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Lent 4C

Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”

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.

Leave it to Pharisees to be Pharisees. They just can’t handle the idea that Jesus is who He says that He is. Whenever there is a chance to go off on Jesus, to downplay His credibility, to put an end to Jesus’ nuisance, they take it. In today’s Gospel reading, we see just that: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.””

Besides Jesus being Jesus, which is a problem of its own, the problem we see today is that Jesus associates Himself with the low-lifers of tax collectors and sinners. I don’t say that lightly, because that is exactly how they are seen in the eyes of the Pharisees. Anyone who doesn’t live up to the Pharisee’s standards is a third or fourth-class citizen. If there’s anyone who doesn’t live up to those standards, it’s a tax collector and a sinner. Sinner here means anyone who doesn’t keep the Law like the Pharisees do. And the fact that Jesus, or anyone for that matter, would associate themselves with the likes of these people, well, it’s an outrageous abomination!

How easy it is for the Pharisees to snub their noses at everyone because they aren’t a Pharisee. How easy it is for us to snub our noses at someone because they’re not as good as we are. Yes, I just put us in the Pharisee camp because we like to be all judgey to people, comparing them and their behavior to our more clearly better behavior. But to do that seeks to hide the fact that we are a sinner, just like they are, just like everyone else.

To combat this line of Pharisaical thinking, Jesus tells them a series of parables. Here, we hear the parable of the prodigal son. For the sake of time, here’s the synopsis. A man has two sons. One of the sons tells his father that he wants the share of property that belongs to him. The father gives him his share, he goes and wastes it in reckless living. When he is reduced to wanting to eat the slop he feeds the pigs, he decides he’s going to go home and ask his father to make him like on of the servants because they are treated better than the life he has now.

As he is making his way home, the father sees him from a distance and runs and throws his arms around him, welcoming the son home again. And because he has his son back, he throws a huge party with the best of food, including the fattened calf to celebrate. Donning on a robe ring, and shoes, the son is elevated back to the position of being a son again. But the older brother who has stayed at home and done everything gets all jealous and upset at the father because he was the good son and never got a party or any recognition like this. The father ends by saying, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

This is a great parable for a host of reasons. Jesus doesn’t tell this in flowery language to the point that you can’t understand the message behind it. Rather, it is as plain as plain could be, and yet it is a difficult parable for some to understand.

While we might be able to understand this parable, it was beyond the Pharisee’s understanding. The father acts out of character for a man of his age and stature. No one would do for the son like the father did in real life. While it might be a good parable, it just isn’t all that accurate, and quite frankly, it’s a work of fiction.

And if that’s what you’re thinking, well, you’re wrong as wrong could be. This is a beautiful account of how you have treated God and how God treats you. Man has taken the image of God and thrown it away by giving into temptation. We have lived the reckless life of sin, and lived as if God doesn’t matter, because He doesn’t. We have squandered all that He gave us in the Garden and exchanged it for a brutal existence that culminates in death… or does it?

Your God goes seeking after you. Your God is there, waiting for you to wise up to your sinfulness and to confess your sins. He stands, literally with the arms of His Son stretched out, to redeem you, to restore you, to make you as you once were. There is nothing that your heavenly Father won’t do to redeem you, to buy you back, from the devastating effects of sin. He has welcomed you back with loving arms of a Father who has His son or daughter returned.

For you and I, our heavenly Father does nothing short of a grand celebration for us. He gives to us the “best robe” as we are robed in Christ’s righteousness. You and I receive from God the gift of His name in our Baptism, marking us as those who have been redeemed by Christ. We are given that sonship that the young son had given up before his journey. We receive the fattened calf that was killed for the party, but we don’t receive it in the form of a calf. We receive it in the form of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This Lamb of God was slaughtered for us upon Calvary, His blood washing over us to forgive us all of our sins in His sacrifice for us. The words that the father uses in the parable are descriptive of us as well: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” That’s us. Dead in our trespasses of sin, but made alive in the waters of Baptism. The image of God lost upon us in the Fall, but found and restored again by Christ’s death and resurrection.

What the parable of the prodigal son tells us, what it tells you, is that you can go back home! In fact, when a sinner repents and returns to the Father, it is a happy day, a glorious day, a day to celebrate, a day to rejoice and give thanks. Indeed, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” The sacrifice has been offered and the banquet table has been set because you are home in the house of your father!

Today we celebrate and partake in the foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. Better than any fatted calf, the Lamb of God has been slain, once for all. The Lamb of God, who once was dead, now lives and reigns victorious, and today we feast on this Lamb with the King of Kings Himself as baptized and restored children of His heavenly, royal household! Today our Lord of lords and King of kings deigns to not only feast with us, but to serve us with His very Body and Blood. Here He lavishly welcomes, embraces, kisses, and feeds all His children with His free and undeserved gifts of Fatherly divine goodness, mercy, love, and peace.

God our heavenly Father has the last word in all of this. He is the one who never turns His back on the children who turn their backs on Him. He is the Father who comes running to us after we have run away from Him. There is always hope for the prodigal son and so there is hope for us as well. 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 1, 2019 in Lent, Sermons

 

Lent 3C

Text: Luke 13:1-9

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.

When you look at the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday in Lent, it first appears a bit grim and gory: “There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We’ve got murder, but what makes it worse is that the murder of these Galileans was even more shocking because it happened while they were making sacrifices to God. That’s bad news, to be sure. Why would this have happened to them? Did they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time? Had they committed some grievous sin to cause Pilate to kill them? Or was it something totally different?

In response to the thoughts or words of some in the crowd, Jesus asked if this ugly crime took place because these Galileans were worse sinners than other people. This might be our thought too when we see some great tragedy happen to someone else. It is very easy to suppose that the tragedy is a punishment for some great sin. Jesus answered His own question with a strong negative statement, something along the lines of “absolutely not” in today’s language. These people were not killed because of some great, particular sin which they had committed. None of the Galileans who remained alive were any better than those who were killed. All sinners, Jesus warned, unless they would repent, would meet with a terrible end. The death of every unrepentant sinner Jesus pointed out as the great tragedy.

