Fish Spaghetti


The only thing more disgusting than fish tacos would be fish spaghetti. So why do I use it as theme for the 2nd Article? Because like Prego spaghetti sauce's 1980's slogan "It's in there." Luther said all of the church's festivals are summarized in the Second Article (Peters, Creed, 166). In our Large Catechism, we confess "The entire gospel that we preach depends on a proper understanding of this article" (II, 33). And we all think we have that understanding. So why don't we use this Article to answer the questions of our day? A 1959 book dealing with the 2nd Article answers: "Jesus appears to have no answer at all to the questions troubling us" (Girgensohn, Teaching Luther's Catechism, 152). Using the ancient 2nd Article to address 21st century questions seems as appealing as fish spaghetti.

But the answers are in there. The 2nd Article answers who Jesus is. He is a historically documented Man who lived at the time of Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of a Jewish Province. Roman records affirm this. Biblical records, no less attested to than Roman ones, tell you He had a soul like you that could be troubled to death, and He had a body that bled, sweated, and cried.

Jesus, however, is more than a Man. He's True God. The 2nd Article says He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a Virgin. That's not true of any other man. Again, go to the historical record. Only God can replace an ear with just a touch. And here Jesus claims to be Yahweh answering the arresting mob's statement that they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth with "I am," that is, He's Yahweh in the flesh. With just those 2 words Jesus leveled like bowling pins an angry, hostile, armed mob. But still He let that mob arrest Him. We say in the Large Catechism that in the 2nd Article we confess, God "has given Himself completely to us withholding nothing" (II, 26).

Not only the fact that Jesus is True Man and True God is in the Fish Spaghetti of the 2nd Article so is the conclusion we mentioned last week. This Man who is God is My Lord. You don't think that answers anything? The cancer that could be now no more than a speck in your body is not your Lord, Jesus is. The family problem, life problem, some great fear is not your Lord, Jesus is. The sinful past that haunts you; the present tense that daunts you; the future tense that taunts you is not your Lord, Jesus is.

How did it come about that the God-Man could be, would be Lord of a sinner such as I? Look to the fish spaghetti. It's in there. The Only Son of God willingly gave up the full use of His divine powers as a Man to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a Virgin, suffer, be crucified, dead, and buried. God did not humble Himself by becoming a Man but by the way He did. He didn't pop into the world as a 30-year-old and start His ministry. Nope, God the Son of the Father from eternity went through human conception, gestation, and birth.

The humiliation got darker and deeper and it's all in there. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate" doesn't put the major blame on him but documents when it happened. It was the Father who wouldn't take the cup of wrath against your sins from His Son's lips. It was the Father who said "No" 3 times to His only beloved Son asking if there was another way to save you. It was His best friend who betrayed Him with a kiss. It was His disciples who deserted Him. One willing to run away naked rather than be caught clothed with Christ.

The fish spaghetti gets more off-putting, if you're listening. To say He was crucified, died, and buried means Jesus lived through it all. That moment when soul is separated from body, that moment when Death charges you like an armed man, that moment when you stare round-eyed into your open-eyed grave, about to meet your Judge, Jesus knew.

All the humiliation that God the Son went through is in there, and so is all the exaltation of Mary's Son. Jesus went to hell on the cross to pay for our sins, but the descent we confess in the Creed is the God-Man Jesus going to hell so that He "conquered the devil, destroyed the powers of hell, and took from the devil all his might" (FC, SD, IX, 2). On the Third Day Jesus shows He's risen from the dead without even a scent of dirt, death, or devil lingering about Him. But still more is in here. The Man who is God ascended bodily into heaven as witnesses testify, and sat down on the right hand of God as God testifies. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

In spaghetti, it's how the ingredients are combined that matters. Pasta alone is bland. Meat is meat, and individual spices may be disagreeable, but put it all together and you have something special. IXTHUS spaghetti, Jesus Christ, God's Son, Our Savior is food for the soul. In the words of our Confession it's redeeming, buying, and winning. The God who is Man humbled Himself in order to take our place under the Law both what it commands and what it demands of those who break it in order to redeem us. The Man who is God is exalted to rule all of heaven and earth to prove to us that this flesh and blood of ours has been completely purchased and won from sin, from death, and from the power of the Devil.

