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Category Archives: Easter

Easter 5 – “No Troubled Hearts” (John 14:1-14)

A-54 Easter 5 (Jn 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.

Would you like some good news this morning, news that can make even the faintest of heart rejoice and sing for joy? Our Lord speaks some wonderful words to His disciples gathered around the wonderful gift of food that He gives: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”Why would your hearts be troubled when you hear the voice of your Good Shepherd speak to you with words of great comfort? The disciples needed to hear words of great comfort because they were distressed. It’s hard to watch Jesus go about His preaching and teaching and get the treatment that He did from the Pharisees. Anything the Pharisees could do to disprove Him, to show He was a heretic, they would do it because the message that Jesus preached was condemning and threatening to their teaching.

When you look at the teaching of Jesus, what was so threatening? Clearly Jesus preaches something threatening here in our text when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Clearly the Pharisees and I are on two different pages because what they hear as threatening, I hear as comforting. I would imagine that when you hear these words of Jesus, you do not hear them as threatening but comforting as well.

If you’re a Pharisee, it’s very easy to see how that declarative statement of grace can be threatening to their doctrine. It wasn’t Jesus who was going to save. It wasn’t the Messiah who was going to save. Rather, it would be your adherence to the Law of God. The only problem with that is that you would not be able to keep the Law of God because you were a sinner and could not do all that God had demanded. But if you were a Pharisee, you were the one who was able to because you were able to keep the Law perfectly or change it so that they could keep it.

For you and I, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we kept the Law because the reality of it is that we cannot keep the Law. There is hope for us, a hope that lies not in this world, but a hope that likes in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. He tells His disciples and all of us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Our hope likes in the promise 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?” And the answer is no, this isn’t it. 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.”

Through the blood that flowed from His body on the cross, Jesus is the way. Through the Scriptures that 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 27, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 4 – “Shepherd of the Sheep” (John 10:1-10)

A-53 Easter 4 (Jn 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.

Which would you prefer: a thief and a robber or a shepherd? Think long and hard about your choices. Obviously, we’re all going to choose the thief and robber, right? Because of our sinful nature, that’s who we are and what we deserve, and sadly, that which we choose. 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.

While Jesus gives an excellent description of who a true shepherd is, John throws in a verse of bad news: “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”As Jesus spoke, we might expect the Jews to have understood at least some of His figurative language. The sheep were God’s chosen people. The strangers and thieves were those who would endanger and harm them. The shepherd was Jesus, sent by God to take care of the flock. But the Jews did not understand His extended figure of speech. Maybe they really didn’t catch on, or maybe they wouldn’t follow it because they didn’t believe in Jesus and were not ready to conclude that they themselves were among the strangers.

The language was filled with great imagery. But Jesus is pretty 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.

Outside of Jesus Christ is the way thieves and robbers play. That’s how the devil and other false teachers of this world tempt us to believe that our salvation and life and success are all really based on us picking ourselves up and improving our lives on our own. After all, Jesus has done His part and now it’s up to us to do our part.

But that’s not how things work for salvation. It’s not Jesus plus me, Jesus plus you, Jesus plus something else. It is Jesus alone. 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.

My dear friends, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, we know that the Good Shepherd laid down His life for sinful, faithless, wandering sheep like you and me, of His own free will and His own divine authority. It is this same divine authority by which He takes up His life again. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not shed His blood and leave His sheep alone, abandoned, and unprotected from the evil that seeks to devour and destroy us. He has taken His life up again in the resurrection on Easter morning. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil, for the Good Shepherd, who has already been through death and the grave, leads us through this life, to everlasting life in heaven.

For remember what the Good Shepherd says to you: He calls you by name and leads you out of darkness. He’s led you by the still waters of the font and washed you clean in your baptism. As long as the enemies of sin, death and devil hang around, He prepares a table for you, gives you His own body and blood to send those enemies scurrying away. He continues to speak His Word to you in the Scriptures so that you hear His voice, grow strong in faith and follow Him. He comes and gives you life, abundant life; and He promises that you will hear His voice as He raises you from the dead.

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 27, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Rite of Confirmation – “Confirmation Blessings” (Acts 2:14a, 36-41)

LSB Icon_024Grace, 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 Acts reading, which was read earlier.

There is bad news and good news for you today from the mouth of Peter. The bad news: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” But there is also good news for you as well: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Within the same statement, there is both bad news and good news. Often times, a statement has either bad news or good news, not both. However, for Peter, as he begins his wonderful sermon, this statement is filled with both bad and good news.

As far as the bad news goes, it’s rather more of a statement: “this Jesus whom you crucified.”That is not something that you want to here, that you are the one who sent Jesus to be crucified. Peter announces this to “all the house of Israel.” In other words, he is addressing everyone. For you confirmands, that also applies to you. You helped to crucify Jesus Christ.

Imagine what that must have felt like when the people heard that statement. Even the disciples were standing there as well and that statement was addressed to them also. With the exception of Judas, the disciples could never think of doing anything to harm Christ. And now Peter is telling them that it was they who crucified Christ. It was all those who were there who crucified Christ. It was all of Israel who crucified Christ. A large portion of the crowd might have been present at Christ’s crucifixion but none of them hammered the nails into Christ themselves. What Peter meant by his statement was that it was their sins that sent Christ to the cross. It was the sins of the disciples. It was the sins of the crowd. It was the sins of all of Israel. It was your sins.

