Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sermon for 8/30/15: Trinity XIII

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Justified

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


Most people think the account of the Good Samaritan shows that we're supposed to help people in need. When they think of the Christian faith, they think this story is the whole story: be good to other people and you'll get to heaven. “Do this and you will live.” But the Word of God isn't there to condemn you, but to save you. His Word doesn’t teach you how to earn eternal life. His Word is given to teach you how He saves you. Jesus doesn't tell the story of the Good Samaritan to teach the guy how to be nice to people. He tells him the story to save him from trying to save himself.

The Gospel says that when Jesus answered him, the young law expert, "wanting to justify himself," asked, "Who is my neighbor." There's the key. He wanted to justify himself. To justify means to show why he's right. He wanted to save himself. And it's our problem too. We want to justify ourselves. To God, "justify" means to "be right and make right." For us, though, "justify" seems to mean "make up excuses." The Law of God is simple, as the young law expert knows: You love God above all things. You love your neighbor as yourself. In fact, you can't love God without loving your neighbor, as Jesus taught him. But we, like the lawyer, want to justify ourselves. The Law says, "Love God. Love your neighbor." We say, "But I can't do it." The Law replies: "Love God. Love your neighbor." And we say, "I can't do it. But I have a good reason for not doing it." And the Law replies: "Love God! Love your neighbor!" That's what the Law says. That's all it says. You can't make excuses. You can't get around it. Either love God and your neighbor, or you are doomed.

That is why, when the man in the story gets beat up and robbed and left half dead, the priest and the Levite pass by on the other side. What Jesus is teaching this lawyer who wants to justify himself is that he, the man, is the guy who is beaten up and robbed. His righteousness is stolen by the devil; he is mauled by sin. When the Law comes, what does it do? It can't help. It can't save. It can't rescue. It just tells us what to do and what will happen if we don't do it. That is why the priest and the Levite, who represent the Law in the story, just go on their merry ways. They can't help. But a Samaritan does. He has compassion on the man. He cleans and bandages his wounds and takes him to the inn to recover. He pays the expenses. So when the Law doesn't save you, the Lord has compassion. And God's compassion doesn't mean that He sits up in heaven feeling sorry for you. He suffers Himself to be arrested and mocked and beaten and spit upon and jeered and hated and crucified. He carries our sins on Himself and dies for them on the cross. That's the Lord's compassion! The compassion of our Lord is not in His somehow taking pity when you get weepy. His compassion is to come to half-dead sinners, beaten and robbed by the devil, and to save you.

But the Samaritan's compassion doesn't stop there. He carries the man to an inn and puts him in the care of the innkeeper and provides for all his expenses. Jesus doesn't just die for you and then go away. He pours His oil and wine from His own wounds into the wounds of your sins, washing you in the waters of the holy font. He carries you by the preaching of the Gospel to the inn of His church. There he puts you under the care of his pastors, his innkeepers, that you would have rest from your sins. He covers all the expenses with His precious blood. That is why in the Christian church there is no limit to the forgiveness you receive in baptism, no limit on how many times the absolution can be spoken or Jesus' body and blood be given and received. The Law will pass you by and leave you dying. But the Savior gives His life to save yours. You will not die because Jesus has gone through death and suffering for you, in your place.

That is what it means that God truly justifies you: not your excuses, but the wounds of Jesus; not your works, but the Word and Sacraments of Jesus. You can't justify yourself. But Jesus does by what He has done for you. He has done it in your place. That's God Himself justifying you in Jesus. That's Jesus being your 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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sermon for 8/23/15: Trinity XII

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The Word Comes In

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


Why do we worship the way we do? Why do we follow the liturgy week after week? Why don't we just take turns saying what we feel about God? Why is it that we worship according to the holy liturgy? We worship the way we do because Jesus does for us in the Divine Service what He does for the deaf and dumb man. He opens our ears to hear His Word. He unties our tongues to speak rightly, to speak His Word. One of the great things about our hymnal is that you see the Scripture verses listed next to the words. It teaches us that when we speak and sing as we worship, we are speaking, singing, and hearing God's Word. It’s not our own thoughts, nor is it merely the stuff the pastor likes to say. We hear the Word of God, and that Word opens our ears and loosens our tongues.

Like the world, our ears are so full of our own ideas that we can't hear God. We have all sorts of things to say about Him, but that's just the witless mumbling of tongue-tied sinners. When people talk about God, they say things like, “Oh, He's a nice guy.” “He's loving, and people are basically good, so He just ignores bad things you do.” The world does not know God. But what about you? When you talk about God, do you say what the Lord says? Or do you just make up things that sound good? If you're like me, at the first chance you get to talk about the Lord, you just kind of mumble something. So Jesus must open our ears and loosen our tongues.

Jesus saves you by taking you aside from the world and opening your ears and untying your tongue. But what can get through the sin filling your ears and loosen tongues that are stiff with silly talk? In the healing of this man, our Lord shows exactly how He saves you. Why does he stick his fingers in the man's ear and touch his tongue with spit? Why does He lift up His eyes to heaven and sigh? Remember that Jesus is the Word made flesh. When He sticks His fingers in the man's ears, He is putting the Word into them! When He spits and touches the man's tongue, He is showing that the only thing that should be in your mouth is His Word! By putting His fingers in the man's ears, Jesus is plugging them to anything else. By opening His ears and loosening this man's tongue, the Lord gives to Him the Word of salvation. “Ephphatha! Be opened!” The man's ears and mouth are opened! The Lamb of God let His blood spill forth for the salvation of the world. This sacrifice opens the Father's ears to your prayers. This sacrifice opens His mouth to speak forgiveness and blessing.

