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2019 Sermons

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.

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2019 Sermons Christmas

Christmas Day John 1.1-14

Sermon – John 1.1-14 (Christmas Day)

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

Exordium: We have spent the Advent season as a time of preparation for the advents of Christ. We have considered His coming to us through the means of grace, and His coming into the world in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. And today we celebrate the birth of Christ, our Immanuel. And we are ready to celebrate, for we have heard the words of John the Baptist, who said, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” We have heard the Law, that we may acknowledge our sinfulness and need for the Savior to come. He has come. The angels have announced His birth, and sang their praise to the glory of God. The shepherds go and see the wonder of God’s love. And we with repentant and believing hearts go and ponder this thing that the Lord has made known to us. The Son of God is born in human flesh. What a wonder this is! It is the miracle of the incarnation. God became human for our sakes, so that we, through Him, would be reconciled to God. Our Savior is born, and it is this truth that makes today a great festival day of the Church.

Therefore, let us joyfully sing the praise of the Incarnate Son of God! We will sing the festival verse, hymn number 142, “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn.” Please rise.

Text:

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.

 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.

 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

 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.

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

Dear Christmas worshippers,

In the Age of the Enlightenment, the prevailing thought of the day was that the human mind was capable of the greatest things. It could understand all things, conquer all things, solve every problem, and some even thought that by the power of the human mind could create a utopia. The mind is supreme, and everything beyond what the human mind must be denied, that is, the supernatural. And so life, our beginning, sustenance, our experiences, feeling, our behaviors, our motivations, our meaning, and values all consists in merely natural processes. This kind of thinking is still fairly common today.

But this way of thinking about life, has been surpassed today with the idea that life is defined and shaped by our feelings, emotions and experiences. Led by these, we supposedly can achieve fulfillment and our purpose in life. 

But whatever man tries to use as their life and light in this world fails, whether it is human reason, or emotion and experience or whatever it is. To think that life is found in our reason, or emotions, or experiences, is in fact rebellion against God. It is not the way of life, but the way of death. Such has been the case since the fall into sin.

Adam and Eve as the source and center of their lives God, the Creator. They lived in perfect communion with God, knowing God as perfectly as a creature is able to know His Creator. They had the image of God, their reason perfect, their feelings perfect, both completely in line with God’s will, enlightened by God, holy and good.

But Adam and Eve, at the tempting of the devil, were tempted to find life and light outside of God. The devil led them away from God and His Word, and tempted them to trust in him and his words. He tempted them to covet another way of life, one independent from God, one that they could have in themselves, for the devil said, “Your eyes will be opened, and will be like God, knowing good and evil.

And the moment they disobeyed, they recognized the darkness and death that had just come to them-the just consequence of their sin. God entered the Garden where they were. What do they do? They do not welcome Him with joy eager to hear the words of His grace. They do not run before Him and bow down to Him. They are afraid. They see that the shame of their sins have separated them from God. Sinning against Him, they had broken their relationship with Him. And God’s holiness, basically the law, made them very well aware of this.

At least they noticed the problem. Much of the world today goes about completely unaware that they live in darkness. They desire independence from God, thinking that they have life in their own wisdom and feelings, that they are self-sufficient in themselves, and God can take a hike. But independence from God means separation from their creator, from His life and light, and being left in darkness and death. They exalt their reason, experience, determination, strength and power as gods, yet all these are under the power of sin and death, and lie in darkness. 

Separated from God, there is only darkness, sin and death.

But, behold, life and light have come! Don’t look within yourselves. Well actually, yeah, first look for a moment within yourselves, not to find the source of life and light, won’t find it there, but look within with a humble and honest heart, and see the darkness of sin in your hearts. Yes, even though we are believers born anew in Christ that sinful nature still remains within us. See how we have exalted our wills, our reason, and our feelings above God and His will. See how we have sought independence from God, to be little gods ourselves, to think that we know better than God. Look there, see it within, and repent. And behold, your Life and Light comes to you.

He is Jesus, the child born of a Virgin. No mere human child can help us. No man has life in himself, and therefore, much less could any man bring us into life with God. But the good news is found in who this child is. And John gives us some beautiful theology about Him!

He is called the Word. He is the Word that has been with Father from eternity. He was there in the beginning when there was only eternity, and through Him, even time came into existence. 

