Tuesday, September 29, 2020

HYMN: Promised Rest Awaits the Weary

Note: This has received an update with an original tune!

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
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
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.