Monday, April 29, 2019

Sermon April 27-28, 2019

Title: Have no doubt … Jesus lives!
Text: Acts 5:12-20

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

When Henry Norris Russell, the Princeton astronomer, had concluded a lecture on the Milky Way, a woman came to him and asked, "If our world is so little, and the universe is so great, can we believe God really pays any attention to us?" Dr. Russell replied, "That depends, madam, entirely on how big a God you believe in."

Today in the World, Feb 89, p. 12.

Over the last few months we’ve welcomed the Christ child, born in a manger and celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord as he is revealed and made know to the world through the visit of the wise men. We watched Jesus grow in wisdom and stature and begin his ministry. He taught, cast our demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. He was celebrated as a great teacher but ultimately was rejected by the religious elite and the people. He was tried, convicted, crucified, dead and buried. It is finished.

Then … Easter came and Jesus rose from the dead. Death has been changed forever – swallowed up in victory as we proclaim. It is now the blessed hope of all who die in Christ that we too will rise and live with him free of sin, death and the power of the devil forever.

Have no doubt … Jesus lives!

The reality of this life, broken by sin though continues and it continued for the Apostles as well.

Signs and wonders were regularly done among the people at the hands of the Apostles, and they were held in esteem by the people.

They even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

From the surrounding towns and villages they brought their sick and those with unclean spirits, and they were all healed!

Much had changed but much remained the same.

Those afflicted … remained so. Those called by Jesus to follow him … followed in his footsteps in the care of souls. Those opposed to Christ – the high priest and the party of the Sadducee's –rose up being filled with jealousy and 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

Much had changed but much remained the same.

Ill.

William M. Batten, in Fortune Magazine wrote:

When I hear my friends say they hope their children don't have to experience the hardships they went through--I don't agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.

William M. Batten, Fortune.

Struggle is certainly part of the Christian walk. Many of you struggle with the trials of life. I do too. Sickness and death, job loss, guidance and care for our children and our parents. Friends and loved ones with cancer, you name it and it seems to go on and on.

Ill.

Today those opposed to Christ seem greater than ever. Foreign and domestic opposition to Jesus is rampant. College campuses indoctrinate free thinking and alternate lifestyles and they have for years, as long as your free thinking is not in support of traditional family values and accepted religious and public norms. Politically correct views trump that which was traditional accepted – no pun intended.

The recent bombings in Sri Lanka, the killing of women and children in terrorist attacks in Africa, highlight the hate for those of the Christian faith. It is especially sad when the name Christian isn’t mentioned as we are called only Easter worshipers. The name of Christ is reviled.

The vision of St. John in the book of Revelation comforts we who morn for those martyred for their faith in chapter 6.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Rev. 6:9-11

Persecution remains part of our Christian walk; though we hope to be hidden behind the door of God’s protection.

It is easy to see that the corruption of this world continues. And though the wages of sin has been overcome by Christ we all wait in anticipation for the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13

Even the Apostles, after Christ rose from the dead … and now doing his blessed work … in his name … were arrested and thrown in prison for their witness. Persecution, doubt, loss and fear continue to hound the church and those sent to serve. It will continue until Christ returns.

The joy of Easter though is celebrated, as it was last weekend, but the reality of persecution continues for Christ’s church. In our day some who once followed Jesus rebel in sinful disobedience to the word of God. 

Others have an apathetic disdain for God’s word and all that Christ has done on their behalf. Truthfully, we all fall short in our love of God and service to neighbor.

We confess we are by nature sinful and unclean, rings true again each week. The truth is that Jesus died for you and for me in a very public way, so we cannot live for him by ourselves in private. And no, it’s not a work, but it is a fruit of who we are in Christ.

Fear gripped the disciples too. They, for fear of the Jews, were locked in a room and Jesus came and stood before them saying, “Peace be with you.”

