Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sermon for 10/31/21: Festival of the Reformation

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My apologies. The video file was unusable.


“One Little Word…”

John 8:31-36



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


It is not an exaggeration to say that all of the problems of God’s people in Scripture happened as a result of not abiding in His Word. The Old Testament prophets offered a continual litany of the ways in which Israel ignored the Word and will of God, and the disastrous consequences that followed. The same can be said for the Church in every generation. If we do not abide in the Word, we mock God. When we do not abide in God’s Word, we become accountable—guilty—before God, just as all the world is guilty before God. We stand under the condemnation of the Law. The Law of God does not save us. The Law cannot save us; it only condemns us. That Law says that we are to love God with all our being; it tells us we must love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot do this because we are born in sin, the inheritance we have from our first parents. And so, the holy apostle is correct when he writes: “Therefore by the deeds of the Law, no flesh will be justified in his sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.”

The Christian faith tells us that attempting to live by the Law in order to be saved can only bring condemnation. That was the lesson Luther learned as a monk. He could pray literally thousands of prayers; he could whip his flesh into submission with monastic discipline; he could say a hundred Masses. None of these, nor anything else he did, could pay his debt of sin to God. At that end of that road, all Luther could see was death and condemnation. He cried out in despair for a gracious God: a God who would love him in spite of his countless human frailties; a God who would redeem him even though his sins were too many to number. In the same way, every attempt we make to pay our debt of sin to God falls short. The Law works repentance, not salvation. The Law declares us guilty of sin. The minute we think salvation is a solo effort on our part, or even a cooperative venture between “me and Jesus,” is the very minute we become slaves to sin.

In the reading we heard from the Revelation to St. John, we were told that there was an angel flying in the midst of heaven who had “...the everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth: to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” In our beloved Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” we sing: “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won; the kingdom ours remaineth.” This stanza confesses that the Church will never perish. Our Lord Jesus Christ is ready to defend her to the end because she is His beloved Bride, purchased and won at the cost of His own life. And this Church believes and confesses, “...the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed...through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.” It is in this word about the righteousness of God revealed through faith in Jesus Christ that our Lord wants us to abide!

When we abide in God’s Word, when we put aside the fads and trends and gimmicks to abide in the clear words of Holy Scripture, as rightly confessed and explained in our Lutheran Confessions, then we know the truth. And the truth frees us from having to fear, love, and trust in any other god, whether the false god of self or any idol we have made. It is truly liberating to give up trying to remake the Christian faith in our own image, and simply have Christ mold us into His image through preaching and Baptism, through Absolution and His Supper.

There is an old saying: “The Church is always being reformed.” As long as we draw breath in this life, we will be fighting for the faith. That fight will not always be popular, not even among our fellow Lutherans. We may face mockery, persecution, prison, or even death for the sake of the Word. Still, we contend for the truth of God’s Word faithfully, because we know that the Gospel, with its gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, offers us the only hope there is. both for this life, and for the life that is to come.

Luther said it very well: “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, we tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.” From the cross Jesus cried out, “Tetelestai!”—that is, “It is finished!” All of salvation’s work is done. Satan no longer has any power, for Jesus has won the victory. Abide in that word, that victory. For in Jesus, “The kingdom ours remaineth.” 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 24, 2021

Sermon for 10/24/21: Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity

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Endless Mercy

John 4:46-54



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


How little we understand the mercy our Lord extends to us daily! Our Lord does not treat us as we treat each other. We tend to lash out at those who upset us. We ignore those who don’t please us. We want to get back at those who offend us. We are likely to take offense at the slightest comment, no matter how innocently spoken. And too often we are unwilling to forgive and make the first move toward reconciliation.

Worse than all this, we deal with our Lord the same way. We beg Him to pardon our sins, but in the same breath we demand that He live up to our expectations. We ask Him to deliver us from every evil, yet too often we grouse and complain when He doesn’t act quickly enough to suit us. We beg Him to calm us and grant us His peace, yet we blame Him for our self-made troubles. And so we go our own way. We ignore the strengthening He gives in His Supper. And we resist and fight against His forgiveness, His love, His kindness, His mercy.

Yet even when we are faithless, our Lord remains faithful. Even when we turn on Him, He does not turn against us. He comes back time and again and says, “You can’t make Me hate you. I love you. My love brought you into this world, and I am determined to love you to the end and into My kingdom. I will not force Myself upon you, but neither will you force Me away from you. And no matter how much you think you can wish me out of your world, I will never leave you nor forsake you. My mercy endures forever.” Such relentless love! Such persistent, single-minded mercy! He will not give up on us. He will always stretch out His hand, no matter how often we slap it away.

Deep down—because the Holy Spirit sealed you in the Faith when you were baptized; because the Spirit of God persistently and consistently delivers the mercy of God into your own flesh—deep down, you are not surprised to hear how determined our Lord is in His mercy. And so, deep down, you are also not surprised at the way our Lord Jesus reacts to the man who begged Him to come down and heal his son. Still, we often take the Lord and His mercy for granted. In fact, we act as if His mercy is our right, as if He owes that to us. But no matter how we treat our Lord, no matter how little we comprehend His mercy, He always responds the same: with endless mercy.

And so, when the man approaches Him, our Lord does not say, “Go away.” Instead, Jesus kindly tells him, “Go your way. Your son lives.” Do you see the mercy of Jesus? The man is not much of a believer, but our Lord answers his prayer anyway. For the sake of Jesus, our Father still gives life back to this man’s son. The Spirit stirs up in this man the faith to take Jesus at His word; He give the man confidence to walk away, trusting that what Jesus says is good and true and right.

So just how merciful is our Lord? So much so, that He can heal our souls, strengthen our bodies, and refresh our spirits using nothing more than His word. When He speaks, He brings us back to life. This is why Jesus says what He does to this man. Jesus does not rebuke the man for his dullness of faith, but rather breathes to life a true and living faith. And Jesus does not shoo the man away because he’s a bothersome pest, but rather He says, “Your son lives,” so that true faith might come alive and grow both in him and in his whole household.

And that is precisely what our Lord, in His mercy, does for us. When we are sure that He is ignoring us or crushing us, He is actually working for our good. When we are sure He has turned against us, He is actually fighting mightily for us. When we are sure He’s only doing the least, He is actually doing His utmost. Our Lord revives and heals us simply by speaking His word. But here is where our Lord’s mercy exceeds our imagination. Our Lord gives us—into our mouths, into our own flesh and blood—the very life that He is; His own death-defying body, and His own life-renewing blood so that we might be saved.

See yourself, then, as the nobleman in today’s Gospel: the doubting, barely believing man whom the Lord gently and lovingly brings to faith. Even more so, see yourself as the man’s son—a person in a losing battle with death; and then here comes Jesus in His word and Spirit to chase away death, the devil, and hell; to bring you not just back from the brink, but into the fullness of the life that He is and so earnestly desires to live in you and through 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, October 17, 2021

Sermon for 10/17/21: Twentieth Sunday After Trinity

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Dressed for a Wedding

Matthew 22:1-14


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


The worst way to think about today’s Gospel is to get all wrapped up in whether or not you are chosen. When you look at yourself, you will see only your sins and unbelief. Are you chosen? Do you live as one who is chosen? Your sins say that you don’t live as if God has chosen you. You don’t even deserve the invitation to His Feast! I can understand if this identification hurts your pride a little bit. No one wants to take an invitation out of charity. If you weren’t first on the list, then it’s a slap in the face, even if there’s free food. At first glance, it looks from this story like you were God’s second-thought guests, as if it was all by chance that you ever came to faith and received the forgiveness of all your sins. 

When those who had been invited rejected the King’s invitation, He sent His servants out to the street to invite everyone to the Feast, both the good and the bad. The problem with the man who got tossed out of the Feast wasn’t that he was a sinner, but that he didn’t have the wedding garment on! He came into the Feast invited, but He wasn’t properly dressed. What mattered was the invitation and the King’s wedding garment.

So who is chosen? Instead of looking inside, look outside. The answer is outside of you. The answer is wrapped around you. How are you dressed? In and of yourself, that’s as uncertain as whether you are chosen or not. Just as there is no certainty in your own merit that you are chosen, there is no certainty in your own clothes. Your garments aren’t acceptable to God. Your clothes are stained by your sins. They are filthy rags before God.

Does that mean that we get tossed out of the wedding Feast too? We certainly deserve that. But the good news of today is that the King clothes you with His own wedding garment. He gives you His clothing! He clothed you with the righteousness won by Jesus on the cross and wrapped around you in Holy Baptism. His righteousness covers your unrighteousness. His garment covers your filthy rags. His garment is the answer to all the questions of today. Are you called? Yes, He called you and invited you to His feast. How do you know? You wear the King’s garment, which was put on you in Baptism. Those guests who were last invited relied totally on the generosity of the Host. That is what pure grace is. In the exact same way, you had nothing about you that made you worthy to receive the Gospel invitation; it was all by grace that you got in to the banquet of the Lord’s salvation.

