Monday, March 20, 2023

Sermon March 18-19, 2023

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

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35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “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.

[Thoughts on blindness]

To receive sight after being blind is something we can’t really understand but we who have been in the dark … when the lights have come on … know the joy of seeing again.

9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Many see affliction as a result of personal sin … what we did to deserve this and the disciples thought this too.

But Jesus answers saying:

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

His blindness had a purpose and God will display that purpose in him and in each one of us as he sees fit. It is not that he was blind, but through his blindness God will do with him and with each one of us as he sees fit.

Jesus says:

4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

What Jesus means here is that while it is still day or light out, it is time for work.

I know that feeling, don’t you?

We call it Daylight Savings Time. It stays light longer and we can get much done in the light. But, from our Christian perspective we might call it Jesus Saving Time.

The time for the work of Christ and the gospel to be made known … like a light going on in the midst of the darkness.

Recently many suffered a loss or power with the wind storms.

More than 700,000 lost power and some for 9 days. That is a lot of darkness to deal with. Everyone suffered a little while some suffered a lot. The lack of electric power can make you feel helpless.

Generators can help … but unless it is a whole house generator … you remain painfully aware of your need for power and light from the outside … or it may be the heat as well as the cold nights got colder.

So it is also with our spiritual condition.

We are born blind in sin and dead to Christ and the truth cannot be made known to us by our own reason, understanding, or efforts.

In the gospel for today, the man born blind could not see and intervention came from outside in the person of Jesus.
6 Having said these things, [Jesus] 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.

The connection between Jesus, the word of God, and the water brings the blind man sight.

Water and word might bring to mind baptism … though this text is not a given pretext for baptism … there is much that can be brought to light by Jesus as the light of the world.

By Christ we receive access to the Father, by the word and water through the working of the Holy Spirit we have our spiritual blindness healed and receive sight to see Christ Jesus for who he is … the light of the world.

There are three responses from the world.

The neighbors

“Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So, I went and washed and received my sight.”

The Pharisees
15 So the Pharisees again 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.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

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.”

The Jews (Unbelievers)

“Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”
22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

How do you and I respond?

We too receive sight but for us it is the gift of spiritual sight. Questions may come from our friends, religious leaders, and those of the world or of unbelief who ask … “How do you see? How did you get your sight?”

The Pharisees denounce Jesus for his performing a miracle on the Sabbath. They look for the man to denounce him too setting Jesus up as a sinner.

His answer to those who try to entrap him is:

“Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

This template for you and me calls us to testify to the truth to those who ask so that God might by his word give faith and sight to the blind.

The truth at times will be rejected and like the blind man we too may be cast out. (The Christian witness in the world and the persecution that comes.)

Those who reject the word remain blind and dead in sin. Those who receive sight by the working of the Holy Spirit receive eternal life.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Lord, I believe,”

Paul brings comfort to we who believe with these words of one who is Justified and made a child of God by the working of the Spirit.

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Rom. 10:9-10

Christ Jesus brings sight to the blind!

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



Thursday, March 16, 2023

Sermon March 15, 2023 - Lent 4

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 4. Baptism
Text: 1 Cor.1:18-31

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27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[ might boast in the presence of God.

Baptism is the fourth in our Lenten Series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law, the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and continues to do in us, and the Lord’s Prayer which leads us in to prayer and communication with God and Baptism how God marks us as his own.

Over the centuries Christians have debated what baptism is, [what it accomplishes], and to whom it should be administered, and how much water should be used.

Baptism is God’s Act.

Martin Luther makes it clear in the catechism’s question: What is Baptism?

Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

For we who are born sinful and unclean always see ourselves as the active agent – the one who is doing something.

It must be my action. We believe, or as the common belief is held and sometimes expressed – an outward sign of an inward decision.

The sign being our work - we think.

The opposite thought though might be - that it is what the clergy does or in Luther’s day what the priest did that made one’s baptism valid.

And while we agree that baptism is God’s gift and means of bringing forgiveness to his church in a tangible way, it is not the priest or pastor that makes baptism valid but the word of God – both command and promise.

Jesus himself tells his disciples:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The nature of the words used in Holy Baptism is in following the words and form of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28.

Though Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and not English the order of words are used in conformity to Jesus’ command in whatever language is spoken. Uniting the command and words of God with water - baptism does what God intends by uniting us with him and making us his disciples.

Along with what God commands he also promises … forgiveness … for you and me and all who receive this blesses gift.

Saint Peter in his sermon in Acts chapter 2 after his words of Law brought condemnation and caused his hearers to ask - “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 … said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

To be baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit is to be baptized into Jesus Christ so we follow the formula that Jesus gave but we see here too that repentance brings forgiveness and the promise for all.

Baptism does what God intends.

By the working of Holy Spirit connecting the water and the word, forgiveness is given. For the one being baptized it is a “pure passive” meaning we simply receive the gift God gives.

More importantly it achieves what God desires – making disciples of all nations.

10 And when [Jesus himself at his own baptism] came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

It is that same comfort for we who are baptized in God’s name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - knowing that just as the Father is well, please with Christ Jesus his Son he is also well please with you and me.

Not because we merit anything from God but only because we are found marked as his children through this blessed gift given for our benefit.

God has not given baptism for his benefit but ours.

His gift in and through baptism reminds us that we can do nothing to appease God’s wrath and we deserve only eternal damnation. But because of the father’s great love for us he has sent his only son our Lord to be our substitute. Through Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased by his once for all sacrifice for sin, at the cross and through baptism we are united by faith with all the blessing that Christ has won for us.

As Luther says:

It 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.

Some might put the significance of baptism on the believer and our efforts or - what we do - that makes baptism valid.

Some might put the significance on the water and mode of baptism. How much water and how it must be applied for some is the important part of baptism.

Whether immersed, poured, or sprinkled God’s word united with the water and the formula Christ gave makes a baptism.

That brings to the one baptized all God promises; and because it is God’s gift we can always remember and be thankful for what God has in fact done in us and for us in Christ.

It is comforting to note that no matter how much the devil works to taunt us daily reminding us that we don’t measure up, the comforting knowledge of our baptism brings peace that we are God’s child whom he loves like his own beloved son.

The devils desire is to pull you away from Christ.

Luther saw the whole of his reformation theology through Jacob’s dream and ladder saying:

“The ladder connecting Heaven and Earth is the incarnation of God; it is what the devil hates most and is perpetually fighting against. The devil wants to tear the faithful away from Christ, their ladder to heaven.”

“Luther Man between God and the Devil” Heiko Oberman Pg.167

The devil wants to tear you from Christ and to do that he tries to tear you from your baptism - to give you doubt in God’s work and in God’s means of word and sacrament.

I remember my own questioning when my pastor at a nondenominational church I attended said. “If you’ve been baptized as an infant come and see me and I’ll tell you why you need to be baptized as an adult.”

I’m sure in reflection it was intended for me and my family as he knew of my own baptism as an infant, though he never approached me and I never asked him about it. I did though consult the word.

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (I have the Baptismal certificate and my parents’ reflections of the day)

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:39

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14

Those baptized as infants receive a valid baptism.

Much of the Christian church around the world misuse baptism. They don’t see it doing anything and as a result many fail to baptized child and adult alike. It is also true for we who rightly understand baptism as God’s gift failing to have our children baptized until the child is older - placing the ceremony of baptism and family above the child and God’s gift.

We also misuse baptism when we fail to remember what God has done for us in and through baptism. The baptismal font’s placement at the back of the nave serves as a reminder that God himself has brought us into his family through this precious gift.

In the 1970s during the Jesus movement that happened for many youth as well. I attended a Christian concert with a friend. A girl that was there was talking about the date of her accepting Jesus and becoming a Christian. It was June 22, 1967, that she accepted Jesus as her Lord and savior.

I felt a bit out of place because I didn’t have a date that I could announce because as far back as I could remember I’ve always been a Christian.
Then I remembered … I was baptized on May 17, 1955.

God claimed me in baptism and he has claimed you too. God be praised!

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


Monday, March 13, 2023

Sermon March 11-12, 2023

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

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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.”

When I was 13 or 14 a friend of my mother’s asked if I wanted to earn a little money. Her husband was replacing their driveway and he needed a helper. So, I walked a few blocks over for two days and helped break concrete and put the pieces in a truck. It was hard work. I was tired and worn out and I drank a ton of water, and at the end of two days the man told me that he was paying me a dollar an hour and he gave me 18 dollars.

Well, there was not a lot of grace in that pay day!

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.

A few summers ago, I replaced the wood on my deck. It was four long days of hard work and not being as young as I was when I built it, I was exhausted.

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 outside in the heat of the day you feel it!

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 at times be, only for a little while.

Divisions can divide 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.

She sees the old problem and looks not to a solution but only at the problem.

11 … “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with

The immediate need is for a drink. The well and bucket fill that need. Jesus though, looks to filling her greater need saying:

“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.”

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 faith in him and that takes away our sins and brings us to eternal life in his finished work.

The woman takes the bait of what Jesus wishes to give her saying:

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

We all what our problem solved, whether water, food, money, the earthly needs continue.

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.”

Boy, that would get my attention and I’m sure yours as well and though this was probably not a well-kept secret on her part, the fact that Jesus knew this detail of her complicated life causes her to pause.

She now understands that this man, this Jesus, is something special - even calling him a “prophet” and turning the question from herself, she deflects the question to the age-old problem of Jews and Samaritans saying:

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Jesus could have said, what does that have to do with your current situation and the five husbands? But instead, he desires something better. He desires her to know him in spirit and truth neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem.

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.”

Jesus tells her that not on the mountain and not in Jerusalem but true worship will be in spirit and truth.

Jesus is not looking to correct her living relationship until she has her eternal living relationship corrected.

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.”

This Messiah that she is expecting and is waiting for is right here with her!

This living Christ is right here for you!

This living Christ forgives your sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

This living Christ call you to himself and by faith in him you are forgiven.

The living water himself, Jesus, who quenches our eternal thirst is the one, who by the Holy Spirit’s work in us, brings us to believe and trust in him.

Our spiritual thirst is never to return because in Christ we have been brought into his family by faith and daily we live in him.

As the story unfolds the woman goes to tell others and brings them to Jesus!

The Samaritan woman’s faith was found in the Jew, Jesus Christ, at the well and by the word of God through faith she believed.

The water of life is found in Christ!

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


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Sermon March 8, 2023 - Lent 3

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 3. Lord’s Prayer
Text: Romans 5:1-11

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6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Lord’s Prayer is the third in our Lenten Series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law and the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and leads us in prayer and communication with God.

Missionary E. Stanley Jones once wrote:

Prayer is surrender--surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

E. Stanley Jones, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 73.

Introduction: Our Father who art in heaven

The Lord’s Prayer begins with those simple words. By faith we know God and acknowledge him by calling him Our Father. As our father we have a relationship with him and as a result we can call on him and dialogue with him. It is first interesting to note who initiates prayer.

As Luther writes:

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask a dear father.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

In prayer, by faith we acknowledge who God is, not dragging him down to where we are but drawing ourselves and our needs to him; conforming our desires to his will. Not my will … but thy will be done.

1. Hallowed be thy name

We might remember that in the Second Commandment we learned not to misuse the name of the Lord your God. Here again we recognize God’s name and that it is holy. Not as Luther says because we make it holy because it is holy (set apart) in of itself because it is God’s name; but that we pray that it might be holy among us also.

So how do we keep holy God’s name among us? We keep it holy by not using it in a cavalier way either crassly using God’s name (cursing and swearing) or using it with little or no respect. We rightly use it by calling upon him in, prayer, giving praise and thanksgiving for all he has done for us. We honor his name when his gospel is preached and we believe and trust him to meet are every need and live daily in the blessed hope and trust in this revealed God whom we call Our Father.

2. Thy kingdom come

The kingdom as Luther says comes without our prayer but we pray in this petition that it come among us also. It comes to us when we daily are reminded by God’s indwelling Spirit that we are indeed his children. As such we joy in the blessing God has given us – knowing that everything that we need God has and will provide.

The kingdom comes as we stay in communion with our loving father. Here he calls us to hear his word, giving us his wisdom, mercy, and blessing out of divine fatherly goodness - and we pray that in this relationship we too might live daily in his grace that his kingdom comes to us in the place we are in this world for our wellbeing.

3. Thy will be done

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

As Jesus pondered the cross and his crucifixion and impending death he called upon the father in prayer to remove what he had come to do. In his humanity death was real and the prospect of it brought him in prayer to ask the Father to remove it. But … he concluded his prayer in this way - not my will but yours be done. It is in this conforming our will to God’s that we truly rely on him.

It is not that God’s will relies on us to get it done because God’s will is always done because his judgments are always just and right.


4. Give us this day our daily bread

Dr. F.W. Boreham tells about his stay in a quaint old cottage in England occupied by a minister's widow.

She had given him her bedroom to use and in the morning when he pulled up the blind, he saw that into the glass of the windowpane had been cut the words: "This is the day!" He asked the elderly lady about it at breakfast. She explained that she had had a lot of trouble in her time and was always afraid of what was going to happen tomorrow. One day she read the words of the above text. It occurred to her that it meant any day, this day. "Why should I be afraid of the days if He makes them all?" She said. So the widow scratched the words in the windowpane, so that every time she drew her blind in the morning she was reminded that "This is the day!" Realizing the Lord made it, she was no longer afraid.

Dr. F. W. Boreham.

It is our heavenly Father that provides for our daily needs and for even the needs of those that don’t know him or trust him but Luther reminds us that we might lead a thankful life in remembrance of all that God gives and provides so that we might thank and praise him for his goodness.

5. Forgive us our trespasses

Being people born in sin and bound to sin we daily need the comforting balm of God’s forgiveness. Yes, as God’s forgiven children we need to have a life of faith connected to God and be in relationship with him. And we need to remember, as dear children ask their dear father … that we need to ask as we would a loving parent for forgiveness. I’m sorry father … please forgive me is real repentance and we know that in Christ God our loving Father forgives us. But it is much more. In this petition we are too reminded that as God has forgiven us so we too need to forgive one another.

I wrote this letter some years ago:

I wanted to send you a letter to see if all is well with you? You haven’t been in worship since before Christmas and I’m a bit concerned as you’ve always been regular in attendance. After calling you, another three Sunday’s have passed without seeing you in worship. If something is troubling you I would hope to help if I could, if you are attending another church, please let me know, if I have offended you in some way I apologize. Whatever the circumstance, it is my hope that our Lord continue to bless and keep you in his arms and faith. Feel free to call if you need to talk.

Asking forgiveness and being willing to forgive is a two-way street. Our forgiveness is base on our willingness to forgive. Don’t let pride keep you from that.

6. Lead us not into temptation

This was big news some time back when Pope Francis said we need to change the prayer saying,

"lead us not into temptation" is not a good translation because God does not lead humans to sin,” saying a better translation would be, "Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell,"

Of course: had the Pope read Luther’s Small Catechism he would see in the explanation where Luther makes clear,

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Bear in mind that God allows us to remain in this broken world where evil and temptation is part of our everyday lives, but he also promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Even our Lord Jesus after his baptism by John in Mark chapter 1 it reads:

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Who drove him out into the wilderness? God the Holy Spirit did. He did not temp him and Christ by the power of the Spirit prevailed. God can and does use all things for his good purpose.

7. But deliver us from evil

In Christ God does deliver us all from every evil and bring us to our eternal home by faith. He tells us in the commandments what he expects, he tells us in the creed who he is, and he tells us in the Lord’s Prayer how we can commune with him and rely on him. In prayer he lets us call on him for every need promising to be our God and to answer our prayers in his time and in his way. May your prayer life be bless by god as you call on him in time of need knowing that he is your heavenly Father who loves you.

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


Monday, March 6, 2023

Sermon March 4-5, 2023

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

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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.

[Thoughts 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’ name 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


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Sermon March 1, 2023 - Lent 2

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 2. Apostles Creed
Text: Mark 1:9-15

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12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Missionary A.B. Simpson is reported to have said that the gospel or the good News:
Tells rebellious men that God is reconciled,
that justice is satisfied,
that sin has been atoned for,
that the judgment of the guilty may be revoked,
the condemnation of the sinner cancelled,
the curse of the Law blotted out,
the gates of hell closed,
the portals of heaven opened wide,
the power of sin subdued,
the guilty conscience healed,
the broken heart comforted,
[and] the sorrow and misery of the Fall undone.

M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 29.

Last week we began our sermon series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism with the Ten Commandments. Here we learned what God expects and how we all miss the mark … both in who we are, and what we do.

Today we will move on to the Creed.

In the Ten Commandments we heard the Law, and today in the Apostles Creed we will hear the Gospel. For Luther the arrangement of the Catechism’s six chief parts is important.

The Ten Commandments show our brokenness and need.

The Creed reveals who God is and his work.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and to commune with God.

Holy Baptism shows how God works through his gifts to mark us and make us his own.

In the Office of the Keys [confession and absolution] we learn of our life in Christ as we confess our sins and hear the good of that we are forgiven in Christ.

And finally in the Lord’s Supper we receive the true body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness he won at the cross for us while we receive comfort and have our faith strengthened in this blessed gift.

The Catechisms order is important. The distinction between Law and Gospel is important too.

In Luther’s day the Creed was divided into 12 articles and for the Roman Catholic Church it still is.

Luther writes:

In former times you heard preaching on twelve articles of the Creed. If anybody wants to divide it up, he could find even more. You, however, should divide the Creed into the main parts indicated by the fact that there are three persons: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

LW Vol.51 Pg. 162

1. God is one

For Luther, God is one and this was most important. It was important in his teaching on the Creed to show the oneness of God and the uniqueness and distinction of persons. So there is a trinity and a unity that he taught in the Creed revealing the Father, Son + and Holy Spirit and their work.

In the Creed we lean of this triune God and his connection to Creation, Redemption and Sanctification. So in the gospel the whole Godhead is active. In the Creed we learn who God is, what has he done, and more importantly, we learn what he has done for me.

2. The First Article, Of Creation

The revelation to who God is begins in the first Article.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

We as Christians confess in the Creed I believe. Our belief is all gift revealed in the one God who has created all things - this Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth.

This faith and statement is only something we can confess - because of the full work of the triune God who has reconciled us and brought us to faith in him so that we can see who he is, what he has done, worship him in spirit and truth … and call him Father.

It is certainly true that all of these good created gifts came from God and that all people benefit from them but it is not possible to know this God, thank him, or to call him Father apart from his work in revealing himself to us.

It is the fullness of God’s love and grace that he has created us in his image and that he desires to have fellowship with us as creator and creation that in spite of sin and the fall God desired to save us from and eternity separated from him.

3. The Second Article, Of Redemption

In the second article we learn of God’s Son his work to rescue you and me requiring his full engagement on our behalf.

We also believe not only in God the Father Almighty creator of Heaven and Earth, but also in Jesus Christ his only Son [who is] our Lord.

This Jesus Christ is God’s Son and our Lord because he is God not only of our creation but of our recreation also.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified died and was buried. Placed in history Jesus is human in a real sense and truly lived, died and rose from the dead. He is both God and man and did what he intended to do for the salvation of the world.

In this article we see Jesus’ work in redemption. We see the Christmas message – the incarnation of God becoming man and his life, death and suffering in our place.

In his humiliation God units himself with us in our humanity in the person and work of his son and restores the bridge between God and man that had been broken with the fall into sin.

The second article doesn’t end there though because Jesus descends into hell to proclaim victory, on the third day he rises from the dead ascends to heaven and is seated at God’s right hand – the seat of power – and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

All will see him and all will be judged. Death is no escape, unbelief does not negate this reality of God in the flesh descending, dying, rising, and coming again for all.

The sheep and the goats – some to eternal glory and some to eternal damnation; so how is this reality made known and who is the active agent?

4. The Third Article, Of Sanctification

Well, in the third article we learn of the Holy Spirit called the comforter by Jesus is John chapter 14 in the King James Version.

The word used – παρακλέτοσ parakletos - is translated in some bibles as advocate, intercessor, consoler, comforter, and helper. Our ESV translates it as helper. I’m not sure that I like that as much as the KJV and that is why I believe that you need to read a few translations. The word helper could give the impression that God and we work together in our salvation - that God does his part and that we do our part rather than God being the active agent and we who are the ones that receive the gift.

In the third article we see God at work by the Holy Spirit, through the Christian Church or as the Creed would say the – catholic Church (small c –catholic meaning universal church), the communion of saints the body of believers who will have forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body – real flesh and blood like our resurrected Lord and a life everlasting and eternity with him.

This is the good news the Gospel of our salvation made known to us by the Holy Spirit … God’s work, Father, Son+ and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins for you and for me and for all whom the Lord our God will call to belief, life and salvation in him.

God shows his requirements in the Ten Commandments

God reveals his restoration in the Creed

In Luther’s own explanation of the Third Article he writes:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

Our own reason and strength would lead us astray. Our own understanding would cause us to make idols of ourselves, our lives, and our loves. In God’s work and in him alone do we know the work of a loving God that has created us, redeemed us in Jesus Christ our Lord, and restores us by his Spirit of Truth working and pointing us outside of ourselves to this reality that in Christ Jesus salvation is ours - this is most certainly true!

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


Monday, February 27, 2023

Sermon February 25-26, 2023

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

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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.

Thomas Kampis writes:

“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 here, God 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 his 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 the ads and what she had planned. It was terrible.

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

Well, I did what my boss would want.

If it failed - it was my fault - but at least I followed what I knew he wanted and 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 … because 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 as responsible parents, guardians, 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.