This peace from Christ is real. God has made what we could never make possible a reality. Now he brings this reality to you and me through his means.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the reality of his death was there, the holes in his hands and feet, the mark in his side from the spear, all those remaining marks of his finished work for you and me were there, and he says and again … bringing the words of comfort …

“Peace be with you.” But now gives the means of this gift for the world’s peace and salvation. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Christ Jesus here sends these disciples, these 10 men locked in this room - Judas having fled and taken his life in despair while Thomas was not yet there among them.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

It is a true absolution and peace, true forgiveness, not because the men who stand in the place and by the command of Christ, stand of their own accord, but because we stand as servants of the word. We do what Christ does and commands because, it is his words of peace, it is his words of forgiveness and it is his words of comfort spoken by those called to stand as under shepherds of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ himself.

Peace is truly a gift, but it also truly had a cost. Jesus is both the gift and the price that was paid to procure your peace and your salvation.

In Baptism, we too who are brought to the font receive that same gift of peace by Jesus.

At times the word of God’s Law points us all to our sinful nature, so that we might be brought to repentance. But God’s forgiveness is certain for those who repent, so that we might live redeemed, in the midst of a world broken by the fall.

 In the lives of the Apostles the prison they were placed in was real.

19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Acts 5:19-20

It is God who forgives and it is God who speaks forgiveness to a broken world. The gospel always brings peace and erases doubt. Be comforted and strengthened as you stand in a world increasingly opposed to Christ for this world is dying but the gospel makes alive.

Just as Christ lives “in him we live and move and have our being … For we are indeed his offspring, (Acts 17:28) and his children … adopted into Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who changes hearts and brings peace.

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

Have no doubt … Jesus lives!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, April 22, 2019

Sermon April 20-21, 2019 - Easter

Title:The Word of God lives. He is Risen!
Text: Luke 24:1-12

5 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Today we celebrate the blessed resurrection of our Lord. For in time past the world languished in sin and death reigned supreme. The hope of the Messiah and his coming had been prophesied. As the writer to the Hebrews makes clear in chapter 1.

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4)

Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God came down for this very purpose. To humiliate Himself, to put on human flesh and become man; to cover or veil his divinity for the purpose of keeping the Law, which we could not keep, and then to stand in your place as the, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For the 30 or so years of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry, the power of His divine nature was there with him all the time, perfectly united with His humanity so that He might accomplish the work that He was appointed to do by putting His power to work in His resurrection from the dead, for you.

24 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

This body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which took the scourging, the nails and the spear in his side and who truly died and breathed His last on the cross, was buried in a tomb, given for this purpose by Joseph of Aramathea, and then had the large stone rolled in place to cover and seal the tomb as a testament to the finality of death.

Sealed, closed and finished. Jesus, himself used those last words of finality as He exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Death was not a maybe, but was a certainty, (on Good Friday), just three short days ago.

4 While they (the women) were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.”

The certainty of the grave and death has now been change forever. As Paul tells the Corinthians in our Epistle reading for today.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 For as by a man Adam came death, by a man Jesus Christ has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor.1 5:20-22)

Psalm 100 is proclaimed victoriously!

2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100

Followed by these selected verses from Psalm 118

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,

But for the apostles:

11 these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

The Apostles didn’t believe even after the witness of the women!

How many still don’t believe in our family, community and world?

Recognizing his own failing: Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

By faith we have eternal life and this eternity begins at the moment we believe. The reality of heaven is a present reality for you and me, trusting by faith in Christ’s finished work. We have all the joys promised now, though we only get a foretaste or the future reality when we too will be given our glorious resurrected bodies.

Christ is Risen, He is truly Risen!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Sermon April 19, 2019 - Good Friday

Title: In Christ, it is finished!
Text: John19:17-30

29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

In May of 2018 Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee burned as fire consumed the old wood beams of a roof built in 1878 during restoration of the building. How it seemed to me like a reliving of events this past week with the tragic fire that consumed the roof at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France in much the same way.

As the event unfolded the spire which had stood atop the roof for some 800 years bent and gave way to the work of the flames crashing into the inner surface of the church. Gasps could be heard from those who were there recording the events on their phones. Some speculated that the building could be a total loss.

One year after the Milwaukee fire the church in one the way to recovery as new roof beams are in place. France has already pledged millions to rebuild and French President Macrone has commented: “We will make Notre Dame even more beautiful!”

One commenter to the event on facebook asked, “Why didn’t god put the fire out?” Ultimately he did like he always does - working through the means provided; Firemen and water this time, doctors and nurses at other times, moms and dads so many times, and his only Son our Lord on Good Friday.

