Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter 2 – Quasimodogeniti – April 23, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Quasimodogeniti, Easter 2

April 23, 2006

Text: John 20:19-31

22Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our risen Lord,

Joseph had been stripped of his coat of many colors, a special and unique gift from his beloved father; he had been thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery. His own brothers had done this to him. But Joseph did not stay a slave. Over the course of years he rose to become one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers probably figured he was long dead. They were wrong.

They found out how wrong they were when they needed food during a severe and long-lasting famine. Joseph was in charge of the food in all the land of Egypt, and that’s where the brothers had to go to get food. Without the food they and their families would starve to death. Joseph recognizes his brothers when they come to Egypt, but they do not recognize him. Finally though, Joseph lets them know who he is. And Moses, the writer of Genesis, tells us: “they were dismayed in his presence.” Yes indeed, the brothers who had wickedly sold Joseph years before out of their jealousy and hatred of him, the brothers who despised him, the brothers who had to “settle” for just selling him into slavery when most of them wanted him dead – these are the ones who are now “dismayed” in front of Joseph.

The fate of these brothers, these sons of Israel, is in the hands of Joseph. Joseph has reason to hate them. He has reason to want them punished for their evil; for their betrayal, for their cruelty. Yet what does Joseph do? Listen to what Moses tells us: “And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:4-5). Joseph knows that God had a purpose for his slavery – the purpose was that Joseph might save lives through God putting him in the right place at the right time. Joseph does not use his power nor his advantage over his brothers to give them what they deserve. Instead, he forgives them, he accepts them back as his brothers, as his family, and rejoices to be with them again.

You can probably figure out the connection between Joseph and Jesus. On that first Easter evening Jesus meets His disciples. What are His first words to these men? These are the ones who all promised that they would never leave Him. These are the ones who said they would die before they would abandon Him. But what did they actually do? They fell asleep instead of praying. They ran away when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had actually denied even knowing Jesus three times. They did not rally around Jesus to protect, support, or help Him in any way. They left Him alone during the time of His greatest need.

So, now it is the evening of the third day. Stories of resurrection have been circulating, but the disciples have hardly dared to believe. How does Jesus greet these men? He could have refused even to meet with them. He could have met them with fire and brimstone, punishing them for their cowardice, their lack of faith. He could have scolded them.

What are His words? “Peace be with you.” I want you to remember that. I want you to have this picture of Christ in mind when you wonder if God will forgive you, if He wants to forgive you, if He’ll hold your sins against you. Jesus did not scold. He did not punish. He gave peace to them.

Now, some abuse this peace with God and interpret it to mean that now God allows every and any thing to be done, as if there is now no morality, no right and wrong, and that God will simply love no matter what. There is enough truth in that statement to make it sound right, but it also has enough error to make it deadly to souls.

Why doesn’t Jesus need to scold or punish the disciples on that Easter evening? There’s no need for more law because they know their sin. They know they failed. They know they cannot excuse their actions or lack of action for Jesus. They are not trying to say that what they did was right or something that God should allow. The disciples, like the brothers of Joseph, understand their sin. And by the grace of God alone they are forgiven.

One disciple is not there on that first Easter evening. When he hears the story of the resurrection for the other ten Thomas doubts it. He demands to see, to touch.

When Jesus shows Himself to Thomas the next week, He doesn’t need to scold Thomas much either. Jesus says: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas sees Jesus and recognizes Him. He does believe. He confesses his faith in the risen Jesus: “My Lord and My God.” Thomas knows why the nail prints are in the hands of Jesus, and why the side of Jesus has a wound. These are the marks of the crucifixion. These are the marks of the winning of salvation: forgiveness from sin, life.

The wounds of Jesus are a reminder that forgiveness came with a price – the death of the Son of God. Those who imagine that God’s love for us allows us to continue in sin or to think that God doesn’t care about sin, are not only mistaken, but they also blaspheme the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay for sin. He didn’t die so we can consider sin as of no consequence.

But as we realize our sin, as we come to understand more and more that our sins are known to God even more than Joseph knew the sins of his brothers against him, then let us remember that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus wants us to know peace with God. Jesus wants us to hear forgiveness for all sin. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, or to run away from Him, or to hide from Him. Jesus calls us to Him with words of peace, forgiveness, and love.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Blessed are you, by faith in Jesus Christ. Life is yours, by believing in the name of Jesus. You have a God who forgives, who paid for sin with His own death, who rose again in triumph, all for you. Trust the words written for you, that you may believe and live. God grant this to you all in the name of Jesus – Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter 3 – Misericordias Domini – April 30, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Misericordias Domini, Easter 3

April 30, 2006

Text: John 10:11-16

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

Have you ever noticed that the word and idea of “sheep” is not much used as a name for things like cars or military vehicles? In World War II the German army named their tanks after animals like: Tigers, Panthers, Rhinoceros, Elephant: power, size, killing ability. British airplanes were called Spitfighters and Hurricanes; the Americans had Thunderbolts, Lightning, Mustang, Flying Fortress. Some modern American planes are Hornets, or Super-hornets. Trucks and cars are given names with numbers and letters, or names like Titan, Mustang. These things are given names that we associate with power, or speed, or sophistication. About the only sheep-related name I can think of that’s used for a vehicle is “Ram.” Not many people would talk about how they drove their “Ewe” into work today, or took their “Lamb” our for a spin on the back forty.

The word “sheep” does not bring up images of power and might, nor great speed or intelligence. In fact, we use the word “sheep” to describe people who follow a leader without thinking. It is not considered a compliment for a group of people to be called “sheep.”

But this is where the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world can be seen. The world has its power games. The world thrills to the powerful. And the power of the world is mostly very blatant: bigger engines, more powerful weapons, faster vehicles, and so on. There is a time and a place for such power. It has its rightful sphere in the way this world must operate. But the church is different.

Power in the church is very different from the power of this world. The most powerful in the Christian Church, and in the history of the world, is the One who went like a lamb to the slaughter, who deliberately did not use the power of the sword, but relied on His word. This one was even called “the lamb of God.” What a contrast between the power that people are impressed with, and the power of God.

God shows His power by allowing death to come to Him and kill Him: “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” The world shows its power by its ability to deal out death. Again, such power has its place, but it is not in the church, for the church is not about such punishment, it is about how God takes our place in the deserved punishment for our sin. And that is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants us to know.

Sinners, without Jesus Christ, are the prey, the targets, and not the predators. Sinners without Jesus Christ are gobbled up by sinful flesh; they are dominated by the world for their end is death; and they are run over by Satan. Yet we sinners like to imagine that we have power, that our human strength, or the power of our machines, can overcome obstacles. So we invest so much in the power of this world. And we are left at the end with nothing. Death destroys us, just like rust and wind and water erode, dissolve, destroy the things of this world.

We are sheep. And we need help. Our help is the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

How does this Shepherd help? He calls to us. He speaks to us. He lays down His life for us and then tells us that His death is our life. He takes the poison of our sin into His own body, and gives us instead the green pastures and pure springs of water that restore us and keep us.

All of this is brought to us as we hear His voice, as we listen to the Word of God. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and I give them eternal life.” Martin Luther preached: “[Christ and His kingdom] all depends on hearing it with faith….Its whole makeup and nature is to hear….We Christians should be and remain attentive, for all depends on the hearing of the Word and believing it….We Christians know Christ through the voice of the his gospel, and Christ knows us by our hearing, that we hearken to his gospel which proclaims to us that he died for our sins” (Hauspostille, II, 84).

The voice of Jesus, His Word, the Gospel, is the power of God for salvation. This is a power which turns upside our ideas of what power should be. And this is really the nature of the Gospel – it turns everything around. How does Jesus get rid of death? By dying. How does He get rid of evil? By taking it upon Himself. How does He show power? By being weak. How does He take on the dogs, the strong bulls of Bashan, the lion? By being a lamb.

Because this is so against what we want power to be we may very well find ourselves rebelling at such a 180 degree shift in our thoughts. That is part of the struggle in the life of a Christian. But it is a necessary struggle for us – for our Savior says to us and shows us in many ways that whoever would lead, let him become like a slave; whoever is strong, let him become weak; whoever is proud, let him become humble; whoever wants to be first, let him be the last. God didn’t pick the powerful nations of Egypt or Assyria to be His chosen people; God chose a small family, a family that became slaves, and then God rescued them and He alone, by His power, makes them strong. David, small and unarmored, defeats the giant and well-armed Goliath.  Jesus, alone, bloody and tortured, takes on death. David cuts off and lifts up the head of Goliath in triumph. Jesus rises glorious on Easter Sunday, alive, victorious, undefeated.

This is the way of God. This is the way of Shepherd and sheep.

This victory is yours by hearing and believing the voice of the Shepherd. That means hearing the Word of God, reading Holy Scripture wherein we find the bread of heaven, the life-giving work of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

Wolves, the lies of Satan, the power of the world, the false teachings of those who want to lead you away from the truth of God, the voice of Jesus, all these are around us in this world. That is why we continually hear the voice of the Shepherd. We keep learning to distinguish His voice from all that falsely mimic Him or try to sing a different song to us.

God keep us safe in the hearing of our Good Shepherd, the one who knows us, who calls us by name, who makes us His own. In that way we are safe, safe from all predators that would prey on the people of God. May the Lord keep us steadfast in His Word, and may we by faith trust the blessed voice of Jesus: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” In the name of Jesus, our risen Lord, Amen.

Easter Sermons by Pastor Rank

Easter Sunday – Resurrection of Our Lord – April 16, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Resurrection of Our Lord

April 16, 2006


The joy of Easter does not depend on the weather – if it is snowing and cold or if it is stormy or if it is bright and sunny – such things do not change the meaning of Easter. The joy of Easter does not depend on us, on whether or not we have an “Easter feeling.” The joy of Easter does not depend on its recognition in the world – what do headlines on magazines or newspapers, or lead stories on daily news shows, which today are here and tomorrow are gone – what can these do to Easter? Nothing.

The joy of Easter is about a fact, and about what that fact means for people, for you. Easter is the fact that Jesus, the Jesus who was dead on Friday, is alive on Sunday morning. Easter is the fact that the Son of God was not defeated by worldly enemies, nor by Satan, nor by death itself. Easter is a time of joy because it proclaims to the world what God has done in Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Therefore we rejoice this Easter morning, not depending on anything other than the truth of God’s Word which brings to us the news, the message and power of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Away then with all worries and cares and concerns and troubles. For Jesus is alive, and that means you have life, too. Let us then all rise and join in singing to each other and praising God with the hymn:

Hymn 348 – “He Is Arisen! Glorious Word!”

Text: Mark 16:1-8

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.

Dear people gathered on this day of resurrection,

We know that every year for the past several decades, at least, various efforts are made through printed materials and through special broadcasts to raise doubts about the facts of Christianity: especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary’s Son. So this year we have the fantasy of the Gospel of Judas examined by so-called “scholars” and declared to be another hurdle for the Christian Church. “What will this do to those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” the scholars wonder.

