Monday, December 29, 2014

Sermon for 12/28/14: Christmas I

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Ready to Go

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


Simeon was not afraid to die. He was ready to depart this life. But how can he go quietly and peacefully? The Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Once Simeon holds Baby Jesus in his arms, he is certain that his salvation is assured. He knows that now he can "depart in peace according to God’s Word." It is Jesus and His Word that prepare us for death. Christ comes into this world so that we might depart this world, not in terror of judgment, but in peace.
   
When the hour of your death comes, will you be at peace? Or will you thrash around in the terror of your sins? Perhaps the greatest reason people fear death is because of the judgment they think they will face. Even Christians fall into this trap. We imagine that we will stand before the Lord and have to answer for every sin, have every bad thought, word, and deed displayed, that all the sins we tried to hide will be exposed for everyone to see. Not so! Isaiah tells us that the Branch of Jesse's stem will not judge by what He hears and sees but will judge with righteousness. That means that when you die and stand before the Lord, He won't expose what He's seen and heard. He will judge you based on righteousness, on His own works and life. You are judged on the basis of Jesus. Christ was born to set us free from sin and death. He took our place under the Law and paid the price of His own blood to buy us back from sin and death.
   
Simeon rejoices to hold the infant Christ in his arms and he sings a song of rejoicing. Why will Simeon die in peace? He will die in peace because he has seen the Lord's salvation. He has seen and held Christ. Simeon knows that, now that the Christ is here, sin and death can't hurt him. The Devil, hell, the judgment of the Law itself: they all fall down, powerless. Simeon, an old man, can stand tall and drive away the Devil and all fear and terror because he holds in his arms the Son of God who came to save him. And Simeon is under no illusion as to how this happens. He isn't saved because he gets to cuddle little Baby Jesus. He turns to Mary and tells her that a sword will pierce her soul. She will stand and look on as her son is nailed to a cross. Simeon knows that his peace comes at the price of this Child's death. Simeon can depart in peace because this Child was born to suffer and die and rise again. Simeon departs in peace because he knows that this Child has come to take his place under the Law. Simeon departs in peace because, having seen Jesus, he has seen the Lord's salvation.
   
Now, like Simeon, you can depart in peace. There is a reason we sing Simeon's song after we receive Christ’s body and blood. At the altar, you've just been given Christ Himself, the One who was crucified and risen from the dead. Whatever comes your way this week, you will face it as one who is full of Jesus. And even if your life ends, it ends in Jesus. To come and receive Christ's gifts is to hold the Lord's salvation just as Simeon did. That's why your pastor tells you to "depart in peace" after you partake of the Holy Supper. Having been given Christ and all His gifts, we are ready to die.
   
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian murdered by the Nazis, once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We know that life in Christ is not all wine and roses and prosperity. Life in Christ is lived under the cross, and your faith in Christ may result in your physical death. Even if it does not, the day will come. You will die. Whenever that day and hour comes, know that you have seen the Lord's salvation. You will depart in peace, according to the Word of God. When you hear this morning to "depart in peace," stand up. Brush death aside, confident in the gift of salvation which is yours in Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
           

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sermon for 12/25/14: The Nativity of Our Lord

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Wrapped in Flesh

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


In the Old Testament, God built a dwelling place for Himself in which to live among us. There was a beautiful tent built by Moses and the people of Israel. Inside this tent was the Ark of the Covenant, and the glory of the Lord came and stayed there in a pillar of cloud and fire. The tent is where God was. But now there is a new and everlasting Tabernacle. It is the flesh of the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit through the Word of the angel Gabriel, Jesus, the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of God, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God has come to live among us, as one of us!

Why would He do that? Why would the Son of God who is holy and perfect come down to this world that is full of darkness and death? Why would the Son come to this world which is full of people who hate Him and despise His Word and want nothing to do with Him? This world and everything in it was made by the Word, and yet the world paid Him no attention, passed Him by, could not have cared less! But He also came to His own, those who should know Him from the Scriptures and expect Him to show up. They didn't receive Him either! Not only did the world not care; His own people didn't care.

And do we? Here we are on Christmas day, but it's just a brief pause before we go back out to our lives in which we live as if the Lord hasn't really come, as if God is not really in the flesh, as if none of it is any big deal. Why on earth would the Son of God come to such a place as this earth? St. John answers when He writes: “In Him was Life and that Life was the Light of Men. The Light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” The Father sends His Son into this dark world to be its Light. The Father sends His Son into this dead world to be its Life! That is why the Son is made flesh. Recall how, when He was grown up and crucified for us, darkness covered the land. The darkness of our sins piled upon Christ who was judged there for them. The darkness fell upon Christ because He was exchanging it for His light! And then on the Third Day, our Lord rose, conquering death. Death is final enemy we cannot defeat. We cannot avoid it or cheat it. So Christ comes to be our Life by rising from the dead. Death has been robbed of its power! The Light of Christ the Savior shines forth in the fields over Bethlehem and from the cross, as a beacon in the darkness; our sins are forgiven. The Life of Christ burst with Him from the tomb on Easter and upon us who are now also in Him, born of God, given light and life.
   
But Christ doesn't just come to give us Light and Life and then leave us to ourselves once more. St. John says, “To those who received Him, He gives the right to become the children of God.” He comes to make us once again God's children. The Son of God comes as a child so that we will be God's children in Holy Baptism. That is your new birth. Christ comes to dwell as God among us so that He can save us from our sins and make us God's children, part of the Lord's family.
   
Today God has built a house among men: the tabernacle of His Son in the flesh. Today God Himself is born among us, and although He has ascended and we cannot see Him, Christ still dwells among us in His church. By the preaching of the Gospel and the giving of the holy Sacraments, Christ Himself lives among us and in us, making us his dwelling. God Himself indeed lives among us because the Son has come in the flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” By coming in the flesh, Christ has brought light to our darkness, life to our death and made us children of His heavenly Father. There is no better gift wrapped up in this world than that given when the Son was wrapped in human flesh for us! 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 12/24/14: Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord

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Peace on Earth

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


In just a few verses, Luke shifts us from the king of the known world, Caesar Augustus, to the Roman Governor Quirinius, to a nobody named Joseph and his betrothed wife, Mary, who was with child. If you blinked, you’d miss this humble family. Mary and Joseph were a lowly and insignificant couple in the eyes of the world as they make their way to David’s city, Bethlehem. Luke tells us, “While they were there, the days were finished that she should be delivered and she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

While Caesar slept in comfort in his magnificent palace in Rome, the Savior of the whole universe was tightly wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laid where animals were kept. Where we would least expect it, at a time when no one was around, shoved into a dirty, smelly corner because our world was too busy for Him, God Himself comes to save us. Mary’s Son is born—born to carry our sorrows and to be acquainted with our grief. He is born to cure our sicknesses and diseases. He’s born to give us life by the nails that will be driven into His hands and feet. He’s born to die on the Cross and rise again on the third day.

If the story had ended in some corner of Bethlehem, no one would have been saved. Certainly no one would have noticed. So an angel brought the message to all creation. But the angel didn’t come to Caesar, nor to the governor, to announce the birth of God in the flesh. The word was not given even to the Mayor of Bethlehem. Instead, the angel appears to shepherds out in the fields who were watching their flocks. They appeared to these lowly men to proclaim the good news of great joy, which would be to all people.

Today, the angel’s Christmas Gospel has made it into your ears, too. Come out of your gloom. Leave behind your despair. Give up your loneliness. Wipe away your tears. Part ways with your fear and doubt. The heavens once again declare the glory and majesty of the eternal Son of God! God in flesh rests in his manger throne. He did not come merely for mighty Caesar. He did not come merely for the powerful Governor. He has come to you, poor and miserable sinner, to save you from your sins. God and sinners are reconciled. The song is for you: “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sermon for 12/21/14: Advent IV

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The Greater One

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


The people wanted to know about John the Baptist. In last week’s text, Jesus asked them, “What did you go out to see?” What did you expect? Did you expect to see someone immaculately dressed? Did you expect to see someone feasting like a king? In the same way, why are you here this morning? Did you come to this wilderness expecting to see Joel Osteen with his pressed suits and perfect hair and shiny teeth? It may surprise you to hear that people don’t come to Campbell Hill for the fancy restaurants, the boutique shopping, or the perfect spa treatment. They don’t come here because the goofy bald guy is so interesting. So why are you here?

Everybody wants to know what the big deal is about John the Baptist. The Pharisees come to find out about this enigma. But all John has for any of them is Jesus. John is a prophet. John is just a voice, preparing the way, telling you the Christ is coming. When they want to know why John is baptizing if he’s nothing special, John calls it a sign of the One to come. The One to come is among you, and He will appear shortly. He is the important one. He is the Lamb of God, coming to take away the sins of the world. John is just here to point Him out to you. The Pharisees wanted some spectacular religion and a hero for a Messiah and Savior. But here is this crazy, camel hair-wearing prophet. To their frustration, he will only point them to Jesus. Jesus is coming after John, even though He is before John as the eternal Son of God. John points to Jesus, and Jesus shows up the next day.

The same is true for your preacher. All the man in this pulpit has for you is Jesus, the very Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Often you want to know why the cancer came back. You want to know how to fix your marriage. You want to know how to deal with your family member who won't stop stirring up trouble. You want to know why the world is going crazy and bad things are happening. Your pastor knows you want answers for all of it. Your pastor does not have access to the full counsel of God. But all I have for you is Jesus, who is far greater than I am. Like John, all I have for you is the signs I’ve been called to administer: Baptism, Absolution, the Word, and the Supper. All I have for you is Jesus, which you receive in these gifts: the Jesus who gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. When you find yourselves thinking that religion and faith is supposed to be something other than those things, something other than Jesus, then repent.

And what good is Jesus? He's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He gives Himself into death so that, through your baptism, your sin dies with Him. He rises from the dead so that, in feasting on His flesh and blood, you will rise from the dead. Cancer can't keep you down. Nothing another person does to you can harm you eternally. Nothing in this world can undo what Jesus has done for you. Nothing. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, devil and hell.

We fall into the trap of trying to get something other than Jesus. We want the answers. We want to read the last page of the story. But for the Pharisees, John has only Jesus. For you, there is only Jesus. And He is enough. And while we may have to wait to open our Christmas presents, today we receive the gifts of Jesus with all their forgiving and saving power. We'll receive them again on Christmas and the Sunday after that and again and again. After all, though your pastor doesn’t have all the answers, the one thing he has for you is Jesus…and that’s the one thing you need. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sermon for 12/14/14: Advent III

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Text:

All Flesh

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


Often, we hear well-intentioned Christians speak as if God would never count sins against a little child. After all, no one wants to think of children suffering—not even for sin. The problem is, that undermines the Gospel. Which is more innocent: a baby born of sinful parents, or the sinless Son of God? Is Jesus less innocent than one of our children, who gets mad if Mommy doesn’t get the bottle to his mouth in time? When you don’t get there quite in time, the crying escalates. And by the time you do get bottle ready, there’s just no satisfying the child. It’s no longer about the bottle. The baby is angry. Sin has manifested itself at that early age. If babies aren’t accountable for sin, then how can God hold Christ, the only truly innocent One, accountable for all our sin?

If only some of us are sinners, if only some of us accountable to God, then why does God declare through Isaiah, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” The wages of sin is death. And even babies died, for example, when God sent Noah into the ark and sent the flood. Like all others, babies need God’s forgiveness, so God says through His prophet, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” All flesh. God doesn’t leave out anyone—not children, not those on their deathbeds, anyone—who need the saving Jesus brings.

Many Christians have a faith that wars against the Gospel. Have you heard someone say, “I know that GOD forgives me, but I just need to forgive myself”? They are like John, sitting in a prison cell, wondering where their release will come from. They claim to believe it comes from God, but they behave as if it comes from them. This is not from the Holy Spirit. Israel didn’t come out of bondage when they decided that their suffering was over. They came out when the mouth of the Lord had spoken. God Himself released them and brought them home. God delivered forgiveness of sins, saying, “Your iniquity is pardoned.” And with that, Israel received double—more grace than sinners deserve—for her sins.

All flesh is sinful. And all flesh is rescued in the sinless flesh and blood of God’s own Son. Jesus takes the lambs into His arms and carries them to Calvary, to forgiveness and life. John’s voice proclaimed to all Israel the double portion God has for all sinners in Christ Jesus. Don’t let anybody rob you of the double portion that God gives to you. And when you doubt—for you will doubt—even then, do not think you’re too far gone. Even John, the last and greatest Old Testament prophet from God, asked questions. "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus gives John the answer. John’s release from prison will be delivered through the Mouth of the Lord. “Go,” Jesus says, “and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus puts salvation entirely on Himself, so that John has nothing to fear from a closed cell door or from the axe that will fall upon his neck.

Jesus released all of Israel from her awful captivity. He released John from his captivity. And He releases you from your captivity. He did it by His dying and rising in your place. He does this by giving you repentance and forgiveness. He does it by pouring out His Word and Water, like a flood, like the bursting of the prison house of sin once and for all. The promise is for you and for your children. The only innocent One took upon Himself the sins of everybody else. You are free, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 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, December 07, 2014

Sermon for 12/7/14: Advent II

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Lift Up Your Heads

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


Jesus will return soon, and the world will be surprised and terrified. How about you, dear Christian? Will the coming of Christ catch you off guard? It shouldn't. Jesus tells us it's going to happen. Look around. You see wars, signs in the night sky, and all kinds of other terrible things in this world. What do you think when you see that? Do you think, as the world does, "How will I avoid this? How can I survive this? How can I get through this?" Is it all about you? Jesus is teaching you another way. He teaches you to say, "I see all these terrible things happening. The Lord must be near. I shall cling to Christ and His Word which never pass away." The world is doomed. It is coming undone, and it will keep doing so until our Lord comes. The Lord allows the world to come unraveled so that you will cling to nothing but the Word of God.