In Christ, it is finished and death has given way to the spire of Christ’s cross!

17 and [Jesus] went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on both side, and Jesus between them.

As our opening illustration pointed out … there can be great value in disaster. It can bring people together. It can turn us in a way we might not expect. For the followers of Jesus this was to for a time, a disaster of great proportions.

The one in whom they had trusted and believed, who they had thought was the one, the Messiah, was now tried, crucified, and dead and in a manner not expected as that of a common criminal.

“But how can it be?” they might think. “In Him we we’re sure that the Kingdom would be restored and the power of the Romans broken. Now, we see only the one in whom we placed our hope gone; killed by the raging of the Jewish leaders, the scourging of the Roman guards and the cross of humiliating crucifixion.”

Maybe even asking: “Why didn’t God put the fire out?” As the anger burned against Jesus?
Even Pilate got his digs in for he wrote:

… an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Those responsible for turning Jesus over to Pilate cried:

“[Don’t write that!] ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” “But Pilate had written what he had written and in the languages of Aramaic, Latin, and Greek so there was no mistaking what was said of him.”

“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

The dead King of the Jews may have been the response that they all felt.

The world that we live in today too mocks this Jesus.

The question asked on facebook, “Why didn’t god put the fire out?” was really a question mocking God and those who have faith and have placed their trust in him. Saying in a sense, if your god is real why didn’t he save this beautiful cathedral from the destruction of the flames?

In Luke’s narrative of the crucifixion he writes:

35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Luke 23:35-37

The name of Jesus and his cross remains an offense. Why?

Well, what if it is true? What if this Jesus is God and we are sinners as the bible says and what if there is no hope apart from trust in him? What if there is really a place called Hell and when we reject Him and His love and we receive the eternal separation and torment promised – and that we have chosen to reject him and remain in unbelief?

These and many other questions about Jesus and the cross cause anger to boil over in our world because it brings sinners sins to light and the law, as our Confirmation class learned in class, SOS, shows us our sins.

Many cling to their sins in this life and rail at the word of Christ.

Who is your God? Why didn’t he save the church? Why did he let your loved one die?

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

But responds in Faith:

22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The Rev. Scott Murray who sends out devotions through the email each weekday wrote:

The One who need not have been bound by chains and cords was bound by men who sought His death. The One who was the power of God, refused to let that power bring Him rescue. The One who had no fear of death became subject to death. The One who had no vices wrapped Himself in ours that He might free us from them. The One who is the triumphant King suffered His own skin to be nailed upon the stake as the trophy of His triumph over death. The One who hunted down death, allowed Himself to be devoured by it. He was pierced through that we might be made whole. The wood upon which He was set adrift under the storming wrath of God He fashions into the ship of our salvation. It is our cross too, but not a cross of punishment for us. Rather, He makes it the cross of salvation.

The One who was bound by the nails is bound that He might bind us to Himself through faith in Him. We, who might be bound to Him by force, are bound rather by His love for us; and that binding is the more powerful because it is His. Bound to Him by His passionate and bloody embrace, we no longer fear the bonds of death in our own lives.

Punishment cannot hold us, for He long ago took our punishment. Suffering cannot overwhelm us, because He suffered for us on the tree. Fear cannot defeat us, for there is nothing to fear that can harm us. The cross is the instrument of His death, and the source of our life. Come, blessed cross!

As we today remember the cross:

let us look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Sermon April 18, 2019 - Maundy Thursday

Title: Christ gives Himself to you!
Text: Luke 22:7-20

13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 "famous and exceptionally gifted people" called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people's lives.

Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 134.


This is and has been never more evident than in the story of Jesus and Holy Week. That God in Christ would become man for our sake, born of the Virgin Mary and without sin and grow as a man who being obedient to the Law … something that we could not do, celebrated His triumphant ride into Jerusalem as our humble King last Sunday to now overcome the very difficult obstacles that would free the world from the power of sin, death and the Devil in the lives of each one of us who believe by faith in His finished work.

Now, the culmination of Jesus coming; His work to accomplish what He came to do this Holy Week begins.

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”

Jesus sent Peter and John to get things ready for the Passover.

The Passover was a high feast on the Jewish calendar. It still is. Our Jewish neighbors still eat it in remembrance of their rescue from bondage, looking back to what God did but also looking forward to what god had promised to do.

A lamb without spot or blemish was to be killed and the people were to eat the lamb and smear the blood of the lamb on the door posts of their homes and wait for God’s deliverance. That night God’s avenging angel passed over the homes of those with the blood of the lamb and killed the first born in Egypt of man and beast alike. Through this Pharaoh finally allowed God’s people to go.

Each year as they ate the Passover God’s people looked back to their rescue in the Exodus, but also looked forward to the promise of the fullness of God’s rescue and forgiveness in the promised messiah the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

9 [Jesus’ disciples] said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”
It had been the custom for Jesus and the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of the Passover in remembrance of their delivery out of slavery and bondage in Egypt and Jesus gives them specific instructions:

10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.”

Ill.

Coming into the city from Bethany, very likely through the Sheep Gate, they would meet a man coming toward them bearing a vessel, a jug, or pitcher, of water; this man they should follow to the house into which he would enter.

To the master of that house they should make known their wants, asking him for the location of the guest-chamber, the dining-room, where Jesus might eat the Passover-meal with His disciples. The man of the house would then show them an upper room, a flight of stairs up, all furnished with sofas and pillows for such a meal: and it is here that they should prepare the Passover. It is generally assumed by many commentators that the owner of the house had been a friend, a believer or even a disciple of Jesus.

Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, NT vol. II CPH St. Louis 1923, Pg 383


We see in this description, as also in our Palm Sunday lesson, both the authority of Jesus in directing His disciples and specifically Peter and John, but also His divine omniscience or the all knowing attribute of God/man Jesus Christ.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

It is very likely that Peter and John entered the city through the Sheep Gate to find the man carrying a jar of water that would lead them to the house where they would eat the Passover meal with the very Lamb of God Himself.

The task for which Jesus came would be very shortly realized and He who takes away the sins of the world who be fulfilled.

In a short while, we too, will realize this same true revelation from Jesus as to the very nature of the Passover now being instituted in the Gospel reading for the disciples but becoming so much more for us as Christ himself institutes the Lord’s Supper.

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

What had been celebrated then is celebrated today as we receive the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

As Lutherans we take Jesus and His words for what they are, not reading more into them than what He said or believing less than what He meant.

In a real sense the Real Presence and our understanding of Jesus and the sacrament are truly profound but also very simple. Or, maybe it is just as Lutherans we like to let Scripture interpret Scripture.

As St Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 11:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

In this blessed gift we hear the words of institution and the elements are consecrated, we receive the bread and the wine by our mouth but in a mysterious way, that we can’t fully comprehend, we receive the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in and with the bread and the wine, not because we fully understand but because Jesus and His word says so.

Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper for you and for me so that we can receive Him and his forgiveness today and for all time until his return.

Christ gives you as His child the blessed gift of His true body and blood so that you are connected to him and he to you in this blessed way.

The obstacle of sin was place in the way between God and man. There was no way for man to get out of this predicament. God in Christ restores this relationship and the original righteousness that man was created with. In the sacrament you receive a foretaste of the joy and restoration that you have now but that which will be fully enjoyed in Heaven one day.

Christ gives Himself and is the gift that keeps on giving, until our Lord returns to gather you to himself!

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sermon April 13-14, 2019 - Palm Sunday

Title: Christ lays down His life for you willingly!
Text: Deut. 32:36-39,

36 For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
let them be your protection!
39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

On this Psalm Sunday weekend we rejoice in the truth that we have a savior where we can truly place our trust. And that the very Son of God will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, being just and possessing the requirement of our freedom from sin, death and the devil by bearing and carrying our salvation with Him which the Lord had planned.

This humble servant who came down from heaven was not in the form of your everyday earthly King.

This King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, would rise through lowliness and suffering to the strength and glory which was hidden in Him in the state of His humiliation, and which now is leading, in one short week, to His trial and crucifixion at the cross.

37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.

