Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope
The 60th Atlantic Convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) was held on June 8-9 and the theme for the convention was “Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope.” The ‘Convention Essay’ (Keynote Speech in common language) was given by Dr. David P. E. Maier who is president of the Michigan District of the LCMS. I wish to simply give the conclusion of his hour-long speech as I think it is important that we understand the Biblical use of the word Hope.
The heart of the gospel message is that we, as sinners, are hopelessly lost for we have a God who expects perfection to enter the Kingdom of God. For that reason, he sent his only Son to make restitution for our sin which by His grace gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Therefore, because we know that Jesus rose from the dead we have the hope of eternal life with him.
This is proclaimed by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Just reading that in English is not necessarily comforting. For example, Linda and I travel by car from place to place and have the hope that we will arrive safely at our destination. However, we know that things can go wrong and sometimes they do. Hope is not certain. However, when our Hope is in God we know that God always keeps his promises so the Biblical use of the word hope is absolute assurance that it will happen. One of the key purposes of the Old Testament is to demonstrate that when God speaks his promises are carried out, and that is true in spite of the sinfulness of his people. The prophet Jeremiah shows us the Biblical use of the word hope when he writes in Lamentations 3:21-24 -
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."
What this means for you and for me is that our hope in the resurrection is not based on the English use of the word hope for it is something that we can without doubt count on. Salvation for us comes from Christ alone, by His grace alone, through faith alone, and we know this from Scripture alone.
Rev. Wayne Olson
17 June 2018
Marriage, A Loving Gift of God - 14 January 2018
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.  When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."  And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come."  His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.  And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom  and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."  This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
In Luther’s day he thought that marriage was under attack by the medieval Catholic Church. It was taught that for a holy life it was more important not to marry but to live in a monastery. Marriage was primarily an accommodation to sexual desire and therefore was a sin. Sure, it was less a sin than adultery but even some confessors would absolve penitents for having sex within marriage. The end result is that there was little respect for marriage.
If you think about it that is roughly the same as today. Marriage has become a piece of paper, and it is a piece of paper that is just as easy to discard as it is to obtain. Even the Supreme Court considers marriage an accommodation to love which is defined by sexual desires and therefore doesn’t even matter what sex the two persons are. Two people will even live together just to assure that they are compatible before obtaining that piece of paper in spite of the fact that marriage statistics do not support that claim. Just as in Luther’s time there is very little respect for marriage.
Martin Luther set out to change that view of marriage by showing Marriage, a Loving Gift of God. For the most part he succeeded, and I pray that over time the Church today can also show Marriage, a Loving Gift of God.
Today’s gospel has been preached with a focus on the wine, Jesus relationship with his mother, the miracle of changing water into wine and even with a focus that the jars were used for purification. Luther’s focus was on the two unnamed persons in the story, the bride and groom, and the fact that this was a wedding. In other words, the main point of this story is that the first actions of Jesus as he began his ministry was to attend the ceremony forming a marriage.
The last verse of today’s gospel states (John 2:11) “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.” I’ve often wondered how this story manifested his glory, after all how is simply turning water into wine such a great miracle? Doesn’t that encourage too many people drink too much so why? Why would Jesus encourage that? As I thought about that and the fact that Luther focuses on the marriage, the Spirit led me to better understand the significance of the fact that Jesus first actions were at a wedding.
The first thing that God did after creation AND before the fall was to establish marriage. We read in Genesis (2:24-25) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” It is important for us to realize that marriage was established before the fall because that emphasizes how important marriage is to God. With only Adam and Eve present at the time it is easy to understand why marriage was important, and that verse emphasizes it is not lust and we know that because sin did not yet exist in the world. Remembering that God is a God of relationships, He has just defined the family relationship and his plan for populating the world he had created. Jesus, by using a wedding as his first actions stresses the importance of marriage to Him and to his Father. I’ll come back to the family relationship aspects of marriage, but first I’ll emphasize further what Jesus did at the wedding.
It is important that the bride and groom were not identified because that sends us the message that all weddings are important to God, not just theirs. Further it is important that Jesus was called to help this couple out for what would be an embarrassing situation. It may seem minor problem, running out of wine and I’m sure that has happened many times during a wedding reception. However, what it shows is that no matter how minor the issue is, God is ready to help a marriage out of a crisis, It didn’t even matter that the couple were unaware of the issue and it was Mary that made the request. Jesus was still willing to help this couple out of what would be an embarrassing situation. By doing this miracle Jesus blesses the wedding and shows you and I that we can also call on God no matter what deficiencies we experience in our own marriage. He is there to help us out even if we are not aware of what he does for us. Marriage is so important. I think that is how Jesus showed his glory and why the disciples believed in him. We can believe Marriage, A Loving Gift of God.
I promised to return to the family relationship aspect of Marriage and to do that I’m going to use the family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. In Matthew we are told that Mary was betrothed to Joseph but was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Opps, betrothed was a period of engagement that was so firm it would require a divorce to end and was a period of about a year to demonstrate that the woman was not pregnant. Joseph being a religious and a just man wanted to divorce her quietly to avoid embarrassing her. When an angel stated that Mary was the virgin carrying a son as prophesied in Isaiah. Joseph believed the angel and married Mary. If we look at Paul’s writing many years later in Ephesians we see that what Joseph was doing was presenting his wife as blameless and without spot just as we are to do today when we marry our wife.
Joseph was the religious head of the household. As we have discussed in previous weeks this family carefully followed Jewish law. Jesus was circumcised, Mary was purified after birth, and Jesus was presented to God as the firstborn son.
From past years we also that Joseph obeyed the angel warning them to move to Egypt because Harrod was after them. When it was again safe, Joseph moved the family to Nazareth. He was acting as the
head of the household
Last week we saw that the family annually went to Jerusalem for the Passover and we saw Jesus with the other adults in the temple when he became an adult at age 12. Yet we see the family relationship continued by the verse that tells us that Jesus submitted to his parents growing in wisdom and stature.
While we don’t have full details of Jesus’ family life, we have sufficient information to know that he had good and faithful parents and that during times of difficulty God was there to sustain them. In other words, the marriage of Mary and Joseph was important to God incarnate just as all marriages are important to God. Again we recognize Marriage, A Loving Gift of God
In conclusion the gospel today is there to reinforce the importance of a Biblical marriage in the eyes of God. We would do well to reestablish the Biblical view of marriage in our society including the fact that it is more than a piece of paper. It is a way of life that we should cherish. But it is a way of life that I know I actually we, can’t fulfil. We need to remember that it is a way of life that was established prior to the fall into sin so the Bible shows marriage in its perfection. However, we should strive for that perfection by showing our love of God by returning to the way God intended, removing lust, trusting in our spouse, submitting to each other as we as Christians submit to each other and establishing the husband as the representative of Christ serving the family and training them to be faithful to the Lord. Marriage, A Loving Gift of God