The statement that Peter makes is one that cuts deep because it’s not a message that anyone wants to hear because it makes us come to reality with ourselves. It makes us acknowledge that we are sinners. It makes us acknowledge that because of our sins Christ had to go to the cross in the first place.

Those who were gathered there felt a huge amount of pain at the words of Peter.Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” They were willing to do whatever it took to right the situation. They wanted to feel better, if not for Christ’s sake, for their own. The shame they felt was enough to kill them. The disciples, especially, had the utmost respect for their Teacher. There was so much that He taught them, so much more they could have learned. But when they saw their Master crucified, they ran. They hid. They were ashamed and afraid. Now they are together. Feelings of shame and fear overtake them and the crowd. They were greatly troubled that they had sinned against God and killed the Christ.

The feelings that they felt 2000 years ago we feel today as well. It is hard not to. What if I told you that you alone were the cause of death of the Savior? What would you feel? If only your sins were present, Christ would have died for your sins. Why? Death entered through the craftiness of Satan and ruined what God had created, what had been deemed “ good” and “very good.” There was only one way to purge that death: through the death of an innocent. That’s where the good news comes in to play.

Peter says that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. It means that because He is both Lord and Christ, His death and resurrection have proven to be sufficient payment to God. Solely by what He has done for us on the cross, all those sins from Adam unto the present have been paid for. They have been atoned by the blood of Jesus that was shed upon the cross. For you five young adults, that blood ran over you in your Baptism and now you come before the Lord’s altar and confirm that faith granted to you all those years ago.

So what is left to the Christian, both then and now to do? We’ve already run in shame. We’ve already mourned and now are taking responsibility for our actions, that we have crucified Christ. There is only one thing left for us: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter here uses the word “repent” simply to mean “believe.” This involves a changing of the mind effected by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in which an unbeliever becomes a believer. Peter invites the crowd to trust the forgiveness Jesus had already accomplished.

This repentance is not a condition for receiving forgiveness as the text implies: “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Such a thought would make forgiveness dependent upon human action. We are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins.”This repentance is all God’s doing by grace. Peter ties the forgiveness of sins to faith, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. When God empowers believers to share the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through it to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers and to nourish the faith of those who already believe.

For the five of you, today is the day where your faith is called into question, for this is the day where you speak on your own behalf, to confirm that faith granted to you, that faith which your baptismal sponsors stood in place of you and affirmed, that you would be raised in the faith, that you would be taught the Lutheran doctrine. In just a few moments, you will have that opportunity to affirm that faith which was granted to you in your baptism. The questions that will be asked of you are not questions to be taken lightly, for they truly are life and death questions, questions which have been asked to countless Christians before you and will be asked to countless Christians after you. Of all the questions that will be asked of you in your lives, there can be no greater question than this: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”

It is because we are dead that Jesus has come. It is because we need to have our sins forgiven that Jesus has come. It is because of God’s great love for His creation that Jesus has come. It is because of this wonderful gift that we are able to stand before God our heavenly Father and receive His graciousness, His invitation to be His beloved children. That comes from our repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name.

The best part of Peter’s sermon is what he leaves out: your action. Aside from repentance, which is the part of man, there is nothing else for you to do. All the action is solely the work of God for us. That is the way it is meant to be. That’s the way that Jesus spoke His entire ministry – He is the subject of the verbs, He is the one who is doing the action. We graciously receive all that He has to offer, namely the forgiveness, life, and salvation that comes about because of what Jesus Christ has done.

We have heeded the words of Peter through our baptism. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith….” Through our baptism, we have been marked as children of God. Through the Lord’s Supper, we continue to sustain our faith by the food that Christ gave to the disciples and to His Church.

Take heart, for this Jesus whom you crucified”, has taken your sin from you. You have died in Christ and have been forgiven all of your sins through His death and resurrection.

Before we get to the part that you five have been waiting for all day, let me make one last request, no, rather an invitation. Come see me next Sunday, for I will have a gift for you. And I will have a gift for you the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that and every Sunday until Christ our Lord calls you home. Your coming and receiving these gifts aren’t of value to me or even to your parents, but are of great value to you, for these are the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. 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 5, 2014 in Confirmation, Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 3 – “Bad News, Good News” (Acts 2:14a, 36-41)

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 Acts reading, which was read earlier.

There is bad news and good news for you today from the mouth of Peter. The bad news: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. But there is also good news for you as well: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Within the same statement, there is both bad news and good news. Often times, a statement has either bad news or good news, not both. However, for Peter, as he begins his wonderful sermon, this statement is filled with both bad and good news.

As far as the bad news goes, it’s rather more of a statement: “this Jesus whom you crucified.”That is not something that you want to here, that you are the one who sent Jesus to be crucified. Peter announces this to “all the house of Israel.” In other words, he is addressing everyone.

Imagine what that must have felt like when the people heard that statement. Even the disciples were standing there as well and that statement was addressed to them also. With the exception of Judas, the disciples could never think of doing anything to harm Christ. And now Peter is telling them that it was they who crucified Christ. It was all those who were there who crucified Christ. It was all of Israel who crucified Christ. A large portion of the crowd might have been present at Christ’s crucifixion but none of them hammered the nails into Christ themselves. What Peter meant by his statement was that it was their sins that sent Christ to the cross. It was the sins of the disciples. It was the sins of the crowd. It was the sins of all of Israel. It was your sins.

The statement that Peter makes is one that cuts deep because it’s not a message that anyone wants to hear because it makes us come to reality with ourselves. It makes us acknowledge that we are sinners. It makes us acknowledge that because of our sins Christ had to go to the cross in the first place.

Those who were gathered there felt a huge amount of pain at the words of Peter. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” They were willing to do whatever it took to right the situation. They wanted to feel better, if not for Christ’s sake, for their own. The shame they felt was enough to kill them. The disciples, especially, had the utmost respect for their Teacher. There was so much that He taught them, so much more they could have learned. But when they saw their Master crucified, they ran. They hid. They were ashamed and afraid. Now they are together. Feelings of shame and fear overtake them and the crowd. They were greatly troubled that they had sinned against God and killed the Christ.

The feelings that they felt 2000 years ago we feel today as well. It is hard not to. What if I told you that you alone were the cause of death of the Savior? What would you feel? If only your sins were present, Christ would have died for your sins. Why? Death entered through the craftiness of Satan and ruined what God had created, what had been deemed “ good” and “very good.” There was only one way to purge that death: through the death of an innocent. That’s where the good news comes in to play.

Peter says that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. It means that because He is both Lord and Christ, His death and resurrection have proven to be sufficient payment to God. Solely by what He has done for us on the cross, all those sins from Adam unto the present have been paid for. They have been atoned by the blood of Jesus that was shed upon the cross.

So what is left to the Christian, both then and now to do? We’ve already run in shame. We’ve already mourned and now are taking responsibility for our actions, that we have crucified Christ. There is only one thing left for us: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter here uses the word “repent” simply to mean “believe.” This involves a changing of the mind effected by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in which an unbeliever becomes a believer. Peter invites the crowd to trust the forgiveness Jesus had already accomplished.

This repentance is not a condition for receiving forgiveness as the text implies: “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Such a thought would make forgiveness dependent upon human action. We are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins.”This repentance is all God’s doing by grace. Peter ties the forgiveness of sins to faith, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. When God empowers believers to share the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through it to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers and to nourish the faith of those who already believe.

It is because we are dead that Jesus has come. It is because we need to have our sins forgiven that Jesus has come. It is because of God’s great love for His creation that Jesus has come. It is because of this wonderful gift that we are able to stand before God our heavenly Father and receive His graciousness, His invitation to be His beloved children. That comes from our repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name.

The best part of Peter’s sermon is what he leaves out: your action. Aside from repentance, which is the part of man, there is nothing else for you to do. All the action is solely the work of God for us. That is the way it is meant to be. That’s the way that Jesus spoke His entire ministry – He is the subject of the verbs, He is the one who is doing the action. We graciously receive all that He has to offer, namely the forgiveness, life, and salvation that comes about because of what Jesus Christ has done.

We have heeded the words of Peter through our baptism. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith….” Through our baptism, we have been marked as children of God. Through the Lord’s Supper, we continue to sustain our faith by the food that Christ gave to the disciples and to His Church.

Take heart, for this Jesus whom you crucified”, has taken your sin from you. You have died in Christ and have been forgiven all of your sins through His death and resurrection. 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 5, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 2 – “Peace from Christ” (John 20:19-31)

A-51 Easter 2 (Jn 20.19-31)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.

At some point in our lives, we all retreat to a place that is safe, a place where all of the bad things cannot reach us. As little kids, it’s often to the arms of mom and dad who will protect us from the monsters under our beds or in our closets. As we get older, we retreat to a close friend who will be there for us when everything seems to be going wrong in our lives. Or there might be that special place where we can go where no one knows about, where all of the bad seems to be kept at bay. Today, that is exactly where we find the disciples, in a place that is safe from all harm and danger.

On the evening of that first Easter Sunday, the disciples are not rejoicing in that their Lord has risen from the dead just as He promised. Rather, they are cowering in a locked room, fearful that what happened to Jesus would happen to them as well. All of this seems out of place with what happened in the early morning hours. Peter and John, along with the Marys see first-hand that the tomb of Jesus was empty. They hear from the angels and from Jesus Himself that He has risen from the dead as He promised He would. With news like that, the disciples should be shouting it from the rooftops on every street corner. But that’s not what they’re doing, because reality has set in for them: what happened to Jesus could happen to them as well.

When we see everything that happened to Jesus since His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, one can hardly blame the disciples for hiding out in a locked room. Jesus was falsely charged and put to death because of His heretical teaching according to the Pharisees. They wanted to stamp out the false teaching of Jesus and everyone who taught it. That meant that the same punishment could come to the disciples as well. In their very limited thinking, they thought that hiding in a room with the doors locked would keep them safe from all harm and danger that could befall them. Much to their chagrin, they weren’t as secure as they thought.

The number of people in the locked room has increased from ten to eleven in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”” Somehow, Jesus managed to appear in this locked room without being noticed, without a means to unlock the doors. At first, it would appear that the disciples are not as safe as they thought they were. If Jesus could appear in this room, then anyone could appear. But the greeting that Jesus gives is one that is meant to bring peace and comfort to them. This is not just an empty greeting. This is full Gospel. It is an absolution. The greeting is in keeping with the Greeter. The first thing He does is to forgive their sins and declare that all is well.

What comfort the disciples should have right now! It’s a comfort that they are desperately in need of at this moment. “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord and recognized Him as Lord by the wounds and scars on His body! This first time that Jesus speaks peace to them, He speaks in terms of forgiveness giving peace from fear. It is a joyful assurance, the presence of God, the complete opposite of fear. Yet just days ago on Good Friday, there was no peace for the disciples. All of them had left Jesus in fear, especially Peter. They were deathly afraid the Jews would come for them too. That’s why the doors were locked.

But now in this moment, there is peace, even if it is only temporary, though the peace that Christ brings isn’t temporary. It is a peace that is everlasting, one that transcends beyond the here and now, for it is that peace that passes all understanding. Christ returned from death to give peace from fear. He gives to us His forgiveness. He gives to us His peace. It is peace in Christ which only He can give. He gave it to the disciples on Maundy Thursday when He instituted His Supper and He will give that peace to you in just mere moments when you come and receive His body and blood. Christ has come to give us all peace, that peace of knowing that our sins have been forgiven.

The result from Christ’s statement: peace from fear. The disciples rejoiced because their relationship was restored. We can rejoice also because we have nothing to fear because our sins are forgiven.

Startled as they were, Jesus says to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” What is it that Jesus is saying to them? The Savior not only assures them of peace, but He also commissions them to announce peace to the world. Peace comes from forgiveness of sins. It is peace between God and men through the work of Christ. It is peace of conscience to the sinner. This peace was Jesus’ way of saying that these idlers were still precious – and useful – to him. Jesus’ word of peace was their forgiveness, and now they had the power to share that same forgiveness with the world.

During this first meeting, the disciple Thomas was not present. When the disciples saw Thomas next, they told him how Jesus had appeared to them in the locked room. Thomas, known for his doubting, refused to believe unless he saw everything for himself.

To ease the fears of Thomas, Jesus tells him the same thing that He told all the other disciples: “Peace be with you.” Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Immediately, after Thomas put his hands in the wounds of Jesus, Thomas believes.

Jesus tells you the same thing today: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” We understand Thomas, don’t we? We believe Jesus died and rose and even that He’s given us eternal life in heaven. But do we really, always, believe that because my Redeemer lives, we will live also or do our doubts leave us with no peace?

Jesus forgave Thomas’ unbelief. He returned to make Thomas whole, to give him the contentment of faith that is found only in Him. He comes today to us, to forgive us of our unbelief. We doubt. We question. We waver. But Jesus, through what He did for us on the cross, forgives us of our doubt, our questioning and our wavering. Through His gift of His body and blood, He continues to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith until life everlasting. That one true faith is found in Him.

True peace, as the Bible describes it, is always a product of the restored relationship between God and man, and that is only a result of the forgiveness that Christ earned for us on the cross. The Lord brings His peace to you. He has paid the price for your sin and disobedience. Peace with God has come at a cost, but Christ has borne that cost for you. And now, He brings that peace to you.

Therefore, do not be troubled. As the risen Lord visited His disciples, so He visits you. As He spoke peace and forgiveness to them, so He speaks it to you. As He came to them with His risen body and blood, so He comes and gives you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. No matter what your sinful nature or circumstance might argue, you can be certain by God’s grace that you are at peace with God, because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter Festival – “Risen King” (Matthew 28:1-10)

A-50 Easter Day (Mt 28.1-10)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. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

On the Sixth Day of Creation, God made Himself a king. From the dust of the ground He brought forth His king and placed him in a garden made just for him. He wasn’t just someone for an all-powerful God to boss around like a peon; this man was God’s representative on earth. And this king was not created to lollygag around the garden all day; he was made to have dominion and to rule. This king was created with feet, for God gave him work to do, and he had to get around. His blessed work was to tend the garden and to guard it, and that meant also guarding His bride, Eve.

But Adam blew it. He blew it big time. A preacher from hell, a fallen angel, came into the garden. And he came to Adam’s wife spewing his poisonous lies. Now, Adam should have taken those feet and planted them right between his wife and the serpent and said, “Eve, don’t listen to that preacher. He’s a liar.” But he was a very convincing preacher, smooth-talking and slick. You’ve been mesmerized by him too. God had graciously said to Adam, “the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” But instead of moving his feet and standing up to the serpent, he was caught flat-footed and did nothing. Instead, he turned his toes to his deceived wife. “Take; eat, Adam,” and he did.

Almost all kings leave some kind of legacy, something they are remembered for. David was the great warrior king, who purchased the land for construction of God’s temple. Solomon is remembered for his wisdom and for building the temple. But King Adam built nothing. His legacy was death. His work brought tombs and graves into the world, funeral homes and obituaries, sickness and disease, fear and anxiety. Before the fall, Adam and Eve revered God with a holy fear. Now they were scared of Him and everything else. Because of them, the world was filled with fear. Little boys would now be afraid of the dark. Teenage girls would live in fear of not being thin or pretty enough. Women now would fear the judgment of other women more than the judgment of God. Men would fear conflict in a world where men needed to have courage, backbone, and self-sacrifice. But men feared failure, causing many of them to “bury” their lives before they were even dead. And then there’s man’s conscience. There’s a saying that says that death and conscience make cowards of us all. And so man even feared telling the truth and being honest about himself. Instead he re-labels his sins. “I’m not stingy. I don’t lack generous spirit. I’m good with money.” “It isn’t stealing if the other guy’s got more than enough.” Indeed, death and conscience now make cowards of us all.

