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Pentecost 5–“Captive Free” (Galatians 3:23-4:7)

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

To be captive is not something that anyone desires. With that being said, you and I are captive to the Law. The Law that Paul speaks of is the Law of God. Jesus, when preaching one of His sermons says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s Law is one of complete obedience to His Word and man proved at the outset that we were unable to keep His Law. However, the Law did serve its intended function.

The special instructions given to the Israelites in order to control their worship life and the laws regarding clean and unclean food that controlled their eating patterns served to separate them from the pagan world. These regulations served as a hedge and protected them as God’s special people. But more importantly, these regulations were a constant reminder of how things stood between the Israelites and their God. Every breaking of the Law, every neglect of the many individual precepts was a testimony to the thoroughgoing sinfulness that marred their relationship to a just and holy God. God’s Law showed Israel its sin and it shows us our sin as well. The Law could teach the need for righteousness, but it could not give the required righteousness. There was the problem: the Law could not provide salvation as the Judaizers and the Pharisees claimed. It could only point to and prepare for the salvation that needed to come from another source, namely, the promised Savior.

We can’t understand what freedom is unless we know what living is like without freedom. St. Paul is writing to the Galatians warning them not to come under the power of legalism. He reminds them that before they learned of the grace of God in Jesus Christ life with God was full of demands they were obligated to fulfill. The law of God was their guide. They had to eat the right foods, marry the right person, offer the right sacrifices, and fulfill thousands of requirements which were their religious code of conduct. God gave these laws so His people would know they were different. They were set apart to worship Him with their whole lives and He would be the God taking care of them. When they were unable to obey all the requirements, they were to ask for God’s forgiveness and look forward to the time He would send a Savior to forgive them.

The Judaizers of Paul’s day, of which he was one in his previous life, gave strict rules for salvation. You had to keep the Law perfectly and you had to be a Jew. But now Paul comes and he brings with him a new message contrary to that of the Judaizers. He says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s message was definitely not expected. These aren’t words that he would have uttered as Saul. These are words that speak 100% contradictory to what he and the other Judaizers taught regarding salvation. Salvation was not for the heathen Gentiles, meant to be only for the Jew, but that is exactly who Paul says that salvation is for. Salvation is meant for all people. Unfortunately, that was a point that was missed on the Judaizers.

Things changed when Jesus came. He did not come to abolish the Law of God, but to fulfill it. Jesus lived a life different from all other people. He was without sin. He obeyed the requirements in every aspect as they were originally given. We believe that when He offered up His life on the cross, it was a sacrifice to substitute for us. He kept the Law for us. Every detail was perfect. Salvation was now achieved for all peoples because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, not because of our keeping of the Law.

Because of Jesus Christ, you are made an heir. You are adopted by God the Father. You have full rights of inheritance. This is exactly what Paul talks about when he speaks about your adoption. When he speaks about being in Christ, he is pointing to what happens in Holy Baptism, for it is in Baptism that we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. It is in Holy Baptism that the “fullness of time” that was brought by Jesus comes to you. Your adoption happens when water is poured on your head along with God’s name. And all that Jesus did in the “fullness of time” is yours.

We are justified by faith, not by the Law. If we are justified by the Law, then we are doomed from the start because we cannot keep the Law in its smallest bit. So what is our faith in? Is it faith in our works? Is it faith in our sincerity? Is it faith in myself? The faith that we have is in the promise of God. It is faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith in that His life, death, and resurrection are all that is necessary for us to be saved. If we have faith in anything else other than that, then we are doomed in our trespasses and sins.

By faith, we are made sons of God, clothing ourselves with Christ in our Baptism. Because we are baptized into Christ’s name, we have all that is His: His holiness, His righteousness, His perfection. That is how God our heavenly Father sees us. He doesn’t see the depravity of our sin, but rather the fullness of Christ’s righteousness. This applies to all who are baptized in Christ.

St. Paul gives to us a blessed assurance that because of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted as sons of God and not by the works of the Law. The Law did its work in preparation for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Now that the promise has been fulfilled, we are no longer a slave and captive, but set free by the salvation that has been won for us by Jesus Christ. We are saved by faith, not works. The reason for our salvation will never change.

Rejoice in this Good News! The Law has brought us to Christ, and Christ has saved us from our sin! He gives us faith: Faith to believe that He has died to redeem us, and faith to believe that we are now His children. We are no longer slaves under the Law – through Baptism, Christ has clothed us with His holiness and made us His holy people. And if we are His holy people, we are heirs of the Kingdom of God. 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 June 25, 2013 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Pentecost 4–“Three Strikes” (Luke 7:36-8:3)

C-68 Proper 6 (Lu 7.36-8.3)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.

Whenever you deal with a Pharisee, you have to be on your toes. They are ruthless and are only concerned about keeping the Law according to their own standards. No one else is able to keep it as perfectly as they can and they will be the first ones to tell you that. Our Lord had His fair share of run-ins with the Pharisees and they never turned out the way that the Pharisees had intended it to turn out. Today’s Gospel account from St. Luke shows once again the type of people the Pharisees were and where their intentions lie.

Everything begins rather innocently in our text. Jesus receives an invitation to a meal. It seems that Jesus did not turn down many invitations to a meal. He went to the wedding at Cana. He accepted the invitation of the tax collector Levi to attend the banquet in his home. At that banquet, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law found fault with Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This was the complaint against Jesus voiced by many of the people of His generation. What makes this one unusual is that the invitation comes from a Pharisee. If you are receiving an invitation from a Pharisee, all sorts of red flags should be going up.

It does not surprise us that Jesus was willing to have dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee. Rather, one is more surprised that Simon would extend such an invitation. There is the likelihood that it was not out of love for Jesus or with the desire to learn from Him. Rather, he may have wanted to add to that list of items for which Jesus might be criticized. The unsocial reception that Jesus received from Simon indicates that he felt no deep affection for Jesus.

Instead of giving us more of a glimpse at Simon’s real reason for inviting Jesus, Luke tells us that a “woman of the city,” after hearing that Jesus was going to be at Simon’s house, decides to crash the party. Rather than immediately throw out this woman, Simon uses this to his advantage. Don’t forget, Simon is a Pharisee and trapping Jesus in word or deed is at the top of the list.

Luke identifies her for who she is, a sinner. If Jesus were smart, He would have insisted that Simon kick her out of his house right away for her lifestyle. Instead, Jesus does nothing except sit there. As far as Simon is concerned, that’s strike one against Jesus. She proceeds to cry and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears and anoint them with expensive oil. Simon knows that Jesus will surely act now, perhaps in rage because a sinner touches Jesus. Instead of going off in a violent rage, Jesus wants to tell Simon something. This is the second strike against Jesus. One more and He’s out.

Knowing what Simon was thinking, Jesus tells him a story of two men who owed money, one five hundred denarii and the other fifty denarii. Both men shared the same problem: they couldn’t afford to pay off their debts. While the amounts might not sound so bad, you have to know what a denarii represented. This was the equivalent to a day’s wage. So for the man who owed 500 denarii, this was about a year and half’s salary and the man who owed 50 denarii owed nearly two month’s salary. Do any of you guys have an extra year and a half’s salary laying around collecting dust? Yeah, me either.

Fortunately for these men, they weren’t dealing with the modern day Las Vegas loan shark who demanded their debt be paid or else. The moneylender was a compassionate man and forgave both men their debts with no questions asked. Jesus asks Simon a simple question: “Now which of them will love him more?” This was a no-brainer. Obviously the man who owed the larger debt. Simon caught the point of the parable, but missed its application to his own life.

Jesus now addresses the sinful woman in the room. Up until now, Jesus makes no acknowledgment of her. He tells Simon of the loving acts that this sinful woman did to Him while highlighting the fact that Simon has failed to show any act of love toward Jesus. By her love she demonstrated the abundance of the forgiveness that she had received.

Jesus is beginning to grow even more unpopular with Simon and the other guests, presumably other Pharisees. So to drive home the point to Simon and the other gathered guests, Jesus tells them, that even though her sins are many, she has been forgiven much. Here it comes. This is going to be the nail in Jesus’ coffin. He says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” There it is, strike three! Jesus is out! Those gathered begin to argue amongst themselves, saying, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Jesus isn’t anyone except a rebel rouser. Only the priest has the authority to forgive and Jesus isn’t a priest. But Jesus isn’t done yet. He adds insult to injury for the Pharisees. He tells the woman, who is a sinner, lest we forget, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” That’s strike four. Jesus was already out but he’s not ready to leave just yet.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has granted forgiveness to all persons, not some as the Pharisees thought. Jesus granted forgiveness to the rich and the poor, the young and the old, those who have sinned a little and those who have sinned a lot. Our sins are many, just as are the sins of the woman at Simon’s house.

Jesus left His throne and took on our humanity because, even though we are sinners, He still loves us and extends to us His forgiveness. He knows that if He were to do nothing, we would all suffer the condemnation required by God’s justice. Because He loves us, He took all of our sin onto Himself. He took the punishment of God’s justice onto Himself as He suffered and died for us on the cross. With His suffering and death, He took away all of our sins. This is the Gospel for all sinners. This is the Gospel for the sinful woman and this is the Gospel for you and for me. It is the message of a forgiveness that far exceeds and surpasses anything we could ever imagine.It is the message of a loving Father who His one and Son to die so that you would have life and have it abundantly.

The message of Jesus is most important: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” It is not our faith in ourselves that saves us. It is not our faith in our works that saves us. It is solely our faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us: namely His saving act on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

You sins have been forgiven. The act of forgiveness has already been declared in heaven and applies to you now. The free gift of forgiveness is there. You receive it by faith that has been granted to you. Christ’s word of absolution makes you sure of that. This has already been done and given to you. You may now go in peace, knowing that your sins do not separate you from God.No greater words can be spoken than knowing that our sins have been forgiven, and because of that, you have I have peace with God forever. 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 June 17, 2013 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Pentecost 3-“Death to Life” (Luke 7:11-17)

C-67 Proper 5 (Lu 7.11-17)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.

Two large processions are slowly moving toward each other. The one was the parade of life as Jesus walked into the city. The Master, who taught both by His marvelous, life-giving words and by His amazing, life-sustaining deeds, led a large throng along the way. His disciples walked with Him, for that is what disciples do. He was also accompanied by a great crowd of people. At the gate of the city there was joy, life, and excitement in this royal procession, for Jesus had, just the day before, healed a centurion’s servant. Prior to that a leper had been cleansed at Jesus’ Word. A paralytic rose up and walked, having been both healed and forgiven by the Son of God. Jesus had demonstrated the power and authority of His own divine nature when He cast out demons on one occasion and helped bring in a full net of fish on another. The other procession, the parade of death, has at its head the coffin of a “dead person,” the only son of his widowed mother, who followed with a crowd of fellow townspeople.

An important event was about to take place. Two processions met at the gate of the town. In those days the towns were often surrounded by a wall, and people had to go in and out through a large gate. Was it by accident that the two processions happened to meet at this place and at this time? Jesus knew that this meeting would take place just this way.

Don’t you wish that would happen to you when you are on the way to the cemetery to bury your loved one? Where is Christ then, when you so desperately need Him? Why doesn’t He do as He did here, suddenly appear, halt the funeral procession, command the funeral director to open the hearse and bring your loved one’s coffin forth so that He might speak the reviving words: “I say to you, arise.”

At that moment, the boy was called from death to life. At that moment, the boy had new life in the name of Christ. We too, have been called from death to life by the waters of Holy Baptism. We who were spiritually dead have been called to new life in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, when the water, combined with the Word of God touched our forehead.

Shortly after creation, Adam and Eve sinned, and in turn, we sinned. We became children of Satan, eternally separated from God. It could be very easy to stop the story right there and say, “Woe is me.” But the story doesn’t end there. What Jesus tells the weeping woman He tells us as well: “Do not weep.”

We remain children of Satan until we are called by the waters of Holy Baptism to become children of God. We are strengthened as children of God by His Word and His Sacraments. The Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts and sanctified and kept us in the true faith for no other reason than that we are God’s beloved creation.

Jesus’ words, “Do not weep” seem to be strange to whoever hears them, for there was no more appropriate time for weeping than at the time of death. Jesus’ words imply that there is no cause for grieving, for the young man will yet live. These are strange words to our ears, as well. It is only natural that we mourn the loss of a loved one when they pass away. Now, Jesus is telling the woman not to mourn. But the reason why she should not mourn is because Jesus is going to raise her son.

At that moment, the funeral procession stopped and Jesus touched the coffin “and the dead man sat up and began to speak.” The joy of all this is that what happened here is not a single isolated event but the glad pledge and promise of things to come. St. Paul writes, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Remember that famous self-designation of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Notice, He does not call Himself the “resurrector,” but the “resurrection.” In Him, in His Easter conquest of the coffin and triumph over the tomb, the resurrection of all men has already begun. And what God begins, God finishes.

The people are so amazed by what Jesus has just done that “fear seized them all, and they glorified God.” The miracle of Christ had the effect upon these people that they were filled with awe and reverence. They cried out that “God has visited his people!” Why don’t we cry out like that today? Instead we put Jesus on the shelf, we ignore Jesus or we change Jesus to fit our wants and needs. Indeed, God has visited His people through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He visited His people when He came in the form of a baby. He visited His people when He grew up, only to die for you and for me. He visited His people when He rose again and joined our Father in heaven to prepare a place for you.

The visit was redemptive. He comes to bear the burden of a cross to the little lonely hill of Golgotha; there to die that God might blot our offenses from His sight and mind forever. Christ visits Calvary and God does not visit us for our sins. God now comes to visit us who have been made clean by the blood of the Lamb. For three days, He visits a garden grave and then bursts the bonds of death by His Easter rising. And now we are but temporary visitors in the prison of the tomb. For His is coming for a final visit, to free and liberate us from our shut and sealed coffins, to give us new and immortal bodies and to take us to God’s presence and a new world where all sorrow and sighing will have departed forever.

It is no wonder that fear – proper, Godly fear, came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. The Parade of Death stopped that day. For there was absolutely no more reason for it to continue. The son is risen; risen indeed. Death was defeated and stopped dead in its tracks. “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” Death has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s death and resurrection opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. It opened the kingdom for the widow’s son who was dead. It opened the kingdom for Adam and Eve and it opened the kingdom for you and me.

On the Last Day, the Lord’s Word will touch this coffin known as Earth and the dead in Christ will rise with body and soul then re-united. For the Lord God Almighty, the One Who created you in the first place, will, on the great and wonderful Day of the Resurrection, raise up the bodies of all and reunite them with their souls. There is no reason for us to weep, because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has given to us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith until life everlasting. Amen.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Pentecost 2–“Popular Grace” (Galatians 1:1-12)

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

What makes a person popular? Is it the clothes they wear? Is it what they say or do in their lives? Is it the way they look? Popular people tend to become popular because of some achievement in their lives. Once a person becomes popular, they tend to amass some sort of following, what we call fans. But should that popular person slip up and say or do something out of character, they lose their popularity and some of their followers. As we turn to today’s Epistle, we see that Jesus suffered the same fate, losing popularity amongst the people.

Paul was amazed and astonished that the Galatian church was so quickly deserting the Gospel. Paul had recently been with them at the start of his second missionary journey. He had strengthened them with Gospel preaching and teaching. It seemed that all was well, and he moved on to new places, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But barely beginning his work in Corinth, the bad news came from Galatia: they were deserting the One who had called them by Christ’s grace and were turning to a different gospel!

As bad as things were in Galatia, Paul had not written off the Galatians. They had not yet totally and completely rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is letting them know that they are flirting with something very dangerous by listening to a message that is contrary to that of Jesus Christ. They are listening to a message that downplays the grace won for them by Jesus Christ. He reminds them that it was grace that moved Christ to give Himself for their sins. They had been rescued but now were in danger of reverting to being captives to their sin. They had been freed but now they were toying with the idea of giving up their liberty from sin, even giving up the Gospel itself!

For one reason or another, Jesus Christ and His message of salvation were no longer popular among the Galatians. Unfortunately, Jesus Christ and His message of salvation is no longer popular among us today either. We are quick to turn away from Jesus Christ and latch onto the latest and greatest fad of salvation, to have that fad replaced with another fad to have it replaced with another fad. At the end of the day, we’re left with fads that leave us empty and looking for more.

For the Christian faith, Jesus is more than just a passing fad. In “this present age,” as St. Paul speaks of, there are many philosophies of the world that will promise salvation. If one avenue of salvation doesn’t do it for you, then pick another one that will better fit your wants or needs. For us, we need rescue from the false ways of salvation and a return to Jesus Christ, the sole means of our salvation. That was the case for the Galatian church and that is the case for the church of today as well. We need rescue from our contemporary evil age with its confusing and seductive claims to truth, propagated by deceptive false religions such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Age religions and the like. We need rescue from the easygoing selfhelp gospels which appeal to the passions and appetites of the flesh. We need rescue from the wide-spread philosophy of materialism, success and other emotional appeals. But namely, we need rescue from the penalty of our sins. The penalty that we deserve is death. However, when we turn to the false means of salvation, sin no longer is talked about, matters, or is even an issue.

Paul made a point to the Galatian church that has been lost on today: “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Paul here uses some very strong language with regards to those who preach a gospel other than that of Jesus Christ. He says that they should be anathema, that is, cut off and treated as an outsider. He doesn’t merely mean treated as an outsider from the community, but rather as an outsider of Jesus Christ. This person does not receive the gifts that the Christian does, that is, the gift of eternal life. The reason that Paul makes such an emphasis of this point is that the work of the false preachers are not only undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it also leads Christians into doubting the promises of God through Jesus Christ and a falling away of the faith into the false preaching that was prevalent of the day in Galatia.

Unfortunately, Paul’s warning is not as strong today as it was in his day. False gospels of the day are a dime a dozen and we have no problem buying into any or all of them, all at the expense of our salvation. The false preaching and preachers of the day are slick and sound good, promising us great earthly blessings. What you don’t hear or what you hear very little of is Jesus Christ. That fact should raise red flags for us, but we like to hear that we’re good people, that we will be blessed with earthly riches or any of the various other promises they make.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives to us something that the false gospels cannot give and that is grace. Paul asks in Romans, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” He knew His rescuer – “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” We know our rescuer, for He has rescued and redeemed us from the dominion of darkness. He does this all by His grace. By grace, we are baptized into His name. By grace, we have our sins forgiven. By grace, we receive the gift of everlasting life.

This grace is what the Galatians were willing to give up. However, Paul was not willing to give up on the Galatians. Just as Paul was not willing to give up on these Christians, so Jesus is not willing to give up on us, not willing to give up on you. In order to redeem you, our Lord willingly goes to the cross to give His life in order for you to have life. The false religions that Paul was dealing with at Galatia, the false religions of today cannot give what Jesus Christ gives. Only this Gospel has the power to rescue you from sin. For that reason, we cling to Jesus Christ and His Gospel, for there is no other Gospel. There is no other Savior, for only He could die for the sin of the world and rise again.

Popular religious ideas and philosophies that sound pleasing and easy are tempting. But adding or subtracting anything perverts the Gospel and causes us to desert the only one who is capable of our salvation. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ rescues us from the present evil age and ushers us into the coming age of salvation. 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 June 4, 2013 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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Holy Trinity–“Trinity” (John 8:48-59)

C-64 Holy TrinityGrace, 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 that time of year again, when we pull off the Athanasian Creed from the shelf, dust it off, say it one time, then put it back on the shelf until next year. Some might wonder what’s the point in speaking this Creed or even having it if we only say it once a year. It is important that the Church have this Creed, as well as speak it, because it confesses all that is necessary for salvation.

As we look at our Gospel reading today, once again Jesus is coming under fire for what He has said and done. Stung by the unveiled truth from Jesus’ lips regarding who He is and who His Father is, the Jews resorted to name-calling. They call Jesus a Samaritan, something that is downright nasty. Why is this such a big deal, being called a Samaritan? When Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, an expert of the Law tried to test Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. The response was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Wanting further clarification, he asked who was his neighbor. Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the good Samaritan. In short, a man is beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both pass by the man as he lays dying. It is a Samaritan, someone who is an outcast and considered public enemy of the Jews who helps the beaten man. Here, for the Jews to call Jesus a Samaritan, they sought to ensure that Jesus had no credibility among the Jews.

To make matters worse, they accused Jesus of being demon-possessed because He spoke such nonsense that He was the Son of God, that He knows the Father intimately, that He is, dare He say it, the Messiah. What Jesus says here is the proverbial nail in the coffin: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Surely this man must be a raving lunatic. Everyone dies, that’s the truth of it. Yes, there were the exceptions of Enoch and Elijah, but they don’t really count for the Jews here as they accuse Jesus.

Our Gospel reading for today shows how crucial the truth about Jesus is: Jesus, as the Son of the Father from eternity, gives us life. That is what Jesus tries to teach yet again, and once again, the people doubt and do not believe.

Rejecting the person and work of Christ rejects the Trinity. The Jewish leadership intentionally attempted to dishonor Jesus, referring to Him as a religious outcast and demon-possessed. They attempted to nullify His message. As a result, they were dishonoring the Father, in sum, the entire Trinity. Jesus comes to honor the Father. He does that by living the sinless and perfect life we were meant to live. He lives that sinless and perfect life in our place, dying on the cross having committed no sin Himself, but taking our sin upon Himself.

Today is no different than it was then. Today, various religious groups dishonor Christ and His work, thus dishonoring the Trinity as well. Islam views Christianity as distorted and calls Jesus merely a human prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who claim to be Christian, see Jesus as a good, but not the eternal Son of God being of one substance with the Father. You have the prosperity preachers and prosperity Gospel that views Jesus as some divine vending machine, that by saying the right things or doing the right things in life will reward our faithfulness with worldly success and happiness. This view ignores our sin and our need for a Savior from sin. It overlooks Jesus’ role in the Trinity as the truly divine and human Redeemer from sin.

Throughout her history, the Church has had problems with the understanding of the Trinity. Everytime there was serious debate regarding the Trinity, the Church produced a creed, a statement of faith acknowledging who the Trinity is and the work of each part of the Trinity. Beginning with the Apostles’ Creed, we have the breakdown of the Trinity and what each person of the Trinity did. However, the Church continued to argue who the Trinity is and what each part of the Trinity does, and so it produced the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was due in part to the teaching that although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father. This made Jesus less than the Father. To further combat the false teachings of the day, the Athanasian Creed was written. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated.

But even before all of the Creeds of the Church, Jesus clearly said who He was. He identified from where He came from: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” I AM was a divine name of God. He also says in our text, “I honor my Father.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus says that He is the Son of God, that He comes from the Father and that He will one day return to His Father. The Jews wanted nothing to hear of this and did not glorify Jesus because they didn’t really know their own God anymore. For them to say they knew God but then to reject Jesus made them liars. They had lost sight of the Word of God that promised Christ’s coming. They had kept God’s Word only selectively and added to it. Jesus was keeping God’s Word to the letter. Each claim Jesus made confirmed the feelings of the unbelieving Jews and their hearts continued to harden.

Does this sound familiar to you, having the Word of God before us but rejecting it? That is the picture of today. Here is God’s Word clearly presented before us and yet we continue to disbelieve. Jesus tells of His mission of salvation time and time again and yet we want nothing to do with it. Jesus was sent by the Father to give life. All who keep His word will never see death, that is, those who have faith in Him and His saving act of salvation will inherit eternal life. It is only by the forgiveness won for us by Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, are we granted eternal life.

Today as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we take joy in the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and for the saving work they have done in our lives: God the Father creating us, God the Son redeeming us by His blood, and God the Holy Spirit giving to us faith, keeping us steadfast in our Christian faith so that we receive the Lamb’s crown of life. As we said in our Introit earlier, “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.” 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 28, 2013 in Sermons, Trinity

 

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

C-63 Pentecost Day (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 is from Acts, which was read earlier.

Isn’t it a good thing to be you? I mean, here you are this morning, gathered among other brothers and sisters in the faith, listening to the Word of God and receiving the gifts that He brings in Word and Sacrament. It really must be good to be you. If only it were like that for everyone.

As the day of Pentecost drew near, Jerusalem found itself flooded with an influx of people for the festival. Every pious Jew tried to be in Jerusalem for the feast. Those who could not come to Jerusalem observed it in the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Freewill offerings were brought and there was great celebrating. That Sunday came as it came every year, but God had special events in mind for this Pentecost. What Jesus had promised concerning the Holy Spirit would now take place.

They were all together in the same place at the same time. This probably included the 11 disciples, and possibly others mentioned earlier in Acts, namely the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. They were gathered for worship and prayer, as was their normal custom. There, in an instant, the Holy Spirit came and rested upon them in the form of tongues of fire. Here was the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prediction: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Loudly and clearly, they all spoke in languages other than the language they normally spoke. This was not babbling or incoherent speech; it was perfectly understandable to those who knew the languages. They were now equipped and prepared to begin carrying out the assignment that the Lord had given to His church – to go and to spread the Gospel.

What took place here was truly amazing; in fact, one could call this a miraculous act of God – sending the Holy Spirit upon the people who are gathered on that fateful Pentecost. However, for as amazing an event this was, it was just as easily seen by others and dismissed without a second thought.

As I said earlier, Jerusalem was bursting at the seams with people coming for the festival. This included many people from many nations, each with their own dialect. But now they were able to hear and understand what the apostles were speaking and teaching. The apostles were charged to go into all the world, but on this day, people from all over the world were gathering around them in Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit had equipped the apostles to proclaim God’s saving work in many languages. The confusion of tongues that resulted at Babel when men tried to glorify themselves by building a great tower was reversed on Pentecost. On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit moved men to glorify God in languages that were understood by all who heard.

What took place here in Jerusalem was unheard of. It was natural for everyone who heard to inquire about the significance of such an event. But some of them refused to believe either the message or the miracle. They preferred to discredit both by an explanation that slandered the Lord’s spokesmen, accusing them of drunkenness.

Herein lies the problem of that Pentecost – a lack of believing in the work of God. Why believe in a miraculous act when you can discredit it? Why put your faith in the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when you can easily dismiss everything as drunken behavior? The problem here was one that has plagued the Church throughout the ages: rationalism. This says that unless I can explain it, then it must not be true. This is how the miracles have been dismissed. This is how accounts such as creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, Jonah and the fish and other accounts have been dismissed. That was precisely what took place here. This was such an odd occurrence that took place, the only way to explain it was by drunkenness. However, Pentecost was not a random, drunken occurrence, but rather, it was the Holy Spirit making Himself known among the people.

As Peter answers the charge of drunkenness, he quotes from the words of Joel as to explain what was happening and why it was happening. The speaking in other languages was the sign that the Holy Spirit was being poured out. The presence of the Holy Spirit was especially evident in the miracle of languages. Not everything else that Joel prophesied was going to happen in detail that day, but the gift of speaking in other tongues was a sign that the entire prophecy would be fulfilled in God’s good time and in His way.

For some who were present, this might have been the first time they heard of the saving work of Jesus Christ. On that day, all hear of “the mighty works of God” in their own tongue. They hear of Jesus Christ, of His life, death, and resurrection; of His giving Himself on the cross for the forgiveness of the people’s sins. The message which the Holy Spirit delivered that day has been and continues to be delivered today: the message of salvation that Christ has come. The message which was proclaimed in every tongue is one which we all understand: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The outpouring, which began on Pentecost, continues today wherever the Gospel is preached.

The Holy Spirit draws hearts to faith. For one to call upon the Lord’s name is to call Him to our aid. It is through faith given to us by the Holy Spirit that we recognize that He alone can rescue us from all that assails us. The message of Joel that Peter quotes can be reduced to one simple statement: salvation is available to everyone. That was the message of Pentecost, that Jesus came to save all peoples from their sins. The fact that this message was delivered and heard in all languages is not just a random circumstance – it was intentional, so that all would hear of the saving work of Jesus Christ for them.

With the Holy Spirit’s work, God now stands in immediate relationship with His people. A new world was presented to those devout Jews in Jerusalem and to all who were present, just as a new world is presented to all who have been called by the Holy Spirit in faith. Christians were confessing and continue to confess what they have seen and heard: the clear message that in Jesus Christ do we find forgiveness.

It truly is a good thing to be who you are, to be where you are – a people called by the Holy Spirit, a people called to faith, a people with God’s name placed upon you. What more can we ask for than that? 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 21, 2013 in Pentecost, Sermons

 

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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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