Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sermon for 4/20/14--The Resurrection of Our Lord

No audio this week. Sorry. Apparently I didn't turn the sound system on for either service. *sigh*


Arrangements

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


We spend a lot of time thinking about death. When it comes for a loved one, we call family members and friends to share the sad news. We call the funeral home and arrange a meeting with the funeral director to set a date, arrange the obituary, to choose a casket and liner. We talk to the pastor to choose the hymns and readings, to ask for a meal in the church basement, to share stories of the life of the deceased and receive whatever meager comfort we will allow him to give. We call the florist. We sort through pictures of the deceased and remember the events and stories. We go through life expecting death. This is how we deal with it. It’s how we deal with the reality that a loved one’s body has ceased to function. When death happens, we mourn. We get angry and bitter. But we know it’s there, and we know we have to suffer it and put up with it.

Things haven’t changed very much. Like us, the Mary brigade and Salome went to the tomb the day after the Sabbath. They’d wept as they had prepared the spices to anoint His body. The only detail they couldn’t control was the big stone that had been set to block the entrance to the tomb. But when they arrived, they found the stone already rolled aside; the tomb was vacant. What would you do if the grave you went to put flowers on had been moved with no explanation? But the empty tomb does have an explanation. Christ is risen! That’s what the angel told them. And what’s more, it’s what Jesus said would happen long before.

Death is not something Jesus tolerates. We saw a foretaste of it when Jesus raised Lazarus. But when Jesus rose, death was overwhelmed. Christ is risen! So what do the women do? The leave in fear! They know how to deal with death, of course. But who knows how to deal with resurrection? Eventually it all comes out. Death is undone. Jesus appears to the disciples and the faithful. The resurrection of Jesus is that first little pull on the string that causes the whole ball of yarn to unravel. It begins with Jesus, and it continues to the Last Day when He comes again, when the trumpet sounds, when every one of you will rise from your graves to eternal life. Death will be completely unraveled! The death of Jesus robs death of its power. It is no longer permanent. His resurrection shows that He really did conquer sin, death, and the Devil. Sin leads to death. But Jesus being alive means death has been defeated; sin has been buried, left in the tomb. Your sin is forgiven. Your death will be undone; it is merely the gate to eternal life with God.

Baptism, absolution, the preaching of Christ crucified and risen, and the Supper of His body and blood—those are the ways in which Christ gives the Church to handle death. Through the victory of Christ, those are the ways in which we mock death, ridicule it, taunt it that it has no power. As the apostle tells us, Baptism means we have already died and risen with Christ. The body and blood of Jesus gives us life, and He will raise us on the Last Day. Christ is alive; His tomb is empty. And just like that, your grave is going to be empty on the Last Day. You will be alive to live forever.

For now, we face death. We decorate the graves of loved ones as those who mock death. Even in mourning, we taunt death—Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? It has no more sting. It has no more victory. It is only temporary. It is not life that is fleeting and short; it is death that will not last. We already know this, for the saints who have gone before join with us at Christ’s altar, and we feast with them on the food of everlasting life, the flesh and blood of the Savior. Christ has made all the arrangements necessary to deal with death. He has conquered it; it has no more power over 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.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Love Divine to be available for FREE!

My book "Love Divine," the first book of my "Thy Strong Word" trilogy, will be available for FREE on Kindle devices from April 26-28. If you haven't already read my books, this is a good way to break yourself into the series. Please share this message with your friends, your family, and anyone else you think might be interested.

Here's the description: "Romance and Lutheran apologetics come together as Justin Corwin, the pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Carousel, New York, and Chaplain of the Carousel Fire Department, runs into Bethanne McCarthy, a detective in the Carousel Police Department--or rather, she runs into him. Justin is single and content with his life the way it is; Beth was widowed over two years ago, and she has finally found joy in life again. Neither has any intention of falling in love. As they get to know each other better, however, they begin to realize that the plans of men are nothing next to what God has set apart for them. How will their relationship affect their various vocations? How will he handle the danger of her profession? How will she overcome the guilt she feels for moving on with her life after the death of her husband?"



CLICK THIS LINK to order Love Divine from Amazon.com. But WAIT UNTIL FRIDAY to get it for FREE!

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sermon for 4/18/14--Good Friday (midweek series)

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered
John 19:30/Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


On Good Friday we delve into the darkest hour of human history. A fearful fight is going on between God and Satan. Obviously, the climax is close at hand. Finally, the air of suspense is pierced with the cry of the Victor: “It is finished!” Satan is overcome; his reign of terror is done. We Christians treasure the victory of Christ on the cross; it lies at the very heart and center of our faith. But it’s so easy to overlook the fact that our salvation did not come easily. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was waging war for us. Satan was the fearful foe. He had done everything possible to turn the whole world against Jesus. But he lost! Jesus won! And He won for us. And this is why we can pray with complete confidence this last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father…deliver us from evil.” “Father, let evil be ended, the devil be done” in our lives also!
    
Evil is ended; the devil is done! How we need to hear this over and over. Satan’s power and dominion has been crushed. And yet, our Lord permits him to prowl about this earth, as Peter said, “…like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We have the freedom to choose his wiles and his ways. But thanks to Christ’s victory, we need never do that! The name “Satan” is derived from the Hebrew verb that means “to lie in wait, to oppose.” The word “devil” comes from the Greek word meaning “one who slanders.” These two names make his character and his role quite clear. He opposes everything good, because everything that is truly good comes from God. This he has done from the beginning, from the moment God finished His creation and called it “very good.
    
From the beginning, Satan opposed the Father in heaven. At some point, the idea was born in Satan’s mind to oppose God openly, to fight it out with Him, and he managed to take some of the other angels with him into his evil plot. God has not chosen to reveal to us what happened, but we know that Satan lost. He and his horder were banished from heaven. His opposition to God had failed miserably and completely. He then opposed God’s creatures, the man and woman God had created. Though He could not get at God directly, perhaps He could do so indirectly by getting at God’s creatures. This time, Satan won the battle, and God was forced to curse those fallen creatures with death—one of Satan’s favorite words! At the same time, God promised Adam and Eve that One who would be born of a woman would crush Satan’s head. Centuries passed, and no doubt Satan felt that he was the winner. Men were born and died; hatred ran rampant on the earth; century after century was filled with hopeless futility. But then God sent His Son into the fray; the third and decisive battle was about to begin.
    
