Thursday, December 31, 2015

Laryngitis for Laughs

Want to hear what I sound like when I lead the liturgy with laryngitis?


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

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

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

RIGHT CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

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

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

“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

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

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

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

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

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon for 11/29/15: First Sunday in Advent

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.


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

He wasn’t waving to the crowds from an expensive sports car. He wasn’t riding on a fancy parade float. He wasn’t dressed in a fancy tuxedo with a sash to proclaim Him the homecoming King. Jesus is the King—the great King of kings and Lord of lords, worthy of a glorious parade to surpass the wonder of Caesar riding victorious into Rome. But He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The power of God is hidden in the weakness of human flesh. He has come to Jerusalem as the priceless Ransom to purchase sinners with His blood. He has come to be enthroned on the cross. He has come to die.

He comes with power, but He is known in weakness. He is the Lord of Life, but chiefly we celebrate His death. He came before; He will come again. Though His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was made in humility, in the fullness of time He will come in glory. Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess, “Jesus is Lord.” Both the good and the evil will know and confess the truth—the good to their everlasting joy, and the evil to their everlasting despair and shame. All of creation will know what the angels already know. The dogs, trees, rocks, and birds will see your faith, your burning lamp of hope. The world will see the sons of God as the sons of God; they will see you in whom God is well-pleased. Jesus will come in glory; the Kingdom of power will be known. It will be seen in you. This is why we pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance.”

Jesus comes already now. He comes in power hidden in weakness. It is not the power of might and strength as the world counts such things. It is the power of love, of deliverance and protection. It is the power of sacrifice. This grace has made Him your Lord. He rules in you through forgiveness. He comes in humble things, things that you might look upon Him and not be destroyed. God has a face. By faith you gaze upon the face of the Child born of Mary, the face of a Man. And though He was despised and rejected, He is beautiful to you. He is wonderful. Though He comes in weakness, He is mighty. His feet, pierced and scarred, are most beautiful, for He brings Good News from God. He has reconciled you to His Father. He has opened heaven. He fulfills His promise. He keeps His Word. He is your God, and you, by grace, are His people, His beloved Bride.

He comes now in power. He is not some random god far off. He is our present, promise-making, promise-keeping God. He knows no borders or limits. He abides in the flesh of a mortal Man made immortal, raised and exalted. A Man sits at the right hand of God and rules the Universe. He is God and Man, and through Him, man is welcome in heaven. He is in heaven, but He is also here. He is hidden from the world and yet present—hidden in the water, hidden under bread and wine, hidden in the voice of His messengers, but present and powerful. He is seen by faith, and He reveals Himself to you in His Word and holy gifts. The Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of power, glory, and grace, is within you.

This is a strange parade, not at all what one would expect of a procession to honor the God who dwells among His people. That eternal parade of well-deserved glory will come in due time, at a time which only the Father knows. As we wait for that day, Jesus continues to come among us. He continues to come to you humbly, hidden, but no less powerful—for in those humble ways, He comes to save you. We continue to pray, “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.” 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.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sermon for 11/25/15: Eve of the Day of National Thanksgiving

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.


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

Wouldn’t it be nice to have so much of what you need or want that you have to build bigger buildings to hold it? Wouldn’t it be great if your harvest was so plentiful that you needed extra trucks to carry it to the silo? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that year-end bonus was so large that you had to open an extra bank account? Wouldn’t it be exciting if your team scored so many points that the scoreboard couldn’t count that high? Wouldn’t those be wonderful problems to have? It would be hard, in fact, to even consider those to be problems. If only all our problems would be so taxing! May the Lord smite me with it! May I never recover!

But whether one is rich or poor, the wealth of this world comes with problems of its own. The rich man has been blessed to abundance by God with daily bread.  He has everything he needs to support his body and life for many days.  So this rich man sits in his easy chair and thinks, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” It is not sinful to be rich. It is not sinful to enjoy the blessings which the Lord provides for you. But it is sinful to ignore the source of your blessings. This rich man forgot the God who made him and blessed him.  He was not interested in the things of God. He was interested in happiness; he was interested in the pleasures of this life. He was interested in himself instead of being interested in God.

The psalms have a word for those who are not interested in God. Twice the psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” That is exactly what God called this rich man.  God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Or as Jesus said elsewhere, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

That is the problem on our hands, while we gather to give God thanks at this traditional time of thanksgiving in our nation. When we take stock of the harvest of blessings that God has poured out for us, we see that God has blessed us plentifully, with blessings beyond our ability to store them up. He has poured His blessings generously into our homes, workplaces, schools, government buildings, and the Church, beyond the capability of these man-made buildings to hold them all. And while we, who have been made so rich by God, consider with wonder this great bounty, we are right to ponder the wonderful problem this presents to us: “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” What shall you do, rich people? My brothers and sisters in Christ, repent, lest you be found by the Lord to be a fool.

This bounty of blessings is provided by God to make us wise unto salvation.  Our Heavenly Father provides “all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” The Lord gives graciously so that we learn the truth that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. Although a man’s life soon ends, there is yet time to turn away from the way of the fool and to walk the way of the wise, those who walk in the light of the Son of God who is abundant in mercy. It is in our Savior Jesus that we see the full bounty of God’s grace and compassion and love. It is in our Savior Jesus that we find the full abundance of God’s blessings upon us. It is in our Savior Jesus we fully grasp the truth that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Even so, God the Father now hands down to you every heavenly blessing in Christ Jesus, in overflowing abundance.  He has blessed you with forgiveness of all of your sins in the holy washing of your Baptism.  He has blessed you with the promise of eternity in the world to come through the proclamation of His Holy Gospel.  He has blessed you with a new life marked by continual thanksgiving through the Feast of His Body and Blood.

So yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ: eat, drink, and be merry; rejoice, giving thanks to God for all of the blessings that He has poured out upon you. Enjoy them, and enjoy sharing them with your neighbor, for our gracious Father will continue to provide all that you need: both for this life and for the life to 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 will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sermon for 11/22/15: Last Sunday in the Church Year

Audio link: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

Enough Oil

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

If only we had the same urgency of heart and mind to be ready for our heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Christ, that we have pursuing all the things we think are so important in this life! If only we so eagerly awaited our Lord's return with the same energy and zeal that we store up for the start of football season or summer vacation! "Sleepers, wake!" says the Apostle, and in the Lord's parable: "Behold! The Bridegroom is coming!" Dear Christians, this is no time to be fooling around with how much oil is in our lamps! Now is not the time to wonder whether we can go get some oil and still make it to the wedding feast! When the Bridegroom arrives, the doors are shut! And while those who are outside may have been invited to the wedding, once the doors are closed, they are unknown to the Bridegroom.

Jesus tells this parable in order to save us. He speaks to us of these five virgins who are wise and the five who are morons in order to rescue us from the fate of those foolish ones. Likewise also the Lord's apostle St. Paul warns the Thessalonians and us about the Lord's coming so that we are not caught unawares but rather whether asleep or awake—that is, living or dead—we are ready to rejoice when the Bridegroom shows up. The world goes blissfully, ignorantly on its way, never considering that there will be a day when everyone will try to get into the wedding feast, but only those who have oil for their lamps will be behind those closed doors! Aside from the most die-hard atheists, doesn't everyone want to get to heaven? People fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up thinking that will get them straight to paradise! People pay money for preachers to tell them the steps they need to take to get themselves right with God and get to heaven on the Last Day. People live their lives to be as good as possible in the hopes that they might get in. But all such faith and trust in ourselves is a damning trust. So Jesus tells us about the wise and foolish virgins to rescue us from the religion of the world, the notions of our sinful flesh, and the seductive lies of the Devil. He preaches to us to save us and bring us to everlasting life.

The oil is what matters, but it’s not something we can get for ourselves. The oil is what Christ pours forth from Himself. The oil in our lamps is the Spirit and the Gospel and the Body and Blood and the water of Holy Baptism. The oil is the means of grace—the Gospel and Sacraments—and the Holy Spirit and faith, all of which go together and none of which can be apart from the others. To be ready for the Bridegroom is nothing other than to be filled with the gifts of Christ, to be filled to overflowing. The Lord always has more! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The wise virgins are those whose lamps are full of this oil. You are ready for our Lord's return because your lamps are full of this oil. You have been baptized. You have been absolved. You have heard the Gospel preached to you. You have feasted on the Body and Blood of Christ. All these things will be given to you over and over until the day that you die and are with Christ as the angels cry, "Behold the Bridegroom!"

My dear Christians, that Day will come; those doors will be shut. If you believe you have enough oil, then tremble in fear at the prospect that you will be shut out on that Day! But if you know that you can never have enough oil; if you must make sure your lamp and vessel are filled; if you recognize your need to live every day in your Baptism, to confess your sins, to grow in the Word and feast at the Holy Supper, then rejoice! Wake up! The Bridegroom is coming! He comes to gather you to His wedding feast and take you as His own for all eternity. He has filled your lamp and shall keep it full. He’s coming soon. 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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PARODY: Ain't That a Slap to the Head

Something special for my 600th blog post...

In honor of St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6, a parody of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," made famous by Dean Martin. Hat Tip to Joshua Reynolds for the idea.

Ain't That a Slap to the Head

How stupid can one man be
To spout public heresy?
Like Saint Nicholas said,
"Ain't that a slap to the head?"

To say that the Son was made
Is madness of highest grade.
Like ol' Saint Nick said, quote,
“Your heresy gets my goat.”

Your head is spinnin'.
Arius, you won't be winnin'.
Nicea's just the beginnin'.
Rightful confession is...beautiful!

I'll swing 'til your face is red.
I'll revoke your clergy cred.
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

Like Saint Nicholas said,
"Ain't that a slap to the head?"

Like ol' Saint Nick said, quote,
“Your heresy gets my goat.”

Your head is spinnin'.
Arius, you won't be winnin'.
Nicea's just the beginnin'.
Rightful confession is...beautiful!

False prophet, you've made your bed.
Repent of the lies you've spread.
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

Tell me, chap:
Oh, ain't that a slap?
Tell me, chap:
Aint that a slap to the head?

(c) 1960, 2015, Sammy Cahn and Alan Kornacki

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sermon for 11/15/15: Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK to save the audio file.

Sheep by Grace

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

It is the truth: we are not saved by works; we don’t get right with God by what we do. We can hear it over and over, but we find it hard to believe. We can hear that it is by grace that we have been saved, but there is still a part of us, no matter how small, that still supposes that we’d better end up with more good works than sins on the Last Day. There’s still that way of thinking which infects even Christians that, when we stand before the Lord on that Day, we will have to show positive good balance sheet or else we’re doomed. We can hear that Jesus saves us. We can hear that Christ lives in us and does good works for others in and through us. But we still suppose, even if just a little, that we had better have something to show for ourselves when we face the Lord at the End. So to rescue us from that thinking, Jesus tells us how it’s going to be. Sheep have done good works. They may not even know it! But they have done them. And it pleases the King. And the King gives them an everlasting inheritance forever with Him. But those gifts are not because of their works.

Two things in the story prove this. First of all when we stand before the Lord, we are already sheep and goats. Jesus doesn’t even address their good works of helping others until they’ve been separated. Secondly, the kingdom has been prepared for them from “before the foundation of the world”—before they were even born or had done anything for anyone! What ties these together is Christ, for He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was the sacrifice for our sins before we had even sinned! He is the Good Shepherd who brings us into His flock, the Church. He is the one who gives His life on the cross to take away our sins, who rises from the dead to gives us life. Jesus not only saves us from our sins; He also sets us apart for good works. And He even does those good works in and through us. He makes all that you do into something good because He has forgiven whatever is evil and makes holy everything else. Jesus rescues us from thinking our good works have any purpose toward our salvation.

So the question is, how do you know whether you are a sheep or goat before that Last Day? You don’t write down a list of what you’ve done. You don’t keep track of good versus bad on your balance sheet. No, you hear your pastor tell you: You are a sheep: already, now, because of Jesus. You were made a sheep when you were baptized. The very Christ who lives in and through you does so because His Word of forgiveness fills your ears, His absolution declares your sins null and void, and His body and blood are in you to raise you up on the Last Day.

So go and live your life. Go and serve others. Forgive their sins as you have been forgiven. Bear their burdens as your burdens have been carried. Carry out your callings as forgiven children of God in Christ. And then, when you stand before the King on the Last Day, He shall praise the things you’ve done—you won’t even know the half of what you’ve actually done in Him and for others. And until that day, don’t worry whether you’re a sheep. You are. Jesus has made you so. And that means you’ve got an everlasting kingdom waiting for you, and it has been ready since long before you could try to earn it or deserve it. It’s yours, a free gift from your Father in heaven. 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 11, 2015

PARODY: Red Starbucks Cup

Facebook has blown up over the stupidity of one or two (or maybe a dozen) so-called Christians who may or may not be objecting to the lack of Christmas messages on Starbucks cups. So with that in mind, I decided to put pen to paper once again for the purpose of parody. Here's my humble effort.

Red Starbucks Cup
(parody of “Red Solo Cup”)

Now a red Starbucks cup ends pumpkin spice season,
But there’s no “Merry Christmas” for some unknown reason,
And taking it off does not seem too pleasin’
To one or two Christians, it seems.

While most true believers don’t seem to be bitter,
Social media seems to have gone all a-twitter
‘Cause some silly bleaters with hearts all a-flitter
View these plain, red cups and scream.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid.

Now I really love your overpriced Joe,
But it seems like you’re bashing on Christmas, you know?
And we take our holidays serious, yo.
So that, my friends, makes us sad.

But I have to admit it makes Christians sound silly
When we call for boycotts of stores willy-nilly,
Is it Starbucks’ job to share Christmastime, really?
Come on folks. This just sounds bad.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid.

My bros and sisters in Christ, please be thinkin’.
This shaken black tea lemonade I’ve been drinkin’
Does not mean that any of us should be shrinkin’
From sharing Christ’s love on our own.

You few so-called Christian objectors, you’re crazy…
Or silly, or foolish, or maybe just lazy.
One thing’s for sure, your thinking is hazy.
Your whining is so overblown.

Red Starbucks cup, yes, you’re just a cup.
You’re caffeine.
Thank you for being caffeine.

(refrain) Red Starbucks cup, no tree? What’s up?
Let’s all sound stupid. Let’s all sound stupid.
Red Starbucks cup, my dander’s up.
Proceed to stupid. Proceed to stupid. (repeat)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sermon for 11/8/15: Third-last Sunday of the Church Year

Audio link: RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save.


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 
Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign...
We have seen the signs; the days are at hand. Have we seen false christs and false prophets? Just turn on the television, and Joel Osteen’s shining teeth and false promises are staring back at you. Within the visible Church, faithless Christians and false pastors ridicule such things as the Lord’s Prayer and the Creeds which confess the very Word of God, and replace them with liturgies which spring from the hearts of men and prayers for earthly riches. They take the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which are the work of God to forgive sinners and give them life, and turn them into decisions by which sinful men claim to prove their faith to the world and earn their place before God. Have we seen people pretending to know when Jesus is coming and where He will be? In the last month, another prophecy of the return of Christ has proven false—just one of many such predictions that have come and gone. If that’s not enough to convince you the day is at hand, remember this: the world praises laziness, abortion, lust, and everything else the Word of God calls evil, and it vilifies what the Word of God calls good and just and right. We are living in the days of which Jesus spoke. We are in the midst of the great tribulation, as indeed have been all who have lived by faith since Christ ascended.

Between all the horrors of a fallen world and the temptations of a false spirituality, the baptized are as surrounded by evil as Noah and his family before the flood. The life of a Christian is not a life of ease, nor does Jesus promise it will be; in fact, the opposite is true, for Jesus promises us that we will be persecuted because our Lord is despised by the world. Our life in Christ is a life lived under the cross. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something; a preacher who tells you that this is your best life is looking to add an addition to his mansion. Even in those instances where life is comfortable, when the weight of the cross isn’t as cumbersome, do not give into the temptation of believing this is God’s thank-you gift for your life of faith, lest you become so attached to your earthly blessings that you forget the things of God.

Our Lord knows we will go running for Him where He will not be found. He knows we will look for Him under every nook and cranny, thinking He will appear secretly to us first, before He appears to the rest of the world. Rest assured, we will know along with the rest of the world when Jesus returns visibly to judge the living and the dead. That’s a certainty that should put us at ease.

Jesus does give us the tiniest of hints about the when of Judgment Day. When we see or hear those false christs and false prophets who claim to have that “new revelation” or “insider information” concerning the End Times, we should stop walking toward them and put a finger in our ears. But hasn’t this been going on for a long time? Precisely! That’s why Paul says therefore comfort one another with these words. Though we might not think judgment is comforting, it is. Judgment is a certainty proclaimed in the Bible. We believe the Bible to be God’s error-free Word to us. No matter what anyone else says or does, we have the certainty of Holy Scripture that tells us the Truth about the faith.

Though we may not know what tomorrow holds, we know there is a bright future for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Though we are sinners living in a sinful world, we live in the sure and certain hope of eternal life. While we live here, God feeds our faith through certain things. He attaches forgiveness, life, and salvation to words, water, bread, and wine. We believe that these means certainly sustain us until Jesus comes again to take us home.

The life in Christ through Word and Sacrament is certainty amid the mountains and valleys of uncertainty we tread every day. God’s people gather around God’s altar and pulpit to be comforted with God’s Word. His Word says Jesus will return as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west. Before you know it, the Lord is come, the dead will rise, the living will be caught up in the air with Christ, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. This is our certain hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. Christ is coming soon. 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.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sermon for 11/1/15: Feast of All Saints

Audio Link: Right-click here to save.

Saints Now and Eternally

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

The most popular preachers are those who want you to believe that, if you are a Christian, your life will be better. You will be "blessed" with riches and your problems will disappear. Apparently they have not read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us that you are blessed when you have nothing but Christ, when the world hates you because of Him. The devil hates Jesus. The world hates Jesus. Your own flesh hates Him! All three of those enemies are after you because you belong to Jesus. The devil’s highest goal is to get you to stop trusting in Jesus. He wants you to believe that God is going to punish you. Dear saints of God, don’t believe him. We saw St. John's vision in the book of Revelation. The robes of the saints are white. You have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Satan can accuse you all he wants, but it doesn't change the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, died for your sins and blotted them out by the blood that He shed on the cross. The devil says you're no saint, but the Lord says you are His. Are you going to believe the father of lies or your heavenly Father? Dear Christian, your whole life, you will struggle to believe you are a saint when the devil says you aren't. But thanks be to God in Christ, whose death and resurrection wipe out your sins and defeat the devil's lies.

But there's more suffering for Christ's saints in this life. The world hates you because of Jesus. Jesus says, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my sake." That means the world doesn't just hate you because of you. It hates you because you are in Christ. It hates you because you desire to do good and to make peace and to be merciful to others, because you desire to live like Christ. Sometimes we try to do good, and it seems like the world pays us back with trouble and difficulty and misery. What did you expect? The world hates Christ and so it hates those who are His. The mere fact that you are baptized is an accusation against a world that despises Christ and His gift of eternal life. So the world will hate you. It is your connection to Jesus that earns you the scorn and bitterness of this world. The world hates Christ. It put Him to death. But He has risen! He has overcome this world. And you will overcome it too.

There is still more suffering and struggle for Christ's saints! Our own sinful flesh hates Jesus too. It rebels. It struggles. It wants to break free. It wants to toss Jesus out and go back to enjoying the favor and temptations of the world. It's bad enough to have Satan and the world against us because of Jesus, but our own flesh? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and in us the Spirit does battle against our flesh. Your sinful nature wants nothing to do with Jesus or righteousness or God's Word or loving others. It wants to live and do its own thing. So the sinful nature has got to go. So it is that the Old Adam within us gets drowned at the font in Baptism. That Old Adam is silenced by the words of absolution and purged by the body and blood of Jesus within you. It is those gifts of Jesus that make you saints. And that is our struggle: that when we act like pagan sinners, the Lord still calls us saints! That is the Spirit at work within you, so you may believe your sins are forgiven and that you are God's children. When you see Jesus face to face, you will see what God Himself has made you: a new creation by His Word and sacraments!

If you listen to the beatitudes closely, you will see that He describes His saints in this life, but He describes gifts which are for the life to come. That's the struggle of saints. We know our Lord has given us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We know the glory of the Lamb's throne in paradise awaits us. Until that day, we live as saints whose hope is in Christ's promises. The Lord calls us blessed even though we are targets of the Devil. The Lord says we are blessed even though we are hated by the world. The Lord says we are blessed even though our sinful flesh could care less. You are baptized, absolved, fed with Christ’s body and blood. That's what makes you a saint!

But it is a mighty struggle with such great enemies out to get us. That is why we celebrate All Saints' Day! We are blessed to see the gifts of Christ in the saints who have gone before us: saints who were fed to the lions or burned like torches; saints who were skinned alive or exiled to dismal places; saints who witnessed to kings. The saints who are in heaven are the saints who heard the preaching of Christ in all times and all places, like our own parents and children who have gone before us, delivered from this evil world and brought into the glory of Christ's heavenly throne. When we sing in the liturgy, Sunday after Sunday, about "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven," we are rejoicing that our Lord really keeps His promises. He really does preserve His saints through their hardships and struggles. He really does indeed deliver His saints from their enemies. He has done it for them, and He will do it for you. After all, you are saints. Jesus says so. 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, October 29, 2015

Sermon for 10/25/15: Festival of the Reformation (observed)

Audio: RIGHT-CLICK to save...

Abiding in the Word

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

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” That what the Lutheran Reformation was all about: getting the people back into the Word. Before the Reformation, only the clergy, some of the ruling class, and the intellectual elite could understand what was going on because the Bible, the liturgy, and everything sung during the Mass were all in Latin. Now, just because the common people couldn’t understand what was going on, that doesn’t mean the Word wasn’t able still to work in their hearts. But Luther translated into German the Bible and eventually the liturgy, and he wrote, translated and encouraged others to write and translate hymns, so the people could know and participate and live and abide in the Word of God. With the advent of the Gutenberg’s printing press, the Word of God was put into the hands of everyone who wanted it. What a wonderful blessing it is for everyone in the Church to be able to have access to the whole of Scripture. It is the gift of Pentecost all over again!

But having the Word of God so readily available has brought about problems of its own. I’m sure you’ve heard it from someone who calls himself a Christian, someone who says, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God or to hear His Word.” Usually this is followed by a speech about seeing God in the beauty of nature, about being able to read the Word at home, about not wanting to be around hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. And much of that is true. One does not have to attend a Sunday service to worship God or to hear His Word. God is certainly present in His creation. Very rarely is a Christian household lacking a Bible. And it is most certainly true that the Church is filled with sinners who cannot perfectly live as we know we should.

But there are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is, while one can worship God and hear His Word in places other than the divine service, it’s very rare that a person who refuses to come to the divine service will actually seek the Word of God in their home—or anywhere else, for that matter. “The Word will always be there. Eventually I’ll find time for it.” But we don’t. The second problem is that the world, the devil, and even our own flesh do everything they can to keep us from the Word. Even with the best of intentions, the television, the Internet, children, phones, books, and other things are distractions for those who would worship at home.

The easiest way to abide in the Word of God is to seek that Word in a place and at a time set apart specifically for the reception of the Word, a place where the faithful gather together to be fed with that Word. If only such a thing were readily available to the Church! But thanks be to God, for He made a promise to be Immanuel—God dwelling with us—when we gather in His name. Christ has set apart men to serve in His stead to deliver His Word to us in faithful preaching and teaching and the word of holy Absolution. He applies that Word to us in the water of Holy Baptism and in His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Even in the Church, we must be careful not to take the Word for granted. “Of course going to church once a month is enough.” “Oh, it’s not necessary to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.” “Pastor talks about the Sacraments every Sunday, so I don’t need to pay attention today.” But the Lord continues to give these gifts freely and generously—so much so that, as King David rejoiced, “My cup runneth over.”

It is much easier for us to think of abiding in a town, or in a particular house. Words do not seem like the sort of thing that we can get inside or remain in. Nevertheless, Jesus speaks in today's Gospel as if His Word is a home, a resting place, a shelter. Jesus has placed you into His Word; He has set you inside His Word; He has submerged you in His Word—after all, that is what Baptism is all about. He has put you into His Word. And having given you a place to abide in His Word, He will abide there with you. In His Word you know the truth, “and the truth shall make you free.” 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.