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Posts by Herb Mueller
Note: This homily was preached by Pastor William Weedon, International Center Chaplain, on April 10, 2015, the Friday of the Week of the Resurrection of Our Lord. We bring it to you as a joyful proclamation of the fullness of the resurrection Gospel. + Herbert Mueller
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Today we mark yet another step in the unfathomable love of God for the human race. It was not enough for Him to have created us in His image and place us into the paradise of plenty. It was not enough for Him, when we fell into sin, to promise us a Savior. It was not enough for Him, to give us the Law to teach us our need of His mercy. It was not enough for Him, to send us prophets who called us again and again to trust in Him and to turn from all that was death and vanity. It was not enough for Him even to send His Son into our flesh. It was not enough for Him to walk among us, a man among men, the man among all others who are really only failures at being men. It was not enough for Him to stand in the waters of the Jordan in solidarity with sinners. It was not enough for Him to reach out and touch and heal. It was not enough for Him to teach us the counsels of salvation. It was not enough for Him to offer up His life a ransom for us upon Gologotha’s stony slope. It was not enough for Him to share our graves and taste our death. It was not enough for Him.
He would love us even more. And so the joys of Easter. For make no mistake about what Easter celebrates. Not merely that a man was raised from the dead. THIS Man had raised others from the dead before — Jairus’ little girl, the widow of Nain’s son, Lazarus. But they were all brought back from death into life with still corruptible flesh. That is, they each finally grew sick and died yet again. I don’t imagine that any of them faced death in the same way as before — for they had encountered Him who was stronger than death. But their coming back to life was not like His.
This week we celebrate that human flesh, like unto our own, of a piece with us, has been raised from death in incorruption. He will never die again. He is forever beyond all that. As we like to sing: “Gone the nailing, gone the railing, gone the pleading, gone the cry, gone the sighing, gone the dying, what was loss lifted high.”
This is the news that the Angel brought to the Marys and Salome at the tomb: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. Come, see the place where they laid Him, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen and goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”
As He told you. His words of promise never fail. You can count on them when everything else around you is shaking, when your world crumbles, when your heart breaks, when your body fails. He will not fail you. It wasn’t enough for Him to merely share our flesh and blood. Oh, no. He would have that flesh and blood glorified, raised in incorruption, shining with the light of deity, the very source of our eternal hope. And He will take that glorified flesh and blood and raise it to the right hand of the Father, bringing humanity to that place where God had intended humanity to live from the beginning.
And do you see what His incorruption means to you? He, who is forever beyond death, beyond sin, beyond the accusations of the law, beyond hell — He has joined you to Him. In your Baptism you went into that grave with Him and you came out with Him. Alive. One with Him. His life was given you there in the water to be your life — His INCORRUPTIBLE life. But with Him, that’s never enough. There’s always more.
And so He sends His servants out to proclaim His promises — promises that cannot fail, that are as sure and certain as His rising from that grave on this day in incorruption–incorruptible promises to make you partakers of His divine nature. This is how St. Peter put it: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) The promises of the Incorruptible One impart to you incorruption and make you a sharer in His divine nature — so that all that He is by nature you become by grace. He, a child of God; You, a child of God; He, the Heir of the Father; You, the heir of the Father.
But with Him there is always more. It was not enough for Him to baptize you into His own indestructible life; not enough for Him to arrange for His promises to be spoken to you to impart to you incorruption. He goes further; He has more; His love knows no limit. He has a meal for you. He wants to put into you, into your corruptible, dying, sinful bodies His incorruptible, undying, sinless Body and Blood for your forgiveness and for you life. He wants to unite YOU to Himself; to strengthen the bonds of your faith; to comfort you; to hold and still you in all your anxieties and fears. He wants you to know that just as death was not the end of Him, so it will NEVER be the end of you. He wants you to rejoice that YOU have a life that is stronger than all the death in this world.
Old Job could go to his grave in the confidence that his Redeemer lived, and that on the other side of the corruption — yes, though his body be destroyed — yet he would live again in this flesh and his eyes and none other would behold God. And as he thought of it, his heart burned within him.
You see more than Job. For you have known the Redeemer for whom he hoped, and you know His triumph over death and the grave. You know that not a single word of His ever proves false.
So, beloved, since Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the feast. Away with the leavened bread of malice! Away with the leavened bread of evil! Let us welcome the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: the sincerity that is God’s earnest promise and the truth that with our God and His love for us, nothing was good enough until He had made our nature incorruptible in His Son and united us to Him that we might live in Him forevermore. This is God’s sincerity. This is God’s truth. This is the Bread on which we feast — the incorruptible bread that is Christ our Passover Lamb to whom be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit — the only and blessed Triune God who has loved us with a love unimaginable and deep.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
[Note: This homily, drawn from Isaiah 53:1-12, was preached in chapel at the International Center of the LCMS on Friday, March 6, 2015. + Herbert Mueller, LCMS First Vice President]
It is almost as though Isaiah was there, in the background, watching the events unfold that Friday morning on Calvary. In some mysterious way, Isaiah, by the Holy Spirit, can see it all happen, and write it down 700 years before hand.
- Despised and rejected by men — as they mocked him, “if you are the Christ, come down from the cross!”
- A man of sorrows — as the women on the Via Dolorosa were weeping for Him.
- Despised, we esteemed Him not — as the world insults or ignores Him.
- Oppression and judgment carried Him away — at the farce called a trial before Caiaphas, then Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again.
- He is cut off from the land of the living.
- They made His grave with the wicked, and a rich man — as they buried Him in Joseph’s tomb.
- Though He had done no violence — as Pilate washed His hands of Him.
- Numbered with the transgressors — crucified between two thieves, but He prays, “Father forgive them…”
- He poured out His soul in death and bore the sin of many — as He said, “no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18).
So many details. So much that Isaiah wrote down ahead of time. There can be no doubt that this is true prophecy. No one went back and wrote this into Isaiah after the fact. In 1947 they discovered the Qumran Scrolls, with an almost complete copy of Isaiah, a copy made 200 years before Christ, containing these exact words.
God gives Isaiah the privilege to stand, together with all believers, at the foot of the cross. It is holy ground. Indeed, as we watch, we cannot help but think of our sins.
We put Him there.
We despised Him. We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. He was wounded for OUR transgressions. We are the sheep gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.
“Who has believed what they heard from us?” Isaiah asked. Who is the suffering servant of the Lord? Who will it be? They must have wondered at Isaiah’s time.
Like the Ethiopian Eunuch, on his way back to his Queen, when the Spirit told Philip the Evangelist to join his chariot, Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” “How can I,” he replied, “unless someone guides me.”
And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this (from Isaiah 53): “Like a sheep that was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this? About himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:32-35)
For what this Scripture reveals in Christ is much MORE than simply the details of prophecy ahead of time. God moves Isaiah to lay out the WHY. Notice the interplay of HE and WE, and HIS and OURS, as I read this portion again:
- Surely HE has borne OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows.
- Yet WE esteemed HIM stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.
- But HE was wounded for OUR transgressions.
- HE was crushed for OUR iniquities.
- Upon HIM was the punishment that brought US peace.
- With HIS stripes WE are healed.
- All WE like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
This is where our wonder and amazement increase beyond measure. All OUR sins are on HIM. He was oppressed. He was afflicted — FOR US.
But here is the greatest wonder of all! Isaiah says:
“It was the WILL of the LORD to crush Him. He, [the LORD God Himself,] has put Him to grief!” (Isaiah 53:10)
Now picture Jesus in Gethsemane. He knows this prophecy. He knows what it means. “Yet not my will,” he prays to the Father, “but Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42).
THIS is the great good news Philip spoke, the Good News we now proclaim, this great exchange that happens with Jesus.
Luther writes of this passage: “He was punished for the sake of our peace. Note the wonderful exchange. One man sins, another pays the penalty. One deserves peace, the other has peace. The one who should have peace, has punishment, while the one who should be punished has peace. … This is the supreme and chief article of faith, that our sins, placed on Christ, are not ours any longer; and again, the peace is not Christ’s, but Christ makes it ours.” (American Edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 17, p. 225).
And so it is. “By His knowledge, shall the righteous One, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11).
Isaiah shows us our sins, not on us, but put on Christ. So we are called to turn away from self, and to be carried over to Christ, “because he poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors, for he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12).
Yes, this text is holy ground for us …
- And we are filled with penitent sorrow for our part: we put Christ on the cross.
- But by the Spirit of God we have humble gratitude that the Lord laid all our sins on Him, that He was wounded for us, that with His stripes we are healed.
Even when you don’t feel it! Hold this Word close.
In the name of Jesus — Amen.
Rev. Mark Wood, Director of Witness & Outreach/Revitalization for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of National Mission, preached a striking homily on Thursday morning in the regular chapel service at the International Center. The text is Isaiah 52:1-7. A synopsis is included below, and if you click on the audio player below, you will be able to hear the message. May God bless your hearing of His Word! + Herbert Mueller
If the Lord were to ask you what part of your body you’d like for Him to make beautiful, you’d probably have a ready answer. Our world presses its own standards of beauty onto us and we are quick to embrace them. We want beautiful faces for all to see our beauty, beautiful hair to appear youthful, beautiful breasts to be alluring, and beautiful abs to convey our fitness and strength. But God chooses something better for us; He gives us beautiful feet.
Our feet are beautiful because Christ has fitted them with His Gospel of peace. But what makes having beautiful feet so important? In the first place He has given us beautiful feet to stand. As the people of God in the world, we must endure many difficulties, hardships, and even persecutions. The Lord gives us the feet to stand in the face of these things. But we are called to do more than stand; we are called to go. With our beautiful feet we carry the Gospel of Peace to our broken and dying world. As we go, our feet are reflections of the most beautiful of feet, the feet of Jesus.
The beautiful feet of Jesus are feet of flesh that brought God’s love into our world. They are dusty feet that walked the paths that we walk and experienced all of the hardships, troubles, and temptations that we experience. They are feet washed by the tears of one who had used her beautiful body in ugly ways welcoming those tears and washing them away. His beautiful feet are feet that served, even serving in the lowly way of washing others’ feet. Above all, His feet carried the Cross to Calvary and were pierced for our transgressions. The blood that flowed from the beautiful feet of Jesus has taken away the ugliness of all of your sins.
Your feet have been made beautiful to carry the Good News of Jesus to those who are perishing because they either do not know the Name of the Lord or they despise it. They may take you near or far. You may be shod with snow boots, flip-flops, or go barefoot in the places God has chosen for you. Wherever your beautiful feet go and whatever you may experience in those places, you can be certain that you will stand because your God reigns. Rejoice, be glad, be confident; God has given you beautiful feet.
A STATEMENT FROM THE COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS
[Note: Meeting February 9-13, the members of the Council of Presidents (35 district presidents, 6 vice presidents and the president of Synod) adopted the following statement as a document which “speaks to the church on behalf of the COP.”]
A STATEMENT OF ASSURANCE REGARDING ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION
“Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
In response to recently expressed concerns over maintaining sound doctrine in our synod as well as our need to follow the prescribed process for ecclesiastical supervision in our synod’s bylaws, we the Council of Presidents (comprised of the synodical president, vice presidents, and 35 district presidents of the LCMS), offer the following assurances:
- We remain committed to the authority of the inspired, inerrant Scriptures as the only source and norm for our doctrine and practice and the Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of the Scriptures. That commitment includes our solid affirmation of our Synod’s stances on such Biblical teachings as these:
- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth by the power of his Word, in six natural days. We reject the evolutionary hypothesis, including “theistic macro-evolution.” (Genesis 1; John 1:1ff.; Matthew 19:4-6).
- Holy Scriptures elevates the dignity and equality of both men and women in the sight of God (Galatians 3:27–28; Ephesians 5:21–33). The Scriptures also teach that men and women have distinct and complementary vocations. The Scriptures limit the office of pastor to qualified men, while inviting sanctified women to serve in many capacities (1 Timothy 2; 1 Corinthians 14).
- Marriage, instituted by God, is only between a man and a woman. Homosexual behavior, like all adulterous behavior, is sin against the Sixth Commandment (Matthew 19:4–6).
- We pledge our on-going due diligence in maintaining sound doctrine and practice in our respective districts.
- We promise to abide by and uphold the Synod’s bylaws guiding ecclesiastical discipline.
- Along the way of doctrinal supervision, we will continue to seek restoration and repentance in a process which honors our synod’s constitution and bylaws.
Responding to concerns in the Synod regarding the present process of ecclesiastical supervision and discipline, we, the members of the Council of Presidents, unanimously affirm the following:
- The doctrinal integrity of our Council of Presidents as we carry out our role of ecclesiastical supervision;
- The need for our present process of discipline to follow the existing bylaws of the Synod;
- Our desire to evaluate the current procedure of discipline, leading to a more effective process.
The Council of Presidents also cautions that members of Synod be careful in their analysis of matters of ecclesiastical supervision, especially in social media and blogs, lest we sin against the Eighth Commandment, marring reputations and making public what is required to be private.
Finally, the Council of Presidents requests members of the Synod to pray for us as we carry out our role of ecclesiastical supervisors in accordance with the Scriptures, the Confessions, and our Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws.
The Emmaus Conference is now in its eighth year of bringing together Lutheran theologians, pastors and lay people to the Pacific Northwest to facilitate discussions. It has proven helpful in renewing discussions under a free conference style among representatives of the former Synodical Conference. The desire for such discussions has been on the hearts and in the prayers of many who fondly remember the Synodical Conference since its break-up in the mid 20th Century.
This year’s conference information:
- Essayist: Rev. David Jay Webber, ELS Pastor in Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Reactors: Rev. Jon Buchholz, WELS District President in California/Arizona; and Rev. Herbert Mueller, LCMS First Vice President
- Topic: Objective Justification — The direction of our discussions will focus on the pastoral dimensions of the doctrine and how the truth of this teaching gives comfort and peace to the sinner.
- Dates: Wednesday, April 22 (morning and afternoon sessions plus evening banquet) and Thursday, April 23
- Location: Parkland Evangelical Lutheran Church; 120 123rd ST S; Tacoma, WA 98444
Registration and agenda: theemmausconference.org