Monday, March 29, 2021

Sermon for 3/29/21: Monday of Holy Week


I preached today for the noon service at St. John Lutheran Church in Chester, Illinois. Every year, the women of their congregation sponsor daily services for the community during Holy Week, and the pastors of St. John invite area LCMS clergy to participate. Other than last year, when the services were cancelled, it has been my pleasure to preach at one of these serves ever year since 2016. It's nice to get out; it reminds me of my days as a pulpit rider in Louisiana, except that I don't have to go back to my job as the manager of a secular community center. Anyway, here's what I delivered today.

CLICK HERE for the sermon audio.

“We Wish to See Jesus”

John 12:1-23

 

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

 

 

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” These Greek men could have had desired nothing greater. But for some unspoken reason, Phillip didn’t take these men directly to Jesus. He speaks to Andrew, and then they went together to speak to Jesus. But our Lord’s reply might shed some light on the subject. He answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” No doubt there were some who heard these words who said, “Well, it’s about time. Now we’ll see something really spectacular.” No doubt there were a few among the disciples who were enticed by the palms and the hosannas of the crowds. Now Jesus will reveal His true royal nature. Now Jesus will drive out the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth.

As we know, our Lord Jesus Christ would be glorified—but not in a way anyone other than the Trinity would expect. He would be exalted, lifted up on the cross, bearing the sins of the world. Jesus repeatedly said, “My Hour has not yet come.” But now, after this glorious parade, Jesus finally states, “The hour has come,” and the hour refers to His death. How can death be glorious?

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” But the crucified Jesus isn’t the Jesus we really want to see, is it? Like Peter at the Transfiguration, we want to see the shiny Jesus, the powerful Jesus, the miraculous Jesus. Like the crowds who came because He raised Lazarus from the dead, we want to see the Jesus who makes our lives better; the Jesus who heals our diseases; the Jesus who leads us against those who oppose the Word of God—against abortion factories like Planned Parenthood; against the government and its seeming hatred of the Christian faith; against those who call themselves Christians but who oppose what Jesus teaches. We want the Jesus who takes us to the mountaintop with mighty choruses of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” ringing out as we march to victory.

But that is not the real Jesus. Jesus consistently and clearly preached His suffering, death, and resurrection as His glory. He clearly proclaimed this as our salvation. Even so, His disciples, the crowds who sang His praise, the Greeks, the Pharisees—everyone was confused. They were unable to understand that the greatest expression of the glory of God lies in Christ on the cross, where He suffered all in order to forgive the sins of the world.

Jesus wants you to share in this glory. But in order to share in this glory, you must die. Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus used the word life in two ways: life as we know it here, and eternal life with Him. Those who love the life of this world will lose their eternal life. Those who die to the life of this world already have eternal life. That is what Holy Baptism is about. Remember these words from St. Paul to the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Few understood the reason Jesus came to Jerusalem that day. We have no excuse for such confusion. The Bible plainly states that Jesus came to Jerusalem because He had an appointment with a cross.

This coming Thursday and Friday, the Church will gather to “see Jesus”—to focus on the gifts Jesus gave us with His Passion. We will focus on the Sacrament in which Jesus gives His body and blood to us for the forgiveness of sins. We will focus on His death on the cross in which Jesus earned forgiveness for all our sins—a death we die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. This is the life of the baptized believer: continually dying to sin and rising again to new life in Christ. This is the way it is for the believer until our Lord takes him out of this valley of sorrows to Himself. Then we shall wait for the final Day: the Day when our bodies will rise to immortality and we shall live forever. There will be no need for death because there will be no sin. While we live on this earth, we look forward to that day when there is no death, but only eternal life—when we shall truly “see Jesus” 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, March 28, 2021

Sermon for 3/28/21: Palmarum--Sunday of the Passion


CLICK HERE for the audio recording.

CLICK HERE to view the sermon video.

 

The Death of Death

Matthew 27:11-54

 

 

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

 

 

Death was losing its grip on humanity. Jesus hadn’t even risen yet Himself, but St. Matthew tells us that the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. That raises all sorts of questions. Why did they wait in their tombs Friday and Saturday to enter Jerusalem on Sunday? Did Jesus tell them to leave their tombs only when He exited His own grave? And how long did they live after this miraculous event? We might speculate about the answers to these questions and others; Scripture leaves them unanswered. But we can say this for certain: the resurrection of these saints reveals that Christ had conquered death, and His resurrection would result in the resurrection of all the saints.

Christ foreshadowed His own resurrection by raising three other individuals before His death. He raised the daughter of Jairus. He raised the young man from Nain. And, just before He came to Jerusalem, He raised Lazarus. By these resurrections, Jesus not only showed that He had power over life and death, but also that He had come to destroy the power of death. In the same way, these raised saints in Matthew 27 showed that Death was losing its grip. Death was trying to hold all mankind in its icy grasp. Up until Christ came, Death was doing well in keeping us all under its power. But then Death tried to hold one more Man, the One from Nazareth. Death seemed to win. The Man breathed His last on the cross. All was good, so far as Death was concerned.

But the Son of God was too much for Death to contain. The Lord of life could not be seized by Death’s cold hand. Instead, Death was mortally wounded. Christ had become the death of Death. Like a juggler who tried to control one ball too many, Death began to lose some of the people it had held. Bodies started rising. Saints began walking out of tombs. Death was losing its grip.

Even now, with one foot in its own grave, Death tries to hold on. Even now, it appears that Death rules the day, and we cower in fear of its cold hands. Our loved ones still suffer; Cancer, Alzheimer’s and dementia, influenza, Covid, depression, anxiety, murder—people keep suffering and dying, which is business as usual as far as Death is concerned. But that is only the appearance. Death cannot hold on for much longer. A day is coming soon when Death will be thrown into the lake of fire. Life will rule supreme and Death will be gone forever. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

This is because the Son of God died on Calvary. This is because He let His enemies crucify Him. He fulfilled all Scripture. They divided up His clothes and cast lots for them. He was mocked, even by the robbers crucified next to Him. So that you could live forever, He endured the darkness when the Father forsook Him. He yielded up His spirit, so that your spirit will be forever joined to your body in unending life at the Resurrection.

That is what the resurrected saints on Good Friday teach us most of all. Christ has earned Resurrection for all His saints at the Cross. He has even paid the price for us, the faltering, stammering saints of this late century. We shall be raised, because by His death, our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered Death. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sermon for 3/24/21: Midweek Lent 5 (Hymns of Lent series)

 

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

 

 Around 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would receive the comfort and salvation promised to Adam and Eve at the fall into sin: “Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.” The fight had been going on for far longer—thousands of years, according to the genealogies found in Genesis and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Even as Adam and Eve were in mourning because they had given in to temptation, the Father promised a Seed to crush the satanic serpent. The Garden was lost to them, as was the Tree of Life. Life would be full of hardship, toil, and pain. But the fight had already begun—in fact, the staging for this battle had begun even before the foundation of the world: the Father, with His divine foreknowledge of man’s fall into sin, preparing His only-begotten Son to win forgiveness and life for His creation. In thanksgiving for this forgiveness and life, creation sings the praises of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ, the world's redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

 

Tell how, when at length the fullness
Of the appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His Father's home,
Blazed the path of true obedience,
Shone as light amidst the gloom.

 

The time had come. Here, in the midst of Lent, we get a little Christmas. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” And as God in flesh, yes, He “blazed a path of true obedience,” perfectly obeying His own Law as only God could, applying that perfect obedience to man as only a Man could.

 

He went forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Did His work, and met His death;
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.

 

We see the smaller battles in the overall war between God and Satan: how the devil tempted our Lord three times in the wilderness after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, only for Jesus to perfectly pass the test; how the devil tempted Jesus to set aside the cup of suffering as our Lord approached His cross, only for Jesus to submit Himself to the will of the Father in staying the course, drinking that cup to the bitter end; and then the ultimate showdown: how the devil thought he would win the war with the death of Jesus on the cross, only for Jesus to emerge from the tomb with the true victory on the third day.

