Sermon – John 1:19-28 (Advent 4 – 2020)

Lord God, heavenly Father, it is good and right that we should give thanks to You, that You have given us a glorious baptism like that of John the Baptist, and that therein You have promised us the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Your Son, Jesus Christ: We beseech You, by Your grace and mercy preserve us in such faith, that we never doubt Your promise, but be comforted by our baptism in all temptations; and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed on us in baptism, until, by Your grace, we obtain our 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.

  19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”  22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”  23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

  24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,  27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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

Know Thyself

Dear fellow redeemed,

Do you know who you are? What do you say about yourself? This is an important question for Advent, even in these last hours of Advent before we begin the celebration of Christ’s birth at sundown. Who are you? Really there are two classes of people in the world. There is the One who is the Christ, and then there is everyone else.

Last week we heard about John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus Himself to ask him whether He was the One they were waiting for, or if they should look for another. This week, we see that the Jews were wondering if John was the Christ, or the Messiah they had been waiting for, or at least they were wondering if John would say that he was.

John wasn’t commissioned by the Jewish religious leaders to baptize. So they were wondering by what authority he was baptizing. Is he some special person that has authority in himself to baptize? Was he the Christ? Was he the promised one, the one they were waiting for, and by such an office would have the authority to baptize? And so they had to find out.

And the first words out of John’s mouth was, “I am not the Christ.” It might not sound like a tempting thing to do, but it is a common temptation for us all, to take for ourselves the title “Christ.” I’ll explain how in a moment, but for now, let’s’ consider John’s situation.

John was a special man. Jesus said, “Among those born of woman there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11). John was prophesied in the Old Testament. He had the special privilege of being the forerunner of Christ. He lived a very strict lifestyle in the manner of the Nazarites. And such a life could easily lead to pride, thinking, “’see how I’m living and the sacrifices I’m making.” I’m pretty great. Jesus warned that many false Christs will arise. Will John be one of them?

But John does not assume the title Christ. Wouldn’t it at least be fun to just let them think for a little while that he is the Christ? Rather, with an immediate response, John puts to rest any idea that he is the Christ.

“Know thyself.” This statement originates from ancient Greeks in Delphi, who had a list of 147 aphorisms or proverbs, that they said was handed down to them from Apollo, who one of the gods of their mythology. “Know thyself” was one of those aphorisms. It was carved in the temple of Apollo in Delphi, and has become the most popular of the aphorisms. It has been used in numerous ways. One of the ways that it was used was knowing one’s place before the gods.

John knew himself. He was not the Christ. He was merely the forerunner of Christ. He baptized with water. He was merely the instrument, the hand that applied the water. But it was Christ who powerfully gave the Spirit and the forgiveness of sins through the water. John was a lowly servant of Christ. He didn’t consider himself worthy even to do the lowliest of a servant’s task such as untying the strap of his sandal.

John simply was the herald preparing the way for Christ. And in a way, you can say his message was, “Know thyself.”

Know who you are. There is the Christ, and you are not he. He is the Savior. You are the sinner.

Let us not make any false claims about ourselves deliberately or unintentionally. One of the things we are prone to do is to compare ourselves to others. When we hear the commandments, we first think about how so and so needs to hear this and clean up their act, rather than letting the commandments convict ourselves of sin. And so we begin to think a bit too highly of ourselves. We are tempted to think that there is a righteousness that we have produced that makes us acceptable to God. And so if we think that we have earned a favored status before God because of what we have done or how we have lived, then we have displaced Jesus from the status of Christ, and have made ourselves saviors. That is a severe misjudgment of who we are. A damning error to be sure.

The Christ is called the Prince of Peace in God’s Word. He makes peace between God and man. We cannot produce that peace. We have destroyed that peace with our sin and disobedience. By our sin, we have rebelled against God and set ourselves up as His enemy.

We may fall into this same trap when we know our sin, but continue in it and refuse to repent of it. Such impenitence is a rejection of Christ, because you do not let Him be your Christ who comes to take away your sin. So the impenitent must rely upon another way to be saved. They must find another Christ, a false Christ, and usually it is again one’s self.