After you’ve been around a few decades, most Christians get used to these contrived events. But, for those of you who see this as something that does make you wonder, think of it this way: instead of it being looked on as a challenge to the faithful, I suggest that we look at these efforts, in whatever media they appear, as just more evidence of the fact of the resurrection. One can hardly imagine there needing to be such efforts year in and year out to discredit something, if that something were not considered too dangerous, and, true. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was not a bone stuck in the craw of many people, do you think they would expend the money and time to try to disgrace this great event in the history of humanity? By the very scale of the protests we get a good picture of just how much the resurrection truly discomforts people. It reminds me of the Passion history of Jesus when Pilate hears from the Jews that Jesus is called “the Son of God.” That’s when Pilate determines he wants nothing to do with judging Jesus. He washes his hands and says to the crowd: “you do it.” He was nervous about Jesus, and rightly so. There are many people nervous about the resurrection of Jesus, and they calm their nerves, or try to, by finding reasons not to believe it.

Why? Why not just believe it? Well, belief in the resurrection of Jesus entails believing in Jesus Himself, His birth, His life – the miracles and teachings – His suffering, death, and then resurrection. It also means believing in the reasons for Jesus coming here: our sin, our need for a Savior, and the love of God which sends the Savior. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, for you, means believing that you need it, and that, more than anything else, is what makes people not want to accept it.

Do you see what it comes down to? It comes down to confessing: “I am a sinner in thought, word, and deed, a sinner against God and against people.” And that is hard to admit; it is hard for us, it is hard for the unbeliever. Pride and stubbornness get in the way. And so Jesus is rejected. But that is just where we need Jesus the most.

Think of the efforts so many religions require of their followers. Think of the life of denial that Buddhists try to live, or Hinduism’s ways of works, knowledge, or devotion; or Islam’s requirements of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimages. Other religions all have their own sets of rules and regulations that are to be followed so that you can become more at peace with the world, with yourself, and with your ultimate destiny.

Now, sadly, some even make of Christianity a religion of rules, legal requirements, godly principles, and so on. And every time that happens, Christianity sinks away from its unique message, and becomes one more works-oriented religion of the world.

Christianity, biblical, Christ-centered Christianity, has no equal. It points away from our efforts. And it points to Christ. Sure, there are many things of good that we can do and even should do as the people of God: works of charity of all kinds, support and encouragement for the many people who need help. But these works are never part of the main fabric of the Church, for that place of honor is given only to the work of Christ and never to us or what we do. It is that unique understanding and teaching of God’s Word that puts Christ at center stage that the world hates. For as Christ is put there, we see how little our works can do. The world cannot stand when our efforts are minimized and Christ’s are maximized. Never forget that. It is never Christian charity that is despised here in this world, but it is the teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone that will be attacked. That is why the resurrection is attacked, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, the fact that Jesus is both truly God and truly man, and that He suffered and died, and rose again the third day. These are attacked, undermined, mocked, declared a hoax, because they are at odds with the religion of the sinful flesh and devil and world which wants us and what we do at center stage.

The resurrection of Jesus puts all that in the proper perspective. Our celebration of Easter says to the world: Jesus is at the heart of it all. He has won the victory and declares to all people on this day of His resurrection from the dead. He died for us all, for our sins, for our pride at thinking we could ever, in any way, measure up to what is needed for eternal life. He sweeps that all away like the remains of last year’s leaves from our yards and patios. He replaces our failed efforts with His own victory, His own death for us, His own resurrection so that we, too, may one day rise from the dead to life eternal, through faith in Jesus Christ.

On this Easter morning let us rejoice in the fact of the resurrection, and even more, rejoice in what it means for us, for all who have died in faith in this Jesus Christ, and for all who cling in faith to the One whom even death cannot destroy. This is Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer. God keep us in such faith, from now until we see Him face to face in life eternal. In the name of Jesus who was dead and is now alive. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed

Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Palm Sunday – April 4, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank


April 4, 2004

Text: John 12:20-33

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27 ” Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Shortly after Palm Sunday, some of the disciples of Jesus are approached by some Greeks who, we are told, “want to see Jesus.” Perhaps these Greeks had witnessed Jesus coming into Jerusalem, lowly and riding on a donkey. Perhaps they had been impressed by the loud shouts and praises of the crowds that greeted Jesus as the one “who comes in the Name of the Lord.” It appears, by the way Jesus answers, that these men were intrigued by the enthusiasm of the crowd on Palm Sunday. For Jesus goes on to speak about “glory” in ways that show His glory as being quite different from the glory of the world.

Glory is usually associated with great achievements. We may think of glory in regards to sports: a pitcher who pitches a perfect game, a quarterback who leads his team to victory in the last minute, the basketball player who sinks a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game by one. Glory is also associated with politics: winning an election brings glory to the winner. Glory may also be won on the battlefield by those who are victorious. Glory and winning go hand in hand.

When Jesus receives the glory and honor from the crowd on Palm Sunday, He does so as someone who looks like the winner. Even though He rides in on a lowly donkey, still the great numbers of people who greet Him are impressive. But is this what is attractive about Jesus? Is it the glory and praise and honor of Palm Sunday that stand as one of the great highlights of Jesus’ work here on earth? Humanly speaking, this day does appear as the high point. After all, at no other time after this would Jesus receive the great public show of glory and honor. So why is this not the high point? Because Jesus did not come to receive the praise and honor of men, but He came to be glorified by His Father, and that would happen only through being “lifted up from the earth.” As John tells us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” Jesus repeats here what He told Nicodemus early in His public ministry. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

Jesus will be lifted up when He is nailed to the cross and the cross is raised. It is at the cross that the glory of Christ will be revealed. The glory of Jesus at the very highpoint of His ministry for us is going to be hidden. Oh, lots of people saw Jesus lifted up on the cross, so it was not hidden in that way. But the glory was not apparent to them. The glory was hidden by the way God chose to show it. The cross, with the blood, the pain and suffering, the death, does not bring to mind the victory that we associate with glory. Jesus Himself knows what lies ahead of Him. He shows us His thoughts when He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” His road has only one direction to go. Jesus is on a one way street to the cross.

To all the eyes that watched Him the day He died Jesus looked like the loser. The winners seem to be the enemies of Jesus. They are the ones who can go and celebrate. The followers of Jesus are in mourning, grieving over the death of their beloved friend and leader. This is not glory.

But remember what Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” With this picture of planting, decay, and new life, Jesus teaches us about the way He achieves glory. Just like a seed seems to be dry, dead, and without life, so the body of Jesus on Good Friday shows nothing hopeful. But seeds put in the ground are invigorated by the warmth and moisture; new life grows from what was dry and dead. So with Jesus. He is planted in the tomb, and He will rise again, showing His victory over sin, death, and devil.

In the same way Jesus tells us about ourselves as those who follow and believe in Him: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” The glory of this world will tempt us to love our lives here and now, to put this world and its glory ahead of the way of the cross, ahead of the way of following Jesus no matter what. But Jesus does not direct us to seek the glory of this world. In fact, that is the way ultimately to lose our lives.

This world seeks glory in what gives the appearance of immediate victory. For example, Muslim extremists who kill our brothers and sister in Christ in Rwanda and the Sudan believe they have achieved victory. The glory is theirs, they believe, when they can see the bodies of dead Christians. The same is true in communist China and other totalitarian states. The persecution of our fellow believers looks like the defeat of the Christian Church and glory and victory for the forces that hate the Church. The same was true in the early days of the Church. Think of the death of St. Stephen. He was stoned to death by a mob that wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, even though Stephen showed them from Holy Scripture how Jesus was the Messiah. Other countless believers have followed Stephen in the twenty centuries since he died. Time and time again the followers of Christ have been put to the test: will you follow Christ, or will you follow the world. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus probably heard more than they bargained for. They liked the Jesus of Palm Sunday, the One who received all the glory, the praises and honor of the large crowd. Were they still following Jesus on Good Friday when the glory was gone? We do not know.

We do know about ourselves. What do we find attractive about Jesus? Do we prefer for Jesus to receive the accolades and honor of this world? Do we feel better when the news media or other sources of glory in this world praise our Savior? Do we need that? Or are we content to remain with the Jesus hidden in shame, suffering, and death of the cross?

As we travel the way of Holy Week this year, God help us to trust in the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus who died for us, the Jesus who did not shy away from the path to His glory, the way of crucifixion. This Jesus does not promise us riches and glory now, but He does promise us eternal life with His Father in heaven. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Let us see Jesus in the glory of the cross, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In the hands of this Jesus we may safely place our lives for now and for eternity. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Maundy Thursday – March 24, 2005

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Maundy Thursday

March 24, 2005

Text: Psalm 111:1

Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.


Dear fellow redeemed in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ,

This evening we commemorate the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. Especially we focus on that great institution, the Supper of our Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar.

It was the time of the Passover, when the Old Testament people of God remembered the great deliverance from slavery God provided. God brought about the deliverance through His power that brought death to His enemies, and yet provided safety to those who believed in Him. The safety was found in blood, the blood of a pure, male lamb. Wherever that blood was painted on the door, there death would not go. Wherever that Passover meal was eaten, there was life and salvation.

Psalm 111 recalls the great meal of the Lord at the Passover, calling it “the food given to those who fear Him.” This food was a wonderful memorial meal done each year. But on the night He was betrayed Jesus began a new meal. This meal surpasses the old meal as much as the sun outshines a 15 watt light bulb. For in this meal we do not have the blood of a male lamb, but we have the Son of God, who gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And if the Lord’s name was holy and awesome because of that deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel, how much more awesome is His name because of the greater work of Jesus, who goes not against a Pharoah and Egyptian army, but against the hosts of hell, against sin, against death itself. The Old Testament Passover, as wonderful as it was, could only be a mere shadow of the great work of Jesus, and the wonderful Supper that commemorates that death of Jesus.

The psalm teaches us that God “has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” And what does Jesus tell us about His Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through St. Paul we are taught “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” The death of Jesus is the wonderful work of God that is to be remembered, proclaimed, treasured, as long the earth remains. For there will be no greater event in the history of the world than that precious death of Jesus until He returns again on the Last Day.

Why? Why all the fuss about this Supper of the Lord, or about His crucifixion and death? What makes this so special? Why should it be something that 2000 years later we are still talking about? The reason is that this is the work of God, and it is a work we desperately need.

Israel in the Old Testament was in slavery for centuries. They had left the promised land of Canaan about 1800 BC. Four hundred years later, almost twice as long as the history of the United States, Israel remains slaves to Pharoah. Pharoah had been killing the baby boys of Egypt, a sure way to attack God himself and the promises given to Abraham. How so? Because through Abraham there would be a special baby boy born one day that would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If all the male descendants of Abraham are slaughtered in Egypt, the attack of Satan against God’s promises would have succeeded. Therefore God does not allow such satanic work to go unchecked. He promises and provides deliverance for these people through His servant Moses. The slaves are freed, and the line of descendants that will one day lead to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem goes on.

This history of Israel, and the life of Jesus which goes to the cross, and which includes the blessed Supper of the Lord, communion, none of this will be of much value to us unless we have come to realize more and more the situation we are in without it. Earlier we answered the last question from the catechism. “But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” In other words, what if you don’t think you are sinful, or do not need the death of Jesus and His body and blood for the remission of sins? What then? We then said:

To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it….

Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble….

Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without….

Our bodies are troubled by the sin that clings to us as long as we remain in this world. The world itself is a burden to us in that many temptations and trials arise from it that leave us exhausted and worn out, frustrated and discouraged, as we battle them day in and day out. And finally the devil who so desired the death of Jesus, now desires your death in such a way that you do not receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.

These are why the death of Jesus on the cross is proclaimed. This is why this wonderful meal from Jesus to you continues to be offered regularly at this congregation. The Psalm says, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” No where is this more apparent than in this Sacrament of the Altar. Martin Luther noted:

if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord….What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all the benefits and by his blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words (LW 13, 374-5).

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” As we hear and mediate on the great events of Holy Week, let this phrase from Psalm 111 be our constant guide to the meaning of it all. It is about the grace of God and His compassion for you, that you be saved, that you receive life eternal, that you be forgiven all sin, and be confident of that through faith in the gracious word of your Savior, Jesus Christ. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” – for you. Amen.

Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Good Friday – March 25, 2005

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Good Friday

March 25, 2005

Dear fellow redeemed by the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This evening of Good Friday we mediate on the words of Psalm 22, an astounding prophecy of the work of Jesus, written 900 years before He was even born. The psalm begins with the words we would hear from the very lips of Jesus as He hung on the cross:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

Jesus is forsaken, abandoned, left, by His Father. God, in His holy and perfect justice, does not allow evil to remain in His presence. Jesus carries all sin and evil upon Him. Therefore with these words our Lord is proclaiming the judgment of God upon sin, and we see Jesus suffering the punishment of hell. That is what our sins deserve, and that is what Jesus takes upon Himself. For you and me.

3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. 5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

God acted to save Israel time and time again. He brought them out of the slavery in Egypt by defeating their enemies. He protected them and gave them victory on the way to the promised land. Their trust was in God was not disappointed. But the Savior of mankind will not be delivered in that way. Rather, He came to make the deliverance by staying on the cross to the very end, to death.

6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

As Jesus hangs on the cross His enemies mock Him and laugh at Him for what they thought was misplaced trust. There He is, the one who spoke so strongly about being from the Father, yet where is the Father now? They fail to see the reason for the crucifixion of Jesus. They think it is a judgment on Jesus, rather than their own judgment put on Him in their place. So they despise Jesus and consider Him no better than a worm.

9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.

It is no wonder that Jesus sweat drops of blood as He anticipated His time in the hands of the enemies of God. It is no wonder that He said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The wonder is that He went ahead to Golgotha, knowing exactly what lay before Him. The gaping mouths of those who curse Him and ridicule Him are before His eyes as He dies. He does not see gratitude for His sacrifice of love. He sees only hate. But even that ingratitude does not deter Him.

14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

In the death of Jesus we see the true nature of death. Death is not a time of bliss, or release, as some would have us think. Death is the opposite of everything that is truly good and right for us. And so those who speak or write of death as some friendly act that you can do to help someone are really spreading only a demonic lie. Death is not good. And yet, as we hear what Jesus went through we learn that despite the evil death is, even it must bow to Jesus. So when Jesus is brought to the dust of death, for to dust we all return, He is changing death. In Christ we view death differently – because of His victory. But without Christ death remains the enemy.

16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

The nails go through the hands and feet of Jesus, in order that He and the cross are connected. The soldiers at the foot of the cross roll dice to find out who gets His clothes. The psalmist, with insight given by the Holy Spirit, pictures for us the events of the cross with an uncanny accuracy. The bulls gape at Jesus. The dogs surround Him like a pack of hyenas that surround the wounded gazelle, waiting for the moment to move in for the kill. There is our Jesus in the middle of it all.

19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen!

What will be the end of Jesus? Will He remain in death? Will the cross be the sign of the victory of Satan, Sin, and Death over the beloved Son of God? Will the power of the dog be greater than the power of God? Will the jaws of the lion crush the Messiah? Will the horns of the wild oxen pierce the Son of Mary and nail Him forever to the grave? The words of Jesus at the end of His time on the cross are: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Even now there is no doubt in Jesus. He does not pray in despair and uncertainty, but with confidence. He is in His Father’s hands. All is well.

You have answered Me. 22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.

This day of Good Friday does not end with doubt, nor with hopelessness, nor with desperation. God is not lying in defeat at the foot of His enemies. Lion, ox, bull, and dog; Satan, sin, death, and demons; none of these can finish their victory dance. For the Father answers His Son. He heard. That means the price of sin is paid, the agony is over, the blessed work of atonement is at an end. Finished. The name of Jesus, the praise for the God of all love and compassion, will go forth, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. The victory is His, which means the victory is yours, as you believe, as you trust this great action accomplished for you, o Sinner!

25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! 27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations.

This psalm that began with forsakenness, with darkness, with death, ends with a glorious reunion, with light, and with life. Let your heart live forever! For with Jesus, the One who died, there is true life for you, for all who believe. There is a feast that fully satisfies, the feast of this one whose death we proclaim. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death. This the Son of God, the Lamb, around whom we gather to worship and praise, along with all of God’s people around the world.

29 All the prosperous of the earth Shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust Shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. 30 A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, 31 They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.

He has done this, and it is finished. On Good Friday you see the way of God, the work of God, that achieves your salvation. You see the awful condemnation your sin and my sin deserves, the Son of God who is poured out for us at the cross. But you also hear the results: going down to dust, the return to what we were taken from, is not our end. For Jesus did not come to end up in a cold grave. He came to defeat death, and show this great victory on the first Easter Sunday. He has done this. And to you and to all the generations since that great day the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been preached and declared. His righteousness is yours by faith, His death is yours, and this means forgiveness of all your sin, salvation, and eternal life. Thanks be to God for this day, for the Good Friday that brought victory for us all, through the death of God’s Son. That is His love for you. Believe it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Mid-week Lent 5 – Vespers – March 24, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Mid-week Lent 5

March 24, 2004

Text: Hebrews 12:22-24

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

In this chapter twelve of Hebrews the author is drawing our attention to a distinction between two mountains in the Old Testament. One is Mt. Sinai. The other is Mt. Zion. We are told that it is Mt. Zion that we have come to, not Mt. Sinai. The difference between Sinai and Zion is the difference between night and day. It is the difference between the Law, Sinai, and the Gospel, Zion.

Mt. Sinai is known for being the place where God gave Moses and the children of Israel the law, especially the Ten Commandments. There were special rules for Mt. Sinai given to Israel by the Lord. These rules are recorded in Exodus 19:

…For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’…

Clearly this was not a mountain that encouraged people to come near it. In fact, it was a mountain to be careful about. This became even clearer after the Lord began speaking the Law to Moses. Listen to what happened:

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off (Ex 20:18).

The giving of the Law, the commands of God that demanded obedience, perfection, love with no hint of selfishness, all of this combined with the thunder and lightning made Mt. Sinai a terrible place. The reason was because here God showed Himself in the way of the Law. The Law cannot deliver us from judgment because all it does it show us our sin. The Law is so perfectly fair that our sin leaves us with no hope. God is rightly angry against all sin, for sin is a denial of God, a turning away from Him. So Mt. Sinai becomes the place of terror, of threats, and of fear.

That is why here in Hebrews we read: “but you have come to Mt. Zion.” Mt. Zion is the hill of Jerusalem, the place where God’s Temple stood, the place where sacrifices for sin, and offerings to God were made day after day. Even more than that, Mt. Zion is where our Savior Jesus came to be the perfect, one-time sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, the promise of God’s mercy and forgiveness to all who believe on the name of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.

Mt. Zion is about promises, grace, undeserved love, charity, and salvation. For these treasures of salvation were bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, who spilled His blood on Mt. Zion in order to buy us back from our deserved destiny of eternal death. These are the wonderful benefits which our Savior desires all to receive from His generous hand.

Besides the mountains of Sinai and Zion, there is mention made of the blood of Abel in this text. Abel, you recall, was the second-born son of Adam and Eve. The first-born son was Cain. These two brothers were also as different as Sinai and Zion. Cain chose the false worship of God, bringing his offerings with no faith, simply going through the motions. His offering was rejected by the Lord. Abel, on the other hand, is described this way in Hebrews:

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hb 11:4).

Abel approached God by faith. We may think here of the difference Psalm 51 makes between mere outward offerings, brought without faith, and repentance: “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise.”

Abel, the second-born son is murdered by Cain. When the Lord speaks to Cain He tells him, “The voice of your brother’s blood calls out to me from the ground.” This blood of Abel called out for justice, and the Lord rebuked Cain, making him a fugitive on the earth.

Now hear again from Hebrews 12, “[you have come] to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” The comparison between the blood of Abel and the blood of Jesus is of blood that calls for justice, and blood that washes away sin, leaving only forgiveness and salvation. The blood of Abel did not help Cain. In fact, Abel’s blood was judgment against Cain, just like blood found on a murder weapon often leads to the murderer. The blood of Jesus does not call out for vengeance, but it calls out peace between God and man, it calls out the love of God for you and me. “Even though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Jesus’ blood on us does not cause God to send us away in anger, but it brings God to us as our loving Father, as the Father who has sought and found all who are lost.

By God’s grace Mt. Sinai and the Law are not our destination, but we have come to Mt. Zion, “the holy Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” This is what God intends for you, that you may rest secure in the knowledge that you are God’s child, and will dwell in the city of the living God forever. Amen.

Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Lent 5 – Judica – March 28, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Judica, Lent 5

March 28, 2004

Text: Matthew 10:32-42

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34 ” Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 40 ” He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”


Dear friends in Christ,

Sometimes the only way to peace is through war. In 1914 it didn’t matter that the Belgians did not want war against Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The German army invaded Belgium. The Belgians, in order to protect and defend their country, responded with their own army. It was not that Belgium wanted war with Germany; far from it. But Germany’s aggression forced war on Belgium.

When cancer attacks your body, it has declared war against your health and it seeks to kill you. The cancer itself must be attacked in order to save your body. Therefore weapons are arrayed against the cancer: chemicals, radiation, and perhaps surgery. Cancer will not surrender without a fight. It does not respond to kind words asking it to go away.

Jesus was born into this world under the angelic headline: Peace on earth! Jesus came to bring peace between God and man. Yet within months of being born, this baby was marked by King Herod for death. We find that God’s plan for salvation, the sending of His only-begotten Son in human flesh and blood to take on our sin, is a plan that is attacked by the world, and by the prince of this world, Satan. The attacks against Jesus would grow especially prominent as He started in to His public ministry. Some tried to stone Him to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. Others called Him the devil because of His power over devils. Others made fun of Him for eating with “sinners.” Finally, we know that Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus to His enemies, thereby bringing Jesus to the cross. The life of Jesus is as the psalmist wrote: “My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war” (Ps 120:6,7).

Jesus tells us, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Why must it be a sword? Because the enemies of Jesus cannot stand to allow His kingdom to come to us. The enemies of Jesus attacked Him while He walked this earth. And Jesus teaches: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

This is not paranoia on the part of Jesus. He understood the nature of His work here on earth. It was not some pleasant task of just being nice to people. But His work was a dirty work; a work filled with struggle, with temptation, with sickness and death, with all the poisons of Satan and the demons directed at Jesus. Jesus’ life on earth was not all sunshine and daisies. Even though He is the Light of the world, His time on earth was a time of darkness, and most especially the last week that led to the cross, Holy Week. Jesus would tell those who arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

So Jesus must warn us: “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’.” What will cause such civil war? It is the Gospel. It is the truth of God’s Word. With Jesus there is no middle ground, no neutrality. He says, “He who is not with me is against Me.” If we fail to understand this, if we think that we can have Jesus without consequences, then we do not yet feel the weight of the cross in our lives.

If we seek to accommodate the agendas of this world with the truth of Jesus, then we will not offend, we will not be salt in the wounds of the world, we will simply be weak, watery tea. If we fail to confess Christ with the boldness and vigor His Gospel deserves in the face of those who will deny Christ and the salvation He offers, we will deserve the judgment found in Revelation against the church of the Laodiceans: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev 3:15,16). “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

God knows our abilities. He knows that we have our fears in this world. He knows that the life of His people in this world is not easy. The Holy Spirit Himself prays for us just like Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, even though He knew he would soon deny Him. Yet Peter was restored to faith. Peter knew he failed and he wept bitterly over it. But he did not stay away from Jesus. And Jesus did not stay away from Peter. Our Savior forgave Peter and was able to use him and give him great boldness.

We can all find times in our lives when we did not confess our Savior as we should have. We feared the laughter of friends. We feared the ridicule. We feared to be different. All these fears we bring to Jesus. His suffering and death on the cross was for these sins, too. The absolution includes our sins of denial. You are forgiven.

Our Savior does not leave us forsaken here. He gives us the Gospel by which our fears and weaknesses, our sins of whatever kind, are washed away by the blood of Christ. The Word is brought to us to encourage us in our faith, to strengthen us, to give us the knowledge that our Savior loves us even in our frailties. He does not ask us to be as strong as He is. He asks us to trust Him to carry us through whatever comes our way. He teaches us to pray for the doing of the will of God: “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will, which would not let us hallow His name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world and our own flesh.”

Devil, world, and flesh conspired against Jesus. The powers of darkness sought to extinguish His light forever, and in that way to keep us all enslaved to shame and eternal death. Jesus came to bring war, not peace but a sword, on these enemies, so that you and I can have peace. Jesus came for us even though we are born in sin, born as soldiers on the other side.

Listen to our Lord’s exhortation today. He speaks so that we rely on Him, on His power and strength. He does not intend for us to try to do this on our own. He knows us too well to demand that of us. No, He simply says, “follow Me.” Trust Him. Rely on His lovingkindness for you. He will remember you, and confess you before our Father who art in heaven.

My manifold transgression

Henceforth can harm me none

Since Jesus’ bloody Passion

For me God’s grace hath won.

His precious blood my debts hath paid;

Of hell and all its torments

I am no more afraid. (ELH 276:3) Amen.

Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Lent 3 – Oculi – February 27, 2005

n Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Oculi, Lent 3

February 27, 2005

Text: Luke 11:14-28

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!”


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

The kingdom of Satan is real. In fact, it is the kingdom into which we all were born. Every person is born sinful and unclean. And to be sinful and unclean, without the grace of God, is to be in the kingdom of Satan.

Some imagine that there are three kingdoms someone could be in. You can be in God’s kingdom, the Christian Church, and be a believer. You can be an open and unrepentant sinner, and be in the kingdom of the devil. Or you can be neutral, looking at both sides, and by an act of your own will choosing the side you will support.

However, there is no neutrality, spiritually speaking. There is no third option. It is either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. There is no free will in this matter. You are either bound to God or bound to Satan. You cannot choose. You are born into Satan’s kingdom by virtue of your sinful inheritance. You are re-born into God’s kingdom through the work of God the Holy Spirit, using water and the powerful Word of God, the Gospel, the power of salvation. Either way, your will is tied to a kingdom.

Two weeks ago we heard about the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. There Jesus showed His power over the prince of darkness by speaking the Word of God to Satan and telling him to be gone, and Satan had to leave. That same power is at work here in the words of St. Luke. We have described for us another scene where Jesus is casting out a demon. The demon must leave, for the Son of God is speaking, and the demon must reluctantly obey.

What is the reaction of those who see this miracle of Jesus’ power over the forces of darkness and evil? Jesus is denounced as an ally of the devil. There is so much hatred directed at Jesus that even when He does good things his enemies refuse to see it, and instead try to think of ways to make whatever Jesus does proof that He is illegitimate, a pretender, a false prophet.

So Jesus meets their criticism with a question: “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” How can any kingdom remain when it is torn by civil war, by disunity, by in-fighting? Jesus, in effect, tells His enemies that their reasoning is completely false. Satan does not fight against himself but always works to strengthen his kingdom. Besides, Jesus says, your own sons cast out demons, too. Are you going to say the same thing about their work? Of course not. And that shows their bias against Jesus. No matter what He does, they will oppose Him.

There is no more sure sign of the kingdom of Satan than opposition to Jesus and His Word. Wherever God’s pure Word is preached and rejected there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is twisted out of shape and taught falsely there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is mocked and ridiculed, persecuted, there we find Satan’s kingdom. Satan has a good hold on people throughout the world, and he will not let any of it go without a fight, even though he knows his time is short.

Satan knows his time is short because he knows he has already lost at the cross of Golgotha. He knows that is where his kingdom was finished, done in, as death itself was killed. However, what Satan knows and what people know are two different things. And Satan hopes that he will be able to keep people in the dark, spiritually, so that they will not ever come to know that he is defeated and they are freed, freed from sin, death, the devil’s power, and eternal damnation.

So what must the devil do to keep people in the dark? He must attack God’s Word, the Word that brings light and truth and salvation. That is why we should not be too surprised at the perversions of God’s word going on all around us. We should not be surprised at King David’s struggle recorded in 2 Samuel, as he deals with the terrors of death: When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me.” David is stating the life of the Christian who is dealing with the lies of Satan who hopes we will stay away from the victory of Jesus over death. Satan wants us afraid. Jesus wants us confident, by trusting Him and His word. We also should not be surprised by Paul’s words in Ephesians, where he warns us about the tricks of Satan: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

None of this should surprise us because we are in the middle of the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. That war is most evident to Christians, as you’ve heard before, since Satan specifically wants you for his kingdom, which means he must lure, tempt, coerce, scare you out of the kingdom of God.

Luther, preaching on this text in 1532, had these words of wisdom about how to fight Satan, words which remain true today:

When a person whom the devil has greatly overwhelmed and seared with many accusations comes to me with heavy heart and troubled conscience seeking comfort and instruction, I have the mandate, as does every Christian, to comfort my brother and pronounce God’s grace, for Christ’s sake, upon him. The devil must yield, not to me, a poor and wretched sinner, but to the Word which the Lord Christ has left us upon earth. When your conscience is weak and terrified, therefore, and you are unable to grasp tightly enough the comfort that God graciously wants you to have, the forgiveness of sins, then know that Christ has given the Lord’s Supper, his true body and blood to eat and to drink, so that you have no reason further to doubt that his body was given for your sins and his blood poured out for your transgressions. Where such faith and trust are present, there it is impossible for the devil to dwell and hold sway (Hauspostille, I, 331).

Luther directs to God’s word and sacrament. That is where the kingdom of God is found, that is where the power to defeat Satan is given. For the power is the power of God, His Word, His Body and Blood. This is reliance upon the promises of God is why David could write: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.” And why Paul can encourage us: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” We learn this from God’s truth, His Word. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”

You are not neutral in the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Victory is found only in God’s kingdom. There is where final peace is brought, and where deliverance from the misery of Satan’s kingdom is promised, given, and received, by faith in the forgiveness of sins bought by Jesus Christ.

I close with the final words of Luther’s sermon:

Let us, therefore, thank God for his grace, because he has sent his Son for help against the devil, to drive him out, and has left us his Word through which today yet he performs this work, destroying Satan’s kingdom, building and extending the kingdom of God. God keep us in such grace through his Son and the Holy Spirit (Hauspostille, I, 343).


Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Mid-week Lent 2 – Vespers – March 3, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Mid-week Lent 2

March 3, 2004

Text: Hebrews 9:6-14

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience – 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Dear friends in Christ,

Our text from Hebrews draws our attention to the Old Testament Day of Atonement and the clear connection with the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The Day of Atonement was a once per year special day for Israel. On this day the high priest would offer special sacrifices that would make it possible to continue the daily sacrifices for another year. He would make a sacrifice of cleansing for the sins of himself, for the people, and also cleanse the very altar itself. How did all this cleansing take place? Through very specific sacrifices and ritual.

First, the high priest, the only one allowed to enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple in which was the mercy seat, the top of the ark of the covenant, had to bathe himself and put on plain linen clothes instead of the usual ornate vestments of the high priest that were made of gold and precious stones. Thereby the high priest signified his own humility, and how he himself needed the forgiveness of sins. Then he would burn incense at the curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place of the Temple. This incense created a cloud of smoke that would hide the high priest from the glory and majesty of God. Then a bull calf was sacrificed specifically for the high priest. The blood was kept, and the high priest would go to the curtain of the Most Holy Place. Then he would sprinkle the blood on the curtain, and on the mercy seat. This blood was for himself. He would do the same with the blood of one goat, which was for the people. After this, he would mix the blood of the bull and the goat and use it to sprinkle the altar of burnt offering, the place where all the daily offerings were made to the Lord. Unlike the blood sprinkled in the Most Holy Place, this sprinkling of blood at the altar occured in the sight of all the assembly. The impurity of the people due to their sins would thus be cleansed from the altar, allowing it to be used for the next year. In one final action, the high priest would turn to one other live goat, and then we read from Leviticus:

Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

As one reads the careful instructions for the high priest, one is struck at the solemnity of this Day of Atonement, and how precisely the priest needed to follow the Lord’s directions. The use of blood is also striking. Blood prepares the way for the high priest, blood prepares the way for the people, and blood prepares the altar; all is done so that the priest and people may receive the forgiveness of their sins.

The author of Hebrews is well aware of the Old Testament instructions and ritual. We read: “But into the second part [of the Temple] the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.” Clearly, the emphasis is on the blood, without which the high priest may not enter before the presence of God. The blood is the life, and the giving up of the life of the bull and the goat cleanses the people of their sin, not because of any special quality of that blood, but because this is what the Lord commanded and promised.

Our text proceeds from the lesser to the greater, from that which had to be done over and over again, to that which only happened once. So we are told of our Savior: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He [Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Yes, the blood is the life. And the blood of Jesus, spilled at the cross of Golgotha, far surpasses any blood of the goats and calves. This blood of the Son of God is the blood that allows Him entrance into the Most Holy Place, for He needs no other blood than His own. There is no blood holier; there is no blood with more life. Jesus blood is so pure and powerful that it cleanses our sin completely; His blood is so filled with life that it is eternal, without end, forever and ever.

We need this blood on us and on our children. Our impurity is so thick that we are corrupted for all our life and for eternity. It is a stain set so deep that none of our attempts to scrub or purge it from ourselves will work. The sacrifice of the Son of God shows us the immensity of our sin; but even more it shows us the greater love of God for us who are unclean, stained, and polluted with sin.

“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” By God’s wondrous love the blood of Christ Jesus is sprinkled upon us. In Baptism, we see the water red with the blood of Christ, not in some gory display, but as a washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, known by faith to those who believe the promise of God in Baptism. In the Holy Supper we receive this blood, the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood filled with the life of Jesus, eternal life, given and shed, poured out, for you.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament are at an end. The sacrifice of Jesus was once-for-all on the day we call Good Friday. It need not ever be repeated again. But by God’s grace we are able to know of this death that means life, this suffering that means peace, this Jesus who is our Savior. “…with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” This is God’s precious gift for you. Believe it in Jesus’ Name. Amen.