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Pentecost Sermons

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost–“Hope of Salvation” (Romans 8:18-27)

A-68 Proper 11 (Mt 13.24-30)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Let’s face it – we all suffer in one form or another. We all complain about something in our lives, whether it be our health or finances or any number of things. As much as we hate what it is we complain about, we love to complain about something. We compare our complaints with the complaints of someone else, all to show that our life is worse off than the next person in order to gain sympathy, or we see how our life isn’t nearly as bad as the other person, that even though our life is bad, it’s not as bad as that person’s life.

Paul talks about suffering to the Romans in our text. If anyone knew suffering, it was Paul. He knew how to cause great suffering for the Christian and for the Church as a whole. Following his conversion, he knew suffering as a Christian. He is painfully aware of the troubled state of the present world. He looks about him and sees decay, the violence, and the broken relationships of life.

The Church at Rome had everything backwards. They were looking backwards rather than looking forwards. But ask yourself this question: how often do you and I look backwards rather than look forwards? How often do we dwell on the things of the past, rather than look to the joys that God has placed in our lives? How often do we beat ourselves up for the sins that we have committed rather than take comfort in knowing that our sins of past, present and future have been forgiven us through Jesus Christ?

Paul paints a graphic picture here of the longing for a different new day – a day where “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.” When the Hebrew people were enslaved and oppressed, they too dreamed their dreams of the new earth and that reconstructed world with their worship centered in Zion. Suffering comes to everyone. It often seems like it is so unevenly and unfairly distributed. It falls on the good and the bad, upon the innocent and the guilty. The magnitude of human suffering which sits on the doorstep of the world is impossible to imagine. The Christian has a God who knows all about suffering. He suffered the suffering of rejection, the suffering of loneliness, the suffering that always accompanies evil, the suffering of goodness being trampled into the dust. He knows all about it. That is why he can so eagerly identify with our suffering. Here in our text we are reminded that the believers’ suffering and distress in life is only temporary.

For a moment he sounds very pessimistic about a dying world, but then he remembers who he is and who God is. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Why focus on the sufferings that you face when instead you can focus on the great glory that your heavenly Father has given to you through His Son?

Paul knew that there is more to our existence than the here and now. God has a glorious plan for the future of all believers. God had the plan before the creation of the world. The plan was for God and man to exist forever in eternal bliss, but all of that changed when man sinned. God still desired for He and man to exist forever in eternal bliss, but it would now come at the cost of His Son. Jesus tells the disciples in John 14, “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.” What a promise that Jesus makes! Because of the work of Jesus, the gates of heaven have been opened to us, a place where suffering and death cannot reach; a place where we leave behind our failures, our tears, our regrets, our sinfulness, and live with God the Father in the perfect and eternal bliss which God had ordained for His creation.

Our text speaks of the Christian hope, hope that is a gift of God. It is a hope which reminds us that our suffering is temporary. Hope in the Biblical sense of the word is that knowledge which has no clear support in the experience of life, just the attestation of God’s Word. It is the possession of realities which are not fully sensed or experienced here, but are guaranteed to us and will be fully revealed – and experienced – in the future. Hope is confident expectation of something God promises which you cannot empirically prove to be so. It is precisely what the writer to the Hebrews called faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ spells out hope for all believers. It says that nothing can finally stop God – not even crucifixion and death. Because Christ rose from the tomb and defeated death, we have a final answer. The tomb which could not hold the Lord of life cannot hold those who share in His eternal life.

This hope that we have is not a hope in ourselves, but it is a hope of the promise that God made so long ago for a Savior. That Savior has come and has won for us everlasting life given to us when our sins were forgiven. In that moment, all suffering that we would experience is now foreshadowed by that heavenly joy we inherited through Jesus’ saving work for us. Does that mean that we will no longer face suffering in this life? Of course not. But it does mean that the suffering we face is only temporary. As the psalmist says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” For you, that joy came when the pastor sprinkled your head with water and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There, you became a child of God. There, you received all the heavenly gifts that were meant for you at creation. The Spirit gave to you faith and through that faith, you received and continue to receive everything that God has to give you: forgiveness of your sins, salvation from death and damnation, and the gift of everlasting life in His name.