And yet, for the rest of your life, you will face the constant temptation to throw this all away. You remain a sinner, and sinners reject the Lord and insist on their own way. They want to be independent from God. Sinners often fall for the alluring but empty promises of the devil. Like others before you who rejected the Master’s invitation—one preferred to tend to his farm, another to his business—the pattern continues today: one believes it’s more important to go to the football game; one takes the weekend off to relax; others will have their excuses. All sinners face these opportunities to gratify their sinful flesh. It makes sense to a sinner to be spiritual, but it’s just too confining to one’s style to be religious. But for you, your Lord offers to strengthen you to face these temptations. He takes away your sin, clothing you in the perfect wedding garment you inherited when you were baptized.

The heavenly banquet, the Body and Blood of Christ, is laid before you here on the Altar, though for right now it is hidden under bread and wine. You are worthy of this feast because Christ your Savior bestowed His perfect worthiness upon You by faith. Be assured that your heavenly Father loves to put on His wedding feast to end all wedding feasts, sparing no expense. And He has even dressed you for the feast in the finest garment ever: the spotless robe of His Son’s perfect righteousness, made white in the blood of the Lamb. 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 10, 2021

Sermon for 10/10/21: Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity

First Things First
Matthew 9:1-8


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



There are those who come to Jesus and His Church because they want Him to fix something that is broken. Maybe it’s a bad marriage. Maybe it’s a lousy job. Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe it’s wild and rebellious children. Maybe it’s parents who just don’t seem to love and care for their children as they should. Or maybe it’s people like those who carried this man, who come to Jesus for someone they care about, someone who means the world to them. Whatever it is, lots of people come to Jesus looking for a quick fix.

And when you come to Jesus, and He says, “My child, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven,” you can scarcely hide your disappointment. “That’s it?” you think. “That’s all I get from Him? Why did I even bother coming in the first place?” So, Jesus put the question to the Scribes and to us: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’” Which do you think is easier to say? “Talk is cheap,” as they saying goes. Don’t you think that fixing whatever serious problem you have is the harder thing for the Lord to do? Maybe He is just disguising His inability to really help you by telling you over and over again, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.”  What use is a church that only talks about forgiveness? That is what many would say, or at least think. Is that what you think? Do you want a church and a Jesus that fixes all the things that have relevance to your life right now?

“Which is easier?” As God in human flesh, Jesus could have healed the man with a word. After all, He created all things, including you. Doing a little “fix-up job” on something that has gone wrong with your life is really no work for Him at all. But forgiveness is another story altogether. You might think that is nothing. But stop and think about what forgiveness cost Jesus. He didn’t need to take on our human flesh to heal the paralytic. Jesus came into the flesh to do the hard thing: to take to Himself the entire burden and load of your sin, and to carry it in His body to the cross, there to endure the righteous judgment of the Father against all human sin. And He did it all so that He can speak the word of forgiveness to you, the word that is drenched in His own blood; signed, sealed, and delivered by His own death. “Which is easier?” To heal the paralytic, Jesus just spoke His word: “Get up!” And the man got up. But to speak the word of forgiveness to him and to you, He went to the cross. Forgiveness is anchored in our Lord’s death. Never forget what it cost Him to give it to you.

But you may still be thinking, “Sure, forgiveness is great. But what about those things that need fixing in my life?” Let’s get some perspective on this. If He heals you, you are still going to die one day and stand before the judgment seat of God. If He fixes your marriage, you are still going to die one day and stand before the judgement seat of God. If he fixes your job situation, you are still going to die one day and stand before the judgment seat of God. If He fixes every complaint you’ve got about your life, you are still going to die one day and stand before the judgment seat of God. That day may be today. And those who have not availed themselves of His forgiveness here on earth will not have the chance to avail themselves of it after this life is over. No matter what you think the big problem is, nothing comes even remotely close to the problem you have with sin. And you do not want to leave this world with your sin still on your back. You want to leave this world with the forgiveness of Christ poured all over you.

And He is waiting eagerly to do just that! He pours it over you in the water of Holy Baptism. He feeds it constantly into you with the promises of His Word. He seals that promise to you every time you come to this altar, trusting that you receive here what He promises: His body and blood, His forgiveness of all your sins; His life poured into you. Our Lord and His Church are concerned first and foremost with the only issue that ultimately matters: how you stand before God.

Wrapped in His forgiveness, you can face whatever comes your way with confidence, because you know how the story is going to turn out. The same Christ who says to you: “My child, take heart: your sins are forgiven,” is the One who will stand again on this earth, and He will call you by name from your grave and invite you into His eternal kingdom. The forgiven have an eternal home, a life in Christ that never ends. You are set free to live a blessed life of forgiveness, even in the midst of all the broken things that need fixing. Yes, He will take care of those things, too, all in His own time. But first things first—and the first thing is the forgiveness of your sins. 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.