Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Reformation and the Church Today: It's About Doctrine... and a Reformation Collect

Christian Doctrine is a body.  The Lutheran dogmaticians called it a body of doctrine (corpus doctrinae).  This body of doctrine is made up of articles of doctrine, or articles of faith.  For Luther, as well as the Lutheran theologians that followed him, the chief and central article of all Divine Doctrine was the article of justification, or simply faith in Christ.  He writes in his Smalcald Articles (II, 1, 5; Trig):
Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heavengiven among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.
It is crucial that the teaching of man being justified not by his own merits, but through faith alone in Christ when he believes that his sins have been forgiven for Christ's sake remain the central focus of all theology and church practice.  

In his Galatians Lectures (1535, AE 26:458-59), Luther applies this focus to how we deal with the Papacy.  First he explains that the world embraces and praises the righteousness of works and condemns the righteousness of faith.  It is difficult, Luther explains, for timid souls to believe that such a great majority that call themselves the church would be so wrong on this issue, even when the papists' immorality is publicly exposed. 

But despite the wickedness of the papacy's behavior, Luther keeps the focus on the righteousness of faith.  He writes:
But even if the religion and discipline of the papacy stood now as it did once, we would still have to follow the example of Paul, who attacked the false apostles despite their holy and virtuous fronts, and battled against the self-righteousness of the papal kingdom, saying: "Regardless of how celibate a life you lead or how you conduct yourselves in humility and the religion of angels or how you wear out your bodies with frequent discipline, you are slaves of the Law, of sin, and of the devil; and you will be cast out of the house, because you seek righteousness and salvation through your own works, not through Christ."
Luther continues: 
Therefore we should pay attention not so much to the sinful lives of the papists as to their wicked doctrine and their hypocrisy, and this is what we chiefly attack. 
Luther finally explains that Satan does not defend the wicked behavior of the papists.  The more pious they are, the better it is for the devil, so he can deceive souls into trusting their own works rather than Christ alone for their salvation.  

Luther's words here should exhort and encourage us to keep our focus on the doctrine of the gospel when we argue theology.  This does not by any means indicate that we should ignore sin.  On the contrary, when our focus is on the forgiveness of sins, we will better understand how we should deal with sin, since it is through the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus that the veil is taken from our eyes so that we can understand God's law (2 Cor 3:12-18).  It is when we understand the gospel of Christ that we better understand the magnitude of sin, namely that the sin from which we need redemption is not only a bunch of outward acts, but a deep corruption of our natural desires (see AC II and Apology II).

We likewise focus on justification when we talk about the church.  It is easy for people to slip into radical anti-institutionalism when they praise the Reformation.  On the other hand, Romanizers like to say that the Reformation was terrible, since it broke apart the Church.  Both sides prove not to understand the church, since they take their focus off of justification.  When justification is not at the center, people begin to think that the church is all about their efforts.  People are always going to emphasize tact, style, methods, and other human virtues.  But these things can be used for good as well as for evil.  They are used for evil when they become the main emphasis rather than it being the pure doctrine of Christ.  When "Law and Gospel" is seen as merely theological jargon used by an ecclesiastical elite when they have their exclusive conversations, the people will learn to turn  not to doctrine, but to their efforts.  They won't understand the discussions, so they will be turned off by the negative vibe in the arguments.  They will then seek the works-righteousness of the devil, the world, and their flesh.

But the people need to hear and be taught pure doctrine.  Just as Luther noted, the world seeks after works-righteousness.  So whether trusting in our collective works our individual works, we are by nature inclined to trust and thus worship our pious acts, our efforts, and even our teamwork.  But God has instituted His church and has given His church pastors to preach the pure Christian doctrine in which justification for Christ's sake is at the heart, and God's people hear that doctrine with faith.  So if we imagine that everyone is a minister and that the pastoral office is simply put together by the church, we then direct the people's focus on their works and away from the righteousness of faith which God sends pastors to preach.  Also, if we imagine that the Lutheran church is not the true catholic church, but is some kind of break off from Rome, we take our focus off of the ministry of the gospel through which God creates and sustains the church.  We must not forget that it is on the basis of pure Christian doctrine that the church is considered true and catholic.  

So while we talk about everything pertaining to the church, we focus on doctrine.  It is when we focus on doctrine, with justification at the center, that we can see clearly the practice and mission of the church.  

Lord God heavenly Father,
You sent your Apostles to declare the good news of Your
Son, that He was crucified for our sins and raised again 
for our justification; 

As you sent your servant Martin Luther with the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, help us your servants to treasure throughout all generations
 that saving message of Justification through faith alone in Your Son, and though Devil, Turk, and Pope attack, let us never become weary or bored with it. 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, for whose sake you justify
the ungodly, and who lives and reigns with You and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Happy Reformation Day!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What are Indulgences anyway? (Reformation Day with Propter Christum)

We Lutherans would love to take back October 31 from the neopagans, Wiccans, and wannabe occultists.  October 31 is Reformation Day!  This is the day to sing A Mighty Fortess is Our God and Salvation Unto Us Has Come!  But what does Reformation Day celebrate?  What happened on that All  -Hallows-Eve 495 years ago?  A young friar, ordained minister, doctor of theology and university professor (not a big shot, but not just some dumb ol' monk) posted 95 Theses of protest on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  What was this man, whose name our church proudly bears, protesting?  Did he call for the abolition of the papacy?  The right for priests to marry?  Justification by grace through faith for Christ's sake alone?  Not quite.  Luther did not tackle the entire beast of the papacy and its false doctrines right away.  He did, however naively, threaten the purse of the papacy and bishops.  Luther questioned not the entire concept of indulgences, but how indulgences were being preached as a replacement of good works. You know what indulgences are, right?  That's when you pay to get your sins forgiven instead of trusting in Christ for your forgiveness! Right?  Again, not exactly.  Indulgences indeed are an abuse of men in the Church, which distracts people from that one thing needful, but let us examine exactly what indulgences are, so we can understand the meaning of this special day in Lutheranism and in the Church itself.

