Pastor Hodel's Blog
He answered her not a word... PDF Print E-mail
And behold, a woman of
Canaan came from that region and
cried out to Him, saying, “Have
mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is severely demonpossessed.”
But He answered her
not a word.
Long after you or I would have
given up, the Canaanite woman who
came to Jesus on behalf of her
daughter, persisted. She persisted
and Jesus persisted as well, by not
answering her. In fact, Jesus
persisted to the point that His
disciples were scandalized. “Why
won’t Jesus help her”, they thought
to themselves. “He always helps.”
And so they interceded on her
behalf. “Send her away” they told
Jesus. Sounds kind of cruel, unless
you understand that “send her
away” meant, “Help her; give her
what she’s asking for. Release her
daughter from the demon.”
But Jesus ups the anti. “I wasn’t
sent to help the Gentiles, only Jews,”
he told them. She heard what He
said, and yet she persisted. Kneeling
before Him, she cried again, “Lord,
help me,” and at that point He calls
her a dog. Speaking for myself, and
perhaps I speak for you, too, at this
point I would have given up, cursed
Him or sulked away. But she doesn’t
do that. She agrees with Jesus. “Yes,
indeed. That’s what I am; a dog. But
even dogs eat scraps that fall from
their master’s table.” And with those
words she traps Jesus in the kind of
trap He loves to be caught in. “O
woman, great is your faith!” Jesus
exclaims.

And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demonpossessed.” But He answered her not a word.

 

Long after you or I would have given up, the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter, persisted. She persisted and Jesus persisted as well, by not answering her. In fact, Jesus persisted to the point that His disciples were scandalized. “Why won’t Jesus help her”, they thought to themselves. “He always helps.” And so they interceded on her behalf. “Send her away” they told Jesus. Sounds kind of cruel, unless you understand that “send her away” meant, “Help her; give her what she’s asking for. Release her daughter from the demon.”

 

But Jesus ups the anti. “I wasn’t sent to help the Gentiles, only Jews,” he told them. She heard what He said, and yet she persisted. Kneeling before Him, she cried again, “Lord, help me,” and at that point He calls her a dog. Speaking for myself, and perhaps I speak for you, too, at this point I would have given up, cursed Him or sulked away. But she doesn’t do that. She agrees with Jesus. “Yes, indeed. That’s what I am; a dog. But even dogs eat scraps that fall from their master’s table.” And with those words she traps Jesus in the kind of trap He loves to be caught in. “O woman, great is your faith!” Jesus exclaims.

 

What is this faith that He commends? We have a clue in what she calls Him: “Son of David.” She knows who Jesus is. She’s heard of Him. She’s heard accounts of how many people Jesus has healed, how many Jesus has fed, made the lame to walk and the blind to see. Her confidence is in what she’s heard - “faith comes by hearing”, Paul later tells us, and by calling Him “Son of David,” she is also confessing faith in the promises made about that great Son of David who would reign forever and bring eternal peace.

 

So many times faith is maligned by the wisdom of the world. It is despised, counted as ridiculous, considered an undesirable remnant of a medieval world, called “blind” - blind faith. And if faith were blind, grounded in nothing but feelings, hopes and dreams, well it should be. But this Canaanite woman’s faith isn’t blind. It’s not irrational. It’s grounded in what she’s heard about Jesus. Faith is, in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Her faith isn’t in what she hopes for — the healing of her daughter. Her faith is in Jesus; not an abstraction, an idea, a concept, a feeling, but a report, a message about who Jesus is.


 

What she’s experiencing in Jesus’ response is contrary to what she’s heard. But her faith, her confidence in what she’s heard about Jesus overrides what she’s currently experiencing. And perhaps, that’s the point behind this whole story. It’s a hard lesson, to learn patience, and humility, and confidence in the Word. It’s a hard thing to do when we hear one thing reported on in Scripture, and something else experienced in our lives. It’s easy to give into the reality of what we’re experiencing, rather than to cling tenaciously to Jesus’ Word and promise.

 

Today, faith has been re-defined to mean experiences, emotions, and ideas that dwell entirely in the realm of the subjective. And if that is what faith is, then that makes every kind of faith equally valid. Then, it doesn’t matter if it’s the faith of a Muslim or a Mormon or a Christian and that’s where many in the world are at - but that’s not what Biblical faith is about. For us as Christians, it’s not faith in faith but faith in the person and work and promises of Jesus. Faith is not irrational or blind. It begins with confidence in what has already been said and done. Faith in anything else may be wellintentioned and fervent, but it has a false and untrustworthy object.

 

The greatness of the Canaanite woman’s faith wasn’t an inner quality of persistence. You can, with great fervor, persist in trying to unlock a door with the wrong key and you’ll never get it unlocked, despite how persistent you are. Faith isn’t an eternal optimism, for you can be eternally optimistic that I can fix your car’s brakes, and all your optimistic faith will do is get you killed because I know nothing about the braking system in cars.

 

The greatness of the Canaanite woman’s faith was in the greatness of the object her faith. Her confidence was entirely in Christ Jesus, that He was, in fact, merciful. That mercy she had heard of was what she would not let go of.

 

You can have faith, strong, fervent faith that you will beat your cancer, get the job you want, have the child you’ve been longing for, or finally meet the woman of your dreams. But a strong faith is no guarantee that you’ll get these things, and neither is a failed outcome a sign of a lack of faith on your part.

 

No, as Christians our faith is entirely in one thing, what the woman asked for: Mercy. God’s kindness, pity, and rescue. And the ground of our faith is entirely on Christ Jesus, His death on the cross, His resurrection. What we are going to celebrate together on April 8th is testified to by many eyewitnesses. It’s credible. You aren’t a fool to believe it, but wise beyond measure. It’s the one thing above all other things that matters.

 

The Lord was merciful to the Canaanite woman and her daughter was healed instantly. But the greater mercy, even greater than physical healing was the fact that she trusted Jesus for her eternal mercy, for salvation, and in His great mercy, our dear Lord saved her for eternity.

 

So fret not that the world counts you a fool, for getting up and celebrating the Resurrection. Don’t let it bother you that the world would say, you’re not bright but a bigot. Know that the Lord remembers you when you are weak and lowly and despised. Great is your faith, because great is your Jesus. He has already shown you mercy the greatest mercy - He died for you, rose for you, called you to faith in His Son, washed you in Holy Baptism, repented you and forgives you, and will continue to do so even unto ages of ages.


A Blessed Easter,

Pastor Hodel


 


 
Coram Deo “standing before God” PDF Print E-mail
The theme for this year’s Higher Things Youth gathering attended by many of our high school youth was Coram Deo. Coram Deo is Latin for “standing before God.” Of all the questions that challenge youth of any age, Coram Deo suggests the question, “What is your standing before God?” It’s an important question because all of us must stand Coram Deo, before God, not only now, but on Judgment Day as well. Inspired by the Holy Spirit of the Almighty God, St. Paul writes (Romans 3:19 ) “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”


There are any number of ways that people try to stand Coram Deo, before God. Some try to stand Coram Deo by their own supposed goodness. “I’m a good person”, they claim. But Scripture declares, good isn’t good enough for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Some claim that by their lives, as they become better and better, day by day, they’re climbing ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to godliness. Some don’t concern them with such a ‘foolish’ concept as Coram Deo. After all, “God didn’t make man, man made the gods” as the op ed piece from the LA Times boldly states. (Monday, July 18,2011).


Luther was acutely aware of the fact that he was a sinner who had no righteous standing before God. Before the Reformation, Luther sincerely believed that a person had to earn the righteousness of God through his own efforts. But the more Luther tried to be righteous before God, the more he became aware of his sinful condition. In fact, the closer Luther looked at himself, the more flaws he saw - the more he became aware of his unrighteous standing before God. All Luther was discovering, however, was the truth of Romans 3:20 , “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in God’s sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”


Luther turned to Holy Scripture, and what he found there through the Holy Spirit sparked the Reformation. God used Luther’s struggles with the righteousness of God to open his eyes to the truth Paul wrote to the Romans (3:21-22) “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”


Luther rediscovered the central teaching of Holy Scripture - what we Lutherans call the key to understanding all of Holy Scripture - that we stand Coram Deo, before God as righteous people, not through what we do, but through what God has already done for us in Christ Jesus. In other words, the righteousness that God demands of us is declared ours as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”


That righteousness that comes from God was made ours in a very special way - through the incarnation of God’s Son. The incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ gave Luther great joy for in it he found God’s great love for sinners, a love that would send His Son (who gave Himself willingly) into the world born of flesh and blood, to redeem flesh and blood. Paul points directly to the incarnation when he writes: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-26 )


Luther was a great preacher of the cross, where Christ made propitiation for us. Propitiation speaks of Christ’s righteousness that covers the sinner - and it was there on the cross that Jesus, the righteousness of God revealed to all mankind, reconciled God and man through His blood. Every believer in Christ stands before God, Coram Deo, a righteous person because each of us is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes away our sins.


Just as the incarnation brought great joy to Luther, the cross brought him great peace. It was through the cross that God gave him the assurance of salvation - the assurance that he stood before God, Coram Deo, a righteous person, declared so, his sins forgiven and washed away in the flood of Christ’s blood.


The benefits of the cross, the righteousness of Christ, is delivered to us in Holy Baptism and that, in part, is why Luther also found great peace in his Baptism. What Jesus did on the cross - the life He gave and the blood He shed is given to us in Baptism, where we die to sin and live with Christ Jesus in newness of life.


“We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul. For by Baptism we are made holy and are saved [1 Corinthians 6:11 ]. No other kind of life, no work upon earth, can do this.” Luther’s Large Catechism Coram Deo - what is your standing before our righteous God? - Under the Law, your standing is guilty. - Under the Gospel, your standing is righteous.


Righteousness gifted. Righteousness declared. And if that’s true, “then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:27-28 )


That’s the heart and soul of the Reformation and that was the heart and soul of all that was taught at Higher Things this year - the central teaching of Scripture - the Gospel - that the believer stands before God, Coram Deo, a righteous person, not by anything we do, but through the forgiveness of sins, purchased for us through the meritorious life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and given to us freely through faith in the incarnate Son of God.

 
Understanding Competing Theological Claims PDF Print E-mail

Beginning this Sunday, we will be augmenting our traditional Bible Study hour by looking at our orthodox Lutheran church in its own context, and in its relation to the outside world. Lutheranism (and, perhaps particularly the LCMS) has been accused of being insular- it is not a completely baseless accusation. The Sunday School hour at Faith in 2011 will serve to round out the theological/historical context in which we live. Our ministry to our congregants, as well as the many who access our website, presents orthodox Lutheranism via our sermons and catechetical short videos from our pastors. Using the resources that our church has (namely, many Concordia professors) we will be presenting series that seek to expand our understanding of other competing theological claims and church bodies. Dr. Adam Francisco will present a 3 part series on the history of Islam from its foundations with Mohammed up through modern interpretations of Islam and the Christian response. Later in the year he will present a series on the reliability of the New Testament in the face of challenges within, and from outside the church. Dr. Daniel van Voorhis will continue his presentation of the  history of Lutheran Pietism through the 19th century as well as the concurrent movements in concurrent "Reformation" movements. Later in the year he will be teaching on the broader history of Christianity in America- from the colonial era up through the Modernist/Fundamentalist split that shaped the 20th century and has laid the foundation for the recent trends in evangelicalism and mainline denominations.  In the Fall Dr. Rosendbladt will walk through the book of Galatians with a clear presentation of biblical doctrine in a verse-by-verse exposition. Throughout the year we will also have stand alone lectures from other Concordia professors.

 

Dr. Adam Francisco
4/10 The Muslim Worldview
4/17An Outline of Islamic Theology
4/24- Easter
5/1 Islam and Christians in America

Dr.
Daniel van Voorhis
5/8 Part Two- Pietism in Germany- Francke and Zinzendorf (Early 18th c.)
5/15 Part Three- Pietism in Colonial America (18th c.)
5/22 Part Four- Radical Pietism in America (19th/20th c.)

5/29 The "Other Reformations"- Zwingli and Calvin
5/5 The "Other Reformations"- The Catholic Counter Reformation

5/12 Dr. Lessing

 
As Simple as Water PDF Print E-mail

Our baptismal font is very simple. Four sided instead of the usual eight, made of simple wood stained rough, with a rather small stainless steel kitchen mixing bowl to hold the water. It’s not nearly as ornate as many of the gorgeous stone and marble fonts you can find if you Google ‘baptismal font’ on your computer. Not that there’s anything wrong with these elaborate fonts. It’s just that our font is very simple.

Baptismal_Font
This simplicity, however, does serve one valuable purpose. It reflects the simplicity of Holy Baptism itself. Water and hands that apply it . . . God’s Word of promise . . . in the audible name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our font is simple and the baptismal rite is as simple as well. It’s so simple that it’s temping to brighten things up a bit in order to bring more ‘honor’ to baptism. Remodel the font - or import one from Antioch (or at least have an architect copy one) . . . add more pomp to the liturgy . . . increase the volume of water . . . do something to make baptism a bit more ‘festive.’ Don’t be deceived by it’s simplicity, however. Even though something looks simple doesn’t mean it ought to be overlooked, despised or neglected. And those who reject baptism, in part, because it looks so simple, walk by sight and not by faith in what God says He is doing in baptism.


Baptism’s simplicity shouldn’t blind us to the reality that God’s own power stands behind it. It’s as if God has seen fit to veil or conceal His immense power under this water which is connected with His Word. Instead of using His power to overwhelm us with glory, He hides His glory under weakness. Like Moses, whom God placed in the cleft of a rock and covered with His hand so that Moses wouldn’t gaze on God’s glory and be destroyed, God puts His hands over our face and sets us in the cleft of His Word to keep us from being blinded by the power of His majesty. God refuses to use all the bells and whistles and stars in the sky in order to impress us by the signs of His grace. Rather than bring us up, He comes down. He reduces the scale of His presence by bringing Himself to us in such lowly things. Perhaps God packages His incredible gifts up in simple, seemingly useless things for the purpose of faith.


That a Christian bother with baptism at all is sign that God’s gifts have worked faith. If baptism were some outwardly grand and glorious affair, something not to be missed, perhaps people would want to be baptized simply because of the status. But because baptism is so simple, is it deemed useless by a world that trusts not in His promises and, thus, misses out on His gifts? Still, when God says, “Baptism now saves you,” (1 Peter 3:21) He was not kidding, no matter how insignificant baptism may appear. How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the father which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy.


The next time you make that journey down the aisle to the chancel in order to receive God’s gifts in the Lord’s Supper, pause and look at our simple baptismal font. It’s nothing, really, to write home about and yet what great power God has hidden there. There in those waters the sin washed clean off us is absorbed by the One who became sin for us, in order to save us. There in those waters God kills sin, the sting of death and Satan himself and gives the life of Christ to those who undergo its drowning and rising to new life.

Pastor Hodel

 

 
Heaven on Earth PDF Print E-mail

Heaven on earth. Everyone dreams about it. Everyone hopes for it with a hope that seems to be embossed on the

hearts of every human being; written there by the God who created us righteous and in His image. What would it

look like, this heaven on earth; this dream our human spirit strives to attain? Artists have drawn pictures of it, lions lying down with lambs. Philosophers have waxed wise about it. Politicians promise its arrival, if only they get elected, of course. From benevolent dictators to earthly monarchs to the dreams of a perfect democracy; from Ponce-de-Leon’s Fountain of Youth to cryogenic technology (all in hopes that you can either live long enough to see heaven come to earth or be thawed when it finally arrives); from the National Socialists to the Communist party; from multiculturalism to a proud nationalism; Republicans, Democrats, TEA, Libertarian and Greens. Somehow everyone thinks they can storm the gates and bring heaven down to earth.

 

To put an Eight Commandment spin on things, the schemes of men and the agendas of political parties, past or

present, were not necessarily ill conceived nor poorly planned. (Well, maybe some were.) But well planned or not,

those striving to bring heaven to earth were simply up against a cherubim whose flaming sword, which turns every

way, guards the way to that gate to earthly paradise. And so, what always happens? Whoever is elected or appointed,

in spite of whoever usurps power or manipulates the system, what always gets ushered in is a poor excuse for heaven on earth for some folks and quite literally hell for all the others.

 

Dreams of a heavenly earth stretch beyond the political world, however. If only we could create the perfect family life with compliant, well behaved children, that would be heaven on earth. If only I could get that perfect job (or today, just keep whatever job it is) that would be heaven on earth. If only I could find a safe haven for my money . . . if only I could find (and be able to afford) that perfect sailboat (or whatever it might be for you) . . . if only healing would come . . . if only I had enough to retire and walk out on my responsibilities . . . if only this . . . if only that . . . then we’d be just fine and it would be like heaven had come to earth, at least for me.

 

Don’t hold your breath, though. Earth may try to storm heaven but it won’t be bringing paradise down any time

soon. But lest you despair, that doesn’t mean we’re hopeless. There is hope, for God created us to inherit eternal life with Him and in spite of sin, God hasn’t changed His mind. God designed us to experience a perfect home in His presence. Our desire for it isn’t wrong. It’s a desire that God has built into us. The problem is, we just can’t create what we so desire to have.

 

It’s said Mark Twain once quipped, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and ever since then we’ve been

trying to return the favor.” Our desire for heaven on earth isn’t wrong. Our focus is wrong. It’s fatally set upon our own doing and our own activity and our own definition of what heaven ought to be like. We aren’t God. We aren’t the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Only God is the One who can grant us what we so desire.

 

Does that mean there will never be heaven on earth? On the contrary. God does bring heaven to earth even today. It’s

just that He does so in a way that appears so unspectacular, so unattractive, and so foolish, that, like a diamond in the rough, it’s easily missed. God brings heaven to earth each Lord’s Day and He does it by coming to us - for where He is, His heaven is. Every Lord’s Day He graciously gives us Himself in His most holy supper.

 

We write it into our liturgy so that we won’t forget it - for it is so easily forgotten - and if it is forgotten, then thoughts of what is truly heaven are replaced with things that only appear to be heaven on earth, things which fail us in our most desperate times of need. Together we say, “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” We say those words not because we’ve always said them, not because we’re stuck in a liturgical rut, not because we don’t have something else we could say . . . we say those words in order to confess to one another and to the world, the fact that heaven is where the body of the Lord has come. And if Christ is with us as He’s promised to be, then all the heavenly hosts must be present, too . . . the angels, archangels and all the saints - living and dead. And all that means

is, though we will never storm heaven’s gates, heaven bursts in on us through the presence of the Lord’s body among

us.

 

Heaven on earth is attainable, not by political elections, not through victorious living, not through my perfect little family-life, but only where God gives it to us as a gift. Heaven on earth is where the King is enthroned. This Sunday when you come to church, come knowing that in a very real way, you are leaving earth, or rather heaven is coming to you - to give you a taste of the glories yet to come. Heaven that are yours because Jesus, your King has covered all your sins. That is indeed, nothing less than heaven coming to earth.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Hodel

 

“This mystery of the body of Christ makes earth become a heaven to you. Open only once the gates of heaven and look

in; no, rather not of heaven, but of the heaven of heavens; and then you will see what I have been speaking of. For what is most precious of all there, I will show you upon earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not the walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne. So likewise in heaven the body of the King is most glorious. But this, you are now permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show you, but their Lord and Owner. Don't you perceive how that which is more precious than all things is seen on earth; and not merely seen, but also touched; and not only touched, but also eaten; and after

receiving it you go home?” - John Chrysostom

 

 

 
«StartPrev12NextEnd»

Page 1 of 2

-->