First Sunday after Epiphany
"All thy days keep God before thine eyes and in thine heart, and let not thy will be set to sin or to transgress His commandments," Tobit 4:6 (Finnish Bible)
The old Tobit counsels his son in this way, but when the Christians can hardly keep God before their eyes and in their hearts, then one sorrowless person can even less keep God before his eyes, although some confessor of dead faith thinks that he can keep God before his eyes and also in his heart, but it is the devil who deceives the thief of grace in this way. It is seen from today's gospel that not even Jesus's parents were able to so keep Jesus before their eyes that they would not have lost Him, how then can a sorrowless person and grace thief keep Jesus before his eyes, as it is counseled here. That place is surely impossible, since a Christian cannot even so watch that God could always be before his eyes. But we know that one sorrowless person always keeps the world before his eyes. God cannot be in the mind very often, and God is never in the heart as long as a person lives in sorrowlessness. From where could God get into the heart of such a person whose heart is full of devilish spirits? If a sorrowless person would seek for Jesus in the Lord's temple, but he seeks Him among his acquaintances and kinsfolk, namely among the company of such from whom God is afar off. The drunkard seeks the Saviour in the whiskey merchant's house, and the whore seeks the Saviour in the rich man's house, but never in the church. Therefore such seldom come to hear the Word of God; they overlook the worship of God and the Lord's Supper. They say, "Surely we have books at home from which we can see the Word of God; if we live according to that, we do not have to doubt that we will become saved," These are old adam's excuses with which he eases his troubles, that one would not need to spend the time in going to church. Especially since they are barked at in church and praised at home, the old adam takes his refuge in the book and thinks that there is better word of God in the books than in church; and upon this faith old adam takes confirmation even from the Scriptures. When, namely, the Saviour said to the woman of Samaria that they should not pray on Mount Samaria (where one church was) nor in Jerusalem (where another church was), but in every place where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, there Jesus is in the midst of them; from that, old adam now takes for himself that faith that he does not need to pray to God in the church when he has better word of God at home. But David was not satisfied only in that, that he had Scriptures at home, but he hastened into the gardens of the Lord as a swallow hastens to his young in the nest, and says that "the bird has found an house and the swallow a nest", when he approached the altar. It was so pleasant for David to be in the Lord's house, that he wanted to be doorkeeper. David was a king of Israel and, nonetheless, did not consider it to be a poor office to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, but now not many want to be a doorkeeper in the Lord's house. When people do not care to sit in peace in church, they have to go out. Some sit on hot coals, which the black ironsmith puts underneath their butts; some have to go out when the word of God begins to burn their consciences. Some pagans are forced out of the Lord's house because they do not care to sit quietly there when the devil tickles and whispers in their flesh. And some again must go out of the church to anoint their bowels with flowing devil's dung. In such a church, where the devil drives his slaves to go out before the sermon is finished, there the doorkeeper is in great haste when he must open the church door to all those whom the devil drives out before the service of God is finished. No doubt the enemy fears that they will become dizzy if they would sit quietly in church and listen to the sermon. For that reason he drives those out who serve him. But those again, whom the enemy does not allow to go into the church in the first place, read the round book at home, in which the black master expounds the Scriptures to them in that way that drinking becomes allowable, adultery becomes allowable, whiskey trade becomes allowable, cursing and fighting become allowable. Luther has written that the enemy is surely able to preach the gospel better than some pastor, but in that church where the devil is preaching, all the meek whores sit at peace, all honest thieves weep because of love, serpent's tears flow from the eyes of the merciful whiskey merchants, temperate drunkards become so godly that they bow their knees before the whiskey merchant when they come out of the church, and stick their tongue out of their mouth like a devil's ox and say, "One drop, one drop, dear friend of Jesus! One drop!" The whiskey merchant is, in the drunkard's mind, a dear friend of Jesus, but the preacher of temperance is, in the drunkard's and the whiskey merchant's minds, a friend of the devil when he hinders the children of God from enjoying whiskey, which is God's grain. When now the devil has much to do in the Lord's house, when he causes some to go out who have come in and some again he does not allow to go to church in the first place, then it can be surmised that he would want to burn all those churches where the word of God is so preached that the hearers would get a troubled conscience, or if to some would come spiritual joy and rejoicing, then the devil begins to shed serpent's tears of envy. The tears of the penitent also burn his conscience, and especially if the pups of grace begin to whine, then the devil jumps up from the bench and goes very quickly out of the church, and all of his servants follow him, for the pups of grace confuse him, so that he cannot hear what the pastor preaches. Otherwise the devil is careful to listen if he is reproved in church of being a whore or a thief, that afterwards he would question his honor, but he does not care to hear when the pups of grace begin to whine. For that reason it is the best counsel that all the servants of the devil's spirit would go out of the church until that time when another pastor comes who preaches so nicely and so sweetly that all meek whores can cry, and all drunkards can laugh, and all honorable whiskey merchants can rejoice, then also all shameless and unrepentant whores are admitted into the kingdom of heaven; but the penitent, sorrowful, oppressed cross-bearers, those who sigh in spiritual poverty, are condemned to hell. Hasten, therefore, as David says in the 84th Psalm, all you titmice and swallows, snow buntings and nightengales: hasten, strive, long, hurry to the shelter of the nest. Hasten, you pups of grace, to the gardens of the Lord; come before such a distributor of grace comes who gives the delicacies to the dogs and throws the bones to the children. We hope and pray that when the small birds hasten quickly to their young in the nest which is built in a sapling, then also their teachers will see to their joy that they follow the Lord and win the battle, by which the mouth of the evil one are stopped and salvation will come to the people. Finally when that great day of the Lord comes, the doorkeeper will let in all those who, with a sorrowful and broken heart, knock on the door of the church. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 2: 42-52.
