Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sermon for 10/25/2020: Festival of the Reformation

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The Word Endures

John 8:31-36


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


“The Word of the Lord endures forever.” The prophet Isaiah wrote those words, and Peter repeated them in his first epistle. It only makes sense that this Old Testament truth would be repeated in the New Testament. The eternal faithfulness of God’s Word is the center of the Gospel. Almost from the very beginning, mere moments after Adam tasted the forbidden fruit, God promised His fallen children that He would send a Savior. And in the fullness of time—certainly not in the impatience of Eve’s time, who thought her son Cain was the promised Seed—in God’s perfect time, the Father sent His Son to crush Satan under His feet. Two millennia later, we gather in this place to rejoice in the fulfillment of that promise for us. We rejoice to receive the Spirit-inspired eyewitness accounts of Moses, the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, because “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

The world and even some within the Church rail against that saying. Jesus tells His hearers, “The truth shall make you free.” But just as Satan deceived Eve into believing that she and Adam would not die if they ate the fruit, the world would have you believe that our God surely could not have meant that abortion is sinful. Certainly God wouldn’t say that it is sinful to give in to the lusts of the flesh. Certainly God would say that one may rob from the rich if one then gives to the poor. At best, condemnations God speaks against sin are considered to be the errors of translation; more often, they are considered the women-hating and bigoted ramblings of the patriarchy disguised as God’s Word; most often, they are considered lies. Even within the Visible Church on earth, some have set aside the Word of God in favor of whatever the world views as loving. They have willingly chained themselves as slaves of sin. They cannot free themselves, and they don’t desire their freedom; they are proud of their chains.

But “the Word of the Lord endures forever.” The Word of God was transmitted from ear to mouth before there was a written language. The Word endured through Israel’s slavery in Egypt. The Word endured through the captivity of God’s Old Testament people in Assyria and Babylon. The Word endured through the persecution of the early Christian Church. The Word endured through the abuses of the Roman Church before the Reformation. And the Word of God endures even today, no matter how hard the world tries to stifle it, no matter how much the Pope tries to steal its power for himself, no matter how diligently the social justice movement tries to pervert its message.

The work of the Church today is to continue to abide in the Word of God. We must cling to it, even if it costs us our lives! Just this week, a Swiss missionary in Africa named Beatrice Stockli was shot to death after four years as a prisoner of Islamic extremists. That’s always a possibility for those who abide in the Word of God. But even in four years as a prisoner of Islam, this woman had her freedom in the Word of God. Not even the prospect of a martyr’s death could force her to abandon the Word of God. She was faithful unto death; the crown of life is her eternal reward. Sin cannot hold her. Death cannot touch her. She will awaken on the Last Day to be welcomed with all the faithful into the eternal Marriage Feast of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

And that promise is for you, as well. Nothing in this life can steal that promise, that crown, from you. The coronavirus cannot touch it, nor can any illness of body or mind. That promise is not affected by who wins the presidential election or which party holds a majority in Congress or the Supreme Court. Not even death can pry it from your hands. That Word of God, that eternal promise, belongs to you; it is your birthright in the waters of Holy Baptism. The truth has set you free. Nothing in all creation can change that, for the truth will endure for far longer than this world will last. “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” 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, October 11, 2020

Sermon for 10/11/2020: Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Perfect Obedience; Perfect Love

Matthew 22:34-46


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



“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The Law is all about love. Jesus is saying here that everything the Law and the Prophets teach is summarized by those commandments: to love God and to love each other. The words “Law and Prophets” summarize the Old Testament, and the Old Testament points to Christ. So when we hear those words in the New Testament, they point us to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of the Seed, the One who will crush the head of the satanic serpent. When we hear “Law and Prophets,” we should think, “This is talking about Jesus.”

Perfect obedience to the Law means that one must love God and neighbor perfectly. In perfect love, the young Jesus stayed in the Temple while His parents traveled back toward Nazareth; He was doing the work to which His Father appointed Him. In perfect love, Jesus called sinful men to be His disciples. In perfect love, He rejected the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. In perfect love, He healed the blind, the lame, the leper. In perfect love, He drove the moneychangers from the Temple court. In perfect love, He raised the dead. In perfect love, He called a Samaritan woman a little dog. In perfect love, He prayed for His disciples, knowing Judas would betray Him, knowing Peter would deny Him, knowing the others would abandon Him. In perfect love, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for sin to the very dregs. In perfect love, He hung on the cross at Golgotha. He was hanging on the Law, judged there by the Law. There He died for every sinner. He died there for you and for me and for every person who has ever neglected to love God and neighbor. He died there in perfect innocence, the only man ever to perfectly love God and neighbor.

But just as He hung on the Law because we had broken it, Jesus fulfills the Law by hanging on it too. There, on the cross, Jesus shows He perfectly loves God the Father more than all things by being obedient to His Father's will. But He also perfectly loved His neighbor—you―by dying for your sins, by taking them away, by leaving them on the cross. The One who is God and man in one Person perfectly loves God and His neighbor by hanging on the Law's cross. There, on Calvary, your Savior died for what you did and did what you could not do. There the Law is fulfilled. There the Law is satisfied. There your salvation is accomplished by the innocent Lord who put Himself under the Law for you and who fulfilled the Law for you.

How do you know the Law had been fulfilled? Your Baptism says so, because Jesus places His perfect love on you in the blood-washed baptismal robe of His righteousness. His Body and Blood say so, because you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith in that holy Food. His Word says so, because He reveals Himself as the innocent Sacrifice, the Scapegoat who bears our sins for us. His Word and Sacraments are the testimony that His obedience to the Law counts for you and your neighbor. He has fulfilled that Law for you.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. By themselves, these commandments convict you because you have not kept them. But in Christ, those commandments are kept; your sins against them have been erased. In living perfect love for God and for you, He has given you His perfect obedience and love. Come and receive perfect love at this altar, a gift given you from Christ Himself. 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, October 04, 2020

Sermon for 10/4/20: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

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Exalting the Lowly

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

 Today you have been invited to a Feast. You are invited to be an honored guest at the marriage Supper of the Lamb. You have been invited to take a seat at the Lord's Table. Though not a lesson in table etiquette, it is true that Jesus teaches that we should take the lowest place when we are invited to such a Feast, so that, when the Host comes, He may say to you, “Friend, move up higher.”

I have already said that this is not a lesson in manners. So what does this mean? How do we take the lowest place at the Lord's Table? This is a meal for sinners, and we are each one invited to take the seat of lowest honor by crying out to God and confessing that we are the chief of sinners. Examine yourself according to the Ten Commandments, and you will find that you are full of death and sin. Confess your sin to Him. Hold nothing back. Every indiscretion you think you have kept hidden behind the closed door of your room or in the silence of your heart, lay it bare before Him. Beat your breast and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Approach the Lord's Table in humility and with the shame that ought to accompany someone as dirty and disgusting as you know you are. Take the lowest seat, the seat of dishonor. You know it is yours. You know you belong there—if, indeed, you belong at the Table at all.

It is then that the Host of the feast, the Lord Himself, comes to you and calls you “Friend.” That one word alone is worth the price of admission. The Lord of Heaven, the righteous King of kings, calls you, a poor sinner, His own friend. “Friend,” He says, “move up higher.” That's what is happening in this Feast of the Holy Sacrament. The Lord Jesus Christ calls you His “friend” and showers ever-increasing honor on you. While any seat at this Table is an honor and a gift of grace, He lifts you from the lowest seat, the place of dishonor and sin, the place of those who show up late or who have tried to honor themselves and have been humbled. He invites you to sit in a higher place. He takes your hand and starts leading you up along the length of the banqueting Table, your honor increasing with every seat He passes. Still He leads on. Angels look on in wonder. Any minute the Host will decide that this seat is high enough for you, but He just keeps leading you closer and closer to the head of the Table. Finally, there are no seats left, except one. It is His seat, the seat of greatest honor at the Father's right hand. “I want you to have My place,” says your Savior. “I have won it for you.” Once again He fulfills His mother’s words: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly.”

 Jesus earned this privilege for you by fulfilling His own words. He put Himself in the lowest place in order to save you. He who is the Almighty Son of God, having taken on your humanity, was born in a lowly manger, lived as a poor and humble carpenter, had no home of His own during His ministry and no place to lay His head. He finally died the way the worst of criminals died: by being executed on a cross. Christ didn't claim glory and honor for Himself; He laid aside His majesty as King of creation to be crowned with thorns and to be made the Lowest of the low. All this He did for you. He received the punishment you deserved so that you would be released from your sin and set free. In Christ, the humble Redeemer, you now are forgiven. Jesus has fulfilled these words for you: “He who humbles Himself will be exalted.” In Christ, you are always welcome at this Table; you are His honored guest. 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.