Saturday, May 18, 2019

Easter 5 Sermon

Easter 5 – May 18th and 19th, 2019 -

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, alleluia!
We do not know what is good for us. Or if we do know, we tend to fight against it. I, as a person, know what a good and healthy and proper diet would be – but from my simple appearance you can tell such a healthy diet is beyond my current desire or self-discipline. And every one of us in here can think of times where we fight against bad habits that we know are off, yet still do them. And even more to the point, everyone of us in here have things that we think are “good” for us, but actually are not. That is part and parcel of being a sinful human being. The first temptation was “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” - and ever since the fall we have failed utterly in our attempts to know what is good for us. Instead of listening to our own thoughts, or our hearts, or our stomachs, when push comes to shove we must listen to what God in His Word says. He knows what is good, we of ourselves so often do not.

With this in mind, we are ready to hear what Jesus says: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away.” Here again we are in the upper room on Maundy Thursday evening, and Jesus is preparing the disciples for the transition to the New Testament Church which will exist after the Ascension and until the Second Coming – the Church we ourselves are in. And the Church as we see it wasn't what the disciples wanted. They had wanted an earthly kingdom of power and might, where they would rule along side Jesus and share in His glory and have palaces and riches and respect. They wanted a kingdom like David had, or Solomon. And Jesus is telling them that this isn't going to happen – and they don't really believe Him yet. They even ask before Jesus ascends, “Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” The disciples didn't want the Church.

And let's be honest – often we don't like, don't want the Church that we have. We can have hopes and dreams for this congregation that don't pan out. I wish we were so full that people had to sit up front. I wish there were more LCMS Lutherans in the US, where we weren't a relatively obscure group making up less than 1 percent of the population. I wish there were more Christians at all in the US, instead of this rising tide of disdain that I see all around us. Wouldn't that be “good”? Possibly – but it is also selfish. Full pews and fuller offering plates would certainly let me have bragging rights at this week's pastor's conference – but bragging rights aren't the point, are they? Or being safely in the open majority is comfortable, and you get to enjoy positions of social power and prestige – but garnering earthly respect isn't the point of the Christian faith. You see, with all our wishes and dreams, we are tempted to over look the unimaginably wondrous good that God gives to us here and now. A good that surpasses anything we could have dreamed or coveted.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. The Helper, the Comforter, the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit. Jesus here speaks to Pentecost, the pouring out of the Spirit which starts in Jerusalem and spreads throughout the world. The very pouring out of the Spirit that we ourselves live in and fully experience here, as the Holy Spirit is with us, having called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts of Word and Sacrament, sanctified and kept us in the true faith. Consider – that Maundy Thursday, if you wanted to be part of this “Jesus” thing, you had to follow Him around, fit in one particular crowd – or wait for Him to come around again. Fifty days later, you have Pentecost, and 3000 believe and are baptized, and they all head back to all their homes where they speak in all their various languages, and more and more people are brought by the Spirit to faith, and so on and so forth until here we are, separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles from where Jesus spoke these words in the upper room – and yet by the power of the Spirit they are spoken to us and applied to us and brought to us today.

The Holy Spirit spreads the Church throughout the world. And in that Church our LORD Jesus comes to us in His Word, in Baptism, in His Supper, to forgive us our sins. We don't have to go to Him. He comes to us. How fantastic is that! We don't have to go to Jerusalem where the Kingdom is (although a trip there would be sort of cool – but it's not necessary). We don't have to do a pilgrimage to any place and wait in long lines. No, because of the Spirit and His Church, Christ Jesus comes to us easily and conveniently and in our own language. He comes to us as often as we are gathered in His Name, as often as we eat His Supper. And if for some reason this place got too crowded – just plant another congregation – easy peasy, lemon squeezy. And if we end up having to share with others someday – alright, where the Word is proclaimed, there Christ will be present for us. And it really is to our advantage.

Because we are people of the Word, and the Help that the Helper gives, the Comfort from the Comforter is the Word of God proclaimed. Jesus says, “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit will see to it that the Word of God is proclaimed throughout the whole world – that's what that “convict” means. We think of a convicting primarily as assigning a punishment, but here it really means to speak with conviction and with authority. Over and against all the thoughts and ideas that vie for power in the world, the Word of God goes forth and the Spirit proclaims the truth. And that is the truth that we are to listen to and listen for. This is the truth you are to expect from me whenever I preach, and if I do not preach it, you ought to be all over me like white on rice. Jesus here lays out the standard for what is to be preached in His Church.

The Spirit will convict “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Part of the job of the Spirit in His Church will be to proclaim God's law, showing forth our sin. Sin, at it's root, is disbelieving God. It is ignoring what He has said, what He has called good, and instead substituting our own desires in its place. And the Holy Spirit will always call that out. You will hear your own sin, and even sins you happen to like and enjoy, called out in this place. That's what the Spirit does. And we live in a day and age where we don't like calling sin sin. It's not “nice”. Oh well. We listen to the Word of God and what God says is right, and that's where we stand, even against ourselves. It's not a matter of “we're good and they are bad” as so many want to take it – it's we all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. The law is given to stop every mouth, stop every excuse – and when you are trying to justify your own sin, whatever shape that sin takes, whether it is something bizarre or something trendy or just something petty, the Spirit will use the Word to tell you to stop with your jibber-jabbery defense and instead admit that you are wrong. And we need that – not just those bad people out there – we do, because we don't know what is good apart from God.

But, the Church is not merely a place where God tells us off. In fact, it's primary purpose is this. The Spirit will speak concerning “righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see Me no longer.” Well, what in tarnation that does that mean? When Jesus speaks of “righteousness” He is referring to the fact that He is righteous and good, and that His righteousness is shown by going to the Cross and taking up your sin – including all that stuff that the Spirit just called you on – and destroying it, and in its place giving you all His righteousness and holiness and love and mercy. He has done it all – it is finished. He has gone to the Father, ascended victorious with nothing left to be done for your salvation. And thus the job of the Church is to proclaim that Christ Jesus has accomplished salvation, that all righteousness is found in Him. That sins are forgiven in Him and by Him. These first two are what we Lutherans like to call “Law and Gospel” for short – the Law which shows to us our sin, the Gospel which gives us our Savior and His forgiveness. And these two things must be constantly preached and proclaimed – the Law to silence our own plans, the Gospel to give and include us in the plan of salvation.

But what of the third? Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. We don't know what is good. We don't know what good results look like. We hear this preaching of Law and Gospel – and then, well... we don't have power and might on the earth. We don't have riches. In fact, we don't even get to defeat all our enemies, and there are still wicked people out there and oh no, what are we going to do? The Spirit's answer – nothing. You don't have to judge or defeat or destroy anyone in this life. God will take care of it. In fact, He has – Jesus's death and resurrection defeated Satan, and Satan is judged already. We are just waiting it out until the second coming, and in the mean time the Spirit goes forth in the Word calling sinners to repentance and giving them Christ's forgiveness. If someone should believe – wonderful. If not – well, we just keep preaching and singing and praying and receiving Christ's body and blood – we just keep on living as the baptized and leave any comeuppances to come in God's hands. We don't even need to fret about how many do or don't believe, or how wicked the world is, or any of the things we so often fear. In Christ, we have the victory now. This world's prince may still scowl fierce as he will – but the Spirit will remind us over and over that in Christ our victory has been won and that the true Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom of Christ and the life everlasting, is ours.

And that's what the Spirit does. He makes us see that Jesus has actually won our victory over sin and death and the world, and even over our own selfishness and misplaced dreams. He will use the Word and pull us away from these things, and give us Jesus - “for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit gives you the things of Jesus that you need – or as we learned it in the Small Catechism – In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. And because the Spirit has come, this Christian Church is spread throughout the world, and yet even we here in this place receive all the fullness thereof and lack nothing – for God is good, and Jesus has died and risen, and His Spirit gives us all things. This is what is truly good for us. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Underestimating the Need for "Myth"

Human beings need "Myth".

Ew, that sounds bad, doesn't it?  I'm sure my religious friends bristle at that word, as it implies that our cherished beliefs are outmoded, and my more modern friends bristle because that's something we have moved beyond.  But I will contend again - humans need myth.

Myth comes from mythos - the Greek word for story.  We have denigrated the idea of "myth" as something false or archaic, but a myth is simply a story that explains how and why things are the way they are.  A Myth is the story that lets people in general know and understand what is going on and why it is going on - and any Myth that is told is fundamentally "true".  Otherwise it doesn't actually explain things, it doesn't hold up anymore.  The story no longer holds water.

What if I said we need "story" - we need a narrative that provides context for where we are, where we've been, and what direction we are going?  Would that be better?  Because that's a myth.

And if there is no established myth, we will create one.

Consider the linked article comparing Climate Change Alarmism to ancient priesthoods.  This article details an example of how a myth is created.  Er, a story, a narrative.  That's how you get people to understand the reality that you are presenting.  The story gets one to act in response to the facts. 

And try as we might to be utterly objective and scientific, we NEED to have a myth to give our insights importance.  Evolutionary theory is not content to speak to current and observable changes; it must extrapolate backwards and speak to origins.  That's because it needed a myth (sorry - story) to frame it.  And so the story of why species needed to have originated this way is put forth - regardless of the utter inability to test for it objectively.

We need a good narrative to give us context and meaning.

And the biggest myth of the old modern era was that we didn't need such things - that we were sophisticated and knowledgeable and advanced.

Nope.  We were created (see, I'm showing my cards on what myth, um, narrative I hold to) to be people of story and context.  And when the collectively understood story of the West (that of Christianity) is jettisoned or compartmentalized away, there will still need to be new myths to arise.

People may not believe in God, but they believe in a story.  A militant atheist will fight tooth and nail to defend his story of how things are.  That's what we do - that's how we justify our positions and our attitudes and our actions.  Myths give meaning and make us right and heroic.

So - what's your story?

Easter 4 Sermon

Easter 4 – John 16:16-22 – May 11th and 12th, 2019

Christ is Arisen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia)
With this week in the Easter season, we reach a transition. For the next few weeks, our Gospel lessons will be from John 15 and 16, they will be parts of the discussion that Jesus had with His disciples on the night when He was betrayed, on Maundy Thursday evening. So, why these Gospel lessons now? Why things that address sorrow and pain - it’s the Easter Season – that’s what it says on the cover of the bulletin! Shouldn’t everything be happy? Why do we have such blunt and dour Gospel lessons here in the middle of the Easter season? Because Christ Jesus is going to be teaching us what life will be like for us, for us who know Christ’s resurrection and yet for a while remain in a sinful, hard world.

A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see me. Christ speaks these words on Maundy Thursday evening, after the foot washing, after the Last Supper, just before He goes to the garden of Gethsemane. And right here He is laying out the Crucifixion. Guys, you aren’t going to see me – I’m going to buried in the ground, I will be dead. And this will be rough and harsh on you, you will flee in terror and dread. But don’t worry, in a little while, on the Third Day, you will see me again. But Jesus doesn’t even pretend to think that this won’t be painful, that this won’t be difficult. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. Isn’t that something that is great about Jesus? How well He knows us, how well He understands? Jesus doesn’t feed the disciples a line – he doesn’t simply say, “Life will be a bowlful of cherries.” I think sometimes we get this idea that if we are a Christian that everything in life will be wonderful. I’m a Christian, I’ll be happy all the time, always a smile on my face. You will weep, and you will lament. Jesus understands. We are sinners in a sinful world. Bad things happen. There is no constant bliss here on Earth. And no, this isn’t a sign of a weak faith. You guys should all know the shortest verse of the bible – Jesus wept. At the death of Lazarus, His friend, Christ Jesus Himself weeps. It’s a simple fact, there are things that will come that will bring us sorrow, it’s part and parcel of this fallen world.

But Jesus understands that, and even as He is getting ready to go to the Cross, even as He is preparing to engage in His epic struggle against Sin and Death and the Devil, He looks at His Disciples, and He sees what will happen to them. You guys are going to be so scared, so upset, so frightened. And note, Jesus doesn’t give any of the empty words we do. Jesus doesn’t say “buck up.” Jesus doesn’t say “be strong.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Note what He does say. You will see me again. Jesus points to the Resurrection. Jesus takes the Disciples, and in preparing them to handle their grief, points their eyes towards the Resurrection, points them towards something they have no way of comprehending. And why? Because the resurrection is where it all happens. The Resurrection is where the World is set right again. Behold, Christ Jesus lives, having risen triumphantly from the grave. This is where we flee from our sorrow. This world isn’t right, it’s filled with sin and anger and hatred and death – we cannot deny this, we can't pretend it isn’t this way, we can't expect it to be otherwise. Yet you know another more wondrous truth. Christ lives to die no more. Your sin, done away with, gone, forgiven. You have been made right with God. No matter what comes here in this life, no matter what people say or do, no matter what victories they win over you, Christ has won the final victory. You know the end of the story, whatever pain comes in the mean time. Christ is teaching you to look to Him whenever there is sorrow in your life. That’s what He does here, that’s what He’s telling the disciples that evening, that’s what He telling us this day/morning. You will face sorrow, but look to my Resurrection for strength and joy.

But Jesus isn’t simply preparing the Disciples for His death and Resurrection. He is also pointing the Disciples towards His Ascension. Hear again the Gospel. So some of His Disciples said to one another, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and ‘because I am going to the Father’?” Because I am going to the Father. You see what that is saying, right? Think on the Creed. And He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, from thence He Shall Come to Judge the living and the dead. Jesus is also preparing the Disciples for the life after the Ascension. Yes, indeed, Christ is with us always, but think of the situation which the Disciples will be placed in. After the Ascension, if they have a question, they don’t get to just ask Jesus for the answer anymore – rather they have His teachings, they have prayer. The time is coming when the Disciples will have to take up responsibility, take up their own crosses, and serve in the Church. And it will be hard work for the Disciples. Jesus compares what they will go through to a woman giving birth (happy Mother's Day). It will be painful and full of toil (happy Mother's Day) – but through these people Jesus will serve His Church. That is the joy they are to focus on and see – to ignore the pain of persecution, to ignore the pain of the mockers and their own torture and death – and rather to focus on the joy of sharing the Gospel, of bringing the joy of the resurrection to people who need it.

But really, this is the same situation we are in. We toil in this world awaiting the joy of Christ’s return, the final giving of joy ever lasting. Again, our faith, our love of God doesn’t mean that there won’t be pain in our lives. Coming to Church doesn’t mean the kids suddenly will stop arguing, reading your Bible in the morning doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly at work. Even really praying hard doesn’t mean that your relationships will be peaceful and joyful all the time. Why? Because we are all still sinners in a sinful world – and sinners we will remain as long as we draw breath. Jesus knows that when He speaks these words. He says this to Peter knowing that in a few moments Peter will draw his sword in anger and cut off the servant’s ear, that in just a few hours Peter in fear will deny Him 3 times. Jesus speaks these words knowing us, knowing that we will sin. But He calls us to the struggle, He calls us to the fight – to battle temptation, to confess our sin – and to look towards the joy that only His forgiveness can give. While we wait for Christ’s return – this is what our lives will consist of – our struggle to follow His Word, to actually love God and our Neighbor in thought, word, and deed. And make no mistake, it is a struggle. If you think that you’ve got this being a Christian thing down, you are fooling yourself. Our lives are ones where we constantly seek to grow and improve – and that is painful, because if we strive to do better we will always see how we fail, how we could have done better; we will always see our sin in front of us. And in response to this we are to confess our sin to God, and to receive His forgiveness given out to us by His Absolution and by His Supper. This is where we receive again His joy, which gives us the strength to endure in this life.

One more point: Jesus does here also describe how we are to deal with mourning the loss of our loved ones who have died in the faith. There is indeed a time for mourning, for weeping, for sorrow. We must never delude ourselves by thinking that death is just a part of life – just a phase of life. Death is a tragedy, our great foe, it’s wrong, it shouldn’t be this way. But this is why we give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord – because He takes on death. That’s what His crucifixion is – Christ entering into the struggle against death, Christ taking its pain – and Christ defeating death resoundingly on Easter. That is how we view death, dear friends, by looking at the Resurrection. We see in Christ’s resurrection the defeat of death, we see our own future resurrection which Christ has promised to us. We look at the death of our loved ones through the Ascension – we see and remember that Christ our Lord now rules from Heaven, that He is there with all the saints who have gone on before us. In spite of our sorrow, we see the joy that they have right now this moment, and know that they await the resurrection on the last day, their’s and ours.

Again, this is what we celebrate whenever we have the Lord’s Supper here. With angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven. When we have the Supper here, we confess that our Lord is here, His Body and Blood in Bread and Wine. We confess that He is here for our forgiveness. But we also confess that we with all of God’s Saints participate in Christ’s Body, that we share in His life that He has given us. The Lord’s Supper is not simply a matter of individuality – it’s not a time for just me to hang out with God. At His Supper God brings to us a taste of heaven, we join in the Heavenly Feast with all of His Saints – the Communion of Saints. In this Supper we celebrate the Truth that Christ Jesus lives – today we partake of His Body. Death cannot hold Him, Christ has not decayed away, but now, in His Body He reigns in heaven in the Presence of all the Saints – and through His Supper we rejoice in His presence here on Earth. We know that our Lord lives, we know that we too have Eternal life, right now, it is ours. Right now, God has blessed His saints, and we all simply wait for the last day when we shall see our Lord in our own flesh. We are joined to our Lord and all of His Saints. This is the joy and peace that we see here on Earth.
Dear friends – your life will have struggles – there will be trials and pains and sorrow. But let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, for the grave could not hold Him, for He reigns from Heaven this moment, for He gives us His gifts of life and forgiveness here in His Church. Because of this, we endure the sorrows of the moment, we endure them by looking to the eternal joy which He has won for us with His death and resurrection, which He has promised us. This is the peace we ha ve as Christians, this is the joy we have as Christians, one that no one can take away. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Easter 3 Sermon

Easter 3 – May 4th and 5th, 2019 – John 10:11-16

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia +
Who do you listen to? That's actual a very important question, one that can tell you a lot about a person. What music do you like, who do you listen to? Rock or Country? Real country or this modern junk that sounds like 80s boy bands with a twang country? See, what you listen you and what you don't listen to can say quite a bit about you. And we can come up with other things we listen to. What stories, what movies do you like? Action adventure or romantic comedy? That can be interesting. Or what channel do you listen to for your news, CNN or Fox? Ew, that can get a bit contentious. What politicians do you listen to? And suddenly the differences in who we listen to get a bit more tense, especially today. But really, here in this place, none of those really matter. I mean, we might mock each other's music, or get into political debates, but that's all small potatoes. There is, though, one case, one situation where the question of “Who do you listen to” becomes vitally important.

I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this folds. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Who do you listen to? Do you listen to Jesus? Now, here, in this place – that's the vital question. Do you hear His voice? And where do you go to hear His voice, and what are you expecting that voice to say? You all do realize that these are the questions that we ask of our confirmations tomorrow/today – the questions that were asked of you at your confirmation. Your Savior's voice – what does it sound like? To whom do you listen?

There are a lot of voices out there vying for our attention, vying for our devotion. A lot of voices calling out for us to fear them, or love them, or trust them. In some ways the babble of those voices is as loud as it's ever been, at least in living memory. There are so many places where one go searching for truth – Siri, hey google, whatever. The wolves seeking to scatter the flock have megaphones and book deals and podcasts these days. Entertainers and athletes have become idols to worship and devote your life to. People offer to welcome us and accept us, just as long as we go along with whatever they want, and peer pressure is ratcheted to insanely high levels. So many voices, all speaking, all enticing, all demanding that we follow them. Over and above all this din, this confusing tumult, Christ Jesus your Lord is still speaking. And do you want to know the difference in how Jesus speaks, the difference between the voice of your Shepherd and all those wolves out there?

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does things for you and gives gifts to you, demanding nothing in return. His focus is upon making sure that you receive His life and salvation. Everyone else out there wants something from you. Bands want you to buy their albums, and the Lord knows that with Star Wars George Lucas has gotten plenty of my money. Politicians want your vote, and TV channels want you to boost their ratings. But Jesus – did you hear the difference? He's not demanding that you do and give things to Him, He is doing things for you. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The Good Shepherd gathers the sheep, brings them in to take care of them. The Good Shepherd cares for the sheep at cost to Himself.

The first question in the rite of Confirmation highlights this reality – Do you this day and in the presence of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Do you see the direction there? God has given us here gifts – He's active – He's the one doing. We are passive, we receive. We have been given forgiveness and life and salvation, we have been gathered into the fold, made part of the family of God and heirs of His Kingdom. Do you see, do you acknowledge, do you hear the gifts you have been given? And that's the question that is asked of us all. Do we hear the voice of our shepherd giving us His gifts? Yes, we do.

But here is the point to ponder this day. There are many, many voices trying to get your attention, but there is only one place where you can be sure that you will hear the voice of Jesus. Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God? The Word of God. Do you listen to the Word and what the Word says? Not merely someone's thoughts on God, or merely someone's feelings (oh, the feels), or whatever junk someone's heart tells them – those can be all over the place and often lousy. We confess that we sin in thought, words, and deed, and our feelings are often wrong, and our hearts often go astray. So the question is this - do you pay attention to the Word, to the Scriptures, to the Old and New Testament? Because that is where Jesus continues to speak to you today, over and above all the rigmarole in the world.

And what does Jesus sound like in the Word – Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true? Not just do people quote the Bible – Satan can do that. But what do they say it's about, what's the point? Is their point Christ Jesus for you? Because that's what the Scriptures and the Catechism actually teach. Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the Devil. Christ for you. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. For you. These words, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For you. So be wary of anyone who doesn't preach or teach Christ for you. The truth is this: the Shepherd is seeking you out and giving you His gifts so that you are forgiven and live and grow at peace in Him – that is the point, that is the voice of your Shepherd.
And that is why at Confirmation we are asked, Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully? And that is a question we answer, not just once on a specific day, but we answer it week in and week out whenever we come to this place, and we hear again and again the voice of Christ Jesus, giving us mercy and life. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. That is what goes on here – the voice of Christ Jesus. In the Word, in our worship, in our liturgy and hymns, all sung back and forth. From the beginning of service – In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – the very name and gift you were given in your baptism, all the way unto the end of service and the benediction – the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace – all of it the voice of Jesus, bringing us together.

That was the point of all this Easter stuff, after all. That was the reason that Christ Jesus went to the Cross, that was why He suffered and died, that was why He took bread on the night when He was betrayed. All that Good Friday and Easter stuff – all that took place simply and solely so that right now, this day, this moment, we here gathered together around His Word and His Supper would hear His voice again and receive His gifts again, and delight in them again. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep and rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. When Christ Jesus was there upon the Cross, clouds and thick darkness covered the land, and there Jesus, True God and True Man, drew us all unto Him. This is what Jesus said in John 12: And I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all people to Myself. This is what Christ has done for you and will continue to do in His Church, in and for His flock.

Because make no bones about it, life gets hard and messy. And every one of us here in this room will mess up, and sometimes mess up royally. There will be times when we give too much ear to other voices that would lead us into places we don't need to go. And there will be times when those voices will break us down and batter us. There will be times when we will be exhausted by the burdens and duties we face in life. In all those times, especially in all those times, Christ Jesus still is the Good Shepherd, who seeks the lost and the scattered by the power of His Word, His Baptism, His Supper. He says, “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” Again and again, God doing good for His people. Again and again God doing good for you. And the world will do its best to drown that out, our flesh will try to distract us and drive us away. But Christ Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness – and His Church is the place where that forgiveness is given.

So, who do you listen to? You listen to Jesus who will over and over forgive you your sins (because sins you do have, and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to fleece you). Forgiveness is the point of this place, that's the point of this day, every day we are gathered here at Church – so that refreshed by Christ Jesus we are filled with faith towards Him and love toward one another – made ready to go out those doors and love our neighbor and be not just a voice of love and reason, but also a voice of Christ's peace and Christ's mercy and Christ's forgiveness out in a world where that is seemingly in short supply. That is the truth we confess together here, that is the gift we receive here together. Christ Jesus has done it all, and He has done it all for you. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!