A Worm and No Book?

Senior Pastor Marcus MackaySome 500 years ago, Martin Luther pointedly identified how the world viewed Holy Scripture, just as it is with Christ in the world, as He is viewed and dealt with, so it is also with the written Word of God.  It is a worm and no book, compared to other books(Luther on Ps. 22, WA 48, 31).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the world has not changed its view of Holy Scripture!  And how many other “books” have surfaced and become popularized since then!  The Koran, Book of Mormon, Evolutionary Science Textbooks, Legislation legalizing the murder of unborn babies in the womb, Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, Transgender & Homosexuality issues . . . need I go on?

And how easy it is for the Christian to ignore and turn a blind eye to what is around us!  The devil is crafty and sneaky, always attempting to slowly chip away at the foundation of our very faith and being.  And when we allow ourselves to be swayed and convinced by the world, the devil and our own sinful nature, the Bible becomes to us “a worm and no book.”  May it not be so among us.

Christ Himself was mocked and ridiculed (Matt. 27:28ff; John 6:42).  Bearing the punishment for the world’s ignorance and disrespect of God’s Word, our Lord willingly offered Himself up, shedding His blood to cover your sin and mine.  In His resurrection, we have the assurance that His sacrifice has been accepted . . . for us! Christ is Risen!  Alleluia!  Amen!

Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, we seek to be “genuine” while recognizing that the world yet regards us as impostors” (2 Cor. 6:8).  We pay heed to our Lord who said, whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels(Mark 8:38).

The teaching and preaching of Holy Scripture will continue to be the central labor of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Together we hear and learn the precious truth: in Sunday School and Bible Classes, in our Preschool, in the Divine Services.  Together we receive forgiveness for our timidity and sins against His Holy and precious Word.  So let us teach such truths to our children and our children’s children!  Let us labor diligently in the fields set before us here in Zionsville and beyond.  Let us gather together around the Lamb, singing His praise and strengthening ourselves for the battle that yet rages around us.  It is a joy to serve here among fellow saints who confess such truth and also wrestle with “what does this mean?”  May the Lord bless us and keep us firm in the one true faith.

A worm and no book? 
I think not, forblessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matt. 11:6).

Pr. Mackay


Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Senior Pastor Marcus MackayHe said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:6-7
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Alleluia! Amen.

The women were alarmed and afraid. Who could blame them? They had witnessed the disturbing events of our Lord’s Passion: betrayal, whipping, scourging, physical exhaustion, dehydration and excruciating capital punishment in the form of Roman crucifixion. Their family member, friend, Master and Lord had experienced all of this and was now stone-cold-buried-in-the-ground dead. But . . .

You have likewise witnessed trauma of varying degrees in your life. Perhaps you are experiencing it now. It leaves an ache, a void, a pain that no words could ever express. And perhaps like the women at the tomb, you hear the precious Good News that Christ is yet alive! But like the women, you are still seized by trembling and astonishment who even after hearing such remarkable hope and joy-filled words . . . said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
I often find that the hardest truth for Christians to accept is that death (physical) and life (spiritual) go together. Pain and pleasure. Sorrow and joy. Sinner and saint. Law and Gospel. Confession and Absolution. Water and the Word. Bread and Body. Wine and Blood.

My mother likes to sing. She would wake us up in the morning with silly songs that she made up on her own. She would sing old radio and TV commercials from her childhood. She would sing hymns and spiritual songs. It was often annoying! But regardless of the current events in a busy and tumultuous household, she found some way to strike a balance. Her faith in Christ was and is her one true joy. And so I now annoy my own children from time to time!

We sinners need balance. We need some way and means of truly dealing and wrapping our head around the events of our life.

Christ is your balance. Silly songs and other such things have their place in our day to day lives, but they are but a result of what and who our faith grasps and hold dear. Ultimately, in the grand scale of death and life, our Savior is the only way to strike a balance and forge a path forward.

Consider Pastor Apostle Paul, who in the introduction of his first letter to the Corinthians says this: we preach Christ crucified. That’s all about death, pain, sorrow and sin!  But yet later in the same letter he says: if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. These are seemingly two completely different things! Death and resurrection. But in Christ, they are one. For you.

“Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The women at the tomb did not yet grasp this or even possess such a balance. But Jesus keeps His word. He appears to them in Galilee, showing forth His resurrected body and even eating food with them to prove His yet intact divine and human nature. Marvelous!

If this Easter season finds you and your household in a good place, thanks be to God. If this Easter season finds you yet struggling with trembling and astonishment, thanks be to God. For your Lord yet comes to you! This is the heart of our Divine Services, every Sunday morning, where we gather on the weekly day of His resurrection. It is here that He meets us poor sinners. It is here that He brings joy and encouragement. “I forgive you” He speaks to you. “Peace be with you” He says through the mouth of your pastors. Through His Holy Gospel He comes and even stands among you and speaks to you in our Gospel Processional. “Take and eat, take and drink” He says of the bread and wine now also His body and blood . . . for the forgiveness of your sins.

He also continues to go ahead of us, preparing a place in heaven and the resurrection of our very bodies yet to come. So bring your alarm, your fear, your worries and your very sin and gather with others who confess such a simple truth, even in the midst of such a culture that calls such a faith “folly” and nonsense. He who was dead is now alive! And so shall it be for us. For He comes to be with us in Word & Sacrament. There you will see Him, just as He told you. Even still today. For you.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Pr. Mackay

P.S. Ponder once more the depth of this simple words sung by our women here at Advent as we began our Easter celebration at the early service in the dark. Marvelous.
Christ is Arisen  Christ ist Erstanden (c. 1100)

Christ is arisen from the grave’s dark prison.
So let our joy rise full and free;
Christ our comfort true will be.

Were Christ not arisen, then death were still our prison.
Now, with Him to life restored,
We praise the Father of our Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Now let our joy rise full and free;
Christ our comfort true will be.

He was reviled.

Senior Pastor Marcus Mackay23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.   1 Peter 2:23

Behold the man!  I pray that our Lenten devotions have been a blessing to you and your family as we have begun our 40 day journey (not counting Sundays, where we breakfast (break the fast) and receive what we poor sinners truly do not deserve in our Lord’s Body and Blood: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. 

“Lent” literally means “spring”, derived from an Old English word.  This is somewhat fitting, as this penitential season generally takes place in the Spring of the new year (but how well we know that it seems more like the latter part of winter) 🙂   This is especially true with an early date of Easter, which is always celebrated in the Spring.   Regardless, Spring presents us with new life, growth and a changing of habits. 

And think of the habits that need changing!  Lent is thus a penitential season, a time of repentance, a turning away from sin which clings so closely . . . a changing of habits!

There needs to be a changing of habits in the Mackay household, how about yours?  My wife and I have noticed an increase of “reviling” amongst our boys.  Revile means to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner (dictionary.com).  We have noticed that they often speak in such a way to each other and we have taken steps to change these bad habits!  Sure, boys will be boys and a competitive nature and even good natured ribbing and such is part of growing and finding one’s way in the world.  But how quickly it can turn to reviling! 

Think of what we hear and read on social media, the news networks, TV and streaming programs!  Reviling of our elected authorities, celebrities, parents and friends.  I would humbly submit to you that this is a very specific area in which the devil, the world and our sinful nature is currently attacking. 

Paul warns the Thessalonian Christians about this: 

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Encourage one another.  Build one another up.  

This should also remind you of the Eighth Commandment and Luther’s apropos explanation:   

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

We sin daily and sin much when we revile others.  We tell ourselves that because it is true, it is perfectly right to tell others our thoughts and opinions!  This is sin.  God calls us to protect our neighbor’s reputation!  To speak well of them! To defend them in every possible way! 

As Christians, we are called to be in the world but not of the world.  We are called out of darkness and into the glorious light of Christ.   Yes, let us debate and speak the truth, but let us be mindful of God’s command to respect our fellow man and his or her reputation.  Let us learn how to be winsome and even silent.  I can still hear my grandmother admonishing me:  “if you don’t have anything nice to say . . . zip it.” 

So let us repent.  Let us change our habits and become mindful of what we say and how we say it.  Let us look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

He did not revile.  He did not threaten.  He entrusted His entire body and soul . . . His reputation . . . into His Father’s hands.  In doing so, He mercifully earned forgiveness for us poor gossiping and reviling sinners.  Christ your Savior was reviled . . . for you.  Behold the Man!

