jesus Christ transformed it into a redeemed world, one purchased by his passion and death.

So it was that on the sixth day, God finished all his work which he had made, and behold, it was very good. 

And on the sixth day, when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished.

It is finished: all the work of restoration of a fallen creation; the returning of the devil to his serpentine station; the reestablishment of man as lord over all the earth; and the new provision of all the herbs bearing seed for the good of mankind: the herbs of wheat and of the vine, now to produce bread and new wine.  This wine is not sour, is not vinegar.  Behold in the blessed Supper the fruits of the vine, of the vine hanging upon a lattice, our Lord Jesus Christ upon the tree of beauty and royal, purple dight.  And the Lord God has given this to you to eat, that you might live forever.  For the seventh day is a day without ending.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Maundy Thursday

The New Testament fulfills the Old: "this is the new testament in my blood."  The heart of all the Scriptures and revelation of God.  The sermon.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Holy Wednesday

The St. Luke Passion is read on Holy Wednesday.  Here is the sermon, on Satan's entering Judas, death his desire, Jesus' purpose overwhelming Satan,  Jesus' redeeming work, Jesus' plea for mercy, the penitent  thief.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

Holy Monday

St. John's Gospel is all about the true sight which is faith.  The Holy Monday Gospel (St. John 12:1-23) emphasizes this.  The sermon.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Palm Sunday

The procession of Jesus on a donkey was at once symbolic of his being, like Solomon, the son of David, of his being Judge and Ruler over Israel, like the seventy sons and nephews of Abdon, and of his humility: a donkey is not a proud beast.  This betokens his willingness to suffer for us and for our sins.

Today we read the Gospel differently: a reader reading the narrator's parts, the celebrant reading Jesus' parts, and the parts of  the various people speaking read by the congregation.  An excerpt of that is here.

The sermon is here.