Sermon – Mark 16:1-8 (Easter – 2020)

This is hard. Christianity is not about painting a rosy picture and denying the difficulty of life in a fallen world. We’re honest about life, and this is hard. But it always has been this way. Christians have suffered persecution, sometimes very severe, as it is in some parts of the world right now. We suffer the loss of loved ones, and all sorts sadness. We suffer loneliness and anxiety. We suffer illness and pain. Today we are dealing with the coronavirus, and all the difficulties that we’re facing because of it. And one of the most difficult things about it is not being able to gather together in the Father’s house. And this is a place of refuge for us always, especially in difficult times. We come to His house to be enveloped by His grace and salvation which He gives through His Word and Sacrament. And we are not able to come together on Easter, this very holy day of the Church Year. We are doing what we can, but it’s not the same. Like seeing loved ones through Skype is not the same as embracing them in your arms. It’s not the same. This, with everything else going on account of the virus, and whatever other troubles we face in this fallen world, these things are hard. And we don’t just put on a smiley face and pretend that all is fine.

No, we admit the difficulties, but here’s the thing, we have an answer to them. Christ who was crucified for us is risen! He who gave His life as a sacrifice to deliver us from the devil, from the world, and the condemnation for our sins, so that we may be His own, and live as His people, now and forevermore, He lives. He is our living Savior, our Lord, whose love and presence is with us in the midst of all these trials. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And so while we endure this hardship, we rejoice in this truth, in this reality, Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia! So let us rejoice with the festival hymn, hymn number 348, He Is Arisen, Glorious Word!

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

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.

 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”

 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away– for it was very large.

 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.

 7 “But go, tell His disciples– and Peter– that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The women were planning on seeing Jesus today, just not a living one. After Jesus had been buried on Good Friday, they left to go prepare their own spices and ointments to anoint Him. On the Sabbath day they rested and did not work, but then early on the first day of the week, they were going to the tomb. They didn’t seem to be too concerned about the soldiers stationed there. But the one thing on their minds was how were they going to roll the stone from the opening of the tomb. They couldn’t do it. They needed some muscle to roll away that large stone.

But they didn’t expect that it would be an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone! And they didn’t expect that the opening of the tomb would reveal that Christ was not there!

The women were the ones watching Jesus from a distance on Good Friday. They witnessed all the supernatural events surrounding Jesus suffering and death. They saw the soldier pierce Jesus’ side. They saw Jesus lifeless body taken down from the cross, and they followed Joseph and Nicodemus as they brought Jesus to the tomb and laid Him there.

But now He is not there. The angel proclaims to them the good news! Christ is risen! He is alive.

This isn’t just another event to go down in the annals of history. His death and resurrection, is the central event in human history, and it has the utmost significance to us. And since we have been going over the Lord’s Prayer during Lent and Holy Week, I’m going to sum up the significance of His resurrection for us using the outline of the doxology in the Lord’s Prayer.

While Jesus was under trial before Pilate, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He has a kingdom. This is the kingdom we pray comes to us in the Lord’s Prayer. But there is no kingdom if the king is dead. But the King is risen! He lives! And His kingdom is eternal, as the Psalm says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Ps 45:6,7).

It is not only an eternal kingdom, but a kingdom of righteousness, for the King hates wickedness and loves righteousness, as the Psalm says. So you wish to enter this kingdom? You wish to be right with God, live in His kingdom and not be condemned forever? You cannot do it on account of your own works. You will never enter. You are sinners. How can you enter this kingdom of righteousness? You know your sins, your barbs that you speak that prick your loved ones, your resentment and impatience toward others, your desire for your own glory rather than the glory of God. And yet there are even more secret sins that we are not even aware of. One sin makes you guilty of the whole law.

But look to the King, the Son of God, and His strange actions. He becomes flesh, lives according to all the demands of the Law, and willingly goes to His Passion and death to make satisfaction for all your sins. This He does for you, that you may be citizens of His kingdom! He is the Way. He is the Door through which the sheep enter. He is your righteousness to be received and accounted to you through faith in Him.

His resurrection is proof that He has opened heaven to you, that He has accomplished all that was necessary for you to become members of His heavenly kingdom. He said on the cross, “It is finished.” The justice required for your sins is fully paid by His suffering, blood, and death. And the Father accepts it, and raises Him from the dead, as an “Amen” to Jesus words, “It is finished.”

And so you can have full confidence that the King who paid for your righteousness and eternal life by His death, now lives and reigns over you believers and all His Church for all eternity!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead also displays His power. Jesus laid down His life willingly. He also said that He has the authority to raise it up again. Who can say that? Which one of us can make such claims! It is ridiculous! But this isn’t just a man from Nazareth saying these words, but this is God made flesh. And He raises His own body from death proving that He is indeed the true Son of God as He said He was.

In His resurrection He shows His victory, that He has power over sin, death, and the devil. He took the burden of sin’s curse. The punishment price of sin surely would do Him in. But no, in power, He rises, with sin paid for and done with. Death swallowed Him up, and He was placed into the belly of the earth. Death could not hold Jesus. The Psalm foretold it: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy One see corruption” (Ps 16:10). Jesus’ flesh would not remain in the tomb to rot, He will not remain in death, but He will very soon rise, and surely, on the third day He rises bodily from the grave with the belly of death burst wide open. Satan, who has the power of death, believed to have bettered his foe. But Jesus rises and stands with Satan’s head crushed below His feet.

He exerts His divine power over these things, not just for His own sake, but for us. In love, He gains the victory for us, that we, in Him, are saved and guarded from sin, death, and the devil. He is our Victor, our Lord. And we are His people under the shadow of His wings.

Finally, He has received all glory. Before His crucifixion, Jesus said that He was about to be glorified. And the Father spoke from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” (Jn 12). Jesus is glorified by His death and resurrection! He is glorified  because of His great sacrificial love for us, and also because of His victory for us over our enemies. He is worthy of all worship and praise.

And we, as His redeemed people, called by the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel now live our lives to His glory. And we live in the certain hope that because of our Lord’s resurrection, the day of Resurrection will come when our bodies that are still encumbered by sin and trouble and death, will arise glorious like Christ’s glorious body, perfect and holy, without any blemish or weakness. And for eternity, we shall join with the angels and all the hosts of heaven, giving glory God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb who was slain, and singing “Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.

Rejoice today, dear believers, your Lord, who was crucified for you, now lives for you. Rejoice, you who have trouble in this world, for He has overcome the world. He loves you, and He is with you, and He shares with you His forgiveness, salvation and victory. Rejoice, for His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. 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.

Holy Week

Sermon – Good Friday – 2020

“Deliver Us from Evil”

What is evil we speak of in the seventh petition in the Lord’s Prayer? Luther, in the meaning to the petition says that we pray to God that He would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor. Luther is picturing evil as anything that would be harmful to body, soul, property and honor.

In the Greek, the word is “πονηροῦ”. And it refers to those things that are physically harmful. It also could mean moral wickedness. The evil, or the morally wicked destroy and pervert what is good and just.

And so consider what is evil. Natural disasters are evil. They bring destruction to life and property. The coronavirus is evil, because it is harmful to life and livelihood. We see all too well the disruption it is bringing to our lives and to society.

There is the evil that others bring upon us. Others harm us physically, emotionally. They bring harm to our property and reputation. They bring harm to our faith, tempting us to sin.

But where does this evil come from? The source of it is the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning. The New King James Version translates this petition as “Deliver us from the evil one.” This is fitting since the devil, a personal being, is the personification of all evil. Death and destruction are in his wake. He slays with lies. See what he did to man.

He brings harm to God’s perfect creation. By tempting them to sin, he perverts Adam and Eve’s original righteousness, that they then have original sin. Man and all creation have fallen. Paradise is destroyed. The relationship between God and man became one of enmity. Man no longer knows God. Man is blind with unbelief, and believes falsehood instead of the truth.

We see the evil the devil caused, and still causes. We see and experience the dangers of the world both from the violence of creation and the violence of man. But then are we also willing to admit our own evil. We are not just victims, but we are also evil. We have perverted justice. We have done violence to the moral law, sinning in thought, word, and deed. We have offended our Maker. I am evil. To use the words of Paul, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18). “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

You know what else is evil? It is evil that Jesus was crucified. He is the only human on earth that did not deserve this. Who could accuse Him of any sin? Pilate, wondered, “What wrong has this man done?” The thief on Jesus right said, “This man has done nothing wrong” (Lk 23:41). He was perfect. He preached truly about God. He showed mercy to people, healing, feeding, and raising the dead. He loved mankind, even to the end, even unto death. Even when He was reviled in the midst of His suffering, He did not revile in return (1 Pet 2:22). He did not threaten those who caused His suffering, but forgave them.

This is evil. This is a perversity of justice. An innocent man suffers. But not just a man, but God Himself is convicted by man. The Creator is hung on a cross by His creation. The perfect One suffers the curse of the Law at the hands of sinners. The devil sees his deceit and wicked plans come to fruition, soon shall Satan have his victory…or so he thinks.

But Jesus suffers this willingly. This evil that Satan and the world commits, God intends it for our highest good. The murderous plot of Satan proves to be his undoing. And the evil that the world commits turns out to be its salvation. This is the working of God.

For listen to what Christ cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?

God does not forsake us. We should be the ones suffering in the throes of hell, but here it is the only begotten Son of God suffering it for us. What a tremendous mystery this is! Christ, the Holy One of God, almighty, eternal, infinite God becomes sin for us, He becomes our sin, and He suffers the justice for our evil.

So in His suffering and death, Jesus is delivering us from all evil. He endures it, takes the evil of our sins, the evil of the devil and the world in order that we may be delivered from evil.

He crushes the serpent’s head. The stronger man has bound the strong man. He destroys Satan’s dominion and his kingdom and wins freedom for all of us under Satan’s captivity. Every one of Satan’s accusations against us, and every claim he makes on us, are made nothing, for Christ has atoned for our sins, and has redeemed us to be His own.

He atones for our sins, so that our evil sins cannot condemn us forever. Our sins were buried with Him in death, and there remain our sins, since we have been joined to His death and resurrection through baptism. How, then, can we be condemned for them?

And now having sins forgiven, and Christ’s imputed righteousness through faith, we are called saints, a royal priesthood, a holy nation! We are called God’s holy children.

And though we have evil all about us in the vale of tears, God delivers us from it. We know that God works all things, even evil, for our good. When we are threatened with harm from the fallen creation, God remains our refuge, and draws Him closer to Himself. When we suffer the evil of others, we rejoice that we are caused to suffer for the name of Christ, and are given opportunity to show the grace that Christ showed to His enemies.

Even though evil may threaten our lives, we know we will be delivered, for we have a lasting inheritance with God in paradise. He has turned death into a blessed thing for His believers, for through it we are drawn from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.

And so, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” We ask Him, that all these blessings of Good Friday may come to bear on us. And since the Father has given Christ to death on the cross for you, you know that God delivers. 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.

Holy Week

Sermon – Luke 22.14-20 (Maundy Thursday – 2020)

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

Let us pray: O Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You, that of Your infinite mercy You have instituted this Your Sacrament, in which we eat Your body and drink Your blood: Grant us, we beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not receive this gift unworthily, but that we may confess our sins, remember Your agony and death, believe the forgiveness of sin, and day by day grow in faith and love, until we obtain eternal salvation; through You, who 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.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Sometimes the craving originates with something you see. You see a commercial, or maybe at the restaurant, back in the day when we went to restaurants, you would see a delicious burger, and it seems as though it is calling to you, drawing you to get it for yourself and eat up. Sometimes the craving comes from within. I just love donuts. Gas stations have donuts. It would be quite tasty to pick up some every time I fill up on gas. Maybe I don’t have to wait until the tank is near empty. When it’s half full, I’ll go fill up then, and might as well pick up some donuts.

We have those cravings, and it is unwise for us to follow the desires of our bellies.

Temptations to sin are often compared to the food desires of our bellies. James describes it in his epistle, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” St. Paul speaks of those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ. He says “their god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19). They set their mind on earthly things, and their end is destruction. Paul isn’t saying there that they eat whatever they desire, but they follow the desires of their sinful flesh.

We see the beginning of this sinful hunger in the temptation of Eve in Paradise. The devil deceived and lied in order to pervert Eve’s appetite for righteousness into a hunger for that which God forbids. Scripture describes her disobedience, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Gen 3:6).

Since then, we deal with temptation coming from within and without. Again, James says, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” We are enticed. We are enticed by the world. The world tempts us to impatience, anger, vengeance, pride, honor, fame, and power. It tempts us to idolize worldly treasures, relationships, and activities.

And then the devil is stirring constantly stirring our appetites for the unholy. He especially agitates our consciences. On the one hand, he entices us to doubt God’s Word, to destroy faith in God and also hope, and love. He does this by making sin seem desirable and justifiable, so that we may enticed to sin and separate ourselves from God. He seeks to lead us to false security and open rebellion on the one hand, or on the other, he would entice us to despair and unbelief, thinking that God could not forgive and love a sinner such as I.

As bad enough it is having these two sources of temptations against us, we have an evil desire within us. That is our corrupted nature that has an appetite for pride, lust, and selfishness.

And so temptations come. Jesus said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come” (Luke 17:1). This is a fact of life. They come from without and from within. Temptations stir up our appetites to bite and commit the sin, to satisfy the hunger of our sinful nature. They come that we may offend God, become separated from Him and His Word, and lose faith and hope in Him.

Jesus came to redeem us with His suffering and death. He saved us that we won’t be destroyed forever. And so that we may not be overcome with temptation and be destroyed, He gives us His Father’s name to run to for safety. He teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” This was His desire for the disciples who were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were weary, but Jesus told them, “watch and pray, lest you enter in temptation.

Our sinful flesh still loves sin. It still has hunger for it. But Christ has saved us from our sinful flesh and our sins, and from the separation from God we had because of our sins. We had been drawn away from God because we have fallen into temptation and sinned against Him. But Christ, who was tempted in every way as we were but remained without sin, is our righteous Savior. By His cross He saves us and gives us everlasting life. In the fifth petition, we ask for forgiveness, and He has graciously forgiven our sin!

He has freed us from sin, that by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, we are new creatures in Christ our Savior. We are no longer under the power of sin, but are under the grace of Christ, our Lord.

And so being forgiven of our sins, our new creature in us, desires to remain free from sin! We put to death the flesh through repentance, and through the renewing power of the gospel of our risen Christ we live in newness of life, hungering to do God’s will. We deny ourselves and the appetites of our bellies, and seek to do what is good and holy. And one things Christ has given us to help us with this is prayer, “lead us not into temptation.

We cannot stand on our own. We would surely fall. But, through prayer and faith, we find refuge in God and His Word. To Him we flee when temptation comes. He is the way out. And if, or rather when we tragically and daily fall, God remains our refuge, and we still run to Him, for in Him we have forgiveness and restoration, so that our sins cannot harm us forever. But rather we are cleansed.

And so, we have this new appetite, this new hunger for that which is godly. We have a hunger to do God’s will, but also a hunger for the forgiveness of Christ, because that is the fix for what is wrong in us.

And this is why we also ought to have a hunger for the Lord’s Supper. This Supper is the Lord’s last will and testament. He established it for us, and He will us to partake of it for our eternal good. And so it is our  Sin brings us guilt and separates us from God. The Lord’s Supper is a very special application of God’s grace to you. For surely, the holy gospel forgives your sins. And keeping this gospel in faith, you are reconciled to God and made His dear child. Though the Lord’s Supper doesn’t give you anymore forgiveness or salvation that the Word of God gives you. They both give you the fullness of Christ’s salvation, but there is a special comfort given you in the Lord’s Supper

Jesus institutes for His Church the Sacrament of the Altar in the upper room the night He was betrayed. He instituted this meal, giving us as food to eat His true body, and for us to drink His true blood. In these He grants us the remission of our sins that He has won for us by that very same body and blood. The body and blood of our holy and righteous Lord given on the cross, is given for you to eat and drink, to cleanse you of your sinful flesh and of every time that we have fallen into temptation. The Early Church Father Ambrose aptly describes his hunger for the Sacrament, “Because I always sin, I ought always take the medicine.” You can also read Luther’s 20 Christian Questions and Answers and see there too, what hunger we ought to have for the Sacrament.

But also consider the other added comfort in the Supper. The end of temptation is to draw us away from God, but God, in the Sacrament, draws us to Himself forgiving our sins. Christ, our Life, our Light, our crucified and risen Redeemer, gives us His true body and blood for us to eat and drink. He dwells in us, and unites us to Himself intimate communion.

And so, may God grant us all a hunger for the Sacrament, whether you took it last week, or whether you are fasting from it for a time for the sake of safety, or whether you are a child waiting for the day to partake of it.

Thanks be to Christ, our Savior, who out of His abundant grace, has atoned for our sins, and reconciles us to Himself, and gives us the fullness of these blessings not just in one way, but pours out His grace upon us in our baptism, through the Word, and in the Holy Supper. 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.

Holy Week

Sermon – Matthew 21.1-11 (Palm Sunday – 2020)

Almighty and everlasting God, You have caused Your beloved Son to take our nature upon Himself, that He might give us the example of humility and suffer death upon the cross for our sins: Mercifully grant us a believing knowledge of this, that we may follow the example of His patience, and be made partakers of the benefits of His sacred Passion and death; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

God had whittled Gideon’s army down to 300. Gideon saw the army of their enemy, Midian and with Midian, the Amalekites, and other people of the East in the valley. They were numerous as locusts covering the land. And their camels were numbered like sand on the seashore.

And so this was the army that this little group of Israelites was going to war with. To our human eyes, this was a horrible idea. Gideon was fearful, but God had Gideon overhear someone describe a dream he had. The man said, “To my surprise a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed.” Then the man that heard the dream interpreted it, “This is nothing else be the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into is hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp!

The loaf of bread made of barley, which was considered a lesser grain, destroys the tent. The little insignificant army of Israel will destroy the mighty enemy. Gideon heard these things, was strengthened and worshipped God. He gathered his men and went to war against the enemies of God’s people.

[pause for comparison]

Jesus spoke of how He will go up to Jerusalem. But this concerned the disciples. There were many in Jerusalem that hated Him and sought to take His life. This was a dangerous place to go. Peter stood in the way of Christ one time. Another time, the disciples said, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” (John 11:8). Jesus had a multitude of enemies, powerful people who wanted Him dead.

But from the lowly town of Bethlehem, which means house of bread, from this town little among the thousands of Judah, will come the Bread of Life. He appears lowly, insignificant, riding into the hands of His great and His powerful enemies on a humble donkey.

The enemies before Him appear to be the Jewish leaders, and the Roman soldiers. They blaspheme Him, accuse Him, and shout for His crucifixion. Yet, the greater enemies Jesus faces are much more severe, those enemies are sin, death and the devil. Jesus enters Jerusalem to destroy these enemies that have held sway over us. Yet the path to victory was through sacrifice. It was to be won on a cross. As a Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, He goes to accomplish that for which He was sent into the world. He very well knows what must happen. He tells these things to His disciples, and yet He goes to battle, enters into Jerusalem to win for us forgiveness of our sins, deliverance from the death, and victory over the devil.

And so this was a cause of rejoicing for that crowd that went with Him in this procession, however much they understood about what was taking place.

And so first determine whether you belong to this crowd. If you do not believe Him to be your Savior, then you shall not see His salvation. You remain in the tent of the enemy, the devil. And then Jesus, who is not only the Bread of Life, but also the Chief Cornerstone, will fall upon you and will grind you into powder (Matt 21:42-44). That is, if you do not see Him as your Savior, you will find Him as your Judge.

If you are persistent in your sins, and will not repent of them, then you choose sin over Christ. You remain in the tent of those who cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” You offend against His holy and precious blood which was shed to cleanse you of your sins. Instead you choose to remain in your filth.

Then who are those who join in the chorus of praises around the Bread of Life who marches into the camp of those horrible enemies? You who see on the donkey riding into Jerusalem, Christ as your Savior from sin, your Deliverer from death, and your Victor over the devil, you are the ones rejoicing in Him!

Oh, your sins are great. You see them. Your pride, your lust, your doubt, your slander, your  love for God that falls so short. It is this guilt that presses hard on Jesus shoulders. It is your sins that put Him on the cross. How could you possibly be worthy of Him? Are you not in the tent of the evil one, because of your sins?

But take comfort, for He enters into the battle against our enemies for sinners, for you. He takes your sin and your guilt willingly. So behold, your Savior, let Him have your all your sins. Repent of them. For He has taken them you, suffered for them, gave His life as the price to save you from them, so that in Him, you are free from your sins! You are forgiven! And you are restored to God! And this is the reason for our song! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Through faith, you are joined to your Savior! You are members of His Church, receiving His grace, and responding to Him with songs of praise.


But also consider also what other problems the people had in the crowd, the problems we who live in the Church still struggle with today. In the crowd would have been people who were anxious. There were people who were lonely, who lived each day with uncertainty about what tomorrow would bring. There were people who had sorrow and grief in their hearts. These are the common troubles and experiences that we have in this vale of tears. And these are pronounced ever more so during this time of pandemic.

But then, oh what comfort we have in Christ. See how much He loves you as He rides into Jerusalem for your eternal salvation. He defeats sin, death, and the devil for you! He joined you to His Church through faith, and thus you have the promise that He who entered into Jerusalem in lowliness for you, now in His glory with dominion and rule over all things, will never leave you nor forsake you.

And so even in the midst of the trial and difficulty, even as we have tears of sadness on our faces, we may sing praises to Christ our loving Savior. Because of Him, we know that these trials and tears are not in vain. He works all for your good. And He will deliver you and will bring you to a day when those tears will be wiped away, and all trial, sorrow, and sadness will be no more. 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 2.21 (New Year’s Eve – 2021)

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

21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

Any of you familiar with a birth, knows that it is not clean. It is messy, bloody, and painful. As much as this is the case in a sterile hospital room, imagine what it was like for Mary giving birth to Jesus in a barn, with the animals and animal waste, the manger with crumbs from the animals’ feed mixed with their drool. But the nativity scenes and the descriptions in the Christmas carols clean it up a bit. They present to you a very sanitized version of the nativity, where the barn almost seems to a quaint little spot to have a child, and it’s so peaceful that even Jesus, no crying He makes.

But now you can’t really sanitize the circumcision scene. Imagine giving Christmas cards and instead of the nativity scene on the cover there is a depiction of the circumcision of Christ. You have a table, the baby Jesus, and a knife. There is no hiding the fact that this is going to be bloody, and there will be a lot of crying. The image on the bulletin is the tamest that I could find.

But this event of Jesus’ life is very important to His purpose of coming into the world. And certainly His purpose was no walk in the park. He came to save, and it was difficult, it was painful, and it was bloody.

When Jesus was circumcised, He began His active obedience—that is, His keeping the law for us. For the law required Israelite boys 8 days old to be circumcised, and this circumcision was to be a sign of the covenant that God had made with them, that He would bless the Israelites, and be their God. Circumcision was part of the covenant that they were to keep. Through circumcision, they were brought into the covenant relationship with God, being His blessed people. Now Jesus didn’t need the blessings that circumcision gave, for He is God’s own Son. But yet, because it was law that every Jewish boy 8 days old to be circumcised, Joseph and Mary brought Him to be circumcised. And Jesus being circumcised according to the law, began keeping the law in our place. For Scripture says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And of course Jesus was perfect. He did not sin. He didn’t even have one sinful thought. But it wasn’t easy, for He constantly suffered the temptations, lies, and deceit that the devil threw at Him. Yet through it all, He remained perfect for our sake, that there may be a righteousness that justifies us before God.

Jesus’ circumcision also is the beginning of His passive obedience, that is, His suffering and death for us. On His eighth day, He spilt the first drops of His blood which would redeem us and all the world from sin, death, and the devil. The rest of the payment is the blood He spilt on the cross, and His life which He gave up and commended to His Father in heaven.

Both the active and passive obedience of Christ begins at His circumcision. It is both His active and passive obedience, that is, His keeping of the law, and His shed blood and death, that He wins salvation for us. It is in this way He lives out the name given Him from heaven, Jesus, which means, “The Lord is salvation.”

Through the difficult, painful, and bloody work of Christ, salvation is won!

All those previous circumcisions had pointed forward to the saving work of Christ which began with His circumcision.

But then this brings us to another gruesome scene, a murder scene, you could say. Circumcision was a sacrament of the Old Testament. This cutting off of the flesh no longer has any spiritual significance, for Christ has come. But Jesus has established a new sacrament, the sacrament of baptism, which does great violence toward us. In circumcision there was only a cutting off of the flesh. In baptism there is an actual death that takes place. St. Paul speaks of that most clearly in Romans chapter 6. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 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” (Rom 6:4-6).

This isn’t symbolic. There is an actual death that takes place. In baptism, your old Adam, your sinful nature, is joined with Christ’s cross and death, and by being joined to the work of Christ’s passive obedience, your body of sin, your Old Adam “is done away with.” Alternatively, it could be translated, “brought to nothing.” The language sounds like some mob boss talking about what should be done with the body of a traitor. Get rid of it! Throw it in the river. This Old Adam is no value to us. We don’t want this corruption, our vices, our weaknesses, our sinful desires. Get rid of it. Throw it in the watery tomb there in the font, to be joined to Christ’s cross and death.

But the font there is also the watery womb, from which the new life springs, being born again by the Holy Spirit, not in the old flesh of Adam, but in the righteousness of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. We are clothed in Jesus perfect righteousness through faith. His righteousness is the righteousness that saves us, the righteousness that makes us the true children of Abraham, and children of God. But also from that life of regeneration borne in us by the Holy Spirit, we also are led by the Holy Spirit to walk in that life of righteousness.

But this gruesome murder scene (and of this scene of new birth) isn’t something that has happened once in our life. It’s not that we get baptized again and again, but we live daily in our baptism through repentance and faith.

The prophets mentioned the Israelites having uncircumcised hearts and ears, though they were circumcised of the flesh. They rejected the gracious promises of God by their unbelief. Because of their unbelief, they would not hear God’s Word, they would not repent, and they would not love Him and trust in Him.

But may the Holy Spirit preserve us in the grace of our baptism. Luther says, “Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

God grant this for us in the new year, and always that we may remain in our dear Jesus, who has saved us by His keeping of the law, and His suffering and death for us. Amen.

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


Sermon – John 8.46-59 (Lent 5 – 2020)

Let us pray:

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

46 “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?

 47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

 48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.

 50 “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.

 51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say,`If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’

 53 “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?”

 54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.

 55 “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say,`I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.

 56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

An editor of prominent journal that discusses topics of religion and public life was arguing that churches should not cancel services. In a time of isolation, loneliness, financial hardship, and fear, church is the one thing that should remain open. I wish it were that easy. Surely, the Word of God is always essential to our lives, but it is especially needed during times of trial. For that is God’s desire for us in trial to draw us closer to Himself, by turning us to His Word.

Yet out of love we wish to prevent an exponential spread of this disease out of love for our neighbor. And so, we are able to adapt; we are still able to get the Word of God out through internet, phone, or letter. We are still able to have the word of God at home, but we’re missing out on corporate worship, which is a hardship. It’s difficult to know which is the right way to proceed. Should we continue to gather? Is it enough of a precaution to come in smaller groups, or does that bring too much risk? I think we’re taking the right approach with the suspension of services for a time, and the offering of communion to each one to decide for themselves weighing their need for their Supper, their risk level for yourself and others you are in contact with, and with what exposure they are comfortable with. So, in regards to what the editor wrote, I don’t agree with him about the cancelation of services, but he does make a very good point in the article. He writes, “the massive shutdown of just about everything reflects the spirit of our age, which regards the prospect of death as the supreme evil to be avoided at all costs.”

There is something worse than death. And this is something the world needs to know, and what we need to be reminded of. For our current events have turned us to our earthly needs, the needs I mentioned above such as loneliness, financial hardship, sickness and death. And rightly we have been taking these needs to God in prayer, but we must also remember that there is something worse than death. That something is spiritual death and eternal death. That is separation from God through unbelief now in life, and for eternity in hell. But then at the same time, greater than any of our earthly gifts is Christ and His Word from which we have eternal life.

But this separation from God is a threat to take seriously. This was the dreadful condition of the Pharisees.

They did not understand Jesus words. Jesus spoke the truth about Himself. He preached and fulfilled the Old Testament, for the entire Old Testament was about Jesus. And the Pharisees who knew the Old Testament didn’t see it. Abraham saw Jesus, that is, Abraham believed the promise of Christ. But the Pharisees didn’t see Jesus. They didn’t understand the promises of the Old Testament, and they did not understand Jesus’ words. Do we have a different nature than they? No, this is the common condition of our fallen nature. And so because of our sinful flesh, we are susceptible to unbelief, not to mention that the devil continuously tries to blind us and shroud us in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief.

The Pharisees also differed with Jesus in regards to their doctrine. The doctrine of the Jews placed their hope on two things, their ancestry and their works. They believed that being a physical descendant of Abraham made them God’s people. However, Jesus stated the fact that they do not belong to God, for they do not share the faith of Abraham.

But then the Jews also believed that their justification before God was through the Law. And so they saw no need for a Savior. They saw no need for repentance, for they weren’t looking for forgiveness and salvation. It was an offense for them to hear that keeping Jesus Word gives eternal life. They belong to the devil, for they are liars and they teach falsely, like the liar and deceiver, the devil.

This is the worse thing possible. To be separated from their Creator, to reject the One who would save them. They deny the Word that gives them eternal life, instead they remain in their sins, subject to death, under God’s judgment, and death shall be for them the entrance to torments that never end with the one to whom they belong, the devil.

If you want to talk about a threat, a pandemic, this is it. Yet do we take it as seriously as the coronavirus? We should take it more seriously. Do we recoil at false doctrine as we should? Do we shelter ourselves in God’s Word, when the devil and his lies are everywhere around us leading us to misbelief, despair and other shameful sin and vice. Do we take such extensive measures against secularism that tells us that this on earth is the only life there is and that we’re good, and that we ought to believe in ourselves and that we don’t need a God or a Savior. Do we daily sanitize ourselves of our filthy sins each and every day through repentance? Or do we think that our sins pose little threat to us?

We need to keep this perspective.

But, with such a great danger as being separated from God is and how dreadful such a thing is, we need not fear. For God has not given us a spirit of fear.

For Jesus is true God and our Savior. And His Word gives us eternal life. He promises, “If anyone keeps My Word he shall never see death.” This Word that Jesus is speaking is not the Law, but the gospel. Moses came with the Law, Jesus comes with grace and truth. His Word is the good news of what He accomplishes by His coming into the world. It is filled with promises of forgiveness won by His shed blood. It is a message of the demolishing of the separation between us and God by His atonement for our sins. His Word speaks of eternal life. And so the keeping of this Word is not our doing the Law. Rather, it means keeping in our hearts through faith, this gospel word for you.

See how precious this word is to us. Jesus has the “words of eternal life”, as Peter confessed. Jesus said, “My words are spirit and life.” In them is life for us. This is life connected to God, as His people, now and forever. And see how Jesus so closely ties the Word to Himself. Christ is the content of the word. In the word are the gifts of His righteous life and innocent suffering and death. To keep the word is to keep Christ. To consume the Word is to consume the Bread of Life. To drink of the Word of God, is to drink of Christ, the Water of Life, who refreshes us in this valley of the shadow of death.

Through this Word, we are saved from spiritual death, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. And through faith in this Word, we become united with Christ and He lives in us. This spiritual life is what Jesus talks about earlier in John’s gospel, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). This joining to Christ through faith in His Word is the first resurrection. And thus the second death, or eternal death has no power over us (Rev 20:6).

And thus through this Word, we are also saved from eternal death, eternal separation from God’s love. Abraham believed in the word of the Lord, and is now in eternal life. So also, you through faith in Christ’s Word have eternal life. And so the bite of bodily death is also gone! This death that the world so fears! Certainly for the unbelieving, death should bring much terror, for through it they enter into eternal torment. But for us who keep the Word of Christ through faith, death nothing more than a nap. Death is the passing from this land of the dying to the land of the living, our Promised Land, where the Church triumphant gathers with her Lord in glory.

We wonder what the worst that might from this coronavirus pandemic. Maybe it’s death, maybe it’s a collapse of the economy, or the beginning of an increase of restrictions or our freedoms after all this passes.

We will continue to serve and love our neighbor. We will continue to serve in our vocations, for as long as God chooses to keep us here on this earth. But we need not fear any of the evil we encounter on this earth, not even death. For we have Christ’s Word that gives us eternal life. Even to die is gain!

Thanks be to God, who has granted you faith in Christ, that you now have life with God through Him. His Word is the cure and protection from the worst things: death, spiritual, bodily, and eternal death. The world so desperately is seeking a vaccine and cure to the coronavirus. If only they would see their greatest threat, and also the cure, which is Christ in His Word.

May God grant many to know Christ. And may God keep us steadfast in His eternal-life-giving word. 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 – Isaiah 49.8-13 (Lent 4 – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

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

8 Thus says the LORD: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;

 9 That You may say to the prisoners,`Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness,`Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.

 10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them.

 11 I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated.

 12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”

 13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

In the desolate place, Jesus fed the many who were hungry and faint. He had mercy on them. They needed food. Where there was very little to nourish them in this desolate place, Jesus gave them a feast. Miraculously He fed the multitude out of five loaves of bread and two fish.

This miracle is a sign, or indication, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. But this feeding is not the feeding that is prophesied in Isaiah.

Let’s examine the prophesy Isaiah puts before us. Pictured before us is Israel returning to their inheritance. God’s servant will go and say to those imprisoned Israelites in exile, go free. They who are in darkness, come into the light. They who hunger in desolate places, will now have pasture from which to eat. They shall return to God. The mountains will not prevent them. God will make His mountains into roads. The highways in the valleys will be lifted up. They shall come from all over the earth. He who has mercy on them will lead them. He will give them plentiful pasture, and water for them to drink to sustain them on the way. They will return with singing and great rejoicing, because they are comforted and have received God’s mercy.

But what exactly is pictured? What is God prophesying here?

He’s speaking about the acceptable time, the day of salvation. At the time of Isaiah, the day was yet to come, but for us the day has already come. The Father hears the prayers of the Son. The Son of God became man and though He was without sin, He was able to sympathize with weaknesses of man, and thus He prayed to the Father on behalf of all mankind. And so the Father hears, and He plans out the day of salvation. He sends His Son to be the covenant of the people. That means He will be the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship.

So this return prophesied in our gospel reading is not a return to the land, but a return to God, who created us, but from whom we have lost communion. But on the acceptable day, the day of salvation, the Father gives up His Son to draw us to Himself and accept us for the sake of Christ alone. This is not a two-sided agreement, that we do our part and God does His. Rather Christ has made all things right between us and God. He has accounted for our sins, paying the price for them. He is the righteousness that justifies us with God. He is the bloodied, beaten, and crucified Mediator that creates peace between us and God.

This is meaningful for us only when we know what our spiritual situation is. We were in exile, separated from our Creator on account of our sins. We were in darkness, alienated from God, not knowing Him as our gracious God, but only our Judge, from whom we hide in the darkness.

We are hungry and thirsty in this wilderness. There is that innate longing for something that is missing, something lasting, that which we lost, the relationship with God. But we cannot satisfy it. Even the crowd Jesus fed had the answer before them–there was Jesus who is their righteousness and life. But they wanted from Him only satisfaction for their bellies. So also, in this wilderness, there is nothing to give us what we lost. In this wilderness, we try to fill our longings with whatever we can find, we even try to produce our own righteousness to make us right before God, but this is a delusion. It fails.

Furthermore, our spiritual situation can be compared to captivity. We can perhaps relate to this most of all these days. We’re stuck at home. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a blessing to be home, but yet, we are limited on what we can do outside the home. We leave only for necessities. But how much greater is the captivity under sin and the devil. Our wills were completely bound to the devil. We were slaves of sin. We think we were free, but we were not. We could not budge from their grasp, not an inch to the left or to the right.

The way to God, is fraught with mountains and difficult terrain. There is no way we can make our way to Him.

But then because of Christ, what happens!? By His saving work, and through the preaching of His gospel, what wonderful things now happens for you. You in captivity: “Go forth.” You are free! Free from sin and Satan! You in the darkness, “Show yourselves, live in my light and life, and see that I am gracious to you!”

“The way to Me has been opened. Jesus is the Way. Through Him I have drawn you to Myself.” My mountains have been made into roads, the highways in the valley have been lifted up. There no longer anything separating you from Me. You are Mine, and I have claimed people from all four corners of the earth to be Mine as well. I have drawn all of you to Myself through My Son, who was lifted up on the cross. And while you remain on the earth, though it will be difficult, suffering the evil of the world, war, disaster, and famine, He will be with you. He who has mercy on You, will lead you. He is your Good Shepherd. He is also the Bread of Life. Eat of His Word, and partake of His body and blood, for He satisfies your hunger, for He is the righteousness by which you have peace and communion with Me. He will lead you beside still waters, upholding you in the grace of your baptism, and refreshing you in my grace.”

And so we go led by our Lord, feasting on Him, and living in our baptism, until we enter the glorious presence of God in heaven. And so we go, with believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.


It hasn’t been long that we’ve been away from church, but I’m really looking forward to when we can leave the walls of our house, and we will come from the north, the west, the south, and east, and join together within the walls of our Father’s house, to gather in His most gracious presence, and partake of the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament, receiving from Him, His forgiveness, righteousness, and refreshment! It will be a joyful day!

And this is a foretaste of heaven, isn’t it? Gathering together with one another in God’s most gracious and glorious presence. And so we sing and rejoice, for the Lord has comforted us and has mercy on us! He has united us to Himself, and we shall be with Him 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 11:14-28 (Lent 3 – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh, that He might overcome the devil, and defend us poor sinners against the adversary: We give thanks to You for Your merciful help, and we beseech You to attend us with Your grace in all temptations, to preserve us from carnal security, and by Your Holy Spirit to keep us in Your Word in Your fear, that we may be delivered from the enemy, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen

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

14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.

 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

 16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.

 17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.

 18 “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.

 19 “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

 20 “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.

 22 “But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

 23 “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

 24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says,`I will return to my house from which I came.’

 25 “And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.

 26 “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

 27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The demon possessed the man. He had control. He tormented him, and there was nothing the man could do about it. But then along comes Jesus, and Jesus exerts His power over the demon and sends him away. The text doesn’t make this to be some difficult task for Jesus. He simply casts the demon out. Jesus later says that He casts out demons by the finger of God. He barely has to lift a finger.

But it’s no wonder. God is the almighty Creator. He created the devil and the demons, though they are corruptions of the perfect creatures that God had originally made them.

But why doesn’t God, by His great power, just get rid of them. Their intentions are pure evil toward us. Jesus calls the devil “a murderer”, and the “father of lies.” He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. The devil and his demons desire to bring chaos and destruction. Certainly the devil is seeking to cause the greatest amount of death, destruction and evil through COVID-19. Most of all the devil seeks our eternal destruction separating us from God’s Word and destroying faith.

So with all this evil that the devil and his demons cause, why won’t God just shoo them away, or judge them? He could. There were the demons possessing the two men in the country of the Gergesenes. One of the demons cried out, “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt 8:28). They knew that He is the future Judge. Even then they feared the last judgment and condemnation. They dreaded their fate of being locked forever in the torment of hell. They knew the day would come, but they were hoping for that day to be averted, or to delay it. And Jesus did not give the demons the torment beforehand, but allowed them to continue to roam the earth, with their first stop being the herd of swine upon which they wreaked havoc.

Now, if God did cast away far from the earth the devil and his demons, there still would be no shortage of evil in the world. We and this fallen world are able to create enough evil as it is with all our sins that we commit towards God and against our neighbor.

But, despite that, why doesn’t God, by His divine power annihilate the devil and bring His evil to an end?

God does set out to defeat the devil. Casting out demons is an attack against Satan’s kingdom, but it is not their defeat. Though we can say that the exorcism is a sign of what was yet to come. The defeat was promised in the Garden of Eden. The woman’s Offspring would crush the serpent’s head. And the woman’s offspring defeated the devil by His death, as the book of Hebrews says, “through death He destroys Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).

The devil and his demons are defeated. Yet they continue to roam the earth. They remain active, though, as ones whose condemnation is sealed.

Why? God is not waiting for them to repent, for they are condemned to hell. But God seems to keep them around to accomplish is will, which ultimately makes a fool out of the evil one. God turns their evil into good. They unwittingly become servants of God.

Take for example, Joseph. Surely the devil was involved in the evil plot of his brothers. Yet, though they meant evil against Joseph, God meant it for good, namely the preservation of the line of the Messiah.

And then there’s the Israelites. God used the evil of other nations who through their idolatry served the devil. Through them, God chastised his people, and brought them back to Himself through repentance.

And then there’s Job. The devil believed that Job believed in God only because of the abundance of blessings that he had. So the devil afflicted Job greatly, but this only showed the strong faith that God had given Job. God, through Satan, humbled him, that He may exalt Him.

Then there’s Paul, who had a thorn in the flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” he called it. Though Paul prayed to God that it be removed from him, God would not, because God used this evil of the devil to keep Paul humble, so that he would not boast in the great revelation that he had been given, but that he remain humble and continue to rely in the grace and strength of God.

Sometimes, God uses the evil of the devil for judgment upon a person or a people. Those who persist in their obedience to the devil, God gives them over to their uncleanness, to the lusts of their sinful hearts. This will be their own punishment, and will add to the severity of their judgment.

Ultimately, we see God’s turning of the devil’s evil works into good, in fact our greatest good, at the cross. The murderer sought to destroy Jesus in death. But Jesus willingly entered into death’s grip, for this was how He would destroy the devil and deliver us from the evil of the devil.

The devil has been defeated in us believers. Luther’s baptismal rite includes an exorcism, a casting out of the devil, which is fitting. For the unbeliever is held under the power of Satan. Satan rules in his heart. But when God brings us to faith in the gospel, He casts out the devil for Christ to reign in us. By the forgiveness won on the cross, which is yours through faith, the devil is stripped of all his power. With what can he now accuse you? If God justifies you, or declares you righteous through faith in Christ, how can the devil condemn you? And though you die, yet shall you live. The only kind of death you have now is a blessed death, a death through which you enter into eternal glory, and your body sleeps until the Day of Resurrection.

And certainly the devil still is roaming and active, and though he intends evil, God turns it into good. We have this promise in Paul’s letter to the Romans, which goes, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Through the trials and threats that the devil instigates among us like this virus spreading about, God draws us closer to Him, offering us forgiveness, comfort, and assurance of His gracious providence. He causes us to hear His Word, to keep His gracious promises dear in our hearts, that we may be blessed now with His peace, and also blessed eternally.

Furthermore through days like this, even in days where the devil attacks more aggressively with greater threats, and greater danger to our lives, with Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, we endure these days with hope and peace and love for our neighbor. These make for good occasions to share the hope that is in us. And in this way that which the devil intends for evil is made into something through which God is glorified in the world.

Everything that the devil tries against Christ and His Church is foiled! This must drive Satan mad! He is made into a spectacle. What fool! Through the works of the devil, God chastises us, draws us closer to Himself, comforts us with His gospel, and makes His name exalted on the earth.

Yes, Satan is our dangerous foe in the world, but Christ is on your side. He has claimed you in baptism. Scripture says, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom 16:20). We know that Satan is defeated. Christ now rules in us. And you who have suffered the evil of the devil in life, will be vindicated on the Last Day. Then on that day, the devil and his demons will be locked away for good in eternal shame, and you shall be with your gracious Lord in perfect peace and joy. 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 17.1-9 (Transfiguration – 2020)

O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father: We thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of Your Gospel shine upon us: We pray that You would guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by Your grace, and conduct our lives in all godliness; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen

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

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;

 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.

 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”

 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

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

Hear Him

Dear fellow redeemed,

It was quite a sight that Peter, James, and John had on the mountain. Jesus’ appearance changed before them, and He displayed His divine glory and brilliance. There are the two natures in Christ. It is not the character of human flesh to shine like the sun, and to emit light. We can enter into a pitch black room, and our bodies will produce no light. It will be pitch black. But the body of Christ, which is a real human body, shines like the sun, because He is also true God. The fullness of the divinity dwells in Christ. The early church fathers used to give this picture, and our Lutheran Confessions make use of it, it is like fire and iron. Iron does not have characteristics to glow. It produces no light. But it is the character of fire to glow. So that when fire is joined to the iron, it causes the iron to glow and emit light. So also, because of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, the divine attributes of His divinity, such as majesty, is communicated to His human nature, such as His body. Christ did this whensoever He willed during His humiliation, such as we see in our gospel reading. And since His ascension, His divine majesty always and fully is being revealed through His flesh.

And Peter, James, and John were in awe of Christ and His glory. They loved this sight!

It is interesting to note that they weren’t afraid of Jesus. Three years earlier, much less caused Peter to flee Jesus’ presence. Jesus gave them the great catch of fish, and Peter seeing the divine power of Jesus fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But now they see not just the works of His divinity, but also His divine radiance, and they are not afraid. They have come to know not only of His glory, but also His grace and meekness. For John also testified of Him, being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And they know that He has come in mercy for the benefit of sinners.

But they see their friend, their teacher in such glory, and speaking also with Moses and Elijah, who represent the entirety of the Old Testament. They want this to last. They want to remain in the presence of His glory.

So Peter, still showing respect to His Lord, requests the will of His master “if you wish.” But it is Peter’s desire that he build three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Peter much preferred this sight over the words that Jesus spoke six days earlier, that He would “go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Mt 16:21). Peter wished to remain in the glory, but tried to prevent Jesus suffering. Of course Peter didn’t learn his lesson. Peter wanted the mountaintop glory, but not Jesus’ suffering on the top of Mt. Calvary. And when Jesus was being judged under Pilate, Peter denied Jesus. And when Jesus was on the cross, Jesus and the disciples abandoned Him.

But on that mountain, the Father intervenes and turns Peter’s attention to where it should be directed: to His Word. He says, “Hear Him.” “Mark this vision you see now, remember who this is before you, this is My beloved Son, begotten from eternity. Hear His Word. He speaks of suffering, humility and death. Do not object to Him. Do not dismiss Him. Hear Him, and trust upon His Word.”

Like Peter, we want to dwell in glory. We want to see it and experience it. This desire ordered in the right way is a good desire. We want to be in heaven with Jesus. That is good. We should wish to dwell in the presence of His glory. This is was the good intention of God in creating us. But the desire for glory in sinful human hearts is easily turned bad.

There is the desire to have a connection to God’s glory, through means other than His Word and Sacraments. There’s that desire to have that mountaintop experience. Some actually go to the mountaintops, or else look for experiences in creation and seek in the beauty of creation, a connection with God. God’s creation declares the glory of God, but it gives no indication of how we stand before Him. In fact, when we think about it, being held accountable to this glorious Creator is very frightening.

Another place where the desire for experiencing God’s glory goes wrong is seen in some styles of worship. God’s Word is to be preeminent. “Hear Him” is God’s command. Music is to serve the words. But for many the music is played for the purpose of eliciting emotions, getting a person to feel God, and feel His love apart from the words. It is often the case that there is a lack of substance in the lyrics, which goes to show that they don’t matter much.

But how else does this desire go wrong? What do we wish to see in our every day lives. A happy life! We have a plan for our lives, that everything would go swimmingly. We seek to build our little kingdom here on earth. And of course, we don’t want things to go bad. We pray to God for blessings, and our daily bread. Jesus tells us to pray for this. And certainly, we are blessed with so many things by God in our lives here on earth. And we give thanks to Him for it. But it goes bad when this becomes the glory in which our hope, confidence, happiness, and comfort is grounded. For these things come and go like a mist.

Life is good, everything with God is good. Life is bad, God’s glory has departed from me. Well, this isn’t how we are to see it.

We operate our lives so much on what we see and experience, and what we want to see and experience. But when it comes to God, and our status before Him, His will for us, we ought to close our eyes and hear Him.

God’s glory on this earth wasn’t only found on that mountaintop. It was also found on another mountaintop, on Calvary. God’s glory was revealed in the crucified Christ. We can’t see it with our eyes, but God calls us to hear Him who was crucified, and there in Holy Scripture we learn, this is God’s atonement for our sins. He is defeating the devil. He is winning salvation for the world!

We need to close our eyes, and open our ears and hear Him, because we don’t see glory in our own lives, for Scripture says, “In this world you will have trouble,” and “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.

But we have the confidence

God is with us. That through faith, we are His children. His glory will not destroy us, for we are forgiven.

This word is sure. This is what Peter speaks of in our epistle reading. This is not the word of man. This is the word of God, and they have seen with their own eyes His glory. What they have heard, what they have seen, they reported. And this Word, which is God’s Word is sure! Peter was sure of it, and was willing to die for it. And we too, must be willing to bear our cross, and suffer, but we know that we have the glory of being God’s children, righteous, and forgiven, and that when our time here comes to an end, we will enter into glory, where we will live in the light and brilliance of God’s glory.

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 2.1-11 (Epiphany 2 – 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

John the Baptist said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (John 3:29). John is using marriage as a picture of something here. Marriage is something to rejoice in. When the friend of the bridegroom hears the bridegroom’s voice, he rejoices, because the bridegroom is coming to take the bride to himself. John is using this picture of marriage to express his joy in Christ’s appearance and ministry. For he is the friend. The Bride, the Church, does not belong to Him. But she belongs to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and John, as the friend, rejoices that Jesus has come to redeem His bride, and bring sinners to Himself.

We focus on these two points today, rejoicing in earthly marriage, and rejoicing in the heavenly marriage.

Jesus, His mother Mary, and some of His disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana. These wedding celebrations were days long feasts. As part of the festivities and celebration, there was included much food and drink for merry making. These were not provided for gluttony and drunkenness, and certainly Jesus would not produce wine for the purpose of drunkenness, else He would be the cause of sin. But the food and drink are enjoyed in good conscience as part of the cheerfulness of the event.

Weddings are to be celebrated. Jesus’ presence at the wedding and the performance of His first miracle at the wedding give witness to the good thing that marriage is. He honors it and it is something for us to honor and celebrate. For God has established marriage at creation, for the good of those who enter into marriage, for the good of children, the fruit of marriage, and for the good of society, and also for a picture of the mystery of the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church. We ourselves know the great thing marriage is, and it is something that we honor. We might not be very pleased with some match ups. But the fact that it matters goes to show how important a thing it is, and how highly we regard marriage. We celebrate it as a good gift that God has given us.

But marriage is not celebrated in the world. For a long time, even unbelievers valued marriage, because the culture had been influenced by the values of Christianity. But now, as those values disappear, the culture has been despising marriage more and more. And we’ve been seeing this happening now for 50 years.

Boyfriend and girlfriend move in together, and they defile the marriage bed. Each day they make mockery of marriage and incur God’s wrath upon themselves. And it is no wonder that statistics show that those who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce, because they have already started with a low view of marriage. And marriage is already viewed as something that is easily disposable. Along with these, the sexual immorality, the unashamed use of pornography, the efforts to redefine marriage are the opposite of the celebration of God’s good institution of marriage, but such things are a celebration in the devil’s perverse and destructive works.

May God save us from the world’s influence. But we confess what Scripture says in Genesis 2, and what Jesus repeats, “He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt 19:4-6). We recognize the value of marriage, and rejoice in it the great gift that it is.

But the rejoicing that is there on the wedding day isn’t always so easy to come by in later years. Excitement subsides. The days become plain and ordinary. Difficulties with money, work, health, and other things put stress on the relationships. The selfishness that is inherent in the sinful flesh of husband and wife give offense against one another.

Yet, in Christ, there is still reason to celebrate the marriage relationship. As Christ’s presence and work blessed the wedding day of the couple in Cana, His presence and work blesses your marriage each day.

The blessing, and rejoicing that there is in marriage is based on this, that Christ is the faithful Bridegroom to His Bride.

And this is the true marriage, the ultimate marriage in which we all rejoice in. John rejoiced in Jesus coming. And so do we! Jesus preaches the gospel. His disciples baptized. John’s disciples were jealous, but John was rejoicing that Jesus was on the scene drawing people to Himself. Through the miracle of Cana, Jesus shows that He is divine, true God. And He comes for His Bride the Church.

Love. A decisive act of love. He didn’t wait till she deserved it. But it came from His own heart of love. And thus God became man, so that He may give His life for her. Purchased her with His own blood, and died, that she may be His own. If He remained dead, the Bride remains alone. But He is risen to take her to Himself, that she may rejoice eternally in His presence and love.

You and I as children are members of the Bride, purchased and won from all sin, death and the power of the devil. Your sins are forgiven.

In everything, whether we are married or not. We have forgiveness. We belong to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

And it is in this reality of the marriage of Christ and the Church, that we are able to rejoice continually in the gift of marriage, both in the institution, and in the specific marriage relationships we are part of. Remember the blessings of marriage. It is not based on emotions. But a gift God has given you. God’s gifts to one another. Joining together. The love that comes from the heart of Christ, gives us hearts to love one another. A decisive love, an love that acts, not waiting for that love to be earned, but to love freely. In this love, you give the gift of repentance.

Gift of repentance.

Gift of forgiveness.

We rejoice in institution of marriage.

Marriage is a gift, a blessing we rejoice in. Children rejoice in it. I love it how children act all embarrassed at the sight of parents affection for one another, but they love it. They feel safety in that.

For some, marriage has failed, and there is no return.

For some, marriage was a gift now taken away by the Lord through the death of a spouse. And its hard, but count the blessing, and give thanks to God for the blessing.

With Christ in the relationship we have reason to rejoice, even when things are difficult. In Christ we always have reason to rejoice. “Rejoice always, in everything…”

“Wine on the lees.” Bound to Him, the faithful Bridegroom.

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.