Monday, March 30, 2020

Sermon March 29, 2020

Title: Set Free by Christ unto eternal life!
Text: Romans 8:1-11

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8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb in 1879. Twenty-two years later, in 1901, one of the newfangled gadgets was hung and turned on in the Livermore, Calif., Fire Department. It’s still there, and still on. The old bulb has almost never been turned off in 119 years.

By today’s standards it should have burned out 920 times by now. The bulb, hand-blown, with a thick carbon filament was made, it is said, by the Shelby Electric Company, which did not become one of the giants of the nation, for an obvious reason. The Shelby Company made light bulbs to last, and nobody ever reordered.

The bulb is accorded an awesome respect by Fire Captain Kirby Slate and his men. In a time of planted and planned obsolescence, when gadgets are forever falling apart or burning out or breaking up, it’s reassuring to watch a dusty 119-year-old light bulb shine on and on and on.

(From a sermon by Ralph Andrus, How to Dwell Securely, 8/26/2010)

Anytime you begin a text with “therefore” it is good to go back and read the verses that just preceded it.

Paul writes:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

So Paul here is dealing with the struggle of sin in his life. Have you ever struggled with sin? I know I have. Recognizing the struggles that we face in the flesh is not new but it is also certainly what Paul and the believers in Rome that he is writing to also faced.

But he concludes chapter 7 with this truth:
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Sin never goes away … in this life.

Our epistle reading builds on this teaching.

5a For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.
You do at times give in to temptation and that is what we all do as we struggle with our own sinful flesh.

6a For to set the mind on the flesh is death

Not only temptation that leads to sin but to be consumed with the flesh can only bring more temptation and a falling away from the faith for some. Lack of being in the word and hearing the word too can draw you away and ultimately this leads to death … a spiritual death that means separation from God for eternity.

Because: 7 the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

The Roman church was dealing with a falling back to its sinful, flesh driven habits. You may remember that Rome saw things from a polytheistic understanding which simple means that they worshiped many gods where these new Christians now only worshiped the one true God made manifest in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jupiter, Apollo, Diana, Mercury and many others, some even borrowed from the Greeks were part of Roman culture. Many things in Rome and these cults and worship had to do with sins of the flesh and just a few chapters later Paul says:

3 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

The sinful flesh can lead away these believers in Rome and you and I can find ourselves struggling with the sinful desires of the flesh, having no confidence in the truth and falling away to the seductive truths of sin.

In spite of our failings and giving in to temptation and sin, you can have full confidence and complete assurance that you are:

Set Free by Christ unto eternal life!

So what does it mean to be set free? For one confined in a prison cell … it means freedom.

For Lazarus in the Gospel reading it means being raised to life again and “coming forth” after lying dead in the tomb for four days.

In the Old Testament reading, it is the breath of life from God that comes into those that had formerly been just a Valley of Dry Bones but are now … an exceedingly great army!

As Paul compares the Law, which shows us our sin, the flesh which is set upon that sin and death which is the consequence of our sin God comforts us with from Paul’s letter when he writes:

6b but to set the mind on the Spirit … is life and peace.

He tells us that:

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.

He reminds us:

10 But if Christ is in you … the Spirit is as well and this Holy Spirit is life because of the foreign righteousness – Christ’s righteousness that you have been given.

And finally you know ...

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The light bulb – still burning after 119 years on continuous use is quite a marvel but what is that compared to eternity. Joyfully we believe in the truth of Christ’s words himself!

“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.

And along with Martha when Jesus asks … ”Do you believe this?”

We too answer:

“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Sermon March 25, 2020 Annunciation of Our Lord

Title: The Holy one of God came for you!
Text: Luke 1:26-38

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26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.

In our reading today, we hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.

The traditional text of the Annunciation of Our Lord by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.

This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you! You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

So too we who are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives – and so much more even now - which can cause fear, can find comfort.

Do not be afraid. Fear not. You too have … favor with God.

And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel as Mary did:

31 That she … will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.

[And he has been given] the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Yet, we too hear the blessed result just as true as if the angel had visited us with the same good news as we read in our epistle lesson for today:

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— Romans 16:25-26

It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me.

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is [silly]. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man [our sinfulness] is to be put off.

Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press

True repentance brings sorrow for sin that only the comfort of the good news of the gospel can cure. It cannot just be an appearance of repentance because appearances can be deceiving, but must be a true repentance and brokenness that turns away from sin.

