Monday, January 26, 2015

Sermon for 1/25/15: Transfiguration of Our Lord



Do Not Be Afraid

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

We believe with the certainty of faith that what the Bible says is true. The world laughs at Christians because of that. The world thinks we're stupid for following a book that was written thousands of years ago. As long as you hold the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the world will think you are an idiot. “It’s time to move on,” they say. “It’s time to think for yourself.” That is quite a temptation, isn't it? How well do you really know your Bible? Have you studied it and become familiar with it? Or do you see the Bible as the world sees it? Is it just old stories that are out of date and irrelevant for life in our fast paced modern world? The fact is, that would be a good perspective on the Bible if that's all it was. But it's not. It is the Word of God which delivers Jesus. That's why He's standing on that mountain and shining like the sun for His disciples to see.

And who is standing with Him? Moses and Elijah are there, representing the Law and the Prophets. They represent the Old Testament Church. What Peter, James, and John see—Jesus, flanked on either side by Moses the law-bringer and Elijah the prophet—means this: Jesus is what the Old Testament is about. The Old Testament is the Word of God because it shows us Jesus. It declares a promise that God has made—He would send a Savior. And it shows the way in which the Lord has worked things out to bring that promise to actually come to pass. The Old Testament was not written merely so that we could argue against evolution. The Old Testament wasn't written merely so that we can learn how to behave. The Old Testament isn't just a bunch of stories that the Jews told to convince themselves they were special. The Old Testament is the testimony and record of the Lord working out His promise that He would save sinners.

But it doesn't stop with the Old Testament. What does the Father say from the bright cloud? "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him." That's right. Listen to Him. Hear what He says. Hear His Word. And what does His Word say? What Jesus has to say can be summed up in what He tells His disciples who are face down in the dirt and terrified: "Do not be afraid." What wonderful words! "Do not be afraid." "Do not be afraid" of the devil's lies, because I am the truth of God's Word. "Do not be afraid" of your sins, because I will pay for them with my suffering and death. "Do not be afraid" of death, because I will throw it down by my resurrection. "Do not be afraid" of being unclean, for I will wash you with water and the Spirit in Baptism. "Do not be afraid" of the things that trouble your conscience, because I will send preachers to proclaim forgiveness to my people. "Do not be afraid" of false gods, for I will give you the preaching of my cross. "Do not be afraid" of death, because I will give you my body and blood to eat and drink, and I will raise you up on the Last Day. "Do not be afraid" of anything in this world or even the world itself, because I have overcome the world.

It doesn't matter if the world laughs at you for believing God's Word. The world doesn't understand. The world denies the truth. But Peter reminds us in his epistle that they weren't making this stuff up. Peter was there as a witness on that mountain with Jesus. But even there Jesus teaches Peter that the big deal isn't what He can see, but the Word that Jesus speaks. So it is for you. We don't see Jesus on the mountain. But we have His touch upon us with water, bread and wine and His Word which says, "Do not be afraid." "Do not be afraid" of sin. "Do not be afraid" of death. "Do not be afraid" of the world and its doubts and lies. "Do not be afraid" of anything. Jesus is God's beloved Son, and in Christ through Baptism, so are you. And because of Jesus, the Father is well pleased with you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Guest Post: LCMS President Matthew Harrison on Tolerating False Teaching

The Reverend Doctor Matthew Becker, LCMS clergyman and professor of theology at Valparaiso University, was exonerated of any charge of false teaching. This is a preposterous result, as the evidence of his false teaching is public and copious. Despite the brazen heresy espoused by Dr. Becker, his District President refuses to take action against him, and a dispute resolution panel inexplicably found that he was not teaching false doctrine, despite the fact that his teachings are contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. There are other disturbing circumstances surrounding this case—the CCM hasn't made a correct ruling since before my Ordination, I think—but an exhaustive list would have me typing until next week.

The Reverend Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, made some statements today to begin to address some of the issues surrounding this and other problems within the LCMS. This is important. Under the previous administration, false doctrine was tolerated, encouraged, and fostered. President Harrison's administration hasn't dealt with error as hastily as some had hoped—and I'll readily admit that I wasn't happy about how his office assembled the 3-10a Task Force—but he has apparently decided that it's time to speak forthrightly about false teaching and practice in the LCMS and the system that allows it to exist, and as I encourage him and pray for him as he fights the good fight, I would encourage you to pray for him and offer what support you can. The Lord bless and keep you, President Harrison.

All that being said, I will let Pastor Harrison take over the blog.


"The system of doctrinal discipline in the LCMS is not functioning as envisioned and implemented by our Fathers. It must be repaired." --Matt Harrison

Walther on Doctrinal Discipline of Pastors. 
...It is impossible for a sizable church body to remain in the true faith if there isn’t a constant check to see that everything still is as it was in the beginning, when the pastor came to the congregation. Without visitation it is probably impossible for a church to remain in unity of faith and confession.
Therefore it is a terrible line of talk that the so-called “confessionally faithful” [Bekenntnistreue] are spreading in Germany: ‘‘[All that’s necessary is] that the pure doctrine be public doctrine (doctrina publica), that is, the authentic, authoritatively established doctrine that everyone is required to profess, so that every false doctrine is actually without authoritative standing!” Therefore, [they say,] provided the pure doctrine is the authoritatively established one, the Church may be ever so corrupt, yet it is a true Lutheran [church]. If the pledge of loyalty to the Confessions has not yet been rescinded but is still valid, though not a single pastor proclaims it, then the Church is still sound.
That is no different than if an organization is formed for a good purpose, and finally the members agree to do something rascally but they retain their constitution as a benevolent organization. Then they cannot say: “We are indeed committing a dirty trick, but because, according to our constitution, we should really do good, therefore we are nevertheless an honest, honorable organization, since it says so in our constitution, which we still have!”
That is what those so- called “confessionally faithful” ones in Germany say: “You see, the constitution says, ‘The Lutheran doctrine is public doctrine (doctrina publica)!’”
But it is not enough that it is on paper; nor is it enough that all pastors and teachers are pledged to it when they enter office. No, this Confession must also be faithfully practiced [im Schwangegehen].
That is why Luther, in his treatise “On the Councils and the Church” [1539], writes: “First, the holy Christian people can be recognized by their possession of the Holy Word of God. . . . But we are speaking of the outward Word, orally proclaimed by people like you and me. For this is what Christ left behind as an outward sign, by which we can recognize His church, or His holy Christian people in the world.” [Walch 16:2785f. Cf. AE 41:148f; Vom den Konziliis und Kirchen 1539, WA 50:509–653; Aland 382]
It is not enough to have a Bible lying in the vestry, but it must be proclaimed from the pulpit. Moreover, a church may have a thousand oaths sworn to be faithful to the Augsburg Confession and yet be a vile sect; and that is true of the state churches [in Germany]. In the best cases there are still good pledges of allegiance to the Confessions, but very few preach accordingly from the pulpit. One is Reformed, another is Methodist; rationalistic, yes, even atheistic, i.e., there are some who do not believe in a living God and still have solemnly sworn allegiance to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. They simply say, “That is an old tradition, which it would be dangerous to discontinue because of the common people, who still cling to the old faith. But our superintendent, who put us under oath, knows very well what we mean; after all, he himself doesn’t accept the Confessions in their entirety either. But because the regional bishop has so ordered it, therefore we continue it.”
But such people are not Lutheran pastors. The confession of the Church must sound forth from the pulpit. And a congregation may be part of a large Lutheran church: If it has a false pastor and he constantly preaches false doctrine and it likes his preaching very much and definitely wants to keep him—that is not a Lutheran congregation either, even if the right official confessional statement is inscribed over the entrance. The [Augsburg] Confession must be proclaimed, and it dare not just say in a book somewhere that it really should be preached.
One must say: Churches that indeed teach false doctrine but have not sworn to uphold pure doctrine are not as bad (as those who have sworn to uphold pure doctrine but do not do so). They are better because the people are not so deceived by them. So when a church says “Here Lutheran doctrine is doctrina publica!” and you don’t hear it proclaimed, that church is a miserable sect, regardless of what it claims to be.

— CFW Walther, "Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod," in At Home in the House of My Fathers.

"When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women, homosexuality, the Errancy of the Bible, the historical critical method, open communion, communion with the reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance, and remove such a teacher where there is not repentance, then we are liars, and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation." 
Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog post

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sermon for 1/18/15: Epiphany 2



Water, Wine, Blood

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

In the Gospel of St. John, our Lord had been baptized in the Jordan River. After forty days of being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He began His public ministry. The first miracle that Jesus ever did was done at the wedding in Cana! He took simple water and turned it into the finest of wines! Jesus at the Table takes six stone jars, instructs the servants to fill them up with water, and He makes it into wine better than even the stuff they used for the toast.

Mary was worried about the absence of wine. It was a major social faux-pas, to run out of wine at a wedding party that was going on for days! What a way to start off a marriage! But Mary went to Jesus. Mary had received the Promise God had made to Eve when the angel came and told Mary she would have a Son. How could a marriage party end so early when the Son of God was sitting at the Table? Mary went to Jesus. Jesus asks, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” It’s not His time. But when the time comes—when He dies—He will pour His everlasting wine out for salvation. He’ll set a Table with the best of meats and finest of wines.

Jesus didn’t come to rescue wedding parties. But the trouble that a married couple had, Jesus used it to make something clear: He came to pour Himself out for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. He came to put Himself into the midst of all your worries—even ones so trivial as a lack of wine. Nothing about you is beyond His care, not even the way you start off marriage or the way you live as man and wife. Dear Christian, if you are scratching your heads over the stone jars in your life, over the absence of wine and joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control; if you are bothered by the words by which St. Paul turns wives to husbands in submission and husbands to their wives in self-sacrificing love; then learn from Mary. Turn to the servant of the Lord which Jesus has placed in your midst—turn to your pastor—and tell him, “Do whatever He tells you.

Mary instructing the servants is a good example of the way the Church should remind the servants of Christ, His pastors, to do whatever He tells them. He tells your pastor to preach His Word and teach it. He tells your pastor to hear your confession and put all your sins and worries under His Holy Absolution. He tells your pastor to serve you with His Body and His Blood in bread and wine. He insists that the Wedding Party of the Lamb go on until it starts in full when Jesus comes again in glory. He knows your life is lived in dryness sometimes. He knows you wander in the wilderness this side of heaven. He knows that you’ve got more to worry over than a social faux-pas. You’ve got sins. So, the Church says to Her ministers: “Do whatever He tells you.” And so, you’re served!

You are served with the finest feast Jesus could deliver. From His side flowed water and blood. He filled up the font of Holy Baptism to wash you clean and prepare you for the eternal banquet. And with His blood He has filled the chalice, giving us His body in the bread and His blood in wine, so that you eat and drink your life, forgiveness, and salvation at this Table. With these, Christ for you is also in you, to work and to labor and to bear abundant fruit. Christ is in you, for the sake of one another, making sure the wedding party does not end. Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is…better than you can possibly believe. And now that His hour has come, He never tires of proving how good He is. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen. 

Sermon for 1/11/15: Baptism of Our Lord/Epiphany I



Someone in the Water; Someone in You

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

I’m not a huge fan of modern country music. However, a few weeks ago, our organist asked me about the lyrics to a song released by a popular country artist, a song called, “Something in the Water.” It’s a song about the power of baptism in the life of a believer, and it’s surprisingly powerful. But there’s one thing missing in the song, and that is the explicit statement of what actually is in the water. That’s the nature of popular culture, though: it does not dare look very closely at what it cannot fully understand.

But the Holy Spirit has made plain to us the purpose and power of Baptism. Two important facts stand before us. The first is this: Jesus is baptized. The second is this: you are baptized. But these events are not quite the same. Jesus is perfect and holy. You are a sinner. Jesus is baptized to take on your sins. You are baptized so that your sins are washed away. Jesus is baptized so that He can go and face the devil. You are baptized so that you are delivered from the devil. Jesus is baptized so that He can go and die on Calvary. You are baptized so that you rise to new life in Him. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made, is baptized to be made into a sinner. You, the crown of creation, are baptized to be made into a new creation. Jesus is baptized to fulfill all righteousness. You are baptized to receive His righteousness. Jesus is baptized to show that He is the Lamb of God. You are baptized so that the blood of that Lamb is sprinkled on you. Jesus is baptized to be declared God's beloved Son who willl be forsaken for sinners. You are baptized so that you, the Father’s child, are never forsaken. Jesus is baptized for you. You are baptized to receive all that He has done for you.

The big deal about God becoming a man is that this man, Jesus, goes where the sinners are. He's not out looking for those who are perfect and without sin. He has come to take our sin and make it His own—so much His own that He will suffer everything our sin has earned and deserved. We hate God. Jesus makes that His in this way: the Father Himself forsakes His Son as He hangs on the cross in darkness. We hate our neighbor. That's what we do. Jesus makes that His in this way: He suffers all the abuse and mockery and nailing to the cross that wicked men have to offer. In His perfect love for the Father and His neighbor, Jesus takes our sin against both, bearing it as the Lamb of God. And it is for this reason that the Father is pleased with Him: the Father looks down upon His Son in the Jordan River and knows that's what Jesus is going to do for you.

The world pretends that this doesn't change anything. But it changes everything! Jesus came up out of that water covered in your sins. He came up out of that river a sinner. When you are baptized, you come forth as a new creation. The New Man in Christ is no sinner. You are set free—free from sin, free from the judgment of God against sin, free from selfish futility. You are free to love others and do good for them whether they appreciate it or not. You are free to let go of the sins of others, to let your grudges die for good. You don't need to live like the world with its addictions and selfishness. All that belongs to Jesus now. Let Him deal with it. You are a new creation. You are a lover of God and of those around you.

You may object, "But what happens when I don’t love God and my neighbor?" Then you return to your baptism, where Jesus is in the water for you. Then you live in that baptism. Confess your sins. Hear the Good News of Absolution. Rejoice in your baptism where those sins are Christ's and you are set free. Feast on the body and blood of Jesus which by which Christ lives in you. When Christ lives in you, by His Word and water and body and blood, you too are declared by God the Father to be His beloved Son! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sermon for 12/28/14: Christmas I



Ready to Go

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

Simeon was not afraid to die. He was ready to depart this life. But how can he go quietly and peacefully? The Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Once Simeon holds Baby Jesus in his arms, he is certain that his salvation is assured. He knows that now he can "depart in peace according to God’s Word." It is Jesus and His Word that prepare us for death. Christ comes into this world so that we might depart this world, not in terror of judgment, but in peace.
When the hour of your death comes, will you be at peace? Or will you thrash around in the terror of your sins? Perhaps the greatest reason people fear death is because of the judgment they think they will face. Even Christians fall into this trap. We imagine that we will stand before the Lord and have to answer for every sin, have every bad thought, word, and deed displayed, that all the sins we tried to hide will be exposed for everyone to see. Not so! Isaiah tells us that the Branch of Jesse's stem will not judge by what He hears and sees but will judge with righteousness. That means that when you die and stand before the Lord, He won't expose what He's seen and heard. He will judge you based on righteousness, on His own works and life. You are judged on the basis of Jesus. Christ was born to set us free from sin and death. He took our place under the Law and paid the price of His own blood to buy us back from sin and death.
Simeon rejoices to hold the infant Christ in his arms and he sings a song of rejoicing. Why will Simeon die in peace? He will die in peace because he has seen the Lord's salvation. He has seen and held Christ. Simeon knows that, now that the Christ is here, sin and death can't hurt him. The Devil, hell, the judgment of the Law itself: they all fall down, powerless. Simeon, an old man, can stand tall and drive away the Devil and all fear and terror because he holds in his arms the Son of God who came to save him. And Simeon is under no illusion as to how this happens. He isn't saved because he gets to cuddle little Baby Jesus. He turns to Mary and tells her that a sword will pierce her soul. She will stand and look on as her son is nailed to a cross. Simeon knows that his peace comes at the price of this Child's death. Simeon can depart in peace because this Child was born to suffer and die and rise again. Simeon departs in peace because he knows that this Child has come to take his place under the Law. Simeon departs in peace because, having seen Jesus, he has seen the Lord's salvation.
Now, like Simeon, you can depart in peace. There is a reason we sing Simeon's song after we receive Christ’s body and blood. At the altar, you've just been given Christ Himself, the One who was crucified and risen from the dead. Whatever comes your way this week, you will face it as one who is full of Jesus. And even if your life ends, it ends in Jesus. To come and receive Christ's gifts is to hold the Lord's salvation just as Simeon did. That's why your pastor tells you to "depart in peace" after you partake of the Holy Supper. Having been given Christ and all His gifts, we are ready to die.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian murdered by the Nazis, once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We know that life in Christ is not all wine and roses and prosperity. Life in Christ is lived under the cross, and your faith in Christ may result in your physical death. Even if it does not, the day will come. You will die. Whenever that day and hour comes, know that you have seen the Lord's salvation. You will depart in peace, according to the Word of God. When you hear this morning to "depart in peace," stand up. Brush death aside, confident in the gift of salvation which is yours in Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sermon for 12/25/14: The Nativity of Our Lord



Wrapped in Flesh

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

In the Old Testament, God built a dwelling place for Himself in which to live among us. There was a beautiful tent built by Moses and the people of Israel. Inside this tent was the Ark of the Covenant, and the glory of the Lord came and stayed there in a pillar of cloud and fire. The tent is where God was. But now there is a new and everlasting Tabernacle. It is the flesh of the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit through the Word of the angel Gabriel, Jesus, the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of God, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God has come to live among us, as one of us!

Why would He do that? Why would the Son of God who is holy and perfect come down to this world that is full of darkness and death? Why would the Son come to this world which is full of people who hate Him and despise His Word and want nothing to do with Him? This world and everything in it was made by the Word, and yet the world paid Him no attention, passed Him by, could not have cared less! But He also came to His own, those who should know Him from the Scriptures and expect Him to show up. They didn't receive Him either! Not only did the world not care; His own people didn't care.

And do we? Here we are on Christmas day, but it's just a brief pause before we go back out to our lives in which we live as if the Lord hasn't really come, as if God is not really in the flesh, as if none of it is any big deal. Why on earth would the Son of God come to such a place as this earth? St. John answers when He writes: “In Him was Life and that Life was the Light of Men. The Light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” The Father sends His Son into this dark world to be its Light. The Father sends His Son into this dead world to be its Life! That is why the Son is made flesh. Recall how, when He was grown up and crucified for us, darkness covered the land. The darkness of our sins piled upon Christ who was judged there for them. The darkness fell upon Christ because He was exchanging it for His light! And then on the Third Day, our Lord rose, conquering death. Death is final enemy we cannot defeat. We cannot avoid it or cheat it. So Christ comes to be our Life by rising from the dead. Death has been robbed of its power! The Light of Christ the Savior shines forth in the fields over Bethlehem and from the cross, as a beacon in the darkness; our sins are forgiven. The Life of Christ burst with Him from the tomb on Easter and upon us who are now also in Him, born of God, given light and life.
But Christ doesn't just come to give us Light and Life and then leave us to ourselves once more. St. John says, “To those who received Him, He gives the right to become the children of God.” He comes to make us once again God's children. The Son of God comes as a child so that we will be God's children in Holy Baptism. That is your new birth. Christ comes to dwell as God among us so that He can save us from our sins and make us God's children, part of the Lord's family.
Today God has built a house among men: the tabernacle of His Son in the flesh. Today God Himself is born among us, and although He has ascended and we cannot see Him, Christ still dwells among us in His church. By the preaching of the Gospel and the giving of the holy Sacraments, Christ Himself lives among us and in us, making us his dwelling. God Himself indeed lives among us because the Son has come in the flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” By coming in the flesh, Christ has brought light to our darkness, life to our death and made us children of His heavenly Father. There is no better gift wrapped up in this world than that given when the Son was wrapped in human flesh for us! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sermon for 12/24/14: Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord



Peace on Earth

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

In just a few verses, Luke shifts us from the king of the known world, Caesar Augustus, to the Roman Governor Quirinius, to a nobody named Joseph and his betrothed wife, Mary, who was with child. If you blinked, you’d miss this humble family. Mary and Joseph were a lowly and insignificant couple in the eyes of the world as they make their way to David’s city, Bethlehem. Luke tells us, “While they were there, the days were finished that she should be delivered and she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

While Caesar slept in comfort in his magnificent palace in Rome, the Savior of the whole universe was tightly wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laid where animals were kept. Where we would least expect it, at a time when no one was around, shoved into a dirty, smelly corner because our world was too busy for Him, God Himself comes to save us. Mary’s Son is born—born to carry our sorrows and to be acquainted with our grief. He is born to cure our sicknesses and diseases. He’s born to give us life by the nails that will be driven into His hands and feet. He’s born to die on the Cross and rise again on the third day.

If the story had ended in some corner of Bethlehem, no one would have been saved. Certainly no one would have noticed. So an angel brought the message to all creation. But the angel didn’t come to Caesar, nor to the governor, to announce the birth of God in the flesh. The word was not given even to the Mayor of Bethlehem. Instead, the angel appears to shepherds out in the fields who were watching their flocks. They appeared to these lowly men to proclaim the good news of great joy, which would be to all people.

Today, the angel’s Christmas Gospel has made it into your ears, too. Come out of your gloom. Leave behind your despair. Give up your loneliness. Wipe away your tears. Part ways with your fear and doubt. The heavens once again declare the glory and majesty of the eternal Son of God! God in flesh rests in his manger throne. He did not come merely for mighty Caesar. He did not come merely for the powerful Governor. He has come to you, poor and miserable sinner, to save you from your sins. God and sinners are reconciled. The song is for you: “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sermon for 12/21/14: Advent IV



The Greater One

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

The people wanted to know about John the Baptist. In last week’s text, Jesus asked them, “What did you go out to see?” What did you expect? Did you expect to see someone immaculately dressed? Did you expect to see someone feasting like a king? In the same way, why are you here this morning? Did you come to this wilderness expecting to see Joel Osteen with his pressed suits and perfect hair and shiny teeth? It may surprise you to hear that people don’t come to Campbell Hill for the fancy restaurants, the boutique shopping, or the perfect spa treatment. They don’t come here because the goofy bald guy is so interesting. So why are you here?

Everybody wants to know what the big deal is about John the Baptist. The Pharisees come to find out about this enigma. But all John has for any of them is Jesus. John is a prophet. John is just a voice, preparing the way, telling you the Christ is coming. When they want to know why John is baptizing if he’s nothing special, John calls it a sign of the One to come. The One to come is among you, and He will appear shortly. He is the important one. He is the Lamb of God, coming to take away the sins of the world. John is just here to point Him out to you. The Pharisees wanted some spectacular religion and a hero for a Messiah and Savior. But here is this crazy, camel hair-wearing prophet. To their frustration, he will only point them to Jesus. Jesus is coming after John, even though He is before John as the eternal Son of God. John points to Jesus, and Jesus shows up the next day.

The same is true for your preacher. All the man in this pulpit has for you is Jesus, the very Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Often you want to know why the cancer came back. You want to know how to fix your marriage. You want to know how to deal with your family member who won't stop stirring up trouble. You want to know why the world is going crazy and bad things are happening. Your pastor knows you want answers for all of it. Your pastor does not have access to the full counsel of God. But all I have for you is Jesus, who is far greater than I am. Like John, all I have for you is the signs I’ve been called to administer: Baptism, Absolution, the Word, and the Supper. All I have for you is Jesus, which you receive in these gifts: the Jesus who gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. When you find yourselves thinking that religion and faith is supposed to be something other than those things, something other than Jesus, then repent.

And what good is Jesus? He's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He gives Himself into death so that, through your baptism, your sin dies with Him. He rises from the dead so that, in feasting on His flesh and blood, you will rise from the dead. Cancer can't keep you down. Nothing another person does to you can harm you eternally. Nothing in this world can undo what Jesus has done for you. Nothing. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, devil and hell.

We fall into the trap of trying to get something other than Jesus. We want the answers. We want to read the last page of the story. But for the Pharisees, John has only Jesus. For you, there is only Jesus. And He is enough. And while we may have to wait to open our Christmas presents, today we receive the gifts of Jesus with all their forgiving and saving power. We'll receive them again on Christmas and the Sunday after that and again and again. After all, though your pastor doesn’t have all the answers, the one thing he has for you is Jesus…and that’s the one thing you need. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sermon for 12/14/14: Advent III



All Flesh

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

Often, we hear well-intentioned Christians speak as if God would never count sins against a little child. After all, no one wants to think of children suffering—not even for sin. The problem is, that undermines the Gospel. Which is more innocent: a baby born of sinful parents, or the sinless Son of God? Is Jesus less innocent than one of our children, who gets mad if Mommy doesn’t get the bottle to his mouth in time? When you don’t get there quite in time, the crying escalates. And by the time you do get bottle ready, there’s just no satisfying the child. It’s no longer about the bottle. The baby is angry. Sin has manifested itself at that early age. If babies aren’t accountable for sin, then how can God hold Christ, the only truly innocent One, accountable for all our sin?

If only some of us are sinners, if only some of us accountable to God, then why does God declare through Isaiah, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” The wages of sin is death. And even babies died, for example, when God sent Noah into the ark and sent the flood. Like all others, babies need God’s forgiveness, so God says through His prophet, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” All flesh. God doesn’t leave out anyone—not children, not those on their deathbeds, anyone—who need the saving Jesus brings.

Many Christians have a faith that wars against the Gospel. Have you heard someone say, “I know that GOD forgives me, but I just need to forgive myself”? They are like John, sitting in a prison cell, wondering where their release will come from. They claim to believe it comes from God, but they behave as if it comes from them. This is not from the Holy Spirit. Israel didn’t come out of bondage when they decided that their suffering was over. They came out when the mouth of the Lord had spoken. God Himself released them and brought them home. God delivered forgiveness of sins, saying, “Your iniquity is pardoned.” And with that, Israel received double—more grace than sinners deserve—for her sins.

All flesh is sinful. And all flesh is rescued in the sinless flesh and blood of God’s own Son. Jesus takes the lambs into His arms and carries them to Calvary, to forgiveness and life. John’s voice proclaimed to all Israel the double portion God has for all sinners in Christ Jesus. Don’t let anybody rob you of the double portion that God gives to you. And when you doubt—for you will doubt—even then, do not think you’re too far gone. Even John, the last and greatest Old Testament prophet from God, asked questions. "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus gives John the answer. John’s release from prison will be delivered through the Mouth of the Lord. “Go,” Jesus says, “and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus puts salvation entirely on Himself, so that John has nothing to fear from a closed cell door or from the axe that will fall upon his neck.

Jesus released all of Israel from her awful captivity. He released John from his captivity. And He releases you from your captivity. He did it by His dying and rising in your place. He does this by giving you repentance and forgiveness. He does it by pouring out His Word and Water, like a flood, like the bursting of the prison house of sin once and for all. The promise is for you and for your children. The only innocent One took upon Himself the sins of everybody else. You are free, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sermon for 12/7/14: Advent II


Lift Up Your Heads

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

Jesus will return soon, and the world will be surprised and terrified. How about you, dear Christian? Will the coming of Christ catch you off guard? It shouldn't. Jesus tells us it's going to happen. Look around. You see wars, signs in the night sky, and all kinds of other terrible things in this world. What do you think when you see that? Do you think, as the world does, "How will I avoid this? How can I survive this? How can I get through this?" Is it all about you? Jesus is teaching you another way. He teaches you to say, "I see all these terrible things happening. The Lord must be near. I shall cling to Christ and His Word which never pass away." The world is doomed. It is coming undone, and it will keep doing so until our Lord comes. The Lord allows the world to come unraveled so that you will cling to nothing but the Word of God.

When you see these signs, Jesus tells you, "Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near." When the world is in terror around you, stand tall as a Christian and know that your Lord is on His Way. Stand tall in a world that is shrinking away from trouble and terror. Stand tall and lift up your heads, for Jesus was lifted up for you, hung upon a cross for your sins. To a world that doesn't want to hear that it's sinful, Christ came and bore your sins. To "stand up and lift up your heads" is another way of telling you to believe and trust in Him, to confess that Jesus is your life, your redemption, and your salvation. When you see Jesus coming, don't be afraid! He's not coming to destroy you. He’s coming to rescue you once and for all! He who bore your sins on the cross comes to bear you home to paradise!

So how do you stand tall and lift up your head in a world that is falling apart? When you are surrounded by those who would rather run around worrying about all their problems, how do you stand tall and lift up your head? How do you live in faith when you are surrounded by people trying to drag you down and get you to only think of yourself? You stand and lift up your head by coming to the Divine Service. You stand and lift up you head as you hear the Lord's Name, which put upon you in Holy Baptism, spoken again into your ears. You stand and lift up your head as your pastor absolves you of your sins. You stand and lift up your head as you hear God's Word. You stand and lift your head as you open wide your mouth to receive Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Just as the fig tree is a sign that summer is near, so Christ's Word and Sacraments are a pledge and promise that Christ Himself is already here with us so that, when He comes again, it will not be a day of terror but a day of joy and celebration. You stand and lift up your head in faith by living in the gifts of Christ which prepare us for His coming in glory on the Last Day.

The holy season of Advent helps us to live as Christians because it teaches us to stop running around like the world and instead proclaims Jesus who comes to save us. Think about how the world does things. The world gears up for the so-called holiday season. The world runs around, spending more than it has and partying like there's no tomorrow. Then December 26 comes, and there's nothing left but long lines to return unwanted gifts. The holiday season has passed away. But in the church we celebrate Advent, a time of repentance and faith. When the world's holiday is over and done, we have the 12 Days of Christmas. The celebration is just getting started for the people of God. That's how it will be when the Lord returns. For the world it will be the end of all things. For God's people in Jesus Christ, our Lord's return is just the beginning of eternal life. Stand up, lift up your heads! Our Lord is coming. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sermon for 11/30/14: Advent I



Coming to Die

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

Jesus was coming. He was coming to die. He came to earth in the flesh for a purpose, and that purpose was to die for sinners. That’s why Advent begins with Palm Sunday: so we look forward to Christmas for the right reason. This is not just a celebration of the birth of Christ, but the birth of the One who was born to die for you. Advent begins with Palm Sunday to teach you to celebrate Christmas as you should, that is, celebrating at Christmas time the birth of the Child who takes away your sins.

So how do you welcome our King as He comes? You confess Him as the fulfillment of God's promises. Jeremiah says that a righteous branch will grow up from David's line. His Name will be called "The Lord our Righteousness." Behold the man riding into Jerusalem on a donkey! You are not righteous, but He is. You are a sinner. He is the Lamb who comes to be the sacrifice for your sins. To be ready as He comes is to see that this Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Lord's promises throughout the Scriptures. Every promise God ever made to His sinful creation has come together and is fulfilled in the Son of God in the flesh. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, you hear the prophets announcing His arrival. This is the high point of all human history: God is here in the flesh, one of us, yet without sin, to be our King!

The Lord doesn't come for you to throw your jackets before Him; He comes to take away your sins. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, not so He can have a parade, but so that you can recognize Him as the King who is on His way to the cross for you. In this holy season of Advent, dear Christians, throw your sins to Jesus. Stand before Him so that He might throw upon you the white robe of His righteousness! He does so in Holy Baptism. He covers you. He welcomes you at the font as His own dear redeemed child of God!

But don't just stand there on the side of the road in Jerusalem! The Lord is coming to you now, for real—not on a donkey this time, but under the bread and wine with His body and blood. With His own Words, the Lord puts Himself upon this altar and into your mouth to bring you righteousness and salvation, just like the prophet says! My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are gathered here because our Lord is coming! We are not here just remembering some stuff that happened a long time ago! No, we are here today because, by His Word and Sacraments, Christ is truly present among us! He comes through the ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments: in this cleansing from sin, in the Word of forgiveness, in His body and blood on His altar. He comes among us to forgive us, to keep us in the faith, to take away our sins, to be our true and saving King! No wonder we sing in the liturgy: “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.

That Day is coming when our Lord will return. There is no time to  waste in despising our neighbor, no time for shirking the responsibilities of our callings, no time for kids to do everything except what their parents tell them. There is no time, with our Lord on the way, to be building debts of sin against other people! Now is the time to love one another. Now is the time to remember that our Lord came to love us so that we might learn to love, to care for and serve others. Now is the time of anticipation. Now is the time of confessing our sins and living in our Lord's forgiveness. Now is the time to look heavenward, eagerly expecting our Lord's return. We long for that day and pray that it comes soon! And just as the crowds sang and as we will sing on that day, our new Church Year begins as we confess our faith and hope in Jesus: “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sermon for 11/26/14: Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving




Fools for Wealth

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

As we look around the world, we can find many examples of people who misunderstand what the Bible has to teach about the blessings of material wealth. At one end of the spectrum, we find a clergyman who drives a Rolls Royce. He teaches that God blesses the true believer with the material prosperity of this world. He wants his followers to understand that his fancy car and other wealth is an indication of God's blessing, and his hearers can be similarly blessed if only they have true faith. At the other end of the spectrum, we find those who take a vow of poverty. There are many who believe that anything more than the bare necessities of this life is evil. They teach that only those who choose poverty are truly blessed. They are certain that this is a right understanding of the Bible's teachings about the material wealth of this world.

It should be obvious that these two teachings are exact opposites. They are mutually exclusive. They simply cannot both be right. In fact, our experience in life leads us to suspect that two such extreme positions are probably both wrong. But one doesn’t have to have an extreme position to be wrong about wealth. Our text is commonly called the story of the rich fool. Why is this man a fool? He built a barn to hold his harvest. Can that be bad? The one who saves for a rainy day is not necessarily a fool. But when one focuses on that wealth and is not rich toward God, then certainly he is a fool. The man in the story left God out of the picture. He allowed his wealth to become his god.

Paul writes, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." Many people misquote this and say that money is the root of evil. But money is not evil of itself. Our love of money is the problem. This error is very attractive, though, because it shifts the blame from us to money. If it is money itself that is evil, then we can say we are the innocent victims of evil wealth. We may even be so foolish as to blame the One who blesses us with all we have. But the Bible will not let us get away with that sort of thinking. Jesus Himself said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Although the results of sin happen in the world around us, the sin happens within us. We can't blame money. We can only blame ourselves.

Jesus tells us that the cure for our dilemma is to be rich toward God. But how can sinners do this? If we are to be rich toward God, it must come from outside of us. This is where the power of God's Word comes into play, for His Word gives us those riches. The riches of God are nothing other than the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Jesus earned for us with His perfect life, death, and resurrection—riches we inherit in the waters of Holy Baptism, riches we receive in the Word of Absolution and the Word preached, a rich feast of the body and blood of Jesus.

Christians have more reasons to give thanks than any other people on the planet. We have a Savior. We have eternal life. We have peace with God. In fact, Christians are the only ones who can properly give thanks. Only Christians know the One who blesses us. It’s not because of any special merit or worthiness on our part, but because of the Father's grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ. So don't be a fool. Enjoy all the riches of God. Enjoy both earthly riches and heavenly treasure. This is all a free gift from our dear Father in Heaven who loves us and sent His Son to save us. Thanks be to God for this priceless treasure. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sermon for 11/23/14: Last Sunday of the Church Year



Lamps and Oil

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

Ten Virgins went to meet the Bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. The Bible says, "The fool says in his heart there is no God." The foolish virgins are foolish because to them the things of God are not worth desiring. Perhaps they think the Bridegroom will not come. Maybe they don't care whether Jesus is returning. The gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are not things they crave. Perhaps they have some sin that they want to keep. Whatever the case, they are foolish because they leave behind the gifts of faith. When the Bridegroom comes, they are not ready.

On the other hand, the Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The wise virgins fear the Lord. They know they owe their existence to the Bridegroom. Their whole life is one lived waiting for Him. They live by His mercy. They live in the forgiveness of sins. The oil of that forgiveness is what keeps their lamps lit, and they know they will need it on the Last Day. They are ready to meet the Bridegroom because they live in that forgiveness.

Where does the oil come from? Lamps in Bible times were fueled by simple wicks in olive oil. Olive oil comes from olives. And the oil is gotten out of the olives by taking them from the olive tree and crushing and squeezing them. But the oil in your lamp is from the tree of the cross. On that tree, the Son of God in the flesh is squeezed and pressed and crushed for your sins. And as He is crushed and killed by the weight of your sins, blood and water flow out of Him. Christ's blood and water flow into the vessels prepared for them: the water into the holy font and the blood into the holy cup. The oil that the virgins carry is not some oil they made themselves or came up with. The oil that fuels are lamp is not our good works or good intentions or even our own faithfulness and believing. The oil that fuels our lamps, that gives us light, is the oil of Christ Himself pressed out of Him on the cross as He gave Himself for the Bride to make her spotless and holy and perfect for Himself. The oil you have, brothers and sisters, is from Christ Himself. Only what is from Christ Himself burns purely and supplies you light at the midnight hour when our Lord comes again.

Take a minute to make sure you've got that oil! That oil is poured into your vessel at the font when it is poured on you with water and the Word. The gifts of Holy Baptism—God's name, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the peace of the Spirit and the adoption as a child of God—these gifts are poured into you in Holy Baptism; in the words of Jesus which are written to tell you what He has done; in the words of Jesus spoken that declare your sins are forgiven; in the body and blood poured into you, given to you to eat and drink, which delivers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

When the Bridegroom comes again, you will be ready with a lamp that is burning brightly, filled from these heavenly gifts. When Jesus comes again on the Last Day and wakes us from the sleep of death, we trim our lamps, and they burn brightly because of Him and what He has given us. It is Jesus we are waiting for, and it is Jesus Himself who gives us the oil of Himself, so that we might be prepared to enter into the wedding feast when He comes again. Wake up! He's almost here, and the feast is ready. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sermon for 11/16/14--Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

My apologies. I've been fighting off illness this week.



Sheep Are Made

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

You are not a sheep or a goat based on what good works you've done for Jesus through your neighbor. When the last day arrives, the sheep are already sheep and the goats are already goats. And you are sheep. Why? What makes you a sheep? St. Peter says to be holy and blameless until that Day. And you are holy and blameless. It is not because you do good works. Rather, it is because you are washed, absolved, and fed. It is the Son of Man who has made you blameless. It is the Son of the Ancient of Days that has made you innocent in the sight of God. It is the Lamb of God who has clothed you with His own holiness so that now you are a sheep. Dear children of God, let this picture of sheep and goats stir you up to faithful service of your Lord through serving your neighbor. But do not let it cause you to doubt and question your salvation! Let it be a comfort that your Father in heaven has indeed prepared a kingdom for you.

When you stand before the Lord on the last Day, you will be judged. But you will not be judged for your sins. Your judgment will consist of hearing the proclamation of your inheritance and eternal blessings: "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world!" Brothers and sisters in Christ, the kingdom you will inherit on that day has been waiting for you since before the world was even made! Didn't we cast away that paradise the day our parents ate from the Tree of Knowledge? Yes. But our Lord Jesus came to get back that kingdom for us.

What a terrible thing the Father's judgment is! He will cast into eternal torment all those who don't love Him or their neighbor! It is that judgment that Jesus faces when He is nailed to the cross. At the cross, neighbors whom He loved demonstrated hatred to Him in return and crucified Him. On the cross, the Father whom He obeyed turned His back and allowed the sins of the world to kill His only begotten Son. There on Calvary the spotless Lamb of God was slaughtered like a worthless goat! That's your salvation. That's how you are made into a Lamb. The kingdom has always been there, prepared for you. And Jesus came and won it back for you.

There is great temptation to measure yourself by how many good works you do. Are you a Christian? Are you really a sheep? Have you done good things for Jesus by doing good things for your brothers and sisters in Christ? If not, watch out! You're not really a child of God. And in all honesty, you love yourself more than Jesus or your neighbor. But what does your Baptism say? It says you are a sheep. It says that you are holy and blameless, without sin in the sight of God. What does absolution tell you? Your sins are forgiven, as far as the East is from the West. No one in heaven or on earth can say otherwise! What does the body and blood of Jesus say? It is the blood of the Lamb of God, and it says that you are what you eat: so you are a lamb too! The Holy Gospel in word, water, bread and wine declares you to be a child of the Father, a subject of the true King, a sheep on the Last Day. There's a kingdom waiting for you.

So where do good works come in? When Jesus tells the sheep all the good things they've done for Him, what do they say? "When did we ever do that?" Jesus answers that to do it to the least of His brethren is to do it to Him. To bring comfort and aid to our fellow Christians is to serve Jesus. But you don't measure it! You don't keep track of it! In fact, as sheep, you don't even know about it! On the Last Day, you will be amazed at all that you've accomplished for others and thereby for Christ. You will be astounded and humbled to hear your Lord praise you for all you've given to Him when you didn't even know! It's just the truth for those who are inheriting a kingdom!

Our Scripture Readings this morning give us a warning. But the Lord is patient, and He wants none to perish. Therefore the Lord Himself rescues us from our selfish sin and death. He makes us His holy lambs and sheep. He washes, absolves and feeds us. Jesus has won back the kingdom for us. And now, protected in Christ from the day of burning fire, we are ready to inherit the kingdom of paradise prepared for us before the world was made. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

HYMN: Holy Lord, You Make Your Dwelling

St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, the congregation I've served for the past four-and-a-half years, will be celebrating her 125th anniversary next year and the 100th anniversary of the construction of our current sanctuary. We're gearing up for a celebration, and one of the things we will do is have a worship service in which we rejoice in the many blessings the Lord has given us over that time. 

Knowing that I've written a hymn or two, and knowing that one of our previous pastors wrote a hymn for the 100th anniversary celebration, the congregation members who have been meeting to discuss and plan the events asked me to put pen to paper to compose a text for the celebration. I unveiled the text I wrote at our meeting this past Sunday, and now that I've shared it with them, I thought I'd share it with you too.

Rather than talk up the congregation in a theology of glory kind of way, I focused instead on why we've gathered in this place for so long. As I wrote, I especially considered Revelation 21:3, John 1:14, Matthew 18:20, Isaiah 55:11, II Timothy 1:6, II Corinthians 5:18-19, I Corinthians 13:12, and John 8:36. The tune I selected is REGENT SQUARE, the tune which probably best known in Lutheran circles for the hymns "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory." I wanted it to be something with which the congregation was already familiar.

Anyway, here it is. I'd welcome comments and suggestions.

Holy Lord, You Make Your Dwelling
written for the 125th anniversary of
St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois

1. Holy Lord, You make Your dwelling
With Your people night and day.
Here, where baptized children gather.
Here You choose to come and stay.
Here in Christ You show Your glory:
God with us in fleshly clay.

2. You have promised Your own presence
When we gather in Your name.
In this holy house we meet You.
Here You fan our faith to flame.
Bless us with Your Holy Spirit:
God with us, Your Word proclaim.

3. Here You dwell in faithful preaching.
Here Your Word brings our release.
Here Your flesh and blood still nourish,
Cause our fear of death to cease.
You proclaim our sin forgiven:
God with us in endless peace.

∆ 4. Here we walk by faith, unknowing.
Still Your gifts have set us free.
Now and evermore we praise You,
Sing for joy on bended knee,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
God with us eternally.

© 2014 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 87

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sermon for 11/9/14--Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year



Eating God

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

The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. Their enemies lay dead on the seashore. They journeyed through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. Moses went up on the mountain to speak with the Lord. And the Israelites waited. And they waited. Finally they got tired of waiting. They told Aaron, "We're tired of waiting. We don't know what happened to Moses. Make us gods to lead the way!" Aaron collected their gold and made a golden calf. But here's the kicker: the Israelites didn't just make a false god. They attached the True God's name to it! My brothers and sisters in Christ, God's people are always in danger of this. Since His Ascension, the Lord's church has been waiting for His return. Instead of holding on tightly to Christ's Word and promises, people begin to think, "We don't know what happened to Christ. Let's make our own." And so, turning away from the true Christ, people make their own gods. We knew it would happen. Jesus said so. Christ is turned from being the Savior who dies and rises for our sins into some other kind of Christ: a personal life coach; a philosophy teacher; an angry Judge; a good pal; a Jesus who says that anything goes. The true Jesus is tossed aside and a false god arises. The terrible thing is that people put their trust in these false Christs and thereby deny and turn from the real Jesus, the only one who can and does actually save us!

The Lord was ready to wipe those Israelites off the face of the earth. And they certainly deserved it! How could they be rescued by the Lord and then turn around and make Him into a cow? That's what sinners do. But Moses reminds the Lord of His promises. God had promised to make a great nation from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For the sake of His Word, because of His promise, the Lord does not destroy them. You and I  love to trust in something other than the Lord. Given the opportunity, we would nail Him to a cross ourselves. Yet we are saved by the same thing: the Lord's promises. Because Jesus dies for the sins of the world, and because the Father has baptized you into His Son, He will not punish you for your sins. It falls on Jesus instead. The grace of God that spared the children of Israel after the golden calf is the same grace which spares us from the punishment of our sins in Jesus Christ.

We don't suddenly wake up one day and decide we'd better stop sinning and get right with the Lord. We would keep dancing around our idols until our golden cows come home. Instead, Jesus intercedes. He puts Himself between the Father's judgment of sin and us sinners who have that judgment coming. Christ was nailed to the tree of the cross to be a lightning rod to take God's punishment of sin. As long as Jesus stands before His Father, the Father will never remember our sins or punish us for them. Now He has taken His place with the Father, praying for us, interceding for us, reminding the Father continually that He has taken our sins away and we are to be spared from everlasting death!

Through Moses, God did punish the Israelites for their idolatry. He ground up the golden calf, sprinkled it on the water, and made them drink it! But in the mystery of God's grace, since the coming of Christ, we are not made to eat our idols. Rather we are given to eat the Lord Himself in His body and blood. Where the children of Israel were joined with their false god in a way that pointed out their sin, we are joined to the One who takes away our sin. When we eat and drink His body and blood, we do it for His remembrance, that is, He remembers what He has done for us and holds no sins against us. The true miracle is not some trick that the devil plays with his false gods showing off. The true miracle, the true sign and wonder, is that the Son of God takes the place of sinners to free us sinners from our sin and death.

Our countdown to the end of the Church Year has begun today. It’s time to start paying attention and looking for Jesus to come back! Should we be worried? No. Our Lord has warned us. He has given us His Word, and that Word cannot be broken. When you are troubled as you look around in these last days, then pray with God's Word. Call upon the Lord in repentance and faith. Cling to Jesus in His holy gifts at the font and altar. Then you will be ready with St. Paul and all the saints for the glorious coming of Christ. And so we wait. And wait. But that day will soon come. And on that day, the trumpet blast won't be the one of Mt. Sinai, to frighten and terrify. It will be the trumpet blast of our Savior, coming to raise us from the dead and bring us to Himself forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sermon for 11/2/14--Feast of All Saints

Sorry for the delay. Life intervenes.



Not Yet

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

On the Feast of All Saints, we remember those saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus and rest from their labors. They are with Jesus in paradise. But for us? Not yet. In this day and age, we’re used to instant gratification in most things. But our life in Christ, our life under the cross, is more like being in the midst of a battle with some grave illness. There’s always that wait for the next test or treatment or meeting with the doctor. And while we struggle through a life filled with distress and suffering and heartache, we wonder when God is going to put a stop to all of it. And the answer is, “Not yet.” Yes, you are baptized into Christ. You are going to rise from the sleep of death on the Last Day and live forever…but not yet. That’s why the church takes time to remember those who have gone before us, the faithful who rest from their labors. For them, the time has come. The Lord has brought them out of this life into eternal life. What they have, we will have too…but not yet.

To a church living within that time of “not yet,” Jesus speaks blessings and promises. Jesus tells us what we are. And He tells us what we have coming. In this life, we face persecution. In the life to come, we will have every blessing and the entire kingdom of God. In this life, people hate us and attack us, and we cry out, “How long, O Lord.” And the Lord answers, “Not yet.” But when ‘the strife is fierce and the warfare long,’ then what? How do we know these promises are true? What will make our hearts brave and our arms strong? How can we possibly wait it out until the “not yet” becomes “now?” The answer is Jesus. The promises are true because Jesus made them. And we know His promises are true because He died and then He rose. The reason those saints have not died in vain is that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. The reason they are with Him in paradise is the same reason the thief on the cross is: our Lord told them so. The reason we know what He said is true is because on that third day, that tomb was empty. Jesus rose. And therefore we celebrate all saints because we haven’t lost our brothers and sisters in Christ. They aren’t gone. They are with Jesus.

And because He rose from the dead, His promises to you are true as well. Despite the suffering, persecution, tragedy and anything else that plagues you in this life, you have Christ’s promise: the kingdom of God is yours. You have it now. You don’t have to wait. You entered that kingdom when you were baptized. You were clothed in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. Every pronouncement of absolution, every sermon announcing Christ crucified for sinners, every time you feast on the body and blood of Jesus: this is a proclamation that the enemies of the faithful are defeated. It may not be fully realized quite yet, but they’re going to be gone for good when Jesus returns. And every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, when we are gathered around the body and blood of Jesus, we are there with the angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven. Bodies rest in graves, but around the Lord’s altar, we who walk as yet by faith and those saints already with Christ in paradise are gathered around Jesus. These gifts are how you know His promises are true.

Even though it’s not yet time for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, those things still are going to happen. And you still have forgiveness and life now. But until the resurrection of all flesh, until the “not yet” becomes the “now,” His promise to you is that He will keep you and all His saints in faith until that day. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.