Saturday, November 11, 2017

Trinity 22 Sermon

Trinity 22 – Matthew 18:21-35 – November 11th and 12th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
We Christians just have to put up with so many things, sometimes. I mean, think of all that we have to do for God. We could all be home nice and comfy right now, or out there making some good cash, or watching [high school football/NFL pre-game shows], but no, we just have to give up our [Saturday night/Sunday morning] for Jesus. And then there’s all the things that we don’t do as good little Christian boys and girls – we don’t cheat, we don’t rob, we don’t have all that wild fun that other people do – no waking up in the gutter for us. We have to give that all up. Why, we poor Christians even have to be nice to people, even to people who are lousy. Look at all that we have to do for God – man, if we aren’t just the best people in the World!

Now, we aren't normally that brazen about it, but don't we sometimes lament what we are supposed to do as Christians? Poor, poor me – that mean old God just keeps on making me do more and more. . . but, oh well, since I’m a good person – I guess I’ll just do what I have to do. And God rolls His eyes. This is a trap that all Christians may fall into – where we begin to focus on all that we do for God, how much we put up with for him. This is where St. Peter is when he asks of our Lord, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Alright Jesus, I get this whole thing that You’re the Messiah and that I should be following you – but just how much are you going to expect of. . . me. . . just how good do I have to be? How much love do I have to show – if I don’t take revenge on a person seven times – well, that’s pretty good isn’t it? If I forgave my brother 7 times, I’d be a pretty good person, wouldn’t I?
We know Jesus’ response. 70 times 7. Many, many times more. But when we hear Jesus instruct Peter this way – what we are we thinking? Are we thinking, “Boy, I better do more and more?” Are we thinking, “Boy, my work as a Christian is never done”? Are we still thinking like Peter, wondering what I have to do to get in good with God? If so – we miss the point. Because Jesus tells a story to get our focus on the right thing. Listen.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. To explain, Jesus starts to tell a story. Alright, there’s a king, and this king is going to settle accounts with you. Or put it this way – say you owe the government money – the IRS people are at your door, and it’s time to pay. You want to talk about what you have to do, what you owe, what is incumbent upon you – go look at taxes. You pay, or at best we garnish your wages – at worst, into the graybar motel with you. And the fellow in our story – well, he is up the creek without a paddle. 10,000 talents is an insane amount of money. A typical person might make a talent in 20 years. This is sort of the equivalent of saying, “and this guy owed the king 10 Billion dollars.” A ridiculous amount of money.

And what does the king do? He first appeals to the letter of the law. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. If you want to go by what the law says, this is what happens. If you owe the government, let’s even take a smaller number – let’s say you owe the government a mere 10 million dollars in back taxes – what happens to you? Bad, bad things! And the King says, “alright, bad things are coming to you.”

So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Now, this is great. Did you notice – the “servant” falls on his knees. He’s already owned by the master – he has no freedom – he’s toast. He’s not a free man anymore – and yet, he falls on his knees, and what does he say? I’ll pay you back. Oh, come on – really? You’ll pay everything? This is utterly ridiculous – it’s like the 3 year old asking her dad to buy a pony and promising her dad that she’ll pay him back. It’s not going to happen. . . and the king should just laugh this guy off.

But the king doesn’t. And out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt. No, you can’t pay me back. . . so I’m not even going to demand that you pay me back – don’t even bother trying. Just go, get on your way. Now, we know this wouldn’t happen today – the IRS would never say, “Ah, let’s just forget the audit, and don’t bother about filing next year, it’s all good.” Isn’t going to happen. But don’t you understand – this parable is describing you and God. You owe a debt to God that you can’t pay. God is the Creator – and with your sin you destroy His creation – and you can’t fix that. Can you make up for it, can you restore the earth? It's unpayable – you can’t do it. And yet, what does God do – don’t worry about your debt, your mistakes – I will take care of it Myself – I’ll send my Son Christ Jesus to the Cross, and He will take up your debt, He will clean up your mistakes. Now, go on your way and live your life.

This is how we relate to God. We ought never, never have the attitude of, “look at all I do for God”. All you do – you are sinner! In sin your mother bore you – what are you doing to do to change that! What in you will bribe God? Don’t even try. Make no vain boasts. Rather this – remember who you are – you are a person who falls before God and receives mercy. That is what a Christian is. A Christian is a sinner like everyone else, but a Christian is simply a sinner who is forgiven. And the damnable thing is we can forget this – we start thinking of ourselves as good people, look at how well we pay back God – we’ll cut a deal with You. And do you know what happens to people who forget that they are sinners who receive God’s mercy? Let’s hear what Jesus says.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him saying, “Pay what you owe.” Now, sometimes we can diminish what this second servant owed – oh, it’s nothing, a 100 denarii is nothing compared to 10,000 talents. That’s not what Jesus is saying. 100 Denarii would be around $12,000 dollars. That’s a goodly chunk of change. I don’t think any of us would bithely shrug off 12 grand – so no, it’s something serious – but the servant goes nuts. Chokes the fellow! And the other servant pleads: So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” Sound familiar? And it’s a lot more realistic. . . but this servant will have none of it. He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. No mercy, no love. Now, by the letter of the law, he doesn’t have to show mercy, to show love. No, the guy owes him cash, let him pay. Isn’t that what we often think when someone sins against us – Hey – he has hurt us, he’s done real damage to me – so forget him. Make no mistake – sin is real, and it hurts. When someone does you wrong – it hurts. But how do we respond to this? Do we forget who we are – do we forget that we too are sinners who are not just as vile, but actually more vile, more worse, more guilty than this person who has sinned against us?

Well, the King finds out about this servant who is unforgiving. Then his master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in his anger his master delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt. So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from you heart. Well, who feels good right now? I hear this and I don’t feel too hot. I know that I can lament all that gets done to me, I can feel good about my anger towards people – and what does God say of that? Nothing good.

It becomes, dear friends, a question of how you will relate to God. Are you going to be proud and demand what is owed you – well, if that’s who you want to be, God will play that game with you. And you will lose – you will lose hard. But you know, that’s not how God wants to treat you. This king in the parable, he didn’t want to put the guy in jail, if he had wanted to he would have done so to start. Instead, the king desires and delights in showing mercy.

Dear friends – God delights in showing you mercy. God desires to forgive you, He desires that His forgiveness overwhelm you and cover your whole life. That is who God is, that is how He desires to relate to you. And that is why He instructs you to forgive your neighbor. Do you realize that this is not a harsh burden, a dire command? No – forgive your brother so that your eyes are always upon forgiveness – because when you remember to forgive that fellow next to you, what else are you going to remember – that God is the God who forgives you.

