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Pentecost 6

Text: Colossians 1:21-29

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.

“You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him….” That’s what Paul says to the Colossians. As we saw in last week’s reading, the Colossians remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, despite the outside influences facing the Church at Colossae. But with that being said, the Colossians still had their fair share of problems. One such problem was their sinful nature getting the best of them, as it does all of us.

Once were alienated. Hostile in mind. Doing evil deeds. That’s sin at work, doing what sin does best. Sin got its wrap around the Colossians like a deadly noose. They didn’t always act like churchly Christians should. They didn’t always exemplify the name of Christ which they wore. And even though their sinful nature got the best of them, God forgave them on account of Jesus Christ.

What wonderful news, that wonderful Gospel that is for the Colossians, that despite their sin, they could be forgiven! But, there is a caveat that Paul places: “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard….” That’s right, in order to receive the forgiveness won by Jesus Christ, you must remain steadfast in the faith, faith that is founded, grounded, and securely found in Jesus.

That doesn’t sound like a bad tradeoff, does it? God forgives as long as you remain steadfast in the Christian faith. We can do that, right? We can remain steadfast in our faith in Jesus, right? That’s something that you and I can do, right? Wrong, absolutely wrong! You and I cannot remain in the faith any more than the Colossians could remain in the faith, at least, not on our own doing. You and I cannot believe in Jesus or come to faith in Him by ourselves. The Holy Spirit is what makes that possible. The Holy Spirit creates that saving faith in us in order to believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit sustains that faith in us in order for us to continue to believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the one at work here, not us.

But let’s examine our lives, to see if we are all that different than the Colossians. We too were once alienated. We too were once hostile in mind. We too once did evil deeds. Actually, those all could still be said of us today. We alienate ourselves from God by absenting ourselves from His gifts. The writer to the Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We continue to be hostile in mind with our sinful thoughts and actions. And most certainly do we continue with evil, sinful deeds. But with all that being said, God has done something for you, the chief of sinner that you are. God has forgiven you. God has washed you in the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. God has clothed you with the Son’s righteousness. God has placed His name on you in your Baptism.

God does this. God does this for you. It is not you who does this. It is not you who does this for God, as if we could do anything for God that counts for our salvation. The work of salvation is solely God’s work for us and to us, but certainly not by us. If that were the case, then it would not be salvation we would be earning but damnation, because our works cannot save us.

If you remember what the Colossians faced from outside of the church, you will remember that I said we face those same things today. What are we to do? What are we to do in the grand scheme of things? If we can’t do anything for our salvation, does that mean there’s nothing for me to do, nothing for you to do? No, there is something that you can do. Live like you’re baptized! What do I mean by that? Live like one who is forgiven all of their sins for Christ’s sake. Live as if God’s name, that name placed upon you, means something, because it does. Live as if you have died with Christ and been risen with Christ. Live as if the Gospel is the greatest thing you could ever hear, because it is. Live as if Christ’s body and blood are the best food you have ever had, because they are.

That’s what it means to be reconciled with God. That’s what it means to be holy and blameless before God. Notice that Paul says the Colossians were reconciled, not that they will be reconciled. It means that reconciliation is complete in Christ’s work. Reconciliation is not something Christ started and we have to finish. Reconciliation is God’s work, not ours. Before, our relationship to God had been characterized by hatred and hostility; but now, that relationship is characterized by reconciliation and atonement with God, a return to what the relationship between God and his people was intended to be and what that relationship was in Eden. It was worked out in the all-sufficient suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the Son’s reconciling work was to endure all to present the Colossians and all people holy, cleansed from all sin and separated to God; without blemish, as a perfect sacrifice; and free from accusation by anyone, and especially by the arch-enemy Satan.

In other words, in God’s presence, there is absolutely nothing left against us. The slate has been wiped clean. Christ, who is the power holding everything together through His death and resurrection, brings it all back to God, and clears away the guilt and self-dissatisfaction in the atoning process.

These are words which you think we might enjoy hearing. These are words which you think would bring comfort all of us who are sinful creatures. But these aren’t words which we want to hear. It strikes a blow to our ego. It somehow makes us less of a person to acknowledge that we are a sinner. Paul wasn’t out to make friends or to stroke a person’s ego. He definitely is not doing that here. His goal was to bring the church at Colossae to Christ and turn them from the “better way,” a false philosophy which denied the all-sufficiency of Christ and His work.

The purpose of Paul, of myself all ministers of the Gospel, is to preach to you the Gospel, “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” You are His saints, the church. You are the beloved children of God which were dead in sin. You are the ones for which God sent His one and only Son, to redeem and make sinless.

The words of Paul, though they may be tough to hear, are important words. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a reminder to all who hear it of wisdom: where we were without God’s wisdom, “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” While we were still in that state of being, Christ died for you “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach.” His words are a reminder of what God’s wisdom is doing for us now, “[making] the word of God fully known” to us through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection for us. Because of the Word of God, it reminds us what God’s wisdom holds out for the future: “the hope of glory” in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. 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 July 21, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Higher Things Concordia

Text: Hebrews 10:19-25

Preached at St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, NE on June 27, 2019 for the Higher Things Concordia Conference

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

You’re all looking rather dirty this morning, dare I even say it, disgusting, at least, that’s how we look to one another on account of our sinful nature. Try as you might, you wake up and sin. You go throughout the day and you sin. You go to bed at night, and that’s right, you sin. If there’s one thing we’re very good at, it’s sinning. I think we can agree that we have that perfected to a science! But the one thing we’re not good at, the one thing that we are incapable of, is forgiveness of those sins. Try as you might, whatever you attempt to do in your life, whether it be works or multi-step programs or whatever the case may be, you cannot earn your own forgiveness. It is impossible for you to do so, and yet we try so hard to do just that, earn our own forgiveness. And because we cannot earn our forgiveness, something must be done in order for us to be forgiven.

But fortunately for you and for me, that’s not how God our Heavenly Father sees us. He doesn’t see us as the walking and talking bags of sin that we are. No, He sees something, someone, completely different. He sees Jesus. He sees Jesus because His shed blood from Calvary’s cross runs over you. You have been baptized into His name, and that means His name is a part of you now. Jesus has done battle against sin, death, and the devil for you, in order to redeem you, to buy you back from the clutches of Satan. The Holy Spirit has given you a gift called faith, a faith that makes it possible for you to believe all of this that God has done for all of creation, including you.

You might think that this is one of those “duh” moments, that “we already know that, Pastor” moments. But do you? Is it Christ who has forgiven you all of your sins or do you try to do your work and help Jesus out to forgive your sins? It sounds pretty silly that there is anything that you can do to “help out” Jesus to forgive your sins, but if that were not the case, then why would the author of Hebrews make it clear that it is Christ and Christ alone who forgives sins for all time? It’s because you need to know that you can’t save yourself; that your salvation must come from outside of you.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf, you can do as the writer of Hebrews says: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….” How are you able to do that? How is anyone able to do that? Even when wearing my shiniest clerical collar, I can’t do that. And neither can your pastor. And neither can you, at least, not on your own. So how is it done?

It is done outside of you. It has to be done outside of you. Your sinfulness keeps you from drawing near to God because we, by our sinful nature, are enemies of God. St. Paul tells us as much in Romans 5: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

That’s us — sinners, enemies of God. But that’s no longer the case. As we see in our reading from Hebrews: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus….” It is by the blood of Jesus that we can enter the holy places, and what better holy place can there be than in heaven, standing before the presence of God the Father Almighty.

Through the flesh of Jesus, through His broken body and shed blood, you receive the forgiveness of your sins; you are made right with God once again. No, that’s not the correct word. You are not made right with God, you are made perfect and holy and blameless and without sin. Your great High Priest Jesus has made the sacrifice on your behalf, the sacrifice that you could not make. He sacrificed Himself, Christ the victim, Christ the priest. He dies for you. He rises for you.

So after hearing what Christ has done for us, what is left for us to do? Can we do anything? Yes, we can do something: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These are not just some trite or empty words. Nothing strengthens our hope for heaven more than the fact of God’s faithfulness. How can God lie or change His mind? He promised the eternal crown of glory, and He will place it on our heads. To such a hope we are to hold to without wavering, holding it near and dear as a promise of God – and we know that if God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. Hold fast the confession of our hope. What is our hope in? Do not dare say yourself, because there is no hope in you, there can never be hope in you. Your hope can only be in Jesus, for it is Jesus who died for you. It is Jesus’ shed blood that covers you.

While there is a lot packed into these verses, there is one point often overlooked today by many: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” What Christ has earned for us upon Calvary’s cross is indeed a free gift. But that free gift isn’t found just anywhere; it is found where God has said His means of grace are to be found — gathered around Word and Sacrament, for here God comes to us with His blood-bought forgiveness of sins. We stand to lose much when we absent ourselves from God’s gifts, forsaking His commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” And so, we gather around His Word, His font, His Table, to receive the gifts which Christ our Lord has won for us. We are encouraged and we encourage one another in Christ our Lord, for He and He alone has won for us the forgiveness of our sins. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Higher Things, Sermons

 

Pentecost 5

Text: Colossians 1:1-14

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.

It is always a good thing to hear that you are being prayed for, in good times and in bad, when you have plenty or when you are in need. St. Paul tells the Church at Colossae, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” Paul prays and rejoices in the Church, not because they’re fine, outstanding people. It’s not because they are the cream of the crop of the people located in Colossae. Paul prays and rejoices in the people because of the faith they have in Jesus.

What a thing for Paul to rejoice in – faith in Jesus! This was indeed a good and salutary thing, especially given what the Colossian Church was facing. On one hand, they were facing the error of Gnosticism, an idea that the flesh was bad and the spirit was good. This was to be seen in some sort of redemption from the material world into a world of freedom. On the other hand, they also had the Essenes to deal with. The Essenes, combined with rigid devotion to certain Jewish tenets, tried by means of allegory to subject the facts of the Old Testament to the forms of Greek philosophy. Both of these false teachings could have proven divisive to this small church, and yet they had remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

If only the Church today could be so lucky. We have things from all angles assaulting the Church, begging for her attention, telling us that they are just as good of an option or better than Jesus: self-help programs, multi-step programs, feel-good programs, and the list goes on. Each one comes with some truth to them, and then comes the false, misleading teachings. While these teachings pervert the true doctrine of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, they do even more – they damn. Whenever anything seeks to supplant or surpass the teaching of Jesus, it can only damn.

It is all the more important that the Church be ever faithful to what is taught, for while it might scratch our itching ears and make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, will the teaching save or will it damn?

For the Colossians, they remained faithful to the saving truth of Jesus Christ and were to be rightfully commended for doing so. They have heard the truth, that is, the Gospel, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing….” In spite of the imperfections and dangers at Colossae, the truth of the Gospel continued to prevail.

We, along with the Colossians, have something going for us: our faith. But what is it about our faith? Where did it come from? What is it in? The faith comes not from us but from the working of the Holy Spirit upon us. The faith is not in ourselves, our works, others, or anything else we can think to fill in the blank. True faith is faith in Jesus Christ and no one or nothing else. Fortunately for the Colossians, they had not given up on their faith in Jesus Christ while flirting with the false theology of salvation by works.

Because of all the confusing ideas that were being preached in Colossae, Paul prayed for them, asking that their faith would be increased, that God would fill them with the knowledge of His will. Paul prayed for them so that they would be able to discern between God’s Word and the false teachers. He prayed for them so that as they heard the Word of God, their faith in Christ would increase and be strengthened so that they would be able to withstand the attacks upon their faith from these false teachers.

What Paul writes to the Colossians can just as easily be written to the Church today, perhaps even our own congregation. We have before us the means of salvation, Jesus Christ, and we also have those things of the world which work counter to the Church’s teaching of salvation and promote other ways of salvation. On any given day, Christians are given the option of Jesus Christ for salvation or other means of salvation, and they get to choose what they want for salvation. That right there is our problem. There is no other means of salvation than Jesus Christ, but we are told contrary to that.

So, what do the Colossians do? What is the Church today to do? What happens when you feel as if you are too far gone for God to love you? What happens when you leave God behind and adopt the ways of the world? What happens when you just feel all the way around inadequate to be a believer in Christ? You do what the prophet Joel says: “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” You see, even when we are far from God or have turned away from Him, He graciously invites us to return to Him. Even when we forsake God for the newest salvation fad, we can return to Him. That is what He did for the Colossians and that is what He does for you and me as well. God has called us by the Gospel and placed His name upon us in our Baptism, forever marking us as His beloved children. While at times that may not mean much to us, it greatly means something to God. He sees His name on you. He sees the love that Christ has for Him that He would lay down His life, only to take it up again in the resurrection, in order to win for us forgiveness and salvation. That isn’t something to take lightly and God does not take us lightly.

Paul is able to commend the Colossians for their love becauseit is notseparated from the rescue of Jesus, his love. His love has created faith in them and that faith works love. And not in the Colossians only. Paul can claim the Gospel’s deliverance in the whole world and the fruit it bears. The redemption won by Christ delivers all mankind in order that we walk in a manner worthy of the lord, in love.

But who loves first? Man or God? “We love because he first loved us” says John 1, and “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” God’s love precedes our love. Faith precedes love. Faith loves the forgiveness of sin, wherever our Lord gives it. You have heard the Gospel. It has come to you. You have believed it. You are redeemed. You are baptized. You eat your Lord’s flesh and drink His blood, often, for your forgiveness. It is to strengthen your love. Not only is there life in the body and blood of Jesus unto forgiveness; there is strength for the love of God and our neighbor. Nevertheless, our love is not what it seems or what it ought to be. It needs bolstering, improvement. It receives strengthening from the faith given.

At the times in our lives where we think that we need to do something to earn our salvation or feel as if Jesus isn’t sufficient for salvation’s work, we turn to the closing words of Paul’s introduction to his letter: “He [Jesus] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God’s formula is not Christ and the works of the Law for salvation, but it is Christ alone.

Our adequacy before God and man is not the result of our works but God’s alone. He alone brought us out of darkness into light. He alone cleansed us of all our sins. You and I are not qualified for salvation on our own. God does not call the qualified. Rather, it is Jesus who does the qualifying for us. He alone makes you called to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Rejoice in knowing that you have been qualified to share in the gifts that God has given you through Jesus 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 July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 3

Text: Galatians 5:1, 13-25

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.

When we last left the Galatians, Paul has left and the Judaizers have assumed the role of preacher in the Galatian church. We saw how they had forsaken Jesus in order to become slaves to the law of man. We were left with the question of why. Why would they give up Jesus and the Gospel for something that leaves them without the salvation that God had ordained for them from man’s fall into sin? Today, Paul continues on the theme of slavery: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….”

Paul tells the Galatians what they have: freedom. Paul tells them where that freedom is found: Christ. You are free in Christ. You are free in the Gospel. You are free. What great news to a Christian that you are free, that your sins have been forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ! That is news that you should be celebrating, shouting from the rooftops. Instead, the Galatians have given up their freedom to fall into the false teaching of salvation by works.

Now you might be asking yourself, how could they give up Jesus so easily? It’s a very valid question. But I need to ask you a question: how can you give up Jesus so easily? We have given up Jesus over and over again for things that scratch our itching ears now but are fleeting. Who needs Jesus when you can read this book or that book? Who needs Jesus when you have the latest and greatest multi-step program that will make your life the greatest life possible? Who needs Jesus when the world has everything you need to find peace and comfort in this life until you don’t have it anymore?

We’re quick to give up on Jesus, to give up on the Gospel, for something new and shiny, but new and shiny doesn’t get you salvation; only Jesus gets you salvation. That’s what Paul tried to impress upon the Galatians. To have such a rich and free thing as the Gospel and then to surrender it for works of man’s law seems absurd, at least to Paul, but not to the Galatians. Why would that not sound absurd to them? Why would that not sound absurd to us?

We are justified in the sight of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Only by faith in Jesus Christ, not by any good works we do. Works cannot justify us because we are totally condemned by the Law of God and we cannot change our own condition. But because of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, we can through faith in Christ be justified in the eyes of God. Justification means being made holy. We are clean in God’s eyes on account of Jesus.

It’s our sinful flesh that has to get in the way of things. It’s our thought that we can do something to save ourselves that gets us into trouble like it did the Galatians. That’s why Paul tells them, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” What does this mean? Luther writes, “Paul says in effect, “You have now obtained freedom through Christ; you are far above all laws in respect to conscience and life before God. You are blessed and saved. Christ is your life. Therefore, although the law, sin, and death may trouble and frighten you, they cannot hurt you or drive you to despair. This is your excellent freedom. Now it is up to you to be careful not to use that freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.””

What is being said here? What point does Paul make and Luther reinforce? You have Christ, stop going back to the law! It is a very simple thing, and yet becomes so complicated. They have all they need and they throw it away for no good reason. Paul restates the principle and applies it. When we were called to faith by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, we were called to be free from trying to earn our own way into heaven. But that does not mean that we are to attempt to sin our way into heaven. We are not to indulge the sinful nature, but drown it.

The Galatians are suffering from the ill-effects of listening to something other than the Gospel. Because of that, they “bite and devour one another…” The Galatians were not cannibals, but their words and actions toward each other were extreme. The words Paul chose accurately portray the viciousness in each human heart, the very opposite of loving your neighbor as yourself.

There is nothing left to do except give up this foolish law-based living and return to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, if you have no Jesus, what salvation do you have? So, Paul’s advice to them is simple: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Paul is writing about the conflict between the old man and the new man. The old sinful flesh comes with its desires, demanding that they be gratified. The new man, however, directs us to God’s law, not as something that must be done, as if we were still under the law, obliged to keep all of the laws; but as something we will delight to do because of the Savior’s love for us.

Paul describes the desires of the sinful nature that dwells within each of us. We are inclined to all of these things, to some of them more than to others. Jesus also said that sin flows from the sinful heart of man. Paul adds his warning “that those who do such things” will be excluded from heaven. Not those who did these things and repented, but those who have made them their way of life and continue in them are meant. Those who use their freedom to indulge the sinful nature are forfeiting their salvation. These sins, like every other sin, are damning. No one is immune to these or any other sin, but what we must remember is that the only way of salvation lies in Jesus and not in yourself.

We are free in the Gospel. Christ has set us free and we continue to be, provided our trust and faith remains in Him and not in anything else. You have been freed from sin because Christ has died for you and risen again for you. Your sinful self has been crucified, and must be crucified daily. As Luther writes about Baptism: “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Be free, free in the Gospel, with sins forgiven. Rejoice in the salvation won for you by Jesus Christ. “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” How is that possible? How do we do that? We do so by heeding the words of Jesus, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” 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 July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 2

Text: Galatians 3:23-4:7

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.

Being a slave is not a choice that we would make if we had the option. You have no rights, no freedom, you belong to someone or something else. Your life is not your own. You wouldn’t make that choice, would you? If we had the choice to be free or to be a slave, we would naturally choose freedom, or would we?

The Church at the time of Jesus was suffering from poor teaching. Despite what Jesus taught, there were those who taught contrary to Jesus. The Pharisees taught salvation by the law. The only problem was this salvation by the law wasn’t according to the Law of God, but the law of man. The result was being captive to the Law rather than being set free by the Gospel.

Fast forward about twenty years after Jesus’ death, another congregation suffered from this false teaching. Paul had started a congregation in the region of Galatia. This appeared to be a congregation that was off to a good start, faithful to the teachings of Jesus. Sometime after Paul left that region, there was a void in the pastoral leadership. Unfortunately for the Galatians, there were those who stepped up to fill that void. In doing so, the tone of the preaching and teaching had changed from salvation on account of Jesus to a salvation that was achieved by works of the law, again, not the Law of God but of man.

In writing to the Galatians, Paul doesn’t hold back anything. In fact, he can’t hold anything back because you cannot let false doctrine continue unchecked. Paul is forceful when he says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” At one time, the Galatians were held captive to the Law, God’s Law, as was everyone. They were slaves to the Law. It was their unruly taskmaster, unyielding in all aspects. They were doomed. They were slaves with no hope of escape.

The fate of the Galatians is the same for the rest of us. We were held captive under the Law. We are slaves. We can do nothing but try to keep God’s Law and keep it perfectly. The problem with that is the Galatians couldn’t keep it perfectly. We can’t keep it perfectly. Even Adam and Eve couldn’t keep it perfectly, and they were created without sin and yet succumbed to the outside influence of sin and it killed them.

One could easily say shame on the Galatians for letting these false preachers into the pulpit. They should know better, and you, you’re right, they should have known better. But sin has a way of scratching our itching ears in just the right place, to where we make excuses or justify our sin. Paul wasn’t there and they needed someone to fill the pulpit and the Judaizers stepped up to the task. The only problem, they preached false doctrine and led the Galatians away.

Paul doesn’t just condemn the Galatians because of the Judaizers. He also tells them what they had, what they gave up, what they lost: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” Did you catch what they gave up? They gave up Jesus! That’s right, they gave up Jesus to follow the laws of sinful men.

What does it mean to give up Jesus as the Galatians did? It means that you no longer rely upon Jesus to save you. Jesus is no longer in the salvation picture because you and your works take front and center. Jesus is pushed so far back, He isn’t even in the picture.

There is a reason why Paul writes to the Galatians in the way that he does. He loves these people. He loves them so much that he brought the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to them so that they would hear and believe and be saved. And after they’ve left the Gospel for the Judaizers watered-down, Jesus-free preaching, he doesn’t leave them to their own disastrous ways. No, he writes to them, reminding them of the saving Gospel they once enjoyed and how they can enjoy it once again because the Gospel is still there; Jesus is still there to save them by His precious blood.

For those who have been set free from bondage to sin by the Gospel, it truly is a head-shaker why anyone would want to revert back to said slavery. Things changed when Jesus came. He did not come to abolish the Law of God, but to fulfill it. Jesus lived a life different from all other people. He was without sin. He obeyed the requirements in every aspect as they were originally given. We believe that when He offered up His life on the cross, it was a sacrifice to substitute for us. He kept the Law for us. Every detail was perfect. Salvation was now achieved for all peoples because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, not because of our keeping of the Law. And the Judaizers taught contrary to that, and unfortunately, the Galatians bought into that same teaching.

Because of Jesus Christ, you are made an heir. You are adopted by God the Father. You have full rights of inheritance. This is exactly what Paul talks about when he speaks about your adoption. When he speaks about being in Christ, he is pointing to what happens in Holy Baptism, for it is in Baptism that we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. It is in Holy Baptism that the “fullness of time” that was brought by Jesus comes to you. Your adoption happens when water is poured on your head along with God’s name. And all that Jesus did in the “fullness of time” is yours.

We are justified by faith, not by the Law. If we are justified by the Law, then we are doomed from the start because we cannot keep the Law in its smallest bit. So, what is our faith in? Is it faith in our works? Is it faith in our sincerity? Is it faith in myself? The faith that we have is in the promise of God. It is faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith in that His life, death, and resurrection are all that is necessary for us to be saved. If we have faith in anything else other than that, then we are doomed in our trespasses and sins.

It is unfortunate that we don’t see the response of the Galatians to Paul’s letter. Did they repent of their error and oust the Judaizers for their false teaching and salvation-stealing preaching or did they continue in their false teaching? Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to that question. But as far as you are concerned, what will be at the heart of your salvation? Is your salvation based upon your own works and what you do or don’t do? Is it all about making sure you have all the boxes checked? Or is the heart of your salvation based upon something, someone else? Is it based upon Jesus? Is it based upon what He has done for you; beaten and bloodied, dead and resurrected, with His blood covering you and Him doing all the work for your salvation? If it is the former, then there is no salvation for you, for works do not earn you salvation. But if it is the latter, and I pray that it is, then know for certain that Christ has indeed done all things necessary for your salvation. He has made you His own. And because you are His own, you are an heir, an heir of all that He is, and so that makes you the forgiven child of God. Rejoice, for “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” 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 July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Holy Trinity

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

Today is the day, the one day in the Church Year where we blow off the dust and confess the Athanasian Creed. It’s a long creed, to be sure. It says a lot about the Trinity, but we need to ask the question, why do we need this creed? We have two perfectly good creeds, why add a third?

In the early second century, the Early Church composed the Apostles’ Creed as a universal statement of belief that all of Christendom confessed. The Apostles’ Creed served as a basic definition of each person of the Trinity and the work ascribed to each Person. This served the Church for some time until an error arose in the Church. In 325, the Nicene Creed was produced to combat an error of the day. It grew out of the immediate necessity of safeguarding the apostolic teaching concerning the deity of Christ. The Nicene Creed, more than the Apostles’ Creed, echoes sharp distinctions drawn by the orthodox against heresies.

That brings us to the end of the fifth century. Another creed was written that delved further into the mystery of the Trinity. If this had been confessed twice before by the Church, then why again? A priest named Arius posited that God created out of nothing a being through whom He created the world. This being was the Logos, called the “Son.” However, the “Son” was not true God or eternal. This heresy had already been handled of sorts by the Nicene Creed, but needed to be handled again, this time, in a most definitive way. And from that heresy, you get the Athanasian Creed, the end all and be all confession of who the Holy Trinity is and is not.

Again, we are left with the question of why. Why is this creed or any creed so important? Why do we confess this creed or any creed Sunday after Sunday? The reason why the three Ecumenical Creeds, the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian, are so important is because of the confession of faith they make. They say what we believe. In the case of the Apostles’ and Nicene, they confess the basic tenants of who the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are and the work each Person of the Trinity does. As for the Athanasian Creed, it too confesses who the Trinity is, but it also declares who the Trinity is not.

Martin Luther, writing in 1528, says the following: “These are the three persons and one God, who has given Himself to us all wholly and completely, with all that He is and has. The Father gives Himself to us, with Heaven and earth all creatures, in order that they may serve us and benefit us. But this gift has become obscured and useless through Adam’s fall. Therefore, the Son Himself has subsequently given Himself and bestowed all His works, sufferings, wisdom, and righteousness, and reconciled us to the Father, in order that restored to life and righteousness, we might also know and have the Father and His gifts. But because this grace would benefit no one and could not come to us, the Holy Spirit comes and gives Himself to us wholly and completely.”

When we worship the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we worship only one God, not three. God is fully God when God created and still creates the universe. God is fully God when God lived and still lives in the presence of Jesus. God is fully God when God lived and still lives in the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts today. These are not three gods but one God who has three different Persons.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a very important doctrine. The Trinitarian formula is used at the beginning of the service to invoke the name of God among His people. The Trinitarian formula is spoken at the beginning of Christian life at our Baptism and spoken at the end of the Christian life in the committal of the Christian. In other words, life begins with Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and ends at your grave in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These words are bookends for the beginning and ending of our lives here on earth.

When we look at the Athanasian Creed with regards to Christology, that is, the study of Christ, we look at very specific aspects of Christ. We focus on the nature and person of Jesus Christ. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus’ nature and person with the nature and person of God. That is why we confess in the Athanasian Creed: “Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.” The Athanasian Creed states clearly that Jesus Christ is both God and man at the same time. Jesus Christ must be true God so that He could live a sinless life. He must also be true man so that He could die for our sins. If He were not true God, He would sin. If He were not true man, He would not be able to die for our sins. If He were not true God, He would not be holy. If He were not true man, then we would not have One who would be able to redeem mankind. If He were not both true God and true man, He would not be able to rise from the dead and achieve the ultimate victory over sin, death, and the devil.

As we confess the Christian faith, the faith handed down to us from Jesus to the apostles, we continue to confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of the Father from eternity. His identity as the Son becomes apparent here in the Creeds. Jesus is the Son of the Father from eternity.

As Jesus speaks to the Jews in our Gospel, they speak of Abraham and question if Jesus is greater than Abraham. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Jesus. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”” With these words Jesus reveals that he is the God who appeared in the Old Testament to Moses in the burning bush. The Gospel of John includes many “I am” statements of Jesus to declare His divinity and reveal Him as the God of the Old Testament, who now fulfills it by His coming.

Jesus was sent by the Father to give us life. His forgiveness grants us life. Jesus’ sacrificial life and death paid for our sins to grant us forgiveness. Baptized into His death and resurrection, we know that life has the final word. Jesus, the Son of the Father from eternity, gives us life. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, works in the Means of Grace to bring us to faith in Christ and keep us to life eternal.

We poor sinners who have been blessed with the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit will receive the gifts that only the Triune God can give – the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We receive those gifts by: God the Father’s grace for God the Son’s sake through God the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts andminds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons, Trinity

 

Pentecost

Text: Acts 2:1-21

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 from Acts, which was read earlier.

“Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, / With all Your graces now outpoured, / On each believer’s mind and heart; / Your fervent love to them impart.” Those are words which we just sung, words that describe just what is taking place on this rather unusual, but important day. As Luke sets up today, he uses the same setup as another important date – Jesus’ ascension. He says that “they were all together in one place.” This gathering included 120 people, men and women, as well as the twelve apostles.

Luke continues: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” While there was no actual wind, the sound of wind was heard by all those gathered. This sound of wind gave way to the Holy Spirit, which filled them all and manifested Himself among those gathered as tongues of fire.

Something like this had only happened once before, a long, long time ago. When God’s people sought to build a tower to the heavens in order to reach God, God caused a confusion of language among the people. Until this point, they all spoke a singular language. Now, God confused their language so that they would not understand one another’s speech. But all of this was undone today on Pentecost, with the people hearing in their own language the wonderful message of God sent by the Holy Spirit.

The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, provides for us the same as He did at the first Pentecost: the power for Christian faith, life, and growth. Here, at the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gets the Good News out!  In the Spirit’s power, the message of Jesus Christ is presented clearly and effectively for the salvation of the whole world.

The Holy Spirit’s miracle gets everyone’s attention. The crowds hear the sound of a blowing, violent wind. At that moment, the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. Awe-stricken, they stand in amazement. When others heard the sound, they gathered around where the people were, trying to figure out what was going on. Some responded with surprise. Some were “bewildered, amazed and astonished.” Even the devout Jews, for the most part, listened to the message. People started asking themselves who these people were and how can these Galileans know these languages. More importantly: what were the disciples declaring? What is it that they were saying?

Instead of listening to the words which the disciples were proclaiming, it was easy to dismiss what they were saying as mere gibberish. The disciples really weren’t speaking in tongues and saying anything of merit: instead, they were drunk on new wine. Unable to comprehend the supernatural events which were taking place, they conjecture a natural explanation of the events. But it isn’t gibberish that the disciples are speaking. It isn’t drunkenness or any other natural explanation: it is indeed a miracle and Peter explains the miracle: a miracle of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s amazing miracle is that languages are not a barrier to this day’s Gospel proclamation. All hear “the mighty works of God” in their own tongue. But here lies the problem: these men shouldn’t have known all these languages because they’re all from Galilee. While they’re from Galilee, that makes no difference. The Holy Spirit makes sure the Word of God will be effective. How long with the Holy Spirit do His Work? Until the end of time, until the Lord’s Day.

The miracle of Pentecost is when the Word suddenly reaches us. When we speak of the miracle of the Holy Spirit, we are confessing that something has come to us which we didn’t comprehend before. God gives us His Spirit so that we may have fellowship with Him and be led to do His will, that is, to be children of God.

God’s saving Word works even when it is delivered quite ordinarily. It worked through the apostles and it works through pastors today. Both are sinful, ordinary men whom God calls to do extraordinary work. We have ordinary means, such as water, bread, and wine; yet when combined with God’s Word, become something extraordinary – they become the means by which God delivers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

There is much that the Holy Spirit gives to us, though we do not recognize it. Through the Holy Spirit, we are given the opportunity to confess the faith of the Christian Church. It is not a testimony of the believer, but of the works of God and all that He does on behalf of His children. The Holy Spirit allows us believers to speak God’s saving Word in ordinary ways that people understand. The Holy Spirit causes God’s Word of salvation to be understood when it is confessed by believers. The message of salvation doesn’t have to be complex. The message of salvation is simple: Jesus Christ came into the world on behalf of your sins. Because of that, all believers in Him will have everlasting life.

The message which the Holy Spirit delivered that day has been and continues to be delivered today: the message of salvation that Christ has come! The message which was proclaimed in every tongue is one which we all understand: all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved!

The Holy Spirit draws hearts to faith. For one to call upon the Lord’s name is to call Him to our aid. It is through faith given to us by the Holy Spirit that we recognize that He alone can rescue us from all that assails us. The message of Joel can be reduced to one simple statement: that salvation is available to everyone. With the Holy Spirit’s work, God now stands in immediate relationship with His people. A new world was presented to those devout Jews in Jerusalem, just as a new world is presented to all who have been called by the Holy Spirit in faith. Christians were confessing and continue to confess what they have seen and heard: the clear message that in Jesus Christ, all answers have been supplied for life today and eternal life as well.

The good news is that the power of God and the Word of God will triumph over all opposition. God will not, then or now, permit the message of His Son to be lost: the message that the Lord has provided life and salvation for us all in His Son, Jesus Christ. 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 June 11, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Easter 7C

Text: Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20

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

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” These are familiar words to us all. At the conclusion of every day, we hear these words: “And God saw that it was good.” Adam and Eve came into the scene and all was good until the serpent came into the picture. Once the interaction between Adam and Eve and the serpent took place, all was no longer good. We jump ahead to the birth of Christ. Christ was born, grew in stature of a man, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven for one reason: because you and I are sinners.

Just a few days ago, we remembered Christ’s ascension into heaven. It is there that He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead. In our text for today, we see what is to come following the resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: the second coming.

In the beginning of our text for today, John sees another depiction of the new heaven and earth, this time reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. We see the river of the water of lifeand the tree of life. “The tree of life” first appeared early on in Genesis. Among the many trees God created, He made in the middle of the Garden of Eden “the tree of life” and “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam and Eve rejected God’s command not to eat of the tree.  They turned away from His face—the act of disobedience. They feared His presence because they feared His wrath. They were lied to by Satan, and were tricked into thinking that they could be independent of God. They believed they didn’t need Him or His Word. They embraced the lie and the death that came with it. Because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge in disobedience to God’s command, they were driven from the garden. Because they sinned, we too have sinned. Their sin became our sin. The psalmist David knew of his sinful nature and from where it came from: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”This “tree of life” which John sees standing before him is what would come to save all of mankind: Jesus Christ.

John, while in exile on the island of Patmos, received the revelation from Jesus Christ which said not once, not twice, but three times that “I am coming soon.” We have all seen the first coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He came to us as a baby, weak and frail. He grew up to be a man with a mission. His mission was not His own, but His Fathers: to save all of mankind from eternal death. Through His coming, death has been defeated, once and for all.  Through His life, death and resurrection, we have received forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Here we stand; the Sunday after the Ascension, seven Sundays after Easter. Announcements of triumph have been sounding all over the place. The Gospel’s content has never been clearer than in this text which insists that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” There it is before you, that powerful message that forms the very spine of life: God in Christ affirming again that He will be our God from the beginning to the end of it all.

From the beginning, He has been our God. He was our God in the Garden of Eden, giving to us all that we needed to survive. He was our God when Adam and Eve were barred from the Garden because of their disobedience. When they were barred, we didn’t see an angry God. On the contrary, we saw a God who gave us the first words of Gospel truth: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” He was our God when He sent His only-begotten Son to live and die for us. He was our God at our baptism, when we were made His children. He will continue to be our God, even to our last days and beyond, when He calls us to our heavenly home. John records for us, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” We have the promise of God Himself that He will be our God and we will indeed be His people.

Here it was where and when Jesus shed His holy, precious blood, so that men, women, children and infants might “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Indeed, “blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Christ is the Fruit of the Tree of Life and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His Blood will live forever.

God draws us in the flesh of Jesus Christ through His body and blood. He draws us through His Word, which calls and enlightens us. We are united in the flesh of Christ. We are gathered in one place: in Christ. God sustains us with the one river of the waters of life and the one tree of life.

We are gathered to share in His blessings. We receive the waters from the river: the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus Christ has invited us and all sinners to quench our spiritual thirst: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

We receive the healing fruit from the tree: the Lord’s Supper, which you will partake of in just a few moments. Here, around His Word and His Sacraments, we are gathered in the true worship of God – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

There it stands at the Bible’s opening verses, the picture of a loving God, tenderly authoring life bringing about man’s genesis; the God who makes covenant promises. In today’s text, the curtain rings down on the Bible’s witness and the message at the end is the same as at the beginning: God announcing that He is with us at the beginning and at the end and with each intervening step!

Jesus gives to us unity in His promises. His Baptism, death, resurrection, and ascension are ours as well. We are baptized into His name. We die in His name, as Christians. We are promised the resurrection on the last day, where we will be raised in all holiness and righteousness, where we will be with God and the Lamb forever. We will see Him face-to-face on the Last Day and in eternal life. We will again possess the image of God, lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, restored when Christ died for your sins and mine, when He took our place and elevated us to full sonship, made holy by His blood.

While waiting in expectation for the second coming of Christ, we invite, proclaim and pray. We invite others to share in Christ and the waters of life. We proclaim Christ’s Word faithfully. The Lord of life, the root and offspring of Davis says “Come. Come you who are thirsty, accept the water of life, a free gift to all who desire it.” We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And we know, that Christ will indeed come again, to bring us to the new Eden, gathered around the tree of life.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 June 7, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Ascension of Our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

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

When we confess, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty,” what exactly do we mean? The Ascension of Jesus is just as important as every other act of Jesus: His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. Throughout the season of Lent, we focus on the death of Jesus that draws ever closer, culminating in His crucifixion on Good Friday. Three days later, and for the next forty days, it’s all about Jesus risen from the dead, though some of the Gospel accounts are pre-crucifixion accounts. But just as important is the Ascension of Jesus, and for good reason. When Jesus ascends, He takes His rightful place with the Father again. The Ascension of Jesus signals something for us, something that is most important for the life of the Christian – Christ will come again.

Everything up until this point has worked according to God’s divine plan. Despite that, there are still gaps in the thoughts and minds of the apostles. Luke records for us in Acts, “To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” The authors of our Gospels record various post-resurrection appearances to the apostles and their lack of understanding of the big picture that Jesus is trying to paint for them.

The important thing for the apostles to know is that Christ has fulfilled all that was necessary to redeem creation. He had done exactly what He said He was going to do. But even then, the apostles have questions, gaps in their understanding. And so, Christ appeared to them following the resurrection, teaching them and preparing them for the next step: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The apostles are tasked with proclaiming Jesus to the ends of the earth. But it’s hard to proclaim Jesus when you yourself don’t fully understand everything. That’s why He sends the Holy Spirit to them, to fill in the gaps, to empower and embolden them to proclaim all that they have seen and heard the last three years, to proclaim what that means for the sinner, and for the joy that comes to the repentant.

As Jesus proclaims this to the apostles, He ascends: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Jesus is gone, truly gone now. It’s just the apostles and their task of proclaiming the Gospel; but they are still gazing upward, looking for Jesus. It takes angels to tell them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

It’s time for the apostles to snap out of it, to stop looking for Jesus and get on with the task at hand: “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” It’s time to do their job, to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Are we on board with this? Are we ready to take up the mantle of the apostles or would we rather that Jesus could be walked with, talked with, eaten with, instead of preaching the Gospel? Is preaching of repentance and the Gospel enough to save? Is it enough for your loved one, for the world? Is it even the salvation you are looking for? Are you like the apostles, staring up, wishing Jesus would still be here with us or that He would come back, try something else that doesn’t involve as much work?

Have no fear, Christ will come back, of that you can be certain. He has promised as much. But in the meantime, there is much work that needs to be done. The Ascension of Our Lord is not some retreat from but rather, the advance in Christ’s saving work. Our priorities, our doubts, our gaps in knowledge, prove us to be skeptical of Jesus’ plan, like that of the apostles. We’re staring up into heaven, wishing He’d hurry back. Jesus is doing what He needs to be doing right now: sitting at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. But surely there is more that needs to be done right now.

There is, and Jesus has tasked the apostles to go forth and spread the good news. Throughout the centuries, it trickles down through the ones who are called, to continue to spread the good news, to preach the Gospel. And what is it we do preach? Because Christ has risen from the grave, we know that we too will rise from the grave. But that’s only part of it. Because Christ has ascended unto the Father, so we will ascend as well. We will be with Him in glory. We will enjoy all of the benefits Christ has won for us. We have the forgiveness of our sins granted to us in our Baptism and won by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have life because Christ has laid down His life and taken it up again in order to grant life for all believers.

When Jesus ascended, He didn’t “check out” of this world and left salvation up for grabs. He is ensuring that the Church that lives by His Word and Spirit will endure and prosper until He returns. And Jesus will do just that, return. As we confess in the Creed, “From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Just because Christ has ascended doesn’t mean that His work is done. By His death and resurrection, He promises to us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Christ will indeed return and when He does, all will experience that return, either with joy or fear.

We are left much like the apostles were when Christ ascended, eyes raised to heaven, looking for our risen and ascended Lord. Luke ends the Ascension account with these words: “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” May that ever be the Church – filled with great joy and in the Father’s house, blessing Him for the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. 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 May 31, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 6C

Text: John 16:23-33

C 59 Easter 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 Gospel, which was read earlier.

If you heard Jesus’ words from last week’s Gospel reading, then you’re all set for part two of Jesus’ diatribe. If you missed the first part of Jesus’ diatribe or if you’ve forgotten, Jesus is speaking of His impending departure, but before that happens, He needs to share more with them. In His absence, He will send forth the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, “and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Following that, there is confusion among the disciples. In the end, there will a time of sorrow but that sorrow will turn into joy. He ends by saying, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus tells them that they have full access to God through Himself, something that they never enjoyed before. Prior to Jesus, access to the Father was always made through a mediator, through a sacrifice, through some sort of go-between. But with Jesus, that is no longer the case. Jesus is the bridge between God and man. Jesus is the sacrifice that is needed to make full atonement of man’s sin.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, promises us that our needs will be met, though it may not be met according to our standards. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” We learn that, even as the petitions that we pray are made in Jesus’ name, so also the giving of what is asked is done in His name as well; it is made in connection with the revelation of Jesus as this is embraced by faith. That means for us that our prayers are indeed answered, though maybe not the way we would want them to be answered. God hears the prayers of His people and answers them according to His good and gracious will, meaning He will answer them as it benefits us in a God-pleasing way.

While Jesus has spoken much of His ministry in parables and other figures of speech, our Lord speaks plainly regarding the Father: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Of all the things Jesus has said, the disciples hear one thing that resonates with them, and it’s not something that they want to hear: Jesus was leaving them. They weren’t quite sure how this would happen, but they knew that He would be leaving them. They could not imagine living in a world without Jesus, yet in a few hours that is just what they will experience. They will watch Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death.

How does this come back to praying and asking in the Father’s name? What is it that the disciples need right now with the pending crucifixion of Jesus? They need understanding, they need clarity. As Jesus speaks, we know what is going to happen. Following the events of Holy Week, following what takes place on Easter Sunday, following the Ascension, Jesus takes His place behind the Father and God the Father deals with us, just as lovingly and just as intimately as Jesus did with His inner circle of disciples. He loves us because of the love of Jesus shown to us.

Christ is our Mediator and Advocate. We confess with John: “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Our Lord promises, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” At the end of our text for today, Jesus reassures the disciples by telling them, “But
take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is Christ’s assurance to them and to us all that Christ has indeed won the victory over the world and has won for us everlasting life.

Think of what that means for you, the beloved and redeemed children of God. Because Christ has overcome the world, we can be confident of life in His name: the promise of becoming a child of God, forgiven through His life, death, and resurrection; forgiven by the waters of Holy Baptism; having a faith strengthened and nourished through Christ’s body and blood given to us through His Holy Supper.

Our Lord tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” This world will indeed pass away and all that is in it. Things will get worse, but we are not left without hope. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Through His life, death, and resurrection, we have received the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. That means when this world seems to be falling apart around us, when things can’t seem to get worse than what they already are but they do, there is hope for us. We as Christians continue to pray. We pray that God’s will be done. We pray for God’s blessings upon us. And we are certain that God will indeed hear our prayers, for He has promised to hear the prayers of His people. But not only does He hear them, He promises to answer them as well. Fortunately for us, God does not answer the way that we would like or the way that we think is best; rather, God answers them in the way the He knows to be best for us, granting to us all that is good. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have been given direct access to the Father and God does indeed hear the prayers of His people. We know that He will indeed answer the prayers of His people according to His good and gracious will, “For the Father himself love you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

God hears your prayers prayed in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that the prayer will be answered because Christ has died for you. And to pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that His will is best, rather than imposing our own sinful desires on Him. Rejoice, too, in this: after Jesus spoke of prayer in John 16, He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for His disciples—and prayed for you. Even now, He prays for you until He comes again. Therefore, rejoice: you can be sure that the Lord hears your prayers for Jesus’ sake because you are forgiven for all of your sins.  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 May 28, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 
 
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