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Scarville Lutheran Church

Sermons 2019

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Advent

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Epiphany

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  • Advent 1

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Advent 1

    November 30, 2003

     

    Text: John 18:33-37

    Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. if My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; not now My kingdom is not from here." Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are you a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear friends in Christ,

    Jesus is a king. What does this mean? We normally think of a king as someone who has great political power in his country. A king is the one who has control; he is the one who has the money, the army; and he can use that power to achieve whatever he wants. There is no one higher than the king in his country. Everyone else is subordinate to the king. These subjects of the king must do his bidding or fear his wrath. Is this the kind of king Jesus is?

     

    On Palm Sunday it sort of looked like it. After all, you have Jesus being cheered by a huge crowd. They ask Him to save them: "Hosanna!" They say that He comes in the name of the Lord. But despite the cheering crowds Jesus does not look like a king. He comes into Jerusalem by Himself. No great army marches with Him. There is no show of great riches or power. All you see is Jesus, sitting on the back of a small donkey.

     

    Four days later Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. There is no crowd cheering Jesus and praying for His help. Instead He has been arrested, slandered, beaten. As Pilate says, "Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me." It doesn’t sound as if Jesus has a country to be king of. It doesn’t look like Jesus has followers that will defend Him and raise Him up as their king and leader. So what kind of king is Jesus?

     

    "My kingdom is not of this world." Here Jesus separates His kingdom from all earthly kingdoms. His kingdom is different. He doesn’t mean it is in outer space. But rather it is not a kingdom that can be defined by borders on a map. His kingdom does not have the agendas of worldly kingdoms: the point is not to amass riches, nor to become the strongest, nor to conquer all other countries so that Jesus is the great political leader of a vast kingdom here on earth. None of that. Jesus' kingdom is the kingdom of "truth."

     

    Earlier Jesus had told Thomas: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me." Jesus is the truth, and He is opposed to the 'lie.' The 'lie' was first spoken to Eve when Satan said: "You can be like God." This great lie continues to bring ruin and death to people of all races, of all countries. This great lie is at the heart of all human attempts to achieve spirituality of some kind or another.

     

    When Jesus tells Pilate: "For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice," He is telling Pilate what His kingdom is about. This kingdom first of all is dependent upon Jesus, upon His witness, upon His voice. Without the voice of Jesus there is no kingdom of Jesus. Without the voice of Jesus there is no truth. This makes the kingdom of Jesus exclusive; in other words, the only kingdom that lasts is that of Jesus, no other kingdom, no other religion, will stand. They will all fall. But not through the power of the sword. The kingdom of Jesus does not come when people decide to blow themselves up and kill others along with them. Jesus had told Peter to put away his sword. And Jesus tells Pilate: "if My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight." The kingdom of Jesus does not come when we are able to get the right laws passed in the United States congress, nor does the kingdom disappear if the wrong laws are passed. The kingdom of Jesus does not come when we keep the nation of Israel safe from her enemies. These are all kingdom of the world issues. They have importance, politically; and they impact us, our society. But not spiritually, not eternally.

     

    It is the voice of Jesus that brings truth, and where that truth is, there you will find the kingdom of Jesus. Remember the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer:

     

    Thy Kingdom come. What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes of itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. How does God's kingdom come? The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.

     

    The voice of Jesus is the Word of God. He is the Word that became flesh. And the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God so that we believe the Word and live godly lives.

     

    It is easy to become seduced by the ways of this world and its kingdoms. It is easy to think of the kingdom of Jesus in terms that apply to this world. Think of the churches that are attractive to the world. They are the big churches. They are the churches where you can be influential in your community through the contacts you make there. They are the churches that have great outward displays of wealth and power. Think of the Crystal Cathedral in California, think of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, or consider local churches. If you were to list the influential churches in Winnebago county, the ones that you join in order to have influence and to make good business and social connections, where do you go?

     

    It is easy to question the rightness of what we believe when it looks like all that happens is that we get smaller and smaller. This does not excuse us from doing all we can to spread the truth, to preach Christ, to pray for the kingdom of God to grow so that others will know and believe in the Savior. This also does not mean smaller churches are holier or better. But the point is: don’t look at size, listen to the voice. Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Is His word in its truth and purity the center? That voice alone is what defines the Christian Church, the kingdom of Jesus. We do not want that voice of Jesus muted or distorted. For that voice is truth. Nothing else is truth.

     

    Today we start a new church year. Today is the start of Advent, the time of preparation for the great festival of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary. We use these days before Christmas to prepare our hearts and minds by heeding the voice of Jesus. This voice keeps calling us to repentance, to put aside the seduction of the kingdoms of this world with their riches and power, to gather around the Word of God, preaching, sacraments.

     

    Jesus is a king. This king works among us now by His grace, by bringing us forgiveness for our sins of envy for the power and riches of the world, forgiveness for our lack of love for His kingdom, forgiveness for all sin. This is what the kingdom of Jesus is all about. And that is why at the start of this new church year we always see Christ on the cross looming in the distance. That is where Jesus would end up after talking to Pilate. And that is why He came: forgiveness comes with that cost of Jesus – death on the cross . He paid. We're saved. "The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity." That is our prayer at the start of Advent. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Advent 2

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Advent 2

    December 7, 2003

     

    Text: Luke 12:35-40

    Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning: and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and finds them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER; SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    There is much that weighs us down and entangles us these days. The cares and anxieties of life burden us. The possessions of this life entangle us. The result is that the watchfulness to which the Lord calls us is diminished.

     

    Our Lord begins by telling us to have our waists girded. What we should have in mind with these words is the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. As the children of Israel prepared to eat the Passover meal of the lamb whose blood marked their door to keep the angel of death away, they were told: "And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste." They were to be ready to leave the land of slavery at a moment’s notice, and to be ready for the journey to the Promised Land. This was not a time for relaxing and being nonchalant. Rather, these were days of readiness, of watching for the Lord to keep His promise of coming to set them free from their centuries of bondage.

     

    To have your waist girded is to be ready to move without tripping over your robes. It means you are prepared. But what does this mean for us spiritually? It means first that we mark and avoid those things which we know hinder us or which entangle us. In the Gospel for today we heard: "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life." These are things that prevent us from being ready and waiting for the return of the Lord. They do so by numbing our hearts and minds. Like a shot of Novocaine from the dentist, these activities serve to dull our senses so that we do not pay attention to the times, so that we lose awareness of the condition of our souls, leaving us open to the temptations and lusts of the world.

     

    Remember, repentance and faith are not one time happenings in our lives. But they are the on-going life of the Christian. Each and every day we return to our Baptism by drowning the old man with all his sin and evil lusts, and a new man daily comes forth and arises. This cycle of drowning and rising is the way sin is kept in check and we ourselves grow in readiness and watchfulness. This watchful condition is one that understands sin to be the great obstacle to salvation that it truly is. It is not a matter of making excuses our for sin, but it is a matter of confessing it. Martin Luther emphasized this in the Large Catechism:

     

    Forgiveness is constantly needed, for although God’s grace has been acquired by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian Church, yet we are never without sin because we carry our flesh around our necks (LC II, 54).

     

    When we make excuses for our sins we are really saying we don’t need forgiveness for them because they're not our fault. Then carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life have their way with us. Then such things lead us to spiritual apathy – the uncaring life that finally results in not being ready for the Lord's coming on the Last Day, Judgment Day.

     

    And it is that Day, the Last Day, that the Lord wants us ready for. The first time Jesus came to this world, that first Christmas 2,000 years ago, He came in humility, born of the Virgin Mary, in the little town of Bethlehem. His Second Coming will not be in humility, but in all the glory and power rightfully His as the One who has all authority in heaven and earth. Then He will judge the living and the dead. This is what we watch for. And this is what our Lord is telling us about right now, so that we can be ready and waiting when our Lord comes and knocks at the door. We will be ready to open the door immediately.

     

    There is a great difference between being ready for something about which we know the exact time, and being ready for something that has no specific time frame. Right now most of you have a pretty exact time for your Christmas celebrations. You know that you will meet at a certain time and place. Or you know that your guests will arrive at your house at 1 o'clock on Christmas Day. This allows you to have a definite goal in sight. And you will be sure to have everything ready and waiting for the guests. I doubt that those of us expecting guests at Christmas time wait until they show up and then start cleaning and defrosting some food from the freezer for them. No, we've been getting ready for days in advance.

     

    Compare that to being ready for something that doesn't have a definite time. Perhaps our own death is the ultimate example of that. We know that we all have a 100% chance of dying. That's just the way it is. But we don't know the time. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is just as certain. Yet, without that definite time we are told and encouraged to be ready always.

     

    It is just at that point that trouble arises for us. It is hard to be ready always. Our Lord knows that about you and me. That is why He made sure to warn us, not just once, but many times throughout Holy Scripture. He made sure that there would be pastors to preach that Word, to baptize, to administer Holy Communion, to absolve, all so that people would be ready for His Second Coming, His Second Advent. The forgiveness of sins makes you ready for the coming of Christ, for Judgment Day. That great work of God for you, the granting of forgiveness for Jesus' sake, is what prepares your hearts and minds so that you may stand with confidence on the Last Day, knowing that in Christ you are holy and pure, by God's grace alone.

     

    So we continue to gather, to hear the preaching of God's Word. God works among us even today, readying us for the Second Advent so that we will not be overtaken, so that day will not take us by surprise. "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He comes, will find watching." Amen.

     

  • Advent 3

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Advent 3

    December 14, 2003

     

    Text: Matthew 11:11-15

    Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER; SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear friends in Christ,

    The Jews in Jesus' lifetime understood that before they looked for the Messiah, the one who would save them, they needed to look for a second Elijah. They knew this because of the words of the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi. There we find this word of the Lord: "Behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers."

     

    The first Elijah had lived during the days of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. These two had introduced a renunciation of the true worship of God unequaled in the history of Israel. Hundreds of false prophets of Baal had been given government approval to spread their false teaching throughout the land. Altars and high places were built; even the sacrifice of children in fire was allowed. Into this cesspool of idolatry God placed His prophet Elijah. Elijah's first task was to proclaim a drought, a time of famine for the people because of their rejection of the true God. Elijah’s message was one of repentance. He was to turn the people away from their sin by a strong preaching of the Law, pointing out to king and queen, to all people, the way of the true God in clear distinction from the false way of the idols. For this Elijah was attacked, rejected, forced to flee for his life as especially the queen sought to destroy him. The violent used violence against Elijah to try and silence this unwelcome prophet.

     

    John the Baptist is the second Elijah, as Jesus says: "he is Elijah who is to come." John does not come into the blatantly idolatrous times as did Elijah. Yet there was a clear need for his ministry. God placed John at the right time and the right place in order to point to the Messiah, to the Christ, Jesus.

     

    The understanding of the real work the Messiah was to do had become confused. For many of the Jews their Messiah was to be a political leader, someone who would come to free them from the oppression of the despised and hated Roman government. They did not realize that the ministry of the Messiah and His kingdom were not about the power and glory of this world. Therefore John needed to teach the people repentance. In other words, the work was the preaching of the Law, it was about pointing out sin, about condemning the rebellion against God and His laws. It was not about the programs and agendas of this world. John came to prepare the hearts and minds of the people for the true work of the Messiah, the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

     

    For this work John would suffer. Like Elijah, the leaders of his day would be pricked by the prickly law he preached. Like Elijah, John would not hesitate to preach against the high and mighty of his day. Like Elijah, John would feel the violence of the violent opponents of the kingdom of God and His Messiah. John's preaching would stir up hearts, some to repentance, but also many to hardness and rejection. John would be arrested, imprisoned, and killed, dying a violent death.

     

    John did the work assigned to him by God. He preached the word boldly, without being afraid of the cost. His message was not an easy one. He could not massage the egos of the crowd by telling them that their chosen lifestyles were of no matter. He could not say "yes" to behavior about which God said "no." To do that would have been a betrayal of his office as prophet. To do that would be to work against the Messiah, the coming Savior of the world, and John would not go that way. Instead, he would preach: "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance....even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Those were John's words to the spiritual leaders of his day, the Pharisees and Sadducees. You can understand why they would not be to eager to protect him or support him.

     

    John's death was a warning to Jesus from the powers of this world. This world and its satanic agenda let Jesus know that the same fate awaited Him if He continued to preach and teach as He did. John prepared the way for Jesus not only by his preaching repentance. He prepared the way by dying first and pointing the people to the truth that the kingdom of God suffers violence, even the death of the King’s messenger. And as it went for the messenger, so it would go for the King Himself. John's death is the prologue to the death of Jesus. As John was killed for preaching the Law and pointing to the need for the Messiah, so Jesus would die by doing the work of the Messiah, and thereby showing Himself to be the Savior, the Son of God come into this world.

     

    As we prepare for Christmas during this Advent time, we are reminded that Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is not a time of cuteness or shallow and trivial displays of sentiment. There is a reason we sing strong hymns and hear strong words at this time of year. The birth of Jesus is about warfare, it is about battles lost and won, it is about suffering, death. It is about what Jesus says: "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

     

    Therefore a right preparation for Christmas includes a sober understanding of what this means. It does not mean a lessening of our Christmas joy, but a heightening of our appreciation for such a gift. This gift of the Christ-child does not come to us without suffering, a suffering that we cannot imagine – suffering for all sins, for all betrayals, all deceit, all traitorous acts, all cowardice, all weakness. These sins in all their fullness, your sins and mine, are on Jesus as He comes to us through the Virgin Mary and begins His way to the violence of the cross of Golgotha.

     

    The ministry of Elijah had to deal with this violence, it was part of the burden of prophet. The ministry of John had to deal with this violence, it was part of the burden of being the Forerunner of the Messiah. The ministry of Jesus had to deal with this violence to such a degree that it is beyond our comprehension; He came to die because of our sins. How can we forget that when we sing and rejoice at His birth? Doesn't it cheapen our praise of God if our hymns and worship gloss over this truth? The ministry of the apostles and of pastors to this day has to deal with this violence, it is part of the burden of being placed in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

     

    The second Elijah has come. He did his work by pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He pointed to Jesus. And even with the word "lamb" we are given a clue about Jesus: lambs are killed for the Passover. Today you are again pointed to Jesus. Despite the violence directed against God's kingdom it does not fall or fail. You who are brought into this kingdom by God's work of salvation need not fear any violence. Not that it may not happen, but that no violence is able to overcome the Christ. No matter how strong the enemies of God are, our Christ is always the stronger man. He showed that by His resurrection from the dead. Even the violence of death could not keep Him down.

     

    Nails, spear shall pierce Him through

    The cross be borne for me, for you;

    Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

    The Babe, the Son of Mary! (ELH 145:2)

     

    Neither will death in its violence keep you down. Jesus has done the work needed to save you from it all. Trust this strong Savior, and rejoice as we prepare to celebrate His wonderful birth once more. God grant this to you all in the name of Jesus. Amen.

     

  • Advent 4

    Sermon not yet added

  • Christmas Eve

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Scarville Sunday School Christmas Program

    December 16, 2007

     

    Text: Matthew 1:20-23

    But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    The other day I started thinking about why we have so many singers of all types who put out Christmas albums, year after year. Yet these same people do not put out Good Friday or Easter albums. Mannheim Steamroller has many CDs for Christmas; any number of singers and choirs put out dozens and dozens of Christmas related music. There’s even an ogre with a Christmas CD. But nothing for Good Friday or Easter. So, why is this?

     

    The conclusion I reached is that since the main event of Christmas is the birth of a baby boy it is something that people can easily relate to. The birth of a baby is a great event in the life of a family, something cherished, something remembered, something about which to rejoice. The birth of Jesus can be celebrated and sung about without really paying too much attention to the reason why. That is not the case with Good Friday and Easter.

     

    Good Friday is centered on the death of Jesus on the cross. Easter is centered on the resurrection of the dead by that same Jesus. Those events are not easily disguised or changed into celebrations that everyone can sing about. To sing about Good Friday is to sing about a very gory public execution. To sing about Easter means that you have to talk about something that is not compatible with human experience or human wisdom. Whereas Christmas has been given a makeover that allows people of many backgrounds to sing carols and hymns about Jesus, despite the fact of what those songs are all about.

     

    Yet, when we look at Christmas with the words of Scripture ringing in our ears we learn that the event of Christmas is also something that is outside human experience and human reason. Christmas is the birth of the baby who Holy Scripture declares was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was told: “that which is conceived in [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit.” And even more, we are told that this child shall be named: Immanuel. St. Matthew does us the favor of translating that Hebrew word for us: Immanuel means, God with us.

     

    To top it all off we’re told why this baby was born: to save people from sin. And there’s something none of us like to hear about. Talk about sin during Christmas is pretty depressing. Why bring up that topic when there are enough hassles and headaches this time of year? We have to talk about it because that’s what Jesus came to solve for us. Sin is what we have, what we’ve been born into, what chases us and ruins lives again and again. But this sin is what Jesus, the Savior, born of the virgin Mary, came to undo. That is why Christians write Christmas hymns. That is why those who gather in Christian churches sing Christmas hymns. The purpose is to proclaim who this Jesus is, what He came to do, and why we so desperately need it.

     

    Much of the music you’ll hear on the radio over the next few weeks will probably not focus too much on that side of Christmas. And we shouldn’t expect our society to get Christmas right. But let us make sure we do. Let’s make sure we learn about Jesus born in Bethlehem, because we sinners need this Savior. We need Him and He has come to us out of great love, taking on our humanity, to defeat sin, to bring us forgiveness. This great work of Jesus made a beginning in a little stable, far across the sea. But the finished work would be done on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where He would be pierced through by nail and spear as He hung on a cross, for me, for you. In His death He would defeat death; with our sin on Him He would go to the grave, yet rise on Easter Sunday with no sin – all gone, wiped clean by His sacrifice for us.

     

    Christmas is much more than the birth of a son. It is the birth of a unique baby in all human history, a boy called Jesus, the Savior, Immanuel, God-with-us. God grant that as we gather in the coming weeks to celebrate here in church, and with our families wherever they may be, that we center on the fact that Christmas is about the Christ who forgives us our sins – born for us, to die for us, and to rise again for our justification, so we receive the righteousness, the holiness and purity of being God’s sons and daughters, through faith in Jesus Christ. God grant this for you all, in the name of Immanuel. Amen.

     

  • Christmas Day

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Christmas Day

    December 25, 2006

    Exordium

    We who are described by Isaiah as the grass that grows and then withers and is cut down and dies are allowed this day, and for all eternity, to rejoice that the One who created all things, the Most High God, has taken on our frailty, our humanity. He has done so in order to save us from the withering and dying that is our lot as humans. He became the baby boy born in the manger in order to save you and me from all that death and hell and devil want to accomplish against us. He will go in our place to the place of evil and death. He will go for you and me, so that we might become His adopted brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of the Most High. That is what we receive through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ.

     

    It is due to this great act of love on the part of God that we rejoice today. This is no small thing that God has done. It is greater than even we can comprehend. It is more far-reaching in its importance than the most longed for peace treaty between nations. It is more life-giving than the most important breakthrough in medical history can ever be.  Here we have the way to a life that never ends; here we have an end to sin and sickness; here we have an end to death. And it all became focused on that small and insignificant manger in Bethlehem so long ago. Let us then rejoice today over the wonders and blessings God showers upon us in His mercy and grace, in Jesus, our Savior. Let us rise and sing:

    Exordium Hymn - ELH 142 "Rejoice, Rejoice, This Happy Morn"

     

    Text: St. John 1:1-14

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.... 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our new-born King,

    If you want to know God the Father, you must know the Son. It is the Son, Jesus Christ, through whom only we have access to true knowledge about God the Father. We cannot come to the Father except through the Son. This fact of Holy Scripture puts the whole Christmas story in its proper place. It puts it in the place of being one of the key events by which God wills us to know who He is and what He does on our behalf and on behalf of the whole world. To lose this aspect of Christmas is to lose it in its entirety. This is no story about snowmen or Santa Claus or reindeer. The Son takes on our humanity to accommodate our weakness. He becomes one of us so that we might truly know and believe the love of God for us.

     

    The darkness of sin obscures this light of Jesus Christ which came into the world. Sin makes us blind to God. Sin covers our eyes with false gods and goddesses. Sin puts ourselves and all other manner of deities in the place of the one true God.

     

    Many are content with such false gods. Many find comfort in them because they are familiar gods, gods that do not make us squirm too much. Last week in Bible class we heard a quotation from Mark Twain, and it fits here as well: “In the beginning God made man in His own image, and man has been returning the favor ever since.” We like to have gods that are like us. The gods of the ancient world, despite various super powers, remained gods and goddesses with the same vanities and selfish desires that we have. Those are the deities we create for ourselves when act like Adam and Eve did: we seek to be like God.

    But these words of John point us away from ourselves and our self-created gods; and they seek to shine into the darkness of our lives with the Light of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. We need this light. We need the work of God to break into our sin-darkened lives. And that is what Jesus came to do. He came as the Word made flesh, as the power of God for salvation. And He came as the One who would shine in our hearts with the forgiveness of sins through His death on the cross.

     

    Our need for this work of God for us is total. We have nothing by which to come to God on our own. We need Him. Martin Luther makes this clear in very pointed language from a Christmas sermon he preached in 1534:

     

    Here was the reason why [we need God’s help]: The devil had subjected all mankind under sin and caused terrible, incalculable grief beyond human comprehension. In the first place he precipitated us into original sin, including death with it, and not only death but also all manner of evil. Daily in this world we live with murder, lying, betrayal, stealing, robbing, and all manner of shameful evil, depravity, and vexation, so that literally no one's life or property are safe for a moment, but everything is in terrible turmoil! But beyond such evil there is even a greater one, as God's Word tells [us], in that the devil takes hold of people so totally that they become mad and foolish. As a result of this wickedness and sin, the human race has become little more than a stinking, shameful, disguised tool of the devil. So despicable has he made mankind through sin that we could not possibly become more base. Eternal death and God’s wrath take us by the throat; we are never at peace but constantly plagued in body and soul here on earth, making it an enormous, woeful, fear-ridden kingdom of the devil.

     

    That is the darkness under which we operate in our human condition of sin.

     

    It was against this very darkness that Jesus came to fight for us. He did so out of His great love for us. And so:

     

    Still all the law fulfilled must be,

    Else we were lost forever,

    Then God His Son sent down that He

    Might us from doom deliver;

    He all the law for us fulfilled

    And thus His Father’s anger stilled

    Which over us impended.

    [ELH 227, v. 5]

     

    The righteous anger of God against our sin has been laid to rest through Jesus Christ taking it willingly upon Himself, so that it does not fall upon us, as much as it deserves to.

     

    This is the reason for the Incarnation of the Son of God. He became flesh to take this on. He put on our weakness of human flesh, to be tempted like us, to be subject to hunger and thirst, to grow tired, to be tempted by the devil even, and finally to bring this body brought forth into this world on Christmas Eve to the death on Golgotha. All this is why the Word that is God, the Word through whom all things were created, becomes flesh, so that you and I can be saved.

    At stake at Christmas time is more than most people realize. We get too caught up in the many “cute” aspects of a 21st century Christmas. But the stakes were high on that first Christmas. The enemies arrayed against that Christ-child were mighty, too strong for us humans, even if we would have combined all our strength against them. We cannot fight and win against sin, yet the Word made flesh would do so. We cannot fight and win against death, yet Jesus would do so. We cannot fight and win against the devil, yet the baby born in Bethlehem would do so, crushing the head of the serpent even as He was nailed to the cross. That is the wonder of Christmas; that is what was at stake.

     

    The fight against sin, death, and devil remains with us still today. True, they are held at bay by the power of the Son of God. He has won the victory. But we continue to struggle with them as we are tempted to draw near them, as one devotional writer recently wrote:

     

    Satan is ever angling to steal...a kiss from the bride of Christ, that he might divorce her from the heart of her gracious Lord. She fends off the advances of every false Christ and every angel of light beckoning to a better life than the one her Bridegroom has given at the cost of His own life.

     

    Because of the tenacity of our seeming-pleasant enemy, we will always find ourselves in the midst of a hidden, but very real war. If there is to be a superficial peace the capitulation must come from our side. Our enemy will never give up. His rage and spite against the Christ and His Church will never diminish, only the tactics will evolve. Often people will blame the Church for the war that is waged against her. This is akin to blaming Poland for the outbreak of World War II. The Church would desire to live in external peace, but Satan will have none of it. So while she has a peace that surpasses human understanding, she will always live at war.

    This is the true nature of the life of the Church in this world, and of the life of we who are called to be the children of God here and now.

     

    But despite such darkness, we are given the Light of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Never forget that the baby of Bethlehem is stronger than the devil. Never forget that that small child is true God, the God who would not let death keep Him in the grave, but rose triumphant Easter morning. Never forget that this Christ-child is the One who says to you: Your sins are forgiven. Those are the words that are the power of God for salvation. Trust them, and learn that the Light of the grace of God shines brighter than any powers of hell.

     

    Christmas shows us that start of the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for us all. It shows us the seriousness of God’s promises to provide us with salvation and eternal life. He sends His best for us, and it never fails. Believe in the name of this Jesus Christ. Know that you are born by the will of God, and are His beloved children. For you He desires life and salvation, through the forgiveness of sins. For you this Jesus was born, so that you receive from the Word made flesh such great gifts, and in whom we have the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. Amen.

     

  • Christmas 1

    Sermon not yet added

  • New Years Eve

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    New Year's Eve

    December 31, 2003

     

    Text: Hebrews 13:8-15

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    What's one of the best things you can say to an old friend you haven't seen in years? "My, you haven't changed a bit." It's nice to hear, and when we say it we're not deliberately lying to someone. But in reality it isn't true. We do change over time, even if just a little to begin with.

     

    As we see another year passing us by this evening, it is not hard to spot the changes that happened this past year. For those of us with young children, we saw many changes in them: for example in size and the ability to communicate. If you hadn't seem some of your younger relatives for awhile, you may have been amazed at how much they had grown this past year. Each of us also can see in ourselves many changes: some good, some not so good. But the fact remains that as each year goes by change occurs. In people, in the land, in the size of cities and towns, in the world around us: politically and physically.

     

    Because of the process of change which is so familiar to us, it is good to take careful notice of the fact that the author of Hebrews teaches us: "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever." This unchangeableness of Jesus is about both His divine nature, that is, the fact that He is true God, and also about His teaching. He does not change, and we are warned: "do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines."

     

    In a world that is filled with change and the subsequent instability it brings, the Christian Church is blessed to announce to the world the truth that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Rock, the stable foundation on which we truly can build our hope for this life and for eternal life. As we heard: "here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come." Our efforts finally will not keep us from leaving this world. Therefore we seek that which is to come, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly mansions, the promised eternity with the living God, through our Savior Jesus Christ.

     

    Why should stability and unchangeableness be desired by us? Well, let us look at why we are changing each day. Isn't it because of the fact that each day we age, and each day we come closer the grave? We change physically in ways that start off good, but soon become detrimental. The bodies we have here and now will not last. The process of death is at work within us – it is change from life to death. This is something we cannot escape. We see this type of change in people of all times and all places. When we find ancient civilizations what do they all have in common? The people are all dead, all that’s left is bones. In the hymn, "Abide with Me," one of the verses states it this way: "change and decay in all around I see, oh Thou who changest not, abide with me." (ELH 561:2)

     

    As we comprehend the deadly reason for change in us, the desire not to change increases in us. We do not want to change. Why is it that this time of year is a bonanza for weight loss clinics and programs? It is because we see our bodies change, and we don't like it, so we want to put off, as long as we can, the change and decay that come to all. Now, on the one hand, it is a good use of our time to do that which is healthy for our bodies: eat healthy, exercise, and so on; on the other hand, we must know that such efforts only work for a brief time. Despite the advances of medicine, our bodies keep showing our age. The most beautiful actress of today will look different in 50 years: no matter how much money she spends, no matter how well her doctors do plastic surgery.

     

    The predicament of all attempts to keep from looking old is that only the symptoms are treated. The underlying reason for our aging and the approach of death cannot be treated with silicon, botox, or the most careful surgery. This is true because our problem finally is not physical, but spiritual.

     

    This is where the truth of Jesus Christ impacts us. He is the one who does not change, and He comes to us with the very help we need for our spiritual lives. Our spiritual death because of sin is reversed by the life and death of Jesus. By faith in our Savior we are re-born spiritually, with the promise of a new and glorious body in the life to come. Jesus took on the changes of this life. He went through our changes as He took on our human flesh and blood. By His perfect life and by His death as our Substitute Jesus has done what no surgery or medicine or diet or exercise can do: He changed us so that we will not change again. Our death has become the way by which this mortal puts on immortality, and this body that decays is changed for a body that will never decay. This is what is ours because of Jesus, as we believe the forgiveness He bought for us, by His own blood, suffering "outside the gate," like the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament.

     

    As we prepare for a new year, may God help us to prepare for the changes that come our way, as we cling to the One who does not change: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

  • Christmas 2

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Christmas 2

    January 4, 2004

     

    Text: Matthew 2:13-23

    Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more." 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    The celebration of Christmas seems to be a very benign, inoffensive, harmless activity. After all, millions of people around the world go to church, they listen to the words of St. Luke chapter 2, "and it came to pass in those days...", they sing hymns of rejoicing, songs of praise and thankfulness. Sunday school Christmas programs are much the same. Children learn by heart some special words and phrases of God's Word, they practice and learn how to sing a number of Christmas carols. In all these activities around Christmas we see nothing but gentleness, kindness, joy, goodwill, patience, caring, and love: love for God, and a desire to love our neighbor with greater charity in the year to come.

     

    When we celebrate Christmas, we are simply following the example of that first Christmas when shepherds were shown the wonders of heaven through the sights and sounds of the angelic host, and they were directed to the little town of Bethlehem where they could see the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, just as it had been told them by the angel. The shepherds saw the miracle of the birth of the baby Jesus, and returned glorifying and praising God. A silent night became a night of joy and gladness because of the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord.

     

    Two years later we have another gathering of people around Jesus. Now, instead of shepherds it is the Magi from the East, bringing with them wondrous offerings of precious gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They had come to worship the newborn King of the Jews and they found Him at Bethlehem, attended by His mother Mary, and Joseph. Once more we nothing sinister or hostile here. Simply an act of worship, a confession of faith, gestures of love and gratitude to God. What could be so wrong with all this?

     

    Well, nothing is wrong with any of it. Nothing is wrong with gathering at Christmastime to hear the wonderful news of the birth of the Savior Jesus; nothing is wrong with Sunday school Christmas programs, nor of the shepherds and wise men from the East coming to worship the Christ-child. So why do we read this about King Herod: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men." Why such a shocking action by the king? Why does Herod respond with murder to the news of the birth of Jesus? Why are children killed when Jesus is born? Why is there weeping, lamentation, and mourning at a time that should bring joy, gladness, and cheerfulness?

     

    Psalm 2 teaches us: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed...." The powers of this world have much to lose if the Christ-child Jesus accomplishes His mission. Jesus came to defeat the power and riches of this world. He came to show that the very things people think are the ways to dominate, control, and live the best way possible are actually unable to do what they promise. No worldly kingdom lasts. No treasures of gold, platinum, stocks and bonds, are able to give what lasts forever. But those who rely on such things, those who have sold their souls for this world, those who do not see the true chains and shackles of sin, Satan, and death, prefer to see the Christ-child as the enemy. They see Jesus as the One who will ruin their lives, upset their kingdoms, and take away their power. Therefore Jesus must die, according to the thinking of this world. And if others must die too, like the baby boys of Bethlehem, so be it. The hatred against Jesus is potent.

     

    While soldiers, the power of the world, seek the life of Jesus, what is Jesus doing? He is resting in the arms of His mother, Mary, traveling to Egypt with no more escort than Joseph. God hereby shows His contempt for the powers that attempt to overwhelm His only-begotten Son. God knows their plans, and He laughs. Kings like Herod and so many others, those who think they know what power and might are, are shown to be ignorant of real power. For the real power, the real might and strength, are there in the baby Jesus who looks so meek and mild. "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty...."

     

    So Jesus will go on His way to Egypt for a time. Like His human ancestors hundreds of years before, He will leave the promised land when death is near, in order to be safe in Egypt for a time. But like Israel led by Moses, Jesus will leave Egypt and return to the promised land. But this Jesus is the One who Moses promised would be greater than himself. And Jesus, despite His meekness, His humility, His lowliness, would take on the powers of the world, the spite of Satan, the cold reality of death, and defeat them. This Christ-child would grow and mature so that He could live and die for you and me, so that we need never fear even death. For our Savior, this Jesus, is the Son of God, who redeemed us by His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death so that we can be His own, and live with Him forever.

     

    "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." That's the news that Joseph heard that allowed him to bring Jesus back to Nazareth. For you and me God brings the good news that those who seek our life: sin, the devil, even death, are themselves dead to us. They have no power to rule us or dominate us. Instead, they all had to acknowledge the power of Jesus, who is now our gentle and loving King, our Savior. Thanks be to God. Amen.

  • Epiphany 1

    Sermon – Matthew 2.1-12 (Epiphany Sunday – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have given us the light of Your holy Word, the guiding star that leads us to the Christ-child: Send, we beseech You, Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may receive this light and make use of it for our salvation, and that we, like the wise men, when they were seeking the star, may not be afraid because of any hardship or peril, but put all our trust in Your only-begotten Son as our only Savior, devote our earthly possessions to the advancement of Your kingdom, and in all things serve Him, Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

     2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

     3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

     4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

     5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

     6 `But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

     7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

     8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."

     9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

     10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

     11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

     12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. (Matt. 2:1-12 NKJ)

     

    These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    The Word Reveals Christ

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Perhaps it has happened to you. You’re travelling and going to visit this place that someone said you really need to go see. It may be a really special restaurant, or an isolated area with a spectacular view, or something like that. And you have your directions or your GPS leading the way. But the directions are taking you a very unusual way. You find yourself driving down an alleyway in a bad neighborhood. Or you’re driving down a road that is in terrible shape, and the surroundings is nothing special at all. You can’t imagine that that really cool destination is at the end of this path, but you go ahead and follow the directions. And sure enough, you find yourself and the destination is more amazing than you expected.

     

    This is kind of what happened with the wisemen. They went to go see the newborn who is the King of the Jews. And they went the route that would make sense. Where would you find the King of the Jews? Where would you go find the Lord God that you may worship Him? Why, you would go to Jerusalem. Everyone knows, even Gentile people from the East would know that Jerusalem is the most prominent city of the Jews. That is where the palace is. That is where the Temple is, where God is present with His people, and where the people go to worship Him.

     

    So that is where they go. And they inquire about the King, asking where exactly they may find Him. Herod heard about this inquiry, and was troubled by the birth of this child. And so he asked the chief priests and scribes about where the Christ was to be born. And they quoted the prophecy that God spoke through Micah 700 years earlier, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”

     

    Bethlehem! Luther said that Bethlehem is a cowshed compared with Jerusalem.

     

    Even though, it is the city of David’s birth, it is not the kind of a place that the King of the Jews would be found. But the wisemen, being told by Herod that Scripture foretells of the child’s birth in Bethlehem, didn’t despise the lowly town, but believed the Scripture and went to go find the Christ in Bethlehem. And God gave them also a sign from heaven to help them on the way as they obey the words of Scripture.

     

    And they arrived, and most certainly, the destination wasn’t quite what you would expect. Joseph and Mary are poor and lowly. We don’t know their dwelling there at the time of the wisemen’s visit, but it certainly wouldn’t have been a palace. And the child, the King, isn’t accompanied by helpers, or by soldiers guarding him. There is no sign of wealth, power, and a grand inheritance waiting for Him. By all appearances, this is just another peasant child. But it is the Christchild, and again they do not despise the lowliness and the poverty, but they trust the Scripture fell down before the Christchild and worshiped Him. And they gave Him gifts worthy of a King!

     

    Like the wisemen, we cannot find the Christ without the Scripture. Without Scripture, we look for a Christ that is different than who He truly is. In Luther’s day, the Church, trusting not in Scripture, but on popes and councils, pictured Christ only as a judge and a jailkeeper, and thus they had to look for salvation elsewhere like in their works and in Mary.

     

    And now today, many picture a Christ without a lowly gruesome cross. Without a cross, you do not have His substitutionary atonement for our sins, and without that you have a false Christ. And so they look for a Christ that encourages you to achieve your potential. Or they look for a Christ that would bring glory to our nation. Or they look for a Christ that would be a champion for the wickedness of this decaying culture. They look for a false Christ, not the Christ of Scripture, not the Christ who was crucified.

     

    That’s why in many of the megachurches that are only concerned about numbers don’t have a cross in their sanctuary, and very rarely in their preaching. The crucified Christ is offensive, and so they’ll present to unbelievers a Christ that they’re looking for, a Christ without the cross, a tame digestible Christ, a Christ that doesn’t save.

     

    So, it is only through Scripture can we learn of Christ, that He is the Lord, who was crucified and is risen for our forgiveness and eternal salvation.

     

    So Christ is revealed to us through Scripture. But what do we do with the Scripture? As I already said, there are some who disregard the Scripture and look for Christ apart from Scripture. But we see in our text a couple other examples of what a person might do with the Scripture. You have Herod, who used Scripture against Christ. First, he misunderstood Scripture, thinking that Jesus was going to be the kind of king that would threaten his earthly kingdom, and secondly, he uses Scripture so that he may find where this Christchild is so that he may kill him.

     

    We are guilty of this when we twist the Scripture to justify our sin. As one pastor put it, “I love to sin, and God loves to forgive. What a deal!” And what is this but making a mockery of Christ and His suffering for the sake of our rebellion against God.

     

    But then there was the response to Scripture that the scribes and high priests had, which reflects the guilt that we find in ourselves. They know the Scripture, they suspect that the long-promised Christ has indeed been born in Bethlehem, but they do not go with the wise men to go worship Him. The text doesn’t spell it out for us, but it is possible that they feared Herod. Knowing what Herod was like, for example, by this time he had killed one of his wives out of jealousy, and put to death three of his sons, because he didn’t want to give up his throne. And so knowing Herod’s capacity to murder, they were afraid that going to worship Christ would put their lives in danger. Like the scribes and high priests, we search the Scripture to learn God’s will, but we either do not want to follow it, or don’t follow it out of fear of what others may think or do.

     

    But this breaks the first commandment, for we fear our neighbor more than God, when we ought to fear, love and trust in God above all things. Christ’s judgment is clear for these, “The servant however who knows the will of is lord and has not prepared himself nor done his will, will have to endure many stripes” (Lk 12:47).

     

    But then there are the wisemen, who hear the Scripture and believe. Though they are wise in the things of the world, and well-educated, they put all aside all expectations of Christ, and cling only to the wisdom of Scripture.

     

    And what a wonderful Christ is revealed to us sinners through Scripture. He is presented to us as a loving and lowly servant. He is the King of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles, as we learn from the Scripture and the example of the wisemen. He is the eternal King, come down from heaven. But through faith gifted to us by God, we do not despise His lowliness, or His cross, but we bow down and worship Him, our King and our Savior. We worship Him by seeking His mercy and giving Him our sins, for that is what He wants. He comes to bear them and take them all away. Though we have searched for Him apart from Scripture, though we have used Scripture against Him as Herod, or neglected the will of God out of apathy or out of the fear of man as the scribes and high priests, Scripture points us to a humble and gracious King, who invites us to Himself, to behold His nail pierced hands and feet by which He has removed your sins and brought you into His kingdom. And having His forgiveness, we joyfully offer Him ourselves, our lives, as a living sacrifice to our King.

     

    Scripture reveals Christ to us! But it not only functions like a GPS or a set of directions that show us the way to Christ. But Scripture is like the lowly Bethlehem holding Christ Himself. We find Christ in Scripture, and also in the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The disciples of Christ saw Christ ascended into heaven, and disappear behind the cloud. Where then shall we find the Christ when He has ascended into heaven? We find the conquering, eternal King of heaven and earth, in the lowly means of Scripture, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. And so in faith, we do not despise their lowliness, but we find Him there, and receive Him, and we rejoice with exceedingly great joy, because there we behold the Christ our King, who holds for us and grants to us the heavenly treasures He won for us! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

  • Epiphany 2

    Sermon – John 2.1-11 (Epiphany 2 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, that by Your grace You have instituted holy matrimony, in which You keep us from unchastity, and other offenses: We beseech You to send Your blessing upon every husband and wife, that they may not provoke each other to anger and strife, but live peaceably together in love and godliness, receive Your gracious help in all temptations, and raise their children in accordance with Your will. Grant that we all might walk before You in purity and holiness, put our trust in You, and lead such lives on earth, that in the world to come we may have everlasting life, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

     2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

     3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

     4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

     5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

     6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

     7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

     8 And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.

     9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.

