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Pentecost 6

Text: Colossians 1:21-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 5

Text: Colossians 1:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our adequacy before God and man is not the result of our works but God’s alone. He alone brought us out of darkness into light. He alone cleansed us of all our sins. You and I are not qualified for salvation on our own. God does not call the qualified. Rather, it is Jesus who does the qualifying for us. He alone makes you called to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Rejoice in knowing that you have been qualified to share in the gifts that God has given you through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 3

Text: Galatians 5:1, 13-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 2

Text: Galatians 3:23-4:7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Holy Trinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pentecost

Text: Acts 2:1-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good news is that the power of God and the Word of God will triumph over all opposition. God will not, then or now, permit the message of His Son to be lost: the message that the Lord has provided life and salvation for us all in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Last Sunday of the Church Year

Text: Mark 13:24-37

Today on this Last Sunday of the Church Year, we are reminded that Judgment Day is approaching, when we will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The Bible makes clear that Jesus Christ is coming again to gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. The one who created the world, who redeemed the world and restored the world by His death and resurrection, is coming back, as we confess in the creeds, to judge the living and the dead in perfect justice. So, the question for us is which side are we going to be on.

This second-coming of Christ isn’t something new. In fact, Christ Himself proclaimed it during His earthly life. But where many have gotten the words of Jesus wrong is when He will return. There have been countless second-coming prophecies of Jesus’ return, so-called raptures where Christ will gather all His believers and leave the non-believers behind. All these share one thing in common – they got Jesus’ return date wrong! They all must have failed to read this part of Mark’s letter: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

It’s been 2000 years since Christ first appeared in such lowly estate to lowly parents. As Christ grew in His stature as the God-man, He proclaimed many things about His death and His resurrection, but He didn’t stop there. He also proclaimed that He would come again, though He never put a date or time on it; see His words previously. Our focus is on Christ’s return and not so much when, though it is.

“[Jesus said:] “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.””

Now when you hear that, it doesn’t sound like Judgment Day that we “know,” that is, the fictional judgment day. The end of the world represents dramatic action and a cataclysmic battle between good and evil that simply must be seen to be believed. It’s been popularized into a series of books and movies, albeit fictional. It is scary for the non-believer, as it should be. But for the believer, Judgment Day and the end of the world are the fulfillment of the promises of God centered in Jesus, the joyful end when we finally fall into the arms of a waiting Savior who won the victory of sin, death, and the devil.

We know the focus on today, the Last Sunday of the Church Year; it’s the same focus as it is every day – be ready for Christ’s return. How do we prepare for Christ’s return? Jesus tells us as much: the short answer is “Stay awake.”Be alert. Know that Jesus is returning and live in His forgiveness and grace. Know that the cross was about making us ready to stand before Jesus. Know that God draws close to keep our hearts ready for that great and awesome day that is coming. Know that God has more at stake in us being ready for the end of time than we have. He sacrificed His one and only Son on the Cross to make us ready!

Jesus wants us to be alert, on guard, to keep watching for Him to come at any time. This is underscored with the illustration of a man who leaves home and places his servants in charge while he’s away. Jesus is the “man,” the Church is the “house” and we believers are the “servants.” The first point Jesus makes with this picture is that we in the Church are to “be on guard,” as He says, for His return is any moment. Those in the first century believed Jesus would return during their lifetime, thus they lived in that hope and expectation, waiting and watching and longing for His return.

The message for us is the same today in twenty-first century as it was in the first. You don’t know when Christ will return, so always keep ready. Jesus tells us to be ready because one day He will return. This time He will not be the humble Savior who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, only to be killed on a cross. He came then to be our Savior, to give up His life on the Cross. When Jesus returns next, He will come to judge. He will come to destroy the present world and to establish the eternal Kingdom where all believers are to live for eternity. You have a place in that Kingdom as God washes you clean through the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross.

