Thursday, December 31, 2015

Laryngitis for Laughs

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Sermon for 12/27/15: The Sunday After Christmas

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Sermon–The Sunday After Christmas (LSB 1-year) 
December 27, 2015

The Sacrifice

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


This past week we rejoiced with the shepherds at the birth of our Savior, and with Mary we pondered the wonder of God in the flesh. Now we look forty days in the future. Following the birth of a son, a mother had to wait forty days before going to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. So on the fortieth day, Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus travel to the Temple in Jerusalem. Carried in His mother's arms, the Lord came to His Temple to fulfill the law. Going to the Temple, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to His true home. Sacrifice was needed for the ritual of purification. It involved offering a lamb. If they were not able to afford a lamb, they could offer two turtledoves. And being of humble means, the Holy Family brings the birds. But the eyes of faith see the truth. Though Mary brings two turtledoves, the required Lamb is present. Though Mary carries the minimum requirement to the Temple, the Lord God “fills the hungry with good things.” The Lamb is present. He is carried, borne in the loving arms of His mother and step-father, into His house, the Old Testament dwelling place of God among men.
           
Meeting the Holy Family is Simeon, a man who has been waiting his whole life for the coming of the promised Messiah, the Consolation of Israel. Simeon received a promise from God that he would not die until he saw the Christ. As a sinner, Simeon longed to see God in the flesh as was first promised to Adam and Eve. Simeon trusted that God in the flesh would grant him release from the bondage of sin. Simeon took up the baby Jesus and held him in his arms, and the Spirit of God led him to proclaim, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Holding this adorable Infant in his arms, Simeon saw something that the ordinary human eye could not see. Through the eyes of faith, Simeon saw and knew that this newborn Bundle of flesh and blood was the long expected Messiah, the One who would bear our sins to the cross, the One who would suffer, die, and rise in our place.
             
Simeon rejoiced to see his Lord, but he also saw that this Lord would have a different role than the world would expect of God in the flesh. He told Mary, Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against—yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Like the turtledoves brought to be sacrificed for Mary’s purification, this prophecy from Simeon points us forward to the sacrifice of Jesus for our purification.
             
But unlike Mary, we don’t have to wait forty days for our purification. Unlike Simeon, we don’t have to wait a whole lifetime to see our Savior. Our Sacrifice of purification, our promised Savior, is here. We don’t need to travel to Jerusalem. We don’t need to stand in the courtyard of an earthly Temple. God dwells with us already. Emmanuel, God with us, is already here! He is present in His holy Word. He is present in the water of your baptism. He is present in His body and blood in the holy Supper. 

God’s glory, His forgiving presence among His people, is no longer in a building. God is now present among His people in the person of Jesus, the Righteous one. God is present among His people in the gifts Jesus died as the Lamb of God to give us. It doesn’t make sense to our eyes. But we know it to be true. This is the miracle which we receive today in His Holy Supper. This is the miracle which we carry with us until we, like Simeon, depart this life in peace. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
            

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

Sermon for 12/25/15: The Nativity of Our Lord

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Dwelling Among Us

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


Jesus, the Son of God, was born so that you would be born again. The Son of God shows up as a little baby from the womb of the Virgin. From the womb of the church, in which the waters of baptism cleanse sinners, you are born as a child of God, born anew by water and the Spirit. The Son of God took on flesh and was born from the Virgin's womb. He did this so that He would wipe out your sins and everything that stands between you and God and between you and the people around you. He came to make you a child of God and show you your heavenly Father. St. Paul writes to Titus that the kindness and love of God appeared.
If you asked anyone from Old Testament Israel where God was, they knew. In the wilderness they made a Tabernacle. They set up a big tent, and in that tent the Lord came and dwelt. The Lord filled that Tabernacle with glory and smoke and fire, so people always knew: this is where the Lord was. But this time He didn't come in terror with smoke and fire. This time He came in a way that we can receive without fear. God Himself came dressed in the flesh. The angels pointed Him out: the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. There was no question where the Lord was that night. When the angels spoke to the shepherds, they saw the glory of the Lord, and they were sore afraid. But the angel says, "Do not be afraid." A Savior is born. You don't have to be afraid any more. God is here, but He's not here to kill you. He's here to save you! He's not here to burn you to a crisp, but to snatch you from the fires of hell. The Lord isn't here to punish, but to be punished. He’s not here to cause you to suffer, but to suffer for you. Here is a God who shows His love by coming in the flesh to take our place and die for our sins. You can't be afraid of that God. He has come to take away your fear by making peace between you and your Father. When the little Tabernacle is born on Christmas day, He is born to save sinners. Why would God come to us? Why does God dwell among us? What is the reason that the Lord would even get near us? Simply put, He has come to save us. God the Son is not afraid to be born of a woman and to suffer all, even death, to rescue you from your sins.

And He does it to give you new birth, as Paul tells Titus, “through the washing of rebirth and renewal.” Christmas isn't just about Jesus being a baby. It's about you being born again: not from Mom's womb, but from the womb of the Church: the holy font. The water that the Spirit overshadows now is not the water of Mary's womb, but of the font. But just as Mary gives birth to the Son of God, so the church gives birth to you at the font by water and the Word. As St. John wrote, “To those who believed in Him He gave the right to become the children of God.” Mary gives birth to the Father's Son. The font gives birth to you, a child of God.

And now the Lord dwells in you through your Baptism. When others look at you, what do they see? Do they see the smoke and fire of an unforgiving, threatening person? Or do they see passed on to them the gentleness and kindness and love of God which has been given you in Christ? Dear, beloved, baptized children of God: The world which the Word made did not receive Him. His own people didn't even want Him. Let it be by your good works that others will receive you with joy. And what if they don't? What if you try hard to be patient and loving to others and they still despise you and want nothing to do with you? Well, do as Jesus did: come to them anyway; give them whatever help they need. That is Christ at work in you. Who knows how the Spirit will work in their hearts?
Jesus, the Son of God was born so that you would be born again. You are not what you were. You belong to the Lord. Once you were orphans. Now you are God's children. You didn't choose it. It wasn't yours by being born the first time. But it's yours now in the new birth given to you by the Spirit with the water of the font. Now, in this holy Divine Service, you can see Jesus. He is here: just as surely as He was in the Tabernacle; just as surely as He lay in a manger; just as surely as His own words make holy the water and the wine and bread. Don't ever doubt where Jesus is to save you. He's right here in His church, dwelling among us with His gifts. 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 12/24/15: Christmas Eve/Sunday School Program

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“Fear Not!”

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


The command, “Fear not!” appears 170 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It seems as if man needs constant reassurance from the Lord. But that makes sense. Man was not created to be fearful. After all, Adam and Eve were the crown of God’s creation. Into their hands God gave mastery over every plant and animal, so Adam and Eve had nothing to fear from creatures that would send us fleeing in terror. They knew nothing of serial killers or terrorists. They had no need to worry about the forces of nature. And they knew nothing of sin. It wasn’t until they disobeyed the Word of God—until they were goaded by the satanic serpent to doubt the Law of God and partake of the forbidden fruit—that they knew what fear was. They hid themselves in the Garden, sewing garments to cover the shame they had never felt before. They finally knew fear—and it was not the beasts nor the plants that caused this fear. In their sin, they feared God. Adam said, I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. In disobeying the Word of God, in partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity learned how to be afraid, and we’ve been afraid ever since. We’re afraid of snakes and mice and spiders and lions and tigers and bears. We’re afraid of ice storms, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, too much rain and not enough rain. We’re afraid of the pains in our bodies and the ailments that afflict our minds. And, most of all, like Adam and Eve, we are terrified of the righteous wrath and justice of a holy and omnipotent God.
           
It is to His fearful children that God sends His messengers. Angels appear to Mary and Joseph, to Zechariah, to shepherds, and to countless others in the Bible. But these are holy messengers of God who manifest His power and holiness, and sinners cringe and fall on their faces before the holiness of God. So before they can share God’s Gospel message with them, the angels must tell their hearers, “Fear not!” Do not be afraid. I’m here with good news for you from God! To Zechariah the angel gives the joyful message that his son John, who would be born to him and his wife when they were beyond childbearing age, would prepare the way for the Savior promised to Adam and Eve. He would proclaim the salvation and peace God would bring to His people through the forgiveness of their sins. To Mary and Joseph, the angels gave the message that they would be the earthly parents of the promised Savior. And then, finally, the angels told the shepherds of the birth of the promised Savior, the one who would bring peace on earth and God’s good will to the fear-filled hearts of sinners by bearing the price of their sin on the terrible, terrifying cross.
             
