Husband. Father. Lutheran pastor. Sinfonian.

Jesus makes it quite clear that the Pharisees are children of hell. Those are His exact words in Matthew chapter twenty-three when He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). And do you think we should follow the example of the children of hell? Of course not.

And yet, Jesus also says that the Pharisees should be obeyed in certain things. Also from chapter twenty-three, Jesus says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3). (more…)

I love music, but sometimes what it says is utterly despicable. The Jeff Buckley song “Hallelujah” is a beautifully composed song that has Scriptural words in it. But this is what it says last: “Maybe there’s a God above / But all I’ve ever learned from love / Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya / And it’s not a cry that you hear at night / It’s not somebody who’s seen the light / It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” It’s a song about sex that posits only the possibility of God and describes love as a one night stand instead of the sacrifice of the innocent Son of God in the place of sinful humanity. (more…)

“One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully” (Lk. 14:1). They wanted to trap Him.

But for the Pharisees, this is the status quo. In chapter six verse seven, “The Scribes and Pharisees watched [Jesus], to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him.” And in chapter twenty verse twenty, “[The scribes and chief priests] watched [Jesus] and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.”

Today, the Pharisees are watching Jesus carefully, but there’s no mention of why. Of course they’re trying to trap Jesus, but the net the Pharisees set for Jesus ensnares the Pharisees themselves.

Here’s what I mean.

I think the man with dropsy was invited. (more…)

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

We’re familiar with this definition of the word confess. The Divine Service begins with Confession and Absolution. We confess our unworthiness before God routinely, training the self to despise sin, live humbly, and rely on God for mercy.

Only sin is forgiven. Only sinners will go to heaven. “Jesus, Sinners, Doth Receive.” We must confess our sins to God. It’s not possible to believe in God and not to confess sin. This definition of confession is essential. But so is the other churchly definition.

(more…)

How many times have you heard this parable?

That doesn’t actually matter, just something to think about. I’m sure you’ve heard it several times. I’m sure it’s been referenced in your hearing several more times, and I’m sure you’ve spent not a couple minutes thinking about it.

But what matters, truly, is not how many times you’ve heard the parable, not whether you remember the details with perfect accuracy. What matters is that God still wants His Word to be preached to all the nations. (more…)

If you’re driving seventy miles per hour in a school zone on a school day in September while children are present and you pass an angry-looking police car, you shouldn’t calm yourself with Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel lesson:

“Do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25). (more…)

I was not always as patient as I am.

(For anyone who’s reading this, that’s sarcasm.)

And you may know that I like to watch movies.

And you may also know that I—occasionally—speak with a straightforward and terse harshness that can come across as meanness.

Believe it or not, this is actually an improvement from years ago. (more…)

Like John McCain, had the nine lepers died after Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way,” they probably would’ve included it in their funeral service, too.

For Christians, “I did it my way” shouldn’t be the last words said at your funeral, they should be the last words you’d ever say—meaning, you should never say them. (more…)

Does Jesus ever lie? Of course not.

But when Jesus says, “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28), does He mean it? If the lawyer “does this,” if he loves God and neighbor, he’ll inherit eternal life—is that what Jesus means?

Actually, yes. What Jesus says is true, of course. Keep the Law in its totality, and you will live eternally.

But St. Paul writes, and this is also true, “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Galatians 3:21).

The clear implication there is that there’s no law given that could give us life.

It’s impossible for us to keep the Law unto eternal life, and we’re commanded to do so. (more…)