     10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"

     11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

     

    These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Jesus Makes Good Things and Makes Things Good

     

    By turning water into wine Jesus revealed His glory, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

     

    There He appears as no more than a man, the son of Mary. But hidden in His appearance is the divine glory of the Son of God, through whom all things are created visible and invisible.

     

    It is normal occurrence that He turns water into wine. For He upholds the universe by the word of His power. Through Him the Father, sends down rain from the clouds, and through the natural processes which Christ upholds, He provides the grapes for wine.

     

    But He through whom all things were created out of nothing, makes wine out of water in a supernatural way. In an instant he changes the nature of a thing. He reveals the divine glory that is hidden behind His humble human frame. He is the eternal God, the Creator.

     

    And notice what kind of wine He makes. It is very good wine. God does all things well, and that includes His work of creation. He completed creation and said that everything was very good. And part of that good creation was His institution of marriage. God gave Eve to Adam for a wife. Scripture says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage was perfect relationship in which one man and one woman would become one flesh, give one another companionship, live in perfect harmony and peace with one another. In their relationship, they would enjoy sexual intimacy, and from that relationship they would produce offspring, working together, serving God together, together making a home for the children, raising them in the knowledge of God their Creator.

     

    Well, we know the perfection didn’t last long. God made His creation very good. Marriage was very good, but then the fall happened. Sin entered the world. And the good things that God had created became corrupted, abused, and perverted and profaned by sinful man. Marriage is still very good, but how much abuse it receives.

     

    Sexual immorality runs rampant. In the days of Old Testament Israel, sexual acts were often part of pagan worship. So also, today, the culture’s worship of self and self-gratification holds sacred just about all sexual impulses, and condemns anything that would put any limits on them. They have no regard to keeping the marriage bed pure. Such a thing is laughable to the world. It is so backwards that chastity is odd. Waiting until marriage is scoffed at, and cohabitation is expected.

     

    But then there are other ways that God’s good institution of marriage is abused. People end their marriages with unfaithfulness, and abandonment of marriage. They end marriage for trivial, selfish reasons, losing interest in a marriage rather than making a decision daily to love one’s spouse with selfless devotion.

     

    A relationship that should be filled with peace and companionship, love and humble service toward one another has disorder, pride, selfishness, impatience, complaining, resentment. A relationship where there is to be a perfect complement of the husband as the loving head, and the wife as the submissive helper, creating a beautiful, happy, and fulfilling relationship instead is replaced with conflict, with the husband either not showing love or not showing leadership or both, and the wife not being submissive and not supporting, respecting, and helping her husband.

     

    Man has abused, profaned, and perverted this good and blessed insitituion of marriage. And we are guilty to one extent or another.

     

    We have sinned. We are guilty, so we confess our sins against God. We have not been good. But Jesus who made good wine does all things well. He creates well, but He also does well in redemption.

     

    We who have sinned, who have a corrupted sinful nature, we have fallen from the goodness with which God had originally made us.

     

    But Jesus has redeemed us. As a loving husband, He gives His life for the protection, and the salvation of His bride. He is faithful and just. He doesn’t let us flounder in the darkness and condemnation of our sin, though that is what we deserve. Rather, He sacrificed Himself for every single sin against Him and against His institution of marriage and against our spouses, or against the marriage bed. No matter how dark or how common the sin, He took it, He paid for it on the cross, suffering hell. And the blood that He shed for our sins, then washes His bride clean. We as members of the Bride, the Church through faith, are made clean. Through baptism we are washed. “Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Is 1:18).

     

    We are clothed in His righteousness, made clean. We sinners who have Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness through faith are made good. We are chaste again, pure, we are faithful husbands and wives, because every impurity, every faithlessness, and selfishness is gone, because every sin is taken away in Christ and we are clothed in His righteousness.

     

    And Christ also makes marriage good, too. He sanctifies marriage even though it is between two sinners. Both husband and wife are cleansed by His blood. Both are given new lives in Christ led by the Holy Spirit to live out their vocations. When Christ is there in a marriage, the forgiveness He gives to husband and wife is shared with one another. Strengthened by the self-sacrificing love of Christ, husband and wife are emboldened to live in loving service to one another. Peace is made in the relationship, when led by Christ, husband and wife live humbly with one another, repenting to one another, and letting love cover a multitude of sins. And a blessed union and companionship, is enjoyed between them, as they work together for their and their children’s earthly and spiritual benefit. Such a marriage is a blessing to each other and to the children, and even those whose lives the couple touches.

     

    And though husband and wife still sin daily, the marriage is made good and holy, because Christ covers them in His forgiveness and righteousness.

     

    Christ is the faithful bridegroom, He covers all of us, married and unmarried alike, in His forgiveness, that we may enjoy the great wedding feast of the Lamb in life eternal. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be; forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Epiphany 3

    Sermon – Matthew 8.1-13 (Epiphany 3 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Your mighty hand to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.

     2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."

     3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

     4 And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

     5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,

     6 saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented."

     7 And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."

     8 The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.

     9 "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one,`Go,' and he goes; and to another,`Come,' and he comes; and to my servant,`Do this,' and he does it."

     10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

     11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

     12 "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

     13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Where Shall Faith Be Found?

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Last week we heard about Jesus’ first miracle, His turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, which is in Galilee. Jesus continued to perform works in Galilee, but then made His way to His hometown of Nazareth. On the Sabbath, as it was His custom He went to the synagogue. He read from the Prophet Isaiah, and began to preach on the text. And His message was essentially that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. He preached of God’s grace. And the people were amazed at His preaching, but their hearts were far from believing in Him.

     

    Jesus had already performed works in Cana, and other parts of Galilee, and they wanted to see Jesus perform these same works in His hometown of Nazareth. But faith would not be found in Nazareth. They would not receive Him as the Messiah. And thus Jesus says, “No prophet is accepted in His own country” (Luke 4:24). Jesus said, “many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land, but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” What He was saying, was that very few among the chosen people of God believed in God and received the word of the prophets, and so the preaching and works of the prophets would be done among these people from heathen nations, that perhaps faith may be found among them.

     

    In the gospel, we see a Roman centurion, a Gentile, show great faith. He came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant. Jesus offers to go to his house and help the man. But the centurion shows great humility. He does not think that he deserves anything from Christ. He does not flaunt his high ranking position before Jesus. Rather he confesses his unworthiness. He does not deserve to have Jesus in his home. But He knows that Jesus is God. The centurion, because of who he is has power to to get things done by his word. He tells his servants something, and they do it. But he is just a man. How much more is Jesus able to accomplish being the Son of God! His word has the power to heal even without being presence. Distance is no issue with Him. And so the centurion trusts in Jesus to help.

     

    And Jesus is astonished at the man’s faith, and says, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

     

    The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They are the children of promise born of Abraham, and descendants of Isaac and Jacob. He spoke to them through the prophets. The Savior comes from their very own race. It was among the Jews that Jesus preached. This is where faith should be found! Among this race that God had favored! But only few of them would believe. But this outstanding faith is found in a Gentile, a stranger to the promise, a man from a heathen people.

     

    What happened with the Jews? They trusted in their lineage. They thought they were children of God simply by being descendants of Abraham. They trusted in their own works to save themselves. They trusted in themselves, in their own works, like the rich young ruler who thought he had kept all the commandments. Without the humility to see one’s own sin and unworthiness of God’s love and salvation, what need is there of Jesus, then? But many would not listen to God’s Word. Jesus says of Jerusalem, you “who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!”

     

    Steven spoke of this, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your faterhs not persecute? And they killed those who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.”

     

    Because of their unbelief, Jesus says, “the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

     

    But the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sinners and the faith which believes this gospel, as it is found in the centurion, will also be found in the east and the west, namely, throughout the world. Such faith shall even be found in these small rural communities in Iowa and Minnesota.

     

    But we must take heed lest that which happened to the Israelites, happen to us. For how often do places that have seen the favor of God, where the gospel was widely proclaimed, and received in faith by so many, have become desolate places, where the gospel is rarely found, and faith is vanishing?

     

    Luther spoke of this, saying, “For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can.”

     

    And this pattern has continued even today. Europe which was rich with the gospel and faith is now spiritually impoverished. But now consider our own country. This was a place where faith would be found. The gospel was proclaimed. It was widely believed. But now, faithful teachers of the gospel are fewer in number. And they aren’t so popular. The number of the faithful seems to be rapidly decreasing, and ungodliness is increasing. But why?

     

    Perhaps some trust in their lineage. They figure that since their family had been Christians, they must also be by default Christians, though they have no regard for the gospel. There’s always the popular deception of the devil that a person can trust in his works to save him. Whatever reason there is for the falling away in the nation what it comes down to is a rejection of the gospel. Like Luther says, it is ingratitude and contempt. Like Stephen said, they resist the Holy Spirit who comes through the gospel.

     

    So examine yourselves: Is there any ungratefulness in your hearts for the gospel? Have you thought and lived as though it were something that we could do without? Have you neglected the hearing of it for the sake of things that are less important? Have you looked to yourselves and your own strength to sustain yourself in the faith and stand before God, instead of putting all your trust the saving gospel of Christ? Have you been indifferent towards handing down this gospel as a most precious treasure to the next generation that they may cherish it?

     

    But, with this faith that the Holy Spirit has given us through the gospel, we put on the humility of the leper and the centurion. We are the unworthy sinners in need of help and mercy. And Christ is the merciful one. We claim no worthiness for His help. If He wills, He can make us clean. And His will was to obey the Father, and to be the sacrifice to take away all of your sins. And He already has done it. He has paid the price for your sins, so that You are made clean.

     

    And we are not worthy that he should visit us, and come under our roof. It is enough that He speaks to us forgiveness. But He does come under our roof when we are in His word at home, and He invites us to be present with Him here under His Father’s roof. And He only speaks a word and we are healed. He speaks to us through the gospel, and that forgiveness He won on the cross is given to us, washing us clean. That same gospel connected to the water of baptism saves you. That same gospel connected to the elements of bread and wine make present for you the body and blood of Christ given to you for the remission of sins.

     

    Where may this faith be found? Lord, make this faith be found among us. And may it be a great faith that He gives us. A faith by which we humble ourselves before Him, that cherishes His holy and precious Word, and all the promises therein of our forgiveness and salvation given us for Christ’s’ sake, that we may gladly hear it and learn it. May He grant us a faith that we may also confess Christ, the merciful Savior, the Savior of us beggars, so that other beggars may know and partake of the Bread of Life.

     

    How great is the grace of God, that He has brought the gospel and faith to us, and may He make it flourish in us and among us and all about us so that we and many others from the east and the west may sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it wasi in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

  • Epiphany 4

    Sermon – Matthew 8.23-27 (Epiphany 4 – 2019)

     

    Lord God, heavenly Father, in Your divine wisdom and fatherly goodness You cause Your children to bear the cross, and send many afflictions upon us to subdue our sinful flesh, and to enliven our hearts to faith, hope, and unceasing prayer: We beseech You to have mercy upon us, and graciously deliver us out of our trials and afflictions, so that we may perceive Your grace and fatherly help, and with all the saints forever praise and worship You; through Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace form God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.

     24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.

     25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

     26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

     27 So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Fear, Give Way to Christ!

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    “Why are you fearful?” Jesus asked. Well, from our fallen human viewpoint, it was pretty obvious. The picture is painted pretty simply for us. A great storm was stirred. Waves overcame the boat. It seemed as though death was imminent. And Jesus, their teacher, was sleeping, seeming to care little about their situation, or perhaps not even being aware of it.

     

    From all appearances, from what their eyes could see, and the tumult of the waves upon their bodies, that was it.

     

    But Jesus’ question wasn’t a question that came from curiosity. The question was one of rebuke. “Why are you fearful? You shouldn’t be. Where is your faith? Do you not know who I am, what I am able to do, and what my will is toward you?”

     

    Does this mean that the disciples should have been completely stoic, unmoved by the threat of the waves? Does it mean that they should have not flinched by whatever came and not bothered Jesus about the trouble they were in?

     

    Does it mean that we too ought to be unmoved by the troubles in life, and that we shouldn’t bother Jesus with our troubles, as though that is a lack of faith? No that is not what it means. For one, fear is not the same as distress. We do face difficult things in this world. We do live in a world surrounded by our enemies, the devil, the world and our sinful flesh. Death is also a horrible enemy that disturbs us. We become troubled and distressed for good reason. There are things in life that can just knock us off our feet. Jesus Himself was troubled by the difficulties He faced. He wept at the death of Lazarus. And when approaching the intense suffering and the death He was about to endure, Matthew says He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed, saying to His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”

     

    And so we are troubled by difficulties as the disciples became distressed in the boat, but even in the midst of distress, we need not fear. And the right response is to go to God for help, for He has commanded us to pray to Him, and to cast our anxieties upon Him. Prayer proceeds from faith and is an act of worship toward God.

     

    We see some good examples of this in the Psalms, including those written by David, who, himself, faced difficult times in his life, such as fleeing from murderous Saul, being displaced by his own son, Absalom, and dealing with the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba.

     

    In Psalm 10 for example, the psalmist speaks of the distress that he is suffering. He asks, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do you hide in times of trouble” He states that it seems like God is uninterested in helping. All the while, the wicked are creating much evil with slander, greed, and murder. But yet, he has faith. He cries out to God, “Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble.” He is waiting for the help of the Lord. But he is not without faith, for he confesses “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.” But you have seen, for you observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand…. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”

     

    Now the disciples went to Jesus, not only with distress, but they were filled with fear and doubt. But Jesus rebukes them. Why should they have no fear? Why should we have no fear?

     

    Jesus shows us. He speaks a word and the wind and the waves stop! The disciples ask a good question: “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary. He created the sky, the atmosphere, dividing the water below from the water above on the second day of creation, and He separated the waters and put boundaries to them making land. And so He with infinite power to create the wind and the waves, also has the power to make them still.

     

    But what is remarkable is that He does it with His human voice, making His words with His human lungs, His human vocal chords, His human tongue, and His human lips!

     

    And it is this wonder of the incarnation again, God became flesh. And He became flesh for those disciples in the boat with Him. He became flesh for you!

     

    He became flesh to save you from all your enemies, to deliver you from your griefs and sorrows, to give you eternal life. And to this end, God suffers, God is crucified, God dies, and God rises again so that you may have forgiveness for your fears and doubts and all yours sins, and so that you may have eternal salvation!

     

    So why should we fear? Why should we doubt?! Hasn’t He finished His work and now ascended into heaven? Aren’t His promises of deliverance true? Are we not baptized into the name of the Triune God, and so we are His! And so, though we are distressed by the difficulties of life, we may run to Christ in prayer with full confidence that He hears us and cares for us! We need not fear nor doubt!

     

    What can the world do to us? Christ has overcome the world. At His return every knee shall bow, whether it is in reverent faith, or in dread of His justice. And so we need not fear the world’s hostility to our faith and our confession of Christ. Even if the world seeks to take our life for the sake of Christ, Christ already has our life in His safe-keeping.

     

    The devil, too, is defeated! His accusations against us all are empty threats, for Christ, by His sacrifice, has forgiven our sins. Whatever evil the devil tries to bring upon us, God guards and keeps us, and turns the devil’s evil into our good.

     

    He who with a word stilled the waters, by His Word caused the dead to rise. He Himself conquered death. So we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Though death is our enemy that troubles us, we know that Christ has destroyed death for us, and has guaranteed us a resurrection of our bodies unto eternal life.

     

    With the word of forgiveness, He puts at ease our troubled consciences. Even if we are guilty of fear and doubt, still we run to Him, knowing that He will forgive us as He has promised.

     

    Or when it comes to the hardships in life if it is His will He will remove them. But sometimes, according to His infinite wisdom He allows us to suffer, but He is not sleeping. He gives us His Word that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His Word that He loves us. For Scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

     33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.

     34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

     35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

     36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

     37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

     38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,

     39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

     

    His Word strengthens us, giving us patience and faith to wait for Him and trust in His good and gracious will.

     

    We understand that we will be troubled and distressed, but fear and doubt must give way to Christ, for He is God who has assumed human flesh for us to deliver us and give us salvation. We may face our troubles with courage, not standing upon our own two feet, but resting upon the care of Christ and His Word.

     

    And we live in full confidence of Christ and His salvation, with this end in mind, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks, “God will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Is 25:8-9). Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be forevermore. Amen.

     

  • Epiphany 5

    Sermon not yet added

  • Transfiguration

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Transfiguration Sunday

    February 5, 2006

     

    Text: Matthew 17:1-9

    Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

     

    DEAR FATHER, YOU ARE OUR HIDING PLACE AND OUR SHIELD; WE HOPE IN YOUR WORD. AMEN. (Ps 119:114)

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    In chapter 16 of St. Matthew and in the later part of chapter 17 our Lord Jesus Christ tells His disciples that He will suffer many things, be crucified, and rise again the third day. The first time Peter hears Jesus describe what must happen he actually tries to talk Jesus out of it. To which Jesus says, “get behind Me, Satan.” When Jesus says the same thing after our text today, the disciples do not try to dissuade Jesus, but they are sorrowful. In between these two descriptions of Jesus’ upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection we have the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

     

    The Transfiguration is a great moment for Peter, James, and John, the disciples who were with Jesus on that mountain that day. They are allowed to see the face of Jesus shining like the sun. The clothes of Jesus shine white as pure light. The disciples catch a glimpse of the hidden divine nature of Jesus Christ. They see Him, for a moment, as He truly is when He allows His glory to shine forth. They see Him as the very One of whom the Father says: “This is My beloved Son.” And with words which no doubt troubled Peter, the God the Father said: “Hear Him.” In other words, “Listen to Jesus. “Do not try to turn Him away from the work of salvation to which He willingly goes. “Do not become obstacles to My plan for the redemption of all people.” The work of Jesus, the One who is full of glory and power, is to suffer and die.

     

    The fact that Jesus is both true God and true man is taught in our text. To the eyes of the disciples Jesus, before and after His transfiguration, appears as a normal looking man. But the transfiguration, the change of the appearance of Jesus to the glorious shining figure, plus the voice of the Father identifying Jesus as His beloved Son, show that Jesus is more than a normal man. He is also God.

     

    What is the reason for Jesus being both God and man? Our catechism summarizes the biblical teaching on the need for Jesus to be both God and man in this way:

     

    It was necessary for our Savior to be true man in order to fulfill the law for us and suffer and die in our place....It was necessary for our Savior to be true God in order that His fulfilling the law for us and His suffering and dying in our place might be sufficient.

     

    In other words, the very reason for the two natures in Christ, the Incarnation, the fact that Jesus is both true God from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary, is in order to accomplish salvation, to pay for our sins, to justify us, forgive us.

     

    However, there is the idea today that the main reason for Jesus to become true man was in order to show how welcoming and hospitable God is towards us. It is a shift away from the atonement, a shift away from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and a shift to a more therapeutic, feel-good Jesus. It is as if our real need was not for the forgiveness of our sins, but to become aware of how God wants to welcome us into His family. And while there is bit of truth to this, it comes at the price of moving the real work of Jesus off to the side, and putting in the center only one of the results of Jesus’ work. It also puts off to the side the need you and I have for the death of Jesus, His sacrifice for the death we deserved because of our sins. And this fits in with much of the thinking today which wants little to do with “Christ crucified,” and wants more only Christ the Enabler, the One who will help us be all we can be.

     

    The Christ of the transfiguration is not that person. He knows what His work is. He laid it all out for His disciples: suffering, death, resurrection. We dare not get this wrong about Jesus. To do so is to risk losing that which we truly need: forgiveness.

     

    Now, besides the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples also see with Jesus two of great men of God from the Old Testament. First we have Moses. Moses is the greatest of all the heroes of faith in the Old Testament. But listen to what God said to Moses in Deuteronomy:

     

    “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.”

     

    So, what do you think Peter, James, and John are thinking when God the Father tells them to listen to Jesus? It is not only the glory that surrounds them that causes them to fall on their faces and be afraid, it is also the fact that they now know this Jesus is exactly the “Prophet” foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy. The words of Jesus are the what the Father commands, Jesus speaks in the name of the Father.

     

    And then we have Elijah. The prophet Malachi, whose writings certainly were known to the disciples, had foretold that Elijah would come before the great and awesome day of the Lord. And right after the transfiguration, just a few verses after our text, when the disciples are wondering about the meaning of Elijah, Jesus tells them that John the Baptist was the very “Elijah” foretold, the one who came right before the Messiah, the Christ, the promised One. So with Moses and Elijah both present at the transfiguration of Jesus there is the clear proclamation that Jesus is the One to whom all the Old Testament pointed. This is the One the disciples are to hear.

     

    For us, too, the words of the Father are to be heard. God the Father sent His Son in order for us to hear Him, to trust Him, to rely on His words. The words of Jesus are life, for He is Himself Resurrection and Life. To ignore the word of Jesus is to ignore the message we need. We need forgiveness for we are a people of sin, of rebellion, of selfishness. We need the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus because without Jesus taking our place we have only eternal death awaiting us, the “just desserts” of our sin against God and neighbor.

     

    But thanks be to God that He has given His only-begotten Son to suffer and die and rise again for us. And like the disciples, our hope and joy is found by looking to Jesus only. For after all the events of the transfiguration, the glory, the fear, we are told: “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” That’s what the Father wants. He wants us to see Jesus only. Jesus only is our salvation. He only is our Life. He only is our Resurrection, our joy and hope for all eternity.

     

    God keep you safe in Jesus only as you trust in Him and the precious work of salvation which He has accomplished for your sake. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

     

     

  • Septuagesima

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Septuagesima

    February 8, 2004

     

    Text: St. Matthew 20:1-16

    "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 "and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 "They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 "saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 "But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    The whole idea of fairness is getting out of hand in our country. There are all sorts of claims for getting what is fair. And we are all very good at spotting what is unfair. It is unfair for corporate executives to receive millions of dollars in bonuses. It is unfair for ball players to receive millions of dollars in salary just to play a dumb game. It is unfair to receive a speeding ticket when the patrolman didn’t give a ticket to the guy who passed you a minute earlier going twice as fast as you were.

     

    Besides these, there are all sort of more serious types of unfairness. Was it fair for that young eleven year old girl in Florida to be murdered on her way home from school? Is it fair that women and children are killed by suicide bombers in Israel? Is it fair that some get incurable cancer while others don’t? There are many, many types of unfairness all around us. Some even think that it is unfair for homosexual couples not to be able to marry. They are wrong, but that will not stop them from trying to force the acceptance of this perversion on the rest of the country.

     

    So what is fairness all about? It is usually about you or me getting the good stuff we think we deserve, but it is not about us getting the bad stuff we deserve. Isn’t it true that talk about fairness is just a one way street? The children of Israel followed Moses into the desert after being saved from slavery in Egypt. But then they complained and complained about how unfair it was that they were not living in the luxury they deserved. God had performed great miracles of deliverance for them, yet that was not enough. No thought was given to what they owed God, but it was all about what God owed them.

     

    Jesus spoke the parable of the landowner and the workers to teach us about relying on the grace of God and not looking for rewards or compensation that we deserve. This parable is about the Gospel and its great treasure freely given despite the fact that we haven’t earned it. It is not about the law, because the law is all about earning something, about fairness, about justice, about everything being equal.

     

    The first workers of the day worked the longest. But before they even worked they had agreed to a specific amount of money. It seemed fair at the time to them, or else they would not have agreed to work for that wage, one denarius. So they go out and put in the hours expected of them, and they get exactly what they agreed to, no more, no less. So what makes them complain at the end of the day? They don’t look at what they agreed to, they look at what others are getting. Their complaints grow from coveting, from greediness, from a sense of unfairness, of being cheated. They would never have worked twelve hours for one denarius if they knew they could have gotten the same amount for working just one hour. But they received what they deserved.

     

    The other workers did not make an agreement for a wage before they started working. Instead, the landowner said, "whatever is right, I will give you." These workers decided simply to rely on the landowner. And they received as much as the first ones.

     

    This is not fair, is it. But this parable is not about salaries, and equal pay for equal work, it is not a tool for discussions between labor and management. This parable is about the kingdom of heaven and how it is different from the world and its insistence on fairness.

     

    The kingdom of heaven deals with us in two ways: law and gospel. The law is all about fairness. If you do this, then this will be your reward. If you do not do this, then this will be your punishment. It is very straight forward. Everything balances out. It is very, very fair. And it should scare you to death to think that God must judge you in this way.

     

    God’s law is good and perfect. We are not. And that is what makes the law a problem for us, the way of death instead of life. The law demands that you never have any other god than the true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It goes on to teach us that anytime we trust or love or rely on someone or something, then that thing is our god. So, we find that our lives are filled with many gods, things that give us pleasure, things that make us feel secure, things that give us power. Whatever or whoever these things are, they are all false gods, which means that we have not loved God as we should. The law demands perfection. It demands 100% obedience. So as soon as the law is broken by us, what is the punishment? "The wages of sin is death."

     

    Do you want God to be fair with you? Do you want Him to give you exactly what you have earned? You have not been as kind to your husband or wife as you should have been. You have not raised your children as you should have. You have not been as generous as you should have been. So what have you earned with all this? What does it mean for God to be fair with you in this matter? It means that He should allow you to suffer for your sins right now and for all eternity. That would be the fairest way.

     

    But God is love. And love is not fair. Parents are to love our children even when we are sorely disappointed by them. Because of love we are to be kind to others even when they don’t deserve it. That is love.

     

    God’s love is far above any love we can achieve. He loved us so much that He did not want us to die in our sins. So He made a plan for our salvation that was unfair. He gave His best and dearest, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God did not even bother to weigh all our sin to determine the exact amount needed to pay for it all. He simply paid so much that no sin or pile of sins could ever come close to using it all up. That payment is the life and death, the shedding of the blood, of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. How unfair! But that is what it means that we are saved by grace alone. Grace is unfair. It is love we do not in any way deserve or earn. It is simply given.

     

    Jesus teaches us that we should not be like the workers who complained at the unfairness of the landowner. Instead, let us rejoice in the grand unfairness of the grace of God, a love so immense that we need not think of paying for our sin, it is all taken care of. Such love allows us to approach God without fear, for by His grace we are able to approach Him as children speak to their dear father. Such love allows us to rest in peace when we approach our own time of death, for we know that by God’s grace our sins will not be a weight that sinks us into hell, but we are given forgiveness for all, and we will be carried to heaven. We are saved by grace alone. That is the grand and wonderful unfairness of God’s love for each of you. Thanks be to God! Amen.

     

  • Saxagesima

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Sexagesima

    February 15, 2004

     

    Text: John 12:35-43

    Then Jesus said to them, "A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. 37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    Our text this morning took place after Palm Sunday, that is, just a few days before Jesus’ crucifixion and death. He knows that the hour of His great suffering is near. The Light of the world, Jesus Christ, is soon to be extinguished by the death on the cross – or at least that is what will appear to happen. So Jesus tells the crowd about the "little while" that He will be with them. He desires that they believe Him now, "now is the time of their salvation." They should not presume to think that it doesn’t matter if they put off following Jesus. No, rather they must understand: "while you have the light, believe in the light."

     

    However, John records for us that many did not believe Jesus. This reminds us of the result in John 6, after Jesus fed the 5,000 and taught that He is the Bread of Life. He taught the crowd: "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." What happened to so many who followed Jesus? They left Him and followed Him no more. They did not believe Him.

     

    Now we see much the same thing happening. Yet, there is the interesting comment from St. John that many of the rulers believed in Jesus. But what did they do? They did not confess Him because they were unwilling to go against the Pharisees. The Pharisees would excommunicate anyone who confessed Jesus, just as they had done to the blind man Jesus healed, recorded in John’s ninth chapter. At that time Jesus had told the Pharisees: "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind." Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, "Are we blind also?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains." The light had come into the world, but the darkness refused to acknowledge it. And the rulers in our text decide it is better to remain in the darkness than to confess the light. Of them John states: "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." These are sad words, sadder still because they apply to us all so often.

     

    There is a penalty to pay when we stand up for the truth of God's Word. The penalty varies according to the society. In China, the penalty may be prison. In various Muslim countries the penalty may be death. In our own community the penalty may be that you will be shunned, avoided, called names, perhaps it will mean that people you thought were friends will no longer treat you the same way. What are we willing to endure? It is so tempting to "love the praise of men more than the praise of God."

     

    In the Gospel for today we heard Jesus’ parable of the Sower and the Seed. The seed was thrown around all over the place. There was no attempt to stay just on the good soil. It was thrown on the path, on the rocks, among the weeds. Why? Because God is not stingy with His Word. He spreads His Word so that all will hear. But not all believe. Satan, world, and sinful flesh all work to kill the seed. The seed is eaten by the birds, scorched by the sun, and choked by the weeds. That is why Jesus says to us: "Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you...."

     

    It is easy to take God’s Word for granted. After all, there are Bibles all over the place. Every Sunday we have services here. Why should we worry about losing God’s Word? Such thoughts ignore what Jesus says here. Our Lord teaches us: Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." Isaiah was writing about the people of his day, 700 years before Christ. These were the children of Israel, a nation for whom God had done wonderful things, a nation with such leaders as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and others who confessed and taught and prophesied about the true God and the coming Messiah. Yet the people had given up the true faith. Many had turned to the false gods that surrounded them. And so Isaiah brought God’s Word: their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened. What does this mean? We must remember how our Lutheran confession explains this: "For through the word and sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel" (AC V).

     

    There is a great mystery here that is ignored by those who seek the praise of men by seeking numbers and the glory of this world for the church. Large crowds are not the goal of preaching and teaching God’s Word. Rather, the goal is to proclaim that word faithfully. The results of the preaching and teaching are not ours to control or manipulate. The results are given by God the Holy Spirit. Some will hear and believe. But others will not. They will be blind and their hearts hardened to the truth of God’s Word. We cannot understand this. It is a mystery of God that we dare not try to unravel. What we are called to do is bring the Word to people, to scatter it as liberally and generously as the Sower in Jesus’ parable. How that Word is received is not our work. "The Holy Spirit works faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel."

     

    What we learn is that it is only by God’s grace that His Word continues in any place. Should we abuse that grace and charity of God? Should we ignore Him and be blind and hard-hearted? Should we love the praise of men more than the praise of God? No, this is not what we desire. Yet we know that we are surrounded by sin, infected with it. We are unable to stand on our own. We are sinful. We find that we do not love God’s Word as we should, that our trust is too often mis-directed, that our confidence is placed not in the Gospel, the forgiveness of our sins through faith in Christ. But that is why we keep praying:

     

    Hallowed be Thy name. What does this mean? God's name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be holy among us also. How is God's name hallowed? God's name is hallowed when His Word is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God live holy lives according to it. This grant us, dear Father in heaven! But he who teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches dishonors God's name among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

     

    Our text does not lead us to despair or apathy. Rather, it points us to Christ. He is the Light. He has not left us. He was not extinguished by the darkness of death. He rose again the third day, proclaiming His victory over our enemies of sin, death, and devil. He continues to shine with the brilliance of the Son of God, who shines in our hearts, giving us forgiveness for all our wandering away from Him, patiently waiting for us like the father of the prodigal son. When the father saw his ungrateful son returning from his sin the father did not stomp away in a huff, but ran to the son, hugged him, and rejoiced, giving him a great and wonderful banquet. That is God’s love for you, a love that forgives, a love that prepares a table for us, a table with the great banquet of the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the remission of sins.

     

    God help us all to remain with the Light, to seek and love the praise of God, faithfully following our Lord, trusting in His Word alone, the Word of free forgiveness, for our salvation. Amen.

     

  • Quinquagesima

    Sermon – Luke 18.31-43 (Quinquagesima – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your prophets, you foretold the merciful work of Your Son, by which we have forgiveness and eternal life. Grant us, we pray, true faith that we may see and know Christ and His merciful works, so that we may call upon Him in our every need, and be saved eternally, through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.

     32 "For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.

     33 "They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."

     34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.

     35 Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging.

     36 And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant.

     37 So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

     38 And he cried out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

     39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

     40 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him,

     41 saying, "What do you want Me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight."

     42 Then Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."

     43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Faith in the Merciful Lord Is Saving Faith

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    What kind of God do we have? What is His attitude toward us? Is He near to us, or is He distant? Is He merciful? Is He wrathful? Is He cruel?

     

    How do we believe Him to be? How do we approach Him in prayer?

     

    Is God like a lazy parent, who loves His kids, but needs some urging to put the chips down and get off the couch to help?  Such are the false teachings among many Pentecostals and American Evangelicals. You must pray enough, You must believe hard enough, you must pour your soul into what you ask and then God will give you whatever you ask. Such teachings almost make Christians like the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, who cut up their bodies in an attempt to get their idol to pay attention to them. God is merciful and helpful, only when we hold up our end. Prayer is seen as a means by which we get God to act for us.

     

    Jesus condemns this approach to God and to prayer when He judged the heathens, who “think that they will be heard for their many words.” Jesus then said, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

     

    God is not merciful to us because we believe in Him and pray to Him. It is the other way around. We believe in Him and pray to Him, because God is merciful.

     

    This truth we will learn as we examine our Gospel text today. Through it, may our souls be comforted, our faith strengthened, and may we be led to boldly go before our gracious Lord as our dear Father.

     

    A blind man sat along the road. Because of his blindness, he was not able to work, so he begged relying on the generosity of people to live. He heard a commotion coming, but didn’t know what it was about, so he asked. The people told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

     

    This man knew immediately, that this wasn’t just a man from Nazareth, but that this was the Son of David. This was the Messiah, the king promised by God whose kingdom would have no end!

     

    How does this blind beggar think that he is worthy of the attention of the Son of God? Wouldn’t the Son of God be more concerned about the strong, able, and influential people of the world, if that?

     

    And the world tried to convince the blind beggar of that, too. Those who were in front rebuked the blind man, telling him to be silent.

     

    Is that a possibility that crosses our minds as well? Think of all that God created, simply by the power of the Word. Everything visible and invisible, all was created by Him. And in this vast universe, there is this tiny planet earth. And then in this world of almost 7 billion people, here we are just a small few. Why would God pay attention to me? Why dare I approach this God so great, so mighty, so infinite?

     

    Well, we know that man is the chief of God’s visible creation. We are God’s special creatures created in His image. But then all of us in Adam, rebelled against Him. And God is a just God. He loves good and hates sin. He punishes sinners. Consider how we have sinned against the 10 commandments. Have you served other gods by placing in our hearts, people, money, success, pleasure, health or other things above God? In regard to your relationships with your neighbor, have you loved your family, friend, and stranger with the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 which we read earlier in the service? Or have you rather been unkind, impatient and selfish?

     

    There is no way around it. We are sinners. We carry each day this wretched sinful flesh, and each day this sinful flesh produces sin. So then, how would we dare approach God, so holy, righteous and just?

     

    We take a lesson from the blind man. The blind man believed in Christ. He knew Christ to be a merciful God and king. He knew Christ to be the One who comes in mercy with healing and salvation for lowly sinners.

     

    He knew what the prophets knew, for Jeremiah, who was often called to preach the harshness of God’s Law and Judgment over Judah, was also able to proclaim the mercy of God, saying, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your Faithfulness” (Lam 3:23). And the blind man knew what David knew about the mercies of God, for David wrote in Psalm 28(:6-9): “Blessed be the LORD, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!

     7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

     8 The LORD is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.

     9 Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance; Shepherd them also, And bear them up forever.”

     

    And here David’s son and David’s Lord came walking by. Because of the Lord’s mercy, and compassion for His people, the blind man cried out for mercy to heal him.

     

    We have also come to this saving truth about the mercy of God. It is in His words to the disciples where we see the essence and source of God’s mercy: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 "For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 "They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

     

    While mankind was blindly heading away from God, choosing to live in the filth of sin and unbelief, in the control of the devil toward eternal destruction, Christ was heading to Jerusalem for His mission of mercy to save us.

     

    In mercy, He chooses to be nailed to a cross for you. In mercy, He chooses to take upon Himself the wrath of God which we deserve. In mercy, He suffers hell for you.

     

    This mercy didn’t come about by man’s thinking, pleading or working. Rather it came solely from the heart and mind of God. He has mercy on our fallen and rebellious race, and so sends His Son to save us.

     

    That is the kind of God you and I have. We believe in Him, seek forgiveness from Him, and pray to Him, because He is merciful.

     

    God already mercifully provides for us both body and soul, before we even asked. He planned your salvation, even before the foundation of the world.

     

    In His mercy He takes care of our eternal needs. He has already taken away all your sins for the sake of Christ. He sends you His Holy Spirit through His Word and Sacraments, bringing to you forgiveness of all your sins, life and salvation. You don’t have to be concerned about earning His mercy and forgiveness. You don’t have to think about whether you have to earn the right to approach God for His mercy. He is already merciful. He has already forgiven your sins. He already offers to you through His Word and Sacraments that same forgiveness. And so we put our faith in Him, and trusting in His mercy, we approach Him in prayer, asking from Him the merciful care for our eternal needs.

     

    In His mercy He also takes care of our temporal needs. We don’t have to try to earn His attention, and earn the right to approach Him to ask Him for what we need for our bodies and lives. He mercifully gives it even before we ask. Jesus said, “The Father in heaven makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mt 5:45). We also have the promises of God who created us and redeemed us and loves us, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For all these things the Gentiles seek, For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt 6:31-33). And so because He is merciful, we trust Him to keep us in our earthly lives, and so we approach Him in prayer, asking for His mercy.

     

    The world may try to convince us, like they did with the blind man, that God doesn’t care about us. They may mock us for our trust in Him. Our own flesh may try to convince us of the same. Our sinful flesh may try to cause us to doubt, “Does God really love you? Can He really forgive you for this sin? Look at all the other people in the world who are more worthy of His love and care. Or look at how you suffer? Does God really care about you? He is not healing your or taking away your suffering?” But still like the blind man, we know God to be merciful to us. We only have to look at where Jesus was going. To Jerusalem. To the cross. To death. There is proof of His mercy. And He is risen from the dead, and our merciful Lord lives, and loves me and cares for me. He forgives me all my sins, grants me eternal life, and keeps me in my life on earth. And if He doesn’t take away my problems in this life, I know that His good and gracious and merciful will is for my eternal good, and in the life to come, there will be no more prayers of mercy, but only prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Lent 1

    Sermon – Matthew 4.1-11 (Lent 1 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary does continually afflict us, and as a roaring lion walks about, seeking to devour us: We beseech You for the sake of the suffering and death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to strengthen our hearts by Your Word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Your grace, and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

     2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

     3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

     4 But He answered and said, "It is written,`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

     5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,

     6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,' and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

     7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"

     8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

     9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

     10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written,`You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"

     11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    It is a tragedy that many people think that Christianity is merely a moralistic religion—that we’re all about rules and laws, that Christianity is all about what we ought to do and what we are not to do, and that is it. Now it is true that there exists a universal moral code, a moral code that written on the hearts of all people, and it is written down for us in the words of Holy Scripture.

     

    And we uphold these moral laws. We speak the truth. We call good good and evil evil. But many of those around us, those who rebel against the natural law, say that these laws are our laws, the laws of the church, ones that the church has come up with, and that should not apply to all people of all times. They see these laws as arbitrary, that apply only for a certain time and a certain place. And when we proclaim these morals, well people despise it.

     

    But it is important for us to keep in mind that the moral law, summed up in the 10 Commandments, and summed up even further with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,” that law is God’s Law. God’s Law inherently and universally good, and nothing changes that.

     

    We know that, but we don’t always think about the law in that way, because we know that the law accuses us of sin. It condemns us. For Scripture says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:19-20). The Law demands perfection, and the Law shows that we have fallen short. So it seems like the Law is a bad thing. But it is not! Again Scripture says, “Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law….The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom 7:7,12).

     

    We look at the First Commandment, basically the foundational commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” And Luther explains it, “You shall fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Isn’t that a good thing!? What a blessed relationship it is! God is the Creator, the source of all blessings, of life, of love, of peace, righteousness and joy! And it is only right to fear Him because of His majesty, righteousness and mercy. It is only right to love Him, for He has loved us first from even before the foundation of the world. It is only right that we would trust Him, seeking from His goodness and generosity, everything needed for our bodies and souls. And He is God, and to give Him our fear, love, and trust, is to treat Him as our God. This is the first and foremost law. And it is good and beautiful.

     

    But the law was broken, and man’s relationship with God was broken in the Garden of Eden. The devil, the old evil foe, tempted Adam and Eve to do the opposite of fearing, loving, and trusting in God. The devil tempted them to dishonor God, to think little of God’s command, to take glory from God and give it to themselves. The devil tempted them to spurn God’s love for them, and instead of love Him, they disobeyed Him. The devil tempted them to put their trust in themselves, to find blessing and sustenance in what God had forbidden.

     

    Adam fell, and we are guilty of Adam’s sin. The devil was successful against mankind. He brought sin and destruction into the world. Man’s relationship with God was destroyed. There was no more righteousness coming from the heart, mind and will of man. The heart of man became corrupt, no longer fearing, loving and trusting in God above all things. And certainly with this Law broken, so also all the others are broken, too.

     

    And so the second Adam came. The Son of God became flesh, was born of a Virgin, so that He may be born under the Law, to redeem us who are under the law.

     

    He had to be perfect. He had to be guiltless under the law, so that there would be a record of perfection, a righteousness that could be imputed, or credited to mankind. And so Jesus lived under the requirements of the Law. And again the devil, in his wickedness, made every effort to destroy the saving works of Christ. The devil knew who Jesus was! What a victory it would be for him if he could make Jesus fall. And so he attacked Jesus. He tempted Him, not just with these temptations recorded for us in the text, it is likely that the devil tempted Him the entire time. But interestingly, the devil tempted Jesus, like Adam, to do the opposite of fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things. The devil tempted Jesus jump from the pinnacle of the Temple, testing His Father, which is an act of disrespect toward the Father. That would not be being fearful of the Father. He would be stealing glory from the Father to gain worldly glory for Himself.

     

    And the Devil tempted Jesus to not Love the Lord your God, by tempting him to love the devil and worldly wealth and might more than the Father.

     

    And the Devil tempted Jesus to not trust in the Father. He suggested to Jesus to turn those stones into bread. He should no longer trust in the Father to provide for Him. He should take it into His own hands, and provide for Himself.

     

    And the Devil tried to get Jesus to break just one little bit of the Law. But the devil failed! Jesus won! Jesus obeyed the Law. He obeyed the Father’s will perfectly! Jesus came out of the wilderness with His righteousness intact. Still He remained without guilt! He has a righteousness to clothe you!

     

    And He took the curse of the law for you, the condemnation that we deserved for our breaking of the Law. And so He hung on the tree willingly becoming a curse for us, suffering the Father’s just wrath.

     

    So when we examine ourselves according to the Law, and see clearly that we have broken the good and holy law. We have been unholy, and have done evil in thought word and deed, but you have a Savior, who kept that Law, and has a holiness and righteousness for you.

     

    When we see that we have not kept that First Commandment, not fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, but that we belittle the demands and threats of God’s law, and fear rather people, loss, or trouble in this world. When we steal glory from God which He alone is worthy, and we exalt ourselves and our will above God’s will; when we make any object, person, or thing as something we desire or love more than God; when we doubt God’s providence, and put things into our own hands, trusting in ourselves rather than God,  you have Jesus who perfectly feared, loved and trusted in His Father above all things! And He has, by His death on the cross, forgiven you all your sins.

     

    When the devil attacks us and tempts us to stumble, we need Jesus who is the Victor over the devil, and in spite of the devil obtained a righteousness that saves us and gives us victory over that old evil foe.

     

    And so through Christ, we are justified! That means that through faith in Christ, we have by His sacrifice on the cross the forgiveness of all of our sins, and by His perfect keeping of the Law, we are credited with His righteousness. Through faith in Him, in the sight of God, you are guiltless. You have perfect, you have kept the good and holy Law. You are His saints! The righteousness that the devil stole from humanity in the Garden of Eden is restored to you through Jesus!

     

    And not only is His righteousness imputed to us, but the Holy Spirit gives us the new man, the new creation, the image of God that was lost in the Garden, that we have new hearts and minds to delight in God’s law, to love what is good, to hate what is evil, to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. And though the devil still battles against us, we have Christ our Savior, forgiving us and giving us His Word that keeps us in faith and guards us from the foe.

     

    And so Christianity isn’t just a moralistic religion about the dos and don’ts of life. Rather it is about Christ, who has in grace kept the law for us, and sacrificed Himself for us, so that we may be saved eternally. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Lent 2

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Reminiscere, Lent 2

    March 7, 2004

     

     

     

    Text: Luke 7:36-50

    Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." 41 "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." 48 Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50 Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    Here is a text that allows us to do whatever we want, to sin in whatever ways excite us, to live in whatever lifestyle we choose. After all, we know that even if we do this, even if we just keep acting and thinking and speaking without any regard to God’s Law, the nice Jesus is just going to say: "your sins are forgiven." Sadly, what I have just said is how shallowly some interpret this text and the love of Jesus. But such an interpretation fails to understand the nature of sin and the gift of forgiveness that Jesus gives.

     

    Jesus is dealing with two sinners in this text. One is the Pharisee who invites Jesus to dinner. The other is the woman identified specifically as a sinner.

     

    The Pharisee does not treat Jesus as a guest in his home. He has ignored some of the basic customs of his society when you invite someone to dinner. The Pharisee did not greet Jesus with the traditional kiss. He did not supply water for the washing of feet, nor did he anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet this Pharisee stands in judgment over both Jesus and the sinful woman. The sinful woman is judged because she truly is a sinner, someone with whom a good Pharisee would have nothing to do. Jesus is judged by the Pharisee because the Pharisee doesn’t understand who Jesus is or what He came to accomplish. He imagines that Jesus should not be in contact with sinners. He does not know that Jesus came not only to be in contact with sinners, but to become saturated with sin, taking it all on Himself. Jesus is being the Savior as He allows this woman to touch His feet as she washes them and dries them with her hair. He is showing His compassion for sinners. But the Pharisee does not understand. He does not understand because he does not know the profoundness of sin’s impact on himself.

     

    Jesus treats the two sinners in this text differently. He does so because at this point, one of them needs the Law, and one of them needs the Gospel. The Pharisee needs to hear the Law because he is still secure in his own righteousness. He compares himself to the woman and uses her sinfulness to congratulate himself on his own virtue. So our Lord speaks to this man, Simon, in order to show him that he must not be so secure. He must see that his own lack of hospitality to Jesus is itself a sin, and that this sinful woman whom he despises is actually the better host. Jesus does not offer forgiveness to Simon at this time because Simon does not indicate that he knows his sin, nor is he ashamed of it, nor does he confess it.

     

    Compare this to how Jesus treats the woman. She comes to him and is clearly overcome by her sin. She weeps at the feet of Jesus, acting as a lowly servant, as someone who does not deserve to eat with Jesus. It is not that she deserves forgiveness any more than Simon does. But she knows that she needs help. She has been made to realize that she herself is not pure or righteous or good. Jesus absolves her saying: "your sins are forgiven."

     

    Jesus does not tell her it doesn’t matter how she lived. The very fact that He forgave her tells us that how she lived was wrong in the eyes of Jesus. He knew she was a sinner. He knew that her life was lived against the commands of God. Such a life was not condoned by Jesus, but forgiven. We must understand that such forgiveness is not cheap, but rather Jesus Himself knows the true cost; He knows what it takes for Him to say: "your sins are forgiven." He knows that the cross lies ahead of Him, the time of the great agony of His suffering and death. We dare not use the love of Jesus to presume that He thereby doesn’t care how we live. The sinful woman does not claim that her lifestyle is none of Jesus’ business. Instead she is ashamed of it, and comes to Jesus not in order to get His approval, but to receive the blessed forgiveness of her sin, her thoughts, words, and deeds that need changing.

     

    Jesus uses a parable to teach Simon about forgiveness and gratitude. He said, "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" The sinful woman owes the 500, Simon owes the 50. Therefore the sinful woman shows greater love to Jesus, for He forgave her more. But Jesus is not saying that we can count up our sins to see how much forgiveness we need, and then determine how much to love Jesus. No. What Jesus wants Simon and you and me to understand is that all of us need forgiveness, that even if we think our sins small, we should still run to our Savior for forgiveness. But even more, we should realize that when we think our sins are small, we are really not understanding sin. We do not know God’s Law as we should if we think our sins are small. And we do not know the true nature of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross if we think that He went there for sins that don’t really matter.

     

    God help us to know our sins. The point is not for us to be in a state of perpetual sadness because of them, but to know them so that we repent, confess them, and receive the forgiveness of our sins. That is what God wants you to receive. And He is not ashamed to eat with you, He is not ashamed to have you as His guest. He treats you as royalty, giving you the very best, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

     

    God grant that we all continue to learn our sin, not in comparison to others, but simply in comparison to what God says. And let us not be afraid to come to Jesus with whatever sins we have. He will not turn us away. He invites us to be with Him, now, through Word and Sacrament, and in eternity, with the everlasting life He gives. Amen.

     

  • Vespers

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Mid-week Lent 2

    March 3, 2004

     

    Text: Hebrews 9:6-14

    Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience – 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

     

    Dear friends in Christ,

     

    Our text from Hebrews draws our attention to the Old Testament Day of Atonement and the clear connection with the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

     

    The Day of Atonement was a once per year special day for Israel. On this day the high priest would offer special sacrifices that would make it possible to continue the daily sacrifices for another year. He would make a sacrifice of cleansing for the sins of himself, for the people, and also cleanse the very altar itself. How did all this cleansing take place? Through very specific sacrifices and ritual.

     

    First, the high priest, the only one allowed to enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple in which was the mercy seat, the top of the ark of the covenant, had to bathe himself and put on plain linen clothes instead of the usual ornate vestments of the high priest that were made of gold and precious stones. Thereby the high priest signified his own humility, and how he himself needed the forgiveness of sins. Then he would burn incense at the curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place of the Temple. This incense created a cloud of smoke that would hide the high priest from the glory and majesty of God. Then a bull calf was sacrificed specifically for the high priest. The blood was kept, and the high priest would go to the curtain of the Most Holy Place. Then he would sprinkle the blood on the curtain, and on the mercy seat. This blood was for himself. He would do the same with the blood of one goat, which was for the people. After this, he would mix the blood of the bull and the goat and use it to sprinkle the altar of burnt offering, the place where all the daily offerings were made to the Lord. Unlike the blood sprinkled in the Most Holy Place, this sprinkling of blood at the altar occured in the sight of all the assembly. The impurity of the people due to their sins would thus be cleansed from the altar, allowing it to be used for the next year. In one final action, the high priest would turn to one other live goat, and then we read from Leviticus:

     

    Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

     

    As one reads the careful instructions for the high priest, one is struck at the solemnity of this Day of Atonement, and how precisely the priest needed to follow the Lord’s directions. The use of blood is also striking. Blood prepares the way for the high priest, blood prepares the way for the people, and blood prepares the altar; all is done so that the priest and people may receive the forgiveness of their sins.

     

    The author of Hebrews is well aware of the Old Testament instructions and ritual. We read: "But into the second part [of the Temple] the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance." Clearly, the emphasis is on the blood, without which the high priest may not enter before the presence of God. The blood is the life, and the giving up of the life of the bull and the goat cleanses the people of their sin, not because of any special quality of that blood, but because this is what the Lord commanded and promised.

     

    Our text proceeds from the lesser to the greater, from that which had to be done over and over again, to that which only happened once. So we are told of our Savior: "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He [Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." Yes, the blood is the life. And the blood of Jesus, spilled at the cross of Golgotha, far surpasses any blood of the goats and calves. This blood of the Son of God is the blood that allows Him entrance into the Most Holy Place, for He needs no other blood than His own. There is no blood holier; there is no blood with more life. Jesus blood is so pure and powerful that it cleanses our sin completely; His blood is so filled with life that it is eternal, without end, forever and ever.

     

    We need this blood on us and on our children. Our impurity is so thick that we are corrupted for all our life and for eternity. It is a stain set so deep that none of our attempts to scrub or purge it from ourselves will work. The sacrifice of the Son of God shows us the immensity of our sin; but even more it shows us the greater love of God for us who are unclean, stained, and polluted with sin.

     

    "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" By God's wondrous love the blood of Christ Jesus is sprinkled upon us. In Baptism, we see the water red with the blood of Christ, not in some gory display, but as a washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, known by faith to those who believe the promise of God in Baptism. In the Holy Supper we receive this blood, the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood filled with the life of Jesus, eternal life, given and shed, poured out, for you.

     

    The sacrifices of the Old Testament are at an end. The sacrifice of Jesus was once-for-all on the day we call Good Friday. It need not ever be repeated again. But by God’s grace we are able to know of this death that means life, this suffering that means peace, this Jesus who is our Savior. "...with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." This is God’s precious gift for you. Believe it in Jesus' Name. Amen.

  • Lent 3

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Oculi, Lent 3

    February 27, 2005

     

     

     

    Text: Luke 11:14-28

    14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. 17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. 22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. 23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. 24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” 27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    The kingdom of Satan is real. In fact, it is the kingdom into which we all were born. Every person is born sinful and unclean. And to be sinful and unclean, without the grace of God, is to be in the kingdom of Satan.

     

    Some imagine that there are three kingdoms someone could be in. You can be in God’s kingdom, the Christian Church, and be a believer. You can be an open and unrepentant sinner, and be in the kingdom of the devil. Or you can be neutral, looking at both sides, and by an act of your own will choosing the side you will support.

     

    However, there is no neutrality, spiritually speaking. There is no third option. It is either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. There is no free will in this matter. You are either bound to God or bound to Satan. You cannot choose. You are born into Satan’s kingdom by virtue of your sinful inheritance. You are re-born into God’s kingdom through the work of God the Holy Spirit, using water and the powerful Word of God, the Gospel, the power of salvation. Either way, your will is tied to a kingdom.

     

    Two weeks ago we heard about the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. There Jesus showed His power over the prince of darkness by speaking the Word of God to Satan and telling him to be gone, and Satan had to leave. That same power is at work here in the words of St. Luke. We have described for us another scene where Jesus is casting out a demon. The demon must leave, for the Son of God is speaking, and the demon must reluctantly obey.

     

    What is the reaction of those who see this miracle of Jesus’ power over the forces of darkness and evil? Jesus is denounced as an ally of the devil. There is so much hatred directed at Jesus that even when He does good things his enemies refuse to see it, and instead try to think of ways to make whatever Jesus does proof that He is illegitimate, a pretender, a false prophet.

     

    So Jesus meets their criticism with a question: "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?" How can any kingdom remain when it is torn by civil war, by disunity, by in-fighting? Jesus, in effect, tells His enemies that their reasoning is completely false. Satan does not fight against himself but always works to strengthen his kingdom. Besides, Jesus says, your own sons cast out demons, too. Are you going to say the same thing about their work? Of course not. And that shows their bias against Jesus. No matter what He does, they will oppose Him.

     

    There is no more sure sign of the kingdom of Satan than opposition to Jesus and His Word. Wherever God’s pure Word is preached and rejected there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is twisted out of shape and taught falsely there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is mocked and ridiculed, persecuted, there we find Satan’s kingdom. Satan has a good hold on people throughout the world, and he will not let any of it go without a fight, even though he knows his time is short.

     

    Satan knows his time is short because he knows he has already lost at the cross of Golgotha. He knows that is where his kingdom was finished, done in, as death itself was killed. However, what Satan knows and what people know are two different things. And Satan hopes that he will be able to keep people in the dark, spiritually, so that they will not ever come to know that he is defeated and they are freed, freed from sin, death, the devil’s power, and eternal damnation.

     

    So what must the devil do to keep people in the dark? He must attack God’s Word, the Word that brings light and truth and salvation. That is why we should not be too surprised at the perversions of God’s word going on all around us. We should not be surprised at King David’s struggle recorded in 2 Samuel, as he deals with the terrors of death: When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me." David is stating the life of the Christian who is dealing with the lies of Satan who hopes we will stay away from the victory of Jesus over death. Satan wants us afraid. Jesus wants us confident, by trusting Him and His word. We also should not be surprised by Paul’s words in Ephesians, where he warns us about the tricks of Satan: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them."

     

    None of this should surprise us because we are in the middle of the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. That war is most evident to Christians, as you’ve heard before, since Satan specifically wants you for his kingdom, which means he must lure, tempt, coerce, scare you out of the kingdom of God.

     

    Luther, preaching on this text in 1532, had these words of wisdom about how to fight Satan, words which remain true today:

     

    When a person whom the devil has greatly overwhelmed and seared with many accusations comes to me with heavy heart and troubled conscience seeking comfort and instruction, I have the mandate, as does every Christian, to comfort my brother and pronounce God’s grace, for Christ’s sake, upon him. The devil must yield, not to me, a poor and wretched sinner, but to the Word which the Lord Christ has left us upon earth. When your conscience is weak and terrified, therefore, and you are unable to grasp tightly enough the comfort that God graciously wants you to have, the forgiveness of sins, then know that Christ has given the Lord’s Supper, his true body and blood to eat and to drink, so that you have no reason further to doubt that his body was given for your sins and his blood poured out for your transgressions. Where such faith and trust are present, there it is impossible for the devil to dwell and hold sway (Hauspostille, I, 331).

     

    Luther directs to God’s word and sacrament. That is where the kingdom of God is found, that is where the power to defeat Satan is given. For the power is the power of God, His Word, His Body and Blood. This is reliance upon the promises of God is why David could write: "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence." And why Paul can encourage us: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." We learn this from God’s truth, His Word. "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it."

     

    You are not neutral in the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Victory is found only in God’s kingdom. There is where final peace is brought, and where deliverance from the misery of Satan’s kingdom is promised, given, and received, by faith in the forgiveness of sins bought by Jesus Christ.

     

    I close with the final words of Luther’s sermon:

     

    Let us, therefore, thank God for his grace, because he has sent his Son for help against the devil, to drive him out, and has left us his Word through which today yet he performs this work, destroying Satan’s kingdom, building and extending the kingdom of God. God keep us in such grace through his Son and the Holy Spirit (Hauspostille, I, 343).

     

    Amen.

     

  • Lent 4

    Sermon not yet added

  • Lent 5

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Judica, Lent 5

    March 28, 2004

     

    Text: Matthew 10:32-42

    "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 " Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 "For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 "and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 40 " He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear friends in Christ,

     

    Sometimes the only way to peace is through war. In 1914 it didn’t matter that the Belgians did not want war against Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The German army invaded Belgium. The Belgians, in order to protect and defend their country, responded with their own army. It was not that Belgium wanted war with Germany; far from it. But Germany’s aggression forced war on Belgium.

     

    When cancer attacks your body, it has declared war against your health and it seeks to kill you. The cancer itself must be attacked in order to save your body. Therefore weapons are arrayed against the cancer: chemicals, radiation, and perhaps surgery. Cancer will not surrender without a fight. It does not respond to kind words asking it to go away.

     

    Jesus was born into this world under the angelic headline: Peace on earth! Jesus came to bring peace between God and man. Yet within months of being born, this baby was marked by King Herod for death. We find that God’s plan for salvation, the sending of His only-begotten Son in human flesh and blood to take on our sin, is a plan that is attacked by the world, and by the prince of this world, Satan. The attacks against Jesus would grow especially prominent as He started in to His public ministry. Some tried to stone Him to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. Others called Him the devil because of His power over devils. Others made fun of Him for eating with "sinners." Finally, we know that Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus to His enemies, thereby bringing Jesus to the cross. The life of Jesus is as the psalmist wrote: "My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war" (Ps 120:6,7).

     

    Jesus tells us, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Why must it be a sword? Because the enemies of Jesus cannot stand to allow His kingdom to come to us. The enemies of Jesus attacked Him while He walked this earth. And Jesus teaches: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

     

    This is not paranoia on the part of Jesus. He understood the nature of His work here on earth. It was not some pleasant task of just being nice to people. But His work was a dirty work; a work filled with struggle, with temptation, with sickness and death, with all the poisons of Satan and the demons directed at Jesus. Jesus’ life on earth was not all sunshine and daisies. Even though He is the Light of the world, His time on earth was a time of darkness, and most especially the last week that led to the cross, Holy Week. Jesus would tell those who arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane: "This is your hour, and the power of darkness."

     

    So Jesus must warn us: "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household'." What will cause such civil war? It is the Gospel. It is the truth of God’s Word. With Jesus there is no middle ground, no neutrality. He says, "He who is not with me is against Me." If we fail to understand this, if we think that we can have Jesus without consequences, then we do not yet feel the weight of the cross in our lives.

     

    If we seek to accommodate the agendas of this world with the truth of Jesus, then we will not offend, we will not be salt in the wounds of the world, we will simply be weak, watery tea. If we fail to confess Christ with the boldness and vigor His Gospel deserves in the face of those who will deny Christ and the salvation He offers, we will deserve the judgment found in Revelation against the church of the Laodiceans: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Rev 3:15,16). "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

     

    God knows our abilities. He knows that we have our fears in this world. He knows that the life of His people in this world is not easy. The Holy Spirit Himself prays for us just like Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, even though He knew he would soon deny Him. Yet Peter was restored to faith. Peter knew he failed and he wept bitterly over it. But he did not stay away from Jesus. And Jesus did not stay away from Peter. Our Savior forgave Peter and was able to use him and give him great boldness.

     

    We can all find times in our lives when we did not confess our Savior as we should have. We feared the laughter of friends. We feared the ridicule. We feared to be different. All these fears we bring to Jesus. His suffering and death on the cross was for these sins, too. The absolution includes our sins of denial. You are forgiven.

     

    Our Savior does not leave us forsaken here. He gives us the Gospel by which our fears and weaknesses, our sins of whatever kind, are washed away by the blood of Christ. The Word is brought to us to encourage us in our faith, to strengthen us, to give us the knowledge that our Savior loves us even in our frailties. He does not ask us to be as strong as He is. He asks us to trust Him to carry us through whatever comes our way. He teaches us to pray for the doing of the will of God: "God's will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will, which would not let us hallow His name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world and our own flesh."

     

    Devil, world, and flesh conspired against Jesus. The powers of darkness sought to extinguish His light forever, and in that way to keep us all enslaved to shame and eternal death. Jesus came to bring war, not peace but a sword, on these enemies, so that you and I can have peace. Jesus came for us even though we are born in sin, born as soldiers on the other side.

     

    Listen to our Lord’s exhortation today. He speaks so that we rely on Him, on His power and strength. He does not intend for us to try to do this on our own. He knows us too well to demand that of us. No, He simply says, "follow Me." Trust Him. Rely on His lovingkindness for you. He will remember you, and confess you before our Father who art in heaven.

     

    My manifold transgression

    Henceforth can harm me none

    Since Jesus’ bloody Passion

    For me God’s grace hath won.

    His precious blood my debts hath paid;

    Of hell and all its torments

    I am no more afraid. (ELH 276:3) Amen.

     

     

     

  • Vespers

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Mid-week Lent 5

    March 24, 2004

     

    Text: Hebrews 12:22-24

    But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    In this chapter twelve of Hebrews the author is drawing our attention to a distinction between two mountains in the Old Testament. One is Mt. Sinai. The other is Mt. Zion. We are told that it is Mt. Zion that we have come to, not Mt. Sinai. The difference between Sinai and Zion is the difference between night and day. It is the difference between the Law, Sinai, and the Gospel, Zion.

     

    Mt. Sinai is known for being the place where God gave Moses and the children of Israel the law, especially the Ten Commandments. There were special rules for Mt. Sinai given to Israel by the Lord. These rules are recorded in Exodus 19:

     

    ...For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.'...

     

    Clearly this was not a mountain that encouraged people to come near it. In fact, it was a mountain to be careful about. This became even clearer after the Lord began speaking the Law to Moses. Listen to what happened:

     

    Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off (Ex 20:18).

     

    The giving of the Law, the commands of God that demanded obedience, perfection, love with no hint of selfishness, all of this combined with the thunder and lightning made Mt. Sinai a terrible place. The reason was because here God showed Himself in the way of the Law. The Law cannot deliver us from judgment because all it does it show us our sin. The Law is so perfectly fair that our sin leaves us with no hope. God is rightly angry against all sin, for sin is a denial of God, a turning away from Him. So Mt. Sinai becomes the place of terror, of threats, and of fear.

     

    That is why here in Hebrews we read: "but you have come to Mt. Zion." Mt. Zion is the hill of Jerusalem, the place where God's Temple stood, the place where sacrifices for sin, and offerings to God were made day after day. Even more than that, Mt. Zion is where our Savior Jesus came to be the perfect, one-time sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, the promise of God’s mercy and forgiveness to all who believe on the name of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.

     

    Mt. Zion is about promises, grace, undeserved love, charity, and salvation. For these treasures of salvation were bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, who spilled His blood on Mt. Zion in order to buy us back from our deserved destiny of eternal death. These are the wonderful benefits which our Savior desires all to receive from His generous hand.

     

    Besides the mountains of Sinai and Zion, there is mention made of the blood of Abel in this text. Abel, you recall, was the second-born son of Adam and Eve. The first-born son was Cain. These two brothers were also as different as Sinai and Zion. Cain chose the false worship of God, bringing his offerings with no faith, simply going through the motions. His offering was rejected by the Lord. Abel, on the other hand, is described this way in Hebrews:

     

    By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hb 11:4).

     

    Abel approached God by faith. We may think here of the difference Psalm 51 makes between mere outward offerings, brought without faith, and repentance: "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise."

     

    Abel, the second-born son is murdered by Cain. When the Lord speaks to Cain He tells him, "The voice of your brother’s blood calls out to me from the ground." This blood of Abel called out for justice, and the Lord rebuked Cain, making him a fugitive on the earth.

     

    Now hear again from Hebrews 12, "[you have come] to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." The comparison between the blood of Abel and the blood of Jesus is of blood that calls for justice, and blood that washes away sin, leaving only forgiveness and salvation. The blood of Abel did not help Cain. In fact, Abel's blood was judgment against Cain, just like blood found on a murder weapon often leads to the murderer. The blood of Jesus does not call out for vengeance, but it calls out peace between God and man, it calls out the love of God for you and me. "Even though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Jesus' blood on us does not cause God to send us away in anger, but it brings God to us as our loving Father, as the Father who has sought and found all who are lost.

     

    By God's grace Mt. Sinai and the Law are not our destination, but we have come to Mt. Zion, "the holy Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." This is what God intends for you, that you may rest secure in the knowledge that you are God’s child, and will dwell in the city of the living God forever. Amen.

     

  • Palm Sunday

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Palmarum

    April 4, 2004

     

    Text: John 12:20-33

    Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27 " Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him." 30 Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

     

    Shortly after Palm Sunday, some of the disciples of Jesus are approached by some Greeks who, we are told, "want to see Jesus." Perhaps these Greeks had witnessed Jesus coming into Jerusalem, lowly and riding on a donkey. Perhaps they had been impressed by the loud shouts and praises of the crowds that greeted Jesus as the one "who comes in the Name of the Lord." It appears, by the way Jesus answers, that these men were intrigued by the enthusiasm of the crowd on Palm Sunday. For Jesus goes on to speak about "glory" in ways that show His glory as being quite different from the glory of the world.

     

    Glory is usually associated with great achievements. We may think of glory in regards to sports: a pitcher who pitches a perfect game, a quarterback who leads his team to victory in the last minute, the basketball player who sinks a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game by one. Glory is also associated with politics: winning an election brings glory to the winner. Glory may also be won on the battlefield by those who are victorious. Glory and winning go hand in hand.

     

    When Jesus receives the glory and honor from the crowd on Palm Sunday, He does so as someone who looks like the winner. Even though He rides in on a lowly donkey, still the great numbers of people who greet Him are impressive. But is this what is attractive about Jesus? Is it the glory and praise and honor of Palm Sunday that stand as one of the great highlights of Jesus' work here on earth? Humanly speaking, this day does appear as the high point. After all, at no other time after this would Jesus receive the great public show of glory and honor. So why is this not the high point? Because Jesus did not come to receive the praise and honor of men, but He came to be glorified by His Father, and that would happen only through being "lifted up from the earth." As John tells us, "This He said, signifying by what death He would die." Jesus repeats here what He told Nicodemus early in His public ministry. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

     

    Jesus will be lifted up when He is nailed to the cross and the cross is raised. It is at the cross that the glory of Christ will be revealed. The glory of Jesus at the very highpoint of His ministry for us is going to be hidden. Oh, lots of people saw Jesus lifted up on the cross, so it was not hidden in that way. But the glory was not apparent to them. The glory was hidden by the way God chose to show it. The cross, with the blood, the pain and suffering, the death, does not bring to mind the victory that we associate with glory. Jesus Himself knows what lies ahead of Him. He shows us His thoughts when He said, "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." His road has only one direction to go. Jesus is on a one way street to the cross.

     

    To all the eyes that watched Him the day He died Jesus looked like the loser. The winners seem to be the enemies of Jesus. They are the ones who can go and celebrate. The followers of Jesus are in mourning, grieving over the death of their beloved friend and leader. This is not glory.

     

    But remember what Jesus said, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." With this picture of planting, decay, and new life, Jesus teaches us about the way He achieves glory. Just like a seed seems to be dry, dead, and without life, so the body of Jesus on Good Friday shows nothing hopeful. But seeds put in the ground are invigorated by the warmth and moisture; new life grows from what was dry and dead. So with Jesus. He is planted in the tomb, and He will rise again, showing His victory over sin, death, and devil.

     

    In the same way Jesus tells us about ourselves as those who follow and believe in Him: "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." The glory of this world will tempt us to love our lives here and now, to put this world and its glory ahead of the way of the cross, ahead of the way of following Jesus no matter what. But Jesus does not direct us to seek the glory of this world. In fact, that is the way ultimately to lose our lives.

     

    This world seeks glory in what gives the appearance of immediate victory. For example, Muslim extremists who kill our brothers and sister in Christ in Rwanda and the Sudan believe they have achieved victory. The glory is theirs, they believe, when they can see the bodies of dead Christians. The same is true in communist China and other totalitarian states. The persecution of our fellow believers looks like the defeat of the Christian Church and glory and victory for the forces that hate the Church. The same was true in the early days of the Church. Think of the death of St. Stephen. He was stoned to death by a mob that wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, even though Stephen showed them from Holy Scripture how Jesus was the Messiah. Other countless believers have followed Stephen in the twenty centuries since he died. Time and time again the followers of Christ have been put to the test: will you follow Christ, or will you follow the world. "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

     

    The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus probably heard more than they bargained for. They liked the Jesus of Palm Sunday, the One who received all the glory, the praises and honor of the large crowd. Were they still following Jesus on Good Friday when the glory was gone? We do not know.

     

    We do know about ourselves. What do we find attractive about Jesus? Do we prefer for Jesus to receive the accolades and honor of this world? Do we feel better when the news media or other sources of glory in this world praise our Savior? Do we need that? Or are we content to remain with the Jesus hidden in shame, suffering, and death of the cross?

     

    As we travel the way of Holy Week this year, God help us to trust in the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus who died for us, the Jesus who did not shy away from the path to His glory, the way of crucifixion. This Jesus does not promise us riches and glory now, but He does promise us eternal life with His Father in heaven. "If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." Let us see Jesus in the glory of the cross, as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." In the hands of this Jesus we may safely place our lives for now and for eternity. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Muandy Thursday

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Maundy Thursday

    March 24, 2005

     

    Text: Psalm 111:1

    Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ,

     

    This evening we commemorate the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. Especially we focus on that great institution, the Supper of our Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar.

     

    It was the time of the Passover, when the Old Testament people of God remembered the great deliverance from slavery God provided. God brought about the deliverance through His power that brought death to His enemies, and yet provided safety to those who believed in Him. The safety was found in blood, the blood of a pure, male lamb. Wherever that blood was painted on the door, there death would not go. Wherever that Passover meal was eaten, there was life and salvation.

     

    Psalm 111 recalls the great meal of the Lord at the Passover, calling it “the food given to those who fear Him.” This food was a wonderful memorial meal done each year. But on the night He was betrayed Jesus began a new meal. This meal surpasses the old meal as much as the sun outshines a 15 watt light bulb. For in this meal we do not have the blood of a male lamb, but we have the Son of God, who gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And if the Lord’s name was holy and awesome because of that deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel, how much more awesome is His name because of the greater work of Jesus, who goes not against a Pharoah and Egyptian army, but against the hosts of hell, against sin, against death itself. The Old Testament Passover, as wonderful as it was, could only be a mere shadow of the great work of Jesus, and the wonderful Supper that commemorates that death of Jesus.

     

    The psalm teaches us that God “has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” And what does Jesus tell us about His Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through St. Paul we are taught “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.” The death of Jesus is the wonderful work of God that is to be remembered, proclaimed, treasured, as long the earth remains. For there will be no greater event in the history of the world than that precious death of Jesus until He returns again on the Last Day.

     

    Why? Why all the fuss about this Supper of the Lord, or about His crucifixion and death? What makes this so special? Why should it be something that 2000 years later we are still talking about? The reason is that this is the work of God, and it is a work we desperately need.

     

    Israel in the Old Testament was in slavery for centuries. They had left the promised land of Canaan about 1800 BC. Four hundred years later, almost twice as long as the history of the United States, Israel remains slaves to Pharoah. Pharoah had been killing the baby boys of Egypt, a sure way to attack God himself and the promises given to Abraham. How so? Because through Abraham there would be a special baby boy born one day that would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If all the male descendants of Abraham are slaughtered in Egypt, the attack of Satan against God’s promises would have succeeded. Therefore God does not allow such satanic work to go unchecked. He promises and provides deliverance for these people through His servant Moses. The slaves are freed, and the line of descendants that will one day lead to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem goes on.

     

    This history of Israel, and the life of Jesus which goes to the cross, and which includes the blessed Supper of the Lord, communion, none of this will be of much value to us unless we have come to realize more and more the situation we are in without it. Earlier we answered the last question from the catechism. “But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” In other words, what if you don’t think you are sinful, or do not need the death of Jesus and His body and blood for the remission of sins? What then? We then said:

     

    To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it....

    Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble....

    Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without....

     

    Our bodies are troubled by the sin that clings to us as long as we remain in this world. The world itself is a burden to us in that many temptations and trials arise from it that leave us exhausted and worn out, frustrated and discouraged, as we battle them day in and day out. And finally the devil who so desired the death of Jesus, now desires your death in such a way that you do not receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.

     

    These are why the death of Jesus on the cross is proclaimed. This is why this wonderful meal from Jesus to you continues to be offered regularly at this congregation. The Psalm says, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” No where is this more apparent than in this Sacrament of the Altar. Martin Luther noted:

     

    if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord....What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all the benefits and by his blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words (LW 13, 374-5).

     

    “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” As we hear and mediate on the great events of Holy Week, let this phrase from Psalm 111 be our constant guide to the meaning of it all. It is about the grace of God and His compassion for you, that you be saved, that you receive life eternal, that you be forgiven all sin, and be confident of that through faith in the gracious word of your Savior, Jesus Christ. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” – for you. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Good Friday

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Good Friday

    March 25, 2005

     

    Dear fellow redeemed by the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ,

     

    This evening of Good Friday we mediate on the words of Psalm 22, an astounding prophecy of the work of Jesus, written 900 years before He was even born. The psalm begins with the words we would hear from the very lips of Jesus as He hung on the cross:

     

    My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

     

    Jesus is forsaken, abandoned, left, by His Father. God, in His holy and perfect justice, does not allow evil to remain in His presence. Jesus carries all sin and evil upon Him. Therefore with these words our Lord is proclaiming the judgment of God upon sin, and we see Jesus suffering the punishment of hell. That is what our sins deserve, and that is what Jesus takes upon Himself. For you and me.

     

    3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. 5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

     

    God acted to save Israel time and time again. He brought them out of the slavery in Egypt by defeating their enemies. He protected them and gave them victory on the way to the promised land. Their trust was in God was not disappointed. But the Savior of mankind will not be delivered in that way. Rather, He came to make the deliverance by staying on the cross to the very end, to death.

     

    6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"

     

    As Jesus hangs on the cross His enemies mock Him and laugh at Him for what they thought was misplaced trust. There He is, the one who spoke so strongly about being from the Father, yet where is the Father now? They fail to see the reason for the crucifixion of Jesus. They think it is a judgment on Jesus, rather than their own judgment put on Him in their place. So they despise Jesus and consider Him no better than a worm.

     

    9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God. 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.

     

    It is no wonder that Jesus sweat drops of blood as He anticipated His time in the hands of the enemies of God. It is no wonder that He said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The wonder is that He went ahead to Golgotha, knowing exactly what lay before Him. The gaping mouths of those who curse Him and ridicule Him are before His eyes as He dies. He does not see gratitude for His sacrifice of love. He sees only hate. But even that ingratitude does not deter Him.

     

    14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

     

    In the death of Jesus we see the true nature of death. Death is not a time of bliss, or release, as some would have us think. Death is the opposite of everything that is truly good and right for us. And so those who speak or write of death as some friendly act that you can do to help someone are really spreading only a demonic lie. Death is not good. And yet, as we hear what Jesus went through we learn that despite the evil death is, even it must bow to Jesus. So when Jesus is brought to the dust of death, for to dust we all return, He is changing death. In Christ we view death differently – because of His victory. But without Christ death remains the enemy.

     

    16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

     

    The nails go through the hands and feet of Jesus, in order that He and the cross are connected. The soldiers at the foot of the cross roll dice to find out who gets His clothes. The psalmist, with insight given by the Holy Spirit, pictures for us the events of the cross with an uncanny accuracy. The bulls gape at Jesus. The dogs surround Him like a pack of hyenas that surround the wounded gazelle, waiting for the moment to move in for the kill. There is our Jesus in the middle of it all.

     

    19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion's mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen!

     

    What will be the end of Jesus? Will He remain in death? Will the cross be the sign of the victory of Satan, Sin, and Death over the beloved Son of God? Will the power of the dog be greater than the power of God? Will the jaws of the lion crush the Messiah? Will the horns of the wild oxen pierce the Son of Mary and nail Him forever to the grave? The words of Jesus at the end of His time on the cross are: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Even now there is no doubt in Jesus. He does not pray in despair and uncertainty, but with confidence. He is in His Father’s hands. All is well.

     

    You have answered Me. 22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.

     

    This day of Good Friday does not end with doubt, nor with hopelessness, nor with desperation. God is not lying in defeat at the foot of His enemies. Lion, ox, bull, and dog; Satan, sin, death, and demons; none of these can finish their victory dance. For the Father answers His Son. He heard. That means the price of sin is paid, the agony is over, the blessed work of atonement is at an end. Finished. The name of Jesus, the praise for the God of all love and compassion, will go forth, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. The victory is His, which means the victory is yours, as you believe, as you trust this great action accomplished for you, o Sinner!

     

    25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! 27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD's, And He rules over the nations.

     

    This psalm that began with forsakenness, with darkness, with death, ends with a glorious reunion, with light, and with life. Let your heart live forever! For with Jesus, the One who died, there is true life for you, for all who believe. There is a feast that fully satisfies, the feast of this one whose death we proclaim. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death. This the Son of God, the Lamb, around whom we gather to worship and praise, along with all of God’s people around the world.

     

    29 All the prosperous of the earth Shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust Shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. 30 A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, 31 They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.

     

    He has done this, and it is finished. On Good Friday you see the way of God, the work of God, that achieves your salvation. You see the awful condemnation your sin and my sin deserves, the Son of God who is poured out for us at the cross. But you also hear the results: going down to dust, the return to what we were taken from, is not our end. For Jesus did not come to end up in a cold grave. He came to defeat death, and show this great victory on the first Easter Sunday. He has done this. And to you and to all the generations since that great day the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been preached and declared. His righteousness is yours by faith, His death is yours, and this means forgiveness of all your sin, salvation, and eternal life. Thanks be to God for this day, for the Good Friday that brought victory for us all, through the death of God’s Son. That is His love for you. Believe it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

     

  • Holy Saturday

    Sermon – John 19.38-42 (Easter Vigil – 2019)

     

    Heavenly Father, by the burial of Your Son, you sanctified the graves of Your believers, that it has become merely a resting place for us. We have eagerly awaited the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Give us full confidence, peace, and joy that comes from Christ’s resurrection, as we await the day when He returns and your redeemed shall awaken from the grave unto life eternal. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.

     39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

     40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

     41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

     42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    A Kingly Bed for Nappers

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Notice what kind of death Jesus suffered. He suffered the death of a scoundrel, of the worst of criminals. It was the kind death that we deserved for we are guilty before God. We have sinned against the good and holy demands of the Law.

     

    But then take note of how Jesus was buried. He was buried like a king by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. From the Gospels, we know that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a disciple of Jesus, perhaps one of the 70 followers of Jesus. But he was a disciple secretly, for he feared what would become of him if other Jews would have known. For one reason or another Joseph was willing to associate himself with Jesus. He asked Pilate for Jesus body, that he may bury Him, and permission was granted.

     

    And so Jesus’ tomb was the tomb of a rich man. It was a beautiful and unused tomb with a garden nearby.

     

    And then there’s Nicodemus, who was also one of the ruling Jews among the people. He also feared the Jews, for he came to Jesus under the cover of night to speak to Him. But now he shows his love for His Lord embalming Jesus with ointments fit for a king! He brings 100 Roman pounds which is the equivalent to 75 pounds as we know it.

     

    What did they know about His resurrection? Were they burying and embalming Jesus merely out of love and respect for Jesus, hoping for His resurrection, or did they lack understanding, as just about everyone did, thinking that He was not rising from the dead. We don’t quite know.

     

    But nonetheless there Jesus was laid to rest with a burial and a tomb made for a king.

    In various pagan cultures kings were buried with their treasures, their horses and riches, and so on, believing that they would use those things in their next life. Jesus, our King, was buried, not with gold, riches, and possessions, but with our sins, that there they may remain.

     

    Luther speaks about Jesus’ burial, “Just as Jesus took all our sins with Him to the cross and bore them in His body on the tree, so also He took all our sins with Him into the tomb; indeed, wee are buried with Him through Baptism. He took into the tomb with Him not only the cloths and linen shroud in which His body was wrapped but also the whole world’s sin, damnation, misery, fear, affliction, and peril, and He covered and buried it all so that it might not harm those who believe in Him.”

     

    It’s strange to talk about a beautiful tomb, though Jesus once did when speaking about the hypocritical Pharisees. He was speaking about the whitewashed tombs, “beautiful on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” There in that rich man’s tomb, were our filthy sins, all our uncleanness. But also in that tomb was our beautiful Savior, which as expensive and kingly as that tomb was it was not a proper bed for our Lord, the King of Creation. How strange, how unfathomable, that our Savior, the Lord of Life lie dead there.

     

    Yet, there He rested, making our own graves a resting place. And they are made royal beds, no matter how beautiful or how simple, how new or how deteriorated they are. For who are those who lie there? They are those who belong to Christ through faith, brothers and sisters of the King. They are children of the heavenly Father, they are the royal priesthood of God’s eternal kingdom.

     

    And though death is a nasty thing, a result of our sins, but for us who trust in Christ’s redemption, our sins have remained buried in Christ’s tomb. And Christ, our Lord, is risen. And He makes our death merely a sleep from which we too shall waken.

     

    So tonight we have kept vigil, we have waited, and soon we will begin to celebrate with Easter joy, our Lord’s resurrection from the grave with alleluias. But we also keep vigil, and await the eternal morning, the great Easter of our own resurrection, the day when the Lord who woke from the sleep of death and left the grave powerless behind Him will do the same for you. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever  shall be; forevermore. Amen.

     

    Sermon not yet added

  • Easter

    Sermon – Mark 16.1-8 (Easter – 2019)

    Festival exordium

    Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

    You that have kept the Lenten fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
    Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
    Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
    Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

    Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
    Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
    He has destroyed it by enduring it.

    Hell took a body, and discovered God.
    It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
    It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
    O death, where is thy sting?
    O Hell, where is thy victory?

    Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
    Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
    Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
    Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
    Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

    Dear members of the Feast, let sing our praises to our Risen Savior, with the exordium hymn, hymn number 348. Please rise.

     

     

    Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away-- for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples-- and Peter-- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

    The Path of Life

     

    These are Your Words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Thursday and Friday and Saturday of holy week was a dreadful time for Jesus’ followers, after all that went down on those days. But wouldn’t you think that on that Sunday morning, instead of just a few women going to the tomb, all of Jesus followers would have gone. And instead of carrying spices and ointments, they would bring some clean clothes for Jesus to wear. After all, Jesus said to them very clearly in at different times that He would rise from the dead on the third day! And the Old Testament foretold of His rising. You would think that they would  gather in the garden where the tomb was, excited and anxious, waiting for the tomb to burst opening, so that they could embrace their beloved Teacher and Lord, and probably looking forward to seeing the confused look on the faces of the soldiers guarding the tomb.

     

    But of course, this did not happen.

     

    Jesus’ followers were filled with utter sorrow.

     

    Think of Mary Magdalene. Jesus rescued her from 7 demons that possessed her. And now that Jesus is dead, who will rescue her from the devil and his wicked works?

     

    Think of Peter, and the awful guilt he carried. He rejected his friend and Lord three times, claiming no knowledge of Him, and there he is left with that guilt, and the hope of his forgiveness was lying there dead in the tomb.

     

    Think of the rest of the disciples who all scattered and abandoned their Lord, when He was being imprisoned, judged, beaten and mocked.

     

    Christ was their hope, their teacher, their leader. And now He was dead. Where will Mary find rescue from Satan? Where will Peter find a peaceful conscience? Where will the others find of forgiveness and salvation from death?

     

    It appeared as though death had won the day, as though sin claimed its power over them. It seemed as though they were on their own to deal with Satan, guilt, and death. But we know that they were powerless before these troubles.

     

    But these same things plague our lives. It may appear sometimes as though sin, death and the devil win the day.

     

    What did the women do in the midst of their sorrow? They brought spices and ointment to anoint Jesus’ dead body. They did this out of love and respect for Jesus, but they were misguided. They thought that that was it. He’s dead. Make the best of it.

     

    In the same way, we are misguided in the way we face fear, sorrow, Satan, sin, and death.

     

    In the face of fear, doubt and uncertainty, we try to embalm those feelings with the illusion that we are in control of our lives, and that we can stand independent of God, that we’re not lost sheep, but that we’re strong giants in our own right. But when it comes down to it, we must admit that we are not in control, and putting our trust in ourselves is downright foolish, because we know that we make for some lousy gods.

     

    In the face of sorrow, we try to look on the bright side of things, rationalizing our pain, our heartache and sadness. Sure this is a way to cope, but it doesn’t get rid of the fact that everything is not okay. We may try to put on a smiley face to cover the sorrow, but we know that it is a show. This earth is a vale of tears.

     

    In the face of sin, we try to put ointment and spices on our sins trying to cover the stench of their filth. We ignore them, rationalize them, close our ears to parts of God’s Law so that we will not feel the guilt and shame. Or maybe, for some of you, you are very well aware of your guilt and it weighs heavily on you, but it seems as though there is no relief or forgiveness for you. Whatever camp you’re in, sins are real, they are an offense to the One to whom we are held accountable, and He says in the book of Exodus, “I will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).

     

    In the face of death, we tend to grasp on to youth, to fill our lives with adventure or significance, some sort of lasting legacy. But the end does come and puts an end to it all. And the worse death that comes after death is eternal death in hell, which is the right judgment for our sins.

     

    And plus, Satan goes around as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. We like to think we can withstand him, but we are sinners. We are already victims of the devil, and we are vulnerable.

     

    Is this it? Is this all that we’re left with? Fear, sorrow, sin, Satan, and death? However we may try to cover the path of death with spices and ointments, it remains the path of death.

     

    And sometimes, like the followers of Jesus, we live and think as though we forgotten the promises of God’s Word, and as though fear, sorrow, sin and death have won the day.

     

    But these things are all turned upside down by the amazing discovery of the women! The tomb is empty! The prophecy of the Psalmist is true! “You will not abandon My soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption.” The angel declared its fulfillment: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here! See for yourselves the place where they laid Him!”

     

    Jesus lives! The good news is not just that Jesus lives! Certainly they were happy to see and be with their beloved Teacher and Friend again! But the greater news is that His perfect life, and His suffering and death on Good Friday had truly accomplished their salvation!

     

    For Peter, the One who holds and gives the word of forgiveness lives, that his conscience may be at peace.

     

    For Mary, the One who delivered her from the oppression of demons lives, that she may, in Him, have continual protection from the evil one.

     

    For all the followers of Jesus who mourned His death, He lives that they may know that in Him, death is conquered.

     

    What joy there is this day! The Psalmist speaks of it: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

     

    Christ is our path of life, and in Him, we have an answer to all our fears, our sorrows, our sins, and to death! The tears of sadness they bring to us turn into tears of joy in Christ.

     

    Jesus is the answer to our needs. He did not rise for His own sake, but for Peter’s sake, Mary’s sake, for our sake. Our Savior lives. Our Lord has conquered death for us, He has become for us the way of life and guards and keeps us in Himself and His victory with His holy Gospel in Word and Sacraments.

     

    You having fears, know that your living Lord, with His pierced hands, holds your lives in His tender care.

     

    You who are heartbroken, hurting and in sorrow, know that you are baptized into the man of sorrows, Jesus Christ, who though being without sin, became acquainted the griefs of sin and all its ugly consequences for your sake. He lives, sympathizes with you, and for your sorrow gives peace and joy for your soul.

     

    You afflicted by the devil with temptations to despair, through faith, you belong to Christ who has caused the devil’s might to become unraveled. Christ is risen, and therefore you have the certain hope that you have life in Him.

     

    You sinners, Jesus lives and is the answer to your sins. So confess them before God that they may be covered under the blood of Christ, gone forever! You who are burdened by the weight of your guilt, Christ has taken the load of your guilt and suffered for your sins on the cross of Good Friday! He lives, that the forgiveness He won for the world may be freely given to you. He lives that He may be present with you each week in Divine Service, giving you through His Word, Absolution, and Supper the forgiveness He won for you! The finished work of His redemption is guaranteed by His resurrection, and thus you may have a clean conscience before God. And through faith in His salvation, you are also given the gift of the newness of life, that you may live each day as children of God.

     

    Jesus is the answer to the death that looms over us. Death still looks ugly, and a great enemy, but in reality, through Christ, death is destroyed. Death was the power of Satan, our great enemy. But in His death, Jesus crushed the ancient serpent’s skull! Jesus rises from the tomb, showing that death is nothing more than a nap for those who are in Him. Through His Word received in faith, Christ gives you His victory that your foot too stands over the devil’s skull, that in death, you may pass safely from this the land of the dying into heaven, the land of the living. As He is risen from the grave, so too, one day, you and all those who died in the faith shall rise, too, that we whole, and complete, body and soul, may enjoy eternity with our gracious Triune God!

     

    Jesus lives! He is our path of life! Though the realities of life in a fallen world and in our fallen flesh are ever so vivid, we know that the Holy Spirit through Baptism has brought us into the path of life, where we know we live each day in our living Christ, in His forgiveness, in His life. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

     

    The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Easter 2

    Sermon – John 20.19-31 (Easter 2 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, that of Your indescribable grace, for the sake of Your Son, You have given us the holy Gospel, and have instituted the holy Sacraments, that through these we may have comfort and forgiveness of sin: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we may heartily believe Your Word; and through the holy Sacraments day by day establish our faith, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

     20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

     21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

    22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

     23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

     24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

     25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

     26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"

     27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."

     28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

     29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

     30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;

     31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Peace to You!

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Peace was destroyed in the garden by the deceiver Satan. Because peace was broken between man and God, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God’s sight. Because peace was broken between mankind, Adam and Eve had to cover themselves to hide from each other their shame and guilt. And ever since then, peace has been an elusive thing for mankind. Our consciences are in a state of unrest, burdened with the guilt of our sins. Sin is lawlessness, rebellion against the holy God. We have the troublesome effects of sin in our lives, which are decay and death. And then there is sin against one another breaking the peace in our relationships with one another. Selfishness and pride, a lack of love and forgiveness, cause peace in our relationships to vanish, and destroy those relationships. And of course this lack of peace plagues not only peace between two individuals, but also plagues the world, people verses people, nation pitted against nation. Wouldn’t it be great to have peace?

     

    John Lennon offered a solution in his atheist anthem, “Imagine.” One of the ingredients to peace in the world is to do away with belief in heaven and hell and all religions. It is a common idea out there that religion is the greatest disturber of the peace. Though, ironically, the atheistic evolutionary worldview resulted in the death of over 200 million people worldwide in the 20th century.

     

    And then there are others who choose to ignore the lack of peace with God, dismissing the judgment of God over our sins. The prophet Jeremiah was telling the Jews of impending judgment that God was going to bring upon them through the Babylonians. But the people chose to listen to the prophets who would speak what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah condemned these prophets, who said, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

     

    The disciples lacked peace. The text tells us that they were in the locked room for fear of the Jews. They were afraid that they might suffer the same fate as their Lord. From the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus they were troubled by the events that took place, the madness that swept over the Jews as they were desperately trying to get Jesus executed, and their hearts were heavy with the sadness that their Lord died. Scripture doesn’t say it, but they must have been distressed by their own lack of faithfulness. The shepherd was struck, and the sheep scattered. The disciples abandoned their Lord at the first sign of trouble.

     

    But He who’s birth was announced with a message of peace by the angels, appears to the disciples pronouncing to them peace. When Jesus says “Peace to you”, there is good reason to have peace.

     

    Jesus, is bodily risen from the grave, and there He stands with His wounds from which flowed His lifeblood that won their forgiveness and salvation. His resurrection means that the price of redemption is paid in full, they are forgiven!

     

    If Jesus did not rise, Scripture says, “your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” So if Jesus did not rise there would be no forgiveness and no peace. But since Jesus, our Mediator, is risen, forgiveness is won. Peace is made between man and God again.

     

    They see their risen Lord! He who has won peace pronounces to them divine, heavenly peace. They trust their risen Lord! Their consciences put at rest.

     

    But then Jesus also gives them some work to do. Jesus gave them the ministry of peace, or the ministry of reconciliation as Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians.

     

    They are to forgive and retain sins. To those who do not believe in Jesus’ crucified and risen for their forgiveness and salvation, and those who do not repent of their sins, they are to be told that their sins are not forgiven. They disqualify themselves from the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won on the cross. And thus we should not give the impression, that there is peace, peace, when there is no peace, as the unfaithful prophets did in Jeremiah’s day. But the desire is that they would then seek peace with God, repent of their sins, and trust in Jesus. In that case, the disciples would pronounce forgiveness. They would pronounce peace.

     

    And this is ministry that the Church conducts today for you and the world. If you refuse to repent of your sin or if you simply do not trust Jesus as the One through whom you have peace with God, then your sins are not forgiven, and you do not have peace. But to you who are repentant, to you who trust Jesus for your forgiveness and salvation, you are indeed forgiven all of your sins. Christ is risen, and thus you have peace with God. Let your consciences be at rest, because Christ lives, and thus the Father holds no sin against you! You may stand before Him knowing that you are not under His just wrath, but under His favor for Jesus sake. You do not have the wounds of Jesus to touch, but you have His Word of peace and forgiveness that He has given me to speak to you. “Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed.”

     

    The risen Christ is the source and foundation of our peace. You have peace with God! Let that sink into your hearts and minds. Your soul be at rest!

     

    So you have this preeminent peace through all the difficulties and troubles of life. This peace is also the solution to your relationships where your peace is broken. With this peace of Christ, you are able to be peacemakers in your relationships, at least as much as it depends on you. Christ is risen, and joined to His resurrection through baptism, you walk in the newness of life. And thus you put away pride and selfishness, and you share this peace you have in Christ. You forgive and show mercy to your neighbor, you cover a multitude of their sins, healing your relationships as much as it depends on you.

     

    But we know that we there will never be peace upon the earth. After all, the world is full of sinners who have selfishness and pride, and Christians are among them causing trouble. But also, there will never be peace, because the world resists the truth. Luther said, “peace if possible, truth at all costs.” We seek to create peace, but the one thing we cannot compromise on is the truth of holy Scripture, and this stance on Scripture brings resistance and rebellion in the world. This is the meaning behind what Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” We may be called troublemakers and hateful, but we will not budge for the sake of the peace that Christ makes between man and God. It is a peace Christ has won for all people, a peace that is possessed only by the repentant and believing. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father…

     

  • Easter 3

    Sermon – John 10.11-16 (Easter 3 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, out of Your fatherly goodness You have been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and have given Your beloved Son to be our Shepherd, not only to nourish us by His Word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd knows us and helps us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

     12 "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

     13 "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

     14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

     15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

     16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    Not a Hireling, but the Owner

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    If you talk to real estate investors who rent out their houses, they can tell you horror stories about renters who have utterly trashed their homes. Typically houses are better taken care of if the homeowner lives in it. Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of the parsonage. Or take an example of a business. Oftentimes a business owner has a difficult time handing off managing duties to someone else, because no one cares about a business as much as the owner. The house, the business is especially prized, and cared for, and loved, when it was purchased at a great cost.

     

    Likewise, a flock of sheep isn’t so loved and carefully tended by a hireling as it is by the owner of the sheep. And that is especially the case if that flock has been purchased at a great price.

     

    In this 10th chapter of John, Jesus contrasts him to a few different characters. There are the robbers and the thieves. They are the ones with ill intent. They wish to destroy the sheep and steal the sheep away from life in God’s kingdom. Jesus, however, gives life for the sheep.

    Then in our text, Jesus talks about the hirelings. The hirelings may not have ill-intent. They do not seek to destroy and steal like the robbers and thieves, but they do not care for the sheep so much. They are hirelings. They’re in it for the money, for the benefits. They want money, prestige, they want the acceptance of the world. But if a threat confronts the hireling and the flock, at the time the sheep needs the hireling the most, the hireling flees. What is it to the hireling if a wolf, if the devil, or a false teacher, or the world, or the sinful flesh destroys the faith of the sheep. What loss is it to him? He does not own the sheep. But he values his money, fame, and acceptance in the world, and that is what he guards.

     

    But Jesus is not a hireling. He is the owner of the sheep. And He dearly loves His sheep, for He is a loving shepherd, and because of the great price He paid to make them His own. He dearly loves you. He has paid the great price of His blood and His innocent life so that you may be His own. He brought you out from under the just wrath of God, and paying the penalty for our sins, He has made you the sheep of His pasture.

     

    He will not run from the wolf or any kind of danger that threatens Him or you, rather He will stand guard and keep you. For He was willing to do battle with the devil for your sake. He was willing to give up His life to save you. He was willing to suffer the Father’s justice on the cross to redeem you. He gives up His life, but then takes it back up again, so that He is your living Shepherd. Now He has dominion over all things, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Nothing can threaten Him now. All His enemies, the devil, the world, and death are defeated before Him. And so He fills all things, and rules over all things for the sake of His flock.

     

    He has gathered His flock and continues to add to His flock with His Holy Spirit through the gospel in word and Sacraments. He says, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” This includes you who have been added to this flock, and those yet to be added to the flock of Christ. He has brought you to faith, to recognize the voice of Christ, to believe in Him as Your Savior, and believing Him, you are dear members of His flock. You are under His tender care.

     

    How blessed you are to belong to the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us! So what do you then make of this wandering and straying and sinning that persists? It’s frustrating and awful isn’t it!? With your ungratefulness, you belittle the cost it took for Jesus to make you His own. You desire to go your own way. You obey the lusts of your flesh. You fall into temptations the wolf sets down before you. You think that there are greener pastures for you if you rejoined the world in its evil pleasures, and you step into it to nibble on its deceiving promises. And furthermore, how do you treat those things that the Good Shepherd instituted and given His flock upon which you are to be nourished, preserved, and saved? So that you may benefit from His giving up of His life, He has given you the precious gospel in Word and Sacraments. But you do not make use of it as you should. You do not appreciate the grace, power, and holiness of that gospel!

     

    What sad sheep you and I are. Certainly not fit to belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd. But you were never fit to belong in that flock. No one was. But Christ made it so. It was for sinners that Christ laid down His life. And thankfully, He doesn’t treat us as a hireling would. But no you belong to Him. He has claimed you in your baptism. And that sacrifice, that price He paid so that you may belong to Him still covers your sins. You are here in His pasture, and He does not say to you, “get out.” Rather He says, “repent,” and He draws you to Himself. His voice proclaims to you, “You are forgiven! Feast upon that word, and be filled with it! Feast upon the table that I prepare for you, My body and blood that I have laid down and taken up again!”

     

    What grace there is in that voice of His! That is the voice that we know, that we cherish. And so may our Shepherd who has gathered us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, keep us in His pasture, and hearing His gracious voice, so that all our days we may live holy lives as we follow Him, rejoice in His forgiveness and love, and be shepherded through the valley of the shadow of death into eternal life! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

    Sermon – John 10.11-16 (Easter 3 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, out of Your fatherly goodness You have been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and have given Your beloved Son to be our Shepherd, not only to nourish us by His Word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd knows us and helps us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

     12 "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

     13 "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

     14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

     15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

     16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    Not a Hireling, but the Owner

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    If you talk to real estate investors who rent out their houses, they can tell you horror stories about renters who have utterly trashed their homes. Typically houses are better taken care of if the homeowner lives in it. Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of the parsonage. Or take an example of a business. Oftentimes a business owner has a difficult time handing off managing duties to someone else, because no one cares about a business as much as the owner. The house, the business is especially prized, and cared for, and loved, when it was purchased at a great cost.

     

    Likewise, a flock of sheep isn’t so loved and carefully tended by a hireling as it is by the owner of the sheep. And that is especially the case if that flock has been purchased at a great price.

     

    In this 10th chapter of John, Jesus contrasts him to a few different characters. There are the robbers and the thieves. They are the ones with ill intent. They wish to destroy the sheep and steal the sheep away from life in God’s kingdom. Jesus, however, gives life for the sheep.

    Then in our text, Jesus talks about the hirelings. The hirelings may not have ill-intent. They do not seek to destroy and steal like the robbers and thieves, but they do not care for the sheep so much. They are hirelings. They’re in it for the money, for the benefits. They want money, prestige, they want the acceptance of the world. But if a threat confronts the hireling and the flock, at the time the sheep needs the hireling the most, the hireling flees. What is it to the hireling if a wolf, if the devil, or a false teacher, or the world, or the sinful flesh destroys the faith of the sheep. What loss is it to him? He does not own the sheep. But he values his money, fame, and acceptance in the world, and that is what he guards.

     

    But Jesus is not a hireling. He is the owner of the sheep. And He dearly loves His sheep, for He is a loving shepherd, and because of the great price He paid to make them His own. He dearly loves you. He has paid the great price of His blood and His innocent life so that you may be His own. He brought you out from under the just wrath of God, and paying the penalty for our sins, He has made you the sheep of His pasture.

     

    He will not run from the wolf or any kind of danger that threatens Him or you, rather He will stand guard and keep you. For He was willing to do battle with the devil for your sake. He was willing to give up His life to save you. He was willing to suffer the Father’s justice on the cross to redeem you. He gives up His life, but then takes it back up again, so that He is your living Shepherd. Now He has dominion over all things, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Nothing can threaten Him now. All His enemies, the devil, the world, and death are defeated before Him. And so He fills all things, and rules over all things for the sake of His flock.

     

    He has gathered His flock and continues to add to His flock with His Holy Spirit through the gospel in word and Sacraments. He says, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” This includes you who have been added to this flock, and those yet to be added to the flock of Christ. He has brought you to faith, to recognize the voice of Christ, to believe in Him as Your Savior, and believing Him, you are dear members of His flock. You are under His tender care.

     

    How blessed you are to belong to the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us! So what do you then make of this wandering and straying and sinning that persists? It’s frustrating and awful isn’t it!? With your ungratefulness, you belittle the cost it took for Jesus to make you His own. You desire to go your own way. You obey the lusts of your flesh. You fall into temptations the wolf sets down before you. You think that there are greener pastures for you if you rejoined the world in its evil pleasures, and you step into it to nibble on its deceiving promises. And furthermore, how do you treat those things that the Good Shepherd instituted and given His flock upon which you are to be nourished, preserved, and saved? So that you may benefit from His giving up of His life, He has given you the precious gospel in Word and Sacraments. But you do not make use of it as you should. You do not appreciate the grace, power, and holiness of that gospel!

     

    What sad sheep you and I are. Certainly not fit to belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd. But you were never fit to belong in that flock. No one was. But Christ made it so. It was for sinners that Christ laid down His life. And thankfully, He doesn’t treat us as a hireling would. But no you belong to Him. He has claimed you in your baptism. And that sacrifice, that price He paid so that you may belong to Him still covers your sins. You are here in His pasture, and He does not say to you, “get out.” Rather He says, “repent,” and He draws you to Himself. His voice proclaims to you, “You are forgiven! Feast upon that word, and be filled with it! Feast upon the table that I prepare for you, My body and blood that I have laid down and taken up again!”

     

    What grace there is in that voice of His! That is the voice that we know, that we cherish. And so may our Shepherd who has gathered us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, keep us in His pasture, and hearing His gracious voice, so that all our days we may live holy lives as we follow Him, rejoice in His forgiveness and love, and be shepherded through the valley of the shadow of death into eternal life! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

     

     

  • Easter 4

    Sermon not yet add

    Sermon – John 16.16-23 (Easter 4 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, of Your fatherly goodness You allow Your children to come under Your chastening rod here on earth, that we might be like Your only-begotten Son in suffering and hereafter in glory: We beseech You, comfort us by Your Holy Spirit in all temptations and afflictions, that we may not fall into despair, but that we may continually trust in Your Son’s promise, that our trials will endure but a little while, and will then be followed by eternal joy; that we thus, in patient hope, may overcome all evil, and at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    16 "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, "What is this that He says to us,`A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and,`because I go to the Father '?" 18 They said therefore, "What is this that He says,`A little while '? We do not know what He is saying." 19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said,`A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me '?

     20 "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 "Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. 23 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

     

    The Father Chastens His Children

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Christ bore His cross, and at the same time the disciples had one to bear, too. But they failed in carrying it. Their Lord was crucified. Their lives were not really safe. They did not bear these troubles with trust in their Lord. They did not heed the words of Jesus, that their sorrow would be only for a little while. They did not look forward to the day soon where their sorrow would turn into joy. Instead they based their outlook of the situation upon their reason and fears.

     

    They didn’t see anything good about Good Friday.

     

    They despaired, having no hope in the saving work of God.

     

    Little did they know that Christ’s death was for their eternal good. He was crucified out of love for them, and they should have found comfort in that love during that little while that Jesus was away.

     

    But in a short little while, on the third day, they saw Jesus again, risen bodily from the grave. And they had joy. They understood afterward the meaning of Jesus’ words. And found strength in them.

     

    Like the disciples, Christians suffer in the world. We don’t have to live long in the world to learn that it is indeed a vale of tears. Consider the nursing home, and with all those years lived there, there are a lot of stories of sadness and difficulty. We have plenty of stories in our own congregation. And you children, if you haven’t learned of the difficulty of life here on earth, the day will come when you will.

     

    God will allow us to suffer through such trouble. What shall we think of it? It is the chastening rod of our Lord. It is the discipline that He gives to us. It would not be accurate to view it as punishment for specific sins that we commit. This is what the friends of Job was trying to convince him of. Rather, God chastises and disciplines us for our good, for the building up of our faith. As I heard one theologian say, God brought Job low, so that He may exalt him very high. And we see what faith God formed in him, for Job in the midst of his suffering was able to confess, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

     

    He chastises us because He loves us. Scripture says, And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb 12:5-7).

     

    Like a parent and child. A child not only learns of the parent’s love through affection, but also through discipline. Rules and loving discipline teach the child that the parent cares for their safety and wellbeing.

     

    God’s chastens us that we may acknowledge our weakness, our sin, and go to His Word of forgiveness and comfort, to pray to Him, and rely upon Him and His loving care.

     

    But as we endure the Lord's chastening, as we go through the little while when we are weeping and lamenting, we don’t always do so well to remember God’s love. The devil tempts us to sin in the midst of our trouble. On the one hand we may grow bitter. We get angry with God, thinking that God has unfairly dealt us a bad hand. We think we know better than Him, not submitting to His wisdom and His chastening rod, but developing an attitude of resentment and bitterness toward God, and perhaps toward others. On the other hand, in suffering we may fall into doubt and despair. And this seems to be more of what the disciples were experiencing. You do not see God’s love and care. You do not go to Him in prayer, seeking help and comfort. You do not go to Scripture to be reminded of the promises of His love and the joy that will follow in a little while. And sometimes, in the midst of suffering, you go through both of these in one day.

     

    But God is gracious. After seeing the doubt and despair of the disciples, He didn’t turn His back on them. Rather, Jesus still sought them out and appeared to them to bring them joy and comfort. So also, God still loves you, and desires you to have the grace of His Word, that you may have comfort and joy.

     

    There you see Christ who bore the Father’s chastening rod. In fact, there on the cross, it wasn’t just the loving discipline that Jesus received, but Jesus received the Father’s just wrath and hatred of wickedness, our wickedness. And Jesus willingly endured it, never doubting, never having bitterness toward His enemies or towards the Father. He as the perfect Son of God, is the only one who could say that this was unfair. But He perfectly submitted to His Father’s will, fully trusted in Him, endured the suffering, showed love to His enemies. His perfection is yours. And His suffering removes from you your sins of bitterness, doubt and despair. You are forgiven. You are clothed in His righteousness.

     

    In God’s holy Word, you have this comfort and joy of God’s love from which you cannot be separated, and the free forgiveness and righteousness He has for you!

     

    And you also have the joy and comfort that the Lord’s chastisement is only for a little while. Jesus is risen, and thus you know how it ends. The Lord chastises you so that in your suffering, you may be joined to Christ and His cross and suffering, so that you may share in His victory and eternal life in glory!

     

    And this is a joy that you may have even now as you wait for a little while until you receive relief and eventually into glory!

     

    In Acts we read the example of Paul and Barnabas preaching in Antioch. The Gentiles in the city heard the their preaching and received it with joy! But the Jews were jealous. They opposed and contradicted their preaching. They “stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” What then did Paul and Barnabas do? Scripture says, “They shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” They had joy in the midst of their troubles.

     

    So also for us, even when the sufferings and troubles of this life bring us weeping and lamenting, we at the same time may have joy. The devil will use our sufferings against us. But Christ has won the victory over the devil and over death. For Christ’s sake the Father loves you, His baptized. He keeps you, is with you, and sustains you until you enter into glory. Turn to these promises of His Word, trust in His infinite wisdom, and call upon Him in prayer.

     

    And thus through His chastening rod, and the work of the Holy Spirit, He refines your faith, and carves you into beautiful living stones.

     

    God’s good and gracious will be done, even if it is done through suffering. By the comfort of His forgiveness and the joy of His victorious resurrection, may He give us courage and joy to meet these troubles, until we leave them behind to behold our gracious Lord in His glory! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Easter 5

    Sermon – John 16.5-15 (Easter 5 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, through Your Son You promised us Your Holy Spirit, that He should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: We beseech You, enlighten our hearts, that we may confess our sins, through faith in Christ obtain everlasting righteousness, and in all our trials and temptations retain this consolation: that Christ is Lord over the devil and death and all things, and that He will graciously deliver us out of all our afflictions, and make us forever partakers of eternal salvation; through the same, Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    5 "But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me,`Where are You going?'

     6 "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

     7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

     8 "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

     9 "of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

     10 "of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

     11 "of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

     12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

     13 "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

     14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

     15 "All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    The Holy Spirit Must Convict Us

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    A simple way to look at the Bible is this: The Old Testament books are written by the prophets pointing forward to the coming Christ who would save the world. The Gospels tell us about Jesus and His work as the fulfillment of those Old Testament prophesies. The epistles are written by the apostles and they expound on what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean for us.

     

    It’s a pretty simple way to look at it, but when we consider the content of Scripture, that is Jesus, His work of salvation for us, and the new life that we have in Him, it is truly remarkable. The essence of this truth is so simple that a child can understand and believe in it, yet we can never finish mining the depths of the truths and significance we find in Scripture! It is so simple that the wise of the world scoff at it, yet it so transcendent, so far above their reason and understanding that they cannot comprehend it.

     

    We’ll consider today the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and also the fact that we need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand and believe.

     

    The disciples probably knew the Old Testament well. They were witnesses of Jesus ministry. They saw Jesus preach and heal, and tell them the events that will occur. When Jesus spoke the words of our gospel reading to the disciples, they were only hours away from His betrayal and the events of His death and resurrection.

     

    This was going to be a lot for them to comprehend. Too much for them. What is the meaning behind His suffering and death, and His resurrection?

     

    Jesus wasn’t going to reveal it all to them at this time. On a future date, the Holy Spirit will come to them, and give them an understanding of these spiritual truths and the faith to believe in them. At this point in time when Jesus was speaking to His disciples, they lacked knowledge and understanding, but when the Holy Spirit would come, they would understand and be equipped to preach and teach and to write the New Testament, of course, being led by the Holy Spirit.

     

    But consider what their understanding had to overcome. Their religious practices consisted of sacrifices, cleansings, festivals, sabbaths, food restrictions and so on. All these pointed forward to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. And now Christ has come, all those Old Testament requirements were unnecessary. This isn’t a new religion, but a switch from promise to fulfillment, and this makes for a drastic change in their religious practices!

     

    And then there was the popular theology taught by the Pharisees which said that God’s favor was obtained by doing good works, by following the Law. As it is at every period of time and in every place, this is a problem. This is our continual battle. This is a hurdle for our reason, knowledge and understanding. It even has a Latin name, the opinio legis. The opinion of the law. It is the idea that since we got into a mess with God because of our sinful works, we then need to fix the mess with good works. This is the default religion of man. Every other religion in the world other than Christianity is based on this concept. It’s up to you to appease God, to ascend to Him, and to earn your reward.

     

    We wrestle against this no matter how mature in the faith we are. Most of us have grown up in the faith. You’re all at different stages of learning the faith, whether you are digesting the meat of Scripture, or whether you are still drinking milk, learning the basic things of the faith, or whether you are somewhere in between. Nonetheless, we are all in the constant practice of overcoming the opinio legis, for it continues to plague us. We have a fallen sinful will that desires us to view our salvation as dependent upon what we do.

     

    The thoughts cross our mind that we must clean up our act and get our life right before we are worthy of being in God’s presence, before entering into the Father’s house. We doubt His word of forgiveness thinking that we need to earn just a little bit of it first.

     

    When we have done some good works the devil uses those good works against you, tempting you to pat yourself on the back, and to think God must be pretty happy with you, you’ve earned some brownie points with Him. Or the devil uses those good works to lead you to be self-righteous, comparing yourself with others, looking down your nose at them who have more sins, and think that God must be more pleased with you than with them.

     

    Or we are tempted to adopt the participation award mentality of the culture, that as long as we don’t be like Hitler, we’re good enough in God’s sight, and we are rewarded by God simply for playing the game of life without killing millions of people.

     

    And so there is this opinio legis, this works-righteousness, that is the mind of the fallen Adam in us. And the life, death, and resurrection of Christ completely contradicts that theology. The doctrine of grace is directly opposed to our natural religion. And the truth is is that we don’t have the capability to know and understand even this most basic truth of Christianity about God’s grace and our salvation.

     

    We must be convicted by the Holy Spirit. In a devotion this week by Pastor Scott Murray, he was talking about one-upmanship. When you are in the midst of trouble, and tell someone else about it, you don’t want to hear them say, “You think that is bad, let me tell you about what I had to deal with.” That or the saying, “It could be worse,” don’t offer any comfort, and don’t lessen the weight of the trouble. But God does this in a way. When it comes to the trouble of our sin, He piles it on. You think you have it bad, you have it worse than you think. He says through Paul, “By one man’s offense many died.” This is not talking about sins committed, but about our original sin, our sinful nature, that it alone makes us worthy of condemnation. Don’t you think that when the disciples reflected on Jesus hanging on the cross, that they got a fuller understanding of their sin. Yeah, that’s how bad it is. That’s how sinful we are and how serious it is.

     

    The Holy Spirit must teach us this and convict us of this truth, for we do not have the capability to do so.

     

    And so in this way the Holy Spirit teaches us to look outside of ourselves, to look to the one who did hang on the cross to bear our sins, Christ Jesus. There Jesus received the judgment of guilty by the Father, that we might be judged righteous.

     

    And our works have nothing to do with this. God doesn’t wait for some spark of goodness in humanity to make this race worthy of redeeming by sending His Son. He would still be waiting. His love, His salvation is completely undeserved. That love is unfathomable. Nothing in us would cause Him to love us, even in the slightest bit, but yet He loves this world of fallen people, so much so that He even gives up His only begotten Son unto a bitter death. How great is that love, there we see it in the words of Jesus to those who hated Him, were mocking Him, beating Him, and crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.”

     

    By Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death and triumphant resurrection righteousness is won for us, for all people! And it is ours through faith, and again works are excluded. It’s not “faith and…” Just faith. Not, faith and an ounce of worthiness. Not faith and a little bit of penance, not faith and a life committed to Jesus, not faith and a genuine enough and sufficiently felt repentance, just faith, just believing that this forgiveness and salvation that you need is fully won by Christ and is free for you.

     

    The righteousness that saves, that makes innocent before God is the righteousness Christ achieved by His perfect life and innocent death. And He goes to the Father to intercede now on our behalf, and to send His Holy Spirit to convict us of these things.

     

    And now because we through faith have this righteousness of Christ, and because Christ is risen, and we are joined to His resurrection by baptism, we walk in newness of life. And how different this is. We no longer look at works as means to be righteous before God. Our righteousness before God is already taken care of by Christ, and it is perfect. But we now look at works as something we are freed to do. We love the law, and desire to keep it in love for God and in love for neighbor. It is good. And by doing the law, we conduct ourselves according to who we have already been made in Christ. How could we ever come to such understanding about the law and the new life we have in Christ by our own reason? But the Holy Spirit has led us to this understanding, and to this new life.

     

    And so may the Holy Spirit continue to convict us and lead us to know and understand our sin and the righteousness of Christ which is ours by faith. It’s a simple thing to say, and we understand it. But I urge you to never stop exploring the depths of this truth in Scripture, for it is a mine filled with inexhaustible treasures of God’s grace. Read, study God’s Word praying to the Holy Spirit that He would guide you into its truth. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

    Sermon not yet added

  • Easter 6

    Sermon – John 16.23-30 (Easter 6 – 2019)

     

    Lord God, heavenly Father, through Your Son You have promised us that whatever we ask in His name You will give us: We beseech You, keep us in Your Word, and grant us Your Holy Spirit, that He may govern us according to Your will; protect us from the power of the devil, from false doctrine and worship; and also defend our lives against all danger. Grant us Your blessing and peace, that we may in all things perceive Your merciful help, and both now and forever praise and glorify You as our gracious Father; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen

     

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, JEsus Christ. Amen.

     

    23 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

     24 "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

     25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

     26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;

     27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

     28 "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father."

     29 His disciples said to Him, "See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!

     30 "Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God."

     

    We Know the Father, and So We Pray

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    We know the Father and so we pray. How can one pray to the Father without knowing Him? And how can one know Him without the Word. This is what Jesus is saying, He will teach the disciples plainly about the Father that they may know Him. In that day, that day in which they know Him, they will pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.

     

    The Word and prayer go together. Where there is faith in the Word, there is prayer. Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” But where the Word is not heard, and not received by faith, there is no true prayer.

     

    So the Word and prayer go together. So consider first the necessity of the Word for prayer. It is maybe best understood by seeing the futility of prayer without the Word. When visiting with people who don’t go to church, they often defend themselves by saying “I pray to God every day.” But what is prayer without the Word? Shall a person think so highly of their prayer, but act as though God has nothing worthy to speak to them? Shall a person act as what they have to say is more important than what God would have to say to them? When a person starves themselves of the Word through which the Holy Spirit teaches them of the Father, they starve themselves of the knowledge of the Father, and it is no longer the Father to whom they are praying, but to an idol. They might as well be speaking to a mannequin. Such are the prayers of unbelievers. Luther says, their prayers to God are like the noise of geese as they eat. They neither know the Father nor are able to pray in the name of Jesus.

     

    But Jesus said to His disciples, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.” During His ministry, Jesus taught a lot in parables. The disciples did not have full understanding of the work Jesus came to accomplish. Even when Jesus spoke clearly that He was going to be delivered up to be crucified and rise from the dead, the disciples did not understand. But on that Sunday of all Sundays in which they saw their risen and victorious Lord they began to understand. But it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came to them on Pentecost that the words of Christ came through plain and clear to them. They then knew the Father. Knowing the Father, knowing His will, His gracious attitude toward them, and their relationship with Him, they were able to pray confidently to Him in Jesus’ name.

     

    Moved by God, the Apostles wrote this Word of Christ on paper for you, and the Holy Spirit works through that testimony of the Apostles that you too may know about the Father. Knowing the Father, knowing His will, His gracious attitude toward you, and knowing your relationship with Him, you may confidently pray to Him in Jesus’ name.

     

    The Word is all about the Father’s gracious will for you. And the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes of faith that you may plainly see God the Father as your gracious heavenly Father.

     

    But this knowledge about the Father isn’t common knowledge. This isn’t the natural relationship we have with God. Because of the fall into sin, our knowledge of God was broken, and our relationship with Him was destroyed. Our reason knows that a God exists, but our reason cannot know who He is, and what His nature is. We have sinned against Him. We have sought the desires of the flesh rather than sought the holy and righteous will of God, and thus have rebelled against Him and made ourselves enemies of Him. Separated from His light and life, we were stuck under the power of sin and under the authority of the devil and death. In this state of separation from God, we have no access to the Father. And in this condition, prayer, no matter how sincere was just noise, futile.

     

    But the Father had pity on us. His will is the restoration of our relationship with Him, our forgiveness, and eternal salvation.

     

    And so by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacrament, He brings you to know the Father through the Son. Through the Son, you come to know the Father and are restored to a right relationship with Him. In the Son, you know the Father. You know that He is love. For it was the Father’s will, that His Son would come into the world and be given the name “Yeshua” or “Jesus” as we call Him, which means “The Lord saves” for He will save His people from their sins. Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice Himself to take away your sins, and look to the cross, and there you have proof of the Father’s love for you. For by the cross of His Son, He paid the price for all your sins, that you may be forgiven of them and freed from their bondage and their deserved consequences. By the cross of His Son, the Father reconciles you to Himself, for Jesus had taken the Father’s wrath for our sins, so that without our sins, the Father receives us as His forgiven and redeemed children.

     

    This is the truth of God’s Word. Through God’s Word and through the working of the Holy Spirit, the truth about the Father is known to you! You know He loves you, though we cannot fathom the depths of His love which caused Him to send His beloved Son for us unworthy sinners. You know that He is your Father in heaven! You know that His will is your eternal salvation, that you may live in His glory forever. And with this great love for you He gives you the gift of prayer. He commands you to pray! And He gives us no shortage of motivation to pray!

     

    Because of Jesus, we have direct access to the Father. Our righteousness falls short. We are unworthy for God to hear us because of our sins. But we pray in Jesus name. Because of Jesus’ forgiveness, because of His righteousness, our prayers are heard and are pleasing to the Father in heaven. And so it is foolishness to think that praying to Mary or some other saint in heaven will be more effective than our prayers to the Father. For isn’t Jesus’ forgiveness perfect? Isn’t Jesus’ righteousness perfect? And aren’t we justified and loved children of the heavenly Father, through faith in Jesus? We are indeed, and so because of Jesus our perfect Mediator, we can go directly before the Father’s throne of grace with our prayers. He promises to hear you, and to answer your prayers according to His loving will for you, in His time and in His way.

     

    Prayer is a wonderful gift that Jesus has given you. Jesus tells His disciples about this gift right after He told them about the trouble that they will experience in the world. We are not of the world. We are Christians in an unbelieving world, in a world of sin and death. What a blessed communication we have with the Father in this world. He speaks to us love, forgiveness, righteousness, life and salvation to us through His Word, and we get to speak to Him through prayer!

     

    So having the Word, we pray. Because of the Word we know to whom we are praying (which we have already talked about), what it is to pray according to the Father’s will, and with what confidence we may pray! The Word teaches us the Father’s invitation to cast all our cares and anxieties upon Him for He cares for you, and so we pray to Him in all our need. The Word teaches us that God gives us prayer as a defense against temptation, so when the world tempts us, we flee from temptation and through prayer we run under the safety of our Father’s arms, asking for deliverance. The Word teaches us that prayer is a weapon in our battle against the devil and all his minions, so when he tempts us to hate our enemies, we oppose the devil by praying for our enemies. The Word teaches us that to walk as God’s children in the world, to be conformed to the Father’s image which we lost in the fall and regained in Christ, is love our neighbor, and so in the freedom of the gospel, we then love our neighbor and pray for them.

     

    The Word teaches us that every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of the heavenly lights. And so in prayer we give thanks to God for our every gift, for our food, for our health, for our lives, for our loved ones, for our successes, for everything and in everything, we give glory to God. And even in difficult times, even when it seems as though our prayers are not being answered, we keep praying and give praise, for the Word gives us the promise that the Father holds us in the palm of His hand, and will let no one snatch us out of His hand. We still have that promise, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

     

    The Word and prayer go together. You know your loving and merciful heavenly Father through the Word, and thus you pray. Prayer is worship. Prayer is an act of trust in God and His promises. Prayer is the Christians response to God’s Word, and putting into practice what God has taught us in His Word.

     

    This is a real conversation. This is a real relationship! He becomes our Father because of Jesus’ cross and through the gift of faith. He speaks to us through His Word, and we hear by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit; and we speak to Him through prayer in Jesus’ name, and He most certainly hears! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

    Sermon not yet added

  • Ascention Day

    Sermon not yet added

  • Easter 7

    Sermon – John 15.26-16.4 (Easter 7 – 2019)

    The Lord Keeps Us Confessing

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks to You, that through Your Holy Spirit You have appointed us to bear witness of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: We beseech You, inasmuch as the world cannot endure such testimony and persecutes us in every way, grant us courage and comfort, that we may not be offended because of the cross, but continue steadfastly in Your testimony, and be always found among those who know You and Your Son, until we obtain eternal salvation through the same, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

    16:1 "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Bear witness (confess) or stumble. These are the two ways to go—two options. Of what do we bear witness? We bear witness of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

     

    Notice the clear teaching of the Trinity in our text. Jesus is the Son of God. He will send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, from the Father. The Holy Spirit has testified to us about Jesus, through whom we also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.

     

    Knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and trusting what God has done for us, we bear witness about Him. This knowledge about Him, and His saving work is not just some good useful information to have at hidden in your hearts. Rather the doctrines of Scripture that proclaims the Triune God and His work of salvation affects everything that we think, say, and do.

     

    We think a certain way. Our minds are shaped by Scripture. Scripture is judge, and we don’t accept every sentimental platitude that the society proclaims, but we judge every thought, every philosophy, every fad of thought to the timeless and universal truths to Scripture.

     

    We speak a certain way as Christians. Our speech is not governed by political correctness, but it is governed by truth and love. We confess Christ to a world in need of Him. We proclaim the Triune God and His marvelous works. We say sin is a sin. We proclaim salvation in Christ crucified alone.

     

    Our works also bear witness about God, His salvation, and the life to which He has called us. Our morality is different than the morality of the world. We go to church regularly. We live chaste lives and don’t live with a significant other until we’re married. We conduct our business according to our biblically shaped consciences. We submit ourselves to God and His will. We seek to live in truth and goodness, and holiness.

     

    By what we think, say, and do we bear witness to the truth of God, and His working for us and in us.

     

    And the world opposes us. The world has always hated the testimony of God’s Word.

     

    Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” Stephen, who spoke with wisdom and the Spirit, preaching Christ, was falsely accused, and was stoned to death. Tradition has it that all the disciples died a martyr’s death except for John whom we know was exiled onto the island of Patmos. Early Christians were killed for their faith, whether by lions, fire, or beheadings. There is an entire book, “Foxes’ Book of Martyrs” that recounts their stories. Today in parts of the world Christians are still being killed for their faith. This past Easter, bombings backed by ISIS killed hundreds of Christians as they were worshiping. Parts of the Middle East and Africa is seeing Christianity disappearing. In China, pastors are being imprisoned and churches are being destroyed. Anti-Christian persecution and its severity is increasing around the world.

     

    Though, the persecution in America is very tame compared to other places around the world, we do encounter increasing hostility. Amy Coney Barrett, a Christian and a judge on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, during the confirmation process when she was nominated to the court a couple years ago, was questioned about her Christian faith as though that would disqualify her from her appointment. Other Christian politicians have been questioned along the same lines.

     

    Christian business owners have been sued and received much hostility for running their business according to their consciences, like Colorado baker, Jack Phillips.

     

    Christian adoption agencies are forced to close down because they will not send children to gay couples.

     

    States are boycotted because of pro-life legislation, and businesses are banned because of their association with good moral causes.

     

    At the Great Plains Pastor’s Conference a couple weeks ago, the president of Bethany Lutheran College, Gene Pfeifer spoke about one scholarship organization that provides $50,000 yearly to Bethany Lutheran College to assist students attending the college, but this group only distributes money to colleges that are in favor of the LGBT cause. A representative of this group called Bethany about the issue. Bethany expressed its unwillingness to budge on the issue willing to lose that yearly scholarship money, and the college now no longer receives that money.

     

    Though, violence hasn’t broken out against Christians on a wide scale in our country, there is still much contempt, mockery, and hostility toward Christians in our culture.

     

    Christians are made to be the bad guys, and the persecutors are thinking their hostility is backed by a worthy cause, pleasing their god. Early Christians were blamed for the fire of Rome. They were falsely accused of being baby eaters, for being atheists and committing perverse sexual deeds. People blame Christianity as much of the cause for wars. They say that Christianity gets in the way of progress, and that it oppresses people.

     

    Why this hostility toward Christians? Jesus says, that they do not know the Father, nor Him. They have other gods, and the Christian doctrine, morals and life, threaten their false worship. The prophets got in the way of the peoples’ worship of pagan gods. The law and gospel crushes the pride of the one who wishes to get to heaven by his works. The exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ and Him crucified is offensive to the pluralism of our country. The Triune God who does not change, is directly inconsistent with the false god of tolerance and progress, and ever changing moral standards.

     

    So, Jesus speaks these words that we do not stumble. What is it to stumble? To silence our confession of Christ, by our thoughts, words and deeds, and to conform to the expectations of the world; it is to doubt the truth we believe, the truth that shapes our thoughts, words and actions; to doubt Christ’s love and care for us in these days, post-ascension. But we hear the words of the Psalm “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” That’s not me. My heart has fear. It is a heavy trouble that we endure.

     

    But Jesus said the Holy Spirit comes so that we may not stumble. The Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ to you. First of all, that you may be forgiven. You may falter and deny your Christ. But He who forgave Peter and showed Him grace, forgives you and loves you. His perfect confession of His Father clothes you, and your stumbling was upon Him on the cross, which He paid for, His shed blood covers it. You are forgiven.

     

    He gives you His Holy Spirit to put the gospel in your hearts, that He may strengthen your faith, and strengthen your confession, so that you may courageously bear witness of God and what He has done for you through your thoughts, words, and deeds.

     

    Part of this testimony of the Holy Spirit to you is that Christ is risen! It is fitting that this is the last reading of the Easter season before we reach Pentecost. The victory is won by Christ’s resurrection! He has overcome the world! And the Holy Spirit bears witness of this fact! Also, the Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ through your fellow Christians. We are brought to love one another as our Epistle speaks today. You encourage one another with the good news of Christ’s forgiveness and His victory over all our enemies. In love, you support one another as you endure the hostility of the world.

     

    Even while you live in this world of hostility, you dwell in the house of the Lord. You inquire in His temple, His Church. And the Lord provides. He keeps you and nourishes you and strengthens you. In His Church, through faith, you rest in Him, who is your refuge and strength. He prepares a table in the midst of your enemies, giving you His true body and blood that gives you eternal life! Through this supper, He has intimate communion with you, that you may know that even as you are surrounded by your enemies, your victorious Christ is with you, and He is in you!

     

    What hostility and persecution take you away from His Church?! They can take your life, but they cannot destroy you forever. You will, as today’s Psalm says, “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” That is how it ends, and we may have confidence in this. Life in the land of the living, forever in the presence of our God, that is where we will be.

     

    May God the Holy Spirit bear witness to our hearts the good news of Christ crucified for us, that we may courageously confess Christ in thought, word, and deed, to His glory and for the world that needs to know Him. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spiirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

    Sermon not yet added

  • Pentecost

    Sermon – John 14.23-31 (Pentecost – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, almighty Son of God: We beseech You, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, through Your Word, that He may rule and govern us according to Your will, comfort us in every temptation and misfortune, and defend us by Your truth against every error, so that we may continue steadfast in the faith, increase in love and good works, and firmly trusting in Your grace, which You purchased for us by Your death, obtain eternal salvation; for You reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    Exordium: What an extraordinary event occurred that Pentecost day. 120 of Jesus disciples were gathered together when a breeze came upon them. The Holy Spirit had come to them, and rested on them in tongues of fire. These common people with limited education were instantly able to speak in foreign languages, not babbling like the Pentecostals teach. But above all, the Holy Spirit gave them a fuller understanding of Christ their Savior. The Holy Spirit gave the knowledge of Christ and His saving work into their hearts. They knew the salvation Christ won for them. This was fact. Being certain that their eternal life is secured in Christ, we can see how these men who were at one time confused cowards hiding in locked rooms in fear of the Jews became bold preachers of Christ, willing to suffer and die for the sake of His name.

     

    Though we do not receive that one-time gift of tongues, which the Holy Spirit gave to those believers almost 2000 years ago, we do receive the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts through the Word of God, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, He showers upon us God’s boundless grace, gives us faith and strengthens it, and gives us eternal life in Jesus’ name. We praise God, the Holy Spirit for the gifts He gives us through the gospel. Therefore we sing the festival hymn, hymn number 27, v. 1. Please rise.

     

    Text

    23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

     24 "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.

     25 "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.

     26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

     27 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

     28 "You have heard Me say to you,`I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said,`I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I.

     29 "And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.

     30 "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

     31 "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    The Teacher and Comforter Comes to Us

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    There is a lot of coming in and going out taking place in and around our gospel reading here today. A little earlier in the evening, Satan came and entered into Judas, and Judas left quickly in order to carry out the plan to betray Jesus.

     

    Jesus said that He was going away to the Father and coming back to them. In His death, resurrection, and ascension, He was making His way to the Father performing the work of salvation for which He was sent to accomplish.

     

    He was going to be coming back to them. Certainly, we know that Christ is returning visibly in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, but even before that day, He will come and dwell in and with believers. Jesus speaks about this a little in our text, and we’ll talk more about that later.

     

    Then at the end of Jesus’ conversation with the disciples, Jesus said, “the ruler of this world is coming.” Satan is coming to unleash a full onslaught on Jesus. But Jesus says that Satan has nothing in Him. That is, that Jesus is innocent. There is nothing in Jesus for which the devil can claim Him. Jesus is without sin. There is no accusation that can be made against Jesus. The devil will get him betrayed and crucified, but he cannot truly hold Him, but Christ must and will ultimately gain the victory over evil foe.

     

    And then this chapter ends with Jesus and the disciples arising to head out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

     

    But there is another coming that takes place in our reading, one that we focus on today: Jesus aid, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

     

    The coming of the Holy Spirit is essential for our coming to God in faith. Jesus says, “if anyone loves Me, he will keep my word.” Our love for Christ and our keeping of His word is impossible without the Holy Spirit. Luther’s meaning to the Third Article of the Creed says, “I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”

     

    We have a plethora of Scripture that teaches this. “The carnal mind [the unconverted mind] is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). “You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn 6:44). And John writes about those who receive the Christ, the Word made flesh, they come into the status of becoming God’s children. But John makes clear that this receiving of Christ and this birth as children of God not as something that we do, but something that God does, worked by the Spirit. He writes, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And a couple chapters later, Jesus specifically mentions the Spirit as the one giving new birth through baptism, when He says, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water an the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh isi flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

     

    So we cannot say that we chose to be Christians by our free will and volition, that we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. We didn’t invite Jesus to come into our hearts. The practice of the Altar Call where people come forward to the altar to invite Jesus into their hearts and make Him their Lord is a practice that incompatible with Scripture.

     

    The Holy Spirit must come to us. The Father must send Him. And He will teach us through the Word.

     

    The Holy Spirit came in a very special way to the disciples on Pentecost Sunday. With a sound like a rushing wind, He came to them and taught them, taught them what? Taught them the words that Jesus had already spoke to them. The Holy Spirit taught them the truth of the Scripture that some of them would write.

     

    He continues to teach us the same thing. He teaches the Word through the Word. Like wind, He goes about working through the word. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). So also God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

     

    The Lord sends out His word to us to be preached, read, sung among us, the Holy Spirit working through it creating and preserving in us faith that we know and believe in Christ and His salvation, and He gives us birth into new life as God’s children and members of His heavenly kingdom.

     

    The Holy Spirit draws us to Christ, that we keep His word, which is summed up with Jesus’ words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). We come to Him in repentance over all our sins, and we believe the good news that we are God is not angry with us for our sins, but that for Christ’s sake He forgives us, receives us as His own redeemed, covering us in His grace and favor.

     

    And then because of the new spiritual life the Holy Spirit has given us, and in response to the gospel which we keep by faith, we love Jesus, our Savior, who loved us first and gave His life for us, even when we were still sinners.

     

    Many will say that they love Christ, but they do not keep His Word. They do not repent, and they do not believe in the gospel, but they find the cross offensive. They seek to live in their sins in impenitence, choosing sin instead of repentance and the gospel of Christ crucified for them.

     

    But we give thanks to God, the Holy Spirit, that He has taught us the Holy Scripture and made us wise unto salvation, repenting and believing, and from that faith, loving Christ, our gracious Lord, and in this love for our Lord, loving also our neighbor.

     

    And so the Holy Spirit has made our life one of coming and going. This is the Christian life, our baptismal life into which the Holy Spirit has brought us.

     

    Through the Word and the Sacrament of the altar, the Holy Spirit grants us Christ’s forgiveness, life, and salvation. He refreshes us and strengthens us, so that we may go out to live godly lives in our vocations. But in our vocations we sin in thought word and deed, we tire of battling the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, and we come back again in repentance, to the Word and Sacrament to be forgiven and refreshed by the Holy Spirit.

     

    And as we live this baptismal life, by the power of the Holy Spirit, loving Christ and keeping His Word, we also have the comfort that Christ and His Father comes to us and dwells with us. And certainly, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, too, our bodies being His temple. What a joy this is that we believers have. By His grace, through faith, God comes to dwell in and with us.

     

    When you were baptized, one of the passages that may have been spoken as a blessing upon you in the baptismal liturgy was from Psalm 121: “The Lord preserve your coming in and your going out from this time forth and forevermore.”

     

    Because Christ came into the world to suffer and die and rise again and returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit was then sent to come to you through the gospel in Word and Sacrament to give you the gift of faith in that completed salvation of Christ. And thus having this true faith, the Triune God makes His dwelling in and with you. By His gospel, He guards and keeps you in your baptismal faith and life, in your coming in and your going out until your final departure from this fallen world, and you enter into heaven. God grant it. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

    Sermon not yet added

  • Trinity Sunday

    Sermon – John 3.1-15 (Trinity Sunday – 2019)

    Not Change, but Rebirth

     

    Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: We poor sinners confess that in our flesh dwells no good thing, and that, left to ourselves, we die and perish in sin, since that which is born of flesh is flesh and cannot see the kingdom of God. But we pray that You would grant us Your grace and mercy, and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that being regenerate we may firmly believe the forgiveness of sins according to Your promise in baptism, and that we may daily increase in Christian love and in other good works, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same Your beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

     3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

     4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

     5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you,`You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

     9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"

     10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

     

    These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    God brought to great power a foreign nation. And He used this nation, the pagan Babylonians, to accomplish His will. He used them, to invade Judea, and especially Jerusalem, to destroy His temple and take His chosen people out of their promised land and take them into captivity in Babylon. This was punishment for the Jew’s rebellion against God, for their neglect of God’s Word, their unbelief and idolatry and their wickedness.

     

    After 70 years in captivity in Babylon, the Lord caused the Babylonian Empire to fall at the hands of the Persians. And God led the Persian King, King Cyrus, to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

     

    Some of the Jews learned their lesson. They learned the foolishness of ignoring and neglect of God’s Word, so they rallied the people together around the books of Moses. But many of the scribes and teachers of the Law didn’t understand the purpose of the Law correctly. They believed that it was simply by doing the Law, they would God’s people and to be under His grace and favor, and avoid punishment.  So they accumulated a list of all the Laws of God, and even created their own laws as a buffer around God’s laws, thinking if they kept their own laws they would be keeping God’s laws. And they believed that it was by a change in their lives, a reshaping of their lives according to these laws that they would be good with God and God would bless them and prevent them from being taken into captivity again.  This class of Jews are what we know as the Pharisees.

     

    Nicodemus was one. He was even one of the leaders among the Pharisees, a very prominent one. Nicodemus, with the other Pharisees, believed that inheriting the kingdom of God was something they could accomplish by their own power. If they just changed their lives, so that they keep the laws, they would inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus shot that idea down.

     

    Now it is natural for us and for all mankind to think like the Pharisees. Isn’t that the natural thinking of our sinful flesh? If we just change, we’ll be good before God. If we just make an adjustment in our lives, we’ll be able to enter into His kingdom. Is that all it takes? Is that power within you? If you set out to keep the 10 Commandments, will you then be under God’s grace and mercy. Other’s think that even abiding by another law is enough, such as governmental laws, or societal standards. They think if you just change and keep the law of niceness, you’ll be heirs of God’s kingdom. Or others make new laws. If I just stop smoking and drinking, God will be pleased with me, and He’ll have favor upon me. And taking into account that it is Father’s Day today. Many fathers (and mothers) seek to shape their children into moral people, good neighbors and good citizens of the world, and this is good. But even if successfully done, it makes no difference in a child’s standing before God.

     

    All the change in the world is not going help us in any way before God.

     

    You see, every one of us is born of flesh, of the sinful flesh of your parents. And you are flesh. You were born dead in sin, at enmity with God, under His just wrath and condemnation. Your heart, by nature, is a heart steeped in sin, with no love or trust in God.

     

    That which born of flesh, is flesh. Let your flesh try to change and improve on your flesh and it is still flesh. Change your life, and you are simply spiritually dead person that looks good to the world. This was Jesus’ judgment of the Pharisees. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28). Change, shape and mold that sinful flesh, on the outside, you’ll be a model citizen and a good neighbor, but on the inside is still a sinful mind and heart, that does not love God, trust in Him, worship Him, or hear His Word.

     

    Changing the sinful flesh does nothing for entering into the kingdom of God.

     

    Instead a death must occur. You must die. Your flesh must be crucified with Christ, and you must brought forth anew with a different birth, not one that comes from within you, but one that comes from outside of you, a birth. You must have a second birth, a birth from above, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. This putting to death and this birth from above takes place through the water and the Spirit, namely baptism. St. Paul says this much in His letter to Romans, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).

     

    It does not change your heart, but gives you a completely new and different one.

     

    When you are baptized in the name of the Triune God, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, you are given new life. In baptism the Holy Spirit enters into you not to change your heart, but to give you a new and different one, so that you are no longer flesh, but spirit. You are a new creation in Christ. (2 Cor 5:17). This new heart created by the Holy Spirit hates sin, believes in God, loves Him, loves and hears His Word seeks to do His will. Our new life desires to be connected to Christ as branches to the vine, living in the source of this new life in Word and Sacraments. And this new heart affects everything you do in life, in every vocation, leading you to live according to God’s will in how you live.

     

    Through this new birth given you by the Holy Spirit in baptism, you are made a child of the Father, who created you, and sent His Son, to be lifted up on the cross to redeem you from your sins, from death and from the devil. In baptism, the Son of God clothes in you His righteousness, and gives you entrance into the kingdom of God.

     

    No, this is not something we do of ourselves, is it? This is a birth worked by God that brings us to believe and confess that the one lifted up on the cross is our Savior who has taken away all our sins and gives us eternal life.

     

    Though we have this second birth, born of water and the Spirit, we do still have that sinful flesh. We still have that flesh we are born with that desires to neglect God’s Word, that doubts God’s grace, that loves the world, that does not want to turn from sin, but embrace it. Perhaps, you have turned away from the new life given you in baptism, and have wandered away from God to live in your sinful flesh and in the cares and pleasures of the world.

     

    To all of you, the message is the same. Die, once again, today and every day! Drown that wretched sinful flesh and all its sins in repentance. For your sinful flesh cannot be changed, but only killed.

     

    For life cannot be found by anything that you can produce, but your life, your spirituality, your acceptance before God, and your entrance into eternal life is in Christ and Him alone. So die to your sins and your flesh and by the Holy Spirit, be renewed in your faith and life in Christ.

     

    As the wind blows where it wishes, so also goes the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, after He died on the cross for your sins and rose again from the dead, breathed onto His disciples, and said, “receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them.” Christ’s words, and through them the Holy Spirit, is breathed and blown upon you now. Hear His Word for it is life and spirit. You are forgiven all of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

     

    And shortly, He will again feed your new creation, renewing you in the Spirit. He will give upon your tongue His very body and blood that was once lifted up on the cross to draw you to Himself and to His Kingdom.

     

    Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, for causing us to be born from above in the waters of baptism, and renewing us through His Word and Holy Supper, that trusting in Christ crucified, we may belong to God’s kingdom now and forever praising our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     

    Glory be to our Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

  • Trinity 1

    Sermon not yet added

  • Trinity 2

     

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 2

    June 5, 2005

     

    Text: Romans 1:18-25

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    Over the course of the next weeks, we will be hearing from the words of St. Paul's letter to the church at Rome. This letter, in its sixteen chapters, covers major and necessary teachings of God's Word: sin, law, grace, faith, righteousness, flesh, spirit, and so on. These teachings are foundational to the true knowledge of God and of the great work of salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ. Martin Luther thought so highly of this book that he wrote:

     

    This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes (LW 35, 365).

     

    However, when we begin with the first few chapters, we find that the taste of this epistle may be rather bitter. That bitterness is due to the fact that Paul begins this epistle by writing directly about sin and the law of God. And the law, because it consistently shows us our sin, is painful to us, bitter; and yet so necessary. Why necessary? Because it shows us the twistedness of our human thoughts, and how we must receive from God, instead of trying to impress Him with our works.

     

    God's anger is deserved by all. Ungodliness and unrighteousness call down the wrath of God. And especially here in this beginning of Romans, the ungodliness is the rejection of the true God. In other words, this is a First Commandment issue: "You shall have no other gods." "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things."

     

    The breaking of this first and greatest commandment is at the very heart of all sin. It doesn't matter how sincere you are, it doesn't matter how upright you are, it doesn't matter how tolerant and kind you are. What matters is this: who is your God?

     

    The history of mankind demonstrates time and time again the arrogance of man. The arrogance is found whenever we see worldly powers presume to take the place of God, to deny God, to reject God. The last century was filled with such examples. In 1917 the world first began to see what communism meant. Over the course of the next 80 years, tens of millions of people would be killed, in gulags, in mass murders, all in the name of communism. No other political movement has killed so many. Yet it was done supposedly for the masses of people. Shortly after the rise of communism, Fascism tried to catch up and surpass the death toll brought by communism. It failed to catch up, but nonetheless millions were left dead, with millions more living in shattered families and communities and towns across half the globe. Both communism and fascism despised Christianity. Both singled out Christian pastors and leaders, either to corrupt them, suppress them, or murder them. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man ...."

     

    The twentieth century was not content with only the massive scale of destruction brought about by those political movements. Others were just as deadly, but without the global scale. There was genocide in China and Sudan and the Balkans. Genocide is killing people because of their race, and nothing else. The Nazis did it to the Jews. It happened in all sorts of ways in the Balkans, and in Africa. The Japanese did it to the Chinese in the 1930's.

     

    The foolishness of mankind, the rejection of God, does not bring enlightenment nor peace nor happiness, but finally and ultimately only death.

     

    But we must not get so caught up in these national and global problems that we neglect the personal, the individual. These words of Paul are for each person to hear and learn from. There is temptation all around to depart from the true God, to be blind to Him and His ways, to turn away and follow our own paths.

     

    Many religions will help you do just that. The most popular are those that in one way or another replace God with yourself. In addition, St. Paul refers to God being replaced by the images of "birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." There are people today who think more highly of the life of animals than of humans. There are many more who consider the abilities of humans the ultimate source and power for good – as if we could all just try harder, think more deeply, meditate more sincerely, act more charitably, and then the world will be a better place.

     

    No doubt it would. But what does this ignore? It ignores the truth that we are sinful. Our sin is not due to lack of trying, but to a fundamental problem: original sin. As long as we consider ourselves capable of being our own saviors we will always be falling deeper into sin. And in fact, Paul warns us of the consequences for that on-going denial of the true God: "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever."

     

    We will find in this book of Romans more lessons on the law of God and its judgment upon us. But even more than the law, Paul lays out for us the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the reason for the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Earlier in this first chapter of Romans Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes...."

     

    The gospel is the very power by which God works among us, forgiving us, cleansing us of our sin, doing for us what we cannot and can never do for ourselves. It is so tragic that the turning away from God keeps us from the very help God desires to give us freely and generously. His gospel is brought to us in His word of Absolution. It is poured on our heads in Holy Baptism. It is placed in our mouths in the blessed Supper of our Lord. This is what gives salvation, the way out of sin, the promise life even in the midst of the tragedies and deaths of this world.

     

    God grant us to worship and serve the Creator only, and no creature. For He alone is blessed forever. Amen.

     

  • Trinity 3

    Sermon – John 3.1-15 (Trinity Sunday – 2019)

    Not Change, but Rebirth

     

    Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: We poor sinners confess that in our flesh dwells no good thing, and that, left to ourselves, we die and perish in sin, since that which is born of flesh is flesh and cannot see the kingdom of God. But we pray that You would grant us Your grace and mercy, and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that being regenerate we may firmly believe the forgiveness of sins according to Your promise in baptism, and that we may daily increase in Christian love and in other good works, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same Your beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

     3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

     4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

     5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you,`You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

     9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"

     10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

     

    These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    God brought to great power a foreign nation. And He used this nation, the pagan Babylonians, to accomplish His will. He used them, to invade Judea, and especially Jerusalem, to destroy His temple and take His chosen people out of their promised land and take them into captivity in Babylon. This was punishment for the Jew’s rebellion against God, for their neglect of God’s Word, their unbelief and idolatry and their wickedness.

     

    After 70 years in captivity in Babylon, the Lord caused the Babylonian Empire to fall at the hands of the Persians. And God led the Persian King, King Cyrus, to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

     

    Some of the Jews learned their lesson. They learned the foolishness of ignoring and neglect of God’s Word, so they rallied the people together around the books of Moses. But many of the scribes and teachers of the Law didn’t understand the purpose of the Law correctly. They believed that it was simply by doing the Law, they would God’s people and to be under His grace and favor, and avoid punishment.  So they accumulated a list of all the Laws of God, and even created their own laws as a buffer around God’s laws, thinking if they kept their own laws they would be keeping God’s laws. And they believed that it was by a change in their lives, a reshaping of their lives according to these laws that they would be good with God and God would bless them and prevent them from being taken into captivity again.  This class of Jews are what we know as the Pharisees.

     

    Nicodemus was one. He was even one of the leaders among the Pharisees, a very prominent one. Nicodemus, with the other Pharisees, believed that inheriting the kingdom of God was something they could accomplish by their own power. If they just changed their lives, so that they keep the laws, they would inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus shot that idea down.

     

    Now it is natural for us and for all mankind to think like the Pharisees. Isn’t that the natural thinking of our sinful flesh? If we just change, we’ll be good before God. If we just make an adjustment in our lives, we’ll be able to enter into His kingdom. Is that all it takes? Is that power within you? If you set out to keep the 10 Commandments, will you then be under God’s grace and mercy. Other’s think that even abiding by another law is enough, such as governmental laws, or societal standards. They think if you just change and keep the law of niceness, you’ll be heirs of God’s kingdom. Or others make new laws. If I just stop smoking and drinking, God will be pleased with me, and He’ll have favor upon me. And taking into account that it is Father’s Day today. Many fathers (and mothers) seek to shape their children into moral people, good neighbors and good citizens of the world, and this is good. But even if successfully done, it makes no difference in a child’s standing before God.

     

    All the change in the world is not going help us in any way before God.

     

    You see, every one of us is born of flesh, of the sinful flesh of your parents. And you are flesh. You were born dead in sin, at enmity with God, under His just wrath and condemnation. Your heart, by nature, is a heart steeped in sin, with no love or trust in God.

     

    That which born of flesh, is flesh. Let your flesh try to change and improve on your flesh and it is still flesh. Change your life, and you are simply spiritually dead person that looks good to the world. This was Jesus’ judgment of the Pharisees. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28). Change, shape and mold that sinful flesh, on the outside, you’ll be a model citizen and a good neighbor, but on the inside is still a sinful mind and heart, that does not love God, trust in Him, worship Him, or hear His Word.

     

    Changing the sinful flesh does nothing for entering into the kingdom of God.

     

    Instead a death must occur. You must die. Your flesh must be crucified with Christ, and you must brought forth anew with a different birth, not one that comes from within you, but one that comes from outside of you, a birth. You must have a second birth, a birth from above, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. This putting to death and this birth from above takes place through the water and the Spirit, namely baptism. St. Paul says this much in His letter to Romans, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).

     

    It does not change your heart, but gives you a completely new and different one.

     

    When you are baptized in the name of the Triune God, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, you are given new life. In baptism the Holy Spirit enters into you not to change your heart, but to give you a new and different one, so that you are no longer flesh, but spirit. You are a new creation in Christ. (2 Cor 5:17). This new heart created by the Holy Spirit hates sin, believes in God, loves Him, loves and hears His Word seeks to do His will. Our new life desires to be connected to Christ as branches to the vine, living in the source of this new life in Word and Sacraments. And this new heart affects everything you do in life, in every vocation, leading you to live according to God’s will in how you live.

     

    Through this new birth given you by the Holy Spirit in baptism, you are made a child of the Father, who created you, and sent His Son, to be lifted up on the cross to redeem you from your sins, from death and from the devil. In baptism, the Son of God clothes in you His righteousness, and gives you entrance into the kingdom of God.

     

    No, this is not something we do of ourselves, is it? This is a birth worked by God that brings us to believe and confess that the one lifted up on the cross is our Savior who has taken away all our sins and gives us eternal life.

     

    Though we have this second birth, born of water and the Spirit, we do still have that sinful flesh. We still have that flesh we are born with that desires to neglect God’s Word, that doubts God’s grace, that loves the world, that does not want to turn from sin, but embrace it. Perhaps, you have turned away from the new life given you in baptism, and have wandered away from God to live in your sinful flesh and in the cares and pleasures of the world.

     

    To all of you, the message is the same. Die, once again, today and every day! Drown that wretched sinful flesh and all its sins in repentance. For your sinful flesh cannot be changed, but only killed.

     

    For life cannot be found by anything that you can produce, but your life, your spirituality, your acceptance before God, and your entrance into eternal life is in Christ and Him alone. So die to your sins and your flesh and by the Holy Spirit, be renewed in your faith and life in Christ.

     

    As the wind blows where it wishes, so also goes the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, after He died on the cross for your sins and rose again from the dead, breathed onto His disciples, and said, “receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them.” Christ’s words, and through them the Holy Spirit, is breathed and blown upon you now. Hear His Word for it is life and spirit. You are forgiven all of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

     

    And shortly, He will again feed your new creation, renewing you in the Spirit. He will give upon your tongue His very body and blood that was once lifted up on the cross to draw you to Himself and to His Kingdom.

     

    Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, for causing us to be born from above in the waters of baptism, and renewing us through His Word and Holy Supper, that trusting in Christ crucified, we may belong to God’s kingdom now and forever praising our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     

    Glory be to our Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

     forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 4

    In Nomine Iesu

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 4

    July 9, 2006

     

    Text: Luke 6:36-42

    “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” 39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    “If someone else is a thorn bush, capable of nothing but scratching, let him be a thorn bush. I won't let that turn me into one.” That was Martin Luther’s counsel in a sermon he preached about 500 years ago. Luther was preaching on the words of Jesus before us today. And he was emphasizing the fact that as Christians we are to be merciful, even when others are not merciful to us. In fact, that will be when our faith is really tested: when we are called upon to be merciful to those who are irritating, hurtful, obnoxious. Do not become irritating yourself, just because someone irritates you. Do not become a hurtful person just because someone else is hurting you. Do not become obnoxious, mean-spirited, vengeful, hateful, just because others do those things to you. Rather, “be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

     

    Now obviously it is much easier to say this than to practice it. But we must learn how it is that we can even begin to work at such a life of mercy. Jesus points to how it all begins in our lives: “just as your Father also is merciful.” That phrase is what makes all the difference in these words of Jesus. Jesus is not telling us to do good works that spring from ourselves. He is not telling us how a good life will get us to heaven. What He does is ground everything in the mercy of God. Without the mercy of God there is nothing for us. There is no good, there is no mercy, there is no life. God’s mercy changes everything.

     

    The mercy of God is Jesus Christ, His life of compassion and His death for the sins of all. God shows His mercy toward us in the life and death of Jesus. Jesus healed many people of terrible diseases while He walked this earth. Why did He do this? Was He thinking that people would like Him and want to pay Him back somehow? No. He did it because it is who He is. He is the God who is merciful, kind, compassionate. His love for people showed itself in how He treated those in need. Jesus also went to death on the cross. Again, why did He do this? He did it to pay what we cannot pay. He did it to erase what we cannot erase. Our sins are a debt that must be taken care of before we can receive life, salvation. Jesus, in mercy, took care of that debt. Jesus on the cross is the great sign of God’s mercy, His love for each of us, the forgiveness of sins.

     

    It is only with this knowledge of the work of Jesus for you, and your trust that this merciful work of Jesus is your certainty of salvation, that you can then begin to show mercy to those people whom God has put in your life. And that is what you are to strive to do: “be merciful, as your Father is merciful.”

     

    Judge not. Condemn not. Forgive. These are the actions that are given to you to live in your life with the others around you. But as I’ve said before, we need to do so while still living in our vocation, our station in life, whatever that may be. What I mean by this is: as a parent there are times when mercy must be overruled by judgment. For example, if your child is caught shop-lifting or is bullying other children, it is not your job to be merciful at that point, but to make sure your child learns about justice, about the need to be responsible for actions that harm others. It doesn’t mean you do not forgive, but there are consequences for sinful action which we must learn. A police officer is not in the role of being a mercy-giver to someone who robs and assaults another person. Rather, the police officer is in the role of bringing the law to bear on that person in order for justice to be served. The commands to judge not, condemn not, and forgive apply to our everyday lives, but not necessarily when our occupations demand judgment and condemnation. There is a tension here that as Christians we must learn to recognize and deal with.

     

    With that being said, the words of Jesus do find application throughout our days in this world. Judge not and condemn not, forgive, these are words which direct how we might think of others who are rude to us on highways, or who annoy us in shopping centers, or who are cheering for their team at a ball game and being offensive in their remarks about your team’s players. You do not allow their rude behavior to affect you. Remember: “If someone else is a thorn bush, capable of nothing but scratching, let him be a thorn bush. I won't let that turn me into one.”

     

    Certainly there is great application for this in the relationship between husband and wife, between brothers and sisters, and all sorts of other home situations. Mercy is to be the hallmark of the Christian home, what sets it apart from other homes. Its not that non-Christian homes will have no mercy or care for others. They certainly will at many times. But the difference is in the foundation for the Christian’s mercy: the Christian knows the mercy of God the Father, a mercy that is completely undeserved.

     

    Consider for a moment what you deserve from God by how you treat your wife or your husband, or how you think, speak, and act towards other members of your family. God has every right to come to you and say: “well, you are certainly not showing mercy and forgiveness to these people, so here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take back your Baptism by which I washed away all your sins, I’m going to take back the Body and Blood of My beloved Son which was given to you to eat and drink for the remission of your sins, I’m going to make sure the pastor never says again: ‘by the authority of God and my holy office I forgive you all your sins;’ and I’m even going to go back in time and undo the life of My Son and His death for you. Nothing, no mercy, no forgiveness for you because you show no mercy, no kindness, no charity toward those people I have placed in your life.” “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

     

    That’s what we deserve from God isn’t it. No mercy, only judgment and condemnation. But thanks be to God that He remains a God of mercy, of love and forgiveness. His Word of Baptism is true and remains for you. He continues to bring forgiveness in Word and sacraments to us here. You are forgiven, for God has mercy on you, and on me. What a wonderful gift for which all we can do for God is say, “thank you heavenly Father.”

     

    But others still need our mercy. And it is to them that God directs our attention. Jesus makes it very plain that He desires us to be merciful toward other people. We’re not always going to get it right. But that is never an excuse not to try, not to keep on forgiving and being merciful. Where we fail at mercy, let us learn to confess that failure, to rely on God’s greater mercy to cover our lesser mercy.

     

    God help us in this merciful work by continuing to bless us with the very ways by which we are strengthened and kept in faith: the Gospel in the preached Word, the absolving Word, the Baptismal Word, and the Word that became flesh that we might partake of His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. God grant us to grow in faith that we might grow in mercy. In the name and by the power of our Savior Jesus Christ.

    Henceforth Thou alone, my Savior,

    Shalt be all in all to me.

    Search my heart and my behavior,

    Cast out all hypocrisy.

    Restrain me from wand’ring on pathways unholy,

    And throughout life’s pilgrimage keep my heart lowly;

    I’ll value but lightly earth’s treasure and store:

    Thou art the One needful, and mine evermore!

    (ELH 182, v. 10)

    Amen.

     

  • Trinity 5

    Sermon – Luke 5.1-11 (Trinity 5 – 2019)

    Jesus Saves Us that We May Follow Him

     

    Let us pray: O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, You have given us Your holy Word and have bountifully provided for all our earthly needs: We confess that we are unworthy of all these mercies, and that we have rather deserved punishment. But we beseech You, forgive us our sins, and prosper and bless us in our various callings, that by Your strength we may be sustained and defended, now and forever, and so praise and glorify You eternally; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret,

     2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.

     3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

     4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

     5 But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."

     6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

     7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

     8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

     9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;

     10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men."

     11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father, sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Back in high school, I participated in a competition for a fundraiser. It was the captains of the sports teams and other leaders among the students verses the local fire and police departments. And we played donkey basketball. We played basketball as we rode donkeys. And I learned firsthand how stubborn those things are. I have the ball, he’s running down the court for an easy shot, and then he stops all of a sudden. I want him to move he doesn’t move. I want him to go left. He wants to go right.

     

    The donkey is what you would call stiff-necked. His neck doesn’t move the way I desire him to move. It is stiff. He directs his head the way he wants to direct it.

     

    Such was also the term God used for the Israelites. They formed the golden calf. They grumbled against God and His leading in the wilderness. And God judged them a stiff-necked people. They did not wish to believe the Lord or follow the way He led them. They definitely didn’t act as Peter and the others who dropped their nets and followed the Lord. They wanted to be their own lord.

     

    “Stiff-necked”: this has described mankind since the fall. Adam and Eve, previous to the fall, had the image of God. They had original righteousness. Their mind and will was completely in line with God’s. Their will was to do God’s will, and they freely obeyed Him and joyfully followed Him. He was their gracious Lord, and they were His blessed people.

     

    But then they fell. Eve wasn’t content to be subject to her gracious Creator, to be as He creator. She was tempted and desired to “be like God.” Adam and Eve sought to go their own way. Before they were created in the image (צֶלֶם) of God, but now original righteousness was gone. Chapter 5 of Genesis depicts the difference. “Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image (צֶלֶם) and named him Seth.” Like C.S. Lewis depicted the children of Narnia, they were called “Daughters of Eve” and “Sons of Adam.” We are children of Adam and Eve, born in their fallen image. Original sin is our condition, with no knowledge of our Lord, no desire to follow him. It is our condition to go our own way, to be stiff-necked, to be our own lords.

     

    And the message is all around us isn’t it. We hear it all the time, and perhaps we have spread the stiff-necked message ourselves. “You have to love yourself first.” “You do you.” “Follow your heart.” And so on. Postmodernism takes away God and His divine universal truth, and puts man at center: “You determine your own truth.”

     

    Katie and I were at the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education this week, and it was talked about how secular education is designed through and through with the presupposition that children have no Creator, that there is no such thing as the image of God or a righteousness to be restored, and that they have no lord, but themselves or society.

     

    Inwardly directed worship seeps through all the pores of society.

     

    And, we look around the world today, and we see the sad condition that the last verse of the book of Judges describes, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And this isn’t just the case of the outwardly immoral and sexually perverse, but many people who quietly live their lives day by day. And are we guilty?

     

    In Exodus, when the Israelites, by their stiff necks, kindled God’s just wrath, God threatened to abandon them consume them all. But they had a mediator: Moses. Moses said to God, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance” (Ex 34:9). We, too, have a Mediator: the greater Moses, Jesus Christ. He is true God, as He shows by the large catch of fish. He has power over creation. He is the exact imprint of God; He is God made flesh, the Lord’s anointed. He follows the will of the Father, saying “Thy will be done.” He comes before the Father on behalf of all humanity, and He takes all the world’s guilt upon Himself, He takes your guilt, all those sins that come from our stiff necks, and He gives His life for them, taking the Father’s wrath for them all. And thus by His sacrifice, you are forgiven. You are free!

     

    But Jesus not only saves us from our sins, but He also delivers us from our sinful stiff necks. Jesus restores to us the image of God. Through faith in Christ, you have it perfectly. You are justified by faith. For Christ’s sake, you are declared righteous by God, perfect and holy. You have His righteous image. But also in your Christian life, your necks are being renewed and loosened that you follow Jesus as your Lord, that you obey His will and conform your will to His. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians (5:17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” and also to the Ephesians, “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” This is the newness life you have been given through your baptism, where you were joined not only to Christ’s death, but also to His resurrection.

     

    And thus in this new life, God, the Holy Spirit, leads us to delight in the law of God, to live according to the 10 Commandments and to serve our neighbor in love and mercy, and to glorify God in all that we do. We read the Table of Duties of Luther’s Small Catechism, and we gladly fulfill our vocations, our callings that God has given us. We put down our nets like Peter, and we follow Him, for He is our Lord.

     

    Sometimes He leads us through suffering. Peter, as a fisher of men, a missionary, was executed by the Roman emperor Nero. According to tradition, he was sentenced to be crucified like Christ whom he preached. Peter, deeming himself unfit to die as his Lord did, asked to be crucified upside down instead, and so he was. Following our Lord means that we also follow Him into suffering. And so, as new creations in Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us to endure suffering with patience and faith in the grace and salvation of our Lord.

     

    Yet being new creations, we do not follow perfectly, do we? Our necks still get stiff. We wish to go our own way. We do not always like the wisdom of God, and think that we know better. How easy it could have been for Peter to say, we have already been fishing all night, and we caught nothing. There is little use in casting out the nets. However, he trusted the wisdom of Jesus. But that is not always easy to do. We do not always like the humility, the selflessness, the patience, the long-suffering, the mercy, and the love that God calls us to live and show. The Old Adam asserts its way and its desires, and we disobey.

     

    And so we daily repent, daily drown the old Adam, and daily live in the confidence of Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness given you in your baptism and restored to you through absolution and the Lord’s Supper. Remember that you are already perfect in Christ, forgiven all your sins and clothed in His perfect following of His Father.

     

    And He does not throw you away as a failed project. He continues to send His Holy Spirit to keep working in you through His Word and Sacrament, to renew you, shape you, form you more and more in the image of God, that you may follow Christ as your Lord, and love His will and live as His blessed people. God grant this work for us and in us. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

    Sermon not yet added

  • Trinity 6

    Sermon – Matthew 5.20-26 (Trinity 6 – 2019)

    Righteousness and Reconciliation

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us; our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin that we are never in this life without sinful lusts and desires. Therefore we beseech You, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Your Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Your Word, abide by it, and thus by Your grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

     21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old,`You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'

     22 "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother,`Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says,`You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.

     23 "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

     24 "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

     25 "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

     26 "Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. And they covered their nakedness from one another.

     

    Sin divides. Sin separates. It has separated us from God. It has separated us from our neighbor, straining our relationships with one another.

     

    We need an answer to our sin, an answer to the separation our sin has caused. We need healing to bridge this divide. We need reconciliation, we need peace to be established between us and God, and between each one of us and our neighbor.

     

    Our Gospel reading, which is pretty much all hard hitting law, does hint at our reconciliation with God, but also demands that we show love and bring peace to our relationships with our neighbor, which is only possible through our new life as God’s baptized people.

     

    Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

     

    Jesus here is saying, that it is righteousness that gives entrance into God’s kingdom. It is the one who is righteous, blameless, perfect before God that God brings into His kingdom.

     

    We examine ourselves in relation to the 10 Commandments as we read in our Old Testament text today. And Jesus clarifies that these Commandments don’t just make demands of our outward, external actions, but also demands perfection with the desires, thoughts, and attitudes of our hearts.

     

    We know we are not righteous. We sin by what we do, by the things that we say, and by the things that we think. We also sin, by the things we don’t do that we should, the things that we should say and don’t, and the things that we should think, but we don’t. Each one of us is responsible for our own separation from God, because of our own sins. We have banished ourselves from the kingdom of heaven. We have caused the problem, and the solution is not in us.

     

    The righteousness must come from outside of us. It must come from God Himself. He must provide the righteousness we need. He must heal the divide that we have caused. He must work the reconciliation that we cannot bring about. God does it in Christ! The Holy Spirit wrote, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him (Christ), whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith.”

     

    Through the blood of Christ’s cross, your sins are forgiven. His righteousness covers you. Through Jesus, you are reconciled to God and peace is made between you and Him. And thus, through Jesus, who is your Righteousness, you have entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

     

    So now, the righteousness you need that reconciles you to God and gives you entrance into eternal life is taken care of.

     

    So, then what does this mean in regard to our relationships with our neighbors? For I spoke about that earlier, how sin harms our relationships with others. Such has been the case since Cain was jealous of Abel and killed him.

     

    We have the ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, to reverse the damage that sin has caused in the relationships between one another. We can bring peace and healing to our relationships with our neighbor, that is, as far as it depends on us, for while we can extend the olive branch to our neighbor, we cannot force our neighbor to do the same.

     

    And so we live as peacemakers and menders of our relationships when we live in righteousness, no longer continuing in the ways of our sinful hearts. For you have been baptized. You are made new creations through baptism. St. Paul says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” The saving righteousness that Christ has won for you does not give you a license to continue in your sinful ways, but being given this righteousness in Christ through baptism, received by faith, you are saved from the futile, unbelieving ways in which you once walked.

     

    And as our text shows us, we must understand the extent of this righteousness we are called to live. It is not merely the outward righteousness that the Pharisees regarded. But we look to the law that directs even the attitudes of our hearts and minds that we have toward our neighbor. And we live according to it that we may not be hypocrites, but be blameless before our neighbor that our Lord’s name may be hallowed among us and that He may be by others.

     

    And so we show love to our neighbor sustaining the relationships we have. We do not hold anger and grudges, nor do we speak evil to or about our neighbor. Nor shall we have bitterness and resentment toward him. But we willingly love and freely forgive with no strings attached.

     

    And we seek to repair our relationships that we have harmed by our own sin. For there are those who have something against us, and there are others who are our adversaries. To these, we humble ourselves before them and repent.

     

    And you may be thinking, “This is hard to do!” Yes it is, and you’re not going to hear me say, “Lower your standards of righteousness.”

     

    But you will hear me say, “repent, and receive the Lord’s forgiveness.”

     

    For even in your new life which you received in your baptism, you sin. Thankfully, it is not this life of sanctification that saves you.

     

    But your sin, yes it is against your neighbor, but it is ultimately against God. David said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned.” With all your sins against God, He could have something, a lot of things, against you. God could be your adversary. But He took those sins and placed them on His holy and righteous Son. And He who does not hold guiltless those who transgress His commandments, punished all the world’s sin and guilt in His Son. He regarded His Son as guilty, so that He may hold you as guiltless. You are forgiven and His righteousness covers you. You are saved and remain citizens of the kingdom of heaven!

     

    And so, we are perfectly reconciled to God by Christ and His righteousness! And may the Holy Spirit strengthen us in our new life that we may love our neighbor, and make peace as far as we are able, that we may be blameless before men, and that God may be glorified before all. May He give us comfort in Christ righteousness, and keep us in true faith until we enjoy perfect peace and communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the life to come! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

    In Nomine Iesu

     

     

     

  • Trinity 7

    Sermon – Mark 8.1-9 (Trinity 7 – 2019)

    Jesus, Our Gracious God in Life

     

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 2 "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 "And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar."

     4 Then His disciples answered Him, "How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?"

     5 He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven."

     6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away.

     

    These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    This crowd here certainly is very different from the crowd of Israelites who were delivered from their slavery in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we hear the grumbling, not trusting in the gracious providence of the mighty God who delivered them from Pharaoh’s oppression. They spoke out against God’s servant Moses, crying out, “Why have you brought us out into this wilderness to die?” (Exodus 14:11; Exodus 16:2-3; Numbers 16:13; Numbers 20:4; Numbers 21:5) They did not trust in their merciful God, but trusted in their reason, which concluded, “We are in the wilderness. There is no food here to sustain us. Before long, we will all be dead.”

     

    But here in this example we see a large crowd who had been following Him faithfully for three days, hearing His preaching. By hearing His word, they were spiritually fed by Jesus.

     

    Jesus was always eager to preach, bringing His eternal kingdom into the hearts of the people through His word, creating and sustaining faith. Plenty of food was present there for their souls, but there was little food for their bodies. From the text there appears to be no indication that the people were grumbling against Jesus about their lack of food in the deserted place.

     

    But Jesus, in His great love for the people assessed their situation. This large multitude of people had been away from home for 3 days. There was no food for them to eat in this wilderness in which they had been travelling. And if Jesus sent them home to get food, many of them would faint on the way. Some of them were even a very long distance from home. And so Jesus had compassion on the people.

     

    This text shows that Jesus does not only care for the spiritual needs of the people, but He cares also for their earthly needs, and He shows that He is able to provide.

     

    What a great comfort to know that our earthly and eternal wellbeing are in His gracious hands.

     

    Of course, between the two, of utmost importance are the eternal gifts that Christ would give us. For that addresses our bigger problem. Starvation of the belly in the wilderness ends with physical death, which is bad enough, but our spiritual problem is eternal condemnation in hell on account of our sins.

     

    Nowhere in this wilderness of the world can we find help from our poor sinful condition. But the source of our help, is Christ. By becoming flesh, living a sinless life under the law in your place, and suffering and dying innocently for the sins of the world, He has provided the world’s salvation. Sins are forgiven, and all the world is declared righteous. As He provided the food in abundance, so also He provides salvation abundantly, as Isaiah said, “She has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

     

    As Jesus sent His disciples among the people to distribute the bread and fish that He multiplied. So also He sent out His disciples, and pastors today, to distribute the abundance of His heavenly gifts, that souls may be fed, nourished and saved. He commands His called workers to pass out His forgiveness and salvation through the ministry of the gospel, so that all the blessings of His saving work may be yours through faith. Through baptism and the Word He brings us to faith and into the possession of His deliverance, and through the Word and the Sacrament of the Altar, He nourishes and keeps us in this true faith.

     

    Therefore, my primary responsibility as pastor to you is to nourish and strengthen your faith through the preaching of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation, and through the administration of the Lord’s Supper which gives you eternal life!

     

    And since you, as well as I, are people broken by the fall, who daily earn everlasting damnation, because of your sins against God and against your neighbor, your most important endeavor in life is to hear the gospel of your Savior Jesus Christ, and to receive His body and blood on your mouths for the forgiveness of your sins. Our eternal lives depend on this. And Christ freely and joyfully gives these gifts to you!

     

    The great multitude in our gospel lesson provides a good example for us. Their primary concern was following Christ and hearing His preaching. They were so dedicated to the hearing of Christ’s words, that they neglected the feeding of their bodies. They became hungry and weak, and unable to feed themselves, because there was no food in the wilderness to feed the multitude. Yet, they trusted that He who keeps them spiritually also keeps them physically.

     

    So also, we may be comforted to know that Jesus cares not only for our eternal wellbeing, but also for our temporal wellbeing.

     

    With compassion, “He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). With compassion He spoke to the crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd. With compassion, He gives up His life on the altar of the cross to take away the sins of the world. With compassion, He cares for the spiritual needs of the world. With this same compassion, He looks upon man and cares for our earthly needs.

     

    And He is able to provide by His almighty power. For in His resurrection, our brother in the flesh was exalted over all things. He is King over all. And we can talk about His three-fold kingdom. He reigns over the kingdom of grace which is His Church on earth. He reigns over the kingdom of glory which is His Church in heaven. And He also reigns over the kingdom of power, which is all creation.  Scripture says, “[the Father] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church” (Ephesians 1:20-22). Even before His exaltation, by His divine power, He miraculously provided for the people in the wilderness by multiplying the loaves. By His almighty power He provides, particularly for the sake of His Church. He causes the crops to grow. He stocks the waters with fish. He fills the pastures and pens with cattle. Isn’t this a gift from God?

     

    In Psalm 145, which works well as a prayer before meals, tells us of God’s gracious providence of His creation: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

     

    Because of His compassion and His power to provide, we can and should confidently pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” for He will give us what we need for our bodies and lives.

     

    As Luther says in the Small Catechism, “Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, God-fearing spouse and children, faithful servants and rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, true friends, good neighbors and the like.”

     

    God promises to provide what we need. And He gives it to us by His grace, by His compassion.

     

    However, sometimes, our reason may tempt us to be more like the grumbling Israelites who were freed from Egypt. We may look at our circumstances in life, and see how little we have, or how difficult our situations, whether it is a lack of food, money, health, or home. Reason tells us Jesus is not compassionate. He is not helping me or is not able to help me.  We may be tempted to echo the doubts of the disciples: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” But we must silence our reason, and trust in the compassion and power and the promises of our Lord Jesus.

     

    The multitude, though going hungry and weak for a time, were miraculously provided by Christ. Jesus feeds the people as He feeds the world. In His due time, He provides in various ways, whether it is through a job, charity, or in some strange way that we sometimes find God working. Many of us can attest to this.

     

    Though we may feel hunger, suffer want in this world, experience the evils and troubles of this godless world, we know our compassionate Savior guards and keeps us as we live in this world. We wait for His due time. We might not always understand His ways and His timing, but we know that He is compassionate toward us and loves us. We need not look farther than His cross to know this.

     

    Let us give thanks every day to our gracious God, who provides for us in life. And remember that there is a time coming, in all our lives, where we will no longer need this daily bread. Our bodies will be dead, lying in the ground. On that day, our believing souls will be carried to heaven by God’s holy angels. And there we will live in unhindered joy and peace with our Savior, awaiting the reunion with our bodies on Day of Resurrection.

     

    God provides us residence in His eternal kingdom, only by His Word. It is only because of the grace of God and the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament that we will find ourselves there. For it is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation.

     

    So have comfort each day in the precious Gospel of Christ, that through the forgiveness and salvation it offers, you have eternal life. He provides for your eternal wellbeing, and as we seek first His kingdom in His Gospel, He also provides for your earthly wellbeing. Thanks be to our compassionate and mighty Lord! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 8

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 8

    July 17, 2005

     

    Text: Romans 4:9-25

    Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed -- God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    How is faith made strong? This is an important question because it deals with what we will consider to be important for the nourishing of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Will your faith be stronger when you see the promises of God come true in your life? Will your faith be stronger if you be wealthy as a Christian? Will your faith be stronger when your loved ones do not become sick and are pictures of health and happiness? Will your faith be stronger when you yourself are able to achieve greater and greater victories over sin and Satan?

     

    The book of Hebrews defines faith this way: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is not about seeing results. It is about being certain of the results without seeing them. Do you understand that difference? It will make all the difference in how you will think your faith in Christ will be nurtured and sustained in this world. Either you will seek evidence for your faith to hold on to, or you will rely simply on the promises of God.

     

    Think of it this way: who needs more faith, my son to whom I promise to give $20 in the future, or my daughter to whom I've already given the promised $20? The daughter does not need faith. She already has the money. The son must still trust that my word is good, and that sometime he will receive the promised $20.

     

    Faith is not nurtured by evidence, for evidence does not require faith. Consider Jesus' words to His disciple Thomas a week after Easter. Thomas' faith was not strong enough to rely on the mere promise of the resurrection of Jesus. He needed to see, to touch. Jesus allowed that on the Sunday after Easter. But He also told Thomas, "...because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).

     

    In the novel, The Lord of the Rings, two of the main characters, Frodo and Sam, must rely on special food given to them by the Elves, called lembas. Their own food had given out during the darkest and most dangerous part of their journey. They had to trust their lives to that simple looking bread of the Elves. What they discovered to their amazement was that the more they relied only on that bread the more they did not need the usual food. That bread alone satisfied and nourished them beyond their expectations.

     

    What we discover as the people of God is that the more we rely on the simple promises of God, the greater our faith grows. And that is what St. Paul desires us to learn and cherish from this fourth chapter of Romans.

     

    Many of Paul’s day thought that circumcision and other laws of the Old Testament people of Israel were required even for the non-Jews in order to be considered faithful Christians. Even St. Peter, that great man of God, was initially deceived by this false teaching. But through careful examination of God's Word, and particularly the life of Abraham, St. Paul sets forth the truth that faith preceded the sign of circumcision and the laws of Moses so carefully followed by the Jews.

     

    Faith does not depend on those outward expressions of the keeping of the law. To do so would be to make faith null and void. Faith is all about the promises of God being able to carry us, without our own works or our own efforts.

     

    St. Paul points us to Abraham and the promise he had from God that he would be the father of many nations. We heard about this a little last week already. What do you need to be a father? You need to have a wife, and you need to have babies. Abraham did have a wife, but St. Paul tells us that Sarah’s womb was dead – unable to bear children for Abraham. And what about father Abraham himself? He was as good as dead. Paul writes – "[Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old)...."

     

    Yet, despite this outward appearance of death, with no hope of children, how did Abraham react?

     

    And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

     

    Do you see what faith is? What did Abraham focus on? What did Abraham rely on? Was it his own body or the fertility of Sarah? No, there was no hope in either himself or his beloved wife. Instead, Abraham, strong in faith and without anything other than God’s promise to sustain him concludes: God can do what He promised.

     

    No doubt it would have been easier for Abraham if he had dozens of children running around. Then he could have seen the beginning of a great nation, of hundreds of thousands, of millions, of descendants. It was harder to see without any children. It took faith.

     

    Without the promise of God Abraham would have despaired of being the father of a great nation. He would have had no hope and no basis for hope. Yet because of God's promise, because of that true Word of God given to him, Abraham did not need the props of this world. He could be content in the fact that God would not lie to him, and that in God's own time, and in God’s own way, the promise would be fulfilled. Abraham did not need to see it himself. He had all he needed in the promises of God.

     

    So, if we return to the question we started with, how is faith made strong? It is made strong by growing away from the need for evidence, and learning to rely on what God says, despite no evidence or even evidence to the contrary. This means hearing God’s Word. It means trusting that when God says, Your sins are forgiven, it is true. It means that when God says that His Son Jesus died and rose for you, it is true. It means that when God says the body and blood of Jesus are here in the simple signs of bread and wine, it is true. What do you have to rely on? Only the promise of God. And that is all faith needs, and in fact, that is how faith grows stronger.

     

    This is not easy. There are many trials in life when we will consider that the promises of God are not strong enough to bridge our need for proof. But even then, God is sustaining and nourishing our faith.

     

    God help us to learn more and more to trust the promises of God, the promises that give us life, forgiveness of sin, salvation.

     

    Then hope, my feeble spirit, And be thou undismayed;

    God helps in ev’ry trial, And makes thee unafraid.

    Await God’s time with pleasure, Then shall thine eyes behold

    The sun of joy and gladness His brightest beams unfold. (ELH 208:6)

     

    Amen.

     

  • Trinity 9

    Sermon – Luke 16.1-9 (Trinity 9 – 2019)

    Godly Stewardship Given By a Generous and Merciful Godd

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have bountifully given us Your blessing and our daily bread: We beseech You, preserve us from covetousness, and so enliven our hearts that we willingly share Your blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Your gifts, and abide in Your grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Your judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    He also said to His disciples: "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.

     2 "So he called him and said to him,`What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'

     3 "Then the steward said within himself,`What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.

     4 `I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.'

     5 "So he called every one of his master's debtors to him, and said to the first,`How much do you owe my master?'

     6 "And he said,`A hundred measures of oil.' So he said to him,`Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'

     7 "Then he said to another,`And how much do you owe?' So he said, `A hundred measures of wheat.' And he said to him,`Take your bill, and write eighty.'

     8 "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

     9 "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    “All is vanity” so says, wise Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “a chasing after the wind.” This describes a life separated from God, a life in darkness, if you will. Solomon had a kingdom, ruling over Israel. He had riches. He had women. He had everything. But it was vanity, it was for nothing. He was rich with things that fail, with things that come to an end. He had all this in his hands in his possession, but one day his cold dead hands will be empty.

     

    Such is the stewardship of the world, the stewardship of those in darkness. First we ought to consider the word stewardship. We are stewards, not owners. What we have in this world, in the eyes of the world we may own, but truly, these are things that God has entrusted to us. They are not our own. All belongs to God, as the Psalmist says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (24:1). We are merely stewards, or managers, of that which God has entrusted to us. And we are to use what we have been given according to the will of the owner, that is, according to the will of God, done in love for God and for neighbor.

     

    But such is not how stewardship happens in the world. Those in darkness live as though they are owners of all that they have. They live as lords themselves, using what they have not according to the will of God, but according to their own will and they manage in self-interest. And they often do it very well, putting much of their effort and cleverness in self-service, just like the steward in our reading.

     

    The gifts of God are used in the service of sin. Hedonism, a life where pleasure is god is the norm. Man either seeks instant gratification or insures himself for a life that ends. Even in his charity, behind the outward semblance of righteousness, there is hidden pride and self-righteousness.

     

    But there is another way of stewardship. It is a life of those who are sons of light. The sons of light are no longer in darkness of unbelief, enslaved to sin and the devil. The Holy Spirit is the one who enlightens and frees us. He causes us to see our sin, to know Christ as our Savior. He opens the Scriptures to us, that we may know God, know of His righteousness and love, to know ourselves rightly in relationship to God. And part of this enlightening, is the Christian worldview, that is, viewing all things and thinking about all things in light of Scripture. And so we think about stewardship differently than the world thinks. We view our possessions rightly, and we use them accordingly. We know that we are not truly owners of what God has entrusted to us, but simply stewards. All we have, our time, our energy, our money and possessions, our bodies and lives, all these belong to the Lord. And we use them, not according to the will of our sinful flesh, but according to the will of the owner and Master, our Lord God. Our life of stewardship is to be lived, not in self-interest, but in love for God and for our neighbor.

     

    We are children of light. By the grace and working of the Holy Spirit, we have come to know Christ as our Savior. However, if we were to give an account of our stewardship, how would that look? It is not good, is it. We have been wasteful, unwise, and selfish. We have acted as though we are owners, using what God has entrusted to us according to the desires of our flesh. The steward was shrewd in using his owners things for his own ends. Yet, we are not shrewd in using what God has given us, for His glory and in service for our neighbor. Does your management glorify God? Is your neighbor served by your stewardship? Are you using your money, time, and presence to support the ministry of the gospel, which gives eternal gifts, even when the earthly gifts fail? Do you manage selflessly? Do you think about these things when you manage your possessions?

     

    The steward in the text was caught. He didn’t deny his guilt. So also, we’re caught red-handed. Our accounting does not lie. We have sinned. There is no use covering up. Now the steward came up with an earthly solution out of his earthly predicament. But we have no solution to our guilt. We can’t use the earthly gifts God has given us to secure for us a home in heaven. No amount of good stewardship will get us there.

     

    Instead we look to owner, the Creator, for the Holy Spirit has enlightened us with the knowledge that He is generous and merciful. He not only gives us earthly gifts, but more importantly, He gives us even His own Son as a sacrifice to save us from our sin, from our abuse of the stewardship He has given us. The righteous God will not let our sin go unpunished. It wouldn’t be just of Him to simply cross out our debt. But He gave His own Son, so that in Him, in Jesus, by His cross, by His suffering, our debt was paid, our debt was cancelled. Our accounting is made clean. And the account of Christ’s perfect stewardship, His selfless use of His time, energy, and whatever possessions He had, is credited to you through faith.

     

    Forgiveness and righteousness are won for you, and God is generous in giving it to you. He has called pastors as stewards of His mysteries, of the gospel in Word and Sacrament, to distribute generously to you penitent believers His forgiveness and righteousness. He gives me authority to say to you that the forgiveness that Christ won by His blood is yours. His forgiveness is given full and free, washing you thoroughly of your sins. He gives me authority to give you this great feast that the Lord has established for you, that you may eat of the very body and blood of Christ that was sacrificed for your forgiveness and eternal salvation!

     

    Surely, God is generous and merciful to us! He sacrifices His own Son, that we may be forgiven. He enlightens us with the Holy Spirit, so that through faith, we become His very own children! And being His children, we are His heirs of the eternal inheritance!

     

    What a Lord we have! And so may the Holy Spirit then strengthen us guide us to be good stewards for our God, who is not just the Creator and owner of all things, but also our heavenly Father. This is the fruit of faith.

     

    We see that the things of this world do not last, they will fail. But we conduct ourselves as stewards, using “unrighteous mammon,” according to God’s will, that we may glorify Him and serve our neighbor, especially with their eternal wellbeing in mind.

     

    Isn’t this the will of God? That all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We shall shrewdly use this unrighteous mammon for their eternal good.

     

    Think about the blessing you have because of the stewardship of those who have come before you. You are here today receiving the Lord’s forgiveness and salvation. You, today, are given heaven. You are able to be here, because people of generations past came into these doors, were present, and gave generously to this church of their time and money. You today have access to this ministry of the gospel that you may hear the Word and receive His Sacrament. God has continued the preaching of His Word and Sacraments through the support of the renewed lives of those who came before you.

     

    They shall see you in heaven, and you will receive them there! And what joy that will be! And what joy it is for us to continue to support the ministry of the Word and Sacraments for the children here, for the community, and for those who are not even born yet. And what a joy it will be to receive them whom the Lord saved and preserved in the faith by the His ministry which we were blessed to support!

     

    And we do not use unrighteous mammon, just for the support of the church, but we also use it for the good of our neighbor. Hear the words of Jesus, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What is the goal of our enlightened lives? It is not for self-interest or glorification, but that the God be glorified, and that others may wonder about the hope that is in you, and through the gospel, also become sons of light who glorify God.

     

    May the Holy Spirit grant us such fruits of faith that we may live as good stewards of our generous and merciful heavenly Father. Rightly see, that we may use things temporal for the good of our neighbor and the glory of God, and that for Jesus’ sake, we have an eternal inheritance that does not perish. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Trinity 10

    Sermon – Jeremiah 7.1-14 (Trinity 10 – 2019)

    God Grant Us Repentance and Its Fruits

     

    Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, by Your Holy Spirit You have revealed to us the Gospel of Your Son, Jesus Christ: We beseech You so to enliven our hearts that we may sincerely receive Your Word, and not make light of it, or hear it without fruit, but that we may fear You and daily grow in faith in Your mercy, and finally obtain eternal salvation; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

     2 "Stand in the gate of the LORD'S house, and proclaim there this word, and say,`Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the LORD!'"

     3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.

     4 "Do not trust in these lying words, saying,`The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.'

     5 "For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor,

     6 "if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt,

     7 "then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

     8 "Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit.

     9 "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know,

     10 "and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say,`We are delivered to do all these abominations '?

     11 "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD.

     12 "But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.

     13 "And now, because you have done all these works," says the LORD, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer,

     14 "therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Jesus stood at the gate to the court seeing the merchants and moneychangers there. A little over 600 years earlier, the prophet of the Lord, Jeremiah stood in the same place, to preach the words of our text which God had given him to speak.

     

    The sights Jesus and Jeremiah saw were the same. Not so much in the activities taking place, we don’t hear about moneychangers in the Temple when Jeremiah was there, but the hearts of the people were the same.

     

    They deliberately lived in their sins. Repentance was absent from their hearts. Jeremiah listed the sins of the people before him, you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, worship Baal and other gods.

     

    What’s more, they blasphemed God’s name by their sin and impenitence.

     

    But the people appealed to the Temple. The Temple, the house of God upon which God placed His name. God’s glory was in it. Here the holy God was present among this His chosen people, and pointed forward to the gracious salvation He had promised for them. It was a place for the people to gather, to pray, to seek mercy, and find forgiveness of their sins.

     

    But they didn’t see the Temple this way. Rather, they looked to the temple for the protection of their sinful lives.

     

    The prophets of God would preach God’s just wrath, His judgment upon the people for the evil they did, and the false prophets with their lying words, would say “The Temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord,” and the people would repeat it. They denied that God could possibly do them any harm while they have the Temple in their midst. They thought, “How can God remove His favor from us if we have this holy place among us.

     

    They commit all their sins, and then they come into the Temple, not to repent, but to say, “We are delivered to do all these abominations.” They view the Temple, this place upon which God has put His name, as a den of thieves. The safehaven for those who love their sins and seek to wallow in them.

     

    Is God the God of sin? Is He an accomplice to their sin, the enabler and rewarder of sin? Is He not holy? How can the holy God gather a people for the purpose that they may continue in their sin and uncleanness? They blaspheme God’s name. They drag His holy name through the mud.

     

    Such was the manner of life among of Pharisees in Jesus’ day! That is why John the Baptist said to them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” They did not refrain from sin, nor did they repent of their sin. And on Monday of Holy Week, Jesus cast out the thieves from God’s holy place, speaking the words of Jeremiah. For the greedy and covetous were using the space with God’s name for their greedy price gouging as the Temple was filled with Passover travelers.

     

    But God is holy, and His judgment will come. Jeremiah reminds them of Shiloh. They could go north 22 miles from Jerusalem and see for themselves that God is serious about His law and its threats. For there God destroyed Shiloh, a former home of the tabernacle while Eli, his sons, and Samuel had served. Furthermore, it was while there that the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines. In the same way, God make good on His threats and destroy the Temple and all of Jerusalem

     

    Surely, the temple was destroyed in 587 BC by the Babylonians, as they took Judah into captivity. And in our gospel lesson, we have Jesus foreseeing that within 40 years, the Temple and Jerusalem will be utterly destroyed. Such was the holy God’s judgment over a people who were circumcised, but not circumcised of heart, their hearts not being hearts of a holy people belonging to a holy God, but hearts of sin and impenitence.

     

    So also today is God’s holy name blasphemed and profaned. For Jesus is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. He is God Himself, and in Him God reveals Himself, reveals His grace, and brings the salvation that He has long promised. He is the fulfillment of the Temple. He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was talking about His body--His dying and rising.

     

    But many use His name as a license to sin. There was recently a very public instance of this with a particular reality show, when a woman professing to be a Christian was being promiscuous, and would not have it when another contestant, also a professing Christian, confronted her on her sin. Now it would be one thing if she repented. Great. But she would not hear or humble herself to the Law. She basically said that she can do whatever she wants and Jesus will still love her and forgive her. She is using Jesus as a license to sin. She makes Him out to be her accomplice in her sin. She profanes the Lord’s holy name.

     

    We ought to beware lest we fall into such carnal security.

     

    Do we blaspheme the name of the Lord? You children of God, see whether there are any sins within you that you hold on to. Have you fallen into carnal security, thinking that you may remain in your sin, and yet continue to be at peace with God? Is there any sin, covetousness, lust, hatred, dishonesty, or idolatry that your heart clings of which you will not repent. Do you make God appear to be an accomplice in our sins? Do you treat Him as though He is the God of sin? You may boast in the Temple, in Christ, or in your piety, but without repentance, you are simply profaning the name of the Lord. Repent, lest you remain under God’s just wrath.

     

    Repent, and find safety and security in Him who comes in the name of the Lord. He indeed loves us, and seeks to gather us to Himself as His own holy people. For, it was the purpose of Jeremiah’s preaching that the people would repent and amend their ways as the fruits of repentance. Jesus’ tears were shed for the people of Jerusalem, because He did not desire that they perish, but that they would repent and live.

     

    Christ has come to be our deliverer from our abominations. He has come to set us free from our sins, to make us a holy people. The holiness comes from him, not our amended lives, not from our ways and deeds, nor from our repentance. Your holiness comes from Christ alone, who has taken away all your sins by His death on the cross, and covers you in His perfect holiness. This He has won for all the world. Without repentance and faith, His deliverance does not benefit a person. He forfeits these gifts. But God has made it your own, when He brought you to repentance and faith. He has made it your own when He put His holy name on you, which He did in your baptism. When Logan was baptized, He was baptized in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Logan and each of us bear God’s name. We belong to Him. We call him and you, dear baptized, Christians.

     

    Your sins are forgiven. You are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. You are holy, for the sake of Christ’s holy name. Through faith, you reflect the holiness of God, and no longer bear the marks and stains of the world fallen in sin. You are set apart from the world, and are God’s own holy people.

     

    And so, we strive to live as what we have become in Christ. We consider the words of Paul, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” And so it is in this newness of life in which we live. God has given us the gift to be His holy people, and so with joy, we seek to live each day in holiness, to live with holy thoughts, words, and deeds, honoring God’s holy name before the world. This is the life that is given us by the grace of God. It is no longer we who live, but the holy Christ who lives in us, the Holy Spirit leading us to walk in holiness.

     

    This life of sanctification is a work in progress. We sin. Our Old Adam causes us to stumble, and we dishonor God’s name. But quickly, we repent and turn to God who loves us, and makes us holy through His forgiveness and righteousness.

     

    May the Holy Spirit grant us repentance and faith all our days, assure us of our forgiveness, and produce in us fruits of repentance, that God’s name be hallowed among us, and that we finally may dwell in the Promised Land, our heavenly home. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father ,and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

  • Trinity 11

    Sermon – Luke 18.9-14 (Trinity 11 – 2019)

    Justified

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we beseech You so to guide and direct us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not forget our sins and be filled with pride, but continue in daily repentance and renewal, seeking comfort only in the blessed knowledge that You will be merciful to us, forgive us our sins, and grant us eternal life; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

     10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,`God, I thank You that I am not like other men-- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'

     13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying,`God, be merciful to me a sinner!'

     14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    The Pharisee looked within himself and saw works that he thought would count him as righteous, at least, more righteous than the tax collector. The tax collector looked inside himself and saw only sin. The Pharisee was not justified. The tax collector went home justified.

     

    To be justified is to receive God’s declaration that you are righteous. It is to be without sin, perfect in His sight. You could say that forgiveness and Christ’s imputed, “or gifted” righteousness are the flip sides of the same coin of justification. Forgiveness is justification. Christ’s imputed righteousness is justification.

     

    Can I say to you, you are justified? Can I say that you go to your home justified? How do we know that we are justified? On what do we place our confidence?

     

    There was a movement within Lutheranism starting in the late 1600s among the Germans and the 1800s among the Scandinavians that drove people to look within. It was called pietism.

     

    There were some good points of pietism. It called for a faith that was not just a matter of the mind, or that simply stopped at a confession, but for a faith that was followed by a pious life consistent with the Christian confession. This is a good thing.

     

    But pietism was more than that, and unfortunately lead to more harm than good. The book “Grace for Grace” written on the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the Norwegian Synod, reads, “It is the bane of pietism that it centers its attention so much on the feelings and the spiritual condition of man’s heart that it forgets or pays but the slight attention to the great objective facts of God’s love for men and the all-sufficient  atonement of the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

     

    Pietism challenged the Norwegian Synod in regards to the practice of Absolution. You know that in Absolution, whether it is in the context of private confession and absolution, or whether it is corporate absolution spoken to the congregation, I pronounce to you the free forgiveness of all your sins.

     

    The pietists did not like this, because the pastor cannot see within the hearts of the people. And of course to those who by their confession and manifestly sinful life show that they are impenitent and unbelieving, we withhold forgiveness, so that they do not think that they are safe from God’s judgment. But other than that, it is true that we do not know the condition of peoples’ hearts. The problem was that they didn’t understand the nature of God’s forgiveness. They insisted that absolution be viewed as a wish. I wish that you would be forgiven of your sins. Or that absolution should be given conditionally, if you truly believe and truly are repentant, God’s forgiveness is yours.

     

    But this would force us to turn and look within ourselves. If it is a wish, how do I know that forgiveness is given me? I must look within myself to see whether I have believed or repented enough for me to have it. Or if it is given conditionally, again the same, I must look within and see whether my faith and repentance have met the conditions required. Have my faith and repentance won out in the struggle against doubt and apathy?

     

    But perhaps you can see where this would lead. Either it would lead to doubt. I’m not sure if I believe enough. I’m not sure if I’m repentant enough. I’m not sure I’m good enough of a believer enough. Or it could lead to delusional self-righteousness, thinking “I’m more worthy of God’s forgiveness and justification than so and so. I’m more devout a Christian the he is. I have more fruits of faith than she does.” Either way, pietism is dangerous.

     

    But the fact is is that Christ has won forgiveness for the world. All are justified. In Christ God reconciled the world to Himself. And the pronouncement of forgiveness is speaking a reality that is true for all people. If Jesus has forgiven the world, and justified the world, then it means that it is true for you, and true even for the unbeliever. And so the pronouncement can be made for all people.

     

    Surely, you can think this is all hogwash, and thus you will not receive the benefits of this objective reality of Christ’s forgiveness. You reject it. Or you can think, like the Pharisee, that you have sufficient righteousness within yourself to earn God’s favor, that you don’t need Christ’s righteousness, then you shall be judged as you wish, and you will find that your righteousness pathetically falls short, and resembles filthy rags. Or you can choose to remain in your sins, treat God’s grace as trash, and go home trampling upon Christ’s bloodbought gift of forgiveness and justification like pigs trampling pearls.

     

    Or, let faith simply be the open hand that receives Christ’s free forgiveness. See that the tax collector brings nothing to God. He looks within himself, and all he sees is sin. So also, look within yourself, but not looking for saving righteousness, nor for your justification before God, nor for anything that would make you worthy of God’s forgiveness. For its not there. But look at yourself in the mirror of God’s law, and see there the inbred sin that lurks there within your nature. See the sinful flesh that desires to rebel against God, that doesn’t love God or His Word. See there your worldliness, your selfishness, your lust and ingratitude. See that you, too, have nothing to offer God, and that there is nothing that you can do but say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

     

    Be at peace, you go home justified. God’s forgiveness and justification is already won for you in Christ. You don’t have to wrestle it away from God with your faith and repentance, proving to Him your worthy of it. It’s not as though your faith and repentance must produce something that wasn’t there before, as though there is no forgiveness and righteousness available to you until you ask for mercy with enough sincerity. No, the declaration was already made at Christ’s death and resurrection. “Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). It was won for you 2000 years ago.

     

    And the absolution that God has given me to speak to you, is a pronouncement of God’s objective justification won for you and the world 2000 years ago given to you personally right now. It’s not a wish. You are forgiven. You are justified. And faith is the empty hand that receives this objective fact, and makes it your own. This is just as our Lutheran Confessions state: “When a man believes that his sins are forgiven because of Christ and that God is reconciled and favorably disposed to him because of Christ, this personal faith obtains the forgiveness of sins and justifies us.” This simply states what St. Paul says in Romans: “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

     

    Now, looking at ourselves, we not only see our sinful nature, but we also now see the gift of the new creation the Lord has made in us. We see fruits of faith. Because of the regenerated life the Holy Spirit created in us we see a will and heart that loves God, and is pleased to do His will. But we don’t pat ourselves on our backs because of this. It is not a cause of our salvation or of God’s favor in any way. Rather these are the results of the salvation that Christ has won for us! We thank God for this! It is His doing.

     

    But don’t rest your confidence of your justification on this new life in you. Nor should you rest your confidence in your repentance or faith, or anything in you. Rather, let your confidence be in Christ who has won your forgiveness and justification, and the word of God that declares this forgiveness and justification. That is the firm foundation of faith. Christ has won it. God’s word declares it. You go home justified. That is, you go home forgiven and righteous in God’s sight, for Christ’s sake. Thanks be to God! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 12

     

    Sermon – Mark 7.31-37 (Trinity 12 – 2019)

    Christ Creates and Recreates Well

     

    Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, who created all things, we thank You that You have given us sound bodies, and have graciously preserved our tongues and other members from the power of the adversary: We beseech You, grant us Your grace, that we may rightly use our ears and tongues; help us to hear Your Word diligently and devoutly, and with our tongues so to praise and glorify Your grace, that no one is offended by our words, but that all may be edified by them; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    31 Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee.

     32 Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.

     33 And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue.

     34 Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."

     35 Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.

     36 Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it.

     37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    You’ve all been through this experience. You get a new item, like a new appliance or a new computer, and it doesn’t work right. Or it’s designed in a strange way, and you wonder why the manufacturer designed it that way. Or you’re a kid, and received a new toy, and it just doesn’t work. It’s a manufacturer defect. Or you get a new item of clothing, but it lasts only a couple times. Either the buttons fall off, or it quickly tore at the seams. In each of these cases, these are problems with the manufacturer. Thy did not create these products well.

     

    How did God do in creating us? Was there a defect by the Divine Manufacturer? Everyone knows that things are not the way they should be. When we look at evil in the world, or if we’re willing to see the evil in us, we know that this is not right. There is an innate knowledge in each of us that there is a moral law a standard of right and wrong, and we do not match standard. It’s not supposed to be this way. Or there are imperfections with our bodies. We have health problems. This man in our text was deaf and mute. And then there’s death. Are these things manufacturer defects?

     

    Some would say so. Often God is blamed for sinful behavior. They say God made me this way. Often it is those who have same sex attraction use this argument to justify their indulgence in their sinful lusts. But it is also used for other sins. God made me love alcohol, so I’m going to drink up. Or God made me a contentious person, that’s who I am, so I’m going to be contentious. God made me an independent person, so move aside all authorities, I’m going to do what I want.

     

    So, since God created all things, is God the author and creator of these imperfections? No.

     

    God is the perfect Creator! He created all things well. He looked at His creation, and He said it was very good. Everything that He made was very good. There were no imperfections, no sin, no defect of body, and no death.

     

    But these imperfections entered the world when Adam and Eve fell to the temptations of Satan. Because of sin, God’s good creation became imperfect and defective.

     

    Now most certainly, you are still created by God. For, Scripture speaks of God’s creative work, “You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Ps 139:13-14).

     

    God still creates very well, but how do we explain the existence of our imperfections? How do you explain the existence of your sin, of your sinful desires? Why are some same sex attracted? Why are some have this ingrained urge to be contentious, and some to be unruly? Why do you struggle with self-control with some things, and others with other things? Why do you find it hard to be content? How do you explain your tendency to put yourself over others? Why is it that our ears are slow to hear the words of our Maker, and our mouths seem to have an impediment when it comes to confessing Him and singing His praises? How do you account for the defects in your body, your diseases, your frailties? Why is it that since the moment we are conceived, our lives are directly on the path to death?

     

    Our defects are not Manufacturer defects. All these are a result of the fall into sin. The sinful condition and its consequences have corrupted God’s good creation. David writes, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps 51:5)

     

    What a horrible condition!

     

    But hear the Gospel reading today, where you find the One who does all things well. He pulls aside one who is afflicted with sin and its effects. This man is deaf and mute, experiencing the effects of the fall into sin. He is imperfect. And Jesus shows what He is come to do, not just for the man in our text, but for all of us. He heals the man. Jesus comes to reverse the effects of sin. The ears and tongue made imperfect because of the fall, He makes perfect. So He does also for us. But it isn’t without cost.

     

    The Holy Spirit saw fit to include a seemingly strange detail in this text. We read it in the word ἐστέναξεν, meaning, “He sighed.” As Jesus performs the healing, He sighs, or groans. It is not that Jesus is tired of healing people, and upset with the request of those who brought the man to Him. Jesus is compassionate. He was pleased to help those in need. But this groan nonetheless expresses some difficulty that Jesus has in healing this man. What exactly this difficulty is is hard to know. Different theologians have suggested different causes for His groan. Some have said that it is because Jesus knows that the man will sin with his repaired ears and mouth. Luther said,

     

    Another has said that healing this man ties Jesus to the cross. And here Jesus feels the pangs of the cross that await Him.

     

    Whether or not Jesus here is groaning because this healing binds Him to the cross, it is true that all His acts of healing points forward to His work on the cross.

     

    Certainly He has divine power, and is able heal on account of that. But by His healing, He shows those present at the healing, and us today, that He has come to recreate us, to restore to us the perfection that was lost at the fall. And He does it through the cross an the empty grave. In the beginning, the Father created all things through the Word, that is through His Son. In the fullness of time, the Father recreated the fallen creation through the sacrifice and resurrection of the Word made flesh.

     

    Jesus’ death on the cross does it. By the cost of His blood and life, all your imperfections, the sins that you commit, the sluggishness of your ears to hear God’s Word, and the slowness of your mouths to confess and praise your Lord, and not only that, but your sinful tendencies, those weaknesses of yours, your original sin are all forgiven. In Christ, your guilt is removed! In Christ, you are perfected! And at the same time you are being perfected. As you live out your lives and struggle with the Old Adam which still resides in you, because of Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit in you, you also find in yourself a new will, a new heart and mind, new ears that delights in hearing God’s Word, and finds joy in confessing Him and giving Him all praise and glory. This is the same will that Adam and Eve had before they fell.

     

    And so find comfort in the forgiveness of Christ that makes you clean and perfect, that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; And though they are like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Is 1:18). And may God the Holy Spirit continue to sanctify you, growing in you “the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

     

    But Jesus suffering and death not only perfects you, removing all your sins, but by His cross He also paid the price for the redemption of your bodies, that they too may be perfect. Certainly, we pray that God would bring healing to us in time; that He would give strength to our weak bodies, make perfect those parts of us that we particularly feel impacted by the fall. We know Jesus is compassionate towards us. He is powerful and able to help. And we pray in Jesus name, that is on account of His suffering and death by which He has redeemed us. And we pray in accordance to His good and gracious will for us.

     

    But if we are not healed in our lives now, we know that our bodies shall rise perfect on the last day, as the bodies redeemed by Christ. The Words used for our committal services reflect this well. These words are spoken over the body, “May God the Father, Who has created this body; May God the Son, Who by His blood has redeemed this body together with the soul; May God the Holy Spirit, Who by baptism has sanctified this body to be His Temple—keep these remains unto the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” We await this day of resurrection. Paul writes in Romans, “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23). Christ has already paid the price to redeem our bodies, but when He returns, He will cash it in, raise all the dead, and claim you and all believers unto Himself.

     

    Christ does all things well. By His cross and empty tomb, He has redeemed you, your body and soul, together. He has recreated you. By faith, you see that He has done it well. On the day of resurrection, you will see with your eyes the culmination of His Work, which you shall enjoy for eternity, hearing and participating in the beautiful sounds of life around His throne. Amen.

     

     

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and ot the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 13

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 13

    August 21, 2005

     

    Text: Romans 6:15-23

    What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    Free from sin in order to battle sin. This is the conclusion of this chapter 6 of Romans, and it is the teaching which is further explained in chapter 7. The Christian is indeed free from sin. Baptism, that powerful washing of water and the Word of God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, has connected the Christian with the very center of the work of Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are made yours in an intimate way through that work of God known as the sacrament of Holy Baptism. A child of Satan, one born in sin, born to die eternally, is resurrected and claimed as a child of God; saving faith has been created where there was only unbelief; life has been given where there was only death; forgiveness has been given where there was only sin.

     

    The work of Jesus Christ at Mount Calvary, His suffering and bloody death on that cursed tree, the cross, has been given to you, poured out on you, made yours by the grace of God. And all of this means that you are free from sin. Sin has no power, no dominion, no claim on you anymore.

     

    However, that great freedom from sin becomes a stumbling block in this way. We think: "since I am saved, it really doesn't matter how I live anymore. God is going to be nice to me when I die no matter what I do, so I have the freedom to live as I choose, knowing there are no evil consequences for me." This is the very thinking which St. Paul addresses twice in very strong terms in this chapter six. He starts the chapter with: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" He picks up the same thought at the start of our text today, repeating the very argument: "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?"

     

    St. Paul makes it clear that no Christian has the option of considering sin to be something that he may safely do, ever. The fact of the grace of God which covers all your sins does not entitle you to act, to think, to speak, in any way which breaks the Ten Commandments.

     

    Yes, you are free from sin. Yes, you are free from the law. But what does this mean for your life? In one of the movies on the life of Martin Luther there is a scene in which Professor Luther is teaching students about this very truth of the freedom of the Gospel. One student asks: "So, does this mean I am free to do what I want?" Luther replies: "Yes, but what is it that you want to do?"

     

    What do you want to do with time God gives you each day? Do you want to let your eyes be used to lusting and coveting? Do you want your hands to hurt and steal? Do you want your mouth to curse and gossip? Do you want your ears to be flooded with blasphemy and foul language? Is that what God has given you the freedom to do? If so, then you are not free from sin, but you are its slave. Whatever you obey, that is your master. And St. Paul tells us what that means: "For the end of those things is death." Being forgiven gives no freedom to keep on sinning.

     

    Being freed from sin means that now you have another master, the Lord Jesus Christ. You are never without a master. You are never out of slavery. Either you are a slave to sin, or you are a slave to Jesus Christ, His servant, desiring to do His will. There is no neutrality, no middle ground in this. "...So now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness....But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life."

     

    To be this slave of righteousness is not at all a means by which you achieve salvation or forgiveness. This is no work of yours to earn a place in the glories of heaven. Salvation is the gift which takes you away from sin and brings you to Christ. That work is done. Completed. Finished. Yet while you remain in this world you are given time, years, months, days. And it is in this time that you have been freed to battle sin, not to give in to it; to love your neighbor, not to harm him; to serve God, not to serve Satan.

     

    "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." You are freed from receiving the wage of sin. Your sin deserved to paid in full with your own death, your own eternal suffering in hell. What have you been given instead? The gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. In this one sentence you have a beautiful summary of the difference between being a slave of sin, and a slave of God. The one receives what is due: death. The other receives not what is due, but a free gift, a gift bought by the death of someone else – Jesus, the Son of God. It is this free gift into which you are baptized.

     

    Free from sin in order to battle sin. This battle is not easy. We will see in Chapter 7 of Romans how St. Paul describes for us the struggle of life as God’s child in this world, and it is no broad and easy path. But we have our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who has gone before us, pulled the teeth of death, chained Satan, and freed us from the demands of the law by covering us with His mercy, His free forgiveness of our sin. God keep us strong in the faith which alone justifies, faith in Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen.

     

  • Trinity 14

     

    Sermon – Luke 17.11-19 (Trinity 14 – 2019)

    Faith and It’s Fruit of Thankfulness

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your blessed Word and Your holy Baptism You have mercifully cleansed all who believe from the fearful leprosy of sin, and You daily grant us Your gracious help in all our need: We beseech You so to enlighten our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, that we may never forget these Your blessings, but ever live in Your fear, and, trusting fully in Your grace, with thankful hearts continually praise and glorify You; through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

     12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.

     13 And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

     14 So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

     15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,

     16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

     17 So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?

     18 "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?"

     19 And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Jesus was making His final trip to Jerusalem, where He would give His life on the cross for the salvation of the world. His trip wasn’t a straight line from point A to point B. But rather He was taking a rather round about path to Jerusalem. As He was making His way to the ultimate act of mercy on Golgotha, He was seeking to show mercy to those on His way, healing and preaching the kingdom of God.

     

    Faith is the trust that God is merciful to me for Christ’s sake. The 10 lepers in our text give examples of faith. Word about Jesus’s mercy had travelled to them. And they believed the Word that He was merciful, and that He would show mercy to them. So the come out to see Him, and though their voices would be so weak from their leprosy, they together cry out that Jesus would hear, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

     

    Jesus heard their cries, and He doesn’t heal them as they or we might expect. Jesus doesn’t touch them, doesn’t heal them on the spot with a Word as he had so often done with others. Rather Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests. This was something lepers were required to do in the rare event that they were healed. The priest would prescribe a sacrifice of some sort before the person would be declared clean and enter back into the community.

     

    So there they stand, Jesus has told them to go show themselves to the priests as though they have already been cleansed, but there they still were as afflicted with the leprosy as they were moments before. What do they do? They don’t respond saying, “Jesus we’re not healed yet! How can we go to the priests.” They believe the Word contrary to experience, contrary to their perception of their own miserable uncleanness. Jesus in effect is teaching them, as He often does for us, to trust in His Word, even though by our experience and perception His Word does not seem to be true. And so trusting His Word, they go.

     

    This is an example of the faith described in Hebrews, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

     

    God in His mercy forgives our sins for Christ’s sake, and washes us clean in baptism so that we are without blemish. He declares us His righteous saints. But what we perceive is different. We feel in us the weakness of our flesh, and we see many sins. Yet faith believes God’s Word, and trusts that He is merciful and has indeed made us saints on account of Christ’s saving work.

     

    God Word says that He has mercifully received us as His dear children. Yet what we perceive is trouble on every side. We deal with evils, sadness, pain and sickness, as though God were a negligent Father. Yet, faith believes God’s Word, and knows trusts God who did spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, He will graciously grant us all things for us as a wise and loving Father.

     

    God’s Word says that He has mercifully delivered us from all our enemies. Christ has conquered Satan, and death, and has overcome the world. Yet what we perceive are the devil’s flaming darts about us, with his lies and deceptions, we see death taking the lives of loved ones around us, and the world is increasing its hostility against us. Yet faith believes contrary to what we see. Faith believes the mercy of God, that in Christ, all our enemies are indeed already defeated.

     

    And so God’s Word speaks of the works of mercy that He has done for us. In Christ, by His life, death, and resurrection, He has forgiven all sins, has given us the right to be children of God, and has become for us the victor over all our enemies. These are the realities, truths, for God’s promises are as good as done. We do not see them right now, yet faith believes these promises of God, receives these promises, and looks forward to when these realities shall be made manifest to us.

     

    And so with this kind of faith, though they still see and perceive their leprosy, they go trusting in Jesus’ Word. On the way, they become healed.

     

    But then what happened? Only one returns to give thanks to God. What happened to the other nine? Though their bodies are healed, their spiritual state seems to be worse.

    The evidence of their faith is gone, as they do not return to give thanks to God. Perhaps the priests got to them. The priests may not have acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, and so may have told them to pay no mind to Jesus and warned them that he is a dangerous prophet.

     

    Or perhaps it was the cares and pleasures of the world that got to them. All of a sudden the world was opened up to them again. They had access again to family, friends, home, hobbies, possessions. These things could have easily consumed them so that Christ in whom they had previously sought mercy had little importance for them any longer in their eyes.

     

    And thus this is a warning for us that we ought to guard our faith so that we do not abandon Christ, our Lord, and stop seeking His mercy, or that we do not forget His works with ingratitude.

     

    For we daily need God’s mercy, both for our needs of this earth, but more importantly for our eternal needs, for we are sinners who have earned God’s wrath. We need the mercy of Christ that we may be satisfied with the eternal blessings He has won for us, and in order that we may beneficiaries of these gifts we rely upon the mercy of God for the preservation of our faith, thus we say, “He who began a good work within you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). He has created the faith in us, and we rely upon Him to preserve it.

     

    And so we daily cry they prayer of the lepers which we also are taught to say and practice in the liturgy, “Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.”

     

    And certainly Christ, our Lord is merciful! He has washed us clean in the waters of baptism, and daily keeps us clean through His blood-bought words of forgiveness and life, as He said to the disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

     

    With that same gospel He preserves your faith, that trusting in Him as your God, you possess all the heavenly blessings earned by Christ and promised in His Word. And as His dear redeemed, He loves you and keeps you each day, until the blessings we hold by faith will be ours by sight.

     

    And so faith takes hold of Christ, because He is merciful, and trusts in His mercy and receives all the gifts of His mercy that we don’t quite see in this life. Yet, His promises are as good as done. We are saints. We are children of God. We have victory over all our enemies in Christ. We know that these gifts are ours even right now, and what precious gifts! Thus Christ, our Lord, is worthy of our daily praise and thanksgiving! We rejoice in His mercy today, and we will continue to do so for eternity! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 15

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 15

    September 4, 2005

     

    Text: Romans 8:18-29

    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    The tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina have not stopped unfolding before our eyes on the daily news shows. We still have little idea how many of our fellow citizens of the United States lost their lives. We do know that many hundreds of thousands are without homes, shipped to parts of the country where most probably have never been before. They are in strange places, with little money, little of the things we need in this world for our bodies and minds to survive.

     

    In the face of such overwhelming human suffering, many are trying to fix blame or to find out who is responsible. Some Muslims in other countries have applauded Hurricane Katrina as being part of the "jihad" against the United States. Such people are glad that our country has suffered a terrible disaster. Some Christians in this country pointed to an event scheduled for this weekend in New Orleans – it was to be the annual gathering of gays, a gathering of debauchery and perversion – these Christians have claimed that the hurricane was God's punishment on New Orleans for hosting such an event. Others, hoping to find political gain, have said that it is the fault of the president of the United States. Still others, in Germany among other places, have said it is due to global warming, which is caused mostly by our country according to them, since we did not sign the Kyoto Protocol a few years ago.

     

    All of them are wrong. They are wrong because they are blind to what God actually teaches us in His Word. They are wrong because they think God will work to do things the way they want to; or they deny God altogether and imagine that mankind itself has ultimate power in this world.

     

    If you want to trace the cause for Hurricane Katrina, you must draw a line to every single human being born in this world, born as the descendants of Adam and Eve, conceived in sin, born in iniquity. In Genesis 3, which tells us of the very beginning of our woeful condition, we find that wind and water, earth and animals, birds and fish, plants and rocks – not one of them sinned. It was Adam and Eve. And the ground was cursed because of the sin of mankind, that original sin of which we are all part. Creation itself was twisted by our sin, by our perversion of the will of God. That is why St. Paul writes about the groaning of creation, about it suffering birth pangs, about creation being subjected to futility.

     

    God's good creation, the "very good" things He brought about simply by power of His Word, was marred by sin. In the six days of creation everything was perfect. But when Eve took the fruit and ate, and when Adam joined her in eating the forbidden fruit, everything changed. Thorns and thistles would now rise up in the good earth. All things which God had put for the blessing of man and woman now became things that could harm, even kill. The sun which warms the world could now produce the energy to be used for terrible storms. The water which brings life now also drowns and crushes. The wind which cools now blows with the strength to twist and demolish buildings of wood, concrete, and steel.

     

    We do not need to assign this to some false god. We do not need to see this as punishment for some specific sin. We do not need to think that one leader of a country, or even all of us who drive cars and burn wood and use electricity are responsible. No. The responsibility is not so easily put on a few. It is on us all. And these tragic events will never end until the Last Day. For until then the creation is subjected to futility; it waits, anticipating its freedom from our sin. God’s good creation wants to be good, and not to be mutilated by the consequences of our sin. And one day there will be a new creation. God has promised. But not yet. Now we wait here. Now we live in the midst of death, with the suffering. We learn to live in repentance, to confess our sins, to acknowledge that God has the right to be angry with us all, to send eternal tribulations on everyone of us, to persecute us, to curse us with famine.

     

    But despite all this, despite the sin, despite what we deserve, what does St. Paul concludes? "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" God knows His creation. He knows what we go through, what all people endure here. And that is why He sent His only-begotten Son. He did not spare Him, but sent Him on a mission of freedom, freedom bought by the death of this only-begotten Son of God.

     

    Because of this great love of God we can look at tragedies, we can live through our own times of trial and persecution and suffering, and finally confess: "all things work together for good to those who love God."

     

    These words are a strong confession in the face of terrible things. For what we experience, what we witness, what we hear and see on television along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, all of this may tell us that there is no God who loves and cares. But as bad as all of this is, it is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for all the billions of people of the world. And He did it willingly, not because a hurricane that happened upon Him, but by deliberately going to meet His enemies, with all the powers of hell behind them. Jesus did it in order to undo our sin, not only for us, but for the creation. Listen again to St. Paul’s concluding confession of faith here in Romans chapter 8, a confession that points us away from ourselves, to the love of God in our Savior, Jesus:

     

    It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

     

    Thanks be to God! Amen.

     

  • Trinity 16

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 16

    September 26, 2004

     

    Text: Luke 7:11-17

    Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen up among us"; and, "God has visited His people." 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. These are Your words, heavenly Father, sanctify us by Your truth, Your word is truth. Amen.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

    In the eight decades of this congregations' existence there have been many funeral processions that started from these doors. Dozens and dozens of people, people you knew, people you loved, have been carried from here in coffins, and laid to rest. Some of these people died in old age. Others died as a result of war, or accidents. Some died quite young. Each death brought sorrow and pain to those left behind here in this world.

     

    How we deal with death says much about what we really believe. Some people try to ignore death, avoiding it when a friend or relative dies. Others never get over a death, being affected by it for the rest of their lives as they grieve with no hope. Others try to make light of it, or treat it as something natural, and therefore something that one shouldn't get too worked up over – after all, it will happen to us all sooner or later.

     

    However, death must be dealt with. How do we do that?

     

    It begins with knowing the "why" of death. Death is a consequence of sin – not of "a" sin, necessarily, but of "sin." In other words, death usually cannot be traced to a specific thing you did wrong in your life with death as your punishment. We cannot say things like: "that old farmer had a heart attack and died because he coveted those 80 acres and cheated to get them." Nevertheless, we die because of sin, the sin inherited from Adam. We die from the fact that we are conceived and born with original sin, a sin we cannot undo on our own.

     

    If we fail to see sin as the reason for death, then our seeking for help against death will never work. It will never work because we will not be seeking in the right place for the right help.

     

    In Luke 7, the funeral procession of the young man met the crowd with Jesus. Death and Life collided at the town of Nain. It was as Luther wrote in his wonderful Easter hymn:

     

    It was a strange and dreadful strife

    When life and death contended

    The victory remained with life,

    The reign of death was ended;

    Holy Scripture plainly saith

    That death is swallowed up by death,

    In vain it rages o'er us. Alleluia! (ELH 343:4)

     

    As we read this story in Luke, we do not detect much of a struggle. It is simply Jesus speaking the word, "arise," and death goes away from the young man. Yet we must not forget why it is that Jesus causes death to leave. It is due to the fact of His own suffering and death with our sin upon Him.

     

    Jesus has power over death because He is the Lord of Life. But to keep death away forever, to keep our sins from bringing their dreadful consequence upon us, Jesus had to deal with sin once for all. This miracle at the town of Nain is a preview of the work of Jesus that culminated in His death on Good Friday, and the announcement of His victory on that first glorious Easter morning when He rose from the dead. The suffering and death of Jesus included the full weight of God's wrath against sin, even to the point of Jesus suffering hell and being forsaken by His Father. The victory over death was not easy or cheap. To think so is to diminish and scorn the life of Jesus, who was burdened with your sin and shame, who went through humiliation and torture, and died – all for you and me.

     

    Jesus, true God and true Man, has power over death. And He desired to achieve and win this victory over death because of His great love for this created world. We must not pass over lightly the truth that Jesus "had compassion" for the mother of this young man. His compassion, His deep, sacrificial love for this woman, her son, and for us all is what moved the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to bring salvation to the world. Salvation coming by means of the forgiveness of sins, and life coming to us as we believe that great news.

     

    This truth impacts how we view death and deal with it, whether in our own life, or in the lives of our neighbors, friends, and family. First, we see that death is not natural for us. It is not what we were created to do. It is natural for us to fight death, to struggle against it as best we can. We choose life because that is what comes naturally for us. We do not willingly choose death unless we have succumbed to the lies of those who deny the resurrection of Jesus and all that it means for us. We do not choose death for children in the womb. We do not choose death for the sick and call it "euthanasia." We do not choose to kill helpless human life, not even at the embryo stage, in order to bring benefits to others. We do not force sacrifices on those who have no voice, but we protect them. This is what it means to know Jesus as the Life of the world.

     

    Second, we see that death is not the end. It does end life in this sin-filled world. It does end our struggle with our own sinful flesh. But death does not end true life for the Christian. In fact, death has been changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus into a way to bring us out of these bodies of decay into bodies that never die, into the glories of eternal life in heaven. This affects our view of death when one of our loved one dies, or when we ourselves face death in a closer way than we ever imagined.

     

    If death is only "the end," and there is nothing after it, then of course one can understand the helpless grief and hopelessness of those who think that. However, since death is not such a final end, but only a time of change for the Christian, we learn to accept that, even though it does mean a separation from the ones we care for and love. But that separation is not permanent, nor will it be so long. It is such confidence and Christian hope that allowed another hymn writer to sing of death in this way:

     

    Farewell, I now must leave you;

    The grief this day doth give you

    Soon others, too, shall bear.

    Be ye to God commended;

    In heav'n all woe is ended,

    And we shall meet in glory there. (ELH 475:8)

     

    This is not a mindless or ignorant or blind hope. But it is a hope built on the work of Jesus Christ.

     

    Jesus is the One who meets death with the word of resurrection. He is the one who told this young man: Arise. Death could not do anything except go away when Jesus said that. Death could not argue, it could not cling on, it could not pretend to leave – it had to leave and it did, leaving the young man alive, reunited with his mother.

     

    This same power and compassion will bring the trumpet call of resurrection to all believers in Christ at the Last Day. God has promised that Jesus and His resurrection are the firstfruits of all those who believe in Him. This means that as Jesus rose, so shall we, shall all our loved ones who die in the Lord. We need not fear for them; we need not fear for ourselves. We cannot and need not depend on ourselves in the fight against death, but we rely on Jesus. He is our Life, our Salvation. He is the One against whom neither death nor sin nor Satan can prevail.

     

    Times come in our lives when this hope in Christ is all that we have. Our strength is gone, the skill of the best doctors fail, the courage of the emergency crews cannot bring us back, but still hope lives. For we are connected to Life, even in the midst of times of death. Jesus is our Life. God keep you confident in the work of Your Savior, the work at the cross, and the resurrection on Easter morning. In Jesus' name. Amen.

     

  • Trinity 17

    Sermon not yet added

  • Trinity 18

     

    Sermon – Matthew 18.1-11 (Michaelmas – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: O everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the services of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

     8 "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

     10 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    It is such a blessing to be witness of God’s gift of baptism. It seems such a lowly thing, but what tremendous things God does through the water used according to His command and connected to His Word. Because of baptism, we have here today, a little one who believes in Christ. And she stands, or rather lies there, as an example of faith for us. For what human wisdom can she boast of? What decision is she able to make? Whether it is an infant or an adult, saving faith is always a miracle in which we are passive. Saving faith in Christ is always something impossible for us obtain, for the spiritual things of God are foolishness to our natural reason. So faith is always a gift given by the Holy Spirit!

     

    This childlike faith is not filled with self-reliance, as adults struggle against, but it is a faith that relies totally upon the one whom her faith rests, namely upon God, who has created her, redeemed her, and sanctified her. We don’t see this faith in action or hear this confession of faith, in such a young child, but baptism grants it, because Scripture calls it the washing regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus talks about such a little one having faith in our gospel reading.

     

    But Jesus also speaks very pointedly regarding God’s love for children, and the grave sin it is to despise the little children or to cause one of them to sin.

     

    This just goes to show God’s zealousness for those whom He claims as His own. He paid the price of His Son’s life to redeem them. He claims them through baptism. He certainly guards and keeps them, and certainly doesn’t need any help, but as God often does, He works through creation to serve His creation. He uses bread and wine, and water, and words to bring the blessings of Christ’s salvation to us. He uses us in our vocation to serve our neighbor, and He uses the vocations of others to serve us. He uses the creatures of His invisible creation, angels, to serve His believers, as it is written in Scripture, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14).

     

    We give glory to God for angels. Being tested when the devil and the other demons fell, those who remained were confirmed in their sinless state, eternally perfect. And so in their perfection, they have a will perfectly in line with God’s! They marvel at the work of God’s grace for us! They sung out at Christ’s birth! They tended to their Creator when He was in humiliation and weakness, such as after His temptation in the wilderness. They had the joy of announcing Jesus’ resurrection! They rejoice when one sinner repents! They long to look into the salvation of the Lord. They indeed blessed creatures that they are, are not the recipients of the grace of the gospel message. It is redeemed man who will experience the unspeakable joys of being sinners washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. And so they marvel at God’s salvation! And these powerful servants guard Ada and all believers from the attacks of the devil and his army.

     

    The devil and his demons desire to destroy us body and soul, and we can be sure that the angels thwart them daily.

     

    Yet we know that dangers still come. Temptations still come. And woe to them through whom they come. For God holds a child He has claimed as His own as precious in His sight!

     

    And this is a fearful things for parents. What a frightening large responsibility to raise children up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord! Who can do it?! For any of us who have an influence upon children, it is a frightening responsibility! Their angels always see the face of their heavenly Father. What if I haven’t taught them repentance and faith well? What if I have given them ungodly habits? What if I have caused them to sin? What if I will sin in such a way? What if I have sinned in such a way?

     

    But God and all the angels would guard you from the lies of the devil who desires to hide God’s grace from you, and they would have you remember that God claims all of you as His own. He has given His Son, His only Son upon the cross for you. And by granting you faith, He given you the right to be called children of God. The angels rejoice when you repent of your sins. Though the devil would tell you otherwise, even the sins deserving of the millstone are forgiven by the shed blood of Christ. And over you, God sets His angels on guard, and they always see His face in heaven.

     

    You are a recipient of God’s grace! May God grant us to marvel at it as the angels do. And God keep Ada and all of you in faith, with the help of the angels, that we all in the life to come, may join the angel choir singing praises to God in eternal glory. Amen.

    Sermon not yet added                               

  • Trinity 19

    Sermon – Matthew 9.1-8 (Trinity 19 – 2019)

    Forgiveness, Fear, Courage

     

    O mighty and everlasting God, by Your Son Jesus Christ You mercifully helped the paralytic both in body and soul: We beseech You, for the sake of Your great mercy, be gracious also to us; forgive us all our sins, and so govern us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not ourselves be the cause of sickness and other afflictions; keep us in Your fear, and strengthen us by Your grace that we may escape temporal and eternal wrath and punishment; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.

     2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you."

     3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!"

     4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?

     5 "For which is easier, to say,`Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say,`Arise and walk '?

     6 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins "-- then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

     7 And he arose and departed to his house.

     8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    In disasters and emergencies, medical staff perform triage, that is they create an order of ailments or patients from those that are most urgent and need immediate attention, to the ailments and patients that are not so urgent.

     

    Jesus performed triage on this man that was brought down through the ceiling, and he had two problems, one physical and one spiritual. Physically, the man was paralyzed. Spiritually, he was afflicted in his conscience, burdened by the guilt of his sins. The physical problem was plain to all, but the spiritual problem was plain only to Christ, since He alone being God is able to know the hearts of men. And thus seeing the problem of sin being the greater more urgent issue, Jesus deals with that first. For sin is the cause of all trouble in life. And so Jesus has compassion on this believer, for again He alone is able see whether there is faith in the heart. And Jesus speaks graciously to him, saying, “your sins are forgiven you.”

     

    Then as it is now, those words of divine forgiveness are received either as joyous comfort, or are viewed as a scandal. Thus Jesus said to his disciples, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mt 10:22). And Paul to the Corinthians, writes about the source of forgiveness, the cross, “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Co 1:23) There were a few different reactions to this. And we’ll talk about each of these. One reaction consisted in the fear of God, and another lacked the fear of God.

     

    The scribes were scandalized. What man can forgive sins? Certainly, they didn’t recognize Jesus as true God. As they silently objected to Christ, they would have done it thinking that they were being devoted to God. They were defending the honor of God and His law. Righteousness is through the law, they would have thought, and only God can forgive offenses.

     

    Yet they did not fear God. As long as they were filled with self-righteous pride and held to works-righteous beliefs, such forgiveness, especially from such a lowly man is offensive. It is a scandal.

     

    But there was another reaction to Jesus’ forgiveness, and His accompanying miracle of healing the paralytic. The text translates it “marveled”, though “feared” is another acceptable translation. Luke’s account of the same event uses the word “fear.” Fear may seem to be a strange reaction to the gracious declaration of God’s forgiveness. However, it is a proper reaction, as Psalm 130 (:4) states, “There is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”

     

    This is not kind of fear that is the terror of God’s eternal wrath, the fear that even an unbeliever may have. Though the proper fear of God does recognize His just wrath. Jesus’ forgiveness means that we have sins to be forgiven. Jesus’ forgiveness means that we are rescued from the just wrath of God. And so since we are forgiven in Christ, we fear God, which means we recognize the fullness of His holiness and justice, but also find comfort in in His infinite grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, who by His blood has blotted out all our sins. And so through faith God receives us as His dear children instead of seeing us as children of His wrath. He counts us righteous instead of judging us as sinners. He makes you heirs of the resurrection onto life instead of the resurrection unto death! And thus because of such grace and mercy with which He forgives us our sins, we marvel at Him, and revere Him. And that is why our worship reflects this reverence of God. While we are worthy of being outside the ark experiencing God’s judgment, He call us into the ark into the Church to receive the gifts of His grace, His forgiveness and salvation.

     

    Since we are forgiven for the sake of Christ’s saving work, and thus trusting in His grace, we fear Him, and we may also be of good cheer as Jesus speaks to the paralytic. You may be of good courage.

     

    You may live in the full confidence that you are forgiven, and that the Lord receives you as His dear believer. This is the gospel message the Lord has given the church to proclaim. This is the ministry of the Church. Christ has given His ministers the authority to retain sins to the impenitent, but to you whose consciences are troubled by sin, Christ has given authority to ministers to proclaim to you Christ’s forgiveness. I speak it to you corporately, as a group, as I did earlier this morning. Or it is also spoken in private confession and absolution, which is beneficial for you when you have particular sins that burden your conscience, that you may hear the words personally and individually applied to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Whether corporately or individually, the word of forgiveness I and other called ministers of the word speak to you, that word of forgiveness is Christ’s very own forgiveness, for the pastor speaks in the stead of and by the command of Jesus Christ.

     

    But then there are those who are scandalized by this forgiveness, especially a forgiveness won in such a lowly way as a cross, and a forgiveness spoken to you by Pastor Jo-shmo Sinner. The world delights when Christians fall into sin, and they cry out “How can you be a Christian?” How can you expect to be accepted by God? You’re a sinner! Righteousness is by the law, and you don’t keep it. But that same voice is in each one of us. The Scribe and Pharisee in each of us says righteousness is by the law. “How can Christ’s forgiveness really be a free gift? You must be worthy of it first. And you are not worthy. Righteousness must be achieved by the law at least to some extent, shouldn’t it? How can God just clear all my sins, and what good is that forgiveness that is spoken by the pastor? Who is he to make that declaration of forgiveness?”

     

    But in response to this, did not Christ say on the cross, “It is finished!” Didn’t the Father raise Him from the dead confirming that forgiveness has indeed been won. Doesn’t Scripture say, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And it says that it is by grace you have been saved. Your forgiveness and salvation is a free gift won totally and perfectly by Christ.

     

    He has redeemed the world, and has gathered to Himself a congregation of believers. The Christian Church is His Church and He has given authority to His Church to proclaim this forgiveness. This forgiveness is not some concept out there that you have to wonder how to get it or how it can be yours. But this forgiveness is concretely given to you and placed upon your ears in holy absolution, and it is placed upon your tongue through the body and blood of Christ given for you in the Sacrament of the Altar. So may these promises of God put to silence and conquer all doubt and offense whether it comes from the world or from within us!

     

    You are forgiven, therefore fear the Lord and be of good cheer. Have courage! The Holy One of God who judges the world, has forgiven you! Live each of your days, and work in your vocations with this confidence! Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 20

    Sermon – Matthew 22.1-14 (Trinity 20 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father: We thank You, that of Your great mercy You have called us by Your holy Word to the blessed marriage feast of Your Son, and through Him forgive us all our sins; but, being daily assaulted by temptation, offense, and danger, and being weak in ourselves and given to sin, we beseech You graciously to protect us by Your Holy Spirit, that we might not fall into sin; and if we fall and defile our wedding garment, with which Your Son has clothed us, graciously help us again and lead us to repentance, that we fall not forever; preserve in us a constant faith in Your grace; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

     2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

     3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.

     4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying,`Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."'

     5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.

     6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

     7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

     8 "Then he said to his servants,`The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.

     9 `Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'

     10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

     11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

     12 "So he said to him,`Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.

     13 "Then the king said to the servants,`Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

     14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

     

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    In our gospel, you’ll find something unexpected. Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven. He compares it to a feast. But in this kingdom we find someone there at the feast, in the kingdom of heaven, that does not belong.

     

    He isn’t wearing the robe, he doesn’t belong, but there he is at the table.

     

    What is going on? When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, we need to be careful what he means, because He could be speaking about two related but different things.

     

    Sometimes, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven he is speaking only about those who are saved. Everyone who is in it belongs in it. We see this meaning earlier in Matthew’s gospel. There Jesus is recorded speaking with a centurion, a Gentile. The centurion has a servant who was paralyzed and dreadfully tormented. Jesus said that He will go and heal the man, but the centurion shows such tremendous faith, by professing his unworthiness, and confessing Christ’s divinity, by saying that Jesus doesn’t need to come under his roof, but that Jesus could just say the word, and the man will be healed. This is one of the two places in Scripture where Jesus marvels at someone’s faith. And Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8:10-11). The kingdom of heaven, here, is the congregation of all true believers from every tribe, tongue, and nations. For it is only true believers who will sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the Church which we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.” Luther writes in his Smalcald Articles, “Thank God, today a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd.” We believe in this kingdom, this Holy Christian Church. It is an article of faith.

     

    But the kingdom of heaven that Jesus speaks of in our text has someone in it that doesn’t belong. This isn’t the Church that we believe, but the Church that we see in the world. This is the kingdom of heaven as we see it on earth. It consists of true believers and hypocrites mingled together. There are “false sons within her pale” as one hymn says.

     

    This is what is happening. Jesus is the Bridegroom. He comes from the wedding chamber of Mary’s womb, true God and true Man, that He by His sacrificial work on the cross may unite the Church to Himself. The Father, through the prophets, had been telling the Israelites to prepare for this day. It was coming. And finally Christ had arrived. Jesus and the Apostles sent out the invitations to the Jews, but they thought little of the invitation; the holy and precious Word of God which reveals and grants us Christ and all His benefits, they treated as junk mail. The majority of them rejected Jesus. There was yet room at the table, so the King, who desires His table be filled, sent the apostles, and the ministers of the gospel of every age to go out and invite all people to the feast, to invite the Gentiles, to invite you to the feast, to hear the gospel of Christ and believe it.

     

    Many still reject the invitation today, being consumed by worldly matters. The world with all its promises which inevitably fail, and the pleasures that do not permanently satisfy, is more appealing to them than this heavenly banquet. But many do hear the call and come. They belong to the outward visible church. We see them gather, and we ourselves belong to this gathering, for we have heard the invitation to the banquet, and here we gather. In many churches and at many altars the invitees gather. Yet some do not belong. From what the servants and everyone else can see, they seem to belong. But it is the king who comes in and sees who truly does not have on a wedding garment.

     

    This wedding garment is vital. For we have no business in the feast as the sinners we are. We have walked in these evil days as fools, living as the world and according to our flesh instead of minding and doing the will of the Lord. Because of our sins, we do not belong to the table. But the wedding garment makes all the difference. The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ that He purchased with His perfect life and innocent death. It cleanses you of your sins and covers you! When the King, God the Father looks at anyone wearing the righteousness of Christ, He sees no sin, only the innocence of His Son. This righteousness is freely given you, and you wear it by faith in Christ as Your Savior. For a person is justified by faith. Wearing this garment by faith, you truly do belong in the kingdom of heaven.

     

    There are some who do not. Though they appear to be among the faithful, they do not think that they need to wear the garment. They don’t think it’s that important. They think that they can continue in their sin without repentance, and remain at the feast, thinking that it is enough that they profess to be Christians. Or there are others who do not think the wedding garment provided by the King is sufficient, but rather think that their own good works are more splendid. There is no faith in these. Though they are the unbelievers mingled with the believers as we view the kingdom of heaven on earth, the chaff among the wheat, we see how God judges them. They are not truly members of the kingdom of heaven, who sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Rather they will be thrown out into the outer darkness.

     

    So, we see how important it is for us first to heed the invitation to believe and partake of the Gospel of Christ in Word and Sacrament. And secondly, to partake of this banquet by faith, wearing the wedding robe of Christ’s righteousness.

     

    The things of this world work against us, drawing us to love the world rather than the kingdom of heaven. False teachings tell us to indulge in our sinful desires, or to trust in your own manufactured righteousness.

     

    We confess our weakness, and admit our need for God to help us and He has helped us and He continues to help us. He is the One who has elected you from eternity to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and to receive by faith the gospel message of Christ and Him crucified. He has clothed you in righteousness through the waters of baptism. He has fed you with the body and blood of Christ, receiving by faith, the forgiveness and eternal life offered there. He is the one who will preserve you in the true saving faith in the kingdom of heaven until you take your seat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with all the saints and angels around the throne of God.

     

    Thankfully, our salvation does not rest in our weak hands, but we rest in the saving hands of God, and no one will snatch us away from His strong hands by destroying our faith.

     

    And so, to those strong hands we run, find safety and refuge. Our safety is in that very same banquet to which we have been invited and partake. The gospel is the power of God to salvation. Through the gospel of Christ, God gives to your faith, forgiveness and eternal life. Through this same gospel, the Holy Spirit preserves and strengthens your faith. Through the gospel, He gives you deliverance from all your enemies, which Christ has already defeated. The gospel gives you the peace and joy of knowing that you belong to Christ in intimate communion, and that whatever trial or difficulty you encounter, you sit at His table forever, because of His righteousness. And that is the most important thing.

     

    God grant this to us, and to as many as you have chosen. You will do it. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

     

  • Trinity 21

    Sermon – Ephesians 6.10-17 (Trinity 21- 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, by Your Son You have promised us the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life: We beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit so enliven our hearts that in daily prayer we may seek our help in Christ against all temptations, and, constantly believing His promise, obtain that for which we pray, and at last be saved; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

     11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

     12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

     13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

     14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

     15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

     16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

     17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Christ has already defeated the devil. He crushed the serpent’s head. By His death, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14). In triumph Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. Since He has become flesh like us, He, even according to His human nature has such power and authority. The Father has put all things under His feet. He, our brother, is above all, even the devil is crushed below His feet, as a one king subjects one whom He has defeated. The prideful devil must swallow the shame of his defeat.

     

    Yet at the same time we should not trivialize the devil and treat him as one who is harmless. He tried to destroy Christ, but He failed. He desired to destroy the Church, but that is a futile task, for Christ is her Lord, and He said, the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

     

    But the devil turns his attention to the Church’s offspring, that is, to Christians, to you. And the devil is a vicious foe. You, believers, are in battle whether you choose to be or not. If you wish to escape the battle, you must turn from God and befriend the devil, but then you of course would incur the wrath of God, and His judgment.

     

    But because God is our Lord, who has redeemed us and has claimed us as His own when He put His name on us in baptism, we battle.

     

    And so we are the Church militant. And this epistle reading is the Lord’s call to arms for you, His people.

     

    Earlier in Ephesians, Paul speaks about how the Father has exalted the human nature of Christ above every power and rank in heaven, far above all principality and power and might and dominion.

     

    But such powers and ranks are also found among the evil spirits, as Paul names in our text, “principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Such is the might of the enemy that is against us, of course, Satan being their head. And we are in the midst of them.

     

    And the devil and his army wish to destroy us in body, but also in soul eternally. Consider in what ways the devil attacks and the results of his attacks. He used God’s Word and twisted it as He tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He afflicted Paul with a thorn in the flesh, some sort of ailment unknown to us. He pummeled Job with loss of family, property, and health. He accused Peter’s conscience. He influenced Herod to order the death of boys under the age of 2 in order to kill Jesus. And then Satan used Jesus disciples and friend, Peter, to try to keep Jesus away from the cross. Of course, it is no surprise that Christ stood, but we should not continue under the impression that this was easy for Jesus, for the devil’s attacks truly afflicted Him.

     

    And then there is Eve who was tempted to disobey God with lies and deception. The devil tempted Saul to self-reliance, self-importance, and jealousy. The Satan and his evil forces placed before the eyes of Demas, a co-worker with Paul, the pleasures of the world, and he loved these as god. The same happened to Solomon. He accused Judas’ conscience which led him to despair. Here we see the variety of ways in which the devil works, sometimes bold frontal attacks, often through craftiness and lies.

     

    His ultimate goal is to remove you from Christ. And the he with all his forces attack whether you are awake or sleeping, to accomplish his goals. He perverts good things into sinful thoughts and deeds. He takes love and uses it to idolize family, or to seek unity at the expense of pure doctrine. He takes caution and turns it into assuming the worst intentions in people. He takes your sense of justice and turns it into a vengeful spirit. He takes your generosity and turns it into self-righteousness.

     

    The evil spirits put temptations before you preying on your weaknesses. They make sins look small when tempting you, and they make them look big after you fall, that you might have a troubled conscience and doubt God’s forgiveness.

     

    They make you too busy to hear God’s Word or to pray. They strive to sow discord and resentment. They try to separate you from the preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments, and the congregation of believers, so that you become easy prey.

     

    They cause trouble and trials in your lives afflicting you bodily, emotionally, and mentally, so that like the man in the gospel, you doubt the unfailing love and care of God, and forget that God works all things for your good.

     

    How many other ways does that wicked army attack you?

     

    And so you are enjoined to battle. You are wrestling. But you have something that you may stand even with the onslaught of attacks. You may stand because of the armor you wear. It is not your armor, but the armor of God. It is not your truth, but God’s truth. It is not your righteousness, but Christs’ imputed righteousness. It is not your opinion of peace, but the gospel of peace which is God’s message of reconciliation that is made certain by the resurrection of Christ. It is not faith in yourself, but faith in the sure rock of your salvation, Jesus Christ. It is not the helmet of your works-righteousness, but of the salvation that has been won for you. Nor do you have in your hand the sword of your wisdom, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, of which one little word can fell him, the devil.

     

    Take on the whole armor of God. Cast aside every sin which weighs you down and causes you to stumble, this do with repentance, that in the forgiveness of Christ, all your sins are removed from you. Christ’s righteousness clothes you! Take care of that breastplate by absolution and the Lord’s Supper, which continually makes it whole! And stand in that righteousness, living the new life of righteousness which is yours since Christ now lives in you. We shall not have peace with our evil foe, but know that as you stand, you stand at peace before God by the blood of Christ. Though you fall into sin, you are restored by the gospel, forgiven, and put at peace with God again. By faith, you cling to Christ, who is your champion and victor. And stand with the Word of God as Christ used the Word of God against the devil in the wilderness.

     

    This is God’s armor, placed upon you through the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, as you receive here at this outpost in the battle. They are not cumbersome as Saul’s armor was on David, but rather, they strengthen you, give you comfort and peace, and confidence in the victory that is already yours in Christ. They allow you to stand.

     

    Notice there, Paul simply says “stand.” It is not up to you to conquer the devil and his armies. By the grace of God, we fend of the attacks of the devil, we confess God’s Word and pray. We resist the devil, and the devil flees. But the Lord calls us to put on the armor of God and stand. We stand, for it is Christ who fights for us.

     

    It is as God said through Moses at the Red Sea, when the Israelites were trapped between the sea and the pursuing host of Egypt’s army. Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13-14).

     

    The LORD of Sabaoth, that is, of armies, the Lord of our Church militant, of the Church Triumphant where the saints are at rest, and of all the angels of heaven. He fights for us. And our victory is assured in Him.

     

    Though we see the battle, and suffer in this life, we know that because of Christ, all shall be well with us. For our lives, and our faith are in the care of our Lord. Our suffering will be a thing of the past, and in fact we shall see that Christ used it for our good. In the end, Christ’s blood-bought forgiveness and righteousness, which is ours by faith, is our salvation, our victory over the devil, and on that last day, the troublesome devil and his evil army shall be put away in hell, and you shall see them again no more forever.

     

    Thanks be to Christ, our risen and victorious LORD. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • Trinity 22

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Trinity 22

    October 24, 2004

     

    Text: Matthew 18:23-35

    "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 "So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellowed redeemed in Christ,

    If you don't forgive others, if you continue to harbor a grudge against someone, do you think God forgives you? Every day we pray, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Is that truly what you desire? Do you want God to forgive you exactly the same way you forgive your husband or wife, your mom or dad, your brother or sister, your co-worker, or others in your life? Jesus told the servant in the Gospel today: "Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?"

     

    It is very hard to forgive others. Even when we say "I forgive you," it is hard to put another's sin out of our minds. Too often we will find that we are like the servant here who was forgiven much, and yet could forgive little.

     

    Why does this happen? Why can we be so in despair over our own sins, desiring help and begging for the mercy of God which we do not deserve, and then when we receive God’s pity we turn around and treat our neighbor with contempt, failing to forgive?

     

    What we see in ourselves is the perverse nature of our sinfulness. Our lack of forgiving others is a sign to us that we really don't think we need God’s forgiveness, or that we simply take it for granted, as though we deserved it.

     

    Think of the times that we are most generous in life. It is usually when we consider ourselves to have more than enough for what we need. It doesn't matter how much we have, what matters is how we think of our situation. A person who makes the minimum wage can be more generous than a billionaire. Not measured by how much is given, but by the spirit in which people are helped. We might have little left over in the checking account at the end of the month, yet we should examine ourselves to see how that affects our generosity, not in terms of numbers of dollars, but in terms of our attitude. If we are worried about debt, then that may affect our desire to help others: "helping them won’t get us out of debt" we'll think.

     

    Forgiving others is like that. We will find it hard to forgive when we don’t know what it means that we are forgiven. So we need to ask: what is the forgiveness of sins?

     

    It starts with knowing sin. Sin is what we are born with, original, inherited, sin; we are by nature sinful and unclean. The newborn baby is a sinner. The aged person in the nursing home is a sinner. We are all sinners. That is how we come into the world. Besides the inherited sin, we add our sins of commission and omission. We do things we should not do, against God, against our families and friends; we don't do things we should do, again, against God and neighbor. God's law shows us our failure to do as God commands. This failure is sin. And the wages of sin is death.

     

    In the story Jesus told, the debt of the first servant is like our sin against God. It is so huge that we can never repay it. But do we really believe our debt of sin is so large? Or are we so accustomed to hearing about how we are forgiven that we ignore the fact that there is a good reason we need that forgiveness? Do we truly comprehend what we deserve from God for our sin? Where would we be without God's pity and mercy? Where would we be if He did not desire us to be forgiven? We would have no hope whatsoever.

     

    Luther preached:

     

    So, whoever wants to truly confess that he is a sinner must see to it that he is not confessing any dreamed up or imaginary sins. He must confess that his sins are just as real as adultery, theft, murder, and the like, that is, that these sins are so great that they will take you to hell unless they are forgiven (Hauspostille, 3, 137).

     

    He goes on to say: "if the forgiveness of sins is to be genuine, then the sins themselves must also be genuine" (138). Forgiveness is not needed for fake sins, or imaginary problems. No, the forgiveness is offered because of the true need.

     

    And so we confess each Sunday, "I believe in the Holy Spirit...the forgiveness of sins." This is an article of faith. We cannot see the forgiveness from God. But it comes to us through God's Word. We trust what He says, that He does not lie, but through the life and death of our Savior Jesus He has taken away the sins of the world, our sins: "Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death...." This forgiveness is showered on us, the one baptism for the remission of sins. It is given to us through Word and Sacrament, available as the on-going help against our sins in whatever form they make take.

     

    This is the great gift of God for you: the forgiveness of sins, the taking away of the debt you owed. Now, what does this mean for you and your life with others? Will you be like the first servant in Jesus' story? Will you be forgiven your billions, and not forgive the $10 your wife owes you? Or your husband, or children, parents, or whomever else the Lord has put in your life? Can we be so stingy towards others when God is so overwhelmingly generous toward us? We can – but only if we failed in the first place to confess our sins and understand their true implication for our eternal destination.

     

    If we find ourselves failing to forgive others, then let us take to heart as a sign of our own pride, our own inability to confess our sins as real sins that deserve damnation. God help us to be humbled by our lack of forgiveness, and use that sign to grow in the knowledge of our sin so that we may confess honestly and rightly, receiving the gracious forgiveness of all our sins. Then, too, may God help us to see in our family, our friends, and all others whom we meet, people who like us need to hear a forgiving word, a word of help. We can do that, as we learn more and more about what a truly merciful Savior our Lord Jesus Christ is. God grant us faith toward Him, and fervent love toward one another, in Jesus' name, Amen.

     

  • Trinity 23

    Sermon not yet added

  • Trinity 24

    Sermon – Matthew 5.1-12 (All Saints’ Sunday – 2019)

    Blessed Because of Jesus

     

    Let us pray: O almighty and everlasting God, through Your only-begotten and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, You will sanctify all Your elect and beloved: Give us grace to follow their faith, hope, and love, that we together with all Your saints may obtain eternal life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.

     2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

     3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

     4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

     5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

     6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

     7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

     8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

     9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

     10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

     11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

     12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father, sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    When movie films portray Christians, or at least nominal Christians quoting Scripture, for example at funerals, it’s interesting to observe which Scripture they use and how they quote the Scripture. I don’t remember the movie or the Bible passage that was used, but there was one movie I was watching where a character was quoting Scripture. I immediately recognized the Bible passage, and I knew that there was coming up in that Bible passage some words that explicitly spoke of God’s grace for sinners. I was wondering will the character say it, hoping that he would. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The character skipped that part and moved on with the verse that followed.

     

    The world is offended by talk of sin and of the message of the cross in which we find the remedy to sin.

     

    Yet, there are some passages that are tolerable and even liked by the world. One of those seems to be the beatitudes, probably minus the parts about persecution, though. You’ll hear the beatitudes spoken in the movies unedited.

     

    We can understand why. It’s beautiful language with the repetition of the word “blessed”. Also, it acknowledges problems and troubles in the world. And everyone, not just the believers know that things are not the way they should be. We all have trouble, and perhaps the words of blessing give hope. Plus the Beatitudes do not explicitly mention sin and the cross.

     

    However, though sin and the cross are not explicitly mentioned, they underly the whole thing. The troubles in the world are not just the way thing have always been, but there is a cause to them, and the cause is the sin of Adam, of which we are a part and of which we are guilty. And in regards to the blessedness, without Christ and Him crucified, there is no blessing. We are blessed only because of Jesus and His atoning work on the cross for us.

     

    Without Christ, what is there for you the poor in spirit? Your poverty is sin, and there is no answer for your sin. Your hatred, your lust, your pride, your disrespect of authority, your ingratitude, your violence, all your sins remain piled with you, and there you are in all your impoverished guilt, and there is no blessing you should expect from God, but only the curse of the law, the condemnation of your souls.

     

    Without Christ, what is there for those who mourn. The world remains a vale of tears and the valley of the shadow of death. Troubles afflict our days, and death rules over all, and what can we do about it?

     

    Without Christ, what is there for the meek? Not many are meek, unless either the law convicts them, or the circumstances of life beat them down so much that they must admit their lack of righteousness and lowliness. But, even then, without Christ, who shall exalt the meek? There is no other. There is no help for you, no hope. And those who exalt themselves will ultimately be cast down in the day of Judgment.

     

    Without Christ, there is no satisfaction for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

     

    Without Christ, what blessing is there really for those who show mercy, who are pure in heart (as if it were really possible to have a pure heart without Christ) and are peacemakers? Such things are helpful for the world, but without Christ such works and attitudes remain sin in the sight of God.

     

    Without Christ, there is no blessing to be spoken for those who are persecuted. There is no reward in heaven for you.

     

    Without Christ, surely, you may have food and drink, house and home, health and so on, yet beyond these earthly gifts, there are none of the blessings spoken of in the beatitudes. Instead you have the opposite. The opposite of blessing is curses, and truly without Christ you have the curse of the fall. Instead of the benediction, the word I would have for you would be, “the Lord curse you and forget you. The Lord turn His face away from you and be wrathful unto you. The Lord lift up His displeasure upon you and give you your deserved terrors.”

     

    But to save you from your dreadful and fallen condition and from the curse of the law is the reason the Father sent His only begotten Son into the world. He became flesh and took the curse of the law in your place, “for cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

     

    Jesus, on the mountain, speaks of blessings because He is the source of blessings! He is God made flesh so that you who have the problem of sin and the trouble of the world, may have the great blessings that the gracious God desires you to have. They are the blessings that Jesus has won for you by His sacrifice on the cross. Forgiveness and all the heavenly riches that goes with forgiveness are won for you.

     

    These blessings are yours. Though notice, that the blessing isn’t that Jesus takes us out of the difficulty, but that He blesses you in the midst of your weaknesses and troubles.

     

    So, you poor in spirit, you confess to having a hopeless debt of sins before God, each day you compile more, and you know that you will remain poor as long as you live on the earth, but you are blessed with the riches of Christ, who though He was rich became poor for your sake, that you may have the riches of forgiveness that wipes out all your sin and all your debt. And with this forgiveness is also life and salvation!

     

    You who mourn, yes we still live in the vale of tears, yet at the same time you are blessed, for you have Christ your brother, your Savior, who has all authority sitting at the right hand of the Father. He goes with you, turning all your misfortunes for your good, and gives you the confidence that the last enemy death has been defeated! For as He has risen, so shall we rise, too, unto eternal life!

     

    You who are meek, and we have no reason to be otherwise, yet in your meekness, Christ exalts you to be priests of God, children of the heavenly Father, heirs of the new creation.

     

    You who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Christ’s kept the law in your place, and His righteousness is yours given you through the means of grace. His righteousness fills every craving and every need. It is perfect, and reconciles you back to God.

     

    You who are merciful, pure in heart, and are peacemakers, you are blessed. Though your sinful nature often resists these, desiring rather to be selfish, impure and contentious, and denying ourselves and living to live godly lives is hard, yet because of Christ who lives in you, and the Holy Spirit who sanctify these works that they are pleasing in the sight of God.

     

    Blessed are you who are persecuted, when people are hostile to you because of your Christian confession and life. Though the world hates you, Christ calls you friend. Though the world makes clear you are not welcome here, you know your eternal dwelling is to rather be with the Lord. It is for the sake of His name, which your received at your baptism, that you receive hostility, yet because of that Triune name, God claims you to Himself. You are His!

     

    Because of Christ you have all these blessings! But these blessings have an already and not yet character to them. These blessings are yours right now, but they have not been manifested to you yet. We still feebly struggle. However, the saints in heaven, they have these blessings to the fullest degree! No longer is there reason for them to mourn. Every tear is wiped from their eyes. They are now comforted as Lazarus was comforted at Abraham’s bosom. They no longer sin, but they are like God in righteousness, because they see Him as He is. They see God, and they enjoy the reward of heaven that Christ has won for them.

     

    And so Jesus blesses you with these blessings purchased for you by His blood. And by His blessing, you are strengthened to strive for these blessings that will be revealed to you in the life to come! You live each day under God’s blessing. Because of Christ, I can say to you, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

     

    We thank God for these blessings that the saints who have gone before us now enjoy in their fullness. And we rejoice in these blessings that Christ declares to us, and which we look forward to. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance [a]incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pe 1:3-5) Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

  • 3rd to last Sunday of the Church year

     

    Sermon – Matthew 24.15-28 (Trinity 25 – 2019)

     

    Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we most heartily thank You that by Your Word You have brought us out of the darkness of error into the light of Your grace: We beseech You, mercifully help us to walk in that light, guard us from all error and false doctrine, and grant that we may not become ungrateful and despise and persecute Your Word, but receive it with all our heart, govern our lives according to it, and put all our trust in Your grace, through the merit of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

     

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

    15 "Therefore when you see the`abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place " (whoever reads, let him understand),

     16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

     17 "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

     18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

     19 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

     20 "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

     21 "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

     22 "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

     23 "Then if anyone says to you,`Look, here is the Christ!' or`There!' do not believe it.

     24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

     25 "See, I have told you beforehand.

     26 "Therefore if they say to you,`Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or`Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.

     27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

     28 "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

     

    These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

     

    Dear fellow redeemed,

     

    Think about how swiftly God’s judgment came upon the world at the time of Noah. Noah preached repentance and the saving righteousness of God for many years, decades, warning the people of the coming destruction that would desolate the world. But the door of the ark shut, and the waters came.

     

    Jesus, then, in our text warns the people of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem. They who have had such favored status before God had rejected God, and crucified the Christ. God will bring judgment upon them. And so Jesus warns them that when they see the “abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place, that is when they see the heathen and savage Roman army gathered about the holy city, run, flee the city! God’s judgment will come swiftly. They will not have the time to grab their coats, much less pack their belongings and their treasures. They think they will be safe inside the city walls, but rather they will be better off outside the city fleeing to wherever they may go. And if they hesitate to leave, it will be too late, and will be destined to suffer the horror of God’s judgment through the siege and ruthlessness of the Roman soldiers. God’s judgment will come swiftly.

     

    So will His coming and judgment be on the Last Day. It will come swiftly. This is one of the points that Jesus makes here. As was the end of Jerusalem, so will be the end of the world.

     

    The other thing that Jesus mentions are the signs that there will be before His coming. This is in answer to the disciples’ question earlier in the chapter, when they asked, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

     

    And Jesus describes what will be some of the signs in the Last Days before that day of Judgment. In our text specifically He speaks about the false Christs that will come and deceive and lead many astray. They will be so convincing and promising that they would deceive even the elect if God did not intervene.

     

    We are in the Last Days. Ever since Christ’s ascension until His return, we are in the Last Days. John even, late in the first century, points to false teachers as signs of the end of the age. He says in his first letter, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”

     

    Some will say he is in the desert. Others will say he is in the inner rooms. During the Roman advancement on Jerusalem, there were claims he was in the desert. Simon bar Giora in the desert gathered to himself an army. Many thought him to be the savior of Jerusalem. There are coins minted with his image and the title, “redemption of Zion.” But when he entered the city, he was a tyrant, murdering and torturing his own people.

     

    And there were claims that the messiah was in the inner rooms. There were two men of the Jewish sect of the Zealots who claimed that deliverance from the Romans is found with them in the inner courts of the Temple. There they would be safe and find deliverance from the Romans. However, they, too, proved to bring harm to the Jewish people.

     

    The messiahs they were looking for were still of the earthly sort, bringing earthly freedom and power to the nation of Israel.

     

    This is an utter disastrous time for the people. You have the unholy defiling the holy place, the dangers of the world is increasing, you have false christs trying to lead believers astray, and all these are signs of God’s coming judgment!

     

    These events of Jerusalem are a picture of what will be in these Last Days, which as has been said, we are in right now.

     

    We have the unholy secular culture infiltrating the churches, replacing the truth of God’s word with all sorts of demonic doctrines. More and more are not only becoming indifferent to Christianity, but are making stands against the Church.

     

    With all the dangers to Christianity in the world, there will arise false Christs. Which are these that people are pointing to. Many of them are made out to be of the earthly sort. They point to this one who will be a force in the government to bring about Christianity with laws and the sword. They point to the another who says he will protect Christianity and make it a dominant force in the world. And then there is the false teaching about the earthly rule of Christ, the 1000 year reign of Jesus in Jerusalem, these Jewish ideas of an earthly kingdom, that our Lutheran Confession reject.

     

    Where else shall the devil seek to turn us for our help? He turns you to your works, or maybe a universalist Christ, where sin is no big deal, and everyone is saved. He will fill you with pride in yourself, that you think you may be able to stand and not fall by the deceptions and lies of the evil one. He will point you whichever way as long as it is not to Christ. And let us not underestimate the weakness of our sinful flesh, nor the cunning of the devil. Christ poses this as such a great danger to us. Be on guard

     

    But there is no other Christ, there is no other Redeemer of Zion than the one revealed to you in Holy Scripture. The Church belongs to Him. He purchased it with His holy and precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. And He is the One who sits at the right hand of the Father, and has all authority in heaven and on earth. All things are under His feet and He is the head over all things for the good of the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).

     

    The Church, The Christian Church to which you belong, is His body! He will care for it. He will care for you! Even amidst the violence and trouble the Church, He lovingly guards and keeps you, working all things, even the devil’s evil schemes, to accomplish His good and gracious will, which is your salvation. He will preserve His Church and prosper it, not that it may be a grand earthly kingdom, but that His Church that must now in weakness cope with Babylon, will be delivered from this fallen world, and flourish eternally in the glory of Christ’s kingdom!

     

    So take heart in the Christ of Scripture, the Christ, crucified and risen for you. He is the One in whom you were elected before the foundation of the world, and no it is not possible for the elect to be deceived into unbelief. The Lord guards your faith that you may continue in the baptismal grace, the life of repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins.

     

    Christ told the disciples beforehand of our dangers to body, life and soul, and here you hear of these things beforehand, that you may be on guard, and run to Christ in prayer who is your great defense. He is able to speak of these things beforehand, because He knows what shall come upon us. None of this catches Jesus unawares. He knows what troubles we will suffer in these Last Days, but He will keep those who are His own and will not lose a single one.

     

    So, in these Last Days, we look for Christ now in His gospel in Word and Sacrament. And we wait for His appearing, and there will be no mistaking it when He comes, for what a show of glory it will be when He comes. And He in whom we now believe, will take us from this fallen world, and remove from us our sin and make us perfect body and soul!

     

    Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.

     

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

     

     

  • 2nd to last Sunday of the Church year

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    2nd to Last Sunday of the Church Year

    November 14, 2004

     

    Text: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10

    We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear friends in Christ,

    St. Paul sure is mean and judgmental. Look at how he writes in this letter. He writes about how "God will repay with tribulation those who trouble you," and "in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God," and "these shall be punished with everlasting destruction." Surely Paul must be exaggerating the judgment of God against sin and sinners. Surely he must not mean these terrible words. He must just be trying to scare people with stories in order to get their attention.

     

    That is what some would have you believe. Many want to water down the message of judgment in the Bible. They will do so in many ingenious ways. Some will try to say these words of Paul are really not God’s Word, but only Paul’s opinion. Some will redefine sin so that their particular sin is not included in those things that God hates and condemns. But all of these attempts are merely ways for a guilty conscience to avoid the true demands of the Law.

     

    The Law is not nice to us. The Law does not take into account our feelings or our desires. The Law just says: you shall not.... The Law also says, if you continue to do what is against God’s will, you will receive the punishment you deserve, instead of the forgiveness God has provided for you.

     

    God’s grace is not automatic. While God loved the world and Jesus died for all, this love can still be rejected, unused, supposedly unneeded. Therefore we must listen to God’s Law again and again. We must use it so that our most cherished sins are cut out and exposed to the truth of what God says about them.

     

    We prefer when the Law is used like a butter knife, just sort of scraping at the surface, never getting to the sickness that lies deep within us. But the Law is powerful, cutting to the very joints of our bones, deep into our flesh, in order to show us that our lives are not worthy of heaven.

     

    Paul’s letters, and notably here in 2 Thessalonians, proclaim a powerful law, a true and frightening judgment. He means it when he writes about the judgment, the vengeance, the flaming fire and the everlasting punishment. These are the wages of sin, the well-deserved consequences for all who reject Jesus Christ, who refuse to turn from their sin, who do not believe.

     

    There is a reason our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray the Seventh Petition. I have printed it in the bulletin this morning, and I would like you to read with me the answer to the "what does this mean."

     

    But deliver us from evil. What does this mean? We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor; and at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

     

    We pray earnestly for a "blessed end" because we know that such an end to life is not guaranteed. Here we are not praying for only a quiet death, but for a death that comes as we believe in our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the One who delivers us from all the evils of body and soul, property and honor. Satan, on the other hand, is the one who desires us to join him in the flaming fires. He knows his end and that he cannot escape it. He hates the fact that you can escape it through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore he will attack your trust in God’s Word; he will seek to blind you to its truth, to make you deaf to God’s Law so that you will not turn away from sin and be forgiven. Satan prefers that you never hear the Law, so that you will think you never need the Gospel. But if he can’t turn off the Law, he’ll try to keep you from hearing of your Savior. If that doesn’t work, then he’ll keep trying to cover over the work of Christ by pointing you to your own holiness, or other ways to diminish the work of Jesus.

     

    One Lutheran recently wrote:

     

    [man’s] rescue from the demonic powers who, apart from Christ, hold him in thrall to the Law’s condemnation may never be taken for granted. Any brushing aside of the reality of eternal punishment is tantamount to a sacrilegious trivialization of the Seventh Petition of the Our Father. The worst fate that can befall a man is everlasting separation from the Love that made and redeemed him. By the same token, the highest form of love of neighbor takes the specific shape of his being targeted by the mission of the church. (Stephenson, Eschatology, 118)

     

    WWe are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.e need to hear about God’s clear judgment of eternal damnation for all sin, even those things which we wish weren’t sins, but are. Those around us need to hear this clear word also. But the purpose is so that we and they may live lives of repentance, confessing our sins, drowning our old Adam daily, and recalling the promise of Baptism, the washing away of sins, receiving the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

     

    Paul understood well the constant struggle of the Christian against all the forces which were arrayed against the Son of God, and which now are pointed at the Christian. The reality of that battle, that on-going spiritual struggle, is why Paul’s words sound harsh at times. But battle is not a place for half measures, or compromise. It is the time and place for a clear description of the enemy, the weapons he will use against you, and the way by which victory is won. To fail in any of these ways is to open the door for defeat. The Church needs the clear trumpet of truth again and again. Those outside the Church, who continue in sin, who are unrepentant, need to hear the sound of coming judgment so they may turn from their sins and live in the mercy of God. The unbeliever and backsliding Christian will not like that clear sound of repentance. But that is never a reason to back away from making that call. It must be done, for the sake of souls, for the eternal welfare of the world bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

     

    God help us to keep our own ears and hearts open to the law we need, so that the sweet sound and power of the Gospel may comfort us in all our temptations and trials. And God help us all to live and speak in such ways that those around us may learn of sin, and hear the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the world.

     

    We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.

     

    God grant this to you all, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

     

  • Last Sunday of the Church year

    In Nomine Iesu

     

    Pastor Thomas L. Rank

    Last Sunday of the Church Year

    November 23, 2003

     

    Text: Matthew 25:1-13

    "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 "Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 "Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 "but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 "But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 "And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 "And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 "But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 "But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

     

    THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

     

    Dear fellow "watchers for the Son of Man,"

    On December 6th, 1941, there were enough warnings and signs for the United States to realize that an attack would soon be launched against Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. However, due to a series of mistakes and a refusal to believe that such a thing could happen, the Japanese were able to achieve complete surprise on December 7th, sinking most of one of the greatest fleets of battleships in the world, and killing thousands.

     

    Just two years ago, our own country was attacked in New York and Washington DC; attacks that left thousands dead and caused billions of dollars of damage. Right now there are questions about whether we could have been better prepared, more watchful, more ready to accept that such deadly attacks could happen on American soil. We have learned to take seriously the warnings.

     

    Each year, if you live along the coast of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, you will hear warnings about hurricanes. When the actual area of impact is discovered, people are warned to flee from the storm, to seek high ground, to get out of the path of destruction and death caused by the tremendous forces of the hurricanes. Those who ignore the warnings are jeopardizing their lives.

     

    In our own part of the country we have weather warnings, too. In the summer we are warned about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. In the winter we are warned about blizzards. Even though some of these storms do not materialize as predicted, still we dare not ignore such warnings. Each year lives are lost due to these storms. The warnings are given for a good reason.

     

    God has put your pastor in the place of a watchman for this congregation. Each and every year at this time, and often in other seasons of the church year, it is the job of the pastor to warn you. Pastors are taught that they are to be like Ezekiel, to whom God said,

     

    I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

     

    This sermon is your warning.

     

    Jesus teaches us: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." The five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable were not ready for the wedding. They failed to prepare for the coming of the bridegroom. They ignored the need for enough oil to last until he came. So when the bridegroom did come, the foolish virgins were not ready, they failed miserably and eternally. When they came late to the wedding feast and cried out in front of the closed door: "Lord, Lord, open to us!" He answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you."

     

    Who is this that says, "I do not know you"? It is Jesus Christ, the One who comes to judge the living and the dead. He is described as, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and who shuts and no one opens." With Jesus as Your Savior, the one in whom you trust for the forgiveness of yours sins, the door to eternal life is open and not even the power of Satan himself can shut that door. Jesus holds it open for you. But if you live in unrepented sin, if you have rejected the Savior, if you foolishly allowed the oil in your lamp to run out, if you have neglected your faith by not hearing God’s Word, by not returning to the promise of your holy Baptism, by not eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you must know that the door will be shut for you. And once that door is shut no can open it. When Jesus shuts the door it will not open ever again.

     

    This is a teaching that is in great disfavor today. We live in a time when no one can imagine that Jesus would be so mean as to shut the door. We are truly a foolish people. God calls to us again and again and again. We have His Word in more abundance today than any other generation in all the history of the world. We can turn on our radios and televisions at any time and we can hear the word of God. We have access to so many Bibles that the number is astounding. Think of how many Bibles you have in your home. I know that I literally have dozens. You all probably have at least one for every person in your home. But what does it matter when we fail to hear that Word?

     

    Think of how easy it is for us to get to church today. Unless the weather is bad we are able to travel dozens of miles in the time it used to take to go a few miles. Yet the excuses pile up for why we cannot go to hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. How does this differ from the foolish virgins who neglected their oil? Why do we think that when we come to the shut door and say, "Lord, Lord, open to me," that Jesus will say, "oh, of course, I was expecting you, come on in"?

     

    If you think that your pastor is being overly harsh with you today, then please consider why I warn you. Wouldn’t it have been good if someone had told the people going on those planes on 9-11, "Don’t get on! There are murderers and terrorists who will kill you and your children if you get on that plane!" Why does the National Weather Service put out storm warnings for hurricanes, tornados, and blizzards? Is it just a big joke to them? No, they do it to save lives.

     

    Likewise, God has told pastors all over the world: "warn My people. Tell them to repent; to turn from sin, to hear My Word, to believe My Son, Jesus Christ, who has taken away all their sins." Why does God warn? Why does He send pastors with this message? Because Judgment Day is real, it is coming. And our sins are so terrible that unless God had opened the door to eternal life for us by the death of His only-begotten Son, that door would remain forever shut.

     

    Thanks be to God for that open door. And God help us to take His warning seriously, to pay attention to our faith in Jesus Christ, to the word of God showered upon us so generously. As we cling to Jesus we may rest assured that the door to eternal life will never be shut for us. The Savior shed His blood and died so that the door would be open for you. Trust that word of promise God gives you. And continue to watch and pray, for truly we do not know the day or the hour when the Son of God will return.

     

    O grant that in Thy holy Word

    We here may live and die, dear Lord;

    And when our journey endeth here,

    Receive us into glory there. (ELH 511:8) Amen.