Satan stirred up King Herod to try and kill Him as an infant, but could not succeed. Later, as a full-grown Man, people flocked to hear Jesus speak about the Kingdom of God, and that He was the only way by which one could enter that kingdom. Finally, Satan found a usable tool in one of Jesus’ own disciples, a man named Judas, into whom he entered and whom he persuaded to betray his Master to the enemy. But that plan backfired, as well. Jesus, untouched by sin, refused to yield to Satan’s will. Jesus proclaimed the greatest victory the world has ever known, when He said, “It is finished!” And it was finished. Satan was finished. The problem of sin was settled. Death was doomed. Jesus took the initiative away from Satan by allowing all of this to happen. And even while the devil was nursing his wounds, Jesus descended into hell to proclaim His victory. And then He rose triumphantly from the grave. No longer would Satan have power over human life and death. Evil is ended; the devil is done!

What a cozy way to end the Lord’s Prayer and even our contemplation of Good Friday. But there is a danger here, too. We can become unconcerned about evil. Sin lies in wait at our doorstep, and we stumble over it again and again. Occasionally we spring to our feet, alert to the danger. Suddenly, out of the depths, we cry out “O Lord, deliver us from this evil!” Was it this our Savior had in mind when He taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil”? Was it for these isolated instances that our Savior cried out, “It is finished”? Surely we know better than that.

We must rise from our knees and face a few realities. Evil is still very much with us; the devil still stalks his prey. And so, while thanks to our Savior’s victory, evil is ended and the devil is done, we still have a fight on our hands. As we come near the conclusion of this great prayer our Lord has taught us, we join with each other, and with our Savior Himself, to make this fervent plea, that our heavenly Father would deliver us from evil and from the devil who continues to attack our lives. Thanks to Jesus, our lives do not have to be controlled by evil and Satan. These mighty words, “deliver us from evil,” will topple Satan and His kingdom. And then, knowing that Jesus has won the victory, knowing that our Father has heard our prayer, with confidence we can pray, “Amen. It shall be so.” 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.

Sermon for 4/17/14--Maundy Thursday (midweek series)

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Get Thee Behind Me!
Matthew 26:41/Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


What a strange way to pray about temptation: “Our Father…lead us not into temptation.” Couldn’t Jesus have done a better job of wording this? Perhaps we might improve the prayer by saying something like this: “Father, keep temptation from our doorstep,” or “Don’t let temptation ever touch us.” But this is not what Jesus said. In the Garden He did not warn His disciples, “Watch and pray so that temptation doesn’t come near you.” No, what He said was this: “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.” Again, we observe a very clear connection between the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Passion. On this Maundy Thursday we want to take at look at ourselves in the light of the Passion of our Lord, so we can understand that we, too, are faced with temptation on all sides. We hear our Lord’s warning to His disciples, and we hear His command to pray about temptation in the prayer He has given us. All of this leads us to cry out, “Father, do not forsake us in Temptation.”

Temptations are inevitable. If Christ’ disciples were tempted and fell, and if our Lord Himself was tempted, who do we think we are to walk around with the attitude that it could never happen to us? We know about temptation. We know how Moses, and David, and Solomon succumbed to temptation. But when temptations converge on us, we sometimes fail to recognize that they have hit us, even when we fall to them! We can never hope to be exempt from temptation. In fact, Jesus prayed on the very night He was betrayed by one who was tempted and fell.

When our Lord Jesus Christ brought us to faith in Himself, He did not remove us from all the grit and grime of this life. Instead He set us right back in the middle of it. He did not demand that we give up our emotions and passions and loves and concerns of life. We were not puppets or robots. He has not commanded that we be confined in a kind of pietistic, sanctimonious isolation from life. No. We are to be “lights” shining brightly in a world full of temptations. Of course we must not walk into them deliberately. But neither do we have the right to pray, “Lord, keep all temptation from us.” The truth is, because we are children of the heavenly Father, we will be subjected to temptation all the more. After all, unlike unbelievers, we recognize them and want to overcome them. We want to say with Jesus, “Get thee behind me, Satan!

Actually, temptation has a certain value for us. James put it this way: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” If our faith was never put to the test, we would either lose it completely, or it would become horribly weak. Of what value is a faith that has never been tested? And then, too, we must know the source of temptation. Luther described this as “the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.” These sources of temptation attack us in different ways and at different times in life. Flesh and blood are no match for Satan. There is but one defense, and that is Jesus Christ.

Our Father in heaven knows us well. He knows our helplessness in facing and overcoming temptation on our own. Lovingly and willingly He offered His Son to become our flesh and blood Substitute. As we read in Hebrews: “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Satan tried everything to get Jesus to succumb to temptation. He even moved men to nail Him to the cross. There the temptation was terrific. At the ninth hour of the day, Jesus experienced what it meant to be separated from the Father by a wall of sin. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Had Satan won after all? Was Jesus weakening in His resolve to finish the Father’s work of redemption for us? The next moment He cries out again in great relief and triumph, “It is finished.” Once and for all, the work of salvation is complete, and by His victory we are set free from the sin we fall into when we give in to temptation. We pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and we know that in Him they are certainly forgiven. Now He bids us pray as well, “Lead us not into temptation.

Of course, the flesh is weak. We confess that fact every time we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” But as we pray, we can be absolutely certain that our Father will not allow us to enter into any temptation or trial that He will not also enable us to bear. As St. Paul said: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” We will find such strength in Word, in prayer, and in that wondrous blessing of the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given and shed for the remission of our sins. He who endured the great temptation to give us these gifts, He will not forsake us in temptation. 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, April 16, 2014

New Blog for WWE Notes

I know that my followers are here for theology and personal items, and not all of you are WWE fans. Rather than clutter this page with WWE event notes, I decided to start a new blog. Here it is:

AjK's WWE Notes!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sermon for 4/13/14--Palm Sunday/Confirmation

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Is It I?

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


This is Holy Week, and it is here that we see the worst of man. All the dark secrets of our hearts are exposed this week. We are there in Judas' betrayal, in Peter's denial, in the hateful crowd that chose Barabbas, in the cowardice and expediency of Pilate, in the cruelty of the Roman guard. But do not avert your gaze for shame. Instead repent and rejoice, for the Son of Man was lifted up to draw you to Him. It is your salvation, your adoption into grace, the bestowal of your Name and inheritance.

Do not be afraid to ask that question the disciples ask in the upper room: “Is it I, Lord?” Instead learn to say: “It could be me. I could be Judas, driven by greed. I could be Peter, denying Jesus in fear. I am capable of these things and worse. Yes, it could be me. I could be Judas. I could be Peter. I could be Pilate. I could ask for Barabbas and yell, 'Crucify Him!' I could be overcome by bloodlust, anger, and hatred.” Make confession, lest your faith grow cold and your heart turn to stone. Examine yourself. Ask, “Is it I?” And then leave it there. Leave it all at the foot of the cross. Rejoice in the death of Jesus. And then rejoice in the coming Resurrection.

His goodness and faithfulness are not derived from your obedience or loyalty. You were not worthy of His love, but He loves you anyway. It was His will to suffer your betrayal and abuse so that you would be spared. You ask: “Is it I, Lord?” And He says, “No. It is not. You are innocent. You are righteous and well-pleasing to the Father. The burden of all your guilt has been carried to my cross and buried in my tomb. Your sins are gone. The guilt is all Mine. The thorns, the scourge, and the nails have bled them out of Me; you are clean. You are not accountable in heaven for sins on earth. You do not pay the debt of sin. I paid it all. There is no more. I welcome you back again. I love you. Be at peace.”

Alexis and Chandler…in teaching you the Small Catechism, I’ve taught you two main points. The first is that you are a sinner. That’s easy enough to believe, isn’t it? In all that time we spent digging into the Ten Commandments, the Lord has made it abundantly clear that your every thought, every word, every action and inaction—your every breath—is tainted by sin. But all that follows is meant to express the second point, which is that God has done everything necessary to remove that sin from you. God the Father loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, carrying your sins, and then to rise again to raise you to new life with Him. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to deliver that work to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Father made you His child and forgave your sins. Jesus taught you to call upon His Father as your Father. And then He feeds you with word of Holy Absolution and with His own body and blood.

Is this too good to be true? To answer that, think on Barabbas, a man guilty of vile crimes of treachery and betrayal. Yet he went free, pardoned of his crimes. In hatred the mob chose a murderer like him over the Lord of Life who had healed their sick, driven off the demons, and given back their dead. But the Father was not sad. He would not have it any other way. What they chose in their hatred, what they meant for evil, He meant for good. In the end it is not they who chose Barabbas, but God. God rescued Barabbas from his guilt and death penalty. Jesus switched places with him. It could not be any other way. By the condemnation, bitter sufferings, and death of Our Lord, God made all things new—and that includes you.

This Holy Week, let Christ heal your soul, bind up your broken heart, and restore your courage and faith. Do not weep for your Lord. Rejoice instead; sing Hosanna. The will of the Father is seen on the cross. The Name of the Father is glorified there. The Passover is done. The New Testament in His Blood is begun. And you are His—now and eternally. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord; His mercy endureth 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.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sermon for 4/11/14--Funeral of Dorothy (Hornbostel) Bigham

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Glory Revealed

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is written in Chapter 8 of the Epistle to the Romans, Verse 18, in which St. Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


Cheryl and Brian, Janet and Joe, Carl and Jadae, Don and Denise, fellow children of our heavenly Father: it is never easy to accept being separated from those we love whom the Lord has called to rest from the labors of this life. Sometimes the grief is made easier to bear, the loss easier to accept, by the circumstances surrounding the final days, months, or years of their life. Certainly in the midst of today’s grief we can feel some relief that Dorothy no longer struggles with the ravages of dementia. Still, while there may be some measure of relief, there is also grief and pain and sorrow. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t grieve. We all loved Dorothy. She was a blessing from God in our lives, and we will miss her presence among us.

Nevertheless, we do not grieve like those who have no hope, those who do not know that Jesus died for them, those who don’t know that death is not the end. Much of this world fears death as something hateful and ugly. But the child of God knows also that death is merely the gate of eternal life which He has prepared for His beloved children from the very foundation of this world. St. Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” He wrote these words to strengthen our faith and to give us hope. Paul does not deny or ignore or even make light of our sufferings. He knows that all these things are very real and very troubling. But instead he seeks to raise our eyes to see the glorious future that awaits us, a sure and certain hope that overshadows even the sufferings of this present time, no matter how lengthy or severe they may be.

There is a world beyond this time of change and decay. In Revelation, St. John has told us that, in this world to come, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” It is a wonderful future that awaits us because, by faith in Jesus Christ, we will forever be called “sons of God.” And in the words that come just before our text, Paul said that if we are children of God, then we are heirs, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” By the blood of the everlasting covenant, the blood of our dear Savior, we are heirs of the glories of heaven.

Within these words of encouragement there is also an admonition addressed to us. Though much sorrow and distress may arise to change our lives and disturb our happiness, yet we must keep our eyes and thoughts on that world to come. “Think on these things,” Paul said on another occasion. Fill up your hearts and minds with the promise of God, the promise of a better place, the promise of perfect freedom from all the ills and troubles of this life! Draw close to the Word of God, especially during these days of sorrow and distress, and you will know the comfort the Spirit brings.

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Dorothy knew this. It was her hope, her comfort, and her joy in the midst of affliction. We all make our way in this world along a narrow and sometimes fear-filled path, often accompanied with suffering. But we need not fear, just as Dorothy did not. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has gone the way of suffering and death before us, and He has made that way holy for us through the waters of Holy Baptism. And when death comes, He shows that death is merely a peaceful slumber, a rest for the weary, as we await the resurrection of all flesh. What was once dark and fearsome has become light and joy. Lift up your eyes to behold the redemption of the Lord drawing near. Sin cannot disturb your soul. Satan cannot accuse you. Death cannot end your gladness. You are a baptized child of God. Walk with Christ, for He will lead through the valley of the shadow of death and into that eternal rest which He has prepared—for Dororthy, for Eugene, for their son, for all who have gone before us in the One True Faith…and which He has prepared for you, for you also are His beloved children. 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, April 10, 2014

Sermon for 4/9/13--Midweek Lent V (midweek series)

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Forgiven, We Forgive
Luke 23:33-34/Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


What if Jesus had cursed His enemies from the cross, rather than seek their forgiveness by the Father? Jesus had every right to curse His captors, for they had dared to crucify the Son of God. What if Jesus had taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and then advised us, “but do not ‘go soft’ and forgive those who deliberately trespass against You?” And yet, is that not the way we sometimes pray this prayer? We have been willing, even anxious, to have the Father’s forgiveness, but not nearly as willing or anxious to forgive those who have hurt us. Instead, Jesus startled His enemies and the whole world as, on the cross, His first words were words of absolution: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As always, Jesus practiced what He preached. He prayed as He had taught. And so He taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Once again, we see the Lord’s Prayer active in our Lord’s Passion; we see our redemption in action and in application. We learn and pray that, having been forgiven, we will forgive.

We need forgiveness as much and as frequently as we need our daily bread. Every man who needs to pray for daily bread needs also to pray for daily forgiveness, because that great mountain of our sins bearing down upon us is as suffocating to our lives as hunger is damaging to our bodies. That is precisely what our Lord meant when He answered Satan, in the midst of His own temptation: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” These two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are inseparably bound together by the little word “and”: “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We need forgiveness because of what we owe God. Call them trespasses; call them debts, as some translations do. They are really the same thing. The point is, they all cry out for payment, satisfaction, and forgiveness before God.

If we were to list all the sins for which we need forgiveness, there would literally be no end to them. But comparing the Lord’s Prayer to the Lord’s Passion helps to focus our attention on sin as an individual thing. It is of absolute necessity for us to know that the accusing finger of God points to each of us, one at a time, scratching away the veneer we build around our lives, and saying to us, as Nathan the prophet said to David, “Thou art the man!” Our sins stand like a huge wall between God and us. As Isaiah said: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” It is like the husband and wife who have had a serious “falling out” with each other. Reconciliation can never take place until there has been forgiveness borne of love. We need that kind of forgiveness from God.

And that is the very forgiveness He offers us. The essence of God’s nature is love. And His love has taken concrete form in Jesus Christ and all He has done to save us. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah said. In the same manner, St. Paul said: “He made (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In Christ, the wall of separation is broken down; the path to God is straightened out; the debt of our guilt is paid in full. Our heavenly Father has accepted His own Son’s perfect life and sacrificial death in place of our imperfect life, and has spared us from the horrors of eternal death. The cross of Jesus has been laid across the yawning chasm that separates us from God. As we pray for forgiveness, it is this that guarantees our plea will be heard and answered favorably.

But our Savior taught us also to add these words, “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As the forgiven children of God it is simply a matter of course that we will, in turn, forgive others. When we pray this petition in the fullness of its meaning, we are not only seeking forgiveness for ourselves but also the grace and power to forgive those who have sinned against us. This petition places a profound responsibility on our shoulders; we should not seek God’s forgiveness for ourselves unless we are prepared to forgive others.

And yet, that is about the hardest thing in the world to do. Our Lord knew that we would go on sinning and being sinned against. And we know that often we would much rather curse than forgive someone who has sinned against us. It is much more enjoyable to nurse a grudge, to keep score over against a husband’s or wife’s faults, to rub it in, to be a little spiteful, to find ways to get even. Our Lord Jesus Christ not only died for these spiteful characteristics of our sinful nature. He even prayed for the forgiveness of His worst enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And this is the way we can pray this prayer: Instead of magnifying our neighbor’s sins against us and condemning him for them, we can forgive Him through Christ.

You may shake your head and say: “But I just cannot find it in me to overlook the terrible hurt someone has brought on me. I just can’t find it in me to forgive that easily.” Of course you can’t! But Christ within you can. By redeeming you and forgiving you, He has made a new creature of you. In Holy Baptism, He has made you able to see things as He sees them. Now, you can pray: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Forgiven children will forgive; this is His message to us. And as He forgives and cleanses us by the power of His Word and Sacraments, He gives us the same power to be forgiving.

We remember Jesus praying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And because He did, we can pray just as earnestly: “Father…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And our prayer is answered for the sake of Jesus Christ. Forgiven, we will forgive. 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.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sermon for 4/6/14--Lent V

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Judgment and Truth

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


Judge me, O God.” That is a pretty bold request. The Psalmist asks for judgment. He is not deceived. He knows he is a sinner. But he looks to the God of Abraham to be His Deliverer, Light, and Truth. He looks to God to lead Him to the Temple where the mercy seat and sacrifices stand between him and damnation. God is the Health of his countenance and his Hope. That is why he is bold. That is why he prays: “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.” He is bold because Our Lord promises: “My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent me.” The judgment of the Christ, who shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, is true. And that is no cause for terrors of conscience, but rejoicing. For truer than the Psalmist's sins is the Blood of Christ, which speaks better things than Abel's blood, better things than that of bulls and goats, which shuts the devils mouth, washes us clean, redeems us out of dead works to serve the living God. Truer than our betrayal is His faithfulness, His love, and His mercy that endures forever.

Abraham was long buried in the ground, decomposed back to the dust and ash from which he came. But Abraham rejoices, for he has seen the day when the Virgin conceived a Son without the aid of a Man. Abraham has seen his Lord. He has seen the Day when the Son of Man was lifted up from the earth on cross. He has seen the Day that the stone was rolled away and the Son was raised up from the dead. He has seen his Lord. Abraham saw and was glad. Our Lord's opponents were wrong, dead wrong. Abraham died. But Abraham is not dead. Abraham lives, as do all those who trust in Christ.

All that being said, Jerusalem still sought to kill Jesus. While His mercy endures forever, they have no mercy, and neither does their father the devil. Hatred consumes them. And our flesh is no less corrupt than that of Caiaphas or Pilate. We know something as well of Judas' love of money. The wood on Isaac's back, the fire and the knife in hand without the lamb before us, has terrified us. We were afraid that God would kill us for our sins. Unlike faithful Abraham, we have refused to believe that the Lord will provide and have sought to provide for ourselves. We have refused to believe that God will give us what is best. We've pampered our demons and idols like beloved pets. We've indulged ourselves, slipped into the self-delusion of addicts who think they'll ease themselves off their drugs tomorrow or the next day or that they are in control. Repent! We've become masterful liars, skilled at ignoring the facts and leveling accusations at any who would hold us back from our desires. Repent! We've flirted with death, daring God to judge us according to our sins. These opponents of Our Lord, who lived long ago and sought to shut His mouth by ending His life, still live among and in us. We are not the heroes of this story. We are the criminals, the victims, and the beneficiaries all at the same time.

And that is why we rightly pray, “Judge me, O God,” for the God of Abraham has promised to be your Deliverer, Light, and Truth. He promised to lead you out of death, to stand between you and damnation. He has suffered your judgment and sentence so that you would go free. The Sacrifice is worthy. Justice demands that it be accepted. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain but lives. He is the Health of your countenance and your Hope. Be bold in your prayer. Pray: “Judge me, O God” because His judgment is true. And that truth is not a cause for terror, but rejoicing.

Truer than your sins is the Blood of Christ, which speaks better things than Abel's blood or the blood of bulls and goats, which shuts the devils mouth, which washes you clean, which redeems you out of dead works to serve the living God. Truer than your betrayal and your lies is His faithfulness and love. The knife is stayed. Your bonds are loosed. The fire is extinguished. No one—not Abraham, nor any demon or power of Hell, nor anything in all creation—shall hurt you or snatch you away from the Father. You believe in God, in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and you belong to Him. That is the judgment and the Truth. 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.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Wrestlemania XXX Notes

I know this isn't my usual fare, though I have warned y'all that I post on a wide variety of subjects. Anyway, I hope you'll endure it even if you're not interested. I'll only post notes here for the pay-per-view events. If you are interested, I post notes for Raw and SmackDown on my Facebook page. In any case, feel free to ignore this.