Think on this – God wants everything in your life to point you back to Him, He wants His Word to dwell in you richly. How much so – so much that even when someone sins against you, when someone hurts you – your first thought should be, “Wow, I do worse to God and yet He loves me – how great is God's love and mercy to me!” At all times and in all places, our thoughts should be upon how God has shown us mercy, that He is full of great mercy and kindness. He is the One who heals those who are broken, who gives out forgiveness. God directs us to this constantly, so that we always remember it, so that we live lives full of His forgiveness. And so, my friends, I encourage you – hear God’s Word of forgiveness – know that He desires mercy for you, know that He gives You His Body, His Blood for the forgiveness of your sin – always have before your eyes and in your ears God’s love for you in Christ the Crucified – so that you may always remain in faith – that you may always remain a Christian – that is, a baptized and forgiven sinner who lives by grace, not by works of the law. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

When You Don't Want the Law to be Lethal Anymore

If we think about them, most major medical treatments are brutal.  Surgery involves cutting and bleeding and all that jazz.  Chemotherapy is poison.  Radiation treatments are... well, radiation.  And we acknowledge that these are done for the best and noble reasons, even necessary reasons - but they remain fundamentally violent actions that take their toll on your body - even if there is the hopes a greater good.  Let's cut you, but to really cut out the bad.  Let's poison and radiate you, but hope we get the bad stuff before we get you.

If you ever need a procedure done, or some sort of strong treatment, you can't go into it (or ought not) thinking that it is of no consequence.  If you are having open heart surgery on Monday you'll need to cancel your Tuesday tee time at the golf course.  Chemo and running a marathons.  Even though the procedures are good for you - they are hard on you.  Pretending otherwise would be utterly delusional.  And, of course, if your Doctor doing your full knee replacement were to say, "Oh, no, don't worry, this is no big deal! There's no recovery time at all," he'd be an utter charlatan.

Likewise the Law of God.  It kills.  Always.  It is given to show the depths of our sin and its wages.  Always.  And even as we acknowledge that this is good for us - that it curbs us and keeps us from falling into greater wickedness, that it shows us what is good and God pleasing - it still kills and accuses us.  Always.

Unless we are delusional. 

Consider the following verses - Romans 3:19 and 20:  "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."

If you think that the Law ever stops accusing, you've missed the point.  The Law has to accuse us as long as we are in this life, because we NEED the accusation.  The accusation of the Law constantly breaks down the sin that would make us ignore Christ Jesus.

So what happens, what are you saying when you want the law to not accuse, when you want the law to no longer show sin but rather just give nice advice? It would be like saying you want chemotherapy that doesn't attack the cancer.  It would be saying you don't want God to kill you and then raise you - you'd rather just a bit of a brush up now, have a more comfortable or virtuous life let that be that.

The Law has to be lethal.  Otherwise it's not the Law.  Otherwise it's pop self-help gussied up with religious language.  It becomes a cruel placebo that doesn't do its job, but might make the person feel better about themselves instead... while they get worse and worse.

Nope.  Preach a Lethal Law, then preach a Christ who raises the dead. 

All Saints' Day Sermon

All Saints' Observed – November 4th and 5th, 2017 – Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of Christ Jesus +
What does it mean to be blessed? If we are to understand the words of our Lord Jesus Christ this day, if we are to understand what He preaches to us today, we're going to have to focus, we're going top have to understand that word a bit. As He opens the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus uses that word “blessed” 9 times – but here's the thing. At first glance, none of these 9 situations, none of these 9 occasions where Jesus says that we are blessed seem to be any good at all. The reason why is we really don't understand, my friends, what the real and greatest blessings God gives us are. We don't understand that these true and eternal blessings in Christ can never be taken away.

Consider what our Lord says: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” The poor in Spirit. The people who are beat down in this world, who understand just how lousy things can get. You've been there – those times when you see the wickedness of the world, see your own wickedness and guilt in spades. That's not something we look forward to. I bet not a one of use woke up today and said, “Boy, I hope I get to become poor in Spirit today.” “Wouldn't it be great if today I got a bold reminder of how lousy life in this world can be!” And yet, what does Jesus say? “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Do you see the movement, the contrast? Okay – let us assume a lousy day where you are kicked in the teeth, either by what people have done to you and what you have done yourself. Does that change, even one bit, the fact that Christ Jesus has won you salvation and gives you heaven and eternal life in Himself? Nope – being poor in Spirit can't change that one bit. In Christ, yours is the Kingdom of heaven. Even when you are poor in spirit, in Christ you are blessed.

Then Jesus ratchets things up. Okay, let's not just talk about having a bad day. Let's talk about death. “Blessed are those who mourn.” Wow, that's a bold, blunt statement. Blessed are the people who look up and see death. Again, I don't think most of us have said, “I hope I get to go into mourning this week.” Death is a nasty, horrible thing. Here on All Saints' Day, we remember the folks who have died this past year – we certainly aren't cheering that fact. And yet, what does Christ Jesus our Lord say? “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Again, do you see the movement? Let us say that you see death. Does that change, even one bit, the fact that Christ Jesus Himself died and rose from the dead precisely so as to raise His blessed saints from the dead? In fact, this word for “comforted” is a Holy Spirit word – it's what Jesus calls the Holy Spirit in John 16 – I will send you the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, the Paraclete. Does death change the fact that Christ Jesus has promised to raise all the dead, to breath one again the breath of life in to us? Nope. Death can't stop the resurrection that Christ brings. In Christ, you will comforted because nothing stops the Holy Spirit. Even when you mourn, the Holy Spirit still will pour out the life and salvation that Christ Jesus has won.

Do you see the point, my friends? The thing that Jesus is doing? So often when we think of blessings, we think first and foremost of temporal, earthly blessings in our life. If someone says, “I am blessed” they are probably talking about their family, their job, their money, their house. Maybe health or healing. These are all good things – these are all things that we pray for in the 4th Petition of the Lord's prayer. These are daily bread – think on the Catechism. “What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body...” and then the long list of things. These are all good things, but when Jesus taught us His prayer, He summed up all these things as “daily bread” for a reason. They are daily. They are temporary and for a time. They are here today, and often gone tomorrow. Here in this sinful, fallen world, things fade. Moth and rust destroy. Because we live in a world impacted by sin, so many of these earthly blessings fade away.

And this terrifies us. This freaks us out. And we react poorly. Sometimes we live in denial. We pretend everything is fine, when we know it's not. Sometimes we become stingy and horde the blessings we have, fighting so hard not to lose them that we never even really enjoy them. Sometimes we lust and crave more and more – thinking that if we just spent more, ate more, “lived it up” more that then, then these good things wouldn't go away, and we just burn through them all the more quickly. Sometimes we close up in on ourselves, curl up into a little ball to protect ourselves – so determined not to be hurt by losing anything else that we don't receive the things that God gives us. So many different ways we can react poorly. And then Satan really starts to attack us. The thoughts, the temptations come – see everyone else, see how blessed they are – they don't have your problems, they aren't treated this way by God; maybe you're just out of luck with the Lord. And so we put on a brave face, we tell everyone who asks we're fine, we post great and wonderful pictures on Snapchat or Facebook, hoping that no one knows how scared we are, wishing that we could be as happy as our friends are, so often not recognizing that they're just putting on the brave face too.

The crowd that stood there and listened to Jesus that day in Matthew was no different. Didn't have the same technology, but they had the same trials, the same temptations. The same devil was hounding them. And this is why Jesus starts off the Sermon on the Mount this way. Let's talk about blessing, about being blessed. Your blessings are not centered, are not based in these temporal things. They are temporary; why be surprised when they don't last? No, my friends, know where true blessing lies – it lies in God giving you forgiveness and salvation and everlasting life in Christ Jesus. Because Jesus Christ isn't temporary, He isn't here today but gone tomorrow – He is eternal. And you are in Him, so you have not just the stuff we normally think of as blessings, but you have everlasting blessings. Being poor in spirit, not even mourning death can stop these blessings of God to you in Christ Jesus. See the big picture in Christ!

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Alright, so you aren't the big, bold, and brash folks, the high and mighty making deals and power-plays. So what – in Christ you will inherit eternal life in a new heavens and a new earth. Christ gives you this as a gift.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Alright, so you see wickedness and injustice – indeed you see your own sin and you wish it weren't there. Guess what – in Christ you will be satisfied for He takes away your sin and pours His own righteousness into you in Holy Baptism – He calls you to His table and feeds you with His own righteousness.

These are things promised to you by Christ Jesus. These are the realities of who you are in Christ Jesus – you right now are a new creation. You are a new being, a holy child of God. Even in this sinful world, Christ has forgiven you now, called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, joined you to Himself in Baptism, and even fills you with His own love. Even over and against your sin, He has given you His Holy Spirit to work in you His life and salvation.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Jesus makes you to be merciful. He makes you to be focused upon His mercy and love. By His Word and Spirit He moves you beyond just the 4th petition, the daily bread concerns, and He takes you to the 5th petition – and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. You do realize that this isn't a demand upon you, but rather a gift that Jesus gives you. He makes you a forgiver, because He is the great Forgiver who wants to forgive you. He makes you merciful, because He is the merciful God who wants to mercy you.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Do you see where this is going? Jesus makes you to be pure in heart by His Word of forgiveness, because He wants to see you, to have you be with Him for all eternity. This pureness of heart, it isn't something you do. This is one of the eternal and everlasting blessings that Christ Jesus has won for you with His death and resurrection. His death upon the Cross was to purify your heart – His heart stopped and spilled forth in water and blood so that even come the day when you heart stops, Jesus would look at you and say, “Wait a second, this one is pure in me. Rise, get up – you're going to be seeing me forever.” That's why we do give thanks for those who have died in the faith – in Christ they are pure in heart, and they see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus is the great Son of God, He is the great peacemaker – He is the One who appeared to the disciples in the upper room on Easter night and showed them His hands and side and said, “Peace be with you.” He's the One who comes and gives us His Body and Blood for forgiveness and life – The peace of the Lord be with you always. Jesus is the One who makes you to be peacemakers, to be forgivers. Of course you are – for you are sons of God in Christ, and all that is Christ's is yours – yours to give out. And He will use you to forgive, to make peace, to pour out His love, to give out His eternal and everlasting blessings – because that is simply who you are in Him.

We don't remember this all the time. There are times our own sinful flesh looms large. There are times when the world around us raves. Doesn't change anything. You are in Christ – therefore, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who went before you.” You are in Christ, so of course your reward is great – your reward isn't what you've earned but everything that Jesus has earned for you with His life, death, and resurrection. And the world will rant and rave – of course it does. It knows it's temporary, it's fading, it's bound to be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth. But you, my friends, you are not just blessed by God for a brief time, for a day or for a few decades – you are blessed in Christ with all the eternal blessings that He has won for you. You are part of His Church, His own Body – part of the people of God from all times and in all places. And now, we're going to close the sermon, and we'll pray, and then we'll join in our voices with the angels and archangels, with those we love who are now with the Lord – and we'll celebrate the Supper knowing that nothing can ever take away these eternal blessings of Christ. Blessed are you – for you are in Christ Jesus. In the Name of Christ Jesus – Amen.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reformation Sermon

Reformation Observed – John 8:31-36 – October 28th and 29th, 2017

In the Name of Christ Jesus +
What defines a Lutheran? Here we are on Reformation weekend, remembering how 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg – it’s a time for reflection, so what defines you? What makes a Lutheran a Lutheran? What makes this congregation different from all those other ones out there? Is it merely that this is where your grandma and grandpa went? Is it merely that this is where the nice, successful people happen to go? Or do you even think sometimes that you are a Lutheran because we Lutherans got it right, unlike all those other folks? No. None of that is what defines a Lutheran. What shapes a Lutheran, what shapes our worship here is this: we not only can be, but are wrong, and we know it. What shapes a Lutheran is the knowledge that we need to repent, that we need to be reformed and reshaped by God.

Consider our text. Here in the Gospel of John we have Jesus having a discussion with some pious Jews who believe in Him – and yet, there comes a hiccup. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” A great statement, a famous one – the truth will set you free. And yet, the reaction of these folks is… off. They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ’You will become free’?” And here the trouble comes in. As a question – how did you define a Jew? What made a Jew a Jew? Too often they viewed things in terms of their birth – we are children of Abraham. Sort of like saying “we’re good Germans”. They viewed their family lineage with pride – same thing can happen today. But they missed the point, they forgot who they were. In fact, what they say here is utterly foolish. “We have never been enslaved to anyone!” They forgot who they were.

Think back to Exodus 20, where God gives the Ten Commandments at Sinai. He doesn’t just start with the first commandment – rather this is what God tells the Jewish people: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Who are you, Jewish people? You’re the people that God rescued from slavery in Egypt – that’s how you are defined. That’s your identity, that’s why you celebrate Passover. You are the people whom God rescued… rescued from slavery in Egypt, rescued from the Philistines by the hand of judges and finally by David the King, rescued from exile in Babylon. The Jewish people were constantly getting enslaved – in fact, even as they speak these defiant words to Jesus, they were basically conquered and enslaved to the Romans. And they should have had no problem admitting they were enslaved – because they were the people of the God who frees the slaves, who rescues them.

When Jesus brings up the idea of being set free, this isn’t anything new. It’s all over the place in the scriptures, it’s one of the major themes of the Old Testament. To “redeem” someone in the old testament was to buy them out of slavery and set them free. For a Jew to say “we’ve never been slaves to anyone” is as idiotic and bizarre as an American on the 4th of July saying, “Independence? Bah, we’ve never been under anyone’s thumb.” It is utterly stupid – I would say it makes no sense… but actually it does. Just a very sad sense. The Jews there who were talking to Jesus forgot who they were in relation to God. Rather than seeing themselves as poor people who often got into trouble but are rescued by God, they puffed themselves up, they elevated themselves. We don’t need God, we don’t need this truth to set us free, because we are great and good and wonderful and don’t need any help from anyone, thank you very much.

Jesus responds to them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” No, you are slaves, you are slaves to sin. And the same can be said of us. I used to think when I was little that if I just tried hard enough, maybe I could go a whole day without sinning. Yeah. No, not going to happen. Especially when you stop defining sin as just the big, bad, gross stuff. No, when we consider sin the way the Scriptures do, when we consider that we are to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect – and not just perfect in what we do, but perfect in thought and in word, as well as in deed now – eh. No, every moment of every day, we are sinful, we are full of sin. Even right now, sitting here in Church – have we done this perfectly? No, wondering minds, callous and cruel thoughts flittering in and out, distraction and disdain. Behold your sin. Understand that you are sinful. Accept that this sin is something you will have to struggle with and fight against your entire life – that’s Thesis number 1 of the 95 – “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

That’s where we as Lutherans start. The acknowledgment not just that we have happened to do some bad things (but we’re better now), not just that we sometimes sin; rather, we are sinful, full of sin, and that as long as we live, every minute of every day, our entire lives, we need to repent. That over and over again, we are wrong. We take sin, our sin seriously. And that’s what shapes and defines Lutherans. Our Roman friends – The Church is never wrong, when the Pope makes the official decree from the seat of Peter it cannot be wrong. Or our Eastern Orthodox friends – when the bishops gather in council and agree, they can never be wrong. Or the protestant folks who think that if they just keep growing in the Spirit they’ll stop sinning, or let's not talk about sin because it's depressing; let's just be affirming instead! All a denial of reality, all a denial of the fundamental problem. I have sinned in though, word, and deed by MY fault. And I can’t fix it. Of myself, I am a slave to sin.

“If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I can’t fix it, but Christ Jesus can and does. This too is part of your identity as a Lutheran – you are a sinner, but you are a sinner who hears the Word of God, and that Word makes you to know the Truth. Now when we hear Jesus say “the Truth”, He’s not just talking about facts that are correct and accurate. He’s not just talking about being able to win at bible trivia or what have you. Just a few chapters later, Jesus says, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Do you want, O Christian, to be set free from sin, do you want your sin forgiven, do you want everlasting life? Then there is only One who can do that – and that is Christ the Crucified. Christ Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who sheds His Blood for you upon the Cross – He alone, Christ alone can set you free and free indeed. But How does Christ set you free? He, Christ Jesus, is the Truth - “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” The Holy Spirit takes the Word, the proclamation of Christ Jesus and His death and resurrection for you, and with that Word He makes you to know Christ, and He sets you free from sin. It all happens by the Word of God. Just as in the beginning all things are created by the Word of God, so too, in your life now, forgiveness and salvation and eternal life are given to you by the proclamation of Christ and Him Crucified, and we look no place else. As Hebrews proclaims, Let us fix our eyes upon Christ Jesus, “the founder and perfector of our faith.” Christ Jesus, who starts our faith and preserves it, the Alpha and Omega as Revelation puts it, the beginning and the end, the all in all. Everything drives to Christ. The Word points us to Christ.

And yet so many care little for this Word of God that points to Christ. It’s what we just sang, “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it.” People will ignore the Word, they will ignore Christ. They will look to their traditions, or to their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own hearts. We're constantly tempted that way too. That’s the way things have gone since the fall – since we were first tempted away from the Word… “did God really say”? But here is the reality for you. God has come to you by His Word. That Word has been preached and is being preached to you right now. God took water and tied it to His Word of Truth and Life and washed you in it in His baptism. He will take His Word and tie it to Bread and Wine and give you His own Body that was crucified and His own blood that was shed for you – and why? Because He knows your sin, He knows your struggle, but He will not abandon you to sin and death. Luther’s hymn continues, “He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.” He is with us now in this battle plain of life, this constant struggle against sin, with us by His Word, by His Baptism, by His Supper, by the Spirit that makes us to hear and believe - I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him – of course not, for everyone who sins is a slave to sin… but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts of baptism and preaching and absolution and the Supper, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. He is by our side, now, even in the midst of this fallen world. And you know what – this world is hard and ugly, and we ourselves often act hard and ugly too. We need not deny it, or pretend otherwise. Why? And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife – though these all be gone – though everything in this life fall to pot, though we be shown to be the poorest and most miserable of sinners – our victory has been won, been won by Christ Jesus. The Kingdom ours remaineth. When you abide, when you remain in Christ’s Word – there is nothing that can be done to you or by you or against you which changes this truth. Christ Jesus is King, His Word is truth, He is Truth, and He says you are free and forgiven in Him. The world, the devil, our sinful flesh always strive to distract us, to tempt us, to lead us away from this truth, but God in His mercy and by the power of His Word and Spirit continually calls us to repentance, makes us to repent. Dare I say, He reforms us. That is what we celebrate this Reformation Day – that though we often are wrong, Christ Jesus is always right and pure and holy for us, and He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All glory be to God alone – in the Name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trinity 18 Sermon

Trinity 18 – October 14th and 15th, 2017 – Matthew 22:34-46

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit +

Always putting Jesus to the test! Always trying to trip Him up, always trying to get Him to say something strange, to do something weird. How tiring it must have been for Jesus to deal with these Pharisees. He was constantly hounded by them – and yet how does He respond? Does Jesus respond in anger? Do we see Jesus in our Gospel lesson jumping up and down and throwing a fit? No, with patience He not only answers the question of the Pharisees, but He also shows them the question that they need to be asking. Let’s look at the Q & A that Matthew records for us in the Gospel lesson this morning and see what we learn.

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Here Matthew refers to just before our text – the Sadducees liked the first five books of the Bible but didn’t believe in the resurrection – thought that was just myth, hooey, hogwash – like many of the “educated” today. And they came up and were trying to trap Jesus, and Jesus shows them that He will raise the dead. God doesn’t raise people, you say? Then why does God say to Moses “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob?” Is God the God of the Dead? - Oh no, God raises the dead, in fact, that's the Messiah's main job. Now, the Pharisees were the Sadducees' main opponents, so when the Sadducees fail, the Pharisees get together and they decide that they are going to tangle with Jesus. So they get together, they confer, they chat – and they come up with what they think is a doosey for Jesus.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” This is a classic trap question. It's a set up. You make a person pick between multiple good things and then hammer them for whichever they don't pick. Which of your kids do you love the most? What's more important, Baptism or the Lord's Supper? Well, what's wrong with my family? These are questions to which there is no good simple answer – if you try to give a simple answer, you are in trouble. They can bite your head off if they want to. Pick one of the commandments Jesus, and then we’ll complain about whatever You don’t pick. That’s the set-up, that’s the trap. Pick one Jesus, and we’ll accuse you of not respecting the all the other commandments. This isn't an honest question – it's a question looking for a fight.

But Jesus doesn’t play along. And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” So do you see what Jesus does? I’m not going to pick one of the ten, I’m not going to let you trap me – rather I’m going to let you know what all the commandments really mean. Love God. That’s the commandment, that is the summation of the entire law. And it is – Jesus points out the simple truth that any and every sin is just an instance or a place where we don’t Love God. We choose something else, we follow something other than His Word, we sin. And my, that happens often, doesn’t it? You see, God’s Law isn’t a checklist of things to do – Alright, I came to Church this morning, that means I don’t have any other gods and I’m honoring the Sabbath day – wow, two down, see how wonderful I am! No, God’s law is about the attitude you are to have, about what motivates you to act. Is it the Love of God? Whenever your motivation is something other than simply God’s Love, be it earning praise, worrying what other people will say, desiring to prove yourself better than your neighbor, then you are sinning. Period. As the Catechism puts it, you're fearing, loving, and trusting something other than God. Jesus points this out – whenever we put something above God – we sin. And this means we sin a lot, basically constantly, even in the nice things we do. Jesus, with His answer, rips our eyes off of our own sense of righteousness and instead shows us our lack.

And a second is like it – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And just in case these Pharisees were going to attack Jesus for ignoring His neighbor, for ignoring commandments 4-10, He cuts them off. Note what Jesus says. This second commandment, it’s like the first. In fact, it really is just an extension of the first. If you love God, then you will love your neighbor. Why? Because that’s what God created you to do. That's what He gave you your neighbor for. So your love for God is chiefly and primarily shown in how you treat your neighbor. We know this. How do we demonstrate our faith, how do we show the World out there that we love God? By how we love them. The purpose of Church, of this Worship isn’t primarily, isn’t first and foremost to demonstrate your faith – This service is about God’s Word, about Him giving us forgiveness and strength and life – that’s the primary purpose of Church. Where we show God that we love Him is by what we do when we walk out those doors, by the love that we show the people whom God puts into our lives. But you see what this means, don’t you? The great and terrible warning that Jesus speaks here. When you don’t love your neighbor, you stop loving God. When you treat your neighbor with scorn – that’s sin, that’s not loving God. When you gossip, when you harm your neighbor’s reputation – that’s sin, that’s not loving God. Our Lord says, “Whatsoever ye hath done to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When you hate your neighbor, you are hating God. Plain and simple, no way around it.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Every command we see in Scripture, every instruction, every piece of Godly advice is simply an explanation of these two commandments. Here, this is how you Love God. Here, this is how you Love God by loving your Neighbor. These are the commandments that should be before us whenever we make a decision – how am I showing love, how am I loving God and my neighbor in what I am going to do. What God wants us of us isn’t mysterious – it’s not some dark hidden secret, it’s quite clear. Love God, love your neighbor – even love the ones that don’t love you.

Well, there's some wind out of my sails. I do not love like God's Law demands. The Law just reminded me what a jerk I actually am, in spite of the I'm so great tales I like to tell myself. That's what the Law does – it reveals our sin. When we look at our actions under the light of God's simple Law, we see how they are lacking, how they fall short of what God wants of us. I don’t love God with my whole heart – I don’t love my neighbor. I’m a greedy, selfish, nasty little fellow, who sins constantly in thought, word, and deed – and I brag and boast about the little that I do! Good night! When I consider what I do I ought to cower in terror of God Almighty. If left with just the Law, that's where I'd be stuck. But then Jesus asks His Question.

Now, while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David in the Spirit calls Him Lord saying ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’ If then David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son? Do you see what Jesus does – alright, enough talk about your lack – let’s put the focus on Me, the Christ. Here we see Jesus ask a question to teach and instruct, to prepare them so that they would understand. The Christ, the Messiah, He will not be just an earthly king – He won’t be focused on the political power you dream of. The Son of David will also be the Son of God and David's Lord; the Christ will be True God and True Man, begotten of the Father from all eternity, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus points them to Himself, to the mystery that He is both God and Man, that He is indeed the Lord of His own Earthly ancestor.

So the question becomes for us, why? Why does Jesus ask this specific question this way? Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. That’s why. Jesus is pointing out to these Pharisees who He is and what He is going to do. The Christ is not just simply a man, not just a fellow down the street, but He is also God Almighty. And why does God Almighty take on human flesh? Because in order to save mankind from sin, a Man must fulfill the law – there must be some Man somewhere who is righteous, who actually does fulfill the Law, who Loves God with His whole heart, who loves His neighbor as Himself, who shows them the greatest love in that He lays down His life for them. The law must be fulfilled, or we must die despairing. That’s the way it is – if there is to be any hope for humans, then a human must fulfill the law. And that’s what Jesus does. God takes it upon Himself to fulfill the law in our place. And indeed, Christ completely and fully does the law – not for Himself, but for you and me. The wages of sin is death – the Law demands punishment and death for your violation – and out of His great love for us Jesus fulfills that as well. Jesus goes to the cross, Jesus says “I will pay the penalty – if man is to be punished, then I will be punished.” Upon the cross He pays for our sin, takes up our punishment – and in return He gives us His life. All His Love, He gives to us. All His righteousness, He gives to us. We now have His righteousness. When God sees us, He sees us Holy and redeemed, spotless and blameless – because He sees His Son. We are Baptized into Christ, and all that belongs to Christ is truly ours now as a free gift.

Do you see? Jesus asks the question that we need. We need a Savior, we need a Christ who is both God and Man to win us from sin and give us His own righteousness. His question brings us to Himself, Jesus’ question focuses us upon His Cross and His salvation. Rather than trying to trap us and embarrass us, Jesus teaches us and shows us the Gospel, holds on to us with His Love, so that we would see and understand who He is. This is what He always does – He calls out to us sinful folk and brings us to Himself, so to give us forgiveness and life everlasting, indeed to give us Himself and all that He is. Take and Eat, Take and Drink. Behold the goodness of our God, who loves even us sinners, and makes us His righteous saints. All praise and Glory be to Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Trinity 17 sermon

Trinity 17 – October 7th and 8th, 2017 – Luke 14:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So in today's Gospel, we get two stories, two times when people watch each other, look them over. We start with the Pharisees watching Jesus, and then Jesus watching the Pharisees. And the thing to note, my friends, is how these are two radically different approaches to life – they form a striking contrast – one that we should learn from, one that we should benefit from. So, let's work our way through our text and see what we see, shall we?

One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him carefully. And behold, there was a man before Him who had dropsy. Alright, so do you see what's going on? Jesus gets an invite to come to Sabbath dinner – which was an honor. And being a good Jew you didn't work on the Sabbath – everything had to be prepared beforehand, and at dinner you didn't really do much. You sat and talked about the Word of God together. That's the way it's supposed to go. Yet this time, this big-wig Pharisee invites Jesus to his house for the Sabbath meal – but he does so with false pretenses. They are going to be hard at work on the Sabbath examining Jesus, seeing if He will mess up some how. And to make it more likely that Jesus “messes up” - oh look, here's a fellow with dropsy. Drospy was basically what they called any nasty swelling disease, where there's massive fluid retention and things like that. And the fellow with dropsy isn't a Pharisee – he doesn't belong there, this isn't his crowd. He just happens to be there, right in front of Jesus. And the Pharisees are all side-eyeing Jesus – so what are you going to do there Jesus? Are you going to work on Sabbath – because then we can complain about how you worked – naughty naughty naughty. Or will you ignore the fellow – then we can complain about how you are a lousy healer. It's a trap.

Well, Jesus isn't one for just taking a trap – He likes to flip them around. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Jesus knows it's a trap – that's why he “responds” to the lawyers and the Pharisees. I see your trap – so I'll throw the ball back in to your court. How do you folks want to play this – do you want me to heal or not to heal? “But they remained silent.” Of course they do – because they are worried, terrified that Jesus will get on their case no matter what they do. Do you see their fear – they think Jesus is just as petty and mean as they are, and they are worried that He'll get the high ground in all their petty games. They can't spin it to their advantage. So they have to be silent.