First, we should understand the Roman Catholic understanding of Confession and Absolution.  Unlike the Lutheran teaching in the Small Catechism which lists two parts: 1. Confession, where we confess our sins and 2. Absolution, where the penitent receives absolution, that is forgiveness from the pastor as from God himself, the RC doctrine has three parts: Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.  Contrition is when a sinner feels sorry for his sins. The sinner then confesses his sins to a priest and receives absolution, that is forgiveness of sins from eternal punishment.  The Lutheran usually stops there and goes in peace.  The Roman Catholic isn't done yet.  The third step is satisfaction.  The penitent may have received remission of all eternal punishment, but there still remains temporal punishment.  For this, the priest prescribes works of penance. This might include five Hail Mary's or Our Fathers for the five wounds of Christ, depending on the severity of the sin.

A problem arose when the penance required of penitents accumulated over years and the penance became too much to accomplish.  The pope and bishops would prescribe indulgences as a way to relieve the burden of doing penance.  Instead of reciting a number of Psalms on bended knee a penitent could fast for a day or pay alms.  Often times indulgences involved making pilgrimages to holy places such as graves of saints, visiting relics, or the holy city Jerusalem.

Again, the bishop or pope doesn't arbitrarily (or so they claim) forgive the temporal debt of the penitent.  The payment for the temporal punishment comes from the Treasury of Merits of Christ and the Saints.  The RC Church teaches that just as the sins of a person negatively affect other people, the good deeds and merits of people benefit other people.  So while the regular Bob and Sue might rack up a debt of temporal punishment, the super good Holy Virgin Mary and St. John racked up a surplus of merits.  These along with all the merits and works of Christ and the Saints go in to a treasury in Heaven and the Pope and Bishops sort of like trustees, distribute them under the appropriate circumstances.

Indulgences became very important in RC practice.  This is due strongly to its connection with the Treasury of Merits.  The application of indulgences increased in use.  Sinners who died in the "love of Christ" but who had not paid for all of their temporal punishment went to Purgatory to pay for their temporal punishment there.  Indulgences eventually became available for those in Purgatory, using the logic that the Treasury of Merits is available to them and those on earth can access them on behalf of those in Purgatory.  By the time of the Crusades in the 11th Century Pope Urban II introduced Plenary Indulgences.  Plenary Indulgences forgave All temporal punishment for a penitent.  Pope Urban II decreed, "Whoever out of pure devotion, and not for the purpose of gaining honor or money, shall go to Jerusalem to liberate the church of God, let that journey be counted in lieu of penance.”

Believe it or not Rome attempted to prevent the abuses of indulgences.  In 1215 the Fourth Latern Council forbade bishops from giving indulgences of more than a year's worth of penance.  The Third Lateran Council of 1179 limited bishops' rights to grant indulgences as well.  Bishops were also forbidden to sell or show relics for money.  However, the more strapped for cash the papacy became, the more Plenary Indulgences were issued by the Pope.  In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII issued a Jubilee Indulgence to raise money.  August 3, 1476 Pope Sixtus IV issued the first application of indulgences to souls in Purgatory with the Bull Salvator Noster.  

The Jubilee Indulgence of Pope Julius II 1507 and Leo X 1513 sparked Martin Luther's 95 Theses.  Archbishop Albert of Mainz issued the Instructio Summaria after Pope Leo X issued a commission of indulgences at the end of 1514 to the German and neighboring provinces.  This indulgence was intended to help erase the debt of the Archbishop and help the building of St. Peter's in Rome, but that is not to what Luther objected.  In fact Luther did not even know to what extent the corruption of these indulgences went.

Luther objected mostly to the people's understanding of the preaching, which accompanied the selling of indulgences.  The hearers concluded that they could replace penitence with purchases of indulgences.  Luther found this most offensive.  Luther in a letter to the Archbishop asks, "How then can you, through false promises of Indulgences, which do not promote the salvation or sanctification of their souls, lead the people into carnal security, by declaring them free from the painful consequences of their wrong-doing with which the Church was wont to punish their sins?”  Luther was concerned that the people would misconstrue the intention of indulgences and become lax Christians.  Luther thought that a Christian should work out his salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) with true repentance and reliance on Christ alone.  

Luther believed that when Jesus said to repent, He meant the Christian should live a life of repentance (Thesis One).  He also denied that the Pope could forgive any guilt, but he could declare and confirm the forgiveness of guilt from God (Thesis 6).  The Pope also could only remit penalties that he himself imposed (Thesis 5), so the idea of a plenary indulgence was incompatible to Luther's thinking.  Luther, however, did not yet call for the abolition of the papacy.  He hoped that the pope would realize the error of these indulgences and correct them.  We know that the story ended differently.  Luther inadvertently threatened the purse of the papacy and bishops and was pushed to the center of controversy.  Luther, however, did not back down, but instead he stood firm on the Word of God and eventually discovered and clearly articulated the true Gospel of Christ that man is justified by grace through faith alone propter Christum!  

The RC Church has not done away with indulgences.  Even in Vatican II Pope Paul VI insisted that indulgences were useful for the piety of Christians.  The practice of introducing indulgences along with the doctrine of the Treasury of Merits are still errors of the Roman Church.  As Luther states in his sixtieth thesis, "We do not speak rashly in saying that the keys of the Church are its treasure, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ."  And again in his seventy-ninth thesis, "It is blasphemy to say that the cross erected with the insignia of the Papal arms is of equal value with the cross of Christ.”  To stay true to the true doctrine taught by Luther, we must confess the authority given by the Church, The Office of the Keys and the Merit won by Christ and deny any additional authority.

