Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sermon for 8/29/21: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Blessed to See and Hear

Luke 10:23-37



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



Why do some believe, while others don’t? Why are some saved, and the others aren’t? How is it that one person receives the Word in faith, while another rejects that same Word? The answer to these questions is a simple one, though it is not entirely satisfying. If we reject God’s Word, it is our own fault; we cannot lay that burden at any door but our own. And if we do believe God’s Word, if we do have the faith in Jesus Christ, it is due solely and completely to the grace of God. And even the very faith itself that holds to the promises of God’s Word is a gift of grace, worked in us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Whether or not this answer satisfies anyone’s curiosity, this is the answer.

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Our salvation consists of seeing and hearing Christ. These disciples, of course, were uniquely blessed in that their seeing and hearing was physical. They saw Jesus for themselves; they could touch Him and know that He was flesh and blood, just like them. Prophets and kings, men of God who had come before, had longed to see and hear what the disciples beheld. And the faith of those patriarchs was no less true; they had just not had the blessing of seeing its fulfillment in Christ.

But there were also those who saw and heard Jesus for whom there was no blessing. There is nothing clearer in the Gospels than the truth that Jesus had proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom for all to see and hear in Him. St. John said: “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” Only faith receives such blessings, and that faith is God’s gift.

Your seeing and hearing is not physical, but nothing is taken from your salvation because of that. You are like those prophets and kings in one sense; your seeing and hearing is not physical, but spiritual. On the other hand, you have God’s complete revelation in Holy Scripture; you know everything that took place for your salvation. As Jesus said to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

The salvation we see and hear is what is shown to us in this parable of the Good Samaritan. We see that man who fell among robbers, who was stripped and beaten and left for dead—and we know that we are that man. That is what sin and Satan do to us. We have no natural defense against them. And Jesus is that Good Samaritan who does not pass us by in our need. Jesus is pure compassion. He binds up our wounds. He carries us with His own strength to this place of refreshment where we receive proper care. He will pay whatever is necessary to make us whole again. Is this not what takes place at the cross? There Jesus, like the Samaritan, was despised and rejected of men. Those without eyes to see and ears to hear the truth saw only a man who was receiving a punishment he seemingly deserved. But with eyes to see and ears to hear, we see the redemption of this world, and we hear the words of a compassion that can only be divine: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This was what generations of prophets and kings had longed to see and hear. It is what you and I have been given to see and hear. And the place of this seeing and hearing is the Church, which is also why many do not see and hear these things. Jesus is the Good Samaritan; the inn is the Church. As Luther tells us, “Here we have the substance of the Gospel. The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of mercy and grace in which there is nothing but a continual carrying of the lost. Christ takes our sins upon Himself and has patience when we fail. We still always lay around His neck, and yet He does not become weary of carrying us, which should be the greatest comfort for us when we are in conflict with sin.”

And that brings us back to the question with which we began: “Why are some saved and not others?” Why you or me, and not someone else? The answer is the grace of God, and because that is the answer, we cannot really ask why. God knows why, and that is enough. After all, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Grace is the exclusive work of God. And that grace is also promise: once the Lord has you, He will not let you go. That is why you are blessed in your seeing and your hearing. That is why you have eyes to see and ears to hear. That is why you humbly, faithfully, come to receive the true body and blood of Christ, where you see His body broken in death, but now raised to life; you see His blood shed for sin, ever pleading for you before the throne of heavenly grace. And you are blessed in your seeing and your hearing, even unto life that is everlasting. 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, August 13, 2021

HYMN: Into Your Hands, O Lord of Life

I am not Paul Gerhardt or Philipp Nicolai. I do not claim to be, nor do I believe I have that kind of talent. I do, however, have persistent friends who have encouraged me to not be a lazy git while I’m here in this hospital bed with Covid. So here I am. I don’t think I’m in any particular danger or dying, though I might have welcomed that when I was first admitted on Sunday. (I jest, but I was not in good shape.) Still, I don't know what’s ahead for me or for my family, all of whom tested positive.
Again, here I am. Here is my prayer. God is good. The temporary tune is the same as “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me.” Feedback is love, as are your prayers.

Into Your Hands, O Lord of Life

1. Into Your hands, O Lord of life,

I here commend my flesh and soul.

In deep distress and earthly strife,

Pounded by waves from pier to shoal,

Weakened, I cry, “Deliver me!

In Your great love, oh, set me free.”

2. I have no strength, no, none my own,

Nothing to serve my own defense.

I place my trust in Christ alone,

Raising my prayers like frankincense.

No matter what may come today,

Jesus keeps Satan’s hordes at bay.

3. Lord, as my body quakes in fear,

As I groan out on bended knee,

Be my Defender ever near.

I beg you, Savior, hear my plea.

My Jesus, who knows all my pain,

Shall use it for my good and gain.

4. Savior and King, with every breath,

Grant me to trust Your boundless grace.

Whatever comes, my life or death,

I shall rejoice to see your face.

Whatever You ordain to be

Will be sufficient strength for me.