The evangelist Luke recalls in today's gospel that the parents of Jesus had come to Jerusalem to church and there they lost Jesus, whom they began to seek among acquaintances and kinsfolk, but finally found Him in the church. In accordance with these words we must at this moment consider: Where must the parents find Jesus when they have lost Him? May God allow that the parents who seek for Jesus with sorrow would find Him in the Lord's temple, when they seek for Him in vain among their acquaintances and kinsfolk in the world.
Dear parents, you have lost Jesus in your sorrowless state! Let us see where you will find Him, when you long for Him in an awakened state. You have lost Him while attending church, when in a sorrowless state you came to church according to the custom of the festive days. In your sorrowless state you have come to church only as a custom on festive days, not for that reason that you would gain some enlightenment for your soul in the Lord's house, but for that reason that you would receive some upbuilding for your belly according to old custom. In the sorrowless state you have come to church to receive pleasure for your eyes from vanity and finery of the world, and to show your idols to the world: beautiful and fat horses, well fed with grain, painted sleighs, broadcloth clothes and silk kerchiefs on your heads, silver pipes in your mouths, a watch in your pocket, and a whiskey flask under your arm pit. This splendor and finery has followed you to church after the custom of the festive days, so that the world would see how rich and beautiful you are. If some poor traveler would have met you on the way to church and would not have known what a lordly group you are, when you came driving with sleigh bells and with a whip in your hand, shouting, "Off the road, Satan!", he would have thought, "What lordly group is this, which drives with such speed; t hey are all great lords of the world. I must take off my cap and bow down before them. " If a crude peasant boy would come from Sweden and meet so many lords on the road to church, he would think, “There are surely many lords here, who come to church with a beautiful blessing; they even curse on the way to church and prepare their hearts with devil's dung so that they can well serve their god with devotion.” Before the "Amen" is said in the church, they flock out of the church; they become so very hungry in church for the grace of the god of the world, that they cannot wait for the Lord's blessing, but they must go out in the middle of the sermon to take a drink, which quenches their thirst for grace better than the word of God and that blessed wine. With such a life the sorrowless parents have lost Jesus, and particularly while attending church, when first they come to church only as a custom on festive days, and then while there serve that god which is in the colon, but not that God for whose sake they have come to church. Sunday i s made into a drinking day, a cursing day, a fighting day, a sleigh-riding day, a dancing day, a whiskey-selling day. For such has been the life even in this place, right near the church, just as in the deepest hell, and such is the life even now, that cursing and drinking and the commotion of destruction can be heard a quarter of a mile away; is it any wonder that the sorrowless parents lost Jesus with such a life? Let us see where they will find Him when they finally begin to long for Him. When the sorrowless parents awaken from the sleep of sin, they realize that they have lost Jesus, and then they begin to seek for Him with sorrow; but at first they do net surmise where they should seek Jesus. They imagine they will find Him among acquaintances and kinsfolk. But do you guess, you sorrowful parents, where you must seek Jesus when you have lost Him? In the sorrowless state, you have not longed for Him, for your Saviour was then in the world; in the whiskey bottle, in the trunk, in the colon: but when the conscience awakened, just then you began to long for Jesus, and now you seek Him among acquaintances and kinsfolk, but in vain you seek for Him among those acquaintances who have not seen Him, and do you finally quess where you must find Jesus? It the sorrowless state, you have not sought for Him in the Lord's temple, but in the whiskey merchant's house. Then you were in a hurry to flock out of the church to the whiskey merchant, that you could not wait for the Lord's blessing. You were in a hurry to read and to hear the devil's blessing in the tavern. Try, finally, to seek Jesus in the Lord's temple. Who knows, He can be found there where you do not think He is. David writes of himself that the bird has found an house and the swallow a nest in the house of the Lord. I have seen that the crows and magpies sometimes build their nests in the bell tower, but I have also seen that the swallows build their nests in the church and the titmice build their nests in the crevices of the living