In summary "An indulgence is the remission in the sight of God of temporal punishment due for sins, the guilt of which has already been forgiven.  A member of Christ’s faithful who is properly disposed and who fulfils certain conditions, may gain an indulgence by the help of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of merits of Christ and the Saints.  (Canon 992) And an indulgence is partial or plenary according as it partially or wholly frees a person from the temporal punishment due for sins.  (Canon 993)"  This is not the purchasing of eternal salvation or forgiveness of the guilt of sins; nevertheless, this doctrine of the Roman Church distracts from the Gospel that Christ paid the full debt of sin.  There is no Treasury of Merits except that, which Christ earned on the cross and gives freely in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Lord's Supper.  

Happy Reformation Day!  


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pure and Mixed Articles of Faith: What This Means for the Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State

"Separation of Church and State!"  "You can't govern morality!"  "I'm not going to force my religious beliefs on anybody."  I'm sure we've all heard these statements said at least a few time in our lives.  Many have arrived at the conclusion that because the United States of America and Canada are not theocracies, that the doctrine of the Church should not effect the laws of these governments.  Even among Lutherans the term "Two Kingdoms" is often used to keep Christian doctrine out of legislation and judicial decisions.  I am by no means supporting a theocracy in the United States or Canada.  On the contrary, I seek to help us define the lines that separate the Church from the state.

To understand the Christian acceptance of "Separation of Church and State" and the Lutheran teaching of "The Two Kingdoms" we must first understand two terms: pure article of faith and mixed article of faith.  An article of faith is that believed on account of revelation, because it is revealed by the Holy Spirit through Holy Scripture (of course God has used other means to reveal such articles of faith, such as Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1), God in the burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3), etc.)  A pure article of faith is an article of faith that is only revealed through revelation of the Spirit.  This article of faith cannot possibly be discovered by any human reason or strength.  An example of such an article of faith is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel" etc. (Luther's Small Catechism Pt. 2, Art. 3)  In Matthew 16:16 Peter makes the confession to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered him (v. 17), "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."  That Jesus is the Messiah, who came to the world to save sinners is a pure article of faith that can only be known through revelation of the Spirit.  We know that the Spirit reveals this truth to us through Holy Scripture, "Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them,“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,47 and that repentance and[c] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47)  This is the Gospel that is only revealed to Christ's Church by revelation through Scripture.  The Church can only use words, based on Scripture to bring people to this faith.  

A mixed article of faith is revealed to us through revelation, but can also be revealed to man through the light of reason.  This includes the Law of God such as the Ten Commandments.  One does not need to know the True God or have heard the proclamation of His Word to know that murder is a sin.  One can through natural human reasoning discern what is right and wrong.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:19-20, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."  Paul writes in chapter 2, "14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them."  This is why nearly every religion, (that is a system set up by man to understand God, contrary to the Christian Church, which is established by God for the sake of His sheep) teaches that murder, adultery, theft, and dishonesty are wrong.  One does not even need to believe in God to know that these things are "evil."  

You might be wondering, "So what?"  Here's what.  God has given His authority to the governments of this world, the Left Hand of the two kingdoms.  What people often forget is that these two kingdoms are the two kingdoms of God.  They are the left and the right hands of God.  Just because the left hand is not the Church, does not mean that it is not directly under God's authority.  As Jesus said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11)  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit even states, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1)  These pagan governments received their authority from God!  They didn't even believe in the true God!  Yes, but they did and do have the authority of God.  Their purpose, whether they acknowledge it or not, is to preserve God's ordered creation.  God instituted government to prevent the godless, and even the Christians who are driven by concupiscence to sin and even commit crimes, from destroying his created order.  Paul writes of the one in authority, "for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain."(v. 4)  That's right, the government bears the sword and God handed it to him sharpened and ready.  Even if the government does not acknowledge that it receives the sword (authority to punish criminals) from God, it is still true.   

The government is supposed to punish those who do wrong.  But how can the government know what is right and wrong if those in government are not Christians?  "The work of the law is written on their hearts."  The law is a mixed article of faith.  The government is required to enforce the law, whether or not it knows it through revelation, because it should know it by natural law, and most times it does.  This does not mean that we must submit to the government when it forces us to do things contrary to our faith.  Then we must "obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)  Where the government does act within its ordered authority, we are ordered to, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme."  (1 Peter 2:13)  

So when people say that the government should not force the Christian religion on people, they are right.  The Church does not use the power of the sword as the government does.  As AC XXVIII states, "The power of bishops is a power and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer and distribute the does not interfere at all with government or temporal authority...Temporal power does not protect the soul, but with the sword and physical penalties it protects body and goods from the power of others."  People cannot be converted to the Gospel by force.  The function of the Church is primarily Gospel.  The function of the government is LAW.  

This does, however, mean that the government should use its force to protect morals.  Those who murder should be punished, along with those who steal, slander, and do violent acts without cause.  Even when it comes to institutions such as marriage, the government is given authority.  The government can force you to take care of your children.  If you starve them or abuse them, it can take them away.  It does not have to condone lifestyles that nature says are unnatural, such as polygamy and homosexual lifestyles.  

