Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sermon for 12/27/2020: The Sunday After Christmas


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Depart in Peace
Luke 2:21-40

 

 

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

 

 

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” It’s all about timing. The timing of the coming of the Son of God is nothing short of a miracle. At just the right time, Christ comes to save the ungodly. So many things in life really come down to timing. If you cook a turkey too long, it will be inedible; if you do not cook it long enough, it will make you sick. If a sprinter takes off before the gun, he is disqualified; if he waits too long, he cannot catch up. It is all about timing. So it is that the time was right for the coming of the Son of God.

There was a ritual prescribed by the Law of God called the Presentation. 40 days after a male child was born, he was to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, and two turtledoves were to be sacrificed on the altar for the child’s purification. In obedience to the Law, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for His presentation before the Lord.

What’s important to know about the Temple is that God Himself promised that He would dwell within its Holy of Holies. The Temple was the dwelling place of God among His people. If you asked the Jews in the year 4BC where to find God, they would point to Jerusalem and the Temple. This was the holiest place in all the earth, for there God’s name dwelt, and His glory filled it.

Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the Temple. While they were there, an old man named Simeon came to meet them. He had waited his whole life for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit revealed to Him that he would die until he had seen the promised Messiah. And so he waited…and waited…and waited, until the time was right for the coming of God in the flesh. The old man takes Jesus into his arms and sings: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

In the midst of all that gold and glory, God’s presence was now contained in this little Baby. No longer was the presence of God in the wonder and majesty of a building; it now resided in the little Baby Simeon held in his arms. The Temple built with hands had served its purpose; now God would dwell among His people in Jesus, the Temple not built with hands. This is the miracle of the Incarnation: God takes on human form; the majesty and splendor of the Creator of the universe is hidden in the lowliest of beings.

This is the fullness of time. This is how the almighty God and Creator of the world wants you to see and know Him. He does not want you to fear Him or to wonder in awe at His might. He wants you to make Him a part of your family, a part of your very life. He wants you to call Him Father, because you are His child. He has sent His Son, your Brother, Jesus Christ, to save you from your sins. Do not be afraid. This little child, so humble and ordinary, will bring about the salvation of the whole world.

That is the miracle of the Incarnation. This is the miracle which you hold in your mouth at the Lord’s Supper. Christ our Lord continues to come to you in the ordinary and humble things of the earth. God’s glory, His forgiving presence, is to be found in that little Babe, Jesus Christ. It doesn’t make sense to our eyes. We cannot comprehend how all of God’s might resides in the most helpless of infants, just as we cannot understand how He comes to us in bread and wine. Human flesh; Word; water; bread and wine: these are His vessels. God’s salvation, indeed His very glory, and your consolation, is contained in these humble gifts. Put your trust in His Word. And when your last hour comes, by faith in this little Child in Mary’s arms, you may 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, 2020

Sermon for 12/25/2020: The Nativity of Our Lord

Joy in the Word Made Flesh
John 1:1-14

 

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

 

 

We have been blessed to hear the song of the angels once again: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.” This is, indeed, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The angels sang that message to the shepherds—and to us—because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Life was born in flesh! Today is the birthday of Life Himself! This birth of Life in flesh takes away what seemed to be the victory of death and the grave, giving us instead the sure and certain hope and promise of eternal life! Even in the midst of the darkness of disease and despair that we’ve seen in abundance this year, we have reason to be joyful, for our Lord, who has won the victory over sin and death, has come to set us free. The devil, the world, and even our own flesh cannot overcome this Life. Rejoice, you saints, for the crown of life draws ever nearer to you! Rejoice, you sinners, for the Savior, the Word made flesh, is present to speak the sweetest word of forgiveness to you! And even the pagans could have reason to rejoice this day, for the Lord has come to call them to new life in Him. He has come to bring peace between God and man—“peace which the world cannot give.”

The promise was from of old: a Seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent; a Son who would undo the curse of the fall into sin; a Savior who would bring life out of the dust once again. The promise was spoken to Adam and Eve; to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to David; to the exiles in captivity; indeed, to all the Old Testament faithful who put their trust in the Word of God. And in the fullness of time, just as He had done throughout the Old Testament wanderings of His children, God proved faithful to His Word and promises once again. The Son of God, “by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man… He took upon Himself human flesh. He took upon Himself the nature of man, so that He might reconcile our human nature to the One who created it. Humanity, having once fallen into sin, is raised up in the flesh of Immanuel. God truly is with us in the person of Jesus Christ. In His great love, He endured the cross and its scorn and shame, bearing our sins, dying our death, and then rising from the dead. In His great love, He has given us new life in Holy Baptism, raising us from the death of sin, so that we would be a new creation.

This new life puts to death the Old Adam and his deeds. This new creation as children of the Father calls us to renounce the works of the sinful flesh. Do not let yourself be comfortable in the chains which held you in bondage to sin. Do not let the weakness of the flesh claim the victory over your willing spirit. You are a member of the body of Christ; He has delivered you from the power of darkness and into His marvelous light. He has lifted you out of the grave. By the grace of God, you have become the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit will work good works within you which are worthy of your calling as children of God.

We’re still in the year 2020, and we still have dark days ahead of us on this side of eternity. There’s no guarantee that the next year will be any better than this one has been. The virus is continuing to wreak havoc on the world. Depression and anxiety are dreadful afflictions. Satan and his minions will continue to tempt and assault you. The world will continue to practice and preach against everything you by faith believe and hold dear. Your own flesh will continue to tempt you and attempt to lead you astray. But do not be afraid. Fear not! “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Christ the Savior is born! “The Light shines in the darkness.” Come. Approach the altar, and behold His glory. Receive the Word made flesh in your mouth. The darkness cannot overcome Him; and by the grace given you in the waters of Holy Baptism, the darkness cannot overcome 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.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sermon for 12/20/2020: Fourth Sunday in Advent


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“Who Are You?”

John 1:19-28

 

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

 

 

The priests asked John the Baptist, “Who are you?” It’s an important question to ask a preacher. When a preacher means to share a message with you, it’s important to know his credentials. It’s not good to listen to one who is trying to lead you away from the Word of God, so it’s important to know if the preacher is going to proclaim the truth. So when the priests ask John to identify himself, he says, “I am not the Christ.” He also denied being Elijah and Moses. John says that he’s not even worthy to untie the sandals of the Promised One. The people were waiting for the Messiah, so of course they would see such a powerful preacher and believe Him to be the fulfillment of the promise. John’s accuracy and humility in pointing to Jesus instead of himself said that he had a message his hearers could believe.

It’s also important for you to know the answer to that question for yourself. What is your confession of yourself? Who do you say you are? Are you as honest, even in the silence of your own heart, as John was before his inquisitors? Listen to these words again. “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.Are these merely words you say to get them out of the way? Or is this your humble and accurate confession of who you are before God?

The truth is, on your own, you are a sinner—sinful and unclean. And because you are a sinner, your thoughts, words, and deeds show it. You have spoken idle and hurtful words. You have sought revenge against those who have hurt you. You have taken pleasure in pointing out the sins and errors of your neighbors. You have failed to help others in their need. You have been served without serving. You have not loved God with your whole heart. You have not loved our neighbor as yourself. That is who you are by your own reason and strength.

Thank God, for John points out that there is One standing among us, One who came before John the Baptist and before us. And while that One stood among the Levites and priests without them knowing, the Holy Spirit has pointed that One out to us in Holy Baptism. That One is Jesus, God’s beloved Son. Even in his mother’s womb, John leaped to be in the presence of God in flesh who was in Mary’s womb. God’s beloved Son, with whom the Father is well pleased, is among us today. The One called the “Prince of peace,” “Son of God, and “Son of Man” is here.

The One who never spoke idle words; the One who never had thoughts and actions of revenge; the One who never took pleasure in the sins of others: He is here. The One who never turned away from helping someone in need; the One who came, not to be served, but to serve; the One who carried the burdens of others to bring reconciliation: He is here. The One who was tempted in every way as we are, but didn’t fall; the One who was without sin: He is here. The One who went to the sinner’s cross but without sin; the One who rested in a tomb; the One who descended into Hell; the One who rose from the grave: He is here. That is who He is: Immanuel, God with us, God dwelling among us, present “where two or three are gathered” in His name according to His promise.

Since that is who Jesus is, that changes who you are. You are what God calls you: His beloved children, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. You are brothers and sisters of the Prince of peace, sons and daughters of the king, because that is who you have been declared to be by God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are redeemed, forgiven, set free! You are marked as one who has been redeemed by Christ the crucified. 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, 2020

Sermon for 12/16/2020: Midweek of Advent III (Hymns of Advent Series)

 Once again I filled in this evening for Pastor Sean Smith, this time at his other congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wine Hill (Steeleville), Illinois. Thank you, Pastor Smith, for the opportunity to serve.

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Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding
John 1:19-33 

 

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

  

          What is a “thrilling voice?” Could the writer of our text be thinking of someone like Elvis Presley? After all, his singing is so distinct that hearers swooned at the first word. Could it be James Earl Jones? His vocal depiction of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies could move the heart to terror. Or maybe it’s Winston Churchill, who roused a nation to bravery and hope in the midst of constant bombing during World War II. These are all distinctive voices that thrilled the minds and hearts of those who heard them. But in this particular instance, the “thrilling voice” is John the Baptist—and more than John himself, the “thrilling voice” is the message he was sent to proclaim.

Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding!
“Christ is near,” we hear it say.
“Cast away the works of darkness,
All you children of the day!”

Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, its sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

John the Baptist is the one Isaiah foretold: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed… And it wasn’t just Isaiah. John’s own father, the priest Zechariah, also foretold the role John would play. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins… Even before John was born, he faithfully performed the task for which he was sent, leaping in his mother’s womb to be in the presence of God in flesh in the person of Jesus. “Christ is near,” indeed! And in the wilderness, John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins—in essence, John was saying, “Cast away the works of darkness!” When the people questioned why he was baptizing and preaching, John said, “One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Always John pointed not to himself, but to Jesus. He knew what his role was to be, and he played that role to perfection.

Who, then, are the “children of the day” who hear this voice? You are the children of the day. You are the ones who have received John’s message, and it falls to you to heed and obey the message of the prophet. Turn away from the works of darkness. Turn away from your Old Adam and his selfish, sinful ways. “Repent,” John says. After all, if the week before Christmas, when Christmas is near, is one of the busiest shipping and shopping weeks of the year, shouldn’t we also, when Christ is near,” be busy in repentance? Our faith in these days should be busy in good works. Our faith in these days should be busy listening to the Word of God from the messenger God has sent to proclaim it to us. The message of Christ, “all sloth dispelling,” moves us to faithful action. Sometimes that means we will do the good works, the fruit of faith; sometimes that means we will sit at our Lord’s feet with Mary and listen to the “one thing needful.”

See, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n.
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all, to be forgiv’n;

So, when next He comes in glory
And the world is wrapped in fear,
He will shield us with His mercy
And with words of love draw near.

It was John’s task to point to Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus had come to be that Lamb, to go to the cross as the Ransom Price of sinners. He came to take the sin of the world and put it all on Himself, to bear its shame and punishment and condemnation. And that’s why John cried out in the wilderness: God sent John to draw all people to Jesus, so that, while “the world is wrapped in fear,” we, still sinners but redeemed in the blood of the Lamb, would haste, with tears of sorrow, one and all, to be forgiv’n.”

The Day is coming when Christ will appear in glory to judge the living and the dead. But for us, the sheep of His flock, washed in His blood, He will shield us with His mercy, and with words of love draw near. The work of salvation, applied to us in Holy Baptism, will be completed in us as we arise, purified and perfected. There is no fear for those whose sins are forgiven. His voice will be one not of condemnation, but of love: “a thrilling voice,” calling us to our heavenly home, where we will sing with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven:

Honor, glory, might, dominion
To the Father and the Son
With the everlasting Spirit
While eternal ages run!

 

        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, December 13, 2020

HYMN: Let All in Worship Bend the Knee


A while back, my in-laws were talking about their church, and they had mentioned that their pastor though Philippians 2:5-11 would be a great foundation for a hymn text. It sort of rolled off my back at the time, but recently I took a shot at it. I’ve had this written for about a month, but I’ve been sitting on it, hoping something would hatch that would help me improve it. It hasn’t, not really, but sometimes the simple act of getting a text out there will help me find an in to make improvements, and sometimes my loyal readers will kick me hard enough that an idea will come out. Get to kickin’, people! Feedback is love.


Let All in Worship Bend the Knee

1. Let all in worship bend the knee.
Let every tongue in faith confess: 
Jesus is Lord eternally.
In Him, the Father’s name we bless. 

2. The Christ, the sinless Son of God,
Did choose in great humility
To walk a path as yet untrod:
To take our flesh and set us free.

3. In innocence, He bore our sin
Upon the cross of woe and shame,
Our death to die, our life to win,
To bind us to His holy name. 

4. The Father saw the sacrifice. 
And, seeing this, He glorified
The name of Christ, the sinner’s price;
The name of Jesus, God who died. 

5. Let each of us with selfless heart
Serve in His name with love and joy,
Even as Jesus did impart
His grace which sin cannot destroy. 

6. Let all in worship bend the knee.
Let every tongue in faith confess: 
Jesus is Lord eternally.
In Him, the Father’s name we bless. 


(c) 2020, Alan Kornacki, Jr. 
Long Meter (88 88)
Tune: OLD HUNDREDTH (LSB 805) 

Sermon for 12/13/2020: Third Sunday in Advent


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“What Did You Go Out to See?”

Matthew 11:2-10 (11)

 

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

 

 

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” This is a very important question that Jesus asks the crowds. In fact, He asks it three times. What is Jesus asking? Simply put, He’s asking, “Why did you go out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness? What did you hope to accomplish? What was in it for you?” So let me pose for you the same questions. Why did you come here today? What did you expect to see here? What were you hoping to get out of it? What’s in it for you? Did you come to see the handsome and well-spoken pastor with the well-shaped cranium and the short sermon? Did you come to hang out with your friends? Are you killing time before your football team plays? If these are your answers, I urge you to repent.

I hope you came this morning to hear about Christ and His work of salvation for you. I hope you came this morning to receive forgiveness for your sins, which returns you to the waters of Holy Baptism. I hope you came this morning to receive the body and blood of Jesus, hidden in bread and wine. Understand this: the Church is not a social club; it is a hospital. This is the place to receive Jesus. This is the place to receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. You come here as a beggar: a poor, miserable sinner in need of the mercy and grace Christ died to bring to you. The troubles of this life—the devil and all of his temptations, the world, your own sinful flesh—all these things wear you down. You grow weary in hearing the world preach against everything you believe and hold dear. You need to hear the promise of God again, even for one bitter hour: Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly in your place; He has offered up His life as the ransom for you. Simply said, you have come because you need the Gospel.

This is why John the Baptist was preaching. John needed to hear it that day; he needed his disciples to hear it: Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament, came to be the Savior. “The blind to see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” This is why you come here: to receive healing for your soul. And if this is not why you are here, you are wasting your time, for Jesus came to save sinners. This is the comfort God speaks through Isaiah the prophet: “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” This is the comfort you receive when you confess your sins to God and hear the word of Holy Absolution from your pastor as from Christ Himself—“not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”

Sadly, we will continue to have our doubts, even though we have heard this glorious forgiveness of sins from our Lord Jesus. We will doubt whether any of this standing and sitting and kneeling, this praying and singing and listening, this preaching and communing will do us any good. We will continue to desire the snooze button on Sunday mornings. There will be days when we would rather be somewhere else. Even John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater,” asked the question.

But when those doubts arise in you, look up. See your Jesus, the one who heals the blind and lame, the one who opens your ears to hear His Word, who raises you from death in the waters of Holy Baptism, who feeds you with His own body and blood. Poor, miserable sinners, beggars all: Behold your God! Christ has redeemed you with His innocent blood, and His suffering and death. Christ made Himself to be the least in the kingdom of heaven for you. He has forgiven you all your sin. And He is coming soon. 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 09, 2020

Sermon for 12/9/2020: Midweek of Advent II (Hymns of Advent Series)


Tonight I was the guest preacher at Immanuel Lutheran Church in West Point (Campbell Hill), Illinois. 

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Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 
Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
And darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising
And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle;
At midnight comes the cry.
 
The Bridegroom is delayed. No one knows exactly when He will arrive, but everyone knows He is coming. All the bridesmaids know how important it is for their lamps to be lit when the Bridegroom comes to bring them to the wedding feast, because the Bridegroom may come in the dead of night, and the light will shine as they wait and shine on their path as they travel to the feast. This is an image of the Church, waiting in eager expectation for the appearing of the Son of Man in glory to judge the living and the dead. It has not been long since we heard that text for the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Like the bridesmaids, we know that our Lord is coming. We have heard His promises, and He is faithful. While the rest of the world is terrified at the prospect of the coming of Christ as Judge, the Church—the Bride of Christ—rejoices. And as we wait, we keep our lanterns lit with the oil of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
The watchers on the mountain
Proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches
With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
The Bridegroom is at hand.
 
“The Bridegroom is at hand,” cry the watchers on the mountain. The Lord has sent many watchers to cry to His people. You might recognize some of them: Sean Smith; Timothy Zechiel; John Drosendahl; CFW Walther; Martin Luther; John Chrysostom; Augustine of Hippo; Ambrose of Milan; Paul; Peter; John the Baptist; Isaiah; Moses… It’s hardly a comprehensive list, and yet it helps us understand that the Bridegroom has been promised for a long time—even from the fall into sin in Genesis 3. God sends these messengers, and they, in turn, cry out to His people that the marriage feast is waiting, and the gates stand open to welcome all those who await with joy the coming of the Bridegroom Savior. These messengers are sent to prepare the way of the Lord, just as John the Baptist did. It’s not always a popular message, and it’s not always received with joy—not even by those who should rejoice. In fact, sometimes preaching this message costs the messenger his livelihood or even his very life, as he is attacked by foe and supposed friend alike for preaching the Truth. Even so, he cries out. “Arise, O heirs of glory; the Bridegroom is at hand.”
 
The saints, who here in patience
Their cross and suff’rings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him
Their diadems of gold.
 
One of the most beautiful pictures in all the Bible is the gathering of the saints before the throne of God. In fact, throughout Scripture, the images we see of heaven are images of the Church at worship. In Isaiah 6 we hear the angels crying out in praise to God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And in Revelation 7 we see “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” The angel tells John, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Having been faithful to their Lord unto death, they have been given the crown of eternal life. They will be raised up on the Last Day; for now, they wait. They rest until that day when they shall live forever, nevermore to sin, nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die. That is you. That is each and every baptized child of God, all those who trusted in the Savior, all who have filled their lanterns with the oil of true faith.
 
Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for,
O’er this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted,
We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
That sets Your people free!
 
That Day, the day of earth’s redemption, is coming. We know it. We have seen the signs described by our Lord. We have heard the messengers cry out to us that the Bridegroom is coming. And we pray for that Day to come. We pray for our Savior, our hope and expectation in flesh, to appear. In the meantime, He is the Light who shines in the darkness of this benighted sphere; He is the Light no darkness can overcome. In His light, we see our promised redemption. As we wait for the great Day, we see with clear eyes our Jesus: present in His Word; present in the waters of Holy Baptism; present in His body and blood, a foretaste of that eternal Wedding Banquet. The saints who are living and the saints now at rest both wait with the sure and certain hope of our resurrection to eternal life when He comes. And as we wait here, we are sustained by Jesus in these humble means of water, bread, and wine, combined with the power of the Word. The Bridegroom says, “Behold, I am coming soon.” And His Bride, the Church, cries out in joy, “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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

 

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Sermon for 12/6/2020: Second Sunday in Advent

 

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“Watch”

Luke 21:25-36

 

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

 

 

Speaking of the coming of the Last Day, Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…” This all sounds like terrifying stuff. All of creation is groaning in eager expectation for the glorious returning of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the Last Day. We see the signs all around us even now. When even the powers of heaven shake, how can we not be afraid of that?

Jesus tells us to take comfort from the lesson of the fig tree: “When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” When you see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, when you see God coming with great power and glory to rescue you, stand up and lift up your heads because it's time! Your redemption is drawing near! Jesus is near!

That should be a cause of great joy for us. And yet, Jesus also tells us that “men’s hearts [will be] failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” And surely sinners have reason to tremble in fear at the coming of the Lord. We have ignored His commandments when we find it convenient to do so. We treat the forgiveness our Lord gives us as license to sin. So we live as though Jesus isn’t coming back. We live as if it doesn’t matter what we do. We live as we desire in the sin-impaired imaginations of our hearts. But in the silence of our hearts, we huddle in terror from the righteous Judge, because we know what we deserve for our sin. Repent. Turn away from the Old Adam who is comfortable in sin and carousing…for Jesus is coming. Stay watchful; be vigilant, so that you may rejoice when He appears.

The day is coming. We know the truth of it. It’s not just that we see the signs, though the signs are all around us. More than the signs, we hear the promise from our Lord Himself. “Surely I am coming quickly,” He tells us, and we trust in His Word; we believe His promises. On the Cross, the Son of Man won your salvation. He paid the price for your sins, for your unbelief, for your doubt, for all the times that you have lived as if the King wasn't coming back soon to take you from this veil of tears. His holy life and innocent suffering and death redeemed you. He rose and marked you with His redemption in the waters of Holy Baptism.

Christ is coming soon. When you see the signs, when you hear the promises, look up! His return is the completion of your Baptism. You were buried in the font with your Lord Jesus and raised to new life. His return is the bringing to fruition of what is already yours in Baptism: heaven, eternal life, and your redemption. For “God will shine forth; our God shall come!”

As you wait and watch, learn the lesson of the fig tree: When you see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, rejoice, for your redemption is near. “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise [for you] with healing in His wings.” Do not be afraid. Your redemption and the healing of your body and soul already belongs to you in Holy Baptism. By the grace of God in the sinless sacrifice of the Lamb, you are counted worthy. 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, 2020

Sermon for 11/29/2020: First Sunday in Advent


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“Stir up Your Power…”

Matthew 21:1-9

 

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

 

 

Whenever we beg the Lord to stir up His power, we are begging Him to save and rescue and deliver us. He does this by holding back our enemies so that they cannot trouble us or threaten us. And then, in some wonderfully mysterious way, He somehow uses these enemies and their attacks for our good. But when Our Lord suppresses and subdues our enemies, He often doesn’t do it in the way we expect, especially when it comes to our greatest adversary, the prince of darkness. Then He comes to us—not with hailstones and coals of fire, not with a great show of force, but weak and vulnerable, ready to be beaten instead of lashing out; ready to be mocked instead of taunting; ready to be killed and not armed to kill. He does not come as a conquering hero, nor as a great general going to war, but as a suffering sacrifice.

And so, lowly, sitting on a donkey, here comes the One who is the answer to your prayers. Here is the mighty deliverance you asked for. Here is the protection from your threatening perils. And there, on the donkey, meek and mild—there is the great stirring up of the Lord’s power. It’s no wonder we’re disappointed when we pray. No wonder we feel so let down after we cry and plead and beg the Lord to smash our sinful urges, to quiet our fears, to heal us from our life-threatening diseases. We pray, demanding Alexander the Great on a mighty warhorse; instead we get a rabbi on a colt. We desire the obliteration of whatever troubles us; instead the scary thing still haunts us, and the addictive sin still must be resisted. And since we don’t feel better, since we don’t see a better life, since we are still afflicted, we falsely conclude that nothing has changed and our prayer has fallen on deaf ears.

These doubts, these fears, these false beliefs—these are the works of darkness that we must cast off. And the armor of light that we put on is the knowledge and belief that the Man on the colt is exactly who the prophet says He is. Jesus is your King; He is coming in power to save you. He is your salvation in the flesh. He calls you to believe. We so quickly judge by what we see and feel, and then we easily lose heart. Thanks be to God, for His Spirit raises up prophets and apostles, bishops and pastors, and they tell us these things so that we may hear and rejoice in hope.

By the power of the Spirit, we not only see that our prayer is answered. We also come to believe that the Man on the colt is our Lord and God who came in flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. We believe that He safely leads us through the worst we’ve ever experienced or imagined by His suffering. We trust that, by His death and resurrection, every enemy, every fear—even the prince of darkness himself—is defeated because all things have been put under our Lord’s feet. And the Holy Spirit also leads us to believe that our prayer, while answered now, will also be fully answered when Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

All this the Spirit of God helps us see and believe. But His greatest comfort is when He invites and draws us into the life of our God and King. The Spirit shows us that the bread we eat and the wine we drink is the power that our Lord has stirred up for us in His very flesh and blood to heal and deliver us, to protect and comfort us, to rescue and save us from every evil assault and every vicious doubt that assails us. And the Spirit helps us to see that what we hear and receive in the Holy Supper is precisely the help and aid that we need from our heavenly Father.

And so we pray, “Stir up Your power, O Lord.” But we also pray, “Show me Your way, O Lord; teach me Your paths.” For the Lord’s way and path is not to swoop down and conquer, but to lead and guide us through the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord’s way and path is not to magically make our problems disappear, but to use them for our good, so that we who are humbled would grow stronger and firmer in our life in 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.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sermon for 11/25-26/2020: Day of National Thanksgiving

 
Remember and Give Thanks
 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
 
“Thank you” is one of the very first things we learned to say as children, and hopefully one of the first things we teach our children to say. It is the language of being given to, the response to gifts received. Most of us still have that parental reminder ringing in our ears from our youngest days: “‘Now what do you say?’ ‘Thank you.’” God in Scripture teaches us to say “thank you” to Him. The psalms are a veritable cornucopia of praise and thanksgiving: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, bless His name!” “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endures for ever.” “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.”
 
Our contemporary version of Thanksgiving is much more an exercise in American civil religion with mythological stories of Pilgrims and Indians; a ritual meal of turkey, dressing, cranberries and all the fixings; and a common liturgy supplied by the National Football League or Hallmark, depending on who has the remote.
 
The Church hardly needs to be reminded by Caesar to give thanks to God for His gifts. In the Liturgy we recognize that it is “truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks...” The life of the Christian is life lived in thanksgiving for the gifts received through Jesus Christ.
 
For the Christian, every day is a day of thanksgiving. When we give thanks to God, we are confessing that God is the Giver and that we are at the receiving end of all that He gives. God doesn’t need our thanks; still, we need to thank Him. Thanksgiving is for our benefit, not God’s. It is a reminder that God is our strength, and that it is by the power and might of His merciful hand, and not our hands, that we receive all that we have.
 
At the time that Moses preached the sermon in Deuteronomy, Israel was standing on the threshold of the promised land. The rich land of Canaan was God’s gift to His people, the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was a land too good to be true, especially after 40 hard years of wandering in the wilderness. It was a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which the people would eat bread without scarcity, in which they would lack nothing. “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”
 
God knew the fickle hearts of His people. He knew they would not thank Him. He knew how self-centered the human heart is. So Moses said, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.” “Remember.” That’s the key word in Deuteronomy. Remember the God who remembers you. Remember that God is the giver of the gifts. Remember to thank God for His gifts.
 
Thanksgiving, if it is to be thanksgiving to God, begins with our receiving Jesus, the Living Bread, and the gifts He died to give us, such as the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Without these, there can be no thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving flows out of faith in Jesus Christ; His perfect life of thanksgiving lived in our place; His atoning death on the cross; His victorious resurrection that means our rising from the dead on the Last Day; and our inheritance of eternal blessing.
 
And so we will give thanks to God—today, tomorrow, and every day. We will do it as citizens of our nation, as priests to God that we all are, anointed in Baptism to pray on behalf of our neighbor. We will give thanks for every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God; for the Word made Flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ; for the good land he has given us; and for the new heaven and new earth 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.