Sending angels is no longer God’s preferred method of delivering good news to His people. But He hasn’t stopped sending messengers. Instead of sending angels who instill fear just by their appearance, He now sends humble, sinful men. But still, their message is, “Do not be afraid!” You no longer have any reason to fear the righteous wrath of God, for your Savior Jesus—who is Immanuel, God in the flesh—has come, and He has suffered and died bearing that wrath in your place. He rose up in triumph, leaving your fear behind in the tomb, so you would be free to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of [your] life.”
            
My brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved children of God, it is my privilege and pleasure as a humble messenger of God to bring you good tidings of great joy, which is for you, for your neighbor, for all people. Born to you is your King, your Temple, your Refuge and Strength. Born to you is your Savior. He is Christ the Lord. Do not be afraid! 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 guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sermon for 12/20/15: Fourth Sunday in Advent

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Crazy Preachers

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


All John has is Christ. All John can point to and preach about is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John isn't the Christ. He's not Elijah the way the Jews expect. He's not the Prophet Moses spoke about. He's just John, and all He has is Jesus. John did not come to tell the Pharisees to keep up the good work of teaching people how to fool themselves into thinking that they could keep the Law. John told them to throw away their own righteousness and get in the water and get baptized like all the other sinners. Your pastor is the same way. I can't even untie our Lord’s shoes, but He has made me a preacher, so I'll preach about Him…and only Him. If you are not a sinner, or not too bad of a sinner, then I apologize, but I don't have anything for you today. If you are not doomed to death by God's Law and have no hope in yourself to avoid the judgment of God, then I'm sorry, I can't help you. But if the Law has crushed you, if you know that you've got nothing before God, if you know God doesn’t owe you anything, then behold Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

The Word of God is clear, dear hearers: the wrath of God stands against every sort of thought and word and deed which denies the Lord and His Word, which despises His preaching, which misuses His name. The anger and judgment of the Lord stand against every thought and word and deed which tears down our neighbor; every disobedient act against parents; hatred and murder; fornication and adultery; stealing and coveting and speaking badly about neighbors. Against all that the wrath of God is coming. That's what John preached: the Lord is coming, and He's got his ax ready to chop down unfruitful trees; the winnowing fork is ready to burn the chaff. Prepare for the coming Savior: acknowledge and confess that the wrath of God is exactly what your sins deserve. If you are not frightened by it, you should be! So John points to Jesus. That's all that preacher has. That's all any preacher should have. Against that terrifying wrath of God, we the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice appointed to bear that wrath and take away our sins.

When we see what our sins have earned us, then Jesus comes in the flesh, as if He were a sinner, to be baptized by John. He comes to preach the Word of God. He comes to be treated as a criminal: to be beaten within an inch of His life and then nailed to the cross. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the wrath of God against our sins is poured out upon Jesus. It kills Him. But He bears it all. You can't save yourself, but Jesus saves you. You can't live a good enough life, but Jesus lived without sin. You can't make up for your sins, but Jesus takes them away. It is impossible for you to save yourself, but the Lord brings you into the kingdom in the waters of the font. It is impossible for you to get rid of your sins, but Jesus absolves them through the lips of your pastor. You can't feed yourself, but Jesus feeds you with His saving and forgiving body and blood. Jesus doesn't come to you with terror; He comes to you in water, words, and bread and wine.

The Pharisees and scribes send their agents to spy out John. All he's got for them is Jesus, the Lamb of God. That's no good for them; Jesus won't do anything for their religion. He can't save them if they're not sinners. Your sinful flesh wants to come here and be flattered, but it's not going to happen. All I've got for you is what John: Jesus, the Lamb of God. Rejoice in that! Rejoice in Him! Jesus is that Lamb by whom you are protected from the righteous wrath of God. It is in that Lamb that you have peace with God: the peace which passes all understanding, the peace which the world cannot give. That's what the crazy-looking guy down by the Jordan River had for the Pharisees; and that's what the crazy guy in this pulpit has for you today. Only Jesus...and that's enough. 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, December 16, 2015

Sermon for 12/13/15: Third Sunday in Advent

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Preaching Comfort

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


The readings for the Third Sunday in Advent all talk about preachers. Isaiah the preacher; St. Paul who calls himself and all preachers “stewards of the mysteries of God;” and St. John the Baptist, the greatest preacher and prophet in the kingdom of God up to the time of Jesus. But preachers weren’t only sent for the Old Testament faithful and for those who were alive at the time of Jesus. You were given a preacher, too, whose job is to remind you of your baptism, to absolve you of your sins, to teach you God's Word and to give Jesus' body and blood to you. In the readings for today, we have two questions: one for me, the preacher; and one for you, the hearers. And these two questions are tied together by what our Lord tells St. John. That way, we—me as the preacher and you as the people of God—will all learn the true comfort that Isaiah preaches: the comfort of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah, called by the Lord to preach, heard the Lord's voice: “Cry out!” And Isaiah answered, “What shall I cry?” It’s not unusual for a pastor to ask himself, “What am I going to preach this week?” And I know what you'll say: “Pastor, you'll preach about Jesus and his gifts again.” I do that every week. But if I preach faithfully every week, why don't we have twice as many people as a year ago? Why isn’t our bank account overflowing with money? Even John, the mighty preacher who proclaimed that Jesus was coming with his ax in one hand and his winnowing fork in the other, had to ask, “Are you the coming One? Or do we wait for another?” Perhaps he was thinking, “If I’m preaching the right message, why am I sitting in a jail cell?” So what should a faithful preacher proclaim? The Lord answers Isaiah, John, and all preachers by saying, “Cry out: All flesh is grass! The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord endures forever!” The pastor’s job is to preach God's Word. It's the Lord's job to do something with that Word. Whether there is one person sitting in front of this pulpit or a thousand, a pastor is supposed to preach God's Word: the Law which tells us that we deserve to be punished for our sins; the Gospel that Jesus has paid the price for our sins by His death, that we like Israel have received double for our sins!

So what about your question? Jesus asks the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken in the wind? A man dressed in fancy clothes? A prophet?” So why are you here? What are you here to see? Why are you in church today? Did you come hoping to hear your pastor stumble over his words again during the announcements? Did you come hoping your pastor will do something you don't like so you can complain about it? Did you come because pastor is a really nice guy with a perfect cranium? Did you come hoping to hear something that will make you feel good or better about yourself? Just as it is a pastor’s desire in the imagination of his heart to preach something that will make him famous or rich or popular, it is a hearer’s hidden desire to hear what makes him happy, what will tell her how to live a more successful life

John sends some disciples to Jesus and asks: “Are you the coming One?” Jesus just doesn't look or sound like the fiery Judge that John was preaching. But pay close attention to how Jesus answers. “Go back and tell John what you see and hear: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” He doesn’t just come out and say, “I am,” though it would have been the truth. Instead He shows that His work fulfills everything the prophets said the Christ would do. Jesus is doing exactly what God promised. John is to believe and trust in Jesus because what Jesus says and does matches what the Scriptures say about Him: that He will come in the flesh, born of a woman, to crush the serpent's head; that this Servant of the Lord will suffer and die for the sins of His people; that their sins will be laid on Him; that their iniquities will bruise Him; that His stripes of suffering will heal us of our sins. All this Jesus does and fulfills in His preaching and teaching and most especially and completely in His suffering and death and resurrection. The orphans are given a father in Holy Baptism. Sinners are absolved. Those hungering and thirsting for righteousness are fed with Jesus body and blood! The poor have the Gospel preached to them!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and see and hear the works of God: at the font, from this pulpit, at the altar. Hear the comfort and the consolation of the Scriptures which declare that the Savior has taken away your sins. When you see your pastor tempted to doubt and despair, lift him up with God's Word. And when you are fallen into doubt and despair, let your pastor lift you up with that same Word, for the Lord will use your fellow sinner to deliver that comfort to you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

PARODY: She's Always a Virgin

You ever get something stuck in your head? So much so that it won't let you sleep or work on the things you really want to work on? Well, thanks to Mark Buetow, I had a little snippet of this stuck in my head over the weekend. Finally, around 2AM this morning, I had to get it out of me. Maybe I'll return to a more normal sleep. I wasn't going to share this, but I was told it sounded respectful and not blasphemous, so here it is. Feel free to use it at your next Annunciation party!


She's Always a Virgin
(Parody of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman")

She's the mother of God; she gave birth to the Christ;
At the foot of the cross saw her Son sacrificed.
And she pondered the Savior her Jesus would be.
She gave birth to the Child, but she's always a Virgin to me.

She will ask why He stayed, and His answer is heady.
She will ask Him for wine when He isn't quite ready.
She and Joseph will take Him; to Egypt they'll flee.
Yeah, she'll have four more sons, but she's always a Virgin to me.

[Chorus] Oh, she is favored by God,
And she trusts in the Word.
She will always be blessed.
Oh, and she'll always be known,
And her song will be sung
And her Son be confessed.

She will bear the Seed vowed in the Garden of Eden.
And her soul will be pierced as that Son will hang, bleedin'.
Yet she trusts when the angel says Whose mom she'll be.
Don't be foolin' yourself, for she's always a Virgin to me.

[Chorus] Oh, she is favored by God,
And she trusts in the Word.
She will always be blessed.
Oh, and she'll always be known,
And her song will be sung
And her Son be confessed.

She won't hear your prayers, for she isn't divine.
But if you're singing with her, with that she'll be fine.
And she's no co-redemptrix and never will be.
Let us not speculate
On her sexual fate,
For she's always a Virgin to me.


(c) 1997, 2015 Billy Joel and Alan Kornacki

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sermon for 12/6/15: Second Sunday in Advent

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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. 


It never ceases to amaze me how the readings in the lectionary for a given Sunday match up with what goes on in our daily lives. Just think: the signs that Our Lord speaks of are all over today’s news. Uncommonly powerful hurricanes, unseasonable blizzards, and other strange weather occurrences happen with alarming frequency. Are they not the sea and the waves roaring”? Terrorist attacks and mass shootings; political speech that become more impassioned than reasonable—do these things not show the distress of nations”? Human hearts fail because of these and many other things and what it all means. These are the signs of the end—not signs that announce that something has to change, but signs that demonstrate that things are winding down, that the earth and universe is dying.

Our Lord Jesus tells us about these signs in order to restrain us from loving this world and the things we think matter so much. Our Lord tells us about the approaching end so that we will look not to our goals, but to Him and His heavenly kingdom. Our Lord makes known these great disruptions because He wants us to be ready for Him and His coming. You could easily dismiss these words as alarmist. Every generation has heard preachers warn about how close the end is, and how these signs are even now being fulfilled. And so you could dismiss these words by thinking that the end will not come in your life. And perhaps that is true. But the point is not to attempt to discern when the Last Day will occur. The point is that we ought not fall in love with, and become attached to, and find meaning for life in a world that is driving to its grave just as surely as we are.

For, you see, what is happening to our world happens to each of us. Here we have no abiding and permanent life. Here, no matter how hard we work, we’ll do nothing to keep us from the grave. And here, no matter how well we eat and how well we behave, we cannot outrun death. Our Lord tells us the obvious: the world, the universe, all of creation is slowly and loudly grinding to a halt. You can hear it in the signs Jesus mentions. The death that Adam’s sin introduced is having its effect.

But I don’t tell you this to scare you. Rather, I tell you this for the same reason Our Blessed Lord does—so that you are not disappointed; so that you hold the things you prize at arm’s length; so that you see the big picture; so that you know the truth. And I remind you of what Our Lord tells you so that you are watchful—so that you fix your eyes and ears and your full attention solely and most surely on Our Lord, His promises, and His coming kingdom. But most of all, Our Lord tells you these things so that you do not lose heart; so that you don’t give up; so that you don’t believe that this is all life has to offer. Jesus is the Lord of life, and He shows you how all things will end. He does so because He knows that you are prone to look only at what you know and feel now, and to forget what lies ahead.

When the disasters of the world become more frequent, when the actions of men attempt to cause terror, do not be afraid. Instead, hear the Word of Life: “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” The world and all that it has to offer will grind to a halt. But even then He will neither abandon nor forsake His creation. Instead, in mercy, He will take all that He made—beginning with His children, the crown of His creation—and He will recreate it. You will see a new heaven and a new earth. Soon—very soon—we will have the fullness of Him whom we have loved. Soon—very soon—we will have life as Life Himself intended us to live.

So these signs of the end which our news casts report? Do not let them scare you. Do not let them cause you to lose heart. Instead, hear the news and rejoice. Rejoice not in people’s tragedy, but that such awful news announces that your prayer is being answered; that Our Lord’s kingdom surely comes. And with His coming and His kingdom, our Lord brings the promise of Life as Life was meant to be—in full and earnest communion with the Father, by the power of the Spirit, through Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to whom belong all glory, honor and worship. 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.