The government, however, doesn't have free use of the sword.  It must act within the ordered power of God.  When Hitler ordered the "final solution of the Jews" he did not act within his God given authority.  The government has the authority to kill criminals, not "innocent" humans.  This is why the Church should remind the government what is a "just killing."  It is absolutely possible for the government to kill people unjustly and go to unjust wars.  These acts are not ordained by God, even if the government has the sword from God.  It is, in these cases, not inappropriate for the Church to educate the government on mixed articles of faith.  When it is not only revealed through revelation, but also through natural wisdom, the Church and Christians should step in.  In this way, protesting the murder of unborn children, the sick, handicapped, elderly, and unjust wars is not mixing the Church with the State.  The light of wisdom has revealed these things to everyone.  The law is written on man's heart.  And to us who have had it revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of Scripture, we have no excuse if we keep silent.  The Church should tell the government when it is derelict of its duties, given to it by God.     

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Theological vs Practical? Theological Aptitude: Correcting a False Dichotomy

This is a note to all seminary students studying to serve God in His holy office to preach and teach His truth.

Are you theological?  Are you practical?  I hope you are both.  In fact, if you aren't a theologian, you can't possibly be practical.  "Loving" your people won't cut it.  Your people will need to hear God's Word.  They are going to need to hear theology so that the opinio legis of their Old Adam is silenced, and they can be comforted by Jesus' Spirit and Word.  

So theology is more than just a study of some academic discipline.  We learn in Intro to Theology (Prolegomena) about the aptitude of a theologian. In his Christian Dogmatics (I:46-51), Pieper describes five characteristics or attributes of a faithful minister of the doctrine of Christ. The first is that he believes. If someone does not believe that he is justified not because of any of his own merits, but for Christ's sake God is favorable toward him and forgives his sins, then he cannot really be a theologian.  At best, he can only be a nerd.  So again, if you want to be a theologian, you must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This carries with it the long-held Lutheran conviction that theology is not merely a philosophical or ethical discipline. This is what Quenstedt says about it:
Is theology a God-given (θεόσδοτος) practical aptitude (habitus)? κρίνομενον or point of controversy?
The question 1) concerning systematic theology, is not considered abstractly or accidentally (accidentaliter); but taken habitually, concretely, and essentially. 2) Not from a God-given aptitude (θεόσδοτ) by reason of immediate infusion, but by reason of discovery, of origin, and of object. 3) Concerning a practical aptitude, not by such practice which is established in human power, nor is it handled humanly (τ νθρώπινα) as from Philosophy, but by such practice which is Spiritual, assuredly leading man to eternal salvation. 4) Not concerning the practical aptitude by which the practice is the means or a study of good works, but that which as it is taught for the sake of practising the life of faith, by which alone we draw near to eternal life. 5) Not concerning the practical aptitude which excludes all knowledge (γνσιν), nor does it presuppose something false, but that which while depending originally on it, nevertheless ultimately remains and comes about in it. (Quenstedt, Systema, Pars I, Caput I, Quaestio III, 1715 edition, 22)
The pietists accused the faithful teachers of the Lutheran Church of being concerned only with head-knowledge. But that was only because they refused to realize the importance of the unity of the certainty of faith with the certainty of God's Word, from which faith comes (Rom 10:17). David as well as St. Paul said that they believe, therefore they speak (Psa 116:10; 2nd Cor 4:13).

The second part of theological aptitude is the ability for a theologian to let his teaching be ruled entirely by God's Word. Pieper quotes St. Paul: “If any man teach otherwise and consent not to the whoesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ... he is proud, knowing nothing (1st Tim 6:3).”

The third part of theological aptitude is the ability and willingness to preach the whole Word of God. Paul says, “I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).” Don't your theological education as some hidden academic knowledge that the people can't learn. Of course, don't throw at them a bunch of Latin phrases a theological jargon. Read the Scriptures, and teach it. It's all there. And if it is revealed in God's Word, it is meant for God's people. My grandma told me recently that a conviction that my grandfather had was that theology is for all Christians, not just for pastors and theologians. He was right. After all, theology is a spiritual aptitude. Let those who are spiritual pray not just with their spirits, but also with their minds (1st Cor 14:15,20). We are transformed through the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2).

The fourth part of theological aptitude is to refute false teachers. St. Paul again says, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Tit 1:9).” And again, “...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Tim 4:2).” Always remember that reproving and rebuking is accompanied with patience and teaching, teaching of Christ's doctrine, the center of which is the justification of the ungody by God's free favor for Christ's sake. Let this give you all the more diligence to rebuke false teaching. This includes ecclesiastical practice that contradicts the mandates of Him who instituted the church.

Finally, be willing to suffer for Christ and His Gospel (see Mark 10:29ff). You will suffer for the sake of Jesus' Name (Matt 24:9; Acts 9:16). Don't go looking for it, though. Don't start fights. But don't sit by while the Gospel is attacked.  

With all that said, I would like to encourage my fellow seminarians and vicars not to create for yourselves ways out. John Nieminen preached a great sermon last spring in chapel on Acts 4, making the point that the disciples did not pray for a way out of the situation. Instead, they prayed for boldness. Also, do not make for yourselves false dichotomies. If you are already in the habit of speaking of theological on the one hand and practical on the other, cut the habit! It's a bad habit. Theology is practical. It is God's law and gospel which He has revealed to us in His Word. Learn theology. Keep learning it. Let the Holy Scriptures be your bread and the Lutheran Confessions your butter.

Be theological! Be dogmatic! This is what Christ mandated when He told His disciples to teach all nations. If you divorce being practical from being doctrinal, then what you call being practical will only be unfaithfulness and ultimately works-righteousness. The only way you can truly love your people is if you are faithful to God's Word. Because, after all, they aren't God's people without God's Word.

Be theological because it is through God's word that we learn about faith and love. Love is for our neighbor. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love rejoices in the truth, yet it doesn't broadcast the secret faults of our neighbor. Love bears with our neighbor. But faith is different. It can't cover up sin. Faith cannot correct error. Why? Because faith is passive, and if you try to correct error passively, you will fail. Faith can only passively receive and cling confidently to God's loving kindness, favor and forgiveness given for the sake of Christ's perfect obedience to His Father, the love that covers all our faults. It is this doctrine and all its articles that we pray God would preserve for us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh do not rob us of this faith, and thus, our spiritual aptitude.

In Christ,
Vicar Andrew Preus

"Guide Me On, Oh Great Jehovah" Guitar Composition by Paul Schulz

An arrangement for guitar by 1st year CLTS student Paul Schulz of the hymn "Guide Me On, Oh Great Jehovah."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Grandiose Request- A Sermon Based on Mark 10:32-45 by John Nieminen

It is easy to criticize James and John over their request to be seated, one at the right hand and one at the left hand of Christ in His glory.  Their request sounds arrogant and prideful.  Maybe we, like the other disciples, feel a little indignant with them since we would like one of those places for ourselves.  But in making this request to Jesus, James and John showed that they had actually listened closely to what Jesus had taught them.  Jesus had promised that when He sits on His glorious throne, they also would sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Mt. 19:28].  Jesus also taught them that if two of them agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by His Father in heaven [Mt. 18:19].
            So James and John, keeping these promises in mind, came to Jesus, and asked that this might be done for them.  This is exactly what a Christian is to do, to grab hold of the promises of God, and bring these promises before God when they pray to Him.  Yes, this is a grand request, but so what?  If the king of a great kingdom offers a poor wandering beggar anything that his heart desires, for what should he ask?  Should he ask for a mere morsel of bread?  When this poor beggar could ask for anything, if he requested a mere crumb of bread, would he not offend the king?  Would not everyone hold this beggar to be audacious and thankless for asking for next to nothing when everything is offered him?  Would he not be making a mockery of what the king offered him?  So we also dishonour God and rob Him of glory if, instead of asking Him for the great treasures He has promised us, we ask for mere trifles.  So James and John come to Jesus, and trusting His promises, make their request known to Him.
            Notice that Jesus does not rebuke them for their request, nor does He say that their request is too great.  He replies, “You do not know what you are asking.”  They did not understand what Jesus kingdom is, or where it is.  They did not comprehend that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world [Jn. 18:36].  They wanted to be in Jesus’ glory, but they did not understand what or where His glory is.  They sought glory in this life.  They wanted to rule over others in this life.
            Now we see the lack of understanding of James and John.  Jesus asks them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  They respond, “We are able.”  They neither understood for what they asked nor what they answered.  They wanted to be rulers in Jesus’ earthly kingdom, drinking the cup of victory with Jesus in His kingdom.  They wanted a baptism of initiation into their role as rulers over others.  They were so ready to answer because they did not understand what Jesus was saying.
            James and John suffered the same narrow-sightedness from which we often suffer.  We also want to be great in this life.  We also seek the glory of men.  We often care more about what people think than what God thinks.  We want to lord over others and exercise authority over them.  We want others to serve us.  But Jesus says, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all [vv. 43-44].”
            The question is not one of your actual position in life.  The question is of your attitude and behaviour towards others.  Those who are “great” and “leaders” among you, are to be humble and serve others, just as those who are “lesser,” or “younger,” or of lower status are also to serve others.  This is a reversal of what the world holds to be true, where those who serve are considered inferior.  Jesus says that the humble servant, the slave of all, is great and first.
            Where does that put you?  How willing are you to serve others?  Or how often does your selfishness get the better of you and drive you to think of yourself first?  How often are you willing to take advantage of others, so that you might benefit?  How often do you want to be great so that you can lord it over others?
            Jesus had just finished foretelling His disciples of His upcoming death, how He would be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes and condemned to death.  He told of how He would be mocked and spat on, flogged and killed [vv. 33-34].  James and John follow this by asking for positions of honour and glory in this life!  They did not grasp what Jesus said or what He was about to do.
            When you pray, do you ask God for glory and honour in this life?  Do not fall into the same misunderstanding as James and John.  Hear what Jesus says about glory to understand what James and John missed.
            Jesus explains His glorification to the disciples at another time in connection with a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying [Jn. 12:23-24].  Jesus’ death and burial were a necessary part of His glorification, just as a grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die in order to bear much fruit.  The Son of Man was glorified when the ruler of this world was cast out, when Jesus was lifted up from the earth on the cross [Jn. 12:27-32].  The glory Jesus is talking about started at the cross.  The glory Jesus is talking about is not just His resurrection and ascension, but also His upcoming suffering and death.
            But what glory is there in the cross?  What glory is there in suffering and death?  This Jesus answers in asking James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
            In the Old Testament, the cup is often used as a figure of the wrath of God.  Isaiah writes of the cup of the wrath of God poured out on Jerusalem resulting in devastation and destruction, famine and sword, and death in every street [Is. 51:17-20].  Jeremiah writes of the cup of the wine of wrath causing those drinking to stagger and become crazed because of the sword, as they are made a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, the cup being a punishment that will cause them to fall and rise no more [Jer. 25:22-29].  This is the cup that Jesus prays about in Gethsemane, praying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will [Mt. 26:39].”
            And what of the baptism of which Jesus here speaks?  He speaks of the baptism of the fire of God’s wrath.  Jesus said, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished [Lk. 12:50]!”  Jesus is speaking of His death at Golgotha, which was accomplished when He said, “It is finished.”
            It might be said that James and John did drink of the cup of which Jesus drank and were baptized with the baptism He was baptized with, in that James was martyred [Act. 12:2], and John suffered tribulation and was exiled [Rev. 1:9].  But there is much more to this.
            Jesus drank the cup of the wrath of God.  He drank the devastation and destruction, the famine and sword that we deserve for our sins.  Jesus became a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse for our iniquities.  In great distress, Jesus was baptized with the fire that we deserve to be thrown into.  He was baptized by the eternal wrath of God.
            In taking the wrath of God upon Himself, Jesus saved us from the wrath of God [Rom. 5:9], cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands [Col. 2:13-14].  He drank the cup of God’s wrath, so that now the cup is no longer a cup of wrath, but is the cup of the new testament in Christ’s blood.  Instead of being full of wrath, it is full of forgiveness, life and salvation.  We receive the benefits of Jesus drinking the cup of the wrath of God when we drink of the cup of life offered to us in the Lord’s Supper.
            Jesus was baptized with the fire of God’s wrath, so that now baptism for us is a baptism into Christ’s death, and we are united with Him in His death [Rom. 6:3-5].  Just as Liam received this morning in his baptism, we also received the benefits of Christ’s life and death in our baptism.  In our baptism, we receive the benefits of Christ’s baptism in the fire of the wrath of God.
            This is the glory of the cross.  The glory of God is seen in Christ on the cross, because this is where we see the true heart of God, where we see His love for mankind.  This is the glory of Jesus.  This is where Jesus took our place so that we could spend eternity with Him in His glory.  He did not come to be served but to serve.  He became the servant of all, serving us to the point of giving His life for us as a ransom, paying the price of our sins and buying us back for God.
            James and John ended up receiving a much better answer to their request than they imagined.  They did not get to sit at Christ’s right and left in an earthly reign, but they have received the special place Jesus prepared for them in His Father’s house in eternity [Jn. 14:2].
            This promise is for you also.  It was made to you in your baptism.  So repent of your selfishness, and let not your heart be troubled.  Despite your selfish, misunderstood requests, Jesus will give you something far better than what you request.  Jesus said, “Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also [Jn. 14:2-3].”  To this clear promise of Christ we can cling, knowing that He is referring to our eternal heavenly home, away from this world of selfishness and lording over others.  There we will spend eternity in bliss with all believers in Christ, in the presence of God.  Amen.

Allegory of the Old and New Testament, by Hans Holbein the Younger (Editor's Note from the Last Issue)

In volume I, issue 2 of Propter Christum (link at the top-right side of our blog), the cover-graphic was Hans Holbein the Younger's Allegory of the Old and New Testament.  Not enough is known about Hans Holbein the Younger.  Based on a painting his dad painted of him and his older brother, he was probably born around the year 1598.  Born into a family of artists, and growing up in Augsburg, Holbein later went to Basle, where many artists and scholars, including Erasmus, were attracted in the early/mid 16th century.  There has always been dispute over where Holbein fell theologically, but his Allegory of the Old and New Testament certainly implies a grasp of Lutheran theology.  The following is a commentary on that painting, written by last year's student editor, Andrew Preus.  The editor does not assume to know Holbein's entire theological intentions.  These comments are simply observations.  If you would like some copies of past or upcoming issues of Propter Christum, please contact the editor at  

Hans Holbein the Younger summarizes the two basic teachings of Scripture in this one painting, that is, the law and the gospel.  On the left is the Old Testament, with the fall into sin with Adam and Eve (PECCATUM), the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (LEX), the consequence of sin underneath Adam and Eve, as you can see the skeleton signifying death (MORS), and the bronze serpent as only a shadow of the mystery of justification (MYSTERIUM IUSTIFICATIONIS).  In the center is naked sin-sick man (HOMO) declaring the words from Romans 7:24: “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this guilty (obnoxio) body of death!”  He sits under a tree which is dead on the left side (the Old Testament) but alive on the right side (New Testament). 
All of this might indicate that the Old Testament is all law while the New Testament is all gospel; however, look where the prophet Isaiah (on the left) is pointing.  This Old Testament prophet is pointing the sinner to the gospel just as John the Baptizer does.  As Isaiah points to the Virgin Mary who shall conceive and bear a Son (GRATIA; Isaiah 7; Notice that he is not pointing to something else first, but rather straight to the Virgin [Almah]!), John the Baptizer points to the Lamb of God (Agnes Dei) who takes away the sin of the world (John 1).  Whereas the bronze serpent is only a shadow or mystery, the Son of Man lifted up on the cross (John 3:14,15) is our justification (IUSTIFICATIO NOSTRA).  Although the wages of sin is death, the Lamb of God takes away that sin, and the gift of God is eternal life and victory over the grave.  Our victory is the resurrection (VICTORIA NOSTRA). 
This is truly a wonderful painting that we can use for Catechetical purposes.  Holbein showing that our righteousness is the Suffering Servant and our victory is the Risen Lord gives us such comfort.  This painting demonstrates what the main focus for all Evangelical Lutheran preaching should be, namely that Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised again for our justification.  This painting is available in the back pages of the Concordia reader’s edition of the Book of Concord.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

But Blood Stains! (Sermon on Revelation 7:9-17)

            Blood does not make white. Blood stains. But we hear the words again from Revelation 7:14, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

            In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. In the Hromowyk household it is not uncommon to hear resounding from the depths of the basement, “HEY!” whenever my father attempts to remove a strain from his shirt with a bottle of Shout, that ever-popular household stain remover. But the act of verbal shouting isn’t what absolves the stain is it? It’s the contents inside the bottle that remove the stain.

            Our human flesh functions much like my Dad shouting, “HEY!” with the bottle of shout. We make mistakes and we try to fix them. We break something; we try to put it back together. And if we can’t do it, we pay someone to do it for us. This self-reliance and self-invested interest gets us into trouble just like it got our first parents in the garden in trouble. Adam and Eve thought they could “be just like God, knowing good and evil”. When we put ourselves in a position to fix what we’ve broken, we walk a very fine line with works righteousness. Of course, we must make a distinction between earthly mistakes and sins against God’s command. If we screw something up on a job; we must do what we can to fix it. If we use poor grammar on a paper we hand in at the seminary; we correct it, hopefully. We get a stain on a shirt, we grab our bottle of Shout, spray some on it, wash the shirt, and hopefully the stain is gone. In our lives we are constantly working to make things right. And that’s why this text is so applicable for us here at the seminary to listen to. Our reading from Revelation Ch. 7 has a lot of Gospel in it; a lot of good news about God’s salvation prepared for his saints. The text is about the saints in heaven. But how did they get there?

