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Author Archives: Rev. Jared Tucher

About Rev. Jared Tucher

I'm a Lutheran (LCMS) pastor serving in Gillette, WY.

Pentecost 22

Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17

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 Paul writes to the Thessalonians is most certainly true: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…” End times theology is very apparent in our culture today. Christ’s return has been predicted for ages, with none of those ever coming true. When people think about the end of the world, it often seems they are ready to believe any rumor that comes along. This happens especially when people have not carefully studied what God says about that day. It seems that some of the Thessalonians were no different. A false notion about the end of the world was circulating in their congregation. The result was that some of the Thessalonians were becoming “shaken in mind or alarmed.”

This false idea circulating among the Thessalonians had to do with Christ’s return. There were those who were preaching that Christ had come the first time and died; because He is dead, He won’t be coming a second time. Paul makes it clear that Christ will come a second time and we will be gathered to Him.

The Christians at Thessalonica heard the Word of God, but they were hearing lots of other things as well. They believed the word of false prophets that the end was coming very soon. They had given up all activity and waited for the Lord to come. They fell for a false prophet’s lies. For this reason Paul wrote, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in our text: “Let no one deceive you in any way.”

The problem the Thessalonians faced from the false preachers of the day were the signs that they interpreted, signs that supposedly pointed to Jesus’ return. However, these signs were false signs and their preaching was false as well. What they failed to point to, what they failed to utilize were the Scriptures which God had given His people. They had the Word of God and yet, for some in the Thessalonian church, it wasn’t good enough.

You and I have that same Word of God given to us, and yet we find that it isn’t good enough. People find it to be old, rigid, out of date, no longer applicable to today, or even worse, just downright wrong. God’s Word means absolutely nothing to some and that’s where the problem lies.

Regardless of how you and I see the Word of God, it is what it is, it says what it says, it means what it means. If you don’t like what it says, tough. If you don’t agree with what it says, tough. But that wasn’t the consensus with the Thessalonians. They forgot the true meaning of the Scriptures. They forgot the message of Jesus and instead adopted a message of false teaching. The problem that the Thessalonians had with regards to the false teaching is that it was damning. There was no salvation in that teaching, but only the proper teaching of Jesus Christ and who He is and what it was that He came to do, and what He will do in the Second Coming.

What’s the problem with this thinking? It led the Thessalonians away from the truth. It leads us away from the truth. We reject the true Gospel that comes from God’s Holy Word. We despise preaching and God’s Word, and we do not gladly hear and learn it. Our minds are made up; we do not want to be confused by the facts. But the fact of the matter is that if we confess a truth other than that which is proclaimed in Holy Scripture, we will surely be damned to hell.

This is indeed tragic to the Church. This wreaks great havoc upon the Church. It fills the people of God with doctrine that sounds good to our itching ears but damning in the process. What is the Church to do in the face of such false doctrine? Buying into it, we sacrifice our eternal life with God our heavenly Father. Paul tells the Thessalonians to stand firm in the faith that they have been given. They are the chosen ones of God. God chose them “as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” While the Thessalonians may be misguided by the false teaching present in Thessalonica, they are still sheep, loved by the Lord and therefore to be loved and cared for by Paul, a servant of the Lord. Paul thanks God for them because they are “brothers” in the one true faith. Paul thanks God for them because God chose them before time began, elected them to be His adopted children, blessed them with the gift of His Spirit, and by the sanctifying work of that same Spirit set them apart from the rest of an unbelieving world to believe the truth of the Gospel and be saved.

Christ, our Lord, our Word-made-flesh, has dwelt among His people to give us hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to give us life, eternal life in heaven, that we would dine at the marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.  Last week we gave thanks to God for those who have gone before us in the faith, who became baptized into Christ, whose sins were forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, who heard the Word of God and kept it, who feasted on the Lord’s body and blood at His Table—the foretaste of the Feast to come for us and has come for them. This Holy Spirit that we have received calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the one true faith. The Holy Spirit calls us with the Gospel, which tells us that Christ died for our sins, and all who believe in Him have eternal life, for He Himself rose to life after dying on the cross, having bled and died to take away our sin.

This is our Gospel as well. It is ours because God has given it to us time and time again. He gave it to us when He removed us from the Garden and gave to us a promise. He gave it to us in a Baby. He gave it to us on the cross. He gave it to us at our Baptism. He gives it to us in the words of absolution. He gives it to us in the Lord’s Supper. He has given to us the Gospel of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ “so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has given us the Gospel so that we may believe and not be led astray by Satan and all of his temptuous ways. He has given us that Gospel so that we may remain steadfast in His Word until the second coming of His Son, who will gather all Christians to be with God forever.

Having this promise of eternal life in heaven given to us now and fulfilled there, we rejoice, and we look forward with eager anticipation to the Last Day, for the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure these last days on earth until THE Last Day, whenever that will be. St. Paul exhorts us, saying, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Until then, we remain steadfast in His Word, trusting in the promises which He has given to us, never doubting that His Word will do what it says it will: give to all believers forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. 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 November 13, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

All Saints’ Day

Texts: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The texts for the sermon are the readings for All Saints’ Day read earlier.

When we come to today in the Church Year, All Saint’s Day, it can be a sad day for some, especially for those who have lost loved ones recently. But the theme for All Saints’ Day isn’t one of sadness, but rather, one of celebration.

Thanks be to God, we have been made saints. I didn’t say that you will be made a saint at some point down the road if you do this or that. No, I said that you have been made a saint already. That is made clear to us from what we hear in our Epistle for today: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” You see, it doesn’t say that you will be made a saint. He makes it clear that you are a saint because you are a child of God. What a wonderful thing to hear for all of us because we need to hear that. We need to hear that God is our Father. We need to hear that God loves us enough to make us His child. We need to hear to what extent God goes to restore things to the way they were meant to be. Again, now, not later. John goes on to say, “Beloved, we are God’s children now….”

Today is indeed one of celebration, and yet it is one of sadness for some. We who believe in Jesus areGod’s saints, but we are not immune to sorrows. Quite the contrary. Yet, on this All Saints’ Day, we rejoice, because, yes, life in this world is often a “vale of tears,” but the day is coming when God will wipe away our tears forever.

This world truly is a vale of tears. Even though pop psychology tells us such a view is unhealthy, and advertisers and marketers tell us it’s unnecessary, it remains true. There are so many sources of tears: physical pain, grief over death, injustice, mistreatment, persecution, loneliness or rejection, even our own sin and guilt. Even in our happiest of moments, there is often some sort of sorrow. That is because we live in a sinful and fallen world, filled with sinful and fallen people, including you and I. And yet, there is an end to our tears.

Turning to the Revelation to St. John, we see a glimpse of the Church Triumphant, those who have died in the faith and now rest fully in the arms of God. As John recounts what he sees, those gathered shout out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The end to our tears comes in what God has done for us through Jesus. This is made clear at the end of our text: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This vale of tears in which we find ourselves is merely temporary, for we have a God who is not content with the status quo. We have a God who desires to restore a relationship broken by sin. We have a God who sends His Son to be the sacrificial Lamb, that His shed blood would wash over and cleanse creation, forgiving them of their sins, once and for all.

In true fatherly compassion, God sends Jesus into our vale of tears to end all weeping. You see, we don’t have some God who sits aloof, watching from the outer fringes, content with letting us go about our lives, doing our own thing. No, we have a God who has seen our tears and heard our weeping. But God has done more than just notice our tears and weeping. In Christ, He has entered our valley of sorrows. During His earthly ministry, even Jesus weeps alongside creation: weeping with Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus, weeping over Jerusalem and its coming divine judgement, crying out in sorrow over the bitter path of betrayal, abandonment, and death that lied before Him.

But Jesus comes to do more than just weep over creation. He comes to redeem creation. He comes to take away their tears, once and for all. He does this by dying on the cross for you. He does this by His blood running over you, clothing you in His righteousness so that you may stand before God reflecting Jesus’ holiness.

The tears you cry are but temporary. This is God’s promise to you. What John sees in his revelation is what has happened because of Jesus. A huge multitude from every nation, all in white, with palm branches and song worshiping Christ the Lamb. No hunger! No thirst! And no tears! The blood of the Lamb will have made all the difference. It’s only the blood of the Lamb that makes this vale of tears pass away.

As Jesus delivers the Beatitudes in our Gospel, He tells us what we should look forward to: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It is Christ who does the Beatitudes perfectly because it is Christ who perfectly embodies the holy will and Law of God. The Law, even though it was given through Moses, points to Christ as its fulfillment. Jesus is the righteous Son of Adam and the One who will come to judge the quick and the dead on that great and terrible Day of the Lord. However, Christ is greater than even the Law. Jesus is not simply the commands of God in human flesh; he is the whole Word of God incar­nate, “founder and perfecter of our faith.” His justice serves his mercy; his holiness serves his loving kindness and compassion for a wayward, turned-into-itself humanity.

For all the saints, both in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, we shout one thing: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The victory is there because God has saved the saints. He has saved them through the Lamb, for in Christ are they saved from their sins. He has saved them from their enemies, for nothing can separate them from God, not even death.

We receive this calling as saints by God Himself. It’s not because we are so brave or so strong. It’s not because we’ve done great things in our lives; it’s because of Jesus that you belong to God. You have received the white garment washed in the blood of the lamb: “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness / My beauty are, my glorious dress.”

Cherish your Baptism. God has said that He loves you and that you are His own, and His Word stands. We would be wise to heed the words of Luther: “We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves. So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, ‘Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body’”

Rejoice, dear saints, for your name has been written in the Lamb’s book of Life. You have been washed in His blood and made white as snow. You have sins forgiven. You have God’s name placed upon you. Blessed are you, for you have the Good News of Jesus preached to you. All of Christ and his perfect life and sacrificial death in our place is ours the hour we are washed and made his own. All the baptized—on earth and in heaven—are the Lord’s precious, bought-with-his-blood saints. 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 November 4, 2019 in All Saints', Sermons

 

Reformation

Text: John 8:31-36

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 a very real, terrifying statement that appears in our Epistle reading for today, one that is not something we want to hear, and yet it is needed for us to hear: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” There it is. I said it, but I don’t like it: I’m a sinner. But at least I find myself in good company because all of you are there along with me. That’s about as Law as Law can get. If there was only a way to turn that negative into a positive. Fortunately for all of us, there is. That positive comes in our Gospel from John 8 for this Reformation Day: “So if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed.”

Once you have heard the Law, you need to hear the Gospel. Once you have been assaulted with the truth of your sinfulness, you need to hear what happens to that sin. Unfortunately, there are different responses to what happens to that sin or what could happen. 500 years ago, the prominent teaching of the Church was that sin could be forgiven by Jesus. But it could also be forgiven by indulgences, praying to saints or relics, or just downright paying to have your sins forgiven. But that’s not what Paul says in Romans. He says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Whatever you do or try to do to earn your salvation, it’s man’s work. That means that man is in the driver’s seat and that never works because man is sinful. That’s a problem for you because you can’t save yourself. But in reality, that’s a not a problem for you; rather, it’s a blessing! Paul goes on to say, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law….” So, God has made it clear that the Law won’t save you. He also makes it clear who does save you: “[we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

You see, the work of salvation is solely that of God through Jesus. Where are you in this equation? You’ve already done your part in this – you’ve sinned. And because you have sinned, that means that you are excluded from the work of salvation. And so, your salvation comes from outside of you through Jesus.

Why is this teaching so important? Because it’s the true Gospel that leads to salvation. It was that Gospel that was hidden from the people 500 years ago. That’s why it’s all the more important for us to hear our Gospel today: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” That is the Gospel my friends. The Gospel is Jesus. The Gospel is Jesus for you. That’s what was missing when the Reformation began.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are indeed slaves to our sin. Those at the time of Jesus didn’t think they were slaves. They even tell Jesus, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” Despite all the times God’s people were made slaves, they missed the greater point that they were slaves to their sin. Prior to our text, Jesus tells them, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” He then follows up by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” The only one who can set you free from sin is Jesus; the only problem was that they didn’t believe it.