The ways of the world and its Kingdoms are built by the power of the sword. The reach of man’s conquests is stretched into territories of his choosing. The rulers of the world come down on the unsuspecting to the glory of the one wielding power. Power in might is brought to bear over people places and things by the gods, Kings and rulers of our earthly Kingdoms…

… Hugo Chavez, the now deceased President of Venezuela, comes to mind, who will now forever be embalmed and kept for his subjects to see and worship in a glass case … and many of the world’s religions have hope in their false gods where they mistakenly place their trust.

In our day and age we too see the power of the sword wielded upon others. Most recently the religious liberty of a free people has come under attack and in a real sense the Christian church in all it denominational or non-denominational forms is the target.

Real persecution comes to the Christian church daily around the world but with many of us its inactivity, non-involvement and quietly keeping our Christian worldview to ourselves.

To profess and publicly acknowledge God - is fine and encouraged - as long as - He doesn't have a name; and that name better not be Jesus – or you’ll be branded intolerant! Once His name is mentioned you are politically incorrect because you proclaim with all Christians from all time:

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10)

The truth is that words can be manipulated.”

Eric Metaxas, in his speech given on religious freedom, brought this point out clearly.

Ill.

“Okay, so where are the threats to Religious Freedom in America today? Well, for one thing, understand we are not talking about Freedom of Worship. In a speech - Hilary Clinton replaced the phrase Freedom of Religion with Freedom of Worship — and my friend noticed and was disturbed by it. Why? Because these are radically different things. They have Freedom of Worship in China. But what exactly is Freedom of Worship?

In [his] book Bonhoeffer I talk about a meeting between Bonhoeffer’s friend, the Rev. Martin Niemoller, who early on in the Third Reich was one of those fooled by Hitler. And in that meeting he says something to Hitler about how he, Niemoller, cares about Germany and Third Reich — and Hitler cuts him off and says “I built the Third Reich. You just worry about your sermons!”

There in a few words you have the idea of Freedom of Worship.

Freedom of Worship says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state!

We will tell you what to think on the big and important questions.

Questions like when life begins and who gets to decide when to end it and what marriage is…

And if you don’t like it, tough luck! That’s Freedom of Worship and they have that in China and they had it in Germany in Bonhoeffer’s day…

http://www.ericmetaxas.com/writing/essays/cpac-2013-speech-on-religious-freedom/

But we who worship the true God Jesus Christ know that:

39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand

This humble King, Jesus Christ, by his very death and resurrection will bring peace, He kills sin and makes us alive through Baptism, He wounds and heals and though we are dead he gives us life and the peace that passes all human understanding to the very ends on the Earth.

The reaction to this message of peace for many is the catalyst for anger and an erosion of religious distinctions. Recently I read an article about an interfaith service planned in Fort Wayne where my Seminary is located.

The headline read: Mayor endorses event to celebrate all faiths

The idea of gathering all faith to pray is not new but has become more accepted in the civic realm. It reminds me of the secular orthodoxy that has become so prevalent in our culture. Saying in a sense:


If everything is true than nothing is true!

But Jesus said that:

6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Peace only comes by the way of truth and Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life.

C.S. Lewis has said:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort; if you look for comfort you will find neither, and in the end you will only find despair.

C. S. Lewis

It’s not that Christianity and our beliefs have changed but our culture’s tolerance and understanding of them certainly has.

The Gospel of John in Chapter 20 reminds us:

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

God has set you free from the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. As our triumphant King Jesus Christ rides today into Jerusalem. His path to the cross from His baptism, where He was marked as the chief of sinners for you, also points to His ride today as a triumphant ride that is unique and different from every other faith tradition because in a short while Jesus Christ will accomplish the true freedom at the cross for you and for all sinners of all time.

You are set free from your sin because Jesus came for sinners! He came to set you free. He came for you! He gave His life at the cross to pay the price God demands to satisfy His justice and you are free. You are truly free!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Sermon April 10, 2019 Lent Midweek 5

Title: You are adopted in Christ to be his child!
Text: Luke 20:9-20

13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

My friend Bud married his wife Theresa who had a daughter Nichole that was 2 at the time they got married. He adopted her when she was very young.

They worked with me at the store and looked, acted alike and became so close that it was hard for me, who knew that she was adopted, to almost believe it. Whatever it is, the fact remains, that many times adoptive children resemble their adoptive parents.

So what does that say about you and me as God’s adoptive child?

