Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sermon for 9/29/13--Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

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Angels and Little Ones

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

    
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah, Mary sang of the Lord, “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.” This is the proper work of God: first, to humble those who would puff themselves up with their own words and deeds, as He did to the people of Babel who attempted to raise themselves up to be equal with God; and second, to lift up those who have been brought low in sin, who kneel before the Lord to confess to Him that they are poor, miserable sinners.
    
It seems as though the disciples of the Lord have always had the bad habit of exalting themselves. Whether it’s James and John asking to sit at the Lord’s right hand, or the whole collection of them rebuking those who brought children to Jesus for His blessing, or when they inquire as to who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, they’re all quite interested in ranking the faithful. And the faithful don’t seem to mind that very much. We take pride in our doctrinal faithfulness—and this is a particularly dangerous temptation for Lutherans—as if that that puts us in an exalted position in the kingdom of God. The high and mighty of the Church can see no need for angels. Angels, they say, are for children. Surely only the weak need to rely on invisible beings. Angels are for children and for those who are childish in their spiritual development. Angels are for those who childishly believe that some higher being lovingly designs our destinies.
But viewing angels in such a way misunderstands what the word “angel” means. Angel means “messenger.” Angels aren’t heavenly commandos. Angels are messengers. They come armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is Word of God.” Angels are mouthpieces who repeat what the Lord says back to Him in prayer, praise, and thanks. They speak against the devil in defiance, for the defense and protection of the children of God. Angels speak the Word of God. The Word is their weapon—and it is a most effective weapon. Consider our appointed Epistle. Michael and the angelic band fight with Satan, and they cast him down. Their weapon is nothing else than the Word of God. John tells us, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their witness.” Satan fights by using words of deception, which has always been his weapon against the faithful. Michael, on the other hand, fights by speaking the Word of God.

The Lord continues to send messengers today. They do not have wings. They do not look like the cute little cherubs you see in the Hallmark store. Instead they stand in this pulpit wearing collars that mark them as slaves. They wear black to demonstrate that they, like their hearers, are sinners who have been humbled before the Lord. And they cover that black with a robe of white that demonstrates the righteousness of Christ upon them through the waters of Holy Baptism, just as that righteousness rests upon their hearers. Pastors do not lift themselves up. Instead, with the angel who talks to John in Revelation, they say to their congregations, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” And like the heavenly messengers, these pastors come armed only with the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God—but these weapons bear the power of God to overcome Satan as effectively as they do for St. Michael and the holy angels.

Those whom the Word converts become as little children.  They are humbled, and, in turn, humble themselves as children. But those with childlike faith are exalted to the highest place in the Kingdom of God. Everyone in God’s kingdom relies on and takes to heart that angelic Word, whether it is spoken by invisible messengers named Michael and Gabriel or by the visible messengers who preach the Word from this pulpit and feed the flock with the body and blood of the Lamb. And when that Word of God brings even one lost sinner to repentance, St. Michael and all the holy angels of heaven rejoice. 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, September 26, 2013

A Face for Radio, Part 2

A week ago today I appeared on "BookTalk" with Pastor Rod Zwonitzer to discuss my novel A Great and Mighty Wonder, the second novel in my "Thy Strong Word" trilogy. If you listen, you'll notice that I was very chatty. Bad habit of mine when I get nervous, but at least I was chatty about the book. 

Pastor Zwonitzer is reading the third book, One Thing's Needful, and he plans to have me back on the show when he's done. Dude! Looking forward to it, and not just because I'm a raging narcissist and love hearing my own voice. (And I don't like hearing my voice on a recording. It sounds so weird to me!)

For those of you who weren't able to listen live (or who already heard it once and might want to listen again), here's a link to the audio of the show: BOOKTALK! Just right-click on the link and then select "Save Link As" to download the show!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An author's brain after midnight...

Some authors are able to write organically. I think of their process as sitting in a diner with the characters who will be in their novel, and over coffee and runny eggs these characters tell their story while the author dutifully records their account of the events that came to pass. Then the author has to determine which point(s) of view on which to focus and edit the story appropriately. The author has work to do, but it's as if the story is a gift to them from their characters, even if seems like a gag gift sometimes. 

I've written three novels, and there has been nothing organic about them. The characters have been carefully profiled to the finest detail so I know how they would or wouldn't react when exposed to certain stimuli. (Even using the same main characters, the profiles have to be redone so I know how the events of the previous novel have shaped the characters.) The plot or storyline is outlined in detail, often resembling the process of recovering a vehicle from the deepest depths of a swamp while dodging the alligators and cooyons. The subplots have to be chased down like Obamaphone recipients who are being asked to show proof that they've tried to find work since the 2008 election. For me, writing is a grind. That's not to say I don't love it, but it will never be the way I make my living. Being a pastor is too important to me to commit too often to that routine. (It's no coincidence that I wrote my first novel while I didn't have a congregation to serve full time.)

I'm giving thought to a writing project with no connection to my trilogy. It would be aimed at a different audience, and the characters and setting would be new to me. The prospect is a bit daunting, I admit. I know I can write a novel. After all, I've already written three. But do I have what it takes to start from scratch again? 

Anyone can write a novel. These days you don't even need to be literate to do it as long as you have the right software or enough money to pay a ghostwriter. But to do it more than once? That requires stubbornness, foolishness, at least a touch of masochism...and you have to love to do it. 


What do you know? I'm uniquely qualified on all counts. Guess I should get back to it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sermon for 9/22/13--Trinity 17

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Rest

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


The Catechism students are learning this week about the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In the Old Testament, the Third Commandment had to do with honoring God for His work in creation by resting on the seventh day as He did. In Jesus’ day, it had become a day of obligations with weighty rules. There were things you absolutely could not do, like lighting fires, doing any kind of fighting, or even performing physical labor. You were allowed to take only 2,000 steps outside the city. By keeping these and other requirements, a Jew could prove his dedication to God.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the Sabbath. His rest in the tomb sanctified and fulfilled the Sabbath rest for His people. When Luther wrote his Small Catechism, this is how he described obedience to the Third Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” The Sabbath is all about the Word of God: first about what God has done for His people both in creation and in redeeming His people through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for us, and then in how we thank God for these wonderful gifts.

Let us be clear about something: the Law and the Commandments of God were not given so you have a way of proving to others how much religion you have. It was not given so that you could judge others who don't measure up as well as you. The Law was given to show you that you are doomed. The Law was given to show you that you need Jesus. Think about it. There's a guy with dropsy, which is edema or swelling. He’s a pretty sick guy. If we go by the letter of the Law, there's no help for this guy on the Sabbath. The Pharisees don't have to help him. God could rightly say, "Well, if you last until sundown, maybe then I’ll help you." But that's not what Jesus does. He rescues the man from the Law by healing him—right then and there…on the Sabbath even! What does that show us? What does this mean? It means that Jesus rescues us from the curse of the Law. By itself, the Law would kill us. So Jesus keeps and fulfills it to save you. He keeps every commandment for you and dies on the cross to pay the price for your failure to keep the Law. He says, "I don't care what day it is. If sinners need saving, then I'm going to save them. If that means 'breaking' the Law as man understands it, then so be it." Your Savior won't let anything stand in the way of His saving you!

So what does it all mean? It means you don't grab the highest place by telling God what you deserve. The Law isn't given for you to show off. Rather, the Law, in showing us our sin, throws us down to the low spot. And then it's Jesus who says to you in Baptism, in Absolution, by preaching and His Supper, "Come up to the high place." After all, wasn't it Jesus who held the top spot? Did He come down in the flesh to take the bottom spot on the cross? And then He rose again and was exalted to the highest place, this time taking you with Him. You have the best place now—but not because you earned it or took it. You have the best place because Jesus does, and He lifts you up to sit beside Him by His grace and mercy. So now, the Law isn't your way of making others think you're holy or trying to prove to God that you're holy. Now it's the way you learn to love and serve your neighbor. Christ has ascended to the highest heavens and brought you with Him. You don't have to get their by stomping down someone else. They are brought along too, healed and forgiven by Jesus. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sermon for 9/15/13--Trinity 16

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Inconvenience

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


You're going to die. You can’t avoid it. Someday this life is going to end. As you get older, perhaps you sense it more acutely. Of course, being young doesn’t really keep young people from worrying about death. No one here today has escaped the effects of death. The world spends a lot of time trying to avoid the inevitable. Most preachers out there spend their time trying to avoid it, too, getting people wrapped up in the finer points of daily life so that death is a mere distraction. Then someone dies, and they deliver a eulogy about the good life of the deceased. But the truth is, the Church, the body of Christ on earth, even this congregation, is hospice care. You are here because you are dying. Death is the enemy who stalks you as prey.

Have you ever noticed that death seems to be a mere inconvenience for our Lord? It never seems to slow him down very much. He got dragged to help the daughter of Jairus when she died. He was very deliberate when He stalled and then went to the tomb of Lazarus. But today He just runs into it. He's going one way, and a funeral procession is coming the other way, and they bump head on. That's how Jesus handles death: head on. He walks up to the woman, a widow who's already lost her husband and now her son to death. "Stop crying," He says, as if she can help it. Death brings tears. It's that simple. Jesus is about to fix that. Without another word, without even any pleading from Mom, He strolls up to the coffin and tells the kid to get up. And the kid sits up. Death has received another slap.

Death seeks its revenge on the Son of God Himself! Jesus is brutally beaten and nailed to that cross. He bleeds and dies. But even then, death can only have Jesus when Jesus allows it, when Jesus gives up His spirit. Only then can death have Him…but only for three days. On the third day, The Lord is alive. “Death, where is your victory? Grave, where is your sting?” Death is powerless before our Lord, for He has conquered sin; the wages of sin is removed.

The times when Jesus raised someone from the dead remind us that He is Lord over death. That's a great consolation to the widows who got their sons back. Then why won't the Lord raise the dead today? But He does! He does it in Baptism where His death becomes your death, where His resurrection becomes your resurrection. You have already died by water, Word, and Spirit at the font. Your Old Adam has been drowned in that water, and the New Man has risen from the dead as a new creation. Yes, the death of the body is a cause of grief for those who are left behind. But we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Consider this: In Holy Baptism, you have been inoculated against death. When you die, having already been raised in the waters of Baptism, that death will be nothing more than a rest on the way to eternal life. Jesus has turned it into a minor annoyance. The same Jesus who raised that boy and handed him to His mother has raised you up at the font and given you to your mother, the Church. And here in Christ's church, the One who died and rose—He promises and guarantees that He will raise you from the dead on the Last Day.

You can’t avoid it: you're going to die. But the bigger fact is that Jesus has made that no big deal. He has overcome death. He has overcome your death. Now there is nothing but life in Christ forever. May this be your comfort as you face off against death in this life: death has no power over you because of Jesus. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Word Works: Reflections on 9/11

It's my generation's Pearl Harbor, our JFK assassination. We all remember where we were when the planes struck the World Trade Center. For me, that Tuesday morning found me in Hannover, North Dakota. I'd stayed with a pastor friend and his family for a little extra break after our Monday meeting with the pastors of our Circuit. Usually when I woke up at their house, my friend had already left for his study at the church. This particular morning he was still at home when I emerged from the guest room, and he was watching the television with rapt attention. I wandered over, and I was assaulted with the sight of smoke and flames billowing out of the first of the towers to be struck. My horror increased as we watched the second plane strike. I watched for a little longer, and then I jumped in my car without a shower to make the 150 mile trip back to my own parsonage. While on the road, I did something I never do: I listed to the radio, searching for news reports emerging from New York City--and then Washington D.C. and Somerset, Pennsylvania. I spent time on the phone between no-reception zones trying to get in touch with my sister and her husband who lived outside of New York City. I knew they lived far enough away, but maybe my sister had taken her class on a field trip to the World Trade Center that day? I didn't know, and I didn't hear back from my family until later in the day that they were okay. It's a day I will never forget: the confusion, the fear, the images, the uncertainty, the grief, the anger, and a whole host of other things.

Chaplain Kavouras
On this anniversary of that horrible terrorist attack--not to mention the anniversary of the terror in Benghazi a year ago (and I'm sure not mentioning Benghazi today would make the current administration very happy)--I didn't want to just throw out my narcissistic musings on the day and what it means. Instead I picked up and read a book I first read over a decade ago. The book is called Nine One One: The Aftermath--the Word Works. It is a compilation of the chaplain reports of the Reverend Dean Kavouras, an LCMS pastor who also serves as chaplain to the police and fire departments of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Cleveland Division of the FBI. Chaplain Kavouras served the workers in Somerset and those in Staten Island who searched the refuse from the World Trade Center for human remains. His reports show the power of the Word of God at work in the lives of people who spent long hours in an earthly hell in service to the families of those lost their lives on that awful September day.

Dean with my son Michael
These days my wife and I are friends with Pastor Kavouras and his beautiful wife, Barb. At the time, however, I only knew Pastor Kavouras from Internet interaction. Nevertheless, I was blessed to read these reports as they first came out. Rereading them today was a potent reminder of the power of God to do mighty work for the good of His people in the midst of the greatest of evil and the greatest of tragedies. Chaplain Kavouras and his faithful words and service guided me as I spoke with acquaintances and family after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. His example also inspired me as I wrote my Thy Strong Word series of novels, where the main character is both a parish pastor and a chaplain to his local fire department. His guidance helped Pastor Corwin sound like a real pastor and chaplain instead of a bumbling idiot.

The national legacy of 9/11 is a curious one: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the molestation of American citizens in the name of tightened airport security, political maneuverings, and in some cases the limiting of the freedoms for which this nation was founded. There has been a shift toward watching American citizens who exercise those freedoms with suspicion and fear. Homeschoolers, gun owners, Christians, political conservatives, and others are on terror watch lists. At the same time, the President of the United States refuses view a Muslim soldier who goes on a killing spree on Fort Hood while yelling "Allahu Akbar" as a terrorist or the attack as a terrorist attack.

As an American, as a Christian, as a pastor, as a husband and father, on days like today it's important to remember that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)." We are under constant attack from "the old evil foe," as Luther calls Satan, and it is true that "on earth is not his equal." Yet the victory is not the devil's, for our Lord Jesus Christ has defeated Satan with the sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross and with His glorious resurrection. That victory is applied to us in the waters of Holy Baptism, where we are marked with the name of God and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Nothing this world and its prince can do to us can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I checked, and Nine One One: The Aftermath by Chaplain Kavouras is available from Lutheran Heritage Foundation. Call 1-800-554-0723 or send an e-mail to info@LHFmissions.org to order a copy. I cannot give this book a sufficiently fervent recommendation compared to what it deserves.

I pray you find comfort on this anniversary from the words of St. Paul, words which Chaplain Kavouras often drew upon in ministering to those entrusted to his care by the Lord:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (I Peter 5:6-10)

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sermon for 9/8/13--Trinity 15

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Do Not Worry

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


The reason we shouldn't worry isn't that God rewards us for not worrying. Rather, we don't need to worry because the Lord's already got everything covered! Too many churches and preachers read and hear and proclaim these words as if they’re meant to be a challenge. If you stop worrying, then God will bless you. If you put God first, then He'll do His part to hook you up with whatever you need. This is exactly wrong. Jesus tells you not to worry because there is no reason to worry. He's already taken care of everything! He's already dealt with all your problems and all your enemies. He's taken care of your present before you were even born and your future before you ever get to it. That's just the kind of God Jesus is. So He tells you not to worry to remind you that it's silly to be worried about things He's already taken care of.

Think about it. What is there to worry about that the Lord doesn't have in His care? What about your sins? They would cut you off from God forever. But Jesus took care of that. He was nailed to the cross, suffered and died to take away your sins. He left them buried in His empty tomb. Over and over by the promise of your Baptism, by His Word, and with His body and blood, He forgives your sins. No more worrying about your sins. They're taken care of. And no more worrying about death either. Jesus has that covered too. He robbed death of its power by rising from the dead on Easter. Now death for you is just a rest before your life everlasting. Jesus took care of that. How could food, clothing, or other necessities be beyond His power? He's got all of that covered too. This is the Lord who fed thousands. He will make sure you get your daily bread.

At every point in your life, your Lord has already defeated your enemies and promised to take care of you. Worry is just when we forget that. So don't worry—not because it shows God something, but because God has already taken care of everything. You just don't need to get worked up about any of it. That's living like the birds and lilies do. Wouldn't it be nice if we could stop worrying? Wouldn’t it be nice is we could leave behind our fears about money? Our kids? Our marriages? Our jobs? The situation in Syria? The decisions being made in Springfield or Washington DC? Wouldn't it be great if those things didn't bother us? They bother us because we forget Jesus has taken care of them. Look at it this way: Have there been any bird droppings on your car? That means the Lord is feeding the birds. Are there any flowers growing? That means the Lord is clothing them. And there are better signs and proofs than that. Yes, you can look at the birds and lilies, but don’t forget to look at your Baptism, too! That's the promise to you that Jesus has taken care of everything. Look at His Word. Hear him speaking to you with the voice of the pastor in the pulpit. Eat and drink the Word made flesh in His body and blood. You can't get any better promises from Jesus than these.

Hear again the promise Jesus makes to you: your heavenly Father knows what you need. He's already got you covered. That's why Jesus came. That why He went to the cross and rose from the dead: so you know that it's all be taken care of. There's just no need to worry: the Lord took care of all of it. He'll keep taking care of you against sin and death. He’ll keep providing your daily bread and all you need to support this body and life. Your worrying cannot change what the Triune God has done for you.  He's taken care of it all before you could ever worry about it. And He even adds all the rest of God's kingdom and blessing to 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.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

2013 Reading List: August

August was a slower reading month with a large number of hospital and shut-in visits, two house guests a week apart, and a renewed interest in playing games on my PSP. Nonetheless, I still had time to do some reading, especially since I wangled for myself a refurbished Kindle Touch. I'm still on pace for right around 200 books for the year, though there's no telling what will happen over the next four months. Anyhow, here's the August list.




  1. Culbreth, Jennifer. Protect Me. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013. (I read this to support a Facebook friend.)
  2. McLay, Craig. Village Books. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011. (Awful. It’s as if someone took everything he learned from his liberal college humanities professors and tried to cram it into one boring book with smug characters.)
  3. Ruud, R.J. Lost Creek. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2013.
  4. Wellington, Janet. Homecoming. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.
  5. Adams, Sayer. Blindsided. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  6. Swank, Denise Grover. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  7. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1997.
  8. Brinkley, Richard N. Thy Strong Word: The Enduring Legacy of Martin Franzmann. Concordia Publishing House, 1993. (The picture on the Amazon website is for the wrong product.)
  9. Mosher, Eric. Lost at Comic Con. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2011.
  10. Spiva, Heather. The Puzzle Master. Self-Published Kindle Edition, 2012.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sermon for 9/1/13--Trinity 14

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Where Jesus Is

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

        
The leper who came back knew one thing: Jesus could save Him. There was no other place he ought to be in the whole world than where Jesus was. In the same way, Jesus doesn't want us to come back because it's good manners. He wants us to come back because He's the only one who can care for us. He doesn't want you to be in church to show your good piety and religiousness. He wants you here so He can pour out His gifts on you, so He can refresh you with the remembrance of your baptism, absolve you of your sins, and feed you with His Word and body and blood.

The only place to look for our good is Jesus. We know this to be true, but we act as if we don't believe it. We ought to cry out to Christ in every hardship and trial and sickness and difficulty; we ought to flood our Lord's ears with our prayers, fully expecting that He will hear us and save us. But rather than clinging to Jesus in faith, we worry. We complain. We don't pray. In fact, we figure prayer won't do anything. God's not going to pay attention, so it's easier not to bother Him with it. It’s easier to get worked up over it. Of course the Lord answers our prayers for mercy every day. Often He answers a prayer the way we desire: healing us, restoring us, protecting and preserving us. At those times we say, “Great! Jesus did what I asked. I can go back to my life now.” It's as if Jesus is only good to have around when there's something wrong. But when everything is going OK, then we don't really need Him. That's the theology of the other nine lepers. They sure needed Jesus to heal them of their leprosy. But as soon as He did, they were done with Him. They didn't need Him anymore. Many in the church are like that. They get what they want from God and then stop coming back to Jesus until they need something again. We're no different. How seriously do we take church? We come—or we don’t—as we have time or until something more important comes up. We grab what we need from Jesus on Sunday and then disappear until the following Sunday.

What if our Lord did things the way we do them? What if He didn't heal the ten lepers because He knew most of them wouldn't come back? What if He didn't die on the cross because the world wouldn't be grateful? If He were to do what He does based on our gratitude, we'd be doomed. But our Lord doesn't operate that way. He does what He does—saving lepers and sinners—whether they thank Him or not. He gives His life for people who will never care that He did so. He saves sinners who will never bother to rejoice to be saved. When you are tempted to stop doing good to others because they just don't seem to care, repent! Cry out to Jesus for His mercy. His mercy is to forgive you and live in you for His glory and the good of others. Do good not worrying about whether you will be thanked or repaid! You already have all you need in Christ.

This Gospel shows us three nasty bits of sin: unbelief, ingratitude toward God and anger at the ingratitude of others. These sins harm us like leprosy: they grow and fester and eat away at us. That is why our only defense against them is to cry out for the Lord to have mercy upon us. Confessing and being absolved of your sins, hearing God's Word taught and preached, receiving the body and blood of Jesus: these are the ways that the Spirit lives in us. These are the ways the Spirit produces those fruits of which Paul writes. More Jesus means more Spirit; more Spirit means more fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit uses Baptism, Absolution, and the Holy Supper to battle against your sin-diseased flesh, crucifying all your sins and keeping you in Christ.

St. Paul is very clear in the epistle that those who want to persist in the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. The fact is, sin, the denial of Christ, the rejection of God's good gifts will lead to everlasting judgment. But the Lord has given His life into death on Calvary. He has risen from the dead. He has conquered sin and death. He has sent His Spirit through the Word and Sacrament to rescue you from that sinful nature and its works of death. Your old sinful nature has been crucified, and you have new life in Christ. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the leprosy of your sin has been washed and made clean. 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.