Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sermon for 4/22/18: Jubilate--Fourth Sunday of Easter

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ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

We are in the midst of the Easter season. Jesus is risen. Our sins are forgiven. The good work of the Spirit has begun in us. But on this Sunday of jubilation, we acknowledge that all is not yet complete. The enemy is defeated, but he still howls at us. Our flesh has been subdued, but it still pulls at us. The world is drunk in its delusion. It thinks either that Jesus is dead or that He doesn’t care. The Lord foretold this. He said that you will weep and lament. No one gets out of this life unscathed. No Christian is spared the cross. And no one gets to Easter without going through Good Friday.
In that weeping and lamenting, even in temptation and sorrow, we are comforted by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died and was taken away from the sight of the disciples for a little while. Then He rose and they saw Him. Though they had failed Him, He was not angry. He had died for them. He returned as a Bridegroom to His chamber. He came in mercy and love for the Father’s redeemed children. He bestowed His peace upon them and sent them to share the good news of His resurrection with the give them joy.
To illustrate what we currently suffer, and what the disciples suffered that Holy Saturday, He compares us to women in the throes of labor. It will hurt. You will think that you can take no more. You might even curse your husband and wish to die. But the pangs of childbirth are the ushers of joy. You will discover on the other side that it was all worth it; that your husband was faithful; that the child is worth every ounce of pain, every sacrifice. Part of this is simply the promise that the suffering will finally end. But the passage of a child out of the womb also shows something of the Lord’s passing through the dank womb of the earth and into the light of day. Death is the passage to life.
But more than that, the mother does not even remember her pain, so great is the joy which follows. There is no room left in her for that memory because of the joy that a child has been born to her. In the same way, the Lord has caused a new man to be born out of death, out of sorrow. He has drowned the Old Adam in the waters of Holy Baptism. From those waters, a child of God has been born: redeemed, spotless, righteous before God.
Here is the point: You have sorrow now. That is real. Contrary to what some false preachers would have you believe, the life of a Christian is not a life of ease if you just believe enough. We pray for relief. But we understand that God works through sorrows, that He keeps you close to Himself, that He afflicts you and chastens you according to His mercy. Through sorrow, pain, and temptation He is working virtue in you. He is teaching you to trust in Him. He is keeping you close to Himself. This is why confirmation was such a big deal in the early church, and why we still practice it today. They understood that the catechumens were joining an army; that they were being set up against Satan and the world and their own flesh; that they were taking up their crosses.
That work, those crosses, will turn to joy. It will not be different joy. It is what you have already now, for Jesus is risen. You are not alone. Your sins are forgiven.  But you see Him now only dimly in the Sacrament. You receive His risen body in bread and know it by faith. But you will see Him again…and you will see Him fully. You will see Him in His risen, glorified body. You will see this with your own eyes—not hidden in bread and wine, but visible to all the world. Then your joy will be full. You will remember your anguish no more, and no one will take your joy from you. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sermon for 4/20/18: Funeral of Dale Lampe

Here's a link to Dale's obituary. I apologize for the lack of an audio recording. I forgot to record the sermon at the funeral home.

“If You Had Been Here...”

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Both Martha and Mary cried out to the Lord in this way. The implication is that Jesus didn’t care enough about Lazarus or the sisters to see to their needs. They’re His friends, but apparently other things were more important than His friends.

You may be feeling something similar this morning. Usually, when someone goes into the hospital, they expect to come out healthier than when they went in. Sadly, this was not the case for Dale. It would be easy—and certainly it would be convenient—to blame Jesus for the death of our beloved son, brother, friend. “Lord, where were you?” “Lord, it’s not supposed to work this way.” “Lord, don’t you care?” The hard part of the Christian faith is accepting that the Lord’s will is not our own. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.” And we think we mean it when we say it. But we don’t understand the Lord’s will. We think He should do what we want Him to do. So when hard times come, when grief assails us, it’s easy to blame Jesus.

But our Lord knows your grief. He cried over Lazarus. It gives him no joy that the wages of sin is death. But at the same time, the Psalmist writes, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The Lord revealed to the Apostle John, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” And both these statements are true. Our Lord rejoices that He is able to welcome His children into their rest. Those children are blessed, for they now rest from their labors and rely fully on Jesus, whose death and resurrection paid the price for our sins. Dale won’t walk from his tomb to resume his earthly life with us. But on the Last Day, everyone will be raised from the dead. And those who live by faith in God, those who believe that Jesus died for their sin and rose from the dead, will rise to live in the eternal presence of their Savior.

We have no need to cry out, “Lord, if you had been here...” for He is here, even now. He is here, comforting you with His Word. He is here, rejoicing that Dale rests from his labors. And He is here to remind you that He is preparing a place for you, too. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

HYMN: O Great Physician, Dear Lord Jesus

I’d like to say that I’ve been working ahead of the need this time, getting a hymn out early for once. But if I’m being honest, I’ve been working on this text, based on the readings for the Twelfth Sunday After Trinity, since October, not long after Michael went back into the hospital. All I had was one snippet to start me off with—“Ears to hear and tongues to sing/The praises of my King”—and that didn’t even make it in its full form into this draft. And then, yesterday evening, I was sitting near the back of a church as a visitor at the Divine Service, thinking on an unrelated text, when an idea came to me for a direction to take this text. 

It still needs some work, I think, especially in the second verse, but it’s a start. Anyway, here it is. As always, feedback is love.

O Great Physician, Dear Lord Jesus

1. O Great Physician, dear Lord Jesus,
You heal the body and the soul. 
From all sin’s wages You release us
And by Your grace You make us whole.
I pray You, lay Your hand on me
And set Your servant free.

2. I stand before You, humbled, lowly,
With knotted tongue and deafened ears.
I call on You to cure me wholly.
You only are the God who hears.
You only have the gift divine
To make full healing mine.

3. Open my ears, that I may listen
And hear Your Gospel’s joyful sound.
My flesh with holy water christen
And let You Word of grace abound.
Your Word will teach me to repeat
A creed both pure and sweet.

4. Then loose my tongue to sing your praises,
Confessing You as Lord and God,
Guiding my voice to festive phrases
In anthems, psalms, and hymns unflawed.
Open my lips, that I may sing
Glad songs to You, my King.

98 98 86
Occasion: Trinity 12–Mark 7:31-37

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sermon for 4/1/18: The Resurrection of Our Lord (Hands series)

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Hands That Prove

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The hands of the grieving ladies had been busy. They wrung their hands helplessly as their Lord, the Lord of life, suffered and died. And after watching their Lord be put through a farce of a trial, after watching Him be crucified, after watching Him die, after watching the soldiers pierce His side, after watching Him being removed from the cross, after watching Him be placed in the tomb and then sealed inside, the ladies prepared spices to anoint the body of their deceased, beloved Lord. Nothing would ever be the same for them, they thought. And they were right, though they could never have imagined the way the Lord would change everything. Their crucified, dead, and buried Lord had risen from the dead, and in doing so He destroyed the power of death forever. 
Mary Magdalene touched the Lord with her hands, but that wasn’t good enough. Our Lord appeared to the disciples, hidden for fear in the upper room, as we will hear next week. He showed them His hands, and they believed. That same evening He appeared to two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus. He taught them what His life, His work, His death, and His resurrection meant, and then His hands proved to them who He was by breaking bread before them, just as He had done at the feeding of the 5,000, just as He had done when He instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. He then showed His hands and feet and side to Thomas, proving to him that Jesus is His risen Lord and God.
But He had spent His whole ministry proving Himself to be their God. When parents brought children to Jesus so the He might touch them, He was insistent: “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And no one would know that better than the Son of God, for He brought the Kingdom with Him. When the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the leprous came to Jesus, He placed His hands on them and healed them. When He came upon the dead—the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and even His friend Lazarus—even before He rose from the dead Himself, He brought these dead back to life. He proved Himself to be the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Life. 
That’s all very well and good for the people who actually got to see Jesus with their eyes, who were touched by His hands, who walked with Him, who were healed by Him. But what about us, Lord? What about the people who walk as yet by faith and not by sight? Are we to wallow in despair because we cannot see His hands upon us? No. Our Lord does not leave us to walk in uncertainty. We may not see Him with our eyes, but He still touches us today. Just as He picked up the little children in His arms and blessed them, He does that today when the pastor takes a child in His arms and washes that child “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And more than just blessing these children in His arms, He has raised them from the dead, and even more profoundly than raising Lazarus, for these baptized children will not face the eternal death their sins deserved. His holy, wounded hands lay His own body and pour His own blood into your mouth by the hands of His chosen servants who stand in His stead. 
We have spent the past 40 days looking at our Lord’s hands and how they serve us. Today, those hands invite you to come to Him in this place for rest. His hands heal your soul by pouring his blood into you as the medicine of salvation. His hands provide for your needs of body and soul. His hands are folded in prayer over you, that you would be united to Him. His hands protect you from the strokes of Satan and your own sinful flesh. His hands have set you apart, consecrating you for service. His hands have bled into the cup you will come forward to receive. And His hands have proved that He is your good and gracious God, your Lord of life, and your Life in the midst of death. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sermon for 3/30/18: Good Friday (Hands series)

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Hands That Bleed

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

At our Lord’s trial, the mob cried out about Jesus, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Most accomplices to murder have no desire to have the victim’s blood on the hands or their consciences, so this cry is particularly stunning. Who actually wants to be covered with blood? But when someone is filled with so much hate—a hatred multiplied by the mentality of the mob—sometimes it’s worth it to be covered in blood. The crowd, fueled with the hatred of the religious leaders of the Jews, certainly thought they could handle the consequences of killing their King.

But blood is a powerful thing. Moses tells us that the blood of Abel cried out from the ground to the Lord. God told the Israelites not to consume the blood of any creature they killed, for “the life of all flesh is its blood.” And the mob, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Passover, knew the power of blood. The very Passover they were in Jerusalem to celebrate was a celebration of the blood of the Passover lamb. The lamb’s blood marked their homes as the homes of the children of Israel; seeing that blood, the angel of death would spare the firstborn sons of Israel. They knew the power of blood; their ancestors had slain “prophets, wise men, and scribes.” And now they wanted to see blood spill from their King of Kings. 

Blood is, indeed, a powerful thing. The blood of the Son of God is exceptionally powerful. If Abel’s sinful blood was able to cry out to the Lord, how much louder would be the cry of Christ’s innocent blood to His Father? The farmer Cain was cursed from the earth, and his toil would no longer bring forth fruit; how much more dreadful would be the punishment of those with the blood of Christ on their hands? And we are not innocent of the blood of Christ, either, for our every sin gives out a cry for the blood of Christ to rest upon us and our children as well, as surely as if we ourselves had pierced our Lord’s hands, feet, head, and side. 

The Lord allowed His blood to spill from His innocent hands. But the blood of Christ is not merely powerful to condemn the unfaithful. For the repentant, for those who realize by faith the power of the blood of Jesus upon their hands, that blood is a cleansing flood. When the Apostle John was given a vision of heaven, he was blessed to see the true power of that blood. The elder stood before the throne of heaven, pointing John’s attention to the white-robed worshipers, the saints singing praises to the Lamb of God. He told John, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They have been clothed in the spotless baptismal robe of the righteousness of Christ. They stand before the throne and sing praises to the Lamb eternally. 

The old adage says, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.” The crowd screamed for blood. Only by the gracious and merciful power of God could such a dreadful prayer be heard and answered as a mighty blessing to His children. The children of Israel wanted the blood of Jesus to spill? The Father allowed that blood to be spilled. The thorn-encircled brow of Jesus spilled blood. The hands and feet of Jesus spilled blood. Blood and water flowed forth from the pierced side of Jesus. And just as the Father promised it would be, “the life of all flesh is blood,” for the blood of Jesus is the life of the Church. The blood and water flowing forth from the side of Jesus are the sign of the Sacraments: water with the Word of God washing us clean in Holy Baptism, and blood with the body of Christ feeding us in the Holy Supper. His blood is, indeed, upon us and upon our children. And His righteous blood, flowing from His pierc├ęd side, His thorn-encircled brow, His feet, and His hands, is our life. 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, March 29, 2018

Sermon for 3/29/18: Maundy Thursday (Hands series)

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Hands That Consecrate

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

            Our Lord Jesus Christ does nothing by accident. Everything He does, He does with a purpose. So when He takes bread into His hands and blesses it, and then does the same with the cup of wine, it’s not just because that’s what’s handy as they celebrate the Passover. Jesus has a purpose, and everything He says and does is for that purpose. Everything He says and does is for the salvation of His creation.
            Since our Lord always acts with purpose, it is important that we examine what our Lord says and does. He began with the command: “Take and eat.” “Take and drink.” He does not call upon us to do something miraculous. We do not have that ability. He tells us to something natural—something, in fact, that we need to do to live. Eat. Drink. It’s no coincidence that He connects His gifts with eating and drinking. Our earthly lives are fed by what we take in with our mouths; the same is true for eternal life.
            And that’s true because of the Word of Christ. Hear the Word of God, recorded by the prophet Isaiah: “As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So when Jesus says, “This is my body;” “This is my blood;” “given” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;” His Word does exactly what He says it will do. The bread is His body; the wine is His blood; in taking and eating and drinking, we eat and drink His body and blood, and we receive the forgiveness of our sins. The hands of our Lord consecrate this holy Meal, setting apart the bread and wine for the purpose of our salvation.
            This is a stumbling block for many, including many who call themselves Christians. They doubt the power of Christ’s Word to do what He says it will do. When Jesus says of the bread, “This is my body,” they can’t bring themselves to believe that Jesus means it’s actually His body. Bread is bread, they think, and it certainly cannot contain anything that isn’t bread. In their minds, when Jesus uses the word “is” when He says, “This is my body,” the bread can only represent His body; it’s only a symbol. But that raises the question: If Jesus cannot actually do what He says He will do, then how can we really trust that He has the power to take away our sins?
            My brothers and sisters in Christ: Do you trust the power of the Word of God? Do you trust that, when your pastor poured water on you and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you were made a child of God and given faith to cling to what our Lord says? Do you trust that, when your pastor makes the sign of the cross and says, “In the stead of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins,” Jesus is taking away your sins? It is not your pastor who is doing the work; he is only acting as our Lord’s hands and mouth. Your pastor’s hands and mouth have been set apart, consecrated to deliver the gifts which Christ has called him to deliver.
            Here is the truth: Christ is truly present, body and blood, in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, just as He says He is. Your faith doesn’t put Him there, but it recognizes Him in this holy gift. The ordinary bread and wine, combined with the Word of God, deliver the crucified and resurrected Christ to you. These ordinary, everyday things, combined with the Word of God, deliver the forgiveness, life, and salvation Jesus died and rose to give you. Receive it from His hand, the hand of Christ which set it apart for you, the hand that has set you apart as one whom He has redeemed. 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, March 28, 2018

Sermon for 3/28/18: Wednesday of Holy Week

I was the guest preacher today at St. John Lutheran Church in Chester, Illinois. Every year during Holy Week, St. John welcomes LCMS pastors from the area to preach a brief sermon for a short service during the noon hour, and I've been one of the guest preachers for at least the past three years. I enjoy the opportunity, and not just because the ladies of the congregation provide lunch for the guest preacher after the service. As always, RIGHT CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

Daring to Die

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

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the world seems to be upside down right now. The evils of this world—things like abortion, homosexual marriage, living together outside of marriage, and a whole host of other sinful and evil things—the world calls them “good” and “just” and “loving.” Even some who call themselves “Christian” have given in to this. At the same time, the world condemns the life of faith in Jesus Christ. In some places it is capital crime to confess that Jesus is Lord, and those who act as judge and jury and executioner are quick to carry out that death sentence, often in the most gruesome ways. One theologian wrote, “When Christ calls a man, He bids that man come and die.”
In the recent shooting spree in the school in Parkland, Florida, in the middle of a horrible act of murder and terror, stories emerged of teachers, coaches, and students who put the lives of their fellow human beings ahead of their own lives. Some of these heroes died; others survived. St. Paul wrote, Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” Seeing so many heroes in this tragedy does not disprove Paul’s words; it testifies to their truth. We would not consider them heroes if this was the normal way of things. We all value the lives of children—the ones who make it to birth, at least—so we can understand why these heroes would take the extraordinary measures they did. For a good man, and yes, for children, some might dare to die. But would someone step in to take the place of the Parkland shooter?
That makes what our Lord Jesus has done for us so astounding. Our Lord was born into a fallen world. He did not come for good people. He came to people who hated him, who wanted Him dead. And He gave them what they wanted. He gave Himself willingly to hang on the cross. He gave Himself as a blood sacrifice for the very people who killed him. He offered Himself, dying for His enemies—for poor miserable sinners who deserved to die in our sins. His willing substitution as the Sacrifice to pay the price for our sin has reconciled us to God, made us right with Him. The watered blood He shed has poured out on us in Holy Baptism. That blood washed us clean of that sin and made us children of the heavenly Father. Our Lord Jesus dared to die in our place. He died to give us life with Him 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.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sermon for 3/25/18: Palmarum--The Passion of Our Lord

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Blood and Life

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

The unbelief and pride and rage of the Jews blinded them. They could not see—indeed, they refused to see. The man they killed was their Messiah, their King, their Lord and God. They would not believe. They did not even believe their own words when they attempted to convince Pilate to kill Jesus: His blood be on us and on our children.” With those words, they called down upon themselves a curse. They were blinded by their unbelief and rage. If only they could put away their pride and confess their sin. If only their unbelief did not veil their hearts.
When we decorate this sanctuary for Good Friday, we veil the processional crucifix. We veil the body of Christ our Lord, extended and suspended on the cross, to remind ourselves that we have much in common with that angry mob. We all so often are blinded by our unbelief, blinded by the desires of our flesh. We are blinded by our will to choose death of our souls. We choose death by living for ourselves, by living against our neighbor, by living against the Lord’s will, by living as if we matter most.
We veil the Christ who hangs before us because we are ashamed and afraid. We are ashamed of what our sins have done. We are afraid of our own selves—what our hands will do, what our mouths will say. We are ashamed that, by our words and deeds, we have plotted against the Lord. We are afraid that our lust for everything but the Kingdom of God has nailed the Son of God to the cross. And so we veil the Christ who hangs before us.
That fear and shame, the sight of what our evil has done, the knowledge of our unworthiness to stand here in this place where the sacrifice is available—let that drive us to our knees so that we cry out in true faith saying, “His blood be on us and on our children.” For that is precisely what Our Lord Jesus wants for us. He wants to bathe us in His holy blood, to revive and refresh and nourish us with His precious and life-giving blood. And when His watered blood has hit your forehead, when you’ve drunk from His holy chalice—then, as St. Paul writes, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” He does not see this as your undoing, but as your life. He does not see this as the reason to damn you, but the way to save you. He does not see this as the justification for punishing you, but the reason for reconciling you to Himself, renewing you in Him, and restoring in you the Life He is—and the Life He desires to live in and through you.
Our Lord Jesus does not feel cheated as you look at Him on the cross. And even though He is humiliated, He will not humiliate you for what you’ve done to Him. Instead, He uses His cross to lift you up and exalt you. He lifts up your heart and presents to you His broken body so that you might give Him thanks. And His spilled blood now becomes the promise and the blessing for you and your children.
What a wonderful exchange occurs. The Jews meant this as the death of a blasphemer. But He converted it into the way of Life for those who had rejected Him. You see the Son of God suspended on a tree. But He tells you to believe that it is your life and salvation. We veil His cross because of the shame and fear we feel. But He calls it His triumphant day, the day He is glorified. You look and are repulsed. But He uses the repulsive cross to draw all men to Himself. The world calls it the curse of a fool. But we have come to believe that this crucifixion is the wisdom and power of God. Let us boast in the cross of Christ our Lord. To Him be all glory, honor, and worship, now and 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.   

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sermon for 3/20/18: Midweek Lent V (Hands series)

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Hands That Protect

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

When God made His creatures, He did not simply make them and then leave them to their own devices. He is not watching us, as Bette Midler would assert, “from a distance.” He has taken it upon Himself to protect His people. The Creator took responsibility for the well-being of His creation. Our Savior’s hands are hands that protect. 
That was true when the disciples were alone in a boat. Jesus came to them in the midst of a storm; He was walking on water. The disciples were terrified, thinking Jesus was some sort of ghost. Jesus reassured them: “Be of good cheer. It is I; do not be afraid.” That wasn’t good enough for Peter. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Peter is either incredibly confident in the Lord or incredibly foolish to test the Lord; maybe both. Either way, Jesus invited Peter to come to Him. You know the story. Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk toward Jesus on the water. When he took his eyes off the Lord and allowed himself to be distracted by the winds and the waves and his own doubts, he began to sink. But our Lord reached out with His powerful hands and pulled Peter to safety. 
How easy it is for human beings to be distracted by the fearful events of life. How easy it is to lose sight of the Lord who promises His goodness and mercy and protection to all. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be something terrifying to distract you from the Lord. You allow all sorts of everyday things to distract you, to pull your attention away from the Lord: relationships, jobs, school, sports, hobbies—the list could go on endlessly. Maybe you’re just not familiar enough with the Lord’s Word to trust in His goodness. Maybe you allow yourself to see the little things of this life more clearly or to view them as larger and more important than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
But your perception is skewed. Think about the many times our Lord’s hands protect His people. Think of the woman caught in the act of adultery, how He protected her from being stoned to death. Think of the many times He protected the lives of the disciples. Think of the time He healed Malchus, the servant of the high priest, whose ear Peter cut off. And In the same action of protecting the high priest’s servant, He protected Peter from certain death, telling Peter to sheathe his sword in the face of overwhelming odds.
Think of the many times you have had our Lord’s protection. Think of the times in childhood that the Lord protected you from illness or from the dangers of your curiosity. Think of the times our Lord guided the hands of doctors and nurses and other health care providers. Think of the times you’ve survived driving in Carbondale. You may rejoice with the Psalmist: “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” The hands of the Savior protect His creatures.
But beyond the needs and dangers of the body—beyond even the danger of physical death—you need protection for your soul. You need protection from the folly of your sin. Without this protection, without His intervention for the sake of your soul, you would face eternally damning consequences, far more deadly than the mere death of the body. With His hands our Savior carried the cross upon which He would die, suffering those consequences you deserved for your sins. He who protects you from the perils of this life also preserves you for eternal life.
Do not focus on the perils of this life. Do not even focus on the perils that come with your sin. Our Lord extends His hands to you, inviting you to come to Him, to trust in Him. He who has used His hands to pour Baptismal water on you, who has put His own body and blood in your mouth, will use those hands to shield you from all dangers of body and soul. With those hands He will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death and into His presence, where you shall dwell with Him in the house of the Lord 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.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sermon for 3/18/18: Fifth Sunday in Lent

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

As we journey to the cross, let us consider the mercy of God. The Father sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved, rescued, redeemed, liberated from death, and reconciled and restored to the Father. This is the mercy of the Father: because of His love for us, He sends and offers up His Son. And this is the mercy of the Son: because He shares that same love for us, He willingly and freely lets Himself be man-handled, offered up, and killed for our benefit. Nothing stands in the way of this mercy of God—not the machinations of the Jews; not the betrayal of Judas; not the denial of Peter; not the threats and assaults of Satan. Nothing prevents the Father from offering up His Son, and nothing prevents the Son from carrying out His Father’s gracious plan. At no point does the Father consider withholding His Son; and at no point does the Son work to avoid His cross.
In fact, so great is the mercy of the Father, and so relentless is the love of the Son, that our Lord Jesus spends nearly all of His time with those who reject Him most: with the scribes and Pharisees, with the reluctant and recalcitrant Jews. He does not run or hide from them, but continues to engage them in disputation, not because He loves a good argument; not because He wishes to expose their blasphemy; but because He loves them with a love that will not quit, a love that will do whatever it takes to win them over.
Yet they accuse, indict, try, and convict Him of sin. Jesus, who knew no sin; Jesus, who is the sinless Son of the Father—they have the nerve and arrogance to accuse Him: “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” And we are like them: accusing Him in our moments of need of not caring for us; accusing Him of looking on in amusement as we suffer. If He were like us, long ago He would have thrown up His hands and said, “To hell with you all.”  And if He were like us, He would have turned His back on them. If He were like us, long ago He would have said, “It’s hopeless. Your minds are made up.” If He were like us, He would have blocked them on Facebook. “The Shepherd dies for sheep who love to wander.”
But Love doesn’t speak or work that way. Love is patient and kind. Love endures and suffers all for the sake of another. And Love is willing to endanger His life in order to save the soul of another. There our Lord Jesus stands. He kindly, gently, mercifully, lovingly speaks the truth to the Jews—not to spite them, but to love them back to His Father. He once again invites them to Himself and tries to win them over with a most gracious and simple promise: “I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.” No finer words have ever been spoken. They demand nothing except to follow Our Lord in the works of His Law and in the ways of His commandments—and even these commandments flow from the mercy of God.
Our Lord Jesus invites those who wish He would leave; those who seek to run Him out; those who want to kill Him. Once again He urges them to quit their fears and to follow Him, as true spiritual children follow their true spiritual Father. He comes, not to brow-beat or threaten, not to make us submit, but to submit Himself for our sake so that we might see and know and believe that He is truly the mercy of God and the love of God. He has come in the flesh to bear our sin. He comes to us in flesh so that we might feast on Him and receive the fullness of Life, which we receive only from Him. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sermon for 3/13/18: Midweek Lent IV (Hands series)

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Hands That Raise

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

            The hands of our Lord Jesus have the power to raise the dead. This makes our Lord uniquely qualified to be the Redeemer of the world. The Son of God is in control of life and death; He can help us in life and serve us even in the hour of our death. This is important, because death is God’s enemy, and because death is God’s enemy, death is the enemy of everyone who trusts in God.
            This centurion, this man of authority, came to see Jesus with a plea for His all-availing mercy. His daughter was dying, and our Lord’s reputation had come before Him. Jesus would not refuse. Responding to the man’s prayer, the Son of God determined to use His hands to restore life. The little girl was dead. The mourners were already gathered by the time Jesus arrived. It seemed as though death had already claimed this girl as his victim. But Jesus would not allow death to have the victory. He told the mourners that the girl was only asleep. Leaving the scorn of the mourners behind, Jesus went into the house. He took the little girl by the hand, and He raised her from death into life.
            This was not the first time our Lord had made life. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, including all living things. As we confess in the Nicene Creed, all things were made by Him. Life is the very reason He came in the flesh to dwell among His people. This is how He explained His purpose: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” This life He came to give was so much more than just inhaling and exhaling; this life He brought with Him is linked to very heart of God Himself. He came so that we would have a faith to rely on God. He came so that we would have a hope which would depend on what God alone can do and that peace which the world cannot give. He came so that we would enjoy communion with God and fellowship with our neighbors.
            So that this little girl would have that life, our Lord used His hands—the same hands by which He gave life to the world—to raise her from the dead. That action also gave that same life to her father. These were not the children of Israel, but Jesus came for them anyway. The hands of the Savior worked to bring endless blessings to both Jews and Gentiles, believers and doubters. He came to lay His hands upon us who were dead in our sin and raise us to new life.
            Where do you stand before God? Are you alive in Christ? Or are you dead in your sin? The hands of Jesus have raised you from death to life. At your Baptism, our Lord placed His hand upon you, pouring His Word-filled water upon you, marking you upon your forehead and your heart with the sign of His cross as one who has received the forgiveness He died to bring. It is the Lord’s hand which makes the sign of the cross over you as He speaks His word of forgiveness to you. It is the Lord’s hand which places His body in your mouth to feed you with forgiveness. In all these things He gives you abundant life. The hands that led you into Sunday School and Catechism classes; the hands that brought you to worship the first time and every time since; the hands that hold you up and comfort you in times of grief: these are the hands of Jesus, touching you, blessing you, raising you up, giving you that life He came to bring.
            And He came to give you that life, to raise you up, by dying in your place, letting His hands be nailed to the cross in place of your hands. His love for you is beyond measure. It is a love so powerful, so astonishing, that you can be sure that the same hands that raised this little girl from the dead will pull you from the veil of tears, through the valley of the shadow of death, to rest in His arms, until that day when He will raise you and all the faithful to life everlasting. 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, March 12, 2018

Sermon for 3/11/18: Fourth Sunday in Lent

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Bread Like Rain

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

The first time the Lord God led a crowd into the wilderness, the children of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land. Despite their complaints against Him, He had compassion on them. So He said, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” Our Lord satisfied them with the bread of heaven, not because of the murmuring that they made against Him, but because He was moved with compassion. It was mercy alone that prompted Him to act. Yet His intention also was to test them. For He said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” The test was whether they trusted Him and His mercy. And the test was whether they would live that trust by living according to His commandments. If they lived as they pleased, if they walked their own walk, if they made their own way—even if they boasted loudly about how faithful and pious they were—then it would demonstrate how little they trusted Him, how ungrateful they were, and how little they thought of His Word.
In the Gospel appointed for today, we hear that the Lord God again leads a crowd into the wilderness. Like the first time, it is near the time of the Passover. Like the first time, the Lord has done signs and wonders which draw them to trust Him. And so a great multitude follows Him, because they see His signs which He performs on those who are diseased. And like the first time, the Lord gives bread in the wilderness—not because a crowd follows Him; not because the disciples clamor for it; but because He has compassion on them. It is mercy, and mercy alone, that prompts Him to act. Yet His intention is also to test the disciples. He knew what He would do. So our merciful Lord says to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” With words like these, He urges Philip—and even you and me—to believe that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” And Our Lord also urges us to trust and obey, to receive and submit to Our Lord precisely because He is compassionate, faithful, and merciful. The more we see that, the more we understand that we are at a loss to give anything—except to give thanks; and to do anything—except to do whatever Our Lord commands. Notice, then, how it goes. When the disciples confessed that they were helpless to feed the multitude, Our Lord Jesus worked the miracle, and they came to understand the power of God.
And then what? Then, as He did centuries before, Our Lord Jesus rains down bread from heaven—not just food to fill the belly, but spiritual food: food from heaven given to strengthen you in the journey to the cross and grave, and through the cross and grave into eternal life with Christ. Our Lord gives bread from heaven so that we might all eat the same spiritual food and drink the same spiritual drink, which is Christ Jesus Himself.
The first crowd in the wilderness had a hard time believing this. The crowd was equally slow to believe and trust in Christ the living Bread. So are we. But our Lord continues to urge us on; He lays down His life to be our food; and He continues to invite us to rely and depend not on ourselves, not on our strength of will, but on Him. Yes, our Lord continues to test and try us, to chastise and discipline us. He does this to draw us to Himself; so that we would fix our eyes on Him; so that we might learn to live from Him and the Bread that He is; so that we might not lose our way, but rather walk according to His commandments. Then we shall not rejoice in ourselves but in His saving strength. To Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, belongs all glory, honor and worship, now and 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.