Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon for 9/21/14--Trinity XIV



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

The question is this: Do we just need Jesus when things aren’t going our way? Or do we need Him all the time? From day to day, it’s fairly safe to say that most of us probably spare little thought for why we need the Lord. But when we’re in trouble, then we suddenly need Him. And if things work out, we can go back to not really thinking about Him all that much. We work much in the same way as those lepers. Leprosy is terrible. Not only did it destroy the body; it also made the leper unclean. It cut the leper off from civilization. It ruined lives. No wonder these ten lepers wanted Jesus to help! But when He did help them, when their leprosy was gone, they went their way. Only one came back, and it was the Samaritan. He came back to glorify God. He realized that Jesus wasn’t just the guy who cures lepers. He saw that Jesus is the Savior. Jesus tells this one, “Arise. Go. Your faith has saved you.” Jesus has saved you. Get up. Rise from certain death.

Jesus didn’t come to solve every earthly problem you have. He came to give you a true and lasting salvation and eternal life. Jesus didn’t come to make sure your life is easy. He came to save you from your sins. He came to cleanse you of a leprosy that is a lot worse than the flesh-eating kind. He came to cleanse you from the leprosy of sin. He came to overcome the one disease you cannot beat: death. When Jesus tells the Samaritan to get up, it’s like He’s declaring new life. It’s like He’s saying, “You come to me with leprosy, which is a symptom of the sin and curse of death this world is under. But I tell you that I have defeated sin and its curse of death. Now you are truly free—not because you don’t have leprosy anymore, but because your sins are forgiven and you are a child of God, even if you’re from Samaria!” That’s what He says to you, too. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has you covered for sin and death. He has beaten them by His blood and suffering and death and Easter. As He does with the lepers, He tells you, “Arise! Go in peace. Your faith, Your Jesus, has saved you.”

When you were baptized, Jesus says to you, “Arise.” Be alive again. Be rescued from sin and death. You were dead in your trespasses and sins. Now you’re alive. Be raised up. You have beaten death. When you hear His Word and then eat and drink His body and blood, what does He say through His pastors? “Depart in peace.” He says that because your Jesus has saved you. He has taken away your sins and overcome your death and promises to raise you up on the Last Day and give you eternal life. Your problem is not your bills or your health or your marriage or your kids or your job. Your problem is sin, and that has been overcome—not just once, not just for a while, but once and for all and forever. Jesus takes care of it; it has been taken care of for good. That’s why you, like the Samaritan, come back to church: to glorify God for His goodness toward you, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His work of healing your body and soul. And what does it mean to give God the glory? Nothing other than to receive the good gifts He has for you. It’s not merely about telling Him “Thank You,” though we do that. To truly give glory to God is to confess that all your good comes from Jesus. And here in His church, the promise is always given: Arise and go. Your faith, your Jesus, has saved you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sermon for 9/14/14--Trinity XIII



Brought to the Inn

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

The young master of the Law knows he should love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Jesus even commends his answer as the right one! But he wanted to justify himself. Imagine that! He wanted to make it seem like he really could love God and his neighbor, and he thought to impress God and earn eternal life. What does it mean to justify yourself? It means to show someone else why you're right, why you are allowed to do what you do. We know all about that. We try to excuse ourselves, to explain why we had to do what we’ve done. This law expert wanted to justify himself. He wanted to prove to Jesus that he knew the content of the Law, and he also wanted to assert that he could actually keep the Law.

When we think we can somehow talk our way into God's good graces, that we can fool the Lord into believing we're worthy, then the Law does what it always does: it accuses! Like a bandit it comes to strip us naked, rob us of our supposed worthiness, beat us up, and leave us within an inch of our lives, naked and bleeding in a ditch. The law always accuses us. That is all the Law can do. It robs us of any notion that we can actually earn God's favor by what we do. When we are laying beat up and robbed by the Law, who do we want to save us? The Law! We want to figure out some way to obey the commandments and work ourselves out of our sin and punishment.

But the priest and the Levite just pass by on the other side. They represent the Law. The Law, the neighbor we lift our bleeding hands toward, ignores us. We are unclean, unworthy. So who comes to save us? It is a Samaritan, someone the Jews would never even want to touch them! Our Samaritan is Jesus, the God nobody wants. The world wants a glorious God. But this is Jesus, God in the flesh. This is the One who was nailed to a cross to shut him up and make Him go away. Jesus comes to save us by giving us His goods to rescue and take care of us. By His death on the cross, Jesus allows Himself to be the one numbered among the criminals, hung there in our place. And this death and His triumph over death are our rescue from the ditch. He heals our wounds by pouring in the oil and wine of the Holy Sacraments. He washes us clean in the waters of Baptism and feeds us with His body and blood. He takes us to the inn, His holy church, where He provides His gifts to the innkeeper, the pastor, who administers care and comfort to sinners. We who could do nothing to save ourselves are rescued by Jesus, our neighbor and good Samaritan.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, blessed are your eyes and ears! You have learned something the world doesn't care to know: You don't have to try to get on God's good side. You are already on His good side in Christ. And more than that, you have learned what it is to love your neighbor, not because it benefits you, but because it benefits them. This notion that we need to be saved by Jesus alone and that our good works are only for our neighbor—these are the things the world doesn't know anything about. But you, as you heal from your wounds in the inn that is the church, as you savor the comfort and healing Jesus gives in His holy sacraments, rest easy. Rest easy knowing that you are safe in Christ. And when the opportunity comes for you to help and do good to other people, don't worry about making God happy. Jesus has already done that for you. Instead, when you see your neighbor in need, just go and do likewise. Jesus is neighbor to you, and you are neighbor to others. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sermon for 9/13/14—Funeral of Myrna Miesner




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

The burdens and cares of life often seem overwhelming—the project at work or school that’s due tomorrow and you’re still not sure how it should go; the bills that seem to pile up without any relief; the relationship that you’ve somehow damaged and you have no idea what will work to repair it. Or maybe, as it was for Myrna, the burden is an ailment, a disease, one that steals away bits and pieces of your thoughts and memories until it seems as though there’s nothing left. And in our case, the cares of life were made to seem even more overwhelming as we sought to care for the woman we all loved as she fought an overwhelming battle against her own mind and body.

There is another overwhelming enemy that we deal with this day. It is not an external force like ISIS, though such enemies are real. This enemy is even more fearsome, for this is an enemy within. This is no mere illness which could debilitate the body or mind—although we know disease can be fearsome and deadly. This is an enemy which makes slaves of people, many of them never knowing that they’re being attacked. This enemy is sin. Sin captures you. It tempts you to think evil thoughts, to desire evil desires, to perform dark deeds. Sin is the most fearsome enemy of all, for, as the Apostle Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin carries death with it like a fisherman carries a pole. Death is what we earn with our disobedience to God and His Word and will. Those wages are evident in the aches and pains we feel. Those wages are evident in our worries and frustrations and grief. And those wages of sin are all too apparent in the body lying in the coffin before us today. Death is sin’s greatest tool, its doomsday device.

The faithful, however, do not need to be afraid of death. Christians don't have to fear whether or not they have done enough to merit salvation. There is no doubt. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." He has won salvation for us. He is our guardian and protector. We have nothing to fear. This is exactly the hope and confidence Psalm 46 gives to us today in our grief. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” When we experience pain or suffering or grief or shame or loss, we still have no cause for fear. God is our refuge and strength. God is our help in trouble. The Lord is a refuge for His Church. He has made His people glad in the rushing waters of Holy Baptism. We are protected. God will help us when morning dawns.

And for Myrna—for all of us—that morning has dawned. It was the morning of the first day of the week. The Son had been crucified. He had died and was buried. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died on Calvary's cross, bearing the sins of the world. He made complete satisfaction for the sins of the world. Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Sin is defeated forever. Death is merely a rest from the cares of this life, a rest as we await our resurrection in bodies that will not become diseased or decay, with hearts that will know no evil desires, with flesh that will perform no evil deeds. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, even as you mourn, you have cause for great joy. Rejoice for Myrna, for our heavenly Father, through the merits and work of His Son, has called her to rest from her labors. And rejoice for yourselves, for the battle against sin, death, and the devil is not your battle to fight. Our Lord Jesus has already defeated them by the power of His blood. Be still, for our Lord Jesus Christ is present with you today. He is your mighty fortress, your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sermon for 9/7/14--Trinity XII



Ears and Tongues

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

The Lord gives us ears to hear with and tongues to make words and talk. He gives us ears because, as the Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing." Those ears are also meant to be used to hear our neighbors. He gives us tongues to speak His Word back to Him, mouths that declare His holy name. That same mouth is also to be used for speaking love to our neighbor. But how do you use your ears and tongues? You selectively hear the Word of God. What is it that fills your ears, making you deaf to God's Word? And as for your tongues, you might have a hard time thinking up something nice to say, but you can easily gossip or lash out with an insult. What destruction has been caused by your tongue and your words? My brothers and sisters in Christ, you are deaf and dumb even if you can hear and speak!

That is why the Word became flesh: to take deaf ears and put His Word in them, to take tongues that spout gibberish and to make them speak rightly. When the man in our text is brought to our Lord, Jesus takes him aside. He sticks His fingers in the man's ears. Only the Word of God, only Jesus, can open his ears. Jesus spits and touches the man's tongue. It is water and the Word which opens this man's mouth, loosing his tongue to make him speak rightly. This man's ears are opened and his tongue loosed because the Word of God touches them. Jesus is the Word, the only thing that saves the sinfully deaf and mute. He is the Word who became flesh, putting on ears and a mouth and a whole body of flesh to carry the sins of the world. He is the Word who hangs on the cross and cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!" Think about that. When Jesus is on the cross, the Father is deaf to His Son. The Father speaks nothing to His Son. Jesus suffers and dies alone for our sins. He hears the mocking of us sinners and yet speaks forgiveness. On the cross the Word hangs for sinners, for us, for wayward children who have shut our ears to our Creator's Word and tied our tongues with their wickedness. For all that, the Word gives His life on Calvary.

As he did for the man in our text, Jesus opens your ears and looses your tongue. He does it the same ways: by the Word going into your ears in absolution and preaching; by water and the word poured at the font in Baptism. The Lord desires to fill you with His Word, to open your ears to hear His Word, to loosen your tongue to speak that Word back to Him. The Word that your sinful flesh doesn't want to hear is the very Word that saves you! You could stick your fingers back in your ears and say, "I can't hear you!" But why would you? This preached Word, this Word poured out, this Word that touches your tongue—this Word saves! It goes into your ears, giving you the forgiveness of sins. Then it comes out your mouth, praising and glorifying God, confessing and speaking rightly that Jesus alone saves.

Jesus opens your ears so that you will delight in hearing the Good News that saves you! He loosens your tongue so that your words will speak what you have heard: that Jesus is the One who saves you. He opens your lips that you might use them for good, for blessing your neighbor, by speaking well of others, explaining everything in the kindest way, putting the best construction on everything.

What goes in your ears comes out your mouth. It's true for kids learning to talk and learning to cuss. It's true for God's people learning His Word. Isaiah prophesied the time when the deaf would hear and those who murmured would learn doctrine. That time is now. Jesus has opened your ears and untied your tongues. He has rescued you from being deaf so that you would hear and believe His saving Word. He has loosened your tongues to speak His Word and bless those around you. By opening your ears and loosing your tongues, Jesus, the Word of God, has saved you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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

Friday, September 05, 2014

Sermon for 8/31/14--Trinity XI


Who Are You?

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

Almost without exception, whenever we have something good to say, it's about ourselves. And almost without exception, whenever we have something bad to say, it’s about somebody else. We are very good at saying what good we've done and we are very good at saying how other people have failed. What's worse, if you think you don't live like that, then you prove the point! When it comes down to it, you and I are Pharisees.

In sharing this account of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the great danger from which Jesus would rescue us is that when we are Pharisees, we cannot be justified. You cannot claim salvation and forgiveness of sins when you see yourself as better than everyone else around you! The one who walked out of the Temple with a right relationship with God was not the guy who saw himself as holy. St. Luke records that Jesus told this parable to those who thought they were righteous and who looked down on others.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector teach us that there are really only two kinds of religion in this world. In the religion of the Pharisee, it's all about what we do and how we make ourselves look to God. The religion of the Pharisee is a popular religion because it makes the individual look good. Here's what I've done. Here's what I've accomplished. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if that's your day-to-day religion—and you can't deny that it is—then repent! Repent and recognize that such a way of thinking leaves no room in your life even for God Himself!

The Tax Collector show us the other kind of religion. He came before the Lord and confessed that he was nothing: he was worth nothing, and he could do nothing to save himself. All he had was God's promise that He would send a Savior. That was his only hope. He didn't even look up to heaven. He cried out, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner." He walked out with His sins forgiven because he relied on God's mercy alone. The Pharisee wanted no mercy from God; he had already justified himself by his pride.

Two kinds of religion means two kinds of Jesus. In the Pharisee's religion, Jesus is nothing but a teacher of wisdom and good works. Jesus is the one who is supposed to pat good people on the back. But in truth, the only Jesus for those believe that way is the Jesus who will stand in the Last Day in all of His eternal glory and burns to ashes all who behold His face in their sinfulness. Indeed, brothers and sisters, if you think you are better than anyone else, more holy, more religious, then just make sure you can prove it when you stand before the Judge. But the Law will testify against you; your condemnation will be swift and certain! For the Tax Collector there is another kind of Jesus. He is the Son of God who was born of the Virgin and lay in a manger. He is the Son of God who patiently taught His disciples. He is the Son of God who allowed Himself to be captured and nailed to a cross. For the Tax Collector and for every other sinner who acknowledges their wretchedness, He is the Jesus who takes their place on the cross and bleeds and dies for them. This is the Jesus who delivers the forgiveness of sins. This is the Jesus in the water of Baptism. This is the Jesus who is present, body and blood, in the Supper.

Let us learn to count ourselves as nothing, for it is Christ who makes us into something—and what’s more, something holy and precious. Because of what Jesus has done and given to you, you are numbered with the Tax Collector who had nothing in himself but sin, but who in Christ is filled to overflowing with all of the Lord's holy and saving and everlasting gifts! And so like the Tax Collector you go away from this temple today justified in 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.