Or when we neglect the reading and hearing of the Word of Christ, we essentially think that we can stand in faith without being connected to Christ, as though a branch could live while being separated from the vine, who is Christ. We trust then in our word, in our thinking, in our reasoning. We make ourselves to be Christ, and that it is our word that is the power of God unto salvation rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who do we think we are?

But know thyself. We are not Christ. We are sinners. Know it. Own up to it. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot earn peace with God, rather we are the destroyers of peace, because of our sin against God. Instead each and every day by our sins in thought, word and deed, we earn God’s wrath. We cannot live apart from Christ and His Word.

Know thyself. Know that you are a damned sinner that needs Christ as your Savior. John proclaimed Christ as the Savior of the world. We confess Jesus as the Christ, our Savior. And knowing and repenting of your sins, then the path is made straight for Christ to be your Christ and your Savior.

It was for you, a sinner, that He came into the world. It was for you, a sinner, that He lived a perfect life under the Law. It was for you, a sinner, that He suffered and died on the cross. It was for you, a sinner, that He instituted and sends out his ministry of word and sacrament. He came to be the Savior of sinners. And if you are able to say, “I am a sinner”, then you can say, “Jesus came for me, to be my Savior.”

So know thyself. Know who you are—and here are the key words—in Christ. Know who you are in Christ, know who you are as one who believes in Christ as your Savior. Paul uses this language often in his letters, “in Christ.” In Galatians, he writes, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:26,27,29). You are baptized into Christ. You are clothed in His righteousness. You are called children of God. You are heirs of the heavenly riches Christ has won for you! Paul calls the people of Philippi, who are in Christ, saints!  In Romans, he says, “For there is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Right now, you are not under God’s wrath and judgment. But in Christ, you are delivered from it! Do not be afraid! This is God’s judgment not just when He returns on the last day for believers, but it is God’s Word to you every time you hear the words, “your sins are forgiven!” Your sins are gone! You are clothed in Christ? What is there to condemn you for?!

“Simil iustus et peccatur.” These Latin words sum up well, who we are. Simil iustus et peccatur. At the same time saint and sinner. “Know thyself.” I am a sinner, and even better, we admit the kind of sinner we are and the sins we think, say and do. Think about that for a moment. And repent of them that the way be straight for Christ to enter. And now know that in Christ, you are saint. For He has come for the exact kind of sinner you are. He shed His blood to wash away your every stain. In your baptism, He clothed you in His righteousness, the glorious robe of righteousness that you wear by faith. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. And blessed are you, because of Him. Amen.

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


Sermon – Matthew 11.2-10 (Advent 3 – 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Mind the Humble Appearance

Dear fellow redeemed,

It is in our nature that we keep ourselves exalted in the eyes of the world. Our sins and shame we hide from the world. We want others to speak well of us and esteem us. On social media, we put our best face forward, flattering pictures, and well spoken statements. We quick clean up our homes before guests come so no one might think that we’re slobs.

But Christ does the opposite. He is great and mighty, being true God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, but He did not “count equality with God a thing to be grasped” as Paul wrote to the Philippians. “He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2)

He appeared in lowliness. Isaiah foretold the manner of His appearance when He comes, “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Is 53). He comes with no pomp and circumstance, but presents Himself as a lowly servant. The Jewish leaders reject Him.

Is this really the One promised, the One they had been looking for? Is this really the Savior of the world?

And then there’s Christ’s Church. John is hated and imprisoned. The disciples Jesus chose are not men highly regarded in the world. Their names did not command the respect and admiration of leaders. Most of those who follow Jesus are the poor and lowly, some of whom are renowned sinners.

So seeing this lowly Jesus, and his lowly Church, is He really the Coming One?

What’s remarkable is that Jesus appeared in such a lowly manner, even as He was performing so many miracles publicly, making whole crowds of people well, casting out demons, and raising people from the dead. Jews count 150 miracles recorded in the Old Testament. Jesus performed more miracles than all the prophets put together! The Apostle John wrote, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25). And those who believed in Jesus said, “When Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” (Jn 7:31).

Yet, He was rejected, people doubted, and many were offended on account of His servant form.

Yet, the miracles testify to His divinity. Jesus said, “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (Jn 7:25). Not only do they testify of the divine power of Jesus, but in those works, Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Coming One. Jesus quotes words from Isaiah, “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.

Do not be offended by His humble form.

And do not be dissuaded by His humble Church. Many expect the Church to be mighty in the world. The Church belongs to the Lord of earth and heaven, and so they expect the Church to have dominion over all powers spiritual and earthly. They expect it to exert its influence and power in the world, and for it to be esteemed by many. Now, if Christian Church is to be viewed as great in the world, it would be for its humility and love and service. But the Christian Church remains lowly in the world.

It is true that Christianity has had a tremendous influence on western culture, helping shape the values that have been treasured and enjoyed for so long. Though that appreciation is waning in recent decades. And there have been times that Christianity held power in certain times and places, though even in those cases it often has been confused with temporal authority, and the Church has been abused by those using it for their own gain. And there is always the division within that afflicts the church, and hatred towards her from those outside the Church. And of course, the Christian Church in other parts of the world are despised, and persecuted, and have very little in respect to their earthly situation.

But even for us in America, we’re now entering into a time many call the post-Constantinian era. Prior to Emperor Constantine, Christians were victims of local and empire-wide persecution. In 313, Constantine gave the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire. From this time, Christianity held a prominent and favored status in the western world. But it seems like this era is on its way out in our country. We’re experiencing hostility not only from individuals, but from governing authorities and powerful people.

And so who knows how long it will be until we’ll see the inside of the jail cell for our faith, like John, or visiting brothers and sisters in prison, like John’s disciples did.

We also have difficulties, sorrows, pains, sicknesses, and death like everyone else in the world. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to being members of the Christian Church, at least as the world measures it.  

Yet, do not be offended by the humility of the Church.

Many are offended by Christ and His Church’s humility. In their pride and self-interest, they will look for a Christ who doesn’t take our sins, because well, that would be an admission that we are sinners in need of saving. They will look for a Christ who doesn’t subject Himself as a servant to die on a cross. They will look for a Christ that is in their own image, and who has a church that does not submit in humility to Christ, the Lord, but who is shaped by his own desires.

Do not be offended by the humility of Christ or His Church, because He is the Savior and Lord we need!

We have no reason to be prideful, and to exalt ourselves, because we are sinners, unworthy of His love, unworthy to be the sheep of His flock, members of His Church. Shall we think of ourselves above God? Shall we tell Him how He ought to act, and what His Church should be like in the world. Do we look to Him to build our own egos and for the approval of our self-righteousness?

No, who are we but sinners? Let’s give up the illusions of spiritual greatness and self-righteousness. The law convicts us of pride. We are guilty. We humble ourselves before our Christ, who became a lowly servant for us. Luther said of the great works that Jesus performed, the greatest was that the poor have the good news preached to them. O how good then it is to see our poverty. And let us be content and joyful in being little before Him. For to you the good news applies!

Christ is indeed the Coming One, and He came for you in humility, for as a humble servant He came to give His life as a ransom for you, saving you from your sins, from death, and the devil.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit, you have come to know these things through the faith He created in your hearts, that you are not offended by Christ, His servant form, and His crucifixion. Instead, you have comfort in these things, that God willingly humbled Himself that you may be His.

And receiving Christ through faith, you are forgiven, justified, righteous, and reconciled, and thus great in the kingdom of heaven. What glory is yours, though hidden now. What glory is given to His immortal Church, which the body of the ascended Christ, though this glory is hidden now!