The answer to their thought wasn’t whether or not they were worse sinners than others; it was the fact that they all were sinners. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

There’s another of those nasty words, a word that we don’t like to say – repent. You want to know why it’s such a nasty word? Because it requires us to do something that we don’t like to do. The Oxford Dictionary defines repent as a verb which means to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. For the moment, let’s side aside whether or not you actually regret or you are remorseful of your sins. The great problem comes in that you actually have to admit that you have sinned, even if just once. What’s worse, what if you say that you are a sinner, that you have an ongoing problem with sin? What does that mean? That’s not something that we want to admit to ourselves, let alone anyone else, and certainly not to God. But God already knows that you are a sinner. It’s the whole reason why God sent Jesus in the first place, because you are a sinner, because you are separated from Him, because He wants to restore you to the rightful position He has for you.

Repenting sounds nasty because we don’t want to admit that we are sinners. But it doesn’t matter if we want to admit it or not because God already knows we are sinners. We are “same-saying” what God already has said about us and what He already knows to be true. It’s true we don’t like to admit the fact that we are sinners, but just because we don’t like to do something doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do it. We don’t want to admit that we are sinners because if we do, people might look at us differently, judge us in a way that we don’t want to be judged. But it doesn’t matter what others say about us or how they judge us; it only matters how God judges us. And in our current state, we’re not going to like His verdict.

In our sinful state, the verdict will always be guilty, each and every time. Our sin is what makes us guilty and there is nothing that you or I can do about that. But there is something that God can do about it and something that He does do about it. He sends Jesus for you, for your sin, for that deep and dark secret sin that no one knows about because if they did, they would never see you the same again. But God does know that deep, dark secret sin. And He sends Jesus to die for that deep, dark secret sin, to take that sin and remove it from you so you can stand before a holy God and He can look upon you and see you as you once were so long ago – perfect, holy, blameless. God only sees you perfect and holy and blameless because of Jesus and His doing what you could not do – keep His Word perfectly.

There’s a reason why He does this. He wants you. He wants you to be a part of Him, now and for all eternity. That’s why Jesus tells of two accounts of people dying and what can happen to others: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Remember, God is the one who created you. Do you think that He wants to see His creation perish? Do you think He wants to see what He made in His image fall from perfection and never be restored? Absolutely not. For you, He sends Jesus in order that your death is not a permanent death. Death is one way God calls people to repentance, lest they perish eternally. Some falsely conclude that if nothing really bad happens to them in life, it is a sign that they have been living good lives. Jesus is teaching that not only certain very wicked people need to repent but repentance is necessary for everyone.

What a shocking statement for Jesus to make, that everyone needs to repent or perish. Who does He think He is to make such a bold, sweeping statement like that, the Son of God? Oh wait, that’s exactly who He is. He knows exactly what will happen to the unrepentant sinner and that is why He is here. He comes to urge the people to repent of their sins. He comes as the means of their repentance. He comes as the one who will give His life for the lives of the repentant. He comes and will be our Judge on the last day.

To reinforce His message, he tells a parable of the fig tree. Looking at Jesus’ parable, it’s straight talk. It’s not pleasant. It’s not comforting, and it’s nobody’s favorite. But there it is, straight and to the point. The terms are established by God, not us. Our excusing and rationalizing, our complaining and postponing, our good intentions and sincerity of purpose all evaporate into the air and the voice that speaks inquires about the fruits of our lives.

If you are uncomfortable with that, then that is the way it should be. God is very patient, not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. However, the delay in judgment should not cause people to put off repentance. The time will finally come when the unfruitful tree is cut down. The opportunity for repentance does finally come to an end.

As patient and long suffering as God is, there is a deadline for our repentance. The writer to the Hebrews says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” The tree in the parable has a year to bear fruit. In a similar way, those who refuse to repent in this life will be removed from the Kingdom of God in the next.

Why do we need to repent? Have we really done that bad that we need to repent? If we take stock of ourselves I think we’ll often find that we’ve been careless at some point or other in our lives—that we’ve lived as if God doesn’t matter, or allowed a cynical attitude to develop, or conformed to the mood and mindset of the age in which we live. In short, instead of living our lives according to God’s commandments and His ways, we live our lives in the way which makes us happy, regardless if it’s contrary to the Word of God.

How do we live then? The standard is too high, and we don’t even measure up to the “not good enough” of which Paul and Ezekiel speak of in our other readings for today. But God is on your side and wants you to live! The answer is and has always been and will always be Jesus. Jesus goes to the cross in order to buy you back and to restore you to your rightful place as God’s heir. He gives His life in order that your life will not be taken. He dies so that you will never die that final death.

Maybe the word “repent” isn’t so bad of a word at all. Maybe the parable of the barren fig tree isn’t so bad either, for it reminds us that life is to be lived on God’s terms, it also reminds us that life and can be good and full and productive. Once again, Jesus gives to us the words that are most needed – words that remind us what our heavenly Father desires of us and the gift of forgiveness that comes through repentance. 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 March 25, 2019 in Lent, Sermons

 

Lent 2C

Text: Luke 13:31-35

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

There is something seriously wrong in our Gospel reading for today, and you probably didn’t even notice it: “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”” This doesn’t sound like any of the Pharisees we know, for they weren’t concerned about Jesus’ wellbeing, but rather of getting Him out of the picture before He does any more damage to their powerbase. So why would they warn Jesus of what Herod wants to do? Were these Pharisees really concerned about Christ’s welfare? Was their warning concerning Herod sincere? Or did they want to get Jesus to go to Jerusalem where it would be easier for them to get rid of Him?

Perhaps there was some danger as far as Herod was concerned. Certain threats against the life of Jesus had been made. The Herodians, the supporters of Herod, were plotting with the Pharisees to kill Jesus. At the same time the Pharisees were using such threats to serve their own evil purposes. They were not friends of Jesus. It was likely they wanted Jesus to go to Jerusalem where they would have more people on their side because He would not be so popular as in Galilee.

Despite whatever their intentions with this warning, it seems very much out of character for them. For a group of people who despised Jesus as much as the Pharisees did, it seems completely illogical for them to warn Public Enemy #1 of the Pharisees of a desire to have Jesus put to death. Regardless of their intent, Jesus doesn’t give them any satisfaction with their warning. Rather, He goes after Herod over the Pharisees: “Go and tell that fox…” The Lord made no reference to the hypocritical show of concern by the Pharisees, but answered them by expressing His contempt for Herod and any danger which that “fox” could present. In fact, by openly referring to Herod as a fox, that is a cunning person, Jesus publicly defied him.