As this Church Year ends and we look to the coming of a new Church Year, we watch expectantly. We keep watch because we do not know when Jesus will come back. Regardless of His return, we do not want Him to find us sleeping. We stay awake and watch vigilantly by coming to church so we hear the Word of God and receive the gifts which He has given to us in His sacraments.

The Day of the Lord is coming. The signs are all around us. We’re living in the last days. It won’t be easy for you as a believer. But don’t be afraid. Christ will soon come again in righteous judgment to take you and all believers in Him to be with Him at His side. Until then, He’s at your side. His coming may be sudden, but its certainty calls us to a life of joyful expectation. Be assured by His coming! Live as believers who long for the day of His appearing. Pray that day will be here sooner rather than later, the day when there will be no more headaches and heartaches, fears and tears, troubles or trials, strife and sorrow, just God’s grace in fullest measure, eternal life. The Lord’s desire for you is that His return would not be a day of terror for you, but triumph in Him.

The One who is coming has come so that we might live. The Babe of Bethlehem became the Good Friday Savior and the Easter hope for the whole world. As Christians, we live in Him now by faith, and on that Last Day we will be with Him forever in His kingdom! That’s good news for us and for all who believe. With faith in Christ, there is forgiveness for all of our sins. There is hope when things seem hopeless. There is life after death. There is eternity. With Jesus, we are more than conquerors. That’s why Jesus lived, died, and rose for you.

It is not important to know the date of the Last Day. In fact, Jesus says that we can’t know that time. It is not important to know anything about the details of our eternal existence. The important thing is the trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins that makes us constantly ready for the day when He will show Himself and raise the dead. Jesus urges us to be awake and on guard so that we will receive Him in joy – the joy that anticipates life forever with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. 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 November 25, 2018 in Church Year, Pentecost, Sermons

 

Holy Trinity – “Trinity” (Matthew 28:16-20)

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

Have you ever played the board game Life before? You get a car, spin the dial, and move spaces around the board. You get married, have kids, buy a house, and get regular paydays. The winner is the one with the most money at the end, and you retire to millionaire acres. But one of the first decisions you have to make in that game is whether to go into debt by going to college or just to head out into the world and get started right away. If you go to college, you typically have much better paydays and more opportunities to make money throughout the game. If you don’t go, you save a bunch of money at the beginning and get a head start on the rest of the players.

How you start the game of Life makes a huge difference in how the game goes. That’s true in real life as well. How you start makes a huge difference in what happens to your life.

That was certainly true for Jesus’ life. How He began as a human being made a huge difference in what happened in His life. He didn’t begin on His own, but with the unity of the whole Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son right from conception. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Father sends His Son to us.

That same triune God who was working together at His incarnation continues to do so throughout His life. Jesus begins His public ministry at His Baptism. There, the Holy Trinity is present. The Holy Spirit comes down as a dove and rests upon Jesus. The Father declares that Jesus is His beloved Son and that He is well pleased with Jesus. Jesus began His mission of salvation together with the Father and Holy Spirit, and all are active in completing our salvation. We see Him regularly in prayer with His Father, and the Holy Spirit is with Him every step of the way.

Then come the final days of His life. Now on the cross, Jesus is alone. Even His Father has abandoned Him as He goes through hell for us. But you can see the Father even in that loneliness and suffering – Jesus is carrying out His Father’s will by going to cross. On Easter morning, the Father raises Him from the dead. Later, when Jesus ascends into heaven, He sends His Holy Spirit into the Church.

Today, in our Gospel reading, Jesus gives to His disciples what is called the Great Commission. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Most of the time when you hear this passage of Scripture, you think of one of two things: evangelism or Baptism. But this passage also teaches us something else: it teaches us the Holy Trinity.

In this text, the Lord Jesus Himself declares the identity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and you can’t find a better source for this than the Son Himself.