God has always been aware of the already and not yet nature of the salvation He was pouring out on us. He understood long ago the suffering we would have to endure in order to still remain faithful, and He did not leave us utterly without that which we could see and hear and taste and touch. He left us His Word. He pours out His Spirit through the Word, that we who hear might believe. He tells us, in His Word, that what He has prepared for us is so wonderful that “the sufferings of this present age are not even worth comparing” to it.

And while we are here, enduring, He has also given us the Sacraments. Baptism allows us to “see” the pouring out of the Spirit on us and on our children, and to hear God speak our names and claim us as His own. And in the Lord’s Supper Christ gives us His body, once given on the cross, to eat — and His blood, once shed for us and for our forgiveness and salvation, to drink. He has arranged for His salvation to be given to us personally and individually so that we cannot ignore that this good will and love is meant for us, personally, individually. 

This hope and promise have been given to you. Because of the promise that God made, you know that the sufferings that you face are merely temporary and that heaven awaits you, because God has said so. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Pentecost Sermons

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost–“Debtors, Sons, and Heirs” (Romans 8:12-17)

A-67 Proper 10 (Mt 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 this morning comes from the Epistle, which was read earlier.

It’s time to pay up. Everyone break out their wallets, their checkbooks, and their credit cards. You are in debt to someone or something. You are a debtor and there is payment that must be made. But what exactly are you a debtor to? Think carefully about this, because whoever or whatever you owe will become your master, because you cannot be released from your obligation until the debt is paid. The one whom you owe owns you. In New Testament times, this was meant quite literally: many who were in debt became slaves in order to pay off the debt. So to whom are you a debtor? Who do you owe, and what? This is vitally important, because in the context of the epistle, this is also true: whatever is your master will also be your god.

As Paul says, “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” It is easy to be a debtor to the flesh: it’s perfectly natural – according to your sinful nature. Paul writes that we are debtors, people under an obligation. The obligation that we are under is our sinful nature. Our epistle warns against this, because flesh is a master that cannot save you, and yet because of our sinful nature, we are debtors to the flesh. Paul makes it very clear what happens when we live according to the flesh – “you will die.” There is no other way to put it. You can’t sugarcoat it; you can’t try to make it sound better than what it really is. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” What is in Paul’s mind is the fact that the world is full of men who live according to flesh, their whole nature being flesh; it is for this reason that he says to the Romans, “If you live in that way you will die.” Living according to the flesh heads straight for death; it cannot and does not head for anything else, no matter what those who live that way may think.

We are fleshly creatures. We live by the flesh and we die by the flesh. We live our lives according to the flesh. We are always drawn to living according to the flesh – doing what comes natural, doing what we want and desire, doing what feels good and appeals to our sense of fun or pleasure or rights, as in, “I have my rights!” Frankly, living according to the flesh is doing anything without first thinking about what God says, or comparing our will to the will of God as expressed in Scripture.  Living according to the flesh is to live in sin and will cause you to die the eternal death of condemnation to hell. One theologian put it quite simply: “Here we are furnished the proof that we do not owe the flesh anything. It cannot do anything good for us. It leads to death, temporal and eternal.” Thus our text: do not be a debtor to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh, you will die.

As a Christian, you’re still a debtor—just not to the flesh. You’re a debtor to the Lord. For one thing, He made you, and it is only right that we serve Him who made us. He continues to give you life and all that you need. That’s why, when the Small Catechism explains the creedal phrase, “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” it says, “For all which it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.” Created by God, it is right to serve Him.

There’s more than that, though. The Lord has also saved you. He has redeemed your life from the pit. He has saved you from sin, death and hell. He’s conquered the world and the devil for you. He’s given you forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. He gave all this to you at your Baptism. He still comes to you and gives it to you in His Word and His Supper. Clearly, you owe Him your life, forever. You owe Him. You’re in His debt. Thus you are a debtor.

So, there’s the first thing the text calls you. It calls you a debtor. If you’re a debtor to the flesh and make sins your master, then you’re going to die. If you you’re a debtor to the Lord, then the price is paid and eternal life is yours—all for Jesus’ sake.

Lest you become downtrodden by being a debtor to the flesh, Paul says that you are something else as well. He says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” By Holy Baptism, He has adopted you into His family. The word “sons” means “free sons” from sin, death and the power of the devil. Being called a son of God means that you receive all the benefits that come with it. You receive everything that comes from God. You receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. You receive those gifts and blessings which God had ordained His people to have from the very beginning. He did not ordain man to be debtors to sin, yet that is what we became. In order for that debt to be paid, something must happen. That something happened 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ came into this world, lived the perfect and sinless life for you, died on the cross for you, and rose from the grave for you.

But that’s not all! You are not just a debtor. You are not just a son. You are also an heir. Paul says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” If you are forgiven, you are a son of God; and if you are a son of God, then you are an heir to the kingdom of heaven. God’s kingdom is yours forever: the Spirit Himself bears witness to this each time He delivers forgiveness to you for Jesus’ sake – for every gift of forgiveness renews in you God’s Word that heaven is yours.

You’re not a debtor to the flesh. You’re a debtor to the Lord – but the debt has already been paid by Jesus on the cross. Therefore, you are a son of God and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Be warned: the devil, the world and your sinful flesh don’t take kindly to this Good News. They want you indebted to them. Each day, they’ll tempt you with all those would-be flesh masters. And as you refuse, you can expect to suffer for it. Behold how the world treated your Savior – your Master. Expect the same for you. That is why our text concludes that we “suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” It is not that we earn salvation by suffering or must pay a debt of pain for forgiveness. Forgiveness and salvation are already yours, bought and paid for. But the devil, world and your sinful flesh hate that news, and so they must attack you since they cannot defeat your Master.

Your Master is Jesus, and He has conquered these enemies by His death and resurrection. He does not call you a slave, but a son. And if you are a son, you are an heir of God and His entire kingdom. Rejoice in this: you are sons of God and you are heirs of God, because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Pentecost Sermons

Day of Pentecost–“Pentecost Miracles” (Acts 2:1-21)

A-58 Pentecost (Ac 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 today is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

The Holy Spirit seems to get short-changed when it comes to the Trinity. We have recorded for us all throughout the Old Testament the works and promises of God the Father. Also included in the Old Testament are the prophecies concerning God the Son, Jesus Christ. The New Testament is all about Jesus and His salvific work on our behalf. Recorded for us is the birth narrative, the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, and everything we know about His ministry recorded for in the Gospels. We have the story of salvation, won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. Included is the resurrection account and the hope that we have because of the resurrection.

But when it comes to the Holy Spirit, not much is recorded. The Holy Spirit is present at creation. The Holy Spirit is present at the Baptism of Jesus and other critical moments in the ministry of Jesus. The Holy Spirit has a critical role in the Trinity. He does not point to Himself. His role is to point us to Christ. In this way, the Holy Spirit establishes and strengthens faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

On this day when the Holy Spirit came, two amazing things happened. First, He came in a manner completely unique and unrepeated. He came in the roaring of a mighty wind and descended upon the disciples as tongues of fire. They began to speak the message of salvation in languages that they otherwise did not know. By this means, God the Holy Spirit made it possible for the devout Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost to hear the Gospel in their own native tongues. This was indeed a great miracle, for there were many gathered who had not heard the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as people scattered abroad who had not heard of Jesus and His salvific work for them.

This is a great miracle. By means of it, God the Holy Spirit works through simple human words to open the wounds we ordinarily hide, even from ourselves, exposing unbelief, disbelief, and every form of unfaithfulness and sin. You and I are born with nothing but unbelief, disbelief, unfaithfulness and sin. We want nothing to do with the saving work accomplished for us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the cross, even though this was done for us! It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that you and I are given that faith that removes from us the unbelief, disbelief, and unfaithfulness. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are able to say, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Second, He came also in another way, also totally unique, that is to say, there is nothing like it in human nature or experience. He continues to come in this manner day after day and week after week. He causes God’s Word to be uttered in human speech, and around it, and by means of it, He gathers a multitude of people, reveals their sin and need, and offers them the gift of faith, hope, and new life in Christ.

All this He does that sinners may be brought to the waters of Baptism and the daily repentance that flows from believing hearts into our minds, members, and hands. He invites sinners to hear the word of forgiveness spoken over them in gracious Absolution and receive the foretaste of the heavenly banquet in the Supper, in which Christ is both host and food.

These two miracles each had a vital role in God’s Pentecost plans. It was the first miracles that immediately captured the attention of those who had come to the feast. They could not understand what they were seeing or comprehend its significance. There, in the house where the Christians are gathered, is a great commotion. Besides the sound of wind, tongues of fire appeared on those gathered. I’ve never seen tongues of fire on a person before and I doubt those gathered there had seen them either. I’m sure it was a frightening sight to behold, but an awesome sight at the same time. For those gathered, there was no logical explanation available as to what was taking place. There was only one “reasonable” answer to explain this: “They are filled with new wine.” In short, they were drunk. That explained the speech they heard, for it must have been nothing more than drunken babbling. But of the devout men gathered, there was a voice of reason: “How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language…we hear them telling in our tongues the mighty works of God.”

This was not drunken babbling going on. This was not gibberish. This was the work of God taking place. It was the story of salvation being heard by the people in their own language. It was the work of the Holy Spirit, moving in them saving faith to believe the message being proclaimed so they would have everlasting life.

Peter, in the name of all gathered, explained the miracle as the fulfillment of the promise given the prophet Joel, the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”

The Holy Spirit works through God’s saving Word. It is a Word intended for all people, not just a select and gifted few. Every single person in the house was filled with the Holy Spirit. The message was understood in every language and the message was the mighty works of God. When we hear this message from the Holy Spirit, what is it that we hear? We hear conviction. His Word convicts sinners who continue to look for extraordinary works of God rather than the ordinary ways He works through the Word and Sacraments. His Word convicts sinners who have continued to fail time and time again of keeping God’s Word perfectly. His Word convicts all to hell.

But the Holy Spirit brings another message as well. It brings a message of forgiveness to convicted sinners as well. God works through the sweet sound of the Gospel to save “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.” God works mightily through the preaching of the Word of the cross, that there in Christ’s death and resurrection, you and I have life. God works mightily through the Word and water of Baptism. God works mightily through the Word that proclaims mere bread and wine to be His body and blood.

God’s mighty work comes to us through His simple Word. It is the Spirit working through that Word who assures us of salvation and empowers us to confess that faith in our daily lives.

While the Holy Spirit doesn’t get a lot of “face time” and great accounts recorded about Him and His work in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit does great and mighty work. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to work faith in the heart. Faith is the means by which we hold onto the gifts that Jesus Christ earned for us – the gift of righteousness that Jesus earned with His holy, sinless life – the gift of forgiveness that He earned for us with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death – the gift of certainty in the promises of God that Jesus demonstrated with His resurrection from the dead – the gift of eternal life with Him that Jesus promised when He said He would return to take us to Himself. All these gifts and more belong to us only because the Holy Spirit has worked the miracle of faith in us.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament provide us with the message of God. The first part of the message is terrifying, for from it we learn of our helpless sinful status before God and the eternal punishment that we deserve because of that sin. The second part of the message is the ultimate comfort, for it tells us that God did not leave us to suffer but sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die in our place so that whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but will have life eternal. This is the message that the Holy Spirit certifies with the wondrous signs of Pentecost.  In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding,