Sermon – Luke 16.1-9 (Trinity 9 – 2019)

Godly Stewardship Given By a Generous and Merciful Godd

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have bountifully given us Your blessing and our daily bread: We beseech You, preserve us from covetousness, and so enliven our hearts that we willingly share Your blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Your gifts, and abide in Your grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Your judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.

 2 “So he called him and said to him,`What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’

 3 “Then the steward said within himself,`What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.

 4 `I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’

 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first,`How much do you owe my master?’

 6 “And he said,`A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him,`Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

 7 “Then he said to another,`And how much do you owe?’ So he said, `A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him,`Take your bill, and write eighty.’

 8 “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

“All is vanity” so says, wise Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “a chasing after the wind.” This describes a life separated from God, a life in darkness, if you will. Solomon had a kingdom, ruling over Israel. He had riches. He had women. He had everything. But it was vanity, it was for nothing. He was rich with things that fail, with things that come to an end. He had all this in his hands in his possession, but one day his cold dead hands will be empty.

Such is the stewardship of the world, the stewardship of those in darkness. First we ought to consider the word stewardship. We are stewards, not owners. What we have in this world, in the eyes of the world we may own, but truly, these are things that God has entrusted to us. They are not our own. All belongs to God, as the Psalmist says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (24:1). We are merely stewards, or managers, of that which God has entrusted to us. And we are to use what we have been given according to the will of the owner, that is, according to the will of God, done in love for God and for neighbor.

But such is not how stewardship happens in the world. Those in darkness live as though they are owners of all that they have. They live as lords themselves, using what they have not according to the will of God, but according to their own will and they manage in self-interest. And they often do it very well, putting much of their effort and cleverness in self-service, just like the steward in our reading.

The gifts of God are used in the service of sin. Hedonism, a life where pleasure is god is the norm. Man either seeks instant gratification or insures himself for a life that ends. Even in his charity, behind the outward semblance of righteousness, there is hidden pride and self-righteousness.

But there is another way of stewardship. It is a life of those who are sons of light. The sons of light are no longer in darkness of unbelief, enslaved to sin and the devil. The Holy Spirit is the one who enlightens and frees us. He causes us to see our sin, to know Christ as our Savior. He opens the Scriptures to us, that we may know God, know of His righteousness and love, to know ourselves rightly in relationship to God. And part of this enlightening, is the Christian worldview, that is, viewing all things and thinking about all things in light of Scripture. And so we think about stewardship differently than the world thinks. We view our possessions rightly, and we use them accordingly. We know that we are not truly owners of what God has entrusted to us, but simply stewards. All we have, our time, our energy, our money and possessions, our bodies and lives, all these belong to the Lord. And we use them, not according to the will of our sinful flesh, but according to the will of the owner and Master, our Lord God. Our life of stewardship is to be lived, not in self-interest, but in love for God and for our neighbor.

We are children of light. By the grace and working of the Holy Spirit, we have come to know Christ as our Savior. However, if we were to give an account of our stewardship, how would that look? It is not good, is it. We have been wasteful, unwise, and selfish. We have acted as though we are owners, using what God has entrusted to us according to the desires of our flesh. The steward was shrewd in using his owners things for his own ends. Yet, we are not shrewd in using what God has given us, for His glory and in service for our neighbor. Does your management glorify God? Is your neighbor served by your stewardship? Are you using your money, time, and presence to support the ministry of the gospel, which gives eternal gifts, even when the earthly gifts fail? Do you manage selflessly? Do you think about these things when you manage your possessions?

The steward in the text was caught. He didn’t deny his guilt. So also, we’re caught red-handed. Our accounting does not lie. We have sinned. There is no use covering up. Now the steward came up with an earthly solution out of his earthly predicament. But we have no solution to our guilt. We can’t use the earthly gifts God has given us to secure for us a home in heaven. No amount of good stewardship will get us there.

Instead we look to owner, the Creator, for the Holy Spirit has enlightened us with the knowledge that He is generous and merciful. He not only gives us earthly gifts, but more importantly, He gives us even His own Son as a sacrifice to save us from our sin, from our abuse of the stewardship He has given us. The righteous God will not let our sin go unpunished. It wouldn’t be just of Him to simply cross out our debt. But He gave His own Son, so that in Him, in Jesus, by His cross, by His suffering, our debt was paid, our debt was cancelled. Our accounting is made clean. And the account of Christ’s perfect stewardship, His selfless use of His time, energy, and whatever possessions He had, is credited to you through faith.

Forgiveness and righteousness are won for you, and God is generous in giving it to you. He has called pastors as stewards of His mysteries, of the gospel in Word and Sacrament, to distribute generously to you penitent believers His forgiveness and righteousness. He gives me authority to say to you that the forgiveness that Christ won by His blood is yours. His forgiveness is given full and free, washing you thoroughly of your sins. He gives me authority to give you this great feast that the Lord has established for you, that you may eat of the very body and blood of Christ that was sacrificed for your forgiveness and eternal salvation!

Surely, God is generous and merciful to us! He sacrifices His own Son, that we may be forgiven. He enlightens us with the Holy Spirit, so that through faith, we become His very own children! And being His children, we are His heirs of the eternal inheritance!

What a Lord we have! And so may the Holy Spirit then strengthen us guide us to be good stewards for our God, who is not just the Creator and owner of all things, but also our heavenly Father. This is the fruit of faith.

We see that the things of this world do not last, they will fail. But we conduct ourselves as stewards, using “unrighteous mammon,” according to God’s will, that we may glorify Him and serve our neighbor, especially with their eternal wellbeing in mind.

Isn’t this the will of God? That all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We shall shrewdly use this unrighteous mammon for their eternal good.

Think about the blessing you have because of the stewardship of those who have come before you. You are here today receiving the Lord’s forgiveness and salvation. You, today, are given heaven. You are able to be here, because people of generations past came into these doors, were present, and gave generously to this church of their time and money. You today have access to this ministry of the gospel that you may hear the Word and receive His Sacrament. God has continued the preaching of His Word and Sacraments through the support of the renewed lives of those who came before you.

They shall see you in heaven, and you will receive them there! And what joy that will be! And what joy it is for us to continue to support the ministry of the Word and Sacraments for the children here, for the community, and for those who are not even born yet. And what a joy it will be to receive them whom the Lord saved and preserved in the faith by the His ministry which we were blessed to support!

And we do not use unrighteous mammon, just for the support of the church, but we also use it for the good of our neighbor. Hear the words of Jesus, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What is the goal of our enlightened lives? It is not for self-interest or glorification, but that the God be glorified, and that others may wonder about the hope that is in you, and through the gospel, also become sons of light who glorify God.

May the Holy Spirit grant us such fruits of faith that we may live as good stewards of our generous and merciful heavenly Father. Rightly see, that we may use things temporal for the good of our neighbor and the glory of God, and that for Jesus’ sake, we have an eternal inheritance that does not perish. Amen.

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


Sermon – Mark 8.1-9 (Trinity 7 – 2019)

Jesus, Our Gracious God in Life

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

In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 “And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

 4 Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.”

 6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

This crowd here certainly is very different from the crowd of Israelites who were delivered from their slavery in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we hear the grumbling, not trusting in the gracious providence of the mighty God who delivered them from Pharaoh’s oppression. They spoke out against God’s servant Moses, crying out, “Why have you brought us out into this wilderness to die?” (Exodus 14:11; Exodus 16:2-3; Numbers 16:13; Numbers 20:4; Numbers 21:5) They did not trust in their merciful God, but trusted in their reason, which concluded, “We are in the wilderness. There is no food here to sustain us. Before long, we will all be dead.

But here in this example we see a large crowd who had been following Him faithfully for three days, hearing His preaching. By hearing His word, they were spiritually fed by Jesus.

Jesus was always eager to preach, bringing His eternal kingdom into the hearts of the people through His word, creating and sustaining faith. Plenty of food was present there for their souls, but there was little food for their bodies. From the text there appears to be no indication that the people were grumbling against Jesus about their lack of food in the deserted place.

But Jesus, in His great love for the people assessed their situation. This large multitude of people had been away from home for 3 days. There was no food for them to eat in this wilderness in which they had been travelling. And if Jesus sent them home to get food, many of them would faint on the way. Some of them were even a very long distance from home. And so Jesus had compassion on the people.

This text shows that Jesus does not only care for the spiritual needs of the people, but He cares also for their earthly needs, and He shows that He is able to provide.

What a great comfort to know that our earthly and eternal wellbeing are in His gracious hands.

Of course, between the two, of utmost importance are the eternal gifts that Christ would give us. For that addresses our bigger problem. Starvation of the belly in the wilderness ends with physical death, which is bad enough, but our spiritual problem is eternal condemnation in hell on account of our sins.

Nowhere in this wilderness of the world can we find help from our poor sinful condition. But the source of our help, is Christ. By becoming flesh, living a sinless life under the law in your place, and suffering and dying innocently for the sins of the world, He has provided the world’s salvation. Sins are forgiven, and all the world is declared righteous. As He provided the food in abundance, so also He provides salvation abundantly, as Isaiah said, “She has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

As Jesus sent His disciples among the people to distribute the bread and fish that He multiplied. So also He sent out His disciples, and pastors today, to distribute the abundance of His heavenly gifts, that souls may be fed, nourished and saved. He commands His called workers to pass out His forgiveness and salvation through the ministry of the gospel, so that all the blessings of His saving work may be yours through faith. Through baptism and the Word He brings us to faith and into the possession of His deliverance, and through the Word and the Sacrament of the Altar, He nourishes and keeps us in this true faith.

Therefore, my primary responsibility as pastor to you is to nourish and strengthen your faith through the preaching of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation, and through the administration of the Lord’s Supper which gives you eternal life!

And since you, as well as I, are people broken by the fall, who daily earn everlasting damnation, because of your sins against God and against your neighbor, your most important endeavor in life is to hear the gospel of your Savior Jesus Christ, and to receive His body and blood on your mouths for the forgiveness of your sins. Our eternal lives depend on this. And Christ freely and joyfully gives these gifts to you!

The great multitude in our gospel lesson provides a good example for us. Their primary concern was following Christ and hearing His preaching. They were so dedicated to the hearing of Christ’s words, that they neglected the feeding of their bodies. They became hungry and weak, and unable to feed themselves, because there was no food in the wilderness to feed the multitude. Yet, they trusted that He who keeps them spiritually also keeps them physically.

So also, we may be comforted to know that Jesus cares not only for our eternal wellbeing, but also for our temporal wellbeing.

With compassion, “He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). With compassion He spoke to the crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd. With compassion, He gives up His life on the altar of the cross to take away the sins of the world. With compassion, He cares for the spiritual needs of the world. With this same compassion, He looks upon man and cares for our earthly needs.

And He is able to provide by His almighty power. For in His resurrection, our brother in the flesh was exalted over all things. He is King over all. And we can talk about His three-fold kingdom. He reigns over the kingdom of grace which is His Church on earth. He reigns over the kingdom of glory which is His Church in heaven. And He also reigns over the kingdom of power, which is all creation.  Scripture says, “[the Father] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church” (Ephesians 1:20-22). Even before His exaltation, by His divine power, He miraculously provided for the people in the wilderness by multiplying the loaves. By His almighty power He provides, particularly for the sake of His Church. He causes the crops to grow. He stocks the waters with fish. He fills the pastures and pens with cattle. Isn’t this a gift from God?

In Psalm 145, which works well as a prayer before meals, tells us of God’s gracious providence of His creation: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Because of His compassion and His power to provide, we can and should confidently pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” for He will give us what we need for our bodies and lives.

As Luther says in the Small Catechism, “Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, God-fearing spouse and children, faithful servants and rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, true friends, good neighbors and the like.

God promises to provide what we need. And He gives it to us by His grace, by His compassion.

However, sometimes, our reason may tempt us to be more like the grumbling Israelites who were freed from Egypt. We may look at our circumstances in life, and see how little we have, or how difficult our situations, whether it is a lack of food, money, health, or home. Reason tells us Jesus is not compassionate. He is not helping me or is not able to help me.  We may be tempted to echo the doubts of the disciples: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” But we must silence our reason, and trust in the compassion and power and the promises of our Lord Jesus.

The multitude, though going hungry and weak for a time, were miraculously provided by Christ. Jesus feeds the people as He feeds the world. In His due time, He provides in various ways, whether it is through a job, charity, or in some strange way that we sometimes find God working. Many of us can attest to this.

Though we may feel hunger, suffer want in this world, experience the evils and troubles of this godless world, we know our compassionate Savior guards and keeps us as we live in this world. We wait for His due time. We might not always understand His ways and His timing, but we know that He is compassionate toward us and loves us. We need not look farther than His cross to know this.

Let us give thanks every day to our gracious God, who provides for us in life. And remember that there is a time coming, in all our lives, where we will no longer need this daily bread. Our bodies will be dead, lying in the ground. On that day, our believing souls will be carried to heaven by God’s holy angels. And there we will live in unhindered joy and peace with our Savior, awaiting the reunion with our bodies on Day of Resurrection.

God provides us residence in His eternal kingdom, only by His Word. It is only because of the grace of God and the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament that we will find ourselves there. For it is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation.

So have comfort each day in the precious Gospel of Christ, that through the forgiveness and salvation it offers, you have eternal life. He provides for your eternal wellbeing, and as we seek first His kingdom in His Gospel, He also provides for your earthly wellbeing. Thanks be to our compassionate and mighty Lord! Amen.

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


Sermon – Matthew 5.20-26 (Trinity 6 – 2019)

Righteousness and Reconciliation

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us; our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin that we are never in this life without sinful lusts and desires. Therefore we beseech You, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Your Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Your Word, abide by it, and thus by Your grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old,`You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’

 22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother,`Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says,`You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

 23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

 24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

 25 “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

 26 “Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

Dear fellow redeemed,

After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. And they covered their nakedness from one another.

Sin divides. Sin separates. It has separated us from God. It has separated us from our neighbor, straining our relationships with one another.

We need an answer to our sin, an answer to the separation our sin has caused. We need healing to bridge this divide. We need reconciliation, we need peace to be established between us and God, and between each one of us and our neighbor.

Our Gospel reading, which is pretty much all hard hitting law, does hint at our reconciliation with God, but also demands that we show love and bring peace to our relationships with our neighbor, which is only possible through our new life as God’s baptized people.

Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus here is saying, that it is righteousness that gives entrance into God’s kingdom. It is the one who is righteous, blameless, perfect before God that God brings into His kingdom.

We examine ourselves in relation to the 10 Commandments as we read in our Old Testament text today. And Jesus clarifies that these Commandments don’t just make demands of our outward, external actions, but also demands perfection with the desires, thoughts, and attitudes of our hearts.

We know we are not righteous. We sin by what we do, by the things that we say, and by the things that we think. We also sin, by the things we don’t do that we should, the things that we should say and don’t, and the things that we should think, but we don’t. Each one of us is responsible for our own separation from God, because of our own sins. We have banished ourselves from the kingdom of heaven. We have caused the problem, and the solution is not in us.

The righteousness must come from outside of us. It must come from God Himself. He must provide the righteousness we need. He must heal the divide that we have caused. He must work the reconciliation that we cannot bring about. God does it in Christ! The Holy Spirit wrote, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him (Christ), whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith.

Through the blood of Christ’s cross, your sins are forgiven. His righteousness covers you. Through Jesus, you are reconciled to God and peace is made between you and Him. And thus, through Jesus, who is your Righteousness, you have entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

So now, the righteousness you need that reconciles you to God and gives you entrance into eternal life is taken care of.

So, then what does this mean in regard to our relationships with our neighbors? For I spoke about that earlier, how sin harms our relationships with others. Such has been the case since Cain was jealous of Abel and killed him.

We have the ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, to reverse the damage that sin has caused in the relationships between one another. We can bring peace and healing to our relationships with our neighbor, that is, as far as it depends on us, for while we can extend the olive branch to our neighbor, we cannot force our neighbor to do the same.

And so we live as peacemakers and menders of our relationships when we live in righteousness, no longer continuing in the ways of our sinful hearts. For you have been baptized. You are made new creations through baptism. St. Paul says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” The saving righteousness that Christ has won for you does not give you a license to continue in your sinful ways, but being given this righteousness in Christ through baptism, received by faith, you are saved from the futile, unbelieving ways in which you once walked.

And as our text shows us, we must understand the extent of this righteousness we are called to live. It is not merely the outward righteousness that the Pharisees regarded. But we look to the law that directs even the attitudes of our hearts and minds that we have toward our neighbor. And we live according to it that we may not be hypocrites, but be blameless before our neighbor that our Lord’s name may be hallowed among us and that He may be by others.

And so we show love to our neighbor sustaining the relationships we have. We do not hold anger and grudges, nor do we speak evil to or about our neighbor. Nor shall we have bitterness and resentment toward him. But we willingly love and freely forgive with no strings attached.

And we seek to repair our relationships that we have harmed by our own sin. For there are those who have something against us, and there are others who are our adversaries. To these, we humble ourselves before them and repent.

And you may be thinking, “This is hard to do!” Yes it is, and you’re not going to hear me say, “Lower your standards of righteousness.”

But you will hear me say, “repent, and receive the Lord’s forgiveness.”

For even in your new life which you received in your baptism, you sin. Thankfully, it is not this life of sanctification that saves you.

But your sin, yes it is against your neighbor, but it is ultimately against God. David said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned.” With all your sins against God, He could have something, a lot of things, against you. God could be your adversary. But He took those sins and placed them on His holy and righteous Son. And He who does not hold guiltless those who transgress His commandments, punished all the world’s sin and guilt in His Son. He regarded His Son as guilty, so that He may hold you as guiltless. You are forgiven and His righteousness covers you. You are saved and remain citizens of the kingdom of heaven!

And so, we are perfectly reconciled to God by Christ and His righteousness! And may the Holy Spirit strengthen us in our new life that we may love our neighbor, and make peace as far as we are able, that we may be blameless before men, and that God may be glorified before all. May He give us comfort in Christ righteousness, and keep us in true faith until we enjoy perfect peace and communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the life to come! Amen.

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


Sermon – Luke 5.1-11 (Trinity 5 – 2019)

Jesus Saves Us that We May Follow Him

Let us pray: O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, You have given us Your holy Word and have bountifully provided for all our earthly needs: We confess that we are unworthy of all these mercies, and that we have rather deserved punishment. But we beseech You, forgive us our sins, and prosper and bless us in our various callings, that by Your strength we may be sustained and defended, now and forever, and so praise and glorify You eternally; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret,

 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.

 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

 4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;

 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

Back in high school, I participated in a competition for a fundraiser. It was the captains of the sports teams and other leaders among the students verses the local fire and police departments. And we played donkey basketball. We played basketball as we rode donkeys. And I learned firsthand how stubborn those things are. I have the ball, he’s running down the court for an easy shot, and then he stops all of a sudden. I want him to move he doesn’t move. I want him to go left. He wants to go right.

The donkey is what you would call stiff-necked. His neck doesn’t move the way I desire him to move. It is stiff. He directs his head the way he wants to direct it.

Such was also the term God used for the Israelites. They formed the golden calf. They grumbled against God and His leading in the wilderness. And God judged them a stiff-necked people. They did not wish to believe the Lord or follow the way He led them. They definitely didn’t act as Peter and the others who dropped their nets and followed the Lord. They wanted to be their own lord.

“Stiff-necked”: this has described mankind since the fall. Adam and Eve, previous to the fall, had the image of God. They had original righteousness. Their mind and will was completely in line with God’s. Their will was to do God’s will, and they freely obeyed Him and joyfully followed Him. He was their gracious Lord, and they were His blessed people.

But then they fell. Eve wasn’t content to be subject to her gracious Creator, to be as He creator. She was tempted and desired to “be like God.” Adam and Eve sought to go their own way. Before they were created in the image (צֶלֶם) of God, but now original righteousness was gone. Chapter 5 of Genesis depicts the difference. “Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image (צֶלֶם) and named him Seth.” Like C.S. Lewis depicted the children of Narnia, they were called “Daughters of Eve” and “Sons of Adam.” We are children of Adam and Eve, born in their fallen image. Original sin is our condition, with no knowledge of our Lord, no desire to follow him. It is our condition to go our own way, to be stiff-necked, to be our own lords.

And the message is all around us isn’t it. We hear it all the time, and perhaps we have spread the stiff-necked message ourselves. “You have to love yourself first.” “You do you.” “Follow your heart.” And so on. Postmodernism takes away God and His divine universal truth, and puts man at center: “You determine your own truth.”

Katie and I were at the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education this week, and it was talked about how secular education is designed through and through with the presupposition that children have no Creator, that there is no such thing as the image of God or a righteousness to be restored, and that they have no lord, but themselves or society.

Inwardly directed worship seeps through all the pores of society.

And, we look around the world today, and we see the sad condition that the last verse of the book of Judges describes, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And this isn’t just the case of the outwardly immoral and sexually perverse, but many people who quietly live their lives day by day. And are we guilty?

In Exodus, when the Israelites, by their stiff necks, kindled God’s just wrath, God threatened to abandon them consume them all. But they had a mediator: Moses. Moses said to God, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance” (Ex 34:9). We, too, have a Mediator: the greater Moses, Jesus Christ. He is true God, as He shows by the large catch of fish. He has power over creation. He is the exact imprint of God; He is God made flesh, the Lord’s anointed. He follows the will of the Father, saying “Thy will be done.” He comes before the Father on behalf of all humanity, and He takes all the world’s guilt upon Himself, He takes your guilt, all those sins that come from our stiff necks, and He gives His life for them, taking the Father’s wrath for them all. And thus by His sacrifice, you are forgiven. You are free!

But Jesus not only saves us from our sins, but He also delivers us from our sinful stiff necks. Jesus restores to us the image of God. Through faith in Christ, you have it perfectly. You are justified by faith. For Christ’s sake, you are declared righteous by God, perfect and holy. You have His righteous image. But also in your Christian life, your necks are being renewed and loosened that you follow Jesus as your Lord, that you obey His will and conform your will to His. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians (5:17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” and also to the Ephesians, “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” This is the newness life you have been given through your baptism, where you were joined not only to Christ’s death, but also to His resurrection.

And thus in this new life, God, the Holy Spirit, leads us to delight in the law of God, to live according to the 10 Commandments and to serve our neighbor in love and mercy, and to glorify God in all that we do. We read the Table of Duties of Luther’s Small Catechism, and we gladly fulfill our vocations, our callings that God has given us. We put down our nets like Peter, and we follow Him, for He is our Lord.

Sometimes He leads us through suffering. Peter, as a fisher of men, a missionary, was executed by the Roman emperor Nero. According to tradition, he was sentenced to be crucified like Christ whom he preached. Peter, deeming himself unfit to die as his Lord did, asked to be crucified upside down instead, and so he was. Following our Lord means that we also follow Him into suffering. And so, as new creations in Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us to endure suffering with patience and faith in the grace and salvation of our Lord.

Yet being new creations, we do not follow perfectly, do we? Our necks still get stiff. We wish to go our own way. We do not always like the wisdom of God, and think that we know better. How easy it could have been for Peter to say, we have already been fishing all night, and we caught nothing. There is little use in casting out the nets. However, he trusted the wisdom of Jesus. But that is not always easy to do. We do not always like the humility, the selflessness, the patience, the long-suffering, the mercy, and the love that God calls us to live and show. The Old Adam asserts its way and its desires, and we disobey.

And so we daily repent, daily drown the old Adam, and daily live in the confidence of Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness given you in your baptism and restored to you through absolution and the Lord’s Supper. Remember that you are already perfect in Christ, forgiven all your sins and clothed in His perfect following of His Father.

And He does not throw you away as a failed project. He continues to send His Holy Spirit to keep working in you through His Word and Sacrament, to renew you, shape you, form you more and more in the image of God, that you may follow Christ as your Lord, and love His will and live as His blessed people. God grant this work for us and in us. Amen.

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


Sermons – Luke 6.36-42 (Trinity 4 – 2019)

Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: You are merciful, and through Christ promised us that You will neither judge nor condemn us, but graciously forgive us all our sins, and abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul: We pray that by Your Holy Spirit You would establish in our hearts a confident faith in Your mercy, and teach us also to be merciful to our neighbor, that we may not judge or condemn others, but willingly forgive all, and, judging only ourselves, lead blessed lives in Your fear; through Your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

36 “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

 37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

 38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

 39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?

 40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

 41 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?

 42 “Or how can you say to your brother,`Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Merciful Judging

Dear fellow redeemed,

“Judge not.” This and Jesus’ similar words in Matthew 7 seem to be the unbelievers’ favorite words from the Bible. They are used often against Bible-believing Christians. Even those who profess to be Christians, are influenced greatly by the culture, and use those words out of context against us. They say, “Judge not”, as they judge us for being unchristian.

There is so much confusion about judging. Two things to blame for the confusing is the culture on the one hand, and Christians’ biblical illiteracy on the other. The culture is a teacher, it has its own catechism, and it teaches every member of society, not only in regards to judging, but with every subject. For the culture is not some unbiased, impartial identity, but as it is ruled by the prince of the air, the devil, it adopts the antichristian worldview, and postures itself as a teacher, even teaching us Christians what we ought to believe as Christians. In media, social media, public schools, peers, our workplaces, and so on, the culture lectures and teaches and catechizes and we hear it daily.

Do not judge, it says. Period. The culture holds that you cannot judge a person’s lifestyle, choices, beliefs and so on. You cannot call any one out for their sins. And I’ve come across many people professing to be Christians who echo this teaching of the culture. On one end of the spectrum, some would refuse to say that anything is a sin, and one could not be a Christian with such a view. They reject God and His Word, denying both the law, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. But on the other end of the spectrum some misled Christians have the dangerous thinking, though not faith destroying, that sin is sin, but we are not to judge anyone, but only show them love as Christ loved us. They’re creating a false dichotomy. Judge or love. You can have judging, or you can have love, but you can’t have both.

But this is a misunderstanding of love. Judging and love, or judging and mercy can go hand in hand. If judging is to be done among us, it must be done in mercy.

This whole section of text is about mercy, being merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. Certainly there will come a time when God’s mercy will come to an end for those who would refuse His merciful gift of salvation, and they in judgment will receive the due consequences for their unbelief and sin.

But now remains the time of God’s mercy. This is the mercy that God has for the world in sending His own Son. For Jesus says as it is recorded in John, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17).

Christ did not come to condemn the world, but yet during His earthly ministry, He judged. He judged in mercy. He judged the beliefs of many of the people, especially of the scribes and Pharisees. Their doctrine was wrong. The thought they were righteous by their own works. But such false belief meant that they did not have saving faith. They remained in their sins and unbelief, and alienated from God. And so Jesus preached against their false belief to save them from the doctrine of demons, and that they may know the true doctrine of God that saves. But also that they may be saved eternally, Jesus mercifully judged them sinners, that they may know that they cannot be saved by their own works, but that they must turn from their sins and believe the gospel that salvation is a gift of grace from God, won by the One whom God had promised to come, the Messiah. Jesus’ words recorded by Mark summarized all of His preaching, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus’ preaching of repentance is the preaching of the law. The law judges. The law declares right and wrong. It declares what is good and holy and what is sin. It declares us guilty sinners, so that we look to God for His mercy to save us.

Notice that Jesus’ purposes in judging was merciful. It was for the purpose that His hearers may have the true saving doctrine, and that they may repent of their sins and be prepared for hearing the saving gospel of forgiveness and righteousness that are found in Christ alone.

Christ gives His Church on earth such authority to judge. He teaches us to judge false doctrine. Jesus said, “Beware of false teachers.” St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). Most of the epistles were written to correct dangerous false doctrine, and to teach the true saving doctrine of God.

And Christ gives His Church authority to judge people. Jesus preached repentance. The Church is ordered to also preach repentance, for Jesus said before He ascended to heaven, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Lk 24:47). Whenever I preach the Law to you, I am judging you. I am calling out your sinful behaviors, lifestyles, and choices, for the purpose that you would repent and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ. We are also to judge others, not with our own judgment, mind you, but God’s judgment, for it is His law, out of mercy for the eternal wellbeing of the souls of others. It is unloving, and disobedience to God for approving of sins.

But is what I am saying contrary to Jesus’ words, “Do not judge”? Do the passages of Scripture I quoted earlier that gives the church authority to judge contrary to Jesus’ words, “Do not judge.” We know Scripture cannot contradict itself. We better understand what Jesus means by those words by looking at what He says later in our gospel reading. Jesus says, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” We ought to judge, pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye, only once we remove the plank in our own eye recognizing our own sins and God’s merciful forgiveness that He offers us.

It is unmerciful judging that Christ preaches against here. And we are guilty of it. You are guilty of unmerciful judging whenever you refuse to forgive someone, whenever you hold the sins of others against them. You are guilty of unmerciful judging whenever you to treat others unkindly on account of their sins, or when you speak poorly about them to others. You are guilty of it when you judge others, not in mercy desiring their repentance, but because you are self-righteous, wishing to show that you are more righteous than they, that you have become by your own ability some sort of holy judge.

The root of this sin is when you do not recognize your own sinfulness, and do not fully believe the mercy that God shows to you in sending His Son to suffer and die that your mountain of sins may be forgiven.

Yet, you remain in this, God’s time of mercy. Repent, you guilty, see the plank that is in your own eye, and know that God is so merciful to you, and He removes that plank by His mercy. He forgives you all your unmerciful judging and all your self-righteousness for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to suffer and die for the blotting out of all your transgressions.

God alone is righteous and holy. He is our Creator, and we have rebelled against Him. He is our rightful Judge. And we could be in deep trouble because of our sinfulness. But does not treat us as we deserve. He does not cast us poor miserable sinners away. He does not delight in the death of the wicked, but He desires our salvation, that we be His own people, and dwell with Him forever! This is His mercy!

He has claimed you as His own in baptism. He gives you His word and the ministry of His Word to forgive you your sins, and preserve you in true faith and in life in His kingdom. What treasures we have because of His mercy!

What a joy it is to know His mercy, and may we know it well!

And may the Holy Spirit such knowledge of His mercy, and lead us to be merciful to others.  The culture commands us not to judge, but it is hypocritical in it’s command. For the world, when it doesn’t judge, doesn’t because of selfishness. For it want’s to play in the playground of sin without the guilt of the law. But often the world judges and becomes resentful and hateful.

May the Lord keep us from hypocrisy. Rather, may He give us courage to confess the true saving doctrine, and confess, not our own law, but God’s law and judge mercifully, key word, mercifully! May our hearts towards others always be love and mercy, the same love and mercy that our Lord has toward all people, that He has towards each one of you and me, the mercy through which He has saved us sinners. For we all come from Adam. We all are, by nature, fallen sinners. We all need God’s salvation! We, by God’s mercy, have come to know it, and are saved. May others, through the merciful life and speech of the Church, bring others to know God’s mercy in Christ, as well. 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 – Luke 15.1-10 (Trinity 3 -2019)

Christ Seeks Sinners

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we all like sheep have gone astray, having allowed ourselves to be led away from the right path by Satan and our own sinful flesh. We beseech You graciously to forgive us all our sins for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ; and enliven our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in Your Word, and in true repentance and a steadfast faith continue in Your Church unto the end, and obtain eternal salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

 5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

 7 “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

 9 “And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying,`Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’

 10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The Pharisees complaint against Jesus was a bit tame. They could have certainly accused Him of more. If only they had a better idea of Jesus’ heart toward these sinners. It was more than receiving sinners and eating with them.

Do the parables portray people who are simply welcoming of lost sheep or a lost coin will just show up at some point? Definitely not! The shepherd leaves behind the 99 for the one lost sheep. He goes after it, not stopping until He finds it. The woman who lost one of her 10 coins doesn’t half-heartedly look under the couch to see if its down there. She lights a lamp, and she cleans and cleans the house, doing whatever it takes until she finds it.

Jesus shows them He’s not just receiving sinners and eating with them. That’s offensive enough to these Pharisees. He is doing more, He is going after them diligently until He brings them to repentance.

Such is His love for these sinners—these lowly miserable sinners.

These tax collectors and sinners were considered to be far below the righteousness of Pharisees. The Pharisees wouldn’t dare associate with them. Tax collectors were like traitors to the Jewish people, collecting taxes from the Jews on behalf of the Romans, plus they were thieves, taking extra to line their own pockets, like little Zacchaeus. And the sinners, likely harlots among other sinners.

They were the unclean people with a whole rapsheet of sins to their name.

They were unclean, miserable sinners like you and me. We have our own rapsheet of sins. We may not be renowned sinners like those gathered around Jesus. Our rapsheet may not be public knowledge, but if the multitude of our sins were published, if that rapsheet of sins were pasted to the front of our shirts, with all our secret thoughts and our sins done in private were there for all to see, how dirty and ashamed we would feel. What outcasts we would be. And rightly so.

Jesus has full access to your rapsheet. He knows your sins, even your secret ones. Who are you that He would come after you, seeking you out? What is that one sheep of the flock of 100? He has plenty of sheep to spare. Why would He go to so much trouble for one sheep? Or the woman, who lost the one coin? She still has 9 others. Why would she go to so much trouble for one coin? Who am I, a lowly miserable sinner? Yet Christ doesn’t just sit there to receive you. No comes after each one of you in His great love. Yes, He’s willing to go the cross, to take all of your sins, filth and shame and uncleanness upon Himself, and to suffer for those sins as though they were His very own. For you, that you may be His own, He gave His life, and takes it back up again. Through the preaching of the gospel, He comes after you, bringing you to repentance, that you repent of your sins and believe all that He has done to save you from your sins.

So that’s the story with the sinners. But what about the Pharisees? Jesus by His preaching was also devotedly seeking them out, too. But they would not be found, because they would not repent. In their own minds, they believed that they were righteous, and dared not have their righteousness tarnished by the sins of those lowly sinners.

Now we put ourselves in the place of the sinners Jesus’ received, but we must also consider that we have a little Pharisee in each one of us. After hearing the law just a moment ago, the Pharisee in each one of us was squashed, but beware that Pharisee come back again. Who are the sinners today that we think are below our righteousness? Who are the sinners that Jesus is going after that we find offensive? Might it be the homosexuals and transgenders? Surely, the LGBT movement is sweeping the nation and it is hostile to the Christian Church. We talk a lot about this topic, because it is a very real challenge to our culture and to the Church on earth. And we rightly resist the movement, and call sin sin. But in your resistance, have you also lost your love for these sinners, and have forgotten, or worse find it offensive, that Christ comes for them, too, that He died for those very sins, and that He desires their repentance and salvation.

Or perhaps, the enemies of the Church, those who hate the Church and persecute it, such as Paul before his conversion. We look to God for carrying out His justice upon the earth against all His enemies, yet at the same time, do we still love our enemies, love these whom Christ loves? Or has our heart grown cold against them as the Pharisees hearts were towards the tax collectors and sinners?

Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He suffered and died for every sinner in the world, and He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He is equally diligent in His desire to save you as He is to save your neighbor who has sins x,y, and z. Lest we find this offensive, we must repent of our own sins, of our pharisaism, and remember that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.

Again, this is our Lord’s desire, that we and all people repent, not speaking just of conversion, but of the daily repentance of our sins trusting in Jesus to forgive us all our sins and to keep us in His possession. And so we repent of our miserable sins and uncleanness, and of the self-righteous pharisee in each of us.

And though we are unworthy of His love, yet we find confirmation of His love in the preaching of the gospel, and in His holy Sacrament of the Altar. For through these He continues to come after you, bringing you to repentance, assuring you that He was willing to get dirty with your sins and uncleanness, even to suffer and die for them on the cross. He puts you upon His shoulder that you may have rest in His grace and free salvation.

With such great joy He finds you and holds you! And this is our joy as well, to be found by Him, and to rest in those hands pierced for you. He brings you into the communion of His Church, where He dwells with you, and where He brings you to dine with Him upon His body and blood. This joy of His is also your joy in all times and circumstances in life, whether you are burdened with your sins, whether you are lonely, or feel unloved, or whether you going through sickness or other adversity. Christ loves you, He died for you, He cleanses you of your sins, and He keeps you forever! 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 – Luke 16.19-31 (Trinity 1 – 2019)

“The Riches Given Us In Scripture”

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we beseech You so to rule and govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not, like the rich man, hear Your Word in vain, and become so devoted to things temporal that we forget things eternal; but that we readily and according to our ability serve those who are in need, and not defile ourselves with carousing and pride; in trial and misfortune keep us from despair, and grant us to put our trust wholly in Your fatherly help and grace, so that in faith and Christian patience we may overcome all things; 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.

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.

 20 “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,

 21 “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

 22 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.

 23 “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

 24 “Then he cried and said,`Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

 25 “But Abraham said,`Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.

 26 `And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

 27 “Then he said,`I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,

 28 `for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

 29 “Abraham said to him,`They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’

 30 “And he said,`No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

 31 “But he said to him,`If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

Hear Moses and the Prophets, and their fulfillment written for you in the New Testament writers. Hear them for there you find the source of your faith and life.

The rich man, living his best life now, is an example of one who would not hear the Scriptures. As a result he lacked repentance and faith, as well as fruits of faith.

He was clothed in purple and fine linen, both his inner and outer garments were of great value. Each day he ate the most superb food and ate it in plenty. It was not his wealth that made him a sinner; the problem was that he idolized his wealth. His money was his god. In it he found his joy and comfort. His heart was set upon it as his greatest treasure. And with it he availed himself to his every desire and pleasure. 

But then there was Lazarus, who was dropped off at this rich man’s mansion. He was abandoned. It appears that he wasn’t able to walk well, or if at all. He was very ill, having sores that the scavenger dogs would lick. And in stark contrast to the rich man, he had nothing. He only wished for the crumbs leftover from the lavish feasts of the rich man.

Nothing says buzzkill to your selfish enjoying of your riches than seeing a man in such need at your doorstep. The rich man ignores Lazarus, and doesn’t lift a finger to help him.

It is evident that the rich man took no heed of Moses and the Prophets. He did not repent of his idolatry and lack of love toward his neighbor, Lazarus. Nor was his trust in God and His promises, but rather it was placed on his riches, and what his riches got him.

So, nothings says buzzkill to our selfish enjoying of our earthly riches that God has given us than the law. Yet we need to hear it, lest we too be overcome by an idolatrous love for money. Whether we have plenty or little, we are susceptible to this.

So we must consider our attitude toward the earthly riches that God has given us. Now, God has given us such worldly riches for our good, and even for our leisure and enjoyment. That is fine, but does it go beyond this? Do you put them in the place of God, finding your peace, comfort and joy in them rather than in God? Do you take care of those in need in your own home? Does your love for money keep you from helping your neighbor in need. Does your love and trust in money keep you from giving as much to the Lord for the work in the church, in the school, or in the Synod, so that you help your neighbors, young and old, far and near, not just with bodily needs, but also with their spiritual needs? Instead, shouldn’t we give to Him, trusting Him to provide for us. Because He does.

The rich man did not hear Moses and the Prophets, and what happened to him? Well, he chose his treasure, which was only for this life, and did no good for him after death, for because of his sin and unbelief, he suffered the torments of hell.

It is not safe to ignore the law of Scripture. How strong is that attachment is to riches that would tempt us to excuse ourselves from the law’s condemnations. If the love of money is not the big temptation for us, there is another sin that we try to exempt ourselves from the law’s condemnation.

And so hear the law and repent. But then hear the gospel and rejoice. For Christ has gained for you heavenly treasures, that await you and are yours to endure eternally.

Scripture says, “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He dwelt upon His heavenly throne enjoying the fellowship of love with the Father and Holy Spirit, ever one God, surrounded by the praise of the angels. Yet, he was willing to become poor, to become a lowly servant. At one point, the devil tempted him with all the kingdoms of the world and all their riches, if he would only bow to Satan, but Jesus would not. All the kingdoms of the world and all their riches were not the riches He was seeking. He was seeking to win forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and eternal life for us unworthy sinners. And for this joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2).

And so hear the precious Word of God, and partake of His most blessed Sacrament, and receive from them the most wonderful heavenly treasures that they give to you! You are forgiven of your idolatrous love for money! You are forgiven of every sin! You are reconciled to God! You have eternal life! When you die, the angels shall take you to be with Abraham and Lazarus and all the hosts of heaven. What a treasure trove of heavenly gifts there are in the Word and Sacraments! How blessed it is for us to be in them regularly, and we will be in them regularly because we know that our heavenly treasures are to be most valued. Though, we do not experience these heavenly riches right now like we might right now feel fine linens on our skin, or a sumptuous meal in our stomach. Yet, we know these heavenly treasures are ours by faith, with them we will be comforted like Lazarus was comforted.

The rich man was blinded by unbelief and his love for earthly riches, did not see the true riches there promised in Moses and the Prophets.

But the Holy Spirit has granted you faith to know and value above all the heavenly riches that Jesus has won for us by His blood and life. Nothing on earth has that value, does it?

And it puts our earthly riches in the proper perspective, that we no longer attach ourselves so firmly to them, that we do not put our trust and hope and joy in them. But by the power of the Word, we use them for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our neighbors. We love and help and befriend our neighbor in need. We give generously to the Lord, that His Gospel may continue to be proclaimed in our churches, in our school, and in our mission fields at home and around the world. All this, we do, for the glory of God, who gave His own Son that we and as many as hear His Word may enjoy eternally the bliss of living in His heavenly mansions! 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 – John 3.1-15 (Trinity Sunday – 2019)- Reused from 2014

Not Change, but Rebirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sermon – John 14.23-31 (Pentecost – 2019)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Teacher and Comforter Comes to Us

Dear fellow redeemed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Lord Keeps Us Confessing

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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