So God drove His king out of the garden, and placed security guard angels at the door. Angels that stood at attention. With flaming swords. To keep the man from the tree of life in the garden. The garden was no longer his home. Adam made man’s bed, and it’s a grave, and he’ll now have to lie in it too.

But God loved the king that blew it and He promised one day to send another. The Seed from woman. A royal Seed. His only-begotten Son, God in the flesh, God with feet. These feet would not be the feet of a coward, but the feet of a champion who came into the world to restore all that King Adam ruined. His were the feet that came to crush the head of that false preacher who deceived Adam and filled the world with fear. But this King, our Lord Jesus Christ, was not caught by the enemy flat-footed. He used His holy feet to get just where He needed to help fallen man, to heal the sick, the blind, deaf, and the lame. To feed the hungry. To walk right into a tomb and raise Lazarus. To walk right into a funeral procession and raise a widow’s son.

He used those feet to get where He needed to go to instruct the ignorant. To preach to them about entrance to a Kingdom that they could never merit. A Kingdom that He bestowed freely. This King was just the right King. And His feet were just the feet that were needed to save you. To open up the entrance to the garden paradise that Adam closed up. But the way back to the Garden of Paradise meant that this King had to be sliced up by the sword. A king had to bleed; a king had to have the courage to sacrifice Himself for rebels. A king who would not be tempted by that preacher from hell to take the easy road and let a world be damned. And Jesus didn’t blow it.

He had the royal feet that willingly staggered to the cross as this King shouldered your sin to the cross. He had the royal feet that laid in the grave to heal your wandering feet.

But what good is a dead king? What good are the feet of a king if they can’t move? How can a dead king give out gifts, give out a share in his kingdom, give glory and honor to his rebel subjects? How can a dead king share his royal feast of feasts? What good is merely a Crucified King, if that king is not raised to show His wounds and bring peace to man’s raging and guilty conscience? It’s no good. So God raised up this King to be our King Raised. The Crucified King raised from the dead, so that you might reign with Him forever. That you might see that you are no longer in your sins. So that you might see that in Him death has no power over you. So that you might hear and rejoice in the results what our King’s holy feet accomplished—Satan’s head crushed, and the teeth in His accusing mouth kicked in.

Our King was raised on this holy day and what wonderful things we hear about. We see the sad and scared Marys, a picture of God’s sad and scared church, filled with joy and gladness at the angel’s preaching. We see the stone rolled back and no body in there, catching a glimpse of our own future graves. Remember how those angels stood and guarded the entrance to the garden of paradise? How different things are on this morning. See the angel preacher in white. He has no sword. He is not imposing. He has no scowl on his face. He’s not even standing on his feet. He simply sits in a garden graveyard and preaches a short but magnificent sermon. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” No need for fear in this fear-filled world, says the preacher from heaven. This King has on the cross dealt with and conquered all that could ever make you afraid.

See how Mary Magdalene and the other Mary take hold of those blessed feet of the Second Adam, as Jesus comes to them and preaches the same sermon. “Don’t be afraid.” They grasp and worship at the feet of their Savior and King who took the bed that Adam had made for man, laid in it for three days, and emptied it of its dread and power.

How great was that sixth day when God made Himself a king with feet. But how much greater is what happened on this day, the eighth day, the first day of a new creation, when God placed His King back on His pierced feet, that you might be baptized and fed with His life-giving body and blood, and reign with Him forever. 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, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter Sunrise – “Sunrise Miracle” (John 20:1-18)

A-49 Easter Sunrise (Jn 20.1-11)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. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

What was Mary Magdalene thinking? John records for us, “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.”Just why was she going to the tomb? When Jesus died on Friday, she saw the tomb sealed with a massive stone. Did she think that somehow she would be able to dislodge the stone? And even if she could, then what? Jesus was dead, the body already starting to decay. When Lazarus died, his body was in the tomb for four days and everyone knew that there was certainly an odor from his dead and decomposing body. Jesus was dead for three days so the stench of death was certainly present in His tomb as well. Maybe she wanted to cry outside of Jesus’ tomb, to somehow feel connected to Him. Whatever the reason, she goes to the tomb of Jesus and something is amiss; the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

What a sight to behold, the stone rolled away. She doesn’t even dare to enter the tomb. Whatever she was planning on doing when she arrived at the tomb, all of that goes out the window and she immediately runs to Simon Peter and John to tell them what she saw. Without skipping a beat, both of the disciples make a mad dash to the tomb to see it for themselves. Just who would have had the strength to dislodge the stone? What was the purpose in disturbing Jesus’ earthly resting place?

Peter and John do what anyone who is curious would do – they enter the tomb of Jesus. Upon inspection, the linen burial cloths were lying there, along with the face cloth. However, something was missing, or rather, someone was missing! Jesus’ body was gone. Someone must have made off with Jesus’ body. Everything was too pretty to be graverobbers. Graverobbers wouldn’t have tidied up after themselves.

What happens next is unexpected: the two disciples went back to their homes. What?! What do you mean the disciples went home? What about all the things that Jesus said, statements like, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Who was Jesus talking to when He made that statement? He was talking to the disciples. Surely Peter and John were present when Jesus said that. But John records something in his Gospel: “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

How sad is that! Members of Jesus’ inner twelve did not get what Jesus was all about. And so Mary Magdalene is left at the tomb by herself, dealing with everything that has just happened: she goes to the tomb to find it empty, Peter and John arrive and inspect the tomb only to go home without realizing what has just taken place. What is Mary Magdalene to do? She weeps outside of the tomb. As she weeps, she sees two figures in the tomb that weren’t there earlier; two angels inquiring about her weeping. As distraught as Mary was, she didn’t catch on to the significance of the angels’ presence as they asked her why she was crying. She simply answered that people had taken her Lord and she didn’t know where they had put Him. But she didn’t have time to think about who these two strangers in white were or to hear anything more from them because she turned away and saw a gardener who asks the same question. As she stood weeping in front of the tomb, she still didn’t think that Jesus had risen.

With just a single word, all is revealed. All this gardener has to say is her name and she knows that it is not a gardener but it is her risen Lord. Today, your risen Lord speaks your name following His resurrection and you are assured that Christ is indeed risen from the dead. What God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden has come true. Everything that the prophets of old had foretold has come true. Everything that Jesus spoke about Himself has come true. What Jesus told the disciples regarding His death, that message that they did not understand, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” has been fulfilled.

Jesus your risen Savior reaches out to you today. His Gospel invitation is personal, for His death was personal. His death was meant for you personally, as He died personally so you would not die. And today, He speaks your name following His resurrection. Harkening back to His final words from the cross, “It is finished!” His death marked the completion of God’s master plan of salvation for His creation. And now, our Lord harkens to you, this time with a word that tells us that He is indeed risen from the dead. And if Christ our Lord is risen from the dead, then we know that we too shall be raised from the dead, not by our own devices, but by the blood of Jesus that was shed upon Calvary’s cross, that blood that washes over us forgiving us all of our sin.

If Christ had not risen, then the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross would be meaningless. We would still be in our sins. The confusion of sin would reign. We would be looking forward to an eternity of punishment.

But Christ has risen. Our salvation is sure. We are children of God. Our eternity is with Christ. When the end of this age comes, God will remove all evil to hell. He will create a new heaven and a new earth. At that time He will raise us just as Jesus rose. He will reunite our bodies with our souls. He will clothe us in immortality. We shall all know the joy that Mary shared as she fell to the ground and wrapped her arms around the feet of her risen Savior.

Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Easter, Sermons

 

Easter 7–“Unity” (John 17:20-26)

C-62 Easter 7 (Jn 17.20-26)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

It’s time to take a quiz. It’s just a single question: On a scale of 1-10, how needy are you? I bet it’s not the question you get asked everyday. Let’s face it, we’re pretty needy people. We want to make sure that all of our needs are taken care of, that all of our wants are taken care of, and all desires that our little hearts can think of are taken care of. That’s just who we are, needy people, but what can expect from sinful man after all? Throughout history, there is only one person who is not needy, and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On the night before He gave the supreme sacrifice of His death, our Lord Jesus Christ poured out His heart to God His Father in prayer. We have the record of that prayer in the Gospel of St. John. Our Lord not only prays for Himself, that He would not waiver from the task of redeeming the world by giving His life, but He prays for His disciples and for those who would believe in Him through their word. He prayed that they would all be one.

Jesus had one desire here in His last hours: that the people would be one in and through His Word. The prayer of Jesus is for all peoples, that they would be joined to Him and the Church through the word of the apostles, which is really the Word of Jesus. Our Lord’s prayer is “that they may all be one.” Christ speaks of all of them, for there are indeed many. They will be gathered from all nations, from the ends of the earth and they shall be one in Him and through Him. Christ speaks of a perfect union into one body. In fact, it is a union as perfect as the union existing between the Father and Son. As the Father and Son are perfectly united in themselves, so they are also perfectly united in the believers. This unity is from God. It is a miraculous gift given by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is a unity that comes to people who hear and believe the message of the Gospel. And Jesus states that we are the ones who have been given the privilege of sharing that Gospel.

What Jesus prays here in our text for the faithful and effective witness that we as the Church give to others. Jesus prays to the Father about out witness as He speaks of “those who will believe in me through their word.” Our Lord gives us the privilege of being the vessels by whom the Word, which brings unity with God and with one another, can come. Jesus prays to the Father about our witness that the Good News of the Gospel would be heard and believed by all who hear its sweet message. If the Church is to find unity, it is to be found only in Jesus, in the Word of God made flesh.

Our Lord rejoices in the unity that comes to us through the Word. This is a unity that comes from above, as seen in the relationship between the Father and the Son. Unity is a good thing, especially for the Church and Her work, but disunity is always at hand. It first reared its ugly head in the Garden of Eden. Disunity continues through every aspect of creation today because of sin. Only a miracle will destroy this disunity in creation and bring about God’s perfect unity. For us, we have that miracle – the Lord Jesus Christ!

From the moment of man’s sin, God made a promise that unity would be restored. The promise was kept in the form of a babe born to meek and lowly parents. The promise was kept as that babe grew into a man who gave His life upon a cross to forgive the sins of all and bring about unity between God and His creation. The promise was kept as He rose victorious from the dead, ascending to heaven to prepare a place for you in the restored order.

By the miracle of the cross, unity was restored. There, the sin-caused fracture between God and His creation is healed. On the cross, the very Son of God, who is one with the Father from all eternity, is in some astounding way separated from His Father. The Son of God, who is one with the Father, experiences on our behalf a terrible disunity with the Father, so that we might be brought back into unity with the Father.

All of this is done with you in mind, that you would be brought into union with God the Father and Jesus the Son once again. This is a present reality for you now, accomplished for you on Calvary’s cross. This comes to us through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is not something that is acquired my means of agreeing to be different, by something that you do or by something that you earn. This is something that is present for you here and now, with no work needed on your part.

It is our privilege to live out this unity so that others will know that Jesus and His message of salvation are indeed true. He’s given you His Word, and His Word makes and keeps you one. Faith comes by hearing His Word, which He gave to us through His prophets and apostles. By His Word, He has called you by the Gospel to be His child, to be one with His body and one with Him. His Word is the means to gather us together, and His Word is His means to keep us together, one in Him. That is why we gladly repent of our sins of ignoring His Word in favor of our sinful, divisive desires, for it is in His Word that He forgives our sins and keeps us one with Him.

Jesus has given you His glory. He prays to His Father, “The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” The glory of Jesus is foremost the cross, for that is the ultimate act of love for us. He has given His cross to you—He’s joined you to it in your baptism. He’s joined you to His death and resurrection. Without that, you would have to die your own death for sin, isolated from God forever. But because He’s shared the glory of His cross with you, you are now one in Him. That is why we gladly repent of our sins that would separate us from His life and lead us to death, for Christ has opened to us the way of salvation.

Jesus has given us His Word, His glory and His name. It is by these gifts that He has made us one. It is by these gifts that He keeps us one. This unity may not be the most dramatic or exciting at times. This is all the Lord’s doing, and so you can be sure: you are one with His body, the Church, and one with Christ: for His Word, His glory and His name are all summed up in these words to you: you are one with Christ, because you are forgiven for all of your sins. 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 12, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 6–“The Church” (Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27)

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.

Throughout the years, I have seen a number of churches, both Lutheran and non-Lutheran alike. Some are very ornate while some are very plain. Some are very well kept while others look like they could fall down any moment. Some look like a church while others look very secular in nature. All share one thing in common with one another: they are the Church, the Bride of Christ.

When you and I gaze upon the Church, we see people who are tainted with sin to their very core. We see people who by their very nature are sinful and cannot do anything about it. We see Satan trying to pick off the very saints of God at any and every chance available. As we look at the Church on earth, the Church Militant, we ask ourselves, “Is this all that there is? Is this the best we have to offer?” The Church Militant doesn’t always look pretty, it doesn’t always play nice with each other. It is often found to be lacking something. However, the vision of the Church that St. John has is not the vision of the Church that you and I have.

By means of a revelation from God, St. John writes, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” John is shown in detail the Bride of Christ as she will live in the new heaven and earth. He sees the Church reflected in the glory of God, which is her radiance. It bears the glory of God because of Jesus Christ. Now after the resurrection and the restoration of heaven and earth, the Church is adorned with this glory for all to see.

You and I have been made a part of the Church through the work of the Holy Spirit. We are brought in through faith and made clean by the blood of the Lamb. We share in the life of Christ and His glory. Notice what John says here: it is the glory of God. He doesn’t say that it is the glory of the people. There is a reason for that: the people of the Church are sinful. It is by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that the Church reflects the glory of God because we have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness. In other words, it’s not by our doing but by Christ’s doing. That is the way it should be and the way that it has to be.

The way for the Lamb to adorn His Bride, the Church, is done at a precious price. In order for her to be adorned with precious jewels, our Lord sacrifices everything, even Himself to purchase and win His Bride. In the fullness of time, the Bridegroom comes to secure the wedding day. He visits His people during the reign of Caesar Augustus. He cloaks His glory in human flesh as He is born to the Virgin Mary. He has come to save His bride: “To give Himself for her, to sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

The Bridegroom comes, and His people believe in Him; but the world has no use for such a Savior. Rather than honor Him, they do their best to make Him look as little like the Savior as possible: they scourge Him, beat Him, crucify Him. It is the ultimate act of rebellion and infidelity to God, for they kill the Son of God. Truly, His glory is never more hidden than when He hangs upon the cross. But truly, on the cross is when the Bridegroom redeems His Bride, dying for the sins of the world.

The Bridegroom lays down His life for His Bride. He rises again three days later –victorious but with His glory still hidden. He ascends into heaven, but not before promising, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

His Bride is so precious that He protects her with “a great high wall.” It protects her from the enemies of God, wherein He gathers the saints in safety. It sets the Church apart, making her holy through “the washing of water with the word.” She is kept pure and clean, and no unclean or false thing can enter her. Because of Christ, you are kept pure and clean and have the right and privilege to enter the gates of heaven and partake of the riches which Christ our Lord has prepared for us.