Jesus wanted Herod to know that He would continue His work and miracles “today and tomorrow,” that is for a certain definite time. Then “on the third day,” at an appointed time, Jesus would bring His entire work to completion. His goal, which included death and resurrection, would not be reached while Jesus is in Herod’s territory. Therefore Jesus said He must continue His journey to Jerusalem which has the reputation of killing the prophets sent by God.

You see, nothing would keep Jesus from His date with the cross; not the Pharisees and not Herod. Nothing under creation would keep Jesus from His saving creation. Despite whatever plan the Pharisees might have cooked up with regards to killing Jesus, it would never come to pass. Whatever Herod had in mind would not come to pass because Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s not in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is where He must be. That is why He says, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”

Thus, as He goes to the cross, no one can keep Him away from Jerusalem-not Herod and all of his soldiers or the Pharisees with all of their plans. This is the Son of God going about His Father’s will, and He will not be diverted from the journey. He is going to Jerusalem. And because He is going to Jerusalem, Herod and the Pharisees will work out the details for His death. If He isn’t going to go away, they will make Him go away.

But bear this in mind: They don’t make Him go away. The Lord is still in charge. He does not die on that cross because of Herod’s strength or the plottings of the Pharisees. Nor is He scourged and crucified because of the power of the Romans. He goes to that cross only because He goes willingly, because this is God’s plan for your salvation. This is the all-powerful Son of God, and He will not be denied your redemption.

This is your comfort and hope: Your Savior is not a weak man who is overpowered by evil men who seek to put Him to death. No matter the hatred of His enemies, He goes to Jerusalem. No matter the plots and plans of man, nothing keeps Him from suffering the full judgment for your sin. Nothing could deter the Son of Godfrom that mission of salvation. No one, not Satan and his seductive attempts to buy Christ from His mission; not even Christ’s own disciples could dissuade Him from going to the cross with the hopes of Him staying with them forever; not even His enemies who threatened Him with suffering and even death; nothing in this world could side-track Him from that for which He came into the world. He came to be a ransom for many. He came to die that we might live. He came as Redeemer and ushered in the full meaning of God’s eternal love.

And so we say again: Jesus goes to the cross and dies only because He wills to. He did it willingly. He submitted to the suffering and the nails and the death because He willed to do so for you, in accordance with the Father’s will.

Jesus’ heart for His people will send Him to Jerusalem, for her and for us. Once more, on Palm Sunday, Jesus would come to Jerusalem and be acclaimed by words of praise, but He will still be rejected and crucified. This is precisely why He would come. This had been Jerusalem’s purpose throughout her favored history: this would be where the Son would God would give His life for the Church. Jerusalem will be saved and so will you, as will all those who repent and are gathered into Christ.

As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem His ministry focused on those upcoming events. He taught and healed as He usually did on these journeys, but He also spent more time preparing His followers for His upcoming suffering and death in Jerusalem.

After He arrived in Jerusalem, His journey would continue. At the end of that journey, He would carry a cross to Calvary. He would also carry our sins. Jerusalem is the place He would complete His journey. It is the place where He would proclaim, “It is finished,” as He finished His mission to pay the penalty for our sins.

For you, Christ was led like a lamb to the slaughter, not by Herod or the Pharisees, but of His own accord. He was despised and rejected by men because He was seen as a challenge to their authority rather than the means of their salvation. Despite the acts of those who sought to put Him to death, He lays down His life for them and He lays down His life for you in order to redeem you. It is because of Christ that we are able to say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 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 March 19, 2019 in Lent, Sermons

 

Funeral for + Ella Lydia Henrichsmeyer +

The text chosen for Ella’s funeral comes from Revelation 2:10b – “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Here ends our text.

Steve, Jeff, family and friends, these words from St. John are words that we need to hear, especially on a day like today. In fact, these are words that we need to hear each and every day, for they are words of eternal life. These are words that brought great comfort to Ella and they are words that should bring comfort to you as well.

How, exactly, are we able to be faithful unto death? I don’t know about you, but in and of myself, I’m pretty faithless. Even worse, I’m completely faithless. As beloved a woman as Ella was, she too was faithless, and she would tell you as much. You see, the faith she had was not by her own doing, but by the grace of God. Lo, all those many years ago when the waters of Holy Baptism touched her head, she received faith. It was God who made Ella faithful, and she truly was faithful, even unto death.

That’s the joy of being Christian – it’s not about you. You don’t bring anything to the table except your sin. That’s what Ella brought to the table. It is because of that sin that we are here today, for the wages of sin is death.” With that being said, it didn’t end there for Ella. It is because of Christ that Ella now rests from her earthly labors in the loving arms of her Savior. She didn’t do anything and she knew it. She never could and she didn’t try. She knew that her salvation rested solely in the work of Christ and not in herself.

This past week, we began the season of Lent, the time in the Church Year in which we reflect upon our sin and the love of God for His creation by sending Jesus to die upon the cross. It is a somber time, to be sure, but it is also a time of anticipation, a time where we rejoice in the risen Jesus Christ who has atoned for all sin. Fortunately for Ella, she gets to see her risen Lord a little earlier than the rest of us.

But for the rest of us here, what about us? What comfort do we have after losing a mother or grandmother or friend? Is there comfort for us in a time like this? The answer is yes, yes there is comfort to be found, but I caution you where to find said comfort.

Comfort found in worldly things will be comforting in the short term, but that comfort will not last. True comfort is found solely in Christ, for it is Christ who has won the victory over sin and death for us; it is Christ who comforts us by His sacrifice upon the cross, for there will we find life. That is where Ella placed her trust and that was her comfort throughout her life, especially the last few days. She was not fearful of death because she knew that death in this earthly life would be the beginning of her heavenly life. Remember the words of St. John: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Because Christ was faithful to her, she wears the crown of life now. In fact, she has worn that crown of life since her Baptism into Christ, for there she received all that was His, including the privilege of being called a child of God.

That fact, being a child of God, was not something which Ella took lightly. It is where she found her true comfort in this earthly life, because she knew that she was a sinner. She knew that on account of her sins, death would claim her, just as it will for everyone. But she also knew that because of Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, she need not fear an earthly death because it would not be permanent. She found her comfort in the fact that Christ has died for all her sin and given to her the gift of everlasting life.

Our comfort is found in the promises of God, promises that have been made and never broken, promises that will never be broken. These promises were not made lightly and God has ensured that these promises are kept. The promise made of a Savior is complete in Jesus. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Those are not just empty words, but rather words of eternal life, for life is found in Jesus. Death is but a fleeting moment, for while the believer dies to this earthly life, they have eternal life in Jesus.

That is the joy that Ella had, a joy in the promise of a Savior kept. That is the joy that we have in Christ. That is the joy That is the joy that God intends for all of creation, for God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This truth is a singular truth, a truth that cannot be replicated by worldly standards or found in your local big-box retail store. This is the truth that Ella held to and the truth that we hold to: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all….”

We will miss Ella. We will grieve for the role in our lives that she once filled. At the same time, we can take great comfort in the knowledge that she now wears a crown of life. She now waits with all the saints for that glorious day when the Lord will return with a shout and raise all the dead. On that day, Jesus will raise Ella’s body and reunite it with her soul, where He will take her body and soul to the New Jerusalem.

There is even more comfort for us on this day. The Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for Ella, also laid His life down for all of us. The Good Shepherd is the same Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead. His death and resurrection offer you eternal life with Him and for all who believe in His name.

We bid farewell to Ella on this day. We shall never see her again in this life, but there is a life to come in eternity. Those who believe in Jesus will live again in His presence. As we live together in His presence, we shall be united again with those who have gone on before. As our Good Shepherd who will gather all believers into His flock, His presence, we shall see Ella again.

Until that day comes, our lives here on this earth go on. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can faithfully receive the gifts that Jesus wants to give to us, just as Ella received. We can experience a foretaste of the feast that Ella now enjoys fully. At the altar, we can briefly attend the wedding feast of the Lamb while we wait for the day when we too will fully experience the joy of Christ’s presence with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, the company of heaven who now include our dear sister Ella. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2019 in Funeral, Sermons

 

Lent 1

Text: Luke 4:1-13

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.

“And lead us not into temptation.” What does this mean? “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”

Those are Luther’s words in explaining the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Temptation is going to happen; it’s inevitable. It happened to God’s perfect creation – Adam and Eve. Created perfect, holy, without sin, and yet, they succumbed to temptation. You have been tempted and most likely gave into said temptation. You will be tempted and mostly like will give into said temptation. Because of the effects of sin, temptation is very much a part of this creation. As we begin this Lenten season, we see that temptation befalls all of creation, even that of Jesus.

Luke says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” Just after our Lord’s Baptism, Jesus is tempted. It would seem that that could not happen, not to Jesus. He is God, how can God be tempted? You are correct, Jesus is God. If Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, how could He be tempted? Jesus, who had the Holy Spirit descend upon Him at His Baptism, could not be tempted. But lest you forget, Jesus is also man, born of woman’s seed as promised to Adam and Eve and to Mary. Jesus is 100% full man and that is what the devil uses to go after Jesus.

One thing that seems a bit off when we read the account of our Lord’s temptation is that in all three accounts of this, the Gospel writes only record three temptations. Does that mean that the devil tempted Jesus, failed to tempt Him, took a break to regroup, and tried to tempt Him again? Absolutely not. The temptations that Jesus faced those forty days were constant, just as the temptations that we face in our lives are constant, probably even more so with Jesus. Tempting Jesus was a big deal, bigger than what you might think. If Jesus could be tempted in the slightest way, then it would mean game over for creation. Giving into the smallest of temptations would negate our Lord’s purpose of entering creation; He no longer could be the sinless sacrifice. To say that this was important to the devil is an understatement.

Looking at these temptations, what is the common thread in them? One deals with hunger, one with worship, and the other testing. At first glance, they don’t seem to have any sort of connection. But look closer at each temptation. The first temptation, hunger, seeks to attack the divinity and the humanity of Christ simultaneously: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Here, the devil challenges the claim that Jesus is the Son of God with the word “if.” Of course Jesus is the Son of God. We see in later accounts in the Gospels of Jesus casting out demons and the demons knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and are fearful of that fact. Do you think that the devil didn’t know who he was dealing with here? Of course he did! But what he said was said with purpose, to do what he does best – instill doubt. It would be absurd that Jesus would doubt His own divinity, but the great temptation was that of His humanity – hunger.

After forty days, Jesus was certainly hungry. To quench His hunger, why not turn the stone to bread, IF Jesus really is the Son of God, because He certainly could do that. And while He could, He doesn’t. To defeat this temptation, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” God’s true Son, in whom He is ever well pleased, will not distrust His Father. He will rest in God’s word, and wait. He will not give into temptation because He knows what is at stake – creation.

The second of the recorded temptations involved authority and worship: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Showing someone all of creation and offering it to them in return for worship might sound tempting to you or me. But for Jesus, the author of creation, this temptation seems to fall flat, as did all the other temptations thrown at Him in the wilderness. How can the devil give to Jesus that which already belongs to Him? And in return, all He needs to do is bow down and worship one who desires worship but doesn’t deserve it. Truly Jesus had come to gain back creation from the Fall, but not in that way; at dreadful cost indeed, but cost of love and suffering, not of character.

For the final recorded temptation, it was all about putting God to the test. Again, it begins by question who Jesus is: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here….” This was about testing God, to see if God would follow thru with what He has said. But every time the devil quoted God’s Word, he didn’t, at least, not in its entirety. He wanted to get out of it what was not in it. In other words, make it say what he wants it to say. He misuses God’s Word as a proof of God’s promise that He will protect us against all danger by letting His angels guard us. Nowhere does God say that we can test his protecting care by exposing ourselves recklessly to danger. However, this is not the most important feature of this temptation. Here the devil challenges Christ to test whether the Word of God is as reliable as Jesus seems to think. He asks Jesus to put the promise of God in Psalm 91 to a test to see if it is true.

After forty days, the devil could not tempt Jesus in any way, despite his single trick – twisting the Word of God. What worked once on Adam and Eve, what worked great on creation and still works great today, could not work on Jesus, for the stakes were too high. The devil knew this was going to be a lost cause, but he had to try regardless. It had already been told him as much: “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

We often fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did. Jesus withstood the devil’s temptation on our behalf. He is our champion. He never sinned. He stayed on the hard road to the cross. Jesus fulfilled every promise God made. Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger. He endured temptation even to the cross. Jesus never wavered, and in the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil. He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, earning for us the forgiveness of all of our 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 March 10, 2019 in Lent, Sermons

 

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Text: Luke 9:28-36

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

We all know who God the Father is: maker of heaven and earth. We know what He has done: created all things out of nothing. But what does God look like? We know that He doesn’t necessarily look like us, having two arms and two legs. So what exactly does God look like? We’ll come back to that later.

Things have been ramping up for Jesus. He has turned into the local celebrity of sorts, with people from all over coming to Him, to hear Him, to touch Him, to have Him heal them. This has clearly taken a toll on Jesus and so He retreats to a time of prayer with three of His disciples: Peter, James, and John.

It’s a bit ironic that even the Son of God requires that time to pray, to be in conversation with His Father. While He hasn’t taught the disciples how to pray yet in Luke’s Gospel, here Peter, James, and John get a glimpse of what the prayer life of their Teacher was like – how He prayed, what He said, for whom He prayed for.

But while there, while in a time of contemplative prayer, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” You know how I said we would come back to what God looked like, well, here we are. Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, changes before the eyes of His disciples. They see a glimpse of God in Jesus – the full glory of God, a glory which sinful man cannot look at.

Man is not privileged to gaze upon the face of God and live, that is, God the Father. But we are able to gaze upon the face of God the Son, Jesus, born among us, living very much as we do because He is one of us. He is as much man as you are. He hungers as you hunger. He has emotions just like you do. Prick Jesus and He bleeds like you do because He is man. But here, on the mountain, Jesus has changed. No longer does His humanity reign supreme, but His godliness shines forth, literally. The bright whiteness that the disciples see is nothing short than the glory of almighty God. The glory of the Transfiguration wasn’t poured down upon Jesus, but broke forth from Him. The potency of it was in Him, but ordinarily restrained from manifestation by His voluntary humiliation. In other words, Jesus hid His full divinity from our eyes, but today, He peels back the lid just a bit for these three disciples to see His glory.

After Jesus turns a dazzling white, two figures appear with Him, Moses and Elijah. These two figures departed life mysteriously, according to the Scriptures. Some expected Elijah to return before the end. Others expected a “prophet like Moses.” But these figures converse with Jesus, so clearly He is neither. Moses and Elijah are also representative figures. Because of their presence the “law and the prophets” bear witness to Jesus, as on the Emmaus road.

When the three finally awoke from their slumber and saw what was going on around them, it must have been remarkable. A simple visit to a mountain to pray had turned into a visit between Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Maybe Peter, James, and John happened to be in the right place at the right time. That would explain why Peter exclaimed that it was good for them to be there. And in the event they were going to be there for a while, Peter suggested putting up shelters for them. It was very likely that Peter wanted this moment in time to continue indefinitely, especially after hearing of Jesus’ impending death. It was far better to stay there on the mountain than to leave and face Jesus’ prediction of His death.

Indeed, Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly that He was God, and He had demonstrated that fact through the performance of miracles. Yet, here He is making a very visible statement about His divinity. There, Peter, James and John stood before Christ in all of His divine glory. If the Three had any doubts before of who Jesus was, this was all the convincing they needed. But it didn’t stop there. Before their eyes stood Moses and Elijah: Moses, the man of God through whom the Law was delivered on stone tablets. And with him was Elijah, representing the prophets who foretold of the coming Savior, and who endured the worst of times among God’s people.

How good was it for Peter, James, and John? How good is it for us to be here? We come today to where God has said He will be found. We come together so that we may hear the words of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. We come here today to receive from the Lord’s bounty forgiveness of sins that have been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. We come here today to receive the very body and blood of Jesus. We do not come merely because God commands it but we come because He invites us. He invites us to come before Him, to confess our sins and to hear that word of absolution pronounced upon us. We come because Jesus Himself invites us to His Table, feeding us with the bread of life.

Within about nine months, Jesus would enter into the depths of His humiliation by being arrested, mocked, tortured, cruelly executed on a cross, and buried in a tomb. Above all this, He had told his disciples that He would triumph by rising from the dead. His Transfiguration certainly authenticated that claim. His life would forever be changed at His Transfiguration as He begins to set His eyes to Jerusalem, where lives would forever be changed, including yours and mine.

As Jesus sets His eyes to Jerusalem, lives are about to change. The disciples’ lives would be forever changed when their Friend, their Leader, would be led to the cross and die. The lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees would be changed because Public Enemy #1 was no longer interfering in their lives and their teachings and so they could go back to business as usual. Your life would be forever changed because of the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

The Transfiguration on this mountain points God’s creation to another mountain-top experience: Calvary. There, we see the extent of the love of God for us: the sacrifice of His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. There, on the cross of Christ, your life was changed forever. At that moment, your sins became Christ’s sins and His righteousness became your righteousness. What should have damned us has been taken from us. That which is not deserved, that is, Christ’s holiness, was given to us.

Lives continue to be changed even today when we heed the words of God spoken to Peter, James, and John: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Why is it so important to listen to the words of Jesus? There are many other words that we could listen to that sound just as good. But we listen to the words of Jesus because of the promises which He gives to us. He gives to us great words of comfort when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He gives to us the great promise following His resurrection: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hearing the voice of God was usually reserved for those of great stature, such as Moses, Abraham, David and other prominent leaders of the Old Testament. Yet God saw fit to come to Peter, James, and John to tell them to cast aside any fears, any doubts that they may have, both today and in the future.

Just as He did at the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father addresses mankind. This man Jesus is the beloved and chosen Son of God. At that point, God establishes for mankind who they should listen to; not the things of this world, but to the Son of God. How easy it is for us to give in and listen to what the world says because it’s what our itching ears want to hear. We don’t always focus our attention on the things of God, the promised salvation that comes through His Son, the love shown by Christ for the Father, a love willing to be put to death so that creation would once again belong to the Father. If you want to know what God looks like, look no further than to Jesus, God in the flesh, who has appeared to us this day in His means of grace of Word and Sacrament. Indeed, it is good that we are here.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 March 3, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons, Transfiguration

 

Funeral for + Marlene Gertrude Westre +

Text: Psalm 118:1-21

Bud, Jay, Darrel, Carolyn, family and friends of Marlene, hear again these words from the Psalmist: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” It’s hard to imagine that on a day like this, we would give thanks to the LORD, and yet, that is why we are here and that is what we are going to do.

But doesn’t that sound a bit out of sorts here, today, given the circumstances? Absolutely not, not when you focus on the words of our text and when you remember why we are gathered today. While we gather to mourn today, we also gather to rejoice, rejoice in what God our heavenly Father has done for Marlene and all believers through Christ our Lord. We certainly give thanks to the LORD today; thank and praise the Lord Christ who was to come for the mercy and spiritual deliverance to be accomplished by Him.

It is goodness when someone does good to the undeserving and unworthy. Marlene wasn’t deserving or worthy of what Christ did for her; in fact, none of us are deserving or worthy of it. From man’s fall into sin, we were excluded from what God had prepared for us – a life in a literal paradise with God. God, however, imparted benefits through the incarnate Christ to the unworthy and undeserving, in fact, to those who deserved much ill. The ill that we deserve is death because of our sin, so says St. Paul, “For the wages of sin is death….”

Death is what ultimately claimed Marlene on Saturday, at least in this earthly life. Around 6:45 Saturday morning, Marlene left this vale of tears and was welcomed into the loving arms of her heavenly Father. That is precisely what our psalmist means when he says, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.” In our distress of sin, God saw fit to answer us and to set us free from our captivity to sin. This harkens back to the first verse, since He is not good in that He gives physical things, but because He gives spiritual things and delivers from spiritual evils.

While Marlene may have had physical things, all those First Article gifts, none of that truly mattered to Marlene. What did matter to her was the gift she received in her Baptism – namely, the forgiveness of her sins and the ability to be called a child of God on account of the faith she received.

It is because of that faith that we are able to celebrate, to give thanks. We are able to give thanks because it was God that did all the work, it is God who still does all the work. Our salvation is not dependent upon what you or I do or don’t do. Marlene knew that. That is why I found her sitting in the back of the church week after week, hearing what God has done for her through Jesus Christ, receiving the gifts He freely gives to the believer. Despite knowing this, despite having received that gift of forgiveness, there she would be, sitting, hearing, receiving that which God had won for her.

Turning to the words of Psalm 118 again, we see the cause and strength of Marlene’s faith: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Marlene knew from whence her strength relied. She knew that God was in her corner, fighting for her, protecting her, all the days of her life. It was God who fought to redeem her. Through Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, He fought against all that would separate us from God – the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. He fought against evil one who would have kept us forever from God, crushing his head and defeating the devil once and for all.

Through the waters of Holy Baptism that graced her head all those years ago, it was a daily reminder of God’s promise to her that she belonged to Him. It was a daily reminder to her that God had placed His name upon her, washed her clean in the blood of Christ, made her a new creation, forgiven her all of her sins. When the psalmist asks, “What can man do to me?” Marlene knew that answer – absolutely nothing! There was nothing that man could do to her to undo what God had done to her. Regardless of what sinful man could or would do, Marlene would prove to be the victor because of Christ.

For you, Christ has done the same thing. He has laid down His life in order to give you eternal life. He has defeated death, once and for all, so that your earthly death would not be a permanent death. The death you face in this life is merely temporary. It is but the door to eternal life in Christ. When Marlene breathed her last breath Saturday morning, she saw God. The moment she breathed her last breath, she was in the arms of her heavenly Father.

For the believer, we know that our trust is not to be found in earthly things, and so the psalmist says, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” What can man do but disappoint? What can man do but fail us over and over again? What can God do but sacrifice His only-begotten Son, so that you would have eternal life? What can God do but turn His back on His own Son, so that His death on the cross would be that all-sufficient sacrifice to redeem creation – to redeem you, to redeem Marlene?

It is because of God and no one else that the psalmist could say, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Those are words that Marlene could say and did say. Those are words that you are privileged to say, for our salvation is not found in ourselves but in God.

Hear these words and hear them well, for they are words of great comfort to us: I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.”  While Marlene may have died in this earthly life, she most certainly lives in Christ. While you will die in this earthly life, because of Christ, we have everlasting life. We have not been given over to death because Christ has died in our place – dying to sin and rising triumphantly so we too may die and rise again. The gates of righteousness have indeed been opened, the path to our salvation secured. What joy and comfort there is, knowing that because of Christ, this has been done for us.

After hearing the psalmist’s words, it is indeed appropriate for us to echo his words: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” We do give thanks to our God this day – for the earthly life He has granted to His servant Marlene, and the blessings she has been as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. But even more, we give thanks to our God this day, for He has called her to faith in Jesus Christ, won for her the forgiveness of all of her sins, and granted to her the gift of everlasting life. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Funeral, Sermons

 

Epiphany 7

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:21-26, 30-42

Benjamin Franklin, in a letter written to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, said something that we have most likely all heard before: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Franklin was right on the money with this statement: death is a certainty. One day, each and every single person who has ever lived will die. Death is a certainty and we know why: “For the wages of sin is death….” It is because of sin that we will die. We can try to cheat death, stave off death, do whatever we can to make sure that death won’t happen, but in the end, all that we do will prove to be futile because we will all die.

We know that because of sin, death exits. But from where did sin come from? Turning to our text, we find that answer out: “For as by a man came death….” Through Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, man brought death into creation. Because of that, death is a permanent part of creation. All of creation dies, from the smallest of living things to the greatest.

But St. Paul continues, “by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” On this text, Luther says, Just as Adam was the beginning, the first man, through whom we must all die as he died, so Christ is the first Man through whom we are all to arise to a new life as He arose first…. namely, as death came, and still comes, over us all through one man, so the resurrection from the dead shall come through one Man.”

Man brought death into creation and Man brought about the resurrection of the dead. The man that brought death was Adam by his disobedience to God and His word: don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. Because man ate from the tree, man died. Death is here and it is here to stay.

But just as man brought death to creation, the Son of Man brought life to creation. In the most ironic of ways, Christ brought life. The only way that creation has life is through death, the death of Christ. By doing what we are unable to do, that is, keep the Law of God perfectly, Christ lived the life that we were meant to live in the Garden of Eden. But not only did Jesus live the life perfectly, He also died the perfect death. When I say perfect, I mean perfect in the eyes of God. Perfect, in that His death made full satisfaction for our sins. Perfect, in that you are now able to stand before God with sins forgiven. Perfect, in that Christ has given to you eternal life in the Father.

Not only do you have life, you have resurrection in Jesus. Understand what that means for you. As one who has been bought and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you will not stay dead when you die. You will rise again to new life in Jesus, dwelling in the house of God forevermore. This was done for you and not by you. This was done solely by Jesus and no one or nothing else.

This has been earned by Christ, for you. This has all been done to undo what Adam brought into creation through the Fall. St. Paul is able to say, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” All has been defeated. Death is defeated, once and for all. No longer is death a permanent part of creation. No longer does death have any sway on creation.

And so we are left with the question, why? Why would God do this? Why would go to the great lengths that He has for us sinners? Why would God go to such great lengths for you? It is because of the great love that He has for His creation. Since death was not meant to be a part of creation, would God purge death? How would He purge it? He would purge it through the blood of His only-begotten Son, Jesus. The sting of death, its curse and punishment, has been removed through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus shed His holy, innocent blood for us, God has forever canceled our debt of sin and given us a free gift of grace, the forgiveness of all our sins for Christ’s sake. By His resurrection from the dead Christ has defeated sin, the devil, hell, and death. Death has lost its sting! Now, the grave for the Christian becomes the gate to life eternal.

No believer is excluded because of sin or guilt. Christ has forgiven all sin. God does not promise eternal life to our sinful nature. Our guilt and those things that result from our sin will be and are destroyed in death. God did not let our ancestors go back into the Garden of Eden and eat from the tree of life while they were in their sinful condition because He did not want to give that sinful nature eternal life.

What will that resurrection body look like? The resurrection body is the same and yet radically different. The Lord who created our physical bodies will give us spiritual bodies. Our bodies in their present state or condition will be changed in a flash: no longer full of lusts, no longer sinful, no longer limited by hunger, thirst, pain, or mortality. But we will have real bodies free from sin and its debilitating effects! That means that you will have the perfect body, one without any sin.

For all who believe in Christ, they have received what He has won for them. We trust the promise that God began a new life in us when we were baptized. That new life is sustained and strengthened through God’s Word and Holy Communion. There is no alternate way to be included in God’s will other than through faith in Jesus Christ. You and I have a new nature in Christ. He will continue all those great spiritual blessings he has given us on earth. Our relationship with God and with his people will be a part of our eternal life. After the old has been discarded, God will permit us to eat from the tree of life and so our new nature will live forever.

For us, we are asked an interesting question, one that the Corinthians of the day asked as well: how are the dead raised? The answer is different from how they die. They die as the result of man’s Fall. They die because sin has permeated every fiber of creation. They die because that is the effect of sin. They are raised because of Christ. They are raised in the likeness of Christ. They are raised because they have Christ’s blood washed over them.

As for you, heed the words of Paul to the Romans: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” You are dead – dead to sin, dead to that which separates you from God. But even more important than that, you are alive – alive because Christ has fed you from the tree of life, feeding you with Himself so that you will have life eternal. 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 February 24, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 6

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

What are you willing to stake your life on? If there is anything at all to wager your life on, what would it be? I’m sure we would say our spouse or our children, that we would be willing to die for them. But what about someone else? What about a complete stranger? That is precisely what Christ our Lord has done for you. Not only has Christ our Lord died for you, but He has also risen from the dead for you.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, there is an issue they are facing – what does Christ’s resurrection mean? There was debate at the time as to whether or not there was truly a resurrection from the dead. For the Church to be debating this is indeed troubling. To presume that the resurrection is false, is as Luther says, a “disgrace and an abomination on the part of those who desire to be called Christians.”

Paul stakes everything on the basic factor with which he began, namely, that Christ rose from the dead. This is the chief article of the Christian doctrine, for if there is no resurrection, then there is no Christianity. No one who at all claims to be a Christian or a preacher of the Gospel may deny that, and yet, this is what was being promoted by some in the Corinthian Church. Luther, in his commentary on our text says this: “With this he wants to confront them and force them to the conclusion that their denial of the resurrection of the dead denies even more definitely that Christ rose from the dead; for if the former is not true, the latter must be fabricated also.”In English, Luther is saying that if you deny the resurrection from the dead, then you mustdeny Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

How could you deny Christ’s resurrection? That’s the million-dollar question to the Corinthians. And so Paul says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”If Christ is not raised from the dead, then why are you here? Why am I here? This thing called faith that you have, it is nothing more than rubbish and make-believe thoughts. Everything that we believe about Christianity is nothing more than a sham because we are going to die and we are going to stay dead.

Vain preaching. Empty preaching. Damning preaching. Because the Christ whom we preach is only a dead man, and our faith rests upon a dead man instead of upon the Son of the living God, who has the keys of death and hell, then everything we believe in is in vain. You trust, then, in a Savior who cannot deliver Himself, and, therefore, much less save others; and your faith is then vain, for it rests upon an empty delusion. That was the thought of some of the Corinthians, some who professed to be believers in Jesus Christ.

It’s one thing for those outside of the Church to think and speak and believe in this way, but how can the Christian, the blood-bought and redeemed, believe like this? That’s what Paul wants to know. That’s why Paul says what he does. This line of thinking is damning to a person. And this is what some of the Corinthians believed.

Let that soak in for a moment. This wasn’t a group of non-believers who thought like this; this was the thinking by some of the Corinthian Christians. This was something which Paul could not let go unaddressed, and with good reason. The resurrection is central to creation’s salvation. Christ died so that creation would not die. His death was only half of the equation, with the other half being Christ rising again from the dead. They accepted part of the truth of the gospel, Christ’s death, but they were rejecting another part, the resurrection of Jesus and of all the dead.

This is a serious problem. If false theology like this creeps in, what else can creep in? At this point, it doesn’t matter because they have Jesus wrong on the most fundamental level – Christ never rose from the dead. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”There is no salvation because you are still captive to your sin. No forgiveness, no salvation because Christ is still in a tomb. For all those who believe in Paul and the message of the cross, they have a fruitless, empty faith and are still hopelessly lost in the condemning, controlling power of sin. It means that the population of hell has greatly increased. And so Paul contends that trusting in a Messiah who did not conquer death leaves believers no better off spiritually than unbelievers. With a Christ who did not rise, sin wins the victory over everyone, and the defeat of damnation is our sure eternal destiny.

What poor Corinthians! To have the Gospel and then to forsake the Gospel for that which is damning. But when you fast forward the Church 2000 years, we have done the exact same thing. When Scripture is clear that faith in Jesus Christ alone saves, the Church perpetuates a false teaching of Jesus plus, with any number of things being substituted for the plus: good works, a false idea of doing something to earn God’s favor, adherence to the Law which is usually manmade. You can substitute any number of things into the plus category and all will lead you away from the truth of salvation earned by the death andresurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul points to an implication for this present life in believing in a Christ who has not risen. He asserts that if believing in Christ has value only for this present earthly life, then Christians are fools who have made a tragic mistake and who should be pitied by others. Without the resurrection, Christianity is pointless.

Paul is not content with this false theology in the Church. The resurrection is at the center of everything Christians are asked to believe. Ten times in this short passage he employs one form or another of the Greek verb “to raise.” Six times the verb occurs in the perfect tense, indicating the completed action with a present implication, meaning that the effects of the resurrection are ongoing. Apart from Jesus’ resurrection there is no resurrection of the dead and therefore no hope for the departed, no forgiveness of sins, and therefore only a pitiable shell of a religion.

That is why our Epistle ends with these words: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”Turning away from the tragic implications there would be for people if there were no resurrection, he emphatically states that Christ has risen from the dead, as he had previously declared. By calling Jesus the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,”Paul is declaring that the risen Christ is the pledge and proof of the resurrection of all God’s redeemed people to eternal life.

Without Christ’s resurrection, we face a hopeless end. This was a reality of the Corinthian church, and unfortunately for too many churches today. With Christ’s resurrection, we have an endless hope. More than that, we have the promise of resurrection as well, for Christ has indeed risen from the dead so that we too will rise again. 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 February 17, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

Epiphany 5

Text: Luke 5:1-11

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

As Luke begins this account of Jesus, He has finally left the building, that is, we no longer find Jesus at the synagogue. Today, “he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret.”Though Jesus was no longer in the synagogues with the people gathered for worship, Jesus still finds Himself surrounded by a crowd nonetheless. The reason for their gathering around Jesus: “to hear the word of God.”While Jesus is still the relatively new preacher on the block, the people are flocking to Jesus because His Word had authority. They have heard Him, they have seen Him perform a number of miracles at this point, including casting out a demon and healing various others of their sickness and exorcising more possessed by demons, and yet, they still come to Jesus. Is it because of what He says? Is it because of what He does? Is it because He is not like the other preachers of the day? Likely, it is a combination of all of the above.

While standing on the shore, Jesus saw two boats, one belonging to Simon, whose mother-in-law He recently healed. Jesus got into one of the boats and told Simon “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”At this point, it is probably during the early morning hours and not the prime time for fishing, since it was easiest to catch the fish during the late hours when they were closer to the top of the water. Because of that, Simon responds, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Notice how Simon, better known as Peter, responds. He calls Jesus “Master.” After seeing what Jesus had recently done with the demon-possessed man and his mother-in-law, he recognizes Jesus as someone special, someone with authority, and rightly so. What Jesus has done commands a sense of awe and respect from Simon Peter and he aptly shows it by how he addresses Jesus.

With what has taken place up until now, one can only imagine if they will catch fish at all. While Simon Peter is doubtful, he does as his Master directs. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”This wasn’t because they decided to throw their nets onto the other side of the boat. Surely if you didn’t catch fish in one location, you would move on. Surely if you didn’t catch fish from one side of the boat, you would try another. They caught the fish at Jesus’ command. Performing a simple miracle such as catching a bursting net full of fish was indeed helpful to these men, for fishing was their vocation. No fish means no money. No money means not being able to support yourself. Now, through this miraculous catch of fish, they had an ample supply of fish that would have likely earned for them a generous amount of money.

That is not what happened. There were no shouts of joy over the catch. The men in the boat didn’t begin to count up their share of the potential money. Rather, Simon Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.””He saw what Jesus had done and had determined that he was not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus, for he was a sinner.

If there is anything that you should be saying right now, it should be the same words that Simon Peter cried out: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”What right do you have to stand in the presence of Jesus? What have you done to earn the privilege of being called a child of God? What makes you worthy for the sinless Son of God to lay down His life in order to give you life? You are not worthy of what Jesus comes to do for you; you never have been and you never will be, and yet, Jesus comes for you anyways. He comes to lay down His life so you may have life. He comes to forgive your sins so that you may be declared sinless before your heavenly Father. The last thing that sinners want is Jesus to be hanging around, because his coming should terrify us. No matter what trouble we’re in, this is our most profound and pressing concern: Jesus should judge us because of our sins.

But He doesn’t. Instead of condemning you because of your sin, Jesus stakes your sin, bears your sin, wears your sin to the cross. And there, instead of condemning you, He is cursed, afflicted, stricken, forsaken in your place. Jesus suffers for us, dies for us, for you.

Jesus looks at Peter in his sin and says, “Do not be afraid.”But what does that mean for Peter? More importantly, what do it mean for me? It means don’t fear. There is nothing to be afraid of. Jesus tells us that He is not angry, that He did not come to judge you, to condemn you, or to destroy you. He says that He’ll take care of your sin, that He’ll make a way for you to be alive and live with Him forever. To Peter and to us, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” This is the absolution, the forgiveness of sins, the purest and sweetest Gospel. When the knowledge of our sin and God’s holiness pushes out every other fear so that we stand terrified of God’s wrath, and only God’s wrath, when we at last say, “God, I fear you.” God says to us, “I am nothing to be afraid of. Look, here is my Son, crucified for you.”

And then He says, “Look, here is my servant Peter, sent to preach you the Good News. Look, here is My servant John, James, Paul, sent to you as witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Look, here is Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah, preachers of My name and kindness. And look, here is your pastor, sent in My name to bring the Good News to you, to forgive your sins, to baptize you, to put the body and blood of Jesus into your mouth.”

Dear saints, Jesus is not content to be silent. He wants to be preached to you. He wants His promises to be heard by you. He wants to be believed in by you. He wants His name and kindness to echo in yourears and in yourhearts because He loves you, because He has died for you, because He has risen for you.

Just as Jesus called Peter, James, and John to be fishers of men, so too has God called you – called to be His disciple, called to hear the Word of God and believe by the Holy Spirit, called to share that Word of God with all, that they too may hear and believe.

We rejoice in the calling of St. Peter because we see in this calling how Jesus still loves us. He not only dies for you, but He calls Peter and his apostles and his pastors so that you would know it, believe it, rejoice in it, and have eternal life in His name. 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 February 10, 2019 in Epiphany, Sermons

 
 
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