In him you have been adopted and have been given a new name. Your birth father, the Devil, brought you fourth in the sin of his corruption of this world and you have been washed clean and made a child of God.

By Christ and his saving act, you are covered with his righteousness, being conformed into His image. When God the Father sees you … you look to Him just like His Son. You are adopted and reflect the look of your adoptive family. When God sees you, He sees Christ Jesus. What an awesome and blessed gift.

In our Gospel lesson today we hear of the vineyard and the owner of the vineyard.

9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.

In this parable, Jesus tells a story. It is a very clear story for those who were gathered to listen in His presence. The picture Jesus tells of the vineyard would have been very familiar to them. Here too they would have made the connection as to the point that Jesus was making.

In chapter 5 of the book of Isaiah, God had told a story of a vineyard that He had built and how he had taken care of it looking for a yield of grapes.

The vineyard was on a very fertile hill. It was dug and cleared of stones, and planted with choice vines; a watchtower was in the midst of it, as was a wine vat and the owner of the vineyard looked for it to yield grapes … but it only yielded wild grapes.

What else could I do he asks? “I gave the vineyard everything and it only yielded wild grapes!”

So He makes this statement. “I will remove the hedge from my vineyard and let it be overrun. I will break down its wall allowing it to be trampled becoming waste. No longer will I pruned or hoe it and briers and thorns shall overtake it and rain will no longer fall on it.” (Isaiah 5:1-6 paraphrased)

The leaders in Israel who were listening to Jesus would have known the reference to the parable of the vineyard, were the ones who had just questioned Jesus when they said to him: “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” (John 20:2)

God had come to Israel as His chosen people but had been rejected.

Time and time again God’s messengers, His Prophets, proclaimed God’s word to those chosen by God, hoping they would bring fourth good fruit, but were rejected and cast out.

As Jesus continued:

13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’

This is obvious that Jesus is speaking about himself in this parable and of His coming as the very Messiah proclaimed and prophesied about in the Old Testament. You might remember from our lesson reading from a few weeks ago when Jesus laments:

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

You and I too are without excuse.

Those of us who have been brought by God’s Holy Spirit to faith in Christ but have fallen away from the joy that has been given us by God are also under His condemnation.

Here is an interesting analogy:

Ill.

Had Adam and Eve retained their original state, they never would have died.

But Eve and then Adam yielded to the serpent's temptation, and death came into the world. Before that moment, they were in a beautiful, pristine state.

They existed on a level far above the present condition of the human race.

It is difficult to imagine what man was like then by viewing him in sin as he is now.

But, we who have been given faith know the truth of Christ and His victory over sin, death and the power of the Devil. So too we are under the same condemnation as those in Israel; who refused to recognize the Messiah, the anointed one sent to Israel, Jesus Christ.

14 But when the tenants those in Israel saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’

They recognized Jesus as the Messiah, which is all the more, heinous.
This was not an impostor that they crucified but the very Son of God, the heir of the vineyard.

15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

There is the death of the Son but:

You are adopted in Christ to be his child!

Christ Jesus is the heir. He is the beloved Son of God. He is pointing to the work of adoption that he will accomplish, for you.

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:5-14)

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen
April 6-7, 2019 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion - Fifth Sunday in Lent
Title: Knowing Christ by faith is eternal life!
Text: Phil 3:8-14 Pew Bible Pg. #1018 NKJV


8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, 

the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 

forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

All anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one.
Henry Mitchel in Washington Post, Reader's Digest, May 1980.

Many of you might be familiar with the prizes that consume the lives of we who are consumers. It might be the TV show - The Voice - and the talent that God has bestowed upon some with the singing talent and the prospect of becoming rich and famous because of it. Or, it may be the prize of a Lottery win that takes the cares and trials of this world and removes them with the knowledge that, “with these winnings I can take care of all my troubles myself!”

For some it is the prize of love and the hope of marriage and a happily-ever-after of wedded bliss or the prize of that new job or promotion that will now make a better life possible.

But in our epistle for today the Apostle Paul has a different take on what is the hope and prize for his life.

He begins:

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Paul was one who lived and loved life. But, after his conversion on the Damascus road, the focus of his life was different:

2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

As we can see, Paul had been changed. His change took the focus off the things of this world … for he says: For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and placed them at the foot of the cross.

