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Epiphany 6

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

What are you willing to stake your life on? If there is anything at all to wager your life on, what would it be? I’m sure we would say our spouse or our children, that we would be willing to die for them. But what about someone else? What about a complete stranger? That is precisely what Christ our Lord has done for you. Not only has Christ our Lord died for you, but He has also risen from the dead for you.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, there is an issue they are facing – what does Christ’s resurrection mean? There was debate at the time as to whether or not there was truly a resurrection from the dead. For the Church to be debating this is indeed troubling. To presume that the resurrection is false, is as Luther says, a “disgrace and an abomination on the part of those who desire to be called Christians.”

Paul stakes everything on the basic factor with which he began, namely, that Christ rose from the dead. This is the chief article of the Christian doctrine, for if there is no resurrection, then there is no Christianity. No one who at all claims to be a Christian or a preacher of the Gospel may deny that, and yet, this is what was being promoted by some in the Corinthian Church. Luther, in his commentary on our text says this: “With this he wants to confront them and force them to the conclusion that their denial of the resurrection of the dead denies even more definitely that Christ rose from the dead; for if the former is not true, the latter must be fabricated also.”In English, Luther is saying that if you deny the resurrection from the dead, then you mustdeny Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

How could you deny Christ’s resurrection? That’s the million-dollar question to the Corinthians. And so Paul says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”If Christ is not raised from the dead, then why are you here? Why am I here? This thing called faith that you have, it is nothing more than rubbish and make-believe thoughts. Everything that we believe about Christianity is nothing more than a sham because we are going to die and we are going to stay dead.

Vain preaching. Empty preaching. Damning preaching. Because the Christ whom we preach is only a dead man, and our faith rests upon a dead man instead of upon the Son of the living God, who has the keys of death and hell, then everything we believe in is in vain. You trust, then, in a Savior who cannot deliver Himself, and, therefore, much less save others; and your faith is then vain, for it rests upon an empty delusion. That was the thought of some of the Corinthians, some who professed to be believers in Jesus Christ.

It’s one thing for those outside of the Church to think and speak and believe in this way, but how can the Christian, the blood-bought and redeemed, believe like this? That’s what Paul wants to know. That’s why Paul says what he does. This line of thinking is damning to a person. And this is what some of the Corinthians believed.

Let that soak in for a moment. This wasn’t a group of non-believers who thought like this; this was the thinking by some of the Corinthian Christians. This was something which Paul could not let go unaddressed, and with good reason. The resurrection is central to creation’s salvation. Christ died so that creation would not die. His death was only half of the equation, with the other half being Christ rising again from the dead. They accepted part of the truth of the gospel, Christ’s death, but they were rejecting another part, the resurrection of Jesus and of all the dead.

This is a serious problem. If false theology like this creeps in, what else can creep in? At this point, it doesn’t matter because they have Jesus wrong on the most fundamental level – Christ never rose from the dead. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”There is no salvation because you are still captive to your sin. No forgiveness, no salvation because Christ is still in a tomb. For all those who believe in Paul and the message of the cross, they have a fruitless, empty faith and are still hopelessly lost in the condemning, controlling power of sin. It means that the population of hell has greatly increased. And so Paul contends that trusting in a Messiah who did not conquer death leaves believers no better off spiritually than unbelievers. With a Christ who did not rise, sin wins the victory over everyone, and the defeat of damnation is our sure eternal destiny.

What poor Corinthians! To have the Gospel and then to forsake the Gospel for that which is damning. But when you fast forward the Church 2000 years, we have done the exact same thing. When Scripture is clear that faith in Jesus Christ alone saves, the Church perpetuates a false teaching of Jesus plus, with any number of things being substituted for the plus: good works, a false idea of doing something to earn God’s favor, adherence to the Law which is usually manmade. You can substitute any number of things into the plus category and all will lead you away from the truth of salvation earned by the death andresurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul points to an implication for this present life in believing in a Christ who has not risen. He asserts that if believing in Christ has value only for this present earthly life, then Christians are fools who have made a tragic mistake and who should be pitied by others. Without the resurrection, Christianity is pointless.

Paul is not content with this false theology in the Church. The resurrection is at the center of everything Christians are asked to believe. Ten times in this short passage he employs one form or another of the Greek verb “to raise.” Six times the verb occurs in the perfect tense, indicating the completed action with a present implication, meaning that the effects of the resurrection are ongoing. Apart from Jesus’ resurrection there is no resurrection of the dead and therefore no hope for the departed, no forgiveness of sins, and therefore only a pitiable shell of a religion.

That is why our Epistle ends with these words: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”Turning away from the tragic implications there would be for people if there were no resurrection, he emphatically states that Christ has risen from the dead, as he had previously declared. By calling Jesus the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,”Paul is declaring that the risen Christ is the pledge and proof of the resurrection of all God’s redeemed people to eternal life.

Without Christ’s resurrection, we face a hopeless end. This was a reality of the Corinthian church, and unfortunately for too many churches today. With Christ’s resurrection, we have an endless hope. More than that, we have the promise of resurrection as well, for Christ has indeed risen from the dead so that we too will rise again. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 5

Text: Luke 5:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

As Luke begins this account of Jesus, He has finally left the building, that is, we no longer find Jesus at the synagogue. Today, “he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret.”Though Jesus was no longer in the synagogues with the people gathered for worship, Jesus still finds Himself surrounded by a crowd nonetheless. The reason for their gathering around Jesus: “to hear the word of God.”While Jesus is still the relatively new preacher on the block, the people are flocking to Jesus because His Word had authority. They have heard Him, they have seen Him perform a number of miracles at this point, including casting out a demon and healing various others of their sickness and exorcising more possessed by demons, and yet, they still come to Jesus. Is it because of what He says? Is it because of what He does? Is it because He is not like the other preachers of the day? Likely, it is a combination of all of the above.

While standing on the shore, Jesus saw two boats, one belonging to Simon, whose mother-in-law He recently healed. Jesus got into one of the boats and told Simon “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”At this point, it is probably during the early morning hours and not the prime time for fishing, since it was easiest to catch the fish during the late hours when they were closer to the top of the water. Because of that, Simon responds, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Notice how Simon, better known as Peter, responds. He calls Jesus “Master.” After seeing what Jesus had recently done with the demon-possessed man and his mother-in-law, he recognizes Jesus as someone special, someone with authority, and rightly so. What Jesus has done commands a sense of awe and respect from Simon Peter and he aptly shows it by how he addresses Jesus.