At first, even Luther failed to believe it. He knew that he was trapped, but he thought it was the fact that he was sinful that was causing his slavery. He could never find freedom from that. And in a way, no one, Christian or non-Christian, ever can. We remain sinful even today. And nothing can change that fact. Nothing can redeem us from our sins except Jesus, and that was what the Jews needed to hear from Jesus, that’s what Luther needed to hear from Jesus, and that’s what you need to hear from Jesus.

You need the truth in order to be set free from sin and forgiven. The truth is only found in Jesus Christ and what He has done. The truth is that you “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because you have sinned, there is no way that you could keep the Law. Because you have sinned, there is no way that you could do any good work to earn your salvation. Instead, you “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….”

Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have been shown the truth. It is through that truth that God sets His people free, for it reveals Jesus and His work of salvation; through the Gospel He comes to a person and makes that person a believer in Him, Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. When a person believes in Christ, he is freed from being a slave to spiritual falsehoods, freed from believing in all that deceives and gives false salvation.

Paul writes a profound truth to the Galatians, one that is a profound truth to us all: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” The message of the Scriptures uncovered by the Reformation is that by faith in Christ, before God we are free, saved by God’s grace alone, for the sake of Christ alone, through faith alone. And this is the true freedom. In Jesus, we are free from the guilt of our sin, free from the power of death to destroy us, and free to live for Jesus and for others.

But now Jesus adds, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Abide: It means remain, sit down in, rely on, live in my teaching. You see, the Word of God is what works faith in a person. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” Scripture says. But faith not only originates in the Word; the Word of God is also what keeps faith alive. Faith always comes from the outside in. So, for faith to stay alive, not just strong or growing, but to stay alive, we must abide in the Word of God and the Word of God abide in us.

The truth will set you free. The truth is all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all slaves to sin. What a comfort it is then to hear the words that end today’s Gospel. “The son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son of God Himself is the truth that sets us free. To know that truth, then, is to be set free from slavery.

There is nothing that any of us can do to gain heaven. Salvation is entirely a gift of God. A gift is something freely given, which the giver expects no payment in return. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to put a price tag on that salvation by indulgences and works. As we read the Scriptures, there is only one price tag for our salvation and that is the blood of Christ. It is the price that was to be paid for a gift that was to be freely given.

When one hears the teaching of the Church at Luther’s time, how could one accept it? How could you accept that God sent His very Son to take on human form, to live a sinless life, to die for your sinful life so that you may receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, but in order to receive all of this, you have to do something to earn it! That is not a gift! That is something that which you earn yourself. That’s not what the Scriptures teach.

Salvation, by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, as found in Scripture alone, is the basis of our daily Christian life because that is what the Word of God teaches. The Reformation and the work of Luther was nothing more than opening the eyes of God’s people to His holy Word so we may see that this wonderful gift of faith is ours, not because of what you and I do, but it is ours solely because of what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done for us. 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 October 27, 2019 in Reformation, Sermons

 

Pentecost 19

Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

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.

To continue from St. Paul’s letter to the young pastor Timothy, he encourages Timothy to do something, something that should be common sense to him and to everyone for that matter: “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed….” In other words, don’t deviate from what you have already learned. That makes perfect sense when you think about it. Why would you take something that you already know, ideally something that you are quite confident in and turn it upside down and start believing in something else? When you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense to Paul, and so it shouldn’t make any sense to Timothy either. And in turn, it shouldn’t make any sense to the Ephesians either.

As we look at young Timothy, we see how he has been raised in the faith. Although his father was a Greek who did not allow his son to be circumcised, Timothy was blessed with a mother and grandmother who nurtured him in spiritual things. He was convinced by the Gospel before Paul’s second visit to Lystra, his hometown. From there, he was Paul’s co-worker and fellow missionary, constantly learning from the second-best teacher there ever was.

The basics which Paul had learned from Jesus, the basics which Timothy had learned, and the basics which you and I have learned come from God Himself through the Scriptures. As Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Paul is not speaking about pagan or philosophical resources. He is attesting the divine origin of the Old Testament, as Peter also does: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Unlike other writings, these Holy Scriptures are emphatically “useful,” useful for the spiritual growth of those who know them and believe them. They are useful because they tell our story: the story of how God created us in His own image – perfect and without sin. They tell the story of how we sinned and death became a part of our lives. They tell the story of how God promised to send a Savior to redeem us from death. They tell the story of what Jesus did to redeem us sinners – how He lived, died, and rose again on our behalf to restore us as God’s children.

For the Christian, we are charged with one thing: be faithful to the Word of God. Unfortunately, that is something that is rather difficult in today’s day and age. We have the world telling us things that run complete opposite to that of the Word of God. We have the world telling us that the Word of God is archaic and no longer applies to us so it must be changed. We have the world telling us that the God of the Scriptures is the same as other gods, and that even though we call them different names, it really is the same god.

We must as Christians, remain faithful to the Word of God as recorded for us in the Bible. It means holding steadfast to God and the promises that He makes for us through Jesus Christ. That means looking only to Jesus for our forgiveness and salvation, for salvation cannot be found in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. However, that is not what the world would have us hear. They would have us hear that one can be saved apart from Jesus Christ, that one can be saved through their own merits and that there does not need to be a reliance on a man who lived and died and stayed dead. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the world lies to you, deceiving you by passing off salvation that isn’t really salvation. Something must be true, but where do we turn? We turn to the Word of God.

How is this done? Martin Luther explains just how to do this in the explanation of the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” There isn’t much to it: don’t despise the Word of God, but gladly desire to hear it. It sounds simple, but like much of the Christian’s work, they are very hard words to live by. They mean always coming to church, willingly; anxious and eager to hear God’s Word, through the sermon or through Bible studies. It is a tough task for everyone. There have been those Sundays where, in my youth, going to church was the last thing that I wanted to do. There have been those times where even when I was sitting in the pews, I mentally “checked out” during the sermon, because it was the same thing that I hear in every sermon – that Jesus lived and died for my sins.

This was the same sermon I heard from my pastor, Sunday in and Sunday out for 52 weeks straight! I already knew all of this; surely my pastor had something else he could have preached! But this was the sermon that he preached, every single Sunday. As much as I wanted to hear something different, the central focus of the sermon never changed. This was the message that I needed to hear!  This is the message that you need to hear, every single Sunday. That’s the message I pray that I preach every Sunday because that’s what you need to hear, for it is the power unto salvation.

Luther expounds upon this in much greater detail in the Large Catechism. He writes, “Let me tell you this, even though you know God’s Word perfectly and are already a master in all things: you are daily in the devil’s kingdom. He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all the commandments. Therefore, you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears.” 

We as the Church need to know one thing: the Word of God is not popular. It wasn’t popular in the time of the Old Testament, it wasn’t popular in the time of the New Testament, and it’s not popular today. There will always be something more poplar. There will always be a new fad when it comes to religion. But none of that, absolutely none of that, will do anything to save you. The only thing that will save you is what has been revealed to us through God’s holy Word.

Since 1942, that is exactly what the LWML has been doing – spreading the Word of God, one mite project at a time, bringing that Word of God to places that have never heard it, strengthening ongoing ministries in their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By their work, their mites, and their dedication to the Gospel, they have continued in what they have learned and have firmly believed.

For that reason, the sake of the Gospel, that is why Paul impresses upon Timothy the need to remain steadfast in the faith. For that reason, it is impressed upon the Church today to remain steadfast in the faith. St. Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith….” What is at stake is not mere child’s play; it is your eternal salvation. Because of this saving message of Jesus Christ and what it means for all who believe, we are left with one thing to do: be faithful to the Word. We are faithful to the Word that promises forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We are faithful to the Word because it does what it says it does. We are faithful to the Word because it “is breathed out by God.” We are faithful to the Word because God is and always will be faithful to us, declaring us forgiven for Jesus’ sake. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 18

Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

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

Children need a lot of help, especially in their younger years. They are unable to adequately care for themselves or provide the basics which they need to live and thrive. Thus, they need help from outside of them to nurture them and help them grow. The same thing can be said about the Christian. In our child-like faith, we need help, we need to be cared for. St. Paul, when writing to young Timothy, tells him something that all Christians need to hear: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

All of us are indeed children in the faith. I say that because not a single one of us has all the answers of faith. There are questions that are left unanswered this side of heaven, and that’s okay. We are not called to have all of the answers, but rather, to believe that which Christ our Lord has done for us with regards to our salvation. We aren’t able to explain everything in the most eloquent of ways, and yet we still believe and hold this faith as true.

The encouragement that all Christians need to hear is the same thing that Paul told Timothy: “be strengthened.” But Paul just doesn’t tell them to be strengthened. He doesn’t leave it to their own interpretation of what to be strengthened in. And all as you all know, the world has plenty that it will put forward to you as truth, as a way or means of salvation. But all of those things are fleeting at best; here today and gone tomorrow. While they may promise quick and easy results now, those results will not last. That is why Paul gives them the object of which to be strengthened in: “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Nothing you can find in this world will give you that peace and comfort that Christ can give. You can look high and low and you will not find that which Paul speaks of outside of the Church. And so what Paul tells Timothy is the same thing that you need to hear: “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus….” That is the message that every pastor of the Gospel needs to be preaching and that is the message that every hearer of the Gospel needs to hear, not just today, not just on Sundays, but every single day of their life. It is not a matter of wanting to hear, but needing to hear of the grace of God shown to us in Christ.

From the instant man fell to sin, God made a promise, a promise that He would extend His grace to us through a promised heir. That promised heir did everything that you could not do. He kept God’s Law when you would continually break it. He remained faithful to God when you would turn away from Him. Jesus, earned life for you through His death. Jesus gave to you a resurrection unto life by His resurrection from the dead. He does and fulfills everything that you and I could not do, thus earning for us God’s grace.

But ask yourself if you deserve God’s grace. What is so good about you that you deserve what Jesus has done on your behalf? What great accomplishment have you achieved that would cause the Creator of all things to send His only begotten Son into this fallen creation so that He would die for the likes of sinners like us?  That’s where grace comes in. Nothing about us is redeemable. We are sinners. We have broken God’s commandments time and time again. We turn away from Him when we desperately need Him the most, and yet God still sends Jesus for us.

Paul tells Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…” Isn’t it taken for granted that Christians remember Jesus Christ? Paul knows, however, that in the stress of life on earth and even in the noise of religious work it is all too easy to forget Jesus Christ. Christians need to be encouraged to have Jesus and His saving work in mind continually. We need to remember at all times and in all places that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. It is a constant remembrance of who Jesus Christ is and what it is that Jesus Christ has done: that He is the very Son of God and that “he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.” These words that Martin Luther wrote are not just mere words. These are words that every Christian needs to hear because they say exactly what it is that Jesus Christ has done for us. Words that sound so simple to us were words that meant a great deal to Luther and are words that should mean a great deal to all of us, for they say exactly what Christ has done for us.

How easy it is for us to forget that our strength relies upon Jesus Christ and not ourselves. However, that’s not what the world would have us hear. The world tells us that it’s not Jesus that saves but it’s everything but Jesus that saves. Best case is that we hear that Jesus is just one of many means of salvation. If that were the case, then why does Jesus go to such great lengths to assert that He and He alone is the sole means of salvation? Why is it that Jesus is the only one who gives His life in order to save us if we can be saved by other means?

Heaven is yours because Jesus has done all the work of living for you, dying for you, rising for you and ascending for you. He’s done all the work of giving you forgiveness and faith in Baptism, and continues to forgive you and strengthen you in His Word and Supper. That’s the Gospel. It’s all His doing.

For Paul, he knew what was at stake: the salvation of the Church. He risked his own life, time and time again to preach the Gospel. However, he doesn’t care. He reminds Timothy why he has done what he has done: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Concern for the salvation of these elect is for Paul another motive for perseverance in Christian ministry. He has the eyes of Jesus toward the lost. He has a love for the lost that moves him to be a slave to everyone and to become all things to all men. He is more concerned with evangelizing the world than with his own personal comfort, safety or wealth. He truly has the Christ-like concern for those who have come to faith in Christ and for those who have not.

We persevere in our faith, just as Christ Jesus persevered in His. We persevere because of the final words of St. Paul: “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…” We have the faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord, given to us by the Holy Spirit at our Baptism. Let this be the focus of our lives, for now and for all eternity. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 17

Text: Luke 17:1-10

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.

In the 1960s and 70s, a comedian named Flip Wilson had a character named Geraldine Jones. One of her popular catch phrases that was introduced into popular culture was, “The Devil made me do it.” Strangely enough, Geraldine is right. Our Gospel begins with Jesus saying to the disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” God does not cause temptations to come; that is the result of the devil. God does not cause sin to come; that too is the result of the devil, and God merely allows it. The devil brought sin and temptation into the world and we have paid the price for it ever since the Fall.

The emphasis that Jesus makes in this verse is, “…woe to the one through whom they come!” That is exactly what happened to devil, one of God’s created beings. Thinking he was on par or better than the Creator, he revolted and ultimately lost against God and was cast out. That’s good news for us, but the damage had already been done. Temptation and sin entered into the world and there was no going back. Because human beings are sinful, they will at times disturb the faith of others or mislead them into sin. Their example, whether it is in words or in acts, can cause others to be trapped by unbelief or sin. But Jesus doesn’t want His disciples or believers of the present day to take a careless attitude toward giving offense simply because everybody is doing it.

Since giving offense has such serious consequences, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves!” Don’t do anything that could cause people to sin or which would disturb their faith. He mentions “these little ones” in particular. Jesus spoke similar words of warning when He called a little child and had him stand among them. Little children as a rule trust their elders and expect them to be wiser than they are. But it isn’t only children who can be led astray. It can happen to any believer and especially to believers who are still just beginning in their life as Christians and thus are like little children. Jesus wants us to be very careful not to cause anyone to sin. But that is difficult to do.

Jesus continues with a very difficult concept for many to put into practice in the way that Jesus teaches and commands us: forgiveness. Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” He gives the example of a brother, a fellow believer. This brother sins. He is my brother, and his sin puts his soul into danger. I want him to repent and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. If he accepts our rebuke and repents, we are to forgive him and let him know that we are only doing what the Lord has done first. We forgive, because God first forgave us. This is what John says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

If someone’s sin troubles us, it is never easy to forgive. But Jesus wants us to forgive and to do so even when it is difficult to do. This is what Jesus said in verse 3. But now in verse 4 He speaks of a brother who sins directly against us. We have been hurt, but we should still be ready to forgive him if he repents. Are we going to say, “Once is enough”? Jesus mentions what might be the hardest case of all. A brother sins against me not only once, not only twice, but seven times, and he does this all in the same day at that. What are we called to do? Our sinful nature says I’ll forgive you once, but that’s it. If you commit the same sin against me multiple times, eventually, I’ll reach the limit of forgiveness shown to you. But that’s not what Jesus says to do. He says, “and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” That does not mean that Jesus wants us to keep a record of each time someone sins. He wants us to be ready to forgive no matter how often our brother sins against us.

So, what do we do when we fall prey to temptation? What do we do when we lead people astray? We do the only thing we can do: repent. We repent of our sin and we receive the forgiveness of God as won for us by Jesus Christ.

There is only one faith that saves, and it is not faith in this world. There is only one faith in which we are redeemed, and it doesn’t come by ordinary means. It comes from the death of an innocent. It comes from blood that was shed and washes over you. It comes from Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.

There is something that is necessary in all of this: “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” With more faith, they’ll be up to the task. They’ll be able to live without offense. They’ll be able to forgive. They just need more faith. The Lord replied with an answer that indicates it is not the size of the faith, but the object of the faith that is important. With the image of the tiny mustard seed, Jesus taught that even the smallest faith accomplishes remarkable things. That is because it is not the faith in and of itself that accomplishes these things. It is the almighty power of God in whom even the smallest faith believes that accomplishes these things.

What does the Church have if it doesn’t have faith? We receive this wonderful gift of faith by which God has called out the great darkness into His marvelous light. A people once dead raised to new life through faith in God’s Son. We are in the world, but not of the world. To the world, we are complete strangers, speaking with a strange accent and walking to a strange beat. But by faith, we speak the ancient language of Holy Scripture. We are washed clean in our Baptism into Christ and receive faith. Through faith and by faith do we eat the body and drink the blood of God’s Son at our altars. A pastor stands in the place of Christ and forgives all of our sins. In all, faith is the key; a faith given and a faith that is strengthened.

The smallest, weakest faith is faith in Jesus as Savior of the world. So even our small, insignificant faith has great power to save us and lead us through whatever darkness awaits us in the future. For in the smallness of our faith in Christ is concealed God’s great power.

The final verses in today’s Gospel deal with the temptation that can come along when God does great things through our tiny little faith. It is very easy to believe that we deserve some sort of special recognition because God has done such great things in our presence. After Jesus ascended into heaven and poured the Holy Spirit out on these Apostles, they healed the sick, they drove out demons, the lame walked, even the dead lived again. The devil would use these great things to tempt the apostles into thinking how great they were.

At the end of today’s Gospel, we heard Jesus say, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” When God does some great work through us, we should not wait around expecting Him to applaud. Even when our accomplishments are outstanding, we deserve no congratulations. We are merely doing our duty.

Instead of looking to praise for yourself, look to Jesus Christ on the cross. It is there that you will see that God has already given you everything. Baptized into his death and resurrection, you no longer require recognition based on the successes He places in your life. Instead of coveting praise from others, you rest on Jesus’ service for you as He took your sin, your guilt, your death to Himself. He has prepared the eternal clothing of His righteousness for you. Because the Holy Spirit has placed you in Christ, His humble service is the object of your faith. He gives His body and blood to you at the table He sets for you. In this meal He gives you forgiveness, life, salvation, and the strength to go about doing your Christian duty as God’s humble servant, loving God and loving your neighbor, in the various vocations God gives you.

In Jesus Christ, we already have all things. Forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life are already yours in Him, for you receive all this now by faith even if that faith is small. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

St. Michael and All Angels

Text: Revelation 12:7-12

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 Epistle, which was read earlier.

Angels, they’re always a popular topic to people. We are told as a child that our guardian angels are ever protecting us. We have the erroneous perception that when we die, we become an angel. There have been television shows devoted to angels, such as “Highway to Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel” and their work on earth, at least according to Hollywood. But what is the true role of angel in God’s creation?

Today gives us an opportunity to remember St. Michael and All Angels. We remember the work of the angelic host and how they are God’s servants to His people. Angels are best known for their true purpose: messengers of God. It was an angel who brought good tidings to the saints of God in the Old Testament, as well as to Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary. Besides the role of messenger, we see other roles the angels serve in. For instance, in the Garden of Eden, an angel was placed at the entrance of the Garden following Adam and Eve’s dismissal from the Garden. Angels guard us when we are in peril. The angel of God stopped the mouths of the lions when Daniel was cast into their den. An angel delivered the Apostle Peter from the cruelty of Herod. An angel gave bread and water for Elijah when he sat starving under the broom tree. In working for our protection and benefit, they render perfect service to their Lord and creator.

Angels come as great heralds of God’s Word and they come to minister to people in their times of need. But as we see in our text from Revelation today, angels have another role in which they serve God: as warriors in battle.

Our text begins with a statement that boggles the mind—there was a war in heaven! It sounds strange to us that there could ever be a war in heaven. How could this be? Heaven is eternal bliss in the glorious presence of God. It is peace and everlasting blessedness—how could a war take place here? But St. John records for us the fact that a war occurred.

We have to remember that war has raged in heaven ever since Satan strived to show that he was superior to God. Within the first six days of creation, God created the angelic beings. Also during that time, Lucifer, known better as Satan, sought to assert his superiority over God and was struck down by God.

This war in heaven is truly waged against God and His creation. From Lucifer’s revolt to the Fall into sin, Satan has had it out for God and His creation. This war that John writes about is the war of words that Satan has perpetrated against men since the Fall into sin, for he is the accuser, who accuses us of our sin and iniquity before God in heaven. He tempted Adam and Eve, and because of that, evil triumphantly entered the world and Satan became the prince of this world. Since the Fall, the devil was permitted to retain a certain power over the earth. Satan extended his rule over the whole of humanity, for sin is an ever-present reality to God’s creation.

Satan stands as our accuser to God. Here he makes his case, condemning mankind before the judgment seat of God. Unlike lying and deceiving to Adam and Eve and all of creation, what he tells God is true. We are guilty for we have sinned. Such a war between the deceiver and God’s heavenly angels is a war beyond our comprehension. You and I and all of God’s creation are at stake in this war. For while Satan might lie to us, we cannot say that he lies about us. He might deceive men on earth, but he cannot pull the wool over the eyes of Almighty God. And he doesn’t have to. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

Satan takes his war beyond heaven and wages it fully against the Church. This war will rage until the end of time, until the Seconding Coming of Christ. But until then, Satan will unleash all that he has at God’s creation, going back to the number one tool in his bag of tricks: doubt. That is what he used on Eve and it proved successful. That is what he uses against the people of God, hoping to ensnare them in doubting God’s Word, questioning the great love that God has for His creation. The assaults of the devil continue to plague the Church as a whole and the Church individually, for these are assaults that you and I face daily.

We know how this war ends. St. John records for us that Satan and his minions were defeated. He writes: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb….” The war is finally over and God has prevailed, just as He promised in the Garden of Eden. It ends with the complete overthrow of the devil and his minions. Revelation 20:10 says, “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Satan has been forever defeated because of the blood of Christ shed upon the cross. Salvation is now ours; not something that will come at a later time, but a salvation that is yours now because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

St. Michael and all the angels are victorious in their fight against Satan and his minions. Yet they triumphed over him not on account of their own might, but because God Himself sent His only Son to atone for the sins of the world. The power of sin, death, and hell have been destroyed, for Christ Jesus has already defeated their master, the devil.

Therefore rejoice in Christ Jesus, for salvation to us has come. Give thanks to God for His messengers, who brought good tidings of great joy and who serve their Lord in perfect holiness, seeking our benefit and protection. Rejoice in their defeat of Satan and his minions, with Michael leading the charge. But above all, rejoice in knowing that you have the forgiveness of all of your sins, and that your names are written in heaven in the Lamb’s Book of Life, because of the supreme victory of Satan, sin and death on account of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 15

Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-15

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.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you’re here? I mean, sitting right here, right now. Why do you keep coming back? Why did you come in the first place? It is because of no other reason than that you are the church. But what is the church? According to Augsburg Confession Article VII, “It is also taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy, Christian church. It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.” Now that we’ve established who the Church is, now we need to know what the Church does.

Paul writes to young Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” What does the Church do but pray for one another? Look at who Paul identifies: all people. Regardless of who it is, we should pray for them. In other words, we pray for those inside of the Church and for those outside; for our friend and for our enemy alike.

Doing this was going to be an uphill battle for Timothy, this young pastor in Ephesus. The purpose of Paul’s letter to Timothy is to encourage and instruct him as he called the Ephesians to be faithful to God’s Word. The Ephesian church wasn’t going to be the easiest place to pastor in, as false teachers were polluting the doctrine of Christ. What Paul wanted to see in Ephesus and in all places was the truth of Christ be proclaimed. That sounds easy enough since Timothy is dealing with Christians, but if that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re wrong. False doctrine had gone awry and the Church needed to be brought back to its central teaching of Jesus.

How does Paul go about this? He sets forward a very central teaching: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” When Paul speaks these words, he shows why it is so important to come to a knowledge of the truth. There are not numerous gods, each providing truth and salvation. There is one and it is God. Between this God and us human beings, there is only one mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who at the same time is also true God. Who but Jesus could serve as our mediator?

Again, this seems obvious, but it wasn’t to the Ephesian Church. This was what Timothy was going to be facing. This is what the Ephesians were dealing with, because not only was false teaching running rampant in Ephesus, it was also running rampant in the Ephesian Church.

Paul states unequivocally that Jesus is the one mediator, but that wasn’t what was being taught. One answer was Jesus. Another answer was yourself, for the popular belief was that you could atone for your own sins by adhering to the Law of God. You still had the pagan gods of the day in the mix as well, giving people false hope that they would earn for you eternal life. This was problematic because if the Ephesians gave into this false thinking, then they would fail being the Church because their teaching was wrong.

It was time for the Church to be the Church once again. Because of false doctrine, they had deviated from the true teaching of Jesus, but it didn’t mean they couldn’t return to that saving teaching again. That’s what Paul encouraged the Ephesians to do; it’s what he encouraged Timothy to do. It’s what all of Christendom is encouraged to do. Whenever false doctrine is mingled with the true teaching, you will never have true teaching until all of the false doctrine has been purged, just as Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

Given the state of the Church at the time of Paul, this wasn’t always going on in Ephesus. Timothy, as the pastor, was charged to ensure that the Church acted as the Church. Paul’s concern was that we lifted up Holy hands. He was addressing our spiritual condition. There is only one way to get holy hands to lift up, and that is in and through Jesus Christ. Once we possess the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, all of which is by gift and grace though Jesus Christ, we have holy hands. We pray to God for all people, not only because He is the God who creates and preserves everyone, but also because He wants to save all people from the destruction is to come on the Last Day due to our sin. We pray that God would bring the whole world to the saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to what He accomplished for all people on the cross, that is, the forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and the devil, and the gift of eternal life.

All of this has to do with words that Paul speaks earlier to young Timothy: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In the end, that’s what it comes down to, that we would be saved. Now the question is saved from what? Paul throughout his writings mentions what we are to be saved from: sin and death. He says, “For the wages of sin is death.”

St. Paul mentions the fall of Adam and Eve, and what it means for our life in the Spirit. Adam was formed first. Eve was deceived. Both fell headlong into sin and death, and we fell with them. Yes, you and I have inherited Adam’s sin, and we have also participated every time we have reached for the forbidden fruits that God Himself has told us through His commandments “Thou shalt not!” Yet the Church (the Second Eve) will be saved through the single most important birth of them all, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Second Adam). Here is redemption for all of Adam’s descendants, whom Christ, the Second Adam, has delivered and to whom he has sent the Holy Spirit.

We have true peace in Jesus Christ and that is and should always be the central message of the Church. Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, who alone could secure peace with God where no earthly ambassador could. Earthly treaties are broken and peace talks fail. But your Mediator has made perfect peace, because He gave His life as the peace offering for all the world. He gave the ransom price that bought you away from the clutches of God’s enemy. The price was the Son of God, surrendering Himself upon the cross of Calvary. Your sinfulness and the sinfulness of all men demanded a response of war from God, but He turned His warfare only upon the flesh of His dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ. While the Church on earth does not always look or act as the Church should, we know that we always have a Lord who does what is necessary for us so that we would be called the Church and have the gifts that He gives to us so that the will of God would be made manifest in us, His beloved creation. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 14

Text: Ezekiel 34:11-24

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. Our sermon comes from the Old Testament and Gospel, which were read earlier.

Back in the days before GPS and smartphones, if you wanted to go somewhere you had never been to before, you often needed a map. You would pull out your big map that you could never get folded the right way again and plotted out your course. Your prayer was that there was no construction or anything that would have to cause you to detour from your route, lest you end up getting lost. If you were lucky, you got to your destination with no difficulties. If you were not so lucky, you would end up lost, looking at your map, twisting and turning it to figure out where you were and how to get where you needed to go.

Being lost is not something that like. It causes all sorts of angst in us. It makes us uncomfortable. All we want is to be found, to get to our destination. When it comes to our being lost, lost in our sin and trespasses, God has a plan: “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.”” That’s good news for us, that God would go seeking us out because we don’t go seeking Him. That’s the sad and unfortunate truth. That’s not my opinion of who we are, that’s what Scripture says of us. As St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

The fact that we were dead means that we were lost, with no desire of God and His blessings for us. If God is a God who does what is expected of Him, then we should all remain dead and lost. Fortunately for us, God doesn’t do what is expected of Him. One would expect God to just let us remain lost, dead in our sins because we couldn’t do what God told us to do in the Garden. But God doesn’t do the expected thing; rather, He does the most unexpected thing of all: make it possible for sin to be undone. He sends forth a Savior to find the sinner, as we see in our Gospel.

As Luke begins our text, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”” That’s the way that it should be, because Jesus doesn’t come to those who are perfect and without sin. He comes to the weak, the broken, the sick, the, dying, the prostitute, the tax collector, the sinner. For once, the Pharisees and the scribes got something right: Jesus was coming for the people who need Him the most. That’s why He comes to find you, the lost.

But this isn’t the first time we see God going after the lost. He does it in our Old Testament reading, seeking them out, rescuing them from the various places where they have been scattered. God declares He Himself will shepherd His sheep. He will seek them out; He will rescue them; He will save; He will gather them in—in other words, the Good Shepherd will take care of His own sheep. The whole reason why this is necessary is because the sheep have gone astray. We have sinned, we have fallen short of God’s glory, we have failed to keep His commandments. And despite all of that, God searches for us—an example of His goodness.

What a promise that God makes! This promise is unlike any other promise because this one will not fail to be true. This promise is made by God Himself, promising to go and search for His sheep. Just who is God going to look for when He goes searching? He is going to search for you. He is going to search for you when you wander away from Him. He is going to search for you when you have turned your back on Him.

Then the prophet records one of the most beautiful visions in all of Scripture. The Good Shepherd promises to feed His flock and lead them to rest. The rest spoken of here is that eternal rest in heaven. What a glorious vision! Listen again to what Ezekiel records: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak….” God will tend to us personally. He will find us even if we are lost. He will fix what is wrong, and bind up our broken hearts. He will comfort and calm. He will heal the sick and strengthen them. There is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, no weakness, no death in heaven. God Himself will see to that, and we shall know Him and rejoice in that knowledge at last. That’s the beautiful part. That’s the joy of having God as our Good Shepherd.

This Good Shepherd, the one whom we need more than anything, comes to us in the form of Jesus. He tells us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Just as this text is comforting to us with God’s promises, so we also have to deal with God’s condemnations as well. We hear from Ezekiel: “and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” The fat and the strong He will destroy. He will feed them with His displeasure and with eternal damnation – for that is what His justice means. What is terrifying is that we tend to be the fat and the strong.We have every advantage. We have the Word of God, clear and plain and in abundance. We enjoy the rich blessings of the earth in abundance. We are fat and lazy spiritually. And we are what the Bible refers to so often as strong. We are the ones who feel no need and fear no evil. Maybe not every one of us, but too many of us. And because of that, our Good Shepherd will come with justice for those who are not of His pasture.

For us, for the believer in Christ, we need not fear what will happen when Christ comes again. We need not fear when God calls us home to Himself. God has forgiven us in Jesus, paid for our sins by His death on the cross, and announced His love and His will to save us by the Easter resurrection of Jesus. Those He will feed and lead to His eternal rest.

More to the point, He feeds us even now. He lays before us the heavenly feast in earthly clothing, giving us the true body and blood of Jesus in, with, and under the bread and the wine. He calls to those who know Him and believe His Word and trust in His promises to come here, and receive Christ Himself in the mystery of the Sacrament. Here is healing and health. Here is rescue and forgiveness. Here, in this precious Sacrament, is forgiveness and life and salvation and everything that Christ has won for us. This meal, and this fellowship and this gathering about the Word and the promises of God and all the gifts He bestows are what the Good Shepherd promised when He promised to gather, bind up, heal and comfort. It is true that there will be more and greater in heaven, but it begins here, hearing His Word, and receiving His gifts, and eating His food.

The Good Shepherd. He feeds and heals, He finds and strengthens, He gives them forgiveness and eternal life. But He also culls the flock. Those who do not want Him, do not love Him or do not need Him any longer – the fat and the strong – He will destroy. These are two sides, both real views of the same Good Shepherd.  For Christ’s sake, He has given to you life, that you may eat the good pasture and clear water that points to Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 13

Text: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

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 Old Testament, which was read earlier.

There’s one word in Scripture that makes it appearance over and over again: if, and that word appears front and center in our text today. Today, Israel is faced with a test, to either obey or not: “If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” This sounds promising, good even. If Israel will only do what God commands, there will be rich blessings for the people. Here was life at the crossroads. Would they be faithful to the God of their fathers and to His commandments, statutes, and ordinances – would they walk in the ways ordained by God as good and leading to life, or would they choose the dreaded alternative to obedience and reap the curse of death and evil?

Israel was reminded that her future depended on a choice of single-minded loyalty to God, the God who in His covenant had made His offer of the blessing of life, but expected the obedient response of a people who walked in His ways. The theology of Israel was based on the conviction that faithfulness to the Lord would guarantee His protection and blessing, while unfaithfulness would result in hardship and misfortune.

This choice goes all the way back to the Garden, where Adam and Eve were presented with the choice of following God’s commandment of not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and living, or follow the prodding of the serpent to eat, and ultimately die as a result: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

But there is also another choice that Israel can choose to make, one with dire consequences: “But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” But God adds an even more final statement, one that makes this point even more, well, pointed: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.”

That is the choice to make: obey or disobey God. But the greatest problem we face is that we cannot obey God. Not only can we not obey God, neither could Israel. It is impossible for us to obey because of our sinful nature which is constantly at odds with God and His perfection. It is impossible for us to keep the First Commandment that our Lord gives: “You shall have no other gods.” It’s because we do not “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” No human, even God’s specially chosen people, could keep these commands without the power God Himself supplies in His grace. St. Paul writes, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Just as Israel had many false gods they worshiped throughout their history, so we have many other gods that we like to worship, gods that we believe will give to us all that we want instead of what we need. We want the pleasures of this earth, but we need the forgiveness that only the God of the Scriptures can give to us. Choose the choice that reflects God’s choice of choosing you because humbly and repentantly obeying God results in life and blessing but arrogantly and unrepentantly disobeying God results in death and curse.

Humbly and repentantly obeying God results in life and blessing. It’s ultimately about obedience. In the English Standard Version of the Bible, the word “obey” appears 113 times, 85 in the Old Testament and 28 in the New Testament. St. Peter and the other apostles boldly preached in Jerusalem that “We must obey God rather than men.” The key to God-ordained obedience is to love God. We do that best when we Keep His commandments, statutes, and rules. But the question is, can we? I mean not most of the time or some of the time, but 100% of the time.

Moses gives to the people a warning what will happen should they turn away from God and worship other gods and serve them rather than Yahweh: “you shall surely perish.” It was cut and dry, no other way to interpret it: worship God and follow His commandments and ways and you will live; fall away from God, worship other gods and you will die. Israel had a problem: they couldn’t follow God’s commandments perfectly and neither can we. We are left with the fact that we have failed to do as God commands and we are left with the dire result that we shall surely perish.

Thanks be to God, that is not how things are left. God in His divine forbearance saw fit to give us a way to defeat death by sending us the gift of life.  He has sent to us His Son Jesus, who by His life, death, and resurrection gives to us the gift of life. While Israel was His chosen people, they could not obey God. While Adam and Eve are God’s creation, they could not obey God. Even though you and I are God’s creation, we cannot obey God and so we die as a result of our disobedience. But for you and all of God’s creation, Jesus chose suffering and death to pay the price we owed God because of our sin and disobedience. Jesus chose death to rescue us. We do not have to choose because Jesus has chosen for us. He has chosen us to be a part of Him so that we would have life and have it abundantly in His name.

For us, we have a great assurance, that while we choose death because of our sin, God has chosen life for us through Jesus. Our Lord promises never to leave or forsake us. That means in this life, because of Christ, those who believe will not be forsaken to eternal death. That means for the believer, Jesus’ death and resurrection secure for you eternal life. For us, God has chosen to give us life, though our sinful nature warrants death. We belong to God, for He has placed His name upon us.

Between the choice of life or death, it would seem as if the choice is an obvious one to make. However, because of our sinful nature, the choice is not ours to make. Adam and Eve made the choice for all of creation in the Garden, and it was the wrong choice. As God’s creation, He chose to give to us another choice. This time, the choice was made by His Son and He chose to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. There is no act necessary on our part, because the choice we would make would be death, because we cannot obey God and His commandments, not even one of them. Because of Christ, life has been chosen, and so we and our offspring may live in the bountiful love of God, our Heavenly Father. 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 October 27, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 
 
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