Paul Kretzmann, in his commentary on the bible, expounds it in this way as to the change of the Apostles Paul’s life 

“Formerly Paul had held it to be of great gain to be high in the councils of the Pharisees and to have honor before men.”

But now he considers …
“All these external advantages of which the apostle might have boasted with much greater right than his opponents, the entire class of things which, including anything and everything, as ground of reliance other than Christ, he now disregards: But what was to me gain, this I hold, for the sake of Christ, a detriment.”

Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, NT vol. II CPH St. Louis 1923, Pg 309

… a detriment?

So, Paul was not looking to be the next contestant on The Voice … or looking towards any fame and recognition for that matter. When you think of fame and recognition it becomes an Idol it is and remains that in which you place you highest trust.

So, the hope of wealth, while not bad in and of itself, can lead you away from Christ. Or, the focus on the things of this world … if I only had a better job, house, car or you name whatever can be a focus of life, can and does pull us away from the cross and what Jesus won for us.

The interesting reality is that, the prize that we should focus on and that which we hope to attain is a prize that we cannot win but, is a prize that has been won for us. It is a prize that has been truly won and then is given to you, as a gift!

Paul continues to explain his hope:

10 … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

What the Apostle Paul states is that:

… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I have had an opportunity to bring the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins over the last few years who were preparing to meet the Lord. And many would tell me they felt “So blessed,” for all that the Lord had given them in this life.

And though health issues now dominated the better part of their life. One of those blessings was the faith in Christ and the prize that was won for them at the cross.

The prize of salvation; given and shed by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of, not just their sins, but the sins of the whole world, is the prize that we could never win … but is given freely to us by faith in Christ’s finished work.

In Christ, death is for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day, only a time apart.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So we who remain live in this blessed hope.

The Apostle Paul states and I paraphrase:

12 Not that we have already obtained this or are already perfect, but we … you and I … press on to make Heaven our own, because we have the blessed assurance that Christ Jesus has made you and me his own.

This is the joy that we await during Lent and Holy Week and the resurrection to life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Sermon April 3, 2019 Mid-week Lent 4

Title: Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!
Text: 2 Cor. 5:18-21

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 Regardless of the number of children you may or may not have we can have comfort and true peace because:

Paul speaks in our Epistle lesson today about being a new creation. The old has gone away and the new has emerged. No longer will they be regarded according to the flesh. Even though Jesus Christ was once regarded as the man, according to the flesh – His human nature – he has now been raised and is no longer in His state of humiliation but has been raised and is seated at the right hand of the father.

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

It is not always evident is it?

Sin permeates our very being; which means to spread or flow throughout or to penetrate something. Sin is not just an act of disobedience. It is not just the act of doing something or saying something wrong, or not doing what we should. It is in fact who we are.

Paul speaks of Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. His once for all sacrifice for sin pays the price for the Corinthians and Paul explains that:

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

In the gospel reading for today we have the parable of the Prodigal son, but it’s really the story of two sons, one who leaves and one who stays. The one demanding the father’s life, which is really what’s happening when you want your inheritance before the father has died, and the other who has had everything the father has but still feels cheated.

‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, [though the text only says, “reckless living”] you killed the fattened calf for him!’ Luke 15:29-30

Essentially saying … “I’m good and he’s bad!”

Even in the worst of human endeavors reconciliation is possible. At times even at church separation occurs. Sometimes conflicts within a family cause separation, and other times there is conflict between two families or people in the church … causing one or the other to leave.

20 Therefore, Paul says: we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, give up these petty arguments and whatever separates you from fellow believers and be reconciled to God.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The Father’s forgiveness in the parable was both restoration for the wondering son …

‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

As well as comfort for the longing son.

‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Martin Luther reminds us in the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer from our Small Catechism.

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray,[ inheritance or a party with our friends] nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.

So too we who have been separated from God by sin can be brought back to His loving arms through faith in Christ who desires that all will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

But do we? Are we? The cost of peace between God and man required the life of Jesus. The very Son of God came to be your substitute and took the sin of the world, your sins upon Himself so that you might be his child by faith.

Paul continues:

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The very Son of God, Paul tells the Corinthians, came down to live, suffer, die and rise again just for them. So too we, who have been brought to faith by God’s Holy Spirit giving faith to both you and me in Christ’s finished work and reconciling us to God through this same faith in Him. In this one sentence, Paul tells us that we have the entire essence of God’s work in Christ for the forgiveness of sins in the world.

Just as God’s great Gospel message from blessed John 3:16 tells us:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Paul tells us how that will happen, because:

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the eternal hope for you and for me.

That:

Jesus Christ desires all to be his child!

The blessed joy in the midst of tears is what we are given even as we grieve the loss of loved ones who have gone to their eternal rest. Mom, dad, grandparent or dear friend … over time we have peace as we know that reunion will follow one day for all who believe. This blessed joy is yours and mine that we will all be reunited in Him, in Christ, because by faith we hold to the blessed hope that is Jesus who was raised from the dead. And so too all who believe will be raised to an eternity in heaven with our Lord and all who by faith have been brought to this blessed reconciliation with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The joy of the birth of a child, pales in comparison to the blessed hope and rebirth that we are given in Christ.

God who has made Christ our substitute, brings us to faith in Him washing us clean in our baptisms and making us holy, by the once for all sacrifice for sin at the cross that Jesus won over sin, death and the Devil.

We who are in Christ are reconciled to Him by His all sufficient sacrifice for sin in our place. This is the joy that we all can have peace in. Christ has been raised and so will you be raised too.

May this blessed good news comfort you by his Spirit now and forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, April 8, 2019

Sermon March 30-31, 2019 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Title: In Christ the joyful water of salvation is given to you!
Text: Isaiah 12:1-6 

12 And in that day you will say:
“O LORD, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
2 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’”
3 Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
4 And in that day you will say:
“Praise the LORD, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
5 Sing to the LORD,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.
6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

One day, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go "straight to hell". The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and President Coolidge looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. "I've been looking through the rule book," he said. "you don't have to go."

Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 16.
12 And in that day you will say,

“O LORD, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.

In the day of salvation, praise will be heaped upon the Lord who has the keys of Heaven and Hell. You who have been given faith in Christ will sing praises to the Lord. Though your sin had separated you from the father your tears will be washed away and in Christ, the Father’s anger will be appeased and turned away and you will be comforted.

2 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’”

God in Christ is your savior. Though you deserve death He has redeemed you. By faith you hold and trust in His finished work. Fear is swallowed up in the victory of God’s Son for you. He – Jesus Christ the righteous one – is the strength that you walk in and the song that you sing is of His redemption.

9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

The eternal Son, who was and is and is to come is the King of Glory and the song that is sung, is the song of we who have been freed from sin sing unto the Lamb who was slain.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”
(Rev 4:13b NIV)

3 Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
4 And in that day you will say:
“Praise the LORD, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
The desert of sin and has been flooded for you by the waters of Baptism.

God brings you into His family and into relationship with Him through the redemptive and saving work on the son. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, causes you to in that day, sing praise unto Him.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians says:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Prayer at Pennsylvania State house proclaiming Jesus and its outrage]

The joyful waters of salvation have been given to you. As you live out your Christian lives the joy of Christ should be reflected in you but so often you fall short and miss the mark. Sin continues to corrupt everything.

But, in spite of your failings God has called you to be His own. He has made you His child and continues to shape you into His image. By the Holy Spirit you are pointed to and receive the blessed Good News that you are free of the sin and no longer have to live with the guilt of sin in your life. As a result of this gift you are able to sing.

5 Sing to the LORD,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.

Jesus Christ has lived suffered, died and rose again just for you. He has made you a home for you in Heaven with him. This joy is the song we sing and it is the praise we can all know and be joyful in Him.

6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

We who are” Spiritual Israel” ( the church of God in Christ) sing and shout for the joy we know, and we live out this joy that God has given us bringing Christ to those who need to hear the same saving Gospel message that we’ve heard and now proclaim.

In this life we at times will receive the blessings that life affords and at other times we feel consumed by the cares of life. God though has made a way to Heaven for each one of us in Christ. By Christ’s death on the cross for you, though we suffer through trials in this life we are free to joy in the salvation He has won for us at the cross.

May the Love of God the blessings of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen