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Easter 5C

Text: John 16:12-22

C 58 Easter 5  Jn 13 31 35Grace, 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 there’s one problem the people of Jesus’ day had, it was listening. People had their thoughts and opinions of Jesus and there wasn’t anything that Jesus could do to change that thought or opinion. And so, Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now.” That seemed to be an ongoing problem with the people. Three times in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Clearly, hearing is a problem.

Though hearing is not one of the people’s strong suits, Jesus has an answer: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” You see, Jesus knows what is to come. He knows that His time on this earth is short-lived and more needs to be taught to His disciples and to the general population.

These are the difficult times of Jesus’ ministry; times where the people seem to be ignorant of Jesus and His work. Being ignorant of Jesus wasn’t entirely the people’s fault. They had been instructed poorly by the religious leaders of the day. The teaching wasn’t focused on Jesus as the Messiah but by keeping the Law, but it wasn’t really God’s Law as much as it was the law of man. Jesus knows that He needs to correct their ignorance, but He knows that He cannot do it by Himself. That’s why He said that the Holy Spirit is coming.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” You get that, don’t you? You understand that, right? The disciples didn’t understand it: “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” That’s right, once again, we see how the disciples are clueless about Jesus and His clear words and how they spark confusion.

We aren’t all that different from the disciples. We’re not ready to listen to the true message of Jesus, though we are quick to fill ourselves with the false message that the world brings. Even in the church, we don’t pay attention to the message of the Holy Spirit. We don’t always give attention to the Word of God read and preached in the Divine Service. We go through the motions of the Divine Service, counting down the minutes until it is over so that we can have our Sunday afternoon all to ourselves. We spend little or no time outside of Sunday morning in God’s Word. The world would tell you that that is perfectly fine, because Jesus isn’t going to save you, you’re going to save you by any number of ways, such as by good works and the like.

The disciples are little prepared for Jesus’ impending crucifixion. And if they aren’t prepared for the crucifixion, they certainly won’t be prepared for His resurrection. Little do they realize, they desperately need Jesus more after His death and resurrection then they need Him in the here and now. Yes, it’s great to have Jesus among them right now, but the Jesus the disciples need, the Jesus that you need, is not the Jesus that walks among the earth. The Jesus that is needed is Jesus the Lamb who was slain upon Calvary’s cross. The Jesus that is needed is the Jesus laid to rest in the tomb. The Jesus that is needed is the Jesus who rose triumphant from the grave. That’s the Jesus that is needed, and that is the Jesus that will come to the disciples “in a little while.”

Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, it has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.

If there is a single message that we need to hear and take to heart, it is that of Jesus Christ, for that is our sole means of salvation. In this Word, the Holy Spirit introduces us to “the things that are to come.” For the disciples, that would be revealed in the death of Christ, when they would finally understand what Jesus had been preaching and teaching the last three years. Jesus would rise triumphant from the grave and return to the Father, to prepare a heavenly mansion for all those who are in Him.

But even for the disciples, they would face hardships in the days ahead. Tragedy lay ahead for the disciples, great pain and grief at the arrest and execution of Jesus. They would cry and lament while the world would rejoice. The event that would crush their spirits would elate the unbelievers. Even so, their sorrow would not last but be turned to joy.

Here enters the Holy Spirit, to reintroduce us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. In a few hours, Jesus will be arrested, tried, crucified, and will die on a cross. Even as tragic as all that sounds, this will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life. For our joy, we need look no further than the words of Jesus here in our text: “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.”

Just as soon as Jesus appears again to the disciples, some 40 days later Jesus is gone again. Jesus would return to His Father in His ascension, and again in a little while, they would see Him no longer. But recall that Jesus had told the disciples that this was for their benefit. It now opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do His work in the new lives of these men. In a little while, the Spirit of truth will take what Jesus received from the Father and declare it to them. In a little while, the Spirit will make clear to the disciples the things that had happened. Not only did Jesus say what He would do, He did what He said.

In a little while, at His ascension and return, Jesus will bring redemption, life, and salvation – and in that little while He’s bringing it to the world by the disciples’ word. This will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life.

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them, for He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live. 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 20, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 4C

Text: John 10:22-30

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

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we aren’t looking at post-resurrection Jesus accounts, but we see a pre-crucified Jesus account. In fact, this account takes place just a few months before Christ’s death and resurrection. This account centers on the question of who is Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Stop. Think about what you have just asked Jesus: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” What has Jesus done for three years? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is the Christ, the Son of God? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is creation’s salvation? How many ways does He have to say it before you hear it and believe what He has done?

Now before we go any further, we have to understand what has really taken place. The Jews have surrounded Him, attempting to intimidate Him. Yes, they have seen and heard what Christ has said, but they have challenged Him, they want Him to clearly say that He either is or isn’t the Christ. But understand this, their will is different from that of Jesus. These people have no desire to repent, to accept what Jesus has to offer them. They pretended as if they cared, as if they wanted to know about Jesus, but in the end, they didn’t care.

Even if they didn’t care or really want to know, they were going to find out. You need to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. These people got what they wished for, but I wouldn’t say it was what they really wanted.

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.”” Jesus has already given them the answer, time and time again. And each and every time He said who He was, there were those that refused to believe. What more proof do the people need? Haven’t they heard the message which He has preached? Haven’t they seen the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Savior? Haven’t they seen the miracles which He has performed? Surely someone present had to have eaten some of the fish and bread when Jesus fed the 5000 people. Food kept coming from what seemed like nowhere, and there was no stopping it, not until everyone had eaten their fill. Surely someone here had to have come in contact with Jesus and a miracle He had performed.

The answer which Jesus gave was not the answer they had wanted to hear. What they wanted to hear was a simple “yes” or “no.” They didn’t want any complicated answer. They didn’t want to try to read between what Jesus was saying for an answer. “Are you or aren’t you? Just say “yes” or “no.”

Jesus saw through their words and actions and He understood clearly the intent of their question. He answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Therein lies the tragedy of unbelief. “I told you, and you do not believe.” Jesus had already clearly spoken the good news of God’s grace. From the beginning He had revealed the goodness of the Father. His preaching and His teaching had announced simply but forcibly that the Father loves what He created. In contrast to those who said that one had to do something to win the affection of God, Jesus came proclaiming a message, the Gospel, the Word, that God loves the world in spite of its sin.

