Thursday, November 27, 2014

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Audio:




Text:

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

Audio:




Text:

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.


Audio:




Text:

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
Tune: REGENT SQUARE (LSB 924)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

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

Audio:




Text:

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.


Audio:




Text:

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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sermon for 10/26/14--Festival of the Reformation

Audio:




Text:
   
Freed Slaves

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


It doesn’t matter to God how bad you are. Jesus died to pay the price for your sins. Even if you are the worst sinner, the most wretched sinner ever, it doesn’t matter. Nothing you have thought, said, or done is beyond the redemption of the blood of Christ. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how sinful you really are, Jesus died for you. It doesn’t matter to God how good you are either. Even if you say the right words, you don’t earn your way to heaven by being good. Your Old Adam still believes God will like you better if you’re good. Your sinful flesh believes that if you’re well-behaved, God won’t let bad things happen to you. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus forgives all your sins. He even forgives you for thinking your good works make you a good person.

So the real question is, are you in Christ? Outside of and apart from Jesus, there is nothing in you but sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God. In Christ, where His Word has declared you forgiven, there is nothing in you but righteousness, innocence and blessedness. This is what the Jews who believed in Jesus didn’t get. And you have trouble with this too. The Jews refused to believe they were slaves of sin. If you sin, you’re a slave of sin. Jesus sets you free. But sin isn’t just doing bad things. It’s also thinking your good things make you a good person. You tend to think of sin in terms of doing bad and evil and wicked things. But your real show of unbelief is thinking that any good things you do balance out the bad. Unbelief is thinking you don’t deserve eternal death and judgment. But Jesus says plainly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And that’s exactly what He does by His death for you. Jesus was sinless, perfectly obedient. But He was also the worst sinner ever. All the sins of the world are His, carried to Calvary. He bled and died to pay their price. The death and resurrection of Jesus sets you free…once and for all and forever.

So how do you know whether you are in Christ? Your sins would have you believe that you cannot be in Christ. After all, someone who is truly in Christ wouldn’t sin, right? On the other hand, you cannot believe your good works either. Those might persuade you that you don’t really need Jesus that much. So how do you know you are free? How do you know the Son has made you one of the family? You know because He keeps His promises. Jesus made you part of Himself at the font by water and the Spirit. He keeps you part of Himself when forgives your sins through the mouth of His called pastors. He keeps you part of Himself when He gives you His body and blood to eat and drink. These gifts—water, word, body and blood—these gifts tell you what God has to say. Your goodness or badness doesn’t matter. What matters is Jesus: what He did and what He gives.

It doesn’t matter to God how bad or good you are. But it still matters. It matters to your neighbor. Loving or not loving your parents or spouse or the people around you doesn’t save you. But it matters to your parents or spouse or the people around you! So today’s final bit of good news is that Jesus lives in and through your works. The Holy Spirit dwells in you. God works through you to love and care for others. You could pause and wonder how you love and care for others. But then you would either say, “I don’t do a very good job,” or “Yeah, I’m pretty good at that.” Jesus loves others perfectly in you. And you, through the Christ within you, love others perfectly. In Christ who perfectly obeys the will of the Father, you keep the commandments. This really is what Jesus means when He says He sets you free. He has set you free from worrying, calculating and measuring. You no longer have to ask, “Have I done enough?” You are free from sin. Jesus has set you free. And when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. 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, October 22, 2014

Sermon for 10/19/14--Trinity XVIII

Audio:




Text:

True Love

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


The Pharisees asked what the greatest commandment is. But Jesus gave them two. By teaching them to love God and to love their neighbor, Jesus is teaching them that there is no love of God apart from love of neighbor. This was a hard lesson for the Pharisees to learn. They knew doctrine, but they did little to care for others. Last week we saw their concern that Jesus might actually heal a man on the Sabbath! My brothers and sisters in Christ, if you come here to church, and you sing and pray and say all the words so that people can drive by and see your car here, but then you go back into the world with only your own welfare on your mind, then you have not let the Word of God dwell within you. If you are proud of being a Christian and a Lutheran, and you are glad you are a churchgoer, but you walk out the door and back to your grudges against others and playing favorites and ignoring others, then repent of your sinfulness! There is no loving God apart from loving our neighbor.

The only answer to this sin is Jesus, the Son of David and David’s Lord. The Commandments and the Law are wrapped up and hang upon Jesus. Jesus is teaching about his divine and human natures. Let’s be clear: What Jesus teaches, what the Pharisees don't get, is that Jesus is the Christ, true God and true man. He is David's Son because He takes on flesh and is born into David's line. But He is David's Lord because He is the eternally begotten Son who is true God. Here is the miracle of the Incarnation: the divine nature of the Son of God takes upon Himself a human nature, together as one Person: Jesus.

But there’s more. Jesus is God and man, and that means Jesus is the focus and substance of the Law. Love God and love your neighbor? Jesus is both at the same time. He perfectly loves God and His neighbor at the same time. Jesus, true God and true Man, hangs upon the tree of the cross. Where we have failed to obey God and failed to love our neighbor, that has been hung upon Christ. Where we have falsely served God and abandoned our neighbor, that has been hung upon Christ. Jesus keeps the commandments and is killed by our breaking them. He makes that death ours in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He raises us to life again in His own resurrection.

Now in Christ we have everything settled. How do you love and glorify God? Love God by receiving what He has for you: forgiveness, life and salvation. Hear and learn His holy word. Live daily in the washing given to you in Baptism. Confess your sins and be absolved. Be filled with the body and blood of Jesus by which He lives in you to do good works for others. Receive what the Lord has for you in His church, and not merely for your own sake. In receiving these gifts of God, you are made into a gift for your neighbor. Baptism, Absolution, the body and blood of Jesus: these are all given to you that you would have in you the One who kept the Law, so that you would love and serve your neighbor. You are forgiven of what you have failed to do and taught by the Spirit what good works you are to do.

But your salvation does not hang upon your good works. Your salvation does not hang upon the Law. Thanks be to God for that, for the Law will only accuse you, and your works will only fail you. Jesus, true God and true Man, loves the Lord your God with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His mind; and Jesus, true God and true Man, loves your neighbor as He loves Himself. This is what matters most, because your salvation hangs upon His perfect love. Your salvation is this: Jesus Christ has died bearing your sins, and He has risen to raise you up with Him. That is true love: love of God and true love of you, His neighbor. 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, October 19, 2014

PARODY: All About That Cross

A little Lutheran levity for your Sunday morning...


All About That Cross
(A Smash Hit Praise Parody of
"All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor)


Because you know I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross.

Yeah, it's pretty clear
I'm not with FiveTwo.
I like to preach it-preach it
Like I'm supposed to do,
Cause I do that chant-chant,
A smile on my face,
With all the right notes
In all the right places.

I see them marketing.
They're selling Jesus out.
They say that doctrine's junk—
"That's not what He's about.
If you are lovey-dovey,
That's quite enough,
'Cause we know sinning doesn't matter.
Love and smiling is the stuff."

Yeah, my pastor, he said,
"Sacramental entrepreneurs,
Well, they shovel their garbage.
It stinks worse than cow manure.
You know, they call themselves 'Luth'rans,'
But Luther would call them wrong.
So if that's what you're into,
Then go ahead and move along."

Because you know I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross.

I'm bringing doctrine back!
Go ahead and tell those sad apostates that.
No, I ain't playing. They think they're all that,
But let me tell you
Every bit of that is rotten
From the bottom to the top.

Yeah, my pastor, he said,
"Sacramental entrepreneurs,
Well, they shovel their garbage.
It stinks more than cow manure.
You know, they call themselves 'Luth'rans,'
But Luther would call them wrong.
So if that's what you're into,
Then go ahead and move along."

Because you know I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross.

Because you know I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross.

Because you know I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross,
No devil.
I'm all about that cross,
'Bout that cross.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sermon for 10/12/14--Trinity XVII

Audio:




Text:

At the Table

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


The Pharisees believed the most important thing was where you sat, whether you were at the head of the table or the other end. But Jesus says that the most important thing is that you’re at the table. The rest of it sort of worked itself out. This is a picture of faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, which is what’s going on in our text. Jesus is going to eat bread at a Pharisee’s house, and a man with a horrible disease stands before the Lord. The man doesn’t say anything. He just stands there. It is obvious what this man wants and needs. He needs Jesus to heal him.

The Pharisees kept close watch to see what Jesus would do. Would He break the law of the Sabbath and heal the man? The answer, of course, is yes. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, to heal the broken and to forgive the sins of the penitent. He healed the man and sent him home. The Pharisees were aghast! Jesus did work on the Sabbath, and this was a great insult to them. The Sabbath hearkens back to creation, when we hear in Genesis that God ended His work of creation, and He rested on the seventh day. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His creative work. It was the Day when He blessed His creation.

And then He blessed it again with Jesus. God set apart the Sabbath Day because that is the day Jesus rested in the tomb. He died on Good Friday, rested in death on Saturday, and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He was saying that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and that He can bless His creation on the Sabbath day just as He did when He created the world.

You spend your life working and striving and trying to get ahead. Like the Pharisees in our text, we are all obsessed with the pecking order of things. We want to be at the head of the table; we want our place at the top. But you can’t do it. No matter how hard you try, you will fail. Like the man with dropsy, your failure before God is obvious to everyone, especially to the One who knows all and sees all. And the more you strive and work and struggle, the more obvious it is that you can’t make it on your own. You are trapped. Just like this man with the dropsy, just like the young man of Nain from last week, you’re trapped. All of your striving and working and struggling to be more spiritual or more Christian will never get you anywhere in the Christian faith. The only one who can get you to the Table and give you a place of honor is the Lord of the Banquet, Jesus Himself.

And He does invite you to the table. His great gift to you today is that He invites you to the heavenly wedding banquet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the head or the foot of the table. It doesn’t matter how dirty you are or how ill equipped for being at the banquet. That’s not your call to make. The Lord of the Banquet has called you to His eternal Table. He’s the host. It’s His decision, not yours.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is very good news. It doesn’t matter where you sit at the Table. The important thing is that you are at the Table. The Father has invited you to the banquet, where Jesus feeds you with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. So come to the eternal Table of the Lord. The Table is set. The meal is ready. Come and feast on salvation for all eternity. 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, October 05, 2014

Sermon for 10/5/14--Trinity XVI

Audio:




Text:
 
God Visits His People

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


One of the most frequent things a pastor does outside of his normal routine is to bring the comfort of the Word of God to the bereaved at the death of a loved one. Funeral home visitations and funerals are times of great affliction and sadness for everyone involved. Obviously the family of the deceased is suffering grief at the death of their loved one. The friends of the family feel the burden of the grief their friend is going through, and no one is quite sure what to say. Now, imagine if the pastor were to walk in without a care in the world, and he said to you, to your family and friends, “Don’t cry.” There’s a pretty good chance the pastor would be walking out holding his broken jaw. Of course death is a time to mourn. Someone you love is gone from your life, and you will not see them again until you yourself have died.

But Jesus doesn’t work the way you think He will work. He came upon a funeral procession for a young man who has died. He walked up to the casket and told the mother of the deceased, “Don’t cry.” And then He told the dead man, “Get up. Arise” And the young man got up! This is what makes the Christian faith the Christian faith. You don’t need Jesus to preach morality—He has written the Law on your heart. You don’t need the Jesus to make an effort to improve your life. But Jesus does the one thing no other god or religion can actually do. He defeats death.

The witnesses said, “God has visited His people.” God shows up, and people are brought to life. This is why Jesus came. Adam and Eve brought sin. Sin brings death. Jesus came to overcome sin so that death would also be undone. Sin and death are overcome with the forgiveness of sins. Death is overthrown. Jesus walks up and raises that boy to show each of us what our future is. You will fall asleep. And then Jesus will wake you up. We don’t call it death anymore. Now that Jesus has removed its sting, it’s just sleep. It’s nothing to fear. Death has been smacked down. It has been robbed of its power. Your sin means your death. But now, in Jesus, because your sins are forgiven, you only sleep. You rise on the Last Day, and there is no more death forever and ever and ever. The resurrection of Jesus means you can’t die any more. You’ve already died. You’ve been drowned at the font in Holy Baptism. You’ve been crucified with Christ. And if you died there, you can’t die again. You will only sleep, and only for a little while.

We think death has more power than it does. We think it’s the worst thing ever. When it happens, we join the world in making all kinds of clich├ęd statements about it. The world seeks comfort in memories and coping mechanisms instead of the promise that Christ has defeated death. When we fall asleep, we will wake up. Maybe it’s your own death that terrifies you. Maybe it’s the death of someone else that hurts so bitterly. But the baptized child of God has a defiant answer to shout at death:

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes,
faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
to make life immortal mine.

Jesus has conquered sin and death with it, and so we despise death. We mock it. We can no longer fear its power. Where Christ is present, there death must yield. Where the Father’s baptized children are, there death must let go. And where our Lord’s people stand, filled with His body and blood, death must run away in fear. God in Christ has come calling, bringing life with Him. Death no longer has any power, for God has visited His people. 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, October 01, 2014

CRM and the Battle

I wrote a book about a problem. Yeah, it really hasn't seemed like it made a lot of difference. Nothing has changed. In fact, the task force that was formed to address the problem of pastors without congregations seems to be recommending a fix for the problem that resembles the current methodology which exascerbated the initial problem.

I wrote a book about the problem. I made the book about the problem available for free, and I also offered an option which would allow me to raise some funds to address the problem. I sent e-mails and letters and press releases about the book about the problem. I did a radio interview about the book about the problem. No, I haven't been a one-man explosion of CRM awareness to light up the whole of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. I have not received any hate mail or threatening phone calls. Perhaps that means I haven't been aggressive enough. 

Or perhaps that means I haven't been persistent enough. And I'm going to behave as if that's the case. I'm going to keep addressing the problem. I wrote a book. I sent letters and e-mails and press releases. I even sent the book itself in some cases. And I'm going to keep writing. I'm going to keep sending letters and e-mails and press releases. I'll even send some more books. I'll make presentations. I may not be a major affliction, but I will continue to be a persistent irritant. And I'm not the only one fighting the battle. Maybe we'll all find a way to make a difference in our own ways. 

I'm not a Marine. But I am a survivor, and that's something.



To purchase a Kindle copy of this book for $2.99 (and each copy purchased will bring in $1 for charity), click this link: KINDLE EDITION OF LUTHERAN PURGATORY! Amazon Prime members can also borrow this document for free, and Amazon will give me a small royalty which will go directly to charity.

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And to read reviews that don't appear on Amazon.com, CLICK THIS LINK.


Thank you for your time and attention.

Sermon for 9/28/14--Trinity XV

Audio:




Text:

Doves and Dandelions

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


God has given you all that you need, both for this life, and for eternal life. The sins that once stood against you have been cast aside by Holy Absolution. The Body and Blood of Jesus are your regular feast. The Good News of the death of the Son of God for your sins shows that the Lord Himself loves you and cares for you. That is true riches! So why do you get all worried about things? Why do husbands and wives have to fight about who spends what and how much? Why do kids hate their parents when they don't buy them what they want?

To be fair, your idolatry is not that you have stuff. After all, God in Christ is the giver of every good gift, and that includes material things. Your idolatry is that you don't believe that the Father has given you every good gift in Jesus Christ. You are baptized and have the Holy Supper and the preaching of the Gospel. But does that put food on the table? Does that mail a check to the credit card company? My brothers and sisters in Christ, repent of that thinking, as if every good gift in Christ is somehow not enough.

To rescue you from the despair that mammon brings, Jesus lifts your eyes to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Think about this. Every time you see the mess that a bird left on your windshield, you know that your Father in heaven is still feeding the birds. Every time you see the dandelions growing in your yard, you can be certain that your Father in heaven is making the flowers look beautiful. He will certainly provide your nourishment and clothing. You are the crown of creation. You are more valuable than doves and dandelions.

You are valuable because you are God's own child through Jesus. You are priceless because the Son of God took on your flesh, taking on your sins and bearing them to the cross. The value you have is that you have been redeemed, bought back from sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Do you think He's just going to throw you to the wolves? Do you think He will let you starve? Do you think He will keep you out of heaven? Of course not. You are His. Do you suffer? Jesus has suffered even more. He came into this world to take every bit of your pain, your suffering, your worry, and all your sins upon Himself, to take them away. When you are tempted to worry, to get all worked up over the stuff of this life, then stop a minute and behold the cross. In the cross you can be certain that your heavenly Father is looking out for you.

So what about your clothing? You have been dressed in the robe of Christ's righteousness, given you at your Baptism. By water and the Word, the Lord has claimed you and marked you as His own. What about nourishment? He gives you a never ending feast: the body and blood of Jesus for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. Everything is yours in Jesus! It won't run out. You can never run out of Jesus. He always has more to give.

It's easy to worry about mammon, but Jesus teaches you that such worry is an attempt to serve mammon. You cannot have two masters. So Jesus comes and He has one Master, His Father, to whom He is obedient by dying to pay the debt owed by sinners. He gives His life into death for your sins. He rises again to show that He has conquered sin and death and your worry about mammon. He has washed you at the font, making you His own, clothing you in robes more beautiful than lilies. He feeds you with His own body and blood, a feast far better than the birds get. Your Father has given you all you need to support this body and life. More importantly, in Christ, you have been given everything you need for eternal 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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon for 9/21/14--Trinity XIV

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Text:
     
Arise

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

        
The question is this: Do we just need Jesus when things aren’t going our way? Or do we need Him all the time? From day to day, it’s fairly safe to say that most of us probably spare little thought for why we need the Lord. But when we’re in trouble, then we suddenly need Him. And if things work out, we can go back to not really thinking about Him all that much. We work much in the same way as those lepers. Leprosy is terrible. Not only did it destroy the body; it also made the leper unclean. It cut the leper off from civilization. It ruined lives. No wonder these ten lepers wanted Jesus to help! But when He did help them, when their leprosy was gone, they went their way. Only one came back, and it was the Samaritan. He came back to glorify God. He realized that Jesus wasn’t just the guy who cures lepers. He saw that Jesus is the Savior. Jesus tells this one, “Arise. Go. Your faith has saved you.” Jesus has saved you. Get up. Rise from certain death.

Jesus didn’t come to solve every earthly problem you have. He came to give you a true and lasting salvation and eternal life. Jesus didn’t come to make sure your life is easy. He came to save you from your sins. He came to cleanse you of a leprosy that is a lot worse than the flesh-eating kind. He came to cleanse you from the leprosy of sin. He came to overcome the one disease you cannot beat: death. When Jesus tells the Samaritan to get up, it’s like He’s declaring new life. It’s like He’s saying, “You come to me with leprosy, which is a symptom of the sin and curse of death this world is under. But I tell you that I have defeated sin and its curse of death. Now you are truly free—not because you don’t have leprosy anymore, but because your sins are forgiven and you are a child of God, even if you’re from Samaria!” That’s what He says to you, too. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has you covered for sin and death. He has beaten them by His blood and suffering and death and Easter. As He does with the lepers, He tells you, “Arise! Go in peace. Your faith, Your Jesus, has saved you.”

When you were baptized, Jesus says to you, “Arise.” Be alive again. Be rescued from sin and death. You were dead in your trespasses and sins. Now you’re alive. Be raised up. You have beaten death. When you hear His Word and then eat and drink His body and blood, what does He say through His pastors? “Depart in peace.” He says that because your Jesus has saved you. He has taken away your sins and overcome your death and promises to raise you up on the Last Day and give you eternal life. Your problem is not your bills or your health or your marriage or your kids or your job. Your problem is sin, and that has been overcome—not just once, not just for a while, but once and for all and forever. Jesus takes care of it; it has been taken care of for good. That’s why you, like the Samaritan, come back to church: to glorify God for His goodness toward you, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His work of healing your body and soul. And what does it mean to give God the glory? Nothing other than to receive the good gifts He has for you. It’s not merely about telling Him “Thank You,” though we do that. To truly give glory to God is to confess that all your good comes from Jesus. And here in His church, the promise is always given: Arise and go. Your faith, your Jesus, has saved 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sermon for 9/14/14--Trinity XIII

Audio:




Text:

Brought to the Inn

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


The young master of the Law knows he should love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Jesus even commends his answer as the right one! But he wanted to justify himself. Imagine that! He wanted to make it seem like he really could love God and his neighbor, and he thought to impress God and earn eternal life. What does it mean to justify yourself? It means to show someone else why you're right, why you are allowed to do what you do. We know all about that. We try to excuse ourselves, to explain why we had to do what we’ve done. This law expert wanted to justify himself. He wanted to prove to Jesus that he knew the content of the Law, and he also wanted to assert that he could actually keep the Law.

When we think we can somehow talk our way into God's good graces, that we can fool the Lord into believing we're worthy, then the Law does what it always does: it accuses! Like a bandit it comes to strip us naked, rob us of our supposed worthiness, beat us up, and leave us within an inch of our lives, naked and bleeding in a ditch. The law always accuses us. That is all the Law can do. It robs us of any notion that we can actually earn God's favor by what we do. When we are laying beat up and robbed by the Law, who do we want to save us? The Law! We want to figure out some way to obey the commandments and work ourselves out of our sin and punishment.

But the priest and the Levite just pass by on the other side. They represent the Law. The Law, the neighbor we lift our bleeding hands toward, ignores us. We are unclean, unworthy. So who comes to save us? It is a Samaritan, someone the Jews would never even want to touch them! Our Samaritan is Jesus, the God nobody wants. The world wants a glorious God. But this is Jesus, God in the flesh. This is the One who was nailed to a cross to shut him up and make Him go away. Jesus comes to save us by giving us His goods to rescue and take care of us. By His death on the cross, Jesus allows Himself to be the one numbered among the criminals, hung there in our place. And this death and His triumph over death are our rescue from the ditch. He heals our wounds by pouring in the oil and wine of the Holy Sacraments. He washes us clean in the waters of Baptism and feeds us with His body and blood. He takes us to the inn, His holy church, where He provides His gifts to the innkeeper, the pastor, who administers care and comfort to sinners. We who could do nothing to save ourselves are rescued by Jesus, our neighbor and good Samaritan.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, blessed are your eyes and ears! You have learned something the world doesn't care to know: You don't have to try to get on God's good side. You are already on His good side in Christ. And more than that, you have learned what it is to love your neighbor, not because it benefits you, but because it benefits them. This notion that we need to be saved by Jesus alone and that our good works are only for our neighbor—these are the things the world doesn't know anything about. But you, as you heal from your wounds in the inn that is the church, as you savor the comfort and healing Jesus gives in His holy sacraments, rest easy. Rest easy knowing that you are safe in Christ. And when the opportunity comes for you to help and do good to other people, don't worry about making God happy. Jesus has already done that for you. Instead, when you see your neighbor in need, just go and do likewise. Jesus is neighbor to you, and you are neighbor to others. 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, September 13, 2014

Sermon for 9/13/14—Funeral of Myrna Miesner

Audio:




Text:

Refuge

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


The burdens and cares of life often seem overwhelming—the project at work or school that’s due tomorrow and you’re still not sure how it should go; the bills that seem to pile up without any relief; the relationship that you’ve somehow damaged and you have no idea what will work to repair it. Or maybe, as it was for Myrna, the burden is an ailment, a disease, one that steals away bits and pieces of your thoughts and memories until it seems as though there’s nothing left. And in our case, the cares of life were made to seem even more overwhelming as we sought to care for the woman we all loved as she fought an overwhelming battle against her own mind and body.

There is another overwhelming enemy that we deal with this day. It is not an external force like ISIS, though such enemies are real. This enemy is even more fearsome, for this is an enemy within. This is no mere illness which could debilitate the body or mind—although we know disease can be fearsome and deadly. This is an enemy which makes slaves of people, many of them never knowing that they’re being attacked. This enemy is sin. Sin captures you. It tempts you to think evil thoughts, to desire evil desires, to perform dark deeds. Sin is the most fearsome enemy of all, for, as the Apostle Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin carries death with it like a fisherman carries a pole. Death is what we earn with our disobedience to God and His Word and will. Those wages are evident in the aches and pains we feel. Those wages are evident in our worries and frustrations and grief. And those wages of sin are all too apparent in the body lying in the coffin before us today. Death is sin’s greatest tool, its doomsday device.

The faithful, however, do not need to be afraid of death. Christians don't have to fear whether or not they have done enough to merit salvation. There is no doubt. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." He has won salvation for us. He is our guardian and protector. We have nothing to fear. This is exactly the hope and confidence Psalm 46 gives to us today in our grief. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” When we experience pain or suffering or grief or shame or loss, we still have no cause for fear. God is our refuge and strength. God is our help in trouble. The Lord is a refuge for His Church. He has made His people glad in the rushing waters of Holy Baptism. We are protected. God will help us when morning dawns.

And for Myrna—for all of us—that morning has dawned. It was the morning of the first day of the week. The Son had been crucified. He had died and was buried. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died on Calvary's cross, bearing the sins of the world. He made complete satisfaction for the sins of the world. Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Sin is defeated forever. Death is merely a rest from the cares of this life, a rest as we await our resurrection in bodies that will not become diseased or decay, with hearts that will know no evil desires, with flesh that will perform no evil deeds. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, even as you mourn, you have cause for great joy. Rejoice for Myrna, for our heavenly Father, through the merits and work of His Son, has called her to rest from her labors. And rejoice for yourselves, for the battle against sin, death, and the devil is not your battle to fight. Our Lord Jesus has already defeated them by the power of His blood. Be still, for our Lord Jesus Christ is present with you today. He is your mighty fortress, your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. 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, September 12, 2014

Sermon for 9/7/14--Trinity XII

Audio:




Text:

Ears and Tongues

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


The Lord gives us ears to hear with and tongues to make words and talk. He gives us ears because, as the Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing." Those ears are also meant to be used to hear our neighbors. He gives us tongues to speak His Word back to Him, mouths that declare His holy name. That same mouth is also to be used for speaking love to our neighbor. But how do you use your ears and tongues? You selectively hear the Word of God. What is it that fills your ears, making you deaf to God's Word? And as for your tongues, you might have a hard time thinking up something nice to say, but you can easily gossip or lash out with an insult. What destruction has been caused by your tongue and your words? My brothers and sisters in Christ, you are deaf and dumb even if you can hear and speak!

That is why the Word became flesh: to take deaf ears and put His Word in them, to take tongues that spout gibberish and to make them speak rightly. When the man in our text is brought to our Lord, Jesus takes him aside. He sticks His fingers in the man's ears. Only the Word of God, only Jesus, can open his ears. Jesus spits and touches the man's tongue. It is water and the Word which opens this man's mouth, loosing his tongue to make him speak rightly. This man's ears are opened and his tongue loosed because the Word of God touches them. Jesus is the Word, the only thing that saves the sinfully deaf and mute. He is the Word who became flesh, putting on ears and a mouth and a whole body of flesh to carry the sins of the world. He is the Word who hangs on the cross and cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!" Think about that. When Jesus is on the cross, the Father is deaf to His Son. The Father speaks nothing to His Son. Jesus suffers and dies alone for our sins. He hears the mocking of us sinners and yet speaks forgiveness. On the cross the Word hangs for sinners, for us, for wayward children who have shut our ears to our Creator's Word and tied our tongues with their wickedness. For all that, the Word gives His life on Calvary.

As he did for the man in our text, Jesus opens your ears and looses your tongue. He does it the same ways: by the Word going into your ears in absolution and preaching; by water and the word poured at the font in Baptism. The Lord desires to fill you with His Word, to open your ears to hear His Word, to loosen your tongue to speak that Word back to Him. The Word that your sinful flesh doesn't want to hear is the very Word that saves you! You could stick your fingers back in your ears and say, "I can't hear you!" But why would you? This preached Word, this Word poured out, this Word that touches your tongue—this Word saves! It goes into your ears, giving you the forgiveness of sins. Then it comes out your mouth, praising and glorifying God, confessing and speaking rightly that Jesus alone saves.

Jesus opens your ears so that you will delight in hearing the Good News that saves you! He loosens your tongue so that your words will speak what you have heard: that Jesus is the One who saves you. He opens your lips that you might use them for good, for blessing your neighbor, by speaking well of others, explaining everything in the kindest way, putting the best construction on everything.

What goes in your ears comes out your mouth. It's true for kids learning to talk and learning to cuss. It's true for God's people learning His Word. Isaiah prophesied the time when the deaf would hear and those who murmured would learn doctrine. That time is now. Jesus has opened your ears and untied your tongues. He has rescued you from being deaf so that you would hear and believe His saving Word. He has loosened your tongues to speak His Word and bless those around you. By opening your ears and loosing your tongues, Jesus, the Word of God, has saved 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.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Sermon for 8/31/14--Trinity XI

Audio:




Text:
           
Who Are You?

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


Almost without exception, whenever we have something good to say, it's about ourselves. And almost without exception, whenever we have something bad to say, it’s about somebody else. We are very good at saying what good we've done and we are very good at saying how other people have failed. What's worse, if you think you don't live like that, then you prove the point! When it comes down to it, you and I are Pharisees.

In sharing this account of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the great danger from which Jesus would rescue us is that when we are Pharisees, we cannot be justified. You cannot claim salvation and forgiveness of sins when you see yourself as better than everyone else around you! The one who walked out of the Temple with a right relationship with God was not the guy who saw himself as holy. St. Luke records that Jesus told this parable to those who thought they were righteous and who looked down on others.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector teach us that there are really only two kinds of religion in this world. In the religion of the Pharisee, it's all about what we do and how we make ourselves look to God. The religion of the Pharisee is a popular religion because it makes the individual look good. Here's what I've done. Here's what I've accomplished. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if that's your day-to-day religion—and you can't deny that it is—then repent! Repent and recognize that such a way of thinking leaves no room in your life even for God Himself!

The Tax Collector show us the other kind of religion. He came before the Lord and confessed that he was nothing: he was worth nothing, and he could do nothing to save himself. All he had was God's promise that He would send a Savior. That was his only hope. He didn't even look up to heaven. He cried out, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner." He walked out with His sins forgiven because he relied on God's mercy alone. The Pharisee wanted no mercy from God; he had already justified himself by his pride.

Two kinds of religion means two kinds of Jesus. In the Pharisee's religion, Jesus is nothing but a teacher of wisdom and good works. Jesus is the one who is supposed to pat good people on the back. But in truth, the only Jesus for those believe that way is the Jesus who will stand in the Last Day in all of His eternal glory and burns to ashes all who behold His face in their sinfulness. Indeed, brothers and sisters, if you think you are better than anyone else, more holy, more religious, then just make sure you can prove it when you stand before the Judge. But the Law will testify against you; your condemnation will be swift and certain! For the Tax Collector there is another kind of Jesus. He is the Son of God who was born of the Virgin and lay in a manger. He is the Son of God who patiently taught His disciples. He is the Son of God who allowed Himself to be captured and nailed to a cross. For the Tax Collector and for every other sinner who acknowledges their wretchedness, He is the Jesus who takes their place on the cross and bleeds and dies for them. This is the Jesus who delivers the forgiveness of sins. This is the Jesus in the water of Baptism. This is the Jesus who is present, body and blood, in the Supper.

Let us learn to count ourselves as nothing, for it is Christ who makes us into something—and what’s more, something holy and precious. Because of what Jesus has done and given to you, you are numbered with the Tax Collector who had nothing in himself but sin, but who in Christ is filled to overflowing with all of the Lord's holy and saving and everlasting gifts! And so like the Tax Collector you go away from this temple today justified in 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, August 28, 2014

Sermon for 8/24/14--Trinity X

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Shelter

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


The people of Israel weren't sorry for their sins. They thought that having a temple meant they could just do whatever they wanted out in the world. After all, they could just cry, "The temple! I'm at the Temple!" And it's no different for Christians. You know the attitude: I can do whatever I want, live how I want, because it's all just forgiven in church anyway. You go out into the world and forget all about the Lord for the week and do whatever you feel like, despising your neighbor and doing whatever pleases you, and then stroll through these doors as if it's all magically gone. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have the same problem God's people have always had: you are in danger of turning His grace into a joke. You are in danger of turning His church into a hideout for bandits. You turn showing up for church into the work that saves you. Jesus warns Jerusalem that, because that's the way they've received God's Word, the city would be wiped off the map. Tremble at the judgment of God that is in store for those who make His house into a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

But see then what our Lord Jesus does. Jesus comes to you. He comes to robbers and thieves who would make a hideout of His church. He comes, hidden in the flesh, that He might hide us from God's wrath and punishment for our sins. Like a common criminal they nail Him to the tree between two thieves. And there, on the cross, the Lord dies like a thief. He dies for the thieves. Jesus forgives both thieves. One of them hangs there and holds onto his sins, denying that Jesus is accomplishing His salvation. But the other thief beholds Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The man can do nothing on his own but plead for mercy. Jesus speaks to Him, declaring that He Himself is this thief's eternal refuge and shelter.

Here is the Good News of the Gospel: Christ's wounds are your hiding place, your refuge against all sin and evil. Christ dies on the cross and hides you in Himself so that sin, death, devil, hell, and even God's own wrath cannot touch you. And then, dead for your sins, Jesus is laid in a tomb. And on the Third Day He rises from the tomb, leaving behind your sins in the grave. His triumph over death and the devil means that His church, His Temple, is now the place where He dwells, and it is no longer a hideout; it is a shelter. It is no longer a place to "get away with” something; it is a place where our sins are paid for and covered up and taken away by Jesus' blood.

Christ's church is your shelter, your refuge, your place to flee from your sins. And what is given here? Here you receive the water of Holy Baptism to quench your thirst. Here you receive the body and blood of Jesus to nourish you. You receive forgiveness. Whatever you have done against God and your neighbor has been blotted out by the blood of the cross. Your sin against God and neighbor has been washed away at the font, declared null and void by the Absolution. Because these gifts are given by Christ, your sins truly are taken away. What was gained for you by the innocent suffering and death of Jesus is given to you in His church. You can flee here, to Christ's church, as a refuge and a shelter. When your sins overwhelm you, when the devil accuses you, when the troubles of this world rain down on you, then rest easy in your Lord's church, the place of safety and shelter.

Come to His church, not for a hideout but for refuge. Come to Christ's house, not as bandits trying to escape, but as sinners who are truly safe nowhere else. Here at the font, the altar, and the pulpit, Christ has all that you need for your peace: forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus. Here in Jesus and His gifts is your true and safest shelter. 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.