With what has taken place up until now, one can only imagine if they will catch fish at all. While Simon Peter is doubtful, he does as his Master directs. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”This wasn’t because they decided to throw their nets onto the other side of the boat. Surely if you didn’t catch fish in one location, you would move on. Surely if you didn’t catch fish from one side of the boat, you would try another. They caught the fish at Jesus’ command. Performing a simple miracle such as catching a bursting net full of fish was indeed helpful to these men, for fishing was their vocation. No fish means no money. No money means not being able to support yourself. Now, through this miraculous catch of fish, they had an ample supply of fish that would have likely earned for them a generous amount of money.

That is not what happened. There were no shouts of joy over the catch. The men in the boat didn’t begin to count up their share of the potential money. Rather, Simon Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.””He saw what Jesus had done and had determined that he was not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus, for he was a sinner.

If there is anything that you should be saying right now, it should be the same words that Simon Peter cried out: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”What right do you have to stand in the presence of Jesus? What have you done to earn the privilege of being called a child of God? What makes you worthy for the sinless Son of God to lay down His life in order to give you life? You are not worthy of what Jesus comes to do for you; you never have been and you never will be, and yet, Jesus comes for you anyways. He comes to lay down His life so you may have life. He comes to forgive your sins so that you may be declared sinless before your heavenly Father. The last thing that sinners want is Jesus to be hanging around, because his coming should terrify us. No matter what trouble we’re in, this is our most profound and pressing concern: Jesus should judge us because of our sins.

But He doesn’t. Instead of condemning you because of your sin, Jesus stakes your sin, bears your sin, wears your sin to the cross. And there, instead of condemning you, He is cursed, afflicted, stricken, forsaken in your place. Jesus suffers for us, dies for us, for you.

Jesus looks at Peter in his sin and says, “Do not be afraid.”But what does that mean for Peter? More importantly, what do it mean for me? It means don’t fear. There is nothing to be afraid of. Jesus tells us that He is not angry, that He did not come to judge you, to condemn you, or to destroy you. He says that He’ll take care of your sin, that He’ll make a way for you to be alive and live with Him forever. To Peter and to us, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” This is the absolution, the forgiveness of sins, the purest and sweetest Gospel. When the knowledge of our sin and God’s holiness pushes out every other fear so that we stand terrified of God’s wrath, and only God’s wrath, when we at last say, “God, I fear you.” God says to us, “I am nothing to be afraid of. Look, here is my Son, crucified for you.”

And then He says, “Look, here is my servant Peter, sent to preach you the Good News. Look, here is My servant John, James, Paul, sent to you as witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Look, here is Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah, preachers of My name and kindness. And look, here is your pastor, sent in My name to bring the Good News to you, to forgive your sins, to baptize you, to put the body and blood of Jesus into your mouth.”

Dear saints, Jesus is not content to be silent. He wants to be preached to you. He wants His promises to be heard by you. He wants to be believed in by you. He wants His name and kindness to echo in yourears and in yourhearts because He loves you, because He has died for you, because He has risen for you.

Just as Jesus called Peter, James, and John to be fishers of men, so too has God called you – called to be His disciple, called to hear the Word of God and believe by the Holy Spirit, called to share that Word of God with all, that they too may hear and believe.

We rejoice in the calling of St. Peter because we see in this calling how Jesus still loves us. He not only dies for you, but He calls Peter and his apostles and his pastors so that you would know it, believe it, rejoice in it, and have eternal life in His name. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 4

Text: Luke 4:31-44

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for
the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

            Yet again, Luke places Jesus in the synagogue on a Sabbath, this time in Capernaum. Again, Jesus is teaching the people, “and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” Authority. Jesus has it. Luke’s account is similar to one in Matthew’s Gospel, but Luke doesn’t compare Jesus’ teaching to that of the scribes as in Matthew. For Luke, Jesus’ word is with authority. What Jesus says has power and authority. In other words, His Word does something, and why shouldn’t it do something? He is, after all, the Word of God made flesh. He was present at creation, and
according to John, John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

            Twice our text tells us that the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching which was authoritative. Unlike the flowery, empty and vain teaching of the day, Jesus’ teaching was simple, full of grace and truth and carried His Father’s authority. It was likely a change of pace from the preaching and teaching they were used to hearing.

            Present besides the normal crowd one might expect to see at the synagogue “was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon….” The synagogue, much like our churches today, was open
to whoever saw fit to attend. All sorts of people are found in the church. But what about this man? What was he doing in the house of God? Twice in Job we are told that Satan himself came among the sons of God when they came to present themselves before the Lord. Whether this man came by his own will or by the will of the devil that possessed him, we do not know. At any rate, this man cries out to Jesus, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

            What this demon-possessed man says is indeed true. He is Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Holy One of God, the promised seed of the woman that would bruise the serpent’s head. This demon knew that something good could come, should come, out of Nazareth. Until Peter’s confession in Luke 9, no human participant in the gospel knows who Jesus is, but the demons do. They hold people in bondage, but they recognize that the power of God is with Jesus to destroy their kingdom by releasing those who are bound by it. Jesus has the power to exorcise, to prevail over demons, and the demon knew what was in store for him.

            Before this demon is permitted to speak anything else about Jesus, Jesus exorcises the demon from the man. The reason is two-fold. First, Jesus uses this event as an opportunity to show that He is who He has claimed to be. By teaching them, the people see that He is unlike the synagogue teachers, that His message is different, better, than what has been taught up until this point. But even more
important, Jesus hushed the demon because of what the demon said. While it was indeed true, Jesus allowing the demons to identify Him could cause great damage to His credibility. Later, it would be said of Jesus that He was Beelzebub. For the demon to state who Jesus was would only lend credence to that false idea.

            To go along with His teaching and word having authority, He rebuked the demon and the demon came out of the man. The demon left the man, “having done him no harm.” The devil left very reluctantly but had to do Jesus’ will and not do harm. The devil knows the Lord, and his words were a revelation concerning Him. He knows His name: Jesus; he knows whence He hails: of Nazareth; he knows Him to be the true Son of God, the Holy One of God, of equal majesty and power with the Father. He wants nothing to do with Jesus. He has no choice but to leave the man because of Jesus’ authority. Jesus’ authority is in more than just preaching and teaching. His authority is also seen in actions. Jesus commands the demon to be silent and he is silent. Jesus commands the demon to come out of the man and he comes out. His words lead to actions being done. Once again, the people stood in amazement; not because the demon left the man, but because how the demon left the man: by Jesus telling the demon to leave. The people were so
impressed with His authority that they spread the word of Jesus far and wide.

            Once Jesus leaves the synagogue, He proceeds to Simon’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. With a simple request of Jesus, the fever left her and she began to serve those in her house, probably as she normally would.  The people saw what Jesus had done and other people with illnesses began to show up desiring to be healed. Jesus exercised His healing authority to heal those who were infirmed. By His powerful Word, He rebuked the fever and by His personal loving care with His hand of compassion, He healed them.

            The common thread through all of these events is the power and authority of Jesus. He taught with power and authority. He rebuked demons with power and authority. He even rebuked a fever with power and authority. Jesus speaks to nature and nature listens and obeys. Jesus speaks to spiritual powers and they listen and obey. A little word from Jesus has power and authority over all things.

            Jesus brought His power and authority to us in order to undo the damage that sin had done to His creation. Every sickness that He healed, every demon that He cast out, every person that He raised from the dead was a reversal of the curse of sin. Every healing was a sign that pointed forward to the ultimate healing that Jesus worked for us.

            The ultimate, eternal healing that Jesus worked for us happened on a cross. On that cross, Jesus suffered the final, eternal consequence of our sin. He endured the full punishment of sin for us. He endured the full wrath of God in our place. He satisfied the judgment of God against our sin. As Isaiah writes, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him
was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

            The message that needs to be heard—shouted from the rooftops and shared and lived out in all of everyday life—is the message of Christ’s all-redeeming suffering, death, and resurrection. This is not just religious truth, but whole Truth. It’s not just true for Lutherans or Catholics, Baptists, or even Christians. It’s not just true on Sunday mornings. Christ suffered and died for the entire world! This trumps everything, for there’s nothing more important than this: Christ Jesus bore and suffered the sins of everyone for all time, and that even includes the people you don’t like or those you don’t think deserve God’s mercy. Contrary to popular belief, you and I don’t deserve God’s mercy either, and yet He extends that mercy to us. We must remember what Paul writes to the Romans: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

            Christ’s Word is powerful. It has what we need. It does what it says. Christ’s Word has power and authority – the power and authority to rebuke demons – the power and authority to rebuke fevers, but ultimately, the power and authority to forgive your sins and save your soul. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 3

Text: Luke 4:16-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Beginning His ministry at His Baptism, we find Jesus at Cana where He performs His first miracle. Today, Luke puts Jesus in Nazareth, “where he had been brought up.”So what is Jesus doing here? “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day…”So it looks like Jesus is going to attend the local divine service. Quite fitting, especially since it is the Sabbath and where else would we expect to find Jesus except in His Father’s house? But what Jesus does there is a bit unexpected: “and he stood up to read.”But what Jesus read from the Scriptures wasn’t just any text. He read from Isaiah, namely, the following: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”These words from Isaiah 61 are good words to hear, as they echo what Isaiah had come to do: deliver the message of God to His people and to proclaim the love and favor of God unto the people. But is there another side to these words that Jesus quotes?

We can’t forget who Jesus is and why He is here, and I don’t mean here in the Synagogue. We can’t forget why Jesus has come. He is the long-promised and long-awaited Messiah. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. The Spirit of the Lord is indeed upon Him, for He is the Lord. He has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor. And just who are the poor? You are the poor. It doesn’t mean poor with regards to your wealth, but poor with regards to your salvation. You are spiritually poor; even worse, you are spiritually bankrupt. You have no salvation apart from Jesus. You are and have nothing without Jesus. That is why He has come, why He has come for you.

But being spiritually poor is not the only thing you have to deal with. You have to deal with your captivity, and yes, you are captive. You are captive to your sin, held hostage by all the times you have failed to keep God’s Word, held hostage by your lack of confession and repentance for all those sins you committed that you don’t think really are sins. That captivity keeps you from God and all that God desires to give you.

Everything that Isaiah has recorded, everything that Jesus reads, is indeed true. But there is even more to what Jesus has to say: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”It is true, all that Jesus has said has been fulfilled in Him. All seems right with the world according to the people: “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

It’s a miracle! The people get Jesus! They understand what He is trying to tell them! And now, the next three years of Jesus’ ministry will be easy as pie, with no questioning or resistance to His message. You might think that given the people’s response, but Luke records that the people ruin it: ”Is not this Joseph’s son?”

With a simple breath, the people have gone from hearing the words of Jesus and seeing the truth in them and maybe even getting a clue of who Jesus is to seeing Him as nothing more than a carpenter’s son.

What can you expect? These are sinful people that we’re talking about. They can only grasp what they understand, and if they don’t understand it, then it must not be true; hence why Jesus is nothing more than Joseph’s son. But we are no different than the people of Jesus’ day. We too fail to grasp who Jesus truly is. Even though we have the Scriptures in plain view with a plain understanding, we don’t acknowledge Jesus for who He truly is. But then again, they had the Scriptures, the prophecies and God’s promise to inform them of who Jesus was and they failed to do so.

Jesus, the hometown boy returns to church as a guest, and He claims that Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah is now come true – in the person of Jesus. Jesus not only brings good news to the people, He is the Good News of God for every sinner! It’s just a shame that the people then didn’t hear it and a shame that you and I don’t want to hear it.

Just as quickly as the people were enamored by Jesus, they turn against Him. Luke records, “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.”The people of Nazareth reject the good news that Jesus is the Messiah and with that, everything that comes along with it. The expected response might be for the all to throw up their hands and rejoice in the hometown hero. You can almost see them wringing their hands and licking their chops with greedy anticipation. “Here is the answer to all our problems! Can you believe that this is Joseph’s boy? We really hit the lottery with this one!”Instead, the initial reaction was split. They marveled at the way or manner He spoke of God’s love for them. But then doubt is quickly planted: “Is not this Joseph’s son?”You can almost hear them contradict themselves earlier. Surely Joseph’s son cannot be the Messiah. Eventually, doubt turns into rejection.

Isn’t that just like us? One minute we are in love with Jesus and what He comes bringing and then the next, we’re ready to throw Him out of town and off the cliff. This was the problem with the hometown crowd. This is why Jesus spoke such brutal, attention-getting Law. They were stubborn in their spiritual deafness and blindness. They heard the words of Christ, but they didn’t hear the Word of God. They didn’t listen. That is us to a tee. We hear God’s Word, but we do not listen to it. We hear God’s pronouncement of forgiveness upon us on account of Jesus Christ, but we do not listen to the fact that the forgiveness is by Jesus alone. We want to find that forgiveness in anything but Jesus. But there is no forgiveness in anything or anyone but Jesus.

What does the hometown boy do? Does He leave the people with their desires or something else? He dies. He dies for the people who want to kill Him. The people get what they wanted: Jesus dies. The people should be happy. Everything worked out the way they had wanted it. And you know what? Everything did work out the way it was supposed to. Jesus died. He died for creation. He died to fulfill the Father’s will. And He was successful. He died but did not stay dead. He rose victoriously to again fulfill the Father’s will.

Even after everything that Jesus has done for creation, what is today’s response to the shocking Good News of Jesus Christ? Some reject the Good News to their own damnation. They deny who Jesus is and what He has done. They deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who is promised of long ago to bring about salvation for creation. But then you have the other side of the coin as well. God the Holy Spirit creates faith in your heart through the Word of the Good News of Jesus Christ for you. By faith you see Jesus’ mission completed – from Bethlehem to Calvary, from resurrection to ascension for you. By faith you see that all of Scripture points to Jesus for you.

Jesus truly is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah. All this He gives to us through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith. God has promised all these things to us and today they are fulfilled in our hearing. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 2

Text: John 2:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Following the baptism of our Lord last week, we see Jesus begin His public ministry. For the next three years, He will gather the Twelve, preach and teach, heal the sick of their various ailments, and all that goes into His preparation to make His appointment on the cross. As Jesus begins His ministry, we see Him appear at a wedding. Also present was Mary, Jesus’ mother. It wouldn’t be an unusual thing to see Jesus at a wedding. He is very much man as you are. That means that He has friends and family just like you do.

And so we find Jesus amidst a wedding celebration. Wedding celebrations in biblical times are quite different from that of today. Usually the wedding takes place in the afternoon and the reception begins after all of the pictures have been taken, with some receptions going into the wee hours of the morning. That wasn’t the case here. Jewish wedding celebrations customarily lasted seven days, and this may explain the shortage of wine described in the text. But all the fun and festivities are soon to come to an end, for the supply of wine has ran out. Obviously things were not well planned, for a wedding feast could last upwards of a week. The last thing you want to do is cancel the wedding feast because you have run out of wine, and that is exactly what has happened. Mary, Jesus’ mother was a guest also at the wedding and finds Jesus to inform Him that the supply of wine has ran out.

One might wonder why does Mary notify Jesus of this problem. What does she want Him to do? She states the problem and she points to the One who can provide the needed wine. But Jesus’ response is one of “eh.” He says, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”In other words, Jesus is saying why is this His problem.

Jesus has an appropriate response. Why is it His responsibility that the host of the wedding feast did not plan accordingly and make sure they had enough wine to last the entire celebration? What is Jesus supposed to do about the problem? Apparently, He is supposed to find another source of wine.

One might deduce that Mary is somehow helping out at the wedding because she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”She had no idea what Jesus was about to do, but whatever it was, she trusted it to be the right thing. By the way, this is the last direct quotation from Mary in the Bible and they are words that all people should heed, but that’s for another sermon.

Jesus tells the servants to take six stone water jars and fill them up with water. Now each jar could hold between twenty or thirty gallons. That translates into somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons. This was not going to be a short and easy task by any means. Who knows the amount of wine that has been served up until this point, but one hopes that another 120-180 gallons of wine should suffice for the wedding celebration.

Once the water jars are filled, Jesus commands them to “draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”It’s ironic that these water jars once used for the ritual washing is now turned into the new wine for the wedding feast. In a very symbolic way, we see the old faith coming to an end and the new faith being birthed, all centered on and around Jesus.

What we see take place at the wedding at Cana is the first miracle our Lord performs. Changing the water to wine was a sign that the coming Messiah was here. Somewhere in the process of filling the jars and taking a sample of the water to the master of the feast, the water became wine. It wasn’t just any wine either. The master of the feast was surprised that the groom had waited so long to serve the good wine.

In the grand scheme of eternity, why is it important? Scripture interprets Scripture. John himself tells us of the goal of his Gospel at the end of chapter 20: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”Here John reveals the objective of the signs in his account of the Gospel. The signs are there in order to make the case that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. For John knows that faith in Jesus receives eternal life.

John informs us that this was Jesus’ first sign, the first certification that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. These signs point to the spiritual truth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One who took on our flesh, lived among us, and experienced everything that we experience. They reveal Jesus, who, while fully human and like us in every way, except without sin, is also fully God. These miracles are signs that reveal Jesus for who He really is, namely, the Word made flesh, who created all things and who upholds all things in Himself. They reveal the glory of the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

In the waters of Baptism, Jesus makes us His own. By His suffering and death on the cross, He has earned the forgiveness of sins. Then by His promise and command, He joins that forgiveness to ordinary water. By His promise and command, baptism delivers the forgiveness of sins from the cross to you. For it is written, “Baptism . . . now saves you.”Baptism is a “washing of regeneration,”a re-creation. We were dead in sin, but Baptism re-creates us in newness of life in Christ Jesus.

In the same manner, the Lord’s Supper is a sign of our redemption in Jesus Christ. The miracle of Jesus’ true body and true blood in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine reveals the mystery of our salvation in a blessed and holy sacramental union with Jesus. Jesus gives His body and His blood into our mouths and so grants us the forgiveness of sins.

For you, Jesus has saved the best wine for you, the wine that is His blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. That wine is His blood poured at on Calvary’s hill in order to redeem you.

Jesus has given signs to us. At Cana, at Calvary, at the empty tomb, in the font, and on the altar, Jesus gives us signs of His glory. In the font, and on the altar, our Lord has given us signs of the renewed creation won for us on the cross at Calvary. Here Jesus reveals that His life and death are ours. Jesus reveals that His body was given for us and His blood was shed for us for the remission of our sins. Jesus reveals to us His glory, the glory of His death for our righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Baptism of Our Lord

Text: Luke 3:15-22

C-20 Epiphany 1 (Lu 3.15-22)           Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

Martin Luther, in the Small Catechism, asks the following question about Baptism: “What benefits does Baptism give?” He answers by saying, “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Those are indeed good words for us to remember about the gift of Holy Baptism that God grants to us, but something seems a bit off today. Today, we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. When we look at how Luther defines the benefits of Baptism and Jesus, the two don’t make sense. Why would Jesus need forgiveness of sins, rescuing from death and the devil and eternal salvation?