The Gospel of Jesus is challenged today, both inside and outside the church, because of wills and wishes different from God’s. These people fit the bill exactly. They didn’t care about what Jesus had to say; if they did, they would already know the answer to their question.

They did not want to believe this message, not because they did not want to be saved.  They did not want to believe it because they thought they had to do something to be saved. Unbelief does not grow out of the unwillingness to be saved. Unbelief is the notion that God is not good, that He will not keep His promise of salvation. Sometimes it is the sinners who do not believe that God can forgive. In this instance, the people who thought they were righteous did not believe that God was so good as to accept them without their merit.

The latter half of His answer was more pointed, so pointed that the Jewish leaders wanted to stone Jesus. “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” The Jews show, by not believing in Jesus, by not recognizing who He is in spite of the miracles which show His Father’s authorization of Him, that they do not belong to His flock. When Jesus had spoken to them previously about Himself as the Good Shepherd, they had become very angry.

Just as there were people in the days of Jesus who did not believe, so there are still those today that claim to want to know who Jesus is but ignore who He says He is. Oh yes, there are many who claim to know who Jesus is, but it is a Jesus of their own making, a Jesus that approves of all that they do, whether it is sinful or not. There are those who claim to know Jesus, but this Jesus says that everyone will go to heaven because they’re a good person at heart. However, there is one problem with this Jesus: He doesn’t exist! The real Jesus is the one who tells the people that because of their disbelief, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. The difference between the real Jesus and the made-up Jesus is that the Good Shepherd Calls His sheep by name and keeps them safe in His Father’s hand. That is something that only the Jesus in the Scriptures can do.

Our Lord knows that His sheep will always be under the attack of the world and all that it offers. This world brings so many challenges against the community of Jesus’ disciples. The world is hostile to Jesus, His message and His disciples because they don’t like the message that Jesus brings. Instead of a message that says that only believers will be saved, the world wants a message that says that all people will be saved, regardless if they believe or not. The world wants to hear a message that says it doesn’t matter what you believe because all roads lead to the same god and the same eternal destination. What is tragic in all of this is living in that world without a true shepherd.

Without having a shepherd, the sheep would have no sense of direction. The voice of strangers would lead them astray. Without a shepherd, the sheep would have no safety net. The thief would steal the sheep and the wolf would easily snatch them away. Without a shepherd, the sheep would only wander the way of death. The thief would kill and destroy the sheep.

Jesus is that Good Shepherd, the one who promises to always keep us under His care. Through His Word, the Good Shepherd calls His disciples by name. He knows us, and we know His voice and follow Him. He gently leads and guides us in green pastures, to His blessings of salvation and eternal life. Our Good Shepherd does something that no other shepherd, no thief, no hired hand could ever do: He lays down His life in order to protect us to the utmost extent possible. Our Lord tells the Jews who are gathered there in the portico: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

For you, He goes to the cross of Calvary, with all of your sin and the sin of the world upon His shoulders, willingly, so that you would have eternal life. He goes where only the Good Shepherd will: to death. And He does this with you in mind because you are the reason He goes to the lengths that He does. Everything He does, from birth to death to resurrection is for you, His precious sheep.

As our Good Shepherd, the Son speaks to us the Word, love, and care of His heavenly Father for us and for our salvation. By speaking to us through His Word, the Good Shepherd knows us and we know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. That is because we both share the same name: child of God. While Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, we are made God’s true children by virtue of our Baptism, where we are given His name, making us His beloved sheep. In Christ, we are protected and cared for by our heavenly Father, for we have Jesus, our Good Shepherd. 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 14, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 3C

Text: John 21:1-14

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 the Gospel which was read earlier.

Some time has passed since Jesus last appeared to the disciples a week after His resurrection. With Jesus risen again, it would appear that things are going to be okay for the disciples. Jesus had appeared to them, but He is not here now. And what else are the disciples to do except what they know best, fish. Simon, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two others go fishing and John records for us, “that night they caught nothing.” That’s not exactly the result you want when you go fishing, especially if that was your primary vocation before becoming a disciple of Jesus. It would appear that the evening’s fishing outing had turned into a bust.

John continues: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” After fishing all night and catching nothing, I suppose it would be time to return to the shore, with your tail between your legs. It would appear that was what they were doing until this unknown man yelled at them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Really! Someone has to pour some salt on the wound of fishing and catching nothing.

Things could be going a lot better for the disciples. They could be with Jesus right now, but they’re not. They could have a boat full of fish, but they don’t. Surely between the seven of them, they could have caught one fish but they didn’t. This unknown man then yells at the boat, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” This sounds vaguely familiar, as if it’s happened before. In fact, this very thing has happened before. In Luke’s account of the calling of the disciples, Jesus is in a boat with several of the soon-to-be disciples and He tells them to go out into the deeper water and cast their nets. After fishing all night and having caught nothing, they listen to Jesus and they caught so many fish, their nets were breaking and they had to call out a second boat to help bring in the catch. And so with today’s account, the lightbulb turns on and John exclaims, “It is the Lord!”

What joy this must have been for these disciples, that they once again had Jesus with them! Jesus had done exactly what He said He would do, and again, He has appeared to the disciples. Jesus would commission them to go and be witnesses – not just of Jesus and His earthly life, but of the resurrection as well. And that same risen Redeemer would reveal Himself to those who believed in Him.

After realizing it was Jesus, Peter left the others behind and made a mad dash to see Jesus. Eventually, after the others brought the boat to shore, they made their way to Peter and Jesus as well. That should be our response – making a rush to our risen Lord. You have already made that rush to Jesus, for you are where He will be found, gathered around His Word that gives eternal life. And in a few moments, you will make your way to where He is in His Supper, feasting on His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, for strengthening your faith, until that day where you will see Jesus face to face with your own risen eyes.

