Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sermon for 9/19/21: Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

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“God Has Visited His People”

Luke 7:11-17



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



We hear on Christmas morning the words of the Apostle John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” These are words of great joy to the people of God, for they tell us about the wonderful love which God has for us in providing a Savior—and more than that, how that Savior is God in flesh, living among His people, bringing light and life to a world into which sin brought darkness and death. And as we go through the Gospels—and even as we look at Old Testament accounts of God visiting His faithful children—we see how His presence among His people brings blessing, hope, and life.

What a blessing that is for us to hear, because the casket is always there before our eyes. “The wages of sin is death,” Saint Paul tells us. Every funeral is a reminder that you are a sinner. Only the person who is without sin has the power to escape the casket alive. We have all known wonderful people, people whom even the cynical world would consider to be good people. We all have heard of the wonderful work Mother Theresa did for the poor and helpless in the world. But we also know that Mother Theresa is dead. Martin Luther was perhaps the greatest witness to the truth of God’s Word the world has seen in a thousand years. But Martin Luther is dead, too. If you think you can earn life; if you think you deserve to escape the grave; if you think you can cheat death—look at the casket. Look at the names on the gravestones in the cemetery. Good works done by sinners—even the greatest works performed by the greatest people—do not merit life. Every casket is a reminder that we are sinners who have earned only death.

But Jesus visits, and He stops the death procession. The pallbearers stand still. The hearse pulls to the side of the road. Where Jesus goes, He brings light and life to “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.” He touches the coffin. He’s not superstitious, nor is He afraid of death. He says with authority, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And, sure enough, the young man from Nain sat up and spoke. Death is powerless before the Lord of life.

You may remember that I said earlier, “Only the person who is without sin has the power to escape the casket alive.” Nothing has changed to deny the truth of that statement. But what about the young man from Nain? What about the widow’s son in Zarephath whom Elijah brought back life? What about the daughter of Jairus? What about Lazarus? People are popping out of their graves all over the place! How can this be? How can these sinners rise up out of death?

This is a wonderful foreshadowing of the resurrection. Jesus is the One who is without sin. Jesus is the One who has the power to escape the tomb alive. It takes Someone who is without sin to bring life out of death. So the sinless Jesus died the death of a sinner, bearing all the sin of the world upon Himself. And then He emerged from the tomb, destroying the power of death forever. Everyone raised by the power of God before Jesus rose was pointing forward to that day when Jesus burst forth from the tomb.

And everyone raised by the power of God was also pointing forward to the Last Day, when all flesh will be raised up, and all the faithful will dwell in the presence of God forever. The One who died a sinless death has given His death to sinners so that we would live forever. Once again, Jesus stops the death procession—only this time, it will be permanent. Every casket will be empty. Every body that has been corrupted by sin will be raised up, forever to be without sin, forever to live. Again, how can this be?

This is true because, in Jesus, “God has visited His people.” He visits us wherever “two or three are gathered in His name…” He visits us in the waters of Holy Baptism, placing His holy name upon us, wrapping us in the sparkling, spotless robes of His own righteousness. He visits us in His Supper, present in bread and wine by the power of His Word to deliver to us life and salvation. And in all these things, He gives us life. Only the person without sin has the power to escape the casket, so Jesus gives us His perfect obedience, His life without sin. He visits us with His gifts of life; and death, now powerless, bows silent before Him.

Jesus tells the widow, “Do not weep.” Sinners cannot help but mourn the death of those we love. But we do not grieve like those without hope, because we know this is not truly the end. “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 in Christ, “God has visited His people.” 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 12, 2021

Sermon for 9/12/21: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Lilies, Birds, and You
Matthew 6:24-34

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



There are only two gods. One has many names and faces; as many, in fact, as you could possibly want. You can call him “god.” You can call him “Allah” or “Vishnu,” or make up a new name for him. He doesn’t mind. He’ll go by any name. He exists only to better the existence of his servants. He finds commonality amongst all religions, seeking peace and prosperity regardless of the cost. His password is tolerance. He isn’t jealous. He is quite modern-minded and enlightened. He has no strict doctrine or moral code. He is never harsh, never confrontational, never condemning. He encourages his followers to pamper and indulge themselves. And he glibly tells his servants that they can have as many idols as they like.

But of course, this so-called “god” is a liar! All of Satan’s promises are just bait. They are traps. He deceives in order to enslave, and eventually to devour. He is willing to bide his time. He lures men to complacency, all the easier to lead them to the slaughter. And yet, most of the world has fallen prey to his delusion. And that is because he is far easier to take than the other option, the God of suffering and sacrifice. That other Master is so old-fashioned; He is actually jealous. He won’t allow multiple masters. He offends the sensitivities of fallen men. He calls them “sinners.” He is not tolerant. He does not believe in freedom of religion. He won’t hear prayers in any other name. He is the God of truth, the God of Light. And if you will be His, then you can belong to no other. For no other is of any help or comfort. Jesus is the One, the only One, and He still wants you.

And so, what shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, executed for crimes He did not commit, and raised again to glory by His Father—given for you. What shall we drink? We shall drink the blood of Jesus, the very same that flowed from His wounds, poured out for the remissions of sins. What shall we wear? We shall wear His righteousness, the baptismal garment of joy that He provides by grace. About what, then, shall we worry? Nothing! All things fade away next to this reality: God loves you in Jesus Christ and promises to remove you from this shadowy valley of pain and bring you to Himself in heaven. So what does it matter if the garage needs painting, or they make fun of you at school, or your football team loses, or terrorists are threatening the nation? God has all of these things well in hand; He knows what He is doing.

When our Lord directed His disciples to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, they lived in an occupied country. The vast majority of the people were dirt poor. Imagine having nothing to eat—and I don’t mean not wanting to eat the can of soup in the cupboard. Imagine people not living past the age of fifty and half of the children dying by age five. Imagine foreigners dragging off your adolescent sons to fight their wars. In the midst of this Jesus says: “I take care of the birds. I’ll take care of you.”

From the world’s point of view, there is always plenty to worry about. But worrying doesn’t change things. It doesn’t stop thieves and criminals any more than it prevents tooth decay. No mere man knows what the future holds for the stock market, or for America, or for this congregation. The Scriptures are silent about such things. We are more fortunate than most, but we didn’t earn it. In the same way, our Church is not the last word on orthodoxy and truth. We have certainly been fortunate to have the truth of God proclaimed among us. But it doesn’t belong to us by divine right. Despise the Word of God, and it can be taken away. There won’t be Americans or a Missouri Synod in heaven. There will only be Christians: those who were baptized into Christ, heard His Word, ate His body and drank His blood for the remission of sins. But despite the temporary nature of the things God provides for us now, we know this: Jesus is coming back. Death has been defeated. He will not abandon us to the grave.

In the meantime, lilies bloom, wilt, and die, but new ones rise up behind them to bloom again. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Eat the body of Jesus. Drink His blood. Wear the clean garments of acceptance that He provides. All things eventually pass away—all things, that is, except the Word of God. The Word of God never passes away. The Word made flesh has paid your debt. You are forgiven, clean, and whole. And on that day when He returns, He will call you forth from the grave with an invitation you cannot refuse! No man, no terrorist, no bureaucrat, no institution, no government, no devil will be able to stop Him, nor will they be able to stop you as the Lord draws you to Himself, now body and soul together, into His eternal kingdom. 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.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Sermon for 9/5/21: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

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Mercy and Faith

Luke 17:11-19


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


There are Ten Commandments in God’s Holy Law; ten instructions for life that we fail to keep. Their simplicity is as sharp as polished steel, and they cut deeply and cleanly to expose our cancerous souls, to show us that we are not good; that things are not right; that we are not spiritually healthy. Ten Commandments, ten guides for our behavior, ten admonitions for decency and self-control, ten godly ideals of what we should be; we fail to keep all of them.

But is it so hard? You wouldn’t think so. Honor your father and mother? We can do that. Love your husband or wife? Of course; that makes sense. Tell the truth about others? Yes, that’s a good thing. That is what we want. That is not at all unreasonable. These commandments do not seem unattainable. They do not seem impossible. At our best, we do all of these, at least part of the time. But why not always? Why not fully? Are we so shallow, so temperamental, so afraid, so self-serving as all of that? Yes, we are. And the Law leaves us no escape. We are without excuse.

Oh, we have reasons. We are weak. We are sinful. Frankly, sometimes we are just not very smart. We do not give sin enough credit for what it does to us; we pamper the Old Adam. But there is no excuse for our behavior, no justification for our sinful self-indulgence. There is nothing—no extenuating circumstances, no once-in-a-lifetime event—that justifies our lies, our violence, our lust, our greed. After suffering the shame of behaving that way, why would someone go and do that again? Why would he do that to himself? Is he that weak, that foolish, that self-destructive? Yes, he is. Yes, I am. Yes, you are. We forget who we are as children of God, wanting to forget both our failures and our obligations. All we have to show for it is pain, sorrow, and shame. There is no excuse, and we know it. Our pride must wither and die. The truth of the Law must have its way. It must force us to our knees, to confession, and, finally, to death. For we have Ten Commandments, all of which we have failed to keep, and for which we deserve, quite rightly, to die eternally.

Our plea to heaven cannot be for justice or even fair treatment by the Law, because that is to ask for Hell. Our cry must be a plea for mercy, for undeserved pardon, for redemption by way of Someone Else’s punishment. Let us learn from those lepers who stood far off and cried out to the Son of God, who would be nailed to the cross for blasphemy He did not commit, who would be raised from death, all for the sake of mercy. Was there ever love like this? Was there ever a reprieve so sweet for criminals so steeped in guilt? Was there ever a God who joined His rebellious creation, and then let them kill Him for their sins, so they could go free? Yes! Mercy is what the lepers requested, and mercy was what He gave. All ten received mercy, a full and perfect reprieve from the guilt of their sin, a fresh washing in grace they did not earn, a healing rescue from certain death. All of them, one for each of the holy commandments of the Law, received mercy.

But, only one—and a foreigner, no less—returned to praise God. He did not simply offer a silent tribute in his mind and heart for a God of mercy and the good things he now knew; the others may well have done that. But this one went back to where he had received mercy. He came and worshiped Jesus, praising Him for the life He had restored, glorifying Him for the mercy He had shown. And in turn, this man received praise from God. Let us learn from that one what faith is and what faith does. Faith receives God’s grace and then comes back for more! It cannot get enough. It is not simply thankful, though it certainly is that. But it is also hungry for more and desires the one thing needful, the one thing that satisfies, the one thing that justifies us by declaring us righteous for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in our place. Faith wants what God gives: new life, rest, hope, love, peace—all for free.

Jesus needs nothing from us. We need everything from Him. He did not come to be served by us; that is not the Gospel. He came to serve us, to work for us, to buy us back from death, to restore us to health that we might stand in His presence as His beloved Bride, His Church. That is the Gospel: that we would be His and joyfully live forever with Him.

The fire from those holy Ten Commandments has been quenched. Every single demand has been met. Justice has been served and satisfied. You are forgiven, made clean. And you have come to the right place: to the place of mercy where Jesus serves you in the Bread of His Word and the Bread of His Supper. Come at His Word and receive the mercy He gives. 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.