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.

Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Lent 2 – Riminiscere -March 7, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Reminiscere, Lent 2

March 7, 2004

Text: Luke 7:36-50

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 “You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 “You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Here is a text that allows us to do whatever we want, to sin in whatever ways excite us, to live in whatever lifestyle we choose. After all, we know that even if we do this, even if we just keep acting and thinking and speaking without any regard to God’s Law, the nice Jesus is just going to say: “your sins are forgiven.” Sadly, what I have just said is how shallowly some interpret this text and the love of Jesus. But such an interpretation fails to understand the nature of sin and the gift of forgiveness that Jesus gives.

Jesus is dealing with two sinners in this text. One is the Pharisee who invites Jesus to dinner. The other is the woman identified specifically as a sinner.

The Pharisee does not treat Jesus as a guest in his home. He has ignored some of the basic customs of his society when you invite someone to dinner. The Pharisee did not greet Jesus with the traditional kiss. He did not supply water for the washing of feet, nor did he anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet this Pharisee stands in judgment over both Jesus and the sinful woman. The sinful woman is judged because she truly is a sinner, someone with whom a good Pharisee would have nothing to do. Jesus is judged by the Pharisee because the Pharisee doesn’t understand who Jesus is or what He came to accomplish. He imagines that Jesus should not be in contact with sinners. He does not know that Jesus came not only to be in contact with sinners, but to become saturated with sin, taking it all on Himself. Jesus is being the Savior as He allows this woman to touch His feet as she washes them and dries them with her hair. He is showing His compassion for sinners. But the Pharisee does not understand. He does not understand because he does not know the profoundness of sin’s impact on himself.

Jesus treats the two sinners in this text differently. He does so because at this point, one of them needs the Law, and one of them needs the Gospel. The Pharisee needs to hear the Law because he is still secure in his own righteousness. He compares himself to the woman and uses her sinfulness to congratulate himself on his own virtue. So our Lord speaks to this man, Simon, in order to show him that he must not be so secure. He must see that his own lack of hospitality to Jesus is itself a sin, and that this sinful woman whom he despises is actually the better host. Jesus does not offer forgiveness to Simon at this time because Simon does not indicate that he knows his sin, nor is he ashamed of it, nor does he confess it.

Compare this to how Jesus treats the woman. She comes to him and is clearly overcome by her sin. She weeps at the feet of Jesus, acting as a lowly servant, as someone who does not deserve to eat with Jesus. It is not that she deserves forgiveness any more than Simon does. But she knows that she needs help. She has been made to realize that she herself is not pure or righteous or good. Jesus absolves her saying: “your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus does not tell her it doesn’t matter how she lived. The very fact that He forgave her tells us that how she lived was wrong in the eyes of Jesus. He knew she was a sinner. He knew that her life was lived against the commands of God. Such a life was not condoned by Jesus, but forgiven. We must understand that such forgiveness is not cheap, but rather Jesus Himself knows the true cost; He knows what it takes for Him to say: “your sins are forgiven.” He knows that the cross lies ahead of Him, the time of the great agony of His suffering and death. We dare not use the love of Jesus to presume that He thereby doesn’t care how we live. The sinful woman does not claim that her lifestyle is none of Jesus’ business. Instead she is ashamed of it, and comes to Jesus not in order to get His approval, but to receive the blessed forgiveness of her sin, her thoughts, words, and deeds that need changing.

Jesus uses a parable to teach Simon about forgiveness and gratitude. He said, “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” The sinful woman owes the 500, Simon owes the 50. Therefore the sinful woman shows greater love to Jesus, for He forgave her more. But Jesus is not saying that we can count up our sins to see how much forgiveness we need, and then determine how much to love Jesus. No. What Jesus wants Simon and you and me to understand is that all of us need forgiveness, that even if we think our sins small, we should still run to our Savior for forgiveness. But even more, we should realize that when we think our sins are small, we are really not understanding sin. We do not know God’s Law as we should if we think our sins are small. And we do not know the true nature of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross if we think that He went there for sins that don’t really matter.

God help us to know our sins. The point is not for us to be in a state of perpetual sadness because of them, but to know them so that we repent, confess them, and receive the forgiveness of our sins. That is what God wants you to receive. And He is not ashamed to eat with you, He is not ashamed to have you as His guest. He treats you as royalty, giving you the very best, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

God grant that we all continue to learn our sin, not in comparison to others, but simply in comparison to what God says. And let us not be afraid to come to Jesus with whatever sins we have. He will not turn us away. He invites us to be with Him, now, through Word and Sacrament, and in eternity, with the everlasting life He gives. Amen.

Lent Sermons by Pastor Rank

Lent 1 – Invocavit -March 5, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Invocavit, Lent 1

March 5, 2006

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”  7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”  8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”  11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Temptation is from the devil, and the goal of all temptation is to lead you away from God, to bring into the camp of Satan, to take away life and leave only death, final and eternal. That is what temptation is about. That is why temptation can never be considered minor, only a nuisance, or something into which we can safely fall since we’ll always be able to undo the temptation later. No, temptation is a great evil for us.

We may think of temptation as a reconnaissance mission by Satan. He wants to find out information about how strong you are, where you defend yourself the best, and where you are the weakest. You may discover within yourself some areas of temptation that Satan never uses on you even though those temptations work well on others. But even if and when we are strong in one area, there are always other areas that Satan will find as he probes and explores our spiritual condition. Remember, he always wants to bring you away from God, away from trusting God’s promises, away from forgiveness, away from Jesus.

The temptations which Satan brings to Jesus are designed with the same goal. Satan wants Jesus to be separated from the Father. Satan wants the Triune God to war against Himself, to pit one Person of the Trinity against the other. He wants the Son to tempt or distrust the Father. He wants the Second Adam to follow the path to destruction that the First Adam had taken so many years earlier in the Garden of Eden.

In the lesson from Genesis 3 today we heard of that terrible day when Satan tempted Adam and Eve, and they capitulated. Satan’s basic technique was to let Adam and Eve think they could be like God. It was the temptation to deny their status as created beings, and seek to be creators in their own right. Such an appeal worked there in the Garden. Now Satan tries to do the same with Jesus.

With daily bread, with divine protection, and with worldly wealth Satan brings his weapons to bear against Jesus. Satan wants Jesus Christ to doubt, to question, to take matters into His own hands instead of relying on His Father. Satan hopes Jesus will take the easy way to power. Satan knows that the easy way for Jesus means that Jesus will lose. There are no short cuts for Jesus. He must and He will follow the path of salvation all the way to the cross. But the devil tries to deflect Jesus from that path.

To each temptation Jesus responds with Holy Scripture. The Word made flesh uses the written Word to push away the lying words of the devil. Not even the devil’s own ability to quote the Bible works against Jesus. He defeats each and every trick of Satan. Jesus is the stronger, and He will not allow the devil to win.

But the devil, defeated as he is by Jesus, still tries to come after the sons and daughters of God hee among us. Martin Luther in the Large Catechism explanation of “lead us not into temptation,” points out what the devils uses to accomplish his purpose of pushing us away from God.

Temptation…is of three kinds: of the flesh, the world, and the devil. We live in the flesh and we have the old Adam hanging around our necks; he goes to work and lures us daily into unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deceit, into acts of fraud and deception against our neighbor — in short, into all kinds of evil lusts which by nature cling to us and to which we are incited by the association and example of other people and by things we hear and see. All this often wounds and inflames even an innocent heart.

Next comes the world, which assails us by word and deed and drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is in it nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and injustice, perfidy, vengeance, cursing, reviling, slander, arrogance, and pride, along with fondness for luxury, honor, fame, and power. No one is willing to be the least, but everyone wants to sit in the chief seat and be seen by all.

Then comes the devil, who baits and badgers us on all sides, but especially exerts himself where the conscience and spiritual matters are at stake. His purpose is to make us scorn and despise both the Word and the works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, to draw us into unbelief, false security, and stubbornness, or, on the contrary, to drive us into despair, atheism, blasphemy, and countless other abominable sins. These are snares and nets; indeed, they are the real “flaming darts” which are venomously shot into our hearts, not by flesh and blood but by the devil.

With the devil making such attacks against us, constantly seeking our areas of weakness, what defense do we have?

First, we have Holy Baptism. Baptism puts us into the life of repentance, the life of sorrow over sin and trust in the promises of God. Baptism put God’s name on us, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Even though the devil will fight against us, still he fears that holy name of God, and knows that he cannot defeat God except by getting us to believe his lies. But our strength is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. So we learn to call upon God in temptation, to pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer: lead us not into temptation. That is no weak work, but the very asking, seeking, and knocking that Jesus says we are to do. And when He says for us to do it it is because He is there to answer, to be found, to open the door and help us in all troubles.

Besides Holy Baptism, we have the Word of God. None of us, even if we have the Bible from Genesis to Revelation memorized, can ever know God’s word like Jesus. But that should not stop us from learning it more and more, and using it as the sword God says it is to fight against the attacks of Satan. Satan will try to twist and turn God’s Word to his own advantage, but finally it is not comfortable for him to fight on that ground. God’s Word, in truth and purity, will show his lies and perversions as the wickedness they are; they will reveal Satan to be the one who, despite his sweet words, is nothing more than the stench of decay and death. As we grow in learning, hearing, meditating on and trusting God’s Word, Satan is pushed away, not by us, but by the power of God’s Word, the Gospel of God’s mercy and free forgiveness which Satan hates.

Relying on Baptism and relying on God’s Word against the temptations of Satan is trusting Jesus, relying on His power and not our own, believing that Jesus has defeated Satan, and has given us the victory. Jesus’ words, “away with you, Satan,” are the very words which still send Satan running: “he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done, one little word can fell him.” Trust in that word of Jesus, it is your strength and security, now and forever. Amen.