As John goes on describing the new Jerusalem, he makes notice that there is no temple in the city. The reason being is because “its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.” The temple is where you would bring your offering to the priest in order to be sacrificed for your sins. Now, the great High Priest has made the ultimate sacrifice, for He has sacrificed Himself, and so there is no need for a place of sacrifice, the temple. Because of His sacrifice, we now participate in the death of Christ because we are united by His death and resurrection.

And so John’s revelation of the holy city is focused right where it should be: on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The full glory of God is reflected in precious jewels, gates of pearls and streets of gold. Christ shines as the light of the world and leads His people forth in worship of the Father of creation and of Himself, the world’s redeemer.

For the Church Militant, for those saints on earth, we ought to reflect God’s glory on earth, but we don’t always do so. Instead of letting the light of Christ shine, we like to let our own light shine, let the light of our sinful nature shine forth. When our light shines brighter than the light of Christ, we diminish the work of Christ, make that secondary to that of our own. The problem here is that it is not our light that will save us, but the light of Jesus Christ. His light pierces the darkness of sin, defeating Satan and restoring creation to its rightful place as the beloved of God.

Our true glory is seen in none other than Christ. By what He has done, His light reflects through the Church and so we as the Church are reflections of who Christ is and all that He has done for us. Like precious jewels, we reflect the glory of the Father, sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His radiance shines upon us, His Bride, glorifying us before men, protecting us from the darkness and evil of God’s enemies and making us a holy people.

As St. John reflects for us the new Jerusalem, we are given a glimpse of our eternal home, a home that is nothing short of the full glory of God. We reflect that light of Christ as His Church. At times, we may not look churchly, we may not look like much, but we are indeed special, for we are the Bride of Christ, His Church. 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 5, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Rite of Confirmation–“Public Confession” (John 16:12-22)

LSB Icon_024Grace, 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.

For you fifteen young men and women, I hope you’re ready. There is one last test before you, probably the most important test that you will ever take. You have already taken the first part of it a long time ago, when your baptismal sponsors spoke on your behalf. Throughout the years since, you have been preparing to take the final exam. There is only question and only one answer that is appropriate. Here is your question: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” For now I’ll let you think about it.

As we turn to today’s portion of John’s Gospel, the time for Jesus to be betrayed, arrested, tried and crucified is quickly at hand. Jesus is running out of time to tell the disciples everything that He must tell them. Of course, being the disciples, the ones who were most intimate with Jesus, being a part of His inner circle for three years, they didn’t get what He was saying. Unfortunately, this sounds like the everyday thing for the disciples. Just once, you would hope that the disciples would get the message of Jesus, but today is not that day. They are still missing one thing in their disciple arsenal: the full work of the Holy Spirit, for it is by the Holy Spirit that all things regarding Jesus will be revealed.

Throughout John’s Gospel, he frequently describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Spirit of truth. The spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive the disciples. It has been running rampant since the Fall into sin and leaving a wake of destruction in its path. It has lead people to disbelieve, to doubt, to question God and what He does through His Son. Therefore, 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.

The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus by introducing Him to people as the crucified and risen Christ. That is what He comes to do for the disciples and that is what He comes to do for us. The Holy Spirit comes to introduce us to what the truth is about: Jesus. The disciples weren’t prepared for all Jesus has to say, as He tells them, for they were too worked up over Jesus’ impending departure. But He wasn’t going to leave them empty-handed. He leaves them the Holy Spirit who will testify of Him and what He has done.

Years ago, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit at your Baptism. It was there that God called you to be His beloved child in the faith. And now, for you confirmands, you are about to confirm for yourselves that faith granted to you in your Baptism. However, it won’t be easy to remain faithful to God and His Word, for the world will tempt you in many and various ways.

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.

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.”

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. He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live.

By introducing us to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives to us that joy, a joy that passes all human understanding, for it is not joy in earthly terms, a joy that will come and pass away. Rather, the joy that we receive from the Holy Spirit is a joy that is centered upon the glories of heaven, of life eternal in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We have the joy of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit keeps that joy alive by constantly feeding us through Word and Sacrament, forever reintroducing us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear confirmands, this is an important day for you, a day that continues all the days of your life. Today is not the end of your journey of faith. St. Paul writes, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. This is the place where God comes to speak to you in His Word. This is the place where God comes to feed you in the bread and wine, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. You won’t be able to find it anywhere else, though the world will tell you otherwise. For you fifteen young men and women, I have one request for you. Do yourself a favor: continue to come here each week for the rest of your lives. Don’t do it for my sake or for your parent’s sake, but for your sake. You have been given a wonderful gift called faith – a faith given to you at your Baptism and a faith that you are going to confirm in just a few minutes. This is the most wonderful gift that you could be given, a gift that is worth more than anything in this world, for it is by this gift that you have been given the keys of heaven.

There is only one name that you and I must remember: the name of Jesus Christ. We know Him as our crucified and risen Savior, for the Holy Spirit has introduced Him to us in Holy Baptism and continues to declare Him to us in Word and Sacrament. All of this brings joy, a joy that can never be taken away from us, for it is joy in knowing that we have God’s name placed upon us and that we are a part of Him. 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 April 30, 2013 in Confirmation, Easter, Sermons

 

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