Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sermon for 3/30/14--Lent IV

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

Audio:




Text:

Satisfied

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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

Audio:




Text:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sermon for 3/23/14--Lent III

Audio:




Text:

The Demons Want You

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

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

Audio:




Text:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sermon for 3/16/14--Lent II

Audio:




Text:

Great Faith

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


If this woman's faith was so great, why wasn't her daughter healed until Jesus showed up? If she had such great faith, why didn’t her will that her daughter be healed come to pass? Why didn't this great faith cause the demon to go flying from her poor daughter? The answer is a simple one. Faith doesn't drive out the devil. Faith doesn't save. Only Jesus can cast out Satan. Only Jesus can save. In this account of this precious and persistent Canaanite woman, the Lord would teach us true repentance and true faith which trusts in Christ and His gifts and promises, not something inside of us.

Let us therefore repent of our false notions of faith. Sometimes you will hear people say, after they come through a tough time or some tragedy, “My faith got me through it.” If you ask some people what makes them Christians or why they are saved, they will say, “Because I believe.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be na├»ve. Such thinking is common! The world is filled with preachers who teach that some decision you make, some sincerity in yourself, makes peace for you with God. “I accepted Jesus into my heart.” “I made Him my Lord.” “I decided to follow Him.” And people will believe that their believing is what saves them! Here is the mistake we make when we read about this wonderful Gentile woman. We think that Jesus helps her daughter because He is impressed with her persistence. “Wow,” says Jesus, “You really don't give up, do you? I'm impressed. I'll reward your persistence and faith by healing your daughter.” That's how most people read these words. But Jesus is not impressed by the whims of human hearts. He does what He does, not because something in this woman compels Him, but because He is Jesus; that is what Jesus does. So let us repent, dear Christians, of thinking of faith as some measure of persistence inside us which is the basis for our salvation.

True and saving faith is a gift from God, a gift which clings to Jesus and His gifts and promises. Faith which is from the Holy Spirit is a lively confidence that rejects anything in us and trusts instead in Christ and His Word and promises. This woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter because she knows that's the kind of Jesus He is. Even when He calls her a dog, she persists—not because persistence is a good way to get noticed, but because her faith has attached itself to Jesus, the One who will save. You can always tell who someone’s true god is by what their faith talks about. One person says, “I'm saved because I believe. I have faith in God or Jesus. Basically I'm a good person. I am a Christian because I have faith.” Notice who it is doing all the work of faith: “I.” But true faith confesses Jesus: “Lord, Son of David; have mercy upon me and heal my daughter! Help me, Lord!” And when true faith does notice itself, it confesses, “Yes, I am a dog.” Even when Jesus calls her a dog, she clings to Him. “Even the little dogs get the crumbs from their Lord's table.” That's all she needs. A few crumbs from Jesus and her daughter will be saved. True and saving faith can only speak about and glorify Jesus.

Jesus gives her more than the crumbs she seeks. He gives her salvation. This is why He came. The One who is sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” is the Lamb of God who is sacrificed on Calvary. He who came walking among the Gentiles hangs upon the cross for Gentile and Jew alike. He hangs there for you. This is indeed the Son of David, the only-begotten Son of the Father who has come to set you free from sin and death. Faith clings to this Jesus and no other. This woman's encounter with Jesus shows us what the life of faith, the life of a Christian, is like. The Lord drives the devil out of this woman's daughter. That points us to the work of God's Word in the water of Holy Baptism. There at the font, Christ drove Satan from you and filled you with His Holy Spirit. His words, “Let it be done for you as you desire,” point you to the words of Holy Absolution which declares that His mercy is indeed yours; your sins are forgiven. And the crumbs from the Lord's Table? These so-called crumbs are the feast of Christ's Body and Blood, given for the forgiveness of sins.

Do you have faith, dear Christians? Then instead of speaking about your faith, come and receive God’s gifts. Do you have faith? Then live daily in your baptism. Be absolved of your sins. Feast upon the food of Christ's Table. That is what makes faith great: your Jesus who saves you is great. Faith looks to Him and His gifts, never to itself. We are truly nothing but dogs, and our only hope is that something will fall from our Lord's Table. But Now in Christ we are God's children, and He treats us so by giving us what belongs to the children of the Father. Your faith, your Jesus, has saved you. You have been made well from this very hour. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sermon for 3/12/14--Midweek of Lent I (midweek series)

Audio:




Text:

Hallowing the Father’s Name
John 17:4, 6/First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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


Most of us are proud of the family name we bear. We try to uphold it and defend it. We promote it and hold it high and try to bring honor and glory to it. This is true also of that eternal family name we bear, the name of Christian, children of the heavenly Father. That our heavenly Father intends this to be the case is seen in that the first assignment He gives us in prayer is to pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” God’s holy children will hallow the Father’s holy name. This is something foreign to our self-centered, sinful human nature. Nonetheless, there it is; our Father’s first expectation of us. When we pray this prayer, we ask God to help us to go contrary to our nature. We admit to Him that we have not been successful at making His name holy, and that we need His help.
   
But do we even know what it means to hallow God’s name? God’s name is more than any individual term by which we may refer to Him. His name is actually the sum total of everything Scripture tells us about Him. It is that by which He makes Himself known to us. In that sense His Word is His complete name, and Jesus is at the very heart of that name. God’s name is not a mere sound. It is God Himself revealed to man. And to hallow God’s name means to set it above everything common and profane; to esteem and honor it. The name of God is among the greatest treasures we have!
   
And yet, have we not been more concerned about ourselves and our own names rather than God’s? Left to our own devices we pray like that Pharisee who was seeking approval. Have we been guilty of that kind of conduct? Or do we find that the names of certain people on earth mean more to us that God’s holy name: names in the news, star athletes, the latest movie sensation, good friends, or even our loved ones at home? Compared to them all, God’s name plays only a small part in our lives.
   
It's true that we use God’s name. We call on Him in desperation and panic when the bottom is falling out of our lives, when we do not quite know where to turn anymore; when all else fails. But do we think to use His name when all is well, and we have so much for which to be thankful? We use God’s name on Sundays, at worship, but are we determined to keep God’s name out of the rest of the week? Have we failed to speak to someone who needed to hear about the Savior, either in defense of Him when His name is misused, or in applying the healing comfort of His name to a searching soul crying out to be saved? As God’s children we are to hallow God’s name, and yet we know that we have failed to do so. And so we pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” as a cry of confession and repentance, without which we cannot pray at all.
   
While we confess that we have failed to make God’s name holy, Jesus, the God/Man, came to this earth to do that perfectly for us. Indeed, every word that came from His mouth hallowed God’s name. He who taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” performed this prayer perfectly. Indeed, He was on His way to the cross to pay the final and full punishment for our sins, including our failure to pray this prayer faithfully, and to carry out its meaning in our own lives.
  
In doing this, Jesus makes us able to hallow our Father’s name. By His suffering and death we are made children of God, through faith in Him. He prays along with us when we say, “Our Father… Hallowed be Thy name.” Knowing full well that we never have nor ever can pray this prayer perfectly, He has already paid for our unrighteousness and has offered to the Father in heaven, in our place, His own perfect righteousness. And He assures us, as well, that our prayers will be heard and answered by our Father, who has forgiven us, and loves us, and wants us to pray, and is anxious to be a Father to us!
   
And so, this prayer from the lips and hearts of God’s children is sure to bear fruit. Worship of the Lord becomes more meaningful. Praying, searching the Word of God, and receiving the blessed Sacraments will not be restricted merely to frantic moments of personal need. Since we bear the name of Christ in Holy Baptism, we will avoid doing and saying those things that would profane God’s name. We will use that name daily to pray, to praise, and to give thanks to God. We will commend ourselves, our spouses and children, those whom we work for and with, those who govern us, our friends, and even our enemies, to the careful and loving hands of God. In trouble, we will the more readily pray, “Have mercy, O God!” And in times of good fortune, we will more faithfully pray, “Praise be to You, O 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sermon for 3/9/14--Lent I

Audio:




Text:

Into the Wilderness

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


In this world, the life of the baptized is one of constant trials and temptations: spiritual warfare against the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. The deadliest temptation with which you are faced is the temptation to put your faith in some other lord than the One True Lord; to fear, love and trust in some other god than the One True God; to worship with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength someone beside the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Left to yourself, you would never be able to cope with or survive all that is set against you. You would feed yourself with a constant diet of the cotton candy of the world rather than the Bread of Life. You would seek the authority of the kingdoms of this world instead of seeking and serving the Kingdom of God and of His righteousness. You would seek worldly fame and glory, kneeling to worship at the pagan altars of popularity, success, pleasure, comfort, and entertainment, instead of calling upon the name of your heavenly Father.

Like your first parents in Eden, you would seek your own pleasure in the forbidden rather than rejoice and find satisfaction in the blessings the Father gladly and richly provides. That means the baptized life is also a time of daily repentance, a daily return to the waters of Holy Baptism, where that Old Adam within you with all its evil desires is drowned and dies. And yes, it must be a daily return to those waters. Every breath you take, every thought, word, and deed, is tainted with the sin which dwells in you from the moment you are conceived. Repent every day of your idolatry. Repent every day of your lust and greed and envy. Repent every day of putting your fear, love, and trust in someone other than the One who deserves it.

Knowing the weakness of sinful flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ has entered the fray as your Champion. He has made Himself the Enemy of your satanic foe. That is where we find our Lord this morning. He has been baptized in the Jordan. The Father has declared His pleasure in His Son, and the Holy Spirit has rested upon Him. Filled with that Spirit, Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray. The devil subjected Him to every temptation, even as you are beset by temptation on every side. But Jesus does not give in to temptation. He is faithful, obedient to the Law, obedient to will of the Father. He alone has hungered for God and thirsted for righteousness. He alone has lived according to every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He alone has put the will of the Father above His own desires, even unto death. All the temptations the devil sets before you, the Son of God takes as His own; He overcomes them. And then He gives that righteousness to you in those baptismal waters. He gives Himself to you completely. He overcomes the devil. He conquers the world. He bears the blood debt which your sinful flesh has built up, paying that price with His blood and death. He is your Champion, your Righteousness, your Life, your Lord and Savior.

From the moment of your Baptism, you have entered that wilderness, a war zone of trial and temptation. Satan has you in his crosshairs. The world seeks to crush you beneath the weight of its cares and enticements. Your traitorous flesh tells you give in to these enemies. But you do not enter this fray alone. The Holy Spirit, who came to rest upon you in Baptism, sustains you for the fight. And your Champion, your Lord Jesus Christ, stands before you to absorb everything Satan hurls at you. The Lord is steadfast and sure. He is your Rock of refuge, your Shield and Buckler. His Word is your mighty sword to fight for you. You will not surrender, and Satan cannot overcome you. The Kingdom ours remaineth. 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, March 12, 2014

Sermon for 3/5/14--Ash Wednesday (midweek series)

Audio:




Text:

For Children Only
Mark 14:32-36/Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer

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


Prayer is not our idea; it is God’s. It is not left to our discretion whether or not we shall pray. God expects us to pray, and has reinforced this expectation with a number of non-debatable commands. Jesus told His disciples, “Pray like this…” and then promptly gave the Lord’s Prayer. After giving that prayer, he said: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Or what else can we possibly make of a directive such as this, from the Psalms: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble”? Prayer, then, is an act of Christian obedience; and that means work—hard work.

But prayer is also a privilege. Who would have ever thought of calling God Father, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, if the Son of God had not told us to do so and shown us how? No believer in the Old Testament would dare address God with such bold familiarity. But Jesus did! And He has given us the privilege to do the same. Here we have the real connection between the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Passion. It is at Gethsemane that we see the most unusual way of addressing God, as we watch the Son of God wrestling in prayer, in a cold and bloody sweat, saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to You.” The privilege of praying “Abba, Father” is for children only.

It was as normal and natural for Jesus, the Son of God, to address God as “Abba” as it is for a typical child today to address his father as “dad.” He is exactly what He claims, and as we confess Him to be “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity.” At both the Baptism and Transfiguration of Jesus, God the Father announced, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be: the true Son of God; and God is His heavenly Father. So when He prayed, He spoke with God as a child speaks with his father; simply, intimately, securely, childlike in manner. And enclosed in that word was Jesus’ claim also that He had been sent from the Father. He spoke that word with perfect, childlike confidence, as evidenced by His prayer in the garden, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.

Take a good, close look at the faith of Jesus in His Gethsemane prayer and His complete willingness to bow to His Father’s will. In great need, groaning under the burden of the sins of the world, He still believed with all His heart that the Father would deliver Him. In this time of His greatest temptation, He prays to be delivered, yet He trusts the Father’s judgment and submits to His father’s will. By comparison, we often shrink from doing the will of God. We wiggle and squirm and try to find a way out, though we know we cannot avoid it, no matter how hard we try. Jesus, the almighty Son of God, with all power at His command, could have easily escaped all this torture, but He would not, and did not. What He did, He did willingly for us. He perfectly fulfilled the will and Law of God for us. This prayer in the Garden is part of His willing obedience.

He had commanded His disciples, “Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven…” But we have not always heeded that direction to pray as we know we should. And so, as He prays in the Garden, Jesus takes upon Himself our indifference, pride, stubbornness, doubt, and failure. In the Garden, Jesus prayed in our place, and offered His perfect prayer to God for us. He became like a child in our stead, and in complete obedience and submission, called upon His Father. He made for us that great confession of complete faith and confidence, “Father, all things are possible with You.” He prayed that prayer for us, as He offered His life to God in our place, to atone for our sins, among them being the sin of not praying as we should.

And now prayer is our privilege; it is for us to use. Think of the honor that has been given us. Every time we say, “Our Father…” we are praying together with Jesus and with the rest of God’s family, the Church, from every time and every place. Even when we are praying alone, we are never praying in isolation. We and all believers in Christ pray with Him and with one another. We can pray with that same familiarity that Jesus used, with all boldness and confidence, asking just as He did, as dear children ask their dear Father, knowing that we share the Father’s love in Jesus Christ.

What a privilege we have as children of the heavenly Father! Calling upon the Father is a privilege only for children. Even if we proceed no further than those words that address our Father, even if we do nothing more than say in faith, from the bottom of our heart, “Dearest Father,” the most important thing has already happened. We are united with our Father in Jesus Christ, and all that He has is ours. Our prayer is heard and answered. 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.