 

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit your equal be;
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

 

Everything after that has been Satan waging rearguard battles as he retreats, because he knows Jesus has already won; he’s just choking out his last little rebellion as we await the Last Day.

We take this victory for granted, don’t we? We sing the song of this victory on Sunday morning, and then we go into the world and live as if Satan won the war. We see the forgiveness which Jesus won for us at the price of His own blood and death, and we treat it like it gives us a license to sin. Old Adam luxuriates in his sin and vices. He likes the cesspool in which he wallows, all too happy with his stench, all too willing to be covered with the filth of corruption. After all, my baptism will wash me clean every time, right? We take the grace all too cheaply, as if the blood of Christ is a small price to pay for our sin.

But that blood of Christ, applied to us in the waters of baptism, shed into our mouths in the Holy Supper, does wash away our sin. Over and over again, our Lord brings us back to our baptism through the words of Holy Absolution, spoken by our pastor as by Jesus Himself. The grace which the Old Adam treats so carelessly is a powerful cleanser. A stanza missing from the Lutheran Service Book version of our hymn tells us:

 

There the nails and spears He suffers,
Vinegar, and gall, and reed;
From His sacred body pierc├Ęd
Blood and water both proceed;
Precious flood, which all creation
From the stain of sin hath freed.

 

This reminds us of Luther’s Flood Prayer in the Rite of Holy Baptism: “through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.” There is no wallow, no filth, no corruption that Baptism cannot wash away, by the power of the blood of Christ which was shed on the cross for us and for our salvation.

           How else can we respond to this grace than to sing? Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,” our hymn tells us. “Sound the loud triumphant lay.” For, as another beloved hymn tells us:

 

And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

 

We’re still fighting here, still struggling against Satan and his demon minions, still struggling against our Old Adam. But the victory has already been won in our Lord Jesus Christ. The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh cannot defeat our Jesus; and through the power of His cross, His blood, and His resurrection, these enemies cannot defeat 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, March 21, 2021

Sermon for 3/21/21: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Accusers and Faith
John 8:42-59 
 

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

 

 A man who is tone deaf cannot fully experience the thrill of music. A man who is color blind cannot fully appreciate a painting or even the beauty of nature itself. A man without taste buds cannot appreciate the nuances of flavor in food. It is the same with spiritual things; there must be a gift that enables us to respond to God and what He says and does for us. That gift is the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scripture has a wonderful way of describing for us the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit serves two great functions. He reveals the truth of God, especially Jesus Christ and the Gospel. And then He makes us able to recognize and grab hold of the truth when we hear it and see it. You remember how Luther described this work of the Spirit: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith...” All of this clearly means that, without the Holy Spirit, no man can recognize God’s truth when he hears or sees it. And it also means that, if a man shuts the door of his heart against the Spirit of God, then, even when the truth is fully displayed, he is quite unable to see it and recognize it, to grab hold of it and make it his own. These are not matters of the intellect. It is not a question as to whether or not one is smart enough to get it. Some of the most brilliant people ever to live have denied the truth of God, yet a little child can grasp it. It is not a matter of intellect; it is a matter of faith—and faith is a gift we receive from the Spirit.

That brings us to the Gospel appointed for today. The Jews believed they were religious people, but because they insisted on clinging to their own ideas of what faith is, instead of what God had told them again and again, they had drifted so far from God that they had become godless. And it stung them to be told that they were strangers to God. They lashed out at Jesus. They accused Jesus of being a Samaritan: an enemy of Israel and of God. They accused Him of being a law-breaker and a heretic. They branded the Son of God as a heretic! But is there any doubt that it would happen to Him again if He were to return in flesh and confront the churches of this world with their foolish worldliness, with their love for their own ideas and for their clamoring after the praise of men? Of course our Lord answers that He was no heretic, nor was He a servant of the devil—another of the accusations hurled at Him. His only aim was to honor the Father in heaven, while the conduct of His adversaries was a continual dishonoring of God. He says, in effect: “It is not I who have a devil; it is you.”

We prayed with the psalmist, “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation...” All the power of this world and all of its ill-gotten evidence seems arrayed against Jesus. But Jesus was not looking for honor in this world. He knew He would be insulted and rejected and dishonored and crucified. The work of redemption required that Jesus be abused and mistreated. To save men, He must take upon Himself all the evil that men are capable of working. Yes, even those who accused Him were included, even as we who have denied or doubted Him were a part of the burden He bore to the cross. But Isaiah tells us in a remarkable prophecy of the crucifixion: “When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge My Righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” That was our Lord’s vindication. He would see that all He had suffered would be worthwhile. He would be the cause of salvation, and the Father in heaven would be pleased in His Son.

But this is also our vindication, for we cannot help but remember that Jesus told His disciples to expect to be treated as He had been treated. Just as Jesus was considered an enemy to His world—and even to the people who claim to believe—so we will face enmity in this world, and maybe even in the Church. Even as they could find nothing evil to pin on Jesus in accusation, so our presence and our life of faith serves as an ongoing indictment against the unbelief of this world, a solemn reminder of what and Who is being rejected. But for us, it is worth whatever it may cost! Whatever we may be called on to suffer in His name, it cannot begin to compare to the glory that shall be revealed to us. For what awaits us is eternal life: life beyond the pain of earthly existence, life that forgets what was before and looks only to that future of permanent glory.

As Holy Week and the culmination of this Lenten season approaches, God grant that we lift up our eyes to see Jesus, the author of our salvation. God grant that we willing bear our crosses—the accusations of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh—as we gaze upon the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. God grant us His Holy Spirit, that we may fully see and rejoice in our Lord’s suffering and death, and the life that we will live because of it, forever and forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sermon for 3/17/21: Midweek Lent 4 (Hymns of Lent series)

 

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

 

Glory be to Jesus,
Who in bitter pains
Poured for me the lifeblood
From His sacred veins!

 

In speaking about sacrifices made upon the altar, the Lord said to Moses, The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” For this reason, the Jews were not to eat any blood. Blood has always been an important matter for the people of God, even from the first murder in human history. When Cain kills his brother Abel out of jealousy, the Lord tells Cain, The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” Blood is never silent, because blood is a living thing, and living things speak to the One who made them. With perhaps some poetic license our hymn writer tells us:

 

Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies…

 

Now, Scripture doesn’t actually tell us what the blood of Abel said to God. We don’t know if Abel’s blood wanted vengeance, or if it just told God it was there. Even so, we know God heard it, and we know God punished Cain harshly for shedding his brother’s blood.

           The descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Passover knew the power of blood. The Passover they were in Jerusalem to celebrate was a celebration of the blood of the Passover lamb. The lamb’s blood marked their homes as the homes of the children of Israel; seeing that blood, the angel of death would spare the firstborn sons of Israel. They knew the power of blood, and they wanted to see it spill from the One who was sent to be their King. They wanted to spill the blood of the true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. They should have paused before crying out, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Because blood has power; The life of the flesh is in the blood…”

           But God hears prayers and answers them. The people wanted the blood of Jesus to spill on them, and God made sure the people got what they wanted. Fortunately, He doesn’t always answer them the way we mean them to be answered. The hymn writers tells us:

 

           ...The blood of Jesus

           For our pardon cries.

 

The blood of Jesus echoed His words from the cross: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” The blood of Jesus cries out to the Father for our deliverance, because that’s what Jesus came to do: He came to die for us, bearing our sins upon the cross. Then He rose from the dead to win new life for us. And then He ascended into heaven, where He intercedes for us before the Father. For “you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” The blood of Jesus is powerful. The blood of Jesus is your life.

 

Grace and life eternal
In that blood I find;
Blest be His compassion,
Infinitely kind!

 

Blest through endless ages
Be the precious stream…

 

And now that the blood of Christ is upon you, that blood also speaks to you. Jesus says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Only by the holiness of Christ that pours down upon us from his cross can we ever do what God demands. Only through the blood of Christ upon us can we be sober regarding the things of this world and the things of God. Only through the blood of Christ upon us do we obey God and mortify our dying flesh. Only through the blood of Christ upon us can we rest our hope in His grace. Only through the blood of Christ upon us do we dare fear, love, or trust Him.

Through the death of Christ upon the cross, we die to ourselves and live by the holiness of Christ. As His baptized, blood-bought people, His blood continues to be powerful for us, feeding us with forgiveness and life as we receive that blood into our mouths in the Holy Supper. And so we give thanks to God for the holiness and the life He has given us, which we bear in the blood-marked crosses upon our foreheads and upon our hearts—now during Lent and throughout our earthly days.

Lift we, then, our voices,
Swell the mighty flood;
Louder still and louder
Praise the precious blood!

 

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, March 14, 2021

Sermon for 3/14/21: Fourth Sunday in Lent

 

CLICK HERE to hear the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE to view the sermon video.

 

Living Bread

John 6:1-15

 

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

 

 After God had delivered the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, they spent forty years traveling around the wilderness. They would have soon died in that barren wasteland, except that God miraculously provided food for them: bread from heaven. Each morning they awoke to find the ground covered with “manna.” And God sustained them by this bread until they entered the promised land. Here in the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus compares Himself to this manna, and He says that it was actually a sign of His coming. “I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven,” He said. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the Bread of God on which we feed through faith, a Bread that nourishes and sustains us in this world, a bread which gives us a portion of eternal life in the Promised Land of heaven. So when we hear of this miracle of the feeding of the 5000 in which Jesus multiplies the bread for His followers, we know that the significance of this miracle goes beyond the earthly bread. Ultimately it has to do with Jesus.

Looking out over the multitudes who had come to Him, Jesus asked His disciple Philip: “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” And, with a hopeless feeling, Philip answered that two hundred days wages would not buy enough bread to feed all these people. In other words, there was no possible way to provide for such a crowd. But, as John tells us of Jesus: “This He said to test him…” Jesus asked this question as a way of driving home the point that the Bread of Life, the bread He has come to offer, cannot be bought or bargained for. No, this is Bread that God freely offers in His Word and Sacraments. It is Bread that brings forgiveness and salvation without cost to us. These things cannot be earned or merited by our goodness; they can only be received as a gift from Him. Only one who acknowledges his spiritual bankruptcy before God, who recognizes that he does not deserve God’s eternal gifts, can receive the Bread of Life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who would try to buy their way into heaven, so to speak, bargaining with their own works and spiritual qualifications, will not be given life from this Living Bread, for they seek a righteousness of their own. Only those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ will be satisfied.

How did Jesus meet the need before Him? One of His disciples, Andrew, said to Him: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” On the surface it appeared that this bread and fish would be useless to feed so many people—something like the criticism one occasionally hears about the Sacrament of the Altar: “What good can a little bread and wine do?” some say. But with Jesus it was more than enough to do the job. What matters is not the impressiveness of the elements, but the Lord Himself, and what He is able to do with those elements.

 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” Here is the great miracle: as the disciples handed out the food given to them by Christ, there was always more to give. The more they handed out, the more there was. And thousands were fed, and the food never ran out. Indeed, everyone ate their fill. Is this not also how it is with all the gifts of God? He gives them; we partake of them and use them; and their blessing is multiplied…and there is still more. In this regard, consider the Holy Sacrament that is offered to us on this Lord’s Day. In bread and wine, the Lord multiplies His body and blood, and through His ministers He distributes them to His people, that you may receive all that you want of Him who is the Living Bread from heaven, that your souls may be thoroughly satisfied. And there is always more of this Bread of Life to be given out. For His gifts of forgiveness and life are limitless and eternal. The love of our Lord is an ever-expanding love; the more that He gives, the more that He has to give.

So when you come to the Lord’s table in repentance and faith, you need never fear that the sin you bring is greater than the Lord’s ability to deal with, for His mercy is without measure. When you receive the Living Bread from heaven in the Sacrament, you receive the fullness of Christ’s life and forgiveness. And there is always more. As Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” Truly, Jesus is the Living Bread from heaven, given to you.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the feeding of the 5000 is not merely a temporary, one-time miracle. It is an eternal miracle that is still going on in the Church. God grant you faith to receive Him who is the “manna” from above, that having been fed with Living Bread, you, too, will be nourished unto eternal life. 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, March 10, 2021

Sermon for 3/10/21: Midweek Lent 3 (Hymns of Lent II)


CLICK HERE to hear the sermon audio.

CLICK HERE to view the sermon video. Sorry about the blur. I must be preaching too fast. *wink*

 

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

 

            “Beloved, let us love one another…” The word “love” is tossed about all too frequently, and with all too many meanings these days. For the worldly-minded, love is mainly about that touchy-feeling emotion which reaches its pinnacle in Hallmark movies or in the physical release experienced by any two people—and sometimes more than two people. And in the eyes of the world, anything that is called “love” cannot be a bad thing, even if it is harmful to the spiritual wellbeing of those who engage in it. It doesn’t matter if a couple lives together or participates in the act of procreation outside of marriage; after all, the individuals love each other, and love can’t be wrong. When a couple who has been having sex becomes pregnant, regardless of marital status, subsequently decides to abort their unborn child, this murder is viewed as an act of love; after all, what kind of future can there be for an unwanted child? And since “God is love,” certainly—if He exists—He must approve these acts which are performed in the name of love.

For couples who are contemplating marriage or for couples who are experiencing marital difficulties, I frequently discuss love in terms in commitment and hard work, because the touchy-feely emotions come and go in even the most loving of couples. In this, I think our forefathers had a certain wisdom in arranging marriages. When two young people are brought together under the banner of commitment, love often grows; when the emotion is what brings two people together, as Don Henley sang, “Sometimes love just ain’t enough.”

When it comes down to it, true love has to do with serving others, with putting the welfare of others above self. Suddenly, “love,” which we believed was just an emotion, becomes a verb, a “doing word.” And that’s well-nigh impossible for us, because we are not wired to be selfless. We are always looking for what we have coming to us, our fair share. If love has to do with what we do for our neighbor instead of what we feel, then suddenly it’s not okay to give in to the lusts of the flesh; suddenly it’s not okay to act only in your own best interest.

With that definition before our eyes, it makes sense when the Apostle John writes, “God is love.” The cross is the ultimate sign of love for the people of God. Nowhere in all the history of creation has love been demonstrated as clearly as in the crucifixion of Jesus. The sinless Son of God dies the death of sinners, the innocent Lamb becoming the Sacrifice to pay the price of the sins of the world.

 

Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters, "God is love."
He bears our sins upon the tree;
He brings us mercy from above.

 

It is true love which brings our Lord to bear the burden of the debt of sin. He certainly didn’t hang on the cross for His own sake. He didn’t need to die. Death is the wages of sin, and someone who doesn’t earn a debt doesn’t have to pay it back. But He chooses to lay down His life anyway. He chooses to love His neighbor—He chooses to love you—even more than He loves Himself.

“God is love.” This truth is central to the Gospel. Since God is love, everything He does, He does out of love. He gives us His holy Law out of love, so that we know how to live in a manner which pleases Him. And, knowing that we would fail to keep the Law, in His great love He promised a Savior, One who would keep the Law perfectly in all its strenuous demands, One who would bear the sins of the world, One who would die the death of sin. Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And nowhere else is this so evident than in our Lord’s suffering and death for us and for our salvation. “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

In response to this great love from the God who is love, we rejoice to show love in two ways. First:

 

We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross.

 

And in addition to rejoicing in this love we receive from God, as John tells us: “Beloved, let us love one another.” Yes, that love starts with His love for us. But in the love He gives to us, He also sets you free to love your neighbor. And where you fail to show that love, He also gives you the freedom to confess your sins and be forgiven time and time again.

As we continue on this journey to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us give Him thanks and praise, for He has perfectly loved His Father in perfect obedience to the Law, and He has perfectly loved His neighbor in giving the benefits of that obedience to us. No greater love has ever been given. No greater love has ever been shown.

 

To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore.

 

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, March 07, 2021

Sermon for 3/7/21: Third Sunday in Lent

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Demons Believe; Do We?
Luke 11:14-28

 

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

 

In our sophisticated age, we are uncomfortable discussing such things as demon-possession. But Scripture is certainly not. And while we may not wish to ascribe it to demon-possession, we have known of those whose minds and bodies were so completely controlled by Satan that all human efforts to escape that control were futile. Only the power of God can break those shackles.

In our day, we may not see the kind of possession the New Testament describes, but the power of Satan is still very much in evidence. We can see it in the violence that saturates human society—and not just in far-away, terror-ridden places, but even here, where the lyrics to popular songs encourage violence and physical abuse; where unborn children are slaughtered by the tens of thousands; where the sick and elderly are often neglected and even encouraged at times to end their lives. We see the evidence in the covetousness all around us; in all the things people seem prepared to do for a bit more money; in selfishness; in the search for a material security that will one day turn to rust. We see it in the slanderous gossip that robs the unsuspecting of their reputations. And all the while, a web is being woven from which there is no escape except through the intervention of God Himself. We would like to think that we Christians are not caught up in this, but you know we are. We hate it, and we struggle with it. But by our own reason and strength, we are as helpless as the unbelieving world around us. Perhaps there is less difference than we would like between the demon possession of the New Testament and the troubles of life with which we find ourselves intimately involved.

When Jesus drove out that demon, He did more than deliver one helpless victim from Satan’s kingdom. He demonstrated that He is stronger than all demonic influence, and that He is able to overcome evil itself. And there is but one explanation for this: in Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has come! Even the demons knew it! A King has come whose kingdom cannot be overcome by Satan! And this same Christ is able to free those caught up in the power of the devil. Jesus Christ is the conqueror!

But even faced with clear evidence, many are reluctant to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is conqueror. Those who witnessed the casting out of the demon could not deny that they could hear this previously muted man talking. He seemed now to be perfectly normal in every way. And yet, even though they had seen with their own eyes the power of Christ, they still would not believe. In looking for an explanation other than the truth, some hit upon the idea that Jesus had some sort of working agreement with Satan.

Do we ever do anything like this? When granted some great blessing, or met with some stern warning in life, do we look for explanations other than the power of God? Are we reluctant to really acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the conqueror?

Unbelief has its roots in the unwillingness to acknowledge Jesus Christ for who He clearly is. And such unbelief is found also among those who, no doubt, consider themselves Christians, people who may well believe that what Scripture records is true, but have never really put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Let us beware of this sin of unbelief! It cannot rob Christ of His authority, of course; He is the conquering King whether anyone believes it or not. But unbelief robs the soul of eternal fellowship with God.

In light of this, the concluding words of the Savior are of particular significance: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God, and keep it!” Indifference towards the Word of God robs one of the blessings of God. But to listen attentively as God speaks in His Word is to know the treasures of His mercy and the promises of His grace; to listen attentively is to know of the holy life He gave into death for our sins and the sins of the world, and for the forgiveness and eternal life He promises and gives. To listen attentively is to find life on this earth exceedingly rich and satisfying, as we walk in fellowship with the Lord. And to listen attentively is to know that, when life has run its appointed course here, we will enter into those indescribable joys of heaven, to await the glory of the resurrection.

Jesus Christ is the conqueror! Satan’s kingdom will go down in utter defeat! May our whole confidence be in Him; may our allegiance be His without reservation. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory in 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.