With fingers in ears and spitting and touching his tongue, Jesus heals the mean of his deafness and silence. These actions all point to what we call the external Word of God. Your salvation and forgiveness and righteousness are all outside of yourself. The world is full of preachers whose message to you is to look inside your heart to try to feel whether Jesus is there. They will point you to your intentions and your efforts and your good works. But Jesus opens the ears and mouth of this man. This man could not hear what Jesus says, nor could he repeat it. He cannot change himself. He cannot make himself hear or talk. Only Jesus the Word can do that. Don't go looking for Jesus in your heart! He comes to you at the font with the water and word of Baptism, the very spit of Jesus! He comes to you from the pastor who delivers the forgiveness of sins in absolution and preaching, saying, “Be opened.” He comes to you at the altar where His body and blood are put into your mouth, just as His fingers and spit were put into the deaf and mute man. You will not find Jesus or hear Him or speak rightly from within yourself. But He comes to you, from outside yourself, in these holy means of grace. It is the Word which opens your ears and the Sacraments which fill you with Jesus.

Isaiah prophesied that the deaf would hear God's Word. When Jesus shows up, the deaf do hear! But this is much more than a miracle for a deaf man. It teaches you that Christ opens your ears and mouths so you may hear His Word and speak and sing His praises. With this Word, given at font, altar, and pulpit, have no doubt: your sins are forgiven; you are the Father’s dear child in Christ. As He has taught you in His Word, boldly pray: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise.” And He is gracious to answer, “Ephphatha! Be opened!” 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, August 17, 2015

Sermon for 8/16/15: Trinity XI

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Like Other Men

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


You’ve probably heard the story. A pastor sits down in a restaurant or a hospital waiting room or wherever. Someone sits down near him and, noticing the pastor’s clergy shirt, says to him, “I don’t go to church because you Christians are too judgmental.” This person claims that they condemn no one…but in saying so, they condemn everyone. How did the Pharisee address the Lord? He said, “I thank you that I am not like other men.” 

How easy it is to fall into the camp of those to whom our Lord is speaking, those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” We Lutherans easily become smug and superior. And there’s a certain amount of justice to it. If we believed we weren’t teaching and practicing according to the Word of God, then it wouldn’t matter where we went to church. We could happily worship at any church, take communion anywhere, and it wouldn’t matter. However, in our churches, the Gospel is preached purely and the Sacraments are administered rightly. Because this is so, we think we’re better than other churches. Dear Christians, if that is how we treat our straying brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are sinning. It’s important to preach as our Lord taught, and it’s important to practice what we preach. But we must not forget that we are still sinners who need forgiveness for our own errors.  

You’re not so judgmental, are you? You’re not so closed-minded as to think that we’re the only ones who have it right. When you visit other churches, you pretend there’s no difference. It doesn’t matter if they have women pastors. It doesn’t matter that they approve of homosexual marriage and ignore heterosexuals living together before marriage. Maybe you even commune! If you have ever wondered why we Lutherans think we’re better than everybody else, you too have fallen into the trap of the Pharisee. 

The trap of spiritual smugness and superiority is all around us. We Lutherans do fall into it. I certainly do! I look at other churches and think, “How can they not get it? The Lord makes it so simple. Thank God I’m not like those who do not seem to get the Gospel!” The minute you think like that, even if you are right, you are lost. Have you ever thought, “The Church sure seems to be filled with a lot of hypocrites”? You are lost. Have you ever thought, “Why aren’t more people involved, like I am?” You are lost. Have you ever thought, “Why does Pastor take this doctrine so seriously?” If God should justify you as your hearts deserve, you would be lost. If you stand in condemnation of anyone and think you’re any better, more likely to be saved on your own merit, you’ve fallen into the trap from which Christ wants to rescue you today. Fall to your knees before the Lord. Acknowledge your sin. And then, like the tax collector, pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 

And for the sake of Jesus, the Father does have mercy! Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was justified. The other was not. One could see that he was special. The other could only see his sin and beg God for mercy. One hopes that God can see some his sincerity, his devotion, his faith. The other is only sure of this: he is a sinner, and God is full of grace. God does not teach the way we would want to teach. The doctrine Jesus gives the Church is this: You have a God Who came to be like you, even though He had no sin. Even though He was tempted and did not falter, He did not thank the Lord that He was different from the rest. Instead, He was baptized, just like any other sinner. He received the Holy Spirit, just like anyone who needs God’s help. He fasted and prayed. And then, instead of a mere tithe, He gave Himself into death for your salvation. In none of that did He exalt Himself. In fact, the Scriptures say that He Who knew no sin became sin for us on the cross. Jesus died like any other sinner. What saves is not that God is different from the rest of us, but that He’s more at ease with being counted as a sinner than we are admitting our sin. 

No one gets saved by not being a sinner—not even little babies. See why Christ’s doctrine is so important? No baby is saved by being different than you. Like anybody else, a child is only saved through faith in Jesus. That’s why we baptize babies. We’re all sinners! That’s why we urge our people toward private confession and absolution. You need confession and absolution to return you to your baptism. You need daily reading in God’s Word. You need daily prayer. You need the body and blood of Jesus. You need these things because you are, indeed, a sinner. 

And then, because you are a sinner like everyone else, come. Come and hear His word of forgiveness, spoken to you by the pastor as by Christ Himself. Come and be instructed and confirmed, and continue to study. Partake of Christ’s body and blood in bread and wine for your forgiveness. He is always ready to teach you true repentance, faith, and humility. He is always ready to raise you up with the forgiveness He won for you on the cross, so that you may thank Him—not that you are unlike other men, but that He made Himself to be like you, so that you would in turn be like Him. 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, August 09, 2015

Sermon for 8/9/15: Trinity X

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Making Peace

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


As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He cried. He was coming into the city to save the people from their sins, and they didn't care. They didn't believe. They did not know the things which would give them peace—the Son of God dying for sins on the cross. They didn't know the time of their visitation, when God Himself showed up to save them. Jesus cried because God in the flesh saves the world from sins, but God's own chosen people refused to believe it. When the Holy Spirit gathers us in the church, when we celebrate the Divine Service, God Himself is present. Here in this place, the Lord stands among you to serve you the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. Here in this place, Christ comes to bring the things that bring you peace. Here in this place, our Lord is with you to shelter you from His wrath and to give you eternal life. The water of Holy Baptism; Absolution spoken by your pastor; preaching and teaching; the body and blood of your Lord Jesus: these are the things which bring the peace of God to you. Do you know them? Do you believe that Christ is here and visits you for your good and blessing?

Jerusalem didn't know the things that will bring it peace! The clergy especially, along with the Pharisees and leaders, wanted a Savior who comes to do what they want, not one who suffers and dies for their sins. Over and over, as Jeremiah reminds us, the Lord has called to His people and they want nothing to do with Him. Jesus then predicted what will happen to Jerusalem. If they don't want God's Word, then the Lord won't have them! In 70 AD the Romans laid their siege against Jerusalem and destroyed the city. Brothers and sisters in Christ, don't miss this warning about what happens to those who reject Christ and want nothing to do with His Word. How long will God be patient with you before He brings you to utter shame and ruin? Do you know the things which bring God's peace? Do you know the time of God's visitation? Are God's Word and promises the very thing which give you peace? Or do you despise them and see the consequences in a life full of frustration and heartache and turmoil?

The visitation of God, the things that bring peace, are all there in Christ. Jesus comes to Jerusalem—God Himself. Over and over He sent prophets like Jeremiah to warn Jerusalem to stop worshiping false gods, to repent and cling to the Lord's saving promises. Now God has come Himself in the flesh to save and rescue His people. Jesus goes to the cross and suffers and dies for the sins of a world that doesn't know Him and doesn't want to know Him. He dies for His own people who don't want anything to do with Him. He dies for you and me—people who often put little importance on learning His Word and receiving the true peace which comes from sins forgiven. But He goes to the cross to bring an end of your enmity with God. He goes to the cross in your place as your sacrifice that takes away your sins. Believe that, dear people of God! Believe that all that Christ is and has done by His death and resurrection is for your peace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let Jerusalem serve as a warning, a wake up call that God's Word is not to be treated lightly or with contempt! Instead, hear again the things that are for your peace: the Son of God dying on the cross and rising from the dead; the washing of water and the Word at the holy font; the speaking of forgiveness into your ears by your pastor; the forgiving feast of Christ’s body and blood at this altar. These are the things for your peace. You don't have to look anywhere else in the world to have your sins forgiven, to be made right with God, to have peace with your neighbor. Though you have despised God's Word and gifts, your sin has been blotted out by the blood of Jesus. Do not fear that you have neglected God's Word and promises! Don't be afraid of your sins! They have been answered for, covered by Jesus. He has come to Jerusalem for the salvation of the whole world. And now He comes to His Church, in this Divine Service, to give that salvation to you. These are the things that make for your peace. 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, August 02, 2015

Sermon for 8/2/15: Trinity IX

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Enduring Riches

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


Jesus says the world is so much smarter using its mammon than we are using ours. He says, “The children of this world are wiser than the children of light.” To prove it, He uses the example of an unjust steward, a scoundrel who gets himself fired and then uses his master’s money to gain friends for himself when he is unemployed! It’s a shrewd business decision. The people of this world know how to use the things of this world—and work harder at it—than the people of God do with the things that are ours! Take a drug addict. He risks life and limb to get his fix. He doesn’t let friends or family stand in his way. He doesn’t care if the police are a constant threat. He is a skilled liar, able to get others to believe that, if only they help him one more time, this will be the end of it. His friends are only his friends when he brings them money for more drugs. They will cut him off in a moment, beat him up and throw him out, if he gives them the slightest cause. Yet, he visits them often. Nothing they do turns him away.

How different from the children of light. Who among us risks life and limb to come and receive the Gospel in our ears and mouth? Which of us shows the same devotion to the Word as we do to our favorite treats or activities? Who will go to such great extents to gain friends for heaven with our eternal mammon as the world influences people with its mammon of sin? The world’s mammon passes away. Our mammon, the forgiveness of sins, remains forever. We have the Bread of Life come down from heaven! We have God in human flesh, Who spent all He had to gain a heaven full of friends in you and me! We have His shrewdness for us, earning forgiveness of sins, life and salvation! We have His Baptism to deliver that to us, His Absolution to return us to Him over and over, and His body and blood to eat and drink in bread and wine. These fill up heaven with God’s friends!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, use the stuff that belongs to Jesus. Use the unfair, unrighteous, undeserved mammon which God gives you freely! It is no more yours by right than the master’s wealth was for that steward. Yet he used what wasn’t his. As for you, use what rightfully belongs to God: His good favor, His peace, His forgiveness, mercy and love. That’s how God wants His treasure—His forgiveness—being used! Our Father delights when you share the gifts His Son won for you.

Instead of writing off your neighbor, enjoy God’s forgiveness, and write off anything another owes against you! Say, “I forgive you, as the Lord has forgiven me!” What friends that gains for you in heaven! Can you do that? Yes, you can! Do you need help? In that case learn more of what God does and says to you in Holy Baptism. Come to private Absolution and hear how God writes off your sins through a pastor, who speaks as if God doesn’t mind when we act so freely with His blood-bought Treasure! When your pastor tells you, “I forgive you all your sins,” say, “Amen!” And then, go and share that forgiveness with poor souls who need it as much as you.

We are so shrewd when it comes to stuff that passes away, and so foolish with what will not! We pursue our hobbies with a religious zeal, and our religion with a passing nod—one whole hour once a week! We are anything but shrewd when it comes to the Gospel. Look at the evidence. The devil is far more successful getting his children to work hard than God is with His. Yet God is our helper. He is our Friend Who will not be put off, even by how shabbily we treat Him! Already, heaven is full of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all happy to greet you—so much so they took what they possessed and they invested it in you! The Father sent His Son. The Son took what His Father said and made it known to you! He took our flesh and blood and then He spent them to gain a heaven full of friends in you and me! All this the Spirit teaches freely in the Church. Our God uses all He has so you and I are gathered up with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.

How much more you have than the children of this world! God has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His Gifts, and here, through His Word and Sacraments, He sanctifies and keeps you, together with Jesus Christ and all His friends, in the One True Faith. Our Lord is not teaching us to earn our way into heaven. He is saying: “You’re already there, and all of heaven is now at your disposal. Your sins are forgiven! Don’t let the world outdo you when it comes to using what is Mine! God has wiped out all you owe and all your neighbor has against you!” That might not go into your bank account so well, but it fits nicely in your neighbor’s ears. That is true riches, riches which endure for you 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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sermon for 7/26/15: Trinity VIII

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Good Fruit and Bad Men

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


Great damage has been done to the psyches and souls of men by men who call themselves pastors. Great lies about God and man have been perpetuated to deny comfort and peace to tortured souls wracked with guilt. There are many paths, but only one leads to God. This is a dangerous world. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't be fooled by cutesy or convenient slogans. You with itchy ears, weary of the fight, longing for peace at almost any cost: beware! The devil will offer what you want to steal you soul. Doctrine always matters. The Law always accuses. And you have to remember that you will never get out of the Church Militant alive.

You can't blindly trust your pastor. He is only a man. You have to judge the shepherd according to his fruits—according to his preaching. In order to do that, you have to know the Bible. That is the sole source and norm for all of our doctrine and life. Everything we teach must conform to that. If the pastor veers from the Scriptures, he needs a rebuke for his own good and for the good of the sheep. It is your responsibility and duty to keep your pastor honest. Don't be intimidated. If David faced Goliath with nothing more than a sling, you can surely stand up to a know-it-all pastor. Speak the Truth in love. That’s your job.

God allows false prophets to infiltrate us from time to time. He uses them to separate the sheep from the goats, to keep us on the true path. We must know that all preachers do not follow God. The undershepherds of the Lord speak with authority only so long as they speak the Truth. When they speak the Truth given to them, their words are not their own. But even then, even when God sends men He has raised up and sustains in His Word and Truth, they still cannot believe for you. Even when you have a true and faithful shepherd and God serves you through Him, preaching to you, absolving you, feeding you, still you must judge. You must discern. You must pay attention. Many false prophets began as true prophets. You must always weigh the preaching according to the Bible. You must check if the preacher’s words are God's words. They are God's words when the preacher has been rightly called and his preaching is in accordance with the Bible.

God sends true and faithful shepherds. You know them when you hear the Good Shepherd's voice in them. But whether shepherds are faithful or false, God always provides. The validity of Baptism,  Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution do not rest upon the pastor's faith. Nor do they stand upon his intentions or understanding. They stand upon the words and promises of God. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what man baptized you, whether or not he was good man, whether or not he proved to be faithful. God baptized you! And He is good and does not lie. He keeps His promises.

Immediately prior to the Reformation, there were few lay people and even priests who had much grasp of the Bible or of Jesus and His atoning life and death for us. The Church was infected with superstition greed. But God still worked good for His people. He called men by the Gospel and made them His saints. He worked through the Word in the Liturgy and through the Word in the Sacraments. He never gave up on His people. He never stopped loving them, answering their prayers, or saving them.

So beware. Be on your guard. But do not be afraid. Your God will strengthen and keep you firm in the true faith unto the end. He has made a promise to you. Jesus has given His life for you and has risen from the dead for you. Your faith is not in vain. False preachers—pastors, popes, or television preachers—mere men cannot stop God. He has laid His claim upon you. He has sealed you in the waters of His death and feeds you with the good fruit of His Body and His Blood from the tree of the cross. He has always known you, even before He formed in your mother's womb. He has called you by name.

Pray that God sends you faithful shepherds to sustain you. Pray that He would keep them from temptation. Pray that His Word would have free course. Thank God that He has, in His mercy, revealed the Truth of His love to you. And come what may, good or evil, prosperity or hardship, false prophets or true, no matter what, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will see you through. Jesus is your true Pastor. He will not abandon nor forget you. He is your true and good Shepherd, and He sends faithful under-shepherds to sustain you. He loves you. He has laid down His Life for you. He has taken that Life up again to win you for His Bride. He is the good Fruit from the Tree of Life planted, on Golgotha and watered with Blood. Eat of Him and be satisfied, be forgiven, and live. 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, July 19, 2015

Sermon for 7/19/15: Trinity VII

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His Mercy Endures Forever

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


In the Garden of Eden food came without toil. The garden was fruitful and abundant. There were no storehouses, silos, or preservatives. There was no competition for food with mice and mold. But that all changed when Adam watched as his wife was seduced by the serpent, when he failed to protect or guide her, when he reached for knowledge of good and evil and sought in his lust to be like God, when he ate the poison and knew his nakedness.

Yet God's mercy is past all understanding. He did not abandon Adam and Eve the way that we abandon those who are unfaithful to us. By His grace, we still eat. The earth gives up its fruit. It exacts toil and sweat from us sinful sons of Adam but it gives up its fruit. Herbicides and fertilizer, machinery and the collective wisdom of ages has made it easier. But still it is not the garden planted by God and tended by angels, supervised by sinless Adam, where work is purest joy. Men must gather in the grain and protect it again. And even when it has been processed and baked into bread still the mice and mold threaten it and it must be eaten quickly before it is stolen or succumbs to rot.

And thus have we sometimes thought our labor was the key. Indeed, without out there would be no food. They've brought their wisdom and technology, their strength and their discipline to bear and brought a harvest home and sometimes they've thought it was their own. But it never is. Whenever we eat, it is God who provides. We are but a single tsunami or terrorist attack or who-knows-what away from famine. John Deere doesn't make a tractor that can stop bombs, hurricanes, blights, plagues, or stock market crashes. Our Lord once multiplied bread and fish to feed a mob who would turn on Him. He had compassion. He did not want to see them faint on the way. But what of the fainting mothers whose sons were murdered in Tennessee? What of those who are dealing with cancer, with unemployment, with loneliness, with the loss of loved ones?

There is an answer here in the feeding of the four thousand. There is great comfort. But it can't be rushed. The anguish must be felt. The tears must flow. The Law must seem to have its way and take us to our knees. Our Lord wept at the death of Lazarus even though He knew His friend would rise. So let us also weep without shame. Let no man say that these evil things are God's will! But while we weep, let us confess that God is still good. Let us confess that He uses all things, even evil things, for good.

God is good. He does know what He is doing. What can the winds and waves, the guns and bombs, the lies and threats do to you? You belong to God. His compassion for the four thousand pales next to His love for you. You are His child in whom He is well-pleased. Always He would feed you, provide for you, comfort and love you. Always He welcomes you back. Always the angels rejoice when you repent.

We are not in control. God is. Indeed, His mercy sometimes seems almost cruel to our feeble minds. His ways are past finding out. But whenever men eat, it is God who provides. Not because He has to, not because He owes us or should, but simply because He has compassion. His mercy endures forever. His love is without measure. Our Lord Jesus, who died but who lives, takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner but would have all men turn and believe in Him.

Now it may be that God will not heal all your diseases or miraculously multiple the oil and the flour in your pantry. He might not. He might instead ask you to bear heavy crosses and shed many tears. You might even, like He was, be sentenced to unjust or a violent death. But you will not touch a drop of the Cup of Wrath that could not be removed, for He drank it all. And whether you experience miracles like the feeding of the four thousand or not, God Himself has cleansed your soul. That is the greatest and most important miracle next to His resurrection. He has laid His claim upon you. He has called you to be His. You are baptized! And that is no small thing in the Kingdom of God.

Hunger does not last. Grief will not last. Suffering will come to an end. Whenever we eat, it is God who provides. Whenever we grieve, our Lord provides comfort. Whenever we suffer, our Father provides healing in body and in soul. We are most certainly not in control of how it happens. Thanks be to God for that! For unlike our needs, His mercy endures 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 5/12/15--Trinity VI

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The Law Always Accuses

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


The Law of God is impossible for fallen men. That is why we hate it and try to weasel out of it. We make excuses. We try to minimize our sinful choices by calling them “the lesser evil” or “extenuating circumstances.” We vainly imagine that we could create something more reasonable. But to hate God’s Law is to hate God’s Word. What the Law demands is not merely an outward obedience, but a perfect obedience, inside and out, pure heart, mind, and body. We have acted like spoiled teen-agers demanding the keys the family station wagon and at the same time griping that the car isn’t cool enough. All the while, we are white-washed tombs, clean on the outside, but decaying on the inside. Our hearts are turned inward. They are suffocating from the self-destroying thoughts and desires that plague us, even as we race around trying to keep up appearances.

Measured from the outside, the scribes and the Pharisees were better than us. They dedicated their lives to the study of God’s Word. They spent hours in disciplined prayer. They made sacrifices. They weren’t divorced. They weren’t obsessed about their appearance. Jesus says of them, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Which of you will cast the first stone at them? Who is going to say that his righteousness exceeds theirs? We have broken God’s commandments. We are no better than other people. We deserve to die. We deserve to be thrown into the fires of Hell.

But there is One whose righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, One born apart from the passions of man, One born of a virgin, One born in the line of David. God is His Father. He is the fulfillment of the promise to Eve in the garden; holy for the unholy. He was pure, without malice, greed, or lust. The world counted Him as stricken, smitten, and afflicted—cursed by God. But still, He loved the world that hated Him and laid down His life for it. He was above the Law. But He kept it anyway. He knew no sin, but allowed the Law to punish Him for all the sins you ever have, or ever will, commit. He laid down His life, specifically, precisely, deliberately, and particularly, to pick up yours, to spare you Hell’s tortures. He stood in your place. The last penny has been paid. Justice has no more demands. There is no one to accuse you. The Law is satisfied and you go free. For the righteousness of the truly Righteous One has been transferred to you in the waters of Baptism. It is yours. It far exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. It is perfect. It is without blame. It is free.

The Law has been satisfied, fulfilled, and completed—all for you. But it has not been abolished. It is still how God desires us to live and describes the best way to live. When we break it, there are consequences. People get hurt. Our lives are made more complicated. Sin is dangerous and deadly. But that being said, it is just sin. And we sinners who have been born from above by water and the Spirit are not slaves to sin. Christ, our Lord, died to sin and has been raised again. And we have been joined to that death, buried in the waters of Holy Baptism with Him, and raised up again to life with Him. We live daily in the forgiveness of sins, in the daily rhythm of confession and absolution, contrition and confidence, hearing God’s Word and eating His Supper: not above the Law, but freed from it’s condemnation, full of the hope of the glory to come, and eager for the Day of His return.

The Law still stands, for heaven and earth have not yet passed away. On this side of glory, it will always accuse and convict us. There is only one solution, one escape, one righteousness that is enough: the blood of the Lamb. Hell’s demands have been met in Christ’s flesh. Jesus lives, and the Law now finds no fault in you. You are covered. The angel of death passes over. The Law is fulfilled. The gift  of that flesh and blood from the Altar is freely bestowed upon you, for Christ has answered the Judge and reconciled you to Himself. There is no one to accuse 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.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sermon for 7/5/15: Trinity V

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A Reason to Hope

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


Jesus does something that goes against all logic. He tells Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Anyone who is even casually familiar with fishing, at least it is true of fresh water fishing, knows that you catch fish in the shallows where the fish congregate and feed. And that is especially true when you’re fishing with nets; you need to go where they nets can actually reach the fish. What Jesus suggests here goes against all that experience teaches. Peter also informs Jesus that they had just been fishing all night without success. They had put to use all of their skills and techniques and knowledge as experienced fishermen, and hadn’t caught a thing. It just wasn’t a good time to fish. And what’s the point now of going out during the heat of the day, which is absolutely the worst time? Jesus is in over His head here; He doesn’t know what He is talking about. 

And yet, Peter responds: “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Because you say so, Lord; because it’s your words, I will do it, even though I have my doubts.” And when Peter and his friends did so, they caught such a great amount of fish their nets began to tear, and they ended up filling two boats with fish! And so, even though today’s Gospel might seem to be all about fishing, what it’s really about is the word of Jesus. Nothing happens apart from that word. The word of Jesus may seem foolish to human reason and logic, but in truth it is powerful and effective to do what it says, and to deliver what it promises, and to save those who believe it. 

In today’s Epistle, St. Paul wrote: “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” The world thinks of the Gospel, and all of Scripture for that matter, as a myth for the naive and the gullible and the shallow-minded. No one who has any real intelligence or education would go for that. They regard it as superstition. The Word of God is constantly being mocked in our world as being backward and outdated and even dangerous and hateful. We've seen ample evidence of that these past few weeks. Biblical morality has been called bigotry, and the day is coming when preaching faithfully from the Word of God will be considered a hate crime. If the world needs a god, they’ll find one that’s more logical to them—usually the one they see in the mirror. 

And we know well the temptation of wanting to follow such thinking, to walk by sight and not by faith, to have a religion that is based on human wisdom and glory rather than God’s wisdom and the cross. But like Peter, by God’s grace we have been brought to trust in Christ’s Word, even in the midst of our doubts. We have been brought to know that, though the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It is written, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” 

In order to humble those who are proud and wise and strong in their own eyes, our Lord chooses to hide His power behind that which seems foolish and weak. In that way His saving wisdom and strength will be perceived only by lowly, penitent believers to whom He reveals Himself. After all, where has human wisdom really gotten us? Technology and science can do wonderful things. But has man’s wisdom eliminated crime and violence? Is there any less loneliness or depression in the world? Have people stopped dying? Man’s wisdom is severely limited. We dare not rest our hope there. Just as Peter had been able to catch those fish solely by the power of the Word, so now Jesus would make him able to draw men solely by preaching Jesus’ powerful Word. In this way, others who were weak and foolish would be made wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. 

That’s the whole point of this catch of fish; it all happens at the Word of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus had been “casting the net,” so to speak, as He preached the Word from Peter’s boat. Jesus had turned that boat into a cathedral. He was not afraid to launch out into the deep and let down His nets. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the creation, so our Lord goes to the deep, to the very depths of sin and death, in order to pull up His catch of sinful men and raise us to the light of His resurrection life.

So, let us hear clearly for ourselves the words Jesus spoke to Peter. “Do not be afraid.” And as Peter took our Lord at His Word, let confess the reason for the hope that is in us. At the Lord’s Word, even though all our senses can grasp here are worldly objects—things like water, things like bread and wine—yet because Christ has said so, we believe that Christ is truly present to make us God’s child, to feed us with His body and blood, to proclaim our sins forgiven. 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, July 04, 2015

HYMN: Father, Behold My Shield

My latest hymn is based on the readings for the Fifth Sunday After Trinity in the LSB 1-year Lectionary, especially the Gradual (Psalm 84:9,8) and Introit (parts of Psalm 27) with a little of the Epistle (I Peter 3:8-15) thrown in for good measure. This is an early draft, so there's work to be done yet, and any feedback would be appreciated.


Father, Behold My Shield

1. Father, behold my Shield,
Grace in the flesh revealed:
Behold Your Son, appointed!
Lord God of hosts, give ear.
In mercy, hear my prayer
For love of Your Anointed.

2. Ever my Helper be.
In mercy answer me,
My Light and my Salvation.
Courage and faith impart.
Strengthen my waiting heart
Against all accusation.

3. Teach me Your way, O Lord,
That I may trust Your Word
And love and serve my neighbor.
Grant that I faithfully
Confess the hope in me,
And let me never waver.

4. Father, behold my Shield.
To Christ my Lord I yield.
In Him no foes assail me.
If, for Your holy name,
Rivals should dare to blame,
My Shield will never fail me.


(c) 2015 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
667 667
(The only tune for this meter in Lutheran Service Book is NUNC DIMITTIS, hymn 888. Were I to use this tune, I would want to alter it to lengthen some of the quarter notes.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon for 6/28/15: Trinity IV

Nice to have the audio back. I added some adlib near the end, so the transcript is lacking.

Audio:




Text:

Mercy

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


“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” What is mercy? Maybe it’s easier to say what mercy is not. Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve. Mercy means that you know exactly what someone else has said or done to hurt you, and if things are right and fair, you know precisely what they deserve. And yet, you choose to show mercy to them. You forgive them. Perhaps you even absorb yourself what they should have received.

So when Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” He is first speaking Law to us. This is how we are to be. Do this. Be merciful. But He knows perfectly well that we are not merciful, but in fact we are often full of judgment and anger, and at times even hatred toward our fellow human beings. How many times have you sat in this church, listening to God’s Word of grace and mercy, while your hearts were full of anger and judgment, even toward someone who may have been sitting near you? How many times have you looked at others, secretly with contempt, thinking that you are really a better Christian than those who don’t do as much as you do, or whose life is a mess, or who have created some kind of scandal, or whatever it may be? Every time this happens, you are forgetting this word of mercy.

Look at what Joseph said to his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” This is what Jesus meant when He said: “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” None of us stands in the place of God when it comes to passing judgment on others, especially the motives of others. It is not my job to stand as judge and jury over my fellow Christians. God is the judge of all. While we must strive to remain faithful to the Word of God, while we must endeavor to teach our neighbors what it means to be faithful, our place as Christians is to remember that we, too, are poor, miserable sinners, no better off than anyone else.

When we judge others, we do it on the basis of a corrupted and limited vision. I look and see what I don’t like in someone else, and then I condemn him or her for it. But our Father in heaven knows all and sees all. There is no sin that goes unnoticed, no misdeed that is lost. He knows all your faults, down to the very end. Even so, God is merciful! He doesn’t give you what you deserve! He doesn’t give you eternal death. He gives life in Christ, a life that is rich and full of blessing. In Holy Baptism, in the Absolution that is given your sins, in the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in every word of the Gospel that goes in your ears, you are receiving the mercy of God! He gives you mercy! His judgment against sin has already been carried out against His Son! He doesn’t condemn you; He forgives you! He gives You Himself. He gives you that measure of grace and mercy that has no end.

Now what does this mean for you in the real world? It means everything! It means that here, in this place, you receive the one thing you need more than anything else; the mercy of God. Here your troubles are not glossed over, nor are they held up as a kind of spectacle to shame you. Here in this place, your heavenly Father gives you this great gift of mercy, so that your sins are forever washed away. He also gives you that mercy so that you may cover your neighbor’s sins, speak well of your neighbor, so you may say everything in the kindest way.

To some, I suppose, all of this is old news. “I have heard all of this before, pastor. Tell me instead how I can be a better parent; how to manage my money; how to manage my anger—you know, something really practical like that.” But as important as those things may be, the truth is this: what you need more than anything else is the mercy of God. And like the love of God, His mercy knows no boundaries; it will give you the peace of God for which your heart longs. That is why we earlier joined the Psalmist in saying: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Receive the mercy of God this day, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and know and live that life of peace with the God of mercy. 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, June 27, 2015

Sermon for 6/21/15: Trinity III

Sorry for the delay, but it: I finally got the computer to edit audio!

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Text:



Opened Arms
Luke 15:11-32

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


Jesus isn’t looking for the righteous. Jesus came to save sinners. After all, those who aren't sinners don't need a Savior. But wait! Aren't all people sinners? The Bible says so, but we tend to think we’re pretty good people. But we are sinners. Sinners don't fear, love and trust in God as they should. Sinners despise their neighbor and put themselves first. Those who confess that they are sinners recognize that they deserve nothing except the wrath of God. They know that they have nothing going for them but God's own mercy in Jesus. On the other hand, those who have no need of repentance don't think they're such bad people. They’re pretty sure they've got God all figured out and are pretty good at doing what He says. Jesus can't help those who believe they’re sinless. They will be on their own on the Last Day.

Those who are sinners crowd around Jesus to hear Him and His Word. Those who have no need of repentance complain that Jesus receives and eats with such people. But Jesus came to save sinners, to call them to repentance. And what is repentance? Repentance means being turned around. It means that the Spirit, by the preaching of the Word, turns you away from your sins to faith and trust in Christ. Repentance is the Lord's work. You can't repent on your own. You can't decide to turn away from your sins. Christ Himself calls you away from your sins by His Word and Sacraments.

The wasteful son lives a sinful life. When the bottom falls out, when he has to eat with the pigs, finally he realizes he can’t clean up his own mess. The only one who can fix his broken life, the only one who can love him, the only one who can restore him, is the same man against whom he sinned: his father. But he still thinks he can do it his way. He plans his fancy speech. He chooses his own position in the household.

But that’s not the way the father works. Before the son can approach the house, the father comes running to meet him. Before the son can do any more than confess his sin, the father restores him. He dresses him in the finest robe and prepares the fanciest of feasts—not because the son deserves it, but because the father loves his son that much. And our Father works the same way. The Lord comes to us through the water and Word of the font. Christ seeks us out and restores us by the preaching of the Gospel and the speaking of holy absolution. Christ provides His own body and blood as a rich feast for us to eat and drink. These things are His gifts for sinners. Those who have no need of repentance have no need to be baptized or absolved or fed with Christ’s body and blood. They may as well stay away. But you, sinners: if you have nothing going for you but Jesus, come to hear Him. Live in your baptism and feast at His Supper. That's what Jesus has for sinners.

If you don't have need of repentance; if you think you've got God all figured out; if you're convinced you're not perfect but you try hard; if you think you’re basically good—or at least, you're better than most other people; if you think God must be happy that such a person like you goes to church; then repent! Either weep and despair of yourself, or recognize that Jesus didn't come for you because you apparently don’t need His help. But if you know you are a sinner—if you don't love God as He commands; if you don't love your neighbor like you should; if you know that you deserve nothing from God but His eternal wrath and condemnation—then rejoice! Rejoice, because it is for such sinners that Jesus has come into this world. Through the merits of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, the Father runs to greet you with His hands outstretched to welcome you into His kingdom, to receive you with the fine baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness, to welcome you to the rich feast of His own Son’s body and blood. What was lost, now is found! 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, June 14, 2015

Sermon for 6/14/15: Trinity II

I hope to have the audio going by the time we get back from vacation. *sigh*




Desiring the Feast

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


When our Lord prepares a feast of salvation for the whole world, not many people want to come and receive it. From the very first moment of sin in the Garden of Eden, our Lord promised a Savior. Then, at the right moment, He sends His Son into the world. The Father sacrifices Him on the cross, just as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed, so that Jesus Himself, the Son of God, would be our feast. Christ is given into death and raised from the dead so that He might be our Bread of Life. The Lamb has been slain. All is prepared. The Feast is ready. It is a feast prepared by the Lord for you.  


Even though what our Lord gives us is so much better than a pizza from Shiloh Tavern or a steak from Newell House, even though the Lord's feast gives us life and salvation, people don't want it. The world doesn't care. My brothers and sisters in Christ, don't you wonder why, if we have the Gospel here at St. Peter, more people don't join? We know we are surrounded by so many who are hungering and thirsting for something more in their lives. But where are they? But that's the wrong question! Jesus isn't telling this parable to those who are outside of the church but those who are inside it. When someone at the Pharisee's dinner shouts, "Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God," Jesus tells them that they don't really want bread in the kingdom of God. They've got a bunch of other stuff they would rather do than actually come to Lord's feast. We could go on all day about the people out there who don't think they need Christ and His gifts. But do we, God's own people, really want His gifts? Think about this: What is enough to keep you from the Lord's house and His gifts? What is going on in your life that would bring you to toss aside the Divine Service? What keeps you from crying out for the body and blood of Christ every Sunday? What’s most important to you? 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus does not teach us in His parable that having a field or oxen or getting married are bad things. He's not saying that going on vacation or playing sports or going fishing are bad things. But when anything else becomes more precious, more important, more desirable than Christ and His gifts, they've become our idols. They will become our excuses for not coming to receive the Lord's gifts. We must all learn to recognize that we are not in Christ's church because we somehow deserve a place, as if the Lord needs us to show up for His sake. We need to be here because the Lord has invited us and lavished His gifts upon us.  

And the Lord knows this. That's why He throws the banquet. He knows that we are poor, miserable, hungry sinners who need to be fed and nourished by His Son. Why do you suppose that we don’t ask for "daily bread" until the Fourth Petition in the Lord's prayer? The Lord knows that, even more than stuff in this world, we need His name to be holy among us, His kingdom to come, His will to be done. What is most important of all things is that we hear His Word, that we live in our Baptism, that we be absolved from our sins, that we eat and drink the feast of Christ's flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, here in the church, the Lord has prepared a rich feast for you. Here He freely seats you at a banquet of salvation: you are washed for dinner at the holy font. You are seated in the place of honor by the words of holy absolution. Then in the sermon, the special of the day—Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for sinners—is described. Then you come to the main course, the feast itself: Christ Himself and His body and blood given and shed for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  

The day will come when Jesus comes back. He tells us that on that day, none of those who were invited and refused to come will be invited back! There's no chance to take back your excuse that you don't want the Lord's gifts. This is why we practice closed communion. The altar is closed to those who don't want to learn God's Word or repent of their sins. It is a warning that a time will indeed come when the Feast is closed off. Never run from the feast. Never desire to be excused. Come and feast upon Christ Himself, His Word and body and blood. Come as beggars, rejoicing to be brought in to this feast which we do not deserve, but which God spreads for us in Christ. And look forward to the day our Lord will return for His Bride and we shall rejoice to celebrate the eternal wedding feast prepared by the Father for His Son and the Church. 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, June 12, 2015

Sermon for 6/7/15: First Sunday After Trinity

Still trying to install the audio software on my computer. Sorry.


In Abraham's Bosom

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


What is it that saves Lazarus? Why does he end up in the bosom of Abraham? To be in the bosom of Abraham means to receive God's promises. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. St. Paul later writes that all who believe in Christ are sons of Abraham and heirs of the promise. We don't have to save ourselves from sin and death. God Himself will do it by sending His own Son in the flesh. To be in the bosom of Abraham means nothing other than to be in Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you hate your neighbor? Do you hate your brothers and sisters in Christ? The simple fact is that if you see them in need and do nothing for them, you hate them. St. John tells us that in his epistle. Maybe the Rich Man prayed for Lazarus. Maybe you pray for your neighbors and others in the church who need help. That's good. But if you see a brother in need and you don't help, then you are no neighbor. There's no reason to believe the Rich Man was anything other than a religious man. He probably went to synagogue and maybe even gave lots of money. Like the Pharisees, he probably made it very clear how much he believed in God and how hard he worked to obey the law. And all the while Lazarus is having his sores licked by dogs out at the gate. What about us? Do we actually love others with our words and actions, or do we just talk like we do? Abraham's rebuke of the rich man is a strong one: "You had your good things in life, but now you are tormented."
But here's the real kicker! We all have enough to repent of when we fail to serve others. But when we do good works, then do we suppose that God is pleased with us? What if we take the things God has given us and do some good with them and then suppose that we're pretty good Christians? This is what the Pharisees did: they took God's Word as a guide to how they should live, and when they lived that way, they were proud of themselves. Then they could claim that if a man was poor, it was his own fault for not following God's Law the right way. Just like the TV preachers today who tell you that if you think happy thoughts and try to be good, God will bless you and give you all kinds of goodies. There is no end to our ability to take what good comes to us as an indication of how good we are. You know the saying: "God helps those who help themselves." But the Lord most certainly does not work that way.
Brothers and sisters, we must learn to be as Lazarus, having no faith in anything of this world, confessing that we have no claim on God. Lazarus had nothing in this world going for himself. All he had was the Lord. And that certainly didn't get him anything in this life, did it? But it brings him to eternal life. We have nothing but what the Lord gives us. Whether it's our material goods or forgiveness and eternal life, everything is His gift to us. We must again confess that even if we have nothing in this life, we have His water and His word, we have His Gospel, we have His absolution, we have Jesus' body and blood. Poor Lazarus begged for scraps from the rich man, but here, in Christ's church, you have a feast laid before you, a feast that is your confidence and certainty against all suffering and misery in this life. 
It's easy to take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as some kind of moral lesson about how being rich is bad and being poor makes you somehow more blessed in God's sight. Instead, we learn repentance for taking anything God gives us and turning it into something that is only good for us, a false god and idol. We learn the repentance of despising God's Word and learn to trust that Word which gives us Jesus. But we also learn that being in Christ means we are so free that we may spend what is given to us for the good of others. And being free in Christ means most of all that you are safe in the bosom of Abraham: now and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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