Ill.

There’s a story that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."

Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 19-20.

It’s the appearance of work, versus real work or the appearance of repentance, versus true repentance? It’s like those times when the children say “Mom … I’m not feeling well. Can I stay home from school?”

The statement and the truth of its meaning may not tell the whole story.

Mary though hears the truth of the angel’s words after she asks:

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:

“ … Mary, the pure virgin, had to contribute of her seed and of the natural blood that coursed from her heart. From her [Christ] derived everything except sin that a child naturally and normally receives from its mother. [If] he is not a real and natural man, born of Mary, then he is not of our flesh and blood. Then he has nothing in common with us; then we can derive no comfort from him.”

LW Vol. 22 pg. 23

For in him God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ.

Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived … you hear the word of God through his means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit you believe.

When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.

What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sermon March 22, 2020

Title: Christ brings sight to the blind!
Text: John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39

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5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as seeing.

Virgil's first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but arranging them into a coherent picture was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but his habits--his behaviors--were still those of a blind man.

Dr. Sacks asserts, "One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo . . . that is so terrible."

To truly see Jesus and his truth means more than observing what he did or said, it means a change of identity.

Terry Seufferlein Norman, Oklahoma.

As we look at the story today of the man born blind, the question was asked of Jesus as He and His disciples passed by:

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The idea is that the physical blindness that this man was born with was some sort of punishment from God, either brought upon by the man’s sinfulness or that of his parents. To this …

3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

The thought of the day and in our day as well is that our illnesses, afflictions and even blindness are punishments from God brought on by some act of sin as though God is watching and looking to punish sin with physical ailments.

The truth though is that 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23) and that 23 … the wages of sin is death, (Rom 6:23a) and we all know all too well the reality of that in our life.

Ill.

In the 70’s as I worked in the music business I was working behind the counter. A man walked in and stood at the counter and asked me about banjo lessons. As I was talking to him I walked to the other end of the counter for something he stood looking where I was. When I spoke he turned towards me. I realized at that time that he was blind.

He became blind as a young adult and as with most blind people his other senses had been enhanced. He took banjo lessons from my friend Brian and whatever Brian told him to do and how to do it he did and learned banjo quite well. Oh, his day job? Removing and rebuilding transmissions by feel!

Christ brings spiritual sight to the blind!

Many in this life are blind to Christ. There are some who have never heard about Him and some who have heard but have continued to closed their ears to the truth … looking to their own sinful flesh or the alternate truth that society presents. In the postmodern worldview truth is seen not as absolute but as what is true for you. Many get lured away to what works for them mixing the norms of the culture, other religions, and the social gospel, much like the Samaritan’s from last weekend who mingled with the pagan culture of Mesopotamia and were not brought back into the Israelite community after the exile.

Our children who don’t attend church, don’t hear God’s word proclaims and only hear what society preaches – understandably are in agreement when issues of the Christian faith are pitted against the social diversity that society desires.

Truth is relative we are told. What you believe is true for you because my truth is different. “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

The truth of our lesson today is not one of a God who punishes His children for the sins that they commit with blindness, sickness or affliction but one “who takes away the sin of the world!”
Jesus then spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Luther might ask in the Small Catechism:

“How can mud and saliva do such great things?”

Answer:
It is not the mud and saliva, but the word of God in and with the mud and saliva that do such great things. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” … So, he went and washed and came back seeing.

This is most certainly true!

The brokenness of this corrupted world creates the blindness to the truth of Jesus and what He has done to take away the sins of the world. The Pharisees saw the man’s sight restored because he trusted Christ and washed. They asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

Jesus again last week told us that the true worship is in Spirit and in truth and Pharisees are not interested in truth, change or Jesus for that matter. “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” These are questions reason can’t answer because they must and can only be understood by faith.

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” You could almost hear the words of Thomas in the upper room, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Now the Pharisees throw him out. They don’t want to hear the truth about Jesus they have their own truth and that truth is close to the light of the world. But for the man born blind … when Jesus asked:

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Spiritual blindness has a cure and it is made clear to the man born blind in He, who is speaking to him. This Jesus that the religious leaders reject is the cure not only for his physical blindness but also for his spiritual blindness as well.

The world, whether secular or religious has a number of truths that lead away us from the one who is “the way the truth and the life.” And this truth is that, “No one comes to the Father except through Him.” (John 14:6)

Because, Christ brings sight to the blind!

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, by faith you have been brought from blindness to sight, and those who see, through the self righteous reason of their own understanding, may become blind.”
Christ is the truth and sight to the blind of this world and by faith and our own washing in Baptism we receive faith and we too see him for who he is.

"One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person.” Our dying and rising in Him is our change of identity. You have been brought from death to life.

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

Amen

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sermon March 18, 2020 Mid-week Lent

Title: The Spirit Anointed Christ . . . to Preach Deliverance to Captives!
Text Luke 4:18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sermon March 14-15, 2020

Title: The water of life is found in Christ!
Text: John 4:5-26

Sermon audio: The water of life is found in Christ!

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Even in the worst of human endeavors reconciliation is possible. At times even at church, separation can occur. Sometimes it is between friends and at times it is within families but through Jesus Christ and the living water he gives, you and I are restored to a right relationship with our loving God.

So is the case of Varina Davis and Julia Grant two widows who lived near each other in New York. They were both writers and were both writing memoirs of their husbands. Varina’s husband had been President of the Confederate States during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis and Julia’s husband Ulysses was the commanding general of the Union Army. Though they had been on different sides of the conflict during the Civil War they became the best of friends.

Source Unknown.

On his journey north with his disciples, Jesus came to the little city of Sychar, which was located almost in the center of Samaria.

Near this town there was a piece of land which the patriarch Jacob had given to his son Joseph in addition to his share of the country, Gen. 48, 22. It was on this piece of land that Joseph was buried. And here was also a well or cistern which Jacob had dug after his return from Mesopotamia. The well, which is now known as “Jacob's well,” is about a hundred feet deep and is protected by a wall. Jesus, being true man, had become very tired literally, tired out — by the long journey of the morning; for it was now high noon. So He sat down at the well.

P.E. Kretzmann NT vol. 1 pg 427

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Those of you who have ever worked outside or had been on long walks during the summer might have an idea of just how thirsty you can get.

Last summer I replaced the wood on my deck. It was four long days of hard work and not being as young as I was I was exhausted. I’m sure that many of you have experienced work, whether growing up here or elsewhere that might show many helpful examples of the type of thirst Jesus experienced.

As we all get older and with the advent of air conditioning in every room and space we live, we can tend to get a little spoiled … especially me, who spent my entire work life in a cool office during the summer and a warm office during the winter. But, I’m sure that many of you who have grown up before the prevalence of air conditioning or worked outside yourself can and do understand thirst. If you don’t … you can sign up to work VBS during July in our church sanctuary … and then you’ll know.

There were a few things going on here. First Jesus was tired and thirsty but the one who approached the well was a Samaritan and it was of her that Jesus had asked for a drink. Israel had been carried into exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC and a small group of Israelites had remained behind who mingled with the pagan culture of Mesopotamia. These are the people who became the Samaritans so there was a long and wide divide between the Jews and the Samaritans.

This explains her reaction to Jesus’ question:

9 …, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

There had not been much love between these two peoples and if you’ve had tension in your family or witnessed it you might know how this might play out … when two people that have not spoken to each other for years suddenly find themselves face to face.

Tension, can cause families to break and peace can be at times, only for a little while. The divisions can divide a people, evident in the current tensions in our world, but reconciliation must be truly on an individual basis.

The median used is water which can quench our thirst for a little while. It is something everyone can relate to. Jesus knows both the Samaritan woman’s thirst and that He is the cure.

11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with and Jesus replies,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Ill.

The current situation of the Coronavirus and the water shortage it hard but through it Christ continues to fill us with his gifts and comforts us with his peace.

From our friends in the Lutheran Church Canada:

When the black plague broke out in Wittenberg, Martin Luther wrote an open letter entitled “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 43, pp. 115-138).

“learn through God’s word how to live and how to die,” and that “everyone should prepare in time and get ready for death by going to confession and taking the sacrament once every week or fortnight.”

“We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved. Why, then, do we act as if the Sacrament were a poison, the eating of which would bring death?” (V. 68).
Luther concludes his letter in this way: “We admonish and plead with you in Christ’s name to help us with your prayers to God so that we may do battle with word and precept against the real and spiritual pestilence of Satan in his wickedness with which he now poisons and defiles the world.”

https://www.canadianlutheran.ca/public-worship-and-the-coronavirus-statement-from-lcc-president/


Dear friends, even thousands of gallons of water will only quench our earthly thirst for a time before you and I get thirsty again. But Jesus gives us living water through Baptism that takes away our sins and brings us to faith in him and His finished work.

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus tells her to “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Knowing full well that when she says “I have no husband,” he answers her that she has had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. To this He adds: “What you have said is true.”

She now understands that this man, this Jesus is something special even calling him a “prophet” saying that 20 our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Jesus tells her that not on the mountain and not in Jerusalem but true worship will be in spirit and truth, and that this Messiah that she is expecting and is waiting for is right here with her!
The living water himself, Jesus, who quenches our eternal thirst is the one, who by the Holy Spirit’s working in us, we believe and trust. Our spiritual thirst is never to return because in Christ we have been brought into his family by faith.

Thought we continue to fall short as we are conformed into the image of Christ the security of His water and word washing you and me clean of sin continues to give comfort that the gift of faith by water and the word has once and for all freed us from the power of sin, death and the devil in us.

The Samaritan woman’s faith was found in the Jew Jesus Christ at the well and we have found separation of God and man restored in this same Jesus through His gift of word connected to the water in Baptism for the forgiveness of sins by faith in His finished work.

The water of life is found in Christ!

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

Amen

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sermon March 11, 2020 Mid-week Lent

Title: The Spirit Anointed Christ . . . to Heal the Broken Hearted!
Text: Luke 4:18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Sermon audio:The Spirit anointed Christ ... to heal the broken hearted!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sermon March 7-8, 2020

Title: Whoever believes in Him … has eternal life!
Text: John 3:1-17

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Sermon audio: Whoever believes in Him ... has eternal life!

[Thoughts on the world at this time]

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 at around 3:00 AM in the morning. His last words and actions were recorded by his dear friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, “Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?” To this Luther responded affirmatively … “Yes!” quoting John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5 which reads:

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

In his last prayer he said to God,

“Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands.”

Because of the resurrection of Christ we are reminded that we need have no fear about death.
As the Epistle to the Romans tell us I chapter 4:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Whoever believes in Him … has eternal life!

The Nicodemus narrative is a foundational and interesting one, in which we hear from the Lord Himself as to what the working from God is, and how He redeems His fallen creation from the sin of Adam and Eve … restoring the relationship between God and man.

Mixed reactions to God and his word have been around since the serpent questioned, “Did God really say?” In our gospel lesson for today another questioning occurs.

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night …

In the grey and black of the night a leader - a man of the Pharisees – comes to see Jesus. It is as if in and through the blackness of sin he sees a light shining in the darkness in this person Jesus saying:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Nicodemus sees in the signs that Jesus had been doing, and probably his teaching as well - God’s work, and it is through this work that God had brought Nicodemus to this place, this night to be with Jesus.

Jesus’ reply that “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God …” comes as a bit of a surprise to him.

In a similar sense "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” also brings for some a questioning thinking,

“It’s just a fable, it can’t be real. No one really believes this is how things came into existence, do they?”

Even Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

Just as God and his creative act brings many questions that we and others might wrestle with, God’s word points us to the source of truth and understanding … his son, our Lord Jesus.

Genesis’ beginning and the Gospel of John’s beginning have one thing in common and that is Jesus. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth or, in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God,” have Jesus connected in a real way to creation and redemption.

The word of God spoken in the beginning, and the word of God [Jesus] speaking to Nicodemus, is the same word of God heard now by you.

The word is not only connected to your hearing now but it is also, as Jesus is making known to Nicodemus, connected to the washing away of sins in Holy Baptism. He asks Jesus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

In reality though, even if this were possible it would do Nicodemus, you and me no good; for being born in the natural way only brings forth one who is born in sin and brought forth in iniquity.

One needs rebirth as Jesus tells him … to be born again which is a new birth that is born from above, born anew, or born of the Spirit.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the need to see with new eyes born from the Spirit when he writes:

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14

You and I also needed to be spiritually reborn and this was delivered to us in our Baptisms. God’s word connected to simple water and his command by the working of the Holy Spirit:

“Works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

As Jesus declared, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And the Apostle Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 6 when he writes:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Jesus in John 3:17 brings the fullness of His desire and mission to Nicodemus:

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The “Him” to whom Jesus speaks of, in the discourse with Nicodemus and the person to whom we must believe and trust, is the very Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ who became man for our sake so that we might be redeemed by Him and trust in His name.

Whoever believes in Him … in Jesus … has eternal life!

[Nicodemus means - Victory of the people!]

Martin Luther’s last words and actions when asked, “Will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?” is the same question you and I will be asked and must also answer affirmatively … “Yes!”

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. Psalm 31:5

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

Amen

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Sermon March 4, 2020 Mid-week Lent Service

Title: The Spirit Anointed Christ … to Preach Good News to the Poor!
Text: Luke 4:18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Monday, March 2, 2020

Sermon February 29 – March 1, 2020

Title: The Son of God Jesus was made righteous for you!
Text: Romans 5:12-19

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

In my former life as a salesperson my boss was not fond of beards. I’d had a beard most of my adult life. When I hired in to work I had shaved and cut my hair which was quite long. My boss only knew me by the person he had hired who was clean shaven.

Fast forward a few years. My boss went on a vacation and would be gone three weeks and my beard began to grow. When he returned to work and I walked in forgetting the change in my facial appearance he looked at me and said:

“Russ … you got two days to get that – blank - off your face!”

I laughed at his comment and so did he but he laid the law down and the next morning I came in with a clean freshly shaven face.

I thought:

It’s his business and I should honor how he wants his business run and his employees to look and dress.

“Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience."

Thomas a Kampis.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. (Rom. 5:12-13)

Since Adam and Eve and the fall, sin has been active in the world. God made a covering for sin:

21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Gen. 3:21)

There was a sacrifice … the skins came as a result of sin, a sacrifice was made and Adam and Eve were covered. So much for this transgression and the eating of the fruit … but so much has been changed.

23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:23-24)

What looks unloving – to drive man out of the garden and away from the Tree of Life – is, in fact very loving, because God here does not allow man to eat of the tree of life and live forever in his fallen state.

14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Roman 5:14)

The Son of God Jesus was made righteous for you!
.
Years later my boss retired and his son  bought the business. He desired to go to Italy with his family and was going to be gone a while. He put me in charge of paying the bills and overseeing the business. He expected that I would follow his lead and do what he would want done.

We had a new employee in charge of advertising. She was to be the one to place the ads and ready the radio commercials. We had a big sale coming up and it would begin the day after my boss returned. She showed me all that ads and what she had planned. It was terrible.

I had to decide. Do I use what she had created and let hope for the best and let it fail or do I do what I knew my boss would want and hopefully be successful?

I did what my boss would want. If it failed it was my fault but at least I followed what he desired. He returned and was pleased with what I had done and the sale was very successful.

But our relationship with God’s requirements is very different. While doing what God has instructed is very good … you can’t do it … not perfectly, at least, as God requires. Though we have His instructions and know his will, we can’t follow them; because of sin … death reigns.

Sin, death and the power of the devil have so corrupted this world once created perfect that God had to make a way out. We can’t please him or measure up on our own.

But the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the solution to the problem of sin and death because:

15 … the free gift is not like the trespass.

16b For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, and the world fell into sin but the free gift following many trespasses, by Christ’s sacrifice, brought justification.

Because He became our substitute, and because He was without sin,

… the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Our Lord God, Jesus Christ, the one who was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil is the one who followed all of God’s instructions perfectly.

He had a command of the word because He is the Word of God made flesh … for you.

He is the word, the bread of life on which you can trust and live forever.

His guardian angels protect you and will bear you up and he himself, Jesus Christ passed the test in the wilderness … for you, so that, you can be made perfect by Him and in Him.

As Paul reminds us:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Christ Jesus was obedient unto death and at the cross He brought you peace … peace again between God and man. The price had been paid and by His death on the cross for you - you are free! Free to eat once again from that Tree of Life and live forever covered in Christ’s righteousness.

The Son of God Jesus was made righteous for you and by Him you are righteous!

At times in this life we can meet the expectations of those we work for, serve, or have responsibility over. It is important to do all we can be responsible parents, guardians, and friends and loved ones caring and living for others as we would want them to care for us.

But, because of sin we often fall short and can never measure up to what God requires in obedience to his Law.

But, Christ was obedient to the point of death, death on a cross for you. He listened to the call of the Father to be the all sufficient sacrifice for sin so that you and I and all who receive this Good News by faith can have communion with God again.

He was obedient so that you and I can be forgiven in Him!

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

Amen

Sermon February 26, 2020 - Ash Wednesday

Title: The Spirit Anointed Christ for Mercy!
Text: Luke 4:18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”