Repenting and changing habits with you, 

Jesu Juva (Jesus help), 

Pastor Mackay


Behold the Man!

Senior Pastor Marcus MackayAsh Wednesday, March 6th, is the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is a time of prayer, repentance, and renewal. 
This day has been called “Ash Wednesday” since the beginning of its observance in the seventh century.  The name comes from the practice of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of sorrow and repentance.  Throughout Scripture, ashes are a sign of God’s wrath and condemnation and were thusly seen as a sign of penitence, sorrow, and mourning.  The sign of the cross is made with the ashes, along with the words, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).  Those words are part of the curse given to Adam and Eve following their fall into sin.  The words keep us mindful of God’s judgment upon sin, our subsequent mortality and need for a Savior.  The cross, however, serves to remind us that Christ has conquered sin, death and the devil for us.  Though we will all someday die, yet we shall live! As part of our Ash Wednesday Divine Service at 7:00pm, we will be including the imposition of ashes for those who desire.   If you would like to receive the sign of the cross from the ashes, please come forward before our service begins, down the center aisle.  Before our service begins, please spend the time in quiet meditation and prayer.  Please meditate on the Small Catechism (LSB p.321), Psalm 32, 51, or 90 (in the front).  Christian Questions & Answers is also excellent  (LSB p.329ff).
  • The ashes come from the Palms that were used for last year’s Palm Sunday service!
  • Olive oil was commonly used in Jesus’ time to moisturize & protect the skin, in addition for the sacred use of “anointing”. Don’t worry, it will all come off with a little soap and water!
  • Our focus this Lenten Season is “Behold the Man!” A devotional booklet is provided for each member household and located in your member mailbox.  If you are a guest or visitor, we have one available for you free of charge!   We will gather each Wednesday and “Behold the Man!” in a chronological reading and meditation of the Passion account.  JOIN US FOR LENT AND EASTER SERVICES!
  • Some people “give something up” for the Lenten season (which consists of 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter). You may do this if you wish, in order to help focus on the many gifts that God gives us.  Fasting was common in OT & NT times and many still do so today (Jesus fasted in the desert).  Ask one of the Pastors if you have questions or concerns!

Our theme and devotional booklet have been written by Rev. Jeff Hemmer and published by Concordia Publishing House.  I leave you with these wise and winsome words from Pastor Hemmer: 

“Behold the man!” proclaimed the unwitting preacher Pontius Pilate in one of the shortest yet most profound sermons ever recorded. This will be our endeavor this Lententide and Easter Sunday. Behold the man, God in human flesh, Jesus. His incarnation will provide the basis for our meditation and proclamation on His Passion. And His real bodily suffering and death will provide the basis for our full-throated proclamation on Easter morning of a bodily resurrection, not just of Jesus but also for His saints. Real bodies that have suffered, wept, bled, prayed, eaten, hoped, and more will be those raised incorruptible from their graves on the day of Jesus’ return. We will fix our eyes and our preaching on the man Jesus, contemplating the inescapable fact—indeed the most important fact in the course of human history—that God became man. The Second Person of the eternal triune God, whom we confess in the Nicene Creed as “God of God, Light of light, very God of very God . . . of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made,” became a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood human being, a man. In some ways, you can understand that the first heresy the Christian Church had to contend with was that of Gnosticism, the hyperspiritual religion that held that because no man could be God, the Christ could not be God. Gnosticism is alluring because it tidies everything up, gives Christianity a more attractive spiritual veneer, and pulls its adherents out of the mire of this world and gives them something otherworldly to strive for. Considered correctly, it becomes pretty hard to spiritualize Christianity—a religion that bases its existence on the enfleshment, the incarnation, of God—into the mess of disembodied, matter-rejecting, hyperspiritual Gnosticism. When God has flesh and blood, skin and teeth, cells and nuclei, DNA and RNA, it’s difficult to contend for the disembodied spiritual against the material. If God has a body, bodies must matter. In case you aren’t convinced of the pervasiveness of the second-century heresy of Gnosticism, even in our twenty-first-century context, attend a funeral. If you hear talk only of heaven with nary a word of a bodily resurrection, you’ve witnessed firsthand modern-day Gnosticism. If the preacher doesn’t deal with the body in the casket as the real person whose death has assembled the mass of grieving relatives and friends, if he talks only about the bodyless soul in heaven, he hasn’t preached a genuinely Christian funeral. In other words, if he gives preference to the spiritual over the material, he succumbs to the Gnostic heresy the earliest generations of the Church sought to guard against by preaching the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus. This Lent, we will consider what it means that God became man. In preparation for the celebration of a real, bodily, flesh-and-blood, bone-and-sinew resurrection, the resurrection without which our faith and our preaching are all in vain, consider the body of Jesus that exists in order to be nailed to a cross. The spiritual, bodyless Son of God became the embodied, enfleshed, incarnate Son of Mary. In Jesus, God has human flesh, a body, just like you. What could be more profound? Behold the Man!
Pastor Mackay  

Overheard at a local hardware store

Senior Pastor Marcus Mackay
Overheard at a local hardware store, in a galaxy far, far away . . . (actually it was in Zionsville, IN)
Guy 1: “Hey, you look familiar! Have I seen your face somewhere before?”
Guy 2: “Ummm. Probably not. I just moved to the area.”
Guy 1: “No man, I really think I have seen your picture somewhere…maybe the newspaper?”
Guy 2: “I doubt it. The picture that was in the paper of me is actually a few years old and my wife says I have aged considerably since then, besides growing my beard during the winter.”
Guy 1: “I knew it! Why was your picture in the paper?”
Sidenote: At this point I could have had a lot of fun with this guy, but a Pastor is supposed to be honest, right?
Me: “I am the new pastor at Advent Lutheran Church here in Zionsville.”
Guy 1: “Cool! I knew I recognized your face. What kind of Lutherans are you?”
Sidenote: In hindsight, I probably should have just said something like: the kind that use the liturgy, believe in original sin, that the Bible is actually the Word of God, that Baptism saves you, that the Body & Blood of Jesus is really present in the bread and the wine, that we are justified by grace through faith . . . but we were in the hardware store, so I just said:
Me: “We are Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.”
Guy 1: “Yeah! I’ve heard about you guys . . . the MISERY SIE-NOD!”
Let’s stop there, ok?
It is true that somewhere along the path of life this gentleman that I met in the hardware store had heard or been exposed to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Misery! It has been a long-standing joke, not just among Lutherans, but also among Kansans, Iowans, Illinoisans (is that a word?), etc. It is actually fairy accurate!
In April of 1518, Martin Luther is called before the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg to defend and further explain his views on indulgences, which he had just attacked six months earlier in the 95 Theses. Ironically, the word “indulgence” does not occur once in the records of this debate (called a “disputation” and something we need more of in the church). Many theologians believe it was even more important than the 95 Theses. The Heidelberg Disputation contains 28 Theses followed by 28 Proofs (explanation of the Theses).
Here are the first three Theses:
1) The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
2) Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
3) Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
May I summarize?
1) The Ten Commandments won’t help you obtain righteousness.
2) You can’t keep the Ten Commandments.
3) Whatever you do won’t really get you anywhere and is probably sin.
Misery. Sin. Death. Helplessness.
Yes! As Missouri-Synod Lutherans, we talk about sin, death and helplessness. It is our nature and the state of this life as we await Christ’s return. We acknowledge, even embrace it. Living is difficult. Raising children is challenging. Suffering hurts. And dying might be the hardest thing we ever do.
So what is one to do?
Embrace the misery. Recognize the problem. And then?
I will let Luther answer this one:
17) Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of  Christ.
18) It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
19) That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
20) He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21) A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
Misery, yes. But through the suffering and the cross of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there is grace and mercy. Covered with His righteousness in your Baptism. His life-giving Body and Blood coursing through your veins and weary bones. His Word of Absolution, which is absolute comfort, spoken to you.
Let us be theologians of the cross, shall we? Certainly as we speak with our neighbor in the hardware store, but especially as we receive His gifts in the Divine Service.
Jesu Juva (Jesus, help me),
Pastor Mackay
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:4-5
You can read a free translation of the Heidelberg Disputation here: http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php