Categories
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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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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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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Pentecost Sermons Trinity

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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Pentecost Sermons

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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Easter Sermons

Easter 7C

Text: Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20

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

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” These are familiar words to us all. At the conclusion of every day, we hear these words: “And God saw that it was good.” Adam and Eve came into the scene and all was good until the serpent came into the picture. Once the interaction between Adam and Eve and the serpent took place, all was no longer good. We jump ahead to the birth of Christ. Christ was born, grew in stature of a man, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven for one reason: because you and I are sinners.

Just a few days ago, we remembered Christ’s ascension into heaven. It is there that He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead. In our text for today, we see what is to come following the resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: the second coming.

In the beginning of our text for today, John sees another depiction of the new heaven and earth, this time reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. We see the river of the water of lifeand the tree of life. “The tree of life” first appeared early on in Genesis. Among the many trees God created, He made in the middle of the Garden of Eden “the tree of life” and “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam and Eve rejected God’s command not to eat of the tree.  They turned away from His face—the act of disobedience. They feared His presence because they feared His wrath. They were lied to by Satan, and were tricked into thinking that they could be independent of God. They believed they didn’t need Him or His Word. They embraced the lie and the death that came with it. Because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge in disobedience to God’s command, they were driven from the garden. Because they sinned, we too have sinned. Their sin became our sin. The psalmist David knew of his sinful nature and from where it came from: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”This “tree of life” which John sees standing before him is what would come to save all of mankind: Jesus Christ.

John, while in exile on the island of Patmos, received the revelation from Jesus Christ which said not once, not twice, but three times that “I am coming soon.” We have all seen the first coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He came to us as a baby, weak and frail. He grew up to be a man with a mission. His mission was not His own, but His Fathers: to save all of mankind from eternal death. Through His coming, death has been defeated, once and for all.  Through His life, death and resurrection, we have received forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Here we stand; the Sunday after the Ascension, seven Sundays after Easter. Announcements of triumph have been sounding all over the place. The Gospel’s content has never been clearer than in this text which insists that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” There it is before you, that powerful message that forms the very spine of life: God in Christ affirming again that He will be our God from the beginning to the end of it all.

From the beginning, He has been our God. He was our God in the Garden of Eden, giving to us all that we needed to survive. He was our God when Adam and Eve were barred from the Garden because of their disobedience. When they were barred, we didn’t see an angry God. On the contrary, we saw a God who gave us the first words of Gospel truth: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” He was our God when He sent His only-begotten Son to live and die for us. He was our God at our baptism, when we were made His children. He will continue to be our God, even to our last days and beyond, when He calls us to our heavenly home. John records for us, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” We have the promise of God Himself that He will be our God and we will indeed be His people.

Here it was where and when Jesus shed His holy, precious blood, so that men, women, children and infants might “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Indeed, “blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Christ is the Fruit of the Tree of Life and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His Blood will live forever.

God draws us in the flesh of Jesus Christ through His body and blood. He draws us through His Word, which calls and enlightens us. We are united in the flesh of Christ. We are gathered in one place: in Christ. God sustains us with the one river of the waters of life and the one tree of life.

We are gathered to share in His blessings. We receive the waters from the river: the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus Christ has invited us and all sinners to quench our spiritual thirst: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

We receive the healing fruit from the tree: the Lord’s Supper, which you will partake of in just a few moments. Here, around His Word and His Sacraments, we are gathered in the true worship of God – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

There it stands at the Bible’s opening verses, the picture of a loving God, tenderly authoring life bringing about man’s genesis; the God who makes covenant promises. In today’s text, the curtain rings down on the Bible’s witness and the message at the end is the same as at the beginning: God announcing that He is with us at the beginning and at the end and with each intervening step!

Jesus gives to us unity in His promises. His Baptism, death, resurrection, and ascension are ours as well. We are baptized into His name. We die in His name, as Christians. We are promised the resurrection on the last day, where we will be raised in all holiness and righteousness, where we will be with God and the Lamb forever. We will see Him face-to-face on the Last Day and in eternal life. We will again possess the image of God, lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, restored when Christ died for your sins and mine, when He took our place and elevated us to full sonship, made holy by His blood.

While waiting in expectation for the second coming of Christ, we invite, proclaim and pray. We invite others to share in Christ and the waters of life. We proclaim Christ’s Word faithfully. The Lord of life, the root and offspring of Davis says “Come. Come you who are thirsty, accept the water of life, a free gift to all who desire it.” We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And we know, that Christ will indeed come again, to bring us to the new Eden, gathered around the tree of life.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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Easter Sermons

Ascension of Our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

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

When we confess, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty,” what exactly do we mean? The Ascension of Jesus is just as important as every other act of Jesus: His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. Throughout the season of Lent, we focus on the death of Jesus that draws ever closer, culminating in His crucifixion on Good Friday. Three days later, and for the next forty days, it’s all about Jesus risen from the dead, though some of the Gospel accounts are pre-crucifixion accounts. But just as important is the Ascension of Jesus, and for good reason. When Jesus ascends, He takes His rightful place with the Father again. The Ascension of Jesus signals something for us, something that is most important for the life of the Christian – Christ will come again.

Everything up until this point has worked according to God’s divine plan. Despite that, there are still gaps in the thoughts and minds of the apostles. Luke records for us in Acts, “To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” The authors of our Gospels record various post-resurrection appearances to the apostles and their lack of understanding of the big picture that Jesus is trying to paint for them.

The important thing for the apostles to know is that Christ has fulfilled all that was necessary to redeem creation. He had done exactly what He said He was going to do. But even then, the apostles have questions, gaps in their understanding. And so, Christ appeared to them following the resurrection, teaching them and preparing them for the next step: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The apostles are tasked with proclaiming Jesus to the ends of the earth. But it’s hard to proclaim Jesus when you yourself don’t fully understand everything. That’s why He sends the Holy Spirit to them, to fill in the gaps, to empower and embolden them to proclaim all that they have seen and heard the last three years, to proclaim what that means for the sinner, and for the joy that comes to the repentant.

As Jesus proclaims this to the apostles, He ascends: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Jesus is gone, truly gone now. It’s just the apostles and their task of proclaiming the Gospel; but they are still gazing upward, looking for Jesus. It takes angels to tell them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

It’s time for the apostles to snap out of it, to stop looking for Jesus and get on with the task at hand: “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” It’s time to do their job, to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Are we on board with this? Are we ready to take up the mantle of the apostles or would we rather that Jesus could be walked with, talked with, eaten with, instead of preaching the Gospel? Is preaching of repentance and the Gospel enough to save? Is it enough for your loved one, for the world? Is it even the salvation you are looking for? Are you like the apostles, staring up, wishing Jesus would still be here with us or that He would come back, try something else that doesn’t involve as much work?

Have no fear, Christ will come back, of that you can be certain. He has promised as much. But in the meantime, there is much work that needs to be done. The Ascension of Our Lord is not some retreat from but rather, the advance in Christ’s saving work. Our priorities, our doubts, our gaps in knowledge, prove us to be skeptical of Jesus’ plan, like that of the apostles. We’re staring up into heaven, wishing He’d hurry back. Jesus is doing what He needs to be doing right now: sitting at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. But surely there is more that needs to be done right now.

There is, and Jesus has tasked the apostles to go forth and spread the good news. Throughout the centuries, it trickles down through the ones who are called, to continue to spread the good news, to preach the Gospel. And what is it we do preach? Because Christ has risen from the grave, we know that we too will rise from the grave. But that’s only part of it. Because Christ has ascended unto the Father, so we will ascend as well. We will be with Him in glory. We will enjoy all of the benefits Christ has won for us. We have the forgiveness of our sins granted to us in our Baptism and won by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have life because Christ has laid down His life and taken it up again in order to grant life for all believers.

When Jesus ascended, He didn’t “check out” of this world and left salvation up for grabs. He is ensuring that the Church that lives by His Word and Spirit will endure and prosper until He returns. And Jesus will do just that, return. As we confess in the Creed, “From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Just because Christ has ascended doesn’t mean that His work is done. By His death and resurrection, He promises to us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Christ will indeed return and when He does, all will experience that return, either with joy or fear.

We are left much like the apostles were when Christ ascended, eyes raised to heaven, looking for our risen and ascended Lord. Luke ends the Ascension account with these words: “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” May that ever be the Church – filled with great joy and in the Father’s house, blessing Him for the gift of salvation that comes through 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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Easter Sermons

Easter 6C

Text: John 16:23-33

C 59 Easter 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 Gospel, which was read earlier.

If you heard Jesus’ words from last week’s Gospel reading, then you’re all set for part two of Jesus’ diatribe. If you missed the first part of Jesus’ diatribe or if you’ve forgotten, Jesus is speaking of His impending departure, but before that happens, He needs to share more with them. In His absence, He will send forth the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, “and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Following that, there is confusion among the disciples. In the end, there will a time of sorrow but that sorrow will turn into joy. He ends by saying, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus tells them that they have full access to God through Himself, something that they never enjoyed before. Prior to Jesus, access to the Father was always made through a mediator, through a sacrifice, through some sort of go-between. But with Jesus, that is no longer the case. Jesus is the bridge between God and man. Jesus is the sacrifice that is needed to make full atonement of man’s sin.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, promises us that our needs will be met, though it may not be met according to our standards. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” We learn that, even as the petitions that we pray are made in Jesus’ name, so also the giving of what is asked is done in His name as well; it is made in connection with the revelation of Jesus as this is embraced by faith. That means for us that our prayers are indeed answered, though maybe not the way we would want them to be answered. God hears the prayers of His people and answers them according to His good and gracious will, meaning He will answer them as it benefits us in a God-pleasing way.

While Jesus has spoken much of His ministry in parables and other figures of speech, our Lord speaks plainly regarding the Father: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Of all the things Jesus has said, the disciples hear one thing that resonates with them, and it’s not something that they want to hear: Jesus was leaving them. They weren’t quite sure how this would happen, but they knew that He would be leaving them. They could not imagine living in a world without Jesus, yet in a few hours that is just what they will experience. They will watch Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death.

How does this come back to praying and asking in the Father’s name? What is it that the disciples need right now with the pending crucifixion of Jesus? They need understanding, they need clarity. As Jesus speaks, we know what is going to happen. Following the events of Holy Week, following what takes place on Easter Sunday, following the Ascension, Jesus takes His place behind the Father and God the Father deals with us, just as lovingly and just as intimately as Jesus did with His inner circle of disciples. He loves us because of the love of Jesus shown to us.

Christ is our Mediator and Advocate. We confess with John: “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Our Lord promises, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” At the end of our text for today, Jesus reassures the disciples by telling them, “But
take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is Christ’s assurance to them and to us all that Christ has indeed won the victory over the world and has won for us everlasting life.

Think of what that means for you, the beloved and redeemed children of God. Because Christ has overcome the world, we can be confident of life in His name: the promise of becoming a child of God, forgiven through His life, death, and resurrection; forgiven by the waters of Holy Baptism; having a faith strengthened and nourished through Christ’s body and blood given to us through His Holy Supper.

Our Lord tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” This world will indeed pass away and all that is in it. Things will get worse, but we are not left without hope. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Through His life, death, and resurrection, we have received the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. That means when this world seems to be falling apart around us, when things can’t seem to get worse than what they already are but they do, there is hope for us. We as Christians continue to pray. We pray that God’s will be done. We pray for God’s blessings upon us. And we are certain that God will indeed hear our prayers, for He has promised to hear the prayers of His people. But not only does He hear them, He promises to answer them as well. Fortunately for us, God does not answer the way that we would like or the way that we think is best; rather, God answers them in the way the He knows to be best for us, granting to us all that is good. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have been given direct access to the Father and God does indeed hear the prayers of His people. We know that He will indeed answer the prayers of His people according to His good and gracious will, “For the Father himself love you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

God hears your prayers prayed in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that the prayer will be answered because Christ has died for you. And to pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that His will is best, rather than imposing our own sinful desires on Him. Rejoice, too, in this: after Jesus spoke of prayer in John 16, He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for His disciples—and prayed for you. Even now, He prays for you until He comes again. Therefore, rejoice: you can be sure that the Lord hears your prayers for Jesus’ sake because you are forgiven for all of your sins.  In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Easter Sermons

Easter 5C

Text: John 16:12-22

C 58 Easter 5  Jn 13 31 35Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them, for He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Easter Sermons

Easter 4C

Text: John 10:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As our Good Shepherd, the Son speaks to us the Word, love, and care of His heavenly Father for us and for our salvation. By speaking to us through His Word, the Good Shepherd knows us and we know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. That is because we both share the same name: child of God. While Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, we are made God’s true children by virtue of our Baptism, where we are given His name, making us His beloved sheep. In Christ, we are protected and cared for by our heavenly Father, for we have Jesus, our Good Shepherd. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.