Archive for February, 2013

What Will You Say

February 18, 2013



This is War

February 18, 2013

Man against father… daughter against mother… daughter in law against mother in law…

Jesus knew about this war… this sword.. from firsthand experience. This war put Jesus’ family against him. His family said he was out of his mind (Mark 3)! This war had put his disciples against him in John 6.

Imagine for a moment, this beautiful place of worship you have here. Imagine all the sweat and blood that you put into building it. Imagine the tears of joy when a man and a woman were joined together in holy matrimony. Imagine the tears of pain and isolation and loneliness when a loved one has passed. Imagine the joy shared over Christmas programs and Easter and baptisms. Imagine for a moment, that other members of this church said you couldn’t worship here anymore. After all those memories, these are fighting words. This is war.

This is the very thing that the Apostles and early Christians dealt with. There place of worship was under assault by family members and friends and many of the early Christians were excommunicated because. The early Christians were excommunicated because they received Jesus, and the prophets who pointed forward to Jesus and the disciples who pointed back to Jesus. All the blood sweat and tears, the early Christians had put into their place of worship, and they could not worship there anymore. In some cases they were forced out by the sword! This is war!

This war! This war has been going on since the beginning of time.

My wife’s college roommate, Diane, went to Afghanistan teaching English as a second language in Kabul. While Diane was there, teaching and living out her faith, Gayle Williams was gunned down near the Compound where Diane lived. This really shook Diane because Gayle Williams was in Afghanistan for the same reasons Diane was. It got out that Gayle was a Christian and when she came out of her compound, the people of Kabul came against her. The very people that Gayle was trying to give a better life, gunned her down in opposition to Christianity.

This is what Jesus meant, he did not come to bring peace but a sword. This means war!

This war hits a little closer to home when raged gunmen took over Columbine High School. When the gunmen came to Cassie Bernall, they asked if she loved Jesus. Cassie said yes and her life was taken for it. This is War!

This war is in our world, it is in our schools and it is in our work place. This war doesn’t always end the same way but the battle is just as fierce.

In college, I worked at UPS, loading boxes. I’d always talk to my coworkers, asking where they went to school, how long they planned working there; those kinds of questions. My coworkers would always ask me the same kinds of questions. They found out that I was studying to be a pastor. Many of them would make fun of me for being a Christian. Mad-dog was the chief to make fun of me for being a Christian. This is war!

But Mad-dog wasn’t the greatest foe I’ve faced. My biggest foe follows me around every day. My biggest foe lives inside my own head. Yes, I am my own biggest foe. My foe tries to trick me into saying that I’m not worthy to follow God’s plans for my life. My foe tries to tell me that it’s okay love other things more than Jesus. Some days, I find it to love other things more than Jesus.

In order to make it out of this war, we have to love Jesus more than our families. We have to love Jesus more than the people we are trying to help. We have to love Jesus more than life itself. We have to love him more than our own feelings. (Moo 263) This war is a demand for loyalty that strips the sanctity of family ties.

To top it all off, Jesus indirectly commands his disciples and us to take up our cross and follow. We must take up our cross to be found worthy of him. 
To accept this mission of accepting the sword; to engage in front lines of this war is to take up your cross and follow Christ.
This is the Gospel message in this text. This is the central verse in our reading today. How can it be that taking up the cross is the central theme of our text, Seminarian? 
The cross is the central theme of any text.
But Blogger, didn’t Jesus do all the work on the cross for me?
You are right. So what do we do with this?

Luther says It is the will of God for us to take up our cross. The cross is understood as a punishment of death.  How is this Gospel? This is war! The cross is our war flag!

(1 Sam 2:6) the Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to hell and raises up.

When we are brought to the waters of baptism, + the sign of the cross is made upon your heart and upon your forehead. Before we were baptized, we bored the cross. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ. When we are baptized we are killed, we are brought down to hell. We are buried with Christ into his death. In the waters of baptism we are brought to life. In the waters of baptism we are raised up to new life!

Carrying the cross makes us ready for battle! As the words of the great battle hymn proclaim “Onward Christian Soldier, marching as to war! And the Cross of Jesus, going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; 
               forward into battle see his banners go! 

This is war! And our baptism brings us together so we are not alone in this war. We have been given a band of brothers and sisters through baptism.

Jesus says, whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. When you receive his word and believe that you are raised to new life in baptism, you receive him. When you come to the altar, you receive substance and sustenance for this war. When you receive his word, attached to the food received at this altar, you receive Jesus. This is war!

 Brothers and sisters in arms, this is war and whoever loves Jesus more than anything else in the world, is worthy of Jesus. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus. You are made worthy because of your baptism and you are reminded of your worthiness every time the sign of the cross is made. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus because your sins have been forgiven through absolution. Brothers and sisters in arms, you are worthy of Jesus because you received his body and his blood for sustenance for this war!

Yeah: This is war! My dad pastured in Montana. On one occasion, while fighting on the front lines, he had the opportunity to baptize little Rebekah. Rebekah’s parents had already been baptized and they carried the cross and followed Christ and now had the opportunity to share this with their daughter. Rebekah’s grandfather was a hard boiled WWII POW Veteran. He didn’t have much use for the church or for his kids going to church. When Rebekah was brought to the waters of baptism, Rebekah’s grandfather was sure to be there. She had won his heart.

When Rebekah was brought to the front to be baptized, the entire Hahn family, including aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were all in attendance. That day,  baby Rebekah joined the ranks, receiving the cross of Jesus on her little heart and her little forehead.

It was not in the foxholes where Atheists find God that Rebekah’s grandfather found God. It was at the frontlines of Rebekah’s baptism. He was overwhelmed by his sin and begged to be baptized that day, to join the ranks of so many believers.

This is war! This is a time to find out who loves you and who hates you because of Christ. Remember, in the heat of the battle, when it looks like all is lost, in the end, we will win. In the resurrection, we will receive our reward and be brought up to Jesus. We will receive our reward and have a life without pain or suffering. This war will end. This war will be over and you shall have forever life.


Anamaniac Theology

February 18, 2013

It’s a great big universe. Everybody lives on a street in a city. Or a village or a town for what it’s worth. And they’re all inside a country which is part of a continent. That sits upon a planet known as Earth. And the Earth is a ball full of oceans and some mountains. Which is out there spinning silently in space. And living on that Earth are the plants and the animals And also the entire human race. It’s a great big universe And we’re part of a vast interplanetary system Stretching seven hundred billion miles long. With nine planets and a sun; we think the Earth’s the only one Across the interstellar voids are a billion asteroids Including meteors and Halley’s Comet too. And there’s over fifty moons floating out there like balloons In a panoramic trillion-mile view. It’s a great big universe And still it’s all a speck amid a hundred billion stars In a galaxy we call the Milky Way. It’s sixty thousand trillion miles from one end to the other. And still that’s just a fraction of the way. ‘Cause there’s a hundred billion galaxies that stretch across the sky. Filled with constellations, planets, moons and stars. And still the universe extends to a place that never ends. Which is maybe just inside a little jar! It’s a great big universe. And we’re all really puny. We’re just tiny little specks. About the size of Mickey Rooney. It’s big and black and inky. And we are small and dinky. It’s a big universe and we’re not.

It is a great big universe and we are not big. Have you ever felt lost in the size of this creation?

Have you ever felt alone? Devalued? Insignificant? Small? Abandoned?

The expanse of the universe shows us how small we really are. Even still there are 6 billion people in the world And we can still feel very alone In June (2011), I was working with churches in New York City. We walked around the neighborhoods We saw one house stacked on another. There were no yards or parks for the children to play in.Often times, one house was subdivided for six to eight families.

People literally living on top of people. In a city of over 9 million people,It is still easy for the residence to feel alone or irrelevant. In a city where you have to fight for space to breathe. It is easy to feel like nobody cares. it’s still a great big universe. Yet, the world has never been smaller. Cell phones make it easy to call all around the world. We find it easier to get in contact with our loved ones. We can send text messages when phone calls aren’t possible. If calls, texts and emails just aren’t enough, We can always video message (Skype) all around the world.

One of my friends at the seminary is from India. Sam was not able to bring his wife and daughter last year. But when Sam preached, Sam put his laptop on the pulpit And  Sam was able to video message his sermon to India and other parts of the world. Technology has really brought the world closer together.

Even though the world is closer than ever,  Sam never felt more alone.No matter how small we make the world, It is still great big! Sam felt alone because his family was still in India


It’s a great big universe.


Here in our text was, Israel. A family.

All around this family, nations had been established for years.

Kingdoms had been set up for generations.

Kings had elite armies developed over decades.

Yet, here were the descendants of Abraham.

They had no kingdom.

They had no land.

In this great big universe, they were SO small.

The promise to Abraham seemed so far away.

The generation delivered out of Egypt was disappearing.

Even though God had promised a people…

Even though God had promised a land of milk and honey…

Here they were.



No land.

No Kingdom.

Discouragement had set in for this family

The heart of the book of Deuteronomy is to contemporize the Abrahamic covenant to God’s people.

The heart of the book is to make the promise real.

Numbers Chapter 5  says

The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.

3 yNot with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant,

but with us,

who are all of us




4 The Lord spoke with you zface to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire[1]…. He said

 6 c“ ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. [2]

Moses says the covenant didn’t apply to the fathers anymore

Because the covenant is for Israel, now.

A church I visited in the South Bronx had Bible study on Rahab.

The pastor pointed out that Rahab was a prostitute

And later the pastor pointed out that Rahab was in the lineage of Christ.

A lady new to the Bible study was excited because she had been rescued out of prostitution.

The lady said,

“I didn’t know the Bible was about us.”

This was what Israel was going through.

They didn’t know the Bible was about them.

They didn’t know the word of God was about them.

They didn’t know that the covenant was for them.

Brother’s and sister’s:

The covenant is for us today.

The covenant is not for Israel.

The covenant is not for your fathers.

The covenant is for YOU!

The story is about YOU!

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.


In this great big universe,

YOU have been set part.

In this great big universe

 YOU have been chosen to be a people.

Out of this great big universe,

YOU have become a treasured possession.

Out of all the people who are on the face of the earth

YOU are chosen.

It was not because you were more in number than any other people.

In fact, you were the fewest of all people.

The smallest.

You were looked down upon.

But despite that,

out of all the peoples in this great big universe,

the Lord set his love on you.

Out of all the peoples in this great big universe,

the Lord chose you.

The Lord loves you because he loves you.

The Lord loves you for no other reason than he loves you.

The Lord has redeemed you!


I once heard a story about a man in China whose job it was to work waist deep in raw sewage.

This was his job in the great big universe.

Government officials had warned him about sharing his Christian faith.

But, this man was able to get around this warning.

Waist deep in sewage the man began to sing praise and sing psalms to the Lord at the top of his lungs.

None of the of officials would do anything to him,

Because that would require going out into the sewage.

This man knew even in a stinky situation,

he was a person Holy to the Lord.

Even all by himself in the middle raw sewage,

he was not alone.

He knew he was chosen.

He knew he was treasured possession of all the peoples on the earth.

Through his baptism,

he was made holy to the Lord.

Through his baptism,

he became a part of something bigger than this great big universe.

Through his baptism

he became part of the story.

Through his baptism

he became he became part of the body of Christ.

Brothers and Sisters, so it is for us.

In our baptism,

we are chosen.

In our baptism,

 we are made holy.

In our baptism,

 we become a part of something bigger than the great big universe.

In our baptism,

we are buried with Christ’s death and resurrection.

In our baptism

we are raised to new life.

In our baptism,

We are part of the forever community.

In our baptism,

We are given everlasting life.

While the rest of the world has their kingdoms, we pray “Father, your kingdom come.”

While the rest of the world has their kings, Jesus is our King.

While the rest of the world has their land, our promised land will come on the last day.

It is a covenant and a steadfast love to a thousand generations.

Conclusion: It is a great big universe but we are all connected through our baptism. We are all made holy. We are all a treasured possession.








Deut 7: 6“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

y [Heb. 8:9]

z [ch. 34:10; Ex. 33:11; Num. 14:14; Judg. 6:22]

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. Dt 5:2-4

c For ver. 6–21, see Ex. 20:2–17

[2] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. Dt 5:6


February 18, 2013

Grace mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Like many of you today, I will never forget the moment I realized my own mortality. I can’t remember where we were exactly. I can’t remember who told us, but I remember I was fourteen. Sure, I had been to more than my fair share of funerals as a PK. I had seen more dead people at that age than I wanted to; people who died from natural causes to random massive heart attacks to head on collisions… I knew what death was. I didn’t like it. But it was always older people or people I didn’t know, someone on the news far away from me. 

            But this was different. I knew Andrea. Andrea’s dad and my dad had classes together at the seminary. Andrea and I had fought side by side in the largest water war in the history of Concordia Seminary.

            But I can still hear it, “Andrea was killed in a car accident,” and “it was somebody driving a stolen car”. The words “she was just 16” still echoes in my ears.

            I’ve heard the same echoes this week. “She was just 17”. Since Stacey’s death, I have been hearing questions of why would God take her from us?

            I know that Stacey’s parents prayed for her every day. For her safety. For her well being. 

                I prayed scriptures with Stacey’s family. “How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!”  but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me;  there is strife, and conflict abounds.

            Today’s text is from Job. It was Stacey’s favorite verse. Stacey chose this verse for her confirmation banner and she sang a choir solo of Handle’s rendition of this verse.

            “I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last day, he will stand upon the earth.” This is the message for us today.

            Job says that God took all his things from him and then threw him into the mud. Job said he made a covenant with his eyes and God still showed wrath on him.

            Job said “Oh, that I had someone to listen to me. Let the almighty answer me.”

                              “Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice Job cried out to no reply.

            The entire book of Job, God gets a couple lines at the beginning, but then he’s silent for the next 37 long grueling chapters. Job is reliving over and over again the affliction that has come on him. His family dead.  His wealth, decimated.

            Why did God allow this to happen to Job?

            Out of the depths , Job cries out that he knows that his redeemer lives. But what Job is really calling for is an umpire. Job feels that God is throwing his weight around and Job knows he doesn’t stand a chance. Job is hoping for someone to throw a yellow card or a red card (soccer reference) so that the fight is at least fair. Without a Redeemer, defender, or umpire, Job has nothing. Perhaps, Job thinks that on the last day, on his dying day, he might have a chance and the umpire will stand with him.

            Why did God allow this to happen?

            The almighty God in all his power has told the oceans to go this far. He has given orders to the morning. Yet, the world is not how he made it. The world is so far from the perfection God created it. And when evil befalls us, God knows our hurts better than we do.

            God saw the earth when it was very good. God saw when people didn’t die needlessly. God has been hurting since the fall and he is more frustrated by the unfairness of sin sickness and death and dying than we could even imagine. God is grieving with us about Stacey.

            But since the fall, God promised an umpire. God promised somebody to level the playing field.  Jesus was marched to a trial and to his own crucifixion. Jesus hung and died on the cross to level the playing field so that we have an advocate with the Father.  Jesus leveled the playing field to be the vindicator that Job foresaw. “I know that my redeemer… I know that my vindicator lives and on the last day he will stand… But our Redeemer… our Vindicator… does not just stand on the last day… he stands today.

            You see, God was not aloof when Stacey’s family prayed for her. God in his mercy leveled the playing field when Stacey was brought to the waters of baptism. Through baptism, Stacey was buried with Christ in his death. Through baptism, Stacey was raised to new life. A life with Christ. A life forever.

            God leveled the playing field by the body and blood of Christ. Stacey was joined into the body of Christ and was strengthened and preserved to life everlasting. On the last day, Stacey will be raised from the dead and live in perfection forever because God gave us an umpire to level the playing field.

            We have hope that on the last day, because of our faith in our great umpire… our great vindicator… our great Redeemer… We have hope that on the last day Jesus will stand for us.

            Jesus stands to be our umpire to level the playing field. To bring us hope that we stand a chance in this crazy world, now and forever.

            Now the peace, that passes all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds. 

It’s about the Word not the soil

February 18, 2013

            Over 1000 young people were going to gather. It was going to be an opportunity of a lifetime for the young preacher. The young preacher was best friends with the national youth director but it was still an honor to be asked to preach to a group this large. Plus, there was the notoriety that accompanied preaching at the teen camp. Not everybody got the chance to preach there.

            All the teens would be hungry to hear the Gospel. The fruit from a well executed sermon would be incalculable, the preacher thought. Many of the young men in attendance every year would desire the office of holy ministry. The rest of the youth would feel empowered to live out their faith more boldly. It was like Christmas to the preacher.

            Then the preacher realized that was the same week he was going to New York City.

            Nascar in the Poconos.

            Shea Stadium Baseball.

            Larger than life New York Style Pizza.

            Body Surfing in the Atlantic.

            Staying with his uncle in his uncle’s resort like home; the food, the swimming pool, the full array of HD channels.

            It was a no brainer, the preacher thought and his wife agreed. The couple had gone to New York the year before, and New York would always be there. The youth gathering was the obvious choice. Preach the Word.

            But the preacher and his wife chose New York.

            Field level seats at Shea were bought… it was the final season at Shea after all.

            Second row on the start finish line right at Pocono.

            Arrangements were made at his uncle’s Long Island house, equipped with steak dinners, fine wines, a swimming and a quick drive to Robert Moses Beach.

            Had the preacher taken leave of his senses?

            Was his wife complicit?

            This was a case of dereliction of duty… absent without leave… It was a travesty! A sham! A mockery! A travishamockery! What up and coming preacher would turn down the opportunity to preach to the next generation of congregational leadership? There could be thirty, sixty or even one hundred times the crop there would be at any other preaching engagement.

            What a ridiculous decision.

            No wonder churches are in decline. Pastor’s choosing relaxation over preaching. A complete and utter misuse of the Word.

            I can’t believe this preacher has never heard the parable in today’s Gospel reading. This is a very popular sermons. Many pastors have done it. With any seminary training, the preacher would have heard this at some point. Right? And he would have known that seeds in the best soil produce the greatest yield. What makes it worse, the preacher had heard.

            The preacher was taking a vacation. Indeed. He was taking off the preacher hat for awhile. The preacher wanted to spend time with his uncle, who was a devote atheist. After he thought about it, the preacher knew they would be able to get another eager preacher to preach to the youth, but there was the risk that nobody would come to his uncle.

            The uncle was starting to show that he was beginning to hope in Jesus again. The uncle had many barriers to overcome but the preacher thought the timing was right that he should come spend time with his uncle. For the preacher, it was a no brainer. Yes. Taking off the preacher hat was a no brainer. He put on his Mets hat and spent time with his uncle. Quality time.

            The preacher knew this parable well. The parable is about quality of seed and not quantity of seed and that influenced the preacher’s decision. That is why the preacher opted for the one on one time with his uncle. He wanted to sow seeds in a more personal setting.

            So what about these seeds? Jesus explains to us that in this parable that the seed is the Word. While the bean farmer knows to the pull the rocks out of the field in the early spring, and plant in the good soil, the farmer in the parable is different. The farmer in the parable is no respecter of soil.

            One of the things I always heard when this parable was preached, was a way to get us to think about what kind of people we are. Are our lives full of weeds and rocks? Are we too busy? Do we wilt at the first sign of pressure? I’d always try to figure out which one applied to me. And maybe that’s what the text is trying to do.

            Or a few commentaries said they were saddened because they knew people who were the rocky soil, or the weedy soil, or the busy soil, or the shallow soil.

            It looks pretty bad because too many people want to know which soil they are. Too many people try to apply their neighbor to what type of soil they are. Maybe that’s the point of talking this way.

            But looking only at the soil is missing the thing that those with ears are supposed to hear. If all we focus on is what our soil is or what our neighbor’s soil is, then we miss it.

            Jesus says the farmer sows the Word. The Word is the seed. The farmer isn’t making a bad decision, but he is being generous with the Word that was entrusted to him. The farmer isn’t judging the soil because he knows that the Word is God’s gracious act and it isn’t up to the farmer to determine where God’s gracious act is applied.

            The farmer sows the Word. And that Word is Jesus Christ. Whether we think we are the rocky soil, weedy soil, busy soil, or the shallow soil Christ came to the soil called earth.

            The Word came for all; the rocky soil, the weedy soil, the shallow soil, the thorny soil and the good soil. Christ, the Word, does not make a distinction.

            You don’t have to live in the country near real literal soil. You don’t have to have a big yard. You don’t even have to have a community garden down the street. You don’t even have to have a square of grass to call a yard or a side walk to your name.

            Yes, Christ came for all. Christ came for the thousand youth that gathered for a week. But he also came for the atheist uncles. Christ came to redeem the world.

            The seed is the Word. The Word is Christ. Christ has come for you. Christ took the thorny crown. Christ was trampled on. Christ endured persecution. Christ did this all for you!

            But the work of Christ didn’t stop 2,000 years ago. Why, the Word attached to water in baptism is Jesus Christ. Christ meets us at the waters if our baptism and is work in us because of that baptism, to show that we are his. In baptism, Christ comes for the young people gathered. Christ comes for the atheist uncle. In baptism, Christ comes for you.

            In Lutheran church services, the Word was spoken to you in absolution. God forgives all your sins merely on the basis and merit of the Word, Jesus Christ. Christ comes to us in the words, “You are forgiven.”

            Of course, the scripture readings, the Word comes to us, into our ears. The Word of ancient times is brought to us and is active in our lives now.

            This is God’s word for you, today. I know that’s hard to believe. I seem as careless as the up and coming preacher seemed at the beginning or as wasteful as the farmer. This could never be for me. Or this would never work on so and so. And then you realize that this is for you and that this is for so and so. The Word is to be sown in all types of soils.

            Last in order of service, but not least, the Word comes to us through the body and blood of Christ in communion.

            It is through this, and all the methods that Christ has come to us and strengthen and nourishes us, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.

            Like the preacher, I charge you to take off your preacher cap. Now, it’s easy to get into the mentality that it’s the preacher’s responsibility to sow the seed. But as you see, the seed is sown on a personal, one on one level. The Word comes over a steak or a glass of wine or another Mets loss. Sharing the Word… Sharing Christ all while sharing life…

            Jesus Christ came into the world, for all and for one. Jesus came for you. I hope that we begin to value the Word of God coming to us not because we are part of something large but because of the quality of that Word, who is Jesus Christ


February 18, 2013


Hosea 5:13 – 6:6

            DTR… Defining the relationship was a term that I learned in college. It was a conversation between a guy and a gal. This conversation could happen at any point in the relationship. This conversation was to determine if a couple was more than just friends. This conversation was to determine if there was a future for the relationship, which usually meant a break up was impending. This conversation could also be used for a couple that wanted to move from dating into engaged. DTR…

            Defining the relationship… No sooner had I learned this term, I was employing the method. There was this girl who had caught my attention. I tried everything I could to get this girl’s attention. I wrote her syrupy letters. I tried every line from the movie “Hitch”. She told me over and over that she only wanted to be my friend and nothing more. When her step dad asked about me, she would tell him that I was a dork and not to worry.

            I had all but given up when she when I were doing our homework together.

            She said, “You’re making it hard for me not to want to date you right now.” Of course, we know what came next. DTR. She decided to date me! Her decision was against the wishes of most of her friends but she decided to date me!

            It was wonderful! We went to see movies. We tried to go ice skating. We went to Dairy Queen when it was minus ten degrees outside. We were having a blast!

            Then, the day after one of our best dates ever she said, “We need to talk.” Uh-oh! You know what that means! DTR.

            She broke up with me! Not because of anything I had done. In fact she rather liked me. But, her loyalty was to her friends and not to me.

            I did what any guy in my situation would do. I said I understand, I wanted to be her friend… all the stuff you’re not supposed to say. I even walked her back to her dormitory.

            DTR. Define the relationship. This is something has been going on since the beginning of time. No, not always between a man and a woman, but between Yahweh and his people. Today’s text is from Hosea. The text follows the programmatic narrative of the beginning of Genesis. Adam and Eve sin. Yahweh punishes them. Yahweh promises a way out. The discussion of Genesis 3 is DTR. This is what you’ve done, this is what will happen, this is what I’ll do. Adam and Eve’s sin defined the relationship between Yahweh and humanity forever.

            Hosea has different metaphors for his DTR conversations. In the beginning of Hosea Yahweh uses marriage imagery. Yahweh is saying that Israel, Yahweh’s bride, has cheated on him with other Yahwehs.

            Next, Yahweh uses courtroom imagery. Yahweh is bringing a rib (rieb) or a charge against his people. It is Yahweh’s relationship defined with his people in terms of legal standing. Yahweh’s charge does not stop in the courtroom metaphor. No, Yahweh brings the marriage imagery into the charges. Like any DTR argument, you draw from everything, including previous arguments.

            Hosea later brings in father-child imagery… father-children imagery… Today’s text deals with Yahweh wanting to invoke silent treatment and him also letting us know that his bite and his bark are both destructive. The rest of the section is dealing with Yahweh’s rhetoric of “what shall I do”.  My dad used to ask this all the time. Sometimes he was serious and sometimes he was joking. “What am I going to do with you?”

            Israel had a problem with Baal worship. It wasn’t something new. In fact they had a revival, turning from Baal worship, and now they had fallen back into Baal worship.

            Baal worship was Ephraim’s sin and Judah’s wound. But Ephraim did not turn back Yahweh, even when they were confronted with their sickness. Ephraim turned to the King of Assyria. Yes, Assyria, the arch Rival to Israel. Ephraim expecting healing. That would be like the Cardinals expecting the Cubs to help them get to the playoffs. Healing is not going to happen.

            Because of this, Yahweh will be like a lion to Ephraim; a lion who is understood to Ephraim as a destructive force. A lion who hides to stalk his prey and then tear him to pieces. A lion who carries away his prey back to his hiding spot, his lair, and that will be the end of the prey. There is no help for the prey.

            There is no help for Ephraim unless they return to Yahweh. Ephraim must seek Yahweh.

            So Ephraim cries out to Yahweh and acknowledges it is him who tears them apart, but the restoration language Ephraim uses is Baal worship. Ephraim wants to DTR. So Ephraim went through the motions of calling upon Yahweh, but their hearts were still for Baal.

            Yahweh calls Ephraim out on their false attempts at worship. Yahweh says that his judgment did nothing. They are as unregenerate as a piece of wood. Ephraim’s heart is far from Yahweh.

            It’s time to define the relationship. Are we like Ephraim, going through the motions? Are we calling on Yahweh, but our hearts are far away? Are we calling on Yahweh but not loving him with our whole hearts? Are we not loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we using the world’s worship and saying “a loving Yahweh would never condemn the sinners so I shouldn’t share Yahweh with my neighbor”?

            Our worship is about the sacrament and the sacrifice. We can go through the motion of sacrifice but remain loyal to the world. We can go through the motions of the sacrament and have no faith.

            A sacrament is Yahweh’s grace to us. But Yahweh says he will bless us but he will make us a blessing to other nations. If we are unregenerate from Yahweh’s grace proclaimed to us, Yahweh cannot proclaim his grace through us to the lost and dying world. We are like a piece of unregenerate wood.

            When we define the relationship between us and Yahweh, we don’t match up. We can’t match up. We are like an unregenerate piece of wood. We don’t stand a chance.

            I had another series of defining the relationship with the same girl. Through strategic phone calls and 1 800 Flowers, I earned more DTR’s. A month later, we defined the relationship and started dating again; then another DTR and then we were engaged. Nearly two years after the first DTR we had final DTR where we committed our lives to each other through marriage. I got my second chance and it paid off.

            Ephraim gets a second chance to DTR. In the end of Hosea, he gives a glimmer of hope. Yahweh says he cannot give up his relationship with Ephraim. Yahweh defines the relationship and says his heart is turned within him. This word “turned” is the same word used for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

            The penalty for Ephraim… Yahweh took upon himself. The ravaging of the lion that was meant for Ephraim, Yahweh took on himself. Being scavenged of by a lion, Yahweh took upon himself. The tearing apart and the wounding, Yahweh took upon himself. Yahweh took Ephraim’s isolation upon himself.

            So it is for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ defined the relationship once and for all through his work on the cross. Jesus took the Yahweh’s punishment so that we can have right relationship with the Father. The penalty that was meant for us, Jesus Christ took on the cross. The wounds of a lion that were meant for us, Christ took on the cross. The tearing, the ravaging, the scavenging… the wounding, Christ took upon himself. In Christ’s words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus took the isolation and the separation that was meant for us.

            Jesus did this so that our relationship to him and to the father can be defined, once and for all. We don’t have to be afraid of Yahweh’s punishment even though we deserve it because Jesus Christ took it upon himself.

            Christ took Yahweh’s punishment for you!

            But it doesn’t end there. Christ the victim of the wrath of the Lion emerges as Christ the victor as the Lion of Judah when he is raised from the dead.

            Through our baptism we are raised to new life. Through communion we partake in Christ’s victory and are strengthened and preserved to life everlasting.

            As children of the sacrament, the blessings we have received through the waters of baptism and the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must live as a blessing to our neighbors. We must live sacramentally so that the grace of our Lord will be manifested through our lives.

            Jesus Christ has defined the relationship between the human race and himself, and the human race and the Father. Because Jesus took the brunt of the Yahweh the lion’s destruction, we have the hope of right relationship with the Father. Because Jesus took the brunt of the destruction, there is hope of right relationship for the lost and dying world.