Author Archives: revmaggard

The Ninth Sunday after Holy Trinity

The Ninth Sunday after Holy Trinity – Luke 16:1-13

2022 Trinity 9 – Rev. Maggard

Jesus says something very hard to understand today:

“The master commended the [wicked] manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous [mammon], so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (vv. 8-9)

If you followed along in your bulletin, you’ll see that the ESV calls the manager “dishonest” The same word in the Greek is used to describe the manager and the “money.” It is usually translated as “unrighteous,” or “injustice,” or my personal favorite, “wicked.”  Any of these is better, in my opinion, than dishonest. Dishonesty is certainly wicked, but the manager is not just being dishonest. The ESV also uses “money” instead of the old-time word “mammon.” Mammon includes money, but it also includes possessions. The manager is wasting not just the mater’s money but also his possessions. We’re not used to using mammon nowadays, but I think it’s better to use it and look it up if you must.

The wicked manager has been accused of wasting his master’s possessions. It’s the same way the prodigal son wasted his inheritance. The wicked manager is told to put the books in order by the master. The wicked manager understands that he cannot do physical labor which was the most common way to make money in his day. Can you imagine digging ditches or working in a factory today? The master makes money by leasing out his land to tenants. They owe the master part of their produce as payment. The wicked manager shrewdly lessens what two of the tenants owe their master. The amount the wicked manager lessons the bills, fifty measures of oil for one and twenty measures of wheat for another, are most likely equivalent in value. The wicked manager does this so that he will find a cushy manager job waiting for him when he is let go. The master does let him go and unexpectedly commends the wicked manager for his shrewdness. Then Jesus says we are worse than the wicked in how we handle mammon. Then comes the real head scratcher from Jesus:

“Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous [mammon], so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (v. 9)

I’m not going to say that I completely understand what Jesus is saying here, and I’m in good company as other pastors have admitted the same, but here’s what I do know: wicked mammon is meant to serve the church.

Mammon and anger have a lot in common. There is such a thing as righteous anger. I think we can say there is such a thing as righteous mammon. After all, Jesus says through St. Paul,

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Here Paul directly says “love of money” instead of love of “mammon.” But I believe we can safely extend the love of money to include “mammon.” And money or mammon is not, in and of itself evil, but the love of money or mammon is evil. Compare this to anger. There is such a thing as righteous anger. If you see injustice or injustice is done to you, you should be angry. Yet Jesus says through St. James,

“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Your old man, what Paul calls the flesh, is entirely wicked. There is nothing good in our old man. This is why Jesus had to be crucified for you. Your old man cannot be redeemed. He must be reborn into a new man. A man who lives and moves and has their being in Christ. This is why baptism that Jesus describes in John 3 to Nicodemus is so important. Consider one of our Small Catechism references to baptism,

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

Paul isn’t just talking about eternal life. You walk in “newness of life” now. You are a new creation. You have been reborn. And your old wicked man will do anything he can to drag you back into wickedness. And he will used the idolatry of mammon or sexual immorality or grumbling like Paul talks about in our Epistle reading to do it! (1 Corinthians 10:6-13) This is why we drown the old man with contrition and repentance daily! If you’re not meditating on the Word of God daily, your not allowing the Holy Spirit to work contrition and repentance in you daily! If morning meditation and mindfulness are so important for personal success, how much more important is the Christian meditating on the word of God first thing in the morning? Let the hearer understand!

So how does mammon serve the church?

First and foremost, for a church to survive, it must have the Word of God rightly divided and the sacraments rightly administered.

It’s amazing how cheaply you can get the Word of God. Even if you get the Bible in the original languages. And it’s amazing how relatively cheaply you can get a really nice, top quality, Bible. I don’t care how many Bibles any of us have, I just want all of us to have one good, really well-read Bible. I know you can get the Bible on your smart-phone or internet browser, but you really need a physical copy. It’s also a really great idea to read your Bible out loud. Audio copies of the Bible are great… I have a few myself, but there’s something about hearing the Bible in your own voice that’s really powerful. And if you tape a small catechism in your Bible somewhere, all the better! The easiest way to memorize the Small Catechism is by mindful repetition. It’s wonderful that we have Bibles available in the pew and parish hall for Bible study, but you really need that “one” Bible that is your own! So there’s really not a lot of cost involved with supplying the church, that is, all of us, with the Word of God.

I have outreach copies of the Gospel of John in the narthex. These are meant to be used for outreach. There’s probably not a better book in the Bible to start with an unbeliever. I also have outreach copies of the Small Catechism. I love that they titled it “A Simple Explanation of Christianity.” The Small Catechism is most definitely the best summary of the entire Bible out there. But both these resources for outreach are cheap so there’s not a huge burden on the church.

The church also needs the appropriate things for the sacraments, and they are not cheap. We want to have a nice baptismal font and chalice and paten and ciborium and paraments and such things to reverently reflect the magnitude of what’s happening at the font and pulpit and alter. And we understand that simple can be just as reverent as the most expensive things you can buy. One of my favorite pictures of the Lord’s Supper is a Lutheran pastor celebrating the Lord’s Supper using a jeep’s hood as the alter. But we should try to be as reverent as our resources allow. After an initial cost, there maintenance and replacement costs, which aren’t trivial. On top of that, you have recurring costs for bread and wine which really aren’t that bad.

Second, we also need to meet somewhere and keep the lights on. These definitely aren’t trivial costs. But, at the end of the day, we could sell this building and meet in someone’s house. The early church used dining rooms that were converted into a small sanctuary on Sunday mornings. My sunroom would make a nice gathering place. I’m sure some of you have big enough rooms that could be converted to a nice sanctuary for worship. God willing, we won’t have to consider this, but I believe the time is coming when Christians in America might!

Third, you also need to pay your pastor. And you do a wonderful job of this. The worker priest, like St. Paul was, is the exception and shouldn’t be the norm. The Word of God is the sole source of my teaching and authority. If I expect you to know it, how much better should I know it? As you can probably tell, I’ve been convicted a lot lately about needing to know the Word of God better. And it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Being a pastor full time allows me to delve deeply into God’s Word and I know that will bear fruit!

The reason we care about this is that the church is meant to be the voice of God to the neighborhood it’s placed in. Grace Lutheran Church exists to be the voice of God in Rialto and the surrounding areas. It takes creativity, discretion, time, talent, and money to be involved in the community. You might call it shrewdness! And we cannot do everything and be everywhere at once. We’re like a family. When a family starts out, they cannot afford to have a fully equipped house and garage with all the latest luxuries and gadgets. So, they start where they’re at. They get a little at a time over time and before you know it, they have resources. A church is similar in that it does what it can with the resources of people and money it has and does what it can. Over time, God willing, it will be able to do more and more in the community. One of the chief ways this happens is by actually living in Christ in the community where He has put you. As all of you live out your daily lives in Christ, you serve as salt and light to the world, provided you salt doesn’t lose it’s flavor and your light isn’t placed under a basket. (Matthew 5) But God will use you as His ambassadors to bring others into the church. The church is like a sheep pen or ship. (John 10, Matthew 4:18-22) It’s always looking for the lost sheep and overboard sailors to bring back into the safety of the sheep pen or ship, respectively. (Luke 15)

And this business of the church and individual Christians needs to be done shrewdly. I met a Christian lady at the coffee store Friday when I was working on this sermon. I dressed casually, but I had my Bibles out on my table. She was so excited to see another Christian, she eventually struck up a conversation with me. She is a teacher who works with kids one on one in independent study. Working in the public education system, she has to be really careful in how she witnesses to Christ. This got me thinking. It’s really easy for pastors to tell his people to be bold in proclaiming Christ when he doesn’t work in the “real” world! Our brothers and sisters in Christ who work in the “real” world are in danger of losing their livelihood if they are too bold. This is where shrewdness comes in. You pick your moments as you are able. Don’t worry! God will give you plenty of opportunities. And if you are retired, God will also give you plenty of opportunities to confess your faith, especially with your family. And when you deal with your family members who aren’t believers, you need shrewdness. If you talk about Christ every single time you have a discussion of them, they will perceive you as a shrill harpy and quit listening. But if you work on your relationship with them, God will give you opportunities to share the Gospel. And at the end of the day that’s what the church and individual Christians are about… sharing the Word of Christ.

The beautiful thing is that Jesus shares Himself in His Word and Sacraments. People look for Jesus in their hearts and imaginations and false prophets, but He is present in His Word and Sacraments. He promises to abide with you if you abide in His Word. He places His name on you in baptism. He delivers His Word to you in the preaching. He delivers His physical presence to you in bread and wine. Jesus gives you His Holy Spirit who empowers you to love Jesus back. We rightly celebrate and take pleasure in the presence of our Lord, but we also want the same for all the people that God puts in our life. And Jesus uses the same means to reach other people as He used to reach you… His Word and Sacraments. That’s why we devote our resources and energy and time to the Word of God and His church. And Jesus promises us that His Word, both audible and visible, will not return to Him void. (Isaiah 55:11) The church is always described as a remnant in the Bible. And it looks small from time to time in history, but God is gathering a multitude for Himself from all nations and peoples.

This includes you!

God be praised for the power of His Word. Amen.

The Eighth Sunday after Holy Trinity – Matthew 7:15-23

The Eighth Sunday after Holy Trinity – Matthew 7:15-23

The Eighth Sunday after Holy Trinity – August 7, 2022 (Pastor Maggard)

We are far too comfortable with our Christian brothers and sisters having doctrinal error in their life. In effect, we try to boil down what we believe to some lowest common denominator that we can be comfortable with. But Christianity, that is, Christ, cannot be reduced to the lowest common denominator. That’s dangerous. And Christianity is never comfortable. Can you imagine Jesus saying this to you, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” (v. 23)

Jesus is talking to disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s not talking to or about unbelievers. He’s warning His listeners, and you, that there are false teachers who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. This means that there is false teaching out there and that you can be lured into believing false things. And these false beliefs can endanger your life eternally. Jesus will say to many, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!”

Right before our Gospel reading, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

There is no least common denominator. In other words, doctrine matters. False doctrine is a sin and can lead to eternal damnation. True doctrine reveals Christ and will lead to eternal life! How much false doctrine will lead to damnation? That’s hard to say this side of glory. Let’s consider an example.

God says through His apostle Peter, “Baptism…now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21) “Baptism” is the noun. “Now” is an adverb describing how you are saved. Peter points back to how Noah was saved from God’s condemnation through the ark, and “NOW” you are saved from God’s condemnation through Baptism. “You” is the direct object. The object, especially the direct object, is the one being acted upon. If you seriously study the other baptismal texts in the Bible, you’ll see that God is the actor. You can start with the Bible readings the Small Catechism points out: Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Titus 3:5-8, Romans 6:4. Then you can move on to texts like John 3, 1 Peter 3, Acts 2, Ephesians 1, and even many more. I’d say this is enough to get you started!

What about those who insist on a decision and point to baptism as a believer’s act of obedience. What they are doing is saying that they need to do a work for God to have salvation. You must make a decision. You must not baptize infants because they cannot make a decision. They think they merit grace by their work of making a decision. It’s as if they say, “Yeah, yeah, God! I know you did all this wonderful stuff to save me but I have to do my part.” They don’t see that they’re turning God’s grace into a work. This is what the Augsburg Confessions says about this:

“Therefore, whoever believes that he merits grace by works despises the merit and grace of Christ. In so doing, he is seeking a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ Himself said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’” (AC XX.10)

Decision theology is seeking a way to God apart from Christ. Many who hold to decision theology will hear on judgment day, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!”

Now certainly we should warn our Christian brother or sister if they are caught in the deception of decision theology because it endangers their eternal salvation, but I’m more worried about you when you consume so-called Christian content that is full of false teaching. Christian radio is mostly full of decision theology. Yet, I know many of you listen to it. If you don’t think praise music gets deep down inside of you, you’re fooling yourselves. Even if praise music doesn’t contain decision theology, which is rare, it’s still meant to excite you and teaches you to depend on your emotions instead of Christ. Mark Lowry is a great example of this. He co-wrote “Mary, Did You Know?” He and his band were in a horrible bus accident. He struggled with feeling saved because he had always depended on his emotions. Sadly, in his words, he willed himself back into a feeling of being saved instead of seeing something wrong with his dependence on his emotions. How do you know you’re saved? It better not be because you felt something or did something. That’s dangerous. Yet that’s what most praise music teaches you.

Christian bookstores are full of, not only decision theology, but a plethora of bad doctrine. Yet many of you buy books found in them. Some of you may be fans of Priscilla Shirer, and her doctrine will send you straight to hell. Besides the fact that she is violating Scripture by trying to be a teacher of it, her theology is a decision theology with charismatic tendencies. She thinks that God speaks to her outside of Scripture. The name of her so-called ministry is “Going Beyond Ministries.” She certainly goes beyond Jesus which is dangerous and will lead to eternal damnation. I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you have any Joyce Meyer’s stuff, throw it out. She is also a false teacher. Along with Beth Moore and Anne Graham Lotz.

And not just because they are women. Although, God is quite clear through His apostle Paul, “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12) It should be obvious that God doesn’t permit a woman to preach or teach in the church. This also includes women reading the lessons in church, which, sadly, is a practice in many of our churches. Paul doesn’t use the “preaching” word in this verse. He uses the “teaching” word, which includes preaching. The reading of Scripture is a teaching function of the pastor and the Divine Service. We’ll get to the “exercise authority over a man” part of this verse at a later time.

And I’m not just down on women. You need to throw out your Billy Graham stuff as well. He teaches decision theology. In Jesus’ words, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And he is a danger to your soul.

But God demands of all you that you be discerning. As an under-shepherd of Christ here in Rialto, it is my job to “keep a close watch on [myself] and on the teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:16) And “to preach the word; [to] be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) God forbid I should teach you any false doctrine. That is dangerous for you and for me.

But it is also your job to keep an eye on doctrine. Not only will the teachers of bad doctrine hear from Jesus, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” but also the hearers and believers of that bad doctrine. You cannot use the excuse that you were deceived any more than Eve could in the Garden of Eden.

This means you must know the Bible, and at minimum, the Small Catechism. The Small Catechism is the perfect summary of what the Bible says. Which means, like the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, it’s a great measuring stick to tell whether the doctrine you’re hearing is good or bad. The Small Catechism is so good because it’s drawn directly from Scripture. Yet how many of us recite or meditate on the Small Catechism daily? Even worse, how many of us read and meditate on God’s Word daily? If you don’t know the Small Catechism or the Bible, how are you to know whether you’re hearing good or bad doctrine?

And yes, God expects you to be active listeners during the sermon. First and foremost, you must discern whether what I am saying agrees with the Bible and Small Catechism. If there’s something I say that you don’t understand or you think goes against Scripture or our confessions, you need to come tell me. Please! I love it when you ask me questions. About anything, but especially about my sermon. First, it means that you’re listening to it! Second, it means you care about God pleasing doctrine. Third, it means you care about me and about the other hearers.

So, yes, God expects you to work during the sermon. But second, you must apply discernment to everything in your life. Especially if it’s theological in nature. And really, what isn’t? But this is hard work. Even if you’re used to it. It’s similar to eating well. Something I struggle with myself. I find I do better if I think to myself before I eat, “Will this food I’m about to eat actually fuel my body, or will it induce my body to have even more fat?” Not a bad question with theological stuff. “Will this book/song/etc. I’m about to consume actually fuel my faith, or will it induce my soul to have even more baggage?”  When I fall off the eating good things for me wagon, I don’t give up but restart with the next meal. When you fall off the reading your Bible every day wagon, you don’t need to give up, but restart it the next morning!

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t promote “Portals of Prayer” and do promote “The Treasury of Daily Prayer,” also known as the daily lectionary. It’s not that the “Portals of Prayer” is necessarily bad, but it’s not the best you can do. If you look at the portals of prayer, or any devotion book for that matter, you’ll notice that the Scripture references are few and the words of men, and even women, God help us, are many. It’s the reverse with the Treasury. The many words are devoted to Scripture. I want the bulk of your prayer life to be focused on the Word of God. This is not only because Jesus reveals Himself in His Scriptures, but He also delivers Himself to you in His Scriptures. On top of that, the Scriptures teach you what is true and what is false. It is true that God delivers salvation through the means of Baptism and false that men make decisions for their salvation. The Scriptures teach you what is beautiful and what is ugly. It’s beautiful when someone has a childlike, simple, you might even say Small Catechism, kind of faith, rather than an ugly faith in the philosophies of men. So, the more Scripture you have in you, the better you’ll be at discerning.

But let me clarify. We are to judge what someone says and someone does, but not the person themselves. As Jesus says, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” (v. 16) Jesus primarily is talking about the fruit of teaching in our Gospel passage today. Actions, of course, are attached to teaching, but Jesus is primarily concerned with discernment today. I think it’s obvious you wouldn’t take marriage advice from someone that’s been married five times. But, at the same time, if someone has only been married once, you still use discernment on what they say.

But we don’t judge the person himself. Christ is their judge as He is your judge. This doesn’t mean you cannot tell someone they’re wrong. If you care about them, you certainly will tell someone when they’re wrong. If you have a good relationship where they know you care about them, they might even be inclined to listen to you!

But, if you’re like me, you worry about being wise enough. If my preparation for the holy ministry has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s a lot smarter and more capable men out there than me. You may feel the same way at times. That’s okay. God uses the foolish in the sight of the world to confound the wise. But you have three incredible weapons.

First, you have the Holy Scriptures. They “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:15-16) If you have the Scriptures, you have everything you need for this life and the next.

Second, you have the Holy Spirit. When Peter preaches on Pentecost and the hearers are convicted of their sin and convicted about who Jesus was, they wanted to know what to do to be saved. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for he forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38) God keeps sending you His Holy Spirit when you are in His Word. If you have the Holy Spirit, what can separate you from the love of Christ?

Third, you have prayer. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who give generously to all without reproach.” (James 1:5) Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13) When you pray, your dear Father in heave ALWAYS answers!

The proverbs says this about the wisdom of Scripture: “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the market she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; and I will make my words known to you…Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.’” (Proverbs 1:20-23, 33)

So let us continue to read and meditate upon Scripture so that we may discern life giving doctrine from death damning doctrine.

Let us continue to practice our discernment so that we get better and better at it.

Let us continue to talk with our neighbors, Christian or not, about the wonderful things God has done for us in Christ including Salvation, Baptism, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the Divine Service.

And your dear Father in heaven will continue to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you through His Word that indeed makes you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.