Posts tagged Herbert Mueller

Rev. Herb Mueller

A Wonderful Exchange

[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. Herb Mueller

Beautiful Feet for an Ugly World

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


Isaiah 52:1-7

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 Conference on the Church’s Work of Mercy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia


Herb Mueller presenting our "Theology of Mercy" (with Sandra, our interpreter) in the Martin Luther Church in Daugavpils, Latvia.


 We are in Latvia this week providing, in three locations, a conference on the Church’s work of mercy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, a partner church of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  By “we” I mean Deaconess Grace Rao and Rev. John Fale of LCMS World Relief/Human Care; Pastor Bryan Salminen of St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. John’s, Michigan; Deaconess Sara Bielby of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb and University Lutheran Chapel, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Professor John Pless of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana; myself and my wife, Faith.  Our conferences include work on the theology of mercy and pastoral care, the role of the deaconess in the church’s life, pastoral care of the sick and dying, as well as issues of marriage and sexuality.  Deaconess Rao is our leader.  Thus far we have presented in Daugavpils, the second largest city of Latvia.  Tomorrow we will present in Riga, the capital, and on Monday in Liepaja, on the Baltic Sea.  We have also visited, on behalf of the Synod, with Bishop Einars Alpe of the Daugavpils Diocese, one of three dioceses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia.


The following ten points summarize the theological foundation for the Church’s work of mercy and care for people in need. 

  1.  The Holy TrinityDiakonia (“mercy” in our threefold emphasis) has its source in the divine and eternal relationships of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
  2. The Incarnation – Diakonic love in the Holy Trinity is made real in the incarnation and the humiliation of Christ.  In Jesus Christ, the eternal God takes on our human flesh and completely identifies Himself with sinful humanity, so that He might have mercy on us. Having the mind of Christ, the Church is likewise called to identify with and humbly to serve those in need.
  3. Universal Atonement – “God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  Christian service and love flow from the fact that Christ has atoned for all the sins of all people, so that every human person is precious to Christ and to His Church. Receiving the mercy of Christ, the Baptized are released into a life of loving service.
  4. Forgiveness Begets Mercy – The Good News of salvation in Christ crucified and raised from the dead brings forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  People who receive these gifts of grace are led by the Spirit of God to be merciful.
  5. Christ’s Example – Christ’s example of love for the whole person remains our highest example for life in this world, and for the care of the needy in both body and soul.  When Christ walked this earth visibly, His giving of Himself combined both the forgiveness of sins and acts of mercy, care and healing. So too His Church.
  6. A Corporate Life of Mercy – Therefore, mercy is an essential part of the Church’s life together as the body of Christ.  He is the Head.  All who believe and are baptized into Christ are members of His body.  So “when one member of the body suffers, all suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26). This means that works of mercy are not only the responsibility of the individual believer, but also of the Church as Church, as the body of Christ, as congregation and as Synod. Our works of mercy flow from the sacramental life of the Church and become a living out into the world what happens in the divine liturgy.  Brought into the body, we receive mercy from Christ Himself, in Baptism, in Absolution and in the Supper.  And this mercy we have received must overflow into the lives of others.
  7. The Lutheran Confessions – Our Lutheran Confessions also assume that the Church will have a corporate life of mercy and repeatedly state that the work of diakonic love is an essential part of the Church’s life:
    • Smalcald Articles II.4.9“Therefore, the church cannot be better ruled and preserved than if we all live under one head, Christ, and all the bishops – equal according to the office (although they may be unequal in their gifts) keep diligently together in unity of teaching, faith, sacraments, prayer and works of love, etc.”  
  8. As Broad as the Need of the Neighbor – The vocation (calling by God) to live in love and mercy is as broad as the need of the neighbor. Baptized into the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2) we use the gifts God has given in service to the neighbor. In order to meet these needs, Christ not only gives a wide variety of gifts to His body, He also calls a wide variety of people, of members of His body, to many different varieties of service, in and through the Church. These callings are flexible and are determined by the needs surrounding the church (as in Acts 6). Within the Church and in connection with the Church’s mission to reach out to others, proclamation of the Gospel, faith, worship and care for those in need ought always come together. 

    Sandra interpreting Rev. John Fale discussion of the pastoral care of the sick and infirm.

  9. Beyond Members of the Church – The Church’s work of mercy also extends beyond those in the Church. Just as the Gospel itself reaches beyond the Church and is intended for all, love for the neighbor cannot and must not be limited only to those in the fellowship of the orthodox Lutheran faith. Works of love will often prepare the way for the Gospel to be proclaimed.
  10. The Whole Person – Proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments are always primary (Christian fellowship is always in the Church’s marks) but the Church’s God-given work of mercy demonstrates and “puts a face on,” so to speak, the love of God for the whole person.  People are created by God as body and soul. We believe in “the resurrection of the body,” both for Christ and for us.  Christ came as a human being, body and soul, to redeem all, body and soul. So today, mercy in the life of the Church must bear witness to Christ’s Gospel, and Christ’s promise to come again to raise us to life, body and soul, the whole person.
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