(c) 2021

88 88 88


Illness, End of Life; Psalm 31:5

Thursday, August 12, 2021

UPDATE HYMN: Promised Rest Awaits the Weary

As I sit here in my hospital room, my body dealing with the ravages of Covid, a brother pastor has blessed me with a gift. He had written an original tune and arrangement for one of my original texts, Promised Rest Awaits the Weary. And what a lovely tune it is. The Reverend Robert Mayes is one of my most prolific composers, and this is, in my opinion, the best tune he has composed for me. I’ll include my text and then a picture of his arrangement. Thank you, Pastor Mayes! Perfect timing; I needed this comfort.

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 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
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REQUIEM PROMISERAT (Original Robert Mayes tune: see below) or
Cross and Comfort; Tentatio; Anfechtung; I Kings 19; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 11:28

And this audio file might work, too.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

HYMN: Fear Not, Fear Not, O Zion

After a bit of a hiatus, I’ve come back around to the Easter Vigil hymn project I’m working on with the Reverend Doctor John Fleischman. As I’ve said before, this isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, but I’ve enjoyed the process nonetheless. This particular text is based on Zephaniah 3:12-20, which speaks of God gathering His people. 

Unlike my previous texts for the Easter Vigil project, I didn’t include an introductory stanza. I don’t know if this particular text needs it; I repeat the concept of God gathering His people throughout the text. Anyway, here it is. Feedback is love.

Fear Not, Fear Not, O Zion

for the Easter Vigil

The Gathering of God’s People—Zephaniah 3:12-20

1. Fear not, fear not, O Zion! 

Rejoice! Oh, shout and sing!

The mighty One will save you:

The Lord, your God and King.

Behold, the King is with you

To guard you in the fray.

No judgment stands against you.

Your foes He drove away.

2. Fear not, fear not, O Zion!

Let not your hands grow weak, 

For He shall be the refuge

Of all the humble, meek.

Their lips speak no deception.

Their deeds shall bring no shame.

No evil shall befall them

Who call upon His name.

3. Fear not, fear not, O Zion.

Oppressors meet their end.

The outcast He will gather.

On Him you may depend:

To praise you to the nations,

To calm your every fear,

To gather you together.

The Lord is with you here.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Sermon for 8/1/21: Ninth Sunday After Trinity

CLICK HERE for the audio file.

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Stewardship in the “Sons of Light”

Luke 16:1-13


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



Why would Jesus deliver this parable? Surely He did not approve of the unrighteous servant who cheated his master, whose hand was caught in the cookie jar. And when he is about to lose his job, he sees to his own future by again stealing from his master. Jesus could never approve of such behavior. So why does He set this parable before us?

The point Jesus is making here is that unbelievers are often much more adept at using the things of the world to their advantage than Christians are at using the gifts of God for love and the service of their neighbor. The sons of this world far surpass us when it comes to a single-minded devotion to gaining advantages for themselves in this life than we are in using God’s gifts for the good of our neighbor and the Church. Jesus wants His hearers to imitate that steward, of course—but not in the unrighteousness that knows how to bend the rules and beat the system. Instead, the “sons of light” are to be shrewd in recognizing that their true riches are found in heaven, and that their focus needs to be where their hope truly lies: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

God may bless you with wealth, but not so that you can act as if it is all yours. That is how unbelievers treat the gifts of God. But you are children of your heavenly Father, and you really know better. And so, just as the unrighteous steward shrewdly obtained earthly benefits for himself, we should be just as shrewd in being assured of eternal benefits in heaven. Not a single possession we have is our own; it belongs to another, to God. The words of the Psalmist are as true as any words can be: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein...” We are all stewards, and we, too, will give an account of the gifts entrusted to us.

What is important, then, is not how much we have, but what we do with what we have. We will use the gifts of God in either righteous or unrighteous ways. When we have more than we need and refuse to use it in service to God and love for our neighbor, such things can become unrighteous. As Jesus said: “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The steward in our text was intent on providing for himself alone. Are we really any better? Just as the children of the world often set good examples for us in terms of their shrewdness and persistence, so we, who are the baptized of God, are called to do no less in the realm of spiritual things. We are to be equally shrewd in the things God gives us—not in the way of that unrighteous steward, to be sure, but in the way of Christ: not selfishly, but selflessly.

Still, this parable has something more to say to us, and this is really the most important thing it teaches us. Part of the steward’s shrewdness was his confidence in the mercy of his master. He believed rightly that his master would be merciful to him, though he was certainly under no obligation to be merciful. He believed his master to be a man of generosity and forgiveness. He staked his future on that. And he did well; it was a faith his master praised. So we, too, trust that our Master is a God of mercy. And He truly is that as He forgives all our debts through Jesus, that we may be received into our eternal home. In this our hope is certain, that God, who is both faithful and just, forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We believe that our heavenly Father is merciful to us because of the debt paid on our behalf in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son. And it is that faith, above all, that our heavenly Father desires and praises.

Though we have often squandered and misused our Father’s gifts in selfishness and sin, Jesus, who is the righteousness of God, has cancelled our debt, knowing that His forgiveness will be honored by the Father because of His holy suffering and death upon the cross. Jesus made eternal friends of us, not by hoarding things for Himself, but by paying the ultimate price for us, that we might know and receive the riches of His mercy. Jesus relied on the mercy of His Father, and He was not disappointed. He trusted that His Father would honor His death in our place. And because He did, you may now take your bill and write, “Paid in full.” Your books are balanced, your account justified. You will receive an everlasting home! 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.