When you see these signs, Jesus tells you, "Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near." When the world is in terror around you, stand tall as a Christian and know that your Lord is on His Way. Stand tall in a world that is shrinking away from trouble and terror. Stand tall and lift up your heads, for Jesus was lifted up for you, hung upon a cross for your sins. To a world that doesn't want to hear that it's sinful, Christ came and bore your sins. To "stand up and lift up your heads" is another way of telling you to believe and trust in Him, to confess that Jesus is your life, your redemption, and your salvation. When you see Jesus coming, don't be afraid! He's not coming to destroy you. He’s coming to rescue you once and for all! He who bore your sins on the cross comes to bear you home to paradise!

So how do you stand tall and lift up your head in a world that is falling apart? When you are surrounded by those who would rather run around worrying about all their problems, how do you stand tall and lift up your head? How do you live in faith when you are surrounded by people trying to drag you down and get you to only think of yourself? You stand and lift up your head by coming to the Divine Service. You stand and lift up you head as you hear the Lord's Name, which put upon you in Holy Baptism, spoken again into your ears. You stand and lift up your head as your pastor absolves you of your sins. You stand and lift up your head as you hear God's Word. You stand and lift your head as you open wide your mouth to receive Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Just as the fig tree is a sign that summer is near, so Christ's Word and Sacraments are a pledge and promise that Christ Himself is already here with us so that, when He comes again, it will not be a day of terror but a day of joy and celebration. You stand and lift up your head in faith by living in the gifts of Christ which prepare us for His coming in glory on the Last Day.

The holy season of Advent helps us to live as Christians because it teaches us to stop running around like the world and instead proclaims Jesus who comes to save us. Think about how the world does things. The world gears up for the so-called holiday season. The world runs around, spending more than it has and partying like there's no tomorrow. Then December 26 comes, and there's nothing left but long lines to return unwanted gifts. The holiday season has passed away. But in the church we celebrate Advent, a time of repentance and faith. When the world's holiday is over and done, we have the 12 Days of Christmas. The celebration is just getting started for the people of God. That's how it will be when the Lord returns. For the world it will be the end of all things. For God's people in Jesus Christ, our Lord's return is just the beginning of eternal life. Stand up, lift up your heads! Our Lord is coming. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sermon for 11/30/14: Advent I

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Coming to Die









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


Jesus was coming. He was coming to die. He came to earth in the flesh for a purpose, and that purpose was to die for sinners. That’s why Advent begins with Palm Sunday: so we look forward to Christmas for the right reason. This is not just a celebration of the birth of Christ, but the birth of the One who was born to die for you. Advent begins with Palm Sunday to teach you to celebrate Christmas as you should, that is, celebrating at Christmas time the birth of the Child who takes away your sins.

So how do you welcome our King as He comes? You confess Him as the fulfillment of God's promises. Jeremiah says that a righteous branch will grow up from David's line. His Name will be called "The Lord our Righteousness." Behold the man riding into Jerusalem on a donkey! You are not righteous, but He is. You are a sinner. He is the Lamb who comes to be the sacrifice for your sins. To be ready as He comes is to see that this Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Lord's promises throughout the Scriptures. Every promise God ever made to His sinful creation has come together and is fulfilled in the Son of God in the flesh. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, you hear the prophets announcing His arrival. This is the high point of all human history: God is here in the flesh, one of us, yet without sin, to be our King!

The Lord doesn't come for you to throw your jackets before Him; He comes to take away your sins. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, not so He can have a parade, but so that you can recognize Him as the King who is on His way to the cross for you. In this holy season of Advent, dear Christians, throw your sins to Jesus. Stand before Him so that He might throw upon you the white robe of His righteousness! He does so in Holy Baptism. He covers you. He welcomes you at the font as His own dear redeemed child of God!

But don't just stand there on the side of the road in Jerusalem! The Lord is coming to you now, for real—not on a donkey this time, but under the bread and wine with His body and blood. With His own Words, the Lord puts Himself upon this altar and into your mouth to bring you righteousness and salvation, just like the prophet says! My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are gathered here because our Lord is coming! We are not here just remembering some stuff that happened a long time ago! No, we are here today because, by His Word and Sacraments, Christ is truly present among us! He comes through the ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments: in this cleansing from sin, in the Word of forgiveness, in His body and blood on His altar. He comes among us to forgive us, to keep us in the faith, to take away our sins, to be our true and saving King! No wonder we sing in the liturgy: “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.

That Day is coming when our Lord will return. There is no time to  waste in despising our neighbor, no time for shirking the responsibilities of our callings, no time for kids to do everything except what their parents tell them. There is no time, with our Lord on the way, to be building debts of sin against other people! Now is the time to love one another. Now is the time to remember that our Lord came to love us so that we might learn to love, to care for and serve others. Now is the time of anticipation. Now is the time of confessing our sins and living in our Lord's forgiveness. Now is the time to look heavenward, eagerly expecting our Lord's return. We long for that day and pray that it comes soon! And just as the crowds sang and as we will sing on that day, our new Church Year begins as we confess our faith and hope in Jesus: “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” 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, November 27, 2014

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

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Text:

Fools for Wealth

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



As we look around the world, we can find many examples of people who misunderstand what the Bible has to teach about the blessings of material wealth. At one end of the spectrum, we find a clergyman who drives a Rolls Royce. He teaches that God blesses the true believer with the material prosperity of this world. He wants his followers to understand that his fancy car and other wealth is an indication of God's blessing, and his hearers can be similarly blessed if only they have true faith. At the other end of the spectrum, we find those who take a vow of poverty. There are many who believe that anything more than the bare necessities of this life is evil. They teach that only those who choose poverty are truly blessed. They are certain that this is a right understanding of the Bible's teachings about the material wealth of this world.

It should be obvious that these two teachings are exact opposites. They are mutually exclusive. They simply cannot both be right. In fact, our experience in life leads us to suspect that two such extreme positions are probably both wrong. But one doesn’t have to have an extreme position to be wrong about wealth. Our text is commonly called the story of the rich fool. Why is this man a fool? He built a barn to hold his harvest. Can that be bad? The one who saves for a rainy day is not necessarily a fool. But when one focuses on that wealth and is not rich toward God, then certainly he is a fool. The man in the story left God out of the picture. He allowed his wealth to become his god.

Paul writes, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." Many people misquote this and say that money is the root of evil. But money is not evil of itself. Our love of money is the problem. This error is very attractive, though, because it shifts the blame from us to money. If it is money itself that is evil, then we can say we are the innocent victims of evil wealth. We may even be so foolish as to blame the One who blesses us with all we have. But the Bible will not let us get away with that sort of thinking. Jesus Himself said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Although the results of sin happen in the world around us, the sin happens within us. We can't blame money. We can only blame ourselves.

Jesus tells us that the cure for our dilemma is to be rich toward God. But how can sinners do this? If we are to be rich toward God, it must come from outside of us. This is where the power of God's Word comes into play, for His Word gives us those riches. The riches of God are nothing other than the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Jesus earned for us with His perfect life, death, and resurrection—riches we inherit in the waters of Holy Baptism, riches we receive in the Word of Absolution and the Word preached, a rich feast of the body and blood of Jesus.

Christians have more reasons to give thanks than any other people on the planet. We have a Savior. We have eternal life. We have peace with God. In fact, Christians are the only ones who can properly give thanks. Only Christians know the One who blesses us. It’s not because of any special merit or worthiness on our part, but because of the Father's grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ. So don't be a fool. Enjoy all the riches of God. Enjoy both earthly riches and heavenly treasure. This is all a free gift from our dear Father in Heaven who loves us and sent His Son to save us. Thanks be to God for this priceless treasure. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sermon for 11/23/14: Last Sunday of the Church Year

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Lamps and Oil

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


Ten Virgins went to meet the Bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. The Bible says, "The fool says in his heart there is no God." The foolish virgins are foolish because to them the things of God are not worth desiring. Perhaps they think the Bridegroom will not come. Maybe they don't care whether Jesus is returning. The gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are not things they crave. Perhaps they have some sin that they want to keep. Whatever the case, they are foolish because they leave behind the gifts of faith. When the Bridegroom comes, they are not ready.

On the other hand, the Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The wise virgins fear the Lord. They know they owe their existence to the Bridegroom. Their whole life is one lived waiting for Him. They live by His mercy. They live in the forgiveness of sins. The oil of that forgiveness is what keeps their lamps lit, and they know they will need it on the Last Day. They are ready to meet the Bridegroom because they live in that forgiveness.

Where does the oil come from? Lamps in Bible times were fueled by simple wicks in olive oil. Olive oil comes from olives. And the oil is gotten out of the olives by taking them from the olive tree and crushing and squeezing them. But the oil in your lamp is from the tree of the cross. On that tree, the Son of God in the flesh is squeezed and pressed and crushed for your sins. And as He is crushed and killed by the weight of your sins, blood and water flow out of Him. Christ's blood and water flow into the vessels prepared for them: the water into the holy font and the blood into the holy cup. The oil that the virgins carry is not some oil they made themselves or came up with. The oil that fuels are lamp is not our good works or good intentions or even our own faithfulness and believing. The oil that fuels our lamps, that gives us light, is the oil of Christ Himself pressed out of Him on the cross as He gave Himself for the Bride to make her spotless and holy and perfect for Himself. The oil you have, brothers and sisters, is from Christ Himself. Only what is from Christ Himself burns purely and supplies you light at the midnight hour when our Lord comes again.

Take a minute to make sure you've got that oil! That oil is poured into your vessel at the font when it is poured on you with water and the Word. The gifts of Holy Baptism—God's name, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the peace of the Spirit and the adoption as a child of God—these gifts are poured into you in Holy Baptism; in the words of Jesus which are written to tell you what He has done; in the words of Jesus spoken that declare your sins are forgiven; in the body and blood poured into you, given to you to eat and drink, which delivers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

When the Bridegroom comes again, you will be ready with a lamp that is burning brightly, filled from these heavenly gifts. When Jesus comes again on the Last Day and wakes us from the sleep of death, we trim our lamps, and they burn brightly because of Him and what He has given us. It is Jesus we are waiting for, and it is Jesus Himself who gives us the oil of Himself, so that we might be prepared to enter into the wedding feast when He comes again. Wake up! He's almost here, and the feast is ready. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sermon for 11/16/14--Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

My apologies. I've been fighting off illness this week.


Audio:




Text:

Sheep Are Made

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


You are not a sheep or a goat based on what good works you've done for Jesus through your neighbor. When the last day arrives, the sheep are already sheep and the goats are already goats. And you are sheep. Why? What makes you a sheep? St. Peter says to be holy and blameless until that Day. And you are holy and blameless. It is not because you do good works. Rather, it is because you are washed, absolved, and fed. It is the Son of Man who has made you blameless. It is the Son of the Ancient of Days that has made you innocent in the sight of God. It is the Lamb of God who has clothed you with His own holiness so that now you are a sheep. Dear children of God, let this picture of sheep and goats stir you up to faithful service of your Lord through serving your neighbor. But do not let it cause you to doubt and question your salvation! Let it be a comfort that your Father in heaven has indeed prepared a kingdom for you.

When you stand before the Lord on the last Day, you will be judged. But you will not be judged for your sins. Your judgment will consist of hearing the proclamation of your inheritance and eternal blessings: "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world!" Brothers and sisters in Christ, the kingdom you will inherit on that day has been waiting for you since before the world was even made! Didn't we cast away that paradise the day our parents ate from the Tree of Knowledge? Yes. But our Lord Jesus came to get back that kingdom for us.

What a terrible thing the Father's judgment is! He will cast into eternal torment all those who don't love Him or their neighbor! It is that judgment that Jesus faces when He is nailed to the cross. At the cross, neighbors whom He loved demonstrated hatred to Him in return and crucified Him. On the cross, the Father whom He obeyed turned His back and allowed the sins of the world to kill His only begotten Son. There on Calvary the spotless Lamb of God was slaughtered like a worthless goat! That's your salvation. That's how you are made into a Lamb. The kingdom has always been there, prepared for you. And Jesus came and won it back for you.

There is great temptation to measure yourself by how many good works you do. Are you a Christian? Are you really a sheep? Have you done good things for Jesus by doing good things for your brothers and sisters in Christ? If not, watch out! You're not really a child of God. And in all honesty, you love yourself more than Jesus or your neighbor. But what does your Baptism say? It says you are a sheep. It says that you are holy and blameless, without sin in the sight of God. What does absolution tell you? Your sins are forgiven, as far as the East is from the West. No one in heaven or on earth can say otherwise! What does the body and blood of Jesus say? It is the blood of the Lamb of God, and it says that you are what you eat: so you are a lamb too! The Holy Gospel in word, water, bread and wine declares you to be a child of the Father, a subject of the true King, a sheep on the Last Day. There's a kingdom waiting for you.

So where do good works come in? When Jesus tells the sheep all the good things they've done for Him, what do they say? "When did we ever do that?" Jesus answers that to do it to the least of His brethren is to do it to Him. To bring comfort and aid to our fellow Christians is to serve Jesus. But you don't measure it! You don't keep track of it! In fact, as sheep, you don't even know about it! On the Last Day, you will be amazed at all that you've accomplished for others and thereby for Christ. You will be astounded and humbled to hear your Lord praise you for all you've given to Him when you didn't even know! It's just the truth for those who are inheriting a kingdom!

Our Scripture Readings this morning give us a warning. But the Lord is patient, and He wants none to perish. Therefore the Lord Himself rescues us from our selfish sin and death. He makes us His holy lambs and sheep. He washes, absolves and feeds us. Jesus has won back the kingdom for us. And now, protected in Christ from the day of burning fire, we are ready to inherit the kingdom of paradise prepared for us before the world was made. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

HYMN: Holy Lord, You Make Your Dwelling

St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, the congregation I've served for the past four and a half years, will be celebrating her 125th anniversary next year and the 100th anniversary of the construction of our current sanctuary. We're gearing up for a celebration, and one of the things we will do is have a worship service in which we rejoice in the many blessings the Lord has given us over that time. 

Knowing that I've written a hymn or two, and knowing that one of our previous pastors wrote a hymn for the 100th anniversary celebration, the congregation members who have been meeting to discuss and plan the events asked me to put pen to paper to compose a text for the celebration. I unveiled the text I wrote at our meeting this past Sunday, and now that I've shared it with them, I thought I'd share it with you too.

Rather than talk up the congregation in a theology of glory kind of way, I focused instead on why we've gathered in this place for so long. As I wrote, I especially considered Revelation 21:3, John 1:14, Matthew 18:20, Isaiah 55:11, II Timothy 1:6, II Corinthians 5:18-19, I Corinthians 13:12, and John 8:36. The tune I selected is REGENT SQUARE, the tune which probably best known in Lutheran circles for the hymns "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory." I wanted it to be something with which the congregation was already familiar.

Anyway, here it is. I'd welcome comments and suggestions.




Holy Lord, You Make Your Dwelling
written for the 125th anniversary of
St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois


1. Holy Lord, You make Your dwelling
With Your people night and day.
Here, where baptized children gather,
Here You choose to come and stay.
Here in Christ You show Your glory:
God with us in fleshly clay.

2. You have promised Your own presence
When we gather in Your name.
In this holy house we meet You.
Here You fan our faith to flame.
Bless us with Your Holy Spirit:
God with us, Your Word proclaim.

3. Here You dwell in faithful preaching.
Here Your Word brings our release.
Here Your flesh and blood still nourish,
Cause our fear of death to cease.
You proclaim our sin forgiven:
God with us in endless peace.

∆ 4. Here we walk by faith, unknowing.
Still Your gifts have set us free.
Now and evermore we praise You,
Sing for joy on bended knee,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
God with us eternally.


© 2014 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 87
Tune: REGENT SQUARE (LSB 924)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

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

Audio:




Text:

Eating God

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

The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. Their enemies lay dead on the seashore. They journeyed through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. Moses went up on the mountain to speak with the Lord. And the Israelites waited. And they waited. Finally they got tired of waiting. They told Aaron, "We're tired of waiting. We don't know what happened to Moses. Make us gods to lead the way!" Aaron collected their gold and made a golden calf. But here's the kicker: the Israelites didn't just make a false god. They attached the True God's name to it! My brothers and sisters in Christ, God's people are always in danger of this. Since His Ascension, the Lord's church has been waiting for His return. Instead of holding on tightly to Christ's Word and promises, people begin to think, "We don't know what happened to Christ. Let's make our own." And so, turning away from the true Christ, people make their own gods. We knew it would happen. Jesus said so. Christ is turned from being the Savior who dies and rises for our sins into some other kind of Christ: a personal life coach; a philosophy teacher; an angry Judge; a good pal; a Jesus who says that anything goes. The true Jesus is tossed aside and a false god arises. The terrible thing is that people put their trust in these false Christs and thereby deny and turn from the real Jesus, the only one who can and does actually save us!

The Lord was ready to wipe those Israelites off the face of the earth. And they certainly deserved it! How could they be rescued by the Lord and then turn around and make Him into a cow? That's what sinners do. But Moses reminds the Lord of His promises. God had promised to make a great nation from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For the sake of His Word, because of His promise, the Lord does not destroy them. You and I  love to trust in something other than the Lord. Given the opportunity, we would nail Him to a cross ourselves. Yet we are saved by the same thing: the Lord's promises. Because Jesus dies for the sins of the world, and because the Father has baptized you into His Son, He will not punish you for your sins. It falls on Jesus instead. The grace of God that spared the children of Israel after the golden calf is the same grace which spares us from the punishment of our sins in Jesus Christ.

We don't suddenly wake up one day and decide we'd better stop sinning and get right with the Lord. We would keep dancing around our idols until our golden cows come home. Instead, Jesus intercedes. He puts Himself between the Father's judgment of sin and us sinners who have that judgment coming. Christ was nailed to the tree of the cross to be a lightning rod to take God's punishment of sin. As long as Jesus stands before His Father, the Father will never remember our sins or punish us for them. Now He has taken His place with the Father, praying for us, interceding for us, reminding the Father continually that He has taken our sins away and we are to be spared from everlasting death!

Through Moses, God did punish the Israelites for their idolatry. He ground up the golden calf, sprinkled it on the water, and made them drink it! But in the mystery of God's grace, since the coming of Christ, we are not made to eat our idols. Rather we are given to eat the Lord Himself in His body and blood. Where the children of Israel were joined with their false god in a way that pointed out their sin, we are joined to the One who takes away our sin. When we eat and drink His body and blood, we do it for His remembrance, that is, He remembers what He has done for us and holds no sins against us. The true miracle is not some trick that the devil plays with his false gods showing off. The true miracle, the true sign and wonder, is that the Son of God takes the place of sinners to free us sinners from our sin and death.

Our countdown to the end of the Church Year has begun today. It’s time to start paying attention and looking for Jesus to come back! Should we be worried? No. Our Lord has warned us. He has given us His Word, and that Word cannot be broken. When you are troubled as you look around in these last days, then pray with God's Word. Call upon the Lord in repentance and faith. Cling to Jesus in His holy gifts at the font and altar. Then you will be ready with St. Paul and all the saints for the glorious coming of Christ. And so we wait. And wait. But that day will soon come. And on that day, the trumpet blast won't be the one of Mt. Sinai, to frighten and terrify. It will be the trumpet blast of our Savior, coming to raise us from the dead and bring us to Himself forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               


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

Sermon for 11/2/14--Feast of All Saints

Sorry for the delay. Life intervenes.


Audio:




Text:

Not Yet

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


On the Feast of All Saints, we remember those saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus and rest from their labors. They are with Jesus in paradise. But for us? Not yet. In this day and age, we’re used to instant gratification in most things. But our life in Christ, our life under the cross, is more like being in the midst of a battle with some grave illness. There’s always that wait for the next test or treatment or meeting with the doctor. And while we struggle through a life filled with distress and suffering and heartache, we wonder when God is going to put a stop to all of it. And the answer is, “Not yet.” Yes, you are baptized into Christ. You are going to rise from the sleep of death on the Last Day and live forever…but not yet. That’s why the church takes time to remember those who have gone before us, the faithful who rest from their labors. For them, the time has come. The Lord has brought them out of this life into eternal life. What they have, we will have too…but not yet.

To a church living within that time of “not yet,” Jesus speaks blessings and promises. Jesus tells us what we are. And He tells us what we have coming. In this life, we face persecution. In the life to come, we will have every blessing and the entire kingdom of God. In this life, people hate us and attack us, and we cry out, “How long, O Lord.” And the Lord answers, “Not yet.” But when ‘the strife is fierce and the warfare long,’ then what? How do we know these promises are true? What will make our hearts brave and our arms strong? How can we possibly wait it out until the “not yet” becomes “now?” The answer is Jesus. The promises are true because Jesus made them. And we know His promises are true because He died and then He rose. The reason those saints have not died in vain is that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. The reason they are with Him in paradise is the same reason the thief on the cross is: our Lord told them so. The reason we know what He said is true is because on that third day, that tomb was empty. Jesus rose. And therefore we celebrate all saints because we haven’t lost our brothers and sisters in Christ. They aren’t gone. They are with Jesus.

And because He rose from the dead, His promises to you are true as well. Despite the suffering, persecution, tragedy and anything else that plagues you in this life, you have Christ’s promise: the kingdom of God is yours. You have it now. You don’t have to wait. You entered that kingdom when you were baptized. You were clothed in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. Every pronouncement of absolution, every sermon announcing Christ crucified for sinners, every time you feast on the body and blood of Jesus: this is a proclamation that the enemies of the faithful are defeated. It may not be fully realized quite yet, but they’re going to be gone for good when Jesus returns. And every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, when we are gathered around the body and blood of Jesus, we are there with the angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven. Bodies rest in graves, but around the Lord’s altar, we who walk as yet by faith and those saints already with Christ in paradise are gathered around Jesus. These gifts are how you know His promises are true.

Even though it’s not yet time for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, those things still are going to happen. And you still have forgiveness and life now. But until the resurrection of all flesh, until the “not yet” becomes the “now,” His promise to you is that He will keep you and all His saints in faith until that day. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        


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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

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

Audio:




Text:
   
Freed Slaves

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


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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sermon for 10/19/14--Trinity XVIII

Audio:




Text:

True Love

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PARODY: All About That Cross

A little Lutheran levity for your Sunday morning...


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sermon for 10/12/14--Trinity XVII

Audio:




Text:

At the Table

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sermon for 10/5/14--Trinity XVI

Audio:




Text:
 
God Visits His People

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

CRM and the Battle

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

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

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

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



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Thank you for your time and attention.