When it comes to the Baptism of Our Lord, Luke has a condensed version of it. It begins with John the Baptist: “As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ….” Once again, the emphasis is on John and whether he is the long-expected Messiah that had been promised from long ago. Naturally, John pushes the emphasis off of himself and onto the true Christ, Jesus: “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

One is coming, one who is mightier than John. John doesn’t try to steal the limelight, he doesn’t try to puff himself up, to make himself more important than what he is. He knows that it’s not all about him. He knows that he isn’t the focus. His job is to prepare the people for when the Messiah comes. And guess what, He’s coming. In fact, He’s already here and the people don’t even know it.

That’s what makes John the perfect forerunner – He knows there is someone who is more important than He is – Jesus, the true Messiah, the Son of God. He is coming with an important task, one that some of the people will like, while others will not like: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” In short, Jesus is coming to gather those who believe in Him unto Himself, while those who reject Him will be damned.

Up until now, there is no mention of Jesus getting baptized in Luke’s account. In fact, Jesus’ Baptism is more of a footnote in his Gospel rather than a main focus. Luke goes on to make mention of John’s preaching to the people and of Herod who had John imprisoned. It’s not until the end of Luke’s account do we even hear of Jesus being baptized: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying….” If you blink, you’ll miss Luke’s account of Jesus’ Baptism. Luke’s account is so short, it misses some of the highlights of Matthew’s account, namely, how Jesus comes to be baptized.

Matthew’s account records one of the problems with Jesus being baptized. Matthew records, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” Why would Jesus need to be baptized in the first place? John has already gone on record saying that his baptism is a baptism of repentance. John knows who Jesus is. He knows He is the Son of God, and since He is the Son of God, what does Jesus need to repent of? To be the Son of God means that you are without sin. Therefore, Jesus has nothing to repent of because He has committed no sin. Going back to what Luther said, baptism works forgiveness of sins. Again, Jesus has no need of baptism because He has committed no sin. For John to baptize the sinless Son of God makes no sense.

So if Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized, then why is He? That is the million-dollar question, is it not? Baptism is for sinners and Jesus is not a sinner. Baptism rescues from death and the devil. From what death does Jesus need rescuing since He is the Lord of life? Clearly, this is all a mistake and must be an error in the Bible, is it not?

Jesus being baptized is no error. It isn’t something extra, something that’s not needed. Remember who Jesus is – Son of God but also Son of Man. Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized, but Jesus needs to be baptized. He doesn’t need to be baptized for His sake but for yours. He says in Matthew’s account, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” You see, this isn’t done for Jesus’ sake but for yours. Man brought sin into the world and man must take sin out of the world. While you are man, you cannot take sin out because you are a sinner. Regardless of what you do, you will never be able to remove your sin. You are conceived in it, you are born with it, you are a walking sin machine. You need to keep the Law perfectly but you cannot. That’s your problem and that’s where Jesus’ baptism comes into play.

This is “to fulfill all righteousness,” that is, to keep the Law of God. That’s what you are called to do, but because you can’t, Jesus does it in your place. It is not for Christ’s righteousness but it is for your righteousness. In order for sinful man to come to righteousness and receive salvation, Jesus must be baptized. He stands in the place of and for the sake of the sinner to fulfill that which God requires of the sinner – perfect obedience to God’s Law.

Here Jesus begins His ministry. Here He stands in the place of the sinner. He takes the place of John. He takes the place of those gathered. He takes the place of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He takes your place and mine. He takes upon Himself the sin of the entire world, offering us His holiness. He becomes the greatest of sinners, not with His own sin, but with our sin.

St. Paul expands on this in today’s Epistle reading from Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Our baptism joins us to Christ and His baptism. Our sin becomes His and His perfection becomes ours. His innocent suffering and death are credited to us. The eternal life and salvation that He earned becomes ours. It is this great reversal that fulfills all righteousness. It is Christ taking our sin and giving us His perfection. It is Christ taking our death and giving us life.

Jesus’ baptism identified Him with the world of sinners. Paul describes Christ’s substitution for sinners by telling us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Even though Jesus never sinned, God made Him to be sin. Paul then takes us back to today’s Gospel. Through baptism, we are joined to Christ. His life is for us. His death is for us. His resurrection is for us. Jesus came to John to be baptized for us.

Here at His baptism, Jesus took our place under the burden of our sin. As our substitute, He carried out God’s plan perfectly. The mission that Jesus began at His baptism was successful. He opened the way to heaven. He offers to join us to Himself through baptism. The Holy Spirit gives us the faith that receives that offer. God the Father adopts us into His family by that faith. When the time comes for us to leave this world, the heavens will open, the angels will carry us home and we will hear the Father say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Baptism, Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany of Our Lord

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

C-19 Epiphany (Mt 2.1-12)           Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

It has been some time since Christ our Lord was last seen in the manger. Today, Luke records for us the arrival of the wise men. They ask the question to Herod, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” If you’re Herod, the question is one that should not be asked because there is already a king, Herod. And so Luke records, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled….” Of course he was troubled because there was someone who was trying to usurp his authority as king.

Who is this king that the magi speak of? When Gabriel appeared before Mary, he told her, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”” While Gabriel never uses the word “king,” he does speak in kingly language: giving of a throne, reigning, and no end to His kingdom.

Naturally, if you have someone trying to usurp your authority, you’re going to want to know where that threat is coming from. They said that the Christ would come from Bethlehem of Judea. This was already prophesied. This was already foretold. Micah prophesied, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”

For Herod, things don’t look good. He is the king that will be dethroned. What makes this worse is that it will be a Jew who dethrones a Roman. The absolute worst thing about this is that this so-called king isn’t a contemporary of Herod, but rather a newborn child. But while that is bad news for Herod, it is good news for us. Even better, it’s the greatest news for us, for in it, we see God’s promise. We see God’s promise foretold and with the wise men’s appearance, we see God’s promise kept.

Little does Herod know, this baby that the wise men speak of will be everything and more that Micah spoke of. Jesus will be the ruler in Israel, but not as the people understand or desire. He will rule over Israel, but not in the traditional sense. He will rule over Israel as the Lord of Life, just as He will rule as the Lord of Life over all of creation. He is “from of old, from ancient days,” for He is from before all of time. Jesus “shall stand and shepherd his flock,” for He is the Good Shepherd. And he shall be their peace,” for He is the Prince of Peace as Isaiah foretold.

Again, this should come as good news to Herod but instead it puts him on the offensive. He tells the wise men, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Herod has no intention of worshiping this new King, for He is the one and only king, regardless of what prophecies and wise men say.

Following the star, it led them to Jesus. God led them to the Christ child. Who looks for a king in such lowly environs? What kind of God-King lives in such a lowly estate in such lowly conditions? And yet, here He was. And this is where the true wisdom of faith is recognized—they come into His lowly presence in this lowly place and they fall down and worship Him. They humble themselves and rejoice.

Was it enough that these wise men from the east travelled all this distance just to gaze upon a child, even if it was foretold? No, because this child was unlike any child that ever had been or ever would be, for this child was God in the flesh. When the Magi entered the house over which the star had stopped, the first thing they saw was the baby for which they had been looking. Now they could do what they had come to do. These men showed that they knew Jesus was much greater than they. He was God’s promised Savior. In that little baby they saw their Lord and Savior.

Yet the Wise Men are also a marvelous example of faith that those who aren’t great may approach Him. The Wise Men were Gentiles, yet they were confident that the God and King of the Jews would accept them. Epiphany is the day God showed that Christ was for Gentiles also. At the time of Christ, that was no foregone conclusion. Many of Jesus’ own people thought the Messiah was just for them. It took a lot of faith for the Gentile Wise Men to travel those hundreds of miles—maybe a thousand miles—to worship and give gifts to the King of the Jews.

But it was always God’s intention that Christ would be a Savior to all nations. The angel said it was good news for all people, not some. Isaiah prophesied that it was too small a thing for Christ to only raise up the Jews. Likewise, as Simeon held the Child in his arms, he said that Christ was a Light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of God’s people Israel.

The Magi were not any different from us, nor did they have anything we do not. They knew the Word of God, and by knowing it, they believed. When they saw the sign, they followed the sign. They did not let distance stop them. They did not let time stand in their way. They did not let the unbelief and hostility of Herod slow them. Nor did they let the poverty and humility of Jesus’ surroundings confuse them. They read the Word, they followed the Word, they believed the Word. And, as a result, they met the Savior.

The Word made flesh that lived among us. As St. John says in his Gospel, this Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. Through Him everything was made; for Him everything was made. But for us, He was made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. He grew up as the son of Mary and Joseph. He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and thus began His public ministry, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins by the blood of the Savior. He made this sacrifice Himself and was resurrected the third day. We are all sinners and cannot justify ourselves before God. We have the promise of eternal life because of Jesus Christ.

As we hear God’s Word, we learn that the only safe way for God’s Kingdom to come to us is through this child that the magi worshipped. It is He who lived a perfect life in our place. It is He who took our sins to the cross. It is He who rose from the dead and opened up the way to eternal life. This child that the magi worshipped is the one and only way for God to come to us without burning us forever for our sins. This child is the one who has purchased forgiveness, life, and salvation and then gives these things to us as a gift.

We can celebrate with the Wise Men of old what God has revealed so clearly in His Word, the Messiah King who would and has died for us. We can rejoice with them in “Immanuel”, God come among us as a man, in human form, for our redemption. We can celebrate more because we have witnessed the cross and the empty tomb, and we know what they each mean for us – both the cross which reminds us of the price paid for us, and the empty tomb which reminds us that we, too, shall rise from the dead unto everlasting life because of Jesus Christ. As the wise men of old rejoiced at the Epiphany of our Lord and His revealing to them, so do we rejoice at His revealing to us and His salvation for us. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Advent 4 – “Blessed”

Text: Luke 1:39-45

C-9 Advent 4 (Lu 1.39-45)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Things are beginning to get serious with the promise of God’s Messiah. To date, an angel has appeared to Zechariah telling him of the birth of John and his role as the forerunner to the Messiah. Zechariah was struck mute until John was born, thus declaring his name John as directed by Gabriel. During that same time, while Elizabeth was six months pregnant, the angel Gabriel appeared to a young girl named Mary telling her that she will be with child and that the child will be called the Son of the Most High. It would almost seem that what God had promised so long ago was now beginning to come together.

Again, we return to Luke’s Gospel and the next part of the story – Mary travelling to Judah to see Elizabeth. Everything to date has seemed incredible to all parties, to Zechariah and Elizabeth that they would have a child at such old ages, that Mary, a virgin, would have a Son and that Son would be God in the flesh. To say that this was a shock to everyone was an understatement, and yet, with a little coaxing for some, they all came to believe what the angel Gabriel had declared.

As Mary arrives at the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped. Maybe it was just the baby kicking as babies in the womb do. Maybe it was due to something that Elizabeth ate that didn’t set well with the baby. Or maybe, just maybe, it had nothing to do with that. Maybe, just maybe, John recognized that he was in the presence of his Lord. Maybe, just maybe, John recognized that the child that Mary was carrying was the One whom he was to set the stage for.

Again, all this from an outsider’s perspective seems to be too incredible to believe. But for those who believe, we recognize that, yes, this is incredible – incredible that the promise of God was being fulfilled as God had said.

As we read this account, we have to wonder why Luke makes a point to show John leaping in the womb in front of Mary. Why should this be a question? Isaiah records, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’” Could it be that being in the presence of Jesus, John showed the proper respect he could by leaping in the womb? In talking about Jesus and His act of humility, Paul says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Elizabeth responds in a way that is fitting with all that has taken place up to this point in God’s fulfillment of the promise: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” The fruit of Mary’s womb could not be more blessed. That fruit is God in the flesh, the promise fulfilled.

What clearly stands out is the presence of Jesus. Everything that happens is a response to the presence of God in the flesh – the baby inside Mary. The presence of the Lord causes a physical response by the child John in Elizabeth’s womb; the praising of Mary by Elizabeth, and Mary’s beautiful hymn that comes just a few verses later. Elizabeth proclaims Jesus in the womb of Mary to be cause of her blessedness, just as Christ in His Church is the source of her every blessing. Blessedness is a condition for which God alone is responsible. Mary’s blessedness is the result of an act of divine grace which God gives to her as a gift. Mary is blessed because of the presence of Christ in her just as the Church is blessed because Christ dwells in her.

What a feeling to be called blessed by God! It should be noted that Mary is blessed not because of what she has done, but rather what God has done for her. She acknowledges that she is indeed blessed moments later in her song, the Magnificat, but she is not blessed, however, because of who she is. In her hymn, she notes the humble estate of God’s servant. She calls God her Savior because she is a sinful human being like everyone else is, and she knows she is in need of saving. She makes it abundantly clear that it is God who has done great things for her, and so she gives all glory to Him.

What we have to understand is that we as the Church are not blessed because of who we are. Who are we? We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We deserve God’s eternal punishment and death. And yet given who we are, we are blessed. Our blessedness consists in the presence of the incarnate Christ who is the ultimate source of every true blessing. Jesus entered the womb of Mary so that He could be born, live a sinless life and ultimately die on the cross for our sins, only to rise again triumphantly three days later. It is through the death of Christ that takes away our sins that separate us from God and now brings us back into God’s presence now and forevermore.

That happens in our Baptism where we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, forever replacing our sinfulness in the Father’s eyes so that all He sees is the perfection of His Son. That same presence is realized also in the true body and blood of Jesus Christ in His Holy Supper where our Lord comes to us with His gifts of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Being blessed by God is received through faith in the promise of the Child whom Mary bears in her womb. Being blessed by God is received through what God does for us in Christ and not through what we do for ourselves. That is the whole theme behind Mary’s song and it is the whole theme for Christianity with regards to our salvation. There is no chance of salvation by ourselves. Adam and Eve failed to keep God’s Word as do we. Only by keeping God’s Word perfectly can we achieve salvation. That is not something that we can do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we think we can. Our sole means of salvation comes from the Child that Mary carries. Mary understands God’s grace and finds her peace in the promise of Gabriel’s message.

Just as Mary accepted this message of the Savior through faith, so do we in the Church accept this by faith, faith that comes from the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, we understand and respond in faith to the continued proclamation that our Lord Jesus Christ, who took on human flesh and dwelt among us, is our promised redemption and salvation.

And so here we are. Mary will give birth to her first-born Son. He will grow and become a man, a man who had an appointment with a cross. As God stepped down from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, He took His first step to the cross. The cross is the reason He took up human flesh in the first place. He came to be Mary’s Savior, and not only her Savior, but also the Savior of all mankind. For as He took up human flesh He also humbled Himself under the Law in order to fulfill the Law in our place. Then as He suffered on the cross, He took up the wrath of God that we all earned with our sin. This is the way in which He is Mary’s Savior and the Savior of us all.

We are, on account of Christ, exactly what is attributed to Mary: blessed; blessed for Christ’s sake, blessed for we are in Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2018 in Advent, Sermons

 

Advent 3 – “The One”

Text: Luke 7:18-28

C-6 Advent 3 (LHP) (Lu 7.18-28)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

There’s an important question that needs to be asked, one question that we might not want to ask because we’re afraid to admit that we aren’t sure: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” John had sent his disciples to ask Jesus that question, to see if He really is who He says He is.

The cause of this question is clear – life is unfair, uneven, unreasonable. The godly suffer and the wicked prosper and there is no good explanation as to why. John knew this well. He was the prophet, the forerunner, the voice sent to prepare the way. His entire life was devoted to the coming of the Lord. Jesus Himself said that no one born of woman was greater! Yet there he was, sitting in prison, waiting for Jesus as they sharpened the sword. It is hard to say which would have been worse—that Jesus didn’t seem to notice, or that Jesus noticed and didn’t act.

This account of Holy Scripture might sound a little, well, wrong. Why would John the Baptist be asking such a question like this? When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, it was told to Zechariah, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord.” When a pregnant Mary appeared at the doorsteps of a pregnant Elizabeth, “the baby leaped in her womb.” That baby was John. John was out in the wilderness, baptizing people and he says, “But he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” And now, you have doubting John?

Now before you go and say that Scripture contradicts itself, rest assured that it is not John asking the question on behalf of himself, but rather he is asking on behalf of his disciples, that they would truly know that Jesus Christ is the One foretold of long ago, the One whom John was destined to prepare the world to receive.

When John’s disciples get to Jesus and ask Him what they were instructed, Jesus responds with a very clear and pointed response to what He has done: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive 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. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” While Jesus describes what He has done, He doesn’t exactly answer the question they ask. Is Jesus the One or not?

Without answering “yes” or “no” to John’s disciples, Jesus did indeed answer their question. Jesus points to His miracles, including also the raising of the dead at Nain, as evidence that He is the one promised in the Old Testament. His message to John’s disciples and to all of us: don’t look for any other messiah because the true Messiah is here.

The question that John poses is still a valid question for us today. Many today doubt and question whether or not Jesus is who He says He is, if He can do what He says He can do. You have those that doubt that this baby that is born is anything else than just another baby, nothing more, nothing less. You have those that claim that it is impossible that any one person can die for the sins of all of creation. You have those that want to say that if Jesus is who He claims to be, He is just one of many ways to earn salvation.

That line of thinking is no different than the false thoughts the people of Jesus’ day had about Him. The people of Jesus’ time thought of Him as a great earthly king, one who would kick out the Romans and restore Jerusalem to all of its glory from the days of old. Others thought that the Messiah would be a great prophet. Others thought of Him purely as the son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter’s son. But what about you? What do you think about Jesus? What do we doubt about His life and His ministry? Is He who He says He is? Can He really forgive me my sins like He claims that He can? Can He really give to me everlasting life because of His death and resurrection?

The answer to all of these questions and more is yes. Yes, He is who He claims to be, the Christ, the Son of God. Yes, He can and does forgive you all of your sins. Yes, He can and does give to you everlasting life on account of His life, death, and resurrection.

There should be no doubt as to whether or not Jesus is the one who is to come. John was right all along. Jesus is a prophet, but not just a prophet. He is the prophet. He is the one to whom Zephaniah speaks of in our Old Testament reading for today: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save….”

Jesus fulfills all that had been prophesied about Him. He was born of woman, being one with us sinners. He became the least in the Kingdom of God while on the cross so that He could make us sinners the greatest in the Kingdom by faith. Jesus is the One to whom we can look to for assurance with all our doubts for He has reconciled us to God.

That should be enough for us to accept the fact that Jesus is who He claims to be. After all, His benchmark standard is God’s Word, so how could Jesus, the Logos, the Word, contradict Himself? But, alas, it wasn’t enough for the people of the day. Sure, the miracles that Jesus performed during His three-year ministry were cool and all, but what else can He do? If His everyday miracles with the sick, the blind, the lame, and the deaf weren’t enough, you would think His miracles of raising the dead might be enough to convince the people, to win them over to the truth that Jesus is the Christ who was promised of in Holy Scripture. But even raising people from the dead wasn’t enough for some.

What more could convince the doubters that He was who He said He was? What about His own death upon the cross, which then led to His resurrection from the dead, which then led to His appearing to the multitudes following His resurrection, which ultimately led to His ascension in heaven? Wouldn’t that be enough? For some, yes it was enough. For others, all of that is just too incredible to believe.

For us, the baptized believers, called by God through the Holy Spirit, this is not too incredible for us to accept because we accept this by faith. We believe that Jesus is the one who is to come because God’s Word has declared it to be so. We consider our doubts and other sins. As we consider these sins, their consequences and punishment should terrify us. How wonderful it is to learn that in Jesus Christ we have all of the signs of God’s promise. We have the signs of His miracles and His teaching, but especially we have the sign of His crucifixion and resurrection that earn forgiveness for our sins and give us the promise of life everlasting in His gracious presence.

Today, we rejoice that the Son of God came into the world to offer Himself up for us as our substitute and to take away our sins. We rejoice that by His resurrection, He has opened heaven for us. We rejoice that, although our sin is great, our Savior is greater. We rejoice in the way He came to conquer our sin. We rejoice in the way He now comes to offer forgiveness to all people. We rejoice in the way He will come to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2018 in Advent, Sermons

 

Funeral for + Jean Rindels +

The text I have chosen for Jean’s funeral is from Mark 13:32-37.

[32] “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [33] Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. [34] It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. [35] Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—[36] lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Mark, Brian, Dean, Beth, Chuck, and Jane, family and friends of Jean: it isn’t fair, is it? It’s not fair that we should be gathered here like this twice in a year. February, we mourned the death of Dick but also rejoiced that he earned the crown of life from Jesus, our Savior. Today, we mourn the death of Jean, but we also rejoice that her earthly life with all its pains and suffering has ended and that she too rests in the loving arms of her Savior. But even with that being said, it’s not fair, is it? It’s not fair that we should have to mourn the death of Jean or anyone for that matter. But because of sin, life isn’t fair. Life doesn’t go the way that we think it should go, and today only proves that fact.

When God created all things, life was better than fair, it was perfect. Man had all they needed. Man walked with God. Man was perfect. Life could not be any better than that. Because of what happened in the Garden, because of man’s fall into sin, life is no longer fair. Life now has something that was never meant to be – death. Death is a reality for all people as St. Paul says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” And with sin, it brings death: “For the wages of sin is death….”

Death is the new reality because of sin and it’s not fair. It’s not what God wanted and it certainly isn’t what any of us want, but it is the reality in which we live in. But thankfully for us, we have a God who is not content with death. He made a promise to Adam and Eve once they sinned that He would send forth One who save them from their sins, One who would undo all that death has brought into creation.

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior. By His coming into the world through the manger, He prepares for His ultimate journey to the cross. With His journey to the cross comes for us our forgiveness, something that Jean had, something that Jean cherished with all her heart. It meant that in her baptism, God had called her His beloved child and gave to her the gift of faith. It meant that on account of Christ, she received the forgiveness of all her sins without any work or action needed on her part. It meant that one day, she would be able to stand before God and hear Him declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

A few weeks ago when visiting Jean, things didn’t look good for her. It had been several days since she had eaten anything. She had an infection that the body was trying to fight off, she was all-around weak. The words from Mark 13 served as my devotion with her. Christ had promised that He would come again in all His glory. The only problem is the people of Jesus’ day did not know when that time would come. Jesus explained that no one in all of creation knows when He will return; not the angels nor Jesus Himself. And so His word of caution for us is “Stay awake.”

It’s hard for us to stay awake as Jesus cautions us. It’s hard for us to do as Jesus tells us because the world tells us just the opposite. We don’t need Jesus when we are able to save ourselves. We don’t need Jesus when we are able to following a multi-step program that will give us all the earthly blessings we could ever imagine, as if this is the most important thing. The world is quick to tell us that Jesus isn’t all that when it comes to our salvation. But teachings like that will do nothing to earn us salvation but earn us damnation.

When we place our trust of salvation in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, then there is nothing but damnation. That is what Jesus warns us of during His life. We need to stay awake, to be alert. Know that Jesus is returning and live in His forgiveness and grace. Know that the cross was about making us ready to stand before Jesus. Know that God draws close to keep our hearts ready for that great and awesome day that is coming. Know that God has more at stake in us being ready for the end of time than we have. He sacrificed His one and only Son on the Cross to make us ready!

God has made Jean ready. She was made ready when she was baptized. She was made ready when she heard her sins were forgiven. She was made ready when she received the very body and blood of her Savior. Notice how she was made ready. She was made ready by the work of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. None of this was by her doing and works. She knew that it never could be. That’s why she looked to Christ for her salvation, because she knew that she was a sinner and was incapable of saving herself.

That is the reality we all face. We are all sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Our sin gets us death, always has and always will. It is only by Jesus that we are forgiven and made ready to stand before God.

You and I do not know when Christ our Lord shall return. Because of that, we are to be ever vigilant – waiting and watching and anticipating our Lord’s return. Jean did not know when her heavenly Father would see fit to call her home unto Him. That’s why the words of Psalm 39 ring all the more true, not just for Jean, but for us all: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”

For Jean, she has died, she has left this veil of tears, but that’s not the last we shall hear of Jean. Christ has died for her and now she lives with Christ, her Lord. It is true that one day, all of us who are gathered here today will die as well. And because of Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem, He has come to bring us unto Him. We heed the words of Christ our Lord, just as dear sister Jean did: “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” We stay awake, ready for Christ our Lord to take us unto Himself, giving to us the crown of eternal life. Amen.

 
Comments Off on Funeral for + Jean Rindels +

Posted by on December 15, 2018 in Funeral, Sermons

 
 
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