Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is ever reforming the Church and making all things new. Amen.
Worms, spring 1521. The Imperial Diet has brought together papal delegates and powerful bishops with prince-electors, dukes, and all manner of representatives from the across the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Leo X, a sire of Florence’s powerful banking dynasty, the Medici, and Emperor Charles V, who united Spain and the Holy Roman Empire under Hapsburg rule, are working together to crush an insurgent protest movement coming out of a college town in Saxony.
Already the year before Leo wrote Exsurge Domine:
Arise, O Lord, and judge your cause…for foxes have risen, seeking to destroy the vineyard….The wild boar from the forest strives to destroy it….
It’s flowery language for a bull, an official letter from the pope threatening excommunication unless a certain German monk should recant. In response? That monk, one Martin Luther, burned the document. Quickly thereafter, Leo issued another bull officially excommunicating Luther for rejecting papal authority.
And so it is that we find ourselves in the imperial city of Worms, Luther standing trial with two options: recant of everything and go back to peaceful obscurity in the university, or be banished from the Church and the empire. Given a day to prayerfully consider his response, Luther entered the chamber and defiantly said these famous words:
Grace to you and Peace in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To what can we compare the Most Blessed Trinity?
God’s existence as three persons united into one being is perhaps the most confusing belief in the Christian faith.
How Christ can be present in heaven and here at the Altar? That’s easy enough – he’s God.
How can water do such marvelous things? It’s not water but water with the Spirit and Word of God.
Ok, we’ve the Sacraments down.
What’s the deal with the Crucifixion? Well, through his death and resurrection, Christ destroys the power of death. That makes sense. We that every year when spring brings green life out of the barren death of winter.
But the Trinity? One-in-Three and the Three-in-One? That brings with it all sorts of caveats to try to clarify it, and it just makes it more confusing.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us the Spirit as an advocate. Amen.
“The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”
It has certainly felt that way for the past fourteen months – groaning under the weight of our eager expectation for things to return to something that might resemble what we used to call normal. Groaning for relief, for community, for financial relief, for a vaccine. Groaning for family and friends and coworkers and neighbors who have been separated from us, for loved ones who have been on ventilators in the ICU, groaning for relief and healing and hope of life after death. Groaning for three and a half million fellow humans killed by this wretched pandemic. Groaning for deliverance.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, and from the Holy Spirit who has called and renewed the Church throughout the ages. Amen.
Were we able to pluck Martin Luther from the 1500s and drop him into a car in our parking lot or in front of a computer screen today to worship with us, I doubt he would recognize what we are doing here today: broadcasting the service over the radio into people’s cars? While others watch a pre-recorded service on YouTube? First we’d have to explain what a camera is, what a microphone does, the basics of both radio waves and the internal combustion engine, what a computer is, and how a network of various wires connects almost the entire globe.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heaven Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who walks across the face of the deep. Amen.
Preachers and the folks who write Bible study curriculum have gotten a lot of mileage out of this story, reading it in completely opposite ways.
Some have criticized Simon Peter for his doubt, spending page after page tsk-tsking Peter for his fear, for his lack of trust. Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” and authors, safe in their armchairs far away from the crashing waves, have taken this as an opportunity to rake poor Simon over the coals. He’s supposed to be the rock upon which the Church is built, but he sinks like a stone. Continue reading “Sinking Beneath the Waves”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Merciful One who sows good seed. Amen.
One day during my childhood, while we were living in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was surprised to see small, colorful pebbles laying in the flowerbed outside our house. What could they possibly be? (I’m not even sure I knew the word “fertilizer” at that age.) And, at least as I remember it now, a week or so later, the same flowerbed had small shoots of green emerging from the soil.
Aha! So those small pebble-looking things were seeds! (Wrong.) But what were they growing? I reached down, grabbed the greenery, and yanked. Low and behold, it was attached to a bulb! Those small seeds had grown into something bigger than my fist! (Wrong again.) Amazed, I took my discovery in to show my mother, who was horrified that I had uprooted her one of her new tulips.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who give us an easy burden and a light yoke. Amen.
“I do not understand my own actions.”
Who among us has not felt like Saint Paul at one point or another? For we do not do what we want – what we really, truly want in our in-most being, to do the will of God, the very end for which we were created.
Oh, we start out with good intent, sure enough.
This is it! This is the time I’m going to hold my temper in check and not yell at the neighbor.
This is the time I’m going to buy that young woman on the street corner a sandwich and tell her about the resources at the shelter.
This is the year I’m finally going to read my Bible every day.
This is it! This time, I’m actually going to join the protests and speak up for justice.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has united us into one body.
If I may summarize last week’s Gospel reading:
Congratulations, apostles! You’ve just won a no-expenses paid vacation to the small towns dotting the Judaean countryside! You’ll confront demonic powers that seek to destroy you, and while there, you’ll be handed over, beaten, flogged!
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus the Lord, the one who strengthens us to endure until the end. Amen.
We are justified, Paul tells us, by grace through faith in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. But to what end? In this season after Pentecost, reading the Epistle to the Romans in light of Christ’s Ascension, the Spirit’s descent upon the Apostles, and last week’s Trinity Sunday command for the Church to go forth, what does our salvation really mean?
It’s not some object to be put up on a shelf like a trophy in order that we might boast about how special we are. Rather, in Christ’s death, we are invited to live into the peace of the coming Kingdom, a restored creation. In our justification, we are given the grace to be the people God created us to be, to live the lives that our Lord always intended for us. Continue reading “Sheep Among Wolves”→
The Lord God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden…and He placed there the human he had fashioned. And the Lord God caused to sprout from the soil every tree lovely to look at and good for food, and the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge…. Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden…. And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.’ And the Lord God fashioned from the soil each beast of the field and each fowl of the heavens and brought each to the human to see what he would call it…but for the human no sustainer beside him was found.
The human is put to sleep for a quick operation in which the Lord takes out one of his ribs and uses it to fashion a woman, a fellow human to be the sustainer beside him. Life in this very good garden had only one rule: Eat from any tree except the three of knowledge of good and evil; if you eat that tree, you will be doomed to die.