That is my hope and prayer for you, that you too will run to Jesus, proclaiming, “It is the Lord!” That should also be your hope and prayer, because that it what you have said that you will do. Although Confirmation Sunday was last week, it is always good for us to remember what we said all those years ago and the importance of those vows. Do you remember these words: “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” You responded, “I do, by the grace of God.” It is indeed good that you pledge to hear the Word of God and receive His supper faithfully, ideally weekly. But the even greater question that was asked of you was this: “Do you intended to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Again, you responded, “I do by the grace of God.”

Christ our Lord has done that for you. He did suffer all, even death, rather than to fall away from the work of salvation for you and for all of creation. Apart from Christ, we are unable to achieve eternal life. There is nothing that we can say or do to earn eternal life. Only when we are in Christ are we able to receive eternal life; not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done to us and for us.

Our lives outside of Christ are nothing, for there is no life outside of Christ. One might try to argue that they have a very good life outside of Christ. They may have a nice home, several nice cars, a well-paying job, a wonderful family; in short, the works. And some will say that Jesus didn’t help them get all of this, they did it themselves.

In order to experience success on the water, the disciples had to rely on the Lord instead of relying on themselves. They had to subject their will to the will of the Savior. Instead of being self-directed, they heeded the words of Christ. It was then that Christ resurrected them from their failures.

We too are resurrected from death and into life when we focus not on what it is that we can do for ourselves, but what Christ did for us – became death for us. He became death for us when He came into this world in the form of a baby. He grew up so that He could die for your sins. His death gave to you and to I the keys to heaven in the form of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Where does God give forgiveness? In His means of grace. Wherever His Gospel is preached and His Sacraments administered accordingly, Jesus is there to forgive. The hymn, “Salvation unto Us Has Come” tells us quite a bit in just the first two lines: “Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.” It has nothing to do with us. It can’t have anything to do with us. If it had anything to do with us, then it would mean nothing.

In the resurrected Savior’s appearance by the shore, we see Him bringing the resurrection to a broken relationship. The result was reconciliation. Peter had denied Christ.  Yet when Peter heard that it was Christ, without hesitation Peter leaped for the shore, for forgiveness came from Christ.

The resurrected Christ brings about healing to our broken relationship, broken when death entered into creation. Christ’s death purged death from creation and His resurrection bridges the gap between death and the new creation that is in Him.

Through the resurrection, Christ brings new life – new life to Himself, but also new life to those that are in Him. This life is passing away. From it shall come a new heaven and a new earth. We too will pass from a life of sin and death to a life where sin and death have been defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection. All of this is evident by Christ’s resurrection appearances. These resurrection appearances give us the blessed assurance that death is swallowed up by eternal life. If that were not the case, Christ would still be dead, death would have overcome us and we would spend many years lying in a box in the ground.

You see, Christ is risen from the dead. And He who died to restore us to Himself didn’t rise again to abandon us. Despite our sinful reluctance to come into His presence for forgiveness, He still comes anyway. Thus, we give thanks to the Lord for His coming, for His patience, and for His most persistent mercy. And thankful for His persistence, we rejoice to confess our sins and draw near to Him. For here, by His means of grace, the present, risen Lord declares that you are forgiven for all of your sins 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 and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 2C & Confirmation

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

“And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women….” It’s amazing what the Holy Spirit can accomplish, isn’t it? In some respects, the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the Trinity: God the Father does the creating and God the Son does the work of redemption. The Holy Spirit makes a few prominent appearances, like at the Baptism of Jesus, but otherwise, the Holy Spirit isn’t mentioned a lot, until you get to books like Acts, where the Holy Spirit is seen to be very active.

If you remember from your days in Confirmation, for some it’s more recent than others, you will remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is to create and sustain faith in an individual. We confess with Martin Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Luther goes on, but suffice to say, the work of the Holy Spirit is important to the life of a Christian, to your life, and to all those who believe.

But the true work of God is not always popular. At the time of Jesus, we see just that with the Pharisees and Sadducees. In fact, we see that today in our reading from Acts – “But the high priest rose up, and all who were him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.” Preaching the true Gospel clearly did not sit well with the religious leaders of the day because it weakened their powerbase and popularity. Nonetheless, the apostles were not interested in popularity, but rather of Jesus’ command – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The teaching that we have is what gives us eternal life. It is that teaching that makes us children of God, called by the Holy Spirit, and it is that teaching that keeps us in the true faith. But just as we hold that faith near and dear to us, there are those outside these doors that could care less for this faith; even worse, they will do all that they can to debunk the Christian faith because in their eyes, it is nothing more than rubbish.

What we must remember, each and every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, is the power of the Word of God. Simon Peter reminds us, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The important part of what he says comes at the beginning: “You have the words of eternal life…” You will not find any other words of eternal life aside from what God has authored, from what Jesus has done for us.

So, Sadie, since today is all about you, let’s pick on you for a moment. I’m sure that since you are mere moments away from being confirmed in the faith, that must mean you have all the right answers to all the right questions. We’ve covered the Small Catechism twice now, so I’m sure you have it all memorized, right? Looking around the sanctuary this morning, I see many others who have been in your shoes: they have gone through Confirmation, they have learned the Small Catechism, though I hope it’s not too rusty. They have even been confirmed, just like you will be. But for many sitting in the pews, their Confirmation Day was many years ago, and yet here they still sit. Why is that?

The life of a Christian does not end with Confirmation Sunday. The life of a Christian continues all the days of your life. From the moment that baptismal water hits your head, you belong to God, and you will belong to God everyday of your life, even after your heavenly Father calls you home. All of these people know that, and yet here they sit, week after week, as they should, as you should. They come because this is where God said to come, to the place where He is to be found, to the place where He promises to deliver His gifts.

The apostles, after the resurrection, needed these gifts but were fearful of their lives because of what had happened to Jesus. They knew that the same could very well happen to them, and so they hid and locked themselves in a room that no one could get into – no one that is, except Jesus. Jesus comes and stands beside them, saying “Peace be with you.” Jesus comes to them, to assure them that He has risen from the dead as He said He would and that there should be no need of fear.

It’s a great little exchange between Jesus and the apostles, except for one thing: Thomas isn’t there to hear it. And so, when he is told what had happened, he refused to believe: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” That’s very much the attitude we can have, but it’s one that we shouldn’t have. You and I have not seen Jesus in the flesh, either before or after His resurrection, but that doesn’t change the fact that Christ has lived, Christ has died, and Christ has risen again.

Martin Luther once wrote that the devil’s greatest and deadliest arrow in his evil quiver is the arrow of doubt, which he fires with deadly sniper precision into the hearts of all believers in Christ. Thomas and the disciples were not immune to this. You and I are not immune to this either. Don’t we doubt that God will do what He says He will? Don’t we doubt the gifts that God gives to us in His Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

You and I do not have the luxury of gazing upon the resurrected Jesus and believing as did Thomas. Instead, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which creates faith in us. It’s one thing to see and believe, but a complete other to believe solely based upon faith and without seeing. That’s us. That’s the Church today. Centuries after Christ’s death, people believed and continue to believe today. They did not have Christ to hold their hands as did the disciples, or to show His wounds to strengthen their weak faith as did Thomas. No, they believed based upon the faith that was granted to them by the Holy Spirit. They were able to confess with Thomas, just as we are: “My Lord and my God!” That is why Sadie, today is a special day for you, but it’s not. While today you will be confirmed in the faith granted to you at your Baptism, it’s just another Sunday for the Christian, another day where we are privileged to come and gather around God’s means of grace for us.

We have been given this wonderful gift of faith, the ability to believe what Christ did for us on Calvary’s cross, and now we see that because of that action, we are given life in His name. To those who believe receive redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ. This comes to us in the gift of Baptism, where we have God’s name placed upon us. This comes to us in the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where we feast upon the body and blood of Jesus and receive His forgiveness. It comes to us each time we hear the words of Absolution pronounced over us. It will come to us again when we leave this world and enter into the heavenly mansion prepared for us.

We have received life and received it abundantly. Given to us so that we may live, one life had to be sacrificed, and that life is Jesus Christ. The peace of Christ is with us. It comes to us when we are forgiven. It comes to us as we believe in Christ and all that He has done for us. New life is given to us, a life that is not deserved, but given to us with nothing done on our part. This new life washes over us and we are made clean by the blood of the Lamb, shed for the sins of the many, including you and me. Dear friends in Christ, “Peace be with you.” 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 April 29, 2019 in Confirmation, Easter, Sermons

 

Resurrection of Our Lord Festival

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Early Easter morning, some women remembered the awful things of Friday—the death of Jesus—and that the usual preparation of a body had not been completed. So their action was to make their way, sadly and somewhat fearfully, to the tomb. They were fully expecting to find a body. They were not expecting a resurrection. Luke says, “And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus is gone. The only thing remaining from Friday were the linen cloths that wrapped His dead and lifeless body. And now, that body is gone – missing, stolen, dare I say it, resurrected. Regardless of what happened to Jesus’ body, the women were perplexed. How did the stone get rolled away? Who rolled the stone away? Who would be vile enough to take Jesus’ body from the tomb?

The women failed to understand what has happened. It took two men in dazzling apparel to convey what has taken place: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Behold the man who died and who now lives. Behold, the man, Jesus, God and man, lives. He rises triumphantly from the dead and strolls out of the grave into His creation. Christ is no longer dead and lifeless as we remember Him from Friday. Now, He is risen from the dead, full of life, continuing to be who He has always been – the Lord of life.

As good news as it might be, God’s people forgot that Jesus would rise from the dead. The women forgot. The apostles forgot: “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” How unfortunate that they forgot the resurrection! How unfortunate it is that you forget the resurrection. St. Paul tells the Corinthians,“If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” There were those in the Church that forgot the resurrection, that they were solely focused on the Jesus that lived and walked among them. He says prior to our Epistle reading, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” That’s the worst thing right there, to still be in our sins, separated from God, guilty of judgment, with no hope for eternity and little hope for the present.

But St. Paul goes on to talk about the importance of the resurrection for the future, for eternal life: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The word firstfruits is very important, for it implies that there will be more to follow. As Christ was raised from the dead, so will those who are united with him by faith.

If you came today looking for the dead, then you’re in the wrong place. If you’re here this morning looking for the living, then you’re right where you need to be. Today we come to celebrate the fact that the greatest promise God ever made has come to fruition. The promise is of a Savior. The promise is of a Savior who was born into this world. The promise is of a Savior who lived in this world. The promise is of a Savior who died for this world. The promise is of a Savior who rose again for the sake of this world, for your sake. What was Jesus’ role? “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

There is a reason this is necessary. When you and I die, we die eternally. We do not survive death – we are annihilated by it. When we die, we remain dead. That’s the way it is, unless God chooses to do something to dispute the power of death. And He does just that with Christ. He has conquered death. He has destroyed sin and crushed Satan. With His life, death, and resurrection, He has rescued you from the grave. Although your sins should have made you die, and stay dead, yet Christ broke death’s power, so that you will live and rise to eternal life. Christ has been raised in the flesh so that you will be raised.

Christ is risen from the dead. He is risen before His people know it. He is risen before His people believe it. He is risen to give them faith and life; and so He is risen for you. But this you can know for sure – of this you can be certain: Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. You haven’t seen Him face to face yet, but He tells you it is so in His Word. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing.

This is what makes our celebration today so very different from the many other celebrations taking place today. We don’t just gather to joyously commemorate a past victory, as awesome as it was. We don’t gather to commemorate the fact that once upon a time Jesus came and triumphed and then went back home to heaven where He now resides, far removed from us and our everyday lives. No, we gather today to celebrate the living, triumphant present-tense Immanuel King! We gather today to celebrate the marriage feast of the living and triumphant Bridegroom, who laid down His life for us and who today, in a very real and present-tense way, brings His victories over sin, death, and the devil to us to celebrate with us in our midst!

What we celebrate today is your salvation. You have a written guarantee of the resurrection of your body from your grave. You will not simply die and be gone. Some will wish that it were so, for they have forsaken God and rejected His gifts and chosen death and hell, like the leaders of the Jewish Church in the days of the first Easter. But those who believe the Gospel have a resurrection to life and joy and glory, not pain and sorrow and corruption without end. How are you going to respond? What does it mean that you will rise to eternal life? The question is not about defining terms, but how this truth transforms your life. What difference does it make? Does it mean anything to how you face and approach death? It should. It should change your fears to confidence. It should change your sorrows to comfort. He is risen – and we too shall rise. You shall rise again because Jesus has risen.

Do not be afraid, for the joy of Easter Sunday is not just that Jesus died and Jesus rose, but that Jesus died for you and Jesus rose for you. He has borne your sin to the cross, and He has suffered for it there. He has died your death and been laid in the tomb, but now the tomb is empty. So will yours be, for Christ is risen to raise you, too. He declares that He no longer holds your sins against you, because they are gone. He has taken them away in death, and He has not brought them back with His resurrection. So where your sins would confuse you as to God’s attitude toward you, whether or not He loves you, do not be afraid and have no doubt. If God has paid such a price as to sacrifice His own Son to redeem you, He has nothing but grace and mercy, love and life for you now.

St. Peter calls this the living hope that we have obtained through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As Christ prevailed victoriously, so shall we. As Christ lived, so we live. Because Christ is awakened from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, so now nothing can divide us from the love of God: neither death nor life, neither angels nor kingdoms, nor strengths, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in the crucified and risen Lord.

This is your inheritance, not because of anything you have done. No one is worthy of these awesome, infinite gifts of Christ, for all are sinners, from youngest to oldest. But all is given freely by Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, the Crucified One who lives and can nevermore die. He has given you everything. Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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 April 22, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Resurrection of Our Lord Sunrise

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”” With these simple verses, Easter morning begins. It’s not the start that we would have thought of, not the start that we would prefer. We want to see Jesus, but He is not here. Instead, we have an empty tomb. Do you really want to see Jesus? Of course you don’t! That’s right, you don’t want to see Jesus, at least, not right now. The tomb is empty because Jesus said that it would be empty because after three days time, He would rise from the dead.

Why would we expect to find Jesus in the tomb? Is it because we feel comforted knowing that Christ still lay in the tomb? Is it our unbelief that expects Jesus to be in the tomb? What is that Mary Magdalene expected to find? A stone still lodged in the mouth of the tomb? A dead and hastily wrapped Jesus on the other side of the stone? If that’s what Mary Magdalene is expecting to find, then poor, poor Mary Magdalene. Clearly she didn’t understand. But she wasn’t the only one to not understand. As John continues his account, we hear of Simon Peter and John reaching the tomb. It isn’t until they look into the tomb that they believed; “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

What are you expecting to find this morning? A sealed tomb? Jesus lying in peaceful repose on the other side of the stone? For your sake, I hope not. We don’t expect to find Jesus lying in the tomb. We expect, we want, we need to find the tomb burst open and Jesus nowhere to be found, for that is what He spent three years teaching. That’s why Jesus is here – not to die and lie in a tomb for all eternity, but to die and burst forth from the tomb in all splendor and honor and glory, with death trampled underfoot. We want to be able to shout, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death has no victory and the sting of death has been plucked.

But that’s not the realization of all. For some, Jesus is still dead. And why wouldn’t He be dead because He was just a man. And what a sad realization that is because there is no resurrection hope for you; not just in Jesus but for you as well.

The focus for us is the empty tomb, but at the same time, it is not. We gaze upon the empty tomb and we rejoice in the fact that is empty. It means that Christ has done what He said He would do – die and rise again.  He has accomplished for us all that is necessary for our salvation. But just as we acknowledge the empty tomb and give thanks for it, there are those that see the empty tomb and are disappointed. The tomb is empty. Jesus is out of sight, out of mind. The fact that He isn’t there means that the resurrection is a failure.

Jesus is right here, right now. He is present in our lives every day. He is present in the world in which we live in. We know that because as Luther writes regarding the First Article of the Creed, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” We know that He is present in our lives because of today! By His death on Good Friday, by His resurrection from the dead today, we know that He is present in our lives because He died for you and He rose from the dead for you.

Satan had done his worst and his worst was a failure. Jesus isn’t still dead. He is risen as He said He would. Throughout all of this, Satan had worked through the religious leaders, Judas, through the events leading up to the crucifixion; it might have appeared that Satan had won. Jesus died. Satan wins. Or so it would seem. Jesus was doing what God said He would do – crushing the head of the serpent, once and for all.

What we don’t see in our Easter Gospel is an all-important event – Christ’s descent into hell. He goes to hell, not in order to suffer, but to proclaim victory over sin, death, and the devil. He declares that He has won and Satan has lost. Christ has proven that Satan’s hold on creation is temporary. Sin and death are not the final result for God’s creation. Life wins; Jesus wins.

On that first Easter morning, out of a tomb walks one who suffered the deadliest of wounds. With several fatal wounds, Jesus should have stayed dead. No man would be able to endure the scourging that He endured. To add to that the carrying of His cross and finally His crucifixion, not just any man, but every man should have died and stayed dead. But Jesus is not just any man. He is both the Son of God and Son of Man; He is true God and true Man. Because He is the very Son of God, He would not stay dead. He came out of the tomb. He came out of the tomb to be back in the world where we need Him most.

Easter is not just a then-and-there event. Easter is not just an event in history that happened 2000 years ago. Easter is an event in which we celebrate each and every day, because this day marks the day in which you and I received the forgiveness of all of our sins. It is the day in which you and I have been made children of God, once for all. No matter what Satan will do, Jesus Christ has proven to be the Victor. Jesus’ resurrection is here for us now.  We look to Him and remember all the wounds He suffered. They cut into His body with nails and scourges and thorns. He was cut off from His closest friends. He was cut off even from God the Father, who forsook Him on the cross. No matter how bad those wounds were, here Jesus is standing outside the tomb amongst His followers again. He has overcome! He came back into the world to be alive with us here and now. Jesus overcame all His wounds so that He may bring forgiveness and life to each and every one of us.

Because Christ has risen from the dead, we are able to echo the words of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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 April 22, 2019 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 7 – “Jesus Prays” (John 17:1-11)

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

There are many a thing you can buy from your local big box store or online store. Depending on how soon you want it, you can get it with free shipping or pay a little extra and get it the next day. Being a very consumer-driven society, we like to have things in our hands as soon as we want them. You can find just about everything you want online, that is, with one exception – eternal life.

In our Gospel account today, Jesus addressed the Father and made a statement that only He could make: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all, whom you have given him.” You want eternal life? You’re not going to find it via any physical or online store. To find eternal life, you must be connected to Jesus, for it is Jesus alone who gives eternal life. And the only way to be connected to Jesus isn’t because of you, as hard as that is to admit. Unfortunately, we are told that we get to choose Jesus. We’re asked when we made the decision to accept Jesus into our hearts. However, that is not scriptural. In fact, Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you….”

If you want eternal life, you need to be connected to Jesus. But what exactly does that mean? Is there something you have to do, something you have to believe? As far as something to do, the answer is nothing, for Christ has already done what is necessary to redeem you, a poor, miserable sinner. He has gone from heaven to earth and hell for you. And after His resurrection, after appearing to countless souls in order for them to believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, He ascended back to heaven where He judges the living and the dead. He has done all that you could not do, all that you could never do. He has kept God’s Law perfectly, making full atonement for the sins of the world. The only thing left to do then is to believe, and even that is something you cannot do.

Do not forget Jesus’ words that you did not choose Him, and so writes Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him….” We don’t get to choose Jesus, nor could we. Through the work of the Holy Spirit are we able to believe in Jesus. But what do we believe about Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is God or do you believe that Jesus is man? Do you believe that Jesus is real or just a figment of the church’s making? What you believe about Jesus is indeed important when it comes to faith, for you can believe in Jesus and believe wrongly.

When it comes to Jesus, one must believe certain things. One must believe that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. One must believe that Jesus Christ is the sole means of salvation and that only by what He has done do we inherit eternal life. Jesus also tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” There is only a singular God that saves. It is not a god of our choosing. It is not any god that we want. It is the God of creation. It is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As for Jesus, it is not the chalk-sized Jesus in your heart. It is not the Jesus that gives you approval of everything you do, regardless of whether or not your actions are sinful. It is the Jesus who laid down His life, only to take it up again on behalf of the Father’s will.

This is the glory of the Son: To serve all, according to His Father’s bidding. His service is not just beginning, and He clearly prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” He has lived that life of work – He has fulfilled the prophecies by His teaching, His miracles and wonders. He’s been the righteous servant, upheld by God as He has mercifully exercised justice. He has lived His perfect life for the world, to credit all who believe in Him with His righteousness. Now, the ultimate glory: He is going to die for the world.

Jesus’ glory, then, is to fulfill the work that His Father has given Him. It will not be glorious in the world’s terms. In exchange for beauty, the Lord takes a beating. In exchange for strength, He accepts weakness. Instead of putting His foes in their place, He allows their mockery on the cross. It is not glorious in the world’s eyes, but it is the Father’s will. We behold His glory at the cross, full of grace and truth.

In order for this to all take place, you need an intercessor; you need Christ. It is Christ who always makes appeals for you on high. You can be certain that the heavenly Father hears the intercession of His Son and answers in your favor. The intercession that Jesus prays for is “Holy Father, keep them in your name,” the name of protection against an evil world.

You need the Lord’s intercession, for the world resolves war against you and your unity with Him. You are contending against lethal powers that intend to destroy your unity with the Father and the Son, namely, the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, in order to lead you to abandon His name, Word, and work. There is nothing more that the devil wants than for you to doubt, to question God. If you do that, then the devil wins.

Christ our Lord gave to His disciples His Word, but not just to them; He has given that Word to you. There in His Word are the promises that He has made for you. There in His Word is the promise of forgiveness for you. There in His Word is the promise of salvation for you. There in His Word is the promise of everlasting life for you. These are promises that are not made lightly. These are promises that came at great cost, all for you. It cost the Father His own beloved Son. It cost the Son His very life. Given the costs, we would say they were high, maybe even too high. Could we really justify the life of our only-begotten son for someone else? I think we would be hard-pressed to justify that, yet God did not think twice about it. He did not question the price because you are His creation and when He created you in His image, that is how He meant for you to be: holy, perfect, without sin. The only way for creation to be restored is by the death of Christ; but not just by His death but by His resurrection also.

This is why Jesus prays in the text today: That you would thankfully receive His Word and gladly hear and learn it. That you would call upon His Name in time of trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. That you would hear Him and call upon His Name, rejoicing in the forgiveness He has won for you, giving thanks that He has united you with the rest of the Church. Until then, listen to the Lord Jesus pray, for He prays for you and all of creation. Because of Christ and what He has done, for all that He prays, you may be certain you are forgiven for all of your sins. 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 May 30, 2017 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 6A – “Our Apology for Jesus” (1 Peter 3:13-22)

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

In Luther’s Morning Prayer, we pray the following: “I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger….”  We pray that for a reason: as Christians, we will be harmed and there will be danger.  Peter recognized that in our text.  Although the followers of Jesus could not be accused of wrongdoing by the unbelieving community, their faith in Jesus of Nazareth and the kindness and love which they strove to show everyone set them apart from most other people, but also set them up for ridicule and abuse from the community.  How were the Christians to act toward those who falsely accused them of doing evil?  How should they react in the face of questions and objections?  Ask yourself how are you, as a Christian, to act toward those who falsely accuse you of doing evil?  How should you react?

Jesus tells us how we are to react: “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well….”  Instead of trying to get even for evil done to us, instead of plotting on how to make the person pay for evil done to us, Jesus says that we are to turn the other cheek; we are not to seek vengeance for wrongs done to us.

Peter has said that on most occasions no one will insult, threaten or harm us if we do what is good.  But even if we should experience suffering for doing the good things we do in Christ, there is no reason for us to be afraid of such threats.  The unstated question is: “How can we be unafraid of those who threaten us even when we have done nothing wrong?”  The answer is clearly given by Peter: “In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 

Peter’s answer may or may not make sense.  Therefore, we must ask the good Lutheran question: What does this mean?

First and foremost, we are to “regard Christ the Lord as holy.”  To regard Christ as Lord is to give the Savior first place in our hearts, that is, keep the First Commandment.  Just as every sin of thought, word or action can be traced to the sinful desires of the heart, so the effective rule of Christ in our lives must begin with His reign in our hearts.  Christ rules in the hearts of all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life and who rely on Him for providential care and protection.

All too often, we put many things before Christ: our families, our jobs, our hobbies, our problems and many other things.  If there is time left in our busy schedules or our hectic lives, then we will make that time for Jesus; however, that is not the way that it should be.  Jesus is not someone that we can put on a shelf, pull Him out when we need Him, then put Him back on the shelf until the next time.  Christ does not place anything above His bride, the Church.  He came to give His life for the Church.  He died so that His bride, the Church, could live.  He died so that YOU could live.  Nothing in this world is greater than each and every one of God’s children.

The second half of Peter’s answer is just as difficult, if not more than the first half: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 

The situation in which a Christian may find himself could prove personally embarrassing, potentially threatening or even life-endangering, but he is to be ready to give an answer.  He is to be ready to make an “apology,” that is, a defense of his faith.

Making an apology of the faith is nothing new to Lutherans.  We even have a document in our Lutheran Confessions entitled “The Apology of the Augsburg Confession.”  The princes of the German provinces gave their statement of faith to Emperor Charles V in the Augsburg Confession.  When the Roman Catholic Church refused to accept that statement of faith, Philip Melanchthon issued the Apology, an even greater defense of the faith which the Lutherans held.  Both documents were essentially a death sentence, insofar as they were confessions which were contrary to that of the Roman Catholic Church, yet both were presented and the Lutherans refused to back down on their confession and defense of the faith.

Times have changed since 1530.  A defense of the faith is not as quick to come by as it was then.  We don’t want to make a confession of faith because our non-Christian friends may look at us differently if we start with the “God-talk.”  Our defense of the faith may not be good for our career.  It may not be good for our reputation.  It may not be good for any number of things.  However, that doesn’t mean that we are not to give a defense of the faith, especially when the opportunity presents itself to us.

The simple message which we proclaim is again given to us by Peter: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”  In one sentence Peter summarizes the scope and effect of Christ’s work.  He tells us what Jesus did and how effective His work was while reminding us that Jesus is the sinless Son of God who died for sinners.  Jesus is not our Savior because He gave himself as an example for us to follow so that we might save ourselves.  Jesus is our Savior because He is the perfect Son of God who gave His life in our place in order that we might be brought to God.  This faith and hope is not a misplaced faith or an unsure hope.  Jesus is the perfect substitute who has fully completed His atoning work on our behalf and has brought us, without sin, to God.  All of this was done for us through His life, death and resurrection.  This gift of everlasting life is given to us in our Baptism.  Baptism is more than a rite of initiation, more than a church ceremony or christening.  Baptism saves you.  How does Baptism save you?  Baptism saves you “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no baptism, no salvation; in fact, there would be no righteousness at all.

Challenges will indeed come in your life.  As the baptized children of God, those made to be His disciples through Baptism and the teaching of God’s Word, you are continually being made ready to make a confident defense of the eternal hope that is in you through the life, death, descent into hell, resurrection, and reign at the right hand of the Father of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  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 May 30, 2017 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 5 – “One Way” (John 14:1-14)

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 Gospel, which was read earlier.

God’s Word says that there are two paths in life: the way of life and the way of death. The way of life is traveled only by faith in one individual, Jesus Christ, our Savior. To believe in any other God that the one triune God, to trust in any other Savior than the only Son of God, Jesus Christ, is to travel the wrong way in life. So today we hear Jesus’ words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is very clear and explicit in His words: He is the one and only way to the Father.

If Jesus is truly the only way to the Father, what does that mean? It means that Jesus’ way to the Father is the way of God’s will, that is, the way of grace, not the way of our human will, the way of works. There is a huge difference between the two ways once we look at what each way gets us.

Our sinful nature wants to get us to the Father our way, not God’s way. Our will is to think that we can earn our way to God because we’re “pretty good.” But when you are “pretty good,” it means that you’re not what God desires and that is perfect. That is what Jesus says to do: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. But being perfect isn’t possible for us, so we will settle for “pretty good.” We use our merits as some sort of bargaining chip with God to gain our entry into heaven. But there is one point we fail to take into consideration – there is no bargaining with God.

To understand the one, singular way of salvation, we need to understand God the Father’s will. The will of God the Father is that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus came to do the Father’s will, not His own. The Father’s will is the way of salvation by grace through faith in Christ – the only way of redemption.

For you and I, there is indeed hope. Our hope lies not in this world, but it lies in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for us. Jesus tells the disciples, “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.”

            Our hope lies in the promises that God has made to us through His Son Jesus Christ. Instead of reasons for despair, the disciples realize the good news that the cross of Jesus Christ overcomes troubled hearts with the promises, assurances, and benefits of our great God.

There is no need for troubled hearts, as they are overcome by the Lord’s amazing promise of what God has in store for us. We look at this world and we see how much it has suffered because of sin. We have wars. We have disease. We have death. We all have seen the effects of sin on this world and we ask ourselves, “Is this it? Is there more to this thing called life?” There is more to this thing called life, or at least life as we know it. There is salvation. There is forgiveness. There is everlasting life. No matter how good or how bad your life may be on this earth, there is more waiting for you. There is a room in heaven that your Savior has prepared for you. If that isn’t good enough, Jesus also tells us, “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.” Jesus will personally take us to our eternal rooms, rooms prepared by Jesus when He said from the cross, “It is finished” because there at the cross, Jesus paid for your sin, giving to you that key to your room in heaven.

Then Jesus speaks the all-familiar words to Thomas and the other disciples. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If you want words of assurance and comfort, then these are the words for you. Jesus comforts the disciples with what they had previously learned and experienced.  With these words, He reminds us that He is the world’s one Lord and Savior.

These words, Jesus also speaks to you. He spoke these words to you on the cross. He spoke these words to you at your baptism. He speaks these words to you this morning. He speaks these words when you feast upon His body and blood. He speaks these words to you each and every day of your life, and He will speak these words to you as you draw your final breath.

Christ is the one and only source of blessed existence and life for us. In our sin is death, the separation from God. Left to ourselves, we should remain in this separation forever, dead beyond hope. In the person of Jesus, God sent us “the life.” Take away Jesus, and the way, truth, and the life are gone. All hope of God and heaven outside of Jesus is vanity and worse. “Except through me” is absolute and final. Despair would be the order of the day for this world, except for this wonderful news that our Lord declares. Despite the sin and evil of the world, there is a Way. The way is not what we would expect. The way is not a route or a set of directions. Instead, it is a person – Jesus Himself. We cannot travel this route. Instead Jesus must take us. In fact, that is exactly what He promised when He said, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

This sentiment of Jesus, this truth of His Easter victory, is brought to light in the words of the hymn sung earlier: Mighty Victim from the sky, Hell’s fierce powr’s beneath You lie; You have conquered in the fight, You have brought us life and light. Alleluia! Now no more can death appall, Now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened paradise, And Your saints in You shall rise. Alleluia! The hymnist writes in the only way he knows how, the only way that is true. It has nothing to do with our posturing to God. It has nothing to do with whatever accomplishments we can show off to God. Our salvation, our victory over sin and death, has been accomplished for us by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Through the blood that flowed from His body on the cross, Jesus is the way. Through the Scriptures which testify He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, Jesus is the truth. Through His taking our sin and our curse upon Himself, Jesus is the life. What comfort this is to our troubled hearts! In the name of Jesus, 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 May 14, 2017 in Easter, Hymnody, Sermons

 

Easter 4 – “Shepherds” (John 10:1-10)

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.

Listening to Jesus talk, He often speaks in parables, metaphors, what some might call flowery language. His parables often times are simple sounding, but rather complex in understanding. On more than one occasion the disciples had to ask Jesus just what exactly He meant in His parable. As we look at our Gospel for today, Jesus describes who He is and what He has come to do. He uses a description that the people should be familiar with already – a shepherd.

Shepherds have a single job – to tend to the sheep. But that job entails quite a bit. It means providing for them. Breaking that down, it means feeding them, protecting them, mending them when they are injured. It means setting their needs above your own. It means fighting off the evil that threatens to harm the sheep. That’s what a good shepherd does.

Jesus makes the distinction in our text between that of a true shepherd and one who is a stranger. For the true shepherd, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The true shepherd knows the sheep entrusted to him. He calls them by name and leads them. He goes in front of the sheep to keep whatever evil may happen at bay. He defends the sheep from all harm and danger, putting himself between the sheep and danger.

In contrast, Jesus also speaks of a different kind of person, the anti-shepherd, “he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” This anti-shepherd cares very little, if at all, for the sheep. He does not have their best interests at heart. The sheep know this, for “a stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This anti-shepherd is out for number one, himself. The sheep mean little to him.

For anyone listening to Jesus, it should be easy to make the distinction between one who is a true shepherd and one who is not. Unfortunately, the people did not understand Jesus and what He was telling them. There are those who proclaim to be a shepherd who instead are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. Thieves and robbers don’t care about the people they steal from. There is no connection to them other than what they take from you. Once they’ve gotten what they can from you, you are of no use to them anymore and they move on to the next target. What we so desperately need is a shepherd, someone who will care for us.

Fortunately for us, we do have a Shepherd, one who cares for the sheep, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s great to have a shepherd, but what will the shepherd do? The shepherd is one who will lay down his life for the sake of the flock. He will be the one who will tend to the needs of the flock, great or small, because they are his flock. He will be the one who will provide for all of their wants and needs, keep them safe and do all that is within his power to make sure that nothing harmful happens to the flock.

Isn’t that the description of our Shepherd? We just celebrated Easter a few weeks ago and what is the purpose of Easter? It is the celebration of our Shepherd who laid down His very life for us, only to take it up again and defeat sin, death, and the devil for us. Jesus tended to the needs of the people, healing them of their earthly diseases but more importantly, healing us of our eternal disease of sin. Nothing that you and I could do would ever be enough to cure the disease of sin and death and so Jesus comes and says, “I will rid sin and death from my Father’s creation. I will die so creation will never die again.” Jesus is the one who went to the utter depths of hell so that we would not suffer. A thief and robber would never do such a thing, but a true shepherd would.

A true shepherd is what you need and a true Shepherd is what you receive in Jesus Christ. Jesus just a few verses after our text calls Himself the Good Shepherd. He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” There can be no better description of what Jesus does than that, laying down His life for us.

Jesus is clear when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus is the door. Through the door of His holy life and bloody sacrifice, we have eternal life. Through Him and Him alone, we have heaven. He’s a door that is dripping with water and blood through whom we find good pasture.

The final words of Jesus in our text speak to what Jesus does: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He’s gone before you into the grave — the shepherd has laid down His life for the sheep. But here’s the thing: He’s come back out. He’s risen from the dead. So He says to you, “Yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil, for I am with you. I will comfort you — and I will raise you up.”

That’s what the Good Shepherd does: He’s gone before you in life and death and resurrection. He’s been to hell and back for you, then ascended into heaven. Now He calls you by His Word, feeds you with His Supper: and He says to you, “I came so that you might have life—and have it abundantly.” He gives you grace abundantly—He forgives you more sins than you could ever commit.

Your Good Shepherd has given up His life for you. He took upon Himself all the times that you live for yourself and not others. He died for all the times you try to make yourself the door to everlasting life. He rose again on the third day. You have life in His name, in His Baptism. You are His own sheep. He goes before you, protects and guides you. He meets your enemies head-on and defeats them for you. You follow Him, for you know His voice. You are His sheep. He isn’t just any shepherd, but your Good Shepherd, the one who lays down His life for you on the cross, the righteous sacrifice that makes you acceptable to God.

It is He who loves God perfectly for you. It is He who loves His neighbor perfectly for you. It is He who died for you. It is He who rose from the dead for you. It is He who ascended for you. He is the one whose body is the door to salvation. It is He who calls you by name. He has done all that you need. And He has done it so that you can live with Him forever. 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 13, 2017 in Easter, Sermons

 
 
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