2019 Sermons Pre-Lent

Baptism of our Lord – 2019 Matthew 3.13-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Sermons Pre-Lent

Luke 18.31-43 (Quinquagesima – 2019)

Sermon – Luke 18.31-43 (Quinquagesima – 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith in the Merciful Lord Is Saving Faith

Dear fellow redeemed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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