So, on this day, we celebrate who God is: the Holy Trinity, one God composed of three persons. We do not worship three gods, but one. We do not worship one God who puts on three different masks to deal with us; we worship three distinct persons of the one God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate what we cannot comprehend – the persons and identity of God. We know He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for He tells us. But beyond that, His being defies our logic.

How Jesus began His earthly life made a huge difference in what happened in His life. From beginning to end, the Trinity was wonderfully united in action for us. The same is true for our lives. How we start makes a huge difference. And for us in the Church, the triune God is our starting place. We begin by being baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This does something for us. It marks us as God’s beloved child. It gives to us His name, and connected to His name are a host of things. We have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, granted to us by the work of the Son. We have the gift of faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit. This is work that is done on our behalf by a loving God who has created us. He desires to have the relationship with us that we had in the Garden. In order for that relationship to happen, Jesus had to come to be our Redeemer. Through His life, death, and resurrection, that relationship was restored.

Through all of history, the Trinity has been at work serving. Jesus, the Son of God, submits Himself to the authority of the Father. God the Father give His Son all authority in heaven and on earth. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to fulfill their will. What do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do as almighty God? They serve one another. But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit don’t just serve each other: They serve you.

For you, God the Father provides all good things for this body and life, as well as for eternity. Especially, He has sacrificed His Son for your sins, and continues to shower all sorts of blessings upon you. For you, God the Son has gone to the cross and died for your salvation, and continues to give you forgiveness by His means of grace, through His Word and Sacraments. For you, God the Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify you with the forgiveness of sins, that you might remain a member of the one, holy Christian Church.

This is your cause for rejoicing: the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present Father, Son and Holy Spirit have made you their disciple. They have washed away your sins and declare your salvation. The works of man cannot save you, but the work of the Holy Trinity can; and what is this work of the Holy Trinity: to forgive all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 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 June 14, 2017 in Pentecost, Sermons, Trinity

 

Pentecost – “Come, Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:1-21)

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

We all know who makes up the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We ascribe to God the Father the act of creation. To God the Son, we ascribe the act of redemption. Finally, to God the Holy Spirit, we ascribe the act of sanctification, that is, making us holy. Not only that, the Holy Spirit gives to us the great gift of faith, that without it, nothing that Jesus does works for us. But with all that the Trinity does, the Holy Spirit tends to get the raw end of things, almost forgotten by some. However, the work of the Holy Spirit is just as important as that of the Father or the Son.

As we look at the readings appointed for the Day of Pentecost, all have the Spirit at work in the life of God’s people. Looking at the account of Moses and the elders, God sends forth His Spirit to the seventy elders, “and as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” In response to Moses’ prayer, the Lord addressed the needs of Moses first and provided help in the form of seventy elders. Their responsibility would be to help Moses in the administration of the Israelite nation. On them, the Lord would put His Spirit. As promised, the Spirit was put upon the elders, an extension of the work of the Spirit among God’s people. When the men received the Spirit, they began to prophesy, to proclaim the Word of the Lord.

For some unknown reason, Eldad and Medad, two of the men selected, had not presented themselves at the Tabernacle. They, however, began prophesying in the camp. Some, including Joshua, felt that these two men should be stopped from proclaiming God’s Word. Moses sees no harm in their prophesying and proclaiming of the Word of the Lord. In fact, he responds by saying, Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

Turning to the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, we see “they were all together in one place.” Who is “they” that Luke speaks of? Is it just the 11 apostles of Jesus or would this include more? Likely, this would include the 11 but also the brothers that Peter addressed, numbering 120, since Jesus’ apostles had already received the Holy Spirit. Luke records for us that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit….”

What is so important regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit? It has been said that “from that moment the Holy Spirit became the dominant reality in the life of the early Church.”  Jesus prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit with the promise of Pentecost. He promised that His followers would be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” But Acts emphasizes especially one aspect of the Spirit’s work, namely, inspiring believers to speak God’s message.  Every reference to the coming of the Spirit and the work He is sent to do connects Him to the Word of Christ.