1. Pre-show: excellent four-team elimination tag match for the straps. Honestly did not expect the Usos to retain, though I have no complaints.
2. Cesaro swing...on Swagger?! After an ankle lock that Zebb halted? I thought they'd split at WMXXX, but I thought Cesaro would end up a babyface. Now? I don't know. But maybe that will all be clear after the battle royal.
3.Somehow Hulk Hogan and the 75k+ who started off in New Orleans were magically transported to Detroit! Welcome to the Silverdome, brother! Oops! The crowd was kindly about it—much better than people in Detroit would have been been had the opposite mistake happened. That’s okay. At his age, it’s a miracle he remembers how to flex!
4. STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD!!! (Yeah, I’m such a mark. Get over it.) Seeing those two in the same ring makes a man wish this had happened 15 to 20 years ago.
5. When the Rock’s music started, the hair on my arms stood on end. (That’s no small accomplishment!) That is a whole heck of a lot of star power to open the show. That’s going to be hard to live up to. I guess this means that Stone Cold and the Rock aren’t going to be coming to Cena’s rescue.
6. I’ll say this: Triple H knows how to make an entrance. I’m glad he came down to his “Game” music instead of the “King of Kings” music.
7. The geek in my can’t help but point out how cool is it that Jerry Lawler referenced Frank Frazetta when describing Hunter’s attire.
8. That is a lot of people chanting “YES! YES! YES!”
9. Stephanie, that necklace/tie/choker thing doesn’t work for you, and your outfit is just a little…street-walker for a corporate executive.
10. Hunter did a good job of putting over Daniel Bryan. He made him look very good without looking weak himself. And *that* is what’s best for business. Excellent match. And the extra-curricular activities after the bell will only make Bryan a more sympathetic character for the main event.
11. Very disappointing match from the Old Age Outlaws and Kane. No introduction from the Road Dogg. The only offense from the Corporate team was the few punches Kane threw to start the match. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t a squash. This is the worst I’ve seen the Outlaws look. Ever. I admit, the double-triple powerbomb was impressive. But that was a huge letdown.
12. Nice cameos from Duggan, Slaughter, Steamboat, the Million Dollar Man, and Ron Simmons. Quick and fun. Everybody has their price for the Million Dollar Man!
13. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal…what a mess!
14. KOFI!!! Always impressive. It’s a shame he never ends up winning, but he always has his moment in these battle royals.
15. A lot of impressive moments, but AdR kept eliminating people I like.
16. Cesaro v. Big Show to end it? HOLY CRAP!!!!! THAT WAS AWESOME!!! CESARO BODYSLAMMED BIG SHOW OVER THE TOP ROPE!!! DAYUM!!! WOW!
17. I don’t know if this cleared anything up from earlier, but Cesaro certainly got a pop from the crowd. WE…THE PEOPLE!!!
18. What an interesting band playing the entrance theme for the Wyatts.
19. Okay, I don’t get the whole “You can destroy my legacy by beating me once” thing. Kane couldn’t turn Cena, and I don’t expect Bray to be able to either. But I expect this to be a heck of a match.
20. Wyatt reminds me a lot of Bam Bam Bigelow in his athleticism, but with more than a touch of brutality. Oh, and that spider walk is downright creepy! He’s got potential we haven’t come anywhere near touching. FOLLOW…THE BUZZARDS!!!
21. The crowd is singing ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands?” Wyatt is loving it. There’s nothing like a New Orleans party!
22. Cena’s a better man than I am. It was leaping into a powerbomb that broke his neck, but he keeps doing it.
23. That was a surprisingly good match. I do hope this isn’t over. The Wyatts bring out Cena’s best performances it seems.
24. Excellent Hall of Fame class this year. Jake the Snake, Mr. T, Paul Bearer (Ohhhhhh yeeeeeeees!), Carlos Colon, Lita, Razor Ramon, and the Ultimate Warrior! I half expected him to run down to the ring and shake the ropes!
25. Undertaker has the best entrance ever. No one compares. No one even comes close. Lesnar’s response? “Ho hum.” Lesnar looks almost sad.
26. Slow match, but Taker looks especially slow. I don’t know how this will play out, but he doesn’t look that good in-ring. I don’t know if this is ring rust or what, but he’s not at his best. He might be blown up already.
27. And Lesnar is looking beat up too. Taker may not be at his best, but Lesnar’s taken a few shots. Still, he looks like he’s selling, while Taker looks…old. Snake eyes looked like the snake was slithering through molasses.
28. F5!!! It’s over—NO!
29. HELL’S GATE!!! Wow. Lesnar is a beast!
30. AGAIN! And the same escape!
31. KIMURA LOCK!!! REVERSED!!! Lesnar to the ropes.
32. Old School. NO! Another F5!! TAKER KICKS OUT!!!
33. LAST RIDE! Oh, does the Undertaker look bad.
34. TOMBSTONE!!! THERE WE GO!!! 22 and…NO!!!
35. Tombstone reversed! F5!!! NO!!!
36. The Streak...is over. 21-1. Holy... O my... What the...
37. That was *not* what I thought I would see. Ever. The crowd reactions are priceless, and I know exactly what they're thinking, because I look like a poleaxed cow too. I never thought I would see that. Dayum.
38. Was that Taker’s last match? Is the lure of Michelle going to have him staying at home permanently? I really thought he’d retire after WMXXXI and a match with Sting. Could this be it, and Undertaker and Sting go into the Hall of Fame together next year? Thinking about it, I seem to remember hearing somewhere that the Undertaker wanted Lesnar to end the streak if anyone did, but…really?
39. I couldn't understand why they waited so long in the show to hold the divas match, but I guess they figured people would need time to recover from the Undertaker loss before the main event. Nevertheless, Viva La EMMAluton!
40. AJ retains! Ha! Any result that leaves Vicki with that kind of stinkface has to be good! That black widow submission is just awesome!
41. But the match itself? I would have been happy with half the participants rather than making all of them look weak by sitting on the floor for ten minutes.
42. Taker lost? What the... Maybe they probably should have given even more time to recover. Yikes. Not ready for the main event!
43. I’m not one for live performances, but “Voices” was better live than I expected, though I still prefer the studio version. I do wish they’d have brought Saliva in for “I Walk Alone”. Oh well.
44. No one has gone through the Spanish announce table yet. How can it be Wrestlemania?
45. Looking at the time, the match must be about half over, and the crowd is still quiet.
46. Excellent match so far. Especially the part where Hunter took a sledgehammer to the head for interfering with the crooked ref Armstrong.
47. There we go. Powerbomb and RKO simultaneously puts Orton and Bryan through the table. Ooooh, and Orton landed on a monitor. His back has nasty gashes. That’s legit right there. Wow. That had to hurt.
48. Shades of Mick Foley: Daniel Bryan fighting to get off the stretcher! There’s the crowd! The Taker hangover is gone.
49. Yes lock on Orton! Batista with the save. Yes lock on Batista! Orton with the save. Wow. Batista countering the RKO and then SPEARING Bryan. Orton RKOs Batista! Near fall. This is all coming fast and furious.
50. Orton to punt Batista. Bryan blocks with a flying knee! Batista gets rid of Bryan and then goes for the cover and Orton kicks out! Powerbomb on Orton.
51. YES LOCK ON BATISTA! ORTON IS OUT OF THE RING! BATISTA TAPS!!! BRYAN WINS!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

Very good show overall. The Shield v. The Authority match was disappointing, and I still can't believe the Undertaker lost. But the main even was worth the price of admission, especially since it came with the WWE Network.

Friday, April 04, 2014

2014 Reading List: February and March

Okay, so I'm a little behind. Sorry. I'll try to stay caught up from here on. 47 for the year so far, mostly writing research.




February
  1. McDaniel, Lesley Ann. Saving Grace. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  2. Kinney, DeAnna. Exposing Kitty Langley. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  3. Shaw Gardner, Craig. A Malady of Magicks. Crossroad Press, 2013.
  4. Daltry, Sarah, Pete Clark. Backward Compatible. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  5. Willow, Carmen. Gamer Girl. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  6. Nolan, Kait. Once Upon a Snow Day. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  7. Manchester, Steven. The Rockin' Chair. The Story Plant, 2013.
  8. Curtis, Mel. Valentine Rules. Purple Papaya, 2013.
  9. Renee, Kristina. Safer Outside. Surrendered Press, 2014.
  10. Faria, Cyndi. Honor the Promise. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  11. Evans, Jessie. Melt with You. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  12. Ink, Evelyn. Sticks, Stones, and Dragon Bones. Self-Published Kindle Edition (Katherine M Frey), 2012.
  13. Ink, Evelyn. Sticks, Stones, and Dragon Bones II. Self-Published Kindle Edition (Katherine M Frey), 2013.
  14. Ink, Evelyn. Sticks, Stones, and Dragon Bones III. Self-Published Kindle Edition (Katherine M Frey), 2013.
  15. Burris, Doug. Young Love Lost. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2014.
  16. Schiller, M.J. Trapped Under Ice. Kissmet Publishing, 2013.




March
  1. Fenris, Morris. Sara in Montana. Changing Culture Publications, 2013.
  2. Meeks, Bill. Dogboy: Den of Thieves. Meeks Mixed Media, 2013.
  3. Barondes, Jessica. What If...? Sense and Sensibility Press, 2013.
  4. Erwin, Travis. Twisted Roads. TAG Publishing LLC, 2013.
  5. James, Karolyn. All Access. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  6. Stories, Natasha. Rustled. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2014.
  7. Hope, Amity. Truths and Dares. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  8. Hope, Amity. Secrets and Lies. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2014.
  9. Thrasher, Travis. Home Run. Movie script Novelization. David C. Cook, 2013.
  10. Myers, Ryan. The House of Dark Music. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  11. Gunhammer, Jessica. Straight Laced. Limitless Publishing LLC, 2013.
  12. Bates, Sarah. Safe Harbor. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2014.
 




Sermon for 4/2/14--Midweek Lent IV (midweek series)

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Text:

Meat in Due Season
John 19:28-29/Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


From His cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” The children of God frequently pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our Lord wants us to pray in this way. But why does He, the Creator of all things, lower Himself to ask for something to drink? And why is the all-powerful God concerned about a simple thing like food when He has a whole universe to operate and control? How does it happen that we human beings have the right to ask for food to eat, and water to drink, and clothes to wear? Why should God allow us to trouble Him with these personal needs? These questions lead us to consider again the relationship between the Lord’s Prayer and our Lord’s Passion. He taught us to pray this fourth petition of His prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And He practiced what He preached. He prayed as He taught His disciples to pray. He, who took on flesh and blood to become one of us and to experience real flesh and blood needs, shows us in the very act of redeeming the world that material needs are important. Matter does matter, both to God and to us.

Most of us are prepared to grant that God is concerned about our spiritual needs. We know that Scripture teaches that it is God’s will that “all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” But as flesh and blood ourselves, we would not be too surprised if this fifth word from the cross had pierced the air as the first word from the lips of the crucified Savior. Imagine yourself, as well as you are able, nailed hand and foot to a cross, with little or no support holding you suspended in mid-air. The heat of the noontime sun, the burning fever, the dehydration caused by the sun and the loss of blood – with nothing to drink – it would be next to unbearable. We would have cried out for water or any kind of physical relief from the outset. And isn’t that typical of human beings. Our needs are the subject of our most frequent and fervent and desperate prayers. If time permits we may strain ourselves to pray for others, or even for the glory of God.

We thank God for the crucifixion of Jesus. God the Father took His own Son, “laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” and allowed Him to be the cursed One hanging on the tree of the cross. Even here in desperate agony He perfectly fulfills the Father’s will for us. He prays first for His enemies and their salvation. He spends Himself in love for all people. Only then does He pray for His own needs.
There is a parallel between the place of this fifth word from the cross and the fourth petition of His prayer. The first words of both are addressed to the Father. He teaches us to pray for the glory of God’s name, then the eternal welfare of God’s people in His kingdom, and their willingness to do the will of God faithfully. Then He urges us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer begins with a life that is set right with God, and then turns to those physical needs we all have. Our material needs do matter to God. We deceive ourselves if we get the idea that these needs are trivial; they are not at all, not to us nor to God. Besides, “daily bread” means much more than the neatly wrapped package we purchase at the grocery store. It means valuable work for us to do every day, and the ability to do it. It means all of those things that God gives us to support our bodies and lives. Recall the list Dr. Luther offers us in His explanation—“food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home…” to name just a few. God is very much interested in these things. He came, in Jesus Christ, to walk on this earth. He needed bread, and ate it with His disciples. He had need of a place to sleep. He knew the pain of a broken heart when a loved one died. And on the cross He needed something to drink to satisfy His tormenting thirst. Does God really care about these things as they concern us? Why else would Jesus bid us pray these words?

God the Father always supplied the needs of His Son. At the beginning of His ministry, when Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the Father sustained Him and, when Satan had been overcome, sent His angels to minister to Jesus and to satisfy His physical needs. The same is true here; when the work was done, the Father satisfied His thirst. The same Father in heaven has made many wonderful promises to us. After teaching His disciples, and us, to pray His prayer, Jesus then said: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or about your body, what you shall put on…Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of them.” Our Lord wants us to have the faith of David, who could pray: “The eyes of all look to Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Jesus, who experienced all our needs and received His Father’s rich supply, has invited us to bring our needs to the attention of our heavenly Father: “Our Father,…give us this day our daily bread.” He has made us sons of God. By His prayer and life, by His bitter suffering and death, He has redeemed us to God, and made Him our Father, and has earned for us the privilege of bringing all things to our Father in prayer.

And so, when we pray in faith, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are showing our confidence in His goodness and wisdom; it is an expression of humility and dependence. We ask only for bread, our basic needs, as God knows best how to give them. We seek only a daily share of His grace, knowing that He will again tomorrow open up His generous hands to supply our needs. In so praying, we also thank God for all the wondrous things He has done for us.

And as we pray this prayer we can hardly do so without thinking of Jesus Himself breaking bread with His disciples and telling them, “I am the Bread of Life.” Our Savior, who promised to be with us always, gathers at table with us. He supplies our needs. He also gives Himself, the very Bread of Life, to satisfy the hunger of our souls. He who has experienced our material needs firsthand and richly supplies them, knows all our needs… and then He supplies them completely as He gives us Himself. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sermon for 3/30/14--Lent IV

Apologies if the audio isn't available right away. I'm almost out of bandwidth for the month with all these midweek services!

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Text:

Satisfied

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


You toil for that which does not satisfy. You seek love and acceptance from demons, food from garbage collectors, loyalty from traitors. You want fame, honor, riches, and luxury. You want prestige and devotion but engage in debauchery and perversion! You waste away dreaming of and scheming for these forbidden things, forgetting those who love you, who raised you, who have sacrificed themselves for you. You push away even your Savior for pleasures of the flesh. You are obsessed with yourself! And there is never enough. It never works. It never satisfies. It leaves you tired, frustrated, sad, angry, lonely, and afraid. It is no wonder you are hungry and weary in your sin. You are like that crowd on a mountainside who came seeking earthly things and forgot to plan ahead. They were so far gone that they could not return home without food or else they’d faint along the way. And so, as He always does, God provides.

He is faithful and kind. He is not holding out on you. He loves you. Sit down. Quit scrambling around and trying to get your piece of the pie by violence or deception. Sit down in the green pastures to which He leads you. Eat bread and fish without money. Drink wine and milk without price. Eat that which is good. Let your soul delight. Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God. Give up the things of the past. Turn from your unrighteous thoughts. Forsake your wickedness. Return to the Lord who called you by name out of the deep and made you His. He will have mercy upon you. He will be your God. He will abundantly pardon you and give you peace. He will give your rest. He will satisfy.

Five barley loaves and two small fish are nothing. But out of nothing God makes something: a ram caught in the thicket; a goat sent off into the wilderness with the sins of the people pressed into his head; a carcass consumed in flame while its blood drips down the doorposts and the angel of death passes over; an overflowing cup pressed without labor or toil; a Man hanging on the cross for crimes He did not commit. Five thousand men plus women and children are nothing. But out of nothing God makes something: a people who were no people are now a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chaste and immaculate Bride redeemed from slavery and death.

The endless, selfish hunger of man judges that five barley loaves and two small fish will never be enough, but God’s Word does not fail. Whoever believes in Him, even if he die, will live. Twelve baskets of fragments cannot quite contain the bounty after all have been fed and satisfied. Five barley loaves and two small fish, one Righteous Man who dies for the nation—this is more than sufficient. Your Redeemer lives. The endless, selfish hunger of man is false, for the heart is exceedingly wicked. But the grace and mercy of God are never lacking. He does not lie. He provides.

Bread and wine are nothing. Water is nothing. But out of nothing, God makes something! He provides in this wild place. He gives sanctuary. He restores joy. He binds wounds, relieves your broken hearts, consoles and soothes your jaded minds. Sit down in the green pastures of His Holy Word. Eat His Body. Drink His Blood. Hear the Word of Holy Absolution. Enjoy the sure mercies of David, whose Son has given His life for you, rescued you from Hell, and re-opened paradise through His resurrection. God’s Name has been placed upon you. God’s Son has died and risen for you. God’s Spirit has made you His temple. No one can take you from Him. Rest here, weary souls. At this table your cup runneth over, and the blood of Christ stains you as clean and pure as new fallen snow. 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 27, 2014

Sermon for 3/26/14--Midweek of Lent III (midweek series)

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Text:

Wanting What God Wants
Mark 14:32-36/Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


How do you pray the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer? “God, I wanted things my way, but it’s obvious that they are not turning out that way. So I’ll turn them over to You, because Your will has more power than mine and will probably have its way anyhow.” Is it our Lord’s intention that you and I should come out of prayer to Him with a futile, fatalistic attitude? Is this what Jesus had in mind when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Is that what it meant when Jesus bowed submissively before His Father and said, “Not My will, but Yours be done”?

 As we look in at this crucial moment of human history, we see eleven men waiting somewhat impatiently in the background. Only a stone’s throw away is Jesus, the Son of God. He has dropped to His knees; He falls on His face in prayer. He who taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” not only prayed exactly as He taught, but also carried out the will of His Father. And in doing so, He not only gained new life for us but also this same privilege of prayer.
Jesus prayed alone. He had invited His ablest and strongest disciples to pray with Him, but they could only sleep while the battle for the salvation of the world was being won. Alone, He prays, “Remove this cup from Me; yet, not what I will, but what You will.” Wave after wave, the agony of His inner torment swept over Him as He prayed those same words again and again. As St. Luke tells us: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” The Son of God was ready and willing to die, and yet He is afraid of death? How can this be?

As we look into that “cup” held to His lips a bit more closely, we see that it contains more than the bitterness of physical death. That cup is full of the world’s sins. It holds the sins of His sleeping disciples, the treachery of Judas, the mocking of the crowds. Look deeper into that cup and you will find also your sins and mine. You will see our lips that have denied and even cursed Him, our thankless hearts, and our hands and hearts tightly closed against His commands and the needs of others. Who would ever want to drink such a cup? Yet, in the face of all of this, Jesus prays that if it this is the only way by which the world can be redeemed, then He is ready to do so. And then, “…there appeared to Him an angel from heaven strengthening Him.” This was the father’s answer. Our Savior got to His feet, strengthened by that angel, ready now to do the Father’s will. The “cup” actually looked sweet now, because His will and the Father’s were blended in it. He was at peace. The Father’s will was unmistakable, and His strength was unfailing. Heaven’s will has come to be done on this earth. The perversion of that will, which was part of the first sin, has been answered and redeemed in Christ, who prays perfectly, “Father…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

But, this is our prayer, too. How is it possible that we could presume to pray such a prayer? Recall how Luther described this in the Catechism, when he answered the question, How is this done? He said: “When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and preserves us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.” When you look at people, externally one really looks like another. They are all flesh and blood, and all are tormented by wills that want what they want, when they want it. But with the gift of saving faith comes also the ability to see beyond the desires of the flesh. And that is what makes a Christian altogether different; simply and only because Jesus has made them that way. As children of the heavenly Father we are no longer fighting a losing battle against the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh; Jesus has conquered these for us. And we know it. We need but ask, and the Father gives!

And so, when we pray, we are not just mumbling empty words, but words that can move mountains, because they are words that Jesus also prayed. When we pray, “Father, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” what we are really praying is this: “Father we really do want what You want; help us evermore to want it.” When our will has been blended in with the will of the Father, then we are living a life of obedience to the will of God. And we will not pray this prayer in defeat, nor with a whimper, but will announce it as a veritable declaration of war, asking the Father that every will that opposes God’s will on earth will be triumphantly defeated. To pray this petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…,” is truly wanting what God wants. 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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sermon for 3/23/14--Lent III

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Text:

The Demons Want You

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


The charge made by the Pharisees against Jesus wasn't quite as far off base as it sounds. At least they recognized the supernatural. In that regard, they were mostly ahead of us. Too often we have played the mild-mannered, mellow Christian, more distressed about recycling than abortion, more worried about the honor of the Cardinals than of our God. We've preferred the good opinion of our pagan neighbors over their salvation. But here is the truth: there is no neutral territory. You either belong to God or you belong to Satan. Those who think they sit on the fence, who choose the calm, middle way of moderation, are delusional. Christianity is a radical and extreme religion. It is not nice. Fence-riders belong to Satan. Jesus spits them out of His mouth. Repent.

You are not a fence-rider, though you have been tempted that way. You belong to God. You are baptized. That is no small thing. Baptism casts out demons. Our Lord suffered demonic attacks in the desert and throughout His Ministry. Christians also suffer demonic attacks. Unlike Christ, we have invited them in. The demons come with all manner of sin, not merely with Ouija boards and horoscopes, but also with gossip, vanity, drunkenness, and lies. What you do affects yourself, your family, and all those you encounter in your life. Demons need to be driven away. Let us not forget that Satan entered one of the Twelve who then betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Be aware. Be careful. Repent.

Repent…but do not despair. Do not be afraid. Weak as we are, Jesus was weaker. He made Himself a perfect target for all of Hell's fury. He drew all their hatred, all their violence, all God's wrath into Himself. The devil has no strength left. He is spent. He used everything he had to kill Jesus on the cross. He has no more accusations. The demons are mute in heaven's courtroom. And you, the defendant, are declared innocent and holy. You are pardoned. You do not have to face the charges. There are no witnesses against you. God does not even remember your sins. You are forgiven and welcomed as the rightful heir and beloved of the Father.

The devil is still roaming about this earth seeking someone to devour. He is real and he is dangerous, but you are safe. You belong to God. His Name is upon you. His promise will not fail. You hear the Word of God. You eat the Body of Jesus. You drink His Blood. This miraculous eating and drinking do not consume Jesus, for He is risen from the dead. This eating and this drinking proclaims the glorious, life-giving death of Jesus. It proclaims the kind of death He died: a death to end death, a death that stands in our stead, a death that draws men unto Him, a death that destroys the gates of Hell and shuts the devil's mouth. This death means He will come again. Christ gives Himself as food and drink for your body and soul to make you whole—to make you His. You eat and you drink and you are consumed. He joins you to Himself. It is a sign of His love for you and a foretaste of things to come.

Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts which gave you suck; but more than that, blessed are those who brought you to the font to offer you to God and placed your soul into the care of your Savior. Satan and his demons cannot have you. You belong to your heavenly Father 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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sermon for 3/19/14--Midweek of Lent II (midweek series)

Audio:




Text:

The Coming Kingdom
John 18:36-37/First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


Don’t be alarmed if you have not understood everything you were praying for when you prayed, “Thy kingdom come.” Whole books have been written on the subject. Some authors have viewed the kingdom of God as the central theme of the Bible, tying everything together from Genesis to Revelation. This is a big prayer; our Lord tells us to ask for the kingdom of God! In fact, that has been true with much of what Scripture has taught us. A bit after Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He told His disciples: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” There is much He would grant us in prayer, if we would but ask—even His kingdom! What is more, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God has come, but then He tells us to continue praying, “Thy kingdom come…” It is enough to make us scratch our heads and ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” And the answer that comes back to us from God’s Word is an answer with three parts.

The first is this; the kingdom of God is the kingdom of His power. This is the kingdom of His entire creation. It is the rule of God, the Creator, over the infinity of His creation. We do not have to pray that we might enter this kingdom or remain part of it. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask God to help us acknowledge this kingdom and His rule over it. Not everyone does so. Pilate did not realize he was judging his divine King as Jesus stood before him. Most modern rulers are no better, as they have been known to rule and to manipulate as though they were gods of their own making. And yet, the Lord has told us, even as He said through St. Paul: “There is no authority except from God.” And, certainly, Satan does not acknowledge this absolute power and authority of God. To this day, the devil refuses to acknowledge the power and authority of God as he confronts and seeks to overcome the children of God.

Quite frankly, we are not much better. We scurry about, building our own little kingdoms of power and empires of influence. We try to order and arrange our lives, providing for the future so expertly that we pat ourselves on the back for having played god so cleverly. What ugly, presumptuous sins! How we need to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Jesus did not hesitate to acknowledge His Father’s dominion. “All that the Father has is Mine,” He said. Before Pontius Pilate, He bore witness: “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above.” There it is again: The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion. Our Savior did not just tell us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” He prayed it perfectly for us, and makes our praying of it a blessing to smash our trust in ourselves.

The second thing is this: we seek that kingdom of grace our Savior came to establish. The people of Israel began looking for the Deliverer who was promised, but in ways, sadly, that caused them to miss Him when He did come. This deliverance became fixed in their minds as a political delivery,  the supremacy of the nation of Israel. In similar ways, lots of modern day people expect the rule of God to be just a matter of making material lives better, or the security of providing peace and good will. However, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” The kingdom of grace is not one of might and material, but of righteousness and peace with God— not established by force, but by love. He offered Himself to God in our place, as a sacrifice to remove sin, death, and the power of the devil, to hit at the heart of every human need. In Christ, God’s kingdom of grace is established among us, right where we are. He has come to save us, to hold that place of supremacy in our lives. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the very righteousness of Christ Himself, who lived and died for us that we might live at peace both with God and with our neighbor.

Still, our Lord bids us pray, “Thy kingdom come.” There is yet another sense in which we are to pray for His kingdom. God’s kingdom of power and glory is all around us. His kingdom of grace comes to us and blesses us wherever His Gospel is preached and His blessed Sacraments are offered and used according to His institution. We are now to pray, “Father, bring us to the final consummation of Your kingdom!” We look beyond the steeples of our churches to the towering heights of the kingdom of glory that awaits us, where His rule of love will forever be established unopposed; where we will be able to serve Him in His kingdom forever, together with all the saints and angels. We are to pray that He will make us ever ready for the coming of that kingdom, when our glorious Redeemer will reappear to gather us, body and soul, to Himself, to take us to our heavenly home. On that day His coming kingdom of glory will have come once and for all. Eternity will not be long enough to praise Him for having established His kingdom, and for leading us pray, “Our Father…Thy kingdom come.” 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.