And so this Advent season, we are happy to consider ourselves sinners, small and lowly, and look for this humble Christ, and receive Him as He comes to us through His gospel. And we’ll still clean our houses lest anyone think we’re slobs, but we will live humbly in this faith and live as servants in the world, until our Lord of glory comes, and then the glory of who we are in Christ, and by His grace, will then be seen. Amen.

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


Sermon – Luke 21.25-36 (Advent 2 – 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

I’m going to ask you some questions with obvious answers. But there’s a point to them. When God brought judgment upon the wicked world in the great flood, would it have been better to be on the earth going about the things of the world, or to be on the ark, feeding the animals and watching for what God was going to do?

When God brought destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their sodomy, where was it better to be? In the cities, or outside the radius of destruction in the little town of Zoar, where Lot and his daughters found refuge?

When God visited Jerusalem in the year 70 in judgment, where the Romans took siege over the city and destroyed it, would it have been better to be there in the city in the midst of the atrocities suffered there, or would it have been better to have done what Jesus said, and run out to the mountains for safety?

When the last day arrives where would you wish to be found? Now, I don’t mean would you rather be at home with your family or out at the grocery store. There are really two places that you can be found when Christ comes again if that day comes in our lifetimes. One place is to be in the state of sin and unbelief with this evil generation, which will perish with this fallen creation. The other is to be in the kingdom of Christ in which there is redemption and justification. So that’s another question with an obvious answer. But to answer and to remain in that kingdom are two different things.

Let’s examine this a bit more.

Consider the two kingdoms. The kingdom of the world, and the kingdom of Christ. First is the kingdom of Christ. (Now the kingdom of God I’m talking about here is the kingdom of grace, the kingdom which He rules by His gospel here on earth. The kingdom of God that our gospel reading talks about is Christ’s kingdom of glory, which is his heavenly kingdom which He rules in glory. That kingdom will be seen before all in glory on His return on the last day. But I’m going to speak about His kingdom of grace in which we believers live right now.) “It is not of this world,” as Jesus said to Pilate. What does that mean? It means it does not belong to the fallen creation, but it is separate from it. It is a new kingdom that is not subject to the fall and its curse. Surely, those in this kingdom must endure the hatred of the world, and the other tribulations of the world, such as the frightful signs of the end, but they already have the victory in Christ, and will finally be delivered from these thing. Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and forgiveness, in which its inhabitants dwell with God in peace. And as it is founded upon the Word of the Lord which endures forever, this kingdom is unlike the deteriorating world. The kingdom also endures eternally.

But the kingdom of the world, though created by the power of God’s Word, it now exists in ruins, destroyed by the lies of the devil. And now sin and death reign, and this fallen creation is perishing. This is quite clear by the signs we see. You consider the might and constancy of the stars in the heavens, but astronomers observe stars that have died or are dying. Or upon the earth, it is the mountains that are a sign of strength and sturdiness, yet, you have the example of Mt. St. Helen’s, where the top was blown right off. When we lived in Portage, there was a nice beach on the south end of Lake Michigan. But shortly before we left, the beach was overcome by the waters and it was gone. The concrete structures that served as observation platforms were brought to nothing. Houses along the lakeshore put up break walls, to protect their homes, that they would not be overtaken by the Lake. The things of the world are temporary and the world and all creation itself, because of sin, and the death that entered the world is deteriorating, and will finally be destroyed and come to an end when Christ comes again. The worldwide flood showed God’s judgment on the world, and the destruction that can come to it. God gave the rainbow as a promise that He will not destroy the world with water. But when He comes again, He will destroy it by fire.

This world, let alone our own lives in this world will not last forever. Everyone knows that they will die, but few “number their days that they may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). What is this wisdom? That we may know our Lord who we will face in judgment.

We will face judgment, for Scriptures says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). And we know that Christ will come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.

Again, we know this, but how easy it is to forget it. How easy it is to lose sight of it. How easy it is to lose this wisdom and become fools. And again it is the devil’s lies that work against us.

He says, worldly goals and success are more important than remaining in the Word of God which is the power unto God for salvation. He says your life on this earth is more important than life in the kingdom of Christ. Much like the saying of abortion supporters, “my body, my choice,” the devil also says, “it’s your life, you live it like you want.” You have only one life, live it to its fullest, rather than find your fullness of life in Christ, and love your neighbor. The foe says life in this world is all you have, love the world, immerse yourself in it. Put all your cards into this life. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also” (Mt 6:21). How many hearts bind themselves to  this world that is perishing. Of course, the devil would be content to let you think that you can have a foot in each kingdom, which is impossible, since Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Mt 12:30).

And so, see the signs. See the sin, the death, the decay, the signs in the heavens and in the sea. The fig leaf is not only budding, but even blossoming. The day of Christ’s return is near. Oh how many will learn this? Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8). But you, number your days, that you may gain a heart of wisdom.

And thus repent, and flee from this world and the destruction God is bringing upon it in judgment, and run to Christ for your safety. He is your Ark, your Zoar, His kingdom is the house established on the top of the mountains. Flee to Christ into whom you have been baptized. Through your parents, you have been born flesh into the perishing world. But through baptism, you have been born into the new kingdom of Christ through water and the Spirit.

By His suffering and death, He has redeemed you from the perishing world. You are forgiven of all your dead ways, and now have fullness of life in His kingdom. There resting upon His everlasting gospel, you dwell with Christ in His kingdom which even the hellish armies of the devil cannot do so little as flick it with a little finger.

So your treasure then is in that kingdom, the kingdom that lasts forever, the kingdom in which is forgiveness and life, the kingdom in which your dear Savior reigns.

And so dwell in Christ’s kingdom, receiving by faith, His Word and Sacraments. And as children of His gracious reign, live in this world, not as though this world is our all in all, but that we live in this world as subjects of our King of Grace and citizens of another world. In the new life that is given us by the Holy Spirit, we reflect the love and service of our King towards our neighbor, thinking, speaking, and acting in love toward one another, especially to those who are fellow redeemed, and fellow citizens of Christ’s kingdom.

Finally, when that day comes, the day His kingdom of glory comes, when the King of glory appears before the world in His majesty to judge the living and the dead, you, who live in His kingdom of grace through faith, He shall find faith in you, and you may lift up your heads and rejoice, for your redemption draws near. And He will receive you unto Himself and bring you into glory. Thanks be to God! Come Lord Jesus, quickly come! Amen.

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


Sermon – Matthew 21.1-11 (Advent 1 – 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

As we begin a new Church Year today, we say farewell to the previous one. This past Church year was unlike any we have experienced in our lives. We think back at the Church Year that has passed and ponder all that has taken place. We have had many joys. But we have also had our share of difficulties. COVID has added to the trials, and even compounded the already difficult things we encounter.

But yet, we can say that throughout this past Church Year, our Lord has not let us down. He has provided us with the good news of His Son in Word and Sacrament, by which He nourishes our faith, forgives our sins, gives us victory over all our enemies, and grants us eternal life.

God is faithful. It is like the early Church Father, Polycarp, who was arrested and threated with martyrdom at a ripe old age, when it was suggested to him to curse God that he may not be killed, responded by saying, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury, how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”

Our King and Savior has faithfully come to us and given us His heavenly gifts. Not once has He dropped you from His care, or forgotten His promises He has given to you.

The good news is that He again comes to you this year. C.F.W. Walther, the theologian called the “American Luther” said, “The chief reason why [the Palm Sunday] account was chosen as the text to begin the new church year is without doubt this, that at the beginning of the year every Christian may be comforted by the knowledge that Jesus will come again.”

Year in and year out, Christ has been coming to His Church, but will He come again this year? Isn’t He tired of coming? Isn’t He tired of being merciful and giving us His gifts to us who simply continue to sin?

He is after all, the holy Son of God? And we are sinners. We have not loved the Lord, our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves. Shouldn’t God, whom we have offended daily, now come to us without mercy but divine justice, bring us what sinners deserve?

He is after all, omniscient. He knew where the donkey and colt would be found which He would use to ride into Jerusalem to fulfill prophecy. He knew what words the disciples needed to say to the owners in order for the owners to allow them to take their donkeys.

He who knew the thoughts of those inhabitants of Bethphage afar off, knows also your thoughts. He knows your sinfulness and the multitude of your sins. He knows better than your own conscience the guilt that is yours. You have not feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things. You have rather feared, loved, and trusted created things more than God. You have trusted in yourselves. Your devotion to God, your hearing and your obedience to His Word has lacked. You have followed your sinful desires, and called that domineering sinful flesh in you, “lord.” Furthermore, you have not loved your neighbor as yourself. You have held bitterness in your hearts against others. You have spoken demeaning things to others, things that tear down and hurt, rather than build up and encourage and heal. You have acted selfishly, thinking of your own interests first and foremost, even though you get frustrated when others do the very same thing.

Oh, what blindness we have that the sins that come to mind is only the tip of the iceberg, yet it is probably for our benefit that we cannot see them all, because how could we endure if we could see the depth of our sinfulness. But the omniscient Son of God knows them all.

Surely, He cannot come again this Church Year in mercy. But yes, He does come again in mercy. See how He comes into Jerusalem, not as a Holy Judge in wrath, but as a meek King, the King of Grace and Mercy.

Even then 2000 years ago, He knew us, He knew the fallen nature of our hearts and the sins that would flow forth from them. But He doesn’t go riding into Jerusalem tallying the sins and measuring the wrath that would be right to unleash on you. Rather He goes riding into Jerusalem, to pay the price for those sins on the cross, to win your forgiveness, to blot out your sins, and to toss every last one of them into the depths of the sea.

Since He is omniscient, this same meek and merciful and gracious King also knows all the troubles that confront you. He knows the needs of your bodies and souls, He knows the cries of your heart, and knows all the dangers that confront them. He knows the scheming of your enemies who wish to destroy your souls, and He guards and keeps you, He gives His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways (Ps 91). And knowing all, He knows how to guard and protect you, to sustain you, and to turn all things for your good.

And so He comes to you. The message spoken in our text is intended for the daughters of Zion. To them are the words, “Behold, your King is coming to you.” Zion is the mountain upon which Jerusalem was built and the Temple sat at its peak. The daughter of Zion are the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Yet, Zion finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Church of Christ, and Zion’s daughters are the believers in Christ.

He is coming to you again, but by what means does He come to you, and where shall you find Him? When Christ came to Jerusalem riding on the donkey, you wouldn’t have found Him in Gaul, or in Egypt, or in Mesopotamia. He was physically entering Jerusalem. Those who dwelt any other place than Jerusalem on that day, would not have seen Him, or been able to receive Him. So also, He comes to us, yet we must find Him where He comes to us in His grace and mercy and that is in the gospel in the means of grace, that is in the Word and the Sacraments. Those who do not receive Him in the means of grace will not find Him. They will have no part in Him. For Zion, Christ’s Church, is wherever His gospel is given in Word and Sacrament.

Yet all are called to hear and believe, whether you are strong in faith, or whether your faith has grown cold, or whether your sin has gained the upper hand in your heart, or whether you simply have fallen completely away. Here is the gospel preached to you today, and you can be assured that through these Words Christ is coming to You, with meekness, as your King of Grace. Repent of your sins, and see what grace and salvation He has for you. His mercy does not wear out, but is new every morning. And so through this gospel in Word and Sacrament, He comes today and will continue to come throughout this Church Year in mercy with His saving presence, bringing with Him the forgiveness of all your sins, victory over all your enemies, and eternal life!

Receive Him with praise, and you will find, that He will not fail you. He will not forget the promises He has given you. And He will keep you as His own in His kingdom. And you will attest to this again a year from now, unless He returns first. Either way whether it is in meekness through the means of grace, or in glory on the Last Day, we will joyfully receive Him, our King of Grace, and our Savior. Amen.

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