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Easter 7–“Unity” (John 17:20-26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus has given us His Word, His glory and His name. It is by these gifts that He has made us one. It is by these gifts that He keeps us one. This unity may not be the most dramatic or exciting at times. This is all the Lord’s doing, and so you can be sure: you are one with His body, the Church, and one with Christ: for His Word, His glory and His name are all summed up in these words to you: you are one with Christ, because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As St. John reflects for us the new Jerusalem, we are given a glimpse of our eternal home, a home that is nothing short of the full glory of God. We reflect that light of Christ as His Church. At times, we may not look churchly, we may not look like much, but we are indeed special, for we are the Bride of Christ, His Church. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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

LSB Icon_024Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

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

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

Throughout John’s Gospel, he frequently describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Spirit of truth. The spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive the disciples. It has been running rampant since the Fall into sin and leaving a wake of destruction in its path. It has lead people to disbelieve, to doubt, to question God and what He does through His Son. Therefore, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, It has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them. He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live.

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

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

There is only one name that you and I must remember: the name of Jesus Christ. We know Him as our crucified and risen Savior, for the Holy Spirit has introduced Him to us in Holy Baptism and continues to declare Him to us in Word and Sacrament. All of this brings joy, a joy that can never be taken away from us, for it is joy in knowing that we have God’s name placed upon us and that we are a part of Him. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Confirmation, Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 5–“Introducing Jesus” (John 16:12-22)

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

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

Throughout his Gospel, John frequently describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Spirit of truth. The spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive the disciples. It has been running rampant since the Fall into sin and leaving a wake of sinful destruction in its path. It has lead people to disbelieve, to doubt, to question God and what He does through His Son. Therefore, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, It has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them. He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live.

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

There is only one name that you and I must remember: the name of Jesus Christ. We know Him as our crucified and risen Savior, for the Holy Spirit has introduced Him to us in Holy Baptism and continues to declare Him to us in Word and Sacrament. All of this brings joy, a joy that can never be taken away from us, for it is joy in knowing that we have God’s name placed upon us and that we are a part of Him. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 4–“Our Good Shepherd” (John 10:22-30)

C-57 Easter 4 (Jn 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.

What is in a name? Parents give their children a name, indicating that you belong to someone. That was something we had to do that this last week, and it was no easy task. Trying to find a name that we could mutually agree upon was difficult. But eventually, a name was agreed upon. This name identified her as our child. You and I have been given a name, not only by our parents, but a name given to us by our Heavenly Father as well.

In Holy Baptism, we are given the name “child of God.” This name marks us as a member of His family. Today, on what is commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday, we have Jesus, our Good Shepherd, identifying Himself once again as the Son of God and what it is that He comes to do.

As Jesus is going about His own business during the Feast of Dedication, the people found Jesus and asked one question: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John has already identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus has already performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. He has already predicted His death and resurrection on multiple occasions. He has healed people and fed over 5000 people with limited provisions. He has walked on water and even said that He is the bread of life. All of that takes place within just a few chapters of John’s Gospel. Needless to say, Jesus has established who He is. Unfortunately, the people have not grasped what He has said or done to this point as establishing credentials.

Jesus’ response is one that sounds harsh at first glance, but is actually one that is meant to bring them to believe in Him. He responds to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. 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.” Sad to say, those Jews didn’t really want to know the truth. What Jesus had already told them, what He had already done, and the way He had lived in the Father’s name were clear evidence that He was the Christ, but they did not believe.

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 does bring. 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.

You have been given a name at your birth. This name identifies you as a member of that family and you are taken care of and protected. That name is indeed a special name for us, for it shows to us the love of our earthly parents. As important as that name is, there is one name that is even more important than that name, the name given to us when we are baptized into Christ: Christian. Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows both of our names. He knows our given name, knowing each of us personally. But He also knows our baptismal name, and that’s even more personal because it means that we are in Him, for Christ knows each person who is in Him. In Christ, we are chosen as members of the family of God. 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.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 3–“Called to Witness” (Acts 9:1-22)

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 First Reading, which was read earlier.

How many of us enjoy their job? I mean when the alarm clock goes off, you’re excited about getting up and going to work each and every day of the week? I doubt that there are many who truly enjoy their job that much. While you and I might not fall under that category, there was at least one man who did: Saul.

At the time of Saul, the Church grew to the point that the Jerusalem congregation had to call additional men to the public ministry in order to carry out the affairs of the Church. At the same time, the Sanhedrin continued to search for a way to stop the spread of the Gospel. According to Luke, “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Stephen was among the seven chosen by the congregation in Jerusalem. Unafraid to proclaim the Gospel, Stephen did great wonders and miracles. But opposition soon arose. When the unbelieving Jews accused Stephen of blasphemy, he was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. With Saul giving his approval, Stephen was stoned.

Saul, a self-appointed crusader for Judaism, continued the persecution of the Christian Church that began with the martyrdom of Stephen. The threat he offered to the Church was real and murderous. He woke up each morning ready to stamp out this heretical teaching by the followers of Christ and each night he went to bed with the blood of the saints on his hands. This is what Saul lived for and he enjoyed it to no end. He even would go to the high priest and ask for letters which would not only allow him access to the synagogue at Damascus, but also the authority to speak there. This gave him the opportunity to go after all those who were members of “the Way,” that is, all those who were followers of Jesus.

This is what Saul lived for and he took great delight in purging Christianity from the world. He was good at what he did, probably one of the best at the time. But all of that would change in a flash of brilliant light.

While on the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul and asked one question: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” This literally was the life-changing event for Saul. Coming into the presence of Christ, Saul falls to the ground. He learned that day in persecuting those who belonged to the Way, the followers of Christ, he had also been persecuting Jesus Himself. From this point on, Jesus would be giving the directions in Saul’s life and telling him what to do, all for the sake of the Church.

Saul thought that his vocation was to destroy Christianity. Instead, Jesus saw fit to use him to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. When Saul meets Ananias, Ananias tells him that the Lord had sent him to Saul that he may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is Saul’s call into the ministry to be a servant of Christ. From that moment on, he sought to promote Christianity so that all peoples would know of the love that we have in Christ Jesus, a love which took Him to the cross in order to die so that all who call upon His name would have everlasting life.

Paul becomes the Lord’s foremost missionary to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the Jews. He will preach to Jews in the synagogue wherever his travels take him. He will spar with the intellectuals of Athens about their many gods. He’ll testify before rulers and even Caesar himself. He’ll even set his sights on the far reaches of Spain. He will proclaim Christ to different races and different social classes. And throughout his preaching and his epistles, the message is the same. He proclaims Christ crucified and risen. He emphasizes the importance of pure doctrine and Holy Baptism. He writes about the Lord’s Supper and insists that it be kept according to God’s Word.

As the people of God’s Church, we are called to serve in various ways. We are called to spread and preach the Gospel in our various vocations. We are fashioned as tools in the hands of God, to be used where and when He needs us, to proclaim that saving message of Jesus Christ to the right person at the right time. We are to be used as tools to carry out God’s plan for building His kingdom. That doesn’t mean that we will become a missionary like Paul was. It doesn’t mean that we will write to a number of churches and visit them, all to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor does it mean that everyone here will become a pastor. No, we will be used by God where and when He needs us.

So where do we come in to this? We are called to spread the Gospel. Paul writes to Timothy that “God our Savior, desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God chooses us to be His disciples, followers of Jesus, to spread the Gospel. He chooses us in our Baptism, making us His beloved children. He prepares us as we gather in His House, centered upon His Word and His Blessed Sacraments. We come so we ourselves may be fed with the bread of life, that we may be strengthened in our faith, so that we in turn may spread the Gospel to others. It is not just enough to call yourself a Christian; you must be fed regularly or your faith will suffer. When we ourselves are not fed, we will not be able to feed others with the Word of God.

Let us remain faithful to our Lord’s Word, proclaim Christ and Him crucified, and point people to the means of grace where the Lord has promised to be found with forgiveness. If we suffer criticism, it is not reason to be dismayed, as long as we have the Lord’s favor.

And make no mistake: You do have the Lord’s favor. Behold the great mercy of God that He would forgive the likes of Saul the persecutor for his sins of false doctrine and violent practice. He extends the same mercy to you. You have the Lord’s favor because Christ has died in your place and risen again. You have the Lord’s favor because, just as He did for Saul, the Lord has made you His in Holy Baptism. You have the Lord’s favor because, as He did for Saul, the Lord continues to forgive your sins, continues to proclaim, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” You know the Lord is with you because the Lord comes to be with you: He gives you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

Saul’s past and circumstances and life experiences might be far different from you and me, but the Lord treats him the same way He treats us. He calls us to repentance with His Law. Then He makes and keeps you His own for the sake of Jesus Christ. For the sake of God’s only Son, the Father says to you that you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 2–“Peace of Jesus” (John 20:19-31)

C-55 Easter 2 (Jn 20.19-31)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Following Christ’s death and resurrection, the atmosphere of the disciples had changed. They locked themselves in a room to protect themselves from the Jews. Judas was dead and Thomas was nowhere to be found. Hard to believe, but these were the men who went out with Jesus, who were taught by Him and later were sent out in His name. Though they were confused on what to do next, that was about to change.

Suddenly, Christ appeared in the locked room and the His sudden appearance filled them with wonder and awe. The words that He speaks are not just empty words, void of meaning. Rather, they are pure Gospel, an absolution, a declaration that all is well. Four simple words put the fears of the disciples to rest: “Peace be with you.” His appearance, His showing of the wounds in His hands and side, showed His suffering and resurrection, showing that with these wounds, His blood is shed for many, that sin and death no longer had dominion over creation.

This first time that Jesus speaks peace to them, He speaks in terms of forgiveness giving peace from fear. It is a joyful assurance, the presence of God, the complete opposite of fear. Yet just days ago on Good Friday, there was no peace for the disciples. All of them had left Jesus in fear, especially Peter. They were deathly afraid the Jews would come for them too. That’s why the doors were locked. What is worse is now they have no leader to make them feel more secure.

Christ returned from death to give peace from fear. He gives to us His forgiveness. He gives to us His peace. It is that peace that passes all human understanding. It is peace in Christ which only He can give. He gave it to the disciples on Maundy Thursday when He instituted His Supper and He gives that peace to you each time you come and receive His body and blood. Christ has come to give us all peace, that peace of knowing that our sins have been forgiven.

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

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

It’s really not fair to pick on Thomas just because he missed church, but that’s what we do today. It’s not fair because all the other disciples doubted just as much as he did. In fact, the Easter Gospel told us about the disciples’ reaction when the women came and told them about the empty tomb and the angels. It said, “The women … told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” You see, if Thomas is Doubting Thomas, then Peter is Doubting Peter, James is Doubting James, John is Doubting John, and so on. Every one of the disciples doubted, not just Thomas. 

Martin Luther once wrote that the devil’s greatest and deadliest arrow in his evil quiver is the arrow of doubt, which he fires with deadly sniper precision into the hearts of all believers in Christ. Thomas and the disciples were not immune to this. You and I are not immune to this either. Don’t we doubt that God will do what He says He will? Don’t we doubt the gifts that God gives to us in His Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

As Thomas appears with the 10 the following Sunday, Thomas wasn’t going to miss church this week, Jesus again appears to them and once again says “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Jesus knew exactly what it would take for Thomas to believe. He shows Him the wounds and Thomas believes.

You and I do not have the luxury of gazing upon the resurrected Jesus and believing as did Thomas. Instead, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which creates faith in us. It’s one thing to see and believe, but a complete other to believe solely based upon faith and without seeing. That’s us. That’s the Church today. Centuries after Christ’s death, people believed and continue to believe today. They did not have Christ to hold their hands as did the disciples, or to show His wounds to strengthen their weak faith as did Thomas. No, they believed based upon the faith that was granted to them by the Holy Spirit. They were able to confess with Thomas, just as we are: “My Lord and my God!”

We have been given this wonderful gift of faith, the ability to believe what Christ did for us on Calvary’s cross, and now we see that because of that action, we are given life in His name. To those who believe receive redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ. This comes to us in the gift of Baptism, where we have God’s name placed upon us. This comes to us in the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where we feast upon the body and blood of Jesus and receive His forgiveness. It comes to us each time we hear the words of Absolution pronounced over us. It will come to us again when we leave this world and enter into the heavenly mansion prepared for us.

We have received life and received it abundantly. Given to us so that we may live, one life had to be sacrificed, and that life is Jesus Christ. The peace of Christ is with us. It comes to us when we are forgiven. It comes to us as we believe in Christ and all that He has done for us. New life is given to us, a life that is not deserved, but given to us with nothing done on our part. This new life washes over us and we are made clean by the blood of the Lamb, shed for the sins of the many, including you and me. Dear friends in Christ, “Peace be with you.” Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter Festival–“He Is Not Here, But Has Risen” (Luke 24:1-12)

C-54 Easter Morning (Lu 24.1-12)Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

This is not right. This is not the way things were supposed to happen. The promised Messiah of long ago has come into the world and now He lies in a tomb. What is worse is that He didn’t even receive the proper burial treatment due to the Sabbath. Now, earlier in the morning, the women go to the tomb of Jesus to properly treat His body for burial. They have everything they need to anoint the body as far as spices go. One thing they don’t have is the muscle that is going to be necessary to dislodge the stone at the mouth of the tomb. Right now, that’s probably the least of their concerns. Their main focus is to give Jesus’ body the proper burial that it deserves.

But as they arrive at the tomb, something is amiss. The stone that was supposed to be set at the mouth of the tomb has now been rolled away. This stone was not just any stone. It was chiseled to fit exactly at the mouth of the tomb, a perfect fit for the entrance, so that once it was set it place, it would not be able to moved. This would have required several strong men to move this stone into place. It would be practically impossible to dislodge the stone from the outside, but somehow, someone did this.

As the women enter the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, they went in boldly seeking their Lord, knowing that His dead body would be right where it was left after Joseph of Arimathea laid it in there. Instead, they discover that the body is gone. This must have shaken the women to their very core, because His tomb had been desecrated and the body taken.

To ease their sense of discomfort, “two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.” These men that appear are angels. Just as angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, so do angels appear this morning to announce the resurrection of Jesus. They appear dazzling, reflecting God’s splendor. The message they bring is of great importance, because it is the assurance that the women needed of who Jesus was and what He came to do. Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

That’s the question of the day, isn’t it? Are you here this morning to seek the dead or the living? If you’re here looking for the dead, then you’re in the wrong place. On the other hand, if you’re here this morning looking for the living, then you’re right where you need to be.

Today we come to celebrate the fact that the greatest promise God ever made has come to fruition. The promise is of a Savior. The promise is of a Savior who was born into this world. The promise is of a Savior who lived in this world. The promise is of a Savior who died for this world. The promise is of a Savior who rose again for the sake of this world, for your sake. What was Jesus’ role? “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Do you hear it? It is necessary that Christ rose. If you believe He rose, then you know that Christ is more than a Man. He has conquered death. He has destroyed sin and crushed Satan. With His life, death, and resurrection, He has rescued you from the grave. Although your sins should have made you die, and stay dead, yet Christ broke death’s power, so that you will live and rise to eternal life. Christ has been raised in the flesh-so that you will be raised.

This is what makes our celebration today so very different from the many other celebrations taking place today. We don’t just gather to joyously commemorate a past victory, as awesome as it was. We don’t gather to commemorate the fact that once upon a time Jesus came and triumphed and then went back home to heaven where He now resides, far removed from us and our everyday lives. No, we gather today to celebrate the living, triumphant present-tense Immanuel King! We gather today to celebrate the marriage feast of the living and triumphant Bridegroom, who laid down His life for us and who today, in a very real and present-tense way, brings His victories over sin, death, and the devil to us to celebrate with us in our midst!

The women were so excited at the words of the angels that they went to tell the others of Christ’s resurrection. Unfortunately, Luke records that “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” How tragic for them. When the eleven first hear the Word of the Lord about the resurrection, they don’t believe it. If there was anyone who would have believed the women’s message, no, who should have believed the women’s message, it should have been the disciples. They were the ones who spent the last three years with Jesus, who were His inner circle, who knew everything that must happen. Yet they were the first who could not believe what the women were saying. But for one of the disciples, maybe there was still hope.

Peter rises and runs to the tomb. He stoops down and looks in, and he sees the linen cloths by themselves. He marvels, but that doesn’t mean he believes. You can just as easily marvel at tornado damage as you can at a miracle. All Peter knows for sure is that the body is gone. Maybe someone took it…but who would unwrap it and leave the cloths behind?

Confusion and perplexity reign among the disciples, or at least for a little while. The story doesn’t end there for them. Christ will appear to them that evening, showing them His hands and His side. And where the women believed from the Word they remembered, the risen Lord will speak peace to His disciples and give them faith by His Word also.

Christ is risen from the dead. He is risen before His people know it. He is risen before His people believe it. He is risen to give them faith and life; and so He is risen for you.

You can know this for sure – of this you can be certain: Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. You haven’t seen Him face to face yet, but He tells you it is true in His Word. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing; and as the resurrected Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” That is you.

May this eternal Easter Good News of Christ Jesus be and remain with you always. Look here and always remember that blessed Easter reality: “He is not here, but has risen.” May God grant you the opened eyes and ears of faith to always recognize this joyous Easter reality so that you may always have reason to celebrate. Yes—that tomb from two thousand years ago was and is empty, but with good reason. The reason is because Christ rose from the dead just as He said He would. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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

C-53 Easter Sunrise (LHP) (Jn 20.1-18)Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was earlier.

It does not matter how many times you encounter it, it never feels natural, never feels right. Death always feels wrong. Something inside does not accept that we will not hear that voice, see that face, touch that hand, experience that laughter ever again. The grief counselors can talk until they are blue in the face about how death is simply a part of life and how we must accept it as inevitable and natural. But we never do.

Mary did not accept death. She had no doubt that her Lord, her Teacher, was dead. She had witnessed the horror of it. Standing beside His mother, she had seen the light die in His eyes as He hung gruesomely upon the cross. She had seen them take His limp body from the wood, heard the horrid sound as they pulled nails. He was dead. She had no doubt of that.

But it was not right. She knew it was not right. And she simply had to touch Him again. It was imperative to her that she see that body again. But the body was gone. She had run to tell Peter and John – big help they were. They checked it out and told her she was right: the body was gone. Then they left her, but she remained. She did not know what to do, where to go, to whom to turn to. So she stood there and started to cry.

The tears she cried were not the easy, gentle tears of the merely sad, but Mary wept the gut-wrenching, full-voiced sobs of the grieving. This was the tears of someone who was suffering from watching a person die. It wounds not only those it takes from us, but it also wounds those who are left. And sometimes it wounds us so badly we think it will kill us then and there. Mary knew something of that as she sobbed and looked into the tomb.

But something was different now. The tomb was not empty after all. There were angels there, clothed in white. One was sitting where the Lord’s head had been, one where His feet had been. And though Mary’s sorrow could never shake or destroy their joy, they are concerned for her. They ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Jesus’ death was such a given that she did not say, “Because my Lord is dead.” Instead, she replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Not knowing about the location of the body was tearing her up. Death was horrible enough, but not to be able to find the body? Not to be able to tend it and give it her last services? She had to know where Jesus was, to touch His body once more. How else could she face tomorrow? How else could she face the rest of her life?

Mary’s grief is of such a magnitude that a conversation with angels does not faze her. So she straightens up and turns and almost runs into the One who had never been far from her, the One who stood right beside her in her grief – though she didn’t know it. He gently asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

Hope rises in Mary’s heart. Is it the gardener? Perhaps he is the one who moved her Master’s body. She cries out, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Was it her tears that blinded Mary’s eyes that morning? Was it the grief of her heart that made all the world seem to move in slow motion, in an unreal and phantomlike manner? It all changed when He said one word. He called her name: “Mary.”

Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Although she had not recognized Him before, at the sound of her name, Mary’s heart pounded. “Rabboni!” She lunged for Jesus and held His feet. Beyond hope, beyond her wildest dreams, He stood there. Not a ghost. Not a spirit. Not an illusion or some wishful thinking. He Jesus – flesh and blood, the wounds still visible, but transfigured, shining in glory. This was her Jesus.

The tears begin again, but this time, they are tears of another sort. These were not the sobs of despair, but the tears that brim from a cup that runs over with joy. It was a tender moment, but the joys were only beginning. Jesus had work for Mary to do. He sent her first to His apostles to give them the message that He lives and that He is preparing to ascend to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Death was not the end of Him, and so it will not be the end of Mary or of the disciples.

Nor will death be the end of you. Jesus has changed forever how we live, how we grieve, and how we die. We still feel in our bones how wrong death is, how unnatural it is, and we hate it with a passion. But Jesus has made it something we never have to fear – not ever again. For by His death and resurrection, Jesus has wounded death itself, dealt it a mortal blow from which it will never recover. He came out it alive again, never to die again, and His promise to Mary, to His apostles, and to all His baptized children is that He will bring each and every one of us through the hole He punched in death into the home He has prepared for us with His Father.

To strengthen your faith in His resurrection victory, Jesus continues to put into your dying bodies His body that was on the tree, atoning for all your sin; that was in the tomb, sanctifying your grave; and that Mary held in the garden that first Easter Day. He covers you with His blood that He shed to wipe out the sin of the world, to give to you His righteousness. Death could not hold Jesus and it will not you either. As we are baptized into His undying life, so He will bring us out of death to life, so that we will never die again. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Easter, Sermons

 

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Easter 6–“Love” (John 15:9-17)

B-58 Easter 6 (Jn 15.9-17)Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the movie Arthur, a filthy rich young man, who had never in his life had to care for anyone, suddenly falls in love. It is a feeling he cannot describe. In order to determine if it is the real thing, he asks a total stranger, “How can you tell if you are in love? Does it make you feel funny? Does it make you whistle all the time?” The stranger, unimpressed by the joy of new love, tells him, “You could be in love; then again, you could be getting sick.”

Arthur’s dilemma of not knowing what love feels like is unfortunately typical. In fact the problem is even worse than that. Not only do we not know what love feels like, but it is difficult for us even to know what love is. The word itself covers such a broad range of emotions that it is no help at all in getting to know what love is.

Scripture tells us that “God is love” and that “we love, because He first loved us.” From God we learn what love is by experiencing it in the gift of His Son. The more we can know about how God loves, the more we will know what love is and the more we will be able to love.

Our text today is more of what was spoken by Jesus to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. As we saw from the Gospel reading from last week, Jesus tells them the comparison of the vine and the branches. He reminded His disciples that just as a branch needs to be connected to its vine and to remain in it to be productive, so they also needed to be connected to Him and to remain in Him to be productive followers. Now He tells them the discourse about love.

In the Greek, there are three kinds of love: ἀγάπη , φιλία, and ἔρος . Φιλία is the love of friendship, and ἔρος is sensual love. Aγάπη denotes the highest type of love, a love which is sure, steadfast, heartfelt, and warm. This is the love that Jesus came to bring. Αγάπη love is Jesus, a love that sacrifices. What a blessing it is to enjoy the love of the Son of God. No matter what you experience as you travel through life on your way to heaven, you have the assurance that your Savior is dealing with you in love.

Think for a second what makes you happy, what causes joy in your life. Is it your car? Your house? Your money? Your family? Contrary to what the believing world thinks, true and lasting joy comes from knowing and serving a loving Savior. While the unbeliever seeks joy in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, the believer is reminded that real, complete joy is found in the Savior. That is what Jesus tells us in verse 11. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Where is that joy found? It’s found in love. Jesus says it as clear as day: “…love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

To love each other. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Do you really love everyone? If we really loved everyone, then there would be no war, there would have been no slavery, and there would be no racism. We would all truly “get along.” But a greater love has been shown to us by the death of Christ. The supreme sacrifice that a person can make for his friends is to lay down his life them. Jesus made that supreme sacrifice when He laid down His life for us on the cross on Good Friday. However, Jesus not only laid down his physical life, He also suffered the torments of hell, separation from His heavenly Father, all to pay for the sins of the world. How many of us here this morning would be willing to give our life up for someone? I’m not talking about a parent willing to die for their child, but I mean who of us would be willing to die for the homeless person standing on the street, who none of us know? Would you die for him or watch him die?

Friends do things for each other. Friends look out for each other. Jesus has friends. Jesus’ friends are those whom He laid down His life to pay for their sins. The friends of Jesus are you and me, the believers in Christ. The friends of Jesus are those whom the Holy Spirit has worked saving faith in, granting to them the gift of everlasting life, won for them by Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus asks us to do one simple thing: love your neighbor as yourself. If you can love someone you have never met, then you can love anyone. That is what Jesus did. He did not personally know every person that came to Him or that He healed, but He loved them regardless. That is what we should do. We do not know everyone who asks something of us, but as Jesus tells us, “love one another as I have loved you.”

All people need and want friends. What a blessing it is for those who through faith have Jesus as their friend! He is the One Friend who is always there when they need Him. He is the One Friend who completely knows and understands them. He is the One Friend who never fails to grant peace and comfort through His Word. He is the One Friend who will receive them into His heavenly home.

Friendships usually develop mutually. Friends choose one another. Jesus points out that this is not the case when it comes to Him and His friends. He tells us, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Jesus chose the disciples to be His friends and to do a certain task: to go out and be ambassadors for Him. And so it is with all believers. They did not have the ability to come to faith on their own. Regardless, Jesus chose them and brought them to faith through His Word. Like the apostles, all believers are chosen for a definite purpose. Jesus chooses His believers to live fruitful Christian lives for Him. What meaning and challenge that purpose puts into their lives.

God loves us unconditionally. He is the only source of pure, unconditional, ἀγάπη love. It is in this love that God created us and still sustains us. It is this love that compelled the Son of God to assume a human nature and sacrifice Himself on the cross to save us from sin. It is in this love that we abide by faith. Just as God’s love raised Christ from the dead, it promises that He will be with us here on this earth and that we shall be with Him forever in heaven. By faith this love works in us and through us to free us so that we can obey God’s command and love our brother even as God has loved us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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