Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation. The appointed texts for the day teach marvelously the fullness of what the incarnation means. The more that a person grows in understanding this amazing mystery, the more one comes to appreciate the Athanasian Creed. This creed is commonly used on Trinity Sunday, but it is a marvelous explanation of the necessity and the wonder of the Lord’s birth.

The Athanasian Creed begins the last portion with these powerful words:

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The creed continues with an in depth explanation, very carefully bringing forth the reason for the incarnation and the importance of what the Scriptures teach. Yet the authors of the creed were also very careful not to say more than what the Scriptures declare, without speculating on those things that the Scriptures leave undeclared. It truly is a marvelous creed.

The texts for the Nativity of our Lord, Christmas Day, are wonderfully explained by this creed, and thus it is utilized as part of the sermon this year. The sermon, “In the Majesty of the Name of the Lord His God,” is available in text and audio here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are You Prepared for Christmas?

Are you prepared for Christmas? This is the theme of the texts from the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The texts and sermon are available here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why are you here?

About twenty years ago, I was on call as a chaplain in a hospital. For a 24 hour period I was in the hospital. That evening the beeper went off and I was summoned to the emergency room.

As the elevator approached the emergency room from two floors above I could hear a man shouting and cursing horribly. The cursing grew louder as the elevator drew nearer to the floor. The doors opened and a blast of cursing pierced my ears and heart.

Lined up on both sides of the hallway were rolling cots with patients lying on them. Several emergency room attendants greeted me, explaining that the patient who was shouting and cursing made it impossible for them to put any one else in the treatment area. The police brought him to the emergency room. The nurses and doctors explained that he had been wandering the street and was intoxicated with alcohol and probably other drugs as well. They had given the man as much Thorazine as could be given and it was having no effect whatsoever. They were trying to pump his stomach but he pulled out the tubes and would not allow them to be put in again. They had restraints applied but he still thrashed about.

They said that they had done all that they could do and did not know what else could be done so they called the chaplain.

When I entered the room and approached the man he demanded to know who I was. Then he wanted me to loosen his restraints. I explained that I did not have the authority to do that. Then he began demanding to know why I was there. With much cursing he demanded again and again to know why I was there.

Finally, I looked at him and replied, “I’m here to torment you.”

He stopped cursing and looked at me and began to converse with me. He began sharing what was troubling him. He learned that day that his girlfriend had AIDS. This meant a number of things to him. She had been with someone else. She had infected him. He had been betrayed.

When I responded to him saying, “I’m here to torment you.”, it flowed from my mouth as though it were exactly what I would want to say to a hurting man. I knew at the time that it was the right thing to say, but I have never really understood why. Truly this was not my own decision but was given from above, but I never really understood why it was what this man needed to hear.

Yesterday, as I was pondering other matters, I reflected upon this event again and I realized why “I’m here to torment you.” was what this man responded to when I said it.

This was exactly what he was experiencing. Everything, everyone was there to torment him. His entire life, his very existence, had become a ceaseless torment. His girlfriend, the police, the emergency room attendants, all were there to torment him.

Now a chaplain comes in. Why are you here?” The chaplain replies, “I’m here to torment you.”

Someone actually was listening. Someone actually heard his anguish. Someone finally answered him honestly and without fear.

We conversed for about 15-20 minutes. As we talked I told him about the love of God in Christ. He became calm and relaxed and finally fell asleep. The nurses were finally able to tend to the needs of his body because the needs of his spirit had been tended. The doctor came in and did his job, too, commenting, “God and Thorazine! What a combination!”

As I departed I thought, “No, Doctor, your trusted Thorazine failed you. Not God and Thorazine, but God calmed this troubled soul.”

This is why Jesus came to the world. He came to take our tortured identity for us and to give us His peace. He came to take upon Himself our deepest insecurities, all of which are rooted in sin, and to set us free from our fears. He took our betrayal. He took our weaknesses. He took our sin. He became the tortured one in our place so that in communion with Him we might have rest for our souls.

This is the ministry of the Church, to tell the world that their anguish is real and that this anguish is rooted in a real source: SIN. Yes, as the Church of God on earth, we are here to torment you. We are here to proclaim the LAW in its full force, leaving nothing hidden. We are here to rebuke your unbelief before it is too late. And when the world hears this rebuke, the only choices are either to continue cursing God and His creation or to respond to the call to repent and believe the Gospel in which is provided the relief that all tortured souls desperately need and desire.

This, however, can only occur when the Church knows what it means to be the Church. This unabashed declaration of “We are here to torment you!” can only be made when the Church and her pastors believe this so as to be moved by God to speak His loving rebuke in full force, without compromise. For the rebuke is intended to crush all self-delusion. The rebuke is necessary in order for the sweet and restoring words of the Gospel to be received by the tortured souls.

Thanks be to God that He speaks the Truth. He always comes to us through the Word of Law and Gospel. He always calls us to repentance by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in the unadulterated administration of the Word in the preaching and in the Sacraments. He says, “I have come here to torment you so that you may openly and honestly acknowledge your total depravity and helplessness, so that you then may receive from Me my love, My grace, My mercy, and My peace. Without these, torment is all you shall ever know, not only now, but everlastingly. Hear My strong rebuke. Receive My repentance. Believe Me and trust in My Son, your Savior, and dwell in My peace in My Holy Communion.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Real Reason for System Crashes

What is your computer doing while you’re not watching? What is going on with all of those icons on your desktop?

Check it out at Icon’s Story.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Let Me Teach You How To Dance

From the movie “Miss Potter” there is a delightfully innocent scene that includes this little song, entitled “Let Me Teach You How To Dance”.

As I watched and heard it the first time, and every time since, my heart and mind turned to the Lord Jesus and His bride. In this vein, I imagined this little love song using the same tune. If you care to hear it, I have recorded it as Let Me Give to you New Life.