Then we get one of the most matter of fact accounts of a healing ever. Then Jesus took him and healed him and sent him away. Go on home, you don't want to be here – go rejoice with your family. Now let me get back to these Pharisees here. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Jesus brings up a simple question – emergency acts were allowed on the Sabbath. You didn't plan work – but if crazy stuff came up, you take care of it. But here's the thing – And they could not reply to these things. The Pharisees were the super-Jews of the day – they went above and beyond the Law, just to make sure that they never came close to “breaking it”. They had a ton of extra, man-made rules about the Sabbath to try to stay out of that situation. So if they agree with Jesus that emergencies can be tended to on the Sabbath – they admit that their rules go beyond what God has said. And if they disagree, they show themselves to be loveless and hateful. Their plan to eyeball Jesus has ended in abject failure. They can't say anything – they are silenced.

Well, mostly silenced. The Pharisees do what most groups do when an uncomfortable truth is spoken – they ignore Jesus and go back to their meal. We'll just leave Jesus there and carry on as normal. Now He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they chose the places of honor... They ignore Jesus and go back to normal – which means there is all sorts of jockeying for places of honor and prestige – I want to move in closer to the most popular person there, who can I squeeze in between and the like. We see this all the time whenever someone popular or powerful shows up – people start swirling around trying to get into better position. And the Pharisees had left Jesus alone – which is a dangerous thing to do – and Jesus sees all this flittering and fluttering around, and suddenly He starts to talk. And imagine every head suddenly swinging toward Him – cause they had forgotten He was there. When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person.' Then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Oh, this is fantastic on many, many levels. What does Jesus do when He ends up watching the Pharisees? First, and on the simplest level – He just puts them back on track. I hope you noticed that Jesus did not just invent this idea, this parable on the spot. He's riffing off of, He's expanding on Proverbs 25 – our Old Testament lesson. He's talking about and expanding upon Scripture – which was the point of the Sabbath meal. Folks, we aren't here for posturing, or putting folks up or putting folks down – we were here to enjoy good food while we delight in God's Word. So let's talk about the Word, folks! Jesus calls them away from themselves and their own pride, and rather He focuses them upon the Word.

However, the super neat thing Jesus does is He shows how He is the Messiah. Now – wait a minute, how in tarnation is Jesus teaching that He is the Messiah here with this parable. Remember, Jesus is playing off of Proverbs 25 – this is a famous Proverb – the Pharisees would be expected to make the connection – they knew their Old Testament much better than we do. Proverbs 25:6 begins “Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence...” The King. A Proverb written by Solomon – the Son of David. And yet, Jesus shifts it – when you are invited to a wedding feast. Over and over, both in the Old Testament and in the New – the Kingdom of God is likened to a wedding feast. The classic depiction of God's relationship to Israel was of a husband and wife – so Jesus is basically saying “I'm the King, the wedding feast is coming – I'm the Messiah”. This is textbook Messianic preaching. I'm the Messiah, and I am here, and you guys shouldn't bother trying to posture and strut in front of me – you should be humble, you should repent as John the Baptist had preached.

But it's better than that. This parable is all about Jesus – and we can tell by the last sentence – For EVERYONE who exalts himself will be humbled, and HE who humbles himself will be exalted.” Did you catch it? If you're doing a simple contrast about life, you use the same subject in both parts of the sentence. You do this or you do that. Everyone who does X and everyone who does Y. But that's not what Jesus does. It's a contrast between everyone who exalts themselves and the One, the singular One, the only One, who truly humbles Himself. Yes, Jesus is the Messiah – and you know what the Messiah does? He doesn't come to put everyone in their place, He doesn't come to strut His stuff. He doesn't come to be the giant Queen Bee that makes everyone buzz around Him. Nope – His goal, His job, His delight is to bring in the wedding feast of the Lamb, to look at fallen sinners and call them into the eternal feast that has no end, and in order to do that – He has to take away your sin. And so Jesus is the One who will humble Himself by going to the cross and who will be exalted on the third day when He is raised from the dead.

Do you get the difference in approach? The Pharisees are utterly self-centered – watching Jesus just so that they can try to one-up Him in the pecking order. And they can't, so then they start to ignore Him. Then Jesus is watching the Pharisees – and if He wanted to read them the riot act, He could. Jesus could have laid into them and made them feel two inches tall. But that's not what He does. When Jesus looks upon these Pharisees, these folks who have specifically invited Him there just to hurt Him – He points them to the Word, He points them to Himself as the Messiah who longs to invite them up higher, to call them to be with Him forever.

So here's the thing. The world loves to look for weakness, but it does so for a very evil reason. When the world sees weakness or tragedy, it casts blame, makes political speeches, laments how other people are ruining the world. The world will use your weakness against you – and if we are honest, we too are tempted to use other peoples' weakness and flaws against them. But that's not what Jesus does. To be sure, Jesus sees you. He even sees you with all your warts – all of them. He sees you with with all your sin and wickedness, even the ones you try to ignore, even the ones that leave you speechless. But here's the twist. Jesus isn't seeking to crush you – no, He sees your sin to take it from you and place it upon Himself. That's what He did at your baptism – that was a promise to you that every drop of sin had been washed off of you and washed onto Christ Jesus – who would take it to the Cross for you. Jesus rescues you from the well of sin and death. He dives right on into your sin and goes to the Cross. Then, He rises from the dead and He calls you to His Supper to strengthen your faith and help you to show love to your neighbor. While the world is full of people watching everyone in order to place blame, to get political advantage, all that sort of junk – that's not a game Jesus is interested in playing at all. His goal, His focus is being your Savior no matter what happens in the world. And that He is. Simple. Period. Jesus sees you not to cast blame upon you, but to take way your sin, to say to you, “Friend, come up higher with Me for all eternity.” In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trinity 16 Sermon

Trinity 16 – September 30th and October 1st, 2017 – Luke

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So what is the point of the Christian Church? What’s the reason we here at Trinity exist – what are we all about? When it boils down to it, what makes this place different from the rest of the world, what makes us stand out from every club or group, every philosophy, every aid organization on the planet? Our text today. Our text today, Jesus raising the Widow’s Son, shows clearly and precisely what this Church is about, what we are focused on, why we exist. If you want to understand what it is to be a Christian, look and learn and understand this text. Listen.

“Soon afterward [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him.” First off, this verse is the very description of what the Church is. There you have Jesus – He is the center and focus. And who is with Him? Well, you've got the disciples, the ones He is training to be Apostles, training to be pastors. Who else – the great crowds, the hearers, the laity. That’s the Church. The classic idea of what a Church was had nothing to do with property or constitutions – it was simply this. Do you have someone preaching Christ, and do you have people hearing the preaching of Christ? Do you have two or three gathered in Christ's Name? And what do we in the Church today do? Whether you’ve been charged with teaching and preaching Christ as I have, or whether you’re one of the hearers, either way, we follow Christ – we go where He goes, we study His Word and listen to Him.

But why do we listen to Christ? What are we hoping to hear, what are we hoping to see our Lord do? You’ll get a lot of different answers – especially if you watch the TV commercials for Churches, if you look at the billboards. Some places offer acceptance and welcome – which is good, or at least can be good, I suppose. There are some things we aren’t supposed to accept because they are bad for us, please don’t accept poison this week, physical or spiritual poison, but acceptance is something that other places offer. Some places offer fun and excitement – again, not necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and sometimes we get more excitement than we want. And of course, sometimes you hear that you ought to go to a specific Church because it is the big, important church, the rich church, the one where you can meet the best people, make the best connections. Again, networking isn’t bad. . . it just isn’t the point. Nor are the groups and programs a parish can offer – good things, but not the main point. No, if you want to know why the Church follows Christ, listen to what Jesus does.

“As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.” As Jesus and the Church approach Nain, what do they see? A funeral procession. Death. A man lying cold and unbreathing upon a funeral bier. A mother burying her only son. A mother who is going to be condemned to a lifetime of begging because her son was the person who took care of her, the only one left in her life. It’s a horrible scene, a tragedy, heartbreaking. There are fewer things that they could have come across that would have been more sad, more pity-inspiring than this. Not only is there death, but even then the normal order of things in this fallen world is reversed – the parent buries the child – it’s backwards.

This funeral procession is the picture of sin. Do you want to know what sin is – what sin means, what your sin means? Look at this funeral procession. Your sin turns everything upside down. You were created to live loving your neighbor, yet you sin, and you hate, you harm, you hurt, you ignore your neighbor. Instead of being a blessing to them, you curse and swear and grumble at and about them whenever they annoy you. You curse them with your words, with your thoughts, with what you do and what you leave undone. Utterly backwards from what God had created His world to be. And sin unleashes havoc and chaos upon creation, and nothing holds together. God had created man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. . . now things are backwards because of sin. Now, the breath of life leaves our bodies, and then they fall apart into dust again. Sin turns everything upside down. And please understand – I’m not simply talking about “big” sins. Get rid of any sort of comparison, any sort of “well, I’m not perfect, but so and so is really bad.” Yeah – so what? Even if it is true, and it probably isn’t, the wages of both of your sin is still death. It makes no difference to you – sin is sin is sin. It kills you, it destroys you, it turns your life inside out, and if someone else’s sin is more spectacular than yours, that doesn’t mean your sin is good. Don’t let Satan trick you into minimizing the impact of your own sin – the wages of sin is death.

“And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Think how bold our Lord is here. Walks up to a woman at a funeral who doesn’t know Him from Adam and says, “Do not weep.” Of all the people there, she would have the reason to weep! Her life is in shambles. But Jesus can walk up to her and say, “Do not weep,” because He has compassion upon her. Now then – this is what the Church is looking for. This is why we follow Jesus. Because He has compassion upon those whose lives are in shambles. So, what about your life? Everything going perfectly well? And don’t think in terms of “Oh, how are you – oh, I’m fine, what about you”. How about it? See any shambles in your life lately? If not it’s simply because you’ve got your head in the sand. We in the Church ought to be honest about the problems we face in life – and while programs and networking might alleviate some of the problems – they don’t fix them. While fun can help us forget our troubles, while acceptance can help us pretend they don’t exist – they don’t fix them. But here we see Jesus, and He has compassion, and because He has compassion, He is bound to help – and He, He is the one who can fix things, fix things for this shattered family in Nain, fix things for us gathered around Him in the Church.

“Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Jesus does the unthinkable. He gets in the way of death. He walks up and touches the bier – and again, for a moment, think like a 1st Century Jew. To touch the bier, the open-air casket, was the height of uncleanliness. You basically wouldn’t be able to hang out around anyone for a few days after this. You didn’t do it – if you were a good Jew, you didn’t mess with dead bodies. And yet Jesus just strides on up – touches this man’s bier – speaks a Word of life to him, and this young man rises. And that’s what the Church wanted, needed to see. Christ Jesus raises this man to life.

You realize that this miracle, this raising of this one specific son, points forward to the greater miracle, do you not? Our Lord Jesus Christ isn’t astonishing in that He merely touches caskets – but when He wants to stop death, stop the funeral procession of the entire world in its tracks, He does so fully and completely. He goes to the Cross – and by dying there it is as though He tackles death, drives death to the ground as He is carried Himself on His own bier to His own tomb. The crucifixion is where Christ Jesus takes death on and drives it down into the ground with His own death. And then, on the third day, on Easter Morning – Christ stands up, and Death remains defeated and broken, lying in the dust, never more to arise.

This, dear friends, is what the Church is. This is why we exist, why we are gathered here this right now instead of off doing something else. Because we know our own sin, and we know that this sin turns everything upside down and leaves us in shambles, and we know that our sin brings death. But we are gathered here around Christ Jesus who was crucified, who takes on death for you, who slays and defeats death for you, and who rises to life victorious for you. This is what the Church offers. Life. And not just stuff, not just the trappings of wealth – that’s not life. Your life isn’t your stuff, your job, your brief span here in this fallen world – you were created both to live and to love eternally. Adam was made to live forever. . . and sin, his sin, our sin, would thwart that, would ruin that. But Christ Jesus steps in, and He dies to defeat death, and He rises to life to give you life. Because Jesus is raised from the dead, you will live forever. Everyone, every man, woman, and child on this planet, that ever has been or ever will be will be raised on the last day – some to paradise, some to judgment. And the wondrous thing is that Christ has called you to follow Him, to be gathered around His Word, to be joined to Him by Baptism, to be strengthened and kept a part of His Body by receiving His own Body and Blood in the Supper – and why? So that your life everlasting will be with Him and filled with His love – so that you will be with Him forever more. So that you will always have life, and have life in abundance – yes, a glimpse, a taste of it now, but forever in fullness with Christ, at His side in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

This, dear friends, is why we are here. We are those who are gathered around Christ Jesus, and we are focused on the life and love that He gives to us with His death and resurrection. He has forgiven your sins, shed His blood for you and risen from the dead for you, and He brings you with Him to the joys of eternal life. Here in His Church, we look at Christ, we receive His gifts of His Word and His most precious and Holy Body and Blood, and because of this, we confess with the Church of all time – I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. This is yours in Christ. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trinity 15 Sermon

Trinity 15 – September 23rd and 24th, 2017 – Matthew 6:24-34

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Well, that's a great way to start a lesson, isn't it? It just sort of drops a great big bomb on our laps. Two things are set against each other – God and Money. And we are made to think about this, to ask ourselves the question. How often would I rather serve money than God. Oh, these are dangerous waters, aren't they? Money sermons in church can hit too close to home, too close to the wallet, too close to my hobbies and all the other things that I really, really like to do.