The child is the Word who was with God. The Word was not the Father. He is distinct from the Father, and from the Holy Spirit, for that matter. And He has always been with them from eternity.

And the Child is the Word who was God. The Word is not just sounds put together by the mouth of the Father, like the words that come from our mouths. Rather the Word was Himself 100% almighty God—of the very same divine substance as the Ffather and Holy Spirit.. And in creation, He was not simply an inanimate and powerless tool of the Father, but He, with the Father, is the almighty Creator of the universe. Through Him all things came into existence as we read here in John and also in Colossians and Hebrews. We owe our existence to Him. He is our Creator and we are His creation.

And this eternal and divine Word became flesh. The Creator became a creature, and He was born in Bethlehem. The divine nature and the human nature are there united in the one Person, Jesus Christ.

In the Word made flesh was life. This is the life that we had been without, the life of being united with God, of dwelling in His peace and joy, a life of knowing God, and living in perfect righteousness and blessedness in His presence forever. Only in Him can we be restored to life and light as Adam and Eve first enjoyed.

In His love and mercy He shines the light of His life upon the world. Though the world in its darkness did not see Him. The devil has so blinded the world and the world has so fallen away from God, that it turns away from Him and chooses darkness. The world put the Word made flesh on the cross. The world today rejects His life and light, and prefers the darkness of sin and death. It still prefers the life, rather than the death of going its own way.

But you have received Him, not by means of blood or of the might of your will, but by the working of God who gives you a new birth, a new life through His baptismal waters. The Holy Spirit has opened your eyes to see what John saw. John saw the glory of the Christ. Though Jesus’ divinity was hidden throughout much of His life, John saw glimpses of His divinity through the tremendous miracles that He performed, and His resurrection from the dead. And you see that Jesus is the Word made flesh.

And He is the perfect Mediator between God and man. He comes between us and His Father, and restores to us the life that we lost. He has taken upon Himself your rebellious independent sinfulness, comes between us and the Father and takes the Father’s wrath in our place. So since it isn’t just the suffering of one man, but the hellish suffering of God Himself for all the sins of the world, you are forgiven. The price has been paid. Christ has made full satisfaction, and now you have peace with God. In this saving work of Christ, is found the life we lost in the fall. And through faith in Him, we are restored to life! There is no longer need to hide from Him like Adam did, like that would do any good anyway, but because you trust in Christ as your Savior, you freely repent before Him and receive His forgiveness and life with joy! You have that perfect peace with God; you live in communion with Him as His dear people. You have eternal life with Him. That is the true life, the life of Christ in which you live.

And having this life, means that we also are new creations in Christ, having the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Thus we put to death the Old Adam which desires to direct our reason and hearts in darkness, and let Christ be the Lord of our reason and our hearts, directing them in righteousness and holiness according to His gracious will. Surely, we need this renewing each day, living the baptismal life, repenting of our sins, and being renewed by the gospel, sanctified, and strengthened to follow our Lord’s lead.

What a blessing it is to have Christ’s life. But make sure you recognize where we find the source of His light today as we live in this world of darkness. And in this we also get to rejoice. Jesus says, “My words are spirit and life.” Here we have the bright beaming Sun of righteousness shining on us with His precious life. And not only there, but He shines His life upon us in His holy Supper, where the very body and blood of the Word made flesh, that once lied in that manger, was given up into death, and now is in heaven, that very body and blood is given to you for your life!

No man could save us from the gloom of darkness. No mortal could give us eternal life. No sinner could restore us to God. No creature can save us from the sadness of fallen creation. But the Word became flesh. In Him was life, and His life is your light and your salvation! Thanks be to our God made flesh, our Immanuel. 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 unto everlasting life. Amen.

Categories
2019 Sermons Christmas

Christmas Eve – 2018 Luke 2:1-16

Sermon – Luke 2:1-16 (Christmas Eve – 2018)

O God, as You once caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light, grant, we beseech You, that we who have known the mysteries of that Light here on earth may come to the fullness of Its joys in heaven; 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.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

 11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

We find in a number of Christmas carols in which the author used some artistic license with some of the details about the night of Jesus’ birth. What animals were really there around the holy family? Were the stars shining in the bright sky that night, or was it a cloudy night? Did baby Jesus really not cry? And did Joseph Mohr, who wrote Silent Night 200 years ago, mean to say that radiant beams shone from Jesus’ holy face? Was there a glow?

But, of course, there are a number of details that we do know that Scripture tells us. One thing we know is beautifully said by Mohr in Silent Night, right after he mentions the radiant beams from Christ’s holy face, he says that in that face, is the “dawn of redeeming grace.”

What did the shepherds see when they came to Bethlehem? They saw Joseph and Mary, and the Babe lying in a manger. Whatever kind of night it was, and whatever animals were there around the manger, when the shepherds looked at the face of the child there wrapped in swaddling cloths, they saw the dawn of redeeming grace.

The night has ended, the day has broken the darkness! Surely, God’s promises are as good as done. Every promise God made of the coming Messiah foretold through the prophets were as good as done, for through this promise, the Old Testament believers already had the forgiveness and righteousness that Christ would eventually win. But there becomes a time, when the promise is no longer promise, and it becomes fulfillment.

This night the Christ has arrived! Look at that face, and you see God’s redeeming grace. It is grace, because in Him we see the undeserved love of God. What benefit was there in it for God? What was there that led God to do this, for we are sinners, unworthy of His love or for one act of kindness from Him. But He shows His undeserved love for us in this Child.

And it is a redeeming grace, because this love of God is active, it is self-sacrificing. The shepherds saw in that face of baby Jesus, the one who will live a perfect life and die an innocent death to save us from sin, death, and hell.

And so in faith, behold this wonderful thing that we ponder tonight, that Christ, the Savior is born! God’s promise of redemption is now fulfilled in the Christ who has come for us and our salvation.

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you who sorrow over your sins, for it is for sinners that He is born, to be the sacrificial Lamb to free you from the condemnation of all your sins.

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you, brokenhearted, for He has come to make all things new! He delivers you from the evil one, from this evil generation, and from the brokenness of this fallen world. And He brings you into the newness of life in His kingdom of light, where we have peace with God!

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you, o you who mourn in this the valley of the shadow of death, for His light swallows up the darkness of death. The child born in Bethlehem, has redeemed us from death, and all who die in Him, are delivered from this land of the dying, and are welcomed into heaven, the land of the living!

May the dawn of His redeeming grace bring you all great peace and joy today and always! God has fulfilled His promises. Christ is born for you! 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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Advent

Advent 3 – 2019

Sermon – Matthew 11.2-10

Lord God, heavenly Father, You gave Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become Man and to come into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech You so to rule and govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may seek no other refuge than His Word, and thus avoid the sin to which we are by nature inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him 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, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples

 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:

 5 “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

 6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

 7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?

 8 “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

 9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

 10 “For this is he of whom it is written:`Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’

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

Faithful Preaching; Faithful Hearing

Dear fellow redeemed,

There’s a large church in North Carolina that requires anyone seeking membership in the church and leadership positions there, to subscribe—not to Scriptural doctrines—but to the vision of the pastor.

Though other churches may not be so bold to require such a subscription, many are built around the leadership of the pastor. It sometimes happens that when a pastor is found to be teaching error, and is removed from the church body, the congregation that should know better, instead of sticking to the faith once delivered to the saints, sticks with the pastor, because of the pastor’s vision, his charisma, his style and so on.

Is this how John conducted his ministry? Is this how he obtained the disciples he had, two of which we hear about in our gospel reading? Did he build his ministry around himself, his vision to gather people to himself?

Definitely not. John faithfully preached the Word of God, which is all about Christ. He didn’t make it about himself. Many did come out to see this strange figure out by the Jordan, this man who wore camel hair clothing and ate honey and locusts. But John preached repentance, and pointed them to the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said as much about John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” In other words, did they go out there expecting to find a man teaching the latest fad in Jewish teaching? Were they going to see a man who’s message was formed by the popular culture or the popular philosophies of the day, only to be change as the new wind of ideas comes upon him? Did they expect to find him to be the hip, up with the times kind of preacher? They found him to be something very different.

Then Jesus asked, “What did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments?” –the the kind of preacher welcomed into kings houses. In other words, is he a people pleaser, a king pleaser? Did they go out expecting him to tell them things that they want to hear? Is he the kind of preacher that speaks whatever may gain the peoples’ favor, their esteem, and their riches? That he would even gain the acceptance of kings? Again, they found John to be very different. Certainly if John wanted to find himself comfortable in kings’ houses, it would have been the Pharisees and Sadducees that he would have had to warm up to, but instead he calls them a “brood of vipers” and said, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” And he certainly made it impossible to live in king’s houses after confronting the ruler Herod Antipas about his adultery.

But what did they see out there in the wilderness? The world’s first prophet in 430 years. The one promised by Malachi. And this prophet, John, did what prophets do, and that is preach the Word of God. He was merely the messenger. He didn’t call people to follow him, to abide by his vision. Rather he preached the Word which draws people to repentance and faith in Christ. John was a pointer. He pointed people to Jesus, the king of heaven, and the sacrificial Lamb by which we may have entrance into His kingdom!

This is what John did when he sent his disciples to Jesus. He directed them to Jesus, that they may witness His works and preaching and follow Him. They were to ask the question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

And what did Jesus do? He provides an example for preachers by simply preaching the Word to them. He quotes from Isaiah, words that speak about what the Messiah would do. “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” The Word reveals the Christ. Here in this point of history a multitude of miracles are being performed. These two disciples of John heard the reports and saw these miracles, some of which never had happened before. One man born blind was healed by Jesus, and he said before the Pharisees, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

And so the Word reveals Jesus and draws people to Him. He is the Coming One, just as the Word describes.

And so the faithful preaching is the preaching of the Word, centered on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” as Paul put it. Preachers are to be as John, preaching repentance and pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

But let us all be faithful listeners, too. One of the difficulties with this text is this question: “Was John, who was in prison, struggling with doubt about Jesus, whether He was the Coming One, and sent his disciples to ask for his sake.” It’s hard to imagine John doubting. He baptized Jesus, and heard the Father’s voice from heaven, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove landing upon Jesus. He faithfully preached God’s Word, even though it meant imprisonment and even death.

But should we find it hard to imagine John doubting? He is, after all, born in the likeness of Adam. He is a poor sinner going through a difficult time, imprisoned and likely to die there. So John wanted to hear his disciples preach to him the words that Jesus had said. John knew the answer. John knew that Jesus was the Coming One, but he needed to hear it again to receive the comfort of that knowledge, and be strengthened. He needed to hear that Jesus is for him.

And so consider how John, the great forerunner of Christ, desired the Word of God. You, too, consider your poverty, and your need to hear it. It’s like the story of the husband and wife, who’ve been married for several years. And the wife said to the husband, “You don’t tell me that you love me anymore.” And the husband said, “I told you once, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” We need to hear of Christ’s love and salvation.

You who wrestle with doubts know you need that assurance. And if you don’t feel that need, consider your sins, that they’re not simply mistakes that you make. A little lie, a word of gossip, a passing lustful thought, a little bit of haughtiness, these are not merely little sins, but they are outward signs of a heart that is corrupted, and completely fallen in sinfulness. And this sinfulness places you squarely at odds with God, and in the bonds of Satan’s prison. Consider, too, the trials that you may be facing, or will face. We will all go through them. John faced imprisonment and death. You will also face crosses of your own. Do you think that you are so strong that you can bear them on your own two feet? You are not, and besides your hope is misplaced. Do not find it in yourself.

How poor we are? How pitiful our situation? Can God forgive such a one as me? Could it be that God has given up on me and abandoned me to suffer on my own? Is God really a gracious God, and is He gracious to me?

Luther said, of all the works that Jesus did, of which He quoted from Isaiah, the greatest one is not that the blind receive their sight, or that the lame walk. The greatest work is that He preaches the gospel to the poor. And isn’t that true!

So you, the poor and those struggling with doubt, Behold, the Lord and His gospel for you: He is indeed the Coming One foretold in the Old Testament, who came in love for you for your salvation. He is also the Righteous One, who clothes you in His perfect righteousness. He is also the crucified One, who has atoned for all your sins, and saves you from your sinfulness. He is also the Risen One, who gives you newness of life and life everlasting. He is also the Ascended One who is with you always even to the end of the age. He is also the Returning One who will come again and take you to Himself in eternal joy.

Thanks be to Jesus, from whom we have this precious and certain gospel to comfort us, strengthen us, and quell our doubts. 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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Advent

Advent 2 – 2019

Sermon – Luke 21.25-36

Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You have revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech You to keep us in Your Word by Your Holy Spirit; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Your grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Your Son, and 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, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

 26 “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.

 27 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

 28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

 29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.

 30 “When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.

 31 “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.

 32 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.

 33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

 34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.

 35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

 36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk. 21:25-36 NKJ)

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The apostles were gathered together with Jesus, and all of a sudden they saw Jesus ascend to heaven. The apostles lifted their heads to watch Him go, and then a cloud received Jesus out of their sight.

With their heads still raised, two angels appeared among them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus who was taken from view by a cloud in His ascension, will in a cloud come with power and great glory.

And when the signs of His coming point to His coming on that Day, like a fig tree pointing to the coming of summer, they ought to look up and lift up their heads.

So in these days between Jesus ascension and His return, what are we to do? Look down, or look up? In what way shall we live our lives?

The meaning of the angels message to the apostles was basically, “Jesus will return, so you will have work to do! And the Holy Spirit will prepare you for this work. Do the work of the ministry! Do as Jesus commanded, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that He had taught you. Also break bread with one another in the holy Sacrament of the Altar, for Jesus said, “Do this.” And encourage the people in the good works that are the fruits of their faith. In this way you will prepare them for Jesus’ return, so that when He draws near they may confidently lift up their heads and welcome their Redeemer.”

So too, we must keep our heads down (and I don’t mean to be worldly), we are to be about the faithful use of the ministry, and the life of love that flows from the faith the Holy Spirit has created and nourishes in us. And in this way we will be prepared to look up and lift up our heads for the end of the world and Jesus’ return.

For you are redeemed. That means you have been bought back. The holy and precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ was the purchase price to save from your fallen condition and from the curse of the law for your sin, by which you belonged rightfully to Satan and his kingdom. You are redeemed from the futile ways of the fallen world. You have been saved from this generation, which is those who remain in sin and unbelief and rebellion against God. For this generation will remain here until Christ returns, but they will pass away, just as the heavens and the earth will pass away. Therefore you have become strangers here. You remain in the world, but you are not of the world. Rather you are of Christ, sons and daughters of God, heirs of the new creation which is perfect, incorruptible, where you shall dwell with God forever. Your inheritance will never pass away.

And so we do not look to heaven to find the source of this redemption and life. But we turn our heads down here, where Christ says He will be. We hear the Word, repent of our sins and believe the gospel of Christ’s free forgiveness for you. We receive the Sacrament of the altar. We make use of the ministry which Christ established and sustains for the nourishment of His Church, which He redeemed. You know Christ has redeemed you and forgiven you all your sins, and won for you a glorious righteousness that justifies you before God. And desiring these things, you don’t look up to heaven for them. You go to your Bible. You go to the pastor and hear Him speak to you, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” You go to the altar, and receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you.

And as the Redeemed of Christ, we know that our true and better portion is with the Lord in the life to come. We look forward to His coming to take us to Himself. Yet, we remain in the world, and live as Christ’s redeemed in the world. Since we are redeemed from our sins, from selfishness, pride, and greed, and given new life of righteousness and love, we then live as God’s redeemed and holy people in the world, and in the places in which we live. The love He has shown to us, we reflect and show first to our fellow believers, and then also to the world. In your homes, in your workplace, at church, at the store, wherever you are, we show the love of Christ to others, keeping the commandments in fear and love for God.

And in this way, keeping our heads down here in the ministry of the gospel, and living in love and service for our neighbor, we live heavenly minded and are ready for Christ’s return.

But beware, for down here all around us, and at all times are things to weigh us down. There are the cares of life and vices that would distract us and consume us. Our sinful flesh might lead us to drunkenness, sexual immorality, greed, and other vices, that we eventually be consumed by these things, that we may no longer be repentant of these, no longer seek the forgiveness of Christ and amendment of life, until we again are members of this generation that will be condemned. Or there are the cares of life, family, money, sports, health, work and so on that would also consume us and weigh us down that the treasures of this fleeting life become more important that the treasures in the life without end. How pleased is the devil, when we come up with so many excuses for missing church, and leaving our Bibles unread?

Those weighed down by these vices and cares of the world, the people of this fallen generation, will not be lifting up their heads when they see that this broken world they so loved is literally falling apart. It will be a terrifying time for them as the heavens are shook and the laws of nature break apart, and when Christ comes their heads will be bowed down in dread and shame.

So repent lest you be weighed down also by the vices and cares of this life, and thus be caught by Jesus unprepared. Repent, because Christ has redeemed you, and saved you from this generation, and from the corruption of the world. The heavens and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord will not pass away. And so look down here. These are the sure and certain words of everlasting life: “You are forgiven all your sins.” Here is the meal that gives you everlasting life: Take and eat, receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for your forgiveness, partake of the wedding feast of the Lamb that continues forever.

Keep your eyes down here, and look around you at your neighbors, whom God has called you to love and serve.

God has blessed us with this life as His redeemed, the baptismal life, the life of repentance, and live lived under Christ’s continual forgiveness and righteousness.

And so then, when we see the creation falling apart, it will be terrifying. And even now we are seeing some of it with death, decay, and wickedness increasing around us. We are not surprised. This world must pass away. But that means that Christ is near! With Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, with clean consciences, and confidence, we will look up, lift up our heads, for our Redemption draws near! God will make all things new, and we shall enjoy our eternal home with Him. 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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Lent

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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Advent

Advent 1 – 2019

Matthew 21.1-11

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, we bless and praise You forever, that You sent Your Son to rule over us poor sinners, who for our transgressions justly deserved to remain in the bondage of sin and Satan, and that in Him You gave us a meek and righteous King, who by His death became our Savior from sin and eternal death. We beseech You so to enlighten, govern and direct us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may ever remain faithful to this righteous King and Savior, and not, after the manner of the world, be offended by His humble form and despised Word, but, firmly believing in Him, 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, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say,`The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,`Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The king is coming! What is he coming to do? My family and I just finished reading the Hobbit together, so kings and kingdoms have been on our minds. The book revolves around a journey led by Thorin Oakenshield, who is a descendant of a line of kings, going to Lonely Mountain. His purpose: to reclaim for himself and his people the kingdom in the mountain and all the treasure within that had been stolen by the dragon Smaug many years earlier.

We read about kings in storybooks and also in history, and they make for interesting stories. Our Scarville Lutheran School uses “The Story of the World” for history and there they learn the stories of kings throughout the world. Some kings were benevolent. Some were cruel. And so when you heard that a king is coming, it is an important question to ask: What is he coming to do?

Kings have power and might. They have armies and riches. They are important people and they do important things.

Is he coming to wage war? Is he coming to take us into exile? Is he coming for diplomacy? Is he coming to assert his power? Is he trying to gain the favor of his people? When a king is coming, something big is likely to happen, so we should know what is the purpose of his coming.

This is the purpose of Advent. “Advent” is the Latin word for “coming”. The King, Jesus, our Lord, has come and is coming to us now, and will come again on the Last Day. We need this Advent time to consider the purpose of His coming, so that we may rightly celebrate His birth this Christmas, that we may receive Him as He comes to us today, and that we may be ready to receive Him when He comes again in glory.

So, to help us understand the purpose of the King’s coming, we consider our Gospel reading today.

Jesus is coming. The people confess he is the Son of David. He is of the royal line of David. He is also the one promised to the house of Judah as our Old Testament reading states. He is from the line of Judah. Jacob when blessing Judah, said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Gen 49:10). Here Jesus is that descendant who holds that scepter and rules forever.

What is this King of David’s line coming to do? God had given David success in battle, destroying enemies that threatened Israel. Through David, God established Israel as a great and free nation. So here is David’s royal Son, is He coming back to reclaim this land that was once free under David, now under the control of the Romans? That’s what many thought at that time.

But the manner of His coming tells a different story. If He was coming to start a revolt, and free Israel from Roman control, He wasn’t coming equipped. There were no mighty steeds, no army, no flexing of worldly power. Rather He rode in a lowly manner, sitting on a donkey.

Yet, as the prophecy says, “Your King is coming to you!” He is coming to the daughter of Zion, that is to the Jewish people. He is coming to accomplish something big! The song the attending crowd sang from Psalm 118, tells us, “Hosanna” which means “save us, now!” This is good news! He’s coming to save! Were the daughters of Jerusalem ready for this king? The King is betrayed into the hands of soldiers. Will they stand by their king? The King stands trial before Pilate, but He isn’t showing the ruler who’s boss. Will the daughters of Zion confess His name? The King is crucified on the cross. Will they give allegiance to Him? The King dies. Will they continue to hope in Him? This is the way the King came. This is how He comes for the daughters of Jerusalem. This is how He comes for their salvation and the salvation of the world. Did they understand His purpose!? And how He will achieve it? The salvation He came to accomplish was salvation from the condemnation for our sins. The way this lowly prophet of Nazareth would do it was by His death-the sacrificial death for us all. As lowly and humble was the coming of this King, there is nothing greater any king of history has accomplished. He has won the world’s salvation, and established a new kingdom of peace with God, of righteousness, of grace, and of truth, and He has risen from the grave to rule this kingdom.

The Advent of His birth was to accomplish this saving work. That Advent has come and gone. But now your King comes again to you. Do you know His purpose and in what way He arrives?

Again, He comes to you to work something great! Not to make you mighty and powerful in the world. No, the manner of His coming tells a different story. He comes to you through the lowly means of His Word and through His Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Through these He comes that He may grant to you faith by which you receive the forgiveness of your sins that He won for you in His first Advent. In this way He makes you children of God, members of His eternal kingdom.

But is His coming too lowly for you? Naaman thought washing in the Jordan 7 times is too simple, the water too plain to be healed of his leprosy. He thought that healing must be a difficult undertaking, some grandiose work. Is the waters of baptism too lowly and simple of a thing to think that God would work such great things in you? But that is how He said He will work. Is the message of His cross foolishness to you? Is it an offense? Do you think that you can do better with your works? Do you think that God would be more pleased with your works that through the death and resurrection of the King of Grace, His Son?

Or is He still too scary of a King, one who will be your judge and condemn you? Surely on the Last Day He will come in judgment, but today, He comes lowly and in mercy to save you, and to be your gracious king.

The fact is, Jesus is exactly the king we need. We are poor miserable sinners disqualified to be in the presence of God, and He is the King who was crucified and is risen for sinners that we may be forgiven of our sins and be given life in His heavenly kingdom. And so we rejoice in His Advent on Palm Sunday. We look forward to the celebration of our Savior’s birth. And we receive today, by faith, our King as He comes to you in His Word of forgiveness and His Holy Supper. That is why we sing, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

This is the answer to our petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come.” The kingdom of Christ comes to us, when the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts, to receive our Savior King, Jesus Christ. By faith we are justified, clothed in His righteousness. By faith, He who comes to us in the Word and Sacraments, enters our hearts and rules there! Amen.

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

Categories
2019 Sermons Pentecost/Trinity

Trinity 25 – 2019

Sermon

Trinity 25 - 2019

Matthew 24.15-28 

 

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.

 

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.

ermon – 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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Easter

Easter – 2019

Sermon – Mark 16.1-8

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.

Categories
2019 Sermons Pre-Lent

Baptism of our Lord – 2019 Matthew 3.13-17

Sermon – Matthew 3.13-17 (Baptism of our Lord – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You manifested Yourself, with the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Your dear Son, and with Your voice directed us to Him who has borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech You, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Your command, and the example of Your dear Son, we pray You to strengthen our faith by Your Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation; 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.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

A few years back, I listened to a presentation by one of the foreign mission board members about the work of our sister church body in India, the Lutheran Mission of Salvation-India. They not only talked about their ministry there, but also about the culture and the features of the life and religion of the people in India. Hinduism is the chief religion there, and of great importance for them is the Ganges River. It is almost like a god to them. They think that washing in the river washes them of their sins, but, of course, the water there is just plain water. Though if you can say anything about the river, you can say that it is filthy. It is heavily contaminated with sewage. The mission board member was talking about a crematory on the river. There they daily cast heaps of ashes of the deceased in the river. And then downstream you see the people wading in the river, washing clothes, washing themselves, brushing their teeth and collecting water for drinking. 

As filthy as that river was, it doesn’t hold a candle to the filthiness of the Jordan River on one particular day.

Let’s talk about that day. It’s the day portrayed in our gospel reading. John had been performing his preparatory work, preaching repentance to the people, that they may be ready to receive Jesus as their Savior. He was baptizing people in the Jordan River. It was a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” as Mark’s Gospel says. It was a baptism of grace that gave the forgiveness of sins.

Many came out from Jerusalem, from Judea and from all over the region to see John at the Jordan. They heard John’s preaching. They repented and they were baptized. And among the sinners that came to see John was Jesus. And Jesus’ request was just like everyone elses. He wished to be baptized.

But John knew Jesus, and knew He was different than the rest of the crowd. Jesus was the righteous Son of God. Jesus was the one whose sandals John was unworthy even to untie. John was the unworthy servant, Jesus, the holy and righteous Lord. He was without sin. He had no need to repent, nor did He need forgiveness. He was the one who would save the world from its sins. The next day, John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. So it would be more fitting for holy Jesus to baptize John with the baptism that grants the remission of sin.

But Jesus insisted, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” 

And so John the servant of the Lord is obedient to His master. And Jesus, in His humility, is obedient to His Father, and in so doing, they fulfill all righteousness. Jesus is baptized. But what exactly is going on here? Jesus enters the Jordan River, and in those waters, He gets filthy. No the water isn’t dirty with fecal matter and the ashes of the dead and other pollutants. No, it is much worse. He enters into the water to get filthy with our sins. It is not ashes of the dead bodies, but the sins of our body of death. “He who knew no sin became sin for us.” He becomes the bearer of our sins. The vulgarities and lies that comes from our mouths, the perversity and selfishness of our minds, and the wretched deeds of our hands are all in that water, and Jesus doesn’t shy away from the filth, but in love for you, He is baptized, He takes those filthy sins unto Himself that they may become as His own.

He attaches Himself to our sins through His baptism, and there he takes in hand the cup of suffering that he will be drinking 3 years later. For He was baptized, covering Himselfl in our sins, accepting the punishment for them that He will pay on the cross. There the Holy One would hang on the cross covered in our filth, and the Father, looks with disgust and holy indignation at His own Son. He suffers hell and gives His life as the payment price for our sins. And Jesus resurrection is proof that the price is paid in full. Sin is removed, peace with God is made.

When Jesus was baptized, taking our sins and beginning His path to the cross, He obeys the Father and begins to fulfill all righteousness for us! And see how pleased the Father is in what His Son is doing! He even speaks from heaven in this beautiful manifestation of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father loves His Son, and is pleased that He takes up the work of our salvation. And the Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove, anointing Jesus for His work of making peace between us and God. God is fully committed to our salvation!

And as He connected Himself to us taking our sins through His baptism, He connects us to Himself and cleanses us of our sins through the waters in which we were baptized. Though it is plain water that comes from the tap, connected with the Word, it is a sanctifying water, that cleanses us and gives us life and salvation, gifts that Christ has won for us. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, “It is not the water that does these things, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is simply water, and no baptism; but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit.”

And as at Jesus’ baptism, so also at ours, the Triune God is present as we are baptized in His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is pleased to call us to Himself, to wash us clean of our sins, and make us His own children through faith.

And in baptism, we are given new life! Christ has joined to His death and resurrection, and thus we the old is put away, it is drowned, and we now live in the forgiven and free life that He has newly created for us! This is why we do not say, “I was baptized,” but rather, “I am baptized.” Like a married person would not say, “I was married,” but “I am married.” I am baptized as the hymn says. We live each day as God’s adopted children, clothed in Christ, washed of our sins, having peace with God. For that is what baptism gives, as it says in Peter’s epistle. It’s a cleansing water, not the removal of filth of our flesh, but the removal of our sins, so that our conscience may be at peace with God. It doesn’t wash us only 99.99% clean, but it gives us the total 100% forgiveness of all our sins paid for by the all sufficient, once for all sacrifice of Jesus, our Savior.

And so we live out this new baptismal life by drowning that Old Adam in us in repentance, and believing that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 

May God preserve us from forsaking this gift of baptism, by impenitence and unbelief. We’re set free from sin, so we do not go jump headlong back into our filth. But by God’s grace, we live in repentance, living in those cleansing waters of baptism as we hear the word of forgiveness in absolution, and receive the body and blood of Christ for the remission of our sins.

And in this new life, set free from sin, we then go about our lives as God’s baptized and forgiven people, a people He has claimed as His own in baptism and upon which He has put His name. We begin each day in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And thus we get to conduct ourselves in our vocations in life with confidence and comfort! This we joyfully do to the glory of Christ, who by His baptism made Himself dirty, that we in our baptisms may be made clean. 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.