Grape vine. If you sorrowful parents would seek Jesus, do not seek Him among such acquaintances and kinsfolk who have not seen Him, but try finally to seek Him in the temple. Perhaps He remained in the church when you went into the world. You will surely be surprised when you find Him there where you did not even hope to find Him. But do not therefore scold Him, that He has caused too much trouble, for it is your own carelessness that you have not always kept Jesus before your eyes. When you were in a hurry to leave the church and go into the world, then Jesus was left in the church, and it is your own fault that you have lost Jesus. But you put the blame on Jesus that you have lost Him. Woe! Woe! How blind you are, you sorrowful parents, why did you not always keep Jesus before your eyes? How you seek for Jesus everywhere, among acquaintances and kinsfolk, now you long for Jesus, when your consciences have awakened. Now you think that Jesus has caused you great trouble, when you have lost Him through your own carelessness. Impatience causes you to reproach Jesus that He has put you through this trouble, that you have already so and so long sought Him worrying. But you are so ignorant and unskilled in spiritual matters, you do not understand that Jesus must be there since the Heavenly Father has placed, it upon Him. Hear now, you sorrowful parents who have lost Jesus and sought Him with sorrow, do you know where you must find Him? You have lost Him in a sorrowless state while attending church. In the awakened state you must now return to God's temple to seek Jesus there. You sorrowful and doubting ones who have begun to long for Jesus, where must you seek Him? You penitent and heavy-ladened ones, where must you find Jesus? You unfortunate parents, who through your own carelessness have lost Jesus, where must you meet Him? Woe! Woe! Unfortunate souls who have lost Jesus, and now with a sorrowful and bleeding heart are seeking Him, where must you find Him? You seek Him among kinsfolk and acquaintances, but they have not seen Him. There is no other counsel, but to return to God's temple and there you will meet Him, there you will find Him. But if you find Him yet once more, take Him home with you and do not lose Him any more from before your eyes.
Return therefore, you sorrowful parents, when Jesus is lost from you; return to the gardens of the Lord, as David, when he was sorrowful, fled to the Lord's altar, and sings there that the bird hath found an house and the swallow a nest, when he was able to flee to the house of the Lord. Return, therefore to the house of the Lord, you sorrowful souls who long for Jesus. Return, you small birds, you swallows and snow buntings, nightingales and wagtails, return, strive, long, hurry to your nests when thunder roars loudly on Mount Sinai. Hide yourselves in the crevices of the living Vine when the hawk chases you. If one titmouse cries in the talons of the hawk, then all the titmice chase him. They would surely want to rescue that unfortunate soul who cries in the talons of the hawk, but they are not able for the hawk is big but the titmice are small birds; nevertheless they pity that unfortunate wretch who cries in the talons of the hawk, as King David sings in the 84th Psalm: "Like the little birdies So hastily do flee, back to their nests and nestlings, Which the they have built on a sapling. So my soul to Thy altar, Lord, ever craves with yearning." How does this beholding of David fit with the sorrowless, who go after the world: some go to the whiskey merchants, and there find their best joy; some go to the whores and there find their best joy. They do not enjoy being at church at all, especially so when the small birds who, as David says, find a nest in the house of the Lord, begin to sing and to twitter thanks to that great Creator for that first ray of light which awakens them in their nests. Have you not heard how the swallows twitter in their nests when the sun rises? But you sit deaf and dumb in the Lord's house; you probably will reprove Jesus that He caused you much trouble, when you had to seek Him in the temple. But the sorrowless do not find the Saviour in the temple, but they imagine that they find the Saviour in the world. But the penitent, sorrowful, doubting ones, who truly seek for Jesus when they feel that they have lost Him, and also the graced souls, when through unwatchfulness they have lost Jesus, they can find Him in the Lord's temple, where He willingly lives and listens to how the swallows and titmice and nightingales twitter with their voices, they sing thanks to that great Creator for the first ray of light which awakens them from sleep. When the sun of grace arises on the horizon of heaven, then they sing and then they thank for this light which has come, and say, "Amen! Hallelujah! thanks, honor, and praise to that great Creator and Lamb who was dead, but behold, He lives in the hearts of the believing ones." Amen.