The Spirit works through God’s saving Word. It is a Word intended for all people, not just a select and gifted few. Every person in the house was filled with the Holy Spirit. The list of nations represented in Jerusalem signifies that the gift of God’s Word is to all nations and all peoples. It was a message that was understood in every language.

That is the purpose of the Word. It is the message of the saving work of Jesus Christ for all peoples. The day of Pentecost was the giving of that message to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit came to spread the Word of God to the apostles, allowing them to spread that Word as pastors to the churches around them: Paul was sent to Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica. Timothy was sent to the church at Ephesus to preach and teach. These were faithful pastors who received the gift of the Holy Spirit, though not necessarily on the day of Pentecost.

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

So what do we have today from the day of Pentecost? We have the Word of God – we have the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good News that He has died to take away our sins.  We don’t have any living apostles, but we do have their apostolic teachings in the New Testament. It was this same message that St. Peter proclaimed to the crowds that day; the same message that saved 3,000 that day is the one that is proclaimed here at Trinity and throughout Christendom today.

That same Holy Spirit rests even on us very ordinary people. While we are not all apostles or pastors, we are disciples of Jesus, that is, His followers. The Holy Spirit was given to us at our Baptism. It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit worked in us saving faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is given to all believers, not on account of what we do, but what was done for us.

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

The Holy Spirit still works through the Word of God. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The true sign of the Holy Spirit at work is the proclamation of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit points to Jesus who is the God-Man who saved us from our sin with His suffering and death on the cross and promises us life everlasting with His resurrection. The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word when we hear it with our ears, when we read it with our eyes, when we experience that Word in the water of Holy Baptism, and when we receive it with the true body and blood of Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit is at work when we confess our faith before each other and when we confess our faith before those who do not know Jesus.

Today is a joyous day, for today we give thanks for Christ Jesus who sent to us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to each of you as you were baptized into Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit works faith in you, fights for you, intercedes for you, strengthens you, and carries you home to Christ. No matter what the problems of this world might bring –  sickness, disease, persecution, heartache, or any kind of misery – these shall come to pass and you dear child of God who call upon Jesus who died on the cross and rose for you: will be saved. That is why we have joy. That is our comfort. That is what we should joyously proclaim in the streets for all to hear: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In Jesus name, amen.  Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

Pentecost 13C – “By Faith, Part 2” (Hebrews 11:17-31; 12:1-3)

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.

Think about the greatest gift that you ever received in your life. It might have been a toy, a game, car, or house. If we are married and are smart, we would say that the greatest gift we ever received was our spouse. Believe it or not, there is an even greater gift that you have received. You have received the gift of everlasting life. So just how exactly did you receive this gift? Did you buy it? Did you earn it? Did you do something for it? The answer is no; you did nothing to buy it, nothing to earn it, and you did nothing for it. This is a gift.

St. Paul tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….” You see, all of this is a gift granted to you by faith. Faith is the key to all of this. Faith is something that is given to you, not something that we make or create. Paul makes that clear in his letter to the Romans: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Faith is something that comes from the outside, not from the inside. There isn’t anything that we can do to have faith; it must be given to us. The Holy Spirit gives faith to us. It comes to us in the Word of God. It comes to us in Holy Baptism. It comes to us in the Lord’s Supper. It comes to us through Christ, who died for our sins. Only through these means does true faith come.

What is the true faith? The writer to the Hebrews tells us at the beginning of chapter 11: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” All throughout our text for today, we read about those people who lived throughout biblical times and the faith which they had, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

            Each and every person whom the author of Hebrews mentions was a person of great faith. You have Abraham, Moses, the prophets and patriarchs. All were great people of faith, yet each of them experienced pain in their lives, all stemming from the faith that they had in God.

Faith is what saved the people of the Old Testament, since they did not experience the Messiah. Instead, they had faith in the promise of the Messiah. Faith is ultimately all that Abraham had. Abraham is often called “the father of the faithful.” It was promised to Abraham that it would be his descendants who would inherit the kingdom of God. However, even the “father of the faithful” had his share of trials and tribulations and pain along the way. His most painful moment came when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, to God.

Instead of scoffing at God’s request, Abraham took his only son and went to the land of Moriah to offer him as the sacrifice, just as God had told him to do. When Isaac questioned about where they would find the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham told him, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Instead of losing or questioning his faith, he continued strong in his faith, even in the face of what was to happen, that God would provide. In the end, the faith of Abraham did not waiver. Abraham focused on God rather than on the circumstances of the impending sacrifice and God ultimately provided a ram for the sacrifice instead of Isaac.

So has God provided a sacrifice for you. He provides the very sacrifice that He asks of Abraham – His one and only Son. But unlike Isaac, there would be no ram to replace Him. Instead, God sacrifices His one and only Son so that we, the poor, miserable sinners that we are, would receive life through the blood of the sacrifice. That works great for us living in a post-Jesus era, but what about all those before us in our text today? What about those who lived pre-Jesus? Does that mean that they are without life? Of course not!

As the writer of Hebrews expounds on Moses and the people of Israel, and others, faith is all that they had. Faith is all that any of us have. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the greatest of all promises. This promise includes the resurrection and the glorification of our bodies when Christ shall appear in His second coming to those who are expecting Him for salvation. This promise is a promise for you and for me and for all believers in Christ Jesus.

For us sinners, we have been given faith by the Holy Spirit in our Baptism. We who are sinners have been united with God forever as His beloved children through what Christ has done for us, through Baptism and through His life, death and resurrection. We have the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ.

So what happens when our faith is weakened or when it seems that God has given up on us, that He has left us to our sinful vices? First, know that God has not given up on you, His beloved and baptized children. Even when Israel turned their backs on God over and over again, God did not utterly abandon them. Yes, He let evil befall them. They lost their land, their lives, even their identity, but God was still their God and would preserve them.

For you, God is still your God and will preserve you. He will lift you up when you are at your lowest point in your sinful lives. He has promised that in your Baptism, that you have His name placed upon you and that you are His forever. That promise is yours.

So, what sins do you cling to today? What weighs you down in the marathon of your life as a Christian? What sins trip you up? Whatever it is, the text is clear: lay it aside. How do we do that? Confess it. Speak to God of your sins that He already knows: acknowledge them before Him. And rejoice: rejoice because the Lord has comfort upon comfort in our epistle to give you this day.

This grueling race is already won. Every other religion tells you that the prize is yours if you run the race well enough. But this is not so. Jesus has already run the race. He has already become flesh to endure the cross for you. He has despised its shame—the shame of being found guilty of all the sins of the entire world, for they were all heaped upon Him. Yet He has endured the cross so that you might be delivered from your sin.

Jesus remains the victor. He sits at the right hand of the throne of God: He is His Father’s right-hand God-man for you. He does not grow weary or discouraged about your soul; rather, He continues to work all things for your good, actively preserving you in the one true faith throughout the race.

Your ultimate joy is this: knowing that you are not alone, for Christ is with you now. He is the author and finisher of your faith: it is He who is the source of the faith you have, and it is He who has completed the cross so that your faith and salvation might be fulfilled. He is the author and finisher, Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. But He is not far away: He is with you. In your endurance run, who has given you the living, life-giving water of Holy Baptism? It is none other than Christ Himself. Who continues to feed and strengthen you for whatever race remains? It is your Savior, with His own body and blood.

It’s an endurance run, this life of a Christian. Christ has run His course from heaven to the cross and back again, enduring the judgment for sin so that you might be set free. Take heart, dear friends, for your race is run and won already, because you are forgiven 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 August 16, 2016 in Pentecost, Sermons

 
 
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