And none of that answers any of your 21st questions, fears, worries, desires, hopes, dreams, despairs? The challenge of teaching kids the Catechism is getting them to see that everything their parents had them memorize from ages 2 to 11 and I ask them to repeat from 11-14 is not an end in itself. No, it's to give them the resources to answer life's hurts, questions, and dilemmas whatever century they're living in. Most of you have been confirmed, but do you use the 2nd Article that way? Or do you conclude like that German scholar did? The 2nd Article is as appealing as fish spaghetti because it appears to have no answers at all to the questions troubling you.

I guess then it doesn't mean very much to belong to the God-Man Jesus rather than to the sin, death, and devil we had sold our souls to. I guess it means very little to be able to say in the face of disease, enemies, worries: "You're not the boss of me. You don't own me. Jesus does. I've been bought and paid for body and soul by His suffering drop by bloody drop for every one of my sins. I've been redeemed from the judgement of God, of men, of devils by the Holy Jesus willingly being arrested in my place." I guess Jesus is wrong when He says to God His Father, "I have not lost one of those You gave Me." Nope, He lost little old you. You fell through the cracks. You're on your own rather than owned by Him.

Nope, nothing about day to day life, miseries, sinfulness, hopelessness, or helplessness is in this disgusting Fish Spaghetti. Go to the self-help books at the "Christian" bookstore. Go online, type in your problem, and put + Christian and you will find thousands of people to help you with whatever is bothering you, and not a single one of them will be a Man who is God, or the God who is Man. If you want help from Him, it's all in here.

In here you find that you live under the One who loves you and gave His life for you. In here you find you live under the Man who is God and not under the Devil, not at the mercy of Death, not under the Sins that want to burden your conscience daily and especially on dark nights. No, you live under the One who has forgiven you from everything your conscience is afraid of and delivered you from the worry of what happens next. You live in a kingdom ruled by a God who is Man where angels and archangels and all the company of heaven are by your side, on your side.

Sure, go with Jesus to the judgment hall; see the Lord of life arraigned but don't go on trial with Him. You're in the Kingdom He won because He went on trial in your place. The last thing He needs or wants is you being hit, slapped, spit upon for the very sins He is. Yes, there is wormwood and gall to drink here, but the Father ordained that the Son not you drink it, so drop that cup of guilt, gall, worry, and wormwood and back away. You're not helping yourself let alone the Man-God when you try to sustain the pangs of shame, fear, and guilt He did. Yes, they all deserted Jesus, but Jesus is just like a loving parent, He knows what His children can and can't bear. He is the One who said, "Let these men go."

Yes, you're let go. As the Rite of Private Confession ends, "Go, you are free." You are free to leave the judgment hall and go into the kingdom Jesus won you for. And you are free to live under Him in this kingdom and to serve Him. This too is in the fish spaghetti of the 2nd Article. And you're not to hear a command of how you had better be serving Him but you're to hear the circumstances that you do. You serve in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

You know what that means? When you wake up in the morning and get out of bed the Father says, "My how righteous she is." When you're driving to work, the Father says, "Look how innocent he is; I see nothing there but My only beloved Son." When you're going about your day, the angels in heaven say to one another in awe, "Look how totally blessed they are!"

Don't believe me? Don't think this fish spaghetti could be that tasty, that wonderful, that filled with grace? Think again; read some more. It's in there. We confess that the Bible teaches that we live under God in His kingdom, and serve Him how? "Just as Jesus is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity." Did Jesus rise from the dead haunted by needing to pay for sins? Did Jesus rise from the dead taunted by Death asserting he owned Him? Did Jesus rise from the dead daunted that the hour still belonged to the Devil and his darkness? No, no, and no.

That's how little fishies like you get to swim about in the kingdom of God's aquarium. If you have an aquarium, you control every aspect of its environment. Think the God-Man does any less? Nope, the fish spaghetti says: It's all in there. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Midweek Lent II (20170308); Passion Reading 2, Second Article