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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost–“Lord, Save Me” (Matthew 14:22-33)

A-71 Proper 14 (Mt 14.22-33)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 Gospel, which was read earlier.

Have you ever got in over your head before? It seems as if all of a sudden, you’re drowning under whatever it is you’re doing. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get yourself out of whatever you got yourself into. What else is there left to do than to throw your hands up in the air and shout, “Lord, save me.”

That is precisely what Peter did. The events in today’s Gospel take place right after Jesus fed the 5,000 men plus additional women and children. Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed all those people. You would think that after this sign, the people would begin to understand who this man was. But they didn’t. Not yet.

The Apostle John tells us: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Instead of seeing the Messiah who came to take away the sins of the world, they saw a potential king who could give them a free lunch. They saw an earthly king of power instead of a heavenly savior from sin.

Jesus had to act quickly in order to defuse this situation. The text tells us: “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat.” The words “immediately” and “made” mean that Jesus really hustled the disciples in to the boat. Then He acted quickly to dismiss the crowds.  He not only dismissed the crowds, but He also left the scene so that no one could find Him. He went up into the mountain to pray.

When Jesus hustled the disciples into the boat, He sent them on a voyage that should have lasted only a few hours. Instead, while Jesus prayed on the mountain, the disciples struggled for their lives on the Sea of Galilee. It seemed as if the wind and the sea had come to life and were determined to torment them. If they tried for the shore, they would probably break apart on the rocks and die. As far as they were concerned, their only hope was to battle the wind and the waves and hope they survived until the storm blew over.

The only problem is that the storm lasted all night. The reading tells us that Jesus came to the disciples during the fourth watch – the watch that ended at dawn. The disciples must have been exhausted and operating on pure adrenalin.

Out of nowhere, a Man appears on the scene. It wasn’t someone on the boat, but instead it was a Man who appeared to be walking on water. Matthew records for us their reaction after being out on the water in the tumultuous storm: “they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.” Up until this point, although their boat is being tormented by the waves and wind, there is no mention of fear or alarm on the part of the disciples – until they see Jesus walking on the water.

This amazing being who has mastery over the sea and who comes to them in a fearful epiphany is none other than Jesus, their Master. Because it is He, they can know that Jesus is coming for them. They do not have to be afraid. In this, His reassuring word, He has given them everything, and it is enough.

If it were only that easy for us. How many times have we been in the boat with the waves and the wind swirling around us, fearful of what is going to happen next? We cry out in fear, but more often than not, we fail to heed the words of Jesus, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” We turn to God when we are in need, but do we do as Luther says, “call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” We are quick to go to God when we need help, but it tends to be a rarity when we go to God and give Him thanks for the many blessings He has showered upon us.

For the disciples, no one said a word, except Peter. Peter, as we see throughout the Gospels, tends to be the spokesman for the disciples. Even after Jesus tells the disciples who He is, Peter says, “Lord, if it is you….” Even after being assured that Jesus is who He says He is, Peter has doubts. Peter does not consider Jesus’ word to be enough and he asks for something bizarre: to command him to go to Him on the water.

Peter does just as Jesus says – He gets out of the boat and begins walking to Jesus. But instead of keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter turns his attention to what is going on around him and begins to sink. For all of his demands and his braggadocios attitude, Peter ended up like the other disciples, crying out in fear. It was Jesus’ power, not Peter’s faith, that had kept Peter from sinking, but his doubts momentarily separated him from Jesus’ power. We too often miss out on blessings that our Lord would be happy to give us because we don’t quite believe He will really keep all of His promises. We too need to ask our Lord to increase our faith. But then we must not sit idly back and wait for something wonderful to happen to our faith. The Scriptures clearly tell us that the Holy Spirit increases our faith through the power of the Gospel of Christ in Word and Sacrament, the means of grace. So any sincere prayer for a stronger faith will surely be followed by faithful use of the means our Lord has provided for that purpose.

Jesus’ words that He spoke to the disciples and to Peter, He speaks to you as well: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Look at Jesus. Was there ever a Master more patient and gracious than Jesus, whose power and authority go out to all who call upon Him in their need, even when they themselves have created their fatal situation of need? Regardless of whatever situation we get ourselves into, regardless of the fact that we may have turned our back on God, Jesus is there ready to welcome you back and give you His welcoming presence.

The next words of Jesus to Peter are words that are spoken to us throughout our lives as well: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus answers Peter’s prayer. The hand of God takes hold of the man of little faith. Mercifully and graciously the hand of Jesus rescues one who not only believes a little by hearing, but also doubts when seeing. Jesus’ hand is sufficient to save. That hand, which resurrected Peter from certain death, will soon be, and surely was, pierced by a man-made spike when Jesus was crucified. Your salvation was wrought when the innocent blood from the hand of God flowed forth for the remission of all your sins.

The sin-atoning suffering of Jesus and His sacrificial death is for you. By the water and Word of Baptism you infants share in the death of Christ, are brought into His Church and offer perfect praise unto the Lord. At the same time, you men of little faith, despite the doubts, remain in God’s gracious Presence.

We cry out, “Lord, save me” and that is exactly what He has done. And so, we say with Peter and all the disciples, “Truly you are the Son of God,” because it is only Jesus who could forgive our sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Marriage of Branden Larsen & Stephanie Fountain

Holy MatrimonyTwo are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Branden and Stephanie, “two are better than one.” You come here today as individuals and in a few moments, you will leave as husband and wife. After today, your lives will never be the same. You are joining that mystical union called marriage. It means that you are no longer two, but one. You are joining in this blessed union for the mutual companionship, help and support of one another. Branden, Stephanie will become your best friend, one to whom you can share anything and everything. Stephanie, Branden will become your best friend, one to whom you can share anything and everything. This will indeed be a wonderful time for you.

Listen again to these words: “For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” I want you to look very closely at one another. There will be times where one of you will fall in your marriage, times where you will face difficulties and hard times. When you fall, the person you are looking at will be the one to pick you up. You will be each other’s strength and support. You will be the one whom the other can depend upon to be there when everyone else has turned their back.

It has been said that marriage is a 50/50 commitment. Let me tell you now that that is wrong. Yes, while 50 and 50 equal 100, it shows that you need only put in 50% each into your marriage. I never have seen anything succeed when you only put in half the effort. If you build a house, but only build half the foundation, the house will fall. So it is with your marriage. Contributing 50% effort to your marriage will only give you a 50% return. Commit yourselves 100% to your marriage and to one another, for only then will you be able to support one another fully.

There is one other thing to keep in mind this day. As you stand here, before one another, before your friends and family, you also stand before God. In a few moments, you will speak your vows, committing yourselves to one another. When you speak those vows, you are making promises to one another, but there will be a third party involved in your marriage.

We began this service in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We asked God’s blessings upon the beginning of this service, and so we ask for God’s blessings upon your marriage as well.

Listen again to these words: “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In this marriage, it will not be a union of two people, but a union of three people. It will consist of you Branden, you Stephanie, and it will also consist of God. When God is kept at the center of a marriage, it is just as our text says: “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” God will watch over and keep you in His abiding love throughout your marriage. Does that mean that you will always have good days? No. Does it mean that you won’t have any difficult times in your marriage? No, it doesn’t mean that either. What it does mean is that God will be with you both as you go about your lives as husband and wife. He will give you to His promise that He is committed to you both, and that He will never abandon you and the vows that you made to another and to Him. He will give to you the strength to endure whatever may happen throughout your marriage, because He is 100% committed to you both, for you are His children and He desires nothing but the best for His children.

As you come together this day, you are becoming stronger in your commitment to each other. God is committed to bless your marriage, today and every day. He will be with you – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. He will be with you in all of your ups and in all of your downs. Your marriage, centered upon God and His love for you in Jesus Christ, will be stronger, for “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

In Jesus’ name, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Sermons, Wedding

 

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost–“God for You” (Romans 8:28-39)

A-69 Proper 12 (Mt 13.44-52)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

True or false: “all things work together for good?” Everything works for good? Really, everything? That’s hard to believe. Everything includes earthquakes and natural disasters, sickness and disease, human failures, ruined lives, and death. Those things really work for good? It sounds like there is in every cloud a silver lining. It often reminds us of the statement that suffering builds character.

Paul tells us “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Sometimes it may be hard for us to see the good in the evil that happens. Paul doesn’t say “we hope” or “we wish”, but instead says “we know.” It indicates the knowledge that comes from revelation rather than personal experience. We believe it because the Holy Spirit has convinced us that these things are true. And we love God because we have come to understand how He first loved us. We see the love that God has for us in that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to come into the world and to live and die in your place.

God did something great and wonderful for His people. Paul says that He foreknew them, He predestined them, He justified them, and ultimately He glorified them. All of that, God did for you. He foreknew you from the beginning of time. He made you to be in His image, the image of perfection and holiness. Unfortunately, that image didn’t last long, but to restore that image, He sent His Son. Through Jesus, you were justified by His grace, and because of His death and resurrection for you, you were glorified. You were glorified because you received the holiness and perfection that belongs to Christ.

All of that leads to one thing: God is for us. That’s what Paul is saying. There is no “if” about it: therefore, he says, who can be against us? No one can overpower the Lord or trump His authority: if He is for you, who can stand against you? No one. There will be those that try, namely the usual suspects of the devil, the world and your sinful flesh; and among those we need to include all sorts of people who – whether they have the best or worst of intentions – seek to lead you from God, and thus lead you to stand against God.

God is for us. But how do you know for sure? How do you that you’re among the “us” rather than the “them”? The next few questions in the text tell you how you can be certain.

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” There’s your certainty – it’s Jesus and His cross, a theme that you find again and again throughout the epistle to the Romans. God has already given up His Son for us all: He didn’t spare Him, but rather condemned Him on the cross so that He might spare you – spare you the judgment of hell for your sin. Having already done the far more difficult thing – the damning of His own Son to give you life, why would the Lord not do the comparatively easier thing of caring for you and preserving your life in Him? The price has been paid for your sin, so God no longer calls in the debt from you; and since your sin is gone for Jesus’ sake, what would keep God from helping you? Nothing. That’s why you can be sure that He will graciously give you all things.

God has judged you and you have been judged to be not guilty. All of your sins which you have committed or will ever commit have been forgiven. When the Law is broken, the transgression must be punished. Normally, it is the guilty one who suffers; that is only fair. But what if an innocent man suffered your sentence? If the sentence was already carried out, would it be right to carry it out again?

I have news for you: Jesus Christ is innocent. With His full consent, God has already declared Him guilty of your crimes. In fact, God has already punished Him for your crimes and sentenced Him to death instead of you! The sentence for your guilt has already been carried out upon Jesus; and for His sake, God has no intention of carrying out the sentence again on you. That is the grace of God. He has declared you to be innocent.

If you are innocent, then you are free to go. No one can accuse you before God, who has chosen you to be His own and made you His own through faith in Jesus Christ. That being said, Satan will continually try to tempt you and make you doubt the love and forgiveness that God has shown to you. Satan will tell you that you still sin, and for someone who says that God is for you, some of your sins are downright wicked. He’s right; your sins are downright wicked, every last sin, from the greatest to the least of them. He will use God’s Word to make you doubt. God says that He is for you; but he will tell you that you’re not for God. You’re still sinful. You’re still guilty. He is right, you are still sinful because you never cease to commit sins this side of heaven. However, you’re still “not guilty,” regardless of what Satan says.

Paul gives to you the question and answer to send Satan packing: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Keep that in mind for those times that you are tempted to believe that your sins and failures are too much for God to forgive, that you have to be more faithful before He can forgive you. It sounds noble, but it’s not. It means that Satan has brought a charge against you: but knowing that it won’t hold before God, he’s told you instead. He’s said that you’re too sinful to be forgiven, that you’ve forfeited your standing as a child of God. Thus Paul’s question: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” In other words, the Lord declares to you that though Satan charges you that you’re guilty before God, Satan cannot back that up, because it is God and God alone who justifies and declares you to be not guilty.

Your verdict of “not guilty” stands because of Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. It is by Jesus and His sinless life in your place that you are able to stand before God, sins forgiven. For all of your sins, you have Jesus Christ who intercedes on your behalf. Your sins are damnable. Your sins bring only death. Your sins bring eternal separation from God. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that you are not damned, but instead receive the keys to heaven. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that instead of death, you receive everlasting life. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that instead of eternal separation from God, you have direct access to God because of Christ’s righteousness given to you.

Paul asks the final question to the Romans, a question that he should not need to ask to those who believe, for they already know the answer. He asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The question was not meant to be theoretical. In times of trouble Christians ask this question. Paul is writing about his own troubles as well as those of other Christians. The earthly pilgrimage of the saints of God is accompanied by the adversity Paul lists in this verse as well as in verses 38 and 39. When Christians suffer physical harm it outwardly seems as though Christ has separated Himself from His people and has abandoned them. On the contrary, none of the above things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God is for you because Christ has died for you. And because Christ is risen from the dead, God is here for you. Troubles will come, but you are not forsaken. In Christ, you are more than conquerors; because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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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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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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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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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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

A-59 Holy Trinity (Mt 28.16-20)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

Today, in our Gospel reading, Jesus gives to His disciples what is called the Great Commission. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is your cause for rejoicing: the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present Father, Son and Holy Spirit have made you their disciple. They have washed away your sins and declare your salvation. The works of man cannot save you, but the work of the Holy Trinity can; and what is this work of the Holy Trinity: to forgive all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Sermons, Trinity

 

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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,

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Daily Reading–June 11, 2011

Numbers 20:22-21:9

Luke 20:45-21:19

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Scripture

 

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Funeral for +Karla Filholm+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Karla’s funeral comes from Psalm 23.

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here ends our text.

Shepherds are good people. They’re good people to know when it comes to caring. They’re good people to know when it comes to protecting. They’re good people to know when you’re in need. Sheep love to have a shepherd. The shepherd cares for their every need, often placing the sheep’s needs over their own. They protect the sheep when they are in danger or when evil comes calling. When the sheep need anything, the shepherd is there to see that the sheep are well taken care of.

For as good as a shepherd is taking care of sheep, there is one Shepherd who is greater than them all. Karla knew that Shepherd. She knew that Shepherd on May 1, 1960 when He called her to be His beloved child through the waters of Holy Baptism. There, at the font, Christ called Karla to be His beloved sheep and He promised that He would be her Good Shepherd.

Jesus tells us in John 10, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has taken care of Karla all of her life. He has watched over and protected her from her baptism to her death on Tuesday. He has done exactly what He said He would: He laid down His life for her that she would have everlasting life. Tuesday, she received everlasting life as she breathed her last and stood before God with a body that is glorified, perfect, and without sin. For Karla, that means that she stands before God with a body that is free from all sickness and disease, including MS. This disease robbed Karla of her life as a result of sin’s entering the world. What was once perfect became forever tainted and infected by sin, with the ultimate result of death. Paul tells us this in Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death…”

God was not pleased with that. He did not create the world only to have it be infected with sin and death. That was not what He created. He created a world that was created in His image, perfect and without sin. But now, that is not the case. The world in which we live in is not perfect, it is not without sin. Sin is at the very fiber of our being. God did not want this and so He made a promise: He would send a Savior.

This Savior is your Good Shepherd. He has promised to care for you, to provide for you, to lay down His life for you that you may have everlasting life. That was a promise made by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden when man first sinned. He promised that He would send a Savior to redeem the world from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil.

Jesus Christ is that Savior. He is Karla’s Savior and He is your Savior. He is the Shepherd that David speaks of in Psalm 23. David knew of the promise of Christ. He knew of the graciousness that God had shown to him and the graciousness that He would show in the Savior. David was a shepherd himself. He knew what the role of a shepherd was: to provide, care, and protect the sheep of his flock. He knew exactly what this Shepherd would do: He would provide, care, and protect the sheep of His flock. The greatest way that the Shepherd could care for the sheep was to lay down His life for the sheep.

Karla knew exactly who this Shepherd was. She knew the words of the psalmist to be true, for she was given what she needed the most – God’s forgiveness, and because of God’s forgiveness, she was made to lie down in green pastures. She was satisfied and secure in the loving arms of her heavenly Father and His Son. God had shown His love to her when He sent His Son to live and to die in Karla’s place 2000 years ago. Everything that Karla would experience in her earthly life would only reinforce for her the desire and need she had to be cared for by the Shepherd because she knew she couldn’t do it herself. She could not bring about her own forgiveness. She could not make herself right in the eyes of God herself. She knew that only Jesus Christ could do that for her, and He did. Jesus did that for you and for me also. He did what we could not do – lead a perfect and sinless life.

God the Son came into this world, not to show us how to save ourselves, but to take upon Himself the sentence of God’s wrath. Jesus was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. That is what Christmas is all about, that God is with us so we may say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Christ was not born to condemn the world, and that includes you, but rather, to take upon Himself the penalty of all sins of all people, and that includes yours. That is what Good Friday is all about … God dying for you at that time, so that you might be able, to say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Please understand that there is an eternity of difference between walking through the valley of death and walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus went through the valley of death when He suffered for you during the darkness of the cross, when He was forsaken for you at the Place of the Skull, when He died the death you deserved that you might be given the Life that He earned for you. Is it any wonder that Jesus is our Redeemer? Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, and in doing so, the evil one was defeated and death has lost its sting. That is what Easter is all about … God rising from the dead for you.

The Lord leads His people by the still waters of Baptism, restoring our souls…not just once, but each and every day. Those who know His voice and follow Him are led in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Think about some of His names: Savior, Redeemer, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Door, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God with us, the Son of David, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Suffering Servant, the Rock, the Alpha, the Omega, the Resurrection and the Life, the First and the Last, and the Good Shepherd. Because He is all these names and more, our cup runneth over and He leads His people in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake.

One thing Karla knew was that the Lord would indeed restore her soul. In the darkest and lowest hour of David’s life, God did not give him up to the whims of Satan. There were many things that David did throughout his life that would have made it very easy for God to turn His back to David and give him over to Satan, yet He did not. In Karla’s darkest and lowest hours, God restored her soul, but not how we thought. Instead of restoring her health, He called her to be with Him forever. There in that moment, she was restored to how God had created her: perfect, holy, and without sin.

To you Don and Marlene, Dale, Nole, Brian, and Duane, you have comfort in knowing that Karla’s Good Shepherd has laid down His life for her that she “may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Daily Reading–June 10, 2011

Numbers 20:1-21

Luke 20:19-44

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Scripture

 

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