Sermon Thoughts for Luke 22:26-30, St Bartholomew, August 24, 2014
-Today is St. Bartholomew’s day. He’s also known as Nathaniel and we should read more about him in our As We Gather. Our Gospel text for today gives a window into the family of the disciples, a window into Batholomew’s life and here’s what we find, 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Scripture give’s us a window into the family’s, the minds, the hearts, the fears, the worries, the doubts and the sins – the petty sins, and the not so petty sins like murder, betrayal, denial and adultery – of our brothers and sisters in the faith from the beginning. What we often find is embarrassing. A dispute, an argument, a self-centered prideful debate. Their lives are not so unlike ours and their home are not so unlike our homes which are too often filled with arguments, too often filled with pride and anger, and their thoughts are not so different than and our thoughts which are too often filled with a “I am the the greatest, I am right, I’m in charge or should be in charge” attitude. Directly before our text, our Lord promises that there is a betrayer in their midst and this is what sparks the debate, the argument about who is the greatest. There is nothing quite like another person’s sin that makes us too often feel all the better about ourselves and all the more secure in our sins.
Addressing our pride and selfishness, addressing our arguments, our Lord says, “It shall not be so among you.” We are not called to be given over to use of power, use of control, use of deception or force. If we have authority, we are to use that authority to serve. The people that have been placed in our lives are each God-given opportunities to humble ourselves and our desires, sacrifice ourselves and our wants, and serve even as we have been and continue to be served by our Jesus.
…How will this family member or friend hear the Gospel? How will this child be taken care of? How will this person learn to forgive others? How will this person learn patience and self control? How will this person learn to endure the suffering that the Lord has handed them with hope and perseverance? How will this person learn humility? We are called to build up and not destroy. …
2 Corinthians 10:8English Standard Version (ESV)
8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.
At table with our Lord today, as the disciples were that day, it becomes painfully obvious that Jesus’ table fellowship is with sinners who don’t stack up. But we don’t only have a God who demands that we serve others, but who Himself comes to serve us.
++ He is the God who serves us. He comes to serve the likes of me! I am among you as one who serves. “I am” among you, Jesus says. Not only that I was among you before I died, was raised and ascended into heaven. But “I am” among you, right here, right now, serving you – you argumentative sinners, you who too often think you’re in charge, you who so often lack humility and instead boast in your pride, you beat-down-by life, worry, and your utter recognition that you have failed to live a life of humility and sacrifice and service. “I am” among you as one who serves. Jesus is humble, He sacrifices and He serves not in spite of this knowledge of who we are, but precisely because of this knowledge of who we are.
Because we by nature don’t want to live a life of service and humility, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Because we often count ourselves as number 1, He was numbered with the transgressors. Because we so often fail to bear with one another in action and prayer, He bore our sin and makes intercession for us. Dear saints, the greatest at the table comes to serve you today – He does not lord your sin over you, rubbing your failure and weakness in your face, but uses all authority in heaven and in earth to wash your sin away. You are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He comes not to subdue you, but to subdue your enemies – your sin, your death, your bad conscience, your accuser – under His feet as you stand bathed innocently in His blood. He comes, not to judge you, for everything has been answered, but instead to give you His Kingdom and drink at his table. Today, as you come afflicted, but not crushed, perplexed, but not drive to despair, struck down, but not destroyed, you are served, you are renewed, you are strengthened by the Jesus who says, “I am among you.”
– (vs. 28) Christ sees his disciples as He sees them and not as they are in reality to themselves. Jesus knows that they will fail. He says that they have been with them even though he knows that they will abandon him. Their faithfulness is viewed based entirely on his grace. He will forgive their unfaithfulness, and his own perfect obedience and faithfulness to his Father will be imputed to them through faith in Him. We walk by faith and not by sight and that is often true about how we view ourselves. We can only be viewed as loyal servants, faithful followers, true disciples because of His grace and to us He promises a kingdom that will not fail.
Jesus see’s through Nathaniel/Bartholomew’s doubt to his candor… Christ does not give up on us. We come to be encouraged not by what we see of ourselves, nor even what we truly are in our sin, but instead we come to be encouraged and praise to the one who sees through our sin, doubt, shame, and guilt to our heart which he has cleansed, our bodies which he has made, our souls which belong to his forever, and our mouths which He comes to feed. The greatest at the table feeds you today. Amen.
Audio for St. Peter and Paul, Apostles Day, June 29, 2014
Audio for Trinity 1, June 22, 2014
Audio for Pentecost
Audio for the Seventh Sunday in Easter
Audio for the Sermon for the Sixth Sunday in Easter, May 25, 2014
Audio for the Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Easter, May 18, 2014
Audio for the Sermon for The Fourth Sunday in Easter, May 11, 2014
Audio for the Sermon for The Second Sunday in Easter
Audio for the Sermon on The Resurrection of our Lord
Audio for Sermon for April 6, 2014: “Testing and Providing.”
Sermon for The Second Sunday in Lent
Knowing Our Need, Knowing Our Jesus
I’d like for us to consider this Canaanite woman who keeps coming at Jesus with her prayers, for her faith is one to be emulated and followed. But first, I’d like for us to consider something a bit frightening from our Epistle text. After calling us to walk as we ought to walk, to abstain from sexual immorality, to not sin against and harm our brothers and sisters in Christ, to control our bodies and not let our evil thoughts, emotions, and desires have their way with us, our Lord calls Himself an avenger. For the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
This is not instructions for the ungodly, but for the Christian. Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus. It is an exhortation to us. He is asking. He is not telling. Our Lord does not force himself upon us. He does not control us. If we are not willing to hear Him, we can ignore Him, and we all too often have done just that. Because He is asking and urging, we are called to listen as if it is the best thing for us.
Know the will of God: your sanctification. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Our sins are a big deal. God is an avenger is all these things. He cannot and does not tolerate impurity. We are called to use our freedom in Christ not to give free expression of our emotions and desires, but our freedom is meant to beat back the blemishes of sin and the desires for sin. Any other way of using our freedom is an abuse of such freedom.
And the reason I want to start there is because is a necessary starting point to learn about prayer: to know your need. For us today, we should know that it is the will of God for our holiness and to know that we have all too often failed to live and walk according to that calling. Know your need. That’s the first step to prayer. So we look at this woman in our gospel text.
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
She knows her need. Her daughter is ill and oppressed. It is not only the needs of ourselves that drive us to our Lord, but can often be the need of others and our inability to help them. This mother’s love for her child drives her to seek the One that can help. Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.
She also knows that her daughter’s problem isn’t only physical, but it is also spiritual. My daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. It is too often easy to see our bodily need while neglecting the spiritual reality that comes along with it. Can bodily sickness, or exhaustion, or pain, or the bodily needs of others cause you to doubt God’s goodness or His provision? Or can it cause you to fear and be anxious? Do the sexual sins we commit with our body simply stay in the body? Does drinking too much simply affect the body? Does eating too much simply affect the body? Do the sins we commit with our mouth simply stay in the mouth or do they also harm other’s souls along with our very own? Our Lord’s call to holiness is in body and soul because they cannot rightly be separated, at least in our eyes.
Know our need, know the needs of others, but also then, we should know our Jesus. She doesn’t just stay put with her need, she goes somewhere with them. She goes to Jesus. And then, she seems to be ignored. Then she is scolded by the disciples. Then, she seems to be even insulted by Jesus. But amidst all the “no’s”, she hears God’s “yes.”
Listen to this: 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
She’s called a dog, she is insulted, but she responds, “If you want to call me a dog, dear God, dear Jesus, then give me the dog’s due. Give me your crumbs and that will be enough.”
When the Bible comes along and insults us, we should never just hear God’s “No”, but should also hear God’s “Yes.” The Bible comes along and calls you unclean, then you respond, “Yes, Lord, and you have come to create in me a clean heart. You have come to be dirtied with my sin, received the vengeance my sins deserve, were put to death for their sake in order to give me Your holiness.” The Bible comes along calls us helpless, and we should respond, “From where should my help come? My help comes from the Lord.” The Bible comes along and says that we are dying, and we respond, “Yes, Lord, and you have come to raise us up from the dead. For Christ is the firstborn from the dead and we follow His lead, as He has defeated death.” The Bible says that we are full of blame, and we respond, “Yes, Lord, and because of the blood of your Son, He presents us to You and holy and blameless in His sight.” The Bible says that we are sick, and we say, “Yes, Lord, and you have come only for the sick who need You as their physician.”