The fact is we all love money. It makes us feel powerful. We'll do stupid things for money, and then we'll do even stupider things with our money. But here's the thing. Money, wealth, mammon, stuff – they're a cruel master. Right after bringing up this distinction, Jesus talks about worry and being anxious – worrying about what you will wear and what you will eat and all those everyday humdrum fears we have. You do realize what Jesus is pointing out. Money, loving money, serving money, will only make you anxious and worried. Even the world recognizes this. You get this in pop music, even in rap. Mo Money, Mo Problems. You spend your money to buy something really nice, then you have to buy even more insurance because what if something happens to it. You get a decent car instead of a beater, and then suddenly the ads tell you that you need an even nicer car, and you're no longer content. When money dominates our lives we just get thrown into a never-end cycle of fear and discontentment. Think about it – how many times this past week were your fears and anxiety based upon money, based upon stuff – whether there was enough for all the things you “need” or for all the things you want to do? I paid bills this week – I didn't sit down and cheer when I paid them, I cringed.

This is because we think that Money is power, that money gives us control. We think that if we had just a bit more cash then we'd be in control, that we would be able to make everything the way we want it to be. We think money is power, never recognizing that is takes control and rules over us and becomes our master – and money is a terrible master. Makes you work and sweat and fret, and it's never enough. Do you see, do you understand how many stupid and wretched things your sinful flesh will do to just try to be in charge? I know at the temptation of Jesus, when Satan says, “I'll give you all the kingdoms of the world if you just bow down and worship me” we can think, “That's a silly temptation.” Yet, how often do we jump through hoops for cash, thinking that cash will let us control our lives? Then the money doesn't bring us happiness, it doesn't bring us joy. And even the world will finally admit that in the end, you can't take it with you.

You cannot serve God and money. So what does this mean, Pastor? If I'm being honest about myself, it's clear that entirely too often I want to serve money, that I want to be all about the Benjamins and cold hard cash. Does that mean that I'm up the creek without a paddle? Listen. Jesus says: You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life....” This is one of the happiest “therefores” in all the Scriptures. So often people will present “You cannot serve God and money” as a chance for a choice, for a call for you to make a better decision. The only thing is that if we're talking about “money” and decisions, we tend to make terrible decisions. But Jesus doesn't tell you to choose between Him and money. He says “Therefore I tell you.” You can't have two masters – it doesn't work. Therefore I will be your Master, I will be your Lord, and I will be the one telling you how things will be, not money. Money tells you to fret and worry and be anxious – but I, Christ Jesus, your Lord and Master, say unto you, don't worry about stuff, because stuff, your food, your clothing, your life – that is all in My hands, not money's hands, and I will take care of you. Period. Because I am your master, and you will listen, not to your fears and anxieties driven by money, but you will listen to Me. You don't have two masters; you have One. His name is Jesus.

And here's where our sinful flesh wants to chime in with a giant and loud “BUT!!!” Okay, Jesus, we get that God is in control, we get that we pray for daily bread, and yeah, we talk about in the Small Catechism in the Creed how God has made me and all creatures and given me my body and soul... BUT what about this? And then our flesh throws out some fear in front of us. Sometimes, in hindsight, the things we worry about are flippant and silly. I remember when I was devastated because my mom bought me the wrong Transformer toy – how am I to get my daily bread when my mom can't tell one transformer from another! Sometimes the fears are big and nasty. Maybe this is the second notice on that power bill. Or “your position has been eliminated and your services will no longer be required.” Or Dad just had to buy a hospital bed for mom. Those are scary things. But let's ratchet it up. What about the day, our flesh cries out, what about the day when I'm the one who needs the hospital bed, what about when it's my eyes that can't see anymore, what about when I die, huh? What about then, huh?

Well, first of all, the day I'm dying money isn't going to do anything for me. Money's a vain and fleeting master – when I kick the bucket any money I have will just go to some other folks; hopefully they won't fight over it too much. But more important than the powerlessness of money is the greater truth – Jesus Christ, O Christian, is your master. Even in the face of death, Jesus is your master. And do you know how you know that He is your master no matter what comes in your life? We saw it today. A few minutes ago, we saw Christ Jesus publicly declare that He was Lord and Master of (Bennet and Gunnar / Jax). He joined them to Himself in the waters of Baptism, placed His name upon them. You see, Baptism isn't just some cutesy ceremony, it isn't just a photo op (although baptismal photos are cute). Baptism is where the Trinue God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit publicly says that you, the baptized, are His own child, now and forever. And why does Jesus stake this claim upon you?

Well, when Adam sinned in the garden, Satan had his nasty little fingers on us – Satan had a claim on us. We had sinned, and the wages of sin is death. We were consigned into Satan's kingdom of death. And Jesus does not want that – He doesn't want us just stuck in death, and so He would have to rescue us. And you know what that rescue means? He had to go where we were. If my son gets stuck in a slide and I have to rescue him, I have to climb into the slide and drag him out. Since we were stuck in the kingdom of Death, Jesus had to enter into death itself. That is why Jesus became man, that is why He went to the cross. He suffered and died because you and I were going to die. And if we were left to die on our own devices, that would have been it – the grave would have been our last stop. But no, Christ went to the Cross and He died and He entered a tomb of His own. Then He blew the kingdom of death apart by rising on the third day. And what Jesus does in His Church is takes what He has done with His death and resurrection and brings it to us in Holy Baptism, He brings you out of the kingdom of death and brings you into His kingdom of everlasting life.

Whatever comes in your life, whatever trials and doubts or fears or problems you face – even up to and including your death, because if the Lord tarries and doesn't return soon, death will come for all of us – whatever comes – you know for certain that Jesus Christ is your Lord because He has baptized you, He has joined you unto Himself. And in fact, He spends your life preparing you, training you to face down the fears Satan throws at you... even the fears of death. You've already died and live with Christ. Remember the lesson from your Catechism days – what does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” This is the greatest and highest reality of your life, who you are. You are one who has died to sin and is alive to God in Christ Jesus.

And we forget that sometimes, don't we. We get turned away from Jesus and get focused upon other things. Like money. That's the example in the text. We start thinking money will fix our lives. There are others. Our ego, lust, anger, pride. All these things try to make us think they bring us life, try to make us forget that Christ is our life. And so often we run after these things and slam headlong into the muck and the mire and get burdened by fear and shame and guilt and worry. Those fears, those worries, that guilt and shame are what we end up focusing on, no matter how hard we try to pretend they're not there. We start acting as though money were our master – or whatever other idol tells us that it is our Master. And that is when Jesus says to you again, “No - I am your master, not money, not Satan, not sin, not the flesh.” He pulls our eyes off of all that other junk and says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seek first the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that you were made a member of when you were baptized. Seek Jesus' own righteousness, the righteousness that He gives you whenever He forgives your sins! 
 
Do you see? No one may serve two masters – and while we might forget that, Christ Jesus does not, and He always remembers that He is your kind and gracious master, your good and gracious King, and so He will always call you back unto Himself, back to His Kingdom. How could He not – for you are His own, baptized into Him. You have life in Him. This the reality of your life – not your cash. You can't take your money with you, but Christ Jesus will take you with Him for all eternity, for He has purchased and won you from those lousy masters Sin, death, and the devil, all so that you will be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever. You belong to Jesus, and He will never abandon you. God grant us ever more to remember this! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +