2019 Sermons Epiphany

Epiphany 3 – 2019 Matthew 8.1-13

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.

2019 Sermons Epiphany

Epiphany 2 – 2019 John 2.1-11

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.

2019 Sermons Epiphany

Epiphany Sunday – 2019 Matthew 2.1-12

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.

2019 Sermons Christmas

New Year’s Eve – Luke 13.6-9

Sermon – Luke 13.6-9 (New Year’s Eve – 2018)

Let us pray: Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of 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.

6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.

 7 “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard,`Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’

 8 “But he answered and said to him,`Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.

 9 `And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'”

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

Lord, Grant Us Another Year of Fruit

Dear fellow redeemed,

As we arrive to these last hours of this year and approach the new year, it is proper for us to be thankful and prayerful. We thank our heavenly Father for the blessings that He has granted to us this past year in His gracious providence. We thank Him for the good and abundance, but we also thank Him for the times of trial, for we know that He works even these for good. Through them, He lovingly chastises, admonishes, and leads us to trust Him with a strong childlike faith. Through them, He brings us low, that He may then exalt us in His kingdom.

And as we look forward to the new year, we pray to Him, that He may bless our new year with much good and blessing, though trusting Him, that whatever He gives us is best for us.

Our gospel reading today teaches us one of the things for us to pray for in this new year. And isn’t that what God’s Word does? God speaks to us through His word, and gives us words to speak in prayer to Him. So let us see what God would have us pray for this evening.

A man had a vineyard with a fig tree planted in it. For three years, the vinedresser spent time and effort working on that tree so that it would produce fruit. But it had not borne any fruit. So, the owner saw that it was time to condemn the tree. Time to cut it down. Why let it take up space in the vineyard? Why spend so much time and effort on it, when it will produce no fruit?

However, the vinedresser, showed grace toward that tree, asking to give it more time before cutting it down. He will work it in the hopes that it will this year produce fruit. If it doesn’t, then cut it down. 

This gospel is about God’s grace and justice. God is just and will judge unbelievers. But He is also gracious, holding off judgment in great patience and longsuffering that they repent and believe in Him.

God had been so patient with the Israelites over the generations. Through the Patriarchs, through Moses and the Prophets, God called the Israelites to repent and trust in Him, and to live godly lives in accordance to His will. And though there were some who did bear these fruits, many did not. They remained unfaithful, grumbling against God, worshipping the gods of other nations, trusting in their own righteousness rather than God. 

Judgment shall come upon them, but Jesus intercedes. He is patient and longsuffering, in grace He gives more time, that they may repent and believe.

But even when Christ arrived in the flesh displaying the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, the Jews still rejected Him. “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.” And Jesus cried out over the city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mt 23:37). They rejected Christ, and they largely rejected the apostles as well. And there is a time when grace gives way to judgment. And perhaps the cutting down of the fruitless tree is a picture of God judging the Israelites through the Roman siege of Israel and the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. 

And so from this text, the Lord would have us pray that we bear fruit in this time of grace. 

Basically, it is the prayer that the kingdom of God come, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Luther explains this coming of God’s kingdom in this way, “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.”

And so we pray that God’s kingdom come. We pray that it comes to those who do not know Him, who reject His grace. The patience of God is comforting when we have loved ones who do not know Him. God loves them, desires their salvation and is patient with them, that they may repent and trust in Christ. They still live in the time of grace, before the Lord’s judgment is carried out.

Likewise, we pray that God’s kingdom continue to come to us! The devil will do everything in his power to keep it from coming to us. As we think about what may be in store for us this year, the devil will use those things against us. If God blesses you with great earthly blessings, the devil will use it so that you treasure the things of this world more than the heavenly gifts Christ has won by His cross. If God chastises you, the devil, will use that to draw you away from the promises of God in Holy Scripture and lead you into doubt and despair. If God blesses you even with another year in this world, that means that we have another year to contend with the vain philosophies, false doctrines, and peer pressures of the world, and the rebelliousness of our sinful flesh.

And in spite of all these things we have dealt with in the past year, we thank God that His Kingdom has come to us, that He has given us the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits of the Gospel in us. He has brought us to believe His holy Word, to repent of our sins, and to rely upon Jesus alone as our Savior. He has given us the new life in Christ by which we live godly lives now, and are assured that this life will continue in perfection in the life to come!

And with the new year ahead of us, we boldly ask God’s blessing! And we boldly pray what God would have us pray–that He continue to let His kingdom come to us and that His Spirit may have His way with us and produce in us the fruits of the gospel! 

In the New Year, God grant us humble and repentant hearts that turn to your Word and seek your gracious promises of forgiveness and love. Grant us a stronger faith and the abundance of joy and peace that your salvation gives. Grant us a new life that we may each day live godly lives to your glory! 

Whether we go through times of happiness or through times of trouble, in whatever circumstance God gives us, we ask Him to always grant us these precious fruits. And He will do it, for that is His good and gracious will.

He will grant us such fruits that we may have the joy of His eternal salvation, that the devil may suffer disgrace, and that Christ, our Savior, may be glorified.

And knowing of His great love for us in Christ Jesus, what comfort and joy it is to entrust this new year into His gracious hands! 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.