Dear saints, know your need. Know your sin. Know your helplessness. And also, know your Jesus. He comes giving you much more than crumbs from the master’s table, He gives you Himself – His body and blood to eat and drink. He comes to give blessings. When your hear “no” in your prayers, always hear God’s “Yes,” in Christ as well.
Sermon for The First Sunday in Lent
Jesus, our Victor
Your Jesus was tempted by Satan and this means something for you. First of all, it is important to know who you are. You, dear Church, are in Christ, you are the body of Christ, you are the bride of Christ, and Christ is in you. So, tell me, if Satan is opposed to Jesus, what does he think about you? If temptation from Satan is for Jesus, then what can you expect in this life?
The tempter came and said to him “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Now first ask, “How does Satan tempt?” and “What does he attack?” For Jesus, the devil’s temptation came through the ear, as did Adam and Eve’s. I don’t think that’s the way that the devil and his demons work now.
This is pretty unnerving, but Scripture seems clear that Satan has access to our minds. He works through our thoughts and our emotions. The devil and demons can’t read minds, it doesn’t seem, but they do their work in stirring our thoughts, our anger, our lust, our want for revenge, our worry and fear. So you get texts like this, 2 Cor. 11:3, 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
And what does the devil attack? Well often he attacks our desires. Jesus has fasted for 40 days, He’s going to have a desire for food. Someone sins against you, you’re going to have a desire for anger and gossip, right? Jesus has been all alone, as the only Son of the Father for 40 days without food. God has not provided food for Jesus and so the devil will tempt Jesus to think that God has abandoned Him and won’t provide for him.
The temptation when we think we lack stuff (security, money) or even our gain of stuff (sickness, injury, extra burdens from other people), will often be Satan leading us to think that we live only by bread alone, only by what we see and have within ourselves. We can begin to think, through Satan’s lead, that we only have a body and we don’t have a soul, as well.
Satan can work on leading us to focus on the pleasures of the body, like he did to Adam and Eve (the fruit was pleasing to their eyes), to the neglect of the damage sin does to the soul. Or, Satan can lead us to focus on the perceived needs of body (I’m sick, I’m suffering, I’m always exhausted and falling apart) to the damage of the soul (because of these things, God must be abandoning me or not care for me).
But, man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Your life doesn’t depend on food or surgery or medicine or money (which can all be good gifts), but upon the God who gives these things to uphold you. This reply unites Jesus with you in this battle against this temptation. He says, Man does not…, and by doing so, He is saying something like “we men…” He speaks up on your behalf, in your place, overcoming temptation from Satan for us, giving us credit for the victory, and giving God the pleasing answer that He trusts in Him and is obedient to Him. He does this for you so that you can be assured that now, now is the favorable time. God has favor for you, He is not angry with you, but your Jesus lives to give you His favor.
But even with that truth, Satan has a temptation. I think this is a huge one for us today. It is to assume that because we are forgiven, we have God’s favor, that we couldn’t possibly lose God’s love or favor. Satan get’s at this in the second temptation where He asks Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple because God will send His holy angels to save him. Jesus’ response is one in which we should take to heart, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’
You see, God is forgiving and God is gracious because of Jesus, but Satan would like for us to be presumptuous in our sins, at times testing our Lord’s forgiveness. “He’ll forgive me if I do that, anyway. He’ll still love me if I do that.”
We sometimes don’t always need to hear first, “God is merciful. God is forgiving.” But we sometimes first need to hear, “You want to test God? Really? You want to see if he will forgive you when you are that intentional in your defiance of Him?” This is a huge one for those who don’t come to church and our response should sometimes be, “You want to test God? You want to see if He will forgive you when you outright deny the ways in which He forgives you?”
Satan is an accuser and liar. Call him that. He wishes to lead you away from God and his good, he wishes to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but your Jesus has been lifted up to draw you to Himself. Every accusation has been answered against you. Every temptation has been overcome for you. Your Jesus has been lifted up, not just to the pinnacle of the temple, but also to the top of a cross to answer for your sins and answer for your failings in times of temptation. He is risen to speak on your behalf, to your accuser, to the liar, “Be gone, Satan. This child is mind, bought and paid for by my blood.”
The last temptation get’s to the heart of everything. Every temptation is meant to lead you away from the true worship of God which is to hear of your sin and hear of your forgiveness and Jesus’ righteousness for you. The response to our falling is to hear that our Jesus has stood for you. When you sin, your Jesus has been righteous for you. When you have fallen into temptation, your Jesus has gained the victory for you. The Spirit led Jesus out to do battle against Satan and destroy him. It was an uneven match, and your Jesus is on your side.
Video Sermon Summary
Sermon for the Last Sunday Before Lent
36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This blind man, blind Bartimaeus (Mark names him), gives us the beautiful cry of faith. And then you see that faith is met immediately with a struggle. See, our faith is not in ourselves and our faith is not in nothing. Our faith is in Jesus. Who is this that’s passing by? Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, have mercy on me. Because our faith is in Someone, then our faith is met with conflict from other someone’s, sometimes ourselves and sometimes the world and Satan.
Now there are plenty of texts where Jesus hears the cry for mercy, answers immediately with His presence, forgiveness, and healing. But not so for this blind man, not so for Bartimaeus. In this, Jesus is teaching us something about prayer and conflict and mercy.
His cry to Jesus for mercy is not met first by Jesus’ answering him but instead is met with indignation, annoyance, and mocking. His prayer for mercy is first met by a prayer and a rebuke for him to be silent.
Your faith, dear saints, your cries for mercy to the merciful One are not met without conflict. There are those around you who might mock you for thinking that God is good while we stand in the midst of so much evil or they might even mock you for thinking that God can forgive you because they, well, know you.
Above this, we don’t always have to be told by others to stop crying out to God for mercy because we can convince ourselves pretty quickly that it seems that our cries are falling on deaf ears or that there is something like a force-field between us and our cries and our Father in heaven and His ears. We become our own rebukers and we tell ourselves to be silent. “Stop praying, do you think He actually cares? Do you think He actually is listening? Do you think He actually exists?”
We, in ourselves, can become so tempted to think that God doesn’t care for our prayer or maybe (have ever thought this?) that God is actually annoyed with our prayer. You ever get annoyed with yourself, annoyed with your own complaining and whining? Now, there could be something righteous to this in that we’re to live a life of thanksgiving and contentment with what our Lord has given to us. He does command us not to covet.
But on the other hand, I think we can quickly begin to think that sometimes we’re actually annoying our Father in heaven, that we’re nagging Him with our petty problems, or that He will get frustrated with our confession of the same old sins.
If we were to hook a loud speaker to our brains while we were confessing our sins, I wonder if the most repeated word would be the word “again.” “I have not loved, again. I have been impatient, I have been unkind, again. I have been jealous of other people’s life and fortune, again. I have insisted on my own way, and not considered and submitted to others, again. I have been rude, again. I have rejoiced in the sins of others because it gave me an opportunity to judge them and think me better than them, again.”
Repeated crimes (and that is what our sins are, they are crimes against God that do deserve judgment) against us get annoying and we might think that our Lord get’s annoyed with us for our cries for mercy when we attach the word again to our confession of sins or our unanswered or repeated prayers. What an awful feeling that is! No one likes to be annoying, let alone be annoying their God who is sometimes the only one who is listening and the only one who would have enough patience for them. If fears of being annoying because of repeated sins prevent you from confessing them or fears of being annoying because of repeated prayers that seem unanswered prevent you from praying again, repent. And repent again when the same fears pop up later today and tomorrow.
Because Jesus is not annoyed with you. Nothing could be further from the truth. His love for you is patient. His love bears with you, bearing all of your sins to death, even death on a cross. He is kind toward you, not annoyed. He laments our fall into temptations but rejoices, along with all the angels in heaven, over our repentance, even when it is repentance “again”. He has favor for you. He is not ashamed of you, but sees you as His beloved, spotless, sinless bride. He is not frustrated by how many times you get in trouble because He loves to deliver you out of the trouble that even you have caused yourself.
When blind Bartimaeus and his cries are met with rebuke, he cries out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”, giving us an example of faith. This man’s cry becomes louder and presses on all the more when it is met with conflict. Do you know why? Because he knows that the One he is praying to loves to have mercy.
Jesus asks him, “What would you have me to do for you.” His answer is much more profound than it first seems. By asking for sight, the man is confessing who Jesus is. Nearly every miracle that Jesus performs is a repeated miracle from the Old Testament. Prophets cleansed lepers, made the lame to walk and even raised the dead. But this miracle, giving sight to the blind, this one is especially reserved for the Messiah. The man, in asking for sight, is asking Jesus for Him to be God for him.
We do the same. Today, we ask our Jesus to be a miracle worker, to be God for us. Provide for us. Cleanse us. Be our rock and refuge. Deliver me out of trouble. Have mercy on me. He who cried out to His Father from the cross, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit,” has destroyed death, forgiven sin, and is present to answer your cries for mercy. He is persistently merciful. Amen.
Quick Video Sermon Summary
Sermon for the Second Sunday Before Lent
The Sower, His Seed, and His Enemies
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Your God is not silent. He speaks. He doesn’t have to. He could give us the cold shoulder. He could ignore us. We could be all alone in this world without knowledge of who we are, where we come from, or what God thinks of us. But, your God is not silent. He speaks.
And there is something amazing about this word. You see, our words describe things. That grass is green. I do this for a living. Such and such is my friend and such and such is my sister. His Words, though, do much more than describe. They create. Let there be light, and there was.
One of the best illustrations that we have this side of eternity is that of the seed. From a seed springs forth life. Without a seed, there is no life. You could have the most perfect soil. You could have the perfect amount of rain and the perfect amount of sunshine, but if you didn’t have a seed, there would be no life.
His Word is life. His Word not only tells you that He is at peace with you and that He forgives you, but it creates peace, it released guilt and burden. Peace and forgiveness and God’s favor that is won by Jesus is created in your hearts by His Word. His Word is life. His Word is everything.
So tell me, dear saints, what is the number one enemy of Satan? What does He want to pluck away from you and out of your hearts? His number one enemy and what he will attack with fierceness that is hard to imagine is the Word of God. Jesus gives us this parable today to warn us, to let us know that the Word has enemies, and to bring us to repentance that we all too often are enemies of the Word of God.
The first enemy is this: a hard, uninterested, unbelieving heart in which His Word simply bounces off. And Satan loves this. He won’t mess around and wait for long before he comes and snatches away the promises, snatches away the truth, and snatches away the true comfort. This is serious stuff. Without truth, we’re led into error. Without comfort, we’re led into despair. Without the promises of God, we’re led quickly into hating God, fearing His judgment, and spending our life hiding from Him.
See this danger comes about in lots of ways. Part of which is for we Christians to proclaim that God’s Word is true, that it is infallible, and then for us not to be interested in it, to not pay attention to it, for the Bible not to be the first thing that we grab when we are thankful, or when we are scared, or when we are anxious, or when we just are…Or for us to hear it and just not believe it.
There is this exercise that we do that I think fight against this urge not to believe it and that is this: when Scripture is read here, we respond with a “Thanks be to God,” or we respond with an “Amen.” This is forcing into our mouths the words of faith that take God and His promises and say, “Yah, that’s true, whether I feel that way or not. I’m forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. Yah, I believe it. God said it. Help me believe it. The Lord bless me keep me, the Lord give me His favor. O.K., God said it. Amen. Help me believe it. I believe in the holy Christian Church. OK, I too often see a mess of people. But, God said it. Help me believe it. Amen.”
The second enemy of the Word is this: trouble in this life, temptation, suffering. When suffering and trouble happen, we have this natural inclination to think that God has left us or abandoned us. But, see, Jesus actually has promised that we will have tribulation in this world. Jesus has promised that we will be given thorns in our side that are going to prick at us and bug us our whole life. That should be our assumption. That’s we’re going to have suffering, that we, until we’re delivered from this vale of tears are in a sense, going down.
It’s like this: if you were on a plane and the stewardess comes up and says, “We’re failing. We’re crashing. You’re only hope of survival is this parachute.” We would cling onto that parachute for dear life. It would be our hope. That’s what Jesus and His Word is. We’re going down, we will have suffering and trouble, but Jesus gives us His promises, His peace, His presence with us and all that comes from His Word. Suffering is never good, but it can lead us to realize that we’re weak. And when we are weak, then He is strong. His grace is sufficient
The final enemy of His Word is the deceptions of this life, of wealth, of status, of wanting more when we don’t think we have enough. These have a way of slowly suffocating the Word. This enemy is perhaps the most subtle because a seed can grow with thorns for a little while before the thorns choke out the life. We can become so obsessed with this life and the joys and fears that we begin to ignore eternal life.
So many enemies, dear saints. But this isn’t given for you to despair, but repent and know where your life comes from – from the seed, from the Word, from His promises. And the good soil – that is only Christ, for no one is good but God alone. But He is not just good for Himself, He is good in your place and gives you His goodness and favor. Like a seed that is buried in order to give life and bear fruit, so He died and was buried to give you life and the fruit and benefits of His death. So many enemies, dear saints, and everyone one of them is defeated. Satan head has been crushed, Jesus has suffered and promises us His glory after our suffering, and He wore a crown of thorns so that He can present you as His crown jewel to His Father.
His Word is your life. He speaks today and your peace and your life are created. His Word is everything.
Quick Video Sermon Summary
The Third Sunday Before Lent
Staying Sensitive to Grace
It is very easy to become desensitized to things that we should be sensitive to. Do you know what I mean by this? For example, some of the things that we see on TV or the internet, or some of the clothes that we allow ourselves to wear or allow our sons and daughters to wear would have been a complete shock to our grandparents. Yet, they aren’t a shock to us. Is that a good thing? Some things aren’t a shock to us because we have become used to seeing such things. We have become desensitized to something we should be sensitive about.
Now this works in almost every aspect of our lives. What might have used to shock us in how we spoke about someone, the outright evil and slander of reputation that comes out of our mouths, it might have been met with our conscience saying, “Can you believe what you just said? That was awful.” might now be met with nothing more than a shrug and our conscience saying, “Ehh, they deserve it anyway.”
We too easily become desensitized to what we say and what we allow ourselves to hear and what we allow ourselves to see and what we allow ourselves to think when we should be very sensitive to them. Repent.
Our Jesus tells this parable to our desensitized ears and souls and tenderizes them a bit. You know how you can take that metal block on a pole and hammer it against a piece of meat to make it more tender? Well this is what Jesus is doing to our souls to make them a bit more tender, a bit more sensitive, to His Words about the Kingdom of God.
And He is especially teaching about His grace, the way in which we are seen by God for Jesus’ sake, the forgiveness of our sins, the peace that God has with us through Christ. If there is one thing that we need to be more sensitive about, it is about His grace.
We can become too used to hearing that our sins are forgiven, that we become not all that bothered by our sins anymore. We can become too used to hearing that Jesus loves me, that our reply can be, “Hey that’s great! I love me, too! Jesus and I are on the same page!” We can become so caught up in how we’re trying to live a good life, how we’re trying to come to church, how we’re trying to serve our family and neighbors, how we’re trying to pray, how we made a decision for Jesus, how we’re trying to love God with our whole hearts, that we begin to think that we actually deserve our Lord’s grace. It would be only fair that I would receive forgiveness of my sins because I’m trying and I go to church whereas that person certainly isn’t trying at all (Do you see how they treat others? Do you see how immature they are?) and that person over there hates God and that person over there ignores God and when was the last time that person was in church and how much has that person tithed this year anyway.
We get caught in thinking that God is fair; that the kingdom of God has something to do with fairness and justice; that how God views us is somehow earned by us, even just by a little bit. We become desensitized about God’s grace.
This parable catches to our natural inclination to the Law. The hardest working group thinks they deserve more because they compare themselves with the last group and don’t receive from the master His goodness and kindness.
You want fair? Then face God without Christ bearing your sins on the cross. Face God with your face full of sins, of breaking the Law and despising His order. See where you stand then. We want fair? Let’s try and earn God’s approval by our own life and love. We will miserably fail. Think your lot in life and what you’ve received is not fair? Hell is what we deserve and let’s compare what we have in this life with that. What Jesus wants is for us to stop asking for fairness for ourselves, stop treating others and asking that others get what they deserve, and start asking for mercy for ourselves and others.
And you know what? That is exactly how the kingdom of God works. You are not judged according to your sins, but according to His great mercy. It is God who has made your way blameless by placing blame upon His Son.
You know where you are in the parable? We’re the ones that get hired on at the end of the day and get paid a whole days wages. That is, we get credit for the work of Another and that other is Christ Himself. He went to work in the first hour by being beaten and shamed to cover our shame. In the third hour, our Jesus was crucified for us, at the sixth hour He was suffering fully in body and soul that which we deserved for, at the ninth hour He was crying out, “It is finished,” and at the eleventh hour He had been take down from the cross and in the grave. The work of your peace, the work of your salvation, had all been done and it was all done by the eleventh hour where come in only to receive the reward and benefits for which He worked for us.
He calls us to know what we deserve. He calls us to not be presumptuous or think we’ve earned favor from Him. For then, we would place ourselves first and the first shall be last. Be sensitive about your sins. But He also calls us to not doubt that we do not get what we deserve, we get what He has earned. We get mercy. We get what He gives us and that is everything. God make sure that we are always sensitive to that truth and comfort.
Quick Video Sermon Summary
Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord
The Only Thing to Fear is….
There is something that our texts do for today that I want to consider because it is vitally important for repentance and faith and holy living. That something is this: Our Lord’s Words for today reorder our fears.
Listen to these texts: Exodus 34:30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him; Matthew 17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified; and finally our introit your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. And what, you may ask, causes the earth to fear and tremble and the answer lies within Psalm 77 and it is this: When they saw you, O God, they were afraid (vs. 16).
Consider for a bit what it is in your life that you fear? Perhaps you fear being alone. Perhaps you fear not having enough – enough money, enough security, or enough friends. Perhaps you fear things that happen within your body like the return or the increase of cancer or the return or the increase an emotional disability that causes anxiety and deep sadness.
Where on our lists of fears do our Lord’s Words and His commandments and His judgments appear? Where on our lists of fears is the fear of the righteous judgment of our sin? Do we truly know what and how to fear? Have we lost our ability to truly fear our Lord, above all things?
The answer to that, fellow sinners, is yes. By nature we have all been born without the true fear of the Lord. And so what our Lord’s words do for us today and they convert our fears. Our Lord takes this huge pile of fears that we have in this life and body and He tells us to repent and fear Him and His Words and the loss of Him and the absence of Him above all things. The only thing that you should fear is not fear, itself but God, Himself.
See, we don’t naturally think of this until our Lord’s Word condemns us. It’s like this: You don’t normally think about how fast you’re going in your car until you see the police. And then you get that sinking feeling, check your speed, change it if you need to, and then you’ll forget about your speed again 5 minutes later. So if our Lord is not constantly converting our fears back to Him, we very well might forget all too quickly.
Now, once He has done this – converted our fears to Him, led us to fear what our sins deserve and what we actually deserve to receive in this life – once He has done this, He can move on and lead us to ask a second question: What do you do with your fear?
Once you are aware what your sins deserve, once you are aware of whom you should fear, the natural tendency that we’re going to have is to hide. Think of Adam and Eve. They know whom they should fear and after succumbing to temptation, they attempt to hide from the presence of our Lord. Or after Jesus is transfigured and a bit of His glory, a bit of His divine nature, is shining through His human nature and they hear the Father’s voice, they disciples do this: 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
But this, too, is the wrong response. What our Lord’s Word does for you today is it not only converts your fears, it also converts your response to your fears. Once the disciples have become deeply afraid, and afraid of the right things and the right Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – our Jesus does this: 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
See, once our Lord has converted your fears to Jesus only, your Jesus then tells you, “Stop being afraid.” Because this Jesus, whom you are called to fear because of your sins, because of His righteous judgment upon you, and because He is Lord of heaven and earth and every circumstance you experience, this Jesus is bound and determined to go to Jerusalem, suffer the judgments and punishments of your sin on your behalf so that you are declared innocent by the judge. He is bound and determined to be killed in order to destroy your death and your sin and be raised from the dead to pray for you at all times and to be present with you to give you His peace and forgiveness and comfort.
Whom shall you fear? And your Jesus says, “Stop being afraid.” The Father says, “Listen to Him.” And Jesus says, “My peace I give to you.” Your Jesus says, “Take and eat, this is my body given for you.”
What do we do with our wrongheaded and sinful fears? We don’t hide them. We confess them and we listen to our Jesus who gives Himself up for us so that He can give us His forgiveness.
He bids us to take up our cross and follow Him through this world, listening to Him, suffering with Him through this world, knowing that He will also give us His glory when we are taken to be with Him forever.
“Have no fear,” your Jesus says. Don’t hide from Him. Hear Him. He loves you. He died for you. You are forgiven. He is present with you. It is good for us to be here, for He is here for us. Amen.
Quick Video Sermon Summary
Sermon for the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, February 2, 2014
Jesus is Presented so that He can Present You
Your Jesus’ desire is for His whole life to be in accordance with the Law of the Lord. Vs. 22 (according to the Law of Moses), vs. 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord), vs. 24 (and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord), vs. 27 (to do for him according to the custom of the Law). Now compare that with your life.
It is in fact not required of Him to follow the Law. He does it voluntarily and does it with pleasure. Now tax season is coming up, how many of us would pay our taxes voluntarily and not by force and threat? Moreover, when we do it, how many of us take pleasure in following the law? How many of us would work without pay simply because it is an opportunity to serve our neighbor? How many of us take pleasure in changing a poopy diaper or speaking and listening to a friend about their problem when that problem is the same problem they have had for years?
But, this is not so with your Jesus. He takes pleasure in following the Law of the Lord and He does it voluntarily and He does it all to serve you, to have you, and to gain your forgiveness and to give you His benefits of keeping the Law perfectly. He does not have to circumcised or presented to the Lord, for He is the Lord. And, in this, the same is true for Mary. She presents herself for purification according to Levitical Law though she does not have to. For that which was conceived of her was by the Holy Spirit. She, however, follows the example and Law of the Lord so as not to offend her neighbor. Compare that again with your life. We too often take little thought of our neighbor in how we speak or act or think. Repent.
Now today is a day that we celebrate the Presentation of our Lord. In the Old Testament, forty days after a birth of a firstborn son, that son was to be presented to the Lord and this is why: to show that this gift that the parents received in the birth of a child only came, as all gifts come, because of the Lord’s grace and mercy. The firstborn son was to remind our Lord’s people that during their time in Egypt, God spared, passed over, all firstborn children because of the blood of a Lamb on the doorposts. The angel of death passed over their house but visited, that is that death came to the firstborn sons of those who did not have the blood of the Lamb on their doorposts. Because of this, our Lord’s people owed their life to Lord of mercy.
Dear saints, the righteous judgment of God has passed over you because of the blood of your Jesus, the Lamb of God. You do not get what you deserve because of what you are marked with. You are marked with the sign of the cross, both upon your forehead and upon your heart. You are marked by Christ the crucified. For that we do owe our lives and all our gifts to God. We are called to keep the Law, to treasure it. His laws are not regulations that prevent our fun, but are good and reveal what is good in life.
There is part of us that desires to keep His Law. There is a part of us that does take pleasure in changing poopy diapers and going to work or to listening to our friends. There is part of us that takes pleasure in His Law, for we know it is for our benefit and for the benefit of others. That is not who we are by nature, but Christ in us. And for now, because we do not always take pleasure in our Lord’s Law, we still need Christ for us.
Our introit calls us to seek our God’s steadfast love in His temple. The temple is the place of sacrifice and the place where you have access to God because it is where God has promised to dwell for His people. To say that we have thought on God’s mercy and steadfast love in His temple is to say that we have God’s mercy and love in Christ, who is the temple. He is the one who gives us access to God’s presence for He himself is God and is the mediator between God and man. Through Him, you have access to God’s grace and forgiveness for He is the sacrifice for that which separated you from God, your sin and your not keeping the law, willingly and accidently. You are the midst of Him because He has chosen to come into the midst of you with His grace and forgiveness.
He is your fortress against your sin. He is your fortress against temptation. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. He is your fortress against death. 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. You are free because death has been defeated. You are free because the devil has been destroyed. You are free to depart in peace from this place, you are free to depart in sleep every night, and you are free to depart in peace with your soul from this body until the resurrection of your perfect body because you have seen the Lord’s salvation. You have held Him in your hands or in your mouth and you have tasted and seen that Lord is good. He is your salvation. He is your Light. Amen.
Sermon Video Review for the Wedding of Cana, January 19, 2014
Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
The First of His Miracles
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
This miracle of turning huge quantities of water into huge quantities of wine (do the math and you have 120-150 gallons of wine) says something about who Jesus is and what sort of gift giver He is.
Now understand this, that this is Jesus’ first sign and first times make an impression, right? A boy takes a girl out on a first date and part of the point is to show the girl, “This is the type of man I am. This is the type of husband I would be.” Or when you show up for your first day on the job, you want to show your employer, “This is the type of person I am. I listen. I follow direction. I work hard. I’m show up on time, etc.”
So when Jesus turns water into wine at this wedding, and He does so in huge quantities, and He does so after much wine has been drunk, and He does so after His mother has requested this of Him, He is showing who He is and what sort of gift giver He is.
Christmas answers this question, “Who is God?” And your answer is this: look to Jesus. Our God humbles Himself to be born of virgin, to serve us and to die for us because He is “God with us” and “God for us.”
That’s what Christmas answers. Look to Jesus. And now we enter into this season of Epiphany and that answer a different question. Who is God? Look to Jesus. Well then, who is Jesus?
Now do you know why this is such an important question to ask? Because outside of Biblical revelation, there is no way that we can know about the grace of God. What does God think of me? Outside of Biblical revelation, we could come to 2 conclusions. 1.) God is way bigger than I am and way more powerful and there is a strong possibility that He couldn’t care less about me. 2.) He’s mad at me. And I deserve it, too.
And we’d mostly be basing these things on our feelings.
So, if we weren’t answering the question, “What does God think of Me?” with the same answer as the question, “Who is Jesus?” then we’d be answering the question, “How do I feel that God thinks about me?”
So, church and Christianity would often be about making us feel good so that we leave here feeling that God thinks highly of me. If I feel good for the day, if I feel joy, if I feel energized, if I feel uplifted after I leave God’s presence in church, then I know what God thinks of me. He likes me.
But if I feel bad, if I feel depressed and despairing, if I feel beat up by this life, if I feel condemned and guilty, then I know that God is angry at me, displeased with me, He doesn’t want to be with me, or maybe that God doesn’t even exist. Because if I’m not feeling it, then the God who is supposed to be making me feel God, maybe He isn’t even there to be making me feel good today or ever.
Now, there are two huge problems with this. 1.) Jesus never teaches it. God doesn’t come to you simply to make you feel good and you don’t get closer to God by feeling good. Now, Jesus loves emotions. Really, He does. He created them, He feels them and they are quite a gift. Feeling good, feeling uplifted, feeling happy when you should feel good is a great gift. But, God has not promised to speak to us through feelings. That’s why He also created Words.
2.) Feelings wear off. They can give you confidence and conviction; they can motivate you and turn your life around. But feelings change.
So if you’re answer the question, “What does God think of me?” with your feelings, then what God thinks of you will change, as well. But if you answer the question, “What does God think of me?” with “What does He say?”, “Who is Jesus?”, then it won’t change.
This is brought out in our Old Reading (Exodus 33). Moses asks God, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people?” How shall we know what God thinks about me, if He has favor for me, or if He just has curses for me because of my sin? How shall I know if He doesn’t tell me? How shall I know if He doesn’t reveal Himself? You don’t.
And this is why He does tell you. And this is why He does reveal Himself to us through Jesus and His Words and His actions. And this is why we focus on answering this questions today, “Who is Jesus?”
And here is what the wedding at Cana can tell you about Him. 1.) He loves marriage. He is in fact married to the Church, to you. He gave Himself up for you so that He might make you holy. He has cleansed with water and the Word, so that He might present you to Himself in splendor. You are, to Him and to His father, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. You are holy and without blemish.
2.) When He gives gifts, He does so to people who do not deserve them and will not always appreciate them and will abuse them. He knows we abuse His gifts of creation. He knows we abuse His forgiveness. And He still gives them. You have them. You have Him. He gives Himself. He gives you His presence for your peace. He gives you His word to give you joy.
3.) He listens to prayer. He turns water into wine because His mother asked for help. He also told her “no.” But she kept faith in Him. That He is good and that He listens and that He cares.
This is who He is. This is what He is about. This was His first sign and it shows you what He thinks of you. His feelings toward you don’t change.
Sermon Video Review for The Baptism of Our Lord, January 12, 2014
Sermon for The Baptism of Our Lord
You and Jesus Make an Us
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
There is an objection that John has about Jesus, and it is an objection that we have as well, by nature. “Do you come to me?”
Yes, He comes to you. That is the God He is — the God who comes.
Why would we, or why do we question that?
First, it really does destroy our pride. It shows that we can’t go to Him. Romans 3:11 speaks of how no one, that is before conversion, no one understands and no one seeks God. And we like to do things. We like credit. We hate feeling helpless.
You know when you’re sick, I think it really helps our pride that we get to choose whether we go to the doctor or not. We get a little credit for feeling better afterwards. O, so you made your medicine that helped cure your symptoms or the disease? No. O, so you had the knowledge of what to take and how to take it? No. But I am the one that went to the doctor.
But suppose, when you were sick, your doctor came uninvited to your house, said “this is the medicine you should take and this is how you should take it, and you will have healing.” Now, there is no way that we could take credit for any part of that.
Jesus comes to us. And that really does destroy our pride. That’s part of the point.
Why else would we, like John who asks “do you come to me?” why else would we not want God to come to us?
Because we don’t deserve it? That’s the point of it, too! We don’t. But at Jesus’ baptism, the dove descends proclaiming God is at peace with you. Don’t think that includes you? Pinch your flesh. Are you human? Yes? Jesus died for you. He became human to do so. He receives the Holy Spirit so that He can give you the Holy Spirit. He is still human so that He can give you His body and blood.
Why else would we question that God comes to us and joins us? Because we don’t want it? That’s the point, too. He comes to us, not us coming to Him, before we even think if we want it because He knows it is for our good. There is no longer a “you vs. God.” Jesus and His baptism makes you and God an “us.”
Why would we not want God to come to us? Because we have too much shame to stand before God. That too is that point. He is shamed, baptized with common sinners, hung naked on a cross to cover your shame. The shame that you feel in your life comes only because of Satan, and he is a liar. You are clean. You are forgiven.
Why would we not want God to come to us? Because we don’t think we need it, we’re not that bad. Because of that, too, Jesus is baptized. It is only His word that can call us to true repentance. He did not count Himself worthy of God, though He was God. He became a humble servant. He gives you an example, receiving a baptism of repentance to show you that you need to repent for your lack of servant-like actions to everyone in your life.
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” When Satan is tempting you, through thoughts in your mind especially, when you feel unworthy for life, for friends, for God, when you are confused with the way God works, the only answer, is Jesus answering.
Jesus does something amazing here and includes a mere human being in the fulfillment of righteousness. Look at vs. 15 again. Is John unworthy to baptize Jesus, to touch the crown of the head of He who created him. Of course he is unworthy.
Are you unworthy for any duties that you have been given in this life? Am I unworthy to be a pastor and a husband and a father. Of course I am. But Jesus took all my unworthiness, all the sins that he knew I would commit in those vocations, died for them, drowned them in my baptism, gives me new life, gives me His Holy Spirit and says, we can do this together now.
Now, Kelly could be completely loved by God without me, but He allows me to do it with Him and for Him. Solomon and Henry and Dorothea can be fed and clothed and raised in the fear of the Lord without me, but for now, God says He does it with me. Mount Calvary can hear the Word of God, that their sins are forgiven, that God wishes to give them His Son’s body and blood every week for their strength and forgiveness, her people who are lonely can be visited, shut ins can be reminded that the Lord is shut in with them, children can be taught the basic comfort of the Christian faith, all can be done without me, but let it be so for now, that God does it with me.
This is also a huge point of stewardship. The Church of Christ can survive without you. She can grow without you. She can preach to others of Jesus and His forgiveness without you. But for now, Jesus says that He and you make an “us” in this picture. He and your support of the ministry. He and your proclamation of Jesus’ forgiveness and invitation to receive Christ’s gifts at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church.
He and you make an us. That is freeing. Take joy in your vocation, wherever God has called you to be. You are forgiven for your failures for He fulfilled all righteousness. And He works with you in your station in life for the good of those whom He loves. You and He make an us to raise children, to answer phones, to be a friend and visit and make phone calls, to teach, to do factory stuff and engineering stuff. You and He make an us.
John asked Jesus, “and you come to me?” Yes, your God comes to you and He is at peace with you. He is in fact pleased with you. Because the “you” in which we speak is in the plural. It is you and your Jesus for you. You and your Jesus are an us.
Sermon Review for Christmas 2
Sermon for Christmas 2
A Comparison of Kings
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” St. Matthew 2, 13
Good and evil are not just two ideas. Good and evil can be recognized clearly for what they really are. The pathetic condition of our nation and our culture is seen in the rather obvious fact that fewer and fewer people know the difference between good and evil. God makes it plain to us.
Jesus, the King of the Jews, is good. Herod, the king of the Jews, is evil. Jesus’ kingdom was a kingdom given to him by God the Father. Herod won his kingdom by murder, threats, and bribery. Jesus’ kingdom was a kingdom of grace and peace in which the sinner could find forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Herod’s kingdom was one of lawless brutality and mass murder, especially that of infants and children. The murder of infants is evil — in the womb, outside of the womb — life is good, death, murder, that is evil.
Jesus is for life. Herod is for death. Jesus became a little baby. Herod murdered the little babies. Jesus loves the little children. Herod hates the little children. Jesus comes to the little children, hiding the glory of his almighty power under his humble human nature. Herod orders the children killed for the sake of his own political gain.
You see, when God became a baby, he said something about babies. He said that he loves them. He said that he wants to come to them and be their God.
Good and evil are not just two ideas. Good and evil can be recognized clearly for what they really are. God makes that plain to us.
Now, to be sure, appearance can be deceiving. Jesus — as a baby, as a full grown man, as a criminal hanging on a cross, as our God who is good and who is for us — can seem quite helpless. Has He seemed that way for you more often than you wished? This is incredibly difficult for us in this life – for we, by nature, all too often judge by what we see and feel and not what our Lord promises. What we all too often see is ourselves and our God as being quite helpless. But He is not. Jesus is not powerless. Jesus is King.
On the other hand, leaders throughout the world and many people in our lives who believe and act on simply evil things can seem overwhelmingly powerful. Sickness and disability and poverty and cruelty seem overwhelmingly powerful. But they are not. Not compared to Jesus. All evil and sickness and loneliness will be destroyed. And every knee will bow, whether in humiliating submission or humble thanksgiving. That is a promise that can all too often be taken by faith and not by sight.
But sometimes sight does see it. Name for me an empire that existed when Jesus was born and still exists. Name an empire that hasn’t turned to dust. The truth is this — the kings of this world are destroyed while the babe in Bethlehem still reigns.
I think we can often apply this to our lives. In the midst of great evil or suffering that we might be encountering, we could ask, “Where is God?” And often, not always, but often, as years pass by, we see and know that the babe in Bethlehem was reigning for us even then. If you don’t see that now, or if you haven’t seen after the suffering ended, or if the suffering never did end, the promise is true nevertheless. Your God, who is good, who loves you more than anyone else loves you, who died for you — He does still reign.
His crown is a crown of thorn. The proclamation of His kingship is seen most clearly on the sign above His cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It is there where He is reigning, destroying and gaining victory of your death, over your sin, over the evil one who wishes not only to accuse you and make you have a guilty conscience, but also wishes murder and harm to your body and the bodies of all around you, even babies in and outside the womb.
He is your substitute. He died, not only to make you a child of God, but also to make up for all the times that we have even failed to act as the children of God that He has called us out of pure grace to be. That is your certainty that God calls you son and daughter.
Everything that God sees about you is all in relation to Him. Did you notice in the text what the angel calls Mary. She is the Child’s mother. She has her identity as Mary, wife of Joseph, daughter of such and such, friend of such and such, cousin of Elizabeth, etc. But her most important identity, the identity that matters most in times of sin and death and suffering, is that identity that God sees her most clearly as. She is viewed in relationship to her Son whom she bore who would die for her and make her His and make her holy.
The same is true for you. When you baptized, you didn’t lose your identity as mother, daughter, wife, friend, etc, you gained your most important. Sister and brother of Christ. Redeemed by His blood. Bought back from sin and evil through Jesus. Daughter of the Father in Heaven. A son of God because the Son of God is your brother. That is your identity. That is why you pray. That is why you have confidence. That is why, in the midst of so much evil, you can say, God is good. God is King. God is for me. He will win and He will bring me with Him into all victory.
Sermon for the First Sunday of Christmas
A Soul Piercing Sword
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Mary had kept all these things in her heart. What things? A birth out-of-doors, the appearance of shepherds who claimed to have been sent by angels, and her own knowledge that her Son was conceived without knowing a man, she kept all those things and pondered them in her heart. Mary’s lot as the Mother of God had already been hard. She had borne the shame, at least for a little while, of her beloved Joseph’s suspicion. You know how hard it is when the one you love the most not to trust you fully? She borne the shame of the wagging tongues in Nazareth and if they ever called her ‘the Virgin Mary” it was certainly in mocking tones.
She also knew the hardship of traveling while pregnant, of poverty in general, and of the lack of hospitality and love in this world of ours. Mary is pondering.
Now, she certainly has joy. But joy that is tempered by the reality of the curse. Things are not as they should be. Are they for you? She should not have been out of doors in the winter with a newborn. She should have a better place to lay Him than a manger. She should not be shamed by men for the honor that God has bestowed on her. But most of all, most of all, dear saints, her Son should not have to die.
Of all those ever born, this One is innocent, this One has not sinned. He should not die. But He does. He dies. Mary, did you know? Yes, she had always known. That is His sole purpose and objective. That is why He was born. For if He doesn’t die, then Mary and the Shepherds, Joseph, Simeon, Elizabeth and Zacharias, and all of us, would. If He didn’t die then we would die in our sin, in rightful judgment, we would die without the right knowledge of God, we would die only knowing God as our judge and not Savior, we would die eternally.
He dies for Mary’s joy and for your joy. It is joy that is tempered by the reality of our curse and the worlds curse.
This is how it is for you. You are forgiven in Christ and there is no one to accuse you. The devil has nothing to say. You are holy, righteous, and innocent in Jesus Christ. You rose to life out of the watery grave of God’s Name in Holy Baptism. No one can stand against you.
But you still hurt. Your heart is pierced as well – broken with children who do not honor you, who have grown in ways you do not approve; with supervisors who abuse you; with neighbors who forget you; with a church that goes the ways of men and follows dollars and prestige instead of the Word; with a government full of self-serving bureaucrats; with cities full of violence; with rivers full of garbage and the skies full of smoke; with cancer, war, and poverty. Your Christmas didn’t measure up to Hallmark’s standards. The warm fuzzies melted quickly like credits rolling on the big screen.
Something is always a little wrong, someone missing, someone mad, someone alone. Mary is destined to outlive both her husband and Her Son, a burden in itself as great and onerous as any mortal has ever known.
There remains the reality that God did not send his Son into the world to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. He came to redeem a broken world, and to do that would require hurt and pain and blood and all sorts of raw suffering. Jesus had a messy mission. And Mary, his mother, would be part of the mess, for a sword would pierce her own heart. She who once placed her two hands on her extended belly, wondering what kind of boy she would have, stood drenched in tears as she looked up at that boy, now a man, whose two hands were extended upon the cross-beams, drenched in blood, to save her and the messy world, to save you. Each nail that pierced his hands, each thorn that bit into his brow, the spear that punctured his side—they all were part of the sword of sorrow that was thrust deep into Mary’s own heart – and ours as well.
Mary knew of the rejection her Son would receive and so do you. You live with family members who reject the greatest love ever known. We live in a world where His love and truth is too often viewed and hate and lies. Still, He comes for Mary, for you, for your joy.
Christ is also part of this life. And he’s the most important part. For He is The Constant. His love is the sun that never sets. His mercy is the flower that never wilts. We are in His hand and His is the hand that never lets go.
To “see salvation” in Christ—as Simeon did, as Anna did, and as Mary did—is to see more than being “saved” from hell or sin. For Christ saves us from a life empty of God, and makes our life one in which God fills us and lives through us. Mary carried Jesus in her womb, and everywhere he went, so did she. And so we carry Christ in us, everywhere we go. He is as present here as He was in Mary’s womb and in the manger.
When swords pierce our hearts, he is there to heal us with own life-giving wounds. For each of us is as precious to him—no, even more precious—than life itself.
That, dear saints, is Christmas joy that always abides. Mary’s ponders that in her heart and today, so do you. Amen.
I Am Not the Christ
19 “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
You shall have no other gods. You know, this is harsh Law, right? We are to trust that God will provide. We are to love Him and His Word above all things. We are to look to Him for all good things, for our comfort, for our joy, for our forgiveness, and for everything we need for this body and soul. This is Law and shows our sin — our lack of trust.
But it is also a promise. You shall have no other gods. You know why? Because you don’t need any! God is good. He promises to give you good things. He promises to give you comfort and joy. He promises to provide for you and that He is not angry and He forgives you.
Dear saints, this is what John is doing for you today and what we should be doing today as well. 19 “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
Say to yourself this: “I am not the one who can provide for me my own comfort. I am not the one who can proclaim that I am forgiven to myself. I am not the one who can fix this and that in my life and in the world. Confess that. Do not deny that. Say, “I am not the Christ. I don’t want to be.” But I do know who is! And boy, does that make me rejoice. I am satisfied hearing that Jesus is the Christ. That is who I am – the one who hears that and the one that confesses that.
You know, one of the major sources of anxiety that we have in this life is our innate desire to be God, at times. Here’s what I mean. We desire to control the situations in our families, in our places of work, in our congregations, in our health, in ourselves, etc. You see this in yourself? The desire to control things and people and our future.
Now there are absolutely things that you can do at times do about your health, about your family, about whatever else there is in the world. Blessed is the one who does not eat chili dogs every meal for a month straight. If you don’t want to feel sick and have the adverse effects of chili dogs every meal, stop eating chili dogs.
In some measures, you can stop gossiping, you can stop looking at porn, you can start listening to your mom and dad more, in some measures you can stop your anger and your despair and instead start praying more, start reading Scripture more. This is what Paul is saying in our Epistle: 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
He doesn’t just say the impossible, “Stop being anxious,” but tells you that God has given you a gift to have when you are anxious. Do not be anxious, but instead let your requests be made known to God. And the result will be this: 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We, dear Christians, are not always helpless infants who can do nothing in this battle. We are not always toddlers that can’t control their tempers and emotions and mouth. John the Baptist says that he is not the Christ, but he also confesses who he is and what he is called to do. Let us do the same.
But for those things that we cannot control – the things within, the things without – confess this too. “I cannot control. I am not the Christ.” I am not where my forgiveness is found for my many failures. I am not where my peace is found when I have heartache. I am not where my comfort is found. I am not the One in control. I am not the Christ.
But my Jesus is. He was born for me. He lived for me. He died for me. He rose for me. He is present for me. He forgives. He gives me peace. He is in control. He says, “Comfort, comfort.” He calls me His. He loves me. He is the Christ.
Whatever you may do or have done, whatever is done to you, whatever you are going through now, do not let anyone take that truth from you. You are not the Christ, but your Jesus is. He has promised to be your God. With his cross and promises in your midst today, you do not have to wonder what your God thinks of you. He is pleased with you. He has salvation for you, earned by His bloody sweat and death. He takes joy in your repentance and faith in Him.
He is the Christ. All true comfort comes to an end when this truth is taken from you. You know, why is it easier to fall asleep and lose attention during a sermon than it is while you’re watching Dancing with the Stars? Why is it harder to pray and hear our Lord’s voice in Scripture than it is to play video games? Because the devil knows that all true comfort comes to an end when this truth, your Jesus is the Christ, is taken from you.
And the opposite is true: all true comfort is given to you eternally as this is being rubbed into your ears by Him right now. He stands among you today and heaven is opened. Sins are forgiven. Freedom is received in confessing that I am not the Christ. Eternal gifts are given. Comfort is received. You hear His voice and the peace that passes all understanding guards your hearts and minds in the One who is the Christ, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Sermon for Advent 3
Two Important Questions
Are you the One who is to come or shall we look for another?
You ever wonder what you’re supposed to do in life? I think that if there was ever one man outside of our Lord Jesus on this earth that had more confidence in who he was and what his vocation in this world included than anyone else, it was John the Baptist. John knew what he had to do. He was to preach repentance, and he did. He did it much more clearly than I ever do or you ever do.
He was to confess that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. He was to prepare the way for one mightier than He, the King of Heaven and Earth who comes to reign in peace and righteousness and doling out the forgiveness of sins. Maybe you don’t know who you are at times, but John knew who he was. John began to wonder, however, if Jesus knew who he was – or maybe we should look another. Are you the One who is to come or shall we look for another?
Good questions. Important questions. Maybe some questions that you have as you look around in your life and see so much heartache and sickness and evil. Are you the One who is to come or shall we look for another?
Now there are two questions here: 1.) Are the One who is to come? Yes, He is. That’s a fact – whether you believe it or not. This is God the Son in the flesh come to redeem creation with its sickness and brokenness and full of sin-ness. That’s a fact. Whether you believe it or not, it doesn’t change that this Jesus is Lord. Blessed is the One who is not offended by Him and His teachings. Cursed is the one who is.
Jesus is Lord. Truth — whether you believe it or not. If I were to eat chili dogs for every meal for a month straight, I would gain weight, my cholesterol would go up and I would be less happy with myself and with my health whether I believed chili dogs for every meal would hurt me or not. Right? Blessed is the one who does not eat chili dogs every meal. Cursed is he who dos. Jesus is the way, the truth and life. Blessed is the one who is not offended by Jesus and His teachings. Cursed is he who is down the wrong path, believing in lies, and ending in death.
Should we look for another? Different question there. Should we look for another? Well – what you are looking for? If you are always strong in your faith toward God, even in the midst of suffering – if you always fear Him above all else, even judgment of others and fear Him above your own urges that beg for scratching – if you have no fears in your life and for your future and for your family – if your life is so full of peace that you can barely stand how wonderful everything is or wonder when you’re going to wake up from this fantasy world – if you have no anxiety about who you are – if you have no loneliness – if you have no concern about your death and the judgment that therein follows – if you are never weighed down by the pressures put upon you by this season, or by your family, by your job, by your teachers, by your congregation, by your friends in need – then yes, you should look for another.
But, if you are weak at times, and anxious, and absolutely guilty, and weary, and worried – then no, you shouldn’t look for another. This Jesus is Your King — this is Jesus, your preacher — this is Jesus, your healer – this Jesus is your peace – this Jesus has taken all your shame in that blessed hour and died and is raised to give you joy in Him. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will says rejoice.
The Lord’s word can say this because it is not only demanding your joy…because you are saved, because you are loved, because the Lord is at hand and with you now – rejoice, not in yourself, not in this world, not in the many reasons we have in this world to be sad and not rejoice….no, rejoice in the Lord….good reasons to rejoice and we should…but the Lord’s word does what it demands, too. It gives you joy. Rejoice – and you do.
“Are you the One who is to come or should we look for another.” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind received their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.”
Why does John ask if they should look for another? Why are we still tempted to look for another? Why does Jesus constantly have to point us back to his deeds that He does to answer this question?
John the Baptist points out for us one of the strangest paradoxes in Christianity. God has broken into human history. The kingdom of God was reigning in power and glory right before the face of John’s disciples. The kingdom of God is still reigning right before our face today. The kingdom of God certainly comes without our prayers. Yet, there is still so much sin in this world. There is still so much suffering and evil in this world. The Kingdom of God is here, but God will not fully overthrow all evil and suffering – yet.
Disciples are not promised luxurious and happy lives, rather they are promised suffering and persecution if they proclaim the truth. John’s the greatest born of woman and he’s in prison. How is this the kingdom of God? Is there any wonder why John might have his doubts? Is there any wonder why if the greatest of the prophets had his doubts, that other great prophets like Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah had their doubts as to why God works this way? Is there any wonder why we have doubts when experiencing evil and suffering and don’t have many answers? Should we look for another?
Dear saints, God’s kingdom, God’s reign comes in the person of Jesus. Is there power in the reign of God in Jesus? Yes – but it is power for those who need forgiveness, strength, and recognize their reliance on God – the poor in spirit. Is there glory in the reign of Jesus? Yes – but it is glory that will be shown most importantly in what appears to be shame and defeat on the cross. Should we look for another? Nowhere else can the poor in body and soul find eternal help which the world, with all of its resources, is unable to give. Should we look for another? No one else comforts the sorrowing, distressed, and conscience stricken. Should we look for another? Go tell John what you have seen and heard…God is preaching to you, now. Look no further. Amen.
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent
(No Audio This Week [Pastor forgot, again!])
Chaos and Peace
The Devil loves chaos. In chaos, hope often gives way to fear. In chaos, love often gives way to selfishness. In chaos, faith often gives way to despair. God is a god of order and Satan thus loves disorder.
After 9/11, the question was often asked, why? Why did they do this? What is their purpose? Was it to kill people? Yes, but that’s not the main reason. Was it to harm our economy? Yes, but that’s not the main reason. Was it to get back at us? Yes, but that’s not the main reason. A terrorist strikes for one main reason. To cause terror. To cause chaos. When terror and chaos thrives, the rest will follow.
The devil has done a wonderful job causing chaos in our society. He has done much more than this, but there is one specific vocation in life that he has attacked relentlessly to cause the most chaos and that is the vocation of father and mother.
Malachi 4: 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,
When children’s hearts’ are not turned to their father and father’s hearts are not turned to their children, chaos and destruction and judgment will soon follow. When fathers and mothers do not teach their children the faith, chaos arrives in the form of rejection and confusion. When fathers and mothers do not raise their children teaching them to fear the Lord and love their neighbor as themselves, then we end up loving ourselves even more than we already would have. Loving yourself needs very little encouragement. It’s what we do by nature.
By nature, we think we have it worse than others. By nature, we think that God is withholding something from us and giving us the raw end of the deal. By nature, we are arrogant and we covet other’s things and their money and their house and their job and their church and their children and their spouse and their life.
Our Lord teaches us to repent. Our Lord teaches parents to teach their children to repent. Our Lord teaches us to encourage parents and children. We have all failed. Chaos has followed. And Satan loves it.
But in the midst of this chaos, your God has not abandoned you. God has not given up on your or on the world. He has promised that and He is faithful. The world is not outside of our Lord’s control and neither is your life outside of our Lord’s control. The chaos is a sign that your redemption is drawing near. Darkness in your life and in this world is a sign that sun will rise soon with healing in his wings.
His healing comes now as He brings His righteousness that covers all of our failings as father and mother, as children, as congregation members, as workers, and as sons and daughters. His healing comes with His Word that proclaim you innocent for the sake of Him who died and rose again for you. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
He is not absent from this world and He is not absent from you. He is a God who comes. He is a God who acts to bring healing and joy. He does not keep His love and forgiveness to Himself, but sends them out to you with those Words that do not pass away and you have your healing.
Until your redemption is fully here rather than just drawing near, 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap…. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place. We are weighed down with the cares of this life when we worry. And worry multiplies the more we covet, the more we desire what others have. But Jesus calls us to trust him and to be content, which is the opposite of coveting. This is why God commands us to be generous in our stewardship: it teaches us to trust Him and to be content with what He has given us.
Dear saints, you can trust in Him. He is the One who stays awake praying for us even while we sleep. He is the One whose heart was fully set on others and not Himself. It still is. For in the midst of your chaos, Jesus brings you peace. In the midst of your sadness, His Word brings you joy. In the midst of your anxiety, when your mind is going 1,000 different directions, He invites you to pray to Him so that the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Lift up your heads, after you have bowed them in the confession of your sins, for your redemption is here. He has bought you back. Chaos does not own you. Satan does not own you. Fear does not own you. Your failures do not own you. Jesus bought you and you belong to Him. You can stand before the Son of Man because He stands here today declaring you forgiven and loved.
Sermon for Advent 1
The God Who Comes – Even if We Don’t Want it
Matthew 21:4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
If there was one sentence that could summarize all of Christianity, this might be as close to as you can get. This is why we begin our new year today with this text and we have always done it this way. We have a God who comes. We cannot by nature go to him, nor would we want to, without Him first coming to us. We cannot ascend to Him in our sin, so He comes to us to forgive our sin. We miserably fail to pray to Him, so He comes to us with His Word to lead us to Him.
He came as child to be born to die. A God-King sacrificing not the poor soldier for the gain of His Kingdom, but sacrificing Himself so that He could gain you. He comes humbly now in His Word and in bread and wine in His Holy Supper and He will come again, not humbly, but in glory, to judge the living and the dead. Today begins Advent. And guess what that word means? It means, “Come.”
The crowds yell, “Hosanna,” as Jesus is riding His donkey all the way to His death for them and for us and what they are saying in this word is “God, save us,” and He’s doing just that. But do they actually mean what they say? And do we? He comes, but do we actually want Him to come? Here’s what I mean by that.
As a child, my dad was a volunteer fireman. The cool kids would get picked up in Ferrari’s and Corvette’s, I would get picked up sometimes in a fire truck. That for sure made me the coolest. One Saturday afternoon, my dad borrowed me to help with some firemen training. All I had to do was hide in a room while some firemen donned their gear and attempted to find me.
When I saw some stranger in some frightening gear, I did not want rescued. I thought he meant me more harm than good. He was there to harm me, not to save me. I screamed and I kicked. In other words, I was a good exercise for a fireman trying rescue a child out of a burning building.
Our Lord comes and He comes to rescue us, but do we actually always want rescued? Or do we often think that He comes to do more harm than good? Our Lord saves us from sin. He does not go to save us only from our general sinful condition, he does not go to save us only from the sins that have been committed against us by others but He goes to save us from our sins. Do you want to be saved by such? Are we ready for such?
Would we rather live a life of selfishness rather than a life of selflessness? Do we not love sinning sometimes? Do we not gain pleasure in gossiping and lusting and choosing to satisfy our felt needs? Is not easier to speak ill and think ill about someone than it is to speak well and put the best construction on it? Does it not save us some money to live together without marriage? Does it not make sense to get some milk before you buy the cow? Is it not sometimes fun to be angry? O Lord, save us, they’re saying. And they may not know what they’re saying and we, when we confess the same, and confess our sins, may not know what we’re saying either. Do you want rescued? Are we ready to give up our convenient sins? Do we want to notice our sin? Do we want to notice the sin of others? Or we would rather sometimes bury our heads and pretend we’re not in a burning fire and this Jesus means us more harm than good when He tells us to repent.
Our Lord riding on to save us is not dependent on whether we mean that we’re really sorry. Our Lord riding on to go to His death is not dependent upon whether we really want to improve and stop sinning or even if we asked Him. Our Lord riding onto His death is dependent upon His love for doing the Father’s will who desires the King to buy His kingdom back from Satan with the Son’s own blood. This King is not like our politicians who vote to send others into war, but is the One who goes into war, alone, riding Himself. The Father wants you rescued whether we are smart enough or good enough to be rescued.
You do not go to Him, He comes to you. He, the God of anything and everything says that He needs the donkey and colt for His purpose. They are insignificant, but He used them. And He uses you, too. He can use your money. He can use your body for service. He can use your mouth for building up others and confessing Him. It should be our pleasure, as insignificant as we are, to be used by our Lord for His goals.
He is not far off today and He, throughout humanity, never has been. He was not far off when He was walking in Eden promising a Savior from sin and shame. He was not far off when He promised to dwell with His people in the tabernacle so that they could have access to His grace and peace. He was not far off when He suffered as man the things that men suffer, but worse. And He is not far off today, He is the God who comes with His Word and His meal. Come quickly now, Lord Jesus. Whether we want it or not, we need it, and we have it.