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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Baby Changes Habits. Christ Changes Habits.

Levi Ryan Gregg (our grandson)

A baby. The singular most effective way to change shopping habits. By the time a baby reaches its first birthday, parents spend $7,500 at stores like Target. That is why retailers study purchasing habits. If you are pregnant, retailers convince you through coupons and specials to spend $7,500 in their stores. That said, I will examine habits in light of our readings and Lutheran tradition.
Two weeks ago, I said John’s motive for writing to his church was to warn members about the dangers of philosophies that tempted them from following the Way, which is, the Person and Teaching of Jesus Christ. In today’s passage, John encouraged Christians to persevere as true brothers and sisters living in the world. He reminded them that not only the secessionists, those who walk in darkness, hate them, but also the world hates them because the world hated Jesus. The world hates Jesus’ followers.
Because the world hated Christians, John exhorted them to love not “in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”[i] He called them to lay down their lives for one another. Here, he referred to a specific event in history, Jesus’ crucifixion.[ii] John echoed Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “I lay down my life for my sheep.”[iii]
Jesus’ voluntary crucifixion was not only the supreme sacrifice, but also the indispensable means of forgiveness.[iv] As we heard two weeks ago and will hear next week, Jesus was the propitiation for our sins. Jesus is propitiation and propitiator. He lovingly paid our debt with his own flesh and blood.
John’s Christians expressed true love in the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives for one another and through lesser, mundane means.[v] In John’s church, charity did not always imply laying down one’s life, but it always involved helping another at some personal cost. By cultivating such love in the community, John strengthened the Church’s identity and severed malicious behavior at the root.[vi]
When John wrote, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” he referred to the heart as the seat and source of love, sympathy and pity.[vii] Implanted in us to keep us on the straight and narrow, the heart knows right from wrong. It prompts, nags and condemns us. In Romans, we read, “[The Gentiles] show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”[viii]
Yet, there are times when the heart distracts, confounds, refuses to believe the truth or shuns all comfort and betrays us.[ix] Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”[x]
Who can understand the heart? … When should you not trust your heart? John’s answer was: When the heart questions or doubts God, who is greater than you, your heart is not your friend.
John knew unrighteous sinners walking in dark shadows falsely accused Christians. Because Satan accused Christians day and night, John offered a strong dose of encouragement to squash the inner voices of anxiety and self-doubt.
He reminded Christians to approach God as the One who knows everything about their hearts, and is still able to forgive. God knows human folly and guilt, disgrace and shame, and thoughts and words before one thinks or speaks them.
Moreover, Christ our Advocate stands at God’s right hand. Through his intercession, God’s knowledge of human misery results in the exoneration that the heart desires rather than the condemnation that the soul fears.[xi]
To silence the heart, and refuse to submit to its distractions, betrayals and condemnations, and to focus instead on God and the sweet Gospel of forgiveness, is to turn the turmoil of trouble to joy.[xii] John wanted Christians to be confident enough to ask God for whatever they needed. This “whatever” was not some magical thing by which they could twist God’s arm, forcing Him to carry out some human wish that He would not execute. Rather, Christians could ask for what they did not know or have. Having received it, Christians should thank God who alone knows the needs of His children and provides for them.
Because God alone knows our needs and provides for them, John’s Christians could love one another as God commanded them. Their love for one another proved God abided in and among Church members.
About this passage, Martin Luther taught, “If our conscience makes us fainthearted and presents God as angry, still ‘God is greater than our heart.’ Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort. The fear of the conscience, or despair, must be overcome, even though this is difficult. It is a great and exceedingly sweet promise that if our heart blames us, ‘God is greater than our heart’ and ‘knows everything.’”[xiii]
Luther went on to say, “Although our sin is great, … His redemption is greater.” Luther’s insight, as noted by the renowned Catholic Scripture scholar, the late Raymond Brown, was resisted by Calvinists and Catholics alike, but has won the day among most Christians.[xiv]
Our sin is great. His redemption is greater. Basic Law and Gospel. The Law convicts us because we are guilty of sin. The Gospel frees us because God is loving and merciful.
Our loving and merciful God abides in us – as individuals and as church. How then, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we show love and mercy to one another? To repeat myself from two weeks ago: forgiveness. The mature Christian forgives habitually.
The mature Christian forgives habitually. … How? By believing that our loving and merciful God abides in us, and by practicing forgiveness.
Tell me if I am wrong. Most Christians do not practice forgiveness habitually. I start with me and look no farther than our church doors. If I am wrong, correct me, but I am willing to bet most of us do not practice forgiveness habitually.
We practice ruthlessness, blame, cruelty, hatred, indifference and numerous other bad habits – sins – that are far from Christ’s supreme sacrifice and lesser, mundane ones like having the world’s goods at our disposal and opening our hearts when our brothers and sisters are in need.
What does it take to replace bad habits with good ones? To replace blame with forgiveness, cruelty with mercy, hatred with love? To help answer my question, let’s go shopping.
In 1984, a UCLA professor set out to answer a basic question: Why do people suddenly change their shopping routines?[xv] A year of research revealed that most people bought the same brands of cereal and deodorant week after week. Habits reigned supreme. Except when they didn’t.
The professor discovered what has become a pillar of modern marketing theory: People’s buying habits are more likely to change when they go through a major life event. Marriage, divorce, buying a new house and changing jobs alter consumers’ buying habits. And the biggest life event for most people is having a baby. Parents’ habits are more flexible at that moment than at any other period in an adult’s life. Target and other retailers capitalize when you change your spending habits.
Retailers benefit from your change in spending habits after you experience a life-changing event like having a baby. My question is: Has the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – a life-changing event – changed your habits? If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changed your habits, let’s take this conversation 50 miles west so you can show me proof.
Let’s examine our habits in light of our reading and our Lutheran tradition. John wrote, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. … Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. … We have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”[xvi]
The application of God’s Word is easier read than practiced, easier discussed than done, easier heard than lived. Living God’s Word is easier when life’s breaks go my way rather than against me. Easier when I receive God’s grace rather than sinners’ scorn. Easier when I have hope in God rather than despair. Nevertheless, as Luther said, “Despair must be overcome even though this is difficult.”[xvii]
Satan prefers you never overcome despair and hope in God. Satan prefers you never overcome your old habits. Luther, John, Jesus and His Church prefer you overcome despair and bad habits. What do you prefer? Do you prefer being your sinful self or would you prefer being a loving and merciful person? Will our world be a better place if you respond to your brothers and sisters with a closed heart or with a Christ-like heart? Do you want to be a chump for Satan or a champion for Christ?
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking. … They follow the habits they’ve learned.”[xviii] So said Tony Dungy when he interviewed to become a head coach in the NFL. Dungy turned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perennial losers, into winners. He did it by getting men to replace old habits with new ones. He did it by getting men to believe in themselves. Dungy says, “Belief is the biggest part of success in professional football.”[xix]
We can say the same about our lives as Christians. We believe God is greater than our hearts. We know the Resurrection changes lives more than marriage, divorce or the birth of a baby. Touched by God’s merciful love, we know we can change, but when life is tense and tough, we return to comfortable old habits.
Too often, saved Christians, resort to vulgarities, lies, blame, denial, violence, gossip and other sinful habits when challenged, chastised or confronted. We return to comfortable, sinful habits when life is tense, tough or tempting.
We must believe change is possible to change our habits permanently. Usually, that belief emerges with the help of a group. For Christians seeking to replace old, sinful habits with new, loving and merciful habits, change will happen when we, the Church, hold one another and ourselves accountable. We will do that when our love for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and His children motivates every thought, word and deed. We will do that we realize that God Father, Son and Spirit loves us as His children, His babies.
If people can stop smoking and drinking; if people can lose weight and perennial losers can become champions, we can change our sinful habits because God loves us and through the Church, the Holy Spirit gives us the means to make it possible. We have the means to make it possible, if only we live God’s Word and Sacraments. For those you love and for the world, live God’s Word and be God’s Sacrament. Children of light, pray to the Holy Trinity for that grace. In Jesus’ Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

[i] 1 John 3;18
[ii] Bruce G. Schuchard, 1 – 3 John. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House (2012), 382.
[iii] John 10:15
[iv] Schuchard, 382.
[v] Ibid, 383.
[vi] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: Third Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2010) 502.
[vii] Schuchard, 389. See fn 337.
[viii] Romans 2:15
[ix] Schuchard, 390
[x] Jeremiah 17:9
[xi] Schuchard, 391f. See fn 354
[xii] Ibid, 394.
[xiii] Ibid, 391. See fn 348.
[xiv] Ibid. See fn 350.
[xv] Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks (2012), 191ff.
[xvi] 1 John 3:16-23
[xvii] Schuchard, 391.
[xviii] Duhigg, 61.
[xix] Ibid, 86

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Martin Luther on John 16, the Holy Spirit and Enlightenment

Our topic is the Holy Spirit and Enlightenment based on our Gospel. This is a portion of a sermon on the topic and passage by Doctor Martin Luther.[i]
“ … Consider what the Lord says, that the Holy Spirit is to convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. [We] will see what the meaning of all this is.
In the first place, the world is accused of blindness and ignorance. All those who are without the Holy Spirit, however wise they may be in matters pertaining to the things of this world, are, before God, fools and blind. They do not like to hear this; and when they are told that their doings are of no account before God, it displeases them and makes them angry, because they insist that they are in possession of reason and the natural light, which God created in them. But what does this matter to us? There are the Scriptures and the Word of God plain and clear, that the Holy Spirit is to come to convict the world, because it does not know what sin, righteousness and judgment are. Thus, it is determined, there it stands; let be angry who will, Christ does not care.
It is much to be deplored that the world is convicted, not only because of its sin and because of want of righteousness, not being able to judge rightly, but that it does not acknowledge nor see this, to say nothing of its endeavor to alter the matter. Oh, how completely the praise of all comes to naught, who, while they endeavor to make other people pious, know not themselves what sin is! Let us take, for example, at the present day, all the schools of learning and the learned men and see whether they can tell us what that one little word "sin" is? For who has ever heard that not to believe in Christ is sin? They say, it is sin if one speaks, desires or does something against God's will and commandment. But how does that correspond with this saying of Christ: It is sin because they do not believe on me? Therefore, they are easily convicted of the fact that they know not what sin is; and if they be ever so learned, they will not be able to explain this text.
In like manner, they are not able to know what "righteousness" is. For who has ever heard that a man should become pious and just because Christ ascended to heaven or goes to the Father and we see him no more? There we must say, a fool has thus spoken and not a wise man. For they say, righteousness is a virtue, which teaches man what he owes others. This is true, but the trouble is, they do not understand their own words, such blind fools they are. Therefore, one need not be surprised that they rage so much against the Gospel and persecute the Christians. How could they do otherwise? They know no better.
Neither do they know what "judgment" or right is, that is, a right judgment, a correct good opinion and sense, or whatever you may call it. For they say: Right is that which is written in books, how one is to know and distinguish things, to quiet and end quarrels. But how does Christ define it? He says: "It is right, that the world is to be judged." Who understands such speech, and … how does it correspond with reason? Let us see whether we can explain it so that it may be understood.
In the first place, one must know that the Word of God does not speak only of outward existence and appearances, but it takes hold of the heart and the depths of the soul. Accordingly, it does not judge man as to his outward appearance and action, but according to the depths of his conscience. Now, everyone will experience in himself, if he wishes to acknowledge it, however pious he may be … that in his heart he would rather do the contrary … what he is outwardly compelled to do. Thus, if I were left to myself, … but were made to confess how I feel in my heart, I must say: That which I do, I would rather not do. If there were no hell and I would not feel the disgrace, I would [allow] my office [to] have the misfortune, and run off. For I have no desire from the heart to do it, but am compelled … and must do it in spite of hell, punishment or disgrace. It is not possible that I should do it from choice and gladly. … The same you will find continually in other matters. I am never from my heart kind and friendly to my enemy, for this is impossible to nature; and though I act otherwise, in my heart I think…: If it were not for the punishment, I would have my way and not remain without revenge. Thus, I still go about before the world, and do not as I would like and feel inclined to do, for fear of punishment or disgrace. Likewise if you go through all the commandments, from the first to the last, you will find that there is no one who keeps God's commandments from the bottom of his heart. …
Now, against this evil God found a remedy and determined to send Christ, his Son, into this world, that he should shed his blood and die, in order to make satisfaction for sin and take it away, and that the Holy Spirit then should enter the hearts of such people, who go about with the works of the Law, being unwilling and forced to it, and make them willing, in order that without force and with joyous heart they keep God's commandments. Otherwise, there might be no means of removing the misery; for neither human reason and power, nor even an angel could rescue us from it. Thus, God has done away with the sins of all men who believe on the Christ, so that henceforth it is impossible for one to remain in sin who has this Saviour, who has taken all sins upon himself and blotted them out.
Inasmuch as Christ has now come and commanded to preach that everything we may do, however great and beautiful it may appear, is sin, because we do nothing that is good with pleasure and willingly, and that for this reason he has stepped forward and has taken away all sin, in order that we may receive the Holy Spirit, through whom we obtain love and pleasure to do what God wants us to do, in order that we do not attempt to come before God through our own works, but through Christ and his merits, therefore it cannot be called any longer sin committed against the Law, for the Law did nothing to assist us in becoming pious, since we are not able to do anything good.
What sort of sin then remains upon earth? No other than that one does not receive this Saviour and refuses to accept him who has taken away sin. For if he were present, there would be no sin, since he … brings the Holy Spirit with him, who kindles the heart and makes it willing to do good. Therefore, the world is no longer punished and condemned on account of other sins, because Christ blots them all out; only this remains sin in the New Testament, that one will not acknowledge nor receive him. Therefore he likewise says in this Gospel: "When the Holy Spirit is come, he will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me."


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homer Matters. Christ Matters.

Homer. Google Homer and three results populate your screen. First, a fictional character in an animated television series, The Simpsons. Next, a fishing city in southwest Alaska. Finally, the ancient Greek author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Fishing aficionados and animation fans aside, the ancient Greek author who had a lasting effect on classical literature impacts our culture today more than the longest running American sitcom. Homer, I will save for my final point and open with an introduction of John’s Letter and its meaning to our church.
John’s letters emerged from an environment of conflict and appear to provide a window onto the history of the early church where John served as pastor. Unfortunately, since our knowledge of his church is vague, we cannot reconstruct a precise picture.
The surface issue appeared to be the proper understanding of Jesus. The abiding center of life and unity in John’s Gospel became the focal point of dissension and division. Those who shared fellowship and friendship in the Fourth Gospel[i] clashed over the proper understanding of Jesus. Mutual excommunication challenged the infant church’s identity and existence.[ii]
Unlike Paul’s letters that encouraged Christians, John’s First Letter warned the community against the views of dissidents.[iii] John’s contrast between light and darkness distinguished believers from dissident evildoers. Believers walked in the light; evildoers preferred darkness.[iv]
John based his image of believers walking in the light from the attributes of God: light, fidelity and righteousness. He wrote, “God is light, and in him is no darkness … He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[v] Believers walked in the light, claimed fellowship with God and one another, and lived lives free of sin.
John opened with a phrase that echoed the Gospel and Genesis – the beginning. He then captured the listener’s attention and interest; stated his purpose for writing; and divulged his essential plan.[vi] He did this by claiming to be an eyewitness, which underscored that he personally heard, saw and touched Jesus – the eternal Word. Then John set before his readers this: Life is in Jesus Christ. He advanced nothing new, visionary or imagined; rather, made his focus that which eyewitnesses heard, saw and handled. In short, John established that no faith was certain unless its object, foundation, origin and end are from the beginning.[vii]
No faith is certain unless its object, foundation, origin and end are from the beginning. John said, if you have fellowship with us – eyewitnesses, tradition-bearers, apostles – you have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word.[viii] Fellowship is not simply a conglomeration of people with some things in common; fellowship is grounded in what the eyewitnesses saw and heard.[ix] In creating fellowship or church, John did it in order that OUR joy may be complete.[x]
John wrote that phrase as the last of the apostles in the last of his days. He sought to preserve the integrity of the apostolic message.[xi] Knowing those in fellowship with him believed and lived right, John strengthened their resolve to continue their beliefs and lifestyles, and warned them about the very real possibility of sin, that is, committing apostasy and wandering off into the dark[xii] as some did already.
Secessionists who committed apostasy and wandered into the dark were deceived by the day’s deadly philosophies.[xiii] One danger that influenced Christians was to view the physical world, including one’s body as intrinsically alien to one’s true self. Those who embraced this philosophy actively disdained all things material and denied the reality of the incarnation and any need for blood atonement.[xiv] Their remedy to overcome sin was to flee this material world, to escape this sinful world of flesh and blood. To counter this, John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”[xv] Therefore, the sinner should not fear, for the sinner’s friend is Jesus, the righteous one, the Son of God who is love.[xvi] With that in mind, as Christians, we walk by faith. In fellowship with the Apostles, we walk as children of the light,[xvii] and our joy is complete.
Walking as children of the light in fellowship with the Apostles, we recognize that we are still sinners who need forgiveness. Regarding this, Martin Luther observed, “We should always be suspicious of ourselves and fear and grieve that perchance some puffing up of the mind be in us still. For who will boast that he is pure spirit and does not still have the flesh in opposition to the spirit? … If you have flesh and are in the flesh, then certainly this pride is also with you and you in it, until this body becomes altogether spiritual. Always, therefore, we sin, always we are unclean. And if we say that we have no sin, we are liars, because we deny that we have the flesh, when yet the flesh is all around and has with it these evils in order to attack the spirit.”[xviii]
In another place, Luther said, “Those who are truly righteous not only … plead for the grace of God because they see that they have an evil inclination and thus are sinful before God, but also because they see that they can never understand fully how deep is the evil of their will and how far it extends. [They] believe that they are always sinners, as if the depth of their evil will were infinite. Thus they [humble themselves, plead and cry] until they are perfectly cleansed – which takes place in death. This, then, is the reason why we are always sinners.”[xix]
Our Lutheran Service Book reminds us that to confess our sins is not merely to benignly admit to them. Rather, it is to acknowledge them as justly deserving of temporal and eternal punishment, knowing our unworthiness, and confessing all we did in thought, word, and deed – including the good we failed to do – as that which contributes to a deadly bondage from which we are unable to free ourselves.[xx]
We are unable to free ourselves; but Christians differ from other people in that sin does not rule them. Christians must accuse sin and fight against it throughout life.[xxi] For that reason, we find pray these words in Luther’s Morning Prayer: “I pray that You would keep me this day from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you.”[xxii] … It is important to me to recognize the reality of sin in my life, and pray this way daily. Otherwise, I too may become a sinful secessionist.
Having examined John’s Letter and our Lutheran tradition, what might John say to us today? What practical application does John’s Letter have for today’s Christian?
For assistance, I turn to Homer. Adam Nicolson’s recent book, “Why Homer Matters,” rediscovers and re-presents the ancient Greek poet, best known for the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” Homer’s epic poems ask eternal questions about individual and community, honor and service, love and war, and tell us how we became who we are.[xxiii]
I mention Nicolson’s work because I want you to think about who influences your life today. Who shapes you? Who acquires you? Who’s your daddy?
Ask yourself these questions because in our world, as in John’s, Homer mattered and Christ mattered. Homer influenced his world’s philosophers and teachers, legislators and leaders. Likewise, the Risen Christ influenced people then and now.
Homer influenced men like Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. In turn, their work in the fields of logic, ethics, metaphysics, scientific method, politics and religion profoundly influenced people like Alexander the Great and Greeks for centuries before Christ. 1st century Christians and pagans put stock in the teaching of the Ancients, which forced John to open with “That which was from the beginning ...”[xxiv] No faith is certain unless its object, foundation, origin and end are from the beginning.
Today, we may not consider the influence of Homer and other thinkers on our personal formation, but consider their influence on our culture.[xxv] Francis Bacon: scientific method. Confucius: social relationships. Machiavelli: politics. Thomas Paine: individual rights. Adam Smith: economics. Tolstoy: anarchism. Thoreau: civil disobedience. Nietzsche: religion. C.S. Lewis: apologetics. John Stuart Mill: utilitarianism. Dewey: pragmatism and progressivism. Calvin: predestination. Thomas Hobbes: social contract. Albert Schweitzer: reverence for life.
Ask ten people who influence them. Most will say parents. Some might say siblings, spouse, relatives or mentors. Few say pastors or theologians like Luther, Walther or Pieper. On second thought, a number might add Jesus.
However, when you consider the big picture, that is, our culture, ideas proposed by thinkers thousands of years, centuries and decades ago, influence it more profoundly than parents do. Homer matters more than we think. …
Christ matters more than we think. For the ideas of men may control cultures, but apart from the one who is the propitiation for our sins and … the sins of the whole world,”[xxvi]who offers salvation?
Homer Alaska or Homer Simpson may sway me more than great Greek minds; but as a Christian in this culture, how often do I consider what Jesus Christ did for me? How often do I consider that I may be walking in darkness because I am influenced not by Christ and His teachings, but by other teachings? How often do I consider that I may not have fellowship with Apostolic teaching, but with false philosophies? How often do I say, “I have no sin”?
The Law shows me my sin. It convicts me rightly to condemnation. The Gospel frees me of my sin. Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”[xxvii]
Jesus paid my debt with the only payment that can forgive me of my sins – his blood. Jesus paid the world’s debt with the only payment that can forgive it of its sins. He is propitiator and propitiation. … How often do I consider that Good News?
Let us give Homer and others their due for their great ideas, but let us give God glory for His great deed. Let us give God glory in one word: forgiveness.
Forgiveness is my greatest act of love to my enemy, my fellow man, as well as my Lord and my God. When challenged by Pharisees for keeping company with sinners, Jesus quoted Hosea, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’”[xxviii] When scoffed on the cross, Jesus pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[xxix] When bestowing the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, Jesus instructed, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”[xxx]
Tell me, friends in Christ, whom shall I not forgive? If Christ was crucified for my sins and the sins of the world, who in this world is not deserving of forgiveness, my forgiveness? If my Risen Lord instructed me to forgive sins, who in this community is not deserving of my forgiveness?
Employees who embezzled my profits? Siblings who got what I wanted from my parents’ estate? Students who lied about me? Neighbors who gossiped about me? Teachers who failed me? Coaches who made an example of me? Principals who punished me? Pastors who reprimanded me? Police officers who ticketed me? Bosses who fired me? The list is as endless as God’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness distinguishes Christians in this world from everyone else, but forgiveness is not an idea to discuss like fishing holes, sports teams, politics or economics. Forgiveness is an act practiced daily. Forgiveness shapes you, acquires you. If you are a child of the light, forgiveness is your daddy.
Friends, know Christ forgives you and the sins of the world. Believe the Risen Lord grants you peace and forgiveness. Share the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection and what His forgiveness means to you when you are forgiving the undeserving. Praise God when you forgive and know that our joy will be complete.
You may never propose new ways of thinking or post 95 Theses. You may never craft epic poems or create a Homer Simpson, but if you forgive the unforgiveable and love the unlovable, you will make a difference – and you will give God the glory. And your joy will be complete. For that, children of light, pray to our Holy Trinity. In Jesus’ Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

[i] See John 15:1-17:26
[ii] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: Third Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2010) 495-497.
[iii] Pheme Perkins, “The Johannine Epistles” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall (1990) 986.
[iv] Ibid., 989
[v] 1 John 1:5, 9.
[vi] Bruce G. Schuchard, 1 – 3 John. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House (2012), 79.
[vii] Ibid, 81.
[viii] Ibid, 92.
[ix] Ibid, see, fn 237.
[x] 1 John 1:4
[xi] Schuchard, 122.
[xii] Ibid, 123.
[xiii] Ibid, 128.
[xiv] Ibid, 135.
[xv] 1 John 1:9; 2:2
[xvi] Schuchard, 146.
[xvii] Today’s readings inspired LSB 720 and 411.
[xviii] Schuchard, 138.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Ibid, 139f.
[xxi] Ibid, 144.
[xxii] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House (1991), 33.
[xxiv] 1 John 1:1
[xxv] See a list here
[xxvi] 1 John 2:2
[xxvii] 1 John 2:2
[xxviii] Matthew 9:13
[xxix] Luke 23:34
[xxx] John 20:23