            In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the Seminary is not heaven. The seminary isn’t even Gospel. The seminary is Law. All law. In fact, the only Gospel here is during Chapel. And even then we know that there are elements of sacrifice – what we do for God –  in each service. What’s my point? This isn’t a shot or a jab at the seminary. This is a fact. We are here to train to be pastors. Or we are here because this is our day job. Or we are here because we are to train the trainees. Law. Law. Law. Do this and you pass. Don’t do this or you’ll flunk. Do this and you won’t get in trouble. Do this and you keep your job. “Put up and shut-up until you graduate.” It’s no surprise that by the first week of November, everyone starts getting on each other’s nerves. If you don’t believe me sit at the lunch table during those final weeks of the semester and see how friendly we are to each other. Everyone starts cracking down because the heavy hand of the law is upon them. Due dates, deadlines, exams…. Greek quizzes! It’s happened every year since I’ve been a student here.

On our way home from the Seminary on Monday, when Kurt and I were at customs, the agent asked us where we were coming from. Kurt said, “The seminary” to which the agent said, “Where?” Kurt replied back, “The Seminary” to which the agent said, “Ahh, I thought you said cemetery.” You’ve probably heard that as a joke before, but it can – shouldn’t be – but sure can be true. We sometimes forget the Gospel as we get caught up in our work. And where there is no Gospel there is no life… how much life is in a cemetery? Maybe the agent heard Kurt correctly after all…

But you see that’s why we come to Chapel; because in the midst of our work week, we don’t have any Gospel outside of Chapel. And we need that sweet message of Christ’s forgiveness now more than ever. Our seminary training toughens us up for what we will face in the parish. But when legalism rules the day, it becomes all too easy for us to get caught up in an “I can fix this” attitude. Spray enough “shout” on it and the stains will go away. Even then sometimes we get overwhelmed and just wanted to “shout” period. Pun intended.

            Don’t forget the Gospel. Remember what the saints in heaven are “shouting” with a loud voice in heaven in v. 10, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” Let our shouts of angst turn to shouts of joy. Salvation belongs to God. The text omits the verb. We supply it. Salvation is to our God and the Lamb, which is Christ. God and the Lamb are salvation; its very essence. That’s a pretty comforting thought. God is love. God is salvation. God is our salvation. We know what awaits us after this life. The text tells us. There will be no more hunger, no more thirst, no more sun striking us, nor any scorching heat. The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be our shepherd; and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The Lamb is our Shepherd. That fits well with our seminary’s theme this year. The Lord is my Shepherd. But here the text reminds us that the Lamb is our Shepherd. That’s not the kind of Shepherd we would hand pick for ourselves is it? Just like a sports team wouldn’t pick the shy, quiet athlete to be their captain, we wouldn’t think to pick a lamb to be our Shepherd. As we heard Dr. Winger gives us the run down on sheep at the retreat at Mount Carmel, sheep and lambs need to be led. We are the sheep. But Christ became a lamb –  better – THE Lamb for us. He became the Lamb led to the slaughter on behalf of our sins. If having a Lamb be the Shepherd sounds seemingly impossible, or perhaps even foolish to our reason, what we hear in v. 14 is even more so. “These (in white robes) are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” If it isn’t enough good news already that Christ became a Lamb for us, this point drives the Gospel home even more. Blood cannot wash. Well I suppose it can wash in the sense of make wet, but blood stains. Do you know what color blood stains on clothes? It’s not red. It’s BLACK. Blood stains black- the complete opposite of white. Yet the saints in heaven have washed their robes, Greek στολὰς, and made them white. This cleansing of the robes is certainly only an act of God. For blood only stains. Therefore our robes are washed and made white by faith. The blood of the Lamb of God, the death of our Lord on behalf of our sins makes our garments pure; makes our stoles white. Just like our reason can’t comprehend how blood can make white, our reason can’t understand how Christ can become sin for us, how Christ can become a Lamb for us, and take all our sins upon himself, and give us His righteousness.

When we take a bottle of Shout and spray it on our clothes, we trust that the stain will be removed. In the same way, when God says that you are forgiven of your sins, you grasp that promise and hold on to it and trust that God in fact has forgiven your sins. The difference is that using a household cleaner product fits within our scheme of reason. God’s declaration of forgiveness is a stumbling block and a rock of offense. And in a Law dominated world, the freely given forgiveness of sins seems almost too good to be true. But nevertheless God makes this promise and it is given to everyone. He shows no partiality. John writes that he saw, “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” A great multitude which no man could number. I guess John didn’t mean only 120,000 people were in heaven after all.

Christ became the Lamb for us. Christ is our Good Shepherd. Even if we try to fix the broken relationship we have with God on our own, we can’t. It’s like shouting in the basement of your home at the stains on your clothes because the bottle says, “Shout!” Rather we put our trust in the One who has already removed the stain from our robes. And having been declared free from our trespasses, we can shout with the saints in heaven knowing that eternal life awaits us, because our God IS salvation. Our God alone possesses the gift of eternal life. And He has promised to give it to you. You can know this for certain because Christ has forgiven you of all your sins. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.




Sunday, October 21, 2012

Harvest Day Sermon 2012 "Jesus Has An Inheritance For You!" By James Preus

I preached this sermon for Harvest Day on Saturday, October 20th at the CLTS Chapel in St. Catharines, ON.  The text is Luke 12:13-21.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

People feel that they are entitled to stuff.  One of the first words a child learns is “Mine.”  In fact, babies and small children often operate on the assumption that they own everything.  There is a cute story my mother likes to tell.  When my twin brothers John and Mark were babies, my mom gave each of them a cookie.  Mark stole John’s cookie.  So my mom gave them each two cookies, with the idea that if Mark’s hands were full, he would not be able to snatch John’s cookie.  Mark then put one of the cookies in his mouth, freeing his hand to snatch one of John’s cookies. 
            It can be cute when children do such things, but the reality is, this describes our troubled condition.  We believe that we are entitled to things over which we have no control or even have rightful claim.  Just as the one-year-old Mark did not bake the cookies he was so confident were his, we are not the source for anything that is ours.
            The man who demanded that Jesus make his brother share the inheritance missed the point in two ways.  First, he was coveting.  He was not content with what he had and he desired what was not his. Secondly, the man preoccupied himself with the wrong inheritance.  He wanted an earthly inheritance of money or land or goods and he wanted Jesus to get it for him.  Jesus had an inheritance to share with the man, but it was not his brother’s material inheritance.  Jesus’ inheritance, which was His by virtue of His relationship with His Heavenly Father, was the one for which Jesus wanted the man to ask. 
            Our Heavenly Father happily gives us everything we need.  When we are not content with what we are given by God, we despise His gifts. 
            No matter what we do, we cannot take credit for anything we own or produce.  If we plant something, we cannot make it grow.  Even if we plow the soil, plant the seed, or water the plant, we cannot cause it to grow.  God causes growth.  Paul uses this analogy in 1st Corinthians 3 to explain God’s activity in causing His Church to grow.  Though Paul planted and Apolos watered, they could not cause faith to grow.  God caused the growth.  Both spiritually and physically, God is the source for all things good.  When we boast over what we have we are as foolish as the rich man in this text.  Your money, property, job, spouse, children, even your pets, God provides them all for you.  This is a humbling message, but it also brings great comfort.  Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and happily supplies them. 
              It is peculiar that the rich man tells his soul to relax, eat, drink, and be merry, because he has so much food stored up.  A man’s soul does not thrive on succulent meat, luscious fruits straight from the orchard, or delicious bakery-fresh bread, not even on Niagara Region wine!   As Scripture declares, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3)  While the man had no control over the bounty of his crops, he most certainly had no control over the departure of his soul.  When His soul was demanded from him, his food storage was useless. 
            The rich man made his greatest mistake when he thought that his soul could be content with earthly treasures.  Jesus said that his sad predicament is the fact that he stored up treasures for himself, but he was not really rich, because he was not rich toward God.  Jesus says later in this same chapter, “Provide yourselves with…a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”  (Luke 12:33) 
            But how can you store up treasures in heaven, when you cannot even store up treasures on this earth?  You can’t.  Just as the possessions you enjoy on this earth are given to you by God’s goodness and favor, your treasure in heaven is also stored for you. 
            Your treasure in Heaven is Christ’s inheritance.  Only heirs inherit inheritances.  That was the problem with the man in the beginning of the text.  He was not the heir, his older brother was.  Unless you are a child of God, you cannot have His inheritance in Heaven.  In fact, because of our sinful nature, which shows itself in our discontent and covetousness, we cannot even enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, because you have to be perfect to enter into the Kingdom.  But the God, who provides all our earthly goods to us, wants us to have this inheritance and come into His kingdom.  So He sent His Son Jesus, the undisputed heir to the inheritance, to take our place.  Our covetousness along with every other sin we commit, are not trivial mistakes with little or no repercussions. The cost of our transgressions is eternal death and the punishment of hell. 
            This dreadful situation places us tremendously far from any heavenly inheritance. Abraham in Heaven spoke to the rich man suffering in Hell, “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” (Luke 16:26)  The sentencing to Hell attached to our sins sets us far away from the heavenly treasures. 
            But even this sentencing did not prevent Jesus from being the perfect replacement for us.  He became man.  He lived in perfect obedience.  God was pleased with Him.  Then Jesus was sentenced to death.  He went to the cross.  He cried out to His heavenly Father and got no answer.  As Jesus hung dying on that curséd tree a great chasm was set up between Him and His Heavenly Father.  Jesus truly took our place.  He suffered Hell on the cross.  He died.  The Father, however, did not forget His Son forever.  He raised Him from the dead and conquered death.  A chasm no longer exists between our heavenly inheritance and us.  That is what our Heavenly Father did to store up our treasures in Heaven.  Indeed this treasure cannot be taken away from us. 
            The man from the crowd asked for a share in the wrong inheritance.  Jesus was not interested in that earthly inheritance and it would have only sustained the man a little while anyway.  What Jesus wanted to share with him, was that inheritance He would earn for him on the cross. 
            We should not be like the rich man, who thought that his soul was content with an abundant harvest.  Nor should we be like the man from the crowd, who grasped at a temporary inheritance.  As we look toward our heavenly inheritance, death cannot take this treasure away from us. 
            You are rich toward God when you give Him your sorrowful spirit and broken heart and you believe that you have an inheritance in Heaven on account of Christ.  God gladly exchanges your broken heart and sin-tarnished spirit with a heart made alive in Christ and a spirit purified by His Holy Spirit.  During this harvest festival, remember that you have treasures secure in Heaven, not because of what you did, but because of what Christ did for you.  And in addition to that God blessed you with the earthly treasures abounding in this harvest.  Just don’t be content with them.  They will pass away and by the way, so will you.  Be content with the treasure Christ has earned for you in Heaven.  This treasure will be yours for eternity.