On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blended with Christ

It is not enough for God to be Man, to be struck  and slaughtered. He actually goes so far as to blend himself with us. Not by faith only, but also in actual deed, he makes us his body.
Consider what sort of honor you have received, what table you share. When the angels themselves behold this Sacrifice, they tremble; they dare not even look at it without awe on account of its brightness. Yet, with the same Sacrifice we are fed, with this we are blended, and we are made one bodying one flesh with Christ — St. Chrysostom

Pilate was writing home to the head office in Rome. It had been a difficult day with the crowds in Jerusalem at Passover as had been expected. But, something good had come from this year’s Passover riots anyhow. Yes, he had a man crucified for doing nothing other than making the rest of the Jewish rabble mad at himself but what is one more dead Jew. Before long, if things were not to improve, there would have to be thorough house cleaning anyway and he would probably gotten slaughtered then anyhow. I any case, “Today, great Cesar, I had all the troublesome priests and functionaries from that detestable Temple before me, the ones who have resisted Rome since our glorious conquest, and in front of me, all in one place together, with a large crowd at their back, they, with one voice proclaimed: “We have no king but Cesar!” (John 19:15) I am please to write your excellency that finally the might of Rome and the throne of you, my Cesar, is being respected in this barbarian land of stiff necked people.” The rest of the letter was about beans, bacon, and a transfer to Gaul. 
Yes, they had shouted that on the steps of the praetorium. They had used the old habits and conventions well. Pilate had refused to do their will and they had accused him of disloyalty to Rome for not crucifying Jesus for claiming to be a king. (19:12) Then they made a power play for it by claiming to be better brokers of Rome’s will by shouting that they had no king but Cesar — “so how about you, Pilate?” “Want us to riot for you not being, oh, what’s the word: Roman enough, for Cesar? Explain that to him, why don’t you.” 
He had had the last word though. Over Jesus’ head he hung the sign: “The King of the Jews.” What he had written he had written. It was they who had proclaimed him dead. They had no King but Cesar. It was their words. Cesar, the personification of “the World,” they claimed as their source of life and death and the God of Abraham was shoved aside and found unnecessary and therefore crucifiable. The representative of “the world” is satisfied today. Jerusalem is in allegiance and submission to him. All is at peace. Israel has become like one of the nations. Let us see if Cesar will come to save them. 
Allegiance is a complicated and dangerous thing. We develop a sense of it in Jr. High School. If you are my friend, goes the thinking, you will shun the people I don’t like. If don’t trash them like I, you are their friend and not mine. I don’t trust you unless I hear you diss them, preferably to their faces. We carry a version, though a complicated one, into adulthood I suppose. Maybe the main difference is that we pick our battles much differently and that we pick fewer battles to start with. At least that sounds good though reality probably includes many battles we carry out behind the scenes. Was it not Luther who posed that not being of aid to the neighbor was in some way the same as theft and murder?
The great vine and branches speech that Jesus gives in John 15 is a discourse on allegiance. It is not simply a: “Where do I get my strength from,” transaction. The branch can only be in allegiance to one vine. In the case of the Christian branches, it would seem obvious that the original branches declared allegiance to another and have left, witness their cry before Pilate. The church has become the ingrafted branches. Will they be trimmed off like Israel? Jesus says that the Father is the vinedresser. What is not productive will be removed. (15:2) 
Further, the vine does only produce fruit non directly. The fruit grows on branches, not on the vine. Branches can and are grafted in if needed. When the system works, vine gives sap and the branch blossoms and produces fruit. The vine receives its “glory” through the work of the branches. In John the Father is glorified by the work of the Son. The Son has promised that his own will do greater works than he and that as he is glorified, the Father will be as well. 

Allegiance is a two way street. Christ has blended his precious blood with you. That is his allegiance to you. It is an allegiance not of slave and master but of friends, as next weeks reading from John 15 will say. In a two way street one might ask what Jesus will get out of his patronage of you. Well? Well . . .
I know what you are thinking, good Lutheran, I am forgiven and after that, I am always in danger of doing things that I hope to merit salvation. Well, you can’t! You can’t do or build what has already been done and completed. You can be destructive of what has been built and wrought. You are using the sap of the vine in one way or another. What is your way? 
St. Ignatius invites his readers to examen themselves daily. 1. Know that you are under God’s Care and providence. 2. Ask God to recollect the day to you: When were you on the side of life? Give thanks for those times. 3. Ask God to recollect the day to you again: When were you on the side of death. Ask pardon. 4. Take up one feature of the day that stands out and ask God to reveal its meaning to you. What will it mean for your tomorrow and what will be the help you need, the grace from God, the sap from the vine, for you to meet tomorrow on the side of life? 5. Ask God for that grace. 

Jesus gave glory to the Father and the Father glorified Jesus. Will we bring shame?

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