Tuesday, September 29, 2020

HYMN: Promised Rest Awaits the Weary

I’m in the midst of a pastoral retreat right now being run by the Doxology organization. The retreat is called “Take Heart! Strength and Confidence for Demanding Days,” and it was organized in conjunction with the LCMS Office of National Mission. With today being the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, the chaplain for this retreat, Pastor Mark Barz, has been focusing during our worship opportunities on the service of angels to God’s people. Between these sermons and the topic of our retreat, I was inspired to write the following text. Credit goes to Pastor Barz, and to Doctor Pastor David Fleming and Doctor Beverly Yahnke of Doxology for their service in general and their presentations during this retreat in particular. 

This is a first draft. Feedback is love.


Promised Rest Awaits the Weary
Inspired by the Doxology Retreat in Wichita, Kansas
September 28-30, 2020

1. Promised rest awaits the weary,
Burdened by the daily test.
“Come to Me, you heavy laden;
I will give you holy rest.”
You who face the battle’s fray
Serving Christ from day to day,
Christ in mercy will befriend you,
Sending angel hosts to tend you.

2. Saints are wearied by their labor
Fighting with the devil’s horde.
You shall savor Bread from heaven 
In the Body of the Lord.
“Come and find your rest in Me
Underneath Elijah’s tree.
Rise to eat! This Bread sustains you
Through the strife that/which harms and drains you.”

3. “I have chosen you, My servant.
I will not cast you away. 
Trust in Me and pray in earnest.
Do not let your fear hold sway.”
Then, beneath the holy cross,
As you bear your shame and loss,
In His arms Christ will enfold you.
By His Blood He will uphold you.


(c) 2020
87 87 77 88
FREU DICH SEHR (LSB 347)
Cross and Comfort; Tentatio; Anfechtung; I Kings 19; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 11:28

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sermon for 9/27/2020: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

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“Do Not Weep”

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


There are few things in the world that can make us as uncomfortable as when we come across someone who is crying. The reason doesn’t matter, though of course some occasions are worse than others. But when we see someone crying, we don't know what to say. We offer cold comfort. We might give an awkward pat on the back, and then we tell the person, “Don't cry. Everything will be alright.” The thing is, we don’t know if it actually will be alright. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we are uncomfortable, and we would rather say something—anything—that might cover the sound of sobbing, that will let us walk away thinking we’ve done something. Lord, teach us to offer comfort.
When Jesus stops the funeral procession coming out of the village of Nain; when He steps up to the coffin and touches it; when He encounters the mother of the young dead man, He says exactly the same thing we say. “Do not weep.” Yeah, thanks a whole lot, Jesus! I'm sure she'll appreciate that attempt at comfort. What would Jesus do? He’d offer a cheap platitude to a woman who has lost both her husband and her son.
But something is different. When Jesus tells the woman to cease her mourning, He is not just trying to say something nice. He has the power to do things that we cannot do ourselves. This is not a platitude; this is not cold comfort. This is Jesus. Jesus is the Lord of Life. Jesus is the Man who will die and then rise from the dead. When Jesus says not to weep, He knows death happens because of sin, and Jesus has come to forgive sin. He knows that death causes weeping, and He has come to give life to His people; He has come to wipe the tears of death from our eyes. Jesus has come to stop this death procession. Jesus has come to rob death of this man. So he touches the coffin and tells the man to get up. He gives this young man to his mother! Death is powerless before the Lord.
Paul rightly tells us that the wages of sin is death. So Jesus dies to pay the blood price for our sins. Though death may take us for a time, it cannot hold us forever, for our Lord Jesus rises from the dead on the third day. He has gotten rid of our sins, and that means death has lost its sting. Jesus has given you His victory over death. That happens the moment He drowns you in the waters of Holy Baptism and places you in the arms of your Mother, the Church. At that washing of water and the Word, our Lord’s death and resurrection become yours. Now the only thing to wait for is when He raises you from the dead on the Last Day.
But that's the whole point: the death you will die in this life cannot keep you down. It cannot harm you. It can't separate you from the Father and His love, for Jesus has kicked death in the face. And even though your grave is waiting for you, your grave cannot hold you, for Jesus has defeated the power of the grave by walking out of His own tomb, and He promises that He will bring you out of your grave, too. He will raise you up on the Last Day, and you will live with Him forever! Do not weep. Death cannot hold your loved ones who die in the Lord, and death cannot hold you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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

Friday, September 25, 2020

HYMN: Lord, Enthroned in Humble Splendor

I’m working on proofreading/editing my first collection of hymns. I was going to publish at 100, but two more sneaked in before I got the manuscript to my proofreaders, so the first collection will be 102 hymns. Now that the manuscript is in the proofreading process, I can begin writing for the second collection. 

I’ve had an idea in my head for some time, and I even had some notes for it, but I had other things on my plate that always took priority. But now that I’m supposed to be proofreading and editing, the idea came to the forefront of my mind, and I assembled a very rough first draft. 

There’s a beautiful hymn called Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor. It speaks of the glory of Christ in His resurrection and ascension, as well as His presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. My text builds on that text, focusing instead of the humble and hidden means in which Christ comes to the world—first in His incarnation, and now in the waters of Holy Baptism and hidden under bread and wine—even though He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Right now it’s rough and simple. If you have any suggestions or feedback, I’d appreciate it.



Lord, Enthroned in Humble Splendor

1 . Lord, enthroned in humble splendor, 
Lying in a manger stall,
God in flesh to dwell among us
To undo creation’s fall.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Jesus, King and Lord of all!
Jesus, King and Lord of all!

2. Lord, enthroned in humble splendor,
Seated on a donkey’s foal,
Coming to the holy city,
Come to save the sinful soul.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Son of David, make us whole!
Son of David, make us whole!

3. Lord, enthroned in humble splendor,
Hanging on the sinner’s tree,
In your innocent surrender,
You redeem humanity.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Royal blood has set us free!
Royal blood has set us free!

4. Lord, enthroned in humble splendor,
Buried in a stone-hewn tomb,
Faithful dead receive a sabbath.
Death no longer spells our doom.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
From the grave, new life will bloom!
From the grave, new life will bloom! 

5. Lord, enthroned in humble splendor
In the water, bread, and wine:
Living Water, Bread of heaven,
You are here in gifts divine.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Make our hearts your kingly shrine.
Make our hearts your kingly shrine.


1874 (George Hugh Bourne), 2020
87 87 444 77
BRYN CALFARIA
Incarnation; Sacraments

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sermon for 9/20/2020: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

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





Mammon is simply the things which our Father has given you. You wouldn’t have any of that if our Lord hadn’t given it to you. Martin Luther teaches according to Scripture, “I believe that God has…given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” All the kids who go through the Catechism learn that list. God is so generous, and yet so often it seems as if the gift attracts our attention and receives our praise more than the One who gives it.

Do we really serve and worship our possessions? Yes, we do. We crassly covet what our neighbor has, and we put our faith and confidence in what we have. We’re all about the stuff. We think we are are happy when we have what we think we need, what we believe is necessary, what we want to eat, and what to wear. If we just have the right car, the right house, the right job, the right seat at the lunch table, the right video game system... The list is endless, because the list, no matter how long it is, is never enough. We always want more, and the more we have, the more we want.

When we don't have everything we think we need, we begin to worry about what will happen tomorrow. We fret as if God will not tend to us, as if He will not richly and daily provide for us in this life. We worry as if the Father has forgotten what we need. And this is true of us as a congregation, as well. The Lord has blessed us for many years, and yet we question His goodness: Can we afford to keep our doors open? Can we afford to pay the pastor? Will we be around as a congregation in five years? We don’t have the answers. Only God knows, and He refuses to tell us what He has planned. Wouldn’t we trust You more, Lord, if You revealed the future? Wouldn’t it be easier for us to believe?

But the truth is, He has already revealed the future to us. Our Lord calls us out of our unbelief to learn from the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He feeds birds of the air, who don't work or store up things at all. He clothes the lilies of the field. In fact, King Solomon in all His glory isn't dressed up like one lily in the field. He gives them all that they need in this life. Do you believe that He does that for you? That is the future: Our Lord will provide for you, day by day, for the rest of your life, and then for eternity. He tells us this. He shows us this. Every day He reveals this to us. But we doubt. We worry. We despair.

There was One who truly did believe. Jesus lived His life as one who trusted His Father for everything that He needed to support His life. He did not love mammon, but served and loved His Father in Heaven. He took upon Himself our sins, our unbelief, our fears, and our worrying, all the way to the Cross. In His death He has provided all that you need for salvation. What shall you wear? He clothes you in the blood-washed white robe of His own righteousness in your Baptism. What shall you eat? He gives you His own body to eat and His blood to drink in and under bread and wine for the forgiveness of all your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Faith looks to what Christ did on the Cross as all the certainty you need, both in this world and for the life of the world to come.

As we wait for that eternal day, trust in your Father to provide for your daily life as well. He feeds the birds. He clothes the flowers. He provides for your eternity. Faith receives all things as gift from Him. So if He provides for the littlest things of creation, and if He provides for your biggest need in your eternal salvation, you can trust Him to provide for your bodily needs. Don't worry. Don't fret. In Christ Jesus, you are worth more than birds and lilies. 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, September 13, 2020

Sermon for 9/13/2020: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Diseased in Soul


                                               

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

         
What the eyes see is leprosy; what their skin feels is leprosy. And the law declares that lepers are not only diseased in body; they are spiritually unclean. Do you really think the Lord’s Spirit lays down a law only about one skin disease and ignores all the other diseases of the body? Or does this particular disease reveal what is in a man’s soul, what infects man’s spirit, what threatens to destroy his spiritual life? Thank God that the condition of our soul is not so much on display today. Thank God that we still have skin to hide the nakedness of our wandering spirit.
Our spirits wander because we so easily fall for the lie. We are weak, and so we are easily enticed and seduced by the lie that says that we have no lord and master. The lie says that we can worship whenever we feel up to it, that we can believe whatever we think is right, that we can help ourselves to whatever life offers, that we make it on our own, that we can treat people as we please, that we need to submit to no one and nothing. The lie drives us away from true love, because the one who truly loves will never live for himself. The lie drives us away from the Truth, for you must sacrifice your sin-blinded notions of right and wrong to live for the Truth. But most of all, the lie stokes your pride, telling you not to repent, not to apologize, not to return to the Lord.
So what is it that eats away at the souls of the ten men? It is pride. And with pride comes pride’s companions: greed, lust, addiction, anger, vanity, despondency, sloth and loathing. If you look throughout the Old Testament, you will see that these are the things that accompany leprosy. The leprous man suffers not from a rash or deterioration of the skin, but of the soul. The leprous man is spiritual sick unto death. Our greatest threat is not physical leprosy; it is the leprosy of the soul, the belief that we can come to God on our own terms, that we deserve His mercy.
When Our Lord sees what we have done to ourselves, how much we hate ourselves, how estranged we are from Him—when He sees how we are spiritually killing ourselves, He is moved with compassion. And so—not because they cry out, but because He is merciful—Our Lord heals these ten lepers.
But did you listen for the medicine they had to swallow? Our Lord Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” This is what the Law prescribes. Lepers must be declared by the priest to be clean and healed. But why? Are the priests also doctors? No. But remember that leprosy is not chiefly a skin disease; it is a disease of the soul which makes the leper unclean. And the Great Physician who works through His priests is the only One who can address diseases of the soul.
While we don’t know whether those nine lepers ever made it to the priests, we do know what happened to the one. The Samaritan did not go to show himself to the priests. Rather, when he saw that he was healed, he returned to the true High Priest, the Physician of the Soul. He returned and glorified God. But the man is not just praising Jesus. The Lord brought the man back to sacrifice his pride. The man makes a fool of himself, falling down at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving for the healing of the soul that the Lord has given him.
As the man gives thanks, the Lord gives His blessing. “Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you.” Those are the last words that accompany the sacrifice. That is the blessing you are given when you give thanks for the Lord’s mercy. This is the blessing you receive in the medicine of immortality, the body and blood of Jesus, the thanksgiving meal of the healed and redeemed children of God. The priest, speaking in the name of Jesus, has declared that you are clean, forgiven, healed in body and soul. Thanks be to God for His abundant mercy! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sermon for 9/6/2020: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Pride or Mercy




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


The young lawyer in today’s Gospel was so blinded by his pride that he could not see that he was in need of the Lord’s mercy. It was pride that drove him to show off his education and intellect. It was pride that caused him to think that he could trap Jesus. It was pride that urged the lawyer to believe that he had already succeeded in loving God with all he was and all he had. And it was the man’s pride that Jesus used to trap him.
To omit mercy in your dealings with others; to refuse to forgive to the same degree that the Lord has forgiven you; to insist that others meet your conditions before you will forgive; to hold a grudge; to refuse to see that anyone you come into contact with is the neighbor the Lord has given you—that is where this brilliant young lawyer stumbled. His pride threatened his inheritance of eternal life.
The lawyer did not beg for mercy. He would never stoop so low; his pride would never allow him to admit he needed it. But what about you? When you fall to your knees and plead for the Lord to overlook your sins; when you cry out for help; when you sing, “Lord, have mercy”—do you let the Lord’s mercy stop there? Do you let it die within your heart by storing up anger or resentment? Do you live only for yourself? The Lord gives His mercy so that it has it’s way with you, so that it comes alive in you, so that His mercy is lived in you and through you toward your neighbor.
The mercy you seek from the Lord is the very mercy you ought to live: without demands, without conditions, without envy, without pettiness. It is a selfless love, a love willing to empty yourself and all that you have in order to bandage another man’s wounds and bring him into the inn of Christ’s holy Church.
The Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Lord Jesus. Just as the Samaritan was despised and rejected and laughed at by the Jewish leaders in that day, so was our Lord. And just as the Samaritan stepped in where the priest and deacon feared to tread, so does our Lord. And just as the Samaritan spared no expense for the well-being of his enemy, our Lord does not even spare His own life to save you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Just as the Samaritan poured on the healing medicine of oil and wine, so our Lord pours over you the bloody waters of baptism to cleanse you of your sin, and then He nurses you back to spiritual health with His holy body and blood, the medicine of immortality.
Yes, the Good Samaritan is the very picture of our Savior. And yet, with this parable, Our Lord is also telling the young lawyer—and you—that the Samaritan is equally the very picture of your life in God, for we are to be merciful, just as our Father also is merciful. We are to let brotherly love continue”—not strangling it with harsh words, nor killing it with the refusal to love as you have been loved. For “if you will not love your brother, whom you can see, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?” You are to love everyone, even your enemies, to bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
I urge you in Christ: do not deal with others in harshness or meanness. Do not harbor anger or bitterness toward those who have hurt you. Do not turn away from those who need the healing balm of your kindness and compassion. Instead, show mercy to your neighbor in the same way that you beg the Lord to have mercy on you. After all, our Father readily and mercifully gives you His Holy Spirit so that you might be united to His Son by the Holy Supper. Through these gifts, you live in Him and His abundant mercy, even as He lives His love in and through you toward all your neighbors. 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, August 30, 2020

Sermon for 8/30/2020: Twelfth Sunday After Trinity

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Preserved in the Church




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





Those who desire salvation do well to sever ties with those who encourage us in ungodly living, who tolerate anything that hurts our soul. Our Lord leads the deaf man away from the crowds to teach us that our life in Him is a life apart from what the world calls good and right. Our life in the Church is a breaking of communion with those who only want Jesus part-way or not at all.

But when our Lord took the man aside from the multitude, He was not simply separating him from others. Jesus was also pulling the man into Himself, so that He could bring him into His healing love and righteousness. Jesus did not want to teach us merely to break with our former life, but also to come into communion and life with Him. This is not some manufactured unity with Jesus. We all know people who believe that they can worship God anywhere because He promises to be everywhere. While it is true that God is everywhere, He has attached His promises to the gifts He gives “where two or three are gathered in His name.”

This is why we pray the way we do at every baptism. We pray our Father “graciously to behold” the infant or child or adult, and “to bless him with true faith in the Spirit so that…he may be separated from the number of the unbelieving, and preserved dry and secure in the holy ark of the Church.” We don’t simply want the newborn child of God to be cut off from the unbelieving. We want him kept safe in the Church. Our prayer recognizes that there is no salvation apart from the Church. And so we flee to the Church as we shun those things from which the Lord, by His Spirit, has released us. We must not return to them.

But as you well know, the pull toward wickedness, gossip, selfishness and envy is strong. Addictions of mind or body are easily formed, but they are resisted only by the Lord’s grace and the prayers of the faithful and much self-discipline and diligence. For each of us, the devil plays on what tempts us, and our society cheers us on to give in, to feed our desires, to live as we please and to do what we want. And our own mind rationalizes by saying, “God will still love me.” Yet how can God love the man who harbors anger, or the woman who loves to gossip, or the man who covets what another person has, or the woman who thinks only of herself?

The way out is given the finger of God, which is the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord healed the man in today’s Gospel. He put His fingers in the man’s ears, and He spat and touched the man’s tongue. What is the Lord’s finger but the Holy Spirit? And what is the spit and the touch, except the grace and mercy of God the Father given in the waters of Holy Baptism? And so the man is healed by God’s grace according to the pleading and prayers of his friends. And so are we.

But let us not leave it there. Again, let us not forget what Our Lord Jesus did first. First, He pulled the man aside. First, our Lord beckoned this poor man into Himself, drawing him away from those who wished to lure him back into his former ways. Our Lord brought and led the man into the safety and comfort of His own loving embrace.

And so it is with us. We have been separated from the number of the unbelieving precisely so that we might be preserved, safe and secure, in the holy Church. Our Lord has broken our ties with those who wish us harm. He has drawn us away from those who urge us to tolerate heresy, who pervert the holy Faith. And He has given us a place in His holy Church and a seat at His heavenly banquet. Let us not flee from His Church, nor let us seek compromise simply for the appearance of tranquility. Instead, let us flee for refuge to the infinite mercy He gives us in His holy Church; for that’s where our Lord is, eager to bring us more fully into communion with Him. 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, August 23, 2020

Sermon for 8/23/2020: Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

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Humility and Faith 

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

Humility and faith go together. A faithful child of God acknowledges that anything he offers or does or gives is meager and not worthy to be compared with whatever the Lord gives through His ministers and through neighbors. The humble man confesses that, apart from the Lord, everything he does is worthless and vain. It takes great humility to say, “I was wrong. I mistreated you. I abused our friendship. I am not worthy to stand in your sight.” It also takes great faith, for when you confess your sin, you are not only humbling and lowering yourself; you are also trusting that your apology will be accepted, your sincerity will be believed, your words will not be swatted aside, and your admission will not be used against you. Examine your life; is this you? Has your sin humbled you before the Lord and your neighbors?

The Pharisee has no humility, and so he exhibits no faith. Wise Solomon says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Yet this man, who knows the Law, praises himself for all he has done. He seeks to impress God and anyone else who is listening in. But it’s all camouflage and smoke screen. The louder he boasts, the more we should pity him, because he wants to believe what he says. He desperately wants to believe that he’s not as bad as he fears.

In the end, the Pharisee does not know himself, and he doesn’t truly know God. The man who believes he is perfect also believes he has no need for God. To know God means you must confess and acknowledge and admit that all you’ve done, all your wisdom, all your worldly goods, and all you are is dust and ashes. Your every breath depends on the Father’s life-breathing Spirit. Your every heartbeat depends on the Father’s compassion, demonstrated in His Son’s innocent sacrifice.

How can the Pharisee confess God when he refuses to see who he himself truly is? How can he receive the Lord’s mercy when he demands to be loved? How can he trust God almighty when he trusts his own reason and strength? This man is not justified precisely because he seeks to justify himself. And this Pharisee has no faith precisely because he believes first and foremost in himself.

The tax collector, however, knows himself. He sees the truth about himself; he will not hide behind excuses, the opinions of others, or any work he has done. He has come to know that his only hope is to throw himself on the infinite mercy of God. He stands in the Court of the Gentiles. He lowers his eyes, not daring to look toward the Holy of Holies. He begs, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He does not deserve forgiveness. He deserves the scorn of all his neighbors, the rebuke of the priests, the disdain of the rich, the mockery of the poor, the shunning of the righteous. Most of all, he deserves the wrath of God.

St. Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This man, who truly knows himself, stands among the heathen and speaks the truth about himself in God’s house. This man is humble because he believes; he believes because he is humble. And so, Jesus says, “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now that you’ve seen true faith, learn from our Lord by imitating this humble tax collector. He does not view himself as superior; he does not trust any righteousness in himself. He does not approach the Lord because of his righteous deeds, but because of the Lord’s mercy. I urge you in the same : in the humility of true faith, draw near to our heavenly Father, begging His mercy. Draw near in humility to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, for our Father declares His almighty power chiefly in showing mercy to those who cling to Him, who live in the sure and certain hope they have through their baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



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

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sermon for 8/16/2020: Tenth Sunday After Trinity

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Peace in Christ

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


Jesus said, “Days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” It seemed preposterous. Jerusalem was the city of God, the apple of His eye. Jerusalem was the home of the Temple, where God Himself promised to dwell among His people. But everything our Lord foretold happened to Jerusalem. Barely 40 years after this, in the year 70, the Roman overlords laid their siege against Jerusalem and annihilated the holy city. Things she loves so dearly—even her godly worship and her beautiful buildings—were taken from her. This happened because the chosen people of God no longer put their trust in God. This happened because they looked for their peace in their status as children of Abraham. This happened because they looked for their peace in what they believed was their obedience to the Law. This happened because Jerusalem—the priests and Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes and the people—did not know the time of her visitation by the Lord.
But Jesus will suffer first. He is the Temple not built with hands, the Dwelling-Place of God in flesh among His people. He will die first for Jerusalem. He will be hemmed in, surrounded by the chief priests and teachers of the Law. Soldiers will seize Him. They will level Him. He will die just outside the city, put to death for the crime of coming to save people who believe they have no need to be saved. God in flesh has come to visit His people, and they shout, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They drive nails into His hands and feet. They lift Him above the earth on a cross. They mock Him as He hangs until He dies. Jesus is the Cornerstone, leveled and rejected by His chosen people. If only Jerusalem knew. If only they knew the cause of their peace.
You know, and still you reject Him daily and much. You have been running after false peace and false comfort wherever you can find it. Do you look for your peace in what you possess? Do you look for peace in what gives pleasure to your body? Do you look for your peace in not being as bad or sinful as others? It’s certainly understandable. After all, others are really bad; they will be the ones that go to hell. And you are basically good, right? You sin from time to time, but it's not like you do anything really bad. Is that where you look for your peace?
Jerusalem's false peace failed them, just as your false peace fails you. You cannot find true peace on your own. Only the death and resurrection of Jesus makes the peace of Jerusalem. His death and resurrection makes for your peace, as well. His death gives you peace with God—peace, Jesus tells us, which the world cannot give. That peace which He won for you on the Cross is delivered to you in His gifts: in His Word of Absolution, in His washing of Holy Baptism, in His holy Supper. There in His Word combined with water, with bread and wine—there is the peace of God.
If only Jerusalem had known. And if they had listened, if they had put their trust in what God had told them through the prophets and through Jesus in flesh, they would have known. But now you know, for you have listened. You have received. And you have rejoiced, for He has made his peace known to you, a gift of pure grace. Jesus is your 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.


Sunday, August 09, 2020

Sermon for 8/9/2020: Ninth Sunday After Trinity

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The Steward of Grace

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


It doesn’t seem right, does it? People who spend their lives trying to do everything the right way receive no credit from the Lord for their efforts. Of course God does not approve of sin, and He doesn’t reward failure to live according to His Law, no matter how hard anyone tries. He is perfectly just, and His Law demands perfect obedience. So how does it make any sort of sense that Jesus commends the manager for his shrewd dishonesty? Does that somehow make Jesus unjust?
In reality, this story is one that Jesus tells describing the saving Gospel coming to lowly debtors. Sinners have gigantic bills. We owe the Lord more than we can ever pay Him. The wages of sin is death, and that is a price beyond our ability to pay. In the language of the parable, we are the ones who have our bills slashed. So—believe it or not—Jesus is the unjust Steward. We call it the parable of the Unjust Steward, but don’t get caught up in that. Perhaps the better title would be “The Merciful Steward.” 
The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, were accusing Jesus of wastefulness. He wasted His time and energy with public sinners. Jesus would teach and eat with tax collectors, adulterers, others who had bad reputations, and even those who were unclean according to the Temple law. Jesus welcomed them in order to teach God’s Law and Gospel. He was and is the Steward of grace, tearing up their bills and freeing them of their eternal indebtedness.
The Jewish leaders were upset with Jesus, the unjust Steward, because they believe that He is not tending to those who deserve His time and teaching. They consider Jesus to be contaminating Himself by associating with sinners. But that is precisely the point. Jesus lavishly pours out His grace upon people who are looked down upon by those who see themselves as righteous, upon people who confess their sin and recognize their debt. As King David wrote, I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” He is the only one with the righteousness to pay the astronomical debt of our sin and rebellion against the rich Master, our heavenly Father. 
Thanks be to God, for He does not want us rotting in prison. He praises His perfect Steward Son who has taken your bill and actually paid it in full. When Jesus bore the scourge of the whip and the piercing of the nails; when He endured the cruel death on the cross, He was marking your bill. But it was not simply a reduction in what you owe. He eliminated it, erasing the debt with His own blood. Jesus, the great and perfectly unjust Steward, has indeed been faithful in delivering to you wealth that you have not earned. Dr. Luther knew the truth of it when he taught us to confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him…” In that way we confess that we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We don’t have to earn forgiveness. And we don’t have to die in our sin.
Instead, rely on His good will. Rely on the promise made true by His Son. Rely on His mercy being so abundant as to cancel all your sin and to receive you into His home in Heaven. Rely on the reasoning of St. Paul: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Certainly no one can now lay anything to your charge, you who are God's elect. Nothing shall ever separate you from His love, because the only thing that ever stood between you and Him was your debt, and His Son has shrewdly put all of your debt away. Praise God for the work of this great Steward, His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Sermon for 8/2/2020: Eighth Sunday After Trinity

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Fruit for Life


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


There are false teachers who are obviously false. They teach that all religions are the same, that all roads lead to heaven. They teach that Jesus is only a prophet, a misguided rabbi, merely a good example for us to imitate. These obvious false prophets—the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Muslims, the Jews, Buddhists, the various cults—these are not the people our Lord warns us about in today’s Gospel, though of course you should avoid them. But when Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets,” He is urging you to watch out for preachers who claim to be part of our fellowship. They urge unity at the expense of integrity. They let false teaching and worship live alongside the truth. They are more impressed with the world’s standard of success than with the kingdom of God. They quickly assign tradition to the trash heap and favor only newer, more modern ways. And they not only allow but encourage and even insist on innovations which sweep away what we have received from the Word of God. “Beware of them,” Jesus says. They are not obvious. They claim to seek fellowship, yet with their words they destroy it. They urge you not to get so riled, yet they rile you up. They speak of peace, but they persecute the peace-makers. You have known some of them all your life. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Beware of them.
Jesus goes on to say, “You will know them by their fruits.” You will know them by the false doctrine they cling to, by their desire to be popular with the world, by their insistence that the Word of God has mistakes or means something other than what the Church has always taught. You will know them because they welcome those who don’t believe what the Word teaches to their altars and pulpits. You will know them because they rejoice in the death of the unborn. They rejoice in those things our Lord calls sin.
How do you recognize a true teacher? Ask yourself this: Did they lead you to the Christ? Did they encourage you in what Scripture teaches instead of urging you to do your own thing? Did they provide you with true and lasting comfort in your hour of need? And did all their sermons, all their liturgies, all their ministry speak of the hope and salvation that is given only through Jesus Christ? What God used these preachers to produce in your heart—namely, a lively faith and godliness: these are good fruits, together with their bold confession of the faith and their willingness to suffer all, even death, rather than depart from the Church’s Faith. If these are the fruits, then these pastors and preachers are good trees, united to the Tree of Life.
But bad trees are like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a tree that offers no life and no hope, housing the devil and his lies. Evil trees cannot bring forth good fruit. In the same way, false preachers and prophets cannot produce the good fruit of faith in their parishioners. Our Lord’s warning must be repeated frequently, lest we begin to desire bad fruit.
But do not let this warning trouble you. Our Lord does not say, “Beware” to frighten or scare you, but to comfort and strengthen you. When you know that there are false preachers and evil prophets; when you know that there are pastors who speak of their own dreams rather than of the Lord’s heavenly vision; when you know that there are preachers whom Our Lord never sent—then you are more intent to search diligently for the true bishops, the godly priests, the faithful pastors who will shield you and soothe you with the Lord’s undying mercy. You cry out for the Word of Absolution. You return to your Baptism daily. You beg for the Lord to feed you with His body and blood. You